15th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon J.R. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
” SIXTH COLUMN.”
SenatorCOLLINGS.- In view of the statement made in the House of Representatives on Monday last by the Prime Minister to the effect that the matter of forming a “ sixth column “ is now engaging the attention of the Cabinet, will the Minister representing the Prime Minister say whether it is to be understood that there is, or can he, any intention on the part of the Government to allow the formation of any organization whatever, having for its avowed purpose the suppression or coercion of citizens as individuals, or as members of any other organization not approved of by this proposed “ sixth column “ ? “Will the Minister take immediate steps to allay public apprehension in respect of this matter?
Senator McLEAY. - The matter will be referred to the Prime Minister.
– When will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development be in a position to make a statement to the Senate with regard to the position of the flax industry?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and: Development to secure, as soon as possible, the information desired by the honorable senator.
“HANDS OFF RUSSIA “ RESOLUTION.
SenatorCOLLINIGS.-Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister seen the report published in the Canberra and other southern newspapers yesterday, in which the Attorney-General and Minister for Industry (Mr. Hughes) is reported to have said, in a broadcast address on Monday night - “ Resolutions warning us to keep our hands off Russia, inspired by the ‘Communists, have been adopted by the Labour party”? As the Australian Labour party has publicly, emphatically and officially repudiated the resolution referred to, will the Prime Minister take steps to reprimand Mr. Hughes for his grossly inaccurate statement, and give full publicity to such reprimand ?
– I did not notice that particular part of the report. I shall refer the matter to the AttorneyGeneral.
Senator BRAND brought up the report of ‘ the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the proposed repairs and improvements to the wharf at Port Augusta, South Australia.
– Is the Loader of the Senate aware that an organization in New South Wales styled the NoConscription League, which is sponsored by the New South Wales Labour party, and is designed to create dissension and bitterness amongthe people, is toeing organized and directed by a notorious Communist named Jeffreys?
– I am not aware of the formation of such an organization, but, my attention having been directed to the matter, it will be investigated.
– ‘Can the Minister for the Interior state why certain questions relating to the supply of jarrah for public works purposes which I placed on the notice-paper recently have disappeared from the notice-paper, although thequestions have not been answered?
– I cannot say, but I am advised that the information will be available to-morrow, and I shall see that it is furnished to the honorable senator.
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that the New South Wales branch of the United Australia party has selected, as a candidate for the next Senate elections, Captain Patrick, who entertained Count von Luckner, the spy, when he was in Australia?
– I am aware that Mr. Patrick has been selected to stand in the United Australia party interests, but, as to the other part of the question, I think that the honorable senator knows more about von Luckner than I do.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce make inquiries, and advise the Senate, regarding the progress made by the Department of Commerce with the Admiralty in connexion with the proposed marine survey of the north-western const of Western Australia?
– I shallmake the inquiries suggested, and shall supply tothe honorable senator later the information desired by him.
– On the 24th May, Senator Eraser asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Navy has now furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the’ following answers: -
Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the non-success of Western Australian trading firms in securing contracts for Army requirements is alleged to be due to their being unable to get down to eastern States prices, owing to -
If so, will he allow for the marginaldifferences when dealing with each tender submitted for contract prices?
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. I understand that it has been claimed that the factors mentioned have militated against Western Australian tenderers receiving contracts for some defence supplies, but, in the absence of specific instances of the particular class of labour concerned, I am unable to confirm the claim. If the honorable senator will supply such particulars, I shall be pleased to consider the second part of his question.
asked the Min ister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with the names of the person or persons, or company or companies, who have been granted permission to raise capital by public subscription for the search for oil, or for scout boring in Victoria, stating the respective amounts, and the dates permission was granted?
SenatorMcBRIDE. - The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The particulars which are submitted to the Treasury in connexion with applications to issue capital are confidential. The Treasurer is therefore unable to supply the details asked for.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. I have no information on this matter.
– by leave - read the statement made in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Air (Mr. Fairbairn) (vide page 1448).
– by leave - Honorable senators will realize that the position of the Allied forces, which have been holding the German drive across
Flanders and northern France, has been most gravely affected by the sudden capitulation of the Belgian Army.. The decision of the King of the Belgians to surrender was announced early yesterday morning.Up to that time the situation was that British, French and Belgian divisions were holding a lino extending roughly in a semicircle from the French coast near Dunkirk round to the north Belgian coast. Though this line was irregular and was subject at several points to intense German pressure, it did represent a barrier against further German penetration to the channel coast.
Two or three days ago it was known that the Belgian positions had been very heavily assailed and that the Belgian right flank had been broken. A British division, which could ill be spared, was promptly despatched to the assistance of the Belgians at the point of greatest danger. It is understood that the Belgian capitulation was made without any prior warning or consultation whatever with the French and British commands. The result is that the left flank of the British and French positions has been left completely exposed. When it is realized that this opens the way for a German advance towards Dunkirk across western Belgium, and also that Dunkirk is the principal port of supply for the British Expeditionary Force, the gravity of the present situation becomes obvious. Calais has already fallen into the enemy’s hands, and German units have been reported to be moving on Dunkirk from that direction also. Meanwhile, the British Expeditionary Force is maintaining a most courageous resistance against steadily increasing odds. Its strength is largely intact, and its fighting spirit unbroken. We can be confident that it will carry out to the last whatever task is assigned to it.
The Prime Minister of France, in his broadcast to the French nation yesterday, made it clear that France will continue the struggle with undiminished resolution. Strong French defensive positions have been established along the line of the Somme and the Aisne, and German attempts to extend their penetration across the Somme and in the south-east sector near Sedan havebeen successfully held. It is not the wish of the Government to enter into any recriminations regarding the decision of King Leopold. The Belgian forces had for days been exposed to overwhelming mechanized and air attacks, and, without a full knowledge of the facts of their military position, it is impossible to form a judgment on the decision of their command er-inrchief. It must be obvious to honorable senators that the seriousness of the position in which the French and British: Forces in northern France and Flanders now find themselves cannot be exaggerated.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 1154), on motion by Senator FOLL -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although this measure may have farreaching effects, it is, in itself, simple. I am sure that, as was the case in the House of Representatives, no serious opposition will be presented to it in this chamber. The object of clause 2 is to substitute the word “ plants “, for the word “plant” in section 5 of the principal act. As the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) pointed out in his second-reading speech that section has been interpreted to mean that whilst the Government can purchase a whole plant, it cannot purchase parts of a plant, or parts for a plant. The object of clause 2 is to remove any doubt in that respect.
Under this measure the Government also seeks power to contribute towards the cost of any geological survey or scoutdrilling operations conducted by it in conjunction with a State, and also to make advances to persons engaged in the initial stages of the production of petroleum. I need hardly say that the Opposition realizes that the discovery of petroleum oil in Australia is of vital importance to this country. At no time in our history has that fact been more generally recognized than the present. In spite of all the investigations which have been undertaken at considerable expense, no results of commercial value have yet been obtained. I suggest that the Government should immediately undertake more extensive work in order not only to discover flow oil in commercial quantities, but also to explore every channel whereby we can make ourselves selfsufficient in respect of power supplies. This matter, of course, has been repeatedly debated in this chamber. The Government has taken certain action to develop extraction: of oil from coal and shale. I do not know whether the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has conducted any investigation into the possibility of extracting oil from vegetable matter. Considerable progress has been made in north Queensland in producing power alcohol from sugar waste, and an appreciable quantity of that fuel is now being used in industry in this country. I support the measure.
– Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 seeks to make the provisions of sub-section 1 of the same clause retrospective to the date on which the Petroleum Oil Search Act (No. 2) 1936, came into operation.
– The object of that provision is to legalize advances that have already been made for scout-drilling operations in association with the Victorian Government.
– That is the Minister’s explanation; but this clause if agreed to will also give to the Minister power to refund to certain persons moneys which they may claim they have expended in the purchase of drilling plant since 1936.
– Those plants were bought by the Government, and all of them have been paid for.
– Advances have been made from the Petroleum Oil Search Trust Fund to certain companies for the purchase of drilling plant. I contendthat the provisions of this measure should not be applied retrospectively, but that they should operate as from the date on which this measure becomes law . I am considerably handicapped indiscussing the bill, because I have not yet received an answer to a question of which I gave notice last Friday morning. To-day, I was told that the answer had not yet come to hand. My question was -
Will the Minister representing the Treasurer supply the Senate with the names of the person or persons, or company or companies, who have been granted permission to raise capital by public subscription for the search for oil, or for scout boring in Victoria, stating the respective amounts and the dates on which permission was granted?
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that the answer to his question has any bearing on the search for oil.
SenatorARTHUR. - I believe that it has. At any rate, I resent the fact that although I put my question on the noticepaper last Friday, the Minister flippantly tells me to-day that the answer has not yet come to hand. Now, one of his colleagues suggests that the answer to that question has no bearing on the search for flow oil. Such an attitude is typical of that adopted by Ministers in the Senate in dealing with questions asked by honorable senators on this side. We are entitled to receive the information we seek at the earliest possible moment. I am at a disadvantage in discussing this measure in the absence of the information which I sought last Friday. For the reason I have already given, I voice my opposition to the bill.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia) [3.31]. - As I understand that the object of the retrospective provision of the measure is to legalize advances already made by the Government in connexion with drilling operations, I can see noreason why the bill should not be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Petroleum oil search trust account).
– I would like an assurance from the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) with regard to grants which will be made by the Government under this clause. Can the Minister assure honorable senators that this very wide clause will not permit of claims being made by every Tom, Dick and Harry who has endeavoured to enlarge upon the search for oil since 1936? We have heard quite a lot about “ doodlebug” merchants, and I would .like to be convinced that the additional clause will not give scope for claims from unstable organizations which have had a mushroomlike growth.
– I cannot give an assurance that claims will not be received. Claims are received daily and are considered by expert geologists of the Department of the Interior, who make a thorough investigation of any request for assistance.
– Has the department power to reject spurious claims?
– Yes. This bill does not provide that claims must be granted. It merely provides authority for the Government to grant assistance in approved cases.
– What about refunds ?
– The question of refunds does not arise. As I said in my second-reading speech, the purpose of this bill is to make legal certain advances made by the Treasury in connexion with scout drilling undertaken in Gippsland in conjunction with the Victorian Government on a £1 for £1 basis. The bill also provides that in cases where companies arc fortunate enough to find indications of oil, the department may, if it considers it advisable, grant some assistance to those companies in order that they may explore further the prospects of getting oil in commercial quantities. Such payments could not be made under the present legislation.
Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) “3.53]. - What I arn concerned about in connexion with this clause is, first, the position of the trust account. Is there any money now in the account for use in the directions indicated by this clause, or does the Government intend to put more money into it? In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 20th January last there appeared a statement by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) to the effect that the Government did not intend to provide any. further assistance to companies -engaged in scout drilling operations. The Minister also said that the
Oil Advisory Committee had recommended that that body- be abolished because results had been disappointing. In the same newspaper eleven days later, there appeared a contradictory, statement to’ the effect that the ..Government intended to continue assistance to scout drilling operations and the search for flow oil. It was also stated that £50,000 remained in the trust account, for that purpose. To my knowledge, , money was given to the Freney Company operating in the Kimberleys in Western Australia, to the Apanaipi Company operating in Papua, and to another concern operating in Victoria. Speaking from memory, I think the amounts were £17,000, £12,000 and £1,200 respectively. I submit that if money is to be expended on scout drilling operations and on geological surveys, the Government should certainly not be guided by those gentlemen who style themselves geological experts - those dismal failures who have conducted the oil search in tin’s country!
– One of them has left.
– One has left, but the last has not been heard of him, and others remain. On a site selected by- the socalled experts, at Kulnura, near Gosford, New South Wales, £17,000” was paid to a company engaged in the search for oil and registered in New South Wales, bringing its total expenditure’- to more than £50,000. Boring was carried down to the 4,000-f t. level, so that the : cost was more »than £12 a < foot With’- evidence like that before us we cannot doubt that the Minister was -absolutely’’ correct when bo said that- the’ Oil’ Advisory- Committe(:s operations had been disappointing. Until we know exactly^ what money is available and what method’ of financing is to bc adopted, it is difficult’ for us to accept the Minister’s word’ ‘that scout drilling operations and geological surveys are to be helped in the’ future. The methods of the geologists in Australia are quite out of date just as they were in America, where out -of 118 blind stabs made, one bore produced oil. The application of the science of geophysics to the search for oil eighteen years ago, resulted in the production of oil from one bore in every five.’ To-day, the ratio is even better. It is regrettable that there is no chair of geophysics in any Australian university. In fact, the only chair of geophysics in the world is at Denver, in America, and that was established, only a few months ago.
– Has not a geophysicist made seven stabs in Victoria without locating any oil?
– I am not prepared to make any comment in regard to that position at present, because it is dangerous for any one engaged in the search for oil to claim success unless he has the imprimatur of the Commonwealth Governmentand the major oil companies. If he has not that approval, he is likely to be hit on the head with a crowbar as Mr. Pollock was in Mr. Menzies’ own electorate in Victoria, or brutally assaulted as Mr. Beattie was at the top of William-street in Sydney, because he had found petroleum oil.
– Near Cullen Bullen, New South Wales. It is well known that when oil was found at Mr Gambier in South Australia and brought to the surface, the plant was sabotaged.
The. CHAIRMAN (Senator James McLachlan). - Order! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the clause now under discussion.
– My remarks are connected with the clause, because obviously geological surveys and scout drilling are aimed at finding petroleum. If we are to permit assistance to be given to people engaged in the search for oil, it is. only fair to point out the dangers associated with carrying on such operations. They may be injured in some way as other persons associated with the search for oil have been injured. As I have said, in South Australia, where oil was discovered, the well was sabotaged.
– What does the honorable senator think should be done that is not now being done?
– First, I suggest that the Minister for the Interior should resign not only his portfolio, but also his seat in the Senate. In the meantime, I should like the Minister to give me some outline of the manner in which the money is to be raised. Is there sufficient money in the trust fund at present to enable geological surveys and scoutdrilling operations to be carried out? I hope that the men connected with these operations are much more capable than their predecessors, and that the failures of the Oil Advisory Committee will not be repeated.
– Senator Arthur has repeated the whole story which he told us some days ago. It has nothing whatever to do with the activities of the Department of the Interior or of the Oil Advisory Committee. The statements which he has made with regard to things that have happened to certain individuals have nothing whatever to do with the bill or with the Oil Advisory Committee,and nothing is known of them in the Department of the Interior. As I have explained, the State Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government were asked whether they would be prepared to carry out certain scout-drilling operations in Gippsland. We agreed to the request, but under the existing legislation, the Commonwealth Government had no power to make advances for that purpose out of the trust fund. The Treasury was approached in regard to the matter and it agreed to make the advances until such time as amending legislation of this kind could be passed through Parliament in order to make the payment legal. Scout-drilling tests are being carried out in the Lakes Entrance district of Gippsland. As honorable senators know, oil-bearing sands have been discovered in that area from time to time. Scout drilling is being done at various sites, and the cores will either be examined by our own officers or sent overseas for examination as to their porosity. It is hoped that these examinations will enable a decision to be made as to whether or not the fields can be a paying proposition. With all due respect to Senator Arthur, I suggest that the information which is available to the State Government of Victoria and to the Commonwealth Government is just, as valuable as any information which may come into the possession of the honorable senator. Thesetests are now being carried out to see whether or not assistance should be given to the search for oil in that field. There is no other reason. The amount of money that will be expended out of the trust fund will amount to only a few thousand pounds. The honorable senator asked me what is the. position with regard to the trust fund. Honorable senators will recall that £250,000 was made available some years ago to encourage companies to search for oil in Australia. I think that about £40,000 remains to the credit of the fund. One of the reasons for the Government’s discontinuance of advances to oil companies was the disclosure that a number of concerns were being established with insufficient capital and were taking advantage of the Government’s proposal to pay a £1 for £1 subsidy on expenditure in boring for oil. Many of those companies had not sufficient capital to put down more than one bore, and invariably the shareholders lost their money. The Oil Advisory Committee also considered that it would be inadvisable to encourage new ventures in this direction, because the obligations into which the Government had entered would require additional funds to be made available. For instance, it had agreed to assist the Freney Company in Kimberley, Western Australia, to continue operations, in what is believed to be a favorable locality. That- company bears one-third of the expenditure, the State government one-third, and the Commonwealth one- third. Advice given to me suggests that we would be fully justified in further supporting that company. We also have some obligations in connexion with the Papuan Apinaipi Petroleum Company. Considerable expenditure has already been incurred in Papua. The company mentioned is renting a boring plant and is paying 10 per cent, on its capital cost. Apparently Senator Arthur is smarting under some sense of grievance with respect to my administration of the department. I assure the honorable gentleman that the whole of the resources of the department are readily made available to any company that is conducting a. genuine search for oil in this country, irrespective of whether he has an interest in it or not. All that a company is required, to do is to furnish the necessary security and pay for the use of the plant. The department does not pick and choose. I do not pay much attention to the hon orable senator’s abuse of the Government in connexion with this matter, because I am satisfied that the department over which I preside is doing a good job in the best interests of the people of Australia. The purpose of the bill is to legalize payments which we have already made, and paragraph e of the clause before the committee authorizes continued assistance to companies after the discovery of oil. Under existing legislation Government advances cease with the discovery of oil.
– The Minister’s complaint that 1 have abused him and his department in connexion with this matter- is a figment of his imagination. I certainly told the truth.
– Not on all occasions.
– Yes, always, and £ have just listened to a necklace of untruths from the Minister in connexion with certain phases of this subject.
– I take strong exception to that statement and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The Minister having taken objection to the statement made by Senator Arthur I ask the honorable senator to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. Mr. Chairman, but I would say thai the statements made by the Minister concerning the activities of the Government in connexion with the search for oil in Australia are not believed by me or by thousands of people throughout Australia. All competent authorities and all worth-while text-books are agreed that geological surveys are not of any value in the search for oil; so it i.« mere waste of the taxpayers’ money to carry out scout boring on the advice of geological experts. Many wild-cat schemes have been launched on this unreliable advice, particularly at Mulgoa and at Kulnura, near Gosford, in New South Wales, and also at a number of places in Victoria. In that State 36 bores have been put down to a depth of from 900 feet to 1,500 feet on advice of geologists, and the work has been discontinued. Such a state of affairsshould not be allowed to continue, i agreethatgeologists can furnish valuable; information, with respect to mineral deposits,butitis quite unlikely that they are in a position to offer a reliable opinion as to the presence of oil. For this reason, I consider that further expenditureonscout boring in conjunction with State governments, acting on the advice of geological experts, is simply throwing moneyaway.
Title- agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. .
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Seatof Government . (Administration Bill) 1940.
Land Tax Assessment Bill 1940.
Income TaxBill 1 940.
IncomeTax Assessment Bill 1940.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
BillreceivedfromtheHouse of Representatives.
StandingandSessionalOrders sus- pended.
. -I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This billprovides for a number of alterations inconnexion with the telegraph rates operating throughout Australia. Another . measure provides for special concessions to members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces. This bill will reduce the. number of words in the normal . telegram from sixteen to fourteen, and the, new rates will provide that an ordinary; telegram of fourteen words may be transmitted from any post office to any point within a radius of fifteen miles for 9d. irrespective of whether it is transmitted across a State border or not. Beyond a radius of fifteen miles the charge for an ordinary telegram will be fourteen words for1s. throughout theCommonwealth. This will abolish the interstate telegraph rates, and eliminatetheheavy charges now imposed on what are generally referred to as border telegrams. In practice it will enable residents on border towns to transmit an ordinary telegram of fourteen words for fifteen miles for 9d., or sixteen words for11d., compared with the present charge of sixteen words or1s. 4d. It also abolishes the imposition of double rates for telegrams lodged for transmission on Sundays, Christmas Days and Good Fridays, and telegrams sent after the prescribed hours. In view of the important development of broad- casting, provision is made to grant press rates for the transmission of news telegrams to broadcasting stations throughout Australia. The concessions granted by eliminating interstate and border rates, the abolition of double rates on holidays and after hours, and the application of press rates to broadcasting telegrams, will amount to between £20,000 and £35,000.
The advantage gained by reducing the normal telegram from sixteen to fourteen words will increase the revenue by an estimated amount of about £52,000, and after allowing for further concessions to the Defence Forces the net result will be a financial gain to the Postal Department of approximately £25,000. This, of course, is taking into account the probability of an increase of the volume of telegraphic traffic between the States, particularly between border towns where the maximum concession will operate.
The bill will remove several of the anomalies which have remained with the post office since the inauguration of federation. Whilst we accepted the principle of uniform postal rates throughout the Commonwealth, we have refrained from applying the same system to telegrams. Telegrams relating to the movement of shipping sent by the Commonwealth Navigation and Lighthouse Services for the purpose of being posted up at telegraph offices will be transmitted at press rates. Whilst these amendments will bring about uniformity in regard to. the telegraph rates throughout Australia, they will also introduce economies in the internal administration, particularly in the Accounts Branch of the department, and at the same time have a tendency to allow a greater number of telegrams to be transmitted in any given time. By the elimination of Hie double rates after hours, it will bring the telegraph system more closely in line with the telephone system under which concession rates are granted for afterhour traffic, when the trunk lines are less congested. These new provisions will have a tendency to distribute the load on our telegraph system over a longer period during each 24 hours, and will unable the department to take greater advantage of the operating organization during the slack periods.
The new telegraph rates will represent flu average charge of .Sid. per word for ordinary telegrams through Australia. The average rate for ordinary telegrams throughout the United Kingdom is .’83d.; in New Zealand l.lld. and from 1.05d. to 4.05d. under the zone system in the United States of America. From these figures it will be seen that the new average telegraph rate throughout Australia will be even lower than the rate operating in Great Britain.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the. 23rd May (vide page 1175), on motion by Senator MCBRIDE -
That the paper bc printed.
Senator DEIN .(New South Wales) 1 4.1 6]. - During recent weeks, much public attention has been directed to the necessity for the formation of a national government. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) dealt with this matter at some length a few days ago, and said that he himself was tempted to support the proposal. Precisely what he meant by those words I am at a loss to know. The proposal must be either good or bad. If it is good, the word “ tempt “ should not apply. If he considered the suggestion a bad one, he could then say that he was tempted to support it.
– I have not heard one logical argument advanced that would suggest that the proposal is not a good one. A most important meeting of the Loan Council was held this week. Ministers representing different shades of political opinion throughout Australia met in this chamber to discuss certain matters prior to reaching decisions of great importance to the nation. When this body assembles, it forgets party differences, and the interests of. the country alone are considered. I do not believe that the party to which I belong has a monopoly of the good qualities, and that the Opposition has all of the bad ones. No doubt, some good is to be found on both sides and, therefore, I think that, in the interests of Australia, a government representative of all political parties should be formed.
If ever there has been need for unity in Australia, it is now. The enemy guns are thundering at the gates of London. Britain has its back to the wall, and is fighting for its life. If Britain goes down, we shall go down, losing our liberty, our standards of living, of which we ‘are proud and which we hope to raise, our independence, our industrial and social legislation, and everything else that we hold dear. Australia, therefore, is left with one problem only at the moment, and that is the winning of the war. If we lose, all of our problems will be solved for us without our assistance, without our advice, and certainly not in a way that will be to our liking. So the question that confronts us is: Can this problem of winning the war be better solved by unity, or is it more likely to be successfully solved by disunity? The Labour party thinks that it can render better service by remaining a virile Opposition than by joining a national government. At Cabinet meetings, information is disclosed that is denied to the Parliament generally, and, if members of the Labour party have constructive suggestions to make, or administrative ability, they have an opportunity in Cabinet to show what they can do. But the Labour party says to the present
Government, “ You make the decisions and we snail say in Parliament whether they are good or had “. I contend that the proper place for leading members of the Labour party who have constructive ideas is the Cabinet room, where they could participate in the discussions, and where effect could be given to the views’ they propounded.
– Ought not Parliament to decide all matters of government policy ?
– It cannot decide them in the first instance. The honorable senator, as a member of the executives of certain Labour organizations, knows that an executive is able to come to decisions that a larger body could not reach; but, apparently, the honorable senator does not believe in a Parliamentary executive. To that extent he is inconsistent. In this Parliament we sometimes have to discuss matters after decisions have been reached regarding them.
I shall contrast the attitude of the Australian Parliamentary Labour party with that of the British Parliamentary Labour party. Forty-eight hours before Mr Churchill was entrusted by the King with the formation of a new Ministry, the British party was violently opposed to taking part in a national government; but, immediately Mr. Chamberlain stepped down, it came in, and its decision was accepted by an overwhelming majority of its supporters throughout Great Britain. It did not first seek the permission of its supporters to join the national government. Lt did what it thought was right, and trusted to the common sense of is supporters, who immediately endorsed its decision by 2,400,000 votes to 170,000. Not one word of criticism has been levelled against the Parliamentary Labour party in Great Britain because of its action in that regard. Evidently its supporters realize that the most urgent problem confronting the Empire to-day is the winning of the war. Unfortunately, the Australian Parliamentary Labour party is afraid of itself It is not game, and for a number of years has not been game, to come to important decisions itself, thereby giving a lead to its supporters outside. When the national register legislation was introduced, instructions from outside were received by the parliamentary party. When the Supply and Development bill was under discussion a similar position arose. Again, in the case of the national insurance legislation, outside supporters of the party instructed the parliamentary representatives as to the attitude they should adopt. This position is being repeated with regard to the formation of a national government. The Parliamentary Labour party is not incapable, but it has not sufficient courage to make a decision for itself, and let its supporters outside know what it thinks. I pity it. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) knows as well as I do that he would be of more use in a national government than he is as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. In Cabinet his ideas could be considered before decisions were reached. I do not suggest that he has original ideas, but he believes that he would be an acquisition to any government. Yet he is afraid to make a suggestion with regard te this matter for fear of outside criticism. During the last war the Labour party did make a decision, but an outside organization - the Political Labour League as it was then known - immediately expelled those who made the decision without its concurrence. The present Labour party, which has never forgotten what occurred on that occasion, is always governed by the fear of expulsion. The Parliamentary Labour party can never act on its own initiative; it always has to wait for instructions from an outside authority. The representatives of the Labour party in this chamber are supposed to speak on behalf of approximately one-half of the electors in the Commonwealth, but while most of those whom they represent are clamouring for the Government to do all in its power to bring the war to a successful conclusion, those in charge of some of the unions - I refer more particularly to the paid officials - feel that they might lose something if they are not allowed to call the tune. Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Labour party has not sufficient courage to do what it should do. Prior to the war we were faced with numerous domestic problems, but on the outbreak of hostilities, practically every one iu Australia admitted that hie first duty was to win the war, after which our domestic problems could be considered. Every individual, regardless of the political considerations, wishes to see Australia’s maximum effort applied to winning the war; but unfortunately representatives of certain political parties continue to mislead the people by saying that they can render better service by remaining in opposition. If such a policy is desirable in Australia it would also bc advantageous in Great Britain; but the members of the British Labour party are made of different stuff from the members of the Australian Labour party. The National Government in Britain is composed of representatives of all parties, each of whom is anxious to do his best to serve the nation. Since the reconstruction of the British Cabinet, certain revolutionary legislation has been passed by the British Parliament in the interests of the British people. Such legislation having been enacted in Britain, I believe that it would be possible for similar legislation to be passed by this Parliament.
– The honorable senator would oppose it if it were introduced.
– I would not. I want to see the job through in the interests of the people whom I represent. To be consistent, if I thought that I could do more as a member of the Opposition than as a Government supporter, I would be in the Opposition; but I believe that I can do more by supporting the present Government.
I now wish to refer to the pressing need for greater national effort. I believe that sufficient has not yet been done. Last night a remarkable “ win the war “ demonstration was held in the Sydney Town Hall. The great majority of those present were not interested in political parties, but were anxious to assist in some way. Many in the community can do more than they are doing at present. The practicability of the suggestion I am about to mate should be examined. Many ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who are physically fit but are over 40 years of age will not he accepted for service in the army.
It should be practicable to place somewhere all those who are’ willing and anxious to serve, and who are unable to do so because they are told that there is no work for them. Moreover, there are tens of thousands of civilians over military age who could perform some useful service. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have friends iri business who may not possess sufficient cash to enable them to invest in war loans or to purchase war savings certificates, but who are able to render gratuitously, hourly, half-daily, or daily, some service in the national effort. Men have told me that they would give their services for a couple of days a week and also work at night without remuneration, but apparently there is no work for them to do. Every member of this Parliament - excluding Ministers who are fully occupied - is capable and, I am sure, willing to render some additional service to the community.
– We would have to revolutionize Government policy before that could be done.
– The mind of the honorable senator is always fixed on revolutionary action. He spoke of revolution before the last war and is again suggesting it. The honorable senator believes that that is the only way in which grievances can be rectified. It is possible that the war situation may become so serious that every ounce of effort that we can exert will be required, and I believe that there are tens of thousands with sufficient energy, enthusiasm and ability to render some useful service. There should be a place for some, if not for all, and I trust that this matter will be explored.
– That can be taken for granted.
– There appear to he no avenues in which such men can be employed.
– A change of government would be necessary.
– If the Labour party has any suggestions to make whereby our man-power could be marshalled more effectively, it should allow its representatives to join the Cabinet, where they could express their views. I have brought this matter forward because some of my friendswho have contributed financial support to the war effort are now anxious to serve in some other way. Those who are not in a position to assist financially are anxious to help, but they do not know in what direction their energy can be applied.
Early in the debate on this motion certain representatives of the Labour party in his chamber endeavoured to outdo each other in an endeavour to disown the Communist party. Senator Fraser was sufficiently enthusiastic to tack the Communists on to the United Australia party, although his references applied more particularly to Western Australia. Idonotknow anything about Communist influences in that State, but I do know something of the activities of Communists in New South Wales. The representatives of New -South Wales made a feeble attempt to tack the Communists on to the United Australia party, but in doing so they were speaking with their tongues in their cheeks.In 1934, a man named Sharkey, an esteemed member of the Labour party in New South Wales, who contested the Senate elections as a straight out Communist candidate, received about 23,000 first preference votes, and of that number 19,000, or 83 per cent., of his second preferences were given to members of the Australian Labour party.I invite honorable senators opposite to challenge the figures I have given. Should they be able to prove them tobe incorrect, I shall readilyapolo- gize. The United Australia party and oughts Credit candidates received between them 3,800 of the Communist preferences,8 per cent, going to the former and 7 per cent, to the latter. These figures prove conclusively that the Communist party supports the Labour party. At the general election in 1937 the Communist party was very anxious to defeat the Lyons Government, and if thought it could best do so by supporting Labour candidates. I draw the attention of honorable senators opposite to leaflet No. 1 issued by the Communist party in Victoria during the election campaign of 1937 : -
The Lyons Government must go. The Communist party sets itself the task of bringing about the defeat of the Lyons Government. using its organization, its press and its meetings for this purpose. The defeat of the Lyons Government means the return of the Labour Government.
The Communist party, to show its sincerity has withdrawn all but one candidate and will give full support to the endorsed Labour candidates.
Forward to victory!
Victory for whom? Victory for the Communist party through the Labour party. In 1937 the Communist party did not nominate any candidates for the election to the Senate. In Queensland it ran only one candidate for the House of Representatives, and that was Mr. Patterson, who stood for the Herbert seat. He received 12,000 primary votes, and 11,000 of his second preferences were given to the Labour candidate, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens). These facts prove conclusively that the Communist party supports the Labour party.
– The matter we are discussing is most, important, and I am sorry that my remarks irritate the honorable senator. However, as Senator Fraser has already dealt with this matter, the electors generally should be informed just where the Communist party stands in relation to other political parties. I should expect Senator Ashley to he irritated, by my remarks, because he must go to the Communist party for endorsement as a candidate at the next election for the Senate. However, I cannot consider his feelings in this matter. As I have already shown, the Communist party supported the Labour party in the general election in 1937. Indeed, it is owing to the Communist vote that Senator Ashley is able to grace this chamber, because his majority at the last election was only 11,000, whereas at the preceding election the strength of the Communist vote was shown to be at least 23,000. No doubt Senator Ashley is very grateful for the assistance which he received from the Communists. In 1937 the Labour party welcomed the support Of the Communists. Immediately after that election a section of the Labour party broke away. That section was composed of Communists who endeavoured toassert themselves by forming a new Labour party to which Senator Ashley-
– I prefer the Communist associations to the honorable senator’s German associations.
– The inference which must obviously be drawn from that statement is grossly untrue. I ask you, Mr. Deputy President, whether I have any protection against a malicious liar such as he is?
– I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator James McLachlan). - If thehonorable senator takes objection to Senator Ashley’s remark, I shall ask him to withdraw it-
– In making that statement Senator Ashley is a malicious liar.
– I ask Senator Dein to withdraw that statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- If Senator Dein takes objection to Senator Ashley’s remark I shall ask him to withdraw it.
– His statement is grossly untrue.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Does the honorable senator wish Senator Ashley to withdraw his remark?
– It is very difficult to ask a malicious liar to withdraw anything.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.Order ! I ask Senator Dein whether ho wishes Senator Ashley to withdraw his remark.
– That is the most difficult question I have ever been asked. Out of deference to the Chair, and not in any way because of the malicious lie,I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– I withdraw my remark.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.-I now ask Senator Dein to withdraw his remark that Senator Ashley is a malicious liar.
– I do not know that that is possible. To me he is a malicious liar.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw unreservedly his remark that Senator Ashley is a malicious liar.
– Out of deference to the Chair, I withdraw.
– If there is any repetition of this behaviour on the part of Senator Dein, I shall ask that drastic action be taken.
– Statements have been made by two or three “ things “ opposite.
– I ask that the honorable senator be required to withdraw that remark.
– If you are not a “ thing “, it does not apply to you.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I ask Senator Dein to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw. Statements similar to that made by Senator Ashley have been made by other honorable senators opposite. I refute their malicious reflections and would point out that I was born in Australia half a century ago ; my father was born in Australia81 years ago; and my mother was born in Australia 83 years ago. In those circumstances it ill-becomes any honorable senator opposite to make aspersions such as Senator Ashley has made. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Callings) set the example for such conduct a. little while ago when he made a reply in somewhat similar terms.
– The honorable senator is entirely on the wrong track.
– Senator Ashley apparently sees something in a name.
– The honorable senator is taking up the matter entirely wrongly; I shall explain.
– I do not want the honorable senator’s explanation. However much he may now back and fill, he conveyed a certain impression. It is fortunate for him. that he isnot a better man than he is. This bitterness arose becauseI stated-
– It arose because, for half an hour, the honorable senator has been stating untruths about the Labour party.
– What I said is true.
– The honorable senator always makes provocative speeches.
– It is always the same with honorable senators opposite. They get up and say all the things that come to putrid minds about honorable senators on this side of the chamber. “We have been charged during this debate, with being allied to the Communists. When I refute that charge, and show that the Communists support the Labour party, insults are hurled at us. Following the 1937 election a split occurred in the Labour party of New South Wales, mainly because of the dissatisfaction ot a section led by the extremists, or “ reds “. Senator Ashley was bitterly opposed to that section. That was about eighteen months or two years ago. The breakaway party immediately appealed to the federal executive of the Labour party for recognition as the official Labour party in New South Wales. At first the federal executive would not give that recognition; but later on they again appealed to the federal executive which came to the conclusion that this section formed an important section of the Labour movement in New South Wales. The federal executive, therefore, decided to call a unity conference, and a meeting was held in Canberra to determine the basis of representation at that conference. Both of the parties to the dispute, the Lang party and the Heffron party, gloated over the fact that a unity conference was to be called. Upon reflection, however, the “ reds “ felt that they would be outnumbered at such a gathering. Consequently they protested against the basis of representation, and in due course the unity conference was held under conditions which gave to’ the “ red “ section, satisfactory representation. The result was that the Heffron party won hands down at the unity conference. As the result of that development, Senator Ashley and his colleagues found themselves outside the official Labour party in New South Wales. Later, the Labour party held its Easter conference, at which the “ reds “ were again in the majority. It was at that conference that the “ Hands off Russia “ motion was carried. That resolution caused immediate consternation in the rank and file of the Labour movement. The federal executive of the Australian Labour party held a meeting and decided by a majority vote that the minute referring to the resolution should be expunged. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) was not agreeable to expunging the minute, and urged that a new committee be set up to take charge of the Labour movement in New South Wales, but he was out-voted and the demand for expunging the minute was carried. But did that action alter the hearts of the men responsible for carrying the resolution?. I. submit not. Surely Senator Collings does not look upon the expunging of. the minute as a general . cleansing of the movement. If he does, he is much more innocent than I thought him to be. .Certainly the resolution was expunged, but the Labour movement is still controlled by the “ red “ element. Shortly after the carrying of the resolution the coal strike occurred, and the situation was dominated by a few extremists - the “ reds What was the attitude of the official Labour party in New South Wales to that strike? It supported the coal strikers up to the hilt ; but the strike was not supported by Mr. Curtin, or by the federal executive. Mr. Curtin did his utmost to bring about a resumption of work, but the “ red “ executive in charge of the Labour movement in New South Wales urged the strikers on. They did not desire a settlement of the dispute.
– That is incorrect.
– It is correct.
– Does the honorable senator say that Mr. McKell did not desire the strike to be settled?
– The official Labour party is that led by Mr. McKell, but policy is determined by the Australian Labour party executive, and that party supported the strike right up to the hilt.
– Mr. McKell is the Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales.
– He is Leader of the Labour party in the State Parliament. The Australian Labour party executive is the controlling body in New South Wales, and Senator Collings knows that. He himself went to New South Wales a few years ago and endeavoured to whiten the hearts of the Labour people there. He failed miserably, however, and returned to his own State. I was amused to hear the two Labour parties in this chamber endeavouring to tag the Communist party on to each other. It was a spectacle made even more amusing by the attempts of honorable senators opposite to tag the Communist party on to the United Australia party. My party has never supported the Communist party, we do not want their support, and we have told them so. At the 1934 elections I was one of thirteen candidates for the Senate, and the Labour party put me thirteenth on their “ how to vote “ cards. On that occasion apparently Labour leaders had no hesitation in putting Communists before the United Australia party, and in return, apparently by a reciprocal arrangement, the Communists gave their preferences to Labour candidates. In spite of that, honorable senators opposite, time after time, make miserably futile attempts to tag the Communists on to the United Australia party. Nobody wants the Communists because they are disrupters ; the Opposition does not want them any more than we do, but unfortunately the Labour party has not sufficient courage to tell the Communists that it does not want them. The United Australia party has at least had the temerity to tell the Communists what it thinks of thom, and when the next election comes round, even though Senator Collings may be bold enough to say what he thinks of the Communists, many of his colleagues will not be game to follow his example. That has been the case in the past and it will be the case in the future. No doubt when Senator Ashley faces the electors he will not say very much about the Communists, although some of his erstwhile colleagues in New South Wales will have a good deal to say about them. [ shall be interested as this debate proceeds to listen once more to honorable senators opposite speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, and attempting to dissociate themselves from Communists who are their friends and supporters.
– Unfortunately, during your absence from the chamber, Mr. President, an incident occurred for which I wish to express my regret. The incident was provoked by the speech made by Senator
Dein who, although he was supposed to be debating the financial statement, never once mentioned it. The whole of his address was a vilification of the Labour party, with particular reference to myself. The honorable senator made strenuous endeavours to connect me with the Communist party. I assure him that he was mistaken in his interpretation of an interjection which I made. It will be recalled that at the beginning of to-day’s Bitting Senator Dein asked a question with regard to the activities of the Communist party and its association with the Labour party.
– My question was in regard to a Communist.
– I thereupon asked a question in regard to a selected United Australia party candidate for the next Senate elections, Captain Patrick, who had entertained Count von Luckner, the German spy, at his own home. When Senator Dein was speaking, I interjected to tho effect that I would prefer to be associated with a Communist rather than with a German sympathizer. The honorable senator inferred that I was referring to his parentage, but I assure him that I had no such intention. There was no thought of Senator Dein’s parents in my mind at all, and if honorable senator? were misled by my interjection, I apologize. I am not concerned with the manner in which Senator Dein may receive the apology, because if he uses outside this chamber the language which he used this afternoon I shall be quite capable of dealing with him.
The financial policy announced by the Treasurer involves war expenditure amounting to £46,000,000 in the current financial year and £79,000,000 for the next year,’ or a total of £125,000,000. Of the £46,000,000, about £39,000,000 is in sight, so that £7,000,000 still has to be found in order to carry on the services of the Commonwealth to the end of June, 1.940. The £79,000,000 for next year, plus the remaining £7,000”,000 for this year, makes a total of £86,000,000. The Treasurer anticipates that on the basis of existing taxation the budget of 1940-41 will be able to provide £16,000,000. Thus, in effect, the total sum to be provided is £70,000,000. The Government proposes to raise £50,000,000 by loans and the balance of £20,000,000 by taxation. Of the £20,000,000 to be raised by taxation, approximately half istobe derived from an increase of the sales tax. In making his statement to this chamber the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) was very brief, and although I have perused his speech carefully, I can find very little explanation of the taxation proposals. There is a good deal more information in the Statement presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) in the House ofRepresentatives, and itgives me an opportunity to make some observations with regard to the methods to be employed in order to raise the necessary money. Of the total amount to be found by increased taxes it is proposed to raise £4,000,000 by raising the income tax. I regard the income tax as the fairest form of tax, when it is applied in accordance with the capacity of the people to pay. But it is desirable that the Treasurer’s invasion of this field should be based on equity. We appreciate the magnitude of the task confronting the Government with regard to the successful prosecution of the war, and, as has already been made plain, the Opposition is prepared to do all that lies in its power to assist the Ministry. For this reason, my criticism of the financial statement presented by the Treasurer will be somewhat restrained. I would, however, direct attention to the incidence on the lower and higher incomes of the proposed increases of income tax. The following table is instructive: -
– There is a reason for that.
– I am aware of the reason given, but I feel sure that no honorable senator would argue that the proposed percentage increases are equitable.
– If the amount of State income tax be added to the higher incomes, it will be found that insome States, a higher Commonwealth rate would require a taxpayer to pay 21s. in the £1.
– I know that the Treasurer, in fixing the percentage increases of income tax for the higher and lower incomes, has had regard to the tax levied in some of the States, particularly Queensland. I am in complete agreement with the principle adopted in that State, and I fully appreciate the social services rendered by the Government of Queensland in return for the revenue received from its various tax sources. The principle observed by the State government in imposing it? taxes is the cardinal principle that should be applied to all tax proposals, namely, the ability of the taxpayer to meetthe charge. The Queensland Government has, in its taxation policy, and social services, shown a statesmanlikeattitude, which might, with advantage, be followed by the Commonwealth and some of the other States. The national relief scheme launched by the Queensland Government some years ago, provides work for the unemployed on various government undertakings at award rates of pay and under approved conditions. One such, work, the construction of a road from Brisbane to Cairns, has a definite defence value. As a matter of fact, the State Government approached the Commonwealth Government with a request that it should carry out that particular work. A taxpayer in Queensland having a taxable income of £10,000 a year from property pays Commonwealth tax of £1,857. A taxpayer having the same income in Victoria pays £2,636, the difference being due to the higher tax imposed in Queensland on the same income level. The increased Commonwealth tax on the Queensland taxpayer in that, income group is only £68, compared with an increase of £101 on the taxpayer living in Victoria. Similarly, the increased Commonwealth tax on a Queensland taxpayer having a taxable income of £5,000 is only £14. Taxpayers in the higher income ranges are not called upon to pay sufficient relative to taxpayers having incomes of £400 or £350, whose increases are respectively 50 per cent, and 66 per cent.
– Why not read the total of Commonwealth and State income taxes on incomes in the higher ranges?
– I shall come to that aspect of the Government’s tax proposals later. Invariably, taxpayers in the lower income groups have the largest families. Consequently, there is a heavier drain on their financial resources than is imposed upon taxpayers enjoying the higher incomes, and, in addition, the incidence of the sales tax on persons in receipt of lower incomes is much heavier. During the last five years the total of state income taxes has increased from £34,000,000 to £50,500,000.
– Do those figures include municipal taxes?
– No. In New South Wales,, notwithstanding increased taxation of the people, there has been no appreciable improvement of social services, and the unemployment position there is as acute as it ever was, many thousands of people being on relief work and in receipt of food sustenance. Unfortunately, the decision of the Loan Council this week further to curtail State expenditure owing to the greater demands of the Commonwealth for its defence programme, will accentuate the position. Taxation per head of population in New South Wales in 1939 was £7 8s. 3d., compared with £5 18s. 8d. in 1934; but, as I have stated, there has been no material improvement of- the social services provided by the State Government. For instance, the figures for last year show that children attending schools in New South Wales were 25,000 fewer than in 1931, although during that period the cost of education rose from £4,500,000 to £5,500,000. Complaints are continually being received regarding the condition of school buildings in different parts of the State. In some places the children are obliged to sit in sheds and various other make-shift buildings. Educational facilities are most unsatisfactory at Glen Davis, where considerable Commonwealth expenditure is being incurred in connexion with the development of the shale oil industry, the children being housed in a hessian shed, and therefore exposed to the rigors of a severe winter climate.
– That, surely, is a matter for the State Government.
– I know that it is, but I should think that as the Commonwealth Government is vitally interested in the development, of the shale oil industry and has already invested £500,000 in that project, it should also be interested in the welfare of the people employed there.
– Are the men at Glen Davis employed solely by the Davis company ?
– Some are engaged on constructional work, but I believe that the majority remain there for a considerable time. A fine hostel has been provided for the visitors. Accommodation is available for the staff, the engineers and the officers, but not a brick has been laid for the purpose of providing homes for the workmen. These men are still living in hessian and canvas tents.
– That inevitably happens in the initial stages.
– Too much delay has taken place in this regard. Tho workers and their families are entitled to conditions similar to those enjoyed in other localities.
The Government boasts that a high exemption from income tax is provided for persons in receipt of the lower incomes, but this exemption is not of material benefit to the workers. It should be borne in mind that, in New South Wales, the workers pay the unemployment relief tax, which affects men on incomes lower than £400 a year. ‘The unemployment relief and social service tax amounts of £2 3s. 4d. in respect of an income of £104 a year, and £6 17s. 4d. in respect of an income of £208 a year. In Queensland persons in receipt of incomes within that range contribute no such tax.
– What is the comparison between the two States in respect of an income of £300 a year?
– The following figures may be of interest to honorable senators : -
It is often said that good work is being done by the Queensland Government, but that the taxes levied on the people are heavy. My reply is that the workers in Queensland benefit from the taxes levied by the Government of that State, because the national relief scheme provides them with full-time rates and conditions when they are unemployed, whereas the dole is still in operation in New South Wales, where relief works are to be curtailed at the dictation of the Loan Council. I admit that all money necessary for war purposes must be found, but something should be done to relieve the unemployed. The attitude of the Loan Council will intensify unemployment in New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government promised that the proposed defence expenditure would give increased employment, but that result has not been realized in New South Wales, where the unemployment problem is as acute as ever.
– Why should the problem be more acute in New South Wales than in any other State?
– Last November, according to a ministerial statement, seven men were engaged in the manufacture of arms and munitions in Victoria to every one so employed in New South Wales, and the yearly wages bill of thoseworkers was £1,872,000 in Victoria as against £234,000 in New South Wales. Even a charwoman in New South Wales pays income tax if she earns £104 a year, and her contribution is £2 3s. 4d. The deduction of £50 in respect of each child under the age of fifteen years has operated for a considerable time, but no reference has been made by the Government to the need for an extension of that exemption, in view of the increased cost of living.
Last week, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that Mr. Essington Lewis had been appointed DirectorGeneral of Munitions. Synchronizing with his appointment, the hours of the men engaged in the small arms factory at Lithgow were increased on Monday last from eight hours a day to two twelve-hour shifts. I do not suggest that Mr. Lewis began work so quickly in his new job as to be responsible for that alteration.
– Are the men satisfied?
– No. The introduction of the twelve-hour shift was brought about last week as the result of a conference between the trade union executives and the management of the factory. The executives agreed to recommend to the men that they should operate the two twelve-hour shifts on trial for two months. The conference took place last Wednesday, and, when a general meeting of the members was held later in the week, they unanimously decided to ask for three eight-hour shifts. Where there is a shortage of skilled tradesmen they do not object to men such as engineers and tool-makers being employed on two twelve-hour shifts. But there is a decided objection to shifts of twelve hours, particularly when there are so many unemployed men in Lithgow and in other parts of New South Wales.
– Does the honorable senator advocate the same principle on the water front?
– I am not dealing with the waterside workers ; I am discussing a subject with which I am conversant. The men are anxious that work at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory shall proceed with the utmost expedition ; but they are opposed to the introduction of a twelve-hour shift when so many men are unemployed. It may be said that men must have a certain degree of skill to operate some of the machines in the Small Arms Factory, but when the employees were endeavouring to secure an increase of wages through the Arbitration Court, the manager stated on oath that he could take men off the gates and train them to work the machines within two hour3. If that statement be correct there are many men in this country, who, because they possess some slight physical disability, cannot play ,their part in the defence of their country but could be economically and profitably employed. There is another aspect of the problem of increased production to which I wish to direct attention. I ask any honorable senator opposite who has had experience in manufacturing industries whether a man engaged on precision work for more than eight hours can be expected to render efficient service. It may bc said that the machine does all the work, but the duties of the operatives are tedious, because some have to attend to one operation for the full shift of eight hours. It would be futile of honorable senators opposite to claim that there would be greater production if two shifts of twelve hours were worked instead of three shifts of eight hours. I claim that a man operating these machines for eight hours must necessarily slow clown towards the end of the shift, although it would be contrary to his wishes to do so. In the last, four hours of a twelve-hour shift production would decrease. If three shifts of eight hours were worked the output would be greater, and work would be provided for mcn who are now unemployed. I have the names and addresses of 230 unemployed men in Lithgow. The list does not include youths from fifteen to eighteen years of agc who are not registered at the labour bureau. I do not suggest that every one of them has the capacity to work in a factory, but fully 60 per cent, have the ability and desire to do so. Many of them are now engaged on relief work. A few days ago I was approached by men proceeding to work on the Glen Davis road. They joined the train at midnight and would not reach their destination until 7 a.m.. Under the system in operation in New South Wales, they were compelled to join the train at the time mentioned, and, after travelling a certain distance, had to wait in the cold before boarding a bus to transport them to their destinations.
– Not every day.
– No, because under the relief system they get only one or two weeks work in every month. In fairness to the New South Wales Government I should say that that disability has now been removed.
The strong appeal now being made for men to join the colours is meeting with a noble response from Australian citizens. In New South Wales approximately 1,000 men have been offering daily, but there would be more contentment in the minds of the men who have offered their services if they knew that while they are on service in Australia or abroad their relatives would be provided with employment. As I stated earlier, men capable of military service must be physically fit, but others who possess minor physical defects should be employed in industry. I realize the tremendous task confronting the Government in the matter of defence, hut social development and adequate provision for the people must not be overlooked. No serious attempt has yet been made by the Government to provide employment for thousands of deserving persons. The Prime Minister has announced that the graving dock to be built in Sydney will take three years or more to complete; but. in view of the financial position and the amount of money required for defence works the wisdom of the project has been questioned.
– Does the honorable senator favour the construction of the dock ?
– Yes. I mentioned earlier that there has been a great deal of adverse criticism, particularly in Now South Wales, with respect to the Department of Supply and Development. I was interested to hear last night of the proposed appointment of Mr. Theodore, an ex-Commonwealth Treasurer, to tho position of Co-ordinator of Commonwealth and State works. I am curious to know whether the proposed appointment is to be made, because of the adverse criticism levelled against the Government and particularly against the Department of Supply and Development during the last ten days. Mr. Theodore is the managing director of a newspaper which has criticized the Government very severely, and I trust that the Minister will state whether the appointment of that gentleman is in the nature of a compromise so that, the Government departments will not be criticized by the newspaper he controls. The Minister should also state whether a round robin was signed by those who object to the appointment, and if certain Ministers threatened to resign if the appointment were made. I understand that some Ministers telegraphed their disapproval to the Prime Minister when he was attending an important meeting in the Sydney Town Hall.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for saying that the appointment has been made? .
– The statement’ appeared in the press, and as it was also announced from the national broadcasting stations, it should be authentic.
– It would be censored too.
– I suppose that it would be. The Government must accept responsibility for that statement. Has this opposition been raised against Mr. Theodore because he has been associated with the Labour party in the past? Pleas have been made by Government supporters in both this chamber and the House of Representatives for the cooperation of all parties in the Government’s war effort. We have been asked repeatedly to participate in the formation of a national government. Was Mr. Theodore’s appointment to this position rescinded because of his affiliation with Labour in the past?
– No appointment has yet been made.
– If that be so, it. seems strange that bis appointment to so important a post should have been announced over the air and in the press. It. will be interesting to follow this matter to. its conclusion. The press criticism of the Government for its failure to expeditethe manufacture of armaments and munitions is fully justified. Over £2,000,000 has been spent on the erection of annexes, but only one of. the 25 annexes which have been completed, seven of which are situated in New South Wales, has yet commenced operations. The chaotic position which has been disclosed by the press has stirred the people of Australia, Business men, manufacturers, soldiers and every other section of the community are alarmed at the present state of affairs, and heartily commend the pre«s of New South Wales for the service it has rendered to this country in disclosing the facts. Up. to date, members of the Opposition have purposely refrained from exposing weaknesses in bur defence preparations. We have been silent in that respect, although, had we chosen to do so, we could have levelled very severe criticism against the Government. About four years ago the Government decided to manufacture Bren machine guns in Australia. The report of the Munitions Supply Board for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, states -
A developmental programme, which is being considered, includes production of the new Uren light machine gun, which will involve the erection of a three-storey steel and concrete building, to bc an extension of the existing Vickers machine gun workshops. The plans have been completed, and on approval of the scheme an early commencement can be arranged.
It was also reported that the manager of the Small Arms Factory, Mr. A. S. Ford, who had been in England since August, 1.936, in connexion with proposals for manufacturing the new light Bren machine gun in Australia, resumed duty in October, 1937.
Tn its report for the succeeding twelve months the board stated- -
The erection of the three -storey building for the production of the Bren light machine pun, to which reference was made in the last “report, has reached an advanced stage. The estimated cost of this extension to the existing machine gun workshops is £03,500. The development programme also includes the provision of a modern toolroom, and a commencement with t], is project has been made by removal of the Press machine section from the galvanized iron structure erected during the war and demolition of the building;
Honorable senators will recall the visit we paid a couple of years ago to this building, when machinery was being installed in it. We now learn that in the meantime that machinery has been transferred to another building, despite thefact that the original building was specially designed as a factory for the manufacture of the Bren machine gun. [Extension of time granted.’] One doesnot wonder that the press of New South Wales condemns the Government for its ineptitude. I can only conclude that those responsible for the direction of this work have fallen down on their job. Remembering these facts, I was not surprised to hear the Prime Minister (Mr..
Menzies) remark in the course of his speech in the Sydney Town Hall last night that, at one period, the people of this country were not taking the war seriously, but now fully realize the peril which is confronting the Empire and Australia. In my second-reading speech on the Supply and Development Bill I pointed out that we had in existence at that time the Munitions Supply Board, which had control of the manufacture of armaments and munitions under the Government’s expanded scheme. I also emphasized the dangers which would arise from the Government’s proposal to appoint additional authorities to control this work. I said that in such circumstances it was inevitable that difficulties resulting from duplication of control would arise, and would cause serious delays. However, the Government did not heed my warning. I find that the present personnel of the Munitions Supply Board does not include one practical man. The members of this body are: Mr. A. E. Leigh ton, who is a mining chemist; Messrs. J. K. Jonsen and W. Howie, who are accountants; and Mr. A. V. Smith, who is assistant secretary, Department of Defence. In view of the fact that not one of these officers is a practical man, is it any wonder that the government scheme is not meeting with success? The services of practical men must be engaged to direct this work. Adequate supplies of arms and munitions are most essential, because without them our soldiers will he ineffective, no matter how nobly they may respond to their country’s call.
Sitting suspended from6.15 till8 p.m..
– I repeat that more than £2,000,000 has been expended on the building of annexes, and that, so far as New South Wales, at least, is concerned, not one of them has yet commenced production. One of these annexes was built before the war on the Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited premises, at a cost of £60,000, but it has not yet manufactured a single unit, not even so much as a nut. The time has arrived when the Government should realize the vast expenditure that has been made on the erection of annexes, and see that production commences immediately. The adding of munitions annexes to private factories owned by wealthy friends of the Government was opposed by honorable members on this side of the chamber, because we thought that it would be much better if annexes were added to the government workshops in the various States. The time has come for definiteaction with regard to the operation of these annexes, and the manufacture of arms and munitions generally. I am not attempting to blame the Prime Minister or any individual Minister for what has taken place - I know that they have done their jobs to the best of their ability - but my complaint is that the right men are not directing these operations. I have already quoted from the report of the Munitions Supply Board, not one member of which is competent to direct the manufacture of arm and munitions. During the last war we had a similarexperience in New South Wales. Rifles were not being produced as quickly as was desired, and a man named McKay was brought from Walker Brothers organization at Maryborough, Queensland, and placed in charge of the factories. He was a practical man, and before long he had increased (production by 100 per cent., rifles here being produced at the rate of 1,000 and even 1,200, a week, instead of 500 a week. The same lag in production exists to-day, and the same acceleration will result if the right men are put in charge. The Prime Minister has announced that Mr. Essington Lewis has been appointed Director-General of Supply, and I presume that in that position he will be able to obtain the assistance of whosoever he wants. According to the Prime Minister, Mr. Essington Lewis has been placed in full control of the manufacture of munitions, and his job is to see that our war requirements are turned out in the shortest possible time. I realize the seriousness of the position with which we are facedto-day, and whilst I think that comment in the press may have been a little severe, the Government cannot absolve itself of all blame. It seems probable that those who have been directing our supply operations have not had sufficient experience. No matter what the cost may be, well-trained and competent men should be placed in charge of munition manufacture. In view of the position which has arisen in our munitions industries, particularly in New South Wales, I ask the Government to consider seriously the introduction of threeeight-hour shifts in all factories producing essential war requirements. I explainedthe necessity for the introduction of three shifts this afternoon, and I. now appeal to the Government to have something done so that the production may he speeded up. The workers in the government munitions establishments are as loyal as any other body of men in Australia, and are just as eager to do a good job as are the employees of the private munitions factories. However, they appreciate the unfortunate economic circumstances of their fellow men who are out of work. I have here a list containing 230 names; I do not claim that all of these men are capable of doing skilled work in factories, but at least 60 per cent, of them . are. They are good citizens and they are entitled to some consideration. I do not suggest for one moment that in skilled industries where there is a shortage of men, shifts should be confined to eight hours; the factories should be operating right round the clock. At a meeting held last week, the men agreed that it was desirable that where there was a shortage of skilled men in any section, twelve-hour shifts should be worked; but they also resolved to ask that three eight-hour shifts be introduced in other sections which arecapable of working them. If that be done, the whole industrywill benefit, production will be increased, and the men will be more satisfied. The operation of three shifts would mean employment for an additional 500 men. All these things should be considered, together with the fact that the desired level of production would he obtained, with a consequent benefit to the Government and to the people generally. This afternoon Senator Dein stressed the necessity for a national government, and referred to the action of the Labourparty in Great Britain, where a coalition government has been formed. The honorable senator omitted to mention, however, that the Labour party agreed to a national government in Great Britain at the direction of the trade unions. More than 2,000,000 trade union members were in favour of a national government, and only a few thousand were opposed to it.
– They, were well led.
– Although honorable senators opposite are urging the formation of a. national government, Senator Dein did his best this afternoon to make such a development impossible. Apparently, Senator McBride is assisting him. I am endeavouring to explain to honorable senators in a reasonable manner just what took place in Great Britain, where, as I have said, the Labour party agreed to join a national government at the direction of the trade unionists. There has been no such direction in Australia. If the Australian trade unionists decided to-morrow to instruct the Labour party to support a national government, the Opposition would readily collaborate with the parties now supporting the Ministry. On. the other hand,we came into this Parliament as a free Opposition, and we claim that up to the present we have assisted the Government in every possible way. I assure honorable senators opposite that had the nation not been at war, they would have heard much more from us. It cannot be claimed that there has been undue opposition or criticism from this side of the chamber. I am confident of that, and the subdued way in which honorable senators supporting the Government have received my statement supports my contention.
– Would the honorable senator recommend to his supporters that a national government be formed?
– When the time arrives for me to make a decision as to whether I should recommend a national government, I shall answer that question, but, until I am placed in thatposi- tion, it would not he fair for me to commit myself or my party.
– The honorable senator is placed in that position now.
– I am not.
– Has the honorable senator an opinion of his own?
– I expressed one this afternoon which, apparently, was not very satisfactory to Senator Dein, and I suggest that he would do well to keep quiet.
In the course ofhis speech, Senator Dein went to great trouble to explain the relationship between the Communists and the Labour party, and he mentioned something that had happened in connexion with his candidature at the 1934 elections. The honorable senator apparently knows well the number of votes polled by the Communist candidates on that occasion; in fact, honorable senators opposite seem to know all about the Communists. However, Senator Dein forgot to mention one incident in connexion with elections. I recall the incident well because it happened in the town in which I lived. At the 1935 elections for the New South Wales Parliament, which followed closely on the federal elections, the Communist candidate for the electoral division of Hartley was a man namedCramm. The “ How to Vote “ instructions published in the Sydney Morning Herald by the United Australia party recommended that Cramm be given No. 1 vote in preference to the Labour candidate, Mr. Hamilton Knight, M.L.A., who was to be given the No. 2 vote. When Senator Dein endeavours to connect me with the Communist party, he is merely endeavouring to make (political capital,because he will be my opponent at the next election. It is known that the gentleman who has been selected to contest the next Senate election as Senator Dein’s colleague is a Nazi man.
– The honorable senator knows that that is untrue.
– Captain Patrick, the gentleman to whom I allude, entertained von. Luckner when he visited Australia some years ago.
– Order! The honorable senator should not say that.
– Mr. President, you were not in the chair this afternoon when Senator Dein asserted that I was in some way United with the Communist party. No exception was taken by the Deputy President to that statement, and I claim the right to show some connexion between Senator Dein’s prospective colleague and the Nazis.
– Does the honorable senator say that I am connected with that party ?
– No; but Captain Patrick, who will be the honorable senator’s colleague at the next Senate election, entertained von Luckner during his visit to Australia. It is significant that the Nazis always make contact with high society and with members of the United Australia party.
– That is untrue.
– A statement appeared in the newspapers to the effect that Captain Patrick admitted that he entertained von Luckner who, as every body knows, was in Australia as a spy and, it is said, took soundings in some of our harbours. It is also asserted that he is suspected of having been responsiblefor the installation of wireless transmitters which could be used to send to Germany news of happenings in Australia.
A few days ago I noticed a statement in the press that the Government would have to provide buildings to carry on some of its defence activities. The Lithgow Council has advised me that a large pavilion in the recreation, ground at Lithgow, having a total area of 8,400 square feet, will be made available if it is needed. The Government would be well advised to accept the offer. I understand that some adjoining buildings also could be utilized if required.
I repeat what I said earlier in my remarks that honorable senators on this side will do all that is possible to aid the Government in its Avar effort. Speaking for myself, I am willing to act in any capacity if the Government cares to call upon me. Senator Dein has not a monopoly of patriotism in this chamber. Honorable senators on this side are just as anxious as he is to help the Government in this crisis.
– I said that Government supporters and members of the Oppositionwere anxious to help the Government.
– I hope that the Governmentwill take note of the various matterswhich I have mentioned. I am particularly anxious that something should be done to speed upwork at the small-arms factory at Lithgow. I am sure that if proper provision be made there for three eight-hour shifts, the men will work happily, and the Government will get better results.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave- agreed to -
That until the 31st May, 1940, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper excepting questions and formal motions.
Debate resumed from page 1421 (on motion by Senator MoBride) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have had an opportunity to examine the hill since the Minister delivered his secondreading speech this afternoon, and as its purpose is to remedy certain anomalies in the act and generally to improve it, the Opposition is prepared to facilitate its passage. When the bill is in committee it is our intention to direct attention to a number of matters which we hope will have favorable consideration.
.- The Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) have told us that this measure is designed to remedy certain anomalies existing in the present Post and Telegraph Rates Act. It will really perpetuate one of the greatest anomalies. The telegraph system in Australia is an extraordinarily well managed business. During my term as Postmaster-General, many years ago, the department showed a loss of £250,000 a year. My successor Senator A. J. McLachlan, was able to convert that loss into a profit of £250,000 a year. I would point out also, that during the time that I was administering the department meteorological telegrams to a value of £75,000 were despatched free of charge. Credit for that service was not given to the telegraph branch. This bill does not go far enough. The Post and Telegraph Rates Act should be repealed. I doubt that any one can say why the anomalies contained in the act are allowed to continue. We have an excellent telephone system which, after meeting Interest and sinking fund charges shows a profit of £1,500,000 a year. That result is achieved by good management.
– And high charges.
– I do not agree. One hears very few complaints about telephone rates in Australia. If a telephone rates bill were introduced the Minister would not get it through this Parliament in twelve months. When I took over the administration of the department in 1923, the telephone branch of the department was controlled under regulations which provided for charges according to the actual mileage of wire. That meant that if a subscriber sent a message to another subscriber ten miles distant, and if in the absence of a direct line the actual distance of wires was 100 miles, the charge was made according to that distance, instead of for a ten mile radius. Because there was no specific provision in the act relating to that aspect of the department’s business, I was enabled to inaugurate the radial system with the result that the charges for a telephone conversation were fixed according to the actual distance between subscribers. Thus, if a person spoke from a northern suburb of Melbourne to another subscriber in the southern portion of the city, the charge would be l1/4d. The system of telegram changes is different; although a person may despatch a telegram to another person ten miles distant, there is the fee of11/4d. for the telephone message, and 9d. for the telegram, although the whole of the transaction may be carried out by telephone. There are few telegraph transmitting offices in our capital cities or, for that matter, in many provincial centres throughout Australia. The majority of telegraph messages arc transmitted by telephone, but there is the anomaly that, whilst a telephone conversation between two points in a metropolitan area may be only l1/4d., the telegraph rate for the same area is101/4d. although, as I have shown, . the whole of the business may be done by telephone. The message at both sending and receiving endsis under regulations, but in the middle - the telegraph office - it is under act of Parliament. The Post and Telegraph Rates Act should be repealed. I made an attempt to do so, but was unsuccessful because the act contains provision for the transmission ‘ of press telegrams at the rate of 50 words for 2s., which of course, is much below the actual cost involved. This is a valuable concession to the newspapers. Naturally, when newspaper proprietors learned that I was contemplating a repeal of the act, they got busy and I had to drop the bill. That is one reason why I was unable to abolish the anomaly of inter-State charges for telegrams between border towns such as Albury and Wodonga. More than half of the telegraph messages in Australia are transmitted over the telephone system, and therefore are not telegrams in the true sense of the word. There are similar anomalies in postal rates, which, in certain respects are controlled under agreements made at international conventions from time to time. The convention fixes minimum rates to be charged, but there is no provision, so far as I am aware, fixing the rates for mails carried by air. The Auditor-General has directedattention to these anomalies from time to time. I said that, if anybody challenged them, the matter would not he accepted for transport by air. The Government should have asked the Parliament to repeal the act relating to post and telegraph rates, and to conduct the service on the same lies as the telephone service.
– This measure provides for a uniform telegraph rate throughout Australia of1s. for a telegram of fourteen words. In the States 1s. 2d. will be charged for a message of sixteen words instead of1s., as to-day; but, taking a broad view of the matter I think that the measure will prove of great advantage, and I congratulate the Government upon its introduction. It seems remarkable that the telegraph branch will gain about £52,000 a year through the reduction of the shilling telegram within a State from sixteen to fourteen words. In addition, concessions are to be given on after-hours, holidays, and border telegrams. I am pleased that a concession in respect of border messages is to be made. I have always regarded it as an anomaly that, in sending a telegram a few miles across a border from one State to another, the interstate rate of1s. 4d. has applied. These concession will cost the Government from £20,000 to £35,000 a year. Putting the cost at £25,000, the department will still show a profit of £27,000 a year from the operation of this measure. The public will gain, because the benefits outlined in the bill will much outweigh the one disadvantage of allowing only fourteen words, instead of sixteen in respect of intranstate telegrams.
I was interested in Senator Gibson’s remarks. I recall the excellent work done by him in the interests of country communities, when he was PostmasterGeneral, particularly in the direction of giving Australia substantially reduced telephone rates. At the same time, I regret that this bill does not go a good deal further. It provides for a universal telegraph rate throughout Australia, but, as Senator Gibson told us most telegrams are sent over the telephone system in the country areas. His remarks, coupled with the public demand, make out an unanswerable case for much lower telephone rates. It is wrong to charge a person who lives 200 miles from a capital city a much higher rate for telephone calls to the city than a person who lives only 100 miles away. It is now proposed to enable the public, at a flat rate of1s., to send telegrams from Perth to Thursday Island, or from Wyndham to Melbourne. A zone system should apply to trunk telephone calls.
– Why not apply the same principle to the railways?
– That is another matter. This Parliament does not control the railways. During the period when I was in the Western Australian Parliament, I always advocated, and to some degree the government of Western Australia has adopted, a zone system with regard to railway rates.
War conditions, of course, make it difficult for the Government to give further concessions to the public, but in view of the. profit of £1,500,000 made by the Telephone Department last year, as soon as times become normal, I hope that the telephone rates will be substantially reduced somewhat on the lines now proposed in regard to the telegraph charges. Cheaper rates for long distance calls are particularly desirable. As an ex-Postmaster-General has told us that a great many telegrams are sent over the telephone system, the present action of the Government with regard to telegraph charges should be followed by much reduced telephone charges, particularly in connexion with country services and the provision of further facilities in country districts.
– Some interesting admissions have been made in this debate. An ex-Postmaster-General has informed us that the telephone branch is showing the huge profit of £1,500,000 per annum. I understand that not all the money required for new services is taken out of revenue. Some of the money used for this purpose is taken from loan funds, and the people are called upon to pay additional taxes to meet the interest charges and to provide additional revenue in order to recoup the Government. The profits of the Post Office, including the £250,000 a year which is made in the tele-: graphs branch, are paid in to the Treasury. The people are being indirectly taxed. As the Post Office is showing an enormous profit, one would expect that the public would receive in return a reduction of charges. I know that the bill under consideration provides for certain reductions, hence the popularity of the measure; but the people should be made aware of the fact that the Post Office is a huge and growing machine that imposes indirect taxes on them. When a favorable opportunity presents itself, the whole of the Postal Department should be reviewed. A great deal of postal revenue is obtained from business undertakings which post huge numbers of circulars for advertising purposes, and the expenditure thus incurred by them is added to the cost of commodities, and so is borne by the community. Therefore, the Parliament must eventually give serious consideration to the growth of this octopus-like department.
Senator A. J. MCLACHLAN (South
Australia) [8.41]. - Senator Cunningham has said that the profits of the Post Office will have to be considered, and that the whole system must be- reviewed. The profits of the Post Office may seem large, and, to some honorable senators, extraordinarily large, but owing to the advance of scientific research, and the important work that the Post Office is doing, with its huge assets aggregating in value between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000, we should give pause before we lightly embark upon any reduction of the charges made by this department. Something might occur overnight, as it did a short time ago, that would render millions of pounds’ worth of wires and technical equipment almost valueless. When Marconi invented wireless telegraphy, one could see what Was likely to happen. It is prudent for any government, which has a sense of financial responsibility, to see that provision is made, out of the earnings of the various branches of the Post Office, for the installation, from time to time, of necessary improvements. Senator Cunningham is right in saying that the profits of the Post Office have to be paid into revenue. This is done in accordance with section 81 of the Constitution ; but much of the revenue goes back to the department. It is largely a matter of bookkeeping. During the last year in which I was PostmasterGeneral, £1,500,000 was returned to the department out of its profits. I rose to sound a note of warning. We need to have a deep sense of responsibility in this matter. If prudence of the kind practised in connexion with the Post Office had been adopted with regard to the railway systems of Australia, the sum of £300,000,000 which the taxpayers are carrying on their shoulders to-day on account of the railways would have been greatly reduced, and much of the expenditure that has been incurred would have been obviated. The provision for the transmission of news telegrams to broadcasting stations at the rate now prescribed for press telegrams will be of benefit to the whole community. The rapid transmission of news is of great importance, particularly at the present juncture, and the concession proposed to be afforded should assist in that direction. I commend the Government for removing certain anomalies, but there are many others which also should be removed.
– This measure, which is to confer concessions upon those who use certain services provided by the Postal
Department, appears to be very popular ; but improved facilities, particularly in the country areas, are more essential than a reduction of existing rates.
– Hear, hear !
SenatorCOURTICE.- Senator A. J. McLachlan, who is an ex-Postmaster General, said that the department must not proceed too rapidly with the granting of concessions because of the possibility of improved devices being introduced which would render obsolete those now in use and necessitate heavy additional expenditure. ‘ I trust that that is not the angle from which the Government proposes to ‘ view the activities of this department. Improved telephone facilities are of tremendous importance, particularly in Australia, many parts of which are still awaiting development, in consequence of the absence of means of transport and communication. It would be much better to improve the facilities in country districts than to grant further concessions to those living in the more closely populated areas. For some years the Postal Department has shown a huge surplus, and, although a portion of its profits are used to provide replacements, some of the excess revenue should be used to extend existing services and to provide telephone equipment in remote parts of the country. If that were done development would increase and a greater number would be induced to remain on the land, thus encouraging decentralization. Apparently, the Government is not considering that aspect of the matter to the degree that it should, and representatives of the Country party in this chamber, who have welcomed the proposed reductions, should advocate increased facilities which they know are necessary. In various parts of Queensland and also in other States the people are unable to use the telephone service owing to the absence of the necesary facilities or because the rates charged are excessive. Surely the department should not decline to install a telephone service because it would be unprofitable. If railways were not constructed until they could be conducted at a profit there would be very little development in country areas. I trust that infuture the Government will give more consideration to the necessityto increase existing facilities than to a reduction of rates.
– As the capital employed to install postal, telegraph and telephonic facilities has to be provided by the people, many of whom are unable to derive much benefit from the services provided, the Postal Department is really a taxing machine. At present the Postal Department refuses to erect public telephones on sites provided by the local governing authorities unless it is guaranteed against loss. In Western Australia numerous representations have been made for the provision of public telephones; but in every instance the department has asked to be indemnified against loss. I trust that in future the amount of the guarantee now sought will be reduced, so that those living in remote areas will have the benefits now enjoyed by persons in more closely populated centres. Senator A. J. McLachlan advised caution in respect of concessions affecting postal revenue, because of the possibility of new developments in the means of communication ; but such a contingency should be considered when it arises. Should additional expenditure be necessary, it will be provided by the community. If the national broadcasting service were under the control of private enterprise, the cost to the public would be much greater than at present. In view of the fact that the profits now made by the department are paid into Consolidated Revenue, greater consideration should be shown to those who have not the means to install telephones, by providing public telephones at a more reasonable cost.
.- I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this measure, which provides certain concessions that will benefit the people. For many years the Postal Department has been criticized because of the profits it has made; but I am always willing to applaud any government instrumentality which is rendering a service to the public. It has always been the policy of the Australian Labour party to advocate public ownership of such utilities as the Postal Department, and as it is anticipated that additional revenue will be obtained under reduced rates, the department is being conducted very efficiently, and at a cost much lower than would be the case if it were controlled by private enterprise. I agree with Senator Courtice that some of the profits should be used to improve existing services, particularly by means of wireless telephony to the outback areas. A portion should also be expended on improving the existing telegraphic and telephonic systems in the remote parts of the Commonwealth. There is no reason why a privileged section of the community should be able to transmit telegrams at still lower rates, whilst other sections do not receive any benefit at all.
– I congratulate the Postal Department upon the excellent work it has done for a number of years, but it is unfair for an honorable senator opposite to say that members of the Country party had supported the bill because a reduction of rates is proposed, and had not shown any sympathy towards those living in country districts. A. member of the Country party who represents one of the largest electorates in Australia had not been its representative long before lie became known as telephone ‘”’ Jimmy “ because of his success in getting th( Postal Department to provide increased telephone facilities in many parts of his electorate. It has always been the pleasant duty of members of the Country party to urge the provision of improved telegraphic and telephonic facilities in the rural areas. Many telephone services provided in country districts are not likely to pay operating costs for many years.
– Have not city people sufficient facilities?
– I do not think any section of the community has sufficient telephone facilities. I am interested particularly in the requirements of the country areas. Senator Courtice was not justified in saying that Country party members welcomed this bill because it provides for a reduction of rates and disregarded entirely the claims of residents in rural districts. I resent that statement. If honorable senators opposite endeavoured as much as Country party members to secure these facilities, they would have .less ground for complaint.
– The average >far* mer cannot afford to - pay- for -the installation of a telephone..’. .
– I do not know whether the honorable senator has made representations to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Queensland, but 1 assure him that that officer would give him a sympathetic hearing.
– The department cannot differentiate as between the States.
– I do not suggest that it does; but a sympathetic Deputy Postmaster-General can be of great assistance in this matter. I welcome the reduction of telegram rates. Whilst this concession will benefit city people most, it will also be of great assistance to residents in the country, many of whom arc using the telegraph office increasingly. It is estimated that the concessions given in this ‘bill will be worth about £30,000, or a sum of £5,000 in respect of each State. I doubt whether with that amount telephonic services could be extended to many country areas. I strongly support Senator Courtice’s request that greater facilities should be provided in remote districts. The ‘Country party has always fought for such facilities and will continue to do so, so long as it has a representative in this Parliament. At the same time, however, it would be unfair to deny to the department credit for the excellent work it is doing. Our telephonic services are improving year by year, and the rates are gradually being reduced. I commend the Government for having introduced this measure.
– I join with other honorable senators in urging the Government to provide greater and cheaper telephonic facilities in country areas. Country tele; phone users par capita make a very substantial contribution towards the department’s annual profit. They must, first, guarantee part of the cost of construction of new lines. Then they are at a great disadvantage compared with city telephone users in that they are obliged in many places to pay an opening fee if they wish to make a call after 6 p.m. Sometimes an individual subscriber has to pay two opening fees in respect of the one call. It is evident from past experience that the department is amply compensated by an increase of revenue for expenditure incurred in the extension of telephonic services. Not so many years ago the telephone was generally regarded as a luxury. To-day it is an essential amenity in outback areas. Newcomers to a district usually endeavour to settle in a spot which is convenient to thelocal school, but their next consideration is whether a telephonic service is available, because they always bear in mind the importance of a telephone in case of emergency. When illness suddenly occurs in the home, their first thought is to secure medical assistance. To-day, however, as a result of rapid motor transport, the tendency is for medical practitioners to converge towards populous centres where they can build up sound practices within comparatively small areas. Consequently, the necessity for telephonic services in remote districts is increasing.
With the regard to the reduction of telegram rates, I urge that some concession be made in respect of the address. If the telegram is being sent to a small country town the address takes very few words, but when the addressee resides in a city, or a town, the address required is considerably longer. The name of the addressee usually accounts for three words, the number and street for three more words, the name of the town makes a seventh word. With a limit of fourteen words for messages at the minimum rate, this means that half of the wording is taken up in addressing the telegram. I suggest that it might be possible to count the address as five words, even when it exceeds that number.
– I support the measure because, first, it removes certain anomalies, and, secondly, it reduces telegraphic and telephonic rates. In spite of these reductions, however, I am of opinion that telephonic charges are far too high. The annual ground rent of £4 10s. is excessive. I have no complaint to make with respect to the charge of l1/4d. a call; but the ground rent is a stumbling block to many people who would like to install the telephone, which is one of the greatest con veniences science has given to us. If this charge were reduced many more people could afford to become subscribers. The rent is out of all- proportion to the charge of a11/4d. a call. Rather than encourage installations in this way, however, the department seems to prefer to provide public telephones at street corners, and to charge 2d. a call for the use of them. Many people who now use public telephones a few times a week would be induced to install a telephone if the ground rent were considerably reduced.
– The ground rent is much higher in the country than in the city.
– That is so; and, perhaps, the country subscriber is entitled to a greater measure of relief than the city subscriber, because we should offer facilities of this kind in order to encourage settlement in more remote areas. In 1933, when I was a member of the House of Representatives, I urged that the annual ground rent which was then £5 10s., should be reduced, even if such a concession necessitated an increase of the rate for each call. That matter was taken up by the department, and subsequently a sliding scale of charges, under which the rate was reduced for calls in excess of a certain number was introduced. Later, this concession rate was adopted as the flat rate; but the ground rent remained at £4 10s. If the department were sufficiently courageous to reduce the ground rent thousands of middle-class people would become subscribers, and the department’s revenue would be increased considerably.
– I suggest to the Government that some of the additional revenue which will be raised by this bill could be expended in improving the telegraph line between Wyalong, Marsden and Forbes. Recently I travelled along the road between those towns, and the state of the telegraph line was a disgrace. In some cases the poles were leaning at an angle of 45 degrees, and were propped up by rotten dead trees. I cannot understand how the people of these districts are able to send telegrams at all.
Another matter with which I shall deal is the telegraph service at military camps. Recently the father and mother of a hoy who was in camp at Ingleburn, and was about to depart overseas with the Australian Imperial. Force, communicated with me and asked me to send a telegram to the boy stating that they were coming to Sydney to see him before he left. The parents travelled a long way to Sydney in order to see their son for the last time before he left Australia, but the telegram did not reach the boy. I received a reply from the postal authorities saying that it was regretted that the addressee was unknown, and that the address was insufficient as the regimental number had not been given. That state of affairs is a disgrace to the nation. The boy to whom I sent the telegram was in camp all the time. I suggest that some of the revenue to be derived under this measure should be so expended that telegrams sent to soldiers will be sure of delivery.
– The bill which will be introduced after this one, deals with postal concessions to soldiers.
– I am dealing now withthe expenditure of the money which will be raised as a result of this measure. I urge that the telegraph service at military camps be improved so that boys who are about to leave Australia for service abroad will be sure of receiving telegrams, and that “ brass hats “ will not be able to claim that an address is insufficient. It might be possible to establish a card index system in the military camps so that soldiers may he speedily located, whatever the unit they are serving with.
– There is not the slightest danger of reduction of these telegram rates affecting the extension by the Postal Department of postal facilities to country subscribers. I welcome this bill; it has taken quite a long while to come before the Senate - years in fact - but I commend the Government for it. I am particularly pleased that the anomaly in connexion with border telegrams has been eliminated. The Postal Department does not as a rule relinquish revenue readily, and I am of the opinion that the reductions of these telegraph rates i.? really a sprat to catch a mackerel, because the1s. telegram will bepopularand the department will make a greater profit still. It is not a magnanimous gesture on the part of the Postal Department, because I do not think that it will lose any revenue by what it is doing.
Much is said about the profits of the Postal Department, but they are usually grossly exaggerated. The largest client of the Postal Department is the Commonwealth Government itself, and the next largest clients are the State Governments. To believe that the carriage of mail matter or the transmission of telegraph or telephone messages between Government institutions is a profit-making business, is only to delude oneself. Actually there is no profit in inter-governmental business, and the Postmaster-General would be well advised if Government revenues were not included in the Postal Department’s financial statement. Their inclusion only invites claims from the commercial community or the press for reduced charges all over Australia. It is time that the Postmaster-General took stock of his own department, and gave to the public of Australia a true statement of the actual profit which the post office makes in this country.
. - in reply - I appreciate the very generous support which has been given by honorable senators to this bill, but I was rather surprised at the qualifications which they attach to that support. I think that you, Mr. President, have been extremely generous in the latitude which you have allowed in the debate on a measure which actually deals only with telegraph rates and has no reference whatever to telephones. Honorable senators are labouring under a misapprehension if they believe that the Postal Department shows a huge profit and that, therefore, all kinds of reductions of telegraph rates should be made. For the information of honorable senators, I point out that during the ten years from 1923-24 to 1933-34 the telegraphs branch lost aproximately £2,500,000. From the year 1934-35 until the present, it has made a profit of approximately £250,000, leaving a net loss of £2,250,000 since 1923-24.
– During the depression years.
– The period from 1923-24 to 1928-29 can hardly be regarded as depression years. In fact, in that period occurred the greatest boom in the history of Australia; yet the Postal Department lost more than £1,000,000. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, telegraph rates in Australia are lower than they are in Great Britain and New Zealand, and are very much lower than they are in the United States of America. I do not think that sufficient credit is given to the postal administration which has built up one of the most efficient services of its kind in the world.
Senator Herbert Hays complained about the number of words taken up in each telegram by the address, and made certain suggestions in order that that expense might be reduced. I point out, however, that under an international convention, it is compulsory that all words used in an address be charged for as separate words. The Postal Department is therefore unable to alter the existing system without infringing the international agreement.
Telephone services were mentioned in a way which implied that the Government was very remiss in dealing with this important part of the postal service. For instance, Senator Courtice urged a greater drive in the extension of telephone facilities. The Government agrees that every possible service should be given to people in country areas, but it is entirely wrong to say that the department is slowing down, or lying down, on its job in this connexion. During the year 1938-39, which was a record one so far as the installation of handset telephones is concerned, 68,036 installations were effected. I mention this fact, so that honorable senators may not be under a misapprehension with regard to the. activities of the Postal Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (The schedule).
.- I strongly urge that more privacy be observed in the sending of telegrams. Telegrams lodged at country or suburban offices are sent by telephone to central offices for transmission.When these telegrams are being telephoned, anybody who happens to be in the sending office can hear the contents. Recently a very important private telegram came to me, and a girl who happened to be in the office at the time came to my home and told my wife what was in the telegram before it was actually delivered. There should be a box from which the postmaster or postmistress could telephone telegrams without their contents being made known to every body in the office. Another undesirable feature of the lack of privacy in sending telegrams is in connexion with post offices run by local business people. A serious complaint was made to me not long ago from a mining town. It appears that the mining company called for tenders for the supply of a large number of batteries. The local postmaster was also a business man, and when his opponents telegraphed their quotations he was able to undercut them. Another matter that should receive attention is the sending of telegrams during hours when post offices are closed. In many country towns in Tasmania the local post office is closed from 12 noon to 2 p.m. or from 1. p.m. to 2 p.m., and in the absence of any facility for sending telegrams, much inconvenience is sometimes caused. It should be possible, during hours when the local post office is closed, for persons wishing to send telegrams to transmit them by telephone to a central receiving office. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the several matters which I have mentioned.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is designed to grant a reduction of rates on telegrams for transmission to or from members of the forces within the Commonwealth. The new rates for an ordinary telegram will be fourteen words for 6d. and each additional two words1d. Urgent telegrams will be accepted at fourteen words for ls. and each additional word1d. There will be no extra charge for telegrams lodged after hours, on Sundays, Christmas Days or Good Fridays, and the rates mentioned will apply throughout the Commonwealth, horder rates and interstate rates being abolished under the bill just passed. Further concessions are granted in the schedule sotting out the charges for mails and parcels to and from members of the forces. These concessions apply overseas as well as within the Commonwealth. Letters and letter-cards, postcards, printed matter, merchandise, books, periodicals and newspapers will be carried at half rates, or double the weight for the existing rate. For instance, letters and letter-cards will be carried at 1 oz. for1d. instead of 1. oz. for 2d. Postcards will be reduced from 11/2d. each to 1d., and books and newspapers will be carried at 12 oz. for1d. instead of the old rate of 6 oz. for1d. The new rates for parcels to or from members of the Defence Forces will commence at 1 lb. for Gd. and rise on a graduated scale to 11 lb. for ls. 9d., whereas the present rate is 11 lb. for 3s.
– I am sure that all honorable senators will support the bill, its purpose being to grant concessions to Australians who are serving in defence of this country. It is only right that they should have every consideration at the hands of this Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Rates for telegrams).
– Can the Minister inform me what will be the rates for the transmission of telegrams to members of our fighting services when they are outside the Commonwealth?
– The bill applies only to rates within Australia.
– That being so, the clause might go a little further. No one wants to he unreasonable. We appreciate the action of the Government in bringing down this bill, but I think that it would be helpful and in accordance with the spirit of the times if the Government could see its way clear to make a reduction of the charges for telegrams to and from members of the fighting services in Palestine or in any other theatre of war to which they may be sent.
– Every telegram sent overseas becomes a cable. Any alteration of the charge would necessitate an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the cable companies. However,I shall give consideration to the suggestion of the honorable senator.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (The schedule).
– I am surprised that no provision is made in the schedule for a reduction of charges in respect of letters sent by air to or from members of our forces overseas. We have just been informed that there is to be no reduction of the rate for cablegrams, but I think the Government might make some concession in respect of air mail letters. The existing rate is ls. 6d. a half oz.
– The suggestion made by the honorable senator will be considered. I would, however, point out that at the present time all planes are heavily laden with mail matter, and. if any reduction of the air mail letter rate were made for the defence forces, additional space would have to be provided in planes.
– A concession in respect of air mail would be much appreciated by the mothers, fathers and friends of the men. in our fighting services. Perhaps it would be possible to limit the weight of letters to be carried at a concession rate.
– The present minimum weight is one-half oz. I doubt that it would be possible to make a further reduction.
– Is there any provision for air mail concession rates to members of the defence forces in various camps throughout Australia?
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time,
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act - Eighteenth General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments -
Department of External Affairs - R. L. Harry, L. R. McIntyre, L. M. Murchison, and J. P. Quinn.
Supply and Development Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 88, 89.
Superannuation Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Superannuation Board for 1938-39.
Senate adjourned at 9.45.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19400529_senate_15_163/>.