9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
oodnadatta to alice springs– hay to Port Augusta - Brisbane to Kyogle.
– When will the Prime Minister be able to . inform the ‘House of the . nature of the agreement made between the . Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia regarding the extension of the North-South railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs, and the construction of the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Hay ?
– The negotiations are still in progress, and I cannot say when I shall . be in a position to make a statement on the subject.
– Will the Prime Minister Intimate to honorable members when the Brisbane to Kyogle railway will be commenced?
– I heard only this morning that the New South Wales Government has signed the agreement for the construction of the Brisbane to Kyogle railway. So ‘far the Commonwealth Government has received no official intimation of that fact, but -so . soon -as the signed agreement reaches us we shall have ‘to submit the matter to Parliament and arrange about commencing construction.
– Before any agreement to subsidize the proposed new line of oil-fuel ships between Europe and Australia is concluded by the Government, will the Prime . Minister endeavour to have Brisbane included with the ports of call?. Queensland is the largest cattle-producing, state, and I understand that one of the reasons advanced for the supporting of the new shipping service, is that the vessels will havea large amount of refrigerated space.
– I assume that the honorable member refers to a scheme outlined by Sir James Connolly, which was referred to recently in the press. When that scheme is ‘before the Government in concrete form the claims of Queensland and the port of Brisbane will receive the fullest consideration.
– Did the Prime Minister receive, on the 7th August, a letter from the Council of Agriculture . in Brisbane stating that the council supported the continuation ofthe existing method of controlling the sugar industry, namely, an embargo on imported sugar, and the appointment of a sugar board and a tribunal ? If so, has the -Government given any consideration to the matter?
– The Government has received, and is seriously considering, such a communication, but no announcement in . regard to . the subject can be made at the present moment.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board upon the application of the Potato By-Products Company, of Ballarat, for a grant?
– I shall lay the report on the table of the Library.
1922 COTTON CROP.
– Has the Commonwealth
Government come to any decision on the request made by the Queensland Government thatthe Commonwealth shall pay half the loss, amounting to £22,000, on the guaranteed price of 5½d. for the 1922 cotton crop?
– The Commonwealth’s guarantee did not commence until the year ‘ 1923, and tho Government intimated that it was not prepared lo share any loss incurred by the Queensland Government in respect of the 1922 crop. However, I had a conversation with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture recently, and on his representations, I promised that the Commonwealth Government will reconsider the matter. ex-soldier’ MENTAL PATIENTS.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - ].. What is the number of mentally affected soldier patients being cared for at Claremont and Stromness, Western Australia?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In connexion with his statement to the press on 25th August lost concerning subsidies to commercial representatives in the East, will he communicate with the Chamber of Commerce, Perth, with a view to ensuring that trade interests in Western Australia will have opportunities of sharing in this assistance equally with firms in the eastern states of the Commonwealth?
asked the Minister representing tho Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The . answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether the money promised by the Federal Government to partially ‘compensate the sufferers on account of the outbreak of rinderpest has been made available to the State Government for allocation?
– Instructions have been issued to the Rinderpest Compensation Committee to examine claims and to make recommendations as to the distribution of tho grant. Amounts will be paid by the Commonwealth Government as soon as recommendations have been received from the committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr. BRUCE (for Mr. Bowden).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Engineers’ Branch (Construction and Maintenance), over 300 are acting in higher positions than those in which they have been classified?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - l,.Two hundred and seventy linemen in New South Wales are .at present acting in higher positions, and .are being paid accordingly. Hie present position is the result of the rapid expansion of telephone work, and the endeavour to overtake arrears, and it was considered undesirable to augment the permanent staff by any considerable number until it was certain that the increased volume of work was likely to continue.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to ‘the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 5th September, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) requested information regarding the compensation to be paid to .the relatives of ordinary seaman Ritchie;., of H.M.A.S. Brisbane, who met his death as the result of a homicidal attack upon him. I now desire to inform the honorable member that approval has been given for the payment, as an act of grace, of the sum of £50 to the father of the late ordinary seaman George Ritchie, and payment of this amount will be made at an early date.
– Yesterday in reply to a request by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), I promised to have inquiries made as to when the high-power station at Braybrook would be completed. I now desire to inform him that the Broadcasting Company advises me that the station will be ready for operation, and the broadcasting service will be commenced about the 7th October, next. It has not been possible to commence the service earlier owing to delay in making and installing the broadcasting plant.
– On the 4th September, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) .asked the following questions : -
July., and August, 1923 and 1924 respectively, from -
Queensland, (a) by rail; (&) by sea. New South Wales, (a) by rail; (&) by sea. 2. What quantity of bananas was imported into Australia during 1923,’ and 1924 up to the 31st August; and what were the countries from which they were exported?
I am now able the furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following papers were presented’ : - Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate- Balancesheet at 30th June, 1924, and Statement of tha Liabilities and. Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1924; together with the Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Nauru - Report on the Administration of Nauru during the year 1923 - Prepared by the Administrator- for submission to the League of Nations.
New Guinea - Report by Colonel John. Ainsworth (late Chief- Native Commissioner, Kenya Colony) on Administrative Arrangements and matters affecting the interests of Natives in the Territory of New Guinea.
Public Service Act - Appointment of L. N. Macleod, Department of Trade and Customs.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time;
I do not propose to speak at any length, because it is. scarcely necessary to do more than recall to- honorable members’ minds the very many arguments on the subject of a grant to. Tasmania that have been used in- this House during the last two or three months. The Government’s policy was enunciated in the budget speech delivered in July, and consisted’ of, first, a- grant to Tasmania of £85,000, this sum to be reduced by £17,0.00 each year over a period of five yeans - for the appropriation of which this bill is. being introduced - and, secondly, the abandonment by the Commonwealth Government of the taxation- of lotteries, which yields an annual revenue- of something like £111,000.
– Is that provided for in this bill ?.
– No ; it will be included in the income tax assessment bill to bo brought down later. In the year 1912-13, the Commonwealth first began to render assistance to Tasmania under section 96 of the Constitution. I do not propose to give the reasons which actuated the Government at that time to take that action, but during the next ten years a total sum of £900,000 was paid to Tasmania in annual instalments - £95,000 for the . first year, and £90,000 for the intervening- years until the last year, when the instalment was £85,000. In the years 1922-23 and 1923-24, similar payments of £85,000 were made by the Commonwealth to Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government has recently made representation to the Commonwealth that the position of its. finances would be very much better controlled if there were an element of certainty “ respecting their relationship with this Government. The- Commonwealth has considered the matter; and is .now bringing forward a proposition which, it is hoped, will permanently place Tasmania in a satisfactory financial position. At the close of the year 1913-14, that state had a surplus on the year of £35,000. At the end of 1921-22, eight years later, the accumulated deficits that had accrued in the interim totalled £350,000. It was hoped that the extraordinary expenditure, and the peculiar conditions that had caused those deficits had come to an end, and therefore the amount was funded. But, unfortunately, the expectation of better conditions was not realized, and the financial year, 1922-23, closed with a deficit of £298,000 on that year alone. Then the. Tasmanian Government approached the Commonwealth asking for assistance, but this Government took the attitude that until Tasmania had done everything possible to place itself in a better financial position its request could not be considered. Subsequently the Tasmanian Government reviewed its taxation policy, and, during last year, it imposed a substantial increase of taxation, which it is expected will net £131,000, equal to, approximately, 12s. per head of population. Notwithstanding the special efforts made during the last financial year, I am informed that the year 1923-24 has ended with a deficit of £210,000. Recognizing the substantial attempt that has been made by Tasmania to put its finances on a satisfactory _ footing, the Government has brought forward these proposals, which will provide for a payment by the Commonwealth Government to Tasmania of £255,000 during the next five years. This bill appropriates that amount from the consolidated- revenue without any further act being necessary for that purpose. In addition, the Commonwealth Government proposes to evacuate the field of taxation of lotteries. The amount derived by the Commonwealth from the taxation of lotteries in Tasmania, totals about £111,000 per annum. If the State Government reimposes the tax now levied by the Commonwealth at the existing rate of 12-J per cent, of the prize money, it will have a permanent increase of income of at least £111,000 per annum.
– Provided that the business remains as flourishing as at present.
– This amount will not only augment the special grant for the next five years, but at the end of that period will remain as a permanent addition to the state’s income. It is hoped that Tasmania will have recovered her financial position by that time, and that thereafter she will be able to continue without increased taxation. In order to ensure that lotteries shall not escape taxation during the interval which must elapse, before the state can increase its taxation, the Commonwealth Government will continue to collect this tax until the Parliament of- Tasmania has passed the necessary legislation, and in the Income Tax Bill which will shortly be presented, a proposal to that effect will be included. The money collected will be paid to Tasmania. I should like to compare the proposal of the Government with the alternative schemes which have been suggested. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) proposed in thi9 House that the Commonwealth Government should make a grant to Tasmania of £200,000, reducible by £10,000 annually, the whole grant to cease at the end of twenty years. That would mean that during that period the State Government would receive £2,100,000.
– It could do with it, too.
– Under the present proposal, Tasmania will receive in twenty years the sum of £2,475,000, or approximately £375,000 more than she would receive under the scheme proposed by the honorable member for Bass. In addition, she will obtain a permanent increase of revenue from the taxation of lotteries to the extent of £111,000 per annum. Another suggestion was that there should be a grant of £200,000 in the first year, irrespective of the amount derived from the taxation of Tattersalls lotteries, and that the grant should diminish by £20,000 per annum, terminating in ten years. Under the Government’s proposal the state will receive in those ten years the sum of £1,365,000, or approximately £265,000 more than that alternative scheme would bring to the coffers of the Tasmanian treasury. Honorable members will, therefore, see that the present proposal is more liberal than either of the two schemes which have been placed before the House at different times. In the circumstances, I feel confident that this bill will commend itself to Honorable members, and that it will receive a speedy passage through this House.
.- It must be comforting to the Treasurer to be able to satisfy himself that the scheme outlined in the bill before us will be better for Tasmania than the alternative schemes that have been proposed. I, however, do not think that this proposal carries out the promise made by the Federal Treasurer to the Premier and Treasurer of Tasmania at an interview some months ago when the latter was supported by a deputation consisting of all the Tasmanian members of this Parliament.
– The bill carries out a suggestion that was made to me personally by the Premier of Tasmania when we were travelling together on the boat to Tasmania.
– The Treasurer will remember that that deputation applied for a grant of £200,000 per annum for a term of ten years, the amount to be reduced by a certain sum each year. That request was based on statements carefully prepared by the “Under-Treasurer and the Government Statistician of Tasmania. Figures showing the disturbance of Tasmanian finances caused through federation were put clearly and fairly by Mr. Lyons, the Tasmanian Treasurer. The case made out was admitted by the Federal Treasurer to be a very strong one; in fact, he agreed that it was the strongest that had yet been presented by any Tasmanian Government. In effect, the only question put by the Federal Treasurer to the deputation was, “ Aro you taxing your people up to the average of the taxation in the other states? I do not think that you are, but if you will do so, your request will be treated in a sympathetic manner.”
– Has that request not been treated sympathetically ?
- Mr. Lyons claimed that the people of his state were already taxed as heavily as those in the other states, having regard to their taxpaying rapacity, which, after all, can be the only true basis for levying taxation. He proved that with statistics, but,, nevertheless, in response to the request of the Federal Treasurer, he undertook to impose still further taxation on the .people cf Tasmania. On hia return to his. own state, he placed before its Parliament a proposal for additional taxation equivalent to 12s. per head of population. That action was taken notwithstanding that every Tasmanian member, irrespective of party, disagreed with the contention of the Federal Treasurer that the people of Tasmania were not taxed to the same extent as the residents in the other states. Mr. Lyons forced his proposals through the Tasmanian House of Assembly, but they were not received very sympathetically by the members of the Legislative Council. Eventually, because the members of the Upper House believed that the promise of the Federal Treasurer meant that a straightout grant of £200,000 would be made, reducible by a certain sum each year for a period of ten years, they agreed to the proposals. Had it not been for that belief, there would have been much greater difficulty in obtaining their agreement. This bill provides for a directgrant of £S5,000 only- not for the £200,000 which was anticipated by the members of the Tasmanian Parliament. The balance must, according to the Federal Treasurer, be obtained from Tattersalls lottery, and to that end he proposes to relinquish the present federal tax collected on it. Any legislation of that nature must, however, apply to all the states. The Queensland Government, for instance, runs a lottery, and when the Federal Government ceases to levy a tax on lotteries, the Queensland Government will be able to add the amount of the tax to its lottery prizes, and its lottery will then become a still more serious competitor of the Tasmanian lottery than it is now. While the representatives of Tasmania must accept what is offered to them, I feel sure that they will agree with me that the Government’s proposals are not the proper way of granting financial assistance to a needy state. Those who framed the Constitution inserted a clause under which assistance could be granted to Tasmania. Since the Treasurer’s proposals were outlined in the budget, Tasmanian representatives of all parties have appealed to him, privately and by deputation, to enlarge his views. The bill, however, merely carries out the budget proposals, and I now appeal to- him again, even at this late hour, to reconsider the matter. I wish to suggest to him a means by which he can go some distance towards meeting the views of Tasmania without materially altering -his budget proposals, for. I know that no Treasurer likes to alter a budget. I suggest that he should amend the bill so as to provide for a grant for ten, instead, of five, years, reducible by £8,500 a year, so that at the end of the period it would disappear.. The Treasurer is providing £85,000 for this year, and future Governments, if they do- not share his views, can modify the proposal. It will take Tasmania ten years to get out of her financial difficulties. The Government of that state is making strenuous, and I might say almost heroic-, efforts to get out of the muddle caused by past governments. Public services are being starved, and grants for education and charitable institutions are being reduced. Savings are being made in every possible direction, and taxation has been increased by 12s. per head. It will take- more than five- years for Tas mania to reach- a. state of prosperity that we all feel her natural power amd resources: will ultimately secure for- her. It is of no use for me- to move an amendment to the bill, unless the Treasurer will agree to it. The Treasurer can also secure credit for himself and the Parliament by urging the Ministry to remove immediately the absurd and hypocritical bann placed by the post office upon letters sent to the Tasmanian. lottery.. The Government should notify all post offices of the withdrawal of the prohibition, when the promoters of the -lottery, by notifying their customers in various parts of. Australia, would do the rest. How illogical and unfair it is to apply such a prohibition to the lottery in Tasmania ! The Treasurer has sympathized with Tasmania, and he and the Government agree that the peculiar circumstances in which that state finds itself to-day are due entirely to the disturbance of its finances’ since federation. He agrees with the Premier and Treasurer of that state, and with the Tasmanian representatives in this Parliament, ‘ that Tasmania is entitled to- assistance to the extent of £200,000. He “.has undertaken to provide £85,000 this year, and an annually reducible sum during the following four years; but he says that he will prohibit the- people of Australia from using the post-office to deal with the lottery in Tasmania.
– That policy plays into the hands of a little clique of agents.
– We know that many customers of the lottery communicate with it through private channels, and that there are agents- all over- Australia.
– And the agents get the revenue that the post office should get.
– Exactly. The agents came into being when the illogical, unfair,, and “un-federal.’’’ provision was made in the Post and Telegraph Act. When a member of another place, I protested against it, and said that such action was an unwarranted interference with the legislation of Tasmania. I pointed out also, that the operations of the lottery were subject to Government supervision, and that it has- continued to grow mainly because of that fact. It satisfies the craving of those who. will have a gamble. I am not asserting that gambling is right or wrong. For the moment I do not discuss the question whether the State Government should run the lottery as is done in Queensland. I believe that, as a matter of fact, the State Government is receiving as much revenue from Tattersalls by way of taxation as it would receive if it ran the lottery. Tattersalls lottery is well” known, not only “in every, corner of Australia-, but throughout the civilized world.
– You, sir, will realize the difficulty I am in, and I ask your indulgence. Whilst the bill makes no reference to the section of’ the Postal Act to which I have taken exception, or to the lottery to which I have referred, the Treasurer, in his speech, stressed the fact that assistance is proposed to- be given to Tasmania by the Federal Government to the extent of £85,000 this year by way of direct grant from the Federal revenue, and to the extent of £111,000 by way of the remission of taxation levied in connexion with Tattersalls lottery, which is in future to be left to the State authorities to collect. What I am asking is that the Treasurer should take such steps as are necessary to enable the Tasmanian Government to derive not less than £111,000 in taxation on Tattersalls lottery. If it were not that, people in all parts of Australia have discovered that they can send money to Tattersalls through private agencies, the Federal Government would not derive the taxation which it now receives from that institution.
– A reference to the tax on the lottery is, of course, appropriate, but an extensive reference to the provisions of the Postal Act is not in order.
– I hope that the Treasurer will do his best to induce the Cabinet to consent .to the immediate repeal -of the provision of ,the Postal Act which, if allowed to remain, is likely to .interfere with the anticipated operation of the remission of .the Commonwealth tax. This request is supported .by all the representatives of Tasmania in this Parliament irrespective of .party. I trust that the Government will be a little more generous to Tasmania than it .proposes to be under the terms of this ‘bill.’
.- I confess that I am in a bit of a quandary. I cannot altogether -approve of £he_ bill. I do not -think it is right that Tasmania, as a part of the Commonwealth, should have to ‘depend upon the success of a lottery for its solvency, lt is not creditable to the Commonwealth Parliament to permit that. From a moral point of view this measure is utterly wrong, but from a commercial point of view representatives of - Tasmania have to accept it. I should like to see a direct grant of £200,000 a year made to Tasmania, until her direct taxation averages that of the other states. That would be a very fair proposal. Tasmania has suffered more than has any other state as a result of its inclusion in the federation. It is the Cinderella of the states, and because of its isolated position has not benefited as the other states have done from the immense expenditure of the Commonwealth. I trust that as a result of the operation of the bill it will not be necessary for representatives of Tasmania to appeal , later on to this Parliament for further assistance. If the lottery which has been referred to is not .carried on successfully, and does not return the anticipated revenue of £111,000 a year from its taxation by the state, representatives of Tasmania will have to come to “this Parliament again for .assistance, or the state will “have to cut the painter. There will be no ‘alternative to that course if the Commonwealth, in the matter of expenditure, so to speak, continues ‘to compel us “to drive a Rolls Royce when we should be content with a Ford car.
– The honorable member desires to get back to low wages.
– It is not a question of paying low wages. Tasmania has actually to struggle for existence, and taxation there is now so high that many people are leaving the state. All the young .men come over to the mainland states, and are assisting to develop them. They can .succeed in -any of the other states, or, -for that matter, in any part of the world, because they have learned to live on very little, and to work hard as a result of their -experience in Tasmania. I should like a direct grant of £85,000 a year for ten years, not to be reduced until direct taxation in Tasmania “is equal to the average in the other states. ‘The honor-ab’le member ‘for Denison ;(Mr.. O’Keefe) (knows far .better than I ‘do how Tattersalls -business is conducted, and -I hope that .honorable members will take, cognisance of what he has said. The Commonwealth is mighty, .and the Treasurer., who has -control of its finances, will, therefore, I trust, be generous .to Tasmania.
.- The proposal contained in clause 4 for the payment of the lottery tax to Tasmania is .acceptable to tlie people of that state -only because the Treasurer .will not offer something .better. When I first read theclause I hoped that the Treasurer had seen the -error of his ways and intended to continue the taxation of lotteries and pay the receipts over to the .state. That would -be a ‘fair arrangement, and J. sincerely hope that it will be seriously considered by the Treasurer when drafting his taxation proposals. The people of Tasmania have for many years been dependent to a large extent upon the receipts from the taxation of lotteries, and they may be seriously embarrassed if the federal authority evacuates that field of taxation, because there will then be a. strong inducement to remove Tattersalls to another state. The difference between the Commonwealth evacuating that field of taxation and continuing in it and paying over the receipts to the state, is merely the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. Therefore I think the Treasurer should agree to continue the federal taxation .of .lotteries. I telegraphed to Tasmania the proposal contained in clause 4, and this is the comment upon it of one newspaper : -
There is all the difference in the world between -federal and state taxation of lotteries.
In the one . ease it is immaterial where they are located. A federal tax reaches them wherever in Australia they may be. Make it a state levy, and the sweep institution so taxed is at a heavy disadvantage as compared with one in a state, free from such taxation; while a stale lottery would probably knock it right out. The budget proposal, therefore, might have hit Tattersall’s so hard that not only would this state not receive as much from the taxation of winnersas the Commonwealth now collects, but would also suffer loss in the stomp duty imposed on every ticket.
The Treasurer said smilingly that Tasmania would receive more in ten years from the taxation of Tattersall’s than it would from the scheme which I outlined in the House some time ago. From the point of view of the Tasmanian peopleI deplore his optimism regarding the gambling spirit in Australia. Only two states - Queensland and Tasmania - are concerned in the taxation of lotteries, and it would be easy for the Commonwealth to continue to collect that taxation and make grant of it to the states. If the Federal Government is anxious to evacuate taxation fields, there are others that it could- abandon with greater advantage, and I regret that the Government has decided to commence the withdrawal at the expense of the State of Tasmania. The Treasurer would do well to abandon the idea of evacuating the field of lottery taxation. Then there will be two taxing authorities in that arena, and the controllers of Tattersall’s lotteries will have less inducement to remove to any other state.
.- Honorable members will recollect that some years ago a royal commission recommended that Tasmania should receive from the Commonwealth a grant of £900,000 spread over a period of ten years. That grant has been exhausted, and in each of the last two years an amount of £85,000 has been paid by the Commonwealth to the -state. Because of its geographical position and the impossibility of railway communication with the other states, Tasmania suffers a serious disability. It is further handicapped by the operation of the Navigation Act, which has driven most of the overseas shipping from the port of Hobart. That has caused a big loss of trade to the state, and consequently a loss of revenue. Because of these things Tasmania’s position is exceptional, and warrants special consideration by the Commonwealth. Tasmania has suffered more from federation than has any other state of the Commonwealth, and this Parliament should see that it is given a fair deal. At the present time, stagnation is being experienced in some of the principal industries of the state. The saw-mills are closing down,’ and men are being thrown out of employment. That also involves a loss of revenue to the state. I endorse the protest of the ‘honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), against the proposal of the Treasurer to reduce the grant of £85,000 by £17,000 per annum. The Treasurer would be acting more generously to Tasmania if he would agree to decrease the grant by only £8,500 a year, thus extending! the period of assistance from five to ten years. I agree also that it would be preferable for the Commonwealth authority to continue the taxation of lotteries. It is certain that if Tattersall’s lottery is removed from Tasmania, that state will have to apply to the Commonwealth for further assistance. I hope that the Treasurer will give consideration to the objections offered by the honorable member for Denison.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th September, vide page 4094) :
Proposed vote, £115,331.
.- Some time ago the secretary of the department was appointed SolicitorGeneral. Does that officer, in his capacity of Solicitor-General, sit in cabinet and discuss the measures to be brought before Parliament?
– For division 34 “ Commonwealth Investigation Branch “ an amount of £8,482 is provided.Is that branch the remnant of the Commonwealth Police Force which a few years ago was, in the language of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), “hatched out of a “Warwick egg?” I notice that there is, in the central administration, a director at £850; in New South “Wales, an inspector at £536; in Victoria, an inspector at £432; in Queensland, an inspector-in-charge at £458; and in South Australia and Western Australia, inspectors-in-charge at £536. What duties are performed by the officers of this investigation branch? It is understood by most honorable members that a great deal of the Commonwealth investigation work is carried out by the state police.
: - No one who is not a member of the Executive Council has the right to sit iii Cabinet. The Solicitor-General is, at times, asked by the Cabinet for a legal opinion.
– He may then be called in, and sit at the council table?
– No. Officially, there U no such body as the Cabinet. There is. the Executive Council, which is the counterpart in Australia of the Privy Council, and executive councillors here, like privy councillors in Great Britain, are summoned to cabinet meetings. But only such executive .councillors as happen to be members of the Administration in power are, in practice, summoned to cabinet meetings.
The Commonwealth investigation branch is not a remnant of the original Commonwealth Police Force. It is a branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, the members of which have certain specific duties to perform. Under Commonwealth statutes, a great number of matters connected with old-age pensions and income tax administration, and innumerable others, have to be investigated, and, generally, require prompt attention. If the Commonwealth had no investigation staff of its own, and relied wholly on the state police, who are at present hard-worked, it would be impossible for us to get our work done. Last year the number of cases investigated by this branch was 4,822. In addition to departmental work, the members of this branch made inquiries for the royal commission that dealt with the Navigation Act, and obtained for it a great deal of information.
.- Is the Prime Minister able to make a statement about increasing the accommodation for the High Court in Melbourne? The present accommodation is unsatisfactory, not only to the members of the court, but also to the members of the legal profession and the public. It is very difficult to obtain the accommodation necessary for the hearing of cases. To maintain the dignity of the Commonwealth, and also the effective administration of justice, additional accommodation should be provided.
In the. states, it is the practice to distinguish between the office of the permanent head of the Attorney-General’s Department and that of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I think that I am . correct in saying that all the states have a separate Parliamentary Draftsman. I am unable to say whether Sir Robert Garran is Overworked through acting in the dual capacity of Solicitor-General and Parliamentary Draftsman, but it is almost certain that he is. There is enough work in framing the legislation of this Parliament to occupy the whole of the time of the Parliamentary Draftsman. The qualifications and activities required of the Parliamentary Draftsman should be distinct from those required of the permanent head of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The ordinary practice is for parliamentary draftsmen to devote the whole of their attention to the work of drafting bills.
– The Queensland Parliamentary Draftsman is available to members on both sides of the House.
– I understand that that practice extends to this Parliament. I assume that if a private member desired the assistance of the Parliamentary Draftsman it would be given to him. I suggest that an alteration in the allocation of duties might be considered by the Attorney-General, so that there shall be an officer whose sole duties shall be those of Parliamentary Draftsman, and that he shall not be charged with the work of administering the Attorney-General’s Department and its various branches. I do not think that this alteration would necessitate any further expense.
– I entirely agree with the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that (the insufficient accommodation provided for the High Court in Melbourne has . rendered the work of the justices and those practising in the ‘-court exceedingly difficult. But arrangements have been made with the Government of Victoria, which intends to erect a new court adjoining the present courts, under which that building, when completed, will “be taken over ‘by the Commonwealth for the High’ Court of Australia.
It is . true that in the . Estimates the
Solicitor-General is designated as Parliamentary ‘Draftsman, but the work of parliamentary drafting is not entirely carried out by ‘him. He has several qualified draftsmen under him, thougn, as permanent head of the department, he is responsible for the draftingof bills, and for the conduct of the work of. the AttorneyGeneral’s office. Although ‘Sir Robert Garran carries a ‘heavy burden, it must not be taken that it is quite so heavy as the -wording of the Estimates makes -it appear to ‘be.
Proposed vote agreed to. trade and Customs Department.
Proposed vote, £804,739.
, - I wish to know whether it is . the intention of the Government to appoint a successor to the retiring Commonwealth dairying expert, Mr. O’Callaghan? I noticed in yesterday’s newspaper that his resignation has been tendered, and I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government to continue the operations of that branch.
.- I wish to ask the Minister for Trade -and Customs -certain questions relating to the work of the Tariff Board. When the board is considering the imposition of dumping duties upon wire netting or wire brought into this country, will He allow an open inquiry respecting the methods that are being adopted by the department to find out the domestic value of these goods in Great Britain? T have information from an outside source, though I cannot say that it is absolutely correct, that the British manufacturers, through the High Commissioner, have assured the Tariff Board that they -are charging Australian importers the same price for wire netting as they charge for domestic consumption according to the quantity ordered. For small quantities the price is higher than for large quantities. I understand that . because of the dumping duties that have been imposed, the British manufacturer is charging the importers in South Africa and New Zealand . 14 . per cent, less for wire . netting than he is charging the importers in Australia and that because of . this extra charge the dumping duties’ are not enforced. I should like to know whether the Minister will allow an open inquiry on this subject to be made so -that importers and local manufacturers can appear before the board and give evidence on oath. It seems extraordinary to me that excessive dumping duties, sometimes amounting to £10 per mile should be imposed on wire netting.
– The local consumption in Great Britain is very small indeed.
– It must be small, but the former Minister . for Trade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman) said that 75 per ‘cent, of the wire netting manufactured in Great Britain was for local consumption. Ido not know where he obtained his information, but it is certainly -not supported by the information that Ihave received. I should like the Minister to give the committee some information in connexion with the lighthouse branch, and the visit of the Kyogle to Western Australia. I understand that unless immediate action is taken in connexion with the lighthouses and the automatic lights on the coast of Western Australia, grave danger to shipping will arise. With a view to attending to these matters, the Kyogle left Sydney some time ago “with a union crew, but, when she arrived at Fremantle, the union there decided that those men -should be discharged and others engaged in their place. That decision was made, -notwithstanding that : the, crew on the vessel had been -engaged for a period of six months under union conditions. I understand, also, that up to the present nothing has been done.It seems extraordinary ‘that a matter of such importance as attending to the lights round the coast “should have ‘been neglected for such a Jong period. If the allegations that we hear are ‘true, it shows that the department has not acted, in connexion with this organization in Western Australia, in a manner consistent with its responsibility.
.- With reference to the question raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) concerning the resignation of Mr. O’Callaghan, 1 desire to inform the committee that it is a fact that, after, an absence of twelve months at the expense of the Commonwealth, Mr. O’Callaghan has tendered his resignation, on the ground that he has obtained more lucrative employment- elsewhere. I believe that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a successor to Mr. O’Callaghan, and that it is considered that within the department there are men capable of performing the work satisfactorily.
I have not yet been able to peruse the mountain of papers dealing with the dumping duties on wire netting, referred to by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), but I point out to the honorable member that if it is a fact that the English manufacturers of wire netting are. now selling their product for export at the same price that it is sold for domestic purposes, or vice versa, no dumping duties will be imposed. I confess that these dumping- duties - particularly as- they affect wire netting - have given me serious thought, and have occupied a considerable amount of my time. I admit also that, so far as I have been able to investigate them,, they are not altogether satisfactory. It has been ascertained that of the wire netting manufactured iu Great Britain, approximately one-half is used for domestic purposes, the balance being exported’. I promise the honorable member that as soon as my multifarious duties’ will permit, I shall give this matter very full consideration, and I hope soon to place it on a satisfactory basis.
It is true that there has been trouble in connexion with the Kyogle - a trouble which had its genesis as far back as December last. In spite of the trouble, however, the department some time ago was able to ship certain appliances necessary for the continuance of the automatic lights on the coast of North-Western Australia. I am glad to be able to inform honorable members that the trouble has now been settled. Several of the men are sick, and one, at least, has left the vessel. All desire the termination of their agreement. Instructions were sent to the Director of Navi gation yesterday to have the vessel taken to Fremantle and another crew engaged there, and this morning a telegram stating that the position was now satisfactory was received from him. I have instructed that officer to remain in Fremantle until the Kyogle sails for the north-West coast, which. I hope will be this week, or next week.
– Does that mean that, because of the demand of the union, those men will have to be paid for a period of six months?
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) probably is anxious to receive an answer to his question, but I suggest to him that it would be better if he allowed the Kyogle trouble to- drop. If he knew the facts of the case, he would agree that it. is a matter concerning which further discussion is undesirable.
– I do not think so.
– I should be very ready to take- my part in any discussion which might take place.
– Whatever has been done in connexion with the Kyogle, has been done at the request of the men themselves. ,
– My story is the story of the Truro City, an English vessel, manned by a British crew, who were not connected with the Australian Seamen’s Union. That union came into the case only because of its- interest in all men who go down to the sea in ships. The dispute was between the Navigation Department and the Australian Seamen’s Union. On the one hand, the union charged the Navigation Department with dereliction of duty, and, on the other hand, the Navigation Department virtually charged the officials of the union with attempted blackmail,. Without discussing the merits or demerits of the case, all I have to say is that the matter should be investigated. If it is true that the officials of the union- were guilty of blackmail, it is the duty of the department , to take immediate action against them. If the_ charge of blackmail does not rest against the officials of the union, the charge of dereliction of duty on the part of the officers of the Navigation Department, in failing to act in the best interests of the men, should be investigated. If that charge rests,, it is the duty of the
Minister to take action against those officials. The Truro City loaded wheat at Cape Thevenard and Denial Bay, and left the latter port to proceed to Bunbury, in Western Australia, to take in coal. A few days after her departure Dr. Arden, of Denial Bay, wired to Mr. Tom Walsh, of the Seamen’s Union, that the ship had left Denial Bay loaded below her plimsol!. Mr. Tom Walsh handed that telegram to the Director of Navigation, who immediately wired to Fremantle and instructed the Deputy Director of Navigation to proceed at once to Bunbury to make inquiries. That was on tlie 8th July. The ship took five days to travel the 1,000 miles between Denial Bay and Bunbury, and during that period her daily consumption of coal was 40 tons. The Deputy Director of Navigation went aboard the vessel at Bunbury and interviewed the captain, who made a statement to him. Although Dr. Arden stated that the men went to sea only after intervention by the police, the men themselves were not interviewed by the Deputy Director of Navigation. Seeing that the officials of the union are charged with blackmail, I discard altogether evidence from that quarter. I shall content myself by referring to the information on the official file and the sworn evidence of those who in the police court were hostile to the union. On the statement of the captain, the Deputy Director of Navigation, on the 9th July, wired that the ship was 4 inches above her plimsol!, and that, according to the statement of her captain, she was not overloaded when she left Denial Bay. On the 21st July, after the case had been settled and the ship was about to again proceed to sea, the Deputy Director of Navigation made an official report to his chief, in which he stated that the captain had admitted to him that the vessel had consumed 171 tons of coal and 35 tons of water on the journey from Denial Bay. As the vessel was rising 1 inch for every 40 tons of coal or water consumed, it is evident that when she left Denial Bay her plimsoll was below water. The report continued that while that was so the Deputy Director of Navigation considered that the position did not justify a prosecution. The first statement of the union therefore stands, as the vessel left Denial
Bay with her loadline below water in opposition to the law. The captain ad- mitted in the police court that the vessel consumed 40 tons of coal per day, which for a period of five days, meant a consumption of 200 tons. In addition, she consumed 35 tons of water on the journey. The mate admitted that the vessel was below the plimsoll at Denial Bay, and that the difficulty was overcome by pumping out 120 tons of water after leaving port. With a consumption of 200 tons of coal and 35 tons of water, together with the 120 tons of water that was pumped out, we have a total reduction of 355 ton3, which meant that the vessel rose 9 inches during the trip from Denial Bay to Bunbury. The sworn evidence in the court therefore showed clearly that the ship wa3 5 inches below her loadline when she left Denial Bay.
I ignore -the evidence of members of the Seamen’s Union, and base my case upon the sworn evidence of officers of the ship, and documents presented to the Navigation Department. The ship was bound for London, via South Africa, and on the trip from Denial Bay a wireless message was sent to Bunbury for 625 tons of coal. That would have lowered the ship another 15 inches. The men refused to go to sea in her, and at that stage the Seamen’s Union intervened. Representatives of the Seamen’s Union went to the Deputy Director of Navigation, Captain Airey, and said to him, “ What are you going to do about this ?’ Are you going to let this ship load to 10 or 12 inches below the load line?” He said she was 4 inches above the load line, and it was pointed out to him that the 625 tons of coal would sink her 11 inches below tho load line. When urged to take action, he replied that the loading was the captain’s responsibility, and that if the ship was found to be overloaded, she would be detained. After having told the representatives of the Seamen’s Union that the loading of the ship was not his responsibility, he wrote in a report to Captain Davis : “ I informed the master that in my opinion’ she was overloaded.” Although he swore in court that she could go an inch or two lower, in his communication to the Director of Navigation, he said, “ She was awash at that point when she was pulled out into the stream.” He did not inter- vene, and the coal lumpers, after having loaded 300 tons of coal, refused to put another ton of coal into her. The 300 tons of coal had lowered her 8 inches, thus placing her 4 inches below the load line. Every ounce of tank water in her was pumped out, but even then she was below the load line. The men were hauled before a police magistrate, who, after hearing evidence, said, “ I cannot settle this question, but I will go out and see the ship.” She was then out in the stream, and was rising and falling with the swell of the sea. Some witnesses said that the ship was overloaded, and others maintained that she was not. The magistrate said to Captain Airey, “Do you take the responsibility of saying that this ship is absolutely seaworthy?” and he replied, “ Sir, I do.” The magistrate had no alter- native but to accept the expert’s advice, and declare the ship seaworthy, but he’ refused, at that stage, to fine the men or award, costs against them. He admitted that they were justified in leaving the ship in order to seek legal advice. After the police magistrate had left the ship, the men went on board, and some Of them decided that they would not go to sea in her. Four or five of them were arrested and taken before two justices of the peace, one of whom was an agent for shipping companies. Within two hours the men were tried, convicted, and sent to gaol without being given an opportunity to get legal, advice.
– Was that done on the application of the captain?
– Apparently it was. Captain Airey alleged that the extra loading was counterbalanced by the pumping out of water. She had 300 tons of water on board at Thevenard, and pumped out 120 tons. That left 180 tons, less 35 tons that had been consumed. It is obvious that 160 tons could not be pumped out, as only 145 tons remained. It was admitted later, that the tanks were pumped quite dry. The men then refused to go to sea on the ground that there was no water in the ship, and not sufficient coal. How could a ship be regarded as seaworthy with insufficient coal, and no water? There was hardly enough water to prevent the boilers from priming, and not sufficient coal for 25 days’ steaming. It was then decided to shorten the trip by calling at Mauritius, which is 1,000 miles nearer to Bunbury than Durban or Capetown. The answer to the complaint that there was no water on board, was that the evaporating apparatus could be used. If that apparatus had refused to work the ship would have been without water, and quite -likely, at a later stage, without coal. Apparently the ‘captain acted on his own initiative in putting the men in gaol. The agent, Mr. Spencer, tried to get them released. He wished to enter into an agreement with the Seamen’s Union to let the ship put to sea. The representative of the Seamen’s Union said, “Bring the ship into still water, beside the wharf, and’ we will settle the question whether she is overloaded.” She was brought alongside the wharf, and. Captain Airey wrote to his superiors -
Tn view of the reckless statements made in court by the crew, that the vessel was overloaded, short of water, and short of coal, the magistrate decided to see the vessel himself.
The Seamen’s Union entered into an agreement with the ship-owners and their agents whereby the men were released from gaol. Each of them received £5 as compensation. Under the agreement the ship was allowed to go to sea. The agreement, which was signed by “ the crew of the S.S. Truro City of the first part, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union of the second part, the master of the S.S. Truro City of the third part, and Johnson and Lynn, Limited, of the fourth part,” was as follows: -
Tt should be borne in mind that wheat gains weight in transit to England. The ship had about 80,000 bags of wheat on board, and each bag on the trip would increase in weight by about 6 lb. The cargo would therefore increase in weight by about 200 tons, which would mean another five inches of draught. The freeboard of the vessel was only about the height of the table above the water. The agreement proceeds -
That would mean about a nine days’ run. A few days later Captain Airey met Mr. Spencer, the agent of the company, in Fremantle. The. newspapers of Western Australia had reported that an agreement had been readied, that- the owners had admitted that the vessel was overloaded, and that they had entered into a contract whereby she would make only short runs, and would not be overloaded between Bunbury . and the United Kingdom. Captain Airey . said to him, “You have put me in a nice hole. I have reported that the ship was not overloaded, but you have said that she was overloaded, and have entered into guarantees to prevent further overloading.” Spencer replied, “ I have done nothing of the kind,” and he -wrote a letter to the West Australian stating that the signing of the agreement was not an admission that the ship was overload ed. The agreement, he added, was signed under duress. As against that, there is the last paragraph -of the agreement. Apart from the opinions of the seamen, everything - the evidence sworn in court by those adverse to the men, the records of the department, and legal documents - shows that the ship left Denial Bay overloaded, and was overloaded at Bunbury. The owners, in the agreement, admitted that she was overloaded. In view of these facts, what grounds were there for charging with blackmail the Seamen’s Union, which merely took humanitarian action in defence of the men. It is not long since the steamer Trevassus went to sea and disappeared. She was loaded to her scuppers with wheat, and was full of coal for a long winter run, Unless the Seamen’s Union take their part, the oversea seamen are at the mercy of their skippers. I admit that, on the face of the documents, there is no evidence against the Director of Navigation. He wired the Deputy Director of Navigation to investigate. There is direct evidence on the official files that the Deputy Director deliberately lied when he sent wires on one occasion, not in accordance with statements made to his superior officer, or in accordance with sworn evidence and admissions made in court. The only excuse I can find for this officer is that he was acting in accordance with instructions given to him ‘by the Director of Navigation in connexion with a case which arose- previously. A vessel had violated ‘the provisions of the Navigation Act, and when ‘Captain Airey, the Deputy Director . of Navigation an Western Australia, wired to his -chief to ask what action he should take., ‘he was told to take noi -action whatever. Although certain ships were being navigated in contravention of ‘the . law, -he . was practically told to wink the other eye and permit the law to be -a dead letter. The Director of Navigation practically told his deputy that if any one made a . noise about the matter, he should make the ship-owners wise as to what was being said, and tell them how they might bring their action into conformity with the law.
– Will the honorable gentleman say when this was done?
– This occurred last year in connexion with : boats carrying black crews entering ports for -which they had no permit. When Captain Airey asked what he was to do in the matter, he was told to take no action, and that if any one demurred he should advise the owners as to the course they should pursue. Such directions issued by the director to a subordinate might be put forward by Captain Airey in this case as an excuse for . what he did. Subordinate officers will usually try to act in conformity with the known wishes of their superiors. Captain Davis has in this -case charged the officials . of the Seamen’s Union with blackmail. I do not stand for blackmail, or any attempt at it by any organization. I say it is the duty of the . Minister for Trade and . Customs to take action against the officers of the Seamen’s Union, who are said’ to have been guilty of- blackmail. If upon investigation the Minister is of opinion that the evidence does- not disclose any justification for the accusation; of blackmail, the officials responsible for the accusation should be dealt with. If it is shown that there was direct dereliction of duty, and the ship was overloaded, it is the duty of the Minister to substitute for the officers responsible men who will administer the. law fairly, not merely in the interests of ship-owners, but in the interests, also, of the seamen who risk their lives at sea. I ask the Minister to do one of two thing’s - to deal with the officials or with the alleged blackmailers.
– I. must firstexpress’ my appreciation of the courtesy of the Acting Leader’ of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) in giving me some little notice that he intended to refer to this case on the Estimates of the Trade and Customs Department to-day. I think we can both agree, in fairness to both sides, that its ramifications and” intricate provisions make- the Navigation Act most difficult to- administer. I have had an opportunity of perusing the- papers in this case, which I placed at the disposal of the Acting Leader of the Opposition Before dealing with the case,, it is necessary that. I should say that the major accusations with regard to the men concerned were made at the instigation of the captain of the vessel and not of the officers of the. department. Briefly, the facts of the case are that the Truro City left Denial Bay, in South. Australia, on the 3rd July, with a cargo of wheat. As admitted by the honorable member for Bourke, the president of the Seamen’s Union in Melbourne,, a couple of clays after her departure, forwarded to the Director of Navigation a telegram _ received from Denial Bay, to the effect that the ship was overloaded when leaving that port. We both agree as to these facts. Steps were immediately taken- to have the matter- investigated”. The Deputy Director of Navigation in Western Australia was- instructed by telegram to proceed to Bunbury, the ship’s next port of call, and detain her there as unseaworthy if she was overloaded. On her arrival at Bunbury an examination of tho vessel was made and, according to the evidence On the file, of other persons besides the Deputy Director of Naviga-tion, Captain Airey,. there was no evidence of overloading. More coal was loaded at Bunbury,, until the ship was, according to experts,, just down to her; load line. The harbour-master at Bunbury reported that the ship was not then overloaded. The Deputy Director of Navigation stated, in a report, to the head office, that there was no definite evidence in- support of the allegations that the vessel was overloaded, when she left Denial Bay. He reported most definitely that he thought that the vessel was- properly loaded and seaworthy at Bunbury. There is also considerable evidence culled from the newspapers that the vessel when inspected and passed by the Deputy Director of Navigation in Western- Australia was perfectly seaworthy. The captain of the Huntress, and the captain of the Mesopotamia, attended the court when the case was investigated by the magistrate, and, although they- were- not called as witnesses, the solicitor, representing the ship informed the magistrate, of their attendance, and: of the fact that: they were prepared to confirm the evidence tendered by Captain Harris as to the seaworthiness, of the vessel.
– Were any seamen called as- witnesses?’
– The seamen were before the court charged By the captain with the offence of refusing to serve. The crew left the vessel soon after loading ceased at Bunbury, and the- master took proceedings against them for being absent without leave. In view of the statements made, the magistrate hearing the charge is alleged to have visited the vessel, and on returning to the court he ordered the crew to return to the vessel, stating that she was not overloaded when they left her. The men returned to the ship on the 12th July, four days after the vessel arrived at Bunbury. They informed the agent of the vessel that they declined to discuss the position with him, as they had placed the matter in the Hands of the secretary of the local branch of the Seamen’s Union, and would accept any arrangements made by him. The vessel sailed from Bunbury on the 26th July after the agents had consented to the discharge of ISO tons of coal, and also, I am informed, had paid the representatives of the union £150 for what were termed legal expenses. I should like at this stage to read a letter that was sent by the agents of the vessel at Perth, Johnson and Lynn Limited, to Captain Airey. It is in the following terms : -
Referring to our conversation of this morning with reference to the paragraph appearing in Saturday’s West Australian re the agreement entered into between the cre’w of s.s. Truro City and ourselves, this agreement does not in any way admit that we agreed that the steam,er was at any time overloaded, and was only entered into under duress, and as Mr. Houghton, secretary of the Seamen’s Union, stated that until the. crew’s demands were complied with the steamer would not be able to leave Bunbury. I had already- interviewed the members of the crew, and they informed me that they declined to discuss the position with me as they had placed the matter in Mr. Houghton’s hands, and would accept any arrangements made with him. Under the circumstances, we had no other alternative but to accept their conditions, namely, £150 cash, and the ship to ‘be lightened to the extent of 180 tons coal. This was done, and the steamer sailed from Bunbury on Saturday, 26th instant, after having been held up in Bunbury about seventeen days. The steamer was about 4 inches light when she sailed.
Though admittedly they are ex parte there are two outstanding statements in that letter to which I direct attention. The writer says - “ The agreement does not in any way admit that they agreed that the steamer was overloaded “ ; and he further says that the agreement was entered into “ under duress.” Mr. Mathews. - Some of these people need a little duress.
– The honorable member suggests compulsion? Perhaps the case would have ended there, and there would have been no reference whatever to the matter in this Parliament, but the papers were forwarded to the head office, and the Director of Navigation submitted a report to me in connexion with the matter. He suggested that the papers should be sent to the Solicitor-General for an opinion as to whether a prosecution would not lie against the union for inciting the crew to break their agreement. The papers were sent on, and the opinion of the Solicitor-General was returned. I ordered that no action should be taken, and honorable members will understand what that meant. I think that the facts as I have stated them are fairly substantiated by the file which I placed at the disposal of the honorable member for Bourke. I cannot extend to the honorable member’s references to Captain Davis, Director of Navigation, the sympathy that they may deserve, because there is evidence in the speech of the honorable member, and also in the Seamen’s Journal, that the Seamen’s Union is doing its best to hound Captain Davis from the position he holds. The honorable member for Bourke, as a member of the Royal Commission on Navigation, signed his name to a minority report which suggested that Captain Davis, when giving evidence before that commission, had almost committed perjury. Officers of the Commonwealth have no opportunity to reply to accusations made against them by members of Parliament, and it’ is the responsibility of the Minister- in charge of a department whose officers have been assailed, to put their case fairly before the House. The Australian Seamen’s Journal has made exceedingly bitter comments upon Captain Davis, for what reason I have yet to ascertain. He is accused of depriving seamen of some of the advantages of the Australian awards on the slightest pretext, and in another paragraph it is said that, “ by the time this matter is settled there may be another man in the position now held by Captain J. King Davis.” In the administration of the Navigation Act, with the owners on the one side and the men on the other, and with labour from all parts of the world complicating the issues in our ports, it is impossible to please everybody, but I have worked with Captain Davis, and I believe him to have a fair mind, and to be a most capable officer, I know he exhibited some sense of fairness in the investigation of the Port Lyttleton industrial trouble recently. He has held very onerous and responsible positions. Graduating from the forecastle, he acquired an extra master’s certificate, and after the war he was in entire control of the British transport arrangements for the demobilization of the Australian Imperial Force. A Minister should take his officers as he finds them, and I do not intend to be prejudiced by ex parte statements concerning Captain Davis. There have been references also to another departmental officer, Captain Airey. After the remarks made by the honorable mem- ber for Bourke, it will be my duty to peruse most carefully the papers, because it is the desire of the Trade and Customs Department to avoid industrial troubles, and proceed with the work which it was created to do. I offer no opinion on the issue which has been raised this afternoon, but a cursory examination of the papers shows that Captain Airey’s statements were endorsed by the Harbour Master at Bunbury, and several other independent captains, and the magistrate after taking evidence and visiting the ship, ordered the men to return to duty. I assure honorable members that it is my desire to administer the Navigation Act with absolute fairness, and I believe that the departmental officers try to do likewise. I hope that with that assurance the honorable member for Bourke will be satisfied.
.- The issue I raised this afternoon related to the Truro City, and not the Navigation Act or Captain Davis, but as the Minister has thought fit to offer a defence of Captain Davis, I assure him that I am not the instrument of a vendetta by an outside organization or individual. My opinions are based upon my own observations. I would never take advantage of my position in Parliament to improperly assail an official, and before I made any comments or signed any report, I said to the officer concerned, “ This is what I propose to say about you. Have you any answer to offer to the commission or to me? If you have any further evidence that will alter my opinion, I shall be pleased to hear it.” Could I have been fairer ? In regard to the Truro City, I said that when the vessel left Denial Bay, in South Australia, for Bunbury, it was loaded below the Plimsol 1 line. The Minister has not answered that statement, but on the 21st July Captain Airey reported to his chief, an admission by the captain of the Truro City in private conversation, that he had consumed 171 tons of coal and 35 tons of water on the passage from Denial Bay to Bunbury, and that that had lightened the ship. That additional weight of 206 tons would have increased the draught by 5 inches, which means that the vessel was below the load line when leaving Thevenard. In his first report Captain Airey said that the vessel was not overloaded. In his later report he said that she was. In the light of the evidence that is before us it is not necessary to ask seamen to go into court to prove the facts. Yet Captain Airey said that there was not sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution. What would justify a prosecution ? Surely if the vessel left port loaded below the Plimsol! mark a prosecution was justified. We have the evidence that when she left Thevenard she dragged her anchor, which, with 15 fathoms of chain, was abandoned. That would indicate that there was a pretty heavy strain on the cable, but the officers of the ship say that the break was due to a weak link. The lo3t chain was not replaced at any port in Western Australia. It is evident that the ship waa overloaded 4 or 5 inches when she left Denial Bay. The Minister laid emphasis on the statement made by the agents of the Truro City to Captain Airey in Perth. They said, “ We never admitted in the agreement that she was overloaded.”
– They say that the agreement was signed under duress.
– I have with me a facsimile of the agreement signed by the captain and the agents, and in it they admit that the vessel was overloaded, and agreed, as a precaution against further overloading, to take certain action. If the captain was being blackmailed there was no need for him to admit anything. He could have said to the seamen, “ Here is your blood money ; let us go to sea.” If the men were only seeking blood money what did it matter to them whether the vessel carried sufficient coal for the voyage to Cape Town and sank, or merely sufficient to steam from port to port ? There is evidence, also, that the agents cabled to the owners in Britain for permission to take out 160 tons of wheat, and take in 50 more tons of coal. The owners replied instructing the agents not to take out any wheat but to take out coal. The result was that the ship could not steam 4,000 miles to Cape Town, so her destination was altered to Mauritius, a distance of 3,000 miles; then it was shortened to Colombo, and finally to Padang, in Sumatra. Let. the Minister investigate this matter. He has admitted that. Captain Davis suggested that the men should be prosecuted. Well, prosecute them.
– They have gone.
– Prosecute the officials of the Seamen’s Union.
– The evidence is gone with the ship.
– No, ib is on the officialfile. I repeat that I am- not the instrument of a vendetta by any organization. I am actuated by my own knowledge of the- character of some of the officials in this country. Many of the provisions of the Navigation Act are peculiar to Australia. Most of the officers qf the Navigation Department are- absolutely antagonistic to the act. They have no sympathy whatever with the White Australia policy.
– That is not correct..
– I have a perfect right to state my own views, even if they may be incorrect; but the opinion that I have arrived at from the facts as I understand them is that the officers of the Navigation Department are absolutely hostile to the act. They favour, of course, an act based on that of Great Britain, which would give them greater emolument without the extra responsibility imposed by our act. As a member of the Navigation Committee, I refuse’ to sign any majority or minority report made by the other’ members, or to make any statement until Mr. Oakley, Captain Davis, or other officers of the Navigation Department have cleared my mind of any prejudice or misconception that I may have formed because of the investigations of the committee. The Truro City is a case in point, and there are many others. . There can be no effective administration of the Navigation Department until it is controlled by an officer who has a desire, not only. to conform to the letter of the law, but also to maintain tlie White Australia policy. It is true that skippers have risen from the fo’castle, and it is also true that some men who- have risen from pick and shovel work have made the worst bosses. It is no recommendation tq say that a man has risen from the fo’castle. The old type of skipper knew no law but tlie belaying pin. The old methods of handling men have been superseded, and if Captain Davis wishes to have the support of the men who go down to the sea in ships, he should administer the act fairly and impartially.
.- Under item 174 of the tariff schedule it is possible to admit free of duty machines, machine tools, and appliances, as prescribed by departmental by-laws. I have been concerned, with a case which indicates to my mind that the Minister’s discretion allowed under the bylaws is not fairly exercised. I shall refer to the facts of this case so that the committee may understand what is being done under this item of the tariff. A well-known company in Melbourne, the Commonwealth Barbed Wire and Nail Works Proprietary Limited, imported in 1923 a nail-making machine, the cost of which, f.o.b. at New York was £338. The duty charged here on that machine was £133 7s. The company afterwards discovered that, earlier in the same year a number of similar machines had been admitted duty free for the use of a competitor in Western Australia.. Application was then made for a refund of the duty. The reply from the department was that the departmental practice was such as not to make it permissible, as long as tl at practice existed, to return the duty. The duty had been lifted for one day and one day only - from 31st March to 1st April, 1923 - to permit, the importation of these machines into Western Australia. I do not complain of the admission of them duty free, because, according to the department, and according, to the information that I have received, such machines cannot be manufactured in Australia.; but what is fair in Western Australia, is also fair in Victoria, and it appears to. me unfair andunjust to admit several machines free of duty in Western Australia, and a few months later to charge a duty of £133 7s. on- the same- type of machine imported into Victoria. The- explanation of the department is doublebarrelled, and I desire to place it. fairly before the committee so that honorable members may judge whether the policy behind the explanation is satisfactory. The first point in a letter, dated the 5th June, addressed to me from the department is that the Victorian company imported the machine without previously notifying the department that it was about to import it. The Western Australian company on the other hand notified the department before the machine was imported. That is one ground of distinction, taken by the department.
– That is a regulation?
– I do not know whether it is a regulation or not, but it appears to me to be an altogether insufficient and improper ground for the distinction that was made. There is no reason in it at all. If it is fair that a man in one state should be permitted to import a. machine duty free, it 13 equally fair that another man should bring in a similar machine free, and that he should not suffer because he had failed to notify the department that it was his intention to import it. That distinction fails altogether. The essential matter to be considered by the department, respecting the second importation, wa3 whether a machine of the kind imported could be made in Australia at that time. There is no dispute about that. Such a machine could not be manufactured here at the time of tho Western Australian importation, nor at’ the time of the Victorian importation. The departmental letter further stated that it was the practice of the Minister to make a concession on machinery which waa necessary for certain industries, and which could not be manufactured in Australia, and to admit the first importation free of duty, provided access to it was given to local engineers in order that the mechanism might be available as a model. Several machines were admitted duty free into Western Australia, although there was no reason to allow more than one to be. imported merely as a model. Further, from a practical point of view, of what use to Victoria, as a model, is a machine in Western Australia? This machine is not and cannot be made here.
– An inspection of the machine might show that it could not ‘be made here.
– I am informed that this machine cannot be made here. I would point out to the committee the injustice of this method of exercising the discretion reposed in the Minister, which was really intended to confer an advantage upon Australian manufacturers. The idea of putting Item 174 in the tariff schedule wa3 to permit machines and machine tools for use in Australian production, which could not be manufactured here, to be admitted free if brought from Great Britain, or in other cases subject to a 10 per cent. duty. The intention of Parliament is being frustrated by the practice of admitting duty free, as a model, only the first im portation of a certain type of machine. The idea of using this machine as a model is illusory, because a single machine is, in practice, not available to the whole of the trade. In fact, the trade would not know that the machine was in Australia. On the 19th June, this year, I wrote to the department asking it to send me a copy of the regulations under which a concession was made in Western Australia, and refused, in Victoria. I received a. reply from the present Minister, dated the 2nd July, but it did not contain the regulation that I had asked for, and which I thought might throw some light on thispeculiar :set of facts. . He informed me that he had carefully perused the correspondence on the subject, and, under all the circumstances, he .saw no reason to disturb the action taken by his predecessor six months ago. I have again written to the -department asking for a copy of -the regulations, but have not yet received it. I do not know whether the regulation justifies these proceedings, but if it does, then it is opposed to -the spirit of the legislation enacted by this Parliament, and should, therefore, be altered.
.- If the Minister will give me his assurance that the inquiry by the Tariff Board with reference to duties on agricultural machinery, which is said to be proceeding, will be an open one, on the lines laid down in the amendments recently made to the Tariff Board Bill in this House, I shall have nothing further to say regarding this matter. As some evidence has probably already been taken in private, I desire the further assurance that, iu that case, the inquiry will be reopened, so that both the importers and the manufacturers, as well as any others who may be interested, may have the fullest opportunity to hear the evidence, and to produce such rebutting evidence as they may desire to bring before the board. This is in essence an inquiry with a view to a revision of the tariff.
– I desire, first of all , to make some observations regarding the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). The honorable member referred to item 174, “ Machines and machine tools and appliances, as prescribed by departmental by-laws.” The .honorable member also raised the question of a one-day classification of a machine- .under this item, and of some apparent inconsistencies in its administration. From the date mentioned by the honorable member it will be clear that I, personally, have had nothing to do with the particular decision under review. Nevertheless, I shall not be forced by a second or third, or even a ninth application for concessional items, into reviewing all the decisions made in previous years. I am speaking entirely from memory when I say that I was under the impression that soon after my accession to office I received a note from the honorable member in which he asked me to review this particular item. That matter will be attended to. I again inform the honorable member that as all these applications to classify items under item 174 are for reductions of duties, the department necessarily must be exceedingly careful that it does not interfere with the will of Parliament, which imposed specific duties for the protection of Australian industries. That is the principle which guides th’e actions of the department with regard to these items.
– A principle which we all wish to see enforced.
– If machines are imported into Australia which are not commercially made in this country, and particularly if they are for the benefit of our primary and secondary industries, they will be admitted under this concessional item 174.
– The machine to which I referred was not admitted under those conditions.
– Although the department has not laid down any hard and fast rules of conduct, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be altered, in connexion with requests for notice of importation, I point out that inquiry at the Customs Office will greatly facilitate the business of importers, for the reason that experience there has shown that hundreds of imported articles, which importers ask to be placed under this concessional item, are made in Australia. The department can give information to would-be importers which should be sufficient to satisfy them that their requests cannot be complied with. The honorable member referred to the importation of a machine duty free for one day. That action was quite reasonable. If a concession of duty, which is equivalent to a present of money, is given to the importer of a machine, it is reason able that he should give to others an opportunity to examine the machine with a view to similar machines being made here. The honorable member, I understand, referred to a planing machine.
– I referred to a nailmaking machine. Several were imported into Western Australia, and one into Victoria.
– The circumstances were probably different. I am not acquainted with the details of this case, but 1 can i nf firm the honorable member that nail-making machines are made in Australia. I shall carefully peruse the honorable member’s remarks in Hansard, and shall again investigate the case, but I anticipate that i» discrepancy in the actions, of the Department will be disclosed.
The Tariff Board has already made some progress in connexion with its inquiry into the effect of the tariff on agricultural machinery. The board has received a deputation from those who wish to see the duty lifted, and also one from those who desire to see the local industry established on sound lines.
– That is not taking evidence.
– The board has taken some evidence in Victoria, and it proposes to visit New South Wales and the other states iu due course in connexion with its inquiries. As soon as the Tariff Board Bill becomes law, the board must take evidence on oath in accordance with the provisions of that law.
– Will that apply to the action already taken?
– Much valuable work has been done by the Tariff Board during the last twelve or eighteen months, which, in my opinion, should be preserved. If some evidence in relation to agricultural implements has already been taken, not on oath, and if, later, further evidence must be taken on oath, it may be necessary to re-enter some of the regions of investigation to obtain evidence on oath so that a proper report may be presented.
– I take it that, is a definite assurance from the Minister that that will be done?
– I have been fairly direct in my reply, and I hope that it ia considered satisfactory.
– I desire to direct the Minister’s attention to the buffalo fly pest, which is affecting the Kimberley district, in Western Australia, and also the Northern Territory. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and myself have for some time been in communication with the members of the Institute of Science and Industry regarding this matter. It appears that up to date the matter has been practically side-tracked, but that was not because of any remissness on the part of the late Minister for Customs. We found that the Institute of Science and Industry, after nearly twelve months had elapsed, sent a letter to the Western Australian Government, and that there had been considerable haggling as to the proportion of the expense which should be borne by the Commonwealth and the state respectively. There the matter remains, while the pest is taking charge of the cattle in the north»western portion of Western Australia and in the Northern Territory. I hope that the Minister has some additional information regarding this matter.
I desire also to refer to the work of the Australian trade representative in the East. Since I have been in this House, I have not seen a report from that officer. I do not say that he is not doing useful work, but we are entitled to know what benefit the country is receiving from the expenditure of £2,500 on his office. The late Minister was dissatisfied with the efforts of the late Trade Commissioner in China, Mr. E. S. Little. It will be within the memory of honorable members that literature was disseminated by him, indicating the disaster which was likely to follow our efforts to establish trade with China, if his services were dispensed with. While it may be advisable to have a government representative in the East, that being the natural market for much of Australia’s produce, I believe our trade can be extended only by the different industries in Australia appointing direct representatives, who are familiar with the details of their respective businesses. They could get into touch with the government representative, if there was one. Only in that way can the government representative be made of any use. Let us see what benefit we have derived from the ap- pointment of Mr. Sheaf, at a salary of £2,500, in the Straits Settlements. In 1918 our exports to the Straits Settlements were valued at £1,563,000, and in 1921-22 they were valued at £1,876,000. That represents an appreciable increase, but our export trade to Singapore is only 1.47 per cent, of the total trade to that port, which, like Hong Kong, is a large distributing centre for the surrounding territory. Our exports to China ‘ in 1918-19 were £314,000, and in 1921-22, £509,000. Those figures represent a slight increase, but the balance of trade was against us, because in 1918-19 we imported £1,094,000, and in 1921-22 £950,000 worth of goods from China. I draw from personal experiences my opinion regarding the value of trade commissioners. I was in China a few years ago, when I was a member of the1 Parliament of Western Australia. I got into touch with Mr. Holyoake, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong. He was the most democratic member of that assembly, and ‘ that was why I selected him. He introduced me to trade representatives, and, having previously written to several firms in Australia, I made inquiries to ascertain why Australian traders did not do more business there. I inquired particularly regarding Swallow and Ariell’s biscuits, Jones’ jams, canned fruits, dried fruits, and fresh fruits. The representatives of Messrs. Swallow and Ariell and Messrs. Henry Jones and Company told me that these estimable firms, the quality of whose products is certainly unexcelled, were unable to secure a fair portion of the trade because they would not pack their goods to suit the Chinese market. I do not presume to dictate to such firms about the management of their businesses, but it is right that I should mention the facts to honorable members to show why Australian manufacturers are not doing the amount of trade that we consider they should do. Perhaps these firms do not regard the trade in that part of the world as being sufficiently important to warrant special treatment. The packages of some of the goods were blue, which is the colour of Chinese halfmourning. Anything more likely to prejudice our products in China could hardly have been devised. I mention that fact to illustrate the loose methods of our manufacturers in their trade relations with the East. What I was most concerned about was our trade in oranges and apples with Hong Kong, which is a British settlement, and is much nearer to Australia than it is to San Francisco. Our fruit is as good as any that is raised iu California, and, although we had the assistance of the intellect of Mr. Little, the essential facts do not seem to have been stressed. Australian oranges and apples are of a quality that ought to beat the. American oranges and apples out of the Chinese market. With manufactured goods, of course, the prospects are different. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) recently produced to honorable members a very ornate packet that had contained Californian raisins. It was 3cld. at 3d.’ in Australia, and 10 cents in China, the Philippines, and the Straits Settlements. Those raisins were “packed much more ornately than ours, although the Sun.raysed product is packed very well. Th,Sunraysed dried fruits are as good as, if not better than, the Californian, but they have representatives there, pushing their goods - we have not. An American who recently came from Hong Kong and the Philippine Islands told me that he was surprised, until he found that we had no direct representatives there, that our products had not a greater hold on the Hong Kong and Philippine markets. The Australian Meat Council sent .a representative to the East, and that was the right line of action. American trade representatives swarm over China. Very little will be achieved in extending our trade in the East unless the producers of Australia appoint direct representatives and spend a few-thousand pounds to advertise their products there. The presence of Mr. Sheaf at Singapore, and of Mr. Little in China, is of no value to the Australian people. I was in Singapore about a year ago. A member of the Western Australian Parliament, who is now a Minister, was with me. His business was to find a market for Western Australian flour and other goods in Singapore. I plead ignorance as to the presence there at that time of an Australian trade representative, who was costing us £2,500 a year. I did not know it until a week after I left. I went with my friend to different firms to whom we had letters of introduction. Englishmen and Chinamen assisted us, but we were never directed, nor did the thought enter our minds, or the minds of the merchants with whom we negotiated, to ask to be directed to Mr. Sheaf. As far as 1 know, no report of Mr. Sheaf’s activities has been tabled in Parliament. I am not finding fault with him, for I. recognize that I may have had bad luck in missing him; but I assert that a government representative cannot be expected to know the requirements of all industries.
– I entirely agree with tho honorable member.
– Let me direct attention to the different methods pursued in China before the war by the merchants of other countries. The English, French, and Russian firms adopted similar methods. They established branches or agencies that had no special knowledge of the articles to be sold . Those agencies employed compradores, who are well educated Chinese. They speak English fluently, understand the requirements of the Chinese trade, and are trusted implicitly. They do all the selling, and get what is called a “ cumshaw,” which represents their profit as middlemen. The Englishman in business in Singapore know nothing of the comprador’s relations with his Chinese customers. Before the wai- the Germans sent from their own industries men who understood the particular business with which they were connected, and could sell the articles they were required to sell. These men went with a knowledge of the dialect of the province in which they were to work. They sold direct to the Chinese, and as a result the Germans in China were rapidly overhauling their competitors. The British authorities in Hong Kong have not been blind to the necessity for educating English merchants in the different dialects. The University of Hong Kong has done excellent work, but its facilities for teaching the Cantonese and other dialects have never been properly utilized by the trading population. But the methods of the Germans were entirely different. They availed themselves of every facility that offered. They attended the Hong Kong University to learn the Chinese dialects, and thus used an English university to assist them to fight their rivals in trade. I should like to be informed of some of the activities of Mr. Sheaf in Singapore.
.- I wish to say something about item 416 of the tariff schedule. It is a very important item to universities and educational institutions, for it provides that scientific apparatus for the use of universities and educational institutions may be admitted to this country free of duty if it cannot reasonably be manufactured in Australia. Many difficulties have arisen in the administration of this item, which was certainly intended by Parliament’ to operate in favour of education and the advancement of science and learning. The Customs Department has to determine whether the articles can reasonably be manufactured in Australia. I have been associated for a long time with the government of the Melbourne University, and am acquainted with the other universities of Australia, all of which have appealed to me to do what I can to improve the administration of this item. The complaints are not very serious in Melbourne, because decisions here have been reasonably prompt, but when apparatus is imported into the other capitals, months are sometimes lost in obtaining departmental decisions. The department requires notification in advance of the articles proposed to be imported, and months may pass before a decision is given. The result is that education is suffering because of departmental inefficiency. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman) gave directions that these questions should be handled on the ‘spot, and that there should be ho reference to Melbourne unless such reference was unavoidable; but I still hear from the universities that such questions are referred to Melbourne. A conference of university representatives held in Adelaide within the last fortnight, stated that the difficulties still exist, and that it i3 impossible to obtain prompt departmental decisions. I feel sure that I shall have the sympathy of the Minister in my request that decisions be given promptly, and locally whenever possible. I hope that the Minister will issue direct and unambiguous instructions to that effect.
I wish now to refer to something else which arises under the administration of the same item in the tariff. Some of these articles of scientific apparatus must be of a particular description or type, and are manufactured only by particular manufacturers. In certain cases it is useless to have anything else for the scientific instruction of students here. Unless they can be instructed with a particular instrument, they are not properly instructed. In such cases it is of no use to inquire whether these special instruments can be made in Australia. They are not made in Australia, and they are required for the instruction of our students, if they are to be as proficient as students educated elsewhere.
– It would be better to* provide for the free admission of the article if it is not being made in Australia.
– That would involve an amendment of the tariff, and the honorable member will agree that a great deal can be done by sympathetic administration. The professors of our universities, who desire the introduction of these instruments, are not persons interested in trade, but men who wish to do the best they can for their students. When they tell me that they are only too anxious to buy all they can in Australia, I believe they are speaking the truth. It would be far more convenient for them to purchase the instruments they require here if that were possible, because they could then obtain them at once, and there would not be the delay which must arise from having to order them from overseas-. But when an application is put in for the admission of instruments ‘of this kind, the Tariff Board presumes to tell these scientific men that something else will do as well. I say that the statement of a responsible officer of a university, such as the registrar, or a professor at the head of a faculty, that a particular instrument is required for educational purposes, not for purposes of. trade or sale, and is not obtainable in Australia, should he accepted by the department.
– I think such statements are accepted by the department.
– Only quite recently they were not accepted.
– Will the honorable member be definite and mention a particular case.
– Within the last three months, on representations made by myself, the Minister overruled the decision of the departmental officers in the case of an application for the admission of a
Crossley engine for the University of Melbourne.
– That is not a scientific instrument.
– It was admitted under item 416 of the tariff by the Minister himself, who, very properly in that case, overruled the decision of the departmental officials.
– Does the honorable member definitely say that a Crossley gas engine is a scientific instrument?
– I did not say it was a Crossley gas engine that was admitted, but it was some special kind of Crossley engine which the Minister himself admitted in the proper exercise of his discretion in the matter. The heart of the honorable gentleman is in the right place if his memory is a little def eotive. I invite the sympathetic attention of the honorable gentleman to these matters as being important to education in Australia. There are very few things that are as important as education.
Before I resume my seat I wish to say a word upon another subject. I see, with very great regret, that there has not yet been any satisfactory recognition by the Government of the great services that could be rendered by the Institute of Science and Industry. There are, perhaps,, greater possibilities for Australia in the institute than in any of our other activities. We are not, as a nation, attempting to use the best abilities in the country in scientific research in the public interest. We have ever so many problems to solve in Australia. The universities are inundated with them, and are unable to cope with them all. Looking at the matter merely from the material point of view, we might save millions every year as the result of a few discoveries which might be made by the expenditure of a few thousand pounds, but the Government will not provide our able scientists with money for their investigations. This is a penny wise, pound foolish policy.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs something to which I think he can attend as a matter of administration. Certain repairs are being carried out at the present time in connexion with the Customs House at Plobart. It is very remarkable that those occupying this very fine building for so many years should have had to depend upon an obsolete gas lighting system. Now that repairs to the building are being carried out, I hope that the Minister will see that an electric lighting system is installed there.
.- I can endorse what has been said by the honor- ‘ able member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) with respect to the admission of certain articles coming up for review by officials of the- Trade and Customs Department. I can refer to the case of certain machines used in the manufacture of boots. These machines- are made practically in only one part of the world, and they are not sold, but are only leasedto various boot manufacturing firms in Australia.. We have for years imposed a very high duty on these machines. During, the last few years, in respect to quite a number of them, the duty has been increased by 80 per cent., although the rent obtained for them by the makers has remained the same. This matter has been under discussion since 1922. In March last, the department advised that further inquiries- were being made in England as to the production cost of these machines in order that a basis might be established for the imposition of the duties. Our tariff is a protective and not a revenue tariff, and as these machines are not and cannot be made in Australia, our own industries are being injured by the imposition of high duties upon them, which merely add to the costs of production of manufacturers of boots in Australia, who have to compete with firms in other parts of the world. If any duty is imposed upon these machines it should be merely a nominal one.
With respect to what has been said by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), I agree that trade with the East is a vital matter for Australia. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs is prepared to recommend the Government to pay the travelling expenses of commercial agents who will collect orders for Australian goods in the East. I contend that the sending of commercial travellers to the East to collect orders will not meet the case. No one will gainsay the fact that the East offers a tremendous opening to Australian producers, primary and secondary. One has only to visit Java to see the necessity for some organized system of market- ing Australian products. Boats running to Java every four or five weeks carry fresh fruit in refrigerated chambers, and it has to be sold within 30 hours after it is taken from those chambers. In order to secure the fruit for sale, natives in Surabaya deposit bicycles and all sorts of things as a guarantee that they will pay for the fruit after they have sold it. The crux of our difficulty is the lack of cold storage in eastern ports. I understand that the Dutch Government is prepared to pay half the cost of providing cold storage at Surabaya. We could send a tremendous amount of fresh fruits from Australia to Java if on their arrival they could be placed in cold storage, and a continuous supply provided. To show what Australian producers are up against I may mention that one shipment of dried fruits was sent from Adelaide eighteen months ago. It was placed on board the boat at from 4 1/2d. to 5 per lb. It arrived in the East at a maximum price of 6 1/2d. per lb. The growers of the fruits on the Murray received a debit note of 16s. lOd. per ton, whilst the fruits were retailed in shops in the East at 2s. 4d. per lb.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs cannot alter that.
– I have said that the honorable gentleman’s proposal is to send commercial agents to the East to collect orders for Australian products, but the first thing to do is to establish a system of organized marketing. Unless this is done, whilst a traveller may collect orders once at Shanghai or Hong Kong and Surabaya, he will never collect any more. We cannot compete with American exporters in the East with our present lack of any system of marketing. The big firms here buy from local manufacturers, and sell to business houses in the East who do not themselves distribute the goods. They sell to wholesale houses, who again sell to distributors, who sell to the men in the bazaars, where the goods are bought by the public. The Americans send their goods direct to distributing agencies in the East. We can never hope to sell our products until we have a proper marketing system.
– A Commonwealth Government marketing agency.
– No; I do not believe in that; we should leave this business to the private firms. The American people sell their goods abroad as American goods, without distinguishing the firms that produce them. Until we can adopt the same co-operative principle in the marketing of our goods, we shall never do a big trade abroad. For many years past the Commonwealth Government has been wasting money on commercial agents in the Orient. Their positions have been more or less social. New South Wales has’ had a commercial agent in the east for the last twenty years. If a commercial traveller for a business firm wrote reams of reports to say that the firm could do no business in the district entrusted to his care, he would soon get the sack. What results have the Government agents been able to show? Leave the finding of new markets to the private firms. The Canadian Government has established in Shanghai an exhibition hall; the rent is paid by the Government, and every Canadian who has goods to sell has a right to exhibit and sell them from that centre. In the same way the Commonwealth Government might help the producers of Australia to market their goods. It is useless to send out government commercial agents. There are 600,000,000 people in the Far East, and if we can only reach 10 per cent, of them, we shall have a market of 60,000,000 people, or ten times the population of Australia. If it is necessary to send commercial travellers to all centres, small and large, throughout Australia to collect orders, surely it is even more imperative to pay similar attention to all the principal cities and towns in the East. I am afraid that trade commissioners will be as big a failure in the future as they have in the past, and I urge the Minister to seriously consider the discontinuance of these appointments.
.- I desire to direct the attention of the committee to the matter -of film censorship. When the tariff was under consideration about three years ago, honorable members opposite drew attention to the proposal to impose a duty on imported films at so much per foot, instead of ad valorem. I was then in the Northern Territory. This chamber adopted the ad valorem duty, but it was rejected in another place. I regret that decision, because the flat rate of lid. per footon foreign films - British films are allowed to enter free of duty - has a detrimental effect on the production of British films, and hinders the development of film production in Australia. The newspapers and. advertisement hoardings indicate that, in respect of picture ‘shows, Australia is becoming more Americanized «very day. At a recent conference one speaker said that American nlms could he divided into two classes - the half that axe rotten, and the other half that are worse. I do not fully endorse that statement, but the figures I shall submit regarding the .censorship of films will startle the committee. We also read from time to time sordid details of the happenings amongst the “ movie “ communities on the western coast of America, principally at Hollywood. The American film combines practically control all the big picture theatres, and not only receive some of their profits, but also extract from the smaller theatres immense rentals, and I know, from personal experience, that the small picture shows make very small profits. For the production cf films in Australia we have the necessary elements of sunshine, a clear atmosphere, good scenery, and capable artists.
– Is the honorable member thinking of the artists’ ball in Sydney?
– The orgy that is reported to have occurred at that gathering is one of tlie consequences of screening a certain class of picture in Australia. The censorship statistics would convince honorable members of that. The reputation of our singers, actors, and actresses is world-wide, and there is not the slightest doubt that we have the talent for film production, but the flat rate of duty gives no encouragement to an Australian producer, and an unfair advantage to the expensive film. We read that the production of some big picture has cost $100,000 or $200,000; yet the duty on it per foot is no higher than that on a small comedy produced for a few thousand dollars. That anomaly should not exist. An imported machine is subject to duty according to its value, and the same principle should apply to picture films. Last year, Australia imported 20,041,126 feet of film under item 1094, and, under item. 1096 - “ films, n.e.i.” 3,757,451 feet. In the latter is included scenic, educational, and advertising films, but in the whole of tho 24,000,000 feet of film imported last year, there was only 75,000 feet that could be classed as educational.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– Before the adjournment, I stated that of 24,000,000 feet of film imported into Australia only 75,000 feet were for educational purposes. What is even more deplorable is the nature of many of the films and their pernicious effect upon the children and youth of this country, who make millions of visits to the picture theatres in the course of a year. Many of the pictures deal exclusively with husband or wife stealing, and there is no doubt that crimes which are committed day after day by the youth of this country are attributable to the pernicious pictures screened in many of our theatres. Picture screening is a tremendous business. During the financial year 1922-23 no less than 66,000,000 admissions were paid for in the picture theatres of Australia alone. This works out at twelve visits an inhabitant a year. As thousands of people living in the country newer see a picture show, and thousands living in towns see a picture show perhaps once a week, it can be imagined what effect picture films have upon the people in the capital cities. The Minister should try, if possible, to increase the number of educational films, and to decrease the’ number of films which are having a harmful effect upon the community. I am credibly informed that the wonderful films which were screened before honorable members, showing the development of our- country life and industries, have been offered to the various theatres here for free use, but have been refused, so great is the influence of the film combine in Australia. Not only that, but private companies producing other Australian films find it very difficult to screen them in our theatres. There were 1,338 films censored during the last financial year, of which 224 were cut, and 19,600 lineal feet of film was presumably destroyed. Think of it: nearly 4 miles of objectionable film, not including films wholly rejected. The films that were cut were mostly from America.
– It would have been better to have entirely prohibited their screening.
– Exactly. I go further, and say that it is the Minister’s duty to find out who are the people responsible for the production of . those films, and to prohibit the importation of their films into Australia. In addition to the films that were cut, sixteen were entirely rejected. The censorship of films is costing Australia £50 per week, but even if it cost £500 or £5,000 per week, the expenditure would be justified. It is time that ‘we as Australians turned our faces towards London instead of to Los Angeles.
– Half of the films that come here should not be screened.
– Of course not. I have seen some of the censored films.
– Has the honorable member seen some of the films that were not allowed to be shown to the public?
– Yes. I saw certain films in Sydney, and it amazed me to think that any one could be found to take part in their production, and others to exploit them throughout various countries. Honorable members in Melbourne were invited to see clippings from censored films recently; but one experience of that kind was quite enough for me. The philanthropic work of many wealthy Americans throughout the world has been of immense benefit, but it is being counter-balanced by the American trade in pernicious picture films. I want to force the film combines in Australia to use Australian and British films, in preference to American films. I suggest that this, can be done by restricting the importation of American films by 10 per cent, this year, on last year’s importations, a further 10 per cent, next year, and the following year, to 50 .per cent, of last year’s importations. This would give the American producers plenty of warning, allow the British producers to cater for the Australian trade, and also give Australians an opportunity to commence the manufacture of films here. The Minister should endeavour to impose an ad valorem duty, instead of a flat rate of 1 1/2d. a foot of film. I suggested recently to a person interested in the picture film business, that the importation of film should be restricted by 50 per cent. within three years. He said to me, “ Do you know what that would mean?” I said, “Yes, it would close half of the theatres.” He said, “Think of all the people who would be thrown out of work!” I have yet to be told that it would be a national calamity if a large number of our picture theatres were closed, and if the management of them were forced to buy Australian and British films. During the year 1922-3, 1,269,069 feet of film were imported into this country from the United Kingdom, and 20,674,548 feet from the United States of America. No less than seveneighths of the number of films imported into this country comes from the United States of America.
– Can the honorable member say what is the value of the American films imported here?
– No, but I can give the honorable member some idea of the farcical way in which these films are valued. The film combines pay here a duty of 1 1/2d. per foot’, and in Great Britain, a duty of 5d. per foot. Recently the price of unexposed film was 3d. per foot, yet the value here, for Customs purposes, of American developed films, is put down at 3d. per foot. The position is ridiculous. The fixing of duty on picture films should be placed on a proper footing, in order to give the British and Australian producers the opportunity to screen their films in this country, films with a sentiment that is entirely British or Australian.
– I recently asked the Minister for Trade and Customs a question respecting the importation of picture films, and he promised to investigate the whole matter during the recess, to see if a more satisfactory state of affairs could not be brought about. I do not wish to indulge in wholesale condemnation of picture films, as I have seen some, that have been delightfully refreshing and wonderfully educative to me. A number of communications have been received by some honorable members, urging them to use their influence to ensure a better class of picture being shown in Australia. It is quite possible that the screening of films will have a damaging effect upon the eyesight of the people, more especially half a generation hence. The oculists and the medical men of Australia should be asked to make some estimate of the damage that is sustained by the eyesight in viewing the screening of pictures. This is a cheap form of amusement and, for that reason, very popular with the working class. There is no doubt that continual attendance at picture shows must have a detrimental effect upon a person-‘ s ©yes.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) mentioned the case of a certain firm in Victoria, which imported a machine from Great Britain, and later applied to the Customs Department for a refund of duty, because machines of a similar type had previously been admitted into Western Australia free of duty. I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs refused to refund the duty. I can quite understand that; because many firms in Australia have branches in each capital city, and it is quite likely that a branch in, say, Western Australia, might obtain permission to import a certain machine free of duty, and another branch, perhaps under another name, in another state, might apply later for. a similar concession. If the permission were granted, machines of a similar type could be landed free in each of the states, and thus six machines might be admitted into Australia free of duty. One pattern machine is sufficient to be introduced free, as from it others can be made.
– In this case, the applications were not from the same firm.
– In this particular instance, that may be so, but concessions of the nature I have indicated could be asked for. During the war, when importations were restricted, machines, based on pattern machines obtained from abroad, were made in Australia, and proved satisfactory. Why should we not carry out the same system in time of peace, and thus provide employment for our people and establish new industries?
I make a plea on behalf of our lighthousekeepers, who are doing valuable work round the Australian coast. If any body of men is doing valiant duty in the interests of the whole community, and particularly of those who go down to the sea in ships, it is this noble army of men in our lighthouses who control the lights that guide navigators when travelling along the coast at night. If anything can be done to relieve the tedium of their lives, I do not think that this Parliament will deny it. When I think of men and women, and sometimes children also, living in isolated positions on our coast, with no opportunity for entertainment or means of education, I cannot but feel that they are worthy of the best that we can do for them. This is the day of wireless broadcasting. Atcomparatively little expense, these people could have the monotony of their isolated existence relieved to a great extent by the provision of listening-in sets. Those sets might well be supplied by the Government. By such means these persons would be brought into touch with the rest of the world in a manner which now is impossible. The Minister may find some better means of assisting these people, but something should be done for them. Some of us, who have visited them at their lonely stations, . know something of the conditions -under which they live. Life to them is more in the nature of a tragedy than real living. They receive their salaries and their supplies from time to time, but beyond such periodical visits they come little in contact with the world. They see little of any one but the members of their own families. I hope that the Minister will give this suggestion his earnest consideration.
– I desire to add a few words to. the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) regarding facilities for educational institutions. The honorable member spoke of the provision of scientific instruments for our universities. In regard to the admission, free of duty, of spirits for teaching and university purposes, I have been in consultation with the department for over twelve months. The last communication I received from the department was that the matter was still being inquired into. This is a subject of considerable importance to our universities and other teaching institutions, many of which find great difficulty in making both ends meet. Because of that, their work is considerably hampered. I should be pleased if the Minister would consider this question when dealing with the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong.
– 1 support the plea made on behalf of our lighthouse-keepers by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). I have travelled along a considerable portion of the Australian coast, and know something of the living conditions of those in charge of our lighthouses. Many of those along the Queensland coast have their supplies thrown into the water in sealed casks. Honorable members have probably heard of the case of the lighthouse keeper who, having lost his reason, took a number of children out in a boat, never to return. I trust that the suggestion of the honorable member for Maribyrnong will not be lost sight of.
We were promised that when the Prime Minister went to England the question of a 10 per cent, preference in relation to goods imported into Australia which were of 25 per cent. British manufacture would be considered. A considerable time has elapsed since the right honorable gentleman returned to Australia, yet up to date nothing has been done. We should not object to the great increase in Customs revenue during recent years if we felt that the imported, goods were really of British manufacture, but honorable members know that to comply with the requirement that the goods shall be of 25 per cent. British manufacture does not necessarily mean that they shall be wholly made in Great Britain. A large proportion, of such goods come from the Continent, and are merely finished in England in order that the advantage of the 10 per cent, preference over other competitors may be gained. We in Australia gave that preference to our own kith and kin in Britain, and to them alone. We did not give it to the other nations. It is time that our law in this respect was altered. Instead of the preference applying to goods of 25 per cent. British manufacture, it should apply only to goods manufactured to the extent of 75 per cent, in’ Great Britain.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £603,513.
– I should like an explanation of the item of £1,720 for fees, travelling expenses, &c, for the Commonwealth Stores Supply and. Tender Board. Do all tenders called for by the Commonwealth Government go before the board ? Is there more than one tender board in connexion with. Commonwealth stores?
– The Commonwealth Supply and Tender Board consists of the heads of all departments. It is necessary to include the reference to travelling expenses, in order to disclose the whole position. As a rule no travelling is done by the members of the board.
– I understand that this board accepts tenders for printing paper, cardboard, and strawboard. Although the Treasurer may have freetrade proclivities, I wish to make an appeal to kim on behalf of the strawboard and cardboard mills of Australia. I appeal to him particularly as Leader of the Country party. The name “ strawboard “ indicates that the principal raw material used in the manufacture of the article is straw. “With the exception of that used by the farmer to mix with molasses for feeding starving’ stock, straw is a waste product on the farm, so much so that the combined stripper and harvester leaves it on the field. Those farmers who thresh their crops sell straw to the strawboard manufacturers. As the locally manufactured strawboard is of a quality satisfactory for the binding of parliamentary reports and statutes, it should be purchased by the Tender Board in preference to strawboard from Holland, Japan, or other countries. Our most serious competitors in this business are Holland and Japan - low-wage countries, against which it is impossible for our mills to compete without adequate protection. I hear that one of our big mills has closed down because the Commonwealth Government, in common with other users of cardboard and strawboard, is purchasing the cheap labour product of other countries. Members of the Opposition do not stand for that kind of thing. If the Commonwealth Government is accepting tenders from Japan and Holland, it is not doing what the State Governments are doing. The Victorian Government has given orders to all its departments to use locally manufactured articles whenever they are obtainable. If the Commonwealth Government would do the same we should have our people employed in using up the waste products of our farms. I hope the Treasurer will confer with the board, and lay down the principle, if it is not already laid down, that the board must deal with Australian manufacturers. That is a fair request to make. The Treasurer may smile-
– I am smiling because the honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
– Then why are the factories closing ? They were in existence not only during, but before, the war, and they supplied Australian demands satisfactorily. The Government might as well paste over all its office doors the sign, “ No Australians need apply,” for under its. regime Australians are being thrown out of employment, factories are being closed, and the cheap products of other countries are being imported.
– This Government needs nothing more than its actions to justify it, and its actions sufficiently indicate its policy. When it recently ordered some locomotives to be built in Australia it was subjected to criticism of a different kind from that which we have heard from the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). The continuous policy of the Government is to give a very substantial preference to goods of Australian manufacture.
– What is the extent of the preference?
– It would be very unwise of me to say, because if the exact amount of the preference were stated, there would be a tendency on the part of contractors to avail themselves of it to the utmost limit, and not to give the Government a fair deal. It is the practice of all Australian governments to give substantial preference, but they do not disclose the extent of it. I admit that last year some strawboard was imported into this country. A deputation waited upon me regarding it, and the facts were brought under the notice of the Supply and Tender Board. I am informed by the board that all recent requirements have been bought from Australian mills, and that practice will be continued as long as the rates asked are reasonable and fair in the public interest. I can say from my personal knowledge that the board gives every encouragement to the Australian manufacturer by allowing him a substantial monetary preference, and by furnishing him with all the information necessary to enable him to undertake the manufacture of articles required by the Government. Another instance of the preference given to Australian manufactures is to be found in the purchase, by the Postmaster-General’s Department of copper wire from the Metal Manufacturing Company, of Port Kembla.
.- I suggest that the Treasurer should consider the issuing of a new set of postage stamps more in accordance with modern requirements than the existing stamps. They could be made a valuable advertising medium. There are precedents for such issues in Canada, America, and other countries, which from time to time have issued very fine sets of stamps depicting their principal industries. I suggest that our stamps should depict the pastoral, mining, and other industries of Australia. It is true that Tasmania took the lead some time ago, hut the attempt was not quite so artistic as it might have been. The present issue of postage stamps, with a representation of the head of King George that would justify His Majesty in sueing the Postmaster-General for libel, and its indefinable emu and kangaroo, should be abolished. If the Minister was acquainted with philately he would recognize that other countries have issued artistic postage stamps for the purpose of advertising themselves. Such an issue of stamps would more than repay the cost of printing it. No doubt philatelists throughout the world would purchase these stamps to the value of thousands of pounds. With a view to advertising Australian industries or scenery, I have no doubt that we could print stamps that from an artistic point of view would be equal to those printed in Canada.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I do not know whether the Treasurer has compared the recent £5 note issued with a £1 note. They are of the same size and of much the same colour. This similarity between these notes of different denominations may lead to loss by people who can ill afford it. I suggest to the Treasurer that notes of different denominations should be printed in different colours or of different sizes.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion under the notice of the Notes Issue Branch.
.- Division 20 of these Estimates, which covers a proposed vote of £91,123 for the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Office, is one of great importance to thousands of people throughout Australia. Honorable members, fortunately, do not .know what it is to endure the privations that thousands of old people suffer who have to live on the present pension of 17s. 6d. per week. They have, however, been brought into touch with many of these people, and are aware that some increase in the present pension is necessary. There is an old people’s home in my electorate which was visited by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) when he was at Rockhampton last year. The honorable gentleman has met many of these old people,, and he must be aware, from his experience in all parts of Australia, that the present oldage and invalid pension is quite insufficient. I ask the honorable gentleman to urge upon the Government the necessity for increasing the pension to at least £1 per week. Every honorable member has received numerous letters from old people asking for an increase in the pension, and the following letter, which I received from an old-age pensioner in Central Queensland, is typical of many that I have received : -
I plead with you . to endeavour to have the old-age pension and invalid pension increased. This is badly needed. 1 have a struggle to make both ends meet in food only, and in cheap cotton shirts and pants - blankets are out of the question. I want some nap badly, and so do other chaps, too. I believe my bedclothes would not be admitted in a ragandbone shop. For bed clothes I have to use bags, I cannot afford to buy blankets. I am 66 years old. I have “to sit up every night two or three times to fight for my breath, as I suffer from asthma. I have been a Queensland outback worker since 1881, shearing, fencing,, well-sinking, droving cattle, and station work, and so I am done up.
The writer mentions, further, that he is obliged to obtain medicine because he is not in good health. His case is typical of thousands of other cass3. Honorable members will agree that the increase in the old-age and invalid pension has nob covered the increased cost of living. I move -
That the amount of division 20. “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office, £911,123,” be reduced by £1.
I submit this amendment as an instruction to the Government to bring about an increase in the old-age and invalid pension from 17s. 6d. to £1 per week. I ask honorable members irrespective of party to vote for the amendment.
. Some time ago the Treasurer promised to introduce an amending bill to rectify some of the anomalies of the pension system. It is a difficult matter to provide in an Act of Parliament for all cases, and these anomalies have not unnaturally arisen from the difficulty of interpreting the act. I hope the Government will, at the earliest opportunity, introduce the promised bill, and when framing it will have regard for some of the cases that are continually occurring. In some cases a father and several sons have combined in an effort to secure for themselves a piece of land or other property. After years have gone by they have decided to sell the property. The parties to the arrangement have entered into no legal agreement to secure the rights in the property to which they are morally entitled. It has been placed in the father’s name, and when it is sold it is held by the Pensions Department that the father has disposed of a property which belonged entirely to himself. I can quite understand that the officials are in no way to blame for this, because they must take a legal view of the matter. If they decided in one case that the sons were entitled morally and legally to an equal share with the father in the proceeds of the property, they would be obliged to bake the same view in dealing with all similar cases. But a wide discretionary power to deal with such cases might be left in the hands of the very capable men who are administering the Old-age Pensions Department. These arrangements are, as a rule, entered into by persons who are ignorant of the legal requirements, and at a time when it is not expected that any of them will become an old-age pensioner . They have not, in consequence, provided against the difficulties which have subsequently arisen. I hope that the Treasurer, in drafting the amending bill, will have some regard to this matter. I have no doubt that we have in the Public Service men who will be able to frame an amendment of the law which will enable it to be interpreted in the liberal spirit in which it is framed.
.- There are a, number of amendments which I should like to submit, but I shall not take up the time of the committee with them at this stage. I have one or two suggestions to make to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page). I support what the honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) has said, and I should also like to direct attention to the anomaly that exists in connexion with the property exemption. An old-age pensioner may be in possession of a. home, the value of which runs into thousands of pounds. Whilst be remains in occupation of it his pension rights are safe-guarded, but if he leaves his home he immediately forfeits his pension. I am aware that the officers of the Department have already directed the attention of tho
Treasurer to the hardships that arise from this particular provision of the act. I hope that a simple remedy will be adopted so as to increase the amount of money which a pensioner is permitted to have, whilst at the same time drawing his pension. The amount which a pensioner is allowed to earn should also be increased. I have known one or two old men well over 70 years of age who are still able to work, and who consider it an insult and a disgrace to be told that they must not work, or they will forfeit their pensions. Under the act a pensioner cannot earn more than. 12s. 6d. a week, which is a ridiculous limitation. I hope that the Government will not continue the course of placing what is virtually a premium upon idleness, but will allow pensioners to earn larger amounts than they are now permitted to earn. An important matter is the arrangement of a reciprocal agreement with the New Zealand Government in regard to old-age pensions. I have repeatedly raised this question. I hope the Treasurer will give a more definite reply than I have previously received from him. Many years ago, at the instance of the New Zealand Government, headed by Mr. Massey, the Fisher Labour Government of the Commonwealth entered into an agreement providing for reciprocity in the matter of oldage pensions between the Commonwealth and New Zealand. The Fisher Government subsequently went out of office, and nothing has since been done in the matter, although the New Zealand Government has on several occasions asked the present Government, and its predecessors, to come to some working arrangement. The failure to do so rests upon the Commonwealth Government. I have carefully examined the files, and I find that the matter has been under the notice of the Prime Minister’s Department, which has constantly brought it under the Treasurer’s notice. On examining the file I found that it contained 29 memorandums sent by Mr. Percy Deane, the official secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, to the Secretary of the Treasury, asking him when this matter would be finalized. The communications regarding the reciprocal agreement go back as far as 1910 or 1911, and the New Zealand Government is ready to make an arrangement when the Commonwealth Government is prepared to do so. I should like to see reciprocity in the matter of old-age pensions arranged, not only between the Commonwealth and New Zealand, but between all parts of the Empire in which old-age pensions are paid. In the absence of such an arrangement with New Zealand serious hardship is imposed upon seamen, shearers, and men engaged ‘in the meat industry and other seasonal occupations, whose time is divided between the Commonwealth and the Dominion. For instance, a shearer’s absence from the Commonwealth while he follows his occupation in New Zealand interrupts his Australian residence, and disqualifies him for a pension! Invalid pensions are not covered by the agreement made by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Massey, but I hope that when* action is taken bo give effect to it they will be included, for at present Australians who are injured while following their calling in New Zealand have no claim upon either Government. I urge the Treasurer to give honorable members a definite promise that the agreement will be ratified. The Government must admit that it has been negligent in this regard. The New Zealand ‘ Parliament actually passed a bill to ratify the agreement made in 1911, but since Mr. Fisher left office no action has been taken by any Commonwealth Government. The arrangement is based on humanitarian principles ; its adoption would not, involve either the Commonwealth or the Dominion in very great expense, but would remove an injustice to nomadic workers on or near the basic wage, who particularly need a pension in their old age.
– I have the greatest admiration for the officers who administer the pensions. My experience is that they are sympathetic, and whenever possible interpret the regulations liberally, in order to treat pensioners generously. But I know of several glaring cases of injustice caused by the rigidity of the act. For instance, a blind man earns about 10s. or 12s. a week for working in an institution. His wife earns about £2 a week, but as she did not care to have a blind man in the house she turned him out. There are in the institution other blind men who every fortnight draw their pension, but this unfortunate fellow, because his wife will not consent to a deed of separation, has to live on the 10s. or 12s. per week that he is able to earn. Another sad case of which I have knowledge is that of a man who is periodically incapacitated by rheumatism, and has” to enter an institution. His wife earns about £2 per week, but as her occupation requires her to .maintain a good appearance she has not more than sufficient money to feed and clothe herself. Yet her earnings debar her husband from receiving a pension. I could enumerate many other anomalies of the kind. The only way in which they can be obviated is by amending the law so that any person who has reached the prescribed age, and has resided for ‘ a stated number of years in the Commonwealth, shall be entitled to a pension. If that were done there would be no need to maintain a large staff to subject claimants to an inquisitorial examination. It is unfair that a man who, because of thrift, has an independent income of £1 or 25s. per week, should be disqualified far a pension. I understand that many mcn in Scotland commence at a very early age to contribute to a fund which, in their old age, will yield them a small pension. Such an income would disqualify a resident of Australia for an old-age pension. We shall never have an equitable system of old-age pensions until age and residence are made the only essential qualifications. After all, the pension is merely a means of circulating money. Many old people draw their pension on the Thursday or Friday, and probably not one in ten has a stiver left on Saturday. By Monday the whole of the fortnightly payment for pensions has returned to the banks. All that the pension does is to slightly stimulate the circulation of money, and as the pensioners do not buy German pianos or Dutch clocks, but spend the whole of their small income on food and housing, the primary producers particularly benefit by these disbursements. I hope that the Treasurer will seriously consider the advisability of liberalizing the act in the manner I have indicated.
– I very much regret that the Government by referring the pensions law to the royal commission on national insurance has deferred the introduction, of amending legislation. If, however, any amending legislation is to be introduced before the report of the commission is received it should be submitted to Parliament as soon as possible, because very shortly the Government will be seeking the haven of recess. When the present Treasurer was a private member, and as Leader of the Country party was attempting to dictate to the Government, he brought forward many schemes for the amelioration of the lot of the poor, but he is not attempting to bring any of them to fruition now that he is in a position to give practical effect to them. The reference to the royal commission cm national insurance means further delay, and meanwhile the aged people are suffering disabilities by reason of a law that has not advanced with the times, and is not elastic enough to allow justice to be done in many deserving cases. I support the statements of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) regarding the claims of men engaged in nomadic occupations. Shearers, for instance,- may commence their occupation in North Queensland about January or February and work down through New South Wales and Victoria, until in December they leave for New Zealand. A married man whose wife remains in Australia is presumed to be still resident in Australia, but the residence of a single man is interrupted by the annual visit to New Zealand. Although the shearer earns in New Zealand money which he brings back to Australia, “his temporary absence from the Commonwealth disqualifies him for a pension. Rheumatism is very prevalent amongst men who engage in shearing. One of the saddest cases that has come under my notice is that of a shearer who was afflicted with this malady before he left Australia and became totally incapacitated in New Zealand. He had lived in the Commonwealth all his life with the exception of the periodical visits to New Zealand, and although the department admitted that he would have become totally incapacitated had he remained in Australia, yet because the incapacity occurred in New Zealand he has been denied a pension.
– That is a shame.
– It is, especially as he had been earning in New Zealand money which he spent in Australia. Although they bring wealth into this country, these men are debarred from the advantage of an invalid pension. At present the man of whom I have spoken is in a hospital, but, because he is incurable, he cannot remain there. When discharged from the hospital, he will have to take to the road, and his position then will be deplorable. This anomaly should be remedied, and it would be remedied in twenty minutes if the Government thought fit. Although the old-age pension was increased last year,” surely a. further concession should be made to pensioners who are over 70 years of age, and unable to earn anything at all. Last session a majority in this Parliament favoured increasing the pension from l-5s. to £1, but the Prime Minister, on the score of economy, refused to agree to that proposal, and, consequently, the pension was increased from 15s. to 17s. 6d. only. I ask him to give favorable consideration to increasing the pension to £l.a week for those who have passed the age of 70 years. I endorse the remarks of other honorable members respecting the excellent work carried out by the officers who are administering the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act. They are very conscientious, and the department is admirably managed. It is one of the best departments with’ which honorable members have to deal. The Deputy Commissioners of Pensions do not receive magnificent salaries in comparison with those of officers of other departments.
– That applies to the members of the clerical staff also.
– The Commonwealth Public Service is the worst avenue of employment for young men today, and unless the conditions are materially altered, and the salaries increased, we shall not be able to maintain the high standard of. efficiency which now exists in the Public Service. The Deputy Commissioners of Pensions are charged with the responsibility of disbursing millions of money. The total pensions bill of Australia amounts to over £6,000,000 per annum, and as public opinion is in the direction of increasing the scope of the pensions, these men will bear a greater responsibility in the future. They should be paid salaries commensurate with the responsibility they bear. The heads of the various branches of the Defence Department in some cases do not bear ‘ nearly the same responsibility as do the Deputy Commissioners of Pensions, and yet they receive far greater salaries. When it is time for the Deputy Commissioners to retire, efficient men will refuse to take .up their work owing to the inadequate salary attached to the positions. I remind the Treasurer of the promises he made to old-age pensioners, not only on the public platform, but also when criticizing the previous Government. Probably at a later stage, other honorable members on this side will quote from Hansard extracts of his speeches to remind him of his promises.
– I remind honorable members opposite of what took place when the old-age pensions were being dealt with by this House last year. The Government for the first time since oldage pensions were instituted in 1908 by the Deakin Government, then brought up the pension to the standard of the cost of living. It was increased from 30s. to 35s. a fortnight. The Government, in addition, dealt with practically every anomaly of the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, and modified the law in favour of the old-age pensioners themselves. Not only that, but the Government appointed a royal commission on national insurance to deal with old age, invalidity, and unemployment. That commission is now sitting, and the Government is awaiting its report before dealing with those matters in a comprehensive way, and on a basis that will be satisfactory to the people, and remove for all time the idea which has been mentioned by honorable members opposite to-night, that the oldage pension is a charity and not a pension in its true sense.
– Who said that?
– Honorable members opposite stated something to that effect. . The Government, and, I think, all honorable members, desire that the system of pensions should be placed on a proper basis, so that people in their declining years shall receive an adequate amount to ensure their living in comfort. Although the Labour Government was for many years in office, it did’ not attempt to increase the’ old-age pension between 1910 and 1915, and yet honorable members opposite try to belittle the efforts of this Government to assist the old-age pensioners. This present Government brought the pension to the highest possible standard in accordance with the cost of living, and also appointed a royal commission on national insurance, with the ultimate object of bringing about a position which will be completely satisfactory to everybody, and mete out proper treatment to the aged and infirm. The Government view this matter from a national stand-point, quite apart from party politics. At present, the old-age pensions are costing £1,700,000 more than they cost three years ago, and this increase is due to the action taken by the Government last year. The Government are unable to do anything until the royal commission on national insurance makes its report. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) raised the subject of reciprocity with New Zealand. The last communication we received from the New Zealand Govern^ ment was made in 1921 by the WardMassey Government. Since the present Government has been In office, no representations at all have been received from New Zealand. Even if they had been received, nothing could be done until the report from the National Insurance Commission had been presented. It should be available - at any rate that portion of it dealing with old age and invalidity - within a reasonable time, and ‘the House will then have the advantage of the commission’s recommendations.
– The Treasurer’s statement that the present Government is the only government that has increased the old-age pension is untrue and misleading.
– I said that . this is the only government that has increased it in accordance with the standard of living.
– That is not correct.
– I proved conclusively that it was so.
– The Labour party, when in power, when the cost of living was not nearly as high as it is now, increased the pension from 10s. to 12s. 6d. The Government which was led by the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) increased it from 12s. 6d. to 15s. Last year a majority in this Parliament wished to increase it to £1, but that proposal was defeated by two votes. This Government is prepared to reduce taxation, and to give large bounties to wealthy companies, while at the same time neglecting the poor pensioners who are suffering severely from the high1 cost of living. We were told that after the war we should get back to pre-war conditions, and that the cost of living would come down, but that anticipation has not been realized. If the Government continues to grant bounties as it has been doing of late, these old people who now receive a pension of but 17s. 6d. a week will be among the greatest sufferers.. I cannot understand the logic of the Treasurer who is willing to grant bounties to the wealthy people of the community, and at the same time refuses assistance to people in poor circumstances.
– The Treasurer informed us that the present Government was the only ohe that had attempted to remove anomalies. I should like him to mention some of the anomalies that it has removed. With great reluctance the Government agreed to an increase in the* pension to 17s. 6d. a week> Now. the Treasurer says that the increase from 15s. to 17s. 6d. a week was in keeping, with the increase in the cost of living. The increase in the pension represents an increase of 16§ per cent. Does he mean that the co3t of living during the last eight or nine years has increased only to that extent?
– The figures were supplied to me officially by the Commonwealth Statistician, who had checked them.
– I have here in the quarterly summary of Australian statistics for March, 1924, the latest figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. On page 72 he gives the figures in respect of food and groceries for each of 30 towns for the months specified, and compares them with the figures for 1914. The period covered - : 1914 to 1924 - is the same as that referred to by the Treasurer. The figures of the statistician show an increase of 53.1 per cent, in the cost of living during that period. The Treasurer says that the Government has done everything that the statistician’s figures required to be done to make the increase in the pensions equal to the increase in the cost of living. In some of the states the increase in the cost of living since 1911 has been as high as 62.6 per cent.; in no instance has it reached a lower level than 40.7 per cent. Those figures are an absolute denial of the Treasurer’s statement.
– I shall give the correct figures in a Tew moments.
– The Minister cannot get away from the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician in his official publication. In a speech in Adelaide yesterday the Treasurer informed his audience that for the past three months he had had no time to think of anything expect the patching up of the BrucePage pact.
– That statement is as correct as the figures mentioned by the honorable member.
– The statement appeared in the press ; if it is not correct I hope that the Minister will correct it. According to the press reports, the Treasurer told the meeting in Adelaide that he rushed away to address them, and that for the past six or seven weeks he has had no time for anything but to keep this precious arrangement together, and so retain his job. In the face of statements of that nature, it is not to be wondered at that the Treasurer has become confused between the 16f per cent, increase in the pension and the 53.1 per cent, increase in the cost of living. A pension of 15s. a week was better in 1915 than 25s. a week would be to-day. If it is intended that the pension shall be increased proportionately with the increased cost of living, the Treasurer should have no objection to- the amendment by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde).
– In 1914, the pension was only 10s. a week.
– The Treasurer spoke of the period when the Labour party was in power. That party was in power until 1916.
– The pension remained at 10s. a week until 1915. It was not until 1916 that it was increased to 12s. 6d.
– In 1916. a pension of 12s. 6d. a week was equivalent to a pension of 22s. 6d. a week today. If the Treasurer is willing that the pension should be increased in the manner he has indicated, he should be willing to increase it to at least £1 a week. Every pensioner should be entitled to earn, in addition to his pension, a sum equal to that pension. That is to say, if he is receiving 17s. 6d. a week by way of pension, he should be permitted to earn at least an additional 17s. 6d. a week. Personally, I consider that people of an age sufficient to entitle them to a pension should be entitled to earn as much as they can obtain. I draw attention to another anomaly. If a pensioner is living in his own house, the rental value of which, is £2 a week or more, his pension is not reduced, but if he paye a similar sum as rent for a house, no allowance is made to him. If he has in the bank a sum exceeding £50 there is a reduction of £1 in respect of every complete £10 over that amount. Whether a pensioner pays rent or lives in his own home is no justification for such differential treatment. I am acquainted with the Deputy Commissioners in three of the states, and know that they are sympathetic towards the claims of the pensioners in this regard. They1 believe that those who pay rent should not be treated differently from those who live in their own homes. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Austin Chapman) some time ago said that, in his opinion the pension should be not less than 30s. a week. The time is overripe for these poor old people to get better treatment. If they were allowed to earn an amount equivalent to their pension of 17s. 6d. per week, their income would be £90 a year, and no one in this country - certainly not the Deputy Commissioners of Pensions, who are sympathetic men - can truthfully say that that is too much to allow them to have in the evening of their lives. It would barely suffice to provide them with the means of existence, and it is difficult to see how some of them manage to exist on what they get now. The Treasurer says the Government has another scheme in hand. What is it? It is that a commission is considering national insurance. The present Ministry came. into office to restore responsible government, but whenever it is faced with a difficulty it passes its responsibility to a board or commission. It has broken all records for shifting responsibility, and it has laid itself open to criticism, particularly because it came into office to restore responsible government. It is no answer to the demand for increased pensions to say that a commission is dealing with national insurance. Does the Government recognize the justice of the claim? That is the point. When all the poor old people now living are dead the commission may bring in its report. Instead of giving a satisfactory reply to the claim, the Treasurer merely says that he has not had time during the last few months to think of anything but the one all-absorbing topic of the pact.
He has said that the Government has removed anomalies, but it has not. It is up to him to say what anomalies will be removed in the future.
– I should like to detail the anomalies that have been removed, and to correct the misstatements of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney). Last year, when the amending Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was being discussed, I produced a letter from the Commonwealth Statistician showing the variation in the cost of living since 1909, when the old-age pension was first paid. That letter showed that the amount of food, groceries, and housing accommodation that would have cost 20s. in 1909 cost 34s. 3d. in 1923. This Government so acted that the pension was increased from 20s. to 35s. a fortnight, which was 9d. more than the equivalent of the pension in 1909. The comparison made by the Statistician was between the year when the old-age pension was first paid at 10s. per week, and the year when we raised it to 17s. 6d. Having regard to the cost of living in 1909, the pension in 1923 should have been 17s. 1 1/2d. Now let us consider the position in 1914, when Labour had been three years in office. There had been an increase of over 20 per cent, in the cost of living, but the Labour Government had not increased the old-age pension by one penny. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has- asked me to make a comparison between 1914 and the present day, and that I intend to do. In 1914 the invalid and old-age pension, when the Labour Government came into office - and that Government did not alter it for two years - was 10s., and the honorable member for Hume has said that there has been an increase in the cost of living since then of 53 per cent. The old-age pension, which was 10s. in 1914, was increased by this Government in 1923 to 17s. 6d., which was an increase of 75 per cent. The honorable member is thus condemned out of his own mouth.
– The Treasurer has said that the pension was 10s. in 1914, whereas it was 12s. 6d.
– It was increased from 10s. to 12s. 6d. in 1916, and from 12s. 6d. to 15s. in 1919. The point I wish to make is that Labour was in office for five years before it thought of increasing the rate of pension, although in that period of time there was an increase of nearly 40 per cent, in the cost of .living. I shall now show -what the Government has done to remove anomalies. The honorable member for Hume said that no attempt has been made to deal with anomalies that existed under the previous administration. If honorable members opposite would read their own speeches as carefully as they read mine, they would find that when the last Invalid and Oldage Pensions Bill was being discussed they very generously recognized that the position of old-age pensioners had been greatly improved by this Government. The property exemption was increased from £310 to £400. Parents who had invalid children had’ previously been unable to obtain a pension for them if they had an income of £4 5s., but it was announced that in future those cases would be dealt with on their merits. The 2s. per week pocket money allowed to pensioners in institutions was increased to 3s., and ar. allowance of 2s. was given to inmates of institutions who previously received nothing. The rule applied to pensioners in hospitals was that for the first 28 days of their detention the whole of their pension was set aside, so as to be available for them when they were discharged, but the Government’s act provided for the payment of 3s. a week for four weeks to enable them, to purchase dainties. An amendment was accepted to’ improve the lot of people who were blind when they came to this country. The Government proposed that those who had been here for 25 years should get a pension, and accepted an amendment by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to reduce the period to twenty’ years. In addition, an increase was allowed in the amount that could be earned by oldage pensioners to supplement their pensions. Those are only a few of the alterations that were made at that time, and in the face of them it is idle for the honorable member for Hume, or any other honorable member, to ignore or misrepresent the fact. The first occasion on which the pension has been raised in proportion to the increase in the cost of living was last year, when the Government presented its bill.
No one could appear in a more. unhappy role than the Treasurer .(Dr. Earle Page), when he poses as the champion of the invalid and old-age pensioners. His record is well known to those who are faced with financial difficulties in the eventide of their lives, as well as to those who are subject to various forms of invalidity. Since his entry into this Parliament, he has repeatedly opposed the increase of invalid and old-age pensions. I shall quote from a speech delivered by him on the 6th July, 1922.
– Will the honorable member road the whole of it? It is a very short speech.
– That is so, and there is very little in it. There is also very little in the Treasurer’s attitude to-day when he attempts to belittle members ‘of the Opposition for trying to improve the lot of invalid and old-age pensioners. If I do not quote any part of the speech that the Treasurer regards as material, I shall be prepared to listen while he quotes it. I shall, however, do him no injustice in the quotations I make. In my opinion, his speech was most discreditable to him. He said -
There must be many anomalies in connexion with the pensions, and we admit that during the last three or four years the old-age pensioners have suffered considerably by the increased cost of living. But one of the primary causes of the increased cost of living is the excessive taxation being imposed by both Federal and State Governments, which withdraws so much money from the commercial and reproductive undertakings and is absorbed in huge Government expenditure. We believe that a substantial reduction in Federal Government expenditure and a cessation of extravagant administration would be more helpful that any other single factor in reducing the cost of living, but especially in view of the disappointing and unsatisfactory statement of the national financial position made by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) yesterday, we are opposed to any further increase in the current national expenditure at the present time.
Associated with the Treasurer at that time was every member of a party that has ceased to exist, namely, the Country party. Its members supported their leader, and voted against an increase being granted. His excuse was that while he recognized the difficulties of the pensioners, the increase in the cost of living, which created those difficulties, was directly due to the excessive taxation imposed upon industries by the federal and state governments. Since then there has been a very considerable remission of taxation, and large bounties have been given to wealthy interests. Yet notwithstanding, the same difficulties confront the invalid and old-age pensioners to-day as confronted them when the Treasurer made the speech from which I have quoted. His attitude then was - as illogical as it is now. The Treasurer was unsympathetic on that occasion, and voted against the proposed increase in the pension. Later on, in 1923, the honorable gentleman was also opposed to an increase to £1 a week in the pension. Under political duress the Government prevented a number of its supporters, who approved of the increase, from voting for it. There were some honorable members who were prepared to take their political lives in their hands, and they voted for the increase, although they were told that to do so would involve the fate of the Ministry. I find that amongst honorable members associated with the Labour party on that occasion was the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). But the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman), who,, during the whole of the time I have been a member of this House, has professed to be the champion of oldage and invalid pensioners, opposed the increase when it was last proposed. I find his name recorded in the division list with those who voted against it. Time and time again this honorable member placed on the notice-paper a motion for the increase of the old-age and invalid pension to £1 per week, but when the acid test was applied to him, and he was given an opportunity to vote for the increase he had himself previously proposed, he voted against it. It ill becomes honorable members on the other side to accuse honorable members on this side of being insincere in their attitude on this matter. The records of this House prove the” sincerity of the desire of honorable members on this side to assist these people in their hour of need. We have no wish to exploit this question for political purposes,, but we are justified in calling attention to the hypocrisy, cant, and humbug resorted to by honorable members on the Government side in their desire to make it appear that they have been the life-long- champions of the oldage and invalid pensioners. The Treasurer has said that he has remedied a number of anomalies that have been shown to exist in the administration of the act, but I can mention one that has, bo far, not been remedied. An aged couple, after a life-time of thrift and care, are able to secure a home for themselves. Enfeeblement in their declining years makes it necessary for them to live with relatives or friends. Tn that case whatever they receive as rent for their home is counted against the pension paid to them. There is little encouragement to thrift in that, and little consideration for the sacrifices these old people have made to secure a home. I appreciate many desirable features of our old-age and invalid pensions system, and I pay a special tribute to the central administration. We have in the central office very capable officials, who are thoroughly sympathetic with the pensioners. 1 am sorry that 1 have not the same confidence in the sympathy of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in Adelaide. He carries out the pension work in addition to other work which he has to perform, and I must say that I regard him as a man who is totally unsuited for the position he occupies as Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. I trust that the Government will, in their attitude towards invalid and old-age pensioners, exhibit the sympathy which they have shown for the landlords of this country, whom they have relieved of taxation to the extent of over £2,000,000, and the wealthy sections of the community on whom they have bestowed bounteous gifts. It would better become them to give some measure of consideration to the old people who have borne the heat and burden of the day,, and who have a right in their declining years to greater consideration than they have received.
.- The Treasurer has taken a great deal of credit to himself for having removed a number of anomalies arising out of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– Old-age pensioners during the last year have assured me of their appreciation.
– There are still many anomalies remaining to be removed. An ounce of fact is worth a ton of declamation and argument, and I can direct attention to a case which came under my notice within the last two or three days. There is an old couple who lived an honorable life in Tasmania. They have reared a family, the members of which have now their own responsibilities. By scraping and saving all their lives on the small income they enjoyed, this old couple were able to get together enough to buy two little cottages, for which they paid £400 each. They paid only a small amount down, and mortgaged the cottages for the balance. Whilst they remained in Tasmania they lived in one of the cottages, and the amount received in rent from the other was, under the act, a charge upon the amount of their pension. According to medical advice, the failing health of the wife necessitated their removal to Victoria. They were then receiving rent for each of the cottages, and out of this they had to pay interest on their mortgage and rent for the accommodation they secured here. They have applied for the pension, and it has been refused. In order to receive a pension, this old couple must return to Tasmania, against medical advice, live in one of their cottages, and sell the other, or stay in Victoria, “ lose their pensions, and pay rent in this state, because the rent they are receiving from their cottages in Tasmania is not set off against the rent they have to pay here. This case is typical of many, and it shows one of the anomalies that the Treasurer has yet to remove. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) mentioned a serious anomaly, which still exists. A resident of the Commonwealth may live in Australia for practically all his life, but if he leaves the Commonwealth for only twelve months and becomes incapacitated elsewhere, he loses his right to a pension on his return to Australia. I know of a case similar to that mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir, . and it is that of a person who had lived in the Commonwealth, but went to New Zealand for twelve months, where she became totally incapacitated by a trouble, the seeds of which were sown in Australia. She had to return to relatives and friends in Tasmania, and on the decision of the departmental doctor that she had become totally incapacitated in New Zealand, she was unable to receive ls. of pension here. There are many similar cases throughout Australia. I ask the Treasurer, when taking so much credit to himself for the removal of anomalies, to see if there are not still . further anomalies which might be removed. When this matter was under consideration last year, I directed atten tion to the fact that deputy commissioners of pensions in the different states should be given more discretionary power. Although, perhaps, there are some exceptions, the officials of the central office and in each state generally take a sympathetic view in administering the : act. They complain, however, that they have not the discretionary power that should be given to them. The Treasurer might take still more credit to himself if he asked officers who are sympathetic with old-age pensioners to see whether it is not possible to do away with a few of the unnecessary questions of an absolutely, inquisitorial character which applicants for pensions have to answer. We claim that the invalid and old-age pension is not a charity, but a right, to which the old and infirm people of Australia are entitled. But a semblance of charity is imparted to it by the inquisitorial questions that are asked. The Treasurer stated that the Labour party has not done as much for the invalid and old-age pensioners as has the Government of which he is a member. I was in this Parliament when the pensions were first introduced, and I know that but for the pressure exerted by the Labour party upon the government of the day there would be no federal pensions to-day.
– It is well known that the Labour party put a pistol to the head of the Deakin Government, which it was siipporting, to compel it to honour its promise to the people of Australia.
– Who put in the Constitution the power to pay these pensions ?
– That power remained dormant until the Labour party in this Parliament insisted that the Government which it was keeping in power should cease its “ shillyshallying,” and bring down a scheme for invalid pensions as well as old-age pensions. The Treasurer has no right to take credit to himself and his party for having done a great deal for old-age pensions. Only twelve months ago honorable members on this side, during an all-night sitting, fought for an increase of the pension from 15s. to £1, and it was only because honorable members opposite, some of whom had declared themselves in favour of the increase, failed to support us when the ministerial whip was cracked, that the increase was only 2s. 6d. Those are facts that the people will not forget at the next elections.
– The Treasurer stated that when the Labour party was in power from 1914 to 1916, during which period the cost of living increased 20 per cent., it did nothing to bring about a corresponding increase in the old-age pension. The fact is that during those years the Labour party increased the pension from 10s. to 12s. 6d., an advance of 25 per cent. As the increase in the cost of living was only 20 per cent., the pensioners, received a net advantage of 5 per cent.
– Between the years 1909 and 1915, when the cost of living increased by between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent., the Labour party did nothing ro increase the old-age pensions.
– The Treasurer is playing the game a little low down. Before Labour left office in 1916 it had increased the pension by 25 per cent.
– The Labour party was in office from 1910 to 19l3. During those years there was an increase in the cost of living, but no increase in the pension.
– With a break of one year Labour was in office in the Commonwealth from 1910 to 1916.
– And did nothing to increase the old-age pension.
– Before we finally left office we brought about a 25 per cent, increase. The Treasurer’s only reply to that is that during a portion of our period of office we did nothing. That is a quibble.
– I shall “nail” the honorable member’s misstatements finally to-night.
– Not only did the Labour party increase the oldage pension by 25 per cent, during- the time when there was a 20 per cent, increase in the cost of living, but it also, of its own volition, introduced the invalid pensions, which 43,000 people in Australia are enjoying to-day.
– The Treasurer stated that certain anomalies which existed in the pensions administration have been removed, but that has not been my experience. If a number of applications for old-age pensions were rejected on account of anomalies that had not been rectified at that time, and those anomalies have since been removed, honorable members should have been informed of the change so that they might advise their constituents to renew their applications. I know of no unsuccessful applicant who has since received a pension because of the removal of anomalies which previously debarred him. The reference of this matter to the Royal Commission on National Insurance is most unsatisfactory. The Treasurer quoted a number of statistics to show that the Government has done more for the benefit of the pensioners than did the Labour party when it was’ in office. I knew the Treasurer in his school days, and there was no boy more clever at mathematics. With a set of figures he could prove anything. I am not sure whether it was he or another member of his family who succeeded in proving to the satisfaction of a group of students, who considered themselves fairly smart at mathematics, that two equalled one. Unless, honorable members of this committee have a thorough knowledge of mathematics the Treasurer will prove to them that two equals one. Indeed, he has succeeded in doing something of the kind by his adroit handling of the statistics relating to the increase of old-age pensions by the composite government. I congratulate him upon being still as efficient in the handling of figures as he was in his youth. Itis remarkable, however, that honorable members opposite when they think they can detect some remissness in the Labour party of years gone by say, “ We are doing more than Labour did in former years, and, therefore, we are doing more than the Labour party of to-day has done.” But at other times they reverse the argument, and endeavour to prove that any good that has come out of the Labour movement was the achievement of the Labour party of old, and, therefore, no credit is due to the Labour party of to-day. Those things, they say, were done by the Labour, party of old, and all the good men who did them in the old days left the Labour party - fell by the wayside - and joined, not this composite government, bub its predecessor. All the good things that were done by the old Labour party are not to be credited to the present Labour party, but if the supporters of the Government find any remissness on the part of the old Labour party in regard to the wants of old-age pensioners, they make the people believe that the present Labour party is responsible for it.
They cannot have their cake and eat it, too. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) referred to reciprocity respecting old-age pensions between Australia and the other parts of the British Empire, particularly New Zealand. I understand that in 1911 negotiations were entered into to> bring about reciprocity with New Zealand. The Governments of New Zealand and Australia then recognized the hardships suffered by certain people because of the absence of reciprocal provisions between those two countries. The Labour party, showing a keen interest in the affairs of the old-age pensioners, went so far as to enter into an agreement with New Zealand, which was signed by Mr. Andrew Fisher, the then Prime Minister. When the Labour party went out of office, Sir Joseph Cook became Prime Minister, and the agreement went by the board. It was honored by New Zealand, but not by the Commonwealth. The Government and its supporters cannot escape the charge of refusing to ratify that agreement. Gases have recently come under my notice of extreme hardship suffered by people who have come here from the Old Country.
– I know of one man who shot himself because hecould not get a pension.
– Two families of immigrants came to this country, attracted by the advertisements which this Government is having displayed in the Old Country. One man brought his father with him and the other his father-in-law. These men have been able to obtain the basic wage of this country, out of which they have to maintain the old people, who are able to earn nothing, and receive no pension at all. If some agreement had been entered into between Australia and the British Empire no doubt these old people would have been able to obtain a pension from Great Britain. I hope that the Government will at least ratify the original agreement with New Zealand.
.- For the past twelve months an Acting Deputy Commissioner of Pensions has been in charge of the Pensions Department in Queensland. He is a most sympathetic officer, and it is only fair to him that a permanent appointment should be made. I am not specially pleading that he should be appointed to the position. Every applicant should receive the fullest con sideration, and be judged on his merits, and the most suitable man should be appointed. This officer should not hold an active position indefinitely at a lower rate of salary than would be given to a permanent Deputy Commissioner of Pensions.
Question - That the amount for division 20, “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions Office, £91,123,” be reduced by £1- put.
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Senate’s amendment considered in committee, and agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240910_reps_9_108/>.