15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Application fob Financial Assistance.
, but, owing to the latter’s absence, he had then expressed the wish to Gee some other Minister, and, as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was very much engaged, you suggested that he should see me.
I told you, Sir, that I saw no hope of any advance being made by the Commonwealth Government. I added that, whilst the State government might possibly have some money to its credit under the mining and metalliferous grant, I did not think that that was at all likely, and that, in those circumstances, I was not sanguine of Mr. Urquhart’s prospects of securing Government assistance. You said that Mr. Urquhart was coming to Canberra, and you pressed me to give him an interview. You further intimated that Mr. Urquhart’s request was being supported by Western Australian members.
I explained to you, Mr. President, that I had heard of some inquiries for asbestos’ both in New Zealand and Australia, and expressed the view that, if the product”’ were of a suitable quality, money should be available in the eastern States for development.
You fixed Thursday, the 6th October, at 10.30 a.m., for Mr. Urquhart to call on. me. On that morning Senator Cunningham reminded me of the hour at which I was to see Mr. Urquhart. Mr. Nairn, M.P., also saw me, and said that he had another engagement to keep and that he would he obliged if anything could be doneto help Mr. Urquhart. I was advised of a cabinet meeting at 10.20 on the Thursday morning in question, and was just preparing to attend when Senator Hayes, accompanied by Senators Collett, Johnston, Cunningham and Fraser, arrived with Mr. Urquhart. I think that Senator Clothier afterwards attended. You, Mr. President, outlined Mr. Urquhart’s request, and some camples of asbestos were produced. In the course of the ensuing discussion I asked Mr. Urquhart a number of questions as to the accessibility of the mine, the width of the asbestos in the rock formation, and the quality of the product. I reiterated the view that had already been expressed” to you, that I saw little hope of any money being available from Commonwealth sources, but I intimated that I. would inquire from the Treasurer whether there were any funds, and particularly whether there was any credit to the Western Australian Government remaining in respect of the mining and metalliferous grant. I inquired of’ Mr. Urquhart what steps he had taken to secure financial support for his company in the eastern States, and whether he was aware of persons who were requiring asbestos. You, Sir, then mentioned that, as* the matter had developed into a private* discussion, you would be glad if I would give Mr. Urquhart letters to any persons who were likely to be interested. I had already mentioned the names of Hardie and the Hume Pipe Company, and I. then added that I thought that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited might be looking for asbestos in Australia. I informed him of the efforts that the company I was associated with had made to secure supplies in New Zealand, and explained the uses to which asbestos was put by Hardie, and was likely to be put by the Hume Pipe Company.
No records of the deputation were taken. I was aware of the nature of the request from you, Mr. President, and I knew that, as far as the Commonwealth was concerned, it was likely to be refused. You thanked m e for receiving Mr. Urquhart, and, as I have already explained, it was from you the request emanated that I might give Mr. Urquhart letters to persons who might be interested in the proposition. Some one subsequently senttomy room a geological report by a State officer on the property, and a copy of cablegrams received by Mr. Urquhart from his London representatives. I reached the Cabinet room at 10.45 a.m., and, in reply to my request to Mr. Casey, I was informed that no Commonwealth funds were available, and that, as far as Western Australia was concerned, the mining and metalliferous grant had nothing to its credit.
My one desire was to assist a man who had apparently spent himself and his money in endeavouring to develop, in an out-back part of Western Australia, the recovery of a product which might be of value to Australian manufacturers. I did not, during the discussion, indicate that I was interested in a rival company. I informed Mr. Urquhart that, in New Zealand, the company in which I was interested had spent a considerable sum of money in endeavouring to develop an asbestos proposition. I did not suggest that the proponent should get in touch with the chairman of directors of the company in which I am interested; I happen to be that person. But I did suggest thathe could get into touch with the managing director. I find that a request to the Commonwealth Government had already been made by the company of which Mr. Urquhart is a director or the chairman of directors. The application was fully considered by the Minister in charge of Development, and the company was informed that at the present time no funds were available from which a loan of this kind could be made. It was pointed out that the control of mining except within the territories of the Commonwealth, is a State function, and that, although the Commonwealth Government had made available to the States the sum of £500,000, of which £106,400 had been allotted to Western Australia, for the period of three years terminating oh the 30th June, 1938, it was decided that no further funds could be provided for this or similar purposes, in view of the heavy financial commitments of the Commonwealth, and particularly the increased provision necessary for defence purposes. The Premier of Western Australia was also so informed. In making these suggestions to the gentleman who was introduced to me by you, Mr. President, I had no sinister purpose to serve. On the contrary, my actions were dictated by a desire to serve this somewhat elderly man who had been engaged in this work.
The PEESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - As my name has been mentioned freely in regard to this matter, I think that it is due to me that I should say that I am not financially interested in the proposition in the slightest degree, either directly or indirectly.
– On the 27th September, Senator Johnston asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice : -
The Prime Minister has now furnished the following replies: -
Part 1 of the question was answered on the 27th September. 1938. I am now in a position to advise that the answers to Parts 2 and 3 of the question are as follows: -
Up to the 30th September, 1938, the amount expended by the Commonwealth in regard to the work in progress at Yampi Sound was £11,982.
The Commonwealth expects to spend a further sum of £16,368 in regard to the survey of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound.
WORKING HO URS OF NURSES.
– On the 6th October, Senator Amour asked the following question, upon notice -
Is it a tact that nurses at the Randwick Military Hospital, many of whom have had war service, have to work 56 hours a week, while nurses employed at public hospitals work 44 hours a week?
I am now able to supply the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The position is that the nursing staff at Prince of Wales Repatriation General Hospital (the Randwick Military Hospital) work 48 hours weekly by day and 52 hours weekly by night. At other metropolitan hospitals, sisters and staff nurses on day duty work 48 hours weekly and trainees 52 hours weekly. All these figures are exclusive of meal hours. At night in civilian public hospitals in the metropolis the sisters and staff nurses work 52 hours and trainees 55 hours, exclusive of meal hours.
Number of Employees
– On the 7 th October, Senator Keane asked the Ministerre presenting the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice:-
The Treasurer states that the following information has been furnished by the Commonwealth Bank Board : -
4 and5. A competitive examination is not held in connexion with entry to the bank’s service. The appointment of officers is a matter within the discretion of the Bank Board, and appointees are selected on their merits after full and careful comparison of the qualifications of all applicants who have attained the necessary educational standard and whopossess the requisite general attributes to enable them to develop into efficient bank officers.
– On the 6th October,
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
-Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that during the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Western Queensland, strong representations were made to him that theGovernment should provide improved broadcasting facilities for radio listeners in Western Queensland ? Is he further aware that a request was made that, until such time as the new station is available, a part of the A class programme should be allowed to be broadcast through the privately-owned B class station at Longreach? Will the PostmasterGeneral state what action has been taken to deal with these requests? Senator A. J. McLACHLAN. - The request, which was sent on to me by the Prime Minister, has been submitted to the technical officers of the department for attention.Various factors have to be considered by the department in the matter of supplying lines to commercial stations, including whether a compliance in this instancecould be regarded only as an exception, and not as a violation of the principles under which the department operates. At the conclusion of the inquiry, I shall advise the honorable senator ofthe result.
SenatorCOOPER.- Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been directed to a paragraph appearing in the Queensland press that Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Grant, M.C., V.D., has been appointed CommandingOfficer of the Queensland Scottish Battalion, which will be gazetted this week, replacing the 15th Infantry Battalion? As the 15th Battalion is anoriginal unit of the Australian Imperial Force, and rendered very meritorious service during the war, will the Minister see that the identity of this famous battalion is in no way interfered with?
– I saw the statement, to which the honorable senator has referred, in thepress this morning, and I have ascertained from the Minister for Defence that it is correct that LieutenantColonel Grant, an officer with a distinguished war. record, has been appointed Commanding Officer of the Scottish Regiment in Queensland. It is not correct to say that the Scottish Regiment is taking the place of the 15th Battalion. The question of whether the Scottish Regiment is to take the place of the 15th Battalion, or be an entirely new unit, is being considered by the Minister. I can assure the honorable senator that his strong representations that it shall be a separate unit will receive the attention of the Government.
– Has the Leader of the Senate seen a statement in the press this morning to the effect that a number of desirable migrants from Czechoslovakia have been making inquiries at Australia House with a view to coming, with their families, to this country, but, owing to continued delays and the lack of a qualified official to deal with their inquiries, many of them are turning to other dominions? Will he have the matter investigated with a view to seeing that a qualified official is appointed at Australia House to deal with these applications?
– The control of migration is, of course, in the hands of the Department of the Interior, but as the matter which the honorable senator has raised is so important, I shall see that it is brought under the notice of the Deputy Prime Minister in order to discover the cause of the trouble at Australia House.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the * following answers : -
Senator BROWN, through Senator Collings, asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many applications have been made for naturalization during the five-year period ended 30th June, 1938?
How many were refused?
How many of the applicants had been resident’s of Australia for twenty years or more?
– The Minister for the Interiorhas supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. During the five years endedthe 30th June, 1938, 7,298 applications for, naturalization were decided. Of these 158 applications were refused.
Senator BROWN, throughSenator Collings, asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers-: - 1 and 2. The issue of Certificates of Naturalization isdiscretionary, and the . Minister takes into consideration all relevant circumstances before it is decided in any par- ticular case that an application for naturalization shall be refused.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Debate resumed from the 7 th October, (vide page 542), on motion by Senator Foll -
That the Papers be printed.
SenatorUPPILL (South Australia) [3.26]. - I take this opportunity to add my congratulation)) to those honorable senators who have just been elected to this chamber. Judging by their speeches they have entered the Senate with a good deal of enthusiasm, but I hope that if they are not able to persuade the Government to accept their suggestions, or fail to convert honorable senators on this side, they will not be dismayed. I hope, also, that their criticism invariably will be constructive rather than destructive, because I assume that whatever their policies or methods may be. they are here for the better government of this country. .
I congratulate the Government not only on the budget which has been presented on this occasion but also on the steady improvement in the affairs of the Commonwealth which has taken place during its regime. I have not always seen eye to eye with it. On occasions I have been obliged to criticize it, but when one recalls that during its term of office unemployment, for instance, has been reduced from31 per cent. to 8.5 per cent., one must admit that it has achieved an outstanding record.
SenatorFraser. - Does the honorable senator give the. Government credit for all of that improvement?
– I do not suggest that the Government can claim credit for all of that improvement, but I point out that during its term of office it has not been blessed with high prices for our primary products on which the whole fabric of our financial system is based. As a matter of fact, for only two years of that period was the price of wheat, one of our staple products, on a payable level. In addition to helping the wheat-growers, the Government has assisted the producers of wool, meat, wine, fruit, dairy produce, and minerals, and has aided many secondary industries. Directly or indirectly, those industries upon which the economic welfare of Australia chiefly depends have been assisted. For instance, sales tax on implements used by primary producers has been remitted. The policy of the Government in this connexion has my hearty support. As I have said, the record of the Government is one of which it may well be proud, particularly in view of the low prices that have prevailed. I am glad that the Government proposes to introduce legislation to deal with the wheatgrowing industry on a long-term basis in order to give to farmers a payable price for their wheat. Its proposals will benefit not only those engaged in wheat-growing, but also other sections of the community, for they will have the effect of increasing employment.
– What does the Government propose to do?
– I note that in reply to Senator Wilson’s question, it was intimated that the Government intends to bring before the Parliament legislation for the stabilization of the wheat industry. I am not conversant with the details of its proposals.
– Then how does the honorable senator know that the proposals will be beneficial ?
– Although I am not acquainted with the details of the proposed legislation, I know that it will aim to fix a payable price for wheat for a considerable period.
A good deal has been said by Opposition senators on the subject of unemployment, but, with the exception of Senator Darcey, not one of them has offered any constructive criticism. The solution offered by Senator Darcey was the introduction of a fantastic banking system.
– It is new, but not fantastic.
– I can honestly say that the honorable senator’s remarks interested me. When he has converted his leader - and as yet there is no evidence that he has done so - I shall be prepared to give serious consideration to his proposal. I imagine, however, that many honorable senators would prefer to wait and learn the results of the experiments in Alberta, Canada, before agreeing to put Senator Darcey’s proposals into operation.
– The scheme that I outlined has not been put into operation in Alberta.
– Other honorable senators opposite painted harrowing pictures of the effects of unemployment. It may be that they, more than honorable senators on this side of the chamber, come personally into contact with the sufferers, but I assure them that the supporters of the Government arc as humanitarian in their outlook, and are as ready to do all in their power to deal with the problem of unemployment as they are.
In a long speech Senator Keane advocated the establishment of a 40-hour working week as a means of setting things right in the industrial sphere.
– It would help to do so.
– My conviction is that this so-called reform, instead of improving conditions, would make them worse. Moreover. I understand that the constitutional position is that, except in relation to its own employees, the Commonwealth Government has not the power to enforce a. 40-hour working week throughout the Commonwealth. It is a matter for the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– If the honorable senator be right, way did the Commonwealth Government instruct its delegate to the International Labour Conference some years ago to vote for a. 40-hour working week?
– If a working week of 40 hours would achieve what its advocates claim, I wonder that the Labour governments of Queensland and Western Australia have not inaugurated it in the public services of those States.
– The public servants in Queensland work less than 40 hours a week now.
– That is true also of public servants in Western Australia.
– I imagine that if the Labour governments of those States were convinced that considerable benefits would accrue from the introduction of a working week of 40 hours they would have introduced the enabling legislation before this. I should be prepared to support a reduction of working hours to 40 a week for persons who would be physically. affected by a longer period,’ but I am confident that the general adoption of the proposal would have harmful consequences which would more than counteract the benefits. For instance, a shorter working week -would, Jay increasing railway freights, lead to greater costs of primary production, and eventually cause greater unemployment.
– -Does not the honorable senator realize that tlie mechanization of industry’ has reduced production, costs ?
– That may, or may hot, be so. I am of the opinion that the greater use of machinery has not had that effect. On the face of it the honorable senator’s contention may appear to be right, but I remind him that men have to be employed in making the machinery. However, unless wo are to get back to the days of horses and traps and bicycles, wo must follow the modern trend.
The Government proposes to introduce banking legislation for the purpose of assisting primary producers as well as those engaged in other forme of industry. I’ hope that something will be done along these lines. I do not know exactly what form the proposed legislation will take. Possibly the Government has not yet reached a decision as to the details of the bill; but, in my opinion there is a definite need for a system that will make money available on long terms at a reasonably low rate of interest, with provision for compulsory repayments. Such a system would be of great assistance, particularly to many primary producers, whose nightmarc is a fairly heavy mortgage which may be falling due in throe, five or seven years hence. Whilst I agree .that the institutions which have been loaning money have been rendering a useful service to the community, existing conditions do not make for stability in the case of people who have to depend on borrowed money to carry, on their various businesses. In paragraph 536 of its report, the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems states: -
One of the functions of thu banking system should be to provide fixed and long-term loans. In the Australian system, as we shall point out, the ‘facilities for this type of lending are insufficient, and in our conclusions and recommendations we propose to indicate how adequate facilities could be provided.
In that section of its report dealing withmortgagebanking, the commission states: -
In a previous part of ourreport we have shown that there is a lack of facilities for fixed and long-term borrowing. One method of providing these facilities is mortgage banking. A mortgage bank differs from a trading bank in that it lends on land for fixed terms and for that purpose raises part of its funds by issues of bonds. The trading bank accepts deposits only for short periods or at call, and only lends on overdrafts repayable on demand or by discounting bills for short periods.
The. mortgage bank, through its large field of investment in mortgages, can spread its risks over a wide area, and the mortgage bond is therefore a good security. In normal circumstances, these bond’s are readily negotiable. The holder of the bonds can realize his capital promptly by sellinghis bonds without disturbing the borrowers. In other countries where mortgage banks exist, the procedure generally adopted is to make the first parcel of mortgage loans out of the capital of the bank. The mortgages are then deposited with the trustees and bonds are issued against them in such denominations and with such maturities as may be convenient. When the money received from the sale of these bonds has been lent, a further issue of bonds is made on the security of the second parcel of mortgages. This process can’ be repeated until the bonds reach the maximum prescribed by custom or law’, which is generally from ten to twenty times the. capital of the bank. The mortgage bond is repayable on a fixed date, and payment is secured by the mortgages held in trust and the other assets of the bank.
An important difference between a mortgage and a mortgage bond is that whereas the mortgage is secured on a specific piece of land, the mortgage bond is secured by a general charge over all the mortgages comprised in the security.
There are various types of mortgage bank which might be established in Australia. These may be divided into three classes: -
1 ) Those in which the capital is provided by a public company or by the public. For example one trading bank might establish a mortgage bank as a separate unit using its own offices and staff. Alternatively several trading banks might combine to establish a mortgage bank, or a new company for the same purpose might be formed, the whole of the capital being provided by private investors.
Those in which the capital is provided by a government, the Commonwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, or by a State Savings Bank or State Bank or by some of these in conjunction. In any of these cases the mortgage, bank might be adminis tered as a separate institution, or as a department of an existing institution.
Those in which the capital is provided partly by any of the institutions named in paragraphs 1 and 2 and partly by private investors.
The adoption of one type of mortgage bank would not necessarily exclude the adoption of others. It might be found convenient to establish a number of mortgage banks of different types.
As it is important that the mortgage bonds issued by the banks should be regarded as firstclass security, thus enabling the bank to borrow and to lend at the cheapest possible rates, legislation for the regulation of these banks in the following matters is desirable: -
The amount of capital to be subscribed and paid up before the bank is permitted to commence operations.
The limitation on the amount of bonds to be issued. The limit would presumably be some multiple of its subscribed capital.
The conditions upon which loans may be made, prescribing -
The minimum and maximum term.
That money shall be lent only on first mortgage.
The proportion between the valuation and the loan.
The remedies of the. bank in the event of non-payment of interest or capital instalments.
The nature of the returns to bo made. The bonds might be issued upon the security of all the mortgages held by the bank, with a collateral security over any other assets of the bank. Alternatively, they might be issued in series, in which case it would be necessary to specify the security for each series, and the order of priority, if the specified security is found to be inadequate. The bonds might be of different denominations to suit various types of investors. If the bank is a company, its constitution should be such as to comply with the requirements of the stock exchanges, in order that the bonds may be listed and readily negotiable. The bonds should be trustee securities.
We think that if the trading banks were enabled to transfer to a mortgage bank some of their present overdrafts which are in the nature of long-term loans, and take in exchange the mortgage bonds issued by the mortgage bank, the position of the trading banks themselves might be strengthened.
We recommend -
A mortgage bank or mortgage banks should be established to provide facilities for fixed and long-term lending.
– Money can be issued by the Commonwealth Bank free of’ interest. Keep on reading the report.
– I am not yet conversant with the particular schemes propounded by the honorable senator; I am dealing only with the recommendation of the royal commission.
– The honorable senator is ignoring the. most important part of the commission’s report.
– I am confining my attention to the commission’s recommendation, and I believe that if legislation be introduced along the lines indicated, it will be of substantial benefit to companies and persons engaged in industry and to the community generally, including both those who are in employment and those seeking employment.
– The honorable senator is dealing with only one of the commission’s recommendations.. We on this side support .all of them.
– I turn now to the Government’s proposals for financial assistance to the smaller States during the current year. The proposed payments are based on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. During the last few years substantial sums have been paid by the Commonwealth in accordance with the recommendations of that body. This year the Government proposes to pay £1,040,000 to South Australia, £570,000 to Western Australia, and ‘ £410,000 to Tasmania.
– Is the honorable senator satisfied with the amounts to be paid ?
– I think that we shall have to be satisfied ~with them as they are in keeping with the recommendations of the commission which made a thorough investigation of the position of the claimant States. I commend theGovernment for bringing in legislation to give effect to those recommendations. Other proposals for the assistance of the smaller States have been outlined by Senator Wilson, and I think the Government might well give consideration to them. I favour the decentralization of industry and the establishment in the smaller States of new industrial undertakings, particularly those related to defence measures, such as munition factories. That would assist to some extent to place them on an equality with the larger States.
The suggestion has been made that, on account of the improved financial position of the Commonwealth, the Government should revert to penny postage. We all look forward to the time when that step can be taken, but, in my opinion, it is now necessary for all available funds to be used in providing postal and telephonic facilities where they are urgently required in outlying districts. In some localities, where the settlers are suffering drought and other disabilities, they have found it necessary to give up their all-night telephone services, and to be content with merely day-time services. Because _a few subscribers are compelled to relinquish their telephones, a whole district loses its all-night service. I ask the Postmaster-General to extend a concession in such cases to the rest of the district, or to re-install the all-night service previously enjoyed. .
I congratulate the Government on the success of the overseas air-mail and flying-boat service. Under the present arrangements, overseas mails arrive in practically every capital city simultaneously, and within a few hours the mails are received by residents in outlying parts of the Commonwealth. This service has proved a great boon to South Australia, and it is much appreciated by the people.
I regret that the Government has decided to alter the conditions of the fertilizers .subsidy by reducing the quantity upon which subsidy is payable from 20 to 10 tons for each farmer. Last year the total amount paid by way of subsidy was £260,000, and by the reduction of quantity now proposed the estimated cost of the subsidy will be approximately £215,000. I regard this reduction as a false economy. In South Australia, particularly on Kangaroo Island and in the south-east, certain lands within good rainfall areas are being cleared and developed for grazing purposes. I am aware that the object of the subsidy is to assist the small farmer, but. I point out that many settlers start with very little capital, and that, in the pioneering stages, even the smallest farmers use a considerable quantity of superphosphates. Twenty tons of fertilizer is not a large quantity for one farmer, and I think that the Government should not have reduced the limit upon which subsidy is payable to individual settlers.
The subject of defence should not be considered from the point of view of party politics, and I am sure that members of the Opposition will agree that the defence of the Common wealth should be adequate. Various opinions have been expressed as to what the Government should and should not do in this regard. We have heard various expressions of opinion concerning the importance of aircraft by comparison with naval and land forces, but I am content to leave these matters to the experts who advise the Government, for preparations for defence are surely the work of specialists. I, at any rate, offer no criticism in that regard, provided that vital points are defended adequately, and that the Government exercises a. close scrutiny of the expenditure. lt is regrettable that, although Great Britain has made every effort to preserve world peace and to reduce armaments, the only way to prevent attack is to prepare strongly for defence. To the ideals expressed by Senator Abbott I am sure all honorable senators subscribe, but at the present time Australia is in urgent need of an adequate system of defence.
.- I regret that the Loader of the “Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) is not in his seat at the moment. Last week it was suggested to the Opposition that, owing to the delicate international situation. Labour senators should curtail their speeches on the Supply Bill, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) desired the attendance in Cabinet of all available Ministers. In view of the Government’s request, senators on the Opposition side who had prepared speeches refrained from delivering them, but the Leader of the Government immediately rose in his place and spoke for more than an hour. Afterwards he and Senator Foll were in this chamber for the whole of the rest of the day, discussing the merits and demerits of the sales tax bills. Therefore, it seems to mc that the necessity for those two Ministers to attend the meeting of the Cabinet was not so urgent as had been represented to the Opposition. I mention this matter at the outset because any arrangements proposed to the Opposition in the future will have to be closely investigated, as far as I am concerned, before we can accede to the Government’s requests.
– The Government gave no undertaking not to introduce further measures, and certain information was supplied in response to requests by honorable senators opposite.
– I have outlined the position as it appeared to me. On the Opposition side, several senators were prepared to continue the debate. I immediately concluded my remarks in response to the request of the Government, and you, Mr. President, intimated to me that I had the option of either continuing or concluding my remarks.
– There was no breach of agreement on this side.
– In future there will be very few agreements.
– Do not forget that the leaders make these agreements. It is unfair to accuse them of not keeping an agreement which they did not make.
– I am referring to the leaders.
Figures have been submitted by Senator Uppill for the purpose of showing that there is ‘much less unemployment now than there was in 1931. It is hardly fair to compare the present unemployment returns with those of a year in the depth of the depression. In 1929-30 Australia was supposed to be enjoying prosperity, and that year should have been selected for tlie purposes of comparison. The increase of the income from wool between 1931 and 1937 was tremendous, and the increased national income from the sale of its primary products has lifted Australia from the slough of depression. In 1931, the wool clip averaged the low price of about Sd. per lb., but in 1937 the price rose to 16. 5d. per lb., and this greatly reduced unemployment. A comparison with the figures of 1929-30 would give a different result.
When representatives of the Government submit unemployment figures, which are based on the returns supplied by trade unions, they do not mention the fact that thousands of men have never had an opportunity to join a trade union. Moreover, there are thousands of others who cease to be members of trade unions immediately they lose their employment. For instance, when a member of the Municipal Employees Union in New South Wales loses his employment, he ceases to be a member of the union. Thousands of others who have had only intermittent work since they left school do not belong to any trade union.
Senator Leckie’s remarks concerning the alleged affiliation of the Communist party with the Labour party can be disregarded, because that is the famous election cry of those who support the political parties to which honorable senators opposite belong. They always endeavour to attach the Communists to the Labour party, whereas the well-informed know that the Communists are the political enemies of the Labour party, being opposed to constitutional government. The members of the Labour party have always said that our grievances mustbe rectified by constitutional means. I direct the attention of honorable senators opposite to two or three incidents which occurred last year. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) instituted proceedings against Communists for being members of an illegal organization, with the object, I presume, of breaking up this organization. The Communists, instead of being driven underground, should be permitted to say what they wished to say in an open way. Apparently, it. was the policy of the Government at that time to drive that party underground by instituting legal proceedings against their organizations; but a little while before the last general election proceedings were dropped. The Postmaster-General, who had prevented over 40 communist publications and certain anti-religious literature from being transmitted by post, withdrew the ban. There may be some reason for the change, but unsuccessful attempts were made to ascertain why the policy of the department in that respect was altered.
– Was it because a general election was approaching?
– Yes ; I am leading up to that. The AttorneyGeneral withdrew the prosecutions against the Communist party, the members of which had collected £10.000 to fight the case when it came before the court, and the withdrawal enabled the party to utilize the fund for other purposes.
– The honorable senator appears to know something about the fund of that party.
-It is public knowledge. About that time, representatives of the “ collective security “ nations met in London. The Russian Ambassador, M. Litvinoff, was received with open arms, and it was announced that there was to be a conference between the representatives of democratic nations. The representatives of the Dominions were also invited to attend the gathering, in order that the British Government might know the policy of the Dominions. The Canadian Premier, Mr. Mackenzie King, walked out of the conference saying that he would not ask his people to fight in a war concerning which they had not been consulted.
– What has this to do with the budget?
– If the honorable senator will follow my argument, he will see that it has a direct bearing on our national policy. The Prime Minister of South Africa, Mr. Hertzog, made a statement similar to that of Mr. Mackenzie King, but the Australian Prime Minister remained silent.
– What did Lang say ?
– If the honorable senator wishes to become the chief clown in this chamber, I shall offer no objection. During the election campaign, hoardings were plastered with posters stating that the Communist party was attached to the Labour party. That was done in an endeavour to influence many electors, who otherwise would support the Labour party, to vote against its candidates. I firmly believe that there was some understanding between the Lyons Government and the members of the Communist party.
– That statement is quite inaccurate.
– The Communists did not run candidates, but said that they would support the Labour party’s candi- dates
– The AttorneyGeneral withdrew the prosecution against the Communists, and the PostmasterGeneral lifted the ban on the importation of communist literature with the object, I presume, of placating members of the Communist party. Although Senator Leckie tried to show that candidates of the Labour party received the support of the Communists I have no hesitation in saying that they did not.
Senator Abbott offered a certain amount of gratuitous advice to those honorable senators who have recently taken their seats on this side of the chamber. He told us of our mistakes, and showed how they can be rectified, but if the honorable senator thinks that he can adopt the role of schoolmaster and tell us where we are wrong, we are entitled in turn, to show him where the policy which he supports is wrong. He congratulated those honorable senators who delivered their maiden speeches, and said that notwithstanding their lack of experience in parliamentary work they had done well. Senator Abbott also said that when speakers on this side of the chamber were not followed by speakers opposite the Government was extending to us the customary courtesy of not interrupting the flow of maiden speeches.
– But there were many disorderly interjections while we were speaking.
– Tes. Another fact that did not escape my notice was that when Senator Cameron was a little slow in rising to speak the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Poll) immediately rose to reply, which would have precluded . other honorable senators from speaking.
– I rise to a point of order. I rose when I thought no one else wished to continue the debate. I would be the last to prevent any honorable senator from exercising his right. The statement of the honorable senator is inaccurate, and as it is offensive I ask that it be withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - No point of order is involved. If the Minister regards the statement made by Senator Armstrong as offensive, it must be withdrawn.
– I have no desire to be offensive, and although I made what I thought to be an accurate statement, I withdraw it. Senator Abbott also criticized Senator Amour because he said that’ the Defence Department should construct a road in the Bankstown district that is used for defence purposes. The honorable senator said that this is not a place in which such parochial matters should be raised. This, he said, is a national parliament in which only matters of national importance should be debated. The honorable senator then proceeded to deal with a wide range of subjects,- including the work of our pioneers. He went on to discuss the international situation, and to suggest solutions for all the ills now besetting the world. He also dealt with his efforts to secure international peace and to make the world safe for democracy. “Whatever may be the opinion of the honorable senator, I believe that it is our duty to deal with matters nearer home. He reminded me of a farmer who neglected his holding and could not make a success of it, but insisted on telling the Government what it should do. I hope that I am not misrepresenting the honorable senator, but I believe that if he devoted his time to solving some of the problems nearer at home instead of interesting himself so much in overseas matters he would be rendering a greater service’ to those whom he represents. If honorable senators speak on behalf of the claims of district councils or small communities they will, in the end, be helping Australia, because it is the aggregation of these small communities that makes up the Commonwealth.
Apparently Senator Brand supports some of the planks of the Labour party’s platform. I was pleased to hear the honorable senator, who, with his military experience, understands defence matters, say that adequate provision is not being made for home defence. Despite the fact that an anti-Labour Government has been in power for many years, very little has been done to bring Australia to the point where it can be said to be adequately protected. Many newspapers accuse the Minister for Defence of not carrying out his responsible task in the way that he should. It has been stated frequently that the Royal Australian Air Force is not up to date in respect of staff or machines. It is felt that the Minister for Defence is not carrying out his job in the way that the Australian people desire.
– Most of those attacks on Mr. Thorby are unfair and untrue.
– I am merely indicating the tone of press reports concerning Mr. Thorby’s ministerial actions. Senator Brand has suggested that in a time of emergency we could keep our trade routes open. I do not claim to have the military knowledge possessed by the honorable senator, but it appears to me that once a war started in which Australia became involved, our trade routes would be automatically closed, and for that reason, particularly, we should make ourselves completely self-sufficient. One outstanding disadvantage suffered by Australia in respect of defence is its lack of oil supplies. At long last this Government has decided to take action in this respect, but we are now told that oil will not be produced at Newnes for at least five years.
– When a Labour government was in office in New South . Wales it refused to support the Newnes project.
– The honorable senator will admit that oil is a Commonwealth, rather than a State, matter. Like myself, Senator Brand realizes that oil supplies are essential to our defence. The importance of oil in warfare was accentuated during the Italian conquest of Abyssinia ; when sanctions were applied against Italy, oil was the one commodity excluded, the reason being that the nations applying sanctions realized that if supplies of oil were denied Italy during that conflict, the whole of Europe would have become involved in war. Oil is the basis of modern warfare, and we should undertake the work of securing oil from coal or shale as an urgent national responsibility.
Some time prior to returning to Australia from his recent trip abroad, the Deputy Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) according to a report appearing in the Sydney Sun, suggested that in order to solve our population problem, Australia should .absorb” as many as possible of the unemployed in the United States of America. That statement seemed so extraordinary that I took the opportunity to check the migration position in Australia. So many Australians are unemployed that obviously it would not be wise to encourage wholesale migration of unemployed people from the United States ot America or any other country. For many years this Government has shown peculiar anxiety to attract as many migrants to Australia as possible, irrespective of the class of migrant or the repercussions which a wholesale influx would have upon the national economy. Undoubtedly the interests which support this Government are anxious to encourage a large influx of migrants because a surplus of workers would enable them to secure cheap labour. This of course would result in the lowering of living standards generally in this country. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General also have made public statements recently in regard to our population problem. Whilst the former deplored our falling birthrate, the latter advocated a population of at least twenty millions for this country. The Cabinet, however, ‘ includes one gentleman, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), who, on occasions, speaks the truth. Recently, he said -
Create conditions that will encourage people to have children in Australia and migration will look after itself.
In a nutshell, that is the policy of the Labour party on this matter. We contend that if, by the establishment of decent living conditions, people are encouraged to marry and have families, this country will be blessed with the best migrant - the Australian born.
On another occasion the Minister . for External Affairs said -
Numbers in population amount to nothing. It is strong and virile people which matter to the nation. Some people seem to think numbers in themselves desirable, but that numbers neither ensure national security nor individual happiness is amply proved by the teachings of history and from our own experience.
Reading that statement in conjunction with his assertion at the Millions Club last year, that over 40 per cent, of our children are suffering from malnutrition, we realize that this Government- is not doing its duty in respect of this matter.
The number of alien migrants coming to this country is causing grave concern, and, during the last twelve months, protests have been raised by every section of the community in regard to this matter. Last year, over 40 Austrian Jews, on their arrival at these shores, said that they were going to jobs in Melbourne and Sydney. Again, last year, passengers on the Otranto held a meeting on board to protest against the large number. of southern Europeans who were travelling by that vessel to this country. The latest figures show that the total net gain by migration in 1937-3S, excluding British migrants, was 7,284. The nationalities of these migrants were: German Jews, 571; Greeks, 1,07S; Italians, 2.S96; Poles, :”>72; and Jugoslavs, 635. Indicating that migration from European countries is increasing, the figures for July, 193S, were:. Italians, 244; Germans, 125; Greeks, 71; and Poles, 111. For the year 1937-38, British migrants decreased by 052. Every encouragement seems to be given to alien migrants, but we are unable to induce British people to settle in this country. Apparently, because the standard of living here is comparatively low, and the struggle for existence so difficult, English-speaking people believe that they oau do better for themselves in their own countries. At the time for which I have given figures, a bond of £50 was required in respect of each alien admitted to Australia, but it has been discovered that alien migrants adopt the practice of passing the one amount of £50 around f> in ong themselves, using it to qualify as many as 20 or 30 different new arrivals.
– That statement has been made many times, but it has been proved to be unfounded.
– In January last, one of our leading newspapers published the following paragraph: -
One duy a. carrier dumped on the platform several packages of the filthiest and foulest luggage and bedding possible to imagine. It was reeking with vermin. It was claimed a few days later by a man, his wife and children ranging from a baby to a lad about eighteen years. Not one of them could speak a word nf English. A lad who accompanied them explained that they had, a fortnight earlier, arrived from Italy and that they had been living in one room and were starving. His mother had fed them until she could no longer do so.
Apparently in that instance, at any rate, the migrants did not have £50 when they entered this country.
Undoubtedly foreign employers are responsible for sweating conditions in Australia. Recently the secretary of the Clothing Trades Union, Mr. P. Fallon, said that the influx of this class of foreigner was a definite threat to the clothing industry. He added-
Wo have endless trouble in trying to keep Austral ian awards and standards observed by these groups of foreigners. The authorities do not even insist that these migrants learn English when they get here.
The chief industrial magistrate, Mr. Prior, this year fined a foreigner £30 for not having paid award rates. In giving his judgment, he said -
These cases provide another instance of the startling breaches by European foreigners against conditions which are enjoyed under our own awards. This time it is the boot industry.
Recently I made reference to foreign fruit and vegetable shopkeepers. In. these cases, and others, there are particulars given of appalling sweating conditions against which employers of our own nationality cannot possibly compete while observing award conditions, which the majority of them, I believe, do.
In this case three employees, according to statements to Air. Moloney, of the Boot Trade I’nion. worked 72i hours a- week, Monday to Friday, and I think, possibly on Saturday, which would make 87 hours a week, or a little short nf two weeks work in one.
Unfortunately this kind of thing does not seem. to worry this Government. Recently the Assistant Minister for the Interior (Mr. Thompson), contended that the inflow of alien migrants was insufficient to affect working and living conditions in Australia. He added that the arrival of 10,000 migrants in Australia, last year would have an infinitesimal effect on the economy of this country. There can be no doubt that the foreigners are undermining our standard of living. If they are employees, they will accept lower wages in any circumstances, and if they happen to he employers, they refuse to pay award wages, or to observe award working conditions. To-day colonies of aliens are growing up in various parts of the Commonwealth, and it is with this aspect of the matter that I am most eon- cerned, because such a development strikes at the root of the White Australia principle. Recently the Consul for the United States of America in Sydney referred to the difficulty which the United States of America experienced in absorbing foreigners into the national life of that country. He pointed out that despite the efforts of the authorities to enable them to absorb American sentiment , and tradition, they tended to form colonies of their own and to remain foreigners. The Italians have formed colonies in the northern part of Australia. Recently an Australian asked an Italian why he did not learn English, and the Italian replied, “Why don’t you learn Italian?” At Shepparton and in the Murrumbidg irrigation area Italian colonies have established themselves and these people continue to teach their children the Italian language. Recently the State education authorities demanded that these children be taught English, and the parents made a reply which would make any Australian’s blood boil. The refused to teach their children English. This development has reached such a stage that newspapers pander to the foreigners by printing columns of news in alien languages. Furthermore, a radio station in New South Wales has commenced the broadcasting of sessions in Italian. Recently at Griffith, the local newspaper published two or three columns of news in Italian and it was only because of public protests that this innovation was discontinued.
Perhaps the Minister for Commerce may be able to explain why he desires to bring immigrants to Australia at a time when sufficient land is not available for the settlement of young Australian farmers. In New South Wales, in 1925, there were 1,200 applications for a block of land at Moree. In 1926, 3,949 young Australians applied for a block of land in another part of New South Wales; in 1936 over 1,000 applications were received in respect of a single block of land in the same State, whilst in 1937 there were 4,500 applicants for eleven blocks of land at Walgett. I believe that with improved administration, more land could be made available for the settlement of young Australian farmers, but under the present administration it seems impossible for these young men to secure land. In such circumstances, what is the use of bringing migrants to this country, even though their fitness for the land is undoubted?
– The Commonwealth Government cannot subdivide State lands for settlement.
– I am not saying that it can. But it is obviously wrong to bring out migrants when no land is available for the settlement of young Australian farmers..
– This Government does not bring them out.
– It is encouraging them.
– No; migrants coming to this country are very carefully selected, and they have to survive a difficult test before they are admitted.
– I contend that the migration problem will be solved automatically when we establish a standard of living in this country higher than that existing elsewhere. It is only natural’ that a person will not migrate to a country where living conditions are not so favorable as those existing in his own country. Between 1920 and 1929, when things were ‘booming in Australia, there was no necessity to canvass Europe in order to obtain the right type of immigrants. Englishmen, Germans, Danes and others came here because the standard of living in Australia was better than in their own countries. To-day, the Australian standard of living is considerably below what it was in 1929. Last Sunday’s Sydney Truth contained some interesting comments on the influx of Jews to Australia.
The Government stated that passengers posing as tourists were travelling on return tickets; but that their real object was to settle permanently.
They obtained return tickets when leaving Europe, but they intended to get a refund on the portion not used if they remained in Australia.
– Is it not a tribute to Australia that these people want to come here?
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. I have the utmost sympathy with these people, many of whom have had a terrible time. I am, however, more concerned with the effect of their coming here on the social life of this country unless their entry is carefully supervised. I am not condemning any Jew, whether he comes from Germany, Austria or elsewhere, who has been forced to leave his country, but I say that we must guard against the establishment of foreign colonies in this country.
– We on this side are in agreement with the honorable senator on that point.
– Committees of Jewish people which have been set up in Australia have repeatedly informed the public that the numbers of newcomers will be small and that the persons will be carefully selected. It is clear, however, that that is not so, and that the restrictions have been ignored, with the result that hundreds of Jewish refugees are flooding Australia.
– That is not correct.
– The article in Truth con tinues -
Last week a considerable party arrived in Sydney via New Caledonia, the French Pacific island. They had come here by the most circuitous route, but they finally got here all right. And got ashore, too.
Unions are worried. The greatest of these, the British Medical Association, has been pressing the Government to restrict the influx of refugee doctors, and a clause in the proposed Medical Bill is directed against the newcomers.
Take the clothing trades! The secretary of this union, having discovered that adult refugees were obtaining “ slow-workers’ “ certificates from the Department of Labour and Industry, is making a rapid survey of the ^ clothing manufacturing situation to discover to what extent the influx is harming Australians.
A “ slow-workers’ “ certificate is a licence given to an employer enabling him to pay a lower wage rate to those employees who admittedly cannot work as quickly as ordinary adult employees.
– Who grants the licences?
– Apparently, they are granted by ‘ the States. The article proceeds -
The secretary of the Clothing Trades’ (Mr. Peter Fallon) thinks this way in respect of foreigners with “ slow-worker’s “ certificates: - “It may be said that these adult clothing trades workers from overseas work slower because of language difficulties. I cannot accept that. “I think a tailor or a tailoress or any other clothing employee from the foreign sweatshops will work as fast or faster, not slower, than our workers “.
Mr. Fallon also declared that lie was investigating rumours that foreigners were establishing backyard factories, and also that som.-! were crowding into slum premises and working all sorts of dreadful hours on home piecework.
Other unions - including the Leather Trades (secretary, Mr. Charlie Lynch) - are also watching the situation.
The Musicians’ Union has sent a letter to all theatres and theatrical entrepreneurs reiterating the union’s desire to prevent the establishment of foreigners in the place of Australian musicians.
It is known that one of the gentlemen who came here as our guest to attend the British Relations Conference took it upon himself to interfere in the Jewish problem.
Ho approached Dr. Bainton at the Conservatorium of Music, Mr. Frank Kitson, secretary of the Musicians’ Federation, and others, to test the possibilities of absorbing refugee musicians, from minor instrumentalists to conductors. His overtures were not received with very much enthusiasm.
There are in Sydney many fine citizens of the Jewish religion, who have definite views on the subject of the unrestricted immigration of Jews. According to the article to which I have referred, Sir Samuel Cohen said -
Australian Jews want to find a place for the few refugee Jews that Australia can absorb: but they want only Jews who will make good Australians, and who will not displace an Australian from work. “ I, as an Australian “, said Sir Samuel to this newspaper, “ am as jealous of the freedoms and the living standards of this country as any one else in the community “. That seems to crystallize the views of Australian Jews with whom Truth has discussed the refugee problem.
These people realize that unless the numbers of Jewish migrants are small, and the persons carefully selected, they will eventually become a definite menace to Australia. It must be remembered that the more of these immigrants we allow into Australia the easier it will be for their numbers to multiply, because of the nomination system which operates in regard to immigration. The position needs careful watching. The Commonwealth Government must supervize carefully all attempts to bring these people here. Our first responsibility is to our own workers. When all unemployed Australians have been absorbed in industry, we can then look to other countries for immigrants to assist in building up our population. I realize Australia’s debt to its immigrants. A young land must depend for its population and development on people from other countries. Australia was fortunate in that in its early days numbers of English, Irish, Scotch and German settlers came here. Their quality is reflected in the high standard of the Australian community to-day. We do not wish to see that standard lowered; therefore, I urge the Government to take steps to prevent the unrestricted immigration of Jews to this country.
The Labour party has definite views on the subject of national health and pensions insurance. Unlike the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll), the Opposition does not believe that the act recently passed by this Parliament is a fine piece of legislation. Indeed, no act placed on the statute-book during recent years has caused so much controversy as it has. The Labour party firmly believes in national insurance.
– It believes in a glorified dole.
– But a scheme which is not comprehensive and national, instead of benefiting the whole community, becomes merely a taxing machine. Had the Government introduced a bill in conformity with the promise of the Prime Minister before the election, there would not have been the dissatisfaction which now exists in regard to the measure on the statute-book. In his 1937 policy speech the Prime Minister said -
Experience in Great Britain and other countries has proved that much can be done towards solving the problems which confront the worker as the result of ill-health, unemployment, and old-age by the institution of National insurance … A definite attempt must be made in conjunction with the States to provide relief for the hardships of unemployment and the Government proposes to do all in its power to this end.
That was the promise of the right honorable gentleman, but when his Government was returned to power it failed to provide for that very section of the community which most needed insurance - the men who are out of work and cannot provide medical benefits in time of sickness for themselves and their families.
– The act contains special provision for unemployed persons.
– Not only did the Government fail to carry out the Prime Minister’s promise to the electors, but it also denied to the representatives of the electors the right to discuss the measure fully. The bill which was introduced into the House of Representatives was in its later stages rushed through that chamber by the use of the guillotine. The reason was obvious ; the Government desired that the bill should become law without the men who had been recently elected to the Senate having an opportunity to discuss it. I therefore take this opportunity to condemn, not only the bill itself, but also the methods adopted, by the Government to pass it through the Parliament. That measure, although described by the Government as one providing for national insurance, is not national in character, for it fails to cover another section of the community greatly in need of medical benefits, namely, the wives and children of employed persons. There can be no doubt that the bill was introduced to make the working people pay for their own pensions. One could hardly have believed that such a measure would ever be introduced into this Parliament. Before long the workers of Australia will realize what the ingenuity of some members of the Cabinet has done for them.
– The people are not afraid of it.
– During the last few days I have perused a number of newspapers which were unanimous in condemning the national health and insurance legislation. This morning’s Sydney Morning Herald contains the following report: -
Mr. D. Spring, a director of tlie Manchester Unity of Oddfellows said he considered the National Insurance Act an ill-considered piece of legislation. The Government, he said, was more concerned about putting pensions on a contributory basis than anything else. The unfortunate thing was that the burden would be thrust upon industry.
– The objectors are interested parties.
– The whole community is interested. Dr. Arnott, writing in the Medical Journal of Australia, said -
We have by this time some idea of what national health insurance will mean both to the health of the people and to those on whose shoulders the burden will rest. Men have fought and died for less tyrannous exploitation than this act would impose upon us, and we must be prepared to fight, and if need be, suffer privation to resist this menace, whit-*.’ threatens not only the economic and 30ci.1l welfare of our members, but those very principles in them of independence, self-reliance and self-development, upon which medicine has been founded, and on which its future development depends . . .
We have no need to apologize for our efforts of se.f-defence, and can show a record of social endeavour and service to suffering humanity not capable of being measured in a coinage of a material basis. We have no need to apologize for the fact that during the recent great depression, with no help from the powers above, medicine carried on by itself quietly and effectively; no shutters were put up, and no cries of distress went unheeded from those for whom nature had -provided no moratorium. Can the now beneficent fatherly Government show the same efficient record? They cannot. Instead, one lias unhappy memories of panic and paralysis, of unemployment and nearstarvation, of blighted hopes and a life’s savings wiped out overnight. Let them put their own chaotic house in order before knocking down one whose foundations are at least stable and able to withstand the economic breezes which puff over those of State.
Thus it will be seen that not all of the people share Senator Dein’s opinion. I noticed also the following letter, in a recent issue of a weekly newspaper, written by the Very Reverend Eather Stephen, C.P.:-
To me it seems that the present Federal Government has signed a slow death sentence for all our cherished -benefit societies - a sentence which may lead to the compulsory disposal of most of their funds. Probably no bill has ever enacted greater hardship directly on the ordinary worker and small employer.
That shows that practically all sections of the people are with us in our objection to so many features of the Government’s national health and insurance scheme. If, prior to the last election, the Government had indicated to the people the lines upon which its insurance legislation would be framed it would have lost its majority and its supporters would have been sitting on this side. Comparatively few people with whom I have discussed the scheme have anything to say in its favour. During the debate on the bill in the House of Representatives, and in this chamber also, some members of the Country party were to be seen dashing hither and thither, supporting some of its provisions and opposing others, but always they were to be found behind the Government when the division bells rang.
– That is not so; some of us voted against the bill at every stage.
– The United Australia and Country parties arc entirely sectional in their interests. The purpose of each is to shelter the wealthy, and well-to-do elements in our national life. When the national insurance legislation was being discussed, members of the Country party marched in diverse ways, because of the dilemma in which they found themselves owing to their political alliance with the United Australia party. Although apparently anxious to protect the interests of small farmers and other self-employed persons, they refrained from supporting anypositive proposal to that end. Always a section of that party could be relied upon to vote with the Government and ensure the passage of the measure. Tlie Hansard record of the debate shows that certain Country party members, although supporting the Government, strongly objected to the exclusion from the scheme of small farmers and selfemployed persons, and as a result of the pressure which they exerted, the Government promised to inquire into this aspect of the scheme. So far nothing has been” done, and these people are still unprovided for. As to the administration of the scheme, when the various regulations are brought down we shall, I hope, have an opportunity to examine and discuss provisions which may operate harshly against those coming within the ambit of the project, and perhaps, as the result of representations from Labour senators, some of the most objectionable will be eliminated.
There is urgent need for a well-defined immigration policy. We on this side should like to have a statement of policy, not from the Minister of the Interior (Mr. McEwen), but from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), clearly outlining the obligations of people entering this country, and indicating how the Government intends to ensure the maintenance of our present standard of living.
– I appreciate the helpful advice given by some Government supporters to the new Labour senators. It is gratifying to th ink that many of the suggestions were offered sincerely, but I take this opportunity to express disagreement with some of the statements made. Government supporters seem to be somewhat perturbed that the names of four new Labour senators have as their initial letter the first letter of the alphabet. Senator Foll referred to them as the “ Four A’s.” Government supporters would have the people believe that the significance of a candidate’s place on the ballot-paper was a matter to which only the Labour party attached importance. This is not so. When plans for the last election were being made, the United Australia party selected a gentleman who had the additional advantage of a.double-A - Mr. Aarons, who has taken a great interest in the welfare of the youth of Australia, particularly in New South Wales. But the selection of this gentleman was not endorsed. He was conveniently withdrawn from the ballot because the inclusion of his name would have interfered with the position on the ballot-paper and the chance of election of a sitting member. Senator Hardy, who, had he been successful, would have been, as I was, a member fillinga casual vacancy. I ask honorable senators supporting the Government to remember that the four Labour senators elected for New South Wales had no say in making the rules governing election to this chamber. No exception was taken by Government supporters at previous elections, because, so we must assume, the method favoured them, although at the election in 1934., Senator “Digger” Dunn polled more primary votes than any other member of this chamber. There was no complaint then from Government supporters, and it is not “ cricket “ to squeal now, simply because Labour senators had a favorable position on the ballot-paper at the last election.
– It was not “cricket” either to drop “ Digger “ Dunn because his name did not start with “A.”
– Honorable senators opposite need not shed crocodile tears over ex-Senator Dunn. He took his place and stood his chance in the preselection ballot with myself and 24 other candidates. We claim that the Labour party’s pre-selection ballot is a more democratic procedure than that carried out by the United Australia party, because 40,000 voters participated in it. Six of our candidates had names starting with the letter “ A.” If any advantage was to be expected at the election because a candidate’s name started with the letter “A,” surely the same advantage applied to the pre-selection ballot. I occupied last place among the six candidates whose names started with A, yet I was successful.
I agree with Senator Armstrong that Government supporters in this chamber are like people in their last resting place. I do not know the reason for their mournful demeanour, unless it be a continuance of the spirit which pervaded a function held in the last days of the previous Senate, when those Government supporters who had been dismissed at the election, were being farewelled.
– Dismissed by accident.
– The honorable senator is only here by accident.
– There will not be another such accident at the next election.
– It will Certainly be an accident if Senator Dein is successful when next he appeals to the electors. It has been suggested that the reluctance of Government supporters to take part in an earlier debate was due to their consideration for new senators and their desire to afford them an opportunity to deliver their maiden speeches. I remind the Senate, however, and the Hansard record will bear me out, that there were no fewer than 23 interjections when Senator Amour was making his first speech in this chamber.
– Perhaps the interjections were intended to be helpful.
– By no means. It seems to me that when the Government desires to deride Labour senators, Senator Leckie is put up. I regret that the honorable gentleman is not present, because I wish to comment on some of his utterances in this chamber. In his speech on the Supply Bill Senator Leckie said -
I felt yesterday that I had been inducedto search in a rushing torrent of words for something that was not there. There was not even a dry stick of a. new idea. Honorable senators opposite preach a gospel of discontent.If there is no discontent, they are unhappy, for only by stirring up discontent can they hope to come to power in this Parliament. If they see a man who looks happy, they say to him, “ For God’s sake, take that smile off, you have no right to be happy; don’t you know that you are miserable?”
I cannot commend members of the Government party in their selection of an honorable senator to preach happiness, because Senator Leckie is one of the most unhappy and dismal looking members of this chamber.
– What about Senator Dein?
– Senator Dein is another Government supporter who is constantly interjecting. His complaint is usually about something that Mr. Lang did in New South Wales. I wonder what he would do if Mr! Lang decided to retire from the political arena.
Senator Abbott spoke of the high standard of debate aimed at by Government supporters and expressed the hope that it would be maintained in this Senate. My remarks during this session have, I hope, assisted to maintain the high standard of debate for which this chamber has been noted in the past. One senator who was compulsorily retired by the electors at the last elections had been in this chamber for 37 years, and another for 30 years. I am sure that the standard of the discussions during the last few weeks has been equal to that reached at any time since I have been a member of the Senate, and it is desirable that that quality should be maintained. I have no doubt that the Opposition will assist in that direction ; but if it is subjected to provocative interjections - and some interjections, are very insulting - it will undoubtedly retaliate.
In ‘ reply to observations by members of the Opposition regarding the coal strike, Senator Leckie remarked “ I am afraid that the Communist tail is wagging the Labour dog, and the dog is barking loudly “. The honorable senator should not imagine that he can “ get away with “ remarks of that kind. If any party in this chamber is affiliated with the Communist party, it is the party opposite. Senator Leckie voices in this chamber the views of the Melbourne Age, and he represents the manufacturers of Victoria. If he casts reflections on the members of the Opposition, he must expect hot retorts from us. He made a reference to Senator Amour. Happily that matter has been cleared up, and I have no desire to discuss it further. I strongly suggest to honorable senators on the Government side that when they desire one of their number to dispense charity they should not select a senator who is like an iceberg. They would be well advised to make a better selection than Senator Leckie ; I suggest, for instance, the choice of Senator McBride, who is the only Government follower whom I have seen smiling.
Much comment has been heard regarding the coal strike. In view of the negotiations for a settlement of the dispute, I had expected that this matter would not be discussed. Senator Abbott told us that he had visited Lithgow, and that nobody there wanted a strike. Naturally that is the position. The miners had no desire to go on strike. I asked Senator Abbott, by way of interjection, whether he had seen a miner at Lithgow, but he did not answer the question.
– Nor did I see a mine-owner. I was speaking of the news of the man in the street.
– The honorable senator told me that he was in the town for only a couple of hours.
– I was there for two days.
– The honorable senator must have “ gone into smoke “ while there. The honorable senator also said that the strike in the industry was not a matter for action by the Commonwealth authorities, as the Premier of New South Wales was dealing with it.
– No. I said that the basis of settlement now adopted was proposed by Mr. Stevens weeks ago and rejected by the miners.
– No intervention would’ have been necessary if the advice given by the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin) had been taken as early as last June, when he advised the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to arrange for a conference between the parties. Later, during the Parliamentary recess, he telephoned to the Prime Minister and repeated that suggestion, and later the leaders of the miners came to Canberra, seeking intervention by the Commonwealth Government. The strike would not have taken place if the advice then tendered had been accepted.
It has been suggested that the miners could have got all they desired from the Arbitration Court. The Labour party is in favour of arbitration and conciliation, but it is entitled to consider certain facts and conditions in regard to industry. Shortly before the coal strike was declared, Judge Cantor gave a ruling in Newcastle in which he said that the award was binding until August, 1939. He qualified that statement, however, and I draw attention to the following words which he used - “ But it is claimed, on behalf of the Miners’ Federation, that its representatives at the conference made further definite reservations in regard to the industrial matters of hours, pensions, and annual holidays on pay. No note, however, of a reservation with respect to any one of those matters is contained in my note-book, nor- is any such reservation embodied in the settlement itself, and the claim is disputed by the owners. “ Moreover, upon the hearing in October, 1937, of the application for awards embodying the settlement - which application, was served, not only upon tlie parties to the settlement, but upon every colliery proprietor in New South Wales, and heard in open court - no mention was made of any reservation relating to hours, pensions, and annual holidays, although the question of reservations was specifically raised “.
In a statement read on behalf of the Miners’ Federation during the present hearing, his Honor said, it was asserted that it was possible for an industrial organization at any time to seek variation or cancellation of an award. Broadly speaking that was perfectly correct and the knowledge that the right existed had possibly created some confusion in the minds of the representatives of the Miners’ Federation. The power existed, but was to be exercised only under special circumstances, only for good and cogent reasons. A conclusive answer to such an application would not necessarily be supplied by the fact that the duration of the awards had been fixed by agreement at two years. But the circumstance that the award had, by agreement, been made for a’ specified period, which had not expired, would be entitled to considerable weight.
The judge declared that an award could bc broken or suspended for “good and cogent reasons”. Honorable senators may ask me to ‘ mention some such reasons. I suggest that a 100 per cent, increase of the number of fatal accidents in the mines is a good and cogent reason why the award should be broken. Another is the fact that sickness through dust in the mines has increased considerably. There is also the need for compensation for injuries received in the course of employment. A couple of weeks ago I met a miner aged about 34 years’ who had attended a tribunal in Sydney. He was suffering so badly from the effects of dust that he could hardly speak. He had been told to return to the mines and seek work on the surface, but the management informed him that it had no work for him on top. Consequently he was compelled to go below again, and this practically condemned him to a living death. One of the reasons why the award has been broken by the employees is that no provision is made for partial compensation. It would appear that an employee in the industry must have one foot in the grave before, he can receive any compensation for injuries received in the course of his employment. That is another just and cogent reason why the award should be broken. When the owners of the northern coal-fields locked their men out for eighteen months in 1929, we did not hear honorable senators opposite saying that they should go to the Arbitration Court. In that year the northern coal-mine owners locked out 10,000 of their employees and they were allowed to resume work only if they accepted a reduction oi their wages by 12-J per cent. Moreover, the coal-miners in the south and in the west, who were not involved were also compelled to accept a similar reduction and to be governed by the new conditions which were made to apply to the north. Judge Beeby, in a judgment delivered in 1930, said-
Without application to this court or to a special tribunal set up under the Industrial Peace Act, certain Australian collieries in the Newcastle district succeeded in forcing a reduction of the contract and wage rate of their employees engaged directly in coal production. The reduced rates were of necessity adopted by non-association collieries in the same district, the actual result of the industrial conflict recently concluded was a reduction of the rates’ of pay of contract miners by 121 per cent., and of day workers by Cd. a day in the whole of the Newcastle area.
The award was made to apply to the western and southern coal-fields so that it would be in conformity with that forced upon the coal-miners in the northern district. No consideration whatever was given to the higher cost of living in the south and in the west. The quarterlystatistics from 1914 to 1938 disclose that the cost of living in the western district is 3 per cent, higher than in the northern area. Some consideration should have been given to that important aspect of the matter. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the rates of pay which obtain on the northern coal-fields. In 1914, the hewing. rate was 2s. a ton, and the cost of coal at the pit mouth was 7s. Sd. a. ton. Under Judge Edmunds’ award delivered in 1916, an increase of 15 per cent, or 3½d. a ton was made in the hewing rate, bringing the rate up to 2s. 3-J-d. a ton, but the owners increased the price of coal by ls. 4d. a ton. Under an award made in 1919, the miners received a further increase of 15 per cent., or 4 ki. a ton, which brought their earnings up to 2s. 8d. but the owners increased the price of coal by 4s. 5d. a ton. In 1920, a special tribunal gave ,to the miners an increase of 17-J per cent., or Cd. a ton, which brought their earnings up to 3s. 2d., but the owners again increased the price of coal by ls. 9d. In 1925, the hewing rate for the miners was 3s. 2d., while the cost of coal was 17s. 7d. a ton, an increase of 2s. 5d. These figures show that the miners received an increase of ls. 2d. a ton in the hewing rate, but the owners increased the price of coal by 9s. lid. a ton. Is it any wonder that the men engaged in this industry wish to improve their conditions? Several months prior to the recent dispute, certain coal contracts were let at prices which increased the rate by from 3s. to 4s. a ton. If there were any grounds for saying -that the industry was not paying previously, surely it should he paying to-day. Moreover, Australia produces coal at a cheaper Tate than any country. The production in tons per capita in New South Wales from 1931 to 1937 has been as follows: - 1931, 554; 1932, 640; 1933, 715; 1934, 776; 1935, 847; 1936, not stated ; and 1937, 869. In other countries, the production in tons per capita was: - France, 261; Ruhr, 451; Upper Silesia, 507 ; Saxony, 246 ; Great Britain, 331; Poland, 512; Canada, 561; Japan, 250; and India, 186. Australia produces a greater tonnage of coal per capita per annum than any other country and it * also produces it at a cheaper rate. The cost of production in other countries has been: - Belgium; 14s. lid. a ton; France, lis. Id. ; Germany, 9s. 9d. ; Great Britain, 9s. lid.; Poland, 5s. lid.; Canada, 10s. Id.; and Japan, 6s. 8d. The cost of production in New South Wales in Australian currency is 4s. Id. a ton. This shows that the coal-miners in New South Wales produce coal at . a cheaper rate than the coal-miners in any other country. I rejoice in the fact that there is a prospect of the coal-mining dispute being settled, and I sincerely trust that those engaged in the industry will receive the consideration to which they are entitled. The number of fatal accidents that occur in the coal mines should be reduced, and additional precautionary measures taken to prevent or reduce sickness. The State Mines Department is largely responsible for the conditions which prevail in this respect, because the rules and regulations under which mining is carried on are obsolete. The officers of the Mines Department always say that the regulations governing the industry are being observed, but the complaint of those concerned is that the regulations are obsolete and should be brought up to date. The Mines Department must cease to be merely a bureau for the collection of royalties, and hiding behind regulations which are usually found to be out-of-date.
I was pleased to hear the observations made by several honorable senators opposite to the effect that, through lack of oil supplies, Australia would find itself in a precarious position in the event of international conflict. I do not propose to deal at. length with, the production of oil from coal and shale. This problem can be solved without very great difficulty, because Australia possesses the richest shale deposits and some of the best coal in the world. If the Government were to undertake the production of oil from coal on a proper basis, we should be enabled to re-absorb in ‘industry many of the men who are now unemployed on our mining fields, and at the same time increase national security. Both these objectives, I suggest, are the responsibility of the National Government. I recall that, at an inquiry into the possibilities of producing oil from shale at Newnes, a responsible officer of the Commonwealth
Government stated that, in the event of a blockade, we would not save sufficient oil in Australia to meet our requirements for three months. If we established the shale and coal oil industry, we would be producing a commodity for which there is an ever-increasing demand in this country. I realize, of course, that in respect of oil the Government of any country is up against tremendous interests which represent one of the greatest monopolies in the world. The power of those interests in Australia is evident in practically every hamlet in this country where one sees petrol pumps, and plant for the distribution of petrol, the erection of some having cost anything from £2,000 to £3,000. Furthermore, approximately £60,000,000 is invested by oil companies in this industry in Australia. Nevertheless, it is the duty of this Government to tackle this problem courageously in the interests of not only the unemployed, but also national security. An honorable senator interjected this afternoon that we have already started to produce oil from shale. We have certainly started ; after a lot of inquiries in this chamber, I find that as many as fifteen men are fully employed to-day at Newnes ! Three months ago, the Leader of the Senate assured me that within a couple of months as many as 200 men would be employed on that project. To-day only fifteen men are employed, yet it is proposed to expend approximately £250,000 in constructing a pipe line from Newnes to Bankstown, near Sydney, another wonderful example, I suggest, of this Government’s policy of decentralization.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for saying that there are only fifteen men employed at Newnes to-day?
– I secured that information when I visited Newnes last Sunday week. I was not surprised, because prior to the last general elections I was told that oil was then being produced at Newnes. In view of such exaggeration, perhaps, it is not surprising to discover that so far only fifteen men have found employment there.
Provision is made in this budget for the implementation of the national health and pensions insurance legislation. I agree with the suggestion made by one honorable senator this afternoon that it is a misnomer to describe this scheme as “ national “, because it is definitely sectional in character and discriminatory in its application.
– If was intended to be so.
– That is correct. Every section of the community has voiced a protest, against the scheme, more particularly those who are directly affected by it, including doctors and members of friendly societies. I feel sure that, like myself, all honorable senators have received many letters condemning that legislation, but I have yet to hear of any honorable senator who has received any letter commending it. My main objection to the scheme is that the section of the community most in need of medical benefits, the unemployed, will not come within its scope. Under it the wives and children of the insured persons are absolutely abandoned, and the onus is thrown on the working man to see that his family is covered by a friendly society. Investigations into schemes for the provision of insurance against unemployment, sickness, widows’ pensions, child endowment and the like were made by a Nationalist government, as long as fifteen years ago. and reports presented on this subject in . the meantime have cost over £60,000. This Government, therefore, had ample opportunity to review all the possibilities of a scheme of this kind, and to put upon the statute-book a measure which would be acceptable to at least one section of the community. We find, however, that not one section accepts this scheme with satisfaction. Astounding as it may seem, this Government has decided to appoint another royal commission to inqure into certain aspects of the scheme, and it is difficult to say to what amount the cost of preliminary investigations will be increased before the legislation is actually implemented. Several honorable senators have referred during this debate to the haste with which that legislation was rushed through this chamber. I agree with them that this Government exhibited indecent haste in that respect. It even did a thing never heard of before in the history of this Parliament: the Senate was required to sit on a Saturday in order to wass the measure. From that fact one would be led to believe that the members of this chamber had had a busy time, but in reality, they sat for only 29 days last year. The Senate was in recess to the 27th April of this year, and I can see no reason why it could not have sat during that period in order that full opportunity might be given to honorable senators to discuss the measure. Alternatively, the Government could haw. postponed that legislation until such time as the representatives of the people who entered this chamber on. the 1st July could be heard regarding it. . I repeat that that legislation makes no provision whatever for the unemployed, the one section most in need of health and pension insurance. As my leader remarked, poverty should not be a bar to help of that kind. As the health of the people is a national asset, its maintenance is a national obligation. Under this legislation this Government will provide £2,000,000 next year, and it is estimated that 1,850,000 persons will be covered by the scheme. It seems rather strange that under it the Government finds itself able to provide financial assistance for those who are in employment, but contends that on account of its financial policy it is unable to afford any assistance to those who are out of employment. During the last six years this Government has reduced taxes on wealthy propertyowners by approximately £26,000,000. The insurance legislation is really a taxing measure, for it transfers the burden from the wealthy taxpayers to persons with small incomes.
– Rubbish !
– The medical man in Macquarie Street, the lawyer, the investor on the Stock Exchange, with incomes of, say £5,000 a year, will, it is true, make modest contributions to the fund, for they will pay ls. 6d. a week in respect of certain of their employees, but how will their contribution- compare with that of a young man -of 17 years, of age, who has just started work, and is in receipt of 15s. a week? He, .too, will- pay ls. 6d. a week out of his earnings.
– His contribution will represent a definite reduction’ of his wages.
– If it is not a tax, I have yet to learn what a tax is.
– The professional men mentioned by the honorable senator will receive no benefits in return for their contributions.
– What benefit will the boy to whom I have referred receive?
– Many people throughout Australia will have reason to be thankful for this legislation.
– I think that I have shown clearly that the burden of this tax has been shifted on to the shoulders of those least able to bear it. [Extension of time granted.] When the legislation dealing with national health and insurance was before the House of Representatives, many Government supporters condemned different clauses, but they were careful not to condemn the measure as a whole. They tried to please the electors, while leaving the way open for them to submit to dictation by the party when the time for a vote arrived. One member of the Opposition in the other chamber described the measure aptly when he said that Government supporters praised it with faint damns and damned it with faint praise.
On behalf of the Opposition, I express appreciation of the remarks by some honorable senators opposite regarding the newly-elected senators. I assure you, Mr. President, that we on this side will endeavour, by our conduct in this chamber, to uphold the dignity and the high standard of debate that has characterized the Senate in the past. We shall assist the Government to place on the statute-book legislation which we believe will be in the interests of the people, but whilst offering our full support to such measures, we shall avail ourselves to the full of the opportunity to condemn legislation of which we disapprove.
– I shall not speak at length, but there are several matters to which I wish to refer. The subject of defence has been mentioned during this debate, particularly by honorable senators on ‘ the other side of the chamber, one of whom expressed some apprehension that, in the event of a national emergency, the” oil supplies at the disposal of the’ Government would be found to be totally in- adequate. That may be so; I do not know. But 1 do know that, for the last three or four years, the Government has realized the need to strengthen the defences of Australia, and I am prepared to believe that it has not overlooked the important aspect of providing adequate supplies of oil fuel. The importance of the air arm of our defence forces has been realized more and more during recent years, and as the Government has taken steps to strengthen that arm, it is only logical to believe that it has also taken the precaution to ensure that it will not be rendered useless through lack” of oil supplies. In regard to the question of oil, I draw the attention of the Senate to the reception given to a measure which was introduced into this Parliament last year with the two-fold object of producing oil from shale and providing employment for Australian workers. The spokesman for the Labour party in the House of Representatives - the honorable member ‘ for Hunter, Mr. James, in whose district are, perhaps, the largest deposits of coal in Australia - speaking on the Friday afternoon, said that his party would offer no opposition to the bill. -The House rose, and members left for their homes. When they re-assembled in the following week, the Labour party opposed the bill tooth and nail.
SenatorCameron. - What was the reason ?
– During the interval, members of the party received instructions from Sydney to oppose it. At the head of that party in New South Wales was a little coterie which, in 1931, had refused to co-operate with the Scullin Government when it endeavoured to develop the shale oil industry. That Government placed £100,000 on the Estimates in order that preliminary work in that direction might be undertaken, and appealed to the Labour Government of New South Wales for its co-operation. That co-operation was refused. That is the reason why the Labour party decided to oppose the National Oil Proprietary Agreement Bill last year. Its members in the federal sphere did not have the courage to defy that small coterie in New South Wales.
– Does the honorable senator say that I was instructed by certain people in New South Wales to oppose that measure ?
– I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. Notwithstanding the statement of the honorable member for Hunter on the Friday afternoon that the Labour party would not oppose the bill, that party did oppose it when the House again met. The result was that a supporting bill, which was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament, was opposed by members of the Labour party with the exception of the member in whose electorate the shale deposits are situated, namely, Mr. Hamilton Knight. To some extent he defied the dictators of the party, as did also Mr. Gus Kelly, the member from the adjoining electorate of Bathurst. Although it is true that those two members did not vote against the bill, they certainly did not support it. What was the result in the Lithgow electorate? Although Macquarie had previously been a Labour stronghold, Mr. John Lawson was returned for the third time in succession, and the vote which he secured was a record for any non-Labour candidate in the Lithgow area of that electorate. The Labour candidate was rejected by men who were clamouring for jobs, and in the interests of the nation desired to see a commencement of the production of oil from shale. In the circumstances, it was not surprising that a supporter of the United Australia party candidate could stand at any street corner in Lithgow and get a wonderful hearing from the electors while telling them of the anti-labour tactics of the people who were supposed to represent them. It was natural that Mr. John Lawson should be returned by such a handsome majority. Labour members so often talk with their tongues in their cheeks about the production of oil from shale. When they had an opportunity to do something in this matter, they fell down on the job, and subsequently offered the strongest opposition to the bill to assist private enterprise to develop the Newnes shalefields.In spite of their opposition, however; the measure was passed.
– How many people are employed there now?
– I realize, as do all honorable senators on this side, that it is difficult to set up the organization contemplated to extract oil from the Newnes shale deposits. It is a colossal undertaking - so huge, in fact, and bristling with so many problems, that the Commonwealth Government could not interest any private organization overseas in it. Eventually, with theco-operation of the New South Wales Government, it induced the principal of an important Australian company to consider the project. We all felt very glad indeed that success had at last crowned the Government’s efforts, because the production of oil in Australia is a very urgent national need. It must be realized, however, that the establishment of the huge plant necessary for this undertaking must be carried out with the greatest caution, because more than £333,000 of Commonwealth money is invested in the scheme. It is only to be expected that, in the initial stages, comparatively few men can be employed. Men are, as yet, engaged only in the preparatory work. I know that some honorable senators opposite would start everything at once with the result that the enterprise would probably fail within three months. To avoid such a catastrophe every step must be taken with the utmost caution. We all hope that this great undertaking will be entirely successful.
I challenge the accuracy of the figures given by Senator Ashley, relative to employment at Newnes, because I have been given what I considered was an authoritative figure, and it does not tally with his. I am informed that 40 men are at present employed by the company undertaking the developmcnt of the Newnes shale deposits. While I admit that this number is not large, it is 250 per cent. higher than the number given by Senator Ashley. Moreover, it is expected that this number will be increased shortly, because of work necessary in the reconstruction and extension of the road from Capertee to Glen Alice.
– The honorable senator’s figure is not correct.
– It is authentic.
– If I were not sure of a figure I should not give it in this chamber. Unfortunate y, even when this Government does something to provide employment for those out of work, there is always some opposition offered by the Labour party, and, strangely enough, when industrial conditions are becoming worse, Labour opponents seem to be more joyful. No credit for success in developing the Newnes shale-fields can be taken by the Labour party, because it has raised every obstacle to the Government’s efforts to establish the undertaking on a sound basis. Whilst I do not imply that Senator Ashley wilfully gave the wrong employment figure, I suggest that, as he visited the area less than a fortnight ago, he should have been better informed.
During the last election the Labour party’s defence policy - if it could be called a defence policy - was widely propounded from every platform, but the people did not approve of it.
– What about the thirteen new Labour senators elected to this chamber?
– That was purely accidental and is without . significance. Which chamber of this Parliament truly indicates the strength of the various political parties? In the House of Representatives the Labour party gained only one seat, Bendigo, in which constituency the sitting member did not seek reelection, and I submit that it is in that branch of our legislature that the support accorded to the parties is accurately reflected. The election of thirteen new Labour senators to this chamber was purely accidental. In the State of New South Wales it was a quadruple accident.
– The honorable senator himself gained an advantage because of his alphabetical position on the ballot-paper.
– I remind Senator Sheehan that the majority in New South Wales by which the Government was elected in the Senate in 1934 was 189,000, whilst the majority in the House of Representatives at the same election was aproximately 100,000. In 1937, the United Australia party and the United Country party gained a majority of 80,000 votes for the House of Representatives, yet in the Senate, the same parties lost on primary votes by 30,000. The majority in the House of Representatives on that occasion included gains in seven electorates, showing clearly that the Senate vote did not accurately reflect the opinion of the people. I have no ill feeling towards honorable senators who were successful at the last election, but 1 arn glad that I was not a candidate in that election, because I would be inclined to regard the result as mere misadventure on the part of the electors. 1 regard the Labour party’s defence policy as-
– The best ever !
– That may be so, because the Labour party, until now, has not had a policy. The people did not take any notice of the Labour party’s declarations from election platforms, and returned the present Government to power with the loss of only one seat in the House of Representatives. Let us see what the Labour party offered to the people in the way of a defence policy. Labour said, in effect : “ Ladies and gentlemen, we shall build up an air force and we shall have oil supplies.” I am prepared to admit that, had the Labour party been returned to power, it would have established an air force and possibly secured oil supplies; but that party says in effect, also : “ When an enemy approaches within three miles of our shores and trains guns on Sydney and Melbourne, we shall call Parliament together and inform honorable members that there is an enemy outside and we had better hold a referendum to determine our attitude.”
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The defence policy of the Labour party at the last elections was so futile and so hollow that it was rejected with scorn by the people although it was made one of the prominent features of the campaign. Certainly it provided, theoretically, for the establishment of an air force, but whether this would be efficient was left to the imagination. However efficient it might have become, it would not have been able to discharge its duties in a national emergency, as would be expected by the people, because the policy of the Labour party contained a principle which would have nullified the usefulness of the force. An international crisis might have arisen, resulting in an enemy force consisting of naval vessels and aircraft being drawn up off the Australian coast; but our air force would have been useless, because under the policy of the Labour party not one hand could have been lifted to allow the Australian Air Force to do its work promptly. The policy of the Labour party provides that nothing shall be done to defend this country until an enemy lands on Australian soil.
– Who manned the army?
– The statement by the honorable senator as to the Labour party’s defence policy is absolutely inaccurate.
– Under its policy the Labour party ‘requires a referendum to be taken before deciding its attitude. Enemy planes and naval forces might approach the Australian coast, but not one Australian plane could be moved out to intercept them, because the defence policy of the party provided for the taking of a referendum as a preliminary procedure.
– Who said that?
– The policy of the Labour party is that no man shall leave Australian shores to defend this country until a referendum has been held. It is such a useless and childish policy that even Labour supporters in this chamber are now repudiating it. Before anything could be done to defend this country in the event of an emergency, Parliament would have to be summoned; thereupon, the legislators would debate whether a referendum should be held to decide whether our air force should get busy. The Leader of the Labour party and his supporters have never told us that they would advocate an affirmative vote at such a referendum. Under the Constitution, two committees would have to be set up - one to prepare the case for, and the other the case against the questions to be submitted to the electors. Leaflets would have to be sent to every elector throughout the Commonwealth, and eventually the referendum would be taken i Of course the enemy would not be so unkind to the Labour party as to interfere with our cities or invade Australian soil until the referendum had been taken. Enemies are usually chivalrous and nothing would he done to embarrass the Labour party. If the question submitted to the people by referendum were decided in the affirmative, our defence force would then be permitted to engage the enemy. It appears to me that the defence of this country involves the necessity to keep an enemy away from our shores, even though it might mean going a dozen or twenty miles out to sea to meet him; but, under the sham defence policy of the Labour party, nothing would be done to check his progress until a referendum had been held. That is the policy submitted by the party in 1937, and it met with ignominious defeat. How, I ask, could Australia be defended against an advancing enemy if a referendum had to be taken before our force would be permitted to act? Such a policy is so childish that even honorable senators opposite squirm under criticism of it.
Senator Armstrong went out of his way to suggest that there was sympathy between the Communist party and the parties supporting the present Government. In 1934 a Communist candidate stood for the Senate in New South Wales and received 23,063 first preference votes. Of that number 1,811 votes, or 2 per cent., were given to the Douglas Credit group; 2,038, or S per cent.-, went to the Government; and 19,214, or 83 per cent., were recorded in favour of Labour candidates. That is the answer to Senator Armstrong. A few months prior to the last election, the Communist party issued a number of leaflets. No. 1 leaflet, which is headed, “ We want’ a Labour government “, states -
The Lyons Government must go. The Communist party sets itself the task of bringing about the defeat of the Lyons Government, using its organization and press and meetings for’ this purpose. The defeat of the Lyons Government means the return of the Labour Government.
The Communist party, to show its sincerity, has withdrawn all but one or two candidates, and will give full support to the endorsed Labour party candidates.
Forward to victory!
The Communist party had only one candidate in the field, the lowest number for many years. I think that he stood for the division of Herbert. Senator Ashley and his party were elected by a majority of about- 11,000 votes, and as the Communist candidate in New South Wales in 1934 obtained 23,000 first preference votes, I ask “ Who would have been elected if the Communists had not voted for the Labour candidates?” The Communist party states in its declared policy that it espouses the cause of the Labour party, which it urges the electors to support. Yet Senator Armstrong, despite what happened at the 1934 and 1937 elections, suggests that the Communist party is behind the Government forces. The Communist vote was sufficient in New South Wales to secure the return to the Senate of four candidates whose names happen to commence with the letters “ A “. The facts and figures, together with the published policy of the Communist party, prove conclusively that the Communists support the Labour party up to the hilt. It is unfair for Senator Armstrong to attempt to kick those who gave him his seat in the Senate.
– Was it the alphabetical arrangement of the candidates’ names or the Communist party which resulted in the Labour success?
– The alphabetical grouping in New South Wales is worth at least 80,000 votes, according to election returns, and the Communist party accounts for another 23,000 votes. Either one of those factors was sufficient to have caused the return of the. Labour candidates, but the alphabetic and Communist votes made it .doubly sure.
– Which factor does the honorable senator think was responsible?
– Had the names of the four Labour candidates in New South Wales commenced with. “ Z “ instead of “A”, they would have been defeated by 100,000 votes, because in 1934 the majority of their opponents was 189,000. Nobody will deny that the Labour candidates were chosen because their names would appear at the top of the ballot paper. This fact’ was worth in New South Wales anything from 80,000 to 100,000 votes. At the 1937 Labour preselection ballot “Digger” Dunn was defeated, although at the previous elections he had received 416,000 primary votes, but in 1937 he possessed no alphabetical asset and had to stand down.
I now wish to refer to national insurance. As I stated when the hill was before the Senate the present scheme of national insurance is not ideal, but I claim, as I did when the measure was introduced, that it provides the foundation upon which to build. It is a scheme of which we may be proud, but I regret that the unemployed have not been provided for. Honorable senators are aware that 1,850,000 persons are directly covered by the scheme, but I would not be justified in saying that the scheme is not a good one, merely because everyone is not included. Before the scheme was introduced the Government called , the representatives of the State governments together to formulate a scheme of unemployment insurance, but the State go:vernments refused to co-operate, which left the Commonwealth powerless. That is unfortunate, because the unemployed are entitled to greater consideration than possibly any other section of the community. The responsibility ‘in that respect cannot therefore be laid at the feet of this Government. I still hope that the State governments will co-operate, and that all members of this Parliament will endeavour to improve the scheme. We ought to make it more comprehensive by including not only the unemployed, but also others who are at present excluded. The necessity for the measure cannot he denied, particularly when we recall that 32 other countries have adopted a system of national insurance, and that all political parties in Australia have advocated some such scheme for a number of years. The scheme, while not perfect, has much to commend it. I am sorry that juniors, such as apprentices, who receive only a few shillings a week, will find it hard to pay the amount expected of them. The act provides that insured females shall contribute1s. a week, for which they will receive free medical attention and free medicine for life. That is worth1s. a week, apart from any other benefits. In addition, female contributors are entitled to sickness and disablement benefits, and when they reach a pensionable age they will receive a pension, not a princely one, I admit. Yet the members of the Opposition who say that the contribution of1s. a week is a tax, are telling the people that they are compelled to pay1s. a week for which they will receive nothing in return. Such criticism is unfair. I now pass to the male contributors who have to pay1s. 6d. a week. I would not mention this but for the fact that some have said that for a contribution of1s. 6d. a week they will not receive any benefit. For the contribution which they have to pay, male contributors will receive free medical attention and free medicine for life.
Honorable senators in Opposition interjecting,
– I am afraid that honorable senators opposite cannot take their medicine. I repeat that male contributors who pay1s. 6d. a week will receive free medical attention and free medicine for life. If honorable senators opposite do not believe me, they should study the act. In addition to medical benefits, they will also be entitled to sickness and disablement benefits, and their widows, should they die, will be entitled to a widow’s pension. Their children also will receive a pension. A male contributor reaching the retiring age will receive a pension without having to undergo the “ means “ test. Notwithstanding these privileges, members of the Labour party have been travelling throughout the country - I can speak more of New South “Wales because that is the State which I represent - telling the people that they are being taxed to the extent of1s. 6d. a week. The benefits received in return for the contribution will be more than sevenfold. The members of the Labour party are endeavouring to poison the minds of the electors, and it is exceedingly unfortunate that in my travels in New SouthWales, particularly in the metropolitan area, I should find such determined efforts being made to mislead the public. I have found a good deal of hostile criticism - some of it I have levelled against the legislation myself because I do not regard it as perfect - but I have informed those with whom I have come in contact that the legislation is a first instalment and provides a foundation upon which we can build. I have not found the strong opposition which honorable senators opposite say exists. Only last night I was invited to address the staff of one of the big commercial houses in Sydney. I knew only one person in the audience, and I did not know the politics of those present. I did not touch upon politics, but I imagined that representatives of all political parties were present. Those people were anxious to learn something of the national insurance scheme, and I explained the main provisions of the act. I offered some criticism and said that I hoped that as time went on the system would he improved. At the conclusion of a lengthy meeting I answered many questions. I told those present of the contributions they would have to make, and the benefits that they would receive, and they had sufficient sense to see that the legislation was not as bad as some of our political opponents had pictured it. I now wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the following paragraph published in the Century, the Lang newspaper in New South Wales -
Addressing the Gas Employees Union Management Committee, Federal Member T. Sheehan declared that the scheme was nothing more than a new form of taxation. Not even juvenile wage-earners would escape this tax. While those who must contribute have been led to believe that it will ensure them receiving the old-age pension without passing the means test the fact is that it will do nothing of the sort.
That is a lie.
– The honorable senator has said that the statement made by a member of the Labour party in the House of Representatives is a lie. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator must withdraw the word to which exception has been taken.
– Perhaps I can put it in another way.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to put the statement in another way. You, sir, have asked that it be withdrawn and your direction should be complied with.
– Mr. President-
– The honorable senator must withdraw the word to which exception has been taken.
– I withdraw it; but the statement is untrue, because the act does provide for pensions. The honorable member for Cook says that the bill does not provide for a pension. That statement is not in conformity with the act, which does provide for an old-age pension. I have mentioned the matter to show the type of misrepresentation that is being indulged in, and the untruthful statements that are being made concerning the act in an endeavour to discredit the Government. The paragraph continues -
Census figures show that of 1,478,040 males in industry only 56,533 were between the age of 60 and 04. Of 527,440 females only 6,036 were between the age of 55 and 59. These figures show that employees do not remain in industry long enough to become eligible for the old-age pension under the National Insurance scheme.
That -is far from the truth, and the honorable member who made the statement knew it. Honorable senators opposite who have read the act know that it is not true. I would not have mentioned these statements but for the campaign of vilification and condemnation that is being carried on in New South Wales with the’ sole object of discrediting the Government. I am willing to go into any community, and to explain the benefits of the legislation and to point out its defects. I shall guarantee that when I do so a’ majority of the people will accept the scheme as reasonable. It is not. 100 per cent, perfect, but it is a start. The members of the Opposition are disappointed because the national health and pensions insurance scheme, which is the greatest measure of social legislation ever introduced into Australia, is being sponsored by the present Government.
During the debate reference has been made to the Government’s migration policy. I do not agree with all that is being done in this respect. I do not agree entirely with the Government’s policy on migration, although I am aware that the Ministry is confronted with certain difficulties. I agree with the view expressed by some honorable senators opposite that we are not getting sufficient migrants of the right type. However, in order to put the knife into the Government, honorable senators opposite - and here I totally disagree with them - assert that the Government is glad to see all sorts of migrants coming into this country, because their entry will result in the lowering of our living standards. Nothing could be further from the truth. Honorable senators opposite, know that very well. They reiterate such statements, apparently, on the assumption that some foolish people outside will believe them. In the short time he has been a member of this chamber, Senator Cameron has made such wild statements that I believe he still thinks that he is at the Melbourne Trades Hall. For instance, his statement that under the apprenticeship law of Victoria employers are enabled to break down working standards, is absolutely incorrect. Senator Leckie shattered that argument. Senator Cameron also spoke of sweating conditions in the clothing trade at Carlton and the exploitation of cheap labour by employers in that trade. To a lesser degree, similar conditions prevailed in New South Wales, but some years ago, owing largely to the efforts of the late Sir John Dunningham, they were abolished. I am very sorry that the Labour party in Victoria, which’ keeps in office the Dunstan Government, does not exert its influence to see that similar action is taken there. If Victoria had a government somewhat like the Stevens Government in New South Wales, this trouble would soon be overcome. The suggestion that the Commonwealth Government is in sympathy with those who desired to break down our standards of living is sheer nonsense. Such statements may be accepted by people on street corners, and to them, apparently, honorable senators opposite seek to appeal in the belief that if they throw enough mud some of it will stick. Propaganda of this kind is based on the belief that the unwary mightbelieve it, but no public man need find himself in difficulty when he faces the people so long as he tells the truth. I regret that Senator Cameron does not know more about industrial conditions prevailing in New South Wales. If he did, he would moderate his views on this subject.
To some extent, I endorse the views expressed by honorable senators opposite regarding the problem of unemployment. I am aware that some of my colleagues may not agree with some of my statements in this respect. Nevertheless, I am entitled to my own opinion. Unemployment has figured in practically every important debate that has taken place in this Parliament during the last six or seven years, and here again the Labour party, for political purposes, seeks to lay the whole of the blame at the door of the Commonwealth Government. I admit that this Government cannot wash its hands entirely of responsibility in- this respect. It is its duty to populate, defend and develop Australia, and the problem of employment is wrapped up with those three responsibilities. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Government cannot be held accountable for unemployment. As one remedy, some honorable senators opposite suggest the introduction of a 40-hour week, whilst others favour a 36-hour week, and yet others a 30-hour week. I confess that I do not know what minimum working week is necessary in order to reduce unemployment. However, for reasons over which none of us has control, I believe that we shall never entirely eliminate this evil. Yet, so long as there is an unemployed person in the community who is able arid willing to work, we should spare no effort to help him to get a job. I do not believe that every one in the community is able and willing to work. Whether a reduction of working hours would solve the problem, I do not know, but I believe that it would tend considerably to do so.
– A reduction of hours would increase unemployment.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. Before I should favour any particular proposal, however, I should like to study both sides of it. It is a big problem, that cannot be solved by merely legislating to reduce the working week. If we did that, we should need to pass another law compelling persons to employ others under the new conditions. If that were practicable, it might in a fashion cure the evil. However, a reduction of hours would constitute a practical step forward, and I should like to see some authority set up to weigh the pros and cons of the matter, in order to ensure that such a reform, if instituted, would” not injure anybody.
But let us examine more closely the attitude of the Labour party in respect of this matter… Four years ago, when I was a member of the House of Representatives, I was one of those in the United Australia party who felt that this problem should be looked into, and in deference to our wishes, the Prime Minister agreed to institute an inquiry. But what was the response of the trade unions? They would have nothing to do with the investigation.
– It was loaded.
– Whenever an inquiry of this nature is proposed, members of the Labour party invariably adopt that attitude. I suggest that if honorable senators opposite believe in their case, they would feel able to convince any body of the necessity for a reduction of hours. But the Labour party does not want such an inquiry. If a union wants a reduction of hours, has it not an opportunity to have its case heard? I recall that five or six years ago, when the working week was 48 hours, the textile workers applied to the Federal Arbitration Court for a reduction of hours, and, after hearing evidence from both sides, the court decided in favour of a 44-hours week. Similar action has been taken by other unions. What I cannot understand is why one union at least does not approach the court and present a case for the reduction of the present working hours. Recently in South. Australia quite a number of unions signified their intention of combining in an application of this kind. However, something happened, and the whole matter was dropped, and, so far as I am aware, no union has since presented such a claim to the court. Some authority should be appointed to decide whether or not a 40-hours working week would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. 1 do not believe that this Parliament is competent to decide that issue, because the guiding principle of members of Parliament in coming to a decision on such a matter, would be the views of the electors. They would be guided by how many votes they would win or lose as the result of their decision. For that reason alone Parliament is certainly not competent to deal with such a matter. The unions will neither avail themselves of the Arbitra tion Court, nor accept an inquiry by an independent tribunal. In those circumstances, I do not know how the matter is to be decided. Whenever an inquiry is suggested the unions reply, “ The thing is loaded “. No wonder the scales are always loaded against the Labour party when it goes before the electors; possibly that attitude is responsible for the fact that the electors will have no truck with that party. I reiterate that some authority should inquire into the proposal for a reduction of the working week. [Extension of time granted.] That authority is certainly not this Parliament.
– Let the honorable senator speak for himself.
– Quite frankly, I admit that I am not in a position to say whether or not Australia would be better off if the present working week were reduced.
– What kind of authority does the honorable senator suggest should be asked to deal with this matter?
– As the Labour party refuses to approachthe Arbitration Court on this matter, members of that party should answer the question. Year after year, whenever such an inquiry is suggested, they invariably reply, “ The thing is loaded “, and there the matter is allowed to drop. I know that my suggestion will not appeal to Senator Cameron, because he is one of those who believes that everything this Government offers is “ loaded “. For instance, he was among those who were most vocerifous in their efforts to frustrate the inquiry into the hours question recently undertaken at the instance of this Government. I believe that the subject should be inquired into by a competent authority. If that were done a reduction of the working hours would probably be recommended. The idea is worthy of consideration. When we speak of employment, we think of secondary industries, primary industries, developmental works, and social services. Dealing first with secondary industries, we find’ that the number of factory employees has reached the highest peak in the history of Australia. Production also is higher than ever before.
The use of machinery has increased production out of proportion to the increased number of employees. “We, therefore, cannot look to our secondary industries to absorb all our unemployed, unless we can find markets for the increased production. Consequently we turn to primary production. There, again, wo find that the use of machinery has increased production enormously with the result that difficulty is experienced in finding markets for our goods. If we extended our operations in this field, our difficulties would be accentuated. Ho we turn to developmental works. But here the same condition obtains. In the making of roads, the clearing of land and other undertakings, labour-saving devices are now employed.We therefore are forced to look to social activities for a solution; but we find none. I am forced to the conclusion either that those who are in employment must keep those who cannot obtain work, or that employment must he spread over a much wider field. As to the first alternative, I” say definitely that those who cannot obtain work are entitled to more than they now receive. The second alternative maybe achieved by reducing the number of hours worked each week, by lowering the retiring age, or by increasing the age of commencing work. I do not know which of those methods is the best, but it does seem to me that we must spread the available work over a wider field. As an illustration of the way in which mechanical devices have displaced men, I remind the Senate that, whereas a few years ago the turnstiles at Circular Quay, Sydney, were operated by men, who probably had wives and families depending on them, they arc now operated by machines. The placing of a sixpence in a slot opens the turnstile. Moreover, a machine operated by a lad now takes the place of the adult money-changers previously employed.Whenever I pass through those turnstiles I wonder what has happened to those breadwinners who, a few years ago, earned their livelihood as turnstile operators there. I knew one of them. When he lost his job, he sought employment at his old trade of baking, only to be told that the introduction of new machinery enabled three bakers to produce more bread than for merly had been produced by 21 men. From there he went to the Bunnerong Power House where he sought employment as a labourer. That was three years ago. He was told that three men were able to do as much work as 40 men performed before modern machinery was installed. Ho found himself blocked everywhere. I wonder what has become of the other men who were displaced by machines. Some of them have been fortunate enough to secure other employment. Although the unemployment problem is not so acute as it was - I knowthat the numbers of men out of work have been exaggerated in this chamber - I say that while men with families are unable to obtain work, it is the responsibility of governments, both Commonwealth and State, to see that work is found for them either in industry or in governmental undertakings. It is for that reason that I believe that the subject of working hours should be investigated with a view to ascertaining whether, by some rearrangement, we could not bring about a state of affairs which would ensure that every able-bodied man who is willing to work may obtain it.
– We are convincing the honorable senator.
– Evidently Senator Cameron believes that all the vices are on this side of the chamber whilst the virtues remain with the supporters of Labour; but an examination of the legislation passed by this Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales shows that most of it that is worth while originated with non-Labour governments. Nevertheless, Labour candidates would have the electors believe that no legislation of value “has come from non-Labour governments. Fortunately, the electors have not been convinced by such remarks.
Nothwithstanding that the Postal Department made a profit of over £3,000,000 last year, no relief has been given to the general public. I have no objection to a public utility making reasonable profits, but I do not think that it should be used as a taxing machine. I believe that an expansion of the service is desirable, but I do not think that the whole of the surplus should be expended in that way. In passing, I commend the department on a clever advertising display at this year’s Royal Agricultural Society’s Show at Sydney. The department staged a model parliament, the members of which were telephone receivers. The object of the display was to urge the wisdom of installing a telephone in every home. The telephone is, a utility which I believe would be availed of by 75 or even 90 per cent. of the public if they could afford it. The department has a slogan “Install a telephone “ ; but before a person can make a call costing l¼d., he is called upon to pay what is termed ground rent amounting, in Sydney, to £4 10s. a year. I cannot understand the term “ground rent “. For my part, I should be willing to allow the department the free use of that portion of my property that is necessary to install the telephone. I know that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will say that it provides the cheapest telephone service in the world, but that is not a sufficient answer. The point to be determined is whether or not a rental of £4 10s. a year is fair. In my opinion, the charge is ridiculously high. If I were in charge of the department, I would reduce drastically the ground ‘ rents, and I maintain that the loss would be more than compensated for by the revenue that would be derived from the millions of new calls that would be made. Because of mechanical imperfections in the recording instruments, I believe that telephone subscribers throughout Australia are charged for thousands of calls that they never make. I cannot Understand why, in addition to the charge for calls, subscribers should be saddled with this recurring annual charge of £4 10s. When I raised this subject a few years ago in the House of Representatives, my suggestion was ridiculed, but immediately afterwards the rental was reduced from £5 10s. to £4 10s. a year. It is true that concurrently with that reduction the charge for each call was increased, but that additional charge has since been removed. There are hundreds of thousands of potential telephone subscribers in Australia who would be prepared to pay a reasonable amount for calls but cannot meet the recurring annual expenditure of £4 10s. for ground rent. Notwith standing the possible opposition of the head of the department, I believe that the time has come for the Postmaster-General to take his courage in his hands and provide telephones for the many thousands of persons who wish to avail themselves of what is, perhaps, the greatest public utility of our modern civilization.
. - Senator Dein would have us believe that every honorable senator is at heart in favour of the legislation recently passed to provide a scheme of national health and pensions insurance, but I assure him that that is not so. Only last week a cave has developed within the party that placed that legislation on the statute book. Last week the Sydney Morning Herald contained the following report from Canberra : -
A move is developing rapidly among a section of Government supporters which may raise national insurance issues seriously embarrassing to the Ministry.
I wonder whether a double dissolution is suggested.
– Would the honorable senator support a double dissolution?
– The Opposition will be ready whenever the Government is.
– The report continues -
Three concrete proposals have been advanced for extending the scope of the scheme agreed to last session, and a demand will be made that the Government should introduce legislation to give effect to them before the end of the year.
The proposals are: -
That medical benefits provided by the bill should become available from January 1, when contributions begin, and not from April 1, as is now proposed.
That the proposed voluntary scheme to give medical benefits to dependants of insured persons should be introduced in time to make the benefits available from January 1.
That the bill to give a voluntary scheme to self-employed persons, which has been promised by the Government, should be introduced this session, so that persons who wish to insure will obtain the benefits of the scheme at the same time as persons compulsorily insured.
Sponsors of the proposals are arranging a deputation to one or other of the Government leaders to press their demands. They intended to wait on the Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, but in view ofhis absence, they will probably interview the Acting Prime Minister, Sir Earls Page, or the Treasurer, Mr. Casey.
If they remain in their present frame of mind, they will deliver a virtual ultimatum - that either their demands or a substantial portion of them be granted, or they will raise the question in the House.
Because of the importance of national insurance to many people in semi-industrial electorates, there will be strong support from New South Wales U.A.P. members, which will be augmented by members of the Country party, who are dissatisfied with the Government’s delay in providing some form of scheme for self-employed persons who include large numbers of small farmers.
– I told the honorable senator previously that the Government intends to improve that legislation.
-During the debate on the national health and pensions insurance legislation, there were frequent references to the use of a steam-roller to compel recalcitrant members to vote for the Government’s proposal. That would not be necessary with a Labour government in power, because all the activities of the party will stand the closest examination in the full light of day. Of the 64 members of the House of Representatives who spoke in the debate on the National Health and Pensions Bill, no fewer than 60 spoke against it, yet that measure was carried by a large majority. Was that evidence of the use of the Government’s steam-roller?
Unemployment is an outstanding problem in Australia. We have heard suggestions for its solution from all parties in this Parliament, but the budget contains no proposal to deal with it. It has been suggested that the 40-hour week in industry may bring about an improvement. It is said, also, that we must have an inquiry into this subject. Why cannot we follow the example of the Government of New Zealand? In that country, without any inquiry the principle of a 40-hour week was adopted. This course was possible because the Government also controls the credit of the nation. I am afraid that this desirable reform will never take place in Australia whilst the present Government is in office. It surely is self-evident that a shorter working week must go hand in hand with control of the national credit. Also, it should be clear to all that this problem, in all its phases, calls for action by the Commonwealth Government; it is not a matter for the States. Honorable senators supporting the Government claim that there is little unemployment in Australia, and that the volume is rapidly diminishing. We on this side are in close touch with the people, and we know otherwise. In Lithgow to-day there are 700 unemployed on half-time relief work, and 300 men and women are on the dole.
– How many were unemployed during the term of the Lang Government?
– During the regime of the Lang Government in New South Wales there was nothing like the number of unemployed that there is to-day. If, as is suggested by honorable senators opposite, there are no unemployed at Lithgow, why are those in employment there contributing1s. a week towards a fund which, fortnightly or monthly, is expended on the purchase of vegetables and fruit, as well as other necessaries of life, for unfortunates who are in need? If honorable senators opposite visited some of the homes in that town, they would be shocked at the sightof so many cold, hungry, shivering little children who, almost without exception, are under-nourished.
– The unemployed in New South Wales are much better off than they were under the State Labour Government.
– The same unfortunate conditions regarding unemployment obtain even at the industrial centre of Port Kembla. Any one visiting that centre will see each morning a line-up of unemployed, many of whom are living in a state of degradation in miserable humpies. Not long ago a photograph of some of these places was published in a Sydney newspaper. Similar conditions obtain in almost every country town throughout Australia. This is the problem that . confronts the Commonwealth Government. Yet it has not made provision in the budget to meet it.
– The honorable senator is exaggerating tremendously.
– Is it an exaggeration to say that unemployment is rife in a town with which I am personally acquainted, having been a member of the relief committee there? I repeat that people inmany towns throughout Australia are going hungry, and many are able to obtain only half-time relief work.
– Would everything be right if Senator Darcey were made Treasurer ?
– If the Government adopted my suggestions there would be no unemployed “and no poverty in Australia.
– Senator Darcey is not urging the adoption of his own proposals; he is advocating a reform that has been tried in New Zealand with conspicuous success, and I feel sure that the Labour Government of New Zealand will be returned by an overwhelming majority at the forthcoming election. The corner-stone of that Government’s policy of social reform is the nationalization of credit in the interests of the nation, and the carrying out of public works in the interests of the community generally.
Unemployment and defence are related problems. This year the Government intends to spend £15,000,000 on defence, yet according to the ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) 40 per cent. of the school children of our country are suffering from malnutrition.
– There is a difference between malnutrition and undernutrition.
– If on a future occasion, the worst fears are realized and Australia is again plunged into war, there will be an even greater percentage of volunteers for active service rejected on physical grounds owing to malnutrition than was the case in Great Britain a few years ago. Since the root cause of malnutrition is unemployment this vital problem should be seriously tackled at the earliest possible moment.
Linked with this matter is the national insurance project, shortly to come into operation. Senator Dein stated that everybody would be eligible for a pension under that scheme. The legislation certainly provides for the payment of pensions, but unfortunately there is a string attached to it. Conditions are imposed. A report in the newspaper Century points out that, according to the census returns of . 1933, only 5 per cent. of the male population between the ages of 60 and 65 years remain in industry.
– Why cite 1933?
– The last census was taken in 1933 and these figures are the only ones available.
– That was in the depth of the depression, following the administration of a Labour government.
– I would be only too pleased if a more recent authority could be produced. The national insurance scheme also purports to provide a pension for females in industry, between the ages of 55 and 60 years. The 1933 census figures show, however, that the number of females remaining in industry between the ages of 55 and 60 years is less than 1 per cent. When a girl commences work, say, at the age of 14 - possibly providing the only source of income for the family - she will have 4d. a week deducted from her wages. When she reaches the age of sixteen the deduction will be1s. a week. If she remains in industry all her life and forms one of the very small percentage so doing, she will be eligible for a pension. If, however, she marries at the age of . 29 or 30 years, she will have the option of becoming a voluntary contributor, notwithstanding the fact that her husband is paying1s. 6d. a week into the fund. In order to be eligible for a pension she must then continue to contribute1s. a week until she reaches the prescribed age.
Another phase of the scheme to which I have strong objection is the system of payment of widows’ pensions. Should a male contributor die after paying 104 contributions and an average of 39 for his last three years in employment, his widow will be eligible for a pension. If he has not fulfilled his requirements, that is to say, if he has become unemployed and has received even one week over the two years’ free insurance and then dies, his widow will not be entitled to a pension. The pension for widows is fixed at 15s. a week, yet in New South Wales to-day, under legislation passed by the “dreadful “ Mr. Lang, a widow receives £1 a week and 10s. a week for each child.
– Some widows receive only1s. 6d. a week in that State. The State pension depends on the means test.
– The original legislation passed by Mr. Lang was amended bythe State counterpart of this national Government. Under the Commonwealth national insurance scheme, if a widow is receiving only 15s. a week, the difference between that amount and £1 a week is made up by the payment5s. 5s. from Commonwealth revenue. Should she have one child, she will receive 15s. plus an allowance of 3s. 6d., the contribution from Commonwealth revenue then being only1s. 6d. a week. Should she have two children, her total payment will be 22s., and no contribution will be made from Commonwealth revenue. The Labour party has a very definite objection to the national insurance scheme as it stands. Thousands of persons who will have to contribute to the fund will never receive any benefit from it.
-Can the honorable senator see any good in the scheme?
– I am afraid not. I invite honorable senators to consider the extent to which occupational diseases are responsible for the increase of the cost of invalid and old-age pensions. In a number of industries in New South Wales, employees are prematurely cast aside because of diseases contracted in the course of their employment, and they are forced to accept the invalid pension. I hope that the day will come when a Commonwealth-wide scheme will be evolved to make adequate provision, quite apart from the invalid pension, for persons suffering from occupational diseases. Such persons require nourishing food and medical attendance, and, generally speaking, better treatment than that ordinarily received by invalid pensioners. It is quite impossible, at the present time, for them to receive the medical attention they require. Hundreds of men who have been engaged in building construction and sewerage work in Sydney are suffering from the effect of silicate dust, and their predicament constitutes a problem which should be carefully considered by the national Parliament, in view of the fact that it increases the financial burden of the invalid pension. Sub-section 1 of section 2 of theWorkmen’s Compensation (Silicosis) Act of New SouthWales, 1920, provides for the payment of compensation to the following persons : -
Sub-section 2 of section 2 requires employers to subscribe to the fund, and provides for the recovery of the subscriptions and for the payment and recovery from the fund of all compensation and expenses arising under the scheme. The same sub-section provides that workmen shall submit themselves to periodical medical examination. A further subsection provides that workmen shall furnish information in respect of their previous employment in any industry involving exposure to silico dust, and makes the right of the workman to compensation conditional on compliance with such requirements. The sub-section also provides for the suspension from employment of workmen who are found at any time to be suffering from silicosis, or silicosis accompanied by tuberculosis, or who, when first medically examined, are found unsuitable for work in the industry or process by reason of their failure to satisfy requirements with regard to physique. That is an outline of the main sections of the act. The workman must undergo an examination before he is engaged. Periodically he is called up for further examination, and, as soon as it is discovered that he is suffering from the complaint, he is dismissed and placed on the invalid fund. I have before me a letter received by a man who passed the prescribed examination and was certified as medically fit to work. After working for ten months in connexion with sewerage construction in Sydney, he received the following communication : -
With reference to your re-examination by the medical authority on the 8th instant, I have to inform you that you have been certified to be unsuitable foremployment in the industry covered by the scheme by reason of your failure to satisfy the requirements with respect to physique and, for that reason, you have been suspended in pursuance of the provisions of the scheme from further employment in the industry to which the scheme applies.
The committee also desires to inform you that in consequence of your suspension you are precluded from further employment in the processes covered by the scheme, and, further, that, any employer who engages or continues to employ you in any of such processes after the date of notification of your suspension will be liable to the prescribed penalty.
The secretary, Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board and the manager, State Labour Exchanges, have also been informed to-day by me to the above effect.
After only ten months’ work this unfortunate man had to obtain the invalid pension. Therefore, it is not surprising that the cost of invalid pensions is increasing. Another section of the act requires that a workman at the date of death or incapacitation shall have been continuously resident in New South Wales for not less than five years and have been in employment for not less than 300 days during the immediately preceding five years, or continuously engaged on silica rock for not less than 500 days in the previous seven years. One workman was only six days short of the prescribed 300 days, yet he “was denied the benefit of the act, with the result that he had to get the invalid pension.
In many industries the workmen are liable to occupational diseases. Recently I made reference to the conditions of miners. The cost of the medical attention required by victims of these diseases should be borne by the industries in which they are engaged, and should not be a charge as an invalid pensioner on Commonwealth revenue.
– The national health and pensions insurance scheme imposes a burden on industry for that purpose.
– That scheme does not meet the needs of the men whose claims I am discussing. The periodical medical examinations will prevent men who become partially affected by silicate dust from obtaining employment.
– Many men in Victoria are affected by miners’ phthisis.
– That is so.
– Are the affected men excluded from obtaining other employment
– No; but the Silicosis Committee points out that any employer who engages them is liable to a penalty of £50. The secretary of the Metropolitan Sewerage and Drainage Board and the manager of the State Labour Exchanges have been informed to that effect. Consequently the name of the sufferer is posted up as that of a diseased person, and he has no chance of getting a job if a healthy man is an applicant for it.
– Only in that particular kind of work.
An appeal should be made to the Government for a larger contribution this year to the Christmas cheer for the unemployed. Last year the sum of £100,000 was made available to the State authorities, but the money was not passed on to the proper quarters. At least £300,000 should be allotted next Christmas, and work should be provided under Commonwealth supervision.
Reference has been made to the development of the Newnes shale fields. I recall when the Newnes field was producing oil, that a deliberate attempt was made to set fire to the whole of the shale seam. A tunnel some 600 feet in length was made, and seven men were employed to carry wood into the tunnel and set fire to it. It was thought that by burning the shale the oil would run out. Presumably this plan was adopted on the advice of experts such as those called into service by the Government in connexion with the national insurance scheme. Ever since that time the mining community has known that the Newnes shale field has been the football of certain vested interests. It is claimed that oil should be produced from shale in the interests of national defence; but, if the Government is sincere, it should take steps to prevent the making of profit from the manufacture of munitions for the Defence Department. Every effort should be made to obtain in Australia adequate supplies of fuel oil for use by our naval and air forces, An anti-Labour government prevented the development of the Newnes deposit, which the Scullin
Government intended to exploit by providing £100,000 on the Estimates for that purpose.
– The Scullin Government?
– In 1929 the Scullin Government placed £100,000 on the Estimates to provide for the repatriation of certain employees, to rebuild the railway lines, to rehabilitate machinery, to clean out the tunnels, and to get the retorts working; but, unfortunately, there was a change of government in 1931, and the main effort of the new administration appeared to be to retard the development of the Newnes deposit.
– The Scullin Government went out of office in 1931. At the time of which the honorable senator is speaking the Lang Government refused to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government to develop the Newnes deposit.
– Rightly, the
Labour Government in New South Wales contended that the work should be undertaken as a national concern, and should be financed by the National Government. The Commonwealth Government did not find it difficult to raise sufficient funds to finance the Great War, and to provide facilities for marketing our primary products overseas. The late Sir Denison Miller said that he could finance unemployment and other projects in the same way as the Great War had been financed; yet an anti-Labour government allowed Newnes to be closed down. To-day private enterprise is making a feeble effort to work the deposit. It is extorting everything it can from the people, but it is not likely to produce oil in payable quantities.
– That is very easy to say.
– It may be, but it is true. This Government has been “playing around” with the Newnes deposit for two and a half years, and those working it to-day are devoting their attention to a seam 18 inches thick, while 10 or 15 miles away there is a seam 4 feet thick.
– Where is there a seam of that thickness?
– The Minister knows all about Newnes. He spent only three hours in the locality, although it takes about seven hours to walk over the hills in which the shale is found. A gentleman named McGowan, who is supposed to be an overseas expert, spent about an hour and a half at Newnes, and then produced a report consisting of about 30 pages. That was only to be expected as that gentleman is, I believe, interested in the production of flow oil in Roumania.
During the debate reference has been made to the alleged association of the Australian Labour party with Communists and with the Lang Labour party of New South Wales, which, we are reminded, is represented in this chamber by the four A’s. I can assure those honorable senators who make such sneering references to honorable senators whose surnames commence with “A” that should we again have to appear before the electors, our names will be so well and favorably known to our constituents that regardless of the position which our names occupy on the ballot paper we shall be returned to this chamber. The Communist party is not affiliated with the Labour party. In Western Australia an avowed Communist “ white-anted “ his way into the Labour party and actually became a member of the executive.
– What has this to do with the Estimates and budget papers ?
– If the honorable senator cannot see any connexion now, I am sure he will before I conclude my speech. In Western Australia a Communist wrote to one of his friends the following letter which was responsible for his expulsion from the Labour party:-
Let us enumerate some of our successes. The isolation and discrediting of Lang, the unity of the New South Wales Labour movement. The Australian-wide authority of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the rebuffs of Lyons’ co-operation “proposals. The 40-hour week movement. The last Federal election was sabotaged from within the Labour movement by us. The revival of May Day procession in Perth. The stop-work at Midland workshops. The building trades strike. All recent militant activity in Perth. The capturing of the Labor Daily from Lang and saving 2KY.
In fact, we damn near run the country; but not yet. You can see we have a tremendous influence out of all proportion to our mere numbers. Whatever moves we help it along. You will And that there are also numbers of us who make it their business to prevent the Labour movement from moving.
Honorable senators will see that this Communist said “ we damn near run the country “. ‘
– What is the name and address of that person?
– Mr. K. E. Green, of Perth, lt is said that the Communists are associated with the Labour party, but such statements are made merely with the object of deluding certain persons in order to win an election. A short time ago Senator McLeay asked what my remarks had to do with the Estimates and budget papers. I shall connect them in this way: Under the national health and pensions insurance scheme, which is mentioned in the budget, provision is made for the payment of widows’ pensions. The Lang Government provided widows’ pensions in New South Wales years ago. The Commonwealth Government under its scheme proposes to pay children a pension of 3s. 6d. a week, but the Lang Government provided a pension of 5s. a week. The Stevens Government imposed a wages tax, and now the people of N ew South “w ales, in common with those in other States, are to be further taxed under this Government’s National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. The Lang Government also passed a Moratorium Act to prevent wheat-growers, business men, and those owning their own homes from coming within the grasp of financiers who would wreck any one in order to achieve their own ends. The Lang Government also reinstated the strikers who had been dismissed during the strike of 1917. To-day those men are employed in industry and will contribute towards this Government’s national insurance scheme. Mr. Lang also gave the workers a workmen’s compensation act;-
– He amended the act introduced by a non-Labour government.
– A workers’ compensation act was passed by the Lang Government in 1926.
– That was an amending act.
– The act which was amended was framed in such a way that very few persons could benefit under it. I had to administer the act of 1926 and found that it was useless until amended. The Stevens Government also amended it to provide for periodical examination, which actually deprived the people of. the benefit to which they were entitled. The Lang Government also introduced legislation with respect to silicosis amongst miners, which has been of wonderful benefit to those engaged in the mining industry, particularly at Broken Hill. It is said that Mr. Lang is a dictator; but that perhaps needs some explanation. If he exercised the powers of a dictator, it was only because such power had been given to him by the rank and file of the Labour party. In 1926 a resolution was moved by Mr. Schreiber, and supported bv Mr. Falkinham and Mr. Kilburn, giving him the power of a dictator. A former Labour man named Peter Loughlin joined up with the United Australia party and won the Goulburn seat, and another former Labour man named Mutch recently won the Randwick seat. Mr. Lang pointed out that he had used his dictatorial powers only when it was absolutely necessary to make appointments to the Legislative Council. He asked caucus to submit a panel of twenty names, and when this had been done he found that it contained the name of a wealthy bookmaker. He struck out that name and placed another in its place. Later, he had to reconstruct his Cabinet.Mr. Lazzarini’s name was dropped out and a man from Broken Hill was put in his place. There was also a Alr. Horsington and .a Mr. Davidson, both of whom said the same as Senator Dein has said. There is what is known as a Waratah fund in the New South Wales State Labour party, the funds of which are used to assist defeated members. These men said that they would have nothing to do with Labour or Mr. Lang, but they voted unanimously to appoint Mr. Lang as a trustee of the fund, and have remained in the fund. The reason is that the four men posing as Labour men, and being like Senator Dein, on the side of the big dividends, would not, if they formed a Waratah fund of their own, draw a large enough dividend when rejected at the next State election. So much for Mr. Lang. Unemployment ia the most urgent problem confronting this Government at the present time, and I appeal to the Ministry to do everything in its power as quickly as possible in order to alleviate the conditions of those who are out of work.
Debate (on motion by Senator A. J. Mclachlan)- adjourned.
Employment at Newnes.
Motion (by Senator A. J . McLachlan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In the course of my address this afternoon I stated that so far only fifteen persons arc employed on the Newnes shale works, and Senator Dein questioned the accuracy of that statement. I emphasize that it is correct. I made inquiries on this point at Newnes last Sunday week and I was informed that only fifteen persons are employed there. I am not disputing the fact that some persons may be engaged in making inquiries in the United States of America, England and Esthonia in respect of cracking plants.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381012_senate_15_157/>.