15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Can the Leader of the Senate state whether the Prime Minister has received a lengthy and urgent protest from the Premier of Western Australia concerning the proposed gold tax?
– I am not in a position to say offhand whether such a protest has been received; hut I shall make inquiries during the afternoon and , advise the honorable senator later.
Senator BRAND brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the proposed erection of a hostel at Canberra.
SenatorFOLLlaid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
CordageRope and Twines n.e.i.
Valves for Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony and Bases for such Valves.
– Can the Minister for Commerce state what fees, apart from travelling expenses, are to be paid to the members of the Australian Wheat Board, and from what fund such fees will be paid?
– The first full meeting of the Australian Wheat Board was held yesterday, and the board is sitting again to-day. The fees to be paid, which will be subject to the approval of the Minister, have not yet been decided. They will be debited against the No. 1 Wheat Pool.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with the following information: - The total cost to Australia of the National Insurance Scheme, including committees, inquiries, commissions, administration, compensation (if any), &c.?
– The Minister for Social ‘Services has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the Minister’s attention been directed to reports from friendly societies that the prices of drugs and chemicals for their stocks have been quoted at increases of from 25 to 50 per cent.; if so, in view of the serious effect this may have upon their members, will he have the matter investigated urgently, andmeanwhile direct that all drugs mentioned in the British Pharmacopacia be declared necessaries of life and included in the list of goods the prices of which may not be increased without licence?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer: -
Representations have been made by the Friendly Society Council of Western Australia for the inclusion of all drugs in the British Pharmacopoeia in the list of gazetted essential articles. This request is now under consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Does the Government’s scheme for the control of prices during the war include control of the prices of primary products or commodities purchased in Australia by Great Britain ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
No. Local prices of exportable primary products gazetted as essential articles willbe subject to control.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice- -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs,upon notice-*
In view of the reported anxiety among cottongrowers in Queensland, will the Minister inform the Senate when it is proposed to indicate the Government’s decision on the request of the cotton industry for a renewal of the bounty?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
A statement will be made at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Has the Minister any statement to make in reference to the price of hides intended for export?
– It is proposed to hold a conference with trade interests next week on the subject of the conditions for the export of hides.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
When is it intended to introduce the amendment of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act to provide for the inclusion of temporary employees in the Federal Members’ Rooms and Com mon wealth departments whose duties are of a permanent nature?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Owing to the urgency of other public business the Government has not yet had an opportunity to consider the practicabilityof amending the Superannuation Act in the direction indicated.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– A reply to the honorable senator’s questions has not yet been received. The Australian Wheat Board sat until midnight last night and is sitting again to-day. I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject to-day or to-morrow.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That Standing Order 68 - half -past 10 p.m. rule - be suspended, up to and including Friday, 22nd September, for the purpose of. enabling new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
– There not being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators voting in favour of the motion, the question is resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Foll.) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on, motion by Senator Collings) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 12th September (vide page 348) on motion by Senator Collett -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is one that can be discussed most effectively at the committee stage. Honorable senators have had it before them for some time, and are probably well acquainted with its details. Whilst some of the clauses are more or less innocuous, the wisdom of accepting others is debatable. I agree with the remarks of the Minister (Senator Collett) regarding clause 2. It extends the provisions relating to graduates of Australian universities to graduates of universities in other British countries, but provides that graduates of the latter universities must be born in Australia, or, if not born in Australia, they must satisfy the Public Service Board that they left Australia for the purpose of entering the university from which they graduated, and resided in Australia for at least twelve months immediately prior to leaving Australia for that purpose. This clause really extends the operation of the relevant section to graduates of British universities other than Australian universities.
It may be argued that such persons should be required to pass the examination prescribed for admission to the Public Service, but I need hardly point out that, being university graduates, they have already passed examinations of a higher standard. The effect of clause 3 is to extend to members of the permanent naval, military, or air forces of the Commonwealth the same provisions as apply under section 42 to officers of the Territorial Service, the Commonwealth railways and the Police Force of the Territory foi- the Seat of Government. Under this clause such persons as the board thinks desirable will be eligible foi appointment to the Public Service. I perceive a little danger in that provision. It contains a measure of justice in that it places all members of the various arms of our defence forces on the. same footing as members of the other services mentioned, but at the same time it seems to open the way, and rather dangerously, to certain persons to push the claims of particular individuals for admission to the Public Service. However, that provision can bc scrutinized in the committee stage.
Clause 4 a is not, important, because it merely substitutes the words “permanent office “ for “ salaried office, not being of a temporary or casual character,” and is designed to avoid confusion in the appointment of officers from other services. It is really contingent on the preceding clause. Clause 5 does not deal with admission to the Commonwealth Public Service. It adds to the service mentioned in section 4S, service in the Air Force of the Commonwealth, in order to put members of the Air Force on the same basis as members of the Naval and Military Forces. It also adds service in a permanent capacity as an officer employed under the Science and Industry Research Act, the Australian Soldiers’ Repatria tion Act, the High Commissioner Act. and the Supply and Development Act.
Clause 8 deals with the attachment of salaries of officers and embodies a desirable amendment. Possibly minor objections may be raised to some of its provisions, but what it really sets out to do is to protect debtors, who are members of the Public Service, from unfair treat- meat in respect of liabilities to money lenders. The clause defines a money lender, and in a general way improves the position of such debtors, because the money lender, by obtaining a judgment and a subsequent garnishee order, cannot continue to be quite as unscrupulous in his treatment of these debtors as he could if this protection were not provided. Furthermore, this clause makes the money lender liable for the payment of commission at the rate of 5 per cent, on all amounts collected on his behalf by the paying officer of the department concerned. That is a fair proposal. I again suggest that the bill is one which can be best dealt with at the committee stage when I shall submit a couple of amendments I have circulated.
– Generally speaking, this measure will meet with the approval of honorable senators, but I suggest that the Government could well improve some clauses. For instance, the Government should give favorable consideration to the matter of improving the present method of deciding long service leave in respect of officers of various classes.
– That matter does not arise under this measure.
– I understand that an amendment to that end will be moved in order to secure more just treatment for certain classes of officers who now suffer disabilities in this .respect.
– In what way?
– Their temporary service is not taken into consideration in determining their claims for longservice leave. I suggest that temporary service should be included for the purpose of computing long-service leave, because it is not the fault of officers of the classes to whom I refer that, they have not been made permanent.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that officers should be credited with continuous service in respect of temporary employment?
– That is a matter of detail. Many persons in the employ of the Government have been employed for a number of years with short breaks in their service. In the Victorian railways service, of which I have a fair knowledge, the service of an officer or an employee is deemed to be continuous if any break is not greater than two months. There are many men with years of temporary service who eventually are made permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, and some consideration should be given to them in respect of their temporary service.
– Would the honorable senator treat, them in the same way as men who have been in the Service permanently from their youth?
– There would be nothing wrong iti that. In one branch nf the Service there may be conditions which, in the opinion of the Public Service Board, make it desirable that appointees shall be placed immediately on the permanent staff; in other branches of the ‘Service the conditions may not, in the opinion of the board, justify permanent appointments being made immediately. A man’s status may depend on the opinion of the Public Service Board in that regard.
– It may be a mutter of opinion, not of the Public Service Board, but of the bend of the department.
– Whatever the responsible authority, a man’s tenure of office may be the result of circumstances. Recently, a new department of Supply and Development was created. Probably thi- majority of the appointments to that department will be from other departments of the Public Service, but for the efficient management of the new department, it may bc necessary to appoint some experts to the permanent staff forthwith. In other branches of the Service, however, there are men who have been employed for years but are not regarded as permanent employees. Those men would be nf a disadvantage compared with appointees to the new department. I hope that, in committee, amendments to rectify these anomalies will be accepted by the Government.
– I am in accord with the bill, and I congratulate the Govern ment on its introduction. I am particularly pleased with those provisions which seek to attack the pernicious system by which the salaries of public servants are gaarnisheed, and the Commonwealth Treasury is used as a collecting agency for money lenders, who pay no fees whatever for the service. I imagine that there are many men in commercial life who would like to have a government department to collect their outstanding debts at no cost to themselves.
– This provision i ri et v prove to the unfortunate borrowers to lie » two-edged sword.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Clause 2 provides for the admission to the Commonwealth Public Service of graduates of Australian universities who were born in Australia, and also of persons who either were born in Australia andleft Australia to attend universities in other parts of the British Empire ‘and subsequently returned to Australia or, not being born in Australia, satisfy the board that they left Australia for the purpose of entering such universities and that they resided in Australia for at least twelve months immediately prior to their departure. I wish to know whether that clause would prevent a graduate of an English university who was bora in the United Kingdom and did not arrive in Australia until after his graduation from becoming an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service? It may be that provision is already made for him in the parent, act.
– Only if bo is a bona fide Australian.
– Tha Australian Public Service would benefit by the admission of graduates of British, Canadian, and South African universities who subsequently ‘settle in Australia. They should not be precluded from joining such bodies as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Clause 3 seeks to amend section 42 of the principal act by inserting the words “ any member of the permanent naval, military or air forces of the Commonwealth “. I have a distinct recollection that, during the depression the question of the admission to the Commonwealth Public Service as permanent officers ov cadets from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, or the Naval College at Jervis Bay, arose. I desire to know whether these men will come under the definition of “members of the permanent naval, military or air forces of the Commonwealth “.
– in reply - There is little to which I have to reply, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was good enough to re-explain the bill in some detail, and thereby refresh our, memory as to its contents. The points raised by Senator Sheehan are not covered by this bill, but may be considered at some subsequent date. As to the points raised by Senator Allan MacDonald, I point, out that section 36a of the principal act provides that persons who are at the date of the examination graduates of an Australian university may apply to the board for admission to the Public Service. The proposed amendment provides that any person who, at the date of the examination - (a)Is a graduate of an Australian university; or
Is a graduate of a university in any part of the British dominions other than Australia and -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 postponed till after the consideration of clause 5:
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
Postponed clause 1 agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Collett) agreed to -
That after clause 1 the following new clause be inserted - 1a- Sections 1, 5a and 8a of this act shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from the second day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine.
– I move -
That after clause 5 the following new clause be inserted: - 5a. Section fifty of the principal act is amended by inserting after sub-section 7 the following sub-section: - (7a). The board may regard an appeal us having been made, on either of the grounds specified in sub-section 6 of this section, by an officer who, at any time within the time prescribed for lodging an appeal, is absent on leave granted in pursuance of section seventy-two of this act, and in that case this section shall have effect as if an appeal had been received from that officer.
This provision is intended to protect the rights of those who may be called up for military service.
Amendment agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Attachment of salaries of officers).
– Proposed new subsection 4 enacts that if a judgment debtor fails to prove to the satisfaction of the paying officer that the judgment has been satisfied, the paying officer may, from time to time deduct from any moneys due to the judgment debtor, such sums as, in his opinion, should be deducted and applied in reduction of the judgment debt. There is a proviso that no deduction shall be made which will reduce the amount to be received by the judgment debtor to less-, than £2 a week. If £2 a week is to be the maximum amount allowed to a judgment debtor it will be inadequate in the case of those with dependants. Some judgment debtors may be officers holding responsible positions in the public service.
– The amount allowed to a judgment debtor must be not less than’ £2 a week.
– I direct attention to some figures supplied by the Minister in charge of the bill (SenatorCollett) dealing with the number of orders that have been issued against employees in the department of the Postmaster-General. We have been informed that there were 243 orders in 1927, 832 in 1930, 1,675 in 1933, 2,034 in 1934, 2,108 in 1935, 2.592 in 1937, and 2,410 in 1938. There was a big increase between 1.927 and 1937, which suggests that some employees of tlie Postmaster - General’s Department are not receiving -iiilaries sufficient to enable them to meet their obligations. Some borrow money when they should not do so, but the majority borrow because of the decreased purchasing power of money.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the answer is that some have a champagne appetite and a beer income?
– I do not. The average employee in the PostmasterGenera l’’s Department lives moderately, and generally speaking he has to be satisfied with very little. If the employees of that department, used their organized strength to a greater degree they might bc in a better position than they arc today. I do not think it can be said that these men deliberately waste their money. The Minister stated that the number of judgment orders issued in all departments in 1938 was approximately 2,800, the bulk of which wore taken out against employees of the Postmaster-General’s department. A perusal of the figures indicates that between 3936 and 1938 the - average yearly wage of employees in that department was ?261.69, which is too low. I f these employees wish to borrow money 40 lender will have to take the risk, or employees will have to apply to their superior officer for the necessary permission to borrow. Under this measure the department is entering into an unholy alliance with money lenders.
- (Senator James Mclachlan). - In discussing the clause, the honorable senator must not make a second-reading speech.
– I am dealing with the attachment of salaries of Commonwealth officers. Has the Government taken, into consideration the matter of increasing the salaries of the employees of The Postmaster-General’s Department, or of making some provision whereby those in financial difficulties can obtain a loan, suv from a branch of the Commonwealth Rank?
– The total number of permanent Commonwealth public servants is over 30,000, and of that number 23,671 are employed in the Postmaster-General’s
Department, the average salary being, as stated by Senator Cameron, ?261.69. The average salary of the 30,000 permanent Commonwealth public servants is in the case of adult males ?327, females ?192, and minors ?96. A majority of the employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department are in fourth division and the remuneration, including cost of living adjustments, is fixed by- various authorities. Although the number of attachment orders is rather alarming, it is not out of proportion to the total number of public servants. I do not know whether the Government has provided an easy means by which public servants in financial difficulties can be assisted..
– Sub-section 4 of proposed new section 64 reads -
If the judgment debtor fails to prove to the satisfaction of the paying officer, within the time specified by the paying officer, that the judgment has been satisfied, the paying officer may from time to time deduct from any moneys due to the judgment debtor such sunns, as, in his opinion, should, in the circumstances, he deducted. . . .
Sub-section 5 reads -
Commission at the rate of ?5 ner centum on nach sum deducted by, or at the direction of, the paying officer under the last preceding subsection shall bc payable to the Commonwealth, by the judgment creditor in whose favour the deduction is made.
It will be possible for a money lender to pass on to the borrower the 5 per cent, collection fee. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the object of the measure is to protect the borrower, and that is true to a degree; but. it will be possible for the borrower to be charged the 5 per cent, fee in addition to say 12 per cent, which he may have to pay in the form of interest.
– There is a limit to what can be passed on. A man may not get anything at all, and perhaps it would be better for him if he could not.
– I regard the proposal as unfair.
– I am opposed to the Government setting itself up as a debt collector.
– We are endeavouring to protect public servants.
Senn tor ERASER.- If the Government is anxious to do so it should not allow attachment orders to be issued against them. How do persons who are not in the Public Service manage when they are in financial difficulties?
– People will always borrow.
– - Yes. I do not blame them, because under our present social system they are compelled to do so. Instead of trying to stamp out borrowing, the Government is encouraging it.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government is making a profit out of the business ?
– Yes, at the expense of the borrower, because 5 per cent, will now be added to the maximum percentage of interest allowed.
– The money lender will have to pay the 5 per cent.
– Ultimately the borrower will have to pay it.
– The money lender cannot pass it on because the debt having already been incurred, the amount is known.
– The money lender will find a way to pass it on to the borrower. I am. opposed to the Government becoming a debt collector. Public servants should be placed in the same category as other members of the community.
– The honorable senator has not read the bill.
– I have. This provision is not in the interests of public servants who have to borrow money.
.- A person who wished to borrow money once asked me to sign some documents in connexion with the transaction, and he informed me that when he applied for a loan of £20 a deduction of £5 was made at once. It is well known that persons who lend money get their interest at the outset. A man who borrows £20 is lucky if he receives £15 in cash.
– Probably the Minister (Senator Collett), in reply to the criticism, offered, will be able to make the position clear. We should not lose sight of the fact that legislation with regard to money lending and the garnisheeing of earnings exists in every State, and that the operation of State laws cannot be prevented by Commonwealth legislation on this matter. But this measure is designed to protect Commonwealth public servants from the unbridled avarice of the money lender. If that were not so, I should not have said that the Opposition supports the bill. I should be out of order if I explained fully why public servants fall into the hands of money lenders. The only reason is that the Government does not pay its servants sufficient to enable them to dodge the money lender; but the fact, remains that, because these employees have security of tenure, they are an easy prey of this avaricious class. Nobody would argue that after the employees have contracted debts with money lenders they should be allowed to repudiate them. The money lender can charge interest at any rate that he wishes to impose, and, if the borrower is unable to meet his commitments, the lender can obtain judgment by default, put in a bailiff, sell up the possessions, or even garnishee the wages. This clause merely provides that, instead of allowing the lender to indulge his unbridled avarice to the last degree the chief officer shall see that the debtor at least receives a fair deal, and that unreasonable charges are not imposed. He will exercise his discretion as to the liability and financial capacity of the borrower, and decide what is a fair rate of repayment, having regard to the total debt and he will instruct the paying officer accordingly. The Government claims that, as the lender’s interest will be safeguarded by this legislation, he should pay for the service rendered. If he passes this cost on to the borrower, there will be fewer borrowers. The higher the rate of interest imposed, the fewer employees will get into the clutches of the money lenders. We should do all we can to induce public servants to’ avoid borrowing, but when they have done so, we should protect them from the villainy of the money lenders.
– Senator Cameron referred to the prevalence of borrowing among employees in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.. This matter was brought under my notice when I was Postmaster-General. A variety of reasons were given for the number of loans contracted by officers in that department. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has lucidly pointed out, this bill deals with merely one phase of the legislation which the Government has in contemplation to relieve the situation. When I was in office, it was realized that consideration would have to be given by the Government to the setting up of a body to deal with cases of this description, because there are deserving as well as undeserving cases. Notwithstanding the illuminating statement by the Leader of the Opposition, we cannot escape the fact, as Senator Darcey pointed out, that money lenders will endeavour to circumvent legal enactments and under this legislation the borrower will probably be made to sign a promissory note covering expenses as well as principal and interest; but at any rate the debtor will be privy to what is being done. I appeal to honorable senators to realize that under this measure the Government is taking a step in the right direction, and later, when the Government has considered the matter in greater detail, it may decide to introduce another bill to iri ve relief to deserving cases. The proposal, broadly, was to constitute a body, to operate through the Commonwealth Bank, that, would inquire into individual applications for loans. Such assistance should be given not only to public servants, but also to the members of all trade unions, because thousands of unionists are suffering from the evils that we fire now trying to remedy. A body of r ! i is kind, with a proper organization behind it to keep a check on the classes of cases in which relief is sought, could prevent many of the abuses referred to by Senator Cameron. As Senator Ashley pointed out, this proposal is a two-edged sword. A limit is to be imposed on the rate of interest to be charged. As Senator Collings said, the higher the interest rate the less would be the incentive to borrow; but. the unfortunate wretch who is already in the ditch would be dragged deeper into the mire. Nevertheless, I believe that this bill will have a steadying effect on the position generally.
.- This bill is one of the most useful measures submitted in this Parliament by any government, and 1 hope that similar legislation will be passed by the State Parliaments. When 1 was an officer in the Victorian Railways Department some years ago, a staff of from five to seven officers kept a close watch on garnishee orders, and that work was carried out at the expense of the Victorian Government. The lender was not asked to meet any portion of the cost, as he will be required to do under this measure. He will not ha ve to pay so much as he would have to incur in legal expenses in order to recover money lent, and the borrower will have the assurance tha t one of his fellow officers will aci as umpire to see that a reasonable deal is obtained for him. With Senator Ashley, I agree that the money lender will endeavour to get his pound of flesh in some other way, despite this legislation. The fact remains that members of the Public Service, like people in other walks of life, get into financial difficulty for diverse reasons, and seek loans from money lenders, despite the heavy rates of interest demanded. I compliment the Government upon the introduction of this bill, and I should like to see the principle that it embodies applied in other walks of life besides the Public Service. Money lenders engaging in legitimate operations need have nothing to fear from it.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that I should be the last to suggest the repudiation of any contract. I merely drew attention to the fact that the royal commission in Western Australia to which I referred disclosed conditions similar to those described by Senator Darcey. 1 endorse the remarks of Senator A. J. McLachlan. I should welcome the appointment of a body such as he suggested. When an application is made for a loan, I am afraid that the money lender will insist on the deduction of his costs from the capital sum advanced.
– This measure applies only to a debtor against whom a judgment stands.
– I am anxious to safeguard the interests of the borrowers; but, when an employee borrows £20, he usually receives several pounds less than that amount, because the lender has in view the fact that, later, a judgment summons may have to be taken out against the debtor and be deducts the expenses in advance.
– Senator A. J. McLachlan said that although the Government could devise means to prevent money lenders from making excessive charges, the money lenders would find methods to overcome any obstacles placed in their way. That is a candid admission from an ex-Minister, that this particular clause will virtually be unavailing. As usual, the Government is putting the cart before the horse. Under this measure it seeks in the most willing spirit to safeguard the public servant who is compelled by circumstances to borrow from money lenders. I know of many serious and genuine cases - men who, having met with disaster, have been compelled to seek assistance from these bloodsuckers in order to safeguard themselves and their dependants for the time being. Because of their urgent needs, they agree to pay extortionate charges. If the Government is so keenly desirous of safeguarding the interests of public servants in this respect, can it not limit the amount of interest which shall be charged to public servants on money lent by these financial leeches? Under this clause, a money Sender is defined as a parson who lends money at a rate exceeding £12 per cent, per annum. Would it not be possible in these cases to specify the maximum rate of interest, and provide, in the event of such limit being exceeded, that the paying officer shall have power to approve of only a. portion of the repayments claimed by a lender? I admit that the money lender is to be penalized to the extent that he is to be obliged to pay a commission of 5 per cent, on all moneys collected on his behalf. But I should like the Minister to show why it is not possible, taking everything into consideration, for the Government to limit in the way I suggest the bloodsucking propensities of the money lender who gets a public servant into his clutches.
Senator COLLETT (Western Australia -Minister in charge of War Service Homes) [4.25 J. - This clause provides that an officer’s .salary shall not be garnisheed in any case in which any portion of an amount due under a judgment is in respect of money .borrowed from a money lender unless the chief departmental officer, after a full examination of all the circumstances, considers it to be desirable. Provision is ako made for a charge of per cent, for the collection of moneys by the department in respect of unsatisfied judgments against public servants. The activities of money lenders have constituted a scandal for some years past, and. consequently, the Government is desirous not only of minimizing that scandal but also of affording some protection to members of the Commonwealth Public Service who, by reason of their circumstances, arc compelled to seek financial aid from these people. One reason for the present position is that money lenders, knowing the security at the back of public servants, have made a specialty of- tempting them to accept accommodation. Any claim made in respect of a public servant under this measure will first be subject foi review by the chief officer before the paying officer will accept the garnishee, or make arrangements foi- any deduction front the salary of the officer concerned. For some years past the paying officers have acted as debt collectors for these people, and certain expenditure has been involved in the provision of special staff for this work.
– Will not this provision place the paying officer in a difficult position?
– The chief officer of the department, and not the paying officer, will be the judge in these eases. It will be the duty of the chief office)’ to review the claim, and to decide whether the interest being charged on any particular transaction, is excessive; if it is he will authorize the paying officer to take certain action.
– Cannot 30mc provision be made to prevent money lender? from making charges in addition to interest?
– I do not knowhow we could deal with that difficulty under this measure. T have no further explanation to offer to honorable senators. This measure represents a genuine attempt by the Government to give adequate protection to public servants who, because of their circumstances, are forced to borrow from money lenders.
– Under this measure it is permissible for the chief departmental officer to authorize the amounts to be paid in settlement of judgment orders of this kind, but it is also provided that debtors, without exception, must receive not less, than £2 a week. It may be that a particular authorizing officer, because of his peculiar conception of the evils of money lending, may not be averse to meeting a judgment order too generously as to allow the debtor a bare minimum of £2 a week. Such an officer, for instance, may be averse to borrowing money himself, because he has been on an easy wicket all his life and ha.3 never been confronted with financial difficulties. We know that such persons exist. Only the other day I met a married man who works at his profession in the day-time, and whose wife also is in employment. At night-time both of them sing on the radio, whilst the wife also engages in dressmaking in order to make extra money. That couple has no financial encumbrances whatever, but, in conversation with me, the husband said that if he had his way he would gaol any man who borrowed money. I am not suggesting that departmental authorizing officers are likely to share that outlook, but it is not altogether impossible that one or two such officers would view money lending in that light and would therefore not be averse to leaving a public servant in his department with the bare minimum of £2 provided for under this measure. It must also be remembered that many officers who are in debt to money lenders may have many other creditors besides the one who has secured a judgment against him. For instance, he may be buying some article such as furniture, on time payment. As Senator Darcey has often pointed out, under our present economic system, production is so great that goods are sold to lie paid for in the future. Consequently many families are purchasing poods on the time-payment system. It may be that a judgment is secured against a public servant who has other creditors as 1 have pointed out. Under this measure, it will be permissible for the authorizing officer in arranging payments in respect of an order, to leave the public servant concerned with only £2 a week. Further, that arrangement may continue for as long as six months. If the Government is so keenly desirous of helping unfortunate public servants of this kind, surely it will agree to increase this minimum from £2 to, say, £3 10s. a week. I have no doubt that the Minister will reply that all of the factors have been taken into consideration. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a public servant can be left with only £2 a week.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) 1 4.35 J. - This provision is designed to protect public servants who borrow from money lenders. A man who borrows £10 from a money lender is required to sign as having received £12 10s. If the whole of the amount is not repaid at the end of the term, say six months, the money lender will add £2 10s. to the amount then outstanding. That amount is 25 per cent, of the original loan, but it may in fact, represent interest at the rate of 80 per cent. Should the amount outstanding not bc paid within some further period, the money lender may apply to the court and obtain a judgment against the borrower. I know something of the operation of this system because of my association with a firm by which I was once employed. Even if the borrower has repaid £7 of the original £10 that he obtained, £5 may be added to the debt by way of interest. It frequently happens that a person has borrowed money from several money lenders. Should one of them proceed to squeeze him, all will do so and they will obtain orders against his salary. An instance came under my notice recently of a man who owed money for rent. The’ landlord interviewed the paymaster of the New South Wales railways, where the borrower was employed, only to be informed that it would be useless for him to obtain an order against the> man’s salary, as he would have to wait twelve’ years before he could hope to collect anything. This legislation will probably do some good; but we must avoid doing any injury to an honest employee .of the Government who, because of unforeseen circumstances such as sickness in his family, requires money urgently. In addition to this measure, legislation to restrict the interest which money lenders may charge should be introduced. The Commonwealth Government can take action in this direction by making thi Commonwealth Bank the source from which short term loans may be obtained at low rates of interest. If legislation to that effect were introduced, money lenders could practically be eliminated. The rates of interest charged by many money lenders are exorbitant. Should a borrower be charged interest at the rate of 20 per cent, for six months, it really means interest at the rate of 40 per cent, per annum. A heavy responsibility will be thrown on the paying officers of government departments by this legislation. In some instances, they may find that public servants have borrowed money from a number of money lenders and that several judgment orders have been issued by the court.
– An earlier provision stipulates that the borrower must, be allowed to retain at least £2 of his weekly salary.
– That is so. The payment of the debt may extend over a number of years. I urge the introduction of legislation to restrict the amount of interest that, may be charged.
– That cannot be done in this bill.
– It should be done somewhere. There is urgent need to restrict, interest charges on loans and cash orders. The Government has power to do so by authorizing the Commonwealth Bank to issue credit at low rates of interest upon certain security being offered.
Senator WILSON ( South Australia)
T4.43]. - As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), some honorable senators do not appear to understand the real purpose of this bill. It? object is to prevent money lenders from taking advantage of existing legislation in order to garnishee the salaries of Commonwealth public servants. It must bf> realized that public servants incur many debts besides those owing to money lenders. It may be that as the result of sickness money is owing for medical expenses. In such an event, the doctor could obtain a judgment order and serve it upon the paying officer of the department in which the debtor is employed, and the chief officer would then have to deduct a prescribed amount from the borrower’s salary. The money lender is not entitled to serve such an order. The purpose of this bill is to prevent money lenders from garnisheeing a man’s wages, unless and until the paying officer “ has scrutinized the transaction and satisfied himself that it was a reasonable one. If, for example, u money lender has charged an exorbitant rate of interest, or unreasonable costs, as many money lenders do, the paying officer could refuse service of a .garnishee order. In those circumstances, not one penny could bc taken from the officer’s salary. An officer cannot lose any of his salary by a garnishee order in favour of a money lender unless the chief officer has investigated the transaction and is satisfied that ir i.f a i r.
– Could not a money lender proceed under the State law?
– Yes; but I venture to say that if money lenders as a body are as unscrupulous as honorable senators say they are, one who knowthat a public servant has assets which he can seize, will not adopt the roundabout method of obtaining a judgment order under which he will be paid a few shillings a week.
– Why not force him t o do so ?
– The purpose of i bis bill is to restrict the rights of money lenders to avail themselves of garnishee proceedings in order to obtain payment of a debt, unless the transaction is regarded as reasonable by the chief officer of the department in which the borrower is employed.
As regards money lenders generally, 1 agree that there is need for the most stringent control possible, in order to en sure that they do not demand unconscionable rates of interest, or charge unreasonable costs. That, however, is a matter for the State legislatures. South Australia has already passed legislation to iba! effect, and T believe that some, if not nil, of the other States have done so. Whether or not we think that the existing State legislation is sufficient protection is a matter for us as citizens of the States in which we live. So far as I know, the Commonwealth has no power in this matter, other than under the recent national security legislation.
– The Commonwealth has power to authorize the Commonwealth Bank to make advances at low rates of interest.
– This bill does not deal with that matter.
– That is so. Its purpose is to place restrictions upon borrowing transactions in which Commonwealth public servants are involved. Action to restrict the operations of money lenders generally is a matter for the States.
– Generally, I support the bill, which 1 recognize is an attempt to deal with a very difficult subject. Some of the matters complained of, such as the need, for stricter control of money lenders generally, are the responsibility of the States. This measure is designed to make it difficult for money lenders to operate in the Common wealth Public Service. .1. do not know the conditions in. all of the States, but I do know that a bill recently passed through the Victorian Parliament to prescribe the rates of interest which may be charged by money lenders. Generally, public servants, both State and Commonwealth, are regarded as good marks by money lenders. Notwithstanding that employees of the Victorian Railways cannot have their salaries or wages gar.nisheed money lenders are active among them.
– At. heavy rates of interest.
-Yes. In the State Public Service, if an officer or employee is in trouble with his creditors and if an order has been secured against him, the head of the department interviews the person concerned with a view to making the necessary arrangements for the payment of an agreed-upon amount from his salary. The question of insolvency may arise. Under the State- law an employee, who becomes insolvent and makes an arrangement with his creditors. has to convince the Commissioner that he is making a reasonable effort to satisfy his creditors.
– Does he lose his job?
– Not if the Commissioner is satisfied that he is making a reasonable effort to discharge his obligations. I believe, however, that there is a provision in the act which, if operated, would deprive an insolvent of his position.
– That is iu the Victorian Railways Act.
– If a man lost his position his creditors would experience greater difficulty in getting money from him.
– In the Victorian Public Service, if a man is making a reasonable effort to discharge his debts, he is not harassed. This clause goes somewhat further than was indicated by Senator Wilson. The chief officer of the department, not the paying officer, will decide whether or not a garnishee order shall be issued, and I presume that he would make a thorough investigation before doing so. That may be a weakness in the proposed new section. The chief officer may be prejudiced against a certain officer who resorts to borrowing. But still there is the safeguard that the chief officer of the department will investigate the position and if he is satisfied he will allow a garnishee order to go on to the paying officer. I am wondering whether the amount which an officer receives as child endowment can be attached under a garnishee order.
– No ; there is protection for the officer in paragraph viii. of proposed new sub-section 13.
– I am pleased to know that such payments to officers of the Commonwealth are protected, otherwise very great injustices might lie inflicted on the wife and family of a judgment debtor. The original act provided that an officer against whom an order has been issued should retain not less than £2 a week, and this bill does not liberalize that provision. As the cost of living has greatly increased since the original act was passed the Government might very well consider the- advisability of increasing the amount which may be retained by an officer.
– Two pounds is the minimum amount.
– I know it is, and I think that it should be increased. We know what happens in the great majority of cases. When a money lender takes action in a court of petty sessions against an officer of the Public Service, the officer concerned is very often unable to obtain leave to attend the court, so judgment goes by default. The order is made. I would say, in answer to Senator Wilson, that if it were possible for a judgment creditor to seize the assets of a debtor, he would not go to the trouble of making application for a garnishee order. We may assume, therefore, that the person against whom the garnishee order is issued is, from the point of view of material possessions, extremely poor. Very often his unfortunate position is the result of circumstances over which he has no control - not all borrowers are completely reckless or irresponsible - and as he has no assets, he is forced to turn to a money lender for temporary relief. Unlike the more fortunate section of the community, he is not able to get accommodation from a bank or from other financial institutions, because, as I have explained, he has no assets. The courts do not always take into consideration the financial position of an unfortunate debtor who may . not be represented in court. Not infrequently an order is made in default, and, once that is done, the salary of “a judgment debtor over the amount of . £2 a week is in jeopardy. No one wishes to protect an unscrupulous person who seeks to evade his responsibilities. The Public ‘Service organizations have on many occasions expressed their views with regard to this class of legislation. They agree that all members of the Public Service should pay their just debts, but they have ‘pointed to the many difficulties that arise and have indicated that in some circumstances these provisions in the act will operate harshly.
– Ishall convey to the responsible Minister the suggestion made by Senator Sheehan. The general discussion on this clause has assisted honorable senators to a better appreciation of what is intended. I again assure them that the debtor is amply protected by paragraph viii of this proposed new section 64. The amount of £2 a week is the minimum which may be -retained on behalf of a judgment debtor. The general purport of the proposed new section is to increase very greatly the protection of the public servant.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
Thatafter clause 8 the following newclause be inserted.: - “ 8a. Section 72 of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2.) the word ‘active’ (wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the word ‘ war ‘.”
Section 72 provides in sub-section 2 for leave of absence to officers called up in pursuance of the Defence Act for active service in Australia or for active service in the naval forces. Subsection 4 of the same section enacts that the period of absence shall for all purposes be included as part of the officer’s period of service under the Commonwealth Public -Service Act. In a proclamation by the Governor-General, published in the Gazette on the 2nd September, calling out the Citizen Forces, the term “ war service “ is used. As there is a ‘distinction between the terms “ active service “ and “ war service “ it has been considered advisable to amend proposed new sub-section 2 by inserting the word “ war “ instead of ‘” active “.
– The purpose is to harmonize this measure with the Defence Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, -agreed to.
Clauses9 and 10 agreed to.
– I move -
That after clause 10the following new clause he added: - “ 1 1. Section 73 of the principal act is amended by Omitting from sub-section (1.’) the second proviso to . that sub-section.”.
The proviso reads-
Provided further that in the ease of any person becoming an officer of the Commonwealth Service after the commencement of this act the service which shall be taken into account for the purpose of this section shall not include any service in a temporary capacity.
The effect of the proposed new clause is to ensure that furlough shall be granted to temporary employees. It should be unnecessary for me to elaborate the necessity for an amendment of the law in this respect.When temporary employees become permanent officers they are entitled to furlough ; therefore, temporary employees should receive similar consideration. In many instances temporary service is temporary in name only, and is actually permanent. The reasons advanced in support of my proposal are -
I trust that the Minister will accept’ the proposed new clause.
– I am interested in the proposed new clause moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Colling?), and I have obtained some information on the subject. The honorable senator has given the pros, and I hope that the cons will be equally convincing.-
Presumably the intention underlying the proposed new clause is to ensure that service in a temporary capacity in the Commonwealth Public Service shall bo taken into consideration for the purposes of furlough. It is considered that furlough is a privilege which should be granted only in respect of permanent service - a condition of service for those who take up the Public Service as a life career. This was contemplated when the present provision, which the Leader of the Opposition now desires to delete, was enacted. In many instances, qualified candidates for appointment to the service accept temporary employment, and if their temporary service, which is quite fortuitous, were counted for the purposes of furlough, they would gain an advantage over other qualified persons who may not happen to be available for temporary employment but wait their turn for permanent employment. Moreover, if the new clause were accepted, considerable additional cost to the Commonwealth would be involved. Furlough is granted after twenty years of continuous permanent service, and is at the rate of one and a half months’ furlough in respect of each completed five years of continuous service. Provision is also made for payment in lien of furlough, and for the grant of furlough or pay in lieu thereof in certain circumstances, on retirement or death, where an officer has had less than twenty years’ service. During the year 1937-38. furlough for varying periods was granted to 477 officers, and pay in lieu of furlough was authorized in 31.5 cases, either to officers on retirement or dependants of deceased officers. If prior temporary service were included in the total service of officers, some hundreds of officers would be affected and would become eligible for furlough earlier than under existing conditions, and most would qualify for an additional period of furlough, in most cases one and a half months, before retirement. This would involve increased cost, although figures as to actual expenditure are not available at the moment. This matter has received full consideration on many occasions, but it has not been found practicable to grant the concession sought. In the circumstances, the Government regrets that it is unable to accept the proposed new clause.
– I expected a reply such as the Minister (Senator Collett) has just given. The only point worthy of a moment’s consideration is that relating to the increased cost. The Commonwealth Public Service is one of the finest institutions in this country.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– Usually we can compliment the public services of other countries, but the Australian Commonwealth Public Service stands out as an inspiring example of loyal and devoted service. There are black sheep in every flock, and I suppose that there are some in the Commonwealth Public Service. 15ut ever since the inception of federation those who have been members of the Commonwealth Parliament have realized how valuable has been the service of the various Commonwealth departments in carrying on the work of this nation. We have been informed by the Minister that one of the reasons why this concession cannot be granted is because of the additional cost that would be involved, but there is no basis whatever for such a statement. Expenditure is being incurred to-day - I am not now referring to war expenditure - in a most extravagant manner without a moment’s thought ; and from it no benefit will accrue. I have only to remind honorable senators that within recent months tens of thousands of pounds have been expended on additions and renovations to a building in the Australian. Capital Territory - expenditure which, in view of recent developments, may be unnecessary. There was no limit to the expenditure on internal and external renovations and additions to Government House at Yarralumla. There was no mention of the cost when the present Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Casey) decided to have a house costing £7,000 or £8,000 built for him with government money in Canberra, for which, of course, he has to pay rent. I could mention many other directions in which money is being expended - I was about to say deliberately and consciously wasted - but when it is a matter of giving a fair deal to those carrying out important duties, and to whom every section of the community is indebted, we are told that the cost is too great.
– We are dealing only with temporary employees.
– I know that. In hundreds of instances, public servants are not working in a temporary capacity at their own request.
– There are 13,000 temporary employees.
– What is the average length of service?
– I cannot say.
Senator -COLLINGS. - There are some public servants - I am not now referring to Commonwealth public servants - who have been employed in a temporary capacity for twenty years, and whose services are retained year after year. We say most definitely that the granting of furlough should be based on the length, and not on the nature, of service. Temporary employees should not be allowed to retain their positions if they are not rendering efficient service, and when they are retained in the Service they should not be denied the rights of permanent servants merely because they are classified as temporary officers. For varying reasons, the Government has allowed certain sections to come under the Public Service Act and to obtain furlough, to which they would not otherwise be entitled.
– They are public servants.
– But they do not come under the Public Service Act.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– Those temporary officers are working under the Public Service Act, and consequently are bound by Public Service regulations. Why should they be entitled to rights and privileges which are denied temporary officers in other branches of the Service? For 50 years I have come in contact with public servants in different parts of Australia, particularly in Queensland, but more recently with Commonwealth public servants, and I have no hesitation in saying that nowhere in the world are there men who are better trained or more efficient that those in the Commonwealth Public Service. Yet there is no department in the Public Service in which the rank and file are not grossly underpaid. I point out to the Government that it looks to the lowerpaid workers for the great majority of the men required for military service, and the better the wages and conditions provided for employees in every department of life the more efficiently will the Government be arranging for the present and future safety of the nation. I am sure that, when the Minister was stating Iris objections to the amendment, he did not do so with any pleasure, and the argument that he was probably least pleased about was that relating to the cost of this proposal.
– There is much that appeals to me in the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) on behalf of temporary employees in the Public Service. After a long period of temporary employment these men reach an age, or suffer illness, which causes a cessation of that employment. I know that a proposal has been under consideration that some form of superannuation or other payment should be given to them in recognition of long and meritorious service. If the Minister can assure me that such a proposal is receiving the serious consideration of the Government I shall support him, because T consider that this furlough is a reward to the permanent public servant. An employee who makes the Public Service his life’s work is entitled to more consideration than is one who serves only in a temporary capacity and who may sock employment elsewhere. Many of the temporary men are returned soldiers, and something should be done for them when they have to leave the service after long periods of employment in it.
– The point raised by Senator Allan MacDonald relates, I think, only to returned soldiers in the Public Service.
– No, 1 refer to all temporary employees.
– That matter has been under the consideration of the Public Service Board and the Government on more than one occasion, and no solution has yet been reached.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [5.26^. - I support the amendment, and I am pleased that the Minister drew attention to the fact that furlough is granted after twenty years service. That should be a convincing argument in favour of the amendment. One would think, on hearing other portions of the Minister’s reply, that the carrying of the amendment would bring about the expenditure of a vast sum of money ; but the fact that the officers concerned will have to serve for twenty years before qualifying for furlough shows the necessity for, and justice of, the amendment. The retiring age in the Public Service is 65 years, but any officer may be retired at an earlier age. Provision has now been made for members of the Naval and Military Forces and others to be brought under the Public Service Act, and their retirement will take place at. earlier ages than 65 years. One can imagine that temparary employees brought under this act will not be in the service twenty years before receiving their long-service furlough, but many of them may have served in what is termed a temporary capacity for a great many years.
It was said by the Minister that some officers might get an advantage through accepting temporary employment, the implication being that they would receive favours. Vacancies sometimes exist in country centres for positions in various grades of the Public Service, and such officers as telegraph messengers or telephonists are given temporary employment. These are mostly young persons. and when, they are appointed to the permanent staff they eventually become entitled to long service leave. Others, however, are brought into the Service as adults, and, although they have had long years of service they never become permanent officers, simply because the Public Service Board refrains from issuing the necessary authority to classify them as permanent officers. It is not right that an outsider should be appointed to the Public Service without examination, simply because a person in authority certifies that there is no officer in the Service able to fill the position.
SenatorCollett. - When is that done?
– Section 42 of the act provides that if the board is satisfied that it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that, a certain appointment shall be made the hoard may appoint a person to that office without examination or probation. At the Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, many civil posts are filled by members of the military and naval forces. Why should anybody be appointed to the PublicService without examination or probation, and thus be placed ina more favorable position than the temporary employee?
SenatorCollett. - Because he may have special qualifications.
– Each member of the Public Service, no matter how humble the position he may occupy, isengaged in work necessary for the proper conduct of the Service, and the conditions in the Service should be made uniform. Why should an officer in one of the higher classes qualify for long service leave, whilst another employee, who has served efficiently for years in a temporary capacity, is deprived of that privilege.
– Does not the Public Service Arbitrator, in making his award, take into consideration the fact that temporary employees receive no furlough ?
– No; they are treated in every respect as permanent officers, except in regard to furlough. They receive annual increments, and are subject to the discipline of the Service; but I understand that a temporary employee can be dismissed without going through the usual procedure of a departmental inquiry.
– Does not the Public Service Arbitrator give to the permanent officer a lower salary than the temporary employee doing similar work, because of the fact that the former gets furlough ?
– Then i think that he acts wrongly in that regard.
– I do not know whether a value has ever been placed on furlough.
– I think so.
– I understand that a. temporary employee receives the same rate of salary as a permanent employee who performs the same class of work, and becomes entitled to annual leave on fulfilling certain requirements. I hope, therefore, that the Minister in charge of the bill will agree. to the amendment, because it is designed to do justice, to a large body of men who, as the result of giving efficient service as temporary employees, have been placed upon the permanentstaff. If they did not render efficient service as temporary employees they would be dismissed. Prior to their permanent appointment, they fill what is termed a permanent vacancy. The privileges applying to their permanentservice should also apply to their temporary service.
– We should be careful todo nothing that would restrict the employment of temporary hands.
-I am not referring to temporary employees, but to officers who are made permanent after a period of temporary service, which they claim should be taken into consideration in computing long-service leave. To-day. however, an officer after rendering ten years’ temporary service must serve for twenty years as a permanent officer before be can quality for long-service leave. He must do 30 years’ service in order to qualify, whereas in respect of officers who enter the Service without examination, or on probation, service for the purposes of long-service leave commences from the date of appointment. This differentiation is unfair, and, therefore, I hope that the amendment will be carried.
Question put -
That the . proposed new clause (Senator Collings’ amendment) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator James McLachlan.)
N oes . . 16
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I move -
That after clause 10, the following new clause be added.: - “ 11. -Section ninety-one of the Principal Act is amended ‘by adding at the end of subsection (2) the following proviso: “Provided that an officer may., subject to the approval of the Board, act as a Director of a Consumers’ Co-operative Society’’.”
Section . 91 (2) of the principal act reads - ‘Nothing herein contained shall be deemed to prevent an officer from becoming a member or shareholder -only of any incorporated company, or of -any company or society of persons ‘registered under any act in any State or >elsewhere, but an officer shall not take any part in the conduct of thebusiness of the company or society otherwise than by the exercise of hisright tovote as a member or shareholder..
As honorable senators know, cooperative societies exist to-day all over the world. In Queensland a miners’ cooperative society is -proving a fine proposition. Newcastle : and Adelaide also provide examples of what can be done by cooperative societies on behalf of consumer shareholders. The Wholesale Cooperative Society of Great Britain is one of the biggest trading concerns in the world. Recently a commission was appointed to investigate the high cost of living in Canberra., and the commission’s report is available to all honorable senators. That inquiry arose from the fact that the late Prime Minister, when he moved to Canberra with his large family, was shocked by the high cost of living here as compared with costs in other places where he had resided. The cost of living in Canberra is much higher than it is elsewhere in Australia. The permanent population, which consists mainly of married public servants and their families, can best appreciate that fact. Some months ago a young and enthusiastic public servant approached me on the subject of establishing a co-operative society in Canberra in order to reduce the cost of living to its shareholders, and asked me what I thought of the proposition. I replied that there was nothing I was more enthusiastic about. I suggested that Canberra was a very suitable centre in which to establish such a concern, and urged him to get on with the job, offering to givehim any assistance within my power. He and a few other enthusiasts immediately set -about establishing a society, which was -eventually formed with seven directors, some of whom were public servants. That society was not registered because no provision existed for the registration of such a company in the Territory. However, an ordinance was gazetted recently which would enable that -difficulty to be overcome. But these enthusiastshave since come up against another difficulty. They now find that the . powers that be do not like their idea. There has been a good deal of correspondence between the promoters of this society and the Public Service Board and the Prime Minister’s . Department. I shall not read the whole of the correspondence, but I wish to draw attention to the following letter from the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, dated the 10th July, 1939 : -
I am directed to refer again to your letter of 5th May, 1939, in which you requested that the Commonwealth ‘ Public Service Act be amended to enable an officer to act on the directorate of a co-operative society, and to inform you that advice lias now been received from the Public Service Board.
The board is of opinion that it would be most difficult for an officer to take an active part in the direction of a trading concern without it interfering with the efficient performance of his public service position and that, furthermore, it would be undesirable for tin officer of the Public Service to be on the directorate of a, co-operative society, particularly in a place such as Canberra, where the society would necessarily come into competition with shopkeepers whose living was involved.
If that means anything, it means that a public servant, merely because he is a public servant, is to be denied his ordinary rights of citizenship. He may not engage in any undertaking, although it may be of some value to the community, even outside public service hours. What a preposterous position !
– The honorable senator is too general in his statements.
– These young men have put a lot of effort, into the formation of this society, but not one minute of public service hours has been devoted to it. Although I do not play golf, partly because T cannot, afford to do so, and partly because am not likely to excel at the sport, I know that there is a golf club in. Canberra which is a trading concern. It has a bar. and it proposes 10 expend about £10,000 on improvements. With that laudable object I agree, but . know that the conduct of the golf club occupies the time of some public servants during public service hours. But when a number of young men desire to start in Canberra, an organization similar to many that are operating in every part of the world, without drawing any salaries or receiving any return for their services, excepting such dividends as may accrue to them, as consumer shareholders at the end of certain accounting periods, the Government steps in and prevents them. If such action is to pass without question, the right of every public servant to under.ra ke any activity outside his office work will be interfered with. There are in Canberra a number of denominational schools, which are trading concerns in competition with public schools. Are we 10 understand that a public servant, whose children attend one of those institutions is not to be permitted to act as a member of a school committee in order to increase the efficiency of the institution? Or is a public servant to be denied the right to participate in the activities of the various religious bodies, or militia welfare committees, in the Territory? The two reasons given for refusing to public servants permission to act; on the directorate of this society were, first, that there might be some conflict of interest between his public service duties and the society’s affairs, and, secondly, that the society would compete with shopkeepers in the Territory. Such reasons are so puerile that they ought not to be tolerated. The members of the directorate of the society will receive no salaries - their chief concern is that the public of Canberra shall not be exploited by local tradespeople. Some months ago I addressed a public meeting of workers in the Australian Capital Territory. At the time these horny-handed toilers, working for wages, were deeply concerned about the high cost of living in this city. They told me that, if something were not done to reduce the cost of living, some of them would take it in turn to collect orders from their mates, drive to Goulburn, make their purchases there, and distribute them on their return. Had they done so. they would merely have done what this society proposes to do in a more orderly way. Will honorable senators say that they would have been wrong if they had carried out their intention? They could have bought their requirements at prices at least. 10 per cent, lower than in Canberra.. They were prepared to meet their own transport expenses. If the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment, the Opposition will have to pay orions attention to the activities of honorable senators on the other side, and even Cabinet Ministers, as well as highly paid, public servants who are directors of all sorts of organizations. Not long ago £ drew the attention of honorable senators to a booklet entitled Who Owns Australia? which showed that many Cabinet Minister’s had shares in various concerns. We are now told that that state of affairs no longer exists; that they have got rid of their shares. Of course they have. Those shares are now held in the names of their wives, their brothers-in-law, or other relatives. The promoters of the proposed co-operative society are spirited members of the Public Service who are trying to rendera service to the community by bringing down the cost of living. Their aim is to benefit all persons who wish to become members of the society.
– Even Cabinet M inisters.
– I know what happened inmy State, and I know what would happen here if a co-operative society caused prices to come down. Not only the lower-paid public servants, but also many persons well able to pay extravagant prices, would be keen to get goods at the lower prices.I am not personally concerned, because I have no occasion to buy a great deal in Canberra. 1 get my board and lodging at the Hotel Kurrajong, and generally I am well satisfied.I ask honorable senators opposite intake a serious view of this matter. These young men are trying to render a service to the community, but the whole machinery of government isset in motion to prevent them from doing so. I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept the amendment.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Colli ngs) seeks to insert the following new clause -
Section91 of the principal actis amended by adding at the end of sub-section 2 the following proviso: - “ Provided that an officer may. subject to the approval of the board, act as : a director of a consumers’ co-operative society.”
An amendment moved by the honorable gentleman is always worthy of the closest attention, and on this occasion he has been characteristically eloquent. Nevertheless, I cannot accept his amendment.
– Obviously, the shop-keepers have got in first.
– I desire that honorable senators should understand clearly what the law provides in regard to such activities as the honorable senator has mentioned. Section 91 of the Public Service Act provides -
Except withthe express permission of the board, which permission mayat any time be- withdrawn, no officershall - (a.) accept or continue to hold an office in or under theGovernment of any State. or in or under any public ormunicipal corporation : or
Nothing herein contained shallbedeemed to prevent an officer from becoming a member or shareholder only of any incorporated company, or of any company or society of. persons registered under any act in any State or elsewhere.
There is the risk that the directors of this society may come into conflict with Government activities. When this matter was referred to the Public Service Board for consideration, the board expressed the opinion that it would be most difficult for an officer to take an active part in the control, of a trading concern without such activities interfering with the efficient performance of his duties as a public servant, and that, moreover, it would be undesirable for an officer of the Public Service to be on the directorate of a co-operative society, particularly in a place like Canberra, where the society would necessarily come into competition with shop-keepers whose living was “involved. The Government agrees with the opinion expressed by the Public Service Board and therefore cannot accept the amendment.
.The Minister has merely repeated many of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The Government is determined to protect the- interest of shopkeepers of Canberra and others in other parts of Commonwealth who charge extortionate prices for their goods in order to reap higher profits. Ministers, apparently, are afraid that if public servants become directors of a co-operative society, they may be able to do something to protect the consumers from exploitation by shopkeepers. The people are being exploited at the present time by shopkeepers in Canberra. Let me take the argument a little further. What are we but public servants?
– We are the representatives of the people.
– We are the servants of the public, and it should be our duty to give our best service to the Commonwealth. That is why the people have sent us here. The Government intends to deny to public servants the right which members of this Parliament themselves exercise.
– The honorable senator cannot argue in that way.
– Yes, 1 can. We are elected to represent the people in this Parliament, and our duty is to give careful attention to the affairs of the Commonwealth - a job for which we are well paid. But some members of this Parliament claim the right to become directors of companies, and nobody has interfered with them. Why not give the same privilege to public servants? Members of this Parliament, who are directors of companies or other forms of private enterprise, claim that directorial duties do not interfere with their work as representatives of the people. I cannot say, because I have never occupied such a position. As representatives of the people, we have one job to do, and I repeat that we .get well paid for it, but I do not object to members of the Public Service becoming associated with cooperative societies established for the purpose of -preventing the people from being fleeced by private profit-mating concerns. If a civil servant is entitled to have a vote as a shareholder he .should be entitled, equally with an outsider, to become a director of a co-operative society..
– Does the honorable senator believe in Labour’s policy - one man one job?
– I believe in Labour’s policy, which gives to every man an equal opportunity. The honorable senator is not prepared to concede that. He and his friends .would prevent “public servants from exercising some of the privileges which they enjoy. He is absolutely selfish, and does not believe in the full exercise by the people of those democratic rights in which he professes to believe. There is no valid reason why a member of the Public Service should not become a’ director of a co-operative society operating for the benefit of the community.
– It is rather extraordinary that Labour senators, who profess to believe in the principle of one man, one job, should sponsor an amendment that a man already in a job should be entitled to take another.
– Do not misrepresent us ; there is no “ job “ about my amendment.
– I do npt approve of the principle of one man, one job. I believe that, with proper safeguards, it would probably be wise if certain public servants could take part in the management of co-operative societies and thus gain some commercial experience. If the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is prepared to insert a suitable safeguard in his amendment, I shall support it. I am wholeheartedly in favour of the establishment of co-operative societies, provided they are truly cooperative. Unfortunately, many so-called co-operative bodies become, in fact, purely trading concerns, whose main purpose is to distribute profits among .their shareholders. They do not reduce the prices of goods ; instead they make profits. A truly co-operative society, instead of -making profits would reduce its prices, and thus confer substantial benefits on its members.
– Does the honorable senator object to profits?
– In co-operative societies, yes. If a .co-operative society is concerned in the making of profits, it is a trading venture rather than a cooperative enterprise.
– Would the honorable senator say that of the society in South Australia?
– If the Leader of the Opposition is referring to the Farmers Union, I regard that organization as a trading concern.
– That is not the one I have in mind.
– There is no logic in the amendment. It provides that a public servant shall be allowed to accept the directorship of a co-operative society which may be really a trading concern whose purpose is to make profits instead of reducing prices to its members.
Sitting suspended from6.15 to8 p.m.
– I have intimated that I shall support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, provided that certain safeguards are inserted - first, to ensure that the society is purely co-operative and ‘ does not distribute profits amongst its members, but uses such profits to reduce prices; and, secondly, that the society shall not trade with the Crown. Should the latter restriction bo not imposed there would be a serious possibility of a conflict of interests if the head of a. department, responsible for buying on behalf of the Government were also a. director of the society anxious to sell to the Crown.
– In what way could the society trade with the Government?
-For instance, the authority controlling the parliamentary refreshment-rooms makes substantial purchases of certain commodities, and should a director of the society ha ve any control over the purchase of goods required by that department there would possibly be a serious conflict of interests. I do not think that the public servants of Canberra would want any officer to be placed in such an invidious position. If my suggestions be adopted, the society will be placed beyond any possible suspicion. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition should amend his amendment by adding the following words: -
Provided that such society does not distribute profits amongst its members, and, provided further, that such society shall not enter into contracts to supply any government department.
– I understand that Senator Wilson desires that the society shall not distribute its profits amongst its members, but that its profits shall be usedto reduce price-. That would make it a truly co-operative concern. There is a good deal inthe honorable senator’s suggestion that the society should not enter into contracts with government, departments. I therefore ask leave to amend my amendment to read : -
Provided that an officer may, subject to the approval of the Board, act as a director of a Consumers’ Co-operative Society which does not distribute profits among the members of the society and does not enter into contracts with the Commonwealth or a State.
Leave granted: new clause amended accordingly.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN(South Australia) 8.5. - The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collin gs) prompts me to consider the Public Service in relation to the Crown generally. Before a Commonwealth Public Service Act was passed public servants could be dismissed on the ‘ ipse dixit of a Minister; but, when the actbecame operative, public servants were given certain benefits, including the right of. appeal before they could be dismissed. The only power which a Minister or a departmental head now possesses in thai respect is the right to suspend an officer. If the position were as if; existed when, the Public Service Act was passed, 1 would not have supported the amendment, because the underlying principle was that, having given the public servants certain protection and privileges, they were excluded from participation in any other civil occupation whatever. The act conferred upon them benefits which they had not enjoyed previously. What has happened since then? Canberra is populated mainly by officers of the Crown, and they are in asomewhat anomalous position. There is nothing to preventthem from forming aco-operative society ; but I do not see why the word “ consumers “ should be used. It does not appear to be an appropriate expression.I have never heard of a similar society being designated a consumers’ cooperative society. The Government has deputed public servants to various office? in connexion with semi-governmental activities, because of their knowledge of certain classes of businesses. Those officers form a liaison between the Government and the various business entities, in some of which the Government itself has a considerable financial interest. The principle previously observed has been departed from, 1 understand, with the approval of the Public’ Service Board. The amendment, which has been improved by the addition of the words suggested by Senator Wilson, provides ample safeguards, although the position again becomes curious. A member of the Public Service Board may be a member of the society, and the organization will act wisely if it arranges for the appointment of a member of the board to the directorate. The Leader of the Opposition is wise in accepting the safeguards suggested by Senator Wilson. It is only fair to allow these men, if they possess the necessary commercial genius, to direct the policy of the concern. That is what the directors of a co-operative society should do. They do not handle contracts from day to day, but deal only with broad questions of policy. I presume that shares will be made available to members of the general community in Canberra. With the safeguards indicated, which have been accepted by the Leader of the Opposition. I shall support the amendment, but I ask the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Wilson to consider whether they regard the word “ consumers “ as necessary. That word, in this instance, has not any significance, and may give rise to some doubt. A co-operative society means a co-operative society, and its cooperative effort can be directed only towards saving the consumers’ money. Some public servants are still in receipt of a Canberra allowance, but if the cost of living be reduced as a result of the operations of this society, some may not then be entitled to the allowance, and so governmental expenditure may he reduced.
– The Government is prepared to accept the amended new clause moved by the Leader of the Opposition (“Senator Collings).
New clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a. third time.
Select CommitteeReport Adopted.
.- I move -
That the report of the select committee appointed to inquire into and report upon the discharge of Captain T. p. Conway from the Australian Military Forces be adopted.
The finding of the committee was unanimous. Captain Conway claimed £5,000 for-
The committee has not recommended the ‘ payment of any compensation, but recommends that an ex gratia payment of £100 be made to Captain Conway, because of the nervous strain suffered by him following the publicity given to a letter dated the 31st July, 1931, from the then Minister for Defence, the offending portions of which were expunged some months afterwards from the official files. This letter ran very close to constituting a case for libel. In addition, a misstatement was made by another Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives regarding Captain Conway passing for the rank of major. No blame is attached to the responsible military officer at Army Head-quarters for including that statement in the Minister’s reply to a parliamentary question, as the question asked was rather ambiguous. Nevertheless, Captain Conway’s truthfulness was doubted as the result of that reply, which was recorded in Hansard. The committee, whilst satisfied that there were insufficient grounds for compensation, was unanimously of opinion that, as Captain Conway’s health has been seriously affected, particularly since the Minister’s letter dated the 31st July, 1931, it was only fair and equitable that Captain Conway should receive the sum of £100. With that ex. gratia payment he would be able to meet, to some extent, the expenditure already incurred, and still to be incurred, in restoring him to normal health.
– I regret that the Government cannot accept the recommendation of this committee. As pointed out by the honorable senator who submitted the motion for the appointment of the committee, the case of Captain Conway had been dealt with by five consecutive Ministers for Defence, holding varying political views, and on each occasion the case was thoroughly investigated. Each Minister came to the conclusion that no damage had been done to Captain Conway’s reputation, that nobody had suggested for a. moment that he had acted in any way contrary to the best traditions of the military service, and that he had received compensation on the same scale as that applied to other military officers when compulsority retired from the military service. Captain Conway was retired in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Retirement Act 1922. In his evidence be claimed compensation in respect, of loss of opportunities to obtain a position in the Public Service, but he admitted that he did not know of any position to which he could have been appointed. His claim for compensation was based also on loss of reputation and prestige affecting his opportunities to obtain responsible positions. The committee itself, by its own investigations, found that there was nothing in the’ evidence to substantiate the claim.
When ‘Captain Conway was retired from the Military Forces he was paid compensation amounting to £1,283 6s. Sd., made up of £1,020 16s. 8d. in respect of his retirement under the Defence Retirement Act, and £262 10s. in lieu of furlough. I point out to honorable senators that, as Senator Brand mentioned, the committee declared, after the most exhaustive investigation, that at) could find nothing that warranted the granting of any compensation., yet the committee concluded, for some unknown reason, that Captain Conway should receive a good-luck payment of £100 from the Commonwealth Treasury. But thousands of persons in the community have imaginary grievances. If every such person could induce an honorable senator to submit a motion for the appointment of a select committee to investigate his claim - and some of them might have more justification for claiming compensation than Captain Conway had - and if he could touch the hearts of a majority of the members of the Senate there would be no end to investigations of this kind, and the Government might be frequently called upon to make ex gratia payments similar to that now recommended by this committee. This case was exhaustively examined, and no new fact was brought forward to substantiate the claim.
– The committee admitted that.
– lt stated in no uncertain terms that Captain Conway had no right to compensation, but it now recommends that because a certain letter was sent by a Minister to Captain Conway, who said that his feelings had been hurt, a payment of £100 should be made to him. The committee bad every opportunity to call any evidence required by it, and to examine the witnesses. It could have summoned any officer associated with the Defence Department, but there is not the slightest suggestion that any officer of that department, any Minister, or anybody else associated with the case considered that the slightest slur had been cast on Captain Conway’s reputation. The Government recognizes that he was an able officer in the Military Forces, and did his duty well: but he was retired on the same basis as many other officers and was paid adequate compensation.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) 1 8.25]. - I support the motion for the adoption of the committee’s recommendation. What the Minister (Senator Foll) has said is exactly, what I anticipated that he would say. He mentioned that the matter had been brought under the notice of several Ministers for Defence, who held different political views. Unfortunately, however, all of them were guided by the contents of a file compiled by officers of the Defence Department. One former Minister for . Defence, however - I refer to Mr. Chifley - wrote a letter to Mr. G. Buckland, secretary of the Australian Workers Union, 323 Pitt-street, Sydney. Mr. Buckland is a close friend of Captain Conway, and the letter was written without previous consideration.
It was dated the 31st July, 1931, and read as follows: -
With reference to your representations of the6th July regardingthe case of Captain Conway, I note that the gravamen of Captain Conway’s complaint is of supersession on the 1st November, 1919, by Captains Goucher, Wynter, Blake, Pollard and Davis.
Regarding the contention in your letter that, Captain Conway’s qualifications were superior to those of the officers promoted, it is clear that preference was given in accordance with section 20a of the Defence Act to the officers promoted. Before recommending promotion, the Military Board at that time would have had to determine the respective qualifications of the officers, having in view the limitation provided in section 20a. The conditions existing at that time wereas follows: -
Captain Conway’s name had been brought to the notice of the Minister in October, 1917, for “special meritorious services rendered in Australia in connexion with the war “, and an entry was accordingly made in his record of service. These meritorious services were performed under peace conditions and in the rank of captain. All the other officers had not merely “ service abroad “, but active service in the rank of major or lieutenantcolonel.It was apparently considered that such service in higher ranks gave superior qualifications to the officers recommended for promotion.
In connexion with Captain Conway’s withdrawal of his application to proceed abroad, it is pointed out that ho was informed at the time (November, 1917) that -
While his position is realized, his action in withdrawing an application for permission to proceed on active service with the Australian Imperial Force when fit and well is likely to prejudice his future career in the Permanent Forces, for the reason that the whole purpose of the training of professional soldiers is the utilization of their knowledge and experience in active service, and it is obvious that if distressful family circumstances arc. when an occasion arises, to prevent such men from discharging professional duties, to which end they have been paid, such soldiers should have no place in any military system.It must be clear tohim that such a record compares most unfavorably with that of the citizen soldier who has risked all to serve his country.
Had Mr. Chifley studied the records on Conway’s file, no necessity would have arisen for an inquiry of this kind. On the file. were the following two communications : - 2nd Military District, Military Hospital, Victoria Barracks. Sydney. 8th May, 1918. 409/19/507.
Brigadier-GeneralRamaciotti, I.G.O. Administration, Victoria Barracks.
L have this morning seen Mrs. Conway, wife of Captain Conway of your department. She is one of those helpless, highly neurotic women, and from her present condition, and from what I know of her past history, it will be quite impossible for her husband to go to the front.
She has four children, who are a great worry to her, and I am sure that this, combined with the absence of her husband abroad, would eventually lead to her mental derangement. (Sgd.) J. crawford robertson, Lieutenant-Colonel A.A.M.C. Medical Officer i/c Military Hospital, Victoria Barracks.
Dr. G. L. Bell. “ Avon “, Bondi-road, Waver ley. 8th May, 1918.
Mrs. Conway is extremely neurotic, hysterical and in such a condition that the going of her husband on active service, with the household cares left to her alone, would in my opinion certainly result in disaster and mental break-down. (Sgd.) G. L. Bell, M.B.
I also draw the attention of honorable senators to the following letter, written by Brigadier-General Ramaciotti to Mr. Trumble. on the 20th October, 1917:- “ Strathkyle “, Bligh-street. Sydney, 20th October, 1917.
Referring to our conversation. Conway was desirous of going to the front. When his chance came in 1916, I told Dodds I could not. spare him. Conway was rather sore over it for a time. When I gave up the command he told me that asI had blocked him before I owed it to him’ to use my influence to get him away. When he was transferred to Brisbane, he pesteredme with letters until he became a nuisance. I got a most pathetic letter from him a fortnight ago. He told me his chance had come and. he had to refuse it, completely blasting his career. His future was dark, in facthe had no future. But he had to choose between his career and killing his wife.
Conway has four children, the youngest born last Christmas. His wife is a poor miserable thing always ailing. It’s the sofa, bed or the hospital for her the whole time. She is not strong enough to look after the children. One of them’ playing in the street, was run over a couple of years ago and spent months in the hospital. Another was killed. 1. have known Conway who with the expense of his wife’s illness cannot afford a servant to do the housework.
In my opinion he deserves the greatest sympathy. He is a good man. His luck is dead out. Believe me it is harder for him to stop at home than go to the front.
Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) Ramaciotti.
That is the man who the then Minister for Defence, in a letter to the secretary of the Defence Department, said was not worthy to hold any position in the military service. Conway at first made every endeavour to get away to the front, hut later, when he had an opportunity to do so, circumstances over which he had no control, obliged him to ask that his application should be allowed to stand over. Sir George Pearce, when he was Minister for Defence in 1918, determined that, in view of all the circumstances, Conway should remain in Australia. I am not blaming the present Minister for Defence for opposing Conway’s claim. Indeed, any person who inspected Conway’s file as it was arranged, would have arrived at the same conclusion. Undoubtedly Mr. Chifley’s letter to two friends of Conway, caused Conway much concern. The Minister has said that the committee did not give to this matter the fullest consideration.
– I did not say that. I said that the committee came to the conclusion that Conway was not entitled to compensation, but decided to recommend a “good-luck” payment of £100.
– I do not propose to deal with the committee’s report in detail. Every honorable senator has been furnished with a copy of that report. The committee was appointed by the Senate, and consisted of four honorable senators from the Government side and three from this side, and after giving due consideration to the whole matter, came to its decision unanimously. In view of these facts I should have thought that the Government would have raised no objection to the committee’s recommendation.
– I was a member of the Select Committee, and I support the motion for the adoption of its report. I know that, the Minister for the Interior (Senator
Foll) would not deliberately be unfair, but I do not think that he dealt with the position in- such a way as to do justice to the committee. He said, in effect, that the committee’s recommendation merely amounted to giving a “good-luck” payment of £100 to Conway. That is hardly correct. More than once the Minister said that the committee had arrived at its decision for some reason which was unknown. I refer honorable senators to paragraphs h and i of the committee’s findings. The first refers to the expunging of certain matters from Conway’s file. Honorable senators will recall that, after considerable agitation, Major-General Bruche was appointed in 1931 to conduct an inquiry into Conway’s case, and, after going into the matter thoroughly, ordered that certain matter should be expunged from Conway’s file. In the course of the committee’s investigation, I had an opportunity to examine that file, and to say the least, I found that the method adopted to expunge that matter was startling. 1 could not resist the conclusion that Conway consequently might have had ground for grievance. I found that Major-General Bruche’s order had been carried out simply by drawing a line in red ink across the matter ordered to be expunged. The references, however, remained legible, and successive Ministers, on looking at the file, were at once able to read all of these unfavorable references. I do not know whether, in view of these facts, honorable senators would consider that that matter had really been expunged from Conway’s file. To me the method employed does not quite savour of fair play. At the moment I am not going into the question of whether Conway is entitled to compensation or to -an ex gratia payment. I ask honorable senators to weigh the facts which I have stated, and to say whether Major-General Bruche’s order was fairly carried out.
– Was there any evidence that the expunged matter had ever been used against Captain Conway ? Mr. Chifley’s letter was written before the matter was ordered to be expunged.
– I am merely suggesting, on the facts which I have stated, that Conway had ground for at least some grievance, although, strictly speaking, it was not sufficient legally to entitle him to compensation. Those facts suggest that Conway was not entirely fairly treated, because after the matter had been expunged in this way, it, virtually remained on his file, in reply to the Minister, 1 point to thi* aspect of the. case as one reason which justifies the committee’s recommendation that an ox gratia payment be made to Conway.
Paragraph (i) of the committee’s findings refers to a letter which Mr. Chifley wrote to two friends of Captain Conway. Senator Wilson and I. studied those letters, and we had considerable doubt that they were not defamatory. The point arose, however, as to whether the letter could be said to have been written by Mr. Chifley in his ministerial capacity. Had it: been written in bis private capacity, Conway would probably have had ground for an action for libel against Mr. Chifley.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Mr. Chifley wrote that letter after the mattei complained of had been ordered by Major-General Bruche to be expunged?
- I am not, referring to that aspect at the moment, but am -imply dealing with the Minister’s insinuation that the committee had no reason for recommending that an ex (India payment be made to Conway. 1. submit that the matters to which I have referred were of a character to warrant iiic committee’s decision.
– T. draw the honorable senator’s attention to paragraph 1 of the committee’s findings, which reads - 7’here is insufficient evidence to prove that Captain Conway is entitled to compensation, but. tin: committee recommends that an amount of £100 be paid to Captain Conway as an rj’ gratia payment.
– If the Minister will take the report as a whole, he will see that the committee points out that, strictly speaking, Captain Conway is not entitled to compensation. The committee, however, took into consideration the fact that it was not until some question of obtaining another position arose, that this man, for the first time, became aware of the existence of unfavorable records on his file. From that time
Captain Conway seemed to have been upset. He started an agitation which led to Major-General Bruche issuing an instruction which, although it may have been carried out in the letter, was not carried out in the spirit. Taking all of the circumstances into consideration, the committee was of the opinion that these records had bad an effect on the man concerned. Captain Conway was not an entirely satisfactory witness ; I regarded him as a man who was greatly upset because he believed that his grievance was genuine. He did have some ground for his grievance, but, it became an obsession with bini. The committee suggests that, as his grievance was, in some degree, due to official mishandling of his case, he should be granted an ex gratia payment of £100.
.- I have an entirely unbiased mind about the case of Captain Conway, because I opposed the appointment of the committee. I did so, first, on the ground that it would be better if an outside body investigated his claim, and, secondly, because I did not approve of men, who had expressed definite opinions before hearing the evidence, being appointed to a semi-judicial committee. However, the Senate decided to appoint a committee, and we on this side have no ground for complaint as to its personnel, for a majority of its members were Government supporters. The committee having examined the evidence and observed the demeanour of witnesses, including Captain Conway himself, was much better qualified to judge of the merits of the claim than we are. If the appointment of the committee does nothing else than institute a better system of expunging records that are supposed to be expunged than the method adopted by the military authorities, it will have accomplished something worth while. The expunging of a record merely by drawing a red line through it is ridiculous: such a practice should be abolished.
– We all agree with that statement.
– Had I been a member of the committee, I do not think that I should have favoured an ex gratia payment; rather, I should have felt disposed to report that Captain Conway either was entitled to compensation or was not so entitled. However, the committee has presented its report, which I believe to be an honest one, and I am not prepared to vote against it.
– I support the adoption of the report, and I agree with the paragraph which states that Captain Conway has no legal claim for compensation. But there are other things than strictly legal claims, particularly when we are dealing with responsible bodies. Had I been the . legal adviser of Mr. Chifley, and had he been sued for libel in 1931, and been offered the chance of getting out of it for £100, I certainly should have advised him to accept the offer. In saying that, I am not necessarily saying that I am convinced that the letter which Mr. Chifley wrote to a third party was libellous ; but it was so close to the border-line that any wise counsel advising the defendant would say that if he could make a reasonable compromise, he should do so. All of the legal members of this chamber will agree that it is libellous to write of a man that he is not fit to hold the position which he happens to have held, or is holding. The letter which Mr. Chifley unwisely wrote to Mr. Buckland virtually said that Captain Conway was not fit to hold any position in the. Military Forces.
– Was that Mr. Chifley’s own expression, or was he quoting a statement made years before by some one else.
– Under the law relating to libel, it does not matter whether the statement embodied Mr. Chifley’s own opinion, or was something which had been conveyed to him. The fact is that Mr. Chifley wrote to a third party and thereby published something which, to say the least, was on the verge of libel. The proper course of action for Captain Conway to have taken was to sue Mr. Chifley for libel in 1931. Had he done so. and recovered damages against Mr. Chifley, it is impossible to say now whether the Government of the day would have stood behind its Minister for Defence and paid the amount awarded by the court, or whether it would have said that, if any of its Ministers was foolish enough to libel some person in the com munity, he should bear the consequences of his action. Honorable senators will see that the committee whose report is before us, could not say whether or not the Government was responsible for its Minister’s letter. There was no evidence one way or the other on that point. Further, from a legal point of view, there is not the slightest, doubt that any action at this stage by Captain Conway would be legally barred by the Statute of Limitations. In spite of what the Minister has said, the committee was not. indecisive. It made a definite finding; it said that Captain Conway had no legal claim. But it also said that certain very injudicious things were done by a previous Minister for Defence, that he wrote a most unwise letter, and, further, that an order for the expunging of certain records was clumsily done by the military authorities. Although the committee is perfectly candid, and says emphatically that there is no legal obligation on the. Government to compensate Captain Conway, it placed the facts before the Senate so that a decision could be made as to whether or not there was justification for an ex gratia payment to Captain Conway.
– Was the committee unanimous in its recommendation?
Sena to r WILSON. - Yes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 8th December, 1938 (vide page 2975, volume 158) on motion by Senator Wilson-
That thebill be now read a second time.
– In view of certain aspects of the wheat industry which are now under consideration, and may affect this bill, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 20th September (vide page 778), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the papers be printed.
– Some honorable senators have described the budget speech as a national stocktaking or balance-sheet. It is, at least, an indication of the Government’s intentions for the current financial year. Although presented when the nation is at war, it was prepared in a time of peace, and therefore, we are justified in examining it as an indication of the Government’s peace-time policy. I realize that all other matters are overshadowed by the catastrophe that has befallen the world. Nevertheless, I believe that it is well that the Government should be reminded that it is, for the time being, in charge of the Commonwealth. It has been said that this budget is unique inasmuch as, for the first time in the history of Australia, a £100,000,000 budget has been introduced. The fact that it has been found necessary to provide for such a colossal expenditure is indeed historic. Introducing his budget, the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) said -
That extraordinary development - and, of course, it is a development that has taken place all over the world, because the British Chancellor of the Exchequer this year presented to the House of Commons a £1,000,000,000 budget - is not, if I may say so, in spite of some carping critics, entirely due to the extravagance of politicians. 1 have no doubt that we are not immune from the common disposition to be generous with other people’s money - it would be foolish for us to deny that charge - but, at the same time, the real and overpowering reason for the growth of ‘budgetary expenditure is undoubtedly to be found in two things. First, there has been a revolutionary change during the last generation in the view which prevails as to the obligations of governments towards the aged, the sick and the poor - in other words, a revolutionary change in our sense of obligation for what we call social services. In the second place - and this has been increasingly true in the last few years - it has been due to the rapid mounting of defence expenditures in the forcing house of international fear, and, at present, international violence. Those two great factors have, I venture to say, been the real explanation of what might otherwise, be regarded as a most inexplicable growth of government expenditure.
One would assume, from the observations of the Prime Minister, that the right of the people to improved social services would be one reason for the presentation of such an extraordinary budget. An examination of the Government’s proposals and a review of Australia’s social conditions, indicate, however,, that the economic position is growing worse, and that unemployment is steadily increasing, though the situation may not yet be as serious as it was some years ago. What has the Government, done to prevent this increase of unemployment? It has done very little. To-day a clarion call is being sounded to rally the people to the defence of Australia. From a purely defence point of view that call is warranted, and we have no doubt that it will be answered, but surely the Government has au obligation to establish social and economic conditions that will make Australia worth defending. This Ministry, which continues the traditions of its immediate predecessors, has no reason to be proud of its record. Every appeal that has been made to it to assist the unemployed has fallen upon deaf ears. Honorable senators will recall that towards the end of last year an effort was made in this Parliament to induce the Government to provide funds for more employment, but when the matter was brought up in the House of Representatives, the debate was abruptly terminated. Much the same treatment was meted out to honorable senators on this side when representations were made to the Government. Ministers gave what amounted to a point, blank refusal to do anything in the matter. Although it is generally recognized that unemployment could be reduced by shortening the working week, the Government has declined to give a lead to private employers.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that a shorter working week could be introduced without increasing the cost of living?
– I do. If the Government were sincere in its desire to arrest the increase of unemployment, it would face the facts and shorten the working week in all government undertakings. Ministers have offered a variety of excuses for their failure to stop this economic drift. Among other things, it has been suggested that constitutional difficulties would prevent the introduction of the innovation. But if the Government had been sincere it could have discovered a way to overcome any legal obstacles. For instance, no one would question the Government’s right to reduce the weekly working hours in the Commonwealth Public Service. But it declined to do that. The trade union movement has been advised to refer this matter to the arbitration court. Not long ago the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, after a careful examination of the position, informed the Government that the time was opportune for the introduction of a shorter working week in the Public Service; but he left the matter in the hands of the Government, which refused to act upon the recommendation of this properly constituted authority. At the same time it urged outside organizations to take this problem as it relates to private industries before some legal tribunal. Surely that exposed the insincerity of the Government.
– -Does the honorable senator suggest a 40-hour week for shearers and waterside workers?
– The honorable senator has never yet, advocated a 40-hour week for shearers or waterside workers. On the contrary, he has advocated the payment of overtime to waterside workers.
– The honorable gentleman is attempting to divert attention from the real question at issue. The policy of the Labour party is for a 40- hour week and, if possible, the prohibition of overtime work.
– I have been endeavouring to secure the introduction of a 40-hour week in munitions factories.
– - Waterside labourers are frequently required to work the round of the clock, although there are 50 per cent, more waterside workers than are required to do the work available.
– If the anomaly mentioned by the honorable senator exists it certainly is not the fault of the trade unions, and it does not affect the general principle of a shorter working week. The fact that those who are responsible for the control of the shipping industry do not organize their business in a proper manner cannot be cited as a reason against the reduction of the working week. If work is to be provided for every section of the community, the problem must bc approached in a proper and scientific manner.
– The honorable senator questions the sincerity of the Government, yet he himself is noi sincere.
– In relation to this problem, the Government has been speaking with its tongue in its cheek. It has suggested that the trade union movement, should seek front some properly constituted tribunal a legal decision in regard to a shorter working week; yet it has ignored a recommendation from the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator in favour of such a reform. Therefore, it stands condemned in the eyes of the people.
The Prime Minister referred in hi.budget speech to the cost of old-age pensions and social legislation generally. In these matters also the insincerity of the Government and its predecessors is apparent. Various promises made over a long period of years have not been honoured. Senator Uppill congratulated the Menzies Government upon the presentation of its first budget, but the” Menzies Ministry is of the same political colour as those which have been in charge of the destiny of Australia for a number of years, and its programme is merely a continuation of the policy of the Government which it succeeded.
– That policy ba3 been of great benefit to the Commonwealth.
– That may be the opinion of the honorable senator. I ask him to study the record of the governments that, have preceded the present Ministry. Honorable senators opposite who have been members of this branch of the legislature for some years have supported various governments, including the Bruce-Page, the Lyons-Page, and the Menzies Governments. In 1925, the party led by Mr. Bruce promised to provide social services, including motherhood endowment, workers’ homes, unemployment insurance, and national insurance. Where are those reforms? Have honorable senators opposite done anything to assist the introduction of social legislation which has been promised for years?
– The party to which the honorable senator belongs promised to abolish the Senate.
– We shall do so as soon as we have an opportunity. The action of certain members of the Government during the last few days suggests that the sooner this chamber is abolished the better it will be for the community. The Government stresses the necessity for social legislation, but it does not attempt to improve the standard of living. The statement was made at one time that if an anti-Labour government were elected, one of its first acts would be to provide decent wages and comfortable homes for the workers. Even in this budget, great stress is laid upon the need for improved social services. But nothing has been done.
It is to bo deplored that in recent years the number of invalid and old-age pensioners has increased, which is a clear indication of the fact that the economic policy of this and preceding governments has been wrong. Honorable senators will recall that, with a great flare of trumpets, the Lyons-Page Government introduced a National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill in order to afford some relief to a section of the community that is suffering severe disabilities. When that measure was introduced, stress was laid on the number of persons who are becoming a charge upon the State. The then Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in dealing with the cost of pensions, said -
The gravity of the prospective growth of the cost of pensions is accentuated by the fact that, 40 years from now, there will be relatively fewer persons in the active productive agc groups to bear the burden. According to the present and recent trends of our vital statistics, and on the assumption that there will be no material change in the rate of migration which has prevailed during the past five years, the population nf Australia will have begun to decline in considerably less than 40 years from now. If one compares the number of wage-earners in Australia - I am using the term as quoted in the census returns - with the number of persons in the pension age group, it will be found that whereas to-day there are 26 persons of pension age to every 100 wage-earners, in 40 years from now the proportion of persons of pension age will have risen to 54 for every 100 wageearners. These are some of the vital considerations against the background of which the Government has had to consider the framing of this national insurance scheme. The scheme that we have framed takes into account the factors that I have mentioned - some of them quite disturbing factors.
It is a very disturbing factor that, in a young country the oldest State of which has only recently celebrated its 150th birthday, while Victoria has just had its centenary, our economic development has been such that the number of persons drawing pensions will increase to the degree mentioned by the Minister. That is a position which should! cause the Government to make an effort to relieve the present distressing situation. In analysing the activities of the Government, we find that nothing has been done to that end.
– Invalid and old-age pensions are a blessing to thousands of persons.
– I have not suggested anything to the contrary; but surely in a young country possessing such potentialities we should be able to prevent the increase of the number of invalid and old-age pensioners and to improve the unemployment position.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I have already said that the Government should, at the earliest possible moment, provide for a reduction of working hours, relieve unemployment, and proceed with national undertakings. It is idle to say that because we are at war nothing can be done.
– How would that reduce the number of pensioners?
– By making them able to earn a competence instead of having to exist on a miserable wage. If they have long periods of unemployment, they cannot save sufficient to maintain, themselves in their declining years.
– Many countries have not made the provision which Australia has made.
– That is not a reason why we should not improve existing conditions. Are we to be satisfied because other nations have not done what we have done?
Our present financial system is impoverishing the people merely because the Prime Minister and those who support him will not depart from the orthodox system of finance. By declining to alter the present economic system, the Government is allowing Australia to become a nation of people with insufficient money to maintain themselves in comfort. The disclosure made by an ex-Treasurer indicates the manner in which the Government neglects its responsibilities. If it were not for the position with which we are now faced, I would criticize severely the Government’s defence policy. I shall not adopt the role of a carping critic, but, if there be any difficulty in the way of equipping those who have volunteered for service in the defence forces, the anti-Labour governments that have been in ofiB.ce during, the last seven years are responsible for it. In 1914 the war machine was put into smooth operation almost within a month of the outbreak of hostilities, and the credit for that must he given to the Labour government that had prepared the way for the rapid and efficient working of that machine.
– A Labour government introduced compulsory military training and the Labour party is to be commended for that.
– Some people like to see big military parades, or armies of men marching along the streets, with bands playing; but .more important than such displays is the preparation necessary for the production of equipment and munitions required by the troops. For many years anti-Labour governments have not paid sufficient attention to this matter. As well ns introducing universal training, a Labour government made the war machine almost perfect.
– Labour members were not isolationists then.
– They are not to-day.
– Many of them are.
– The honorable senator constantly endeavours to disparage the policy of the Labour party, but I remind the Senate of the defence plans of the Labour party. If any section of the Defence Department is working smoothly to-day it is that portion which was created by a Labour government. Great credit is taken for the fact .that there is no shortage of munitions to-day. The thanks for that are line to the foresight of a Labour administration, which established a munitions factory owned and controlled by the nation. Labour is also entitled to credit for the fact that there is no shortage of small arms.
– That is an argument in favour of the formation of a national government.
– The Government factories to which I have referred were established because a Labour government displayed great vision. I was pleased with the remarks of Senator Armstrong last evening with regard to the ship-building industry. We realize to-day the wisdom of the policy enunciated by the Labour party in the past for the creation of a nationally-controlled shipping line.
– The loss experienced in that direction amounted to £17,000,000.
– Despite the book debts in that regard, the people of Australia, and particularly the primary producers, were re-imbursed tenfold any cost that has been incurred. Soon after the outbreak of the last war the primary producers appealed to the Government to protect them against the enormous increase of the freights charged by the private shipping companies for the conveyance of their produce to the world’s markets, and I am sure that those producers will soon be wishing that there were a Commonwealth owned and controlled line of steamers still in operation.
– When those high charges were levied, this country was at war.
– Yes, but that was not justification for the profiteering practices of the shipping companies, which extorted vast sums of money from the British authorities as well as from the Australian producers.
– Only the modern ships that were built in Australia could be operated economically in time of peace.
– Is there any reason why modern ships should not he on the stocks to-day? .What has the present Government done to rehabilitate the Australian ship-building industry?
The Government has taken credit for the fact that it has introduced a budget providing for the raising of £100,000,000 from 7,000,000 people - from a nation which, according to the former Treasurer (Mr. Casey), is fast becoming an aggregation of people living on £1 a week! Does that satisfy honorable senators that all is well? ‘Surely this Government should do something more than it has done in the interests of Australia.
One pleasing feature is that Senator Dein can see a silver lining to the dark cloud hanging over this country. In recent weeks he has gone to a good deal of trouble to castigate the Labour party for refusing to assist in the formation of a national government. He has said that it is necessary to utilize the best brains in this Parliament, in order to steer the ship of state safely through the troubled seas on which it is now being tossed. He declares that men are to be found on the Opposition side whose services would prove of great value if they were appointed to a national Ministry, and that, if the Opposition does not assist in the formation of such a government, the Administration will fail. That is my interpretation of his flattering invitation to members of the Opposition to join a national cabinet. Senator Dein is quite correct. The Opposition, both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, contains men who are quite capable of governing this country in the present crisis. There are also many representatives of Labour outside of this Parliament who possess similar ability, and who when they are given the opportunity by the people in the near future to enter this Parliament, will provide sufficient numbers to enable us to form a government composed entirely of adherents of Labour. When that time comes, we shall not hesitate to give effect to legislation which will be in the interests of the people of Australia. For the time being, however, this Government cannot chirk its obligation to control the country. Nor can it escape responsibility for its misdeeds.. Despite the quarrelling and bickering which has been apparent in its ranks, and despite its efforts to cloak the sordid scramble among its followers for portfolios, it cannot get away from the fact that it must accept responsibility for the adverse economic conditions existing to-day, the increase of unemployment, and the fact that our war machine is not functioning as it should. It cannot ger away from the fact that largely because of want of unanimity in its own ranks over a long period, it has failed to handle these problems effectively. To-day, we find that the Government party consists almost wholly of ex-generals and no privates. In view of these facts, there is a ray of hope - and Senator Dein has seen it - that very soon the people of Australia will put in office a Labour government. We shall then accept the responsibility of government, and give effect to a policy that will do credit to Australia.
.- Speeches of the kind just delivered by Senator Sheehan are welcome now and again, because they enable one to realize exactly what the Opposition is aiming at in the present crisis. Assurances have been given by members of the Opposition, both here and in the House of Representatives, that it will co-operate with the Government in every possible way in order to help Australia during the war period. But the whole of Senator Sheehan’s speech suggested that the Opposition was desirous of displacing the present Government. Is that the Opposition’s way of co-operating with the Government ? Apparently the Opposition’s idea of helping the Government is to condemn everything that the Government has done, is doing, or intends to do. How can the Opposition take up that attitude, and at the same time expect the people to believe that it intends to do its best to help the Government to see Australia through this crisis? The Opposition cannot have it both ways. I suggest that if its objective is to displace the Government, with the object of forming a purely Labour government, it should frankly say so. I should like to know, exactly what is the Opposition’s real attitude to the Government.
– Is the Government beyond criticism ?
– No; but honorable senators cannot deny that the Government has some merit and has accomplished something. Senator Sheehan compared Australia’s preparations for this crisis with the preparations made in this country in 1914-15. During the last war I was a member of the Victorian Parliament and later a member of the House of Representatives, and I know that in respect of defence preparedness Australia is ten times better off to-day than it was in 1914. Senator Sheehan said that at the shortest notice tens of thousands of well-equipped Australian soldiers were sent abroad in the last war. I point out that only a small proportion of those soldiers were trained when they left these shores. The bulk of them wore trained in Egypt.
– And they were not equipped, either, when they went away.
– That is so. They were certainly well clothed, but they had no munitions of any kind ; these were supplied to them by the British Government. However, although this Government cannot tell the world the full story of the actual preparations it has already made, honorable senators generally must realize that our preparations on this occasion for the manufacture of munitions and the mobilization of raw materials used for that purpose are ten times more advanced than was the case in the last war.
– Can the honorable senator point to one instance in which the Opposition has blocked any defence proposal brought forward by the Government?
– The Opposition has criticized every proposal in this budget.
– What does the honorable senator think we are here for - to get our money under false pretences?
– Really, I do not know why honorable ‘senators opposite are here. It seems to me that they are here to speak with two voices. I should like to know which is the true voice. I have listened with interest to the lengthy speeches made in this debate by honorable senators opposite - the rather frenzied oratory of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), the more practical plodding of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the outpourings, in varying degrees of eloquence, of their colleagues. May I say that the supreme self-confidence of the Leader of the Opposition might sometimes be mistaken for arrogance, but when his lesser colleagues endeavour to follow his example they become amusing and even ludicrous. Two themes run through the tales of honorable senators opposite: first, the expansion of credit to meet our war expenditure; and, secondly, what they call social reconstruction. The degrees of credit expansion advocated by honorable senators opposite range from the “whole hog” inflation advocated by Senator Darcey to the more practical limits supported by Senator Keane, Senator Brown and Senator Courtice. The three lastmentioned honorable senators apparently entertain grave doubts concerning the vast expansion of credit advocated by some of their colleagues for the purpose of financing the present war. But, invariably, in the end all honorable senators opposite, with the exception of Senator Darcey, seemed to hedge a little as to the degree to which our credit should be expanded. They did not know exactly where they were. They said they would stand by the first plank of the Labour party’s platform. That was the only way in which they could reconcile their widely divergent opinions. In that; way only could they reconcile the views of those who advocated unlimited credit with those of their colleagues who would be content with a small expansion of credit. They appeared to lose sight of the failure of their policy wherever it has been tried. They overlooked the ruin of the labouring classes, wageearners and civil servants in Germany which resulted from the application of just such a policy as they advocate for Australia. Another illustration of the evils associated with the expansion of credit, as advocated by honorable senators opposite, has been provided in the United States of America, where the economic machine was clogged simply because too much money was made available. We saw the anomaly of the richest country in the world having 10,000,000 unemployed, simply because it endeavoured to apply the financial policy advocated by honorable senators opposite. One would gather from the arguments of these honorable senators that no part of Australia’s credit has yet been pledged. As a matter of fact, the credit of this country has been pledged to the amount of £1,300,000,000, whilst, apart from the debt3 of governments, the liabilities of non-governmental bodies runs into many more millions of pounds. Honorable senators opposite should remember that a security cannot be mortgaged twice. The credit of Australia has already been pledged for the vast sum which I have mentioned. When I hear people talk about profiteering by investors who have lent money to governments, I am reminded that all governments, including Labour governments, have borrowed money. Generally, Labour governments have to pay higher rates of interest than other governments aic called upon to pay.
– What about the unparalleled conversions effected by the Scullin Government?
– Honorable senators opposite have formed the habit of belittling their own country, and trying to show the world what a poor place Australia is.
– The honorable senator himself was doing that when he said we have pledged all of our resources.
– We have promised to pay interest on the money that has been borrowed. As I listened to honorable senators opposite condemning as profiteers persons who have lent money to governments, I wondered whether they want to repudiate the national debt, or the interest on it.
– - We want to prevent it from increasing.
– Probably honorable senators opposite, like Senator Darcey, want to get money or credit without paying interest on it. I ask them how we can carry on the ordinary everyday work of government, to say nothing of prosecuting a war, without borrowing money ? Honorable senators opposite first say that their object is not to borrow any more money, and then they advocate expanding credit without paying interest. 1 admit their remarks puzzle me. Senator Cameron has a style of his own. He is provocative yet likeable. I would describe his speeches as semiphilosophical, semi-profound, semi-meanderings.
The party opposite claims to be representative of the wage-earners of Australia, yet it advocates a policy which would lower the purchasing power of the wages of the workers, and deprive old-age pensioners of a considerable proportion of their income. Under their policy, a loaf of bread which now costs 6d. would cost ls.
– Not if a pricefixing commissioner was working efficiently.
– If credit is expanded, that will be the inevitable result. The first effect of an expansion of credit is to lower the purchasing power of the wages of the workers, whom honorable senators are supposed to represent; to reduce by half, or even more, the worth of the old-age pension; to bring ruin to every thrifty man who has accumulated a little money for his old age; to destroy the value of every life insurance policy; and to make worse the conditions of those in receipt of sustenance. Yet honorable senators opposite claim that they represent the workers.
The speeches of Opposition senators have included many references to something called social reconstruction. They claim that the old system has failed, but the fact is that the social reconstruction of the world has led to another war.
– That is a new point of view.
– Social reconstruction in Russia, Germany, Spain and Italy has led to chaos. The attempt to upset the old order and establish a new order has led to another war; and now we must wait until all the diabolical cruelties which would not have been thought of in the Dark Ages are over, before we can hope to make any progress. These crimes are being done in the sacred name of social reconstruction.
– Does the honorable senator blame the Labour party for what is going on in the world ?
– Of course not; but I point out that the social reconstruction which has been going on for a number of years has not brought about particularly happy results in Germany, Russia and Spain. Social reconstruction has brought to the world the horrors of war, the violation of all sense of justice , and decency, and the debasement of mankind to a degree unknown in the old world. In an attempt to preserve those elements of decency and fair play which it believes are the right of mankind every where Great Britain went to the limit that any free people could go. It went so far as to deprive itself of adequate means of defence, in the hope that its noble example would be followed by the rest of the world.
– A Labour government, set that example to the world.
– Despite that noble example, other nations continued to arm, until Great Britain’s position became really dangerous. No blame can -be attached to the . British people for their effort to save the world, but the result of that effort was to endanger the Empire. Britain now realizes that social reconstruction has led to the present unsatisfactory state of the world, and has gone hack to the old methods. In the face of the tragedy of these days, honorable senators opposite continue to talk of social reconstruction.
– That is the honorable senator’s own phrase.
– It was used by Senator Cameron.I repeat that the newworld, not the old world, has failed. Honorable senators opposite had better be careful about advocating social reconstruction. They should remember that the old methods brought to Australia a degree of prosperity and happiness that was the envy of other countries. I, for one, believe that steady progress along the lines that we were following would have led to something worth while, and proved an example to the rest of the world. However, modern movements have ushered in a new era, and we must now arm to the teeth in order to save our lives and our honour. Senator Sheehan sneered because the Treasurer has brought in a £ 100,000,000 budget. Does not the honorable senator realize that many millions of pounds will have to be expended if our safety as a people is to be ensured ? In 1931, Australia expended about £3,000,000 on defence. Last year the defence expenditure from revenue was nearly £9,000,000, and, in addition, the expenditure from loan amounted to about £14,000,000.
– Not much was expended to relieve unemployment.
– This year, about £1.2,000,000 from revenue and £19,000,000 from loan will be expended on defence, and before the year ends I expect that another £20,000,000 will be required. While this gigantic effort is being made in order to ensure that peace and happiness shall remain in the world, honorable senators opposite sneer at the magnitude of the budget! Instead of sneering at the Government-
– Who has been sneering?
– The honorable senator and many of his friends. I repeat that instead of sneering at the Government and criticizing the budget so unfairly, they should help the Government in the important task which confronts it.
– Let us hear what tin’s Government is doing.
– The honorable senator knows quite well what the Government is doing in this time of crisis.
– The economic position is going from bad to worse. Unemployment is increasing.
– Senator Sheehan is surely not quite himself to-night. Otherwise he would not have made so many inconsistent statements. He sneers at the amount of expenditure provided for in the budget and in the next breath blames the Government for not getting on. with the job that lies ahead of it. What the honorable gentleman means I do not know.
The Leader of the Opposition has told us that if the Labour party secured control of the treasury bench the Bank Board would not last an hour.
– That is on our platform.
– The only interpretation which the average person can place upon that statement is that if a Labour government were returned to power it would appoint a governor of the Commonwealth Bank who would be at the beck and call of the Ministry.
– He would not be at the beck and call of the big financial institutions, at all events.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the late Sir Denison Miller was at the beck and call of the Government that appointed him?
– A Labour government would not appoint a polo player to the Bank Board.
– Well, I have known many worse people than polo players. As a rule they have a very highly-developed sense of fair play. The governor of the Commonwealth Bank under Labour rule would be required to carry out the instructions of the Ministry.
– That -is , not trueThat could not be said of the Bank Board when Labour was in power some years ago.
– I am a bit puzzled to know who will give these orders to the governor of the Commonwealth Bank when Labour comes to power. Will the instructions be issued by Senator Darcey or by Senator Keane? If Senator Darcey were giving the orders, I can imagine him saying to the manager “ Go ahead, write out a cheque for six or seven million pounds; it will be all right”. But Senator Keane, I imagine, would
Bay “ Here, hold on a bit ; we can’t, spend money like that; make it only a million “:
– I should want to know where the money was going.
– From what I know of our Labour friends opposite, if Senator Keane were on the treasury bench, he would be pulling one way while Senator Darcey would be pulling another way. It has been laid down clearly that if the Labour party came to power again, the Commonwealth Bank Board, as at present constituted, would not last long. The Labour Ministry would appoint a governor who would be at, the beck and call of Ministers.
– We have never said that.
– The governor of the bank would act under orders from the occupants of the treasury bench. That is a prospect which I could not view with complacency, though I am not much worried about it, because I am firmly convinced that the people of Australia will not be in a hurry to- return Labour to power.
In his criticism of the budget a few days ago, the Leader of the Opposition complained that the proposed increase of the tax on incomes from personal exertion by 10 per cent, would press unfairly on persons having smaller incomes. I believe that the honorable gentleman said that the increase would mean an additional payment of 19s.1d. by men on the basic wage. I think the honorable senator must have been mis-informed, because a man on the basic, wage does, not pay Commonwealth income tax.
– I did not specifically refer to a man on the basic wage. I said that a taxpayer in the lower income group would pay an additional 19s. 1d., and that the burden would press more heavily upon him than on persons in the higher income group.
– The. exemption of £250 enables a person on the basic wage to escape the tax. As I understand the. Government’s proposal, the increased rate of tax on the smaller income is about 2.3d. in the £1, whereas the. increased rate on the higher incomes is approximately 80d. or 6s. 8d. in the £1, so that the proposed increase of 10 per cent, would mean about a farthing in the £1 to persons in the lower income group, and about 8d. or 9d. in the £1 to- persons having higher incomes. This being so, the argument of the Leader of the Opposition was not quite fair.
– What the Government takes from a man in the form of taxes does not matter so much as what is left to him after he has paid.
– My impression of the honorable gentleman’s speech was that he complained that the increase of the income tax would press more heavily on persons having lower incomes, and I have shown that his contention is not borne out by the facts.
– How is the honorable senator on the tariff?
– Quite sound; but I am not worrying about tariff matters at the present time, because something of a very much more serious nature is engaging our attention. Australia is facing, perhaps, the gravest crisis in its history, and I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues would do well to follow the lea’d of the Labour unions in Great Britain. They seem to have a very much more definite appreciation of their obligations to the Empire.
– In what way?
– I read in the cable news two or three days ago that the Labour unions of Great Britain had appointed two or three of their members io visit Canada and the United States nf America for the purpose of placing before Labour organizations in those countries the attitude of the British Labour party to the war in which Britain and the dominions are now involved. They believe that by doing this there will be better understanding between the peoples of the Empire and the workers of English-speaking countries. Instead nf being se critical of the Government, the Australian Labour party might make a similar gesture.
– “Where could we send representatives of Australian Labour?
– The Labour party might send some of its representatives to Canada and the United States of America in order to tell the people there that Labour in Australia was right behind the Government in its prosecution of the wa r.
– Labour always pulls the Government of this country nut of its difficulties.
– Assertions are not facts.
– What happened to ibc proposal made by the Leader of the Labour party in the House of Representatives that Australia should send £.1,000,000 worth of foodstuffs to Great Britain?
– That proposal, as a contribution to a war effort, was the feeblest thing that I have ever heard of.
– The honorable gentleman is the first one I have heard say that.
– It is hardly worth talking about. Another statement made by honorable senators opposite during the debate related to alleged sweating in the clothing trade in Melbourne. I think that Senator Cameron mentioned this matter and probably also the Leader of the Opposition.
– This Government promised to bring in a bill to abolish sweating, but “ jibbed “ on the job.
– The Government made no such promise. The Government of Victoria was naturally perturbed at statements made some months ago about sweating in the clothing trade in Melbourne, and appointed its most trusted inspector to make a thorough investigation of the charges. This official visited all those small places in Queensbury.street. Carlton, where, it was stated, sweating was being indulged in, and he reported to the Government that he could find no evidence to support the charges. The truth is that the clothing trade unions had just served a new log on the employers and, as has been done on other occasions, they circulated charges of sweating purely for propaganda purposes in order to support their claim.
– Does the honorable senator deny that there is sweating in the clothing trade in Victoria?
– I deny that there is sweating to anything like the extent alleged, and in support of my view I cite the report of the inspector, who declared that the charges were not sustained.
Under normal conditions I should have criticized some phases of the Government’s financial proposals, and complained because certain public works, such as the provision of additional postal facilities, ave not to be provided; but as the Government is faced with tremendous responsibilities and the time of every Minister is very fully employed on work of the highest national importance, it would be unreasonable for any honorable senator to adopt such a course. I do not think that some honorable senators opposite realize the tremendous amount of work which Ministers have to perform, and the efforts which this Government. is making to preserve our national characteristics and to ensure, so far as is humanly possible, the safety of the nation. It behoves every member of this Parliament to refrain from carping criticism until we are out of danger. It is unreasonable for members of the Opposition to say that Parliament should remain in session when they occupy its time in criticizing almost every ministerial action. That is not the way in which this great conflict, in which our safety and all that we hold dear is involved, can be brought to a successful conclusion. The Government should be allowed to give its undivided attention to the numerous pressing problems confronting it, so that it may function in the interests of not only the Australian people but also of the who.le Empire.
– Honorable senators have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded by this motion to discuss a variety of subjects, many of which are related only indirectly to the Government’s financial proposals, and apart from a few heated ox-changes the debate has been conducted in a friendly manner and on a high plane. AVe should, I think, congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) upon the lucid manner in which Australia’s financial position has been placed before the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that the members of the Opposition appreciated the difficult position of the Government, and, while reserving to themselves the right to criticize, were willing to do what they could to assist. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) also admitted that if a Labour government were in power it, too, would have to raise money to assist in the prosecution of the war, although the Labour party believes that our present economic position could be improved by changing from the orthodox system of finance. On the other hand, Senator Sheehan, who condemned every action of the Government, said that the Ministry is responsible, and, in effect, that the Opposition should not be expected to shoulder any of the burden. A few days ago, Senator Sheehan, and others with whom he is associated, suggested that Parliament should remain in session ; but what would be the use of Parliament sitting continuously if the Opposition does not propose to assume some responsibility?
– I did not suggest dot
– No, but Senator Sheehan said that the Opposition would not accept any responsibility, and that a Labour government would in time show the people bow the country should bc governed.
– The honorable senator must admit that some amendments moved by the Opposition have been adopted.
– I do not deny that. The Opposition, which forms an important part of our legislative machinery, should not shirk its responsibility.
– The honorable senator is concerned because we are assuming responsibility.
– The Opposition should submit constructive criticism instead of endeavouring tq obstruct the Government in the importantwork which it has in hand. The budget overs an expenditure of approximately £102,000,000, a large portion of which is to be raised by means of taxes. Senator Sheehan also stated that as the budget was framed prior to the outbreak of war he was entitled to discuss it from that angle. That was most unfair. When asked in what directions the Government’s policy could be improved, he said that the Government should make legislative provision for a shorter working week in order to increase employment. No honorable senator could prove to me, to the captains of industry, or even to himself, that the adoption of a 40-hour week throughout Australia would bring about a. well-balanced economy, and not reduce the purchasing power of wages. There is only one honorable senator in this chamber who would be bold enough to support such a contention, and that, is Senator Darcey. It is generally realized that a reduction of the hours of work, coupled with maintenance of the present rates of wages, would inevitably result in an. increase of the costs of production. Is it suggested that the social experiments carried out by the Labour Government of New Zealand have been successful, or have increased the purchasing power of wages, seeing that the cost of living in that dominion has risen by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent.? Labour has not solved the housing problem- in New Zealand, and there are as many unemployed in that country, in proportion to the population, as there arc in any part of Australia.
Two of the biggest, industrial organizations in the Commonwealth are the Australian Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation. I have never heard one honorable senator contend that a shearer should not work more than 44 hours a week, or that his work should be done by day labour and not at piece-work rates. It is well known by honorable senators generally that a substantial number, if not one-half, of the men admitted to the Waterside Workers Federation cannot be provided with constant employment. When a vessel arrives in port and requires quick unloading, the stevedore picks up the men needed for the job, and, after they have worked for a certain number of hours, they receive time and a half, and sometimes double time. I have seen 100 men waiting to be picked up, and only 40 or 50 of them have been employed. After they have been working for, perhaps, ten hours, do they say to their comrades, “ Now it is your turn “? It is sheer cant and humbug for any honorable senator in say that no worker should be employed for more than 40 hours a week. Those who control the members of the Waterside Workers Federation have never had the courage to say to these employees, “ You shall work six hours a day, and then we shall call in the others who have not been picked up “.
– What is the average wage of a waterside worker?
– He does not receive too much, but he works under an award, and the judge, in fixing the rates, makes allowance for the fact that the work is intermittent. The rates are fixed , to ensure, as far as possible, a reasonable standard of living for the year, although I admit that the average earnings of waterside workers are less than the basic wage. The argument that the shorter the hours of employment the more profitable an industry will become, and the greater will be the number of men employed, is utterly unsound. Individuals or companies conducting busi nesses require to make some profit. The worker cannot take out of a business more than it earns.
The success of certain companies that employ large numbers of men seems to be anathema to some honorable senators; but there is nothing to prevent them from going to the stock exchanges and buying shares in those companies. The shares are not held entirely by wealthy persons, although wealthy men may be found on the directorates. Thousands of small shareholders have invested their savings in these companies. Tens of thousands of pounds invested in such undertakings as those conducted by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and certain shipping companies represents trust money. The purchase of . shares in such companies is often regarded by trustees. as a safe investment to provide widows and orphans with the means of livelihood - often only a bare living. Why do not the Labour unions use the money subscribed by their members for the establishment of clothing factories, steel works, . or other industrial enterprises? Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is regarded by most members of the Opposition as a great octopus that is sapping the life-blood of this country. Whilst I hold no brief for companies that take undue profits from the people, it must, be admitted that no country can ever become great unless it has iron and steel industries. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which began in a. small way, has developed a basic industry of which the nation may well be proud. Is it a crime for this company, which has thousands of employees, to make profits? What do companies of this kind do with their money? Do they bury it in the ground, or do they use it to extend their business or to establish further industries? Can any honorable senator point to an instance in which the companies that are denounced by the Opposition have sent their money out of Australia? Of course not. I do not impute improper motives to honorable senators opposite, but their attitude and speeches remind me of the story of the boy who went to sea and kept a diary which showed that at a certain time daily he said his prayers. When members of the crew told him that they knew quite well that he did not say his prayers, the boy replied, “ ~8o; but it will read very well at home “.
.. - in reply - As Senator Leckie has pointed out, this budget is probably the most important and certainly the most extensive, that has yet been presented in any parliament in Australia.. I appreciate the assurance by honorable- senators opposite that they will support the Government in every possible way in the present crisis, but I am disappointed that they have not done more to honour that promise. They failed, for instance, to offer any constructive criticism of the Government’s proposals. On the contrary, we have been obliged during, the last two weeks to listen to the same old speeches which Opposition members have been delivering in the Senate for years. The Leader of the Opposition, (.Senator Collings) made a very good speech,, and so he should, because he has made it so often. Honorable senators generally are always glad to listen to him, hut I suggest that it is about time that he put on a new record’. “We have heard from honorable senators opposite all about the misdeeds of this Government and its predecessors. They have related their usual tales about sweating in industry in England in midVictorian days, and have told the same old stories about social reforms. But their speeches lacked constructive criticism which might have been of some aid to the Government. I recognize that the debate on the budget affords honorable senators an opportunity to speak on almost any subject. As time goes on, however, I trust that all of us will recognize the magnitude of the responsibilities which we shall be obliged to shoulder in the present crisis. In that task the Government will need the active assistance of every honorable senator, and every section of the community, irrespective of party political divisions, and it confidently anticipates that such assistance will be forthcoming. I deplore the fact that right at the outset of this crisis, certain members in this chamber and in the House of Representatives, in order to obtain a little party advantage, have caused two of the Government’s financial measures, whereby it sought fo obtain an additional £2,000,000 of revenue, to b<? rejected. ‘The Government is badly in need of that money as a contribution towards the effective prosecution of the war. Without wishing to anticipate a later debate, I say definnitely that the Government accepts full responsibility for its financial programme, and intends to go ahead with it in its own way. But no government can be expected, in a time of national crisis, to tolerate the upsetting of its financial programme, merely for party political gain.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the resumption of land at Wagga for the purpose of establishing an air force station. He suggested that the Government had paid too big a price fer the land. The- resumptions branch of the Department of the- Interior effected this transaction. Since- I have been the ministerial1 head of that department, this is the first occasion on which any complaint has been made that a price paid by the Government was too large, but I can. recall many instances in- which members, both in the Senate and in the other chamber, have made representations to me on behalf of owners whose land ha; been resumed that the price paid1 by the Government was- not high enough. In this particular case, the Government paid £12,000 for land, compulsorily resumed from occupants who were farming it for a livelihood1. The Government picked the eyes out of the properties concerned in order to obtain a level stretch of country suitable for the establishment of an allweather aerodrome. A local resident stated that he was quite prepared to pay £20 an acre for any of the land taken by the Government. The valuations placed by the owners on the areas resumed were - Brunskill Estate, £23 an acre; Sackville Proprietary Limited, £25 an acre; and Mount Blake, £25 an acre. The prices agreed upon were respectively £14, £17 10s., and £15 an acre. The Leader of the Opposition sug_gested that this land should have been made available to the Government at what he termed a. peppercorn rental for the period for which it was required for air force purposes. I point out that it is the Government’s intention to establish a permanent air force station on this site, ft would have been unfair for this, or any other government to take this property in the way suggested by the honorable senator, particularly in view of the fact that the occupants were depending on the land for their living. A similar transaction was effected in respect of resumptions at Amberley, outside Ipswich, Queensland, for a site for an air force station. The majority of the occupants of that land were struggling farmers. It would have been most unfair in that case, as in the case mentioned by the honorable senator, had the Government simply taken that land at a peppercorn rental, and paid no regard whatever to the fact that, as it was driving the occupants off that land, it should allow something for goodwill.
– I agree with the Minister on that point.
– In respect of the Wagga transaction, the Government secured valuations from the Taxation Department and also from a local land agent who was acquainted with local values.
The Leader of the Opposition and Senator Ashley referred to defence expenditure in relation to unemployment. I do not suggest that money expended on defence provides anything like the volume of employment that results from expenditure on developmental work. Honorable senators on this side have contended, however, that expenditure on defence increases employment to some degree, although it will not necessarily relieve unemployment to the same extent as would expenditure of the same amount on developmental works. I agree with honorable senators opposite that the cessation of certain developmental works for which we could not- continue to find money in view of our heavy defence commitments has hit employees in certain trades. I hope that the time will soon come when budgets will propose a much smaller proportion of expenditure on defence and a correspondingly increased allocation in respect of developmental works. No one would be more pleased than I if we could afford to reduce our present defence expenditure, and devote more money towards the development of Canberra, for example.
– The Government will not adopt any other policy hut one of borrowing.
– Our policy is to raise the necessary revenue by loans and taxation combined.
– And the Government will not depart from that policy.
– In what way can we depart from it? If the honorable senator suggests that the credit of this country should be utilized to a greater extern;. I say definitely that it will be utilized to the full before Australia is through the difficult times that are ahead. The credit capacity of this country will be fully tested in order that we may be enabled to help Great Britain and to defend this country in the present war.
– We have succeeded in converting the Minister.
– No. The honorable senator is mistaken if he thinks that the Government intends to adopt the policy advocated by Senator Darcey, whose arguments Senator Leckie very effectively refuted. The Leader of the Opposition and Senator. Brown referred to oversea bondholders. It would appear that whenever honorable senators opposite are at a loss to find something to talk about they resort to criticism of overseas bondholders. The Leader of the Opposition told us how many millions of pounds were paid yearly as interest on borrowed money. He even carried his calculations so far as to show the expenditure each month and each week. Whose fault is it that we are paying interest on money which has been borrowed ?
– It certainly is not my fault.
– Have we not asked people to lend money in order that ral.ways, roads and other public works could be constructed? Why is it that, having expended the money and thereby created new assets, we cavil at paying interest on the money that has been borrowed ?
– We still owe the principal, although we have paid it back over and over again.
– And we still have the assets. Why is it that honorable senators opposite are so ready to deride overseas bondholders ?
– I do not think that overseas bondholders were referred to.
– Who are these people who own government bonds?
– The banks hold the lot.
– The holders of these bonds are not money-lending Shylocks. They lend their money at low rates of interest, and we were told earlier to-day that money lenders’” charges are far in excess of the rates on government bonds. The bonds represent the thrift and savings of ordinary people. Tens of thousands of people in this country, who have put aside a little out of their earnings in order to avoid the necessity for receiving a pension in. their old age, have invested their money in government bonds, partly because of the security they offer, and partly in order to obtain an assured income on which they may live. Exactly the same position exists in Great Britain, Although the loans which are floated from time to time may be underwritten by financial houses, they represent largely the savings of people in England with small incomes. Honorable senators opposite smile, but I know something of what I am talking about. On my visits to England I have had the opportunity to ascertain some of the facts. I have found that some of my own relatives have invested a few hundred pounds, as they were able to save the money, in Australian or Canadian bonds or inscribed stock. It is wrong to imagine that there is some sinister influence at work, merely because we are called upon to pay interest, on money that we have borrowed.
I regret the absence from the chamber of Senator Aylett, who seems to take a delight in referring to the supposed wrongs of Tasmania. The late Premier of Tasmania. Mr. Ogilvie, was a. close friend of mine, and I found him always most optimistic about the future of his State. Members of the State Ministry do not share the gloomy outlook of Senator Aylett ; they, too, are optimistic about the future of their State. Their optimism is justified. 1 have visited Tasmania on a number of occasions during recent years, and .1. believe that that State lias a great future. T imagine that Senator Aylett, who is new to this chamber, thinks that he is breaking new ground when lie makes his suggestions. I pay a tribute to you, Mr. President, aud other honorable senators from Tasmania, who, over a. number of years, have a fine record of accomplishment on behalf of the State that you represent. I remind the Senate of the success which attended the efforts of representatives of Tasmania to secure the connexion of that State with the mainland by telephone. The Lyons Government also removed the obnoxious provisions of the Navigation Act, which had operated so harshly against Tasmania. Moreover, this Parliament has made available to Tasmania considerable sums of money for road construction, and for a bounty on apples and pears, in addition to a financial grant to the State each year.
– Lt also assisted to establish the paper pulp industry in Tasmania.
– I appreciate that interjection. That industry was established in Tasmania as a result of plans drawn up by the Lyons Government.
– Tasmania has also benefited in the matter of airmail charges.
– So much has been done for Tasmania that I have not time to mention nil of the details.
Senator Clothier referred to the supply of materials required by the Department of Supply and .Development. T discussed this matter recently with the Minister in charge of the department (Mr. Casey) and he assured me that, subject to the necessity to obtain supplies when required and to prices being reasonable, orders will as far as possible be placed with suppliers in the States in which the goods are required. The honorable senator will realize that the time of delivery and the price arc important factors, particularly in respect of defence requirements. i should also be remembered that some factories do not want government orders, as they are no; sufficiently profitable.
Senator Courtice referred to the cotton industry. T hope that the Tariff Board’s report, on this subject will be tabled before long.
As negotiations are still proceeding, it. is impossible for me to discuss5 at this stage the sale of Australian wool, to which Senator Ashley referred. 1 hardly think that the honorable senator meant that all neutral countries should be supplied with the wool that they require, although he said so. He will realize that the requirements of the Motherland must come first at a time like the present. 1 wish now to refer to what I thought was an unfair attack upon members on this side by Senator Sheehan, when he said that the Government had neglected all social legislation. I do not claim that the party to which I belong has been entirely responsible for all the social legislation that has been placed on the statutebook. On the contrary, I- give credit to honorable senators opposite who claim to have worked to improve the lot of the workers, but ask them, in turn, to give some credit to the Government and its supporters for the part that they have played in improving the social conditions of the people. I remind them that the original legislation, providing for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions was introduced by a government, whose political outlook generally was similar to that ot the present occupants of the treasury bench, and also that every increase of the pension was the result of action by a similar government. One of the finest pieces of legislation for the protection of workers is the Navigation Act, for which ;< government similar to the present administration was responsible. Amendments of that act, to make it compulsory for vessels to carry wireless plant for the greater safety of men at sea, were introduced by the Lyons Government. Moreover, the Public Service Superannuation Act, which I think may fairly be described as one of the finest pieces of social legislation ever introduced into this Parliament, originated with the same party, which also established arbitration courts and appointed judges in order that the lot of the workers might be improved and harmony exist in industry. The party to which I belong has nothing to apologize for in relation to its social activities. Whilst we give credit to honorable senators opposite for what they have done in this connexion, I’ claim that our record in the amelioration of the social conditions of the people compares more than favorably with theirs. Instead of seeking every opportunity to criticize the Government, honorable senators opposite should try to find some good in us. I am always glad of the opportunity to relate what the Government has done to improve the social conditions of the people of Australia. We on this side are truly representative of all sections of the people, and while we occupy the treasury bench, it will be our desire always to assist in improving the lot, of those who need our help. [ conclude by expressing my appreciation of the free and full discussion that has taken place, and I hope that when we meet again toward? the end of the year, we shall do so under happier circumstances than now exist. In the meantime. 1 assure honorable senators on all sides that thu Government looks forward to receiving their help and support in the difficult times that are ahead.
Question resolved in the affirmative. 1 1 OKE Of M EETING.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed io -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 1(1 a.m. to-morrow.
A D J OUR N Al 15 N T .
Vote on Gold Tax Bill - Senate Business - -Post.m ‘aster-General’s Department: L. O’Neil - Government Borrowing.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to say a word or two in reply to some of the remarks that have been made by honorable senators on the other side of the chamber in relation’ to what happened last night to the Gold Tax Bill. I do not want any misapprehension, nor will I allow, without protest, any misrepresentation of that occurrence. I definitely announced in this chamber, without any reservation, that the Opposition would not oppose the bill. I announced also that, hs we did not approve the measure, we would criticize it. Therefore, Ministers knew that, so far as wo were concerned, there would be no opposition to the bill. But opposition came from Government supporters. It was -obvious that the Government was unable to secure unanimity among its supporters with regard to the measure. That being the position, we refused to pull the Government out of its difficulty. If Ministers cannot carry their own taxation measures without our help, they are asking too much when they expect us to come to their aid.
– That is a helpful spirit!
– That is the Labour Opposition’s idea of co-operation in a time of crisis!
– I wish as briefly as possible to nail down the misrepresentation that obviously will be made concerning Labour’s attitude to the bill. We are told that the Government needs money to carry on the war. We have never impeded the passage of a bill intended to finance the war, but we have at all times declared that that is the Government’s responsibility. To nsk us to be ready to assist the Government with its tax bills when its own supporters are not prepared to support them i.s to expect too much of the Opposition. We know now what is going to be done. As an Opposition we have thrived on the misrepresentation of our opponents. We have reached where we are now because . we were lied about, slandered and misrepresented on every possible occasion during the last half century; therefore misrepresentation in respct of our attitude to the Gold Tax Bill will be no new experience. I refer to the matter now in order to make sure that the facts will be recorded so that, in the days to come, when statements are made, as they will be made for electioneering purposes, we shall have an accurate record of all that has happened, and of our attitude.
I wish also to say a few words about this morning’s happenings in the Senate. We refused to give the Government power to suspend , the standing order which precludes the introduction of new business in the Senate after half-past ten o’clock at night. I was busily engaged at the moment and had no opportunity to ex plain why we objected to the motion, so we merely called “No “. We took that stand because we know that a rush is being made to get into recess. We believe that the Government is determined to adjourn Parliament to-morrow and we want the world to know - the Australian world, at any rate - that Labour senators are here to do the job which the people expect us to do. We are prepared to sit next week, the week after that, and, indeed, right until Christmas, helping to pass legislation, and criticizing measures which we believe should be criticized. We are willing to stay here until the job is done. To suggest that we have done nothing but block the Government in the conduct of business is to suggest something that is not in accordance with the facts. The Senate is about to adjourn now, at 11.30, and the intention is that, we shall meet again to-morrow morning at 10 o’clock. We are prepared to meet at 9 o’clock, if necessary, and to sit until 11 o’clock to-morrow night; or on Saturday. We know that to-morrow the Government will be forcing measures through this chamber, but if it is within our power to block them, we shall do so, because we do not believe in legislation by exhaustion, nor do we approve of passing legislation without proper scrutiny and criticism. Ministers now know what is ahead of them.
.- On the 6th September, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I mentioned the victimization of Leslie O’Neil, a Launceston employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Last night I made a further inquiry, and to-day I received from Senator McBride, representing the PostmasterGeneral, a reply which I regard as unsatisfactory. Mr. O’Neil, the postal official in question, some time ago made application for a certain amount of back pay; he received it, but because he had made the application, he was put off and refused further employment. The reply given to me last night was to the effect that the PostmasterGeneral had made some inquiries following the receipt of a letter from me, and he was unable to find any justification for the impression that Mr. O’Neil bad been victimized by the department. Mr. O’Neil is a. returned soldier. As 1 have already told the Senate, he was dismissed from his temporary employment whilst others, including non-returned soldiers, were kept on, and another man was engaged on the day . following O’Neil’s dismissal. I am prepared to make a statutory declaration that a man named Weldon saw O’Neil in my presence and requested, a signed declaration to the effect that he was not concerned in O’Neil’s request for back pay. If Weldon had not secured that declaration, he would have been dismissed also. I am satisfied that the Postal Department has not made any effort to inquire into this complaint of victimization, and I appeal to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to take steps to have the matter cleared up.
. -On page 2 of the budget, there appears this statement -
Referring to the public debt, the Treasurer said that the outstanding operation for the year was the cash and conversion loan in December. This loan, which included £67,600,000 conversion and £4,000,000 for defence, was floated at £.3 17s. 6d. at par and constituted the biggest operation conducted by the loan Council on the Australian market since the NationalDebt Conversion of 1931. The holdings converted amounted to £53,000,000, public cash subscriptions, including £5,650,000 provided by the Commonwealth Bank, amounted to £16,000,000 and£2,600,000 was provided from the Sinking Fund.
That statement is entirely wrong and misleading. I have on other occasions proved that in connexion with the recent loan of £4,800,000, £3,750,000 was bank-created credit. How could there be a cash conversion loan of £53,000,000 when there is only £57,000,000 worth of cash in Australia? The statement is entirely misleading and I do not think that it should be allowed to pass unchallenged. It shouldbe expunged from thebudget papers.
– My colleague, Senator McBride, who represents the Postmaster-General, is not at the moment in the chamber. I shall direct his attention to the matter mentioned ‘by Senator Lamp and I am sure that he will . bring it to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
High Commissionerfor Australia in London - Report for 1938.
Salvage of Torpedoes - International Convention, signed at Paris, 12th June, 1934 - Additional Protocol, signed at Paris, 12th January, 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Rottnest Island, Western Australia; - For Defence purposes.
South Arm. Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30th June, 1939.
Senate adjourned at 1 1 . 40.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 September 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1939/19390921_senate_15_161/>.