15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Report No. 4 of the Printing Commit tee brought up by SenatorLeckie, and - by leave - adopted.
SenatorKEANE. - In view of the growing need for the development of the northern portion of Canberra, will the Minister in charge of the national fitness campaign sec that the Commonwealth Government does not overlook its responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory,but makes provision for the construction of a swimming pool to meet the needs of a large and growing population on the northern side of the city?
SenatorFOLL. - In the event of the Government taking action in regard to the proposed national fitness campaign, the claims of no section of the community will be overlooked.
– On the 18th November, Senator Brown, in the course of a question, upon notice, asked me whether I would make a statement of the Government’s policy concerning foreign refugees. In the first instance, I refer the honorable senator to a reply given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to representations made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on the motion for the adjournment of the House of Representatives last night, dealing with the present position in relation - to the admission of alien immigrants to Australia. The question as to whether the Commonwealth Government can further co-operate with other nations and assist in solving the problem of foreign refugees is at present receiving attention. The Government hopes to be in a position to announce its policy in regard thereto at an early date.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the seriousness of the volume of unemployment now existing in Australia, and the need for immediate action to secure a substantial reduction thereof “.
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
Sanator COLLINGS (Queensland) [3.4]. - I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow.
I submit the motion in order to give honorable senators an opportunity to discuss the seriousness of the volume of unemployment now existing in Australia, and the need for immediate action to secure a substantial reduction thereof. I make no apology for submitting the motion. There is nothing capricious about my action; I have no desire to embarrass the Government. My sole motive is toassist the Government to do something worth while in connexion with this very serious problem. On the 13th August, 1937, a conference met at Parliament House, Canberra, to consider this matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who presided,said -
For some years the problem of the relief of unemployment has been one of the greatest which governments in Australia and in most other countries have had to face. … It is essential that a schemebe instituted at a time of decreasing unemployment. It is, therefore, an urgent necessity that we take advantage of the present improving conditions to arrangeadequate machinery to meet the position should we again, unfortunately, be faced with increasing unemployment.
At that conference the following figures showing the extent of unemployment in Australia at the 30th June, 1933, were submitted : -
This matter has engaged the attention of the best minds in many lands. It has been commented on by royalty, and also by vice-regal representatives, statesmen, clergymen, university professors, captains of industry, doctors, health officers, welfare workers, and many others. I propose to quote a few of the remarks that have been made. King Edward VIII. said -
If the paradox of millions of people haunted by poverty and demoralized by lack of employment while living in a world rich in actual and potential resources is to be destroyed, this determination to apply the correctivemust never flag.
Earlier, when Prince of Wales, he stated -
I am anxious that the living conditions of the great masses of the people shall be improved as quickly as possible. My visits to the slums and depressed areas have impressed me with the urgency of the problem. We are not the individualists of the Victorian and Edwardian times. We are living mostly, as the result of the war, in a world more collective in principle than individualistic.
In passing, I may suggest that those words indicate one of the reasons that brought about a certain event in the life of the present Duke of “Windsor. His Excellency the Governor-General, in a speech at the opening of this Parliament, in 1934, began by expressing the pleasure which Australia felt at having had the Duke of Gloucester amongst us, and continued -
My advisers regard with sympathy and concern the heavy unemployment which still persists and propose togive to this grave and pressing problem priority over other matters.
With this object in view employment and its associated questions have been allotted as a special ministerial task to the Minister of State for Commerce, who will, for a period at least, devote the major portion of his labours to this great problem, and will be relieved of much of the work of the Commerce Department. Consideration will be directed to three principal matters: -
The selection of these works will be a matter for consultation with the States which will be invited to consider such undertakings as the unification of the railway gauges between capital cities, further- country water storage, national forestry, housing and the. treatment ofcoal deposits and shale for oil and other commercial products. In particular the Commonwealth will aim at the creation of opportunities for the employment of youth.
Not one of those projectshas been touched. Nothing whatever has been attempted. I do not want honorable senators opposite to say that conditions have improved wonderfully since 1937. I want them to attack the problem that confronts us today. Mr. Dunstan, the Premier of Victoria, addressing a recent conference in Canberra, said - and I take it that he knew what he was talking about - that 100.000 adult males, who are able and willing to work, are without jobs in this country. For the moment we can set aside the figure of 405,000 which I have mentioned.We have Mr. Dunstan’s statement that 100,000 able-bodied men in Australia cannot find jobs.
– I shall quote from a few more authorities. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Savage, said recently -
Surely they would protest with him at the intolerable stupidity ofa system that encouraged men to produce and to live in comfort and then prevented them from obtaining a share in the very goods they had helped to produce.
My critics say I have no experience of business, and for that reason am overlooking the realities of the situation. Well. I will say this, and no sane man or woman will disagree with me, that the real test of progress is not to be found wholly in stock exchange quotations, big company profits, trade returns or statistics of production. It is to be found rather in the social well-being of the people, and I am concerned above all things in seeing that their welfare is maintained.
I am one of those who believe that human beings are capable of asserting some control over their economic destiny. I wish to assure you that the Government is not prepared to accept the workings of economic adversity without taking adequate precautions to ward off its ill effects.
I have said many times that what human stupidity can bring about human intelligence should be capable of correcting, and that is all that the present Government is trying to put into effect.
If it should fail in that it fails in everything.
I ask the Government to see that the workers in this country, who are compulsorily idle, are given an opportunity to work. I draw attention to the following statement by Mr Lloyd George: -
Under our existing economic system, the exuberance of the earth’sgifts has resulted in creating a famine in millions of households.
We ask that that famine shall be stopped. In a recent speech, President Roosevelt, of the United States of America, said -
He insisted that not lower but higher wages were a necessity for American business.
He forcefully attacked “ short-sighted capitalists” in the Southern States who kept pay-sheets low.
He said that low wages were the basic reason for poverty and ignorance.
What would he have to say about those who have no wages? The Reverend Father Lloyd said recently at Cronulla - “ We have a country teeming in riches, where poverty is increasing, where the population is decreasing, and where the land and wealth are in the hands of a few,” declared Reverend
Father Lloyd in a vigorously out-spoken address to his Cronulla congregation. “ Babies ure born from ill nourished mothers without a chance in life. Young mcn are being put back on Cs. Gd. a week. They are denied work. They are denied marriage. The future holds for them only poverty, immorality, irreligion and discontent.
While thu Commonwealth Government sets in motion at Geneva a world-wide investigation into the nutritional standards of the peoples of the world, at its very doorstep thousands of families have been condemned to a nutritional standard inferior to that operating in many of the most backard countries.”
The problem of unemployment must bc solved as quickly as possible because it loads to poverty; and poverty is the sole cause of the other things which Father Lloyd said follow in it3 train. Senator Couszens, an American legislator, according to the New York Survey Graphic, said in an address to business men -
I do not charge you mcn with being inhuman. I charge you men with being careless, with being thoughtless of the results of your failure to solve this problem, and I have a right to charge it, because ten years ago I had the honour of being your mayor when 150,000 men were laid off in a day by the snap of a finger at the command of industry, and we, your city servants, were left to grapple with the situation ; we were left to find a way to buy shoes and milk tickets, pay rent, and send children to school.
I could give further testimony from men who urge that this problem should be grappled with. The Bishop of Goulburn, Dr. Burgmann, said -
One of the most noticeable things in the life of to-day is the sense of insecurity which haunts so many people. People who, to all outward appearances, seem set for life, are victims to this haunting sense of insecurity just as much as those who have very good reason to bc afraid.
Widespread and long continued unemployment has shown only too clearly how careless of human welfare the organization of modern industry actually is. People have seen that consideration for men and women cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the profitable working of industry, and that when we have no cash, many people find us a nuisance and very few desire to he our friends. To realize that we are in danger of being unwanted and unloved is a very alarming experience.
Yet, 100,000 men and their dependants in this country are told by the Commonwealth Government month after month that they aTe unwanted and unloved. ~No sophistry can evade the facts. Even if only one man, instead of 100,000, were unable to obtain work, he would have a right to say, “Do not tell me what you have done for my comrades;’ I want to know what you intend to do for me.” I make this- appeal on behalf of every man and woman who is seeking work, but cannot find it. In a work entitled Finding God, by A. Herbert Gray, D.D., this passage appears -
The loudest and the clearest thing God ever said to me was said in the slums of a great city, and took the form of an insistent call that I should find a’ way of doing something to remove that blot upon the dignity of man and that insult to God.
I nsk this Government and honorable senators opposite to lend a hand in removing this evil condition. Many other clergymen have spoken in the same strain. Archbishop Mowll, of Sydney, addressing the Church of England Synod, said -
It is no use telling a starving man you are working for an ideal state of society in which such a condition as his will be unknown if. at the same time, you send him .away, famished, from your door.
I tremble to think of the d:stress that would follow if relief organizations in Sydney suddenly closed operations.
I am pleading that we shall not any longer send those 100,000 men away from the door without succour. According to a newspaper report, Dr. Wilmington Ingram said that he was in favour of good wages, and was anxious to see the workers enjoy an ample standard of life and leisure, but he wanted to put it on a more secure basis. “ I want to put it on an economic basis,” he said. And Professor Percy Lelean professor of public health at the Edinburgh University, and president of the Scotch Royal Sanitary Association, said -
Ratio of fit adolescents in Great Britain is one out of three, in Germany, four out of five.
Physical unfitness is costing Great Britain £220,000,000 a year.
And poverty is brought about almost entirely, if not entirely, by unemployment. Mr. J. Gibson Jarvie, chairman and managing director of the United Dominions Trust, said -
How can . we deny an improved standard of living to people while at the same time we destroy the produce which they want? To my mind there is to-day one major problem to which all others are subsidiary - the problem of equitable and efficent distribution.
Based on PRODUCTION lt should bc declared that the standard of living shall have no visible limit, that it will be bused on production and effort, and not on any arbitrary standard of the past. There never was seriously suggested a more economically fantastic contention than that we can become wealthy by restricting the production of wealth.
We cannot have equitable and efficient distribution of wealth under the existing system. I do not suggest this afternoon that we should consider the alteration of the existing system. At the moment I point out that Ave cannot have a just distribution of wealth under that system, except by seeing, that every breadwinner has a job, and that is the easiest thing in the world to accomplish. Mr. G. S. Shepherd, on his retirement recently from the magisterial bench of New South Wales, said -
Kill poverty and you kill crime. Give men jobs and you will not have criminals.
Another important aspect of this problem is that when unemployment is rife the number of suicides increases, and as conditions return to normal the number of suicides decreases correspondingly. As unemployment has been decreased from 37 per cent, to 9 per cent, to-day, suicides have decreased in the same ratio over the last few years. I have here a letter from the Boys’ Employment League of Perth, Western Australia, which reads -
Employment - Do We Really Think it Important ?
Infant clinics operate say, two years; child welfare, fourteen years and education, eight years - as those periods overlap, the whole period is fourteen years.
Employment exists for about 40 years. “ The greatest of these is employment “, and yet we as a nation give it least attention.
Unemployment is the root cause of poverty; from it flows a never-ending and cruelly tragic stream of nationally disastrous effects. Every man who is compulsorily idle is a potential wealth producer, who is prevented from producing wealth. He is not only a personal loss to himself, his wife and his children, but is also a national loss because he is denied the opportunity to produce wealth. Not only is every one of these unemployed men a potential breadwinner, with all that that means to his dependent wife and children, but also he has a soul. He is not just an inanimate machine, a human creature who has been created and civilized ; he is a human being possessing the God-given attribute of intelligence, and capable of reasoning. As one great writer has said, poverty does not consist merely in a shortage of this world’s goods, but rather in the failure to appreciate that shortage. This motion gives the Government an. opportunity to go ahead and say to these 100,000 men - appealing to their higher instincts, their spiritual nature, their soul, if you like - that it realizes fully the tragedy which their unemployment means, and that it intends to do something to alleviate their conditions. Unemployment breeds trade depression, bankruptcy, insecurity, worry and suicides, hunger, malnutrition, starvation, disease and death, decrease of marriages^ abortion, a falling birth rate, and slums - and everywhere a growing and degrading need of charity. Any business man who has had experience knows “what it is to wake up in the morning wondering how to face the day, and what it is like on Friday to go shivering to the bank in the fear that it is going to close down his credit, and thus prevent him from paying his servants. To the farmers, unemployment means a serious loss .as a result of the reduced purchasing power of the workers. The unemployment of these 100,000 men on whose behalf I am appealing this afternoon, means that many farmers will be faced with insecurity and a lowering of their standard of living. The present offers a golden opportunity to the Government to deal with this problem. We are approaching the end of the year - the season of goodwill, a time when, in church and out of it, in our homes when our families re-assemble for their annual re-union - a time when the spirit of goodwill is uppermost in the minds of most men. If we cannot, before the festive season arrives, devise some scheme to put into operation in order to help these men, at least we should decide to plead with the Government to provide a month’s work so that every unemployed man,even if he should be unemployed for the following four weeks, may provide for himself and his dependants some of the amenities which are so dear to us at the festive season. I have repeatedly asked this Government to adopt a planned economy - an economic and industrial survey - of all of our resources, so that that state of national emergency which is always with us - the undeserved poverty of the compulsorily idle - that enemy within our gates - may be relieved. This national emergency is not an imaginary one; it is not something which may come out of the blue at some time if certain things be not done; it is here with us now, and the responsibility for it no honorable senator can escape. Every honorable senator must answer to himself for this state of national emergency, and I am asking that that be done.
In the limited time allotted to them under the Standing Orders, my colleagues will deal with this matter. I cannot conclude my address more appropriately than by quoting the following words of the poet, Edwin Markham -
We are blind until we see that in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making, if it does not make the man.
Why build those cities glorious if man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world, unless the builder also grows.
This motion, if adopted, will give an opportunity to those 100,000 unemployed men who want to take a hand in the building of our cities, our farms, the nation - this great Australia of which we should be inordinately proud, even if we are not. These men are anxious to lend a hand in that great work and I ask this Government to give them a chance.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech just delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. As I anticipated that the Senate would proceed immediately with the matters appearing on the notice-paper, his motion has come as a great surprise to me. I shall, therefore, be obliged to make my speech impromptu. I make no excuse in that respect, but in view of the importance of the subject with which the motion deals, I regret that I shall not be able to deal with it as thoroughly as I should have been enabled to do had I been given an opportunity to prepare a considered statement. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the moderation with which he has handled this very important problem. I can assure the honorable senator that the members of the Government and all senators on this side are equally concerned with him in this matter.
– I am asking not for concern, butfor action.
– Honorable senators on this side are just as interested in this problem. It is easy to quote from speeches, cite statistics, and make more or less exaggerated statements.
– The honorable senator said mine was a moderate statement. He cannot have it both ways.
– I assure honorable senators that the employment position is much better in this country than it was in 1931 and 1932 the peak periods of unemployment in Australia. “When world conditions change and export prices fall, as they did in 1931, and as they are doing to-day, those effects result from circumstances over which no government has control, and they do affect the unemployment position considerably. I remind honorable senators opposite that different suggestions have been made for the overcoming of the unemployment problem. I should like honorable senators to look back for a moment to 1931. I am not referring to that period in order to make political capital out of the difficult position in which the then Labour Government found itself, butwe find that members of that party had then, as they have now, different ideas as to the manner of overcoming the problem. For instance, the Leader of the Opposition has a different solutionfrom that advocated by Senator Darcey,of Tasmania. These divergencies are inevitable. The problem of the unemployed and the unemployable, and the problem of the poor, will be with us even unto the end. “When we look at conditions in this country, we can say without fear of contradiction that the position is no worse here than elsewhere; that in fact it is better here than in any other country. The Government is doing its best to push on with a very extensive programme in connexion with defence. Considering the fall of our export prices, and the fact that these extensive programmes have to be financed, the Government is doing exceedingly well in the immediate proposals which it is placing before the people, including the expending of £16,000,000 on defence, and the giving’ of considerable sums to the States to help them with their youth employment schemes. I do not propose to go into details, because honorable senators know the position as it was in 1931 and is to-day. To bandy figures and percentages is a waste of time. The Government is doing all in its power to push on with a vigorous policy of public works in an endeavour to solve this problem. The immediate problem which we have to face is thatof the defence of this country, and the Government is anxious to make rapid progress with its policy in that regard. The members of the Labour party in the House of Representatives, however, day after day move the adjournment of the House in an endeavour to make political capital out of this and other problems, although they know that the Prime Minister is anxious to have his legislation passed and to get on with the defence job. The Opposition in the Senate, however, has adopted a reasonable attitude so far, and this is the first occasion on which it has ventilated this problem. It is right that Parliament should debate it, and try to solve it, and that we should all take our share of responsibility, but I do object to the attitude which is being adopted in the other chamber. I am satisfied that the members of the Labour party there are not anxious to allow us to finish the business, and get on with the recruiting campaign, and other work which will help to solve the unemployment problem. I have not with me exact figures showing what we propose to spend in the next few years. Honorable senators all know what we have spent in the past.
– It is of this Christmas that I am speaking. -
– The Government’s programme comprises more than this Christmas; it is a long-range plan. If honorable senators look back over the records of the last seven years, they will find that the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister has certainly improved the position in Australia. It created confidence abroad in Australian finance, and enabled us to raise and convert loans overseas. I do not think the position is so bad as the Leader of the Opposition would lead us to believe. In him we have listened to one great Queenslander ; I propose to quote the remarks of another. It is interesting to note what Mr. W. Forgan Smith, the Labour Premier of Queensland, has said in regard to unemployment figures. In the Brisbane Daily Telegraph, of the 8th November, he is reported to have stated : -
It was pleasurable to note that unemployment figures, according to the latest returns of the Government Statistician, hadshown a satisfactory decline. In the three months ended the 31st August, 1938, the percentage of unemployed was 4.1, compared with… . 22.2 per cent., the average for Queensland for 1932.
I make that quotation simply to show that the position has been somewhat exaggerated by the holder of the office. I assure honorable senators that the Government, and all members on this side have the welfare of the unemployed at heart, and, if members of the Opposition will give us an opportunity to push on with our programme, we shall do all in our power to alleviate the position.
– I was a member of the House of Representatives at a time when the unemployment position was worse than it is now. Certainly the financial commitments of the Government of the day were infinitely greater than those of the present Government. Industries were closing down all over Australia, prices were falling, our credit in London was gone, owing to the actions of a previous government, no money was to be had in this country, and yet the Scullin Government made available at about this season in 1931, the sum of £100,000, and for the following Christmas, £250,000. Surely if that was possible then, it will be within the power of a government which has the advantage of all the work of the Scullin Government to help it, to do at least as well. As one example, the Government has had the use of £16,000,000 of interest saved by the conversions brought about by the Scullin Government. There has been, certainly, great improvement in practically every aspect, and of all that the Government has had the benefit. Surely, therefore, it is not much for this party to ask that some amount be made available for relief in the approaching Christmas season. I admit that honorable senators on this side are not alone in the belief that it is a shocking state of affairs for men to be out of work and without money for the purchase of the necessaries of life. I know that many Government supporters are equally concerned about the welfare of the unemployed, but members of the Labour party have given this subject much anxious thought during the last seven years. Although relief of unemployment was the main item of policy upon which the Lyons Government was successful at the last three elections, the number of those unfortunates who are still unable to get work is alarmingly high. My leader has put the figure at between S0,000 and 100,000 for the Commonwealth, and figures given at the recent conference of Premiers in Canberra show that in Victoria alone there are about 35,000 persons unemployed. The facts of the situation must be faced. These people are hoping, apparently in vain, for an improvement Of their position. That cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. A positive policy must be formulated; whether by this Government, having the support of the United Australia party and the United Country party, or by Labour, is immaterial. The Government has a substantial defence programme. Despite what Senator Dein said last night, I declare emphatically that the Labour party is wholeheartedly in favour of defence. Our party has never withheld its support from proposals to improve the defence of this country. I suggest, however, that some of the work projected for defence could be started immediately if the Government made available, say, £500,000 from the defence vote. I know that the Government is not likely to do anything unorthodox immediately, hut I am quite sure that before many months have passed, definite action will become urgent. The people whom we represent in this Parliament are not seeking, eleemosynary aid; all they desire is the right to work under award conditions. The provision of even a month’s work for the unemployed at this season would give these unfortunate people some sense of security. Since I have been in this chamber I have never become hot under the collar because of my views in regard to legislation brought before us; but in my opinion measures “such as the Apple and Pear Organization Bill, which will enable growers to become more thoroughly organized and demand higher prices from Australian consumers for their products, or the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, to give more liberal compensation to seamen, although excellent pieces of legislation, are not nearly so important as is the solution of this pressing problem of unemployment. I am not interested in to-day’s proceedings in the House of Representatives. That is the concern of members of that chamber. Sixteen Labour senators have been waiting since July last for this opportunity to voice their opinions on this subject. I repeat that the Government should accelerate some portion of its defence programme in order to provide more employment for those who are so much in need of it. We believe that honorable senators opposite hold much the same views as we do on this subject. All honorable senators must hate to see people without work and deprived of purchasing power. Parliament is expected to rise within a fortnight, and although the allowances of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives may not be great, judged by some commercial standards, we shall at least be going home to some comfort, and we have some degree of security. Many of the people who sent us here are looking to the Government to do something for them.
Mention has been made of the growth of communistic and other anti-democratic organizations in this country. I suggest to honorable senators, however happily placed they may be, that if they had to bear one-third of the miseries which have to be endured by the unemployed in this country, they also would quite readily follow the line of least resistance. There is ample precedent for Government action such as I have suggested. In the worst period of the depression, the Scullin Labour Government made available £100,000 in one year, and £250,000 in the following year for the Christmas relief of the unemployed. The present Government has a splendid opportunity to give relief by expediting a portion- of the work provided for in the defence vote. What is the reason for hesitancy? Is it due to a lack of leadership or of organizing ability? No doubtsome Ministers would plead that these projects could not be put in hand at once, because of the vast amount of preparatory work that is necessary; but if ministerial office were held by some members on this side of the chamber, such difficulties would be surmounted without delay.
– The honorable senator should have been in the Scullin Government.
– I was a supporter of that administration. If Country party senators want the support of the Labour party for legislation to assist the wheat industry, which will be introduced shortly, we expect them now to take an Australian view of unemployment, and support proposals to aid the workers. In 1931-32, £3,230,000 was made available for the relief of unemployment and £11,000,000 for assistance to primary producers.
– What for ?
– The £11,000,000 was to assist 65,000 primary producers.
– The Scullin Administration left to the Lyons Government the task of providing the money.
– In 1931-32, £250,000 was made available for the relief of unemployment, and approximately £3,500,000 for assistance to primary producers. In Victoria, the Farmers’ Debt Adjustment Board has relieved primary producers of debts amounting to nearly £4,000,000. Fruitgrowers in Victoria have been paid sums totalling £500,000. Nothing, however, has been granted for the relief of the Unemployed. Within the next fortnight there will be introduced in this Parliament, legislation to fix a homeconsumption price for wheat. The effect of that measure will be to increase the cost ofbread, which the unemployed now find it difficult to purchase, or, as an alternative, the amount of relief given to farmers will be paid out of revenue. The appeal of the Labour party on behalf of the unemployed is not a sectional proposal, nor is there any intention to make political capital out of it. What my constituents think of me because of my action in this matter I do not know. I repeat that the Government should not confine its attention to the betterment of conditions of sectional interests. I have no doubt that within the next few days, representatives of wheat-growers will be again seen in the corridors of this building in the interests of wheat-farmers, as they were in 1930 when legislation proposed by the Scullin Government was rejected by the Senate. The employees or persons engaged in nearly every industry have some degree of organization; all except the unskilled workers. They have, however, in Mr. Lee, of Melbourne, an able advocate who for five or six years has been endeavouring to organize them. The Government could easily find the money for which we ask. In 1930, the Scullin Government doubted that money could be found for Christmas relief of the unemployed, but strong measures were adopted and £500,000 was made available. I feel sure that every honorable senator is in accord with my views on this subject. It only remains for Government supporters to impress upon Ministers the fairness of our case and insist that some action be taken to alleviate the position of the unfortunate unemployed at least during the Christmas season.
– If ever there was a time when a motion such as this should be carried, it is now. The Government proposes in the near future to inaugurate a national health campaign, and it has already embarked upon a recruiting scheme to strengthen the Commonwealth militia forces. It should not be necessary for the Leader of the Opposition or any other honorable senator on this side to jmpress upon Ministers the necessity for some grant for the unemployed so that they might be able to purchase food and other essentials to the maintenance of a decent standard of health. Unless adequate provision be made for work for the unemployed, the physical fitness of the nation will deteriorate. In 1937, the unemployed in New South Wales numbered 32,000, but the number ha.3 now increased to 45,000. The latest figures available show that, in 1937, 19,000 persons were engaged on relief work, and the number is now 16,000. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that the government of the day could provide an open cheque for defence purposes. No more important matter from the aspect of defence could receive attention than that of building np the health of the people, particularly the unemployed and their wives and families. The power to provide the unemployed with the means of obtaining the food, clothing and shelter they need resides solely in the Commonwealth Government. Honorable senators opposite must realize that if the unemployed are to be called upon to defend this country, it is essential that they be established in regular work. If the Government could write an open cheque for defence purposes, it should have no difficulty in meeting the urgent needs of the 150,000 men in Australia who are now unemployed.
– The Leader of the Opposition gave the number as 100,000.
– So did the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, and the Premier of Victoria, Mi-. Dunstan. My leader was conservative in his estimate, and one would naturally expect Messrs. Stevens and Dunstan to under-estimate rather than over-estimate the number of unemployed. The Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) has referred to the extent of unemployment during the regime of the Scullin Government. In 1931-32, owing to the operations of international financiers, Australia, in common with other parts of the world, experienced a depression. Since 1932, prosperity is said to have been returning, but little prosperity has been enjoyed by thousands of men and women who have had no employment since that time. The manufacturers of armaments and munitions of war, however, have experienced a remarkable measure of prosperity. I was disappointed to hear the Leader of the Senate state that the problem of the unemployed, the unemployable and the poor would be with us to the end of time. He is obviously out of touch with the spirit of the powerful youth movement which is growing in most countries, and which will not continue to tolerate -the starvation and degradation of any section of the people. The time is not far distant,
I hope, when governments will be forced to give to the unemployed at least some of the* assistance to which they are entitled. As has been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) a sum of money should be made available for the purpose of extending to these unfortunates sufficient relief to enable them to enjoy the Christmas period.
The Leader of the Senate alleged that the Leader of the Opposition had submitted this motion for a political purpose. If I thought that to be true, I would not associate myself with the motion; but I believe that every member of the Opposition, and also many honorable senators opposite,’ sincerely desire that something shall be done to alleviate the present position of the unemployed. When the budget was under consideration, I drew attention to the seriousness of the situation. Although a couple of months has elapsed, nothing has been done by the Government in the matter; in fact, the position of the unemployed has become much worse in recent months. The former Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan), admitted that the situation has deteriorated since October, 1937. Yet it is within the power of the Government to improve the position of the unemployed. No difference of opinion exists between the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Darcey in regard to this matter. They both realize that, if the Government were anxious to provide a grant for the unemployed, this could be done. The Opposition has suggested the provision of the necessary funds to enable public works to be undertaken immediately, so that work could be found for the unemployed. We do not ask for the implementation of the long-range policy to which the Government is fond of referring ; we are asking to-day only for immediate benefit to the unemployed by the undertaking of works of an urgent national character. During the Gwydir by-election in May, 1936, the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales said that, if a member of the Country party were returned as the representative of that electorate, £10,000,000 would be expended on a water conservation scheme for the north-western portion of New South Wales, and that the greater part of that money would be expended in Gwydir. I now urge upon the Government the necessity for the expenditure of a portion of the money required for that work, in order to assist the vast army of unemployed in the country districts of New South Wales. The Government has a policy for the improvement of aerodromes and for other works necessary in connexion with defence. The Opposition has urged that these works be undertaken on the day-labour system. The necessary men could be engaged through the Labour bureaux in the various States.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– Yesterday I addressed the following four questions to the Minister representing the Prime Minister: -
To those questions I have not yet received an answer, although it is true that the Minister made a general statement to the effect that the Government proposes to expend £16,000,000 on works of various kinds. I ask honorable senators opposite, who claim to be intelligent men having the interests of Australia at heart and who believe that they justify their membership of this chamber,what construction can be placed on such a statement. Either the Ministers in this chamber are grossly ignorant and incapable of supplying answers, or they are shirking their responsibility; either they can answer the questions, but will not, or they are incapable of answering them. I shall give the reasons for my questions not being answered. The Government is not prepared to proceed along the lines suggested by me for the reason that it is not profitable to employ the unemployed. If it were in the interests of private banking institutions and leading employers to find work for these men, not one of them would be out of work. But because there is no profit for vested interests in employing them, the Government refuses to act. Despite the assurances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Government says in effect that these men can starve; that so long as they are prepared to live under semi-starvation conditions, and real children in circumstances which are a disgrace to civilization, they may do so.
– Extravagant statements will not help them.
– Such statements concerning a government which refuses to accept the challenge contained in my questions are justified.-
– No other honorable senator would say that the Government would rather see these men starve than find work for them.
– The facts speak more eloquently than can any words of urine. If the honorable senator will visit the slums in the capital cities of Victoria and Now South Wales and indeed, in some country districts in both States, he will find men, women and children living in semi-starvation despite the promise of the Prime Minister and his colleagues to get down to the root causes of unemployment. The Government which made such alluring promises has done nothing.
– Not one of the things mentioned in the policy speech of the Prime Minister has been done.
– When honorable senators opposite sit down to their Christmas dinners with their families they may, if they have any conscience, think of the thousands of their fellow Australians who exist on the dole. They may, perhaps, reflect on the unfulfilled’ promises of the Government, and on their own response to requests that work be provided for the unemployed in order that they may have some of the good things of life during the Christmas season. If honorable senators opposite will do these things, they may then go a step further and ask whether they truly represent the people of Australia when they allow such conditions to exist in a laud where there is plenty for all.
On the 18th November the Prime Minister appealed for 70,000 recruits to join the militia, with a view to providing for the defence of Australia. That was a perfectly proper appeal for him to make.
– Does the honorable senator propose to assist the Prime Minister in achieving his objective?
– My attitude to that question will be decided by the Government’s attitude towards the problem which the Senate is now discussing. The Government’s appeal will be addressed to men who are denied the right to earn a decent livelihood in the country of their birth. The Prime Minister and those associated with him will say to them, “we want your help to defend this country against a possible invader “, but when these men ask for a job in order that they may live decently the Government says that that is a matter for the States. These men are denied the right to a decent livelihood in the country which they are asked to defend. Can the Government and its supporters justify such a state of affairs? There must be some motive for the Government’s inaction. I have already suggested that one reason for such inaction is that those interests which the Government represents cannot employ these men at a profit. Another reason is that the existence of a large body of unemployed prevents demands for increased wages and improved working conditions from being made. In other words, unemployment is being used to-day, as it has been used in the past, to prevent wages from being increased and working conditions from being improved. The whip of destitution is being used by the Government in order to keep those who are now working satisfied with things as they are. That attitude is not new;it has existed throughout the ages.
– The mere fact that the honorable senator makes certain statements does not prove that they are correct.
– I have had many years of experience in the industrial movement.
– Not as a worker.
– Yes, as a tradesman, a seaman, and in many more callings than has the honorable senator who interjected. I have a greater knowledge of working conditions in most industries than he has. Moreover, I have studied the many theories for the betterment of social conditions.
– The honorable senator is all theory; he is not practical.
– Since I have been in this chamber I have not heard the honorable senator express any opinion of value.
– I reciprocate the honorable senator’s compliment.
– Another reason for the Government’s inaction is its desire to get into the safe harbour of recess so that it will not be embarrassed by questions asked by honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– The honorable senator is merely putting forward excuses for not assisting in the recruiting campaign.
– The Government has not denied that it will make its appeal for recruits to men whom it is forcing to accept semi-starvation conditions. I feel confident that it will use whatever is said in opposition to its recruiting campaign as an excuse for saying that the voluntary system has failed.
– Does the honorable senator anticipate its failure?
– I believe that the campaign may succeed if the unemployed are assisted to the extent asked by the Opposition.
– The Government has the money.
– It is wellknown that there is no scarcity of money. If it were profitable to employ these men, sufficient capital for the purpose would be forthcoming to-morrow. If the Government were to guarantee a return of 5 per cent, on the capital so invested, not one of these men would be without a job.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I join with the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) in congratulating the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) on the moderate and thoughtful way in which he approached this subject. It is a subject to which not only members of Parliament, but also many other thoughtful men and women throughout the country, have pondered for a considerable time. Consequently any debate is worth while which serves to throw some new light upon this important problem, or suggests a fresh avenue of approach to it. I listened attentively to the Leader of the Opposition in order to see whether he would make some constructive suggestion, but, I must admit, 1 was disappointed. His remarks were merely in emphasis of the fact that some unemployment exists, and of the desire of every one that the position should be relieved. The honorable senator quoted extensively from various authorities. Instead, he might have curtailed such references and devoted his time to offering some constructive suggestion as to how this Government might deal with this problem more effectively than it has done, and is still doing. If he had done that, he would have contributed something worth while for the consideration of not only this Government, but also the government of every country. The Leader of the Opposition, however, was thoroughly disappointing in that respect; in fact, I was disgusted when 1 discovered that the only concrete suggestion offered by honorable senators opposite who have already spoken, was that this Government should appropriate £100,000 for the purpose of providing Christmas’ relief for the unemployed. That does not do justice to honorable senators opposite, because this Government has each year made available much greater sums for this very purpose, and I shall be very disappointed, indeed, if, within the next few days, it does not again announce some form of Christmas cheer for the unemployed. Honorable senators opposite are merely side-tracking the issue. Such a feeble suggestion, however, is in keeping with their lack of constructiveness. Apparently, they cannot advance anything but destructive criticism and sob-stuff of the kind which has been voiced by the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. Such remarks can be uttered by anybody without any sense of responsibility whatever, and when they are uttered they do not help in the slightest degree towards. the solution of this problem. My colleagues and I would have been much more interested if the Leader of the Opposition had given _ some concrete example of how this problem had been tackled in some other country with greater success than has attended the efforts of this Government. But he failed, or was unable, to cite any such example. I was particularly interested in his reference to remarks made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Savage. Those remarks, which consisted of generalities, will probably be endorsed by most honorable senators.
– They were endorsed by the electors of New Zealand.
– Yes, the electors of New Zealand have accepted the policy of Mr. Savage.
– At two elections.
– Yes, but in spite of the fact that Mr. Savage has been in office for -three years,, and has now been returned for another term, the Leader of the Opposition could not inform us of one thing achieved by the Labour Government of New Zealand which the Commonwealth Government might do to relieve unemployment in Australia. I admit quite frankly that the Labour Government of New Zealand has introduced a number of so-called social* reforms. I offer no criticism of them, but I suggest that honorable senators opposite would be wise to withhold for a while their praise of Mr. Savage’s achievements. Within the same period practically every new government in any country can claim an equal record. The Commonwealth Government, for instance, has a record equal, if not superior, to that, of the Labour Government in New Zealand. However, that Government will undergo its real test within the next three years. In this connexion, I draw the attention of honorable senators to the statement made by Mr. Semple, Minister for Works in that Government, that the people of New Zealand cannot expect to get something for nothing. I shall leave it to honorable senators opposite to explain what Mr. Semple meant by that remark. I have endeavoured to discover whether any other country has been able to deal more successfully with the problem of unemployment than has Australia, and as the result of my research, I am convinced that, among the democratic countries, Australia has been the most successful in this respect. The only other country which has excelled Australia’s efforts, is ‘Germany, under a regime which, I believe, will find no more favour with honorable senators opposite than it does with honorable senators on this side. £ do not intend to go into details of the methods adopted bv Germany in dealing with unemployment, but I point out that according to reports which have emanated from that country, the problem of unemployment has been solved to a greater degree there than elsewhere. If Germany’s claim can be substantiated - and I, personally, do not question it - the only conclusion we can draw Ls that Nazi-ism can deal more effectively with unemployment than can democracies. At any rate the Leader of the Opposition has failed to demonstrate that any other democratic country has dealt with it more successfully than has Australia. It is all very well to refer to the percentage of our people who are unemployed, and to draw attention’ to the conditions under which such people are forced to live. As reasonable men, however, we must view this matter relatively and in proper perspective. In this respect Australia, will compare more than favorably with any other country. I do not suggest for one moment that we should be satisfied with existing conditions. On the other hand, however, this Government can justly claim a continuance of the confidence and support of the people of Australia, because of the success which has attended its efforts at economic reconstruction following the very severe depression through which we have passed. Whilst I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition upon the moderation of his remarks, I must repeat that I am very disappointed that throughout the whole of his address he did not advance one constructive suggestion which would enable this Government to do more than it is doing for the people of whom he and his colleagues claim to be the only representatives in this chamber.
– There is a vast difference between the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat and myself. He is a man of means. I am not jealous of him on that account; some day, perhaps, although the prospect appears hopeless, I, too, may become a man of means. Like other honorable senators opposite, he is filled to the brim with sympathy for the unemployed. We on this side not only possess such sympathy, but also are prepared to advance concrete proposals for the relief of the unemployed.
– Let us have them.
– Give them one month’s work at award wages for Christmas.
– That is a very constructive idea !
– My sympathy with the unemployed is intensified as the result of my own experience of being out of work. Men who, like honorable senators opposite, always have a full belly, can have sympathy for the unemployed, but as they have not had the actual experience of being unemployed, it cannot be said that they fully appreciate the hunger and hopelessness suffered by these unfortunate men. For a number of years in the Old Country, in the days of my youthful enthusiasm for the Labour movement, I went from one end of the land to the other, sleeping in workhouses and under hedgerows. I was gaoled as a vagrant, and battered from pillar to post as a down-and-out worker. I am serious when I say that I know what it is to be unemployed. I realize the bitterness of being out of work, and I have experienced the hunger which results from that condition. I make at least one concrete proposal to the Government, and that is that at Christmas, on the anniversary of the birth of the lowly Nazarene, it can surely make available a few’ thousand pounds, not for charity, but for the purpose of finding work for these men, so that for a few weeks they may eat well like honorable senators opposite and have a few pounds to spend on the needs of their wives and children. Surely, this wonderful and rich country, which Senator McBride declares is in the vanguard of world progress, can afford a few thousands of pounds in order to alleviate the sufferings of the unemployed during the testive season. Unemployment is a national crime. Poverty is a national crime, but it is also a private misfortune, and we can overcome a little of that private misfortune by assisting the unemployed in the direction asked for Surely Senator McBride, with his full stomach, well clothed and well housed as he is, must admit that something should be done at once.
– In spite of Senator Brown’s youthful difficulties, he is a good specimen of physical fitness.
– I am not as fit as I should be, because I do not take enough exercise, but I admit that I eat well and sleep well, and I also speak well. Even those honorable senators opposite who have ossified brains should be ‘able to understand the Labour party’s plea for something to be clone at Christmas for the unemployed, but all they can say is that the Government is going to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on bombs and munitions. Evidently, there is to be plenty of bombs,- but no bread and butter for the unemployed. The Leader of the Senate stated that the Government was spending millions for the defence of Australia, and rightly so. It is essential in this mad world that we should spend money on defence until all the nations become sane again. While the world is mad, we in Australia have to defend ourselves against mad assaults from people overseas. But, because the Government is spending millions of pounds on defence works, it does not follow that it should refuse to spend a few thousands of pounds for the benefit of the unemployed. Surely Senator McBride a. dm ‘ti the need to supply these people with food. I remember a wellknown magistrate in London who was vary fond of a joke. It was very easy for him to joke with a belly well lined. One poor unemployed man brought before him for stealing a loaf of bread said, “ It is necessary to eat, your worship “, but his worship replied “ No, it is not necessary “. In other words, the man could go away and starve. That was the magistrate’s idea of a joke, and it represents also the view of honorable senators on the other side in regard to this problem. Despite the money which the Government is spending on defence, it is only right that these men, women and children should be fed. After all, that would be only carrying out a Christian principle. Surely the Government can, at Christmas time, give these people something even if it will not do so at any other time. The Leader of the Senate is one of the most intense pessimists that I have ever listened to. In his short speech, he gave us his policy of despair. He said that the unemployed would be always with us. Christ said, “ For ye have the poor always with you “, and Senator McLeay thinks we must always have the unemployed. What a policy of despair, and what a despairing gang of politicians they must be on the other side of the chamber if they cannot organize this country, at least so far as to be able to feed the hungry. I admit that Senator McBride was right in saying that among the democratic countries not one had done better than had Australia. I think Australia has done very well, but I am reminded of the speech delivered by a certain politician in Queensland to a crowd of 400 or 500 men, a large percentage of whom were unemployed. He told them that the percentage of unemployed in Queensland was small. He said it was 15 per cent, in Western Australia, 12 per cent, in South Australia, 9 per cent, in somewhere else, and only 7 per cent, in Queensland. The unemployed said, however, “ It does not matter to us what the percentage is, we are unemployed, we want work, and we want to be fed “. That, I think, represents the true position. Other speakers have pointed to the efforts of the State governments to solve the unemployment problem, but there is a sub-stratum of unemployed left, and we in Canberra should do at least something to alleviate the position of those who have not been able to find a place in the social scheme. I admit that in the democracies throughout the world the problem has not been solved. Great efforts have been made in Russia, yet even in that country unemployed are to be found. All the democracies that I know of are part and parcel of the capitalist scheme of things. In them all the capitalists control finance, and not one has adopted a reform programme contrary to the interests of the capitalists. When the time arrives that the democracies of the world arc prepared to institute a financial system more in accord with the needs of the times, then it will be possible to solve the unemployment problem. So far the Government is only playing with it, spending money in the hope that as time goes on trade will improve. That will not solve the problem in democratic Australia. One of the greatest crimes against democracies is that our leaders deal with these questions only superficially, and grossly mislead the people at election times, by their stories of what they intend to do. The present Prime Minister put over all kinds of stories as long ago as 103.1. At Launceston he shed crocodile- tears, and, according to the press report, “ referred with impassioned sincerity to the unemployed situation and condemned the Labour government for having failed to do something for the solution of the problem “. Then he stated hypocritically that that failure, above everything else, had caused him to leave the Labour party. He did not say anything about Sir Keith Murdoch or the promise of the Prime Ministership. On another occasion, appealing to the people, he said : “ Earnestly, humbly, sincerely, I invite members of all existing parties to unite in one great Commonwealth movement and to banish the curse of unemployment from our beloved country “. He said that it was a national problem, and that it was necessary that the nation, as represented at Canberra, should tackle it from a national standpoint, because the States, with their limited means, could not possibly overcome it. Later on he shifted his ground, and said that it was a matter for industry; that if industry could not solve the problem, the nation could not. Only a few short days ago this vacillating gentleman, who can talk in such impassioned tones, told us that it was not a national problem, it was not a problem for industry, but a matter for the States themselves to solve. The State which I represent lias attempted something and achieved something in this direction, but I say quite frankly that no State, whether ruled by Labour, Communist, Douglas Credit, Tory, Country party or any other party, can solve the unemployment problem, but at least a sympathetic Labour government can do something, as the Government in Queeusland is doing, on behalf of the unemployed. I am told by my leader that £40,000 is being allocated there for the unemployed this Christmas.
– The motion is truly moderate, as Senator McBride pointed out. ,We have heard from the Leader of the Senate an expression of the attitude of the Government towards it, but he complained that the Leader of the Opposition had not put forward any formula or make any suggestions of a practical nature for giving effect to the motion. The Leader of the Opposition, however, is not the Government. The Government is headed by Mr. Lyons, and those in opposition to the Labour party in Australia have been entrusted by the electors with the task of governing the country. Part of that task, and part of the responsibility, is to bring about orderly government in the interests of the people, but orderly government cannot be achieved by any party whilst there exists such a huge army of workers seeking’ employment. It should be the first function and the first business of any government to provide the means of subsistence for its people. That is the first obligation placed upon it, yet no effort to discharge it has been made by this Government since the’ last election.
– That is all nonsense.
– It is true. No effort of a tangible nature has been made to provide employment for the workers. There has been much discussion, many promises, and voluminous reports as to the procedure to be adopted by the Government for the purpose of giving effect to its policy have appeared in the press throughout Australia, but so far nothing has been done. That is true, even in connexion with defence. Although the Government’s defence policy has received the approvalof Parliament, no provision has been made for additional work as a result of funds being made available. I was surprised to learn f rom the Western Australian press that a sum of £665,000 was available for defence in that State. No portion of that money has been expended. Contracts have been drawn up, but work has not yet been commenced. Thatis our complaint. It is the responsibility of the Government to provide employment for the people. This Government acknowledged its obligations, and in addition the Ministry, by assumption of office, undertook to do justice to all men. Whilst there is an ever increasing army of workless men in this country the Government is not keeping faith with the people or doing justice to all men.
The number of unemployed in Australia at the present time has been variously estimated, but the minimum number given recently by at least two State Premiers is 100,000. We know, however, thateven that high figure does not represent the actual number of men out of work in Australia. The estimated number is enormously increased by large groups of workless people who go unnoticed; they never come in contact with men holding responsible positions in either Commonwealth or State spheres. Some of these unfortunate people have almost sunk tothe level in Australian life corresponding to that of the “ untouchables “ in India. The present grave social position must be remedied. It is not the function of the Opposition in this Parliament to give any direction to the Government in this matter. The Ministry accepted that responsibility when it took office, knowing full well that it would he expected to honour its pledges. So far it has not done so. Instead of facing the issues confronting it the Government has been concerned with disruptions in its own ranks. Efficient government is impossible whilst these miserable squabbles are taking place daily in the Cabinet.
– That is what the people are thinking about the Labour party.
– The sixteen Labour members of this chamber are the answer to that statement.
– That is so, but unfortunately for the people of Australia, Labour is not in office. If it were, the workless army would not seek assistance in vain. Within twelve months of a Labour government taking office, the administration of Commonwealth affairs would be such that there would be no need for the people to convene public meetings, or arrange demonstrations in order to direct attention to the pitiable industrial and social conditions.
The Leader of the Opposition has not charged the Government with any grievous crime. All that he has done is to call upon the Ministry to honour its promises in, relation to unemployment. Do not Government supporters see the incongruity of, on the one hand, an appeal being made for recruits to be trained to defend Australia and, on the other, a vast army of unemployed whose physical condition must be such as to render them unfit for military service? Health and defence are related problems. Any considerable volume of unemployment, if unrelieved, is a blow at the heart of the community. Australia can be defended effectively only if its manhood is virile, purposeful and strong. We cannot expect that social condition to obtain with unemployment rife in so many centres of the Commonwealth. Employment must be found for men expected to shoulder the responsibilities of citizenship and play their part in the defence of their country. Of what use is it to talk of defence if the people are not adequately fed and clothed? An army, we are told, marches on its . stomach. This being so, how can the Government expect to appeal successfully for recruits if the men, to whom the appeal is made, are out of work? I urge the Government to honour its pledge with respect to unemployment in order that Australia may once again take its place in the vanguard of social reform. At one time this country led the world in respect of working standards and living conditions, but in recent years it has slipped badly. The Government’s duty is clear. Sufficient income must be provided to enable fathers of families to provide food and clothing for their children, so that they may become firstclass citizens of the Commonwealth.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland - Minister forRepatriation and Health) [4.56]. - One would imagine, from the speeches made by some honorable senators opposite this afternoon, that during the last seven years little or nothing has been done by the Government to assist the unemployed in this country. The only suggestion offered by Opposition senators is that the Government should immediately make available a sum for the relief of unemployment, to be expended without reference to any co-ordinated plan. One of the worst aspects of unemployment relief in the earlier years of the depression was the absence of planning. Millions of pounds has been expended during the last six or seven years. In every State money was wasted. There is nothing to show now for much of the expenditure which was incurred on unproductive work.
Honorable senators who spoke earlier referred to the fact that at the recent conference held in Canberra tentative proposals were submitted by representatives of State governments for the granting of £500,000 for the relief of wheat-growers stricken by drought. May I remind Labour senators that relief given to wheat-growers is more likely to reduce unemployment than the undertaking of some classes of unproductive work in the cities. Unemployment is not confined to urban areas; it is a pressing problem in rural areas also.
– The granting of that money will be for the benefit of financial institutions.
– The money will assist primary producers to carry on the work of their farms, and give employment to rural workers. Senator Keane apparently disapproves of assistance being given to drought-stricken farmers. He referred also to the fact that money was being found for farmers’ debt relief. Surely it is not necessary to remind the honorable gentleman that money allocated to primary producers for this purpose will provide more employment than money spent on unproductive work, such as carting a load of sand from one part of Botany to another. It will relieve unemployment in country districts, enable farmers to stay on the land, and assist country storekeepers to provide more employment.
– It will also enable farmers to purchase machinery.
– That is so and the purchase of machinery will give employment in both country and city areas. I invite honorable senators who charge the Government with not fulfilling its election promises, to contrast the position of our secondary industries to-day with their plight seven years ago. The Leader of the Opposition rightly said that figures could bemade to prove almost anything, but it cannot be denied that employment in our secondary industries has, during the last twelve months, reached record figures, due to the Government’s longrange fiscal policy, which has enabled those industries to expand to a degree unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth.
I do not believe that an appropriation of £500,000 immediately would prove a cure for unemployment, because in the absence of a plan for proposed works, there would be nothing to show for the expenditure. The policy of the Government has been outlined clearly by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay). It involves something much more substantial than a cheque to provide employment for a few weeks.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done?
– Senator McLeay made the Government’s intention quite clear. The Government, recognizing that the problem must be dealt with, has a large number of public works in progress. New aerodromes are being provided in practically every part of Australia, and buildings are being erected in connexion ‘ with the defence works programme. Unfortunately, owing to the international tension, it is essential to expend money on defence works, although it is admitted that in other circumstances the money could be more wisely used in encouraging economic development. The Government is speeding up the work of the architectural branch of the Works Department as much as possible, so that the contemplated buildings may be put in hand as quickly as possible.
-What will happen to the unemployed in the meantime?
SenatorFOLL. - As the necessary plans for the new buildings become available, further employment will be provided. For months, defence works in connexion with aerodromes and other defence activities have been absorbing a large number of men who would otherwise have been out of work. It is far more economic to proceed with a co-ordinated plan of public works than to throw money away, as has been done in the past. The Leader of the Opposition knows that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, has deplored the fact that much government money has been expended in an unproductive manner, and has been more or less wasted.
– But that does not solve the problem of Christmas relief for the unemployed.
– The argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his motion was that there is urgent need to deal with the problem of unemployment generally, and to do it on a permanent basis. The policy of the Government for assisting secondary industries has resulted in thousands of men being put back into employment. Before the Parliament rises for the recess, I hope to have the pleasure of introducing a bill to provide for the manufacture, under bounty, of motor car parts.
– The Government has had £750,000 on hand for that purpose for a considerable period, and has done nothing in the matter.
– I hope that, with the assistance of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, effect will be given to the policy of the Government in that regard. The Government also intends to submit a measure dealing with the manufacture of newsprint, and this new industry will provide increased employment in Tasmania. It is far better for the Government to assist industries by acts of policy, which will build up substantial interests and give permanent employment, than to expend a few thousands of pounds indiscriminately on work which will not assist in reaching a permanent solution of the problem of unemployment.
The Government makes no apology for the fact that it has come to the aid of drought-stricken farmers, and has introduced legislation dealing with the adjustment of rural debts. It considers that the man on the land and the farm worker have as much right to the help of the Parliament as has any other section of the community. In certain parts of Queensland and Victoria, the farmers will have practically no means of subsistence other than the grant which they will receive under the legislation to which I have referred. In the opinion of the Government it is necessary to adopt a long-range policy, if the problem of unemployment is to be dealt with satisfactorily. The Government considers that, by assisting primary industries, protecting secondary industries, and pushing on with defence and other urgently necessary public works, it is adopting the best course.
– Provision is also being made for the establishment of new industries.
– Yes. That has been the policy of the Government during the whole of its term of office. Despite hostile criticism it has a creditable record in that regard.
It is most unfortunate that, in many parts of Australia, employment is only seasonal, and that there is inevitably a great deal of seasonal unemployment. In Queensland, that is one of the most pressing of governmental problems. In the awards of the arbitration courts it is necessary to provide especially for workers engaged in seasonal employment of different kinds. In a country which depends largely on its primary production and its export trade, the problem associated with seasonal unemployment is a very real one. Fortunately, this difficulty is being gradually overcome by the development of secondary industries. It is unfair of honorable senators opposite to suggest that during the Government’s term of office it has not seriously considered the problem of unemployment. An effective reply to that charge is furnished by the fact that thousands more men are employed in industries in Australia at the present time than there were when the Government assumed office.
– That has happened in every country, due to world recovery.
SenatorFOLL. - The honorable senator admits that I have stated the position correctly.
– But that does not help the 100,000 unemployed.
– The honorable senator’s argument falls to the ground, because there is more employment in Australia to-day than ever before. It is far better to adopt the sound policy of developing primary and secondary industries than merely to make temporary relief available.
– According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, the number of unemployed for the quarter ended the 31st May, 1938, showed an increase of 6 per cent., as compared with the previous quarter. If that increase continues what will be the effect in the near future? We are all aware of the serious extent of malnutrition amongst children during the last depression, from which Australia has not fully recovered, although it is now heading for another. Of children under five years of age, 43 per cent. were found to be suffering from malnutrition, and it may be said that 75 per cent. of the under-nourishment which results in children being under weight is due to their parents being out of employment.
Honorable senators opposite complain that no constructive suggestion has been put forward by the Opposition. Although I do not consider we can solve this problem while in Opposition, I shall offer some suggestions. Tasmania has been allocated only £71,677 of the sum made available for the Commonwealth works programme for the current year. That is a mere drop in the bucket. Were it not for the restrictions imposed by the Loan Council, Tasmania could itself have solved its unemployment problem. No doubt a certain amount of public money has been expended on works of a nonreproductive character, but no money used to keep the people from starvation can be truthfully said to have been thrown away. The States could do far more towards solving the problem of unemployment if their hands were not tied by the Loan Council, which is chiefly influenced by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). Tasmania is anxious to extend its hydro-electric scheme. Practically every unit of power now generated is sold, but the Loan Council has not allotted to Tasmania sufficient money to enable that extension to be made. This is one of the most reproductive works Tasmania has ever undertaken, and I fail to understand why its extension has been delayed, seeing that a great deal of employment could be provided.
I was a member of the parliamentary party that recently visited Lithgow. It seems extraordinary that although the Government is prepared to build annexes to private factories for the manufacture of armaments and munitions, it should allow two out of every three machines at the Lithgow factory to remain idle. Armaments and munitions are urgently needed, and the problem of unemployment could be partially solved by providing jobs in factories such as -that at Lithgow for the supply of defence materials that are urgently needed. It is essential, in my opinion, to have ample reserves of munitions on hand. In a national emergency, Australia would find it difficult to spare men for work in munition factories. If Australia were invaded they would be needed to fight. Money expended in the way that I have indicated would not be wasted.
It has been said that no constructive suggestions ever come from this side of the chamber. There is no need for them in this connexion, because the policy speech of the Leader of the Labour party at the last election showed how the problem of unemployment could be solved and the defence of Australia provided for. That policy received the endorsement of a majority of the electors who returned 16 of 19 candidates to this chamber.
– What is Labour’s policy for solving the problem of unemployment?
– Labour would work along the lines which Tasmania would follow if its hands were not tied by the Loan Council. Much developmental work has still to be done if Australia is to progress.
– Does the honorable senator favour Senator Darcey’s financial proposals ?
– I favour the policy of the Labour party.
– What is that?
– It would take more time than I have at my disposal toexplain the progressive policy of Labour.
– When you, Mr. President, informed the Senate that you had received from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) an intimation that he proposed to move the adjournment of the” Senate to-day, I hoped that the discussion would be worth while; but although I listened most attentively to the honorable gentleman, he did not do more than recite the opinions of a number of eminent authorities in countries in which, unfortunately, unemployment is far more acute than it is in Australia. He did not tell us how to solve the problem.
– I quoted the promise of the Prime Minister to solve it.
– The only logical deduction from the honorable senator’s speech is that the problem of unemployment would be solved if the Government made available a sum of money sufficient to provide a month’s work for the unemployed at Christmas time.
– I did not say that. I spoke of temporally relief over Christmas.
– I do not think that the honorable senator spoke of providing temporary relief.
– The honorable senator is deliberately trying to misrepresent me.
– I shall ask the honorable senator, who generally is reasonable, to let me have a proof of his speech. If, onreading it, I find that I have misrepresented him I shall apologize to him.
– I do not want the honorable senator’s apology; I prefer his condemnation.
– The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition at this moment convinces me that I have not misrepresented him. Opposition senators also said that the solution of this problem is a matter for the Commonwealth rather than the States. I have no wish to absolve the Commonwealth from responsibility in this connexion, butI submit that a responsibility rests on the States also.
– Our appealis to the Commonwealth.
– The system by which Commonwealth moneys are made available for the relief of unemployment is far from satisfactory.
I have no desire to misquote Senator Keane, but I believe that he said that the Scullin Government provided £3,500,000 to assist farmers by means of a bounty on wheat. It did nothing of the kind. It certainly introduced legislation to provide a bounty, but it left the responsibility of finding the money to the Lyons Government, which succeeded it. Again, if I have misquoted the honorable senator, I shall apologize. The disorder which my remarks have caused among honorable senators opposite suggests that the medicine which I am giving them is not to their liking. At least, I have stuck to the truth. The estimate of Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, that there are 100,000 workers unemployed in Australia to-day is generally accepted as being fairly correct. Senator Amour gave another figure, but he did not say where he obtained it. To me,100,000 is a colossal figure, but, apparently, it was far too modest for Senator Amour, so he simply raised it to 150,000. The honorable senator went on to say that, during recent months, the number of unemployed persons in New South Wales has increased by 13,000. That may be correct, but I doubt it. I remind the honorable senator that, when speaking in this chamber, he is not on the street corner, where no one asks any questions or queries his figures.
– Some of the people on the street corners are most inquisitive.
– Senator Cameron charged the Government with acquiescence in existing conditions on the ground that, if the army of unemployed be large, workers in industry are prevented from demanding increased wages and better working conditions. Senator Cameron is too fair-minded to believe that statement, yet he made it in this chamber. Unfortunately the Hansard records of his speech will reach some people in the community who will believe what he said. I ask the honorable senator how he reconciles his statement with the fact that almost every day awards are made by which wages are increased. How long is it since Senator Cameron has seen an award which provided for a reduction of wages? It is true that some of the increases have been small - too small, in my opinion - but the fact that they were increases disproves the honorable senator’s statement.
Although Senator Brown rose to put a concrete proposal before the Senate, he proceeded to tell us of some of his experiences in Britain when a youth. He then referred to a number of democracies, among which he included Russia. Finally, he quoted from a speech by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and then he resumed his seat, leaving us still wondering where the concrete proposal was. His speech was typical of the speeches of Opposition members.
Senators Cunningham and Aylett went further, for they said that it was not the responsibility of the Opposition to assist in finding jobs for hungry men. I challenge honorable senators opposite to make that statement at a public meeting on any street corner in their own States. It is remarkable that men, who claim that the party to which they belong represents the majority of the electors, should say that, because they are not on the ministerial bench, they will not lift a finger to help their less fortunate fellow citizens. Such statements reflect little credit on those who make them. No honorable senator who has a worth-while suggestion to make should refuse to pass it on. Such an attitude on the part of a public man is beneath contempt. It is every one’s job to assist in finding work for the unemployed. I was glad that the Leader of the Opposition struck that note in his opening speech. Unfortunately, Senators Cunningham and Aylett repudiated their leader’s statement.
During the budget debate, I suggested several ways in which work might be found for some of those who are now unemployed. I suggested that a reduction of the working week, and a lowering of the retiring age, might result in additional work being found for men who are now unemployed. A third way is by raising the age at which youths are allowed to commence work. Those are three methods by which we can provide additional jobs for those unfortu nates who are out of work to-day, mainly because of the mechanization of industry. Senators Aylett and Cunningham, however, adopted the attitude that the responsibility of solving unemployment is solely that of honorable senators on this side. They say, in effect, “ We do not care for the unemployed, because we are not on the Government side.”
– I rise to a point of order. I did not make such a statement, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– That is not a point of order. If the honorable senator has been misquoted, he has his remedy in contradicting the statement attributed to him.
– In order to prove that this Government is doing something to assist the unemployed, I point out that during the last three years it has spent on defence works alonethe following sums: 1936-37, £1,156,000; 1937-38, £1,584,000; whilst for this year, the estimated expenditure is £7,000,000.
Honorable members of the Opposition interjecting,
– I cannot understand the ire displayed by my friends opposite, particularly Senator Fraser.I have not said anything unreasonable. I am merely giving figures showing the expenditure which this Government has undertaken on relief works. Yet honorable senators opposite are objecting.
– The honorable senator is the Government’s champion muck-raker.
– Judging from his attitude, the Leader of the Opposition would be more pleased if the Government would not provide a shilling towards the relief of the unemployed. Then he would be enabled to kick it the harder. I am not saying that the Government has done everything possible forthe unemployed, but the figures which I have mentioned show, at least, that it has been alive to its responsibilities. On other Commonwealth works, it expended in 1936-37, £4,001,000, and in 1937-38, £4,537,000, whilst the estimate for this year is £5,423,000.
– But there are still 100,000 unemployed. We are not speaking about what the Government has spent; we are asking that it spend more.
– When one treads on a dog’s tail, what does it do? Perhaps it does not make quite so much noise as the Leader of the Opposition. This Government has also made the following grants to the States: 1936-37, £4,028,000; 1937-38, £4,400,000; and 1938-39, £4,250,000.
– The honorable Senator has exhausted his time.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat generally gets up to do all the dirty work on behalf of the Government.
– Hear, hear! The official muck-raker. You cannot get away with it, Dein.
– I take exception to that remark, Mr. President.
– How long do you expect honorable senators on this side to sit silent under your insults?
– Order !
– I have not insulted anybody, nor have I used offensive language. Senator Ashley is offensive to me when he says that I am doing dirty work. My purpose in participating in this debate was to clean up the dirty work which honorable senators opposite tried, and, evidently, I have succeeded.
– No greater proof of this Government’s lack of sympathy for the unfortunate unemployed is needed than its action in disregarding the claims of” the unemployed in connexion with its national health and pensions insurance legislation.
– The States would not agree that unemployment insurance should be provided for in that legislation.
– The Government’s failure to make provision for the unemployed in that scheme is, I- suggest, irrefutable evidence of its lack of sympathy for them. It gave no consideration, whatever, to their claims.
– ‘Does the honorable senator agree that national insurance is a benefit?
– I am not discussing the merits of that legislation. I emphasize that the Government’s action in refusing to make provision under that legislation for the unemployed was further evidence of its total disregard for the welfare of those unfortunate people. Senator Dein has taunted honorable senators on this side that we have offered no concrete suggestion towards the solution of the problem of unemployment. I point out that honorable senators opposite have always claimed that they have a remedy for unemployment. At this juncture we are merely appealing to the Government to make available . a sum of money in order to provide some small measure of Christmas cheer for the unemployed. I can readily understand the attitude adopted by honorable senators opposite in this matter. Mrs. H. F. Slinn, who represented Croydon at the recent convention of the United Australia party in Sydney, said that she knew of people on the dole who lived oh. chicken. I ask honorable senators to imagine how a single man on a pittance of 7s. 6d. a week could treat himself to chicken. Mrs. Slinn opposed a motion at the convention that the Government- should increase the dole allowance, because of the increased cost of living. “You would be surprised “, she said, “ if you knew how well some of these people on the dole live “. T.n a newspaper interview the same lady said that the chicken-eating family to which she had referred possessed a radio, whilst the boys in the family had bicycles.
– She denied that report.
– She went on to say, “ Their dust-bin was full of empty asparagus tins and containers of all the most expensive foodstuffs.” Iri order to be able to justify the Government’s inactivity in regard to unemployment, members of the United Australia party, apparently, rummage in the garbage tins of the unemployed in search of evidence of extravagance on the part of those who are drawing the dole. I point out that this convention frames the policy of the United Australia party. Is it any wonder, therefore, that honorable senators opposite hold views of the kind which they have expressed this afternoon ? Some time ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that the suras of money, to which Senator Dein has referred, would relieve the State governments of their obligations in regard to unemployment. That, however, has not yet been achieved. On analysing some of those figures, I find that, for thi3 year, £522,000 has been allocated in respect of the Northern Territory, as compared with only £291,000- for South Australia and £176,000 for Tasmania. It is’ unreasonable to say that such money is being spent to alleviate unemployment when so large a sum is to.be expended in the Northern Territory, where unemployment is practically non-existent, whilst, at the same time, so small a sum is allocated to Tasmania, where there are many unemployed who could be engaged in several reproductive works. I noticed in the Sydney Morning Herald the report of a ministerial reply given in the House of Representatives to the effect that materials valued at £233,443 have already been ordered by the Defence Department for the equipment of defence annexes at private factories. Should hot. the Government wait until its own factories are working at capacity, and until annexes have been erected at railway workshops, before supplying such buildings for private enterprise? “Whilst it can immediately provide this machinery for its friends in private enterprise, it is unable to make available any money to municipal and shire councils for the purpose of providing relief for the unemployed through reproductive works. In addition to the sum which I have mentioned, the Government is also providing’ £100,000 for the erection of buildings to house equipment in the annexes to private establishments. If it is able to do so much for its wealthy friends in private enterprise, it should be able to do something for the unemployed.
Apparently industrial conscription has already been introduced into Australia. I notice from a report published in the press to-day that 3,000 employees of the Vacuum Oil Company have been told that the company will help them in every way to undergo military training. The New South Wales manager of that company, Mr. D. S. Aarons, according to this report, stated -
Employees will willingly be released for training, and, in addition to their annual leave and other privileges, they will be paid their full salary during the time they arc absent from duty. Applicants for positions with the company will be given special consideration if they are undergoing military train ing.
– A very patrioticgesture.
– That is not conscription.
– It means that no man can hope to secure a job with that company unless he enlists for military training. I appeal to Ministers and their supporters to respond to the appeal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The position in Australia is becoming increasingly worse every day. Not only in the industrial areas are there large bodies of unemployed,” but also in the rural districts of western New South Wales, towns with populations of 2,000 to 3,000 have as many as 300 people, or 10 per cent., on food relief. Going further west, one finds that a place like Dubbo, with 8,000 population, has 500 to 600 on food relief. These facts show that unemployment in Australia is not confined solely to the industrial areas. I appeal to the Government to give consideration to the unemployed, so that they may have a little Christmas cheer in common with the more fortunate inhabitants of Australia.
, and hoped that this afternoon we should hear from honorable senators opposite concrete suggestions for the relief of unemployment.. But the Opposition has merely suggested that this is the Government’s duty, and’ that those who are not in office arerelieved of all responsibility towards theunemployed. Such an attitude does not do justice to honorable senators as representatives of their States. I believe that motions of this type can be of great value.. I do not propose to throw any mud,, but shall tackle the subject as I believe it should be tackled; that is, by putting forward suggestionswhich may be helpful to the Govern- ment in easing a problem that is troubling every nation. I think it has been admitted on all sides that this problem has been tackled by Australia better than by any other country in the world, but that does, not moan that wo can be smug, contented and self-satisfied with whatwehave done in the past. We have to do better. We should try to see that every person who is willing to work is able to get a job. During the last election campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), on the recommendation of the banking commission, stated that the Government would take steps to provide capital for small industries. I much regret that, although a whole year has passed, nothing has been done in that direction. South Australia, however, has not waited for the Commonwealth Government to move, but has gone ahead and established the Industries Assistance Corporation. The State Government provided £20,000. The first yearly report of the corporation has. just been published. In it the directors say that, as the result of the provision of that £20,000, and the assistance given to small industries, in one year 300 men have been given permanent employment. Not a dole of £500,000, as suggested by the Opposition, not a Christmas tree for the unemployed, not shifting sand or temporary government work, but work of a permanent nature is what is wanted. I urge the Commonwealth Government to do what the Government of South Australia has done, by carrying out the promise it gave before the last election to set aside money to assist small industries. There is almost no limit to the employment that we can give to secondary industries, and particularly to smaller businesses employing ten or twelve men. These could, with the assistance of a little capital, double or treble the employment they are giving. There is ample scope in Australia to provide such work, but small industries are hampered by lack of capital. The whole of their capital is employed in plant and machinery; their businesses are extending, but, if they go to their bank and ask for more money, the bank refuses to regard plant and machinery as security. If they go to the Government, the Government says, “We do not lend to private borrowers.” If they go to the stock exchange, the stock exchange says, “ You are too small for us ; we are not concerned with anybody who has not a capital of £20,000 or £30,000.” Then we have small industries started by workmen, often by foremen who saw the opportunity and took the risk, starting off with one or two men, building up to three or four, and finally finding that their industry is expanding faster than the capital available to them. They are at a dead end. There are men willing to work and wanting work, and small industries wanting to give more employment; something must be done to bridge the gap between the two. In South Australia we are bridging it by the Industries Assistance Corporation, which has done marvellous work; but, when we appealed to the Commonwealth Government to provide us with £20,000, an amount which the State government had given us in ten minutes, we received not one penny. I quite agree that the Commonwealth Government has done better than any government in any other country to reduce unemployment. Honorable senators opposite appear to dissent from that statement, but I understand that they admitted that the present Government had done more for the unemployed than the government of any other nation had done. At the same time, it can do a lot better, and I intend to use every effort to see that it does. Another important matter is that of roads. We could give a tremendous amount of employment and do valuable work by increasing our road programme. A road from South Australia north to Darwin, or even a strip of concrete sufficient to take the heavy type of diesel lorries, would be a wonderfully useful work. The amount that would be saved in petrol and repairs in a very short time would pay the cost of . making that road. We are sending to America and other countries millions of pounds unnecessarily, because owing to our bad roads the lorries are being torn to pieces in a few years, and the running costs in petrol are nearly double what they should be. Instead of one side throwing mud at the other, and arguing that it has done this or that, instead of suggesting a miserable dole for Christmas cheer, let us get down to the big problem of increasing the permanent employment of the people and the productivity of the country. If we can do those things, we shall make Australia a better country than it is to-day.
– I do not want to waste too much time on this subject. In fact, I shall not be given the opportunity. I have been here since the 22nd September, I have left Canberra for only a few hours during the intervening period, and yet I regret to say that we on this side are accused of wasting time in discussing the problem of unemployment when this chamber has only sat some twenty days during that time. As a matter of fact we could profitably spend a week on this subject, and probably, through suggestions from each side, formulate a policy that would be of real benefit to the unemployed. Senator Dein charged us with putting forward nothing concrete to assist the Government. We have been endeavouring for several weeks to induce the Government to do something for the unemployed. The honorable senator spoke of what had been done in this country towards reducing the hours of labour. The Government has never taken any cognizance of what has been done or said in that direction by members on this side of the chamber, and yet the honorable senator suggests that nothing constructive has been put forward by the Opposition to’ relieve unemployment. I asked questions with regard to defence works in Western Australia and the amount of money to be spent there,, and I found that from July up to the end of October the total value of contracts let was only £1,348.
– Questions do not provide jobs.
– No, but money provides jobs, and the Government says it has the money. We want to know when it is going to be spent, and what is going to be done for the hundreds of men who are unemployed in Western Australia to-day.
– What would the honorable senator do to relieve the unemployed ?
– I am ready now to put a suggestion before the Government. Following on the lines suggested by Senator Dein, I say to the Government “ The 40-hour week is a most important reform, and a lowering of the age of retirement is also worth considering, so long as provision is made for the men who have to retire “. It is an appalling fact that in Western Australia, those in charge of the organization for the relief of the wheatgrowers, are actually appealing to the citizens for left-off clothing. The Opposition is prepared to put forward a constructive policy, if the Government is prepared to implement it. Senator Wilson made a. magnificent speech, in which he told us of what the South Australian Government had done, and yet he put forward no constructive suggestions of his own even for the unemployed of South Australia. All that Senator Dein did was to attack the Leader of the Opposition and all his followers, including even those who have not yet spoken.
– I drove a horse and cart through the arguments of the other side.
– I believe the honorable senator is quite capable of driving a horse and cart through anything, even the unemployment problem. I am not appealing to honorable senators for a dole for the unemployed at Christmas. I want justice for the men of this country, including many who have previously defended it. Probably many hundreds are prepared to do so again, hut they want to have something to defend. The beet inducement the Government could offer to men would be to give a job to every man who wants it, thus convincing him that he has something worth fighting for. If that were done, I have no hesitation in saying that the response to the scheme which is being sponsored by Mr. Hughes would exceed his expectations.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 64.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A reply will he furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
Note. - An additional quantity of 2,381 lb. of stemmed leaf paid duty at the rate of 5s. fid. per lb.
Note. - With respect to questions 4 and 6 the percentages taken as representing the average allowance for stems are based upon the amount which the refunds of duty allowed for stems, &c, bear to the gross amount of duty collected.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The report in question has been brought to the notice of the Minister for the Interior. Inquiries are being made and the honorable senator will be advised of the position.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Whether, following his statement regarding the export of pig iron and the action of a section of waterside workers, the Government will similarly indicate its decision to other bodies such as the recently formed National Defence League and any similar organizations allegedly usurping the rightful functions of the Government?
– I am not aware that the National Defence League or similar organizations are usurping any rightful function of the Government. Appropriate action will be taken in regard to any organization which may be acting in contravention of Commonwealth laws.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 22nd November, 1938 (vide page 1792), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Quite frequently of late I have commenced my second-reading speeches with the words, “ The Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill”; but on this occasion we shall oppose the measure until the bells have rung for the final division upon it. We do not suggest that the Government should not conduct its own business in its own. way. If the members of the Opposition were in power, and decided that an additional minister or even two or three extra ministers were needed, we should proceed to appoint them; but we should advance sound reasons for their appointment. In his second-reading speech, the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) was not quite accurate. He said that the number of Ministers was to be increased from ten to eleven. Obviously, the honorable senator was then speaking only of Ministers with portfolios, but several Assistant Ministers are included in the Cabinet.
– They have ministerial duties to perform.
– I do not say that the Assistant Minister who has interjected does not do his share of ministerial work, but the Cabinet includes men who not only do not pull their weight in the boat, but also are incapable of doing so.
– Perhaps they are bailing out the boat.
– They are merely rocking it.
During recent weeks, the press of this country and a section of caves within the government party, one a particularly influential cave led by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), have been demanding, from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, a Cabinet reconstruction. Many trusting innocents abroad are under the impression that such a reconstruction has occurred, but nothing of the kind has happened. Certainly a re-shuffle has taken place, and it was one of the most indecent political happenings in modern times. No. regard was paid to the demands of the nation for leadership. All that occurred during a fortnight of sordid squabbling, of scurrying from party meeting to party meeting, from a Country party meeting in one portion of this building to a United Australia party meeting elsewhere - with emissaries hurrying from one end of Australia to the other–
– ‘Can the honorable senator suggest a better leader of the Senate ?
– Not at the moment. So mentally impoverished are the members of the present Ministry that I cannot suggest a better one. A fortnight ago I could have made a better selection from among the honorable senators confronting me. Some time ago, members of the Opposition were twitted with not being in agreement on the matter then under discussion. This is all part of the propaganda of a party that has so bad a case that it has to abuse the attorneys of the other side.
– That is what the Leader of the Opposition did this afternoon.
– If there is anybody in this chamber who can rightly claim to be an authority on the special ways of abusing the attorneys on the opposing side, it is the honorable senator who has interjected. I have said that a constant and definite demand was made for the reconstruction of the Cabinet. In all sincerity I ask what result has been obtained from the alleged reconstruction, which, in the opinion of the Opposition, was only ‘ a re-shuffle. The atmosphere in which the change was made does not leave the Opposition with any feeling of enthusiasm with regard to this bill and the proposed increased annual expenditure of £1’,650 in respect of ministeral salaries. In justice to our political conscience, and to the taxpayers of Australia, we must offer the strongest opposition to the measure. The results accomplished by the re-shuffle were insignificant, and the atmosphere in which the change occurred should be borne in mind. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will believe that I am not expressing this view merely for the sake of criticism when [ say that for a fortnight we had a most unedifying spectacle. I ask honorable senators opposite whether they do not agree with me that, during the reshuffle, it was obvious that the Government had no intention to select men better fitted for certain posts than those already holding them-. It was apparent that there was merely a moving of the pawns on the political chess board, one interest conflicting with another, irrespective of whether one Minister was more fitted for a particular task than another. There was no question of whether, in the final analysis, benefit would be derived by the taxpayers. From the Prime Minister downwards, the only consideration was, “ How can I keep my position, and how can I most successfully remove the contesting Richmonds from the throne?” I urge honorable senators opposite, who must accept their full share of responsibility for this bill, to consider its provisions carefully. I am aware that the Government has sufficient support to ensure that the measure will be passed.
– May we not be able to induce some honorable senators to vote against the bill?
– Certain honorable senators opposite, if allowed to be guided by the dictates of their conscience, would probably register a protest with the Opposition. I am a confirmed optimist, but I am not sufficiently optimistic to imagine that honorable senators opposite can be converted on this matter. This afternoon we had the spectacle of one honorable senator opposite adopting tactics for which there is only one explanation, namely, that he is determined to burgle his way into the Cabinet by posing as its chief defender. He says, “ I have seen a few Richmonds shifted. I have seen Bruce sent to the High Commisionership ; I have seen Latham transferred to the High Court bench ; I have seen the AttorneyGeneral put into his place in the last fortnight; if I make noise and bluster enough they will no doubt bc prepared to put me where I will promptly become a mild and temperate follower of the instructions of the boss.” It is not many years since the present Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was merely an Assistant Minister. He was suddenly promoted to full ministerial rank, and I entirely approve of that promotion, because the Treasurer always pulls more than his own weight in the Cabinet boat. He was a worker from daylight to dark. Much as I object to him politically - I object to him because he is a born dictator and like the boy after the soap, “ won’t be happy till he gets it” - his elevation can be justified because, at least, he is a worker, and never shirks his job. Day after day the newspapers of this country subjected the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to what I can only describe as cowardly attacks.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– But the Government stuck to him. It acclaimed him as an excellent Minister, and said that the condemnation of him by the syndicated press, which can hound a man out of public life if it so desires, was unjustified. However, the press continued its cowardly attack, and the Minister was turned out. I do not think that Mr. Thorby ever got a square deal; lie got it least of all when in the so-called reshuffle his job was taken from him. It is all very well to say that he was given another position in the Cabinet. Having treated him so shamefully, the Government had to find another job for him. That is the reason for the introduction of this bill. It means an additional burden of £1,650 on the taxpayers of this country. That is the price which they are to be called upon to pay for this sordid re-shuffle which masquerades as a reconstruction of the Cabinet. When Mr. Casey was promoted to a full ministership, no additional Minister was appointed, but £1,320 was added to the ministerial salaries pool. But the newlyappointed Minister did not get that money. He was paid about £500 of it, and the balance, which no one had any right to take, was put into the ministerial salaries pool. In other words, a number of Ministers voted themselves a collective bonus of about £900.
– Was that not a restoration of allowances which were taken from them under the financial emergency legislation ?
– I regard those restorations as one of the best examples of financial legerdemain that I have ever come across. When restoration was made to members of Parliament, they were given an extra £25 a year. That is different from dividing nearly £900 among the comparatively small number of men forming the Cabinet. It is true that members generally were paid an additional £25 a year, but not until the last moment before the bill went through were they told that privileges hitherto enjoyed by them were to be taken away. Although my salary was increased by £25 a “year, I shall have to pay an additional £50 as income tax. I, like other members, received an Irishman’s rise. The lack of enthusiasm for this bill is not confined to members of the Opposition, for in the House of Representatives the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane”), who is a thick and thin supporter of the Government-
– The honorable senator dons not know him.
– I know him. In the House of Representatives he fills the position for his party which Senator Dein so ably filled for the Government in this chamber this afternoon. The honorable member for Barton had some caustic .things to say about this bill. Among them was the statement that “ too many Ministers have too little work to do.” The position could not have been stated more succinctly.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition accept him as an authority on all things?
– I accept Mr. Lane as an authority on this subject with the same unalloyed delight as the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) this afternoon accepted the speech of his Whip. The only person for whom I have any sympathy in connexion with what happened this afternoon is your good self, Mr. President. I am afraid that I taxed your patience almost to the limit. For that I am sorry. In order to make certain that no one would imagine that he had made an irresponsible statement, the honorable member for Barton added “During the last twelve months I have sat in this chamber, and I have seen Ministers sitting on the benches all day long with positively nothing whatever to do “. Yet we are told that this bill is necessary. It is true that we of the Opposition have been informed that we may have a “ go “ at the measure, and although we know that the bill will be passed, I assure the Senate that the “ go “ will be a healthy one.
– I thought that the honorable senator said that he was an optimist.
– I said -that I was not sufficiently an optimist to anticipate making any converts. When given the opportunity to recount to the electors the sins of omission and commission on the part of the present Government, concerning no phase of its administration will the Opposition be more eloquent than regarding this proposal. When this bill has passed into law, honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber will have no cause to be proud of it. Rather should they seize this opportunity to tell the Government that there is no justi- fication for this bill. The Government either has or has not a sufficient number of competent men to do the job. If the number of competent men in the Cabinet is not sufficient to do the work required of them, the proper and honorable course is to make additional appointments and to see. that the men so appointed are adequately remunerated. With such an arrangement the Opposition would not find fault. But it declines to admit that’ any of the persons recently appointed to the Cabinet give evidence of superior ability. The Cabinet has seriously deteriorated as a result of the alleged reconstruction, and there is no justification for the appointment of an additional Minister, much less for adding £1,650 to the ministerial salaries pool. I do not want any honorable senator to think that I advocate low wages. I do not. I have never believed that the salary of the Prime Minister of this country is sufficient, and I have said so repeatedly in this chamber. I was glad that last year an addition was made to his salary. I do not say now that Ministers are over-paid; but they are entitled to the salary they receive only if they give good value to the taxpayers of this country. With one or two exceptions, that is not the case. An attempt was made to depose the Prime Minister, but no one could be found to take his place. No other member of the Cabinet could hold the warring elements in the Government parties together. Although the supporters of the Government hate him, they dare not depose him.
– The honorable senator should not spoil his speech.
– One reason why the re-shuffle has been so unsatisfactory is that the Prime Minister is too wise to bring into the charmed circle men with ability superior to his own. That is the last thing that a man who is afraid that he cannot hold his position should do. For those and other reasons which will be stated as the debate proceeds, the Opposition will oppose this bill with all the enthusiasm that it can command.
.- I rise to oppose the bill. I do not know why the Senate should be used as a convenience to enable the Government to escape from its diflicul- ties. As we look back over the events preceding the recent Cabinet re-shuffle,, which is said to have saved Australia, we are reminded that there was developing on the part of the newspapers of this continent a definite hostility to the Government because it was not doing its job. The recent crisis overseas revealed that, notwithstanding that the Government had been in office for several years, this country was not in a position to face a crisis. Of course, as is usual in such circumstances, a scapegoat had to be found. The Government selected for the sacrifice a man who, until that moment, had received its wholehearted support. It selected the then Minister for Defence, Mr. Thorby, for the sacrifice. The Government said, in effect, that if he were removed, the odium that attached to it might be lessened. Consequently, it proceeded to the -execution. Almost in a moment the unanimous support of his colleagues was withdrawn from Mr. Thorby. I differ from my leader in my estimate of the fitness of that gentleman for the position that he held ; my opinion agrees with that of the great bulk of public opinion in this connexion. I do not doubt that Mr. Thorby had an extraordinarily arduous task, but the fact remains that he did not get results. In the reconstruction of the Cabinet, the Country party exercised an influence greater than that to which its numerical strength entitled it. Another major portfolio, that of Postmaster-General, has been handed over to a member of that minor party.
Senator -E. B. Johnston. - Hear, hear !
– Senator Johnston will get his reward if he perseveres.
-They will make him Minister for Wheat.
– At this juncture I do not propose to attack the Country party. I have decided views concerning that party, but I shall be more complimentary if I refrain from expressing them. The Country party has maintained its prominence in the political life of this country by encircling the neck of the Government with legs of iron, and no doubt when the United Australia party finally faces its debacle, the Country party will be the cause Of its doom. Another aspect of this so-called reconstruction is the proposal to set up an inner group within the Cabinet. Honorable senators opposite repeatedly allege that the Labour party is controlled by an inner junta. Apparently the Government has once more seen fit to follow in the steps of the Labour party. Evidently, it is not satisfied with taking one of our rank and file as a leader, who, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), has pointed out, it will be unable to replace from among its own members. The constitution of the inner group within the Cabinet led to the resignation of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White).
– Because he was not admitted within that group.
– He denied that that was the reason for his resignation. He contended that he objected to half a dozen men deciding trade and customs matters, and treating barn as a rubber stamp. The danger of an inner group is that it will lead to the constitution of another inner group, consisting probably of the Prime Minister and another Minister. Probably, for all practical purposes, not more than two members of the Cabinet already decide what the Government shall, or shall not, do.
This so-called reconstruction of the Cabinet has a bearing on the status of this Senate, about which some nasty things have been said by some honorable senators within recent weeks. Last week we had a debate on this matter, which ranged from the very humorous to the very bitter. Apparently not only honorable senators on this side, but also the leaders of the Government itself, entertain doubts concerning the quality of the leadership available to it in this chamber. Prior to this reconstruction, two honorable senators held portfolios, but now the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Poll) is the only one among our number who has charge of a department. Although the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) has been elevated to the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council, he has not been given a department. It does not say much for the opinion which the Government holds of this Senate when it considers that only one honorable senator can be entrusted with the duty of administering a department. Perhaps, we are fortunate that even one honorable senator retains a portfolio as the result of this reconstruction. Surely honorable senators opposite must realize that it is time that they approached the Government and asked for greater recognition of their ability. If the Senate stands as high in the opinion of the people as Senator Johnston last week claimed, why does not the Prime Minister give more representation in the Cabinet to honorable senators? At a time, such as the present, when so many of our people are still unemployed, members of an honest and sincere government would not be concerned primarily with lining their own pockets in this fashion. In 1928, the amounts drawn by Ministers, including their allowances as members, aggregated £26,500. That was a tidy sum. When the Labour party assumed office in 1931 and was confronted with the depression, it realized that it should show an example to the people and immediately reduced that sum to £19,500. In the intervening period, the amount has been gradually increased; if this measure be agreed to, it will exceed £35,000. In view of the unemployment which still exists, this action is’ unpardonable. It cannot be justified, because it has been taken solely with the object of satisfying the demands of the Country party for increased representation in the Cabinet. Very soon; there; will be more ex-Ministers than Ministers. Even to-day, could two Cabinets almost be formed of Government supporters who have had ministerial experience in this Parliament. If further Cabinet reconstructions are to be undertaken on the slightest agitation by the Country party for increased ministerial representation, we shall very soon have more ex-Ministers than Ministers. And when that day arrives, this Government will be wrecked.
– I am sorry that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), whose contributions to debates in this chamber are always interesting, spoilt his otherwise fair criticism by making an attack upon the Prime Minister (Mr; Lyons), which was entirely unwarranted. Mr. Lyons is a great Australian, who, on three consecutive occasions, has been unreservedly accepted by the people of Australia as a real national leader. Unconsciously, perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition, in making this attack, was actuated by the thought that so long as Mr. Lyons enjoys the confidence of the majority of the people of Australia, including a great many industrial voters, the Labour party will not gain control of this Parliament. Mr. Lyons enjoys the confidence of more people than does the leader of any other party in Australian politics. To-day, he is perhaps the greatest barrier which stands between the Australian Labour party and the fulfilment of its perfectly justifiable desire to obtain control of the treasury bench in this Parliament. I can well realize the feelings of Labour senators opposite in knowing that the Leader of this Government is so popular, and that he possesses full knowledge of the requirements of the ordinary working people of Australia whose interests he desires at all times to serve.
– The honorable senator will have a different story after the next election.
-We might have had a different story to tell following previous elections had not it been for the magnetic personality of Mr. Lyons and the influence which he exercises over not only the State of which he was Premier, but also the remainder of the. Commonwealth, I confess frankly that, since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have opposed every previous increase of parliamentary and ministerial allowances, and on such occasions I have been almost alone, but I do not intend to oppose this measure.
– The honorable senator knew that he was safe on previous occasions, but will not be safe on this occasion.
– I hope that the honorable senator does not really think that that is my reason. I assure him that whenever I disapprove of any proposal by this Government, I shall not hesitate to show my disapproval in the only way in which is open to me. This measure is fully justified. The small increased expenditure involved is entirely warranted because it arises from the
Government’s decision in response to general requests, which have been made for some time, to separate civil aviation from defence matters. To a State like Western Australia, which has vast distances and only a sparse population, civil aviation is of vital importance. The establishment of a separate department to control civil aviation in conjunction with defence works and other Commonwealth works is long overdue. For too long has the Civil Aviation Branch been neglected as an appendage of the Defence Department. Certainly, it is proper that the greatest possible co-operation should be maintained between civil aviation and wholly defence matters, but so important an aspect of modern transport as civil aviation should be under separate ministerial control. It is vital to provide for, and to assist, the future development of flying throughout Australia by the establishment of this department. I recall also that this reform was advocated continuously in this chamber by Senator Hardy and Senator Foll, the Minister for Repatriation, when he was a private member in this chamber, and also by the leading people associated with civil aviation, including directors, pilots and others connected with the very efficient air lines that daily carry passengers and mails throughout the mainland’ and to Tasmania. I should like to point out, also, that there are very good reasons why the Government has not constituted this as a separate portfolio or department earlier. It is only within the last few months that the State governments and parliaments have very tardily, but still of their own volition, given to the Federal Government constitutional powers over civil aviation, powers actually refused by the people at the referendum only twenty months ago. No doubt the State parliaments and governments are quite able to reconcile their action in giving to the Commonwealth Parliament the powers over civil aviation, which the people when appealed to at the polls only twenty months ago refused to accord it. It is only within the last few weeks that the Parliament of New South Wales passed the legislation which gives to the Federal Government the full powers upon which a Civil
Aviation Department can be properly based. I should like to remind honorable senators also that, only a few months before then, we had judgments in the courts relating to these matters. Honorable senators will remember the Goya Henry case and other cases in which the regulations made by the Civil Aviation Board and approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council for the control and regulation of civil .aviation were actually set aside bv the courts of this land because of the lack of any constitutional power to enforce them.
– Will the new Minister alter that?
– No, but the Government has now had accorded to it by State legislation the constitutional powers which it did not possess previously and which the people refused to give to it.
– This new Minister did not do that, and there is nothing in this bill about it.
– This bill affects the matter very directly, because, with the accession to the Commonwealth of these new powers, there is work for a Minister of Civil Aviation to do that he could not constitutionally do before the States voluntarily surrendered those powers to the Commonwealth. It is to the credit of our civil aviation companies and those engaged in the industry generally that, after the regulations were disallowed by the courts as a result of the Goya Henty appeal, they decided to continue of their own volition to observe them, although it was well known that they could not be legally enforced. I congratulate the Government on the fact that they have marked the transfer of power over civil aviation to the Commonwealth by the appointment of a Minister for Civil Aviation and for Works, a Minister well in touch with the activities of the Defence Department, and in a position to continue to carry on the big defence works of the Commonwealth that were previously under his control as Minister for Defence. This separate department will, I think, be a vital factor in the development of civil aviation, for which AustraMa with its huge distances is so eminently suited. I feel sUre that the Government’s action will result in great improvements in the equipment and organization of the present civil aviation services, of flying training, and the training of pilots, and that aerodromes and emergency landing grounds will be made safe and more efficient for flying even in the most adverse weather conditions by the aid of the most modern scientific apparatus. The Government should also take into consideration, and I hope the new Minister will soon do so, the desirableness of giving further and long deferred assistance to aero clubs, particularly in the outlying States of the Commonwealth. I congratulate the Government upon appointing Mr. Thorby to the new portfolio of Civil Aviation and Works, and think it made a very wise choice.- I disagree with the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister, but I commend him for his references to and appreciation of the very good work done by Mr. Thorby ae Minister for Defence. I am glad that, the constructive side of that work, which represents a great proportion of it, will remain under Mr. Thorby’s control as Minister in charge of the defence works of the Commonwealth. I commend the Government for the establishment of this new portfolio in which Mr. Thorby’s undoubted administrative ability, recognized as it was to-night by the Leader of the Opposition, will be of increasing Value to the Commonwealth.
– If it was necessary for the Government to increase the number of Ministers to fifteen, then it was not necessary to create an inner group of seven Ministers. A very dangerous precedenthas been established by the Government in the creation of an inner Cabinet, under the pretext of extending the number of Ministers, because the inner group will operate in a manner that will mean a very rotten destiny for the people of the Commonwealth. It is true that in the reshuffling of the Cabinet there was no re-organization. It was just a reshuffle, with cards that had been stacked beforehand. As a result, within 24 hours of the decision arrived at by the Government, one member who had been a Minister for a considerable period resigned. This action on his part was undoubtedly due to the formation by the Government of the inner group in the Cabinet. One very important aspect of the hill is the cost to the people of the Commonwealth. The amount paid to Ministers before the depression was £26,500. During the depression this was reduced to £19,000. It is now proposed to increase it to £35,100. To-day a debate took place in this chamber in connexion with the unemployed, and we were informed that the Government did not propose to provide any money this year for Christmas cheer to them. Yet we find the Government, which has no concern for the unemployed, prepared at this stage to increase its own cmonments from £19,500 to £35,100. If, as has been suggested, the increase represents merely the restoration of emergency cuts, then it has been a more complete measure of restoration than was extended to any other section of the community. I venture to say that this restoration, as it is represented to be. has been utilized for the purpose of paying the fares of Ministers who, during the parliamentary recess, take trips overseas.
– Where they do good work.
– Very good work. E remember quite recently the exMinister for Trade and Customs, Mr. White, giving a very fine and learned lecture in this building on his tour abroad. Yet within two short weeks he resigned from the Government because the skids had been placed under him, and he had been made junior to a number of others, and had not been included in the inner group. A question was asked in the other House as to whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLeay) would be paid a full ministerial salary. Much to my surprise the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) replied that he would be. If the Government thinks that that honorable senator is worth a full ministerial salary, then I do not know what some members of the Government would be entitled to if they were paid according to their ability. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) said that it was impossible to get a Minister from the personnel of the Government members, because they had not the experience or the ability to do the job. In fact he said it was like endeavouring to place a round peg in a square hole. For that reason he described the re-arrangement of portfolios as a reshuffle. I believe that there will be another reshuffle at no very distant date, with some more Ministers appointed for the purpose of trying to do what Senator. Johnston has endeavoured to convey to this chamber. Senator Johnston, following Senator Dein, became the advocate for the Country party. He lauded the appointment of Mr. Thorby as Minister for Civil Aviation. The Government told us of the wonderful work that was to be done and the enormous amount of money that was to be spent by the Department of Defence. That, however, all went like a bubble. The Government, not wanting to bend to the pressure of the press, determined to do something which would appease its critics, and so it pushed Mr. Thorby out of Defence and put him into Civil Aviation, but I believe the skids are under him also, and that the day is not far distant when, as the result of another reshuffle, he will definitely go out ako. When I survey the party opposite in this chamber, and when I go to the House of Representatives and examine the Government benches - there, I wonder what is what There are now so many ex-Ministers in the ranks of Government supporters that one becomes a little confused. If the Lyons-Page combination remains in office for another two years, I am afraid that the electors will be somewhat puzzled at the ensuing election, because so many government candidates will be introduced to constituents as ex-Ministers.
– The Government is getting better all the time.
– I have some doubt on that point when I see Senator McLeay occupying the position of Leader of the Senate, and Senator Dein as Government Whip. Both the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), who has been entrusted with the task of conducting a recruiting campaign, were former members of the Labour party. The Leader of the Country party in this chamber (Senator Johnston) also began his ‘ parliamentary career as one of the rank and file of tho Australian Labour party. It is somewhat difficult to envisage what the future holds for this Government if recent trends of political fortune continue much longer. lt is significant that the press, which hitherto has so wholeheartedly supported the Lyons Ministry, the freetraders, tha Liberals, the Conservatives, the Nationalists, the Country party, the United Australia party, the All-for-Australia party, the Riverina movement, and the New States movement and has so consistently opposed Labour in or out of office, is now, perhaps for the first time in Commonwealth history, united with Labour in criticism of the present Government. As the Leader of the Opposition has remarked, members of the Ministry and its supporters are running from place to place in an endeavour to interpret the will of the press and find inspiring leadership from within the ranks that are devoid of leadership. Honorable senators on this side survey with dismay the effect on the Commonwealth of all this turmoil among Government supporters.
.- I am opposed to the bill for reasons that were advanced by my leader (Senator Collings). Like that honorable senator, I would not object to the appointment of an additional Minister if I felt that it were justified. It has been stated that this is a matter entirely for the Government. That does not prevent honorable senators on this side of the chamber from criticizing the proposal.
We on this side are convinced that, in view of its record, this Government is not justified in appealing to Parliament for authority to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers. A government is judged by its achievements. Recently there was a conference in Canberra of Commonwealth and State Ministers to discuss issues so grave as to be regarded as constituting a crisis in the history of the nation. What happened at that conference is common knowledge. Commonwealth Ministers were so bankrupt of ideas that after much controversy, the conference broke up in disorder. Now this Government has the temerity to submit to Parliament a. proposal to increase the number of Ministers. One can readily understand the reason for the failure of the conference. Any one who followed events leading up to the recent reconstruction of the Lyons Ministry can visualize the happenings at the conference. It is well known that for some time, there was an insistent demand for the removal from office of a particular Minister, also an equally insistent demand for the retirement of the Prime Minister. Many people who, some years ago, enthusiastically acclaimed Mr. Lyons as the one person in Australia to lead the Commonwealth Government, are now suggesting that he be displaced by some one with greater claims to leadership. Because of that state of affairs the attitude of the Prime Minister at the conference can be readily imagined. One can picture the right honorable gentleman looking around the conference chamber at those who might be likely to displace him, and wondering, possibly, why he should bother his head about the crisis when there were so many people ready to destroy him politically. There were also at that gathering other members of the Cabinet whose tenure of office is far from secure. Already a section of the press had hinted at a possible change in the office of Treasurer. The entry into federal politics of certain prominent State politicians had been suggested, and the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Stevens) had been spoken of as a possible successor to Mr. Casey. In the circumstances, could we wonder if Mr. Casey had no overwhelming desire to tackle vital problems, knowing that in the near future he might have a successor? I regard the present Cabinet as the most incompetent Australia has had for many years. If Ministers could say truthfully that, as a result of additional work which it was now necessary to perform, the personnel of the Cabinet should be increased, no member of the Opposition would deny that assistance. In the last thirteen months Parliament has met for only 61 days. Prior to that the record of this Government was even less favorable. There has been a continuous journeying of Ministers to and from the other side of the world.
– Ministers in the Scullin Labour Government did the same thing.
– Not to anything like the same extent. The Lyons Ministry will go down in history as the most travelled government that has ever ruled Australia. The people of Western Australia rid themselves of one of their most travelled politicians, Sir George Pearce, who sat in this chamber for so many years, and deserted the Labour movement to which he owed so much. Senator Johnston spoke of the qualities of leadership possessed by the Prime Minister. In my opinion Mr. Lyons has been a most fortunate politician. Much of his success has been due to the ability of his predecessor in office, and to the work done by the Scullin Administration when Australia was passing through the most critical time in its history.
– Mr. Lyons was for a time a Minister in the Scullin Government.
– That is true. And Mr. Lyons played his part up to a certain point. But he broke with the Labour party, resigned from the Scullin Government and was able to take advantage of its achievements. But for the excellent work done by the Labour Government, Australian industries could not have been built up to their present standard of efficiency. The problems of to-day are not nearly so serious as those which confronted the Scullin Ministry in 1930. Yet this Government is falling down on its job. It is afraid to keep Parliament in session with the eyes of the people upon its administrative faults. It is hoping soon to be able to dash into its burrow and hide from public gaze. It declares its inability to carry on the work of the country, unless an additional Cabinet Minister be appointed. If we felt tha t’ the Government was entitled to that assistance then no criticism would be offered. But can honorable senators supporting the Government conscientiously say that it is deserving of support? We on this side expect them to justify their attitude. So far in this debate ministerial supporters, with one exception, have remained silent. They know quite well that this measure is merely an expedient to enable the Government to stave ofl defeat; that the proposal to increase the personnel of the Cabinet means merely another of those shuffles of portfolios which have taken place bo frequently since it assumed office.
– What happened to the Scullin Government*
– The Scullin Administration was never in the fortunate position occupied by this Government. It was in office but not in power owing to a hostile majority in the Senate, and it met its defeat in the House of Representatives because, lacking full power, it could not give effect to its policy. No credit is due to those senators then sitting in opposition, for having by their bitter hostility to the Scullin Ministry forced it out of office.
The Opposition claims that the record of the Lyons Administration is such as not to deserve consideration. The Govern^ ment should mend its ways. If it applied itself to its task in a competent manner, the former number of Ministers and the emoluments already provided for would bc adequate. I invite honorable senators opposite to attempt to justify the action of the Government in regard to this measure. Can they give the Senate any hope that, if granted the amount sought to meet the salary of an additional Minister, the Government will be able to find solutions of the problems that confront Australia, that there will be unanimity m its ranks, that it will rise superior to the attitude now adopted by it in the face of a hostile press, and that it will be prepared to support Ministers who are under criticism? I am sorry for the Leader of the Senate, who -has been entrusted with the arduous task of justifying the Government’s action. He is deserving of a better fate. I believe that in other circumstances he would make hia mark as Leader of the Senate, but I’ am afraid that he is now associated with a group that will bring about his political downfall.
– What about the Whip?
– Unless this measure be passed, the members of the inner Cabinet - the “ upper ten “, who are singing “ We are the aristocrats “, or something like that - will claim the right to take the greater part of the ministerial allowance, and the Whip may be left lamenting. I appreciate the ability of the present Whip in the Senate to get under the skins of some people, and I suggest that he might test his powers on his colleagues when he nest meets them at a party gathering.
– The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Owing to the lack of ability displayed by the Cabinet, the Opposition cannot support the bill. The duties of Ministers could have been re-arranged. There is no necessity to increase the personnel of the Cabinet.
.- I have no illusions concerning this bill. Frankly, 1 am not interested in it. The Government saw fit to increase the num ber of Ministers by one, and it now desires to impose a further financial burden on the taxpayers. Personally, I do not consider that Ministers are over-paid. No doubt the Government had reasons for the change that was made. Efforts were put forward to unload certain Ministers. Changes have been made in this chamber which the Opposition regards as inexplicable. In my opinion the Senate should have a senior Minister, as has always been the practice in the past. I recognize that the present Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) is an able man. The Government is composed of representatives of the United Australia party and the Country party. The Country party has fifteen members in the House of Representatives, or one-fifth of the total number of members in that chamber ; and eight of the fifteen hold positions carrying remuneration additional to the ordinary Parliamentary allowance. Four Country party Ministers hold full portfolios, two of them are members of the inner Cabinet, and one is an Assistant Minister. One member of that party- is Chairman of Committees in the House of Representatives, one is the party whip, and one is a member of the Public Works Committee. It is not surprising “that the interests behind the Country party are saying throughout Australia that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has evolved a truly country-minded government. In my opinion, the Ministry is badly balanced.
The appointment of an inner Cabinet is an unwise move, and likely to lead to unlimited trouble. It is bad enough to have complaints from the Opposition that the parliamentary sessions are too short, that for eight years the ministerial parties have “ got away with “ government by regulation, and that their slogan, “ Safety in Recess,” has been faithfully observed. I visualize this Government going to the people later with the task of attempting to justify this bill. As now constituted the Ministry is no better and no worse than it has been for the last eight years. It came into power by dubious means, and it has managed to survive three elections. I am not concerned much as to who has become Minister for Defence. The latest appointment is one more. of the sans of commission or omission for which this Government will have to answer on the day of reckoning.
– Prior to the conference held recently in Canberra between representatives of the Commonwealth and of the States, action had been demanded by the people of Australia with reference to many important problems with which this country is faced. That demand was met at the outset by an invitation by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) to the Premiers of the various States to meet in Canberra for the purpose of discussing important Commonwealth and State business. The conference proved to be what is commonly known s a washout. The convenor of the conference did not submit proposals calculated to ensure its success. The press of New South Wales and Victoria had declared that for the proper government of Australia it was urgently necessary that a change should take place in the Prime Ministership of the Commonweath. It blazoned forth the fact that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, had left Sydney en route for Canberra, and that he would make a most admirable Prime Minister or leader of the forces opposed to Labour. But the conference failed. Apparently it was called too early. The visit of Mr. Stevens to Canberra was also a failure. Evidently, the time was not ripe’ for him to, become Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. The events which followed- ied to a re-shuffle of Cabinet. The net result to the country ia seen in this bill’, which provides for an additional portfolio at a cost of £1,600 to the taxpayers of Australia. What is offered to the people in return for this additional expenditure? We are told that the additional Minister is urgently necessary in order that there may be proper control of civil aviation and certain other activities. If civil aviation is of such importance to the community, that fact must have been apparent to the Government prior to the reshuffle of portfolios, and before the Minister for Commerce, during the absence of his leader, convened a conference at Canberra. The existing Ministers and Assistant Ministers should be capable of administering the various departments without creating a new portfolio. The reason for this bill is the internal disruption in the ranks of the Government. In order to meet the situation which has arisen there, the taxpayers of Australia are to be called upon to find an additional £1,600. Indeed, I doubt whether that sum will cover the additional expenditure, for it is well known that certain allowances will have to be met as well. It may be that the Government is looking into the future. A few days ago an announcement was made that a special session of the Parliament will be held next year for the consideration of matters of constitutional reform. The remodelling of the Federal Constitution is proposed. In all probability, the Government had in view some action in that connexion before it decided to provide for an additional minister.
– The need for a constitutional session of Parliament was emphasized first by the tight honorable member for Yarra (Mi Scullin).
– The Prime Minister made the announcement of the special session of the Parliament. The Attorney-General also spoke to the same effect.’
– The Government is taking the long view.
– It probably acted prematurely when it decided on this additional appointment. The Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) has not taken the Senate into his confidence. He was shrewd in not saying anything which would give his case away. He has forced upon the Opposition, the responsibility of conducting its own research. We, on this side, have been at some pains to elicit from, him some information regarding the intention of the inner group of Cabinet,, of which I understand he is a member..
– He is not a member of the inner group, but be ought to be.
– Then he is only an “ outer “, and has to ask members of the inner group what is the real intention underlying this bill. Perhaps I have done the honorable gentleman an injustice in imagining that he is in possession of the information that we seek in order to enable us to cast an intelligent vote. I understand that there must be confusion among members of the Government. The Senate has not been taken info the confidence of either the full Cabinet or the inner group, as to the reasons for forming an inner Cabinet. Apparently, the Government is following the example of some other countries. It may be that it is not satisfied with the working, of the parliamentary machine in this country. Following internal dissension in the Cabinet, it appears that the Prime Minister decided to introduce into Australia a system of government of which we have had no previous experience. I say definitely that the Leader of the Senate has not made out a case sufficiently strong to justify honorable senators in voting for this measure. I remind him that honorable senators are not here merely to pass bills that come from the House of Representatives. We are expected to examine the measures that are presented to us, and also to satisfy ourselves that, if agreed to, they will be in the best interests of the people of Australia. We have not been supplied with that information in connexion with this bill. Without further information, I am not prepared to believe that it is necessary to create another portfolio at a cost to the taxpayers of at least £1,600 a year. I regard myself as a fairminded man, and I believe that I am expected to exercise my judgment before I vote on any measure brought before th»
Senate. I regard it as my duty to satisfy myself that my vote will be in the best interests of the community generally. We have not had sufficient information plated before us to justify our support of this measure.I have no feeling in this matter, but I regard it as my duty to examine the proposed additional expenditure beforeI agree to place an extra burden on the people.In my opinion, the taxpayers of Australia are already sufficiently burdened without unnecessary additional imposts being placed on them. When additional expenditure in various directions is advocated by honorable senators, they are told that on account of the urgent need to provide for the defence of Australia, money for such purposes is not available. Why, then, is a measure involving the expenditure of £1,600 a year for an additional Minister brought before us? I have yet to be convinced that a sound case has been made out for this bill, and therefore I ask the Senate to reject it. What is the purpose of the proposed amendment of the Constitution? Is it desired that the State Parliaments shall be abolished? If I were asked if that is the general desire of the people, I should answer in the negative, and add that what is agitating the minds of the people is the enormous cost of government in Australia. They are asking how long it will continue, and how much longer they will be asked to maintain so many parliaments and so much duplication of work.
– Does the honorable senator believe in unification?
– Most honorable senators know that the public mind is disgusted at what is taking place in connexion with the government of this country. That there is disunity among Cabinet Ministers, recent events have demonstrated. Yet (the Leader of the Senate asks us to pass this bill, which will impose an additional burden on the taxpayers of Australia. I shall oppose the measure.
. -I have my own personal opinion of many aspects of this proposal. When speaking on defence, for instance, I stated that, personally, I should not care if cannons were placed around Aus tralia at intervals of ten yards. I should not care if every honorable senator opposite were a Minister. In fact,I should not be worried, personally, if the Government party in this chamber were like the Portuguese army - all generals and noprivates. However, we owe a duty to the country in considering this proposal. If the business confronting Ministers warrants it, or if it is considered that an additional Minister is needed in order that the business of the country may be done more efficiently, I fail to see why a few more Ministers could not be appointed. However, keeping in mind our duty to the country, the Opposition is doing right in criticizing this measure. Senator Johnston claimed that the creation of a separate department to control civil aviation, defence works and other Commonwealth works was justified. I believe that that is a step in the right direction. Undoubtedly, the ex-Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) needed to be relieved of some of his duties. The principle of distributing the burden of responsibility when it becomes too much for one man is recognized in ordinary business. On that ground, the Government has done the right thing in creating this new department. It does not necessarily follow, however, that an additional Minister should be appointed and that a further sum of £1650 should be voted for this purpose. We of the Opposition are not opposedto the creation of the new department, but we are opposed to the appointment of an extra Minister. It is wrong for any honorable senator to give the impression that the Opposition is against the creation of this new department.
– I did not suggest that.
– The honorable senator gave that impression although he may not have done so wittingly. I ask the Government to be quite frank and fair with the people of Australia in order to enable them to judge of the wisdom of this action.. Why can it not disclose what remuneration is paid to Ministers, Assistant Ministers, and even the Government Whip? The people are entitled to know how the money allocated in respect of ministerial salaries is distributed. It can also display more frankness with the people in regard to the division of minis- terial duties. It is stated, for instance, that certain Ministers are overworked and need assistants. In the industrial world tradesmen are given assistants, and the tradesman generally receives a higher salary than his assistant. What I want to know is whether the Ministers receive more than Assistant Ministers and, following that line of thought, whether Ministers who will be included in the inner group within the Cabinet will receive more than those who are not? The members of the inner group, we are told, will be called upon to shoulder a vital and almost overwhelming responsibility. Will theyreceive any extra money? I understand also that a further inner group, consisting of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) will be constituted within the inner group. What I want to know is how will this money be distributed as between Ministers, Assistant Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, and members of the inner groups? Honorable senators opposite have pointed out with zest that the Ministers as a whole are overworked. Judging by their facial contortions at times some Ministers, I have no doubt, are overworked, but they are only a few. I admit that Mr. Thorby when Minister for Defence was overworked. Possibly, also, he was over-criticized. Therefore, there was a need for the divisionof his work. However, only a few months ago, a number of Ministers took a trip to the Old Country, and were absent for four or five months. Some of them followed the test matches, and some of them travelled as far as Germany. That trip cost this country many thou sands of pounds. WhatI emphasize is that, in the absence of those Ministers, the work of the Government was carried on by those who remained In Australia, and I have yet to lea rn that any Minister who did double and treble duty at that time suffered a nervous breakdown. Furthermore, it should also be remembered that some of the Ministers, who are said to be overworked have many outside activities. They are directors of companies, and,I suppose, as honest men, they earn their remuneration in that capacity. They work for the nation in Parliament and in the Cabinet, and, at the same time, they work privately for private companies for their own profit and aggrandizement. If they were really overworked in Parliament, or in the Cabinet, they would not have any time to give to their directorships. Another point is that Parliament meets for only a small part of the year. Admittedly, when Parliament is in session, a Minister has much work to do, but we know that the present Lyons Government has met Parliament less frequently than any of its predecessors. An honorable member stated in a speech in the House of Representatives recently that, during its two years of office, the Scullin Government met Parliament more frequently than did the the Bruce-Pege Government during its six years of office. The present Government has met Parliament even less frequently. When Parliament is not in session Ministers, undoubtedly, have much time on their hands. It is only right that the Prime Minister should devote all his time to his job. He has been very busy lately reconstructing Cabinets which have been falling to pieces. I hope that he has a ticket of membership of the Carpenters Union. It has been reported in the press, and so far the report has not been denied, that the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) is anxious to do greater service for bis country. As a matter of fact, his time is not fully occupied by his duties as Attorney-General. Why should not this honorable gentleman be afforded some fresh avenue for the exercise of his wonderful talents by being given extra work? In that way, the Government could avoid the appointment of a new Minister.I am sure that the Attorney-General would be pleased to be given greater scope for his talents in that way. The Prime Minister should have done something in that direction instead of creating a new portfolio. No one can convince me that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) is overworked. He talks a lot outside, and at present, undoubtedly, he is doing good work in the recruitment of the militia; but, apart from being head serang in that respect, he has not too much to do. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is worked fairly hard, and I think he will continue to be so. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) is also fairly busy, whilst the time of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will be fully occupied in his new position. I am given to understand that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) is a very busy man. He has been so busy lately that he could not give me answers to certain questions I have addressed to him. I come now to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLeay). As I have had no experience as a member of any Cabinet, I should like the honorable senator to be quite frank and tell us about the arduous tasks which fall upon his shoulders as Vice-President of the Executive Council. From information which I have received from my colleagues, I understand that that job is a sinecure. If the honorable senator wishes to disabuse my mind of that impression, I shall be very obliged to him if he will explain what his particular duties are, and how many hours he is obliged to devote to it. I ask him to give us a frank statement in regard to his work. As for the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron), I should say that his time would be fully occupied.
– Do not say too much about Mr. Cameron because he may give us the Brisbane Post Office now.
– Yes, we had better not say too much about “ the honorable Archie,” because if we do we shall possibly not get the Brisbane Post Office. It has been coming now for 55 years, and we can “perhaps afford to wait a few years more. Then there is the Minister without portfolio assisting the Treasurer, Senator Allan MacDonald; the Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce, the Honorable Victor Charles Thompson; and the Minister without portfolio assisting the Prime Minister, who has no portfolio himself. This is the Honorable Eric John Harrison. There is also the Minister for Repatriation, the Honorable Hatill Spencer Foll. He is a very busy man, and, although I am a political opponent of his, I believe that he is carrying out his duties vigorously, fearlessly and courteously. I know I get courtesy from him whenever I have to see him and I always get replies to mv letters. I have read to honorable senators the names of all these Ministers and their positions so that they can come to a proper conclusion as to whether or not it would have been possible, by the exercise of common sen»e and efficient organization, to form a ministry without costing the country another £1,600. I come now to the present Leader of the Senate (the Honorable George McLeay). If he stays in that position long enough, I have no doubt he will settle into his job and carry out his duties with lustre to the Senate and honour to himself, but I fear that he will not be there very long, because soon there will be another reshuffle, the Ministry will “shuffle off to Buffalo “, and be succeeded by a Labour Government. Speaking now seriously, earnestly and sincerely with regard to the work and responsibilities that attach to members of the Cabinet. I believe that we should follow the lead given by New Zealand. There are men in the rank and file of the United Australia party and the Country party who have talent, ability, and remarkable energy and I do not see why the Government, instead of trying to “ corral “ all the work themselves, should not divide it and the responsibility that attaches to it among a number of those members.
– And the money?
– Every member of Parliament is receiving his allowance, and Ministers are paid extra - how much I do not know, but some day I shall be informed. If Parliament sits for only a few days in the year, and if, as. the result of the sitting and the legislation that comes before Parliament, an added burden is placed upon the shoulders of Ministers, why should not the Cabinet in its wisdom delegate a certain amount of work to individual members of Parliament? All are anxious to do their job and eager to earn their allowance, and they are capable of doing the work. Yet we find in Australia, as in Fascist countries, the trend towards centralizing all the work in the hands, of a few men. Not only that, but within the Cabinet is an inner group which has taken upon itself further responsibilities. Even in that inner group there are one or two men who practically dominate it. That is Fascism in principle, and we do not want it in
Australia. If democracy and parliamentary government are to function properly, then the work that is being done by Ministers, many of whom complain that it is too arduous, shouldbe placed upon the shoulders of the rank and file of Parliament. I know of no argument against it. There is no reason why individual members of Parliament should not have that responsibility, if only during the time that Parliament meets. Of course, the Government in its wisdom, knowing all the facts, has said that it must have an additional Minister and must pay him an extra £1,600 a year, or whatever the sum may be. Personally, with my very limited knowledge of how the money is divided, I think the Government could, if Ministers had exercised their undoubted wisdom, have rearranged, reshuffled, remoulded and reconstituted the Cabinet without placing upon the community an added burden of £1,600 a year.
– We are informed that this bill is to authorize the appointment of a new Minister at an additional cost of £1,650, mainly because the Ministers of the present Cabinet are overworked. Well, we find, as the last speaker has said, that in spite of the alleged overwork Ministers can spend quite a lot of time in travelling. Up to the end of last year, the records showed that thirteen Ministers had had 22 trips outside Australia, and had visited about 28 different countries; the total period they had been absent from Australia was five years, and the cost was approximately £50,000. In addition, there was the trade delegation that went overseas last year. In spite of all this work that Ministers have to do, they spend quite a lot of time in travelling to all parts of the world. One would not object to that very much if it could be shown that it was necessary for them to travel, and that what they were able to do as the result of their travelling was in the interests of the people. They have, however, been unable to show any such results. In my opinion, they have not been able even to show that they have benefited themselves to any extent mentally. Certainly, as has been said, the Attorney-General has been able to tell us something about the test matches which were played while he was in England. Possibly, he found them more interesting than the business of his country. He was also able to tell us something about the history of Italy, which, no doubt, he found very interesting also. It therefore occurs to me, and I. offer this as a suggestion to Senator Dein and others, that a good election cry for the United Australia party at the next election, which would possibly attract even greater talent to that party’s ranks than it contains at the present time, would be “ Join the United Australia party and see the world.”
– That is as old as the hills.
– It may be old to those already in the party, but it would be new to those who would join it. I dare say it is old to the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, I observe in his portrait in the King’s Hall, he is depicted with overcoat, suit case and rug, all ready to depart for abroad at a moment’s notice. It would be old to him, of course, but it woul d possibly be an attractive slogan at the next election for those who would like the trips and who, no doubt, are envious of Ministers who have had trips.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should all stay in Australia and get no further experience ?
– I have already expressed the opinion that the experience has not benefited those who have had it.
– That is a matter of opinion.
-Yes, and a very good opinion, too, which I supply free of cost. Another reason why we should not support this bill is that this Government has not given the results that would justify the appointment of an extra Minister. I suggest, without wishing to be accused of being offensive, that they really do not understand their jobs. The proof of this is that on each occasion on which they have had a problem to solve, such as national insurance or maladministration or incompetent administration of the Air. Force or the Military Forces, it has been necessary for them to send to England for experts. All this proves that such men, who look to allegedly superior minds tor guidance, are merely mental dependants or mental followers and unable themselves to do the jobs, lt does not occur to them, or possibly they might think it would be lowering their dignity, to consult or confer with fellow Australians who know more than they do, and who would be able to do the work more effectively than those whom they import from abroad. I think there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it, and that we have officers living here quite as qualified as any who come from overseas. Another evidence of the incompetency of the Government is the fact that it has been unable to make the unemployed self-supporting. It has had any amount of man-power at its disposal which could have been used to the best advantage in building up the national wealth of Australia, yet that man-power has been allowed to deteriorate under semi-starvation conditions as the result of governmental incompetence. There is evidence of the Government’s incompetence in its support of inflation, by permitting a reduction of the purchasing power of the pound to 53 per cent, of the level of 1929. That action proved that the Government, either knowingly or unknowingly, had been associated with a fraud which had robbed the people of Australia of millions of pounds. All authorities on monetary systems agree that inflation is a fraud and that the peop’e most adversely affected by inflation are those who are least able to pay.
– Order I The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– Another aspect of the bill, to which reference was made by Senator Brown, is the appointment of part-time Ministers, drawing full ministerial salaries.
– Has Cabinet taken the honorable senator into its confidence about the salaries paid to Ministers?
– I am not much concerned about that aspect of the Government’s proposal. I merely direct attention to the fact that some Ministers in the Lyons Cabinet are paid full time, but are not doing the work that is expected of them. Therefore, the statement that Ministers are overworked is not true. If they devoted the whole of their time to their ministerial duties, there would be no need for the creation of an additional portfolio. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has told the House of Representatives that when he was appointed to the Cabinet he relinquished active participation in private business and gave the whole of his time to the work for which he was paid. Thus the claim that additional work “ has to be done by Ministers will not bear investigation. The Government is anxious also to find a job for a certain member of the House of Representatives, who, apparently, is making himself a nuisance and must beplacated. If that appointment be made, additional expenditure will be incurred; yet Ministers declare that no money can be spared for relief of the unemployed.
Reference was made by Senator Brown to the formation of an inner group of the Cabinet. Those responsible for this move are well aware how difficult it would be to persuade the people of Australia to abolish our present parliamentary system. Accordingly, they have set about achieving the next best thing. Parliament is being steadily hut systematically discredited by those who are in favour of its abolition, and by those who, in my opinion, are anxious to set up a dictatorship. Notwithstanding the great amount of work to be done, the sitting days of this Parliament to date have been fewer than those of any other Parliament in the history of federation. I am informed that nearly twenty bills are listed for consideration before the Christmas recess. Much of this work could have been done many months ago. In their attempt to discredit Parliament and create the impression that it has outlived its usefulness, opponents of democratic government are not adopting a frontal attack, but–
– Order! Again I remind the honorable senator that he is straying from the subject-matter of the bill.
– One reason given why an extra minister should be appointed is the re-organization of
Cabinet work and the setting up of an inner group of Ministers to determine policy. 1 submit that I am entitled to question the probable intentions of this inner group, and, in the light of experience, draw my own conclusions.
– To which clause of the bill is the honorable senator referring?
– I am reading into the measure the purpose for which I believe it has been introduced. In my opinion, the intention is to set up a dictatorship by instalments.
– That is absurd.
– The honorable genteman may think it absurd ; but what I suggest has happened in other countries.
– Not in a British community.
– Prominent politicians have suggested that a dictatorship would be a good thing for Australia.
– I rise to a point of order. I should like to know whether the honorable senator is entitled to impute sinister motives to the Prime Minister or any other Minister in connexion with this bill. Senator Cameron has suggested that it is the desire of the Government to set up a dictatorship.
– I have given a great deal of latitude in this debate because the scope of the bill is wide and I have no desire to hamper honorable senators. But the suggestion that the object of this bill is to set up a dictatorship is unwarranted. I ask Senator Cameron to keep to the subject-matter of.’ the measure.
– I have no desire to say anything that might give offence. I merely wish to give my reasons for objecting to the bill. It provide’ for the appointment of an additional Minister and for an increase of expenditure by £1,650. I claim the right to examine the motive of the Government in introducing it. If I have judged wrongly, I shall stand corrected. Time alone will prove whether or not I am right. The claim that Cabinet Ministers have been overworked cannot be sustained. We have the evidence of one ex-Minister and of members of the House of Representatives that Ministers have not been overworked. Therefore, I urge that the bill be rejected.
[ 10.26 j. - in reply - I listened with interest to the criticism of the measure from honorable senators opposite. I regret -that some speakers wandered so far afield, and took the opportunity to make political capital out of the bill. I also regret the unwarranted strictures on former members of this chamber who have rendered good service to this country. In the discussion on a bill of this nature it is much better to concentrate on the principles embodied in it, and avoid personalities. A personal attack was made upon me, but I hope to set an example by not replying in that strain, though I do not wish it to be thought that there is no answer to that criticism. My aim is to deal with the principles in the bill. It proposes to increase the number of Ministers of State from ten to eleven. Assistant Ministers and the Vice-President of the Executive Council will be paid out of the fund appropriated for the payment of the eleven Ministers.
– To which it is now proposed to add £1,650.
– That amount is not excessive by comparison with incomes earned by men in commercial life, and the salaries of high officials of the Commonwealth Public Servie. The work of Cabinet Ministers and Assistant Ministers takes an enormous amount of time, and imposes considerable strain on Ministers.
– Can the Leader of the Senate justify the proposed new appointment ?
– Yes, if the honorable senator is prepared to consider the measure on its merits. An additional Minister has been appointed to enable the Government tograpple with the grave problem of the defence of Australia. Any honorable senator who suggests that one’ Minister could deal efficiently with defence matters, civil aviation, and the heavy works programme that has been undertaken, must lack ordinary intelligence. Every member of the Senate must find that his time is fully occupied in attending to the many duties which he is called upon to discharge, and that the. salary provided for him is not excessive. The Government considers that the separation of the administration of civil aviation and defence works from the portfolio of defence is a step in the right direction. I resent the attempt to make political capital out of this bill. There is no justification for the references that have been made to an inner junta. I shall make my own position in the Cabinet clear. Fifteen Ministers sit at a table. The responsibilities ofthe work of the nation increase from day to. day. In the opinion of the Cabinet, this work can best be done by the formation of committees. The policy committee of seven Ministers is mainly concerned with the problem of defence. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has explained that any committee appointed by the Government makes recommendations to the full Cabinet, and that every Minister has an opportunity to vote in connexion with Cabinet decisions.
I object to the cheap gibes heard about ministerial trips overseas. The Ministers who have undertaken these journeys on important public business have had to make sacrifices in the interests of the country. The money thus expended has been a good investment for Australia. It is essential, from timeto time, that members of the Government and others should confer with statesmen and others in Great Britain, and in other parts, of the Empire, and the various agreements reached regarding defence and trade matters more than justify the expenditure incurred by such visits. This bill merely involves an additional expenditure of £1,650 a year. I hope that the Senate will regard the measure as a step in the right direction.
Question put; -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Salaries of Ministers).
– I desire toknow whether the additional Minister will receive the extra amount of £1,650 authorized under this measure?
– That amount will be paid into the Cabinet pool.
Clause agreed to
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill received from the House ofRepresentatives, and (on motion by Senator Foll), read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill gives effect to the Government’s proposal to increase the rates of land tax by 11.1 per cent. The formula for ascertaining the rate of tax payable on a given amount of taxable value which, as honorable senators are aware, is based on the principle of graduation, is set out in the first and second schedules ofthebill. The firstschedule applies to residents. The rate of tax commences at one half-penny and one thirty-seven thousandfive-hundredth of a penny and increases by a regular arithmetical progression of one thirtyseventhousandfivehundredth of a penny as the taxable value increases until the taxable value reaches £75,000, At that stage, the rate of tax payable: on each £1 of taxable value is 21/2d. For every £1 of taxable value in. excess of £75,000, a flat rate of 41/2d. is charged.
The rate of tax to be applied in the assessments of absentees is set out in the second schedule. Absentees do not receive the deduction of £5,000 which is allowed to residents in arriving at the taxable value of their land. They, therefore, pay tax on the whole of the unim- p roved value of the land that they own. I n their case, a flat rate of1/2d. is charged on the taxable value of the land up to a value of £5,000. “When the taxable value exceeds £5,000, the rate of tax on the excess is one penny and one thirty-seven thousand five-hundredths of a penny, increasing at the same even progressive rate of one thirty-seven thousand fivehundredths of a penny, as in the case of residents until the taxable value reaches £80,000; At that stage, the rate of tax payable on each £1 of taxable value is 3d. For every £1 of taxable value in excess of £80,000, the tax is a flat rate of 5d.
Clauses 2 and 3 repeal the provisions contained in the Financial Relief Act 1932-1935 and the principal act as the reductions of tax authorized by those provisions are now embraced in the first and second schedules included in the bill. Clause 4 amends section 5 of the principal act so as to bring that section into line with section 12 of the Land Tax Assessment Act to authorize the commissioner to issue assessments after the close of a relevant financial year.
In ordinary circumstances, assessments are issued within the financial year for which the tax is payable, but for various reasons in individual cases it frequently happens that this is not practicable. In addition, the department is constantly discovering defaulters in respect of past years. The proposed amendment will leave no doubt as to the commissioner’s authority to issue assessments for any financial year after the close of that year. Clause. 6 providesfor a necessary amendment to be made to the schedules appearing in the Land Tax Acts of 1910 and 19.14.,
When these formulas were drafted, the words “pound sterling” were used to denote the Australian £1. The different currency value of the Australian and sterling £1 which now exists makes it necessary to delete the word “ sterling “ from these formulas wherever it appears. Clause 7 provides that the amendments’ in the bill repealing section 4 of the Financial Relief Act 1932-1935 and section 4a of the principal act, as well as the schedules included in the bill, shall: apply to assessments for the present financial year and all subsequentyears.
Commonwealth land tax was first imposed in 1910-11. The rate of tax was 1d. where the taxable value was £1, increasing uniformly by one thirtythousand of a penny with each increase of £1 in the taxable value until, at £75,000, a maximum rate of 6d. was reached. The. flat rate of. 6d. remained constant for the excess over £75,000. In 1914-15, as a war measure, the rates were increased and the formula recast. The average increase over the whole range from £1 to £75,000 was approximately 30 per cent. The uniform increase was one eighteen-thousand seven hundred and fiftieth of a penny instead of one thirty-thousandth of a penny, and the maximum rate was increased to 9d. In 1918-19, also as a war measure, the rates were increased by 20 per cent. In 1922-23, the rates were reduced by 20 per cent., thereby restoring the 1914-15 rates. There was a further reduction by 10 per cent. in 1927-28. Again, in 1932-33, thereduced rates were further reduced by one-third under the Financial Relief Act of 1932. In 1933-34, the reduction of one-third was increased to one-half by the Financial Relief Act 1932-33. Since that time, the rates have been only 45 per cent. of the basic rates in 1914-15. The increase of 11.1 per cent. for 1938-39 will bring the rates up to exactly one-half of the 1914-15 rates. The number of taxpayers has remained fairly constant.For the last completed year, namely, 1936-37, the number of taxpayers was 23,297, and the amount paid by them was £1,435,000. The estimated collections for this year will be approximately the same as in 1936-37. In the event of these rates applying to laud with an unimproved capital value of £1,000, a resident taxpayer would pay no tax, because of the exemption in respect of land up to £5,000 in value. An absentee taxpayer would pay £2 ls. 8d. The tax will increase gradually until, in respect of land of an unimproved value of £100,000, a resident taxpayer would pay £1,156 5s. and an absentee taxpayer £1,364 lis. 8d. Honorable senators may be interested in the amounts collected in respect of town and country lands. In 1936-37, the tax paid in respect of town lands amounted to £919,227, and in respect of country lands, £336,607.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
MONETARY System - Unemployment.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am sorry that I did not have an opportunity this afternoon to speak on a subject which was debated at some length without the root cause of unemployment being mentioned. I believe in getting down to fundamentals. The law that there is no effect without a cause applies in. other realms besides physics. Australia got on fairly well until it was overtaken by the recent depression. I read of a meeting of bankers in London, at which the manager of the Bank of England, Sir Montagu Norman, was asked if he could foresee the end of the depression. He said that he could not see any way out of the tunnel. A year later, at a similar function, he was asked the same question, and he gave the same answer. A celebrated Swedish economist, Gustav Cassel, was asked how long he thought the depression would last. He said that the depression was brought about by the restriction of credit. ‘ Concerted action on the part of the banks in the restriction of credit, dictated by high finance, brought about the disastrous drop in prices which ruined the primary producers of the world, and he added that the banks, having deliberately caused the depression, could litt it whenever they like. That is a strong statement. Before the Com mon we.. 1th Government, or any other government, can deal with unemployment effectively, it will have to solve the pr.oblem of equating consumption to production. The problem before the world to-day is not unemployment, but the cause-of unemployment. 1 maintain that under the present monetary system it is impossible to help the workers of this country or any other country as they should be helped. Senator Sheehan said that the workers in Austraia are worse off to-day than under the Harvester award of nearly twenty years ago. That is a fact. Recently I suggested to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that, according to the finding of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems money could be issued by the Commonwealth Bank free of interest. The Prime Minister has stated publicly that he will not listen to any unorthodox financial proposal. That means that it is his intention to borrow £40,000,000 through the usual channel, and to pay the usual rates of interest, notwithstanding th..t the royal commission appointed by his own Government, said that the money could be issued free of interest by the Commonwealth Bank. So long as we have to borrow money to keep people employed, we shall find that what we receive in one hand’ will be paid out by the other. The. great trouble is the huge interest bill. Workers are awarded higher wages and fewer working hours, but they are no better off. The experience of Mr. Higgs, who was Commonwealth Treasurer in 1916, in raising money on the London market, makes interesting reading. “He was instructed that the people who had previously handledCommonwealth loans were R. Nivison and Son, of Threadneedle-street, London, and accordingly, he wrote to them. He received a reply that that firm was prepared to put a ‘oan of £4,000,000 on the market if Australia paid* 5 per cent., and agreed to the issue being made at £99. Had their proposal been accepted it would have meant a clear gain of £40,000 to the promoters. Fortunately, Mr. Higgs had some backbone, and refused to allow the loan to be floated at £99. He demanded that it be floated at p-r. As he had not long been in Parliament, and had no previous experience in the raising of loans, he thought he had better agree to pay oi per cent, interest. The brokers advised him that unless he agreed to float the lon at £99 the opportunity to do so might pass. Eventually, however, they agreed to float it at par. My authority on the method of raising loans in London is Mr. Reddaway, an ex-employee of the Bank of England. R. Nivison and Son underwrote the whole amount, £4.000,000 not being regarded by them as a big loan. Within a few days of the flotation of the loan, it was quoted at an appreciation of 5a. per cent. The commission for raising that loan was £2 7s. Id. per cent. For the £4,000,000 loan and the firm mentioned was paid commission at the rate of £2 7s. Id. per cent, and, in addition, it benefited by its transaction on the London stork exchange. That is the orthodox way of raising money. When Sir Denison Miller, as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, first raised money for Australia, he floated a loan of £38,000,000 and the cost of raising that loan was 4s. lOd. per cent Honorable senators will thus see the difference between the cost of raising money by the orthodox method, which the Prime Minister is determined to follow, and the cost of raising it by the method which I advocate. The difference between the costs of raising the two loans which T have just mentioned- -one by the orthodox method and the other by the unorthodox method - was £744,642.
– Those loans were raised at different periods.
– Both of them were raised at the same rate of interest. In that year, when 200,000 Australian soldiers were up to their knees in the mud of Flanders, and Commonwealth ships were carrying products to feed the people of the United Kingdom, the money-grubbers of England were exploiting the Australian taxpayer of his last copper. So long as we adhere to the present monetary system, we shall not solve the problem of unemployment. The money which we require for defence purposes can be obtained by releasing the national credit. I have discussed this subject with some honorable senators who have asked me to explain this wonderful source of money, which they do not seem to understand. The banks do not lend money, but simply extend credit. That is how they raise money in Australia, and that is how, according to the Cunliffe Commission, the war loans were raised in England. When a war loan was being floated in England, a banker would pick out, say, Mr. Brown; who owned a fine hotel valued at £40,000: He would ring up Mr. Brown and say, “ I suppose you will put money into the war loan; all patriotic Englishmen will be called on to make sacrifices “. When Mr. Brown replied that he had no money, the banker would inform him that his bank was prepared to lend him £20,000 on the security of his hotel, pointing out, at the same time, that on such money the bank would charge him 4 per cent, whereas his investment in the war loan would return 5 per cent., giving him a net profit of 1 per cent. Of course, as honorable senators know, the average business man is no match for the average banker. Mr. Brown naturally would agree to take up the bonds on what is known as a mortgage arrangement, although it is actually a legal assignment. That was the process followed in respect of the first loan. When the second war loan was being floated, the banker would again approach Mr. Brown, and say, “ I suppose you will put some money into the second loan “. When Mr. Brown replied that he had no cash, the banker would point out that the bank would advance £10,000 on the security of the £20,000 worth of bonds which Mr. Brown had in the first loan. A similar process would be followed in respect of the third loan. Any honorable senator who has read Mr. Lloyd George’s memoirs will recall that, when war broke out in 1914, the directors of the Bank, of England approached the Government and said, in effect, “ If you do not come to our assistance the Bank of England will close its doors within 24 hours.” Taking a statesmanlike view of the situation, the Government decided, to go to the assistance of the bank, and,, consequently, England went off the gold standard. As the result £300,000,000- worth of fiduciary notes were issued, although, I point out, such notes are anataema to those who believe in the orthodox system of finance. Those notes were ca led “ Brad burys “ after Sir John Bradbury, who was a member of tha banking commission. In 1924 the British Gove,nment appointed a commission of bankers, and they recommended that the country should return to the gold standard. Then came the depression in longland, and gold went up to twice its value, whilst the value of goods declined. The value of Mr. Brown’s hotel property depreciated 50 per cent.; when the bank called up his advance, and he was unable to meet it, the bank forclosed and obtained possession of his hotel and his bonds. Such was the financial stringency existing during the depression that it was said thai factory machinery in Birmingham and Manchester was covered with cobwebs That is how the English war loans were floated. Evidently honorable senators opposite have not studied these matters, or have failed to understand them. Within the last few weeks I have been endeavouring to enlighten them on the subject. I have described exactly the process followed in the flotation of war loans in England, and I have shown how Australia will suffer by following the same orthodox methods in raising 0U defence loan of £48,000,000. Why does not this Government carry out the provisions of the Constitution in their entirety, in respect of the most important subject of finance? We are particularly fortunate that under the Constitution the Commonwealth is given complete control of finance, and here is an opportunity to raise, free of interest, the million, which we require. It will be impossible to obtain sufficient money to defend Australia adequately if we borrow it under the present monetary system at 4 per cent. I asked Senator A. J. McLachlan, when Leader of the Senate, why the Government would not act on the finding? of the Royal Commission on Banking and Monetary Systems, and instruct the directors of the Commonwealth Bank to issue sufficient interest-free money for the adequate defence of Australia. The reply I received wa3 that the Prime Minister was not prepared to instruct the directors of the Commonwealth
Bank to issue credit. The purpose of the issue was deliberately suppressed. When l asked a further question on the matter I was informed that the Govern- ment would not follow my suggestion because it did not believe in political control of banking. I point out that if the Commonwealth did not possess the power which I suggest it has, we could not have established the Commonwealth Bank, nor could the Bruce-Page Government have amended the Commonwealth Bank Act as it did in 1924. Every action of the banks is political, and either there must be political control of banking, or the banks will control politics, as is the case to-day. Why does not this Government act upon the finding of its own royal commission as I suggest? I have no doubt that the Prime Minister receives letters day after day inquiring why the Government proposes to borrow at 4 per cent, the money which it requires for defence purposes instead of obtaining it through the release of national credit. I have no doubt, also, that he does not reply to such letters. As the hour is late I shall defer any further remarks on the subject until I speak on the Appropriation Bills, when I shall take the opportunity to give honorable senators that information on political economy, banking and finance for which they have asked.
– I am very disappointed that the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) has moved the adjournment of the Senate without making some reference to the request by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) this afternoon that assistance be given to the unemployed prior to Christmas. Honorable senators on this side were accused in the debate this afternoon of imputing motives. I sincerely hope that, before the Senate adjourns this week, the Leader of the Senate will be able to intimate that the Government proposes to do something for the unemployed. If this be not done we shall be justified in believing that the Government is adopting a callous attitude towards the unemployed, particularly in view of the fact that when this matter’ was raised in the House of Representatives it peremptorily applied the gag. If the Government is sincere in its desire to assist the unemployed it will not repeat such tactics. Some senators opposite suggested that in the debate this afternoon no honorable senator on this side offered any concrete suggestion for the solution of this problem. In submitting his motion the Leader of the Opposition had no intention to initiate an academic discussion regarding the causes of unemployment and the methods by which it could be solved. The object of the motion was simply to urge the Govern-, ment to do something of a temporary nature in order to tide those out of work over the Christmas period. If it had been our desire to discuss the causes of unemployment, we could have contended that our present economic system has failed, and that in its place an economic system based upon production for use and not for profit should be established. Honorable senators opposite protested indignantly against the suggestion made by Senator Cameron that the controllers of industry desired that there should always be an army of unemployed in order to enable them to keep wages at a lower level. That contention, however, is perfectly true.
– It is absurd.
– Evidently the honorable senator has not studied this matter. It is well known that under our present system of production it is very necessary that there shall always be a large army of unemployed. If there were no unemployed wages would naturally rise.
– The basic wage has risen every three months.
– The basic wage has risen irrespective of the number of employed in industry or the number of unemployed. It has risen as prices have been manipulated.
– That is nonsense.
– I hope that the honorable senator will take the trouble to study this problem. If he does so, he will find that the contention advanced by honorable senators on this side is absolutely correct.
– Give us instances.
– I point out that wages are adjusted by our statistician irrespective of the number who are employed. The reason why a large number of unemployed is desired-
– Who desires it?
– Those who control industry. The reason why they desire that there shall always be a large army of unemployed is that there shall not be a demand for increases of the margins for skill. There are two phases of the basic wage. There is the wage, which is the equivalent of the Arbitration Court award, consisting of the amount needed to purchase certain foodstuffs, and pay for rent, clothing, &c, and on top of that wage there is the margin allowed for skill. Unfortunately some people think that all of the workers get the basic wage. That is not so. If there is a large army of unemployed many workers are forced to accept employment, in certain skilled trades at sustenance rates.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct.
-Donald. - It is impossible.
– Unfortunately it is not impossible. A great deal of work is being done to-day under relief conditions, not subject to awards operating in the various industries.
– Not in New South “Wales.
– It is happening in various parts of the Commonwealth, and when prosecutions have been launched against offending employers the courts have held that they are not parties to the awards. Only those who are joined as parties to awards can be prosecuted successfully for failure to comply with the order of the court.
– That is not so in New South “Wales.
– It is happening in parts of Victoria and also in other States under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Therefore Senator Cameron was quite correct.
– If what the honorable senator is saying is correct, why are wages increasing?
– The recent increase of wages was due to the scarcity of skived labour.
– Did not the railway workers get an increase last week?
– They received an increase of the basic rate because of a rise of the cost of living. If Senator Dein will give some attention to the arguments of honorable senators on this side he will be in a position to discuss this matter intelligently. The attitude of the Government to the very important subject of a shorter working week is misleading. I have asked the Leader of the Senate to declare its intentions with regard to Commonwealth public servants and have been informed that it is anxious to assist in this matter, but that it is felt that it should be handled by the Arbitration Court. A tribunal has already been appointed to deal with Commonwealth public servants and has made preliminary investigations. It has expressed the opinion that the time is opportune for the introduction of a shorter working week. Apparently, the Government is avoiding the issue and has given me an answer which is not strictly accurate. When the Government displays insincerity in such matters, is it any wonder that members on this side suspect Ministers of insincerity with regard to the problem of unemployment? The speech made by Senator Foll this afternoon indicated complete unconcern on the part of the Government with reference to this matter. The honorable gentleman merely stated that it proposed to undertake certain public works in the near future. We were aware of the Government’s proposals, but desire the work to be expedited so that employment may be given immediately. Senator Foll said also that the Government would introduce development schemes of a permanent nature and that legislation providing for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia would be introduced shortly. This is very laudable. But honorable senators on this side fear that a long time must elapse before production on a considerable scale can be commenced. It has been stated that motor car factories in the United States of America could, by working for only two weeks, supply the whole of Australia’s annual requirements. It is the complaint of Western Australian representatives in this Parliament that because secondary industries are firmly established in the eastern States, it is impossible for the smaller States to commence new enterprises which can compete on an economic basis. I sincerely hope that the motor car industry will be established in Australia on a sound basis, and that it will, in the years to come, be in a position to compete with overseas manufacturers. ButI am not blind to the fact that it will be a long time before the industry reaches a stage of efficiency that will enable it to absorb the unemployed in considerable numbers. The Government is under an obligation to the people of Australia to take immediate steps to relieve unemployment. If it allows the situation to drift, we on this side can promise many late sittings, and more adjournment motions, because we are determined to wring from the Ministry tangible assistance in some form for those who are seeking employment. If the Government is as humanitarian as it claims to be, it will take steps immediately to alleviate distress among the many thousands of people who are unable to secure employment. According to the latest information, unemployment is increasing and we fear that, unless something be done to meet the situation, Australia will soon be in the grip of another depression.
– Senator Sheehan stresses the need for the establishment in Australia of the motorcar manufacturing industry. Some months ago, I set out exactly what the Government intended to do in this matter. It instructed the Tariff Board to make an immediate investigation and it placed a duty on imported chassis for the purpose of creating a fund from which a bonus could be paid when manufacture was commenced in this country. The report received from the Tariff Board expressed the fear that a decision to manufacture complete motor cars in Australia immediately would be a setback rather than ana ssistance to the employment of Australian workers. An increase of the price of cars to a prohibitive figure was also feared, and. for these reasons, it was consideredbetter to increase step by step the manufacture of component parts, until the production of complete vehicles could be undertaken on a sound economic basis. It is not many years since the practice was to import complete cars into Australia. Australian industrieshave been developed gra dually, until to-day complete bodies, springs, batteries, radiators and various other components are being manufactured here. The Government has fixed the 31st March, 1939, for the reception, from car manufacturers in all parts of the world, of proposals for the establishment of the industry in Australia, together with suggestions with regard to the bonus which would be required. If, before that date, the Government receives a proposal which is practicable, initial arrangements will be made for the manufacture of complete oars. It is hoped that, in the very near future, it will be possible to manufacture complete car and aeroplane units in this country.
– What will the Australian workers do in the meantime?
– Unemployment can only be solved satisfactorily by a longrange policy; not by the immediate provision of sums of money, which, at best, can only be a palliative. The Government’s policy for the assistance of primary and secondary industries, and for economic development generally, is the soundest way in which to provide permanent employment for the people. A long-range policy for the assistance of primary industries and the building up of secondary industries is the only practical method of dealing with the problem of unemployment.
. -in reply - I shall peruse theHansard report of the speech by Senator Darcey, and, if I consider that the points raised by him merit it, . I shall refer them to the Treasury officials. Senator Sheehan’s request, and that made this afternoon by the Opposition, will receive consideration from the Government. If the Government decides to grant special Christmas relief for the unemployed, I shall be pleased to inform the Senate later of its intention. The unemployed have, I think, much for which to thank the present Government, and I hope that the position is not so serious as some honorable sena tors believe it to be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was pre sented : -
Northern Australia Survey Act - Reportof Committee appointed to direct and control the Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia, for the period ended 31st December. 1937.
Senate adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381123_senate_15_158/>.