12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In connexion with the proposal to establish a University College in Canberra, will the Minister for Home Affairs consider the advisability of utilizing the services of the civil members of the staff at Duntroon Military College who are now lecturing on professional subjects of a lion-military character already paid for by the Commonwealth?
– The matter of arranging with the Defence Department for the professors at Duntroon Military College to give lectures at the proposed Canberra University College is under consideration.
– The proposal to provide some form of university education in Canberra has been the subject of negotiation for a considerable time. Will the Minister for Home Affairs say whether any arrangement has yet been made with any of the Australian Universities for their recognition of the work to ho done at Canberra?
– That matter is under consideration.
– Last week the Prime Minister informed me that the Coal Commission had cost to that date slightly more than £11,000, of which the Commonwealth would contribute half. In yesterday’s Evening News this paragraph appeared -
The State Treasurer, Mr. Stevens, estimates that the Coal Commission will cost £18,500. It is expected to - conclude its inquiry at the end of the year.
As only a fortnight of the year remains, will the Prime Minister inquire whether his statement of cost was correct?
– My department was not able to estimate the final cost of the Coal Commission; the amount I mentioned represented the actual payments to that date.
Mr.RIORDAN.- I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has received any communication from the Queensland Cotton Pool since the new tariff schedule was introduced? If so, does such communication indicate that the management of the pool is satisfied with the increased protection that has heen given ?
– I have received communications from both the Queensland Cotton Pool Board and the cottonspinners ; both bodies express themselves well satisfied with the protection given by the new tariff schedule to the two branches of the cotton industry. The cotton yarn manufacturers have informed me that in view of the adequate protection given to them they will not require an increase in the bounty. Mr. Webster, manager of the Queensland Cotton Pool Board, when giving evidence before the Tariff Board in 1928, asked that the bounty on seed cotton should be increased from1½d. to 2d. per lb. for one year only, pending the definite establishment of the spinning industry. The Tariff Board’s report was submitted to the then Minister for Trade and Customs on the 6th March 1929, and contained a recommendation that the circumstances did not justify the granting of that request.
– Unless the Acting Minister secures the leave of the House, I cannot permit him to make a general statement in reply to a question. If he wishes to continue what appears to he a Ministerial statement he must ask for leave.
– I appreciate your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The Queensland Cotton Pool Board has written to me expressing thanks for the prompt action taken by the Government. The members of the pool and the cotton spinners are well satisfied with the protection given to them in the tariff schedule, and appreciate what the Government has done for them.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the fol lowing letter published in the Sydney Evening News -
Sir, - Requiring glass dishes of several sizes for Christmas, I approached my local shopkeeper. He said that they were dearer now. Local manufacturers having increased their prices by 10 per cent. to 12½ per cent. since December 1 ; that is, apparently since the increased tariff on imported glassware.
I have verified that this is correct. Does the local manufacturer simply get these protective tariffs to exploit his own countrymen?
In view of the assurance given to this House by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, and also by the Prime Minister, that if as a result of the increased duties prices were raised, prompt action would be taken by the Government, what steps does the Government propose to take to prevent the exploitation disclosed by the letter I have quoted ?
– The declaration made by me on behalf of the Government stands. If the manufacturers take advantage of the tariff to exploit the people, the Government will take action, but it cannot hold the manufacturers responsible for the actions of retailers. The matter is being carefully watched, and I shall investigate the specific instance mentioned by the honorable member.
– The Melbourne Herald of the 9 th December contained this paragraph -
An imperative demand is being made by residents of Albury, Wodonga and other places on the Murray, below the Hume Weir, calling on the authorities to clear the submerged area of timber and debris. Because of the pollution of the river, considerable uneasiness and doubt exist among householders using the water supply as to its wholesomeness. The water has a very distinct unpleasant odor and taste, and the people of Albury and Wodonga are boiling and filtering supplies, adding salts, lime and other palliatives, fearing an epidemic with the approach of summer.
The fouling of the water supply is due to the foliage of trees, bark, rotting timber and decayed vegetation submerged recently, contaminating the flowing and still waters. Fish, unless caught above the weir, are unsaleable.
Residents demand that the reservoir should be immediately cleared of rubbish, although this must now prove costly. Long before the area was submerged suggestions were made that the timber should be cleared away, but the warning went unheeded.
The Melbourne Age of the 10th December stated -
A deputation of the Wahgunyah and Rutherglen Water Trusts and Corowa Municipal Council waited upon Mr. E. P. Cleary, M.L.A., at Wahgunyah, on Sunday afternoon, with a request that he should do something in connexion with having the cause of the Murray water being unfit for human consumption investigated.
If the Minister forWorks has not already done so, will he have inquiries made immediately with aview to taking any steps necessary to prevent further pollution, and to safeguard the purity of this water supply.
– I am already making inquiries into this matter.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Yesterday the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in a personal explanation denied a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph Pictorial to the effect that he had consulted me in regard to the position in the coal industry and had been advised by me to move the adjournment of tho House to discuss it. I, too, assure the House that there is no truth in that statement. About a fortnight before the honorable member for Hunter took action he consulted me regarding the constitutional position, but beyond that conversation no communication of any kind passed between us. The honorable member did not consult me regarding his proposal to move the adjournment of the House; in fact, he could not do so because I was not in Canberra. He was not advised by me in any way regarding his action on that occasion.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral had time to consider the request I placed before him that the memory of a great Australian explorer, Captain Charles Sturt, should be honoured by the issue of a Commonwealth centenary stamp ? If so, has a design been chosen ?
– In response to requests by the honorable member and others, my department has decided to issue a commemorative stamp, and is now consulting with those who are competent to advise regarding a suitable design.
– Has the Treasurer received any communication from the Inigo Jones Weather Forecasting Trust requesting the Commonwealth to assist financially the carrying on of research work in connexion with long range weather forecasts? If so, in view of the undoubted success of these forecasts, will the Treasurer give to the request favorable consideration?
– I have had some correspondence with Mr. Inigo Jones and the trust supporting him, but have not been able to consider the matter closely. I believe that it has been passed on to the Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau for their opinion. .
– Is the Minister for Works and Railways aware that at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the twelfth month of this year a gold pass of ordinary design was handed over in the King’s Hall to the honorable member for EdenMonaro? Is he also aware that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and representatives of the Sydney Morning Herald, the Goulburn Penny Post and the Canberra Times were conspicuous by their absence from the function ?
– I was not aware of it, but I am pleased to receive the information.
– In an attractive bulletin issued recently by the Minister for Markets and Transport the statement is made that in the first seven months of this year 3,471,041 lb. of raisins were imported into New Zealand from the United States of America, and that these figures showed a tremendous increase on the figures for the same period of 1928? Will the Minister institute inquiries to ascertain whether Australia cannot secure a greater proportion of this trade with New Zealand ?
– Immediately I became aware of the fact mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby I held a conference with representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association. Since then I have been in communication with the Department of Trade and Customs, which deals with matters affecting reciprocal trade treaties, with a view to seeing whether something can be done to improve Australia’s position in this connexion.
– In view of the statements made within the last two or three weeks by the Postmaster-General, to the effect that the increased telephone charges would not adversely affect the country as against the city, I bring under the Minister’s notice the following extract from a letter that I have received from the clerk of the Mclntyre Shire Council, Inverell : -
According to a notice received from the postal authorities by residents in this district it appears that telephone rents are to be increased by £1 in the country and at the same time the telephone calls in the metropolitan areas are to be reduced by approximately 4d. within a certain radius.
Will the Postmaster-General explain why it is necessary that there should be such a disparity between the charges in the city and country?
– No general increase is being made in the rental of telephones in country districts. If an increase of £1 has been made in particular cases it must be because of mileage considerations. The country is being placed at no disadvantage, because rentals are being definitely raised in the city. It was apparent to the last Government, and is apparent to the present administration, that it was necessary to secure greater revenue from the telephone service; but we are raising £60,000 less from this source than our predecessors proposed to raise. We cannot obtain an increased revenue unless rates are increased in some cases. While it is true that the city gets an advantage through having the radius extended in certain cases, this extension will benefit only a comparatively few subscribers, whereas the extra rentals will affect a very large number.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to reports in the English press to the effect that as the result of the visit to Canada of the Right Honorable J. H. Thomas, a member of the British Cabinet, an arrangement has been made for large bulk exchanges of Canadian wheat for British coal and other products, to the advantage of the Canadian wheat-growers? Is the Prime Minister prepared to make a statement before the House rises as to whether steps will be or have been taken by his Government, in the interests of the Australian wheat-growers, to arrange for exchanges of Australian wheat for British coal and other products?
– I have seen press references of the nature referred to by the honorable member. I suggest that he could obtain a considered reply to his question by placing it upon the noticepaper. But I am not hopeful that we shall be able advantageously to exchange Australian wheat for British coal.
– -in view of the telegrams that have been received by honorable members protesting against the proposed duty on reading books, will the Acting Minister for Customs make a statement to the House on the subject, with a view to allaying the fear that something may be done which will be detrimental to libraries and scholastic institutions?
– Representations were made to the Minister for Customs, by deputation, with the object of preventing an increased duty being placed upon certain classes of books. The honorable member may rest assured that before anything is done, the matter will be thoroughly investigated, probably by the Tariff Board, and interested parties will have a full opportunity of submitting their views on the subject.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the quantity of tomato pulp and tomato pulp extract imported into Australia during the last twelve months?
– The reply regarding tomato pulp is nil. Tomato pulp extract is not recorded separately. The information sought with regard thereto is, therefore, not available.
Flotation and Redemption
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
With reference to the Hume Reservoir -
Has the Committee of Inquiry appointed to investigate all matters relating to the latest estimate yet furnished its report; if not, when may such report be expected?
Has the River Murray Advisory Committee yet furnished its report; if not, when may such report be expected?
Has. any provision yet been made, or if not, is any intended to be made, regarding the removal of growing timber from the area already submerged, or to be submerged in the future ?
What amount was actually spent on construction work, including roads, railways, bridges, &c., during the financial year 1928-29?
What amount is proposed to be so spent during the current financial year?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Position of Mr. H. P. Brown
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 to 3. I understand that no representations were made by Mr. Brown to the late Government concerning an offer for him to remain in England.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whetherhe has any further statement to make following upon the deputation from New South Wales millers which recently waited upon him to protest against rail freights imposed in Queensland upon New South Wales flour in transit in that State?
– The matter is still under consideration, and I hope to be in a position to make a statement very shortly.
Conference - Re-opening of Mines.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the Coal Conference recently held at Canberra, and his subsequent statement expressing appreciation of the cooperation given at the conference by Mr. Bavin, Premier of New South Wales, has the Prime Minister any statement to make with respect to the statement to which his attention was yesterday directed by the Leader of the Opposition, attributed in an authorized and censored report in the Labor Daily of the 10th instant to the Assistant Minister for Industry, to the effect that Mr. Bavin deliberately set out at the conference to break down the proceedings of such conference?
– I have ascertained that Mr. Beasley did not refer to theconference held at Canberra.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government propose to take any steps to carry out the promises made by the Treasurer during the elections that the Government would re-open the coal mines in northern New South Wales without any reduction of wages; if so, what steps are proposed?
– The Government, from the time it assumed office, has taken every step within its power to bring the dispute to a satisfactory settlement.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have not issued invitations to any of the organizations direct. What I did was to meet the management committee of the conference in Melbourne, and invited it to call together representatives of the various bodies concerned for the purpose of discussing, specifically, industrial legislation, and particularly the amendment of the Arbitration Act. I have now received a letter from the secretary to the management committee, dated Monday last, advising me that the committee met on 15th November and agreed unanimously to accept the invitation I had extended to it and to take the necessary steps to give practical effect thereto. The committee is at present awaiting the result of the action taken to re-assemble the employees’ delegation. The employers’ delegation has been preserved intact.
Construction of Road
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
To enable the construction of a new road from Eildon Weir to Jamieson, to replace the one submerged by that weir some years ago, will lie suggest or recommend the supplementing of the grant of £26,000 by the State Rivers Commission towards this work by an additional £18,000 from Victoria’s share from the £1,000,000 Federal Aid Roads fund, in order to allow of the construction of a road that will meet with the approval and requirements of the Country Roads Board?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the State authorities, and will advise the honorable member as to the result.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice : -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice: -
– The sum of £1,000,000 forms portion of the funds set aside by the Commonwealth for road works under Agreements entered into by the Commonwealth with the States. This sum had accumulated at 30th June last and the Commonwealth Government considered that it should be utilized immediately and thus assist in relieving unemployment. The amount is being allocated as follows : -
Although the funds are being provided by the Commonwealth, the actual disbursement of these moneys is a matter for the States and the proposals for road works must therefore emanate from the State authorities. These proposals must be confined to the classes of roads as defined in the agreement - i.e., main, trunk and arterial roads - and they must be submitted to the Commonwealth Minister for Works for approval. In the event of any proposals being brought under the notice of the Minister for Works by members of the Federal Parliament they will be referred to State authorities for consideration. In some States, though these additional moneys will be actually expended on road work, they may not wholly result in an increased programme beyond that already contemplated. The effect, however, willbe to release the funds of the States to relieve unemploy ment in other directions, and the intention of the Commonwealth Government will thus be carried out. This is a matter for the States to arrange in the best interests of the unemployed.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No. For some years it has been the practice of the department to invite tenders on a collective schedule issued from the central office.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will use his influence with the Government to bring about a properly organized meteorological research bureau to assist in land settlement, as suggested by Captain F. Rhodes in a deputation introduced by the member for Capricornia to the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) at Rockhampton in July last?
– I brought this matter under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs, and he furnished me with a reply from the Meteorological Research Bureau which is not favorable to the proposals, and further inquiries are now being made into the matter. The result of these inquiries will be communicated to Captain Rhodes, Rockhampton, through the member for that district, at the earliest possible date.
– On Friday, the 6th December, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Cusack) asked the following question : - 1 ask the Minister for Works and Railways to ascertain who is in possession of the gold pass for the honorable member for EdenMonaro, and when it will be handed over to him. When it is handed over will it bear a special inscription to commemorate my victory, or has the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times convinced the officials of the Commonwealth Railway Department that I am notyet the member for that constituency?
I now understand that the gold pass has been handed over to the honorable member by the Commonwealth railway authorities. I regret the delay, which was unavoidable owing to the pass having gone astray.
– On 6th December, in reply to a question without notice, I informed the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that no decision had been reached regarding the proposal to adopt a new military uniform, and that I would inquire regarding the prospect of uniforms being issued before the end of the present financial year. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that sufficient stocks of the existing pattern uniform are held to permit the issues being made to any persons duly enrolling in the military forces.
– On the 6th December the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Payments in respect of service with the military forces operating in Russia after the armistice were the responsibility of the British Government. So far as can be ascertained from the records held in the Defence Department, the following were payable: -
– I lay on the table of the House the first annual report by myself, as Attorney-General, under the Bankruptcy Act of 1924-28 and move -
That the paper be printed.
– Is not that the report of the Inspector-General of Bankruptcy and not the report of the AttorneyGeneral ?
– The document speaks for itself.
– The Attorney-General described the report as a report by himself. The Act requires that the Inspector-General shall submit an annual report to the Attorney-General.
– The report is tabled by myselfbut furnished by the Inspector-General.
– Is it the report of the Inspector-General?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented -
Central Australia - Report on Administration for year ended 30th June, 1929.
Ordered to be printed.
Papua Act - Ordinance of 1929 - No. 6. - Appropriation 1929-30; together with Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1930.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Jones, Mr. Martens, and Mr. Thompson be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee.
– by leave - A few days ago, in another place, a personal attack was made upon me by Senator Reid, which involves so gross a charge that I take this early opportunity to reply to it. The subject was again referred to in another place yesterday, and a false impression has been conveyed to the general public who have read the newspaper accounts of the attack, which was an attempt to assail my own honour and the honour of the party to which I belong. I shall not refer to the newspaper accounts of what was said in another place, but I am informed that the incident has been given wide publicity in metropolitan and country newspapers throughout Australia. Any person, not knowing the actual facts, who reads those accounts must regard me as under a most serious imputation involving my personal honour.
In order to clearly set out the nature of the attack I shall quote what was said in another place yesterday. Senator Daly, by leave of the Senate, said -
Honorable senators will remember that, during the debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech, Senator Reid said -
The present Treasurer of the Commonwealth entered into a contract with the licensed victuallers not to interfere with licences for three years in return for the payment of so many thousands of pounds.
I interjected “What was the amount?” Senator Reid went on to say -
About £10,000. Portion of that sum was used in connexion with the Labour party’s campaign, and I should like to ask Mr. Theodore, through Senator Daly, what became of the remainder. I am not making that statement under cover of the Senate. I said it on the public platform of Queensland, and I am prepared to return to that State to repeat it to-morrow.
Senator Reid’s remarks were given very wide publicity in all the States, and particularly in Queensland. Star head lines were given to it in the Daily Mail, a Brisbane journal, and as a result I wish to report that I am in possession of a communication addressed to Mr. Theodore by a gentleman who has been the President of the Licensed Victuallers Association of Queensland for sixteen years. This gentleman writes -
I was surprised to read the statement made by Mr. Reid, as per enclosed cutting “Not Touch Licenses for Three Years. Contract with Liquor Trade Alleged”. and I have been president continuously for the past sixteen years. It is an absolutely false and malicious utterance. As a matter of fact, the amendment of the Liquor Act referred to by Mr. Reid was passed after you had left Queensland politics.
If what is said by the chairman of the Licensed Victuallers Association of Queensland, a gentleman who evidently enjoys the esteem and regard of his colleagues since he has held his present office for thepast sixteen years, is true, Senator Reid should be prepared to make amends for what was, after all, one of the most slanderous statements that could possibly be made against one of His Majesty’s Ministers of State.
SenatorReid replied -
As I have already said, I have nothing to withdraw. I made the same statement on the public platform during the election campaign in Queensland, when Mr. Theodore was campaign director in association with Mr. McCormack, Mr.Fihelly and Mr. Ryan, who had been appointed as a sub-committee of the then central executive of the Queensland Labour party, from which I had just resigned. It was well known to everyone that Mr. Theodore, on behalf of the sub-committee, received the sum of money I mentioned, from Mr. Peter Murphy, who was Mr. Fihelly’s father-in-law, and acted as a go-between for the licensed victuallers and the central executive. The matter was also raised at the Labour convention in Rockhampton, when Mr. McCormack demanded “a proper balance-sheet.” All that I asked in the chamber last week was that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) should ask Mr. Theodore what had become of the balance of the money given by the Licensed Victuallers, which remained when the election was over. I still ask that question. I also want to know what Mr. McCormack meant when he threw the legitimate balance sheet on the table at the Rockhampton conference and demanded the production of “a proper” one. I have said all this on the public platform and I shall continue to say it until I get evidence to the contrary that I am in a position to use. Acting on the knowledge I have now, not one word have I to withdraw against the campaign director during that State election.I took every precaution to ascertain the truth. I did not make my assertion either on the platform or in the Senate, the other night, wildly. I have not the authority to use the names of persons to back up my statement, but I have taken every precaution to ascertain that what I have said here and on the public platform in Queensland is correct and, if necessary, I shall repeat the charge.
The charges and innuendos made by SenatorReid were vague in the extreme, and it was not until his statement in answer to Senator Daly that he gave any indication as to the period to which they related. He then said that the alleged events took place during an election campaign during which I acted in collaboration with Mr. Fihelly and Mr. McCormack and, apparently, the late Mr. T. J. Ryan. The only election campaign during which those gentlemen jointly served upon a campaign committee was that of 1915, when the Labour party- defeated the Denham Government. I was not campaign director on that occasion, although I acted with Mr. Fihelly as joint secretary of the campaign committee. The late Mr. Ryan was on the execuitve of the party, as also was Mr. McCormack, but they were not members of the campaign committee. That was a strenuously fought election, but no gifts of money were made by the liquor interests to myself to the campaign committee or to the Labour party, either at that time or at any other election which took place during my association with the Queensland Labour party. The statement that some bargain was made with the liquor trade during that or subsequent elections is an utterly false assertion, for which there is not. the slightest foundation. It is a slanderous statement frequently made against the Labour party that some association exists between that party and the liquor interests. This charge is commonly made, but not usually in circumstances in which those responsible for it can be pinned down to facts. Senator Reid’s charge against me is apparently based on some whisper or rumour relating to the events of the 1915 election in Queensland, and I think that- honorable members here will agree that there was no justification whatever for making so belated a charge against me or against the Queensland Labour party. If there had ever been any sort of justification for the charge, a thousand opportunities must have occurred during my residence in Queensland, and my occupancy of public positions there, to make it definitely and publicly. That gould have been done without risk, because the person making it could have launched his attack in Parliament, under cover of privilege, but in circumstances which would have ensured the holding of an inquiry. Senator Reid, in reply to the Leader of the Government in the Senate yesterday, said -
I shall continue saying it until I get evidence to the contrary that I am in a position to use. Acting on the knowledge I have now, not one word have I to withdraw against the campaign director during that State election. I took every precaution to ascertain the truth. I did not make my assertion either on the platform or in the Senate, the other night, wildly. I have not the power to call people to back up my statement, but I have taken every precaution to ascertain that what I have said here and on the public platform in Queensland is correct and, if necessary, I shall repeat the charge.
– Will the honorable member say whether the proof from which he has been reading has been corrected?
– It do not know. I obtained this pull from the Government Printer this morning. The senator who makes this charge says that he has taken precautions to obtain the facts, and that he knows of his own knowledge that his allegations are true. I do not think that I would be justified in asking the Government to probe these charges, although I should like to have them investigated. It would probably not be right to ask the Commonwealth Parliament to go to. the expense of setting up an authoritative tribunal to probe every malicious charge that irresponsible persons may make against me. But if this man has facts which prove my complicity in irregularities of the kind he alleges, and what is a thousand times worse, that I was deliberately dishonest, why does he not give me an opportunity to sue him for slander, when he could bring forward his charges and his alleged facts? . Why does he for some unexplained reason - because to my knowledge I have never done him an injury - make this charge against me in Parliament? Why does he not make it in circumstances which would afford me an opportunity of obtaining redress? He says that he made these charges in Queensland. I have never heard of them. If he did so, he must have taken good care to do so in circumstances in which they would not come to my knowledge, and so that it would not be possible to disprove his statements in a suit for slander or libel. Nobody in Queensland ever dared to make such charges against me. If it had been done, I should have felt it incumbent to take steps to clear my honour. In the course of his statement Senator Reid said that he left the Queensland Labour party executive just prior to the election during which the events to which he refers were alleged to have taken place. I do not think that the senator’s memory is to he relied on. My own recollection is that the senator ceased to have anything to do with the Queensland Labour party years before 1915, in circumstances with which I am not familiar. I know that even before I began my parliamentary career in Queensland, in 1909, Senator Reid had ceased to be prominent in the Labour councils of the State. He took no prominent part in the election of 1912, nor in that of 1915, nor was he, so far as I know, politically prominent in any way from the time he left the Labour party in 1908 or 1909 until he appeared as a .speaker for the Nationalists on the conscription issue in 1916. His suggestion that he left the Labour party because he did not agree with the tactics of myself and others associated with me on the Labour executive is not true. I had no association with him whatever. I entered the Queensland Parliament in 1909. In 1915 I was joint secretary of the campaign committee during the election which we won in that year; Senator Reid did not figure in the Labour movement at all in that campaign, he had voluntarily left the party years before. There is not a tittle of evidence in support of these charges. The whole thing is a deliberately concocted lie, and is apparently part of a widespread campaign of calumny against myself. I feel that I am the victim in a particular degree of such a campaign. I have been singled out for this kind of attack from various quarters, and it is a very sad commentary upon the public life of Australia that this sort of thing is allowed to .happen. It-h sad to reflect that a public man can be singled out in this manner for constant and pernicious attacks upon his honesty, character and integrity. It has belittled public life in the eyes of the people. Of course, it i3 right that if a man does wrong he should be publicly denounced, but it is not right that political opponents should go around slandering one another through malice, and on deliberately concocted lies. That sort of thing is dragging public life down, and keeping honorable men out of politics. It is not the slandered who is responsible for thus lowering public life, but the slanderer. I shall not hesitate to defend myself ; but I despise the action of a man who shelters himself in a coward’s castle by launching his attacks under cover of parliamentary privilege. If Senator Reid is manly enough to repeat his charges outside Parliament, I shall give him and the public an opportunity to ascertain the truth.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The construction of Concrete Roads, City Area, Canberra.
There are in Canberra certain roads which, because they have to bear very heavy omnibus traffic, are becoming increasingly costly to keep in repair. The Federal Capital Commission has been forced to the conclusion that they should be reconstructed in some permanent material. Ultimately it is hoped that all the more important roads within the city area will be so treated, and the proposed work represents the first section of the undertaking. It is thought that cement is the best material to use for paving the roads, because it is obtainable in Australia, and because it provides the most suitable surface. The concrete paving is to be 20 feet wide, with a 3 foot shoulder of ordinary gravel material, making in all a 26 foot pavement. There will be 4.6 miles of road constructed at a cost of approximately £1,190 a mile. The total cost of the work will be £59,698. Some sections of this work are already under construction, but I deemed it advisable to allow the proposal to go to the Works Committee because this represents only the first section of the entire undertaking. I think that the Committee will be able to complete its investigation by the time the remaining sections are begun. I lay on the table plans, &c, in connexion with the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That the Speaker do now leave the Chair - resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members are aware that when the present Government took office it decided that the Federal Capital Commission should be abolished; but because of the limited amount of time available, and the volume of very urgent work that required to be completed in this short session, it was not possible to introduce a measure designed to effect that purpose. A second reason is that a considerable amount of organization is necessary in order that the various activities of the Commission may be grafted on to those departments that are best able to deal with them. An organizing committee is functioning at the present time. I have been in constant touch with the Commission, and can say that the organization for the transfer of the Departments of Health, Home Affairs’, and Works, is well advanced.
I shall not traverse any of the matters connected with the activities of the Federal Capital Commission; that can be done when the bill for the abolition of the Commission is introduced when the session is resumed early next year. But I wish honorable members to realize that we are not concerned at present with the abolition of the Commission but with an amendment of the act that will provide certain safeguards against the Commission becoming null and void during the transition period between the present date and that on which the Commission is abolished. When I was honoured by being entrusted with the administration of the Department of Home Affairs I had an interview with the Third Commissioner, Dr. Alcorn, who assured me that he would not embarrass, but rather assist, the Government. I accepted that assurance, and proceeded with the organization committee’s work. Very little time elapsed before,, unfortunately, Dr. Alcorn wrote me a letter which purported to be his resignation as Third Commissioner. I could not accept it; that can be done only by the Governor-General.
– Has the Minister any idea what caused him to send it?
– He said that it was sent as a protest against certain action by the Federal Capital Commission in relation to matters upon which he held definite views. If the resignation had been properly couched and addressed to the Governor-General it would have been necessary to hold another election for the appointment of a Third Commissioner or to establish another Commission. Neither of these alternatives appealed to me. Subsequently Dr. Alcorn called a meeting of the residents of Canberra and sought their advice as to what he should do. The meeting declared that he should continue to act as Third .Commissioner. I then received from him a letter in which he stated that he withdrew the previous letter which purported, to be his resignation. Unfortunately Dr. Alcorn’s health has since become impaired, and in accordance with the provisions of the act, he has appointed a substitute to act as Third Commissioner for. one month, or longer if the circumstances should warrant it. In order that the Government may not be embarrassed, and that the functions of the Commission shall be carried on until the departments are ready to shoulder its responsibilities, I propose by this short amending bill to give the Chief Commissioner the power to call meetings when he so desires, the object being to prevent a declaration that the office of Third Commissioner -is vacant when that gentleman has absented himself from three meetings. The Chief Commissioner will not use that power unless, in his opinion, or in the opinion of the Minister, the calling of meetings every second week would give rise to that danger. Meetings will be called, as usual, every fortnight until it is found that the position is being endangered by the absence of the Third Commissioner. At the present time the act provides that the office shall be declared vacant when the Third Commissioner has absented himself from three meetings. It is now proposed to make the number six meetings.
A bill to abolish the Commission will be brought down, next year. The Governmen considers that, in the meantime, it is necessary to safeguard the Commonwealth by making the provision I have outlined.
.- It is very difficult to understand the reason for the introduction of this measure, unless the Government considers that it is necessary to introduce some legislation dealing with Canberra. The bill attains nothing, achieves nothing, secures nothing, and protects nothing. From every point of view, including those referred to by the Minister, it is quite unnecessary. The honorable gentleman has said that at a later date proposals will be brought down for the abolition of the Federal Capital Commission and the reestablishment of the. older system of control by Ministers and government de-, partments. The latter system is familiar to many honorable members, and I am sure that they will remember that, having regard to the amount of work that was going on at the time, the complaints under it were as insistent, as vigorous, and as frequent as they have been since the Commission has been in charge of Canberra’s affairs. At all times there has been a great deal of criticism of Canberra and of the methods adopted in connexion with construction work. It was because there was general dissatisfaction with the control of the city by a permanent government department that the commission system of control was introduced.
I was astonished to read, shortly after the elections, an announcement by the Minister for Home Affairs that he had arranged to effect a saving in the salaries paid to members of the Commission, and that, the First Commissioner would receive £1,600 instead of £3,000 a year. Arrangements to effect that economy were definitely and clearly made before the late Government went out of office ; and there were reasons for it. Because of the financial position it was impossible to proceed with the large programme of construction that otherwise might have been undertaken, and accordingly it was unnecessary to have in charge of the work an engineer of the eminence of Sir John Butters. That was recognized alike by Sir John Butters and the Government. Consequently, a change was made which resulted in the appointment of Mr. Christie as First Commissioner; and that gentleman is being continued in the office by the present Government a’ the salary which the last
Government fixed. While it is natural for the Minister to claim credit for what he himself does, it is not in accordance with ordinary fair dealing for him to say that this particular economy was originated and ‘ introduced by him, when he merely” accepted the very sound policy of the previous Government.
– We do not propose to accept the policy of retaining Sir John Butters, as was contemplated by our predecessors.
– The proposal of the last Government was confined to that which I have mentioned, and did not involve the retention of the services of Sir John Butters. There was a suggestion for the retention of his services in a limited consultative capacity only, but no conclusion was come to on that matter.
It will be easier for a department to handle the affairs of Canberra in the future than it has been in the past. The extensive constructional period has ended, at any rate for the moment. When the Government brings down its proposal we shall be able to see whether there will be any tremendous improvement upon the conditions that have existed for the last five years.
The object of the bill is to deal with the situation that has arisen consequent upon the attempted resignation of Dr. Alcorn. The last Government endeavoured to give the residents of Canberra a share in its government in relation to certain matters. . The two gentlemen, who have filled the position of elected Third Commissioner, were unable to recognize what was meant by a share in the government of Canberra. Apparently, it was their desire that the residents should have complete control. I say “ apparently “ advisedly, because it has been difficult to ascertain what they really wanted. Canberra is the national city, and cannot be entirely governed ,by its residents. The money for its development is supplied by the residents to only a limited extent. This Parliament must retain, in the national interests, control over the government of Canberra, so long as it finds the money for its maintenance and development. If the present Government can discover means whereby the residents will have a share in the government, as distinct from control of it, and if the matter is considered on its merits, without the intrusion of party political considerations, I shall wish it every success.
The bill first provides that meetings of the Commission shall be convened by the Chief Commissioner, and shall be held at such times as he determines. At present the law is that meetings shall be held at intervals of not less than a fortnight ; provided that the Minister may, in any particular case, if he should think fit, direct that meetings need not be held at such intervals. Accordingly, the Minister is able to dispense with that requirement of the law. Why can he not take that action without this legislation?
– If he did so, the honorable gentleman would say he was acting wrongly, and attack him for having done so.
– My mind is not similar to that of the honorable member. It is within the power of the Minister under the existing law to bring about the result that he says this amendment is designed- to effect. The honorable member for Herbert, with that political sagacity which characterizes him, has suggested ‘that the object of the amendment is to enable the Minister to evade responsibility by placing it on the Chief Commissioner. I do not debit the Minister with any such intention; I am sure that he is prepared to accept full responsibility. Nevertheless, all that the bill does is to transfer responsibility from the Minister to the Chief Commissioner. I understood that the policy of the Government was to accept complete political responsibility and get rid of Commission control; yet this measure provides in relation to the summoning of meetings of the Commission that the responsibility shall be taken from the Minister and placed on the Chief Commissioner. It is directly. The second amendment provides .that the elected commissioner may be absent from six instead of three consecutive meetings before forfeiting his seat. No amendment of the act is necessary to effect that change, because section 10 provides for the vacation of office if there is wilful absence from three consecutive meetings, except on leave granted by the Minister, “which leave the Minister is authorized to grant. Therefore, the Minister has power to do everything that this bill purports to authorize him to do, and I cannot understand why the measure has been introduced. Clause 2 requires that the Chief Commissioner shall give notice in writing to the other members of the Commission of any meeting of the Commission convened by him. I cannot say offhand whether there is any provision in the act regarding the manner in which notice of meeting shall be given, but I suggest that the Minister might consult the Acts Interpretation Act to make sure that notice may be sent by post; it is undesirable that the Chief Commissioner should have to deliver the notice personally to his colleagues.
– When leave to introduce this bill w.as sought I drew the attention of the Minister to a newspaper forecast of its provisions, and a summary of the speech which the Minister delivered when moving the second reading. Yesterday reference was made to the leakage of information from government departments regarding tariff amendments before the schedules were tabled in the House. The Prime Minister admitted the seriousness of these occurrences, and I take this opportunity to emphasize the fact that the right place for the disclosure of proposed legislation is this Parliament.
– These Commission matters were discussed at a public meeting convened by Dr. Alcorn.
– But it did not necessarily follow that the views expressed by the meeting would be embodied in a bill to be introduced during this very brief session. I suggest seriously to Ministers that steps be taken to prevent the disclosure of proposed legislation in advance of its submission to this House.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has pointed out that there is no need for the bill. Labour members have told us on many occasions that if they came into power government by boards and commissions would be abolished, and that the Cabinet would take full responsibility in administration and legislation. . Boards, committees, and commissions were described by ministerialists as parasites on the body politic, but to-day the Minister for Home Affairs is divesting himself of powers already reposed in him, and handing them over to the Chief Commissioner. In other words, the Commission, although doomed to destruction, is to be made in the meantime more powerful; thus the Government is repudiating its own promise to abolish control by boards and commissions. As the intervals at which meetings of the Commission shall be held are in the discretion of the Minister, there is no need for this bill, unless the honorable gentleman is anxious to shed some of his responsibility and place it on a subordinate body. The Commission has only a short time to live, and as the hill will achieve no useful purpose, I suggest that the Minister might leave well alone, and withdraw the measure.
. -Naturally, the future system of control for Canberra has been very keenly canvassed in the local press and at public meetings held from time to time, and no great acumen was required on the part of pressmen to anticipate the action which the Government would take to overcome the situation that has been created in connexion with the Third Commissioner. The Leader of the Opposition, supported by his legal friend, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr.R. Green), said that the bill is not necessary. The Government does not introduce bills and occupy time in parliamentary discussions merely as a pastime. It is the responsibility of Ministers to govern, and I have introduced this bill because the Government thinks it necessary. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition to accuse me of shedding responsibility, having regard to the fact that the Commission was brought into existence to enable the last Government to shirk its responsibility. The Government has no intention to place on the shoulders of the Chief Commissioner a duty which belongs to the Ministry. The bill merely covers the period preceding the passage of a measure for the abolition of the Commission, and I ask the House to agree to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section 6a of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-sections: - “(1a.) The Chief Commissioner shall give notice in writing to the other members of the Commission of any meeting of the Commission convened by him “.
.- If this provision becomes effective, the elected representative of the people or his substitute may have no opportunity whatever of dealing with any of the matters with which he was elected to deal. The Chief Commissioner will be able to prevent a meeting of the Commission from taking place, if it is his desire to do so, and the Commission, for the time being, will not be subject to any Ministerial control in this regard. The Minister has not denied this, but I think it necessary to emphasize it. I move -
That after the word “ writing “, proposed new sub-section 1 (a), the words “by post” be inserted.
This will make it clear that the Chief Commissioner may send notices by ordinary prepaid post in accordance with section 29 of the Acts Interpretation Act. If the amendment were not made, personal service might be necessary, and that might lead to a good deal of unnecessary misunderstanding and inconvenience, of which we already have had too much.
– The Government will accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 11th December(vide page 1106).
Balance of proposed vote, £75,586.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the prevailing practice in relation to the printing of Parliamentary papers. Various efforts have been made to reduce the Parliamentary printing bill. I believe that every honorable member desires to limit our expenditure in this direction as much as is consistent with the real needs of the Parliament. Under the existing practice many reports are printed as a matter of course which, in my opinion, could be renewed at much less cost and with equally serviceable results. I have already mentioned the matter in relation to the printing of Works Committee reports upon automatic telephone exchanges. There is little justification for putting the country to the expense of printing many of the reports that are tabled. It is, of course, always open to an honorable member, upon the tabling of any paper, to move that it be printed. This is a matter which the chairmen of our various committees could consider with advantage.
– Should not the subject be referred to the Printing Committee to consider from every aspect of it?
– That is what I have in mind. Some reports are of great value to persons other than members of Parliament. The report of the InspectorGeneral in Bankruptcy, for instance, is most useful to members of the legal profession. I trust that it may be possible to do something to effect economies in this direction.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that a good deal of money could be saved by cutting out some of the unnecessary printing that is done. I shall ask the Printing Committee to make a close investigation into the whole subject and submit recommendations to the Government upon it. I learned, when I was a member of that committee, that many documents which are ordered to be printed are never submitted to the committee, and some that do come before it have already been printed. If we can prevent unnecessary expenditure in this way it should be done.
.- Since the Leader of the Opposition mentioned this subject a day or two ago, the members of the Public Works Committee have given some consideration to it. We feel that a decision not to print reports in relation to automatic telephone exchanges would not effect the saving that the Leader of the Opposition suggests. When the committee made its first inquiries into proposals for the installation of automatic exchanges, it was necessary to examine many witnesses; but that is not so necessary now. A number of experiments have been made in connexion with de-humidifying plants, but we can now determine fairly easily, what installations should be made in different localities. I suggest that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the committee of which I have the honour to be chairman, should be asked to express their views on the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition. It must be remembered that the evidence that we take is printed and proof copies of it are sent to the various witnesses for correction, just as proofs of our speeches are sent to us for that purpose. Seeing, therefore, that the evidence is in type, the printing of it is not an expensive item. Moreover, the members of the Public Works Committee have to face the criticism which follows their various recommendations, and it is due to. them that the whole of the evidence upon which they base their findings should be available to honorable members in printed form. I agree that so far as possible unnecessary printing should be avoided, but we should be careful not to cut out necessary printing.
– I also think it wise that this subject should be looked at carefully. As honorable members know, it is the usual practice for Ministers and others tabling papers to move “ That, the paper be printed “, so that the subject with which it deals may be debated. If a pro forma motion of that description is not submitted we may have to change our procedure somewhat.
– Standing Order No. 318 provides that upon the tabling of a paper any honorable member may move that it be printed and so discuss the subject with which it deals.
Proposed vote agree to.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £393,563.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [2.15].- Some years ago, in 1924 or 1925, I discussed the salary of the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department. At that time the position was held by Mr. Percy Deane, at a salary of £1,300 a year. As the Prime Minister’s
Department is possibly the most important in the Public Service, I maintained at that time that Mr. Deane was being grossly underpaid compared with other heads of departments. The then Prime Minister gave a most unsatisfactory reply, his explanation being unworthy of a gentleman occupying that office.
– Who was the Prime Minister at that time?
- Mr. Bruce. Since then Mr. Deane has been transferred to the Department of Home Affairs as its permanent head. This officer has peculiar and special qualifications, and he rendered wonderful service to this country when Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department. Recently the International Diplomatique of Paris conferred a very signal honor upon Mr. Deane. He is the only Australian to hold such a distinction. His ability and experience are being wasted, holding, as he does, the position of permanenthead to one of the junior departments of the service. The present Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department, who is receiving £2,000 a year, was transferred to that position from the Home Affairs Department.
– He received an increase of £700 a year.
– Yes. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he would be materially assisted by the retransference of Mr. Deane to the Prime Minister’s Department.
.- The High Commissioner’s office has, so long as it has been in existence, been the subject of criticism. The expenditure on maintaining that office, judging by results, is wholly wasteful, and the items, appearing on the Estimates, bear that out. The cost of upkeep of Australia House, London, 13 £12,500 per annum. That is too much money to spend merely upon a monument, and the people of Australia are eagerly awaiting a government that will wipe this office out altogether, or so reform as to cause it to justify its existence by results. All that can be said of the High Commissioner’s office is that we have a representative in London. It may be claimed that business is transacted through this medium, but I hardly think that the High Commissioner enters into business transactions. It is customary for any work in connexion with diplomatic relations and business arrangements between Australia and Great Britain to be carried out by the Government departments. The High Commissioner is purely a figurehead, and as the office is at present constituted, I should wipe it out altogether. The State Governments have each an Agent-General in London. I suggest that we should have in London only one official representing Australia as a whole. At present the High Commissioner is like a giant dominating six pigmies. These offices should be amalgamated so as to do away with the multiplication of staffs that now exists in London. It may be said that the State Governments would not agree to that. On the last occasion when a Labour Government in South Australia appointed an AgentGeneral for that State, I suggested to the Premier that instead of appointing one of the members of the State Parliament as Agent-General he should approach the Commonwealth with a view to bringing about an amalgamation, so that the office might become of some practical value to Australia. Nothing came of my suggestion. I am satisfied that the people of Australia are anxious for something to be done on those lines. The expenditure on the High Commissioner’s office is practically absorbed in banquets and receptions. Little or no business is done by the High Commissioner or the Agents-General.. When Mr. Tom Price was Premier of South Australia he went to England, following the example of other peregrinating premiers - I do not say that offensively, because I believe that every Premier should go abroad and make himself acquainted with the affairs of the Empire and of Europe. Mr. Tom Price, unlike most Premiers, did not go to England for a holiday jaunt and to flaunt himself in his exalted position. While at Manchester he endeavoured to improve the trade relations between South Australia and Great Britain, and upon his return to Australia he appointed Major Norton as Trade Commissioner for South Australia in London. That officer’s activities while in England gave a great fillip to our trade. Unfortunately the standard that he set has since deteriorated. That clearly indicates that we want in England not a High Commissioner and AgentsGeneral, but a practical man with a thorough knowledge of trade relations. I believe that it was the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who said at one time that the employment of a practical business man living in the suburbs of London would be of more value to this Commonwealth than the appointment of a High Commissioner living at the Hotel Cecil.
– I do not think that I made that statement.
– It may have been made by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell), who, before he returned to Australia from the war, stayed in London for some time. The criticism that he then levelled against Australia House was most damning. Every Australian who goes Home returns to this country with a pitiful story of the waste of money at Australia House. When Sir Henry Barwell was Premier of South Australia he toured the world, and on his return he told a doleful tale of the incapacity of our representatives in London to further the interests of this country. He even went so far as to obtain samples of our goods on sale in London, and to exhibit them at the Adelaide Town Hall. He showed that second-grade, instead of first-grade dried fruits were being sent from here to Great Britain. The present Attorney-General of South Australia, Mr. Herman Homburg, has just returned from overseas and he tells a similar story. I well remember a gentleman from Tasmania, when on a visit to England, looking into the subject of the disposal of Australian products from the business side. He went to an exhibition of Australian products, and told a friend who accompanied him that he would like to show him what Tasmanian apples were like; but, strangely enough, there was not an Australian apple on view, although New Zealand fruit was displayed. Senator McLachlan, who represented Australia at Geneva last year, has also considered the activities of Australia House, and regards our marketing arrangements in Great Britain as negligible, because we have no counter to the organizations there that can manipulate the markets. If something is not done by the Government to improve the position, public opinion will force it to take steps in that direction. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will make the unification of the activities of the Commonwealth one of the trump cards of the Australian party. If he plays them well, he will, no doubt, at least get a trick or two, even if he does not obtain a grand slam.
The Minister for Trade and Customs, who is now on his way to the Old Country, and who will, I am sure, acquit himself with credit, should make exhaustive inquiries into the work of Australia House to see if it can be made useful. If any business firm sent a man to England as its agent, it would judge the value of his work by results. The Commonwealth Government should adopt a similar attitude to Australia House. I think that it was the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) who once said that the commercial community should contribute directly to the cost of maintaining the office of our trade commissioner in the United States of America, and I agree with him. The work of Australia House should be distributed over three or four departments, which should be conducted by business men. The budget fails to show that any benefit has been derived from the expenditure that this institution has involved.
.- Owing to the action of the Government in suspending the activities of the Development and Migration Commission it is difficult to know exactly the position in which the Commision now stands. Last session honorable members supporting the Government strongly advocated that commissions generally, and the Development and Migration Commission in particular, should be abolished. This to my mind was owing to their opposition to migration. But it would be a real loss to Australia if the Development and Migration Commission were disbanded, because this body, above all others, has proved of real benefit to the taxpayers. Huge savings have been effected as the result of its investigations and recommendations. It has recommended works in South Australia to the extent of nearly £1,000,000, including £374,000 for afforestation in the lower portion of the South East. My State, unfortunately, is not favoured with large belts of natural timber; but, owing to the work of the Development and Migration Commission, it now has a more vigorous policy of afforestation than any other State. The £374,000 made available for this purpose will enable South Australia to plant about 5,000 acres of forest land annually over a period of ten years. Hundreds of men are now employed in the work, and they are all Australians. They are unskilled labourers, and, if this work were not available to them, they would probably be unemployed. The commission has been investigating a large drainage scheme for an area of nearly 2,000,000 acres in the South East, which has proved to be most productive when properly drained. It is rather low-lying country, and owing to a ridge of hills that runs between this area and the sea, heavy expenditure is entailed by drainage. When it has been made suitable for occupation, it will provide land for hundreds of settlers in a district which has an assured rainfall, and in which droughts are unknown. Eventually, this area will probably be able to support almost as many people as the present population of the State. Therefore, I contend that the activities of the commission are of the utmost value, and I hope that the Government will do nothing to deprive South Australia of this money that is so necessary for its development.
.- The Development and Migration Commission has been made the subject of a political attack. Ever since its appointment the criticism has been heard that it is an expensive and useless body, designed to save Ministers from responsibility and work that they themselves should undertake. I hope that with the experience that the Government has already had, the Prime Minister will say frankly that these allegations are not justified. The commission does not do administrative work at all, and it does not enable any Minister to evade his responsibilities. It has never been used, nor can it be properly used, for such purposes. It is an institution founded on the proposition thai we ought to increase the population of
Australia, if we can do so on sound lines. But we can only do that if we are in a position to absorb and find useful work for new entrants into this country. That development and migration should go hand in hand is the foundation principle on which the commission was established. It is a mistake to bring migrants here to increase the population unless the country is able to absorb them, and provide them, as well as those who are already here with useful work. In the setting up of this commission that principle was explicitly adopted by the Commonwealth for the first time, and surely it must commend itself to all honorable members who think that it is possible to develop this country on wise lines, so that it may maintain a progressively increasing population. The Development and Migration Commission has been doing work in connexion with the £34,000,00 migration agreement. That agreement provides that money shall be advanced by the British Government, subject to the condition that Australia takes a certain number of migrants a of whom are the nominees of the various State immigration agencies. The money is made available at cheap rates for developmental work by the States. The commission has performed a useful function in scrutinizing the proposals submitted under the agreement to determine whether they are economically sound. This is work that ought to be done, and has never been done so well before. Honorable members who have had any poli-1 tical experience in the States must know that many so-called developmental schemes have been undertaken in Australia with disastrous results. They have been instituted for political purposes, and I am sorry to say that the practice still prevails in some States where the Development and Migration Commission has not been given an opportunity of investigating proposals. The commission has already performed very valuable services in checking and examining proposals for developmental work. The savings which the commission has already procured for Australia amount to far more than the commission has cost. An examination of the actual figures in the possession of the commission should convince the Government that this is true. I do not wish to refer at present to particular proposals which have been examined and reported upon by the commission, and which, as a result of that examination, have been shown to be absolutely unjustified. In one case, it was shown by the commission that if a scheme were carried out, the settlers would not be able to earn even the basic wage. It is doing a poor service to any man to settle him on land under such conditions that, although he works hard for long hours, he can never earn even as much as the basic wage. In the case of a proposed irrigation, scheme, it wa3 shown that the undertaking would have led to the loss of millions of pounds. The commission has had this advantage that, not being an ordinary government department, it has not been subject to ordinary ministerial direction in details. It has been independent in the sense that when a project has been submitted it has been able to carry out its investigations free from political considerations. It has, therefore, been able to do what a government department could never have done - it has earned the confidence of State governments and State departments. The States have been prepared to submit their proposals for examination by the commission, when they would not, I believe, have submitted them to an ordinary department of the Commonwealth, for political purposes attacks have been made on the. commission. More than anything else> we need in the country the best brains for the really big national jobs. Australia has been wonderfully well served by the members of the Development and Migration Commission. The practice of attacking such men, not for their own faults or shortcomings, but as a means of attack upon the Government responsible for their appointment, is going to have a very serious effect upon the development of Australia. Questions have repeatedly been asked in Parliament as to the salaries paid to the members of the commission. Generally speaking, unless we are prepared to pay for brains, we shall not obtain the best brains. Only now and then do we find a man of great public spirit prepared to serve the country notwithstanding the criticism levelled against him on political grounds. If this persistent attack upon men occupying high public positions is continued we shall find it increasingly difficult to obtain th services of first-class men. Honorable members know that the hostile criticism and imputation of improper motives to which members of Parliament are subject prevents many desirable persons from entering the legislatures of Australia. It is unfortunate that the same harmful practice is beginning to operate in regard to other forms of public service. Only today a question was asked in this House regarding the salary paid to the Secretary to the Postal Department. That officer has worked wonders since he has occupied his position. He saves his large salary several times over each year. If we aim at the second-rate and the mediocre we shall get it. “We may, by that means, achieve for the time being some small degree of popularity with the unthinking; hut it will be doing an ill-service to Australia. I trust that an examination of the work done by the Development and Migration Commission will lead the Government to take its courage in its hands and say - “ We know better now than we did before. We know that this work must be done, and we shall see that it is continued in the interests of the community as a whole.”
– The trouble is that ‘ the commission is all words and no action.
– The honorable member has not informed himself regarding the commission’s activities.
.- The State of Western Australia is more concerned with the activities of the Development and Migration Commission than are the other States. The money available under the agreement was intended to be advanced primarily for the benefit of the undeveloped States. Western Australia has had more and greater authorizations under the scheme than any other State. The approved proposals include railways, water conservation schemes, and roads. There is also what is known as the 3,000 farms scheme, the foundation of which has led to considerable expense. The Government of Western Australia has spent money’ in the expectation that funds would be made available under the agreement. If that money is not made available it will be unjust to the Western Australian Government, and will result in a large number of persons losing their employment. I wish the Prime Minister would make a statement setting out just how far the Government intends to honour the promises made in connexion with the migration agreement,’ particularly in regard to those undertakings with which progress has already been made. 1” should like to know, also, whether it is proposed to make any advances to enable the Government of “Western Australia to proceed with the 3,000 farms scheme.
.- I urge the Government to reconsider its proposal to reduce the influence and usefulness of the Development and Migration Commission. We have in Western Australia what is known as the New Settlers League. It is composed of all sections of the community, of all political parties, and the chairman is a member of the Labour party. The organization issues a monthly organ, in which have been published from time to time encomiums upon the wonderful work of the Development and Migration Commission. This work has been of inestimable value to the Government of Western Australia in carrying out its land settlement policy. I, as one representing a division of that State, have been repeatedly approached with requests that the Development and Migration Commission might be permitted to visit and report on certain areas with a view to their greater development. It has greatly encouraged the British Government to feel that ‘the Development and Migration Commission is so critically examining all proposals for the expenditure of money under the migration agreement. The Commission has really been in the position of an architect who prepares plans for the erection of a building. The members of the Commission are the architects of Australia’s national development. Many persons residing in more or less fully developed States, like “Victoria, do not realize the value of the work done by the Commission. Even in Victoria, however, as has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the Commission was responsible for preventing the. unprofitable expenditure of. a very large sum of money on the Murray River waters scheme. I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to give an assurance that the Commission will not be abolished, or its activities restricted. It is due to the States that they should be consulted before any such action is taken. In Western Australia, for instance, the Government has had the advice of the Commission upon the 3,000 farms scheme, and upon proposals for supplying the area with water. The advice of the Commission has been of the greatest assistance to the Western Australian Government, and it has also been able to assure the British Government, which is providing £34,000,000 for developmental work in Australia, that the money is being well spent. To abolish the Commission now would be to follow a penny wise and pound foolish policy.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked that another officer be transferred to the position now occupied by the secretary of my department. The present secretary was appointed to his position before I became Prime Minister, and his salary was fixed at that time. Mr. McLaren was receiving his present salary before he was transferred to the Prime Minister’s Department, and while he was still a member of the Public Service Board. I have no intention of removing Mr. McLaren from the position he occupies to-day. I find him an efficient officer.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) made a very interesting speech on the subject of the High Commissioner’s office in London. I have the impression that only too much of what he said is correct; but I am not in a position to. say just how far his criticism applies. I have asked the Minister foi Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) to make inquiries when he is in London into the organization of the High Commissioner’s office. I Jo not expect that he will be able, in the short time at his disposal, to re-organize the whole office; but I believe it does need re-organizing, and the Government proposes to give its early attention to the matter. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) directed their remarks to the Development and Migration Commission, and to the general question of development and migration. All that I can say at this stage is that definite action will not he taken by the Government until every aspect of the question has been thoroughly investigated. Our impressions at the moment are that we have an overhead scheme that is unwieldy, and we are inquiring into that aspect of the matter. If honorable members will consider the organization in London and Australia, they must come to the conclusion that a very strict investigation is required to ascertain whether it is warranted. I give the assurance that no work that has been approved, or is in course of construction, and to which the States have been committed, will be cut out by this Government.
– What about those that are under consideration ?
– They will receive consideration. I certainly will not state definitely that we shall proceed with them. But we shall go ahead with those that have been approved. No undertaking that has been given to the States will be dishonoured.
Another question that demands consideration is, whether this country can continue to incur expenditure in bringing workers to Australia at a time when the problem of unemployment is so acute that we do not know how to tackle it; also, whether we can maintain a migration organization such as that which exists in London to-day. We have not taken any definite action. We have made certain representations to the British Government, and its reply will be laid on the table to-morrow. We shall discuss the two propositions with the States in the middle of February next, before action of any description is taken. We have already formed certain opinions; there are others we have yet to form, but we shall come to no decision and form no final opinion, until the whole matter has been thoroughly investigated.
– Were representations made to the Government by any State, urging the continuance of the Development and Migration Commission ?
– I have not received directly representations from any of the
States. There has been press criticism, which to a large extent has been based upon misconception. I intend to have all the facta ready to place before the States in the middle of February. The matter will then be thoroughly discussed.
.- Provision has been made on the Estimates to the extent of £2,000, for the training of domestic servants in England for service in Australia. My experience of my own family, and of the womanhood of Australia, convinces me that that is unwarranted. Formerly, the amount provided for this item was £5,000. I drew the attention of the late Prime Minister to the matter, and he promised to do his best to have the amount reduced.
The subsidy to be paid this year to Burns Philp and Company for the provision of a mail service to the Islands of the Pacific is £52,000. The company has in that service the Makambo, the speed of which can be judged from the fact that if there should happen to be a high sea the passengers cannot tell whether the ship is progressing or going backward. The fares charged by the company also are out of all proportion to the distance travelled. I have frequently endeavoured to secure the withdrawal of this steamer. .When a fresh contract is about to be made, it is put in dock, where it is given a coat of whitewash inside and a fresh covering of paint outside, which gives it the appearance of a brand new steamer. Although under the terms of the contract the company has promised to replace it, no action in that direction has been taken, and it is still running between Australia and Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island. The vessels used in that service should be comparable with those that trade along our coast. Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island are the gems of the Pacific, and from a health point of view cannot be excelled. If the steamers engaged in the service had suitable accommodation, there would be a very large trade to and from the Islands, with advantage to the commercial life there and beneficial results to those who wish to travel for their health; Only a few months ago the Makambo was compelled to seek refuge in Port Stephens for a day and a night. Any steamer engaged in this service should be able to stand up to any weather conditions that are likely to be encountered. I hope that the present Government will take steps to have the existing position altered at an early date.
The proposed vote for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is £251,720, compared with an appropriation last year of £155,520 and an expenditure of £94,64-2. I trust that before long the headquarters of the council will be in this wonderful capital city. It can do a great deal for the people of Australia in preventing the losses that are now suffered on acount of noxious weeds and the depredations of insect life.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £647,849.
.- The revenues of the Commonwealth have benefited to the extent of £1,200,000 by the receipt of interest on liquidated German properties and the profits derived from the sale of expropriated properties in New Guinea. The committee should know to what use the Government intends to put that money. It has become available for consolidated revenue fund purposes as the result of a finding by the Solicitor-General that it can be so applied. There are three directions in which it might be well utilized. First, it could be used to defray, partially, the current expenses of the year and thus render unnecessary the imposition of a certain amount of the new taxation that the Government intends to impose. That additional taxation ought not to be placed upon the people at a time of such acute depression. Secondly, it could be applied to the partial liquidation of the deficit, as was intended by the late Government. Thirdly, it could be used to reduce the national debt, especially its war debt. Coming, as it does, from ex-enemy sources, it might be said that it ought to be applied in that direction. But the amount which is being allocated for that purpose at the present time is fairly substantial, and satisfactory from the point of view of our credit. Last year approximately £6,000,000 was made available for the liquidation of the public debt. That represented about 33 per cent, of the total interest charges, and was very much greater than the provision to which we were committed. Under those circumstances, this money should be used either to reduce taxation this year or to liquidate, partially, the deficit. I should like the Treasurer to say whether he has investigated the subject, and what he proposes to do.
– In my budget speech I made a reference to this matter which, although brief, indicated that the Government had not yet determined the manner in which these funds shall be applied. We are aware, of course, that the late Government intended to utilize them to liquidate the accumulated deficit of the last couple of years. That Government also intended to apply to that purpose the surplus revenue of the present year. It was clear, when the present Government assumed office, that there was little prospect of a surplus being realized on the basis of the Estimates made by my predecessor. The expenditure was bound to exceed the Estimates.
– Not if it were kept in check.
– The honorable member misunderstood the position, if he is to be judged by his questions. I set out in my budget statement, the items of expenditure which I thought would be exceeded during the year. The question of control or check does not arise. For instance, the last Government provided a certain amount for invalid and old-age pensions, but we now know that the amount required will exceed the estimate by approximately £300,000. That expenditure cannot be checked or controlled, except by interference with the rate of pension or by administration so rigid as to exclude legitimate claims. Such a policy is not contemplated. I might refer to other items for which provision had been made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), and I mention them in no censorious way. The present Government has to provide an extra £68,000 for war pensions, and because that increased amount will be needed, it is not to be inferred that we shall be guilty of laxity of control. For certain other war services, additional provision amounting to £112,500 had to be made. My predecessor might have saved £60,000 in respect of the maternity allowances by fulfilling the promises of his Government to amend the act in such a way as to make the allowance payable to persons with a family income not exceeding £8 a week. The present Government does not intend to discriminate in the payment of the allowance; therefore that £60,000 must be provided.
In regard to the £1,200,000 lying to the credit of the Expropriated Properties Account, it is true that that amount can be appropriated for revenue purposes or for the reduction of the accumulated deficit, or to augment the sinking fund. One of those courses will be adopted as soon as the Government has an opportunity to investigate the matter. The Government has been in office for only a few weeks, for the greater portion of which it has been closely occupied with parliamentary business and cabinet deliberations on urgent and imperative matters. We have had no opportunity to look thoroughly into many matters which, while important, can very well wait until this portion of the session is concluded. I assure the right honorable member for Cowper that the only reason why no decision has been reached in regard to the use of this £1,200,000, is that the Government has not had time to consider the matter in. all its bearings.
.- I am satisfied with the Treasurer’s assurance that the money will be utilized in one of the three ways I mentioned. I wanted to be sure that the money would not be used for additional expenditure. The Treasurer’s advance is usually sufficient to cover unforeseen demands, and so long as this trust money will be used for the reduction of the public debt or the accumulated deficit, or the relief of taxation, I am content.
In regard to the increases of expenditure to which the Treasurer has referred, I stated last year that the Commissioner of Pensions had drawn attention to a general increase in the payments for invalid and old-age pensions, because the depression had resulted in many elderly people being unable to get work._ Despite that fact, the increase of expenditure above the estimate was only £188,000.
In regard to invalid pensions, the last Government was giving attention to a suggestion that the basis for determining invalidity was unsound. The last Minister for Health and Repatriation (Sir Neville Howse), and I were endeavouring to make the grounds for determining total and permanent incapacitation uniform with those upon which incapacity is determined in connexion with war pensions. From our own medical knowledge, and the evidence of experts, we understood that if such an alteration were made, many cases of imposition and claims by persons who are not strictly entitled to pensions would be obviated.
The Government intends to alter the basis on which the Iron and Steel Bounty is paid. This will involve an increased expenditure of about £9,000 a year, which, of course, is quite independent of my estimates. I pointed out previously that for the first five months of the financial year, bounty was paid on only 9,000 tons, of galvanized iron. Last year the total was 28,000 tons, and it is evident that the amount to be produced this year will be less. The bounty payments for the last three years have been - 1926-27, £253,000; 1927-28, £240,000; 1928-29, £205,000. In estimating the payments for this year I struck an average of those for the preceding three years; and on the information available there appears to be no reason for questioning the provision I made. The committee must have regard also to the possibility of certain savings. I pointed out that each year some decreases of expenditure occur which could not be anticipated, and they are a set-off against the unforeseen increases. I predict that the result this year will be very similar to that of last year.
Proposed vote agree to.
Proposed vote, £187,943.
.- Will the Attorney-General indicate to the committee his intentions regarding the reporting branch, and state particularly whether he proposes that that branch shall undertake the reporting of the proceedings of the Tariff Board? Last year the late Government decided that the charges which had hitherto been made by the reporting branch against other departments for reporting work should no longer be made. The effect of charging for these services was simply that one department paid another for work done; if that principle were applied throughout the Commonwealth departments, there would be an enormous inflation of apparent expenditure and receipts. We decided that the reporting branch should give its services to other departments free of charge, in the same way as the Crown Law Department gives free advice to other departments, upon the many legal problems that arise from time to time. In the past the reporting of royal commissions, the Arbitration Court, the investigations of the Public Service Arbitrator, conferences, &c, has been done by the reporting branch, but the recording of evidence before the Tariff Board has been in the hands of a private firm, which has supplied transcripts as desired to the board and to interested parties. That is an important part of the work of the firm, and whether it be done by private contract or by the reporting branch it must be paid for. If the reporting branch does the work, the Attorney-General’s Department has to provide the necessary staff; if it is done by a private contractor the report must be paid for by the Trade and Customs Department.
– Has the reporting of the Tariff Board always been done in that way?
– Ever since the establishment of the reporting branch, successive Attorneys-General and Ministers for Trade and Customs have decided that the reporting of the Tariff Board should be left to private enterprise. If that policy is changed an increase in the staff of the reporting branch will be inevitable.
– Did the honorable member when Attorney-General intend to make any alteration?
– No. The matter arose just before the last election, and I directed that no change should be made pending the election.
– Has the work been done satisfactorily by the private firm?
– Quite satisfactorily. The Estimates of the previous Government were prepared having in mind the probability of its industrial proposals being accepted by the people. Had they been accepted this vote could have been greatly reduced.
There is a vacancy in the position of Conciliation Commissioner. I have already referred in this chamber to the great service rendered to Australia by the late Mr. A. M. Stewart, as Industrial Commissioner. In many cases Mr. Stewart, by his readiness to assist parties in potential disputes, was able to close the breach, and so save the Arbitration Court a great deal of work. I trust that the Government will make every effort to fill this office without delay, and that the appointee will be a man of wide experience, high ability and character, and suitable temperament, so that he may be able to win the respect of all the parties with whom he will deal.
With reluctance I feel that I must again return to an article which appeared in the press upon the morning of the day I handed over my office to my successor. This article alleged that the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Commonwealth police in Canberra had been used for the purpose of spying upon Labour members and civil servants in Canberra. I at once gave an unqualified denial to the statement, and I am glad that the AttorneyGeneral, in reply to a question that I asked him on the subject, said that he accepted without qualification the assurance of the officers concerned that there had been no such espionage, and that the dossier supposed to exist had never existed. I could have wished that the Attorney-General had not waited for my question to defend the reputation of his departmental officers. It was not a matter that affected myself merely as Attorney-General, but it affected all the officers of the department. I am able to defend myself. I have available the facilities of this House and also the public platforms of the country to refute any innuendoes or charges of political espionage; but the officers of the department, and public servants generally, are not in that position. I use the words of the Attorney-General in another consideration this morning, and say that this article was a deliberatelyconcocted falsehood. It could have been nothing else than that. There was no foundation whatever, either direct or indirect, for this shameful and anonymous attack - such attacks are nearly always anonymous - upon the reputation of civil servants who have rendered faithful service to the country. Nothing would be more discreditable to an AttorneyGeneral, who has charge of the administration of the law, than that he should use the special investigating facilities of his department for the purpose of conducting political espionage, and I am glad that the present Attorney-General has said that the charges made were entirely untrue and unfounded. The officers of our public departments, I am glad to say, serve successive ministries, irrespective of their political complexions, with equal fidelity and loyalty, and I trust that the time is far distant when it will be otherwise. Consequently, they should be protected in every possible way from anonymous abuse.
An item appears in the Estimates for this department of £5,000 to cover the expenditure on industrial peace tribunals. For a long time I have been very dissatisfied with the continuance of expenditure upon these tribunals. Had the proposals of the last Government been accepted by the people the tribunals would have been abandoned and this expenditure saved. Surely all honorable members, irrespective of their party associations, must agree that these tribunals have failed utterly. I do not desire to use any words that will provoke acrimony, but the fact is that we are in the midst of one of the most upsetting disturbances that the coal industry has suffered for many years. Theoretically these industrial peace tribunals should be able to take steps to settle the dispute, but practically they can do nothing, for neither party to the dispute will use them. One of the main reasons for this is that no one in the community can say with certainty whether there are any existing valid awards made by the tribunals. The main hewing rate for coal was fixed in 1920-21 and it was expressly provided that it should remain in force for one year. No one can say definitely whether that award has any legal force or effect to-day. No one will remove this body, and no one can say whether its carcass is animate or dead.
In connexion with the present coal dispute the Attorney-General summoned a compulsory conference of the parties. It could not reach an agreement, and nothing happened. The chairman had no power to determine the issues placed before the conference. Theoretically these tribunals are ready to consider any demand that the owners may make for a reduction of wages or an alteration of conditions or to hear any appeal that the men may make for a reconsideration of existing conditions, but neither party will constitute them. The provision made for a quorum is of such a character that if either party fails to attend a sitting of a tribunal, it cannot function. Of course that provision could be altered, but if it were altered it would mean that the decision would, in almost every case, be made by one man, the chairman of the tribunal.
As long as this Parliament is obliged to operate under its present limited power in dealing with industrial disputes, we must have an unsatisfactory position. The Commonwealth has power in regard to interstate disputes only. No one can say with certainty whether the awards made by the industrial peace tribunals ‘have been made only in cases of interstate disputes. Mr. Hibble, the chairman of the tribunals, has been good enough to act in a voluntary capacity, and has done good work. Many of the matters dealt with by the tribunals have concerned only isolated collieries. The plain fact is that the tribunals are unworkable in times of emergency, when they are most needed. The New South Wales Government has complete power to deal with the coal industry, subject to any existing federal award. But its actions have been more or less palsied and hesitant for a long time on account of the uncertainty as to whether there are any existing federal awards.
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition think that the people should be asked immediately to equip this Parliament with complete power to deal with industrial matters?
– I shall not commit myself definitely on that subject at the moment. I should certainly want to examine specific proposals of that nature before I discussed them. Various proposals have been submitted to the people from time to time with the object of securing greater industrial power for the Commonwealth. A former Labour Prime Minister (Mr. Fisher), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) each endeavoured unsuccessfully to obtain a greater measure of power for the Commonwealth over industry and trade and commerce. In 1926 the last Government sought additional powers. Its proposals were not so farreaching as those previously submitted to the people. One reason for that was that every possible effort was made to secure the maximum agreement between the different political parties before the proposals were submitted to the people.
– That is hardly a fair statement of the case.
– A great deal has happened since 1926.
– I am dealing specifically with 1926. I know that every effort was made to obtain unanimity in this House at that time, with the satisfactory result that 80 members in the two Houses of Parliament favoured the proposal and only three voted against it. I was one who consulted the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton, on this subject, and I know very well that what I am saying is the truth in relation to the subject. Unfortunately the electors were very much divided on the subject and the proposals were defeated. However, this is hardly an appropriate occasion for me to discuss potential constitutional amendments. My object in referring to this subject is tq point out that the existing industrial peace tribunals are unworkable and therefore we should not incur heavy expenditure in relation to them. I suggest that it is not advisable any longer to provide money for machinery which, so far from being of assistance in bringing the coal trouble to an end, has proved to be a positive impediment.
– Some observations which have fallen from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) make pertinent, a review of the position presented to us by the Estimates. It is proposed under Division 34 to expend £15,679 for the purposes of a court of conciliation and arbitration. “With much that the Leader of the Opposition said I agree, but T should like to direct my remarks to the whole case, as I see it, and I shall be brief. I understand that the Governmentproposes to introduce some legislation that will modify, perhaps improve, the present machinery of the court. The proposals of the Government, looked at against the background of recent events, the smoking embers of which still seem to obscure the vision of some honorable gentlemen are farcical. Unless and until the Constitution is amended there are no means by which we can hope to give the people what they are entitled to: that peace and progress in industry, so essential to the welfare of this country. It is of no use to waste time in legislation to patch up once again a fabric of shreds and patches in this court, in preparing, arid a continual source of disappointment to employers and employees. We have had a serious difference of opinion in this country lately on this very question, and some honorable gentlemen are beginning to realize that they did not choose the wiser way. It is agreed by all that uniformity is an essential factor in maintaining peace and progress in industry. The people have decided in the most unmistakable manner that they are not prepared to secure uniformity by handing over the control of industrial matters to the States. About that there can be no difference of opinion. The people have spoken; they are sick of conflicting awards and clashing jurisdiction; but they do not believe that these things can be swept away by State control. It only remains, therefore, to clothe this national Parliament with full industrial powers. I understand that the Government intends to summon an industrial conference of representatives of industrial organizations to discuss this subject from every aspect in order to give advice to the Government. May I be permitted to point out that no such conference is necessary at this stage. One course, and only one, must be followed, the Commonwealth must have full industrial powers. Once we have these powers it may be necessary to have a conference to decide how we are going to use them. But first of all we must get them. A plain declaration by the Government of its intention to amend the Constitution, and to make that an outstanding feaure of the next session, would do much to relieve the tension of the minds of all sorts and conditions of people who are prepared to accept the position as it
Ls, with all its entanglements and uncertainties, if there is a reasonable prospect of an early adjustment and settlement. What we want is peace in industry, and this is. impossible as long as long as there are seven codes of industrial laws. A decision recently given by the High Court in the case of the American Dry Cleaning Company makes confusion worse confounded. We are every day being shown newer and more alarming aspects of arbitration. It now appears that, though an award is properly made in respect of a dispute within the jurisdiction of a court, though the employer is a party to that dispute, and though it is binding upon employees if they are members of a union, it is not binding upon employees who are non-unionists. The award does not apply to non-unionists. Nothing- in the world could be more conducive to industrial unrest. Nothing could be more repugnant to the natural sense of justice which, I trust, is inherent in us all, or, at any rate,- is accepted by us as the only basis upon which government can be carried on. It may be that the Government contemplates an amendment of the act. That would be futile, and only give more work to the High Court.
– No amendment of the act can deal with the position. It depends on the Constitution.
– Even on that there may be a difference of opinion; but that can be decided only after litigation, after more and more disappointments, and after more and more money has been expended. Let us begin now, after all these years of bitter disappointment, travail, and experiment in various directions, to demolish this crazy edifice and construct in its place a new and lasting structure on deep and sure foundations. The only amendment of the Constitution that “will be of service is one that will give this National Parliament full industrial power. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested that the people are not prepared to grant the powers that we require.
– I did not make that suggestion.
– He stated that the last attempt to amend the Constitution had been endorsed by 90 per cent, of honorable members - only three being in opposition - and, despite that, the proposed amendments were rejected by the people. We know what those amendments were. One went in the direction that most of us wanted to go; but there was another about which many of us, myself included, had serious misgivings. Whatever may have been the result of the compact in this House with Mr. Charlton, the fact remains, that organized labour was not prepared to accept the proposals of the Government. But organized labour was certainly not alone in its opposition to those proposals. A very considerable number of persons who, in their weaker moments, voted for the late AttorneyGeneral, strongly opposed them, otherwise they would not have been defeated by such an overwhelming majority. I want to remind the present AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) that the amendments submitted in 1913 and 1919, which sought to clothe this Parliament with full industrial powers, came within 1 per cent, in 1913, and less than 1 per cent, in 1919, of being approved by the people. The amendments submitted by the late Government were, defeated by a majority greater than that recorded against any previous proposals submitted to the people by way of referendum. What is wanted is not a conference to consider what powers we want, but a decision of the Government to ask the people to give us full industrial powers. When we have them we can decide what we shall do with them. While I do not deny that we must keep the machinery of conciliation and arbitration moving, I am confident that it is only giving the people a stone when they are entitled to bread. “ We know very well, when we tell them that we will work for industrial peace, and endeavour to put before them legislation that will make for the progress of this country and ensure peace in industry, that these are idle words ; that peace in industry is impossible unless and until the national Parliament is given full powers over this vitally important national matter. The present deplorable condition of affairs in the northern coal-fields has forced the people to realize the hopeless impotence of the national Parliament in industrial matters.
For nine or ten months there has been turmoil, but this Parliament has been powerless to intervene. The Leader of the Opposition condemned the Industrial Peace Act ; but how can that, or any other act, function in circumstances such as now exist ? If this Parliament had full industrial powers, I venture to say that something might have been done under the Industrial Peace Act. I therefore urge the Attorney-General to give this matter his serious and earnest consideration. 1 ask the Government to make an early declaration of its intention to amend the Constitution. I sincerely hope that the Government will not listen to any suggestion to stop short of the demand for full industrial powers. Unemployment is the great problem of the day. We have now 12.1 per cent, unemployed in this country, the largest percentage in our history. Somehow or other this Government has to find employment for those people; but how is it to do that, when it has no power over industrial matters? This Government has tabled an amended tariff schedule; but it has no power whatever to deal with the effects, whatever they may be - the industrial or economic effects that result from it; it is tied hand and foot. This Government is now on its trial. It has been given an opportunity, after fifteen years of opposition, to show what it can do, but unless it demands that these shackles shall be struck off its limbs, it cannot hope to make good. I earnestly counsel it to make a declaration, firm and definite, that it stands for the amendment of the Constitution, and for clothing this national Parliament with full industrial powers, and powers to deal with all national matters.
– I have listened, naturally, with great interest to what has just been said by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and to what was previously said by my predecessor - indeed they are both my predecessors - in the office’ of Attorney-General, on the subject of amplifying the powers of this Parliament by means of an amendment of the Constitution. I do not lay claim to a very full sum of human knowledge upon any subject, and certainly not upon that of industrial powers; but I am in the happy position of being able to say that, personally, I have always been a consistent advocate of the amplification of the powers of this Parliament. I have always supported such proposals, from whatever source they have emanated.
– So have I.
– I am glad to be able to say, too, that the same may be said of every member of the present Government, and it certainly may be stated, confidently, of the Government as a whole. We stand for that as a matter of policy. Though it has been borne long, it should be regarded as intolerable for the future, that the powers of this Parliament should be so circumscribed by the arbitrary instrument under which we work that, as a Parliament, we are unable to act effectively in many instances with regard to the minor matters with which we should be able to deal. Certainly we are not able to cope with any outstanding, serious industrial problems that might arise for decision.
This Parliament will never be able to legislate satisfactorily for the peace, order and good government of Australia until the people have enfranchised it for the purpose of solving these problems. I believe that our difficulties and limitations in this regard are deep-rooted and historic, and that they go back to that period when in the development of early Australia it was found necessary to set up local government in the various colonies, as they then were. They take us back to the time when the people of Victoria held high holiday because the colony of Victoria was separated from the colony of New South Wales. It was natural that, there should be high holiday then, because inadequate provision - scarcely any provision - had been made for the local government of Victoria, and what applied to that colony applied also to the others. - That condition had to be amended and ended, and, in my opinion, we went the wrong road in. ending and mending it. Instead of establishing effective local government under a united Australia, we set up these - I am almost tempted to call them - petty sovereignties all over the Commonwealth, and we invested them with full sovereign powers. We set Up a direct connexion between each one of them and the sovereignty in Britain. We caused a rivalry, an unwholesome kind of governmental rivalry between them, which has not died down, but which has increased in intensity in its influence for separating the various parts of Australia, until to-day, whenever an appeal is made for greater powers for the nation as a whole, it is taken as a challenge to the various local sovereignties that are desirous of maintaining and retaining their territorial and local powers. Sometimes I almost despair about inducing the people to look on this subject unhampered in their judgment, from the point of view of Australia as a whole.
– I think that that is possible.
– I applaud the honorable gentleman’s optimism, and I admire it, too, because he is familiar with the history of this matter. He knows, as many of us do, how this prejudice against Australia has developed within Australia itself, and it is a prejudice that must be broken down. It must be realized that the claim for “ Australia a united nation “ is a real one, and that these local sovereignties are not separate bodies of people, but groups of Australian citizens, each one of whom has an interest in developing the ideal of Australia as a nation. I do not know that this is a particularly appropriate occasion for speaking at large on this great and grave matter. This Government has only recently come into power. Its members did not begin, as a government, to advocate greater powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. Its members asked and they have consistently asked, that these powers shall be invested in the Government of Australia, whatever the political complexion of that Government might be, so long as it reflected popular opinion.
– I understood that the Labour unions opposed the proposals sub: mitted at the last referendum for increased powers.
– It is perfectly true that there was a division of opinion on the Labour side as to the particular propositions submitted.
– There were 26 of them, and there was a division on both sides.
– It is true that there was a division of opinion amongst Labour representatives, and it is also true that the form in which the questions were submitted to the people left the proposals open to considerable objection and valid criticism, inasmuch as the amplified authority, so far as industrial power was concerned, was not to be placed directly in the Parliament itself, but, in a somewhat apologetic manner, it was to be given to instruments crea’ted by the Parliament. But with all the limitations of the powers then sought, and there were many, and having regard to all the objections that might justly be raised against the proposals of the then Government, notwithstanding the fact that I, as a representative of the Labour party at the time, was strongly opposed in matters of principle to that Government, I was one of the overwhelming majority in this Parliament - indeed, there was only a minority of one or two - who stoutly supported those proposals, and continued to support them until they were overwhelmingly defeated. Whatever difference there may have been in the ranks of the Labour party, it must be acknowledged that capitalism in Australia displayed tremendous enthusiasm to defeat those proposals, and I think that one of the stoutest and most persistent representatives of capitalism, who directed all his oratory and influence against them, was the gentleman behind whom the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) stood in his campaign against the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) at the last election. I do not propose to say anything further about the amendment of the Constitution, except, perhaps, to add that this Government will realize its responsibility in this matter, “and not by any means put the subject behind it as something not to be considered. On the contrary, it is perfectly safe to say - because no decison on it has been come to by the Government - that, consistently with its policy and platform, it will, at no far distant date, take the matter up for further action.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), has spoken of the waste of money incidental to certain peace tribunals appointed under the Industrial Peace Act. I have nothing to say about that, beyond the statement that we were not responsible for the act, and we did not establish the tribunals. We endeavoured to make use of one of them recently, with not very satisfactory results. The act, and the tribunals under it, are the creatures of another government and other years, and they will be considered in due course in connexion with the general industrial policy cf this Government, which will be disclosed, I hope, at a fairly early period in the coming year. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken of certain allegations regarding espionage said to have been carried out by officers of my department under the aegis and with the authority of the AttorneyGeneral. About the time my predecessor went out of office these statements were published in the press.
– They were published on the day I left office.
– I hope that I shall be entirely acquitted, as I acquit the late Attorney-General, of any complicity in the matter.
– I do not say that the honorable gentleman had anything to do with it.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made a statement for publication in the press that the allegations of espionage were entirely unfounded. Almost immediately afterwards I made a statement to the press that I accepted my predecessor’s statement without qualification.
– That is so.
– I made that statement immediately, but I desired it to be conveyed to the public that I had had no opportunity of making inquiries with a view to determining whether such espionage had been carried out by any officer or sub-officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department associated with the Investigation Branch. I need hardly say that I was satisfied with the disclaimers of responsible officers in the Law Department itself, and I said so. But when I read allegations, couched in very, general terms, regarding spying into the doings of the members of the Public Service and others, I did not become hectic or excited about it, and I do not think that there was any occasion for the Leader of the Opposition to fan him self into a state of indignation over it to-day. If we were to become worked up over everything that appears in bold type in the newspapers, relating to matters of this kind, we should be in a constant state of undue excitement. No names had been mentioned in the press story, and no definite facts were alleged. It did not seem to me, therefore, that it was the business of an incoming Attorney-General to set in motion any kind of court or commission of inquiry merely because some more or less sensational statements had appeared in the press. I was open then, as I am now, to receive and assess the value of any information which might be afforded to me in regard to the allegations. If any facts were submitted, I was prepared to have them further examined, and if it had appeared that the newspaper allegations had been substantiated by named persons who were in a position to depose to the facts, I would have come to this Parliament and said that the matter should be probed to the very bottom. Nothing of the kind has occurred, and, accordingly, in answer to a question by the honorable gentleman in this House, I gave a definite, and I hope, sufficient answer, but not quite the answer which the Leader of the Opposition now attributes to me. The honorable gentleman’s questions were -
My considered replies to those questions were -
Those answers, I think, are full and complete, but I wish it to be understood that they do not prevent me at any further time from examining any evidence that may be submitted to me. Regarding the alleged reflection on the officers of my department, very little need’ be said. There was quite an unnecessary warmth in the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) that I should have stood up immediately, and with great emphasis, justified the officers of my department. My experience of the established Public Service of this country is that its members have a record and tradition which requires them to render, as I believe they always do, loyal service to the Minister in charge, whoever he may be, irrespective of political parties. Moreover, if I understand their temperament and outlook correctly, they do not like to be unnecessarily dragged into the arena of debate, either for the purpose of criticism or vindication, or, as more frequently happens, for the purpose of unjust condemnation. However, if the honorable gentleman has any real fear “that I have not done full justice to the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, all I can say is that the doors are open to him, and he may assure himself by personal inquiry upon the point. If there are any grievances which the officers desire to ventilate - and I do not believe for a moment that there are - the honorable gentleman is quite free to make himself their ‘mouthpiece on the floor of this chamber. The Labour party has always regarded with a good deal of reserve, if not absolute suspicion, the operations of certain officers from time to time appointed to do investigation work for the Commonwealth. I do not want these words to be applied in any personal sense to any present members of the Investigation Branch associated with my department, but I desire’ it to be understood that members of this Government have not forgotten, and I for one shall not forget, the kind of investigations and inquiries that were pursued by certain Governments which preceded this one, particularly during the war. Those inquiries were of an exceedingly secret, and, to put it mildly, confidential character.
-The honorable gentleman is not speaking of the last Government?
– I am not speaking expressly of the last Government, because I am not in a position to know to what extent private inquiries were carried out by it.
– The honorable gentleman is speaking definitely of things that happened during the war, but is leaving it to be inferred that something improper was done’ by the last Government.
– I content myself with saying that while I am in a position to know that investigations of a most objectionable character were carried out during the war, investigations of a kind that could not be justified under any principles of law, I am not in a position to know to what extent, or along what lines, private investigations were carried out by succeeding governments.
– Or whether they were carried out at all ?
– Or whether they were carried out at all, except that 1 know that there is an investigation branch, which discharges certain legitimate functions.
– The honorable member knows, or ought to know by this time, what its work is.
– I do not know; and I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to say that he knew either what its work was.
– I certainly did.
– I say, frankly, that the constitution and operations of the Investigation Branch will be a matter for further consideration and inquiry by the Government.
– The honorable gentleman can find out by inquiring from the officers of the department.
– I know that funds are made available for the Investigation Branch,, but no reports are furnished to my department as to how those funds are expended. As a result of inquiries, I found that returns and particulars are furnished to the Auditor-General, but not to the department whose officers they are.
– Do these officers keep diaries in the same way as the State police do ?
– I am not in a position to answer that question.
– It is a strange state of affairs that the Attorney-General should have so little control over officers attached to his own department.
– I can inform the honorable member that I have complete control over the officers in my department. I am not the sort of person who, coming into an office as a new responsible Minister, begins ruthlessly to upset existing practices without having obtained the fullest information. I merely say that, judging from the history of private investigation work under the Commonwealth, and the operations of the Commonwealth Police, I feel that the Investigation Branch should be, as a matter of duty, thoroughly sifted and investigated by the Government. I hope to have in the future more detailed reports respecting its operations, so that I shall be able to determine whether it renders to the Commonwealth services adequate to the expenditure necessary for its maintenance. There should be a closer association than that which exists at the present time between the officers and the head of the department. It is undesirable that a roving commission should be given to any branch of the department to conduct inquiries without furnishing to the responsible head of the department regular and detailed reports, showing precisely the nature of those inquiries and their cost. Nothing that I have said is to be taken as a reflection upon any of these officers. I have met some of them, and they appear to be both capable and conscientious. In that respect I have no complaint to make. I view the matter not in a personal sense, but from the point of view of policy and with some knowledge of the history of the origin and development of the investigation branch under the previous Government.
The Leader of the Opposition has sought information regarding the reporting branch of the Attorney-General’s Department. No change is intended to be made, at all events immediately, in the operations of that branch. I understand that, if the proposals of my predecessor for the destruction of the Arbitration Court had been accepted by the people, it was his intention, if possible, to find in another sphere, notably in connexion with the reporting of the proceedings of the Tariff Board, employment for the reporters in the Attorney-General’s Department. I understand that at the present time the reporting of the proceedings of the Tariff Board is being well done by private individuals. As the proposals of the late Government for the abolition of federal arbitration were not accepted, we intend to retain our reporting staff, and believe that we can make good use of it. The staff will be paid, according to present policy, by my department, whose work it will do.
.- It surprises me to find that, when we are so short of money, an honorable member can glibly request that another referendum of the people shall be taken at a cost of probably more than £100,000. The question of the enlargement of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth has been submitted to the people on many occasions, and the result, in the different States, has always been decisively against the Commonwealth. There is very little doubt in my mind as to the reason for the refusal of the people to grant .the additional powers sought by the Commonwealth. Almost since its inception this Parliament has contained a number of unificationists. They have become greedy of power, and now a large number are keenly desirous of destroying the federation. I can assure honorable members that had the States not had reserved to them the control of their domestic affairs, we should not have had a federation today. Possibly if this Parliament had won the confidence of the people greater powers would have been given to it; but this they have failed to do. I question the accuracy of the statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) that Labour is solidly behind an alteration of the Constitution. When it is a question of having either Federal or State control, the great majority of the people show a preference for State organizations to look after their interests.
– I spoke for this Government and this party. I did not guarantee perfect unity throughout Australia.
– The fact that the people prefer to have State courts in control of their industries shows that they lack confidence in this Parliament. It is not very long since this question was submitted to a referendum of the people. On that occasion, only the late honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) and I opposed the proposal. I regret to state that the Labour party and the Nationalists were both prepared to sacrifice the federation so that they might obtain greater power. These two great political parties appealed to the people to give increased powers to the Commonwealth, and the proposal was emphatically rejected. The then honorable member for Wannon quoted in this chamber figures relating to the votes cast in the constituencies of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), the then Prime Minister, and the present Prime Minister, which showed clearly that the people desired to have State tribunals to look after their interests. It is absurd to say that the recent election was fought on one issue. If the last Government had desired to commit political suicide it could not have succeeded better than it did; because, just prior to the election, it brought down a budget which led the people to believe that their interests were to be vitally affected. There were a great many issues before the people.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has urged that the Commonwealth should have wider powers. He has been largely responsible for a great deal of the industrial legislation that we have upon the statute-book. It was he who brought forward, in connexion’ with the coal-mining industry, industrial peace legislation which took out of the hands of the Federal Arbitration Court the regulation of that industry. We have not to seek far to find what has been the result of that political interference. There has hardly been a day’s peace in the industry at Newcastle since that measure was introduced. The central governing authority in Canada has never sought to obtain control of the provincial legislatures.
– The central authority in Canada has much greater power than that which is possessed by this Parliament. [Quorum formed.’]
– Quite recently the timber-workers in Western Australia asked specially to be relieved from the operation of an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They prefer to work under a State award. They are so far from the seat of government, and it is so difficult to have their case properly presented, that I am perfectly satisfied that the people of that State would reject a proposal to give to this Parliament absolute control of industrial regulation. Therefore, I hope that the
Government will give very serious consideration to this matter before it agrees to the expenditure of a large sum of money on another referendum.
.- 1 have voted for every proposal to take a referendum of the people, with the exception of the referendum on conscription. On the last occasion the Labour party was favorable to it, but the industrial community were opposed to it because of their hostility to Mr. Bruce. In that way thousands of votes were lost. One reason of the failure of the previous referendums was thai abstract questions drafted by legal men were put before the people, who could not understand them, and in their uncertainty they took the safe course of voting against any alteration of the Constitution. Some years ago, when I was still in business, I had . an opportunity to explain to some of my wealthy customers why they should vote in favour of grant ing more powers to the Commonwealth, and they were satisfied to follow my advice. Their friends, however, not understanding the issue, recorded a negative vote. Before the people are asked to vote on a proposal to amend the Constitution they should understand thoroughly what is asked of them. When the Fisher Government appealed by referendum to the people a very fine pamphlet, setting’ forth the case for and against, was distributed, and did a great deal to educate the public mind. I think this Parliament would make more rapid progress in the enlargement of its powers if it would take the risk of passing the legislation which it thinks desirable, and leave to dissenting persons the responsibility of testing it before the High Court. After all, judges are human beings, and they are not beyond the influence of public opinion. The American Congress has frequently gone beyond the constitution, and usually the decisions of the courts have reflected the opinion of the people. L believe that the present judges of the High Court are not too law-bound to respond to the will of the majority of the electors.
Much good might result from an industrial peace conference if sufficient care were taken in chosing the personnel. One factor that hindered the success of the conference convened by Mr. Bruce was that many of the delegates representing the employers were tories in whom the workers had no confidence. Some of them I had met in conference when I was secretary of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, and invariably they wound up by saying “ These chaps want something which they will not get. Why should we not manage our businesses as we choose? We are the proprietors, and we shall not accept dictation from others.” From men holding such views little in the way of compromise and understanding of the other fellow’s point of view can be expected. When Sir Henry Parkes appointed the Labour Commission in 1890 he appointed as chairman Dr. Garran, at that time editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, and a man of judgment and intelligence. The other delegates were six representatives of the trade union organizations and six representatives of industry; but the latter were not proprietors or masters. For instance, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was represented by Mr. Cruikshank, an able employee of the company with a thorough knowledge of the details of the industry, and the Hunter River Steamship Company by its chief engineer. The commission did great work, which was the foundation of the Arbitration Act of New South Wales. Mr. B. R. Wise drafted the measure, and it originated in the Legislative Council. In recent years the lawyers have had too big a part in arbitration, and they have been the curse of the system.
– Was not B. R. Wise a lawyer?
– Yes ; but he had humanitarian ideals. The quibbles, objections, and evasions on the part of lawyers have cost the trade unions hundreds of thousands of pounds, and defeated the intention of the act. The court has become an institution in which the workers have no confidence, because they have seen how wealthy corporations are able, by briefing the most eminent lawyers, to defeat the true spirit of conciliation and arbitration. I would like to see a peace conference convened ; but, unless the delegates are persons in whom both Bides have confidence, very little benefit may be expected from their deliberations.
I hope this Parliament will re-assemble early in February, and continuously apply itself to’ problems of urgent importance to the welfare of Australia. This Government should not, like its predecessors, meet Parliament for a few weeks and then, without having done anything of importance, hurry into the haven of recess. Having the support of an absolute majority of the members of this House, the Government has an opportunity to do the work which the people expect of it.
I congratulate the Attorney-General on his reference to the officers of his department. I have met many of them privately and officially, and I believe that, as his experience of them extends, his pride in them will increase.
.- I regret that, owing to the pressure of public business, the Government has not been able in this brief session to submit a proposal to seek from the people additional power for this Parliament. I hope that in the forefront of the Government’s programme, when the Parliament reassembles early in the New Year, will be comprehensive proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. The greatest difficulty that confronts the Labour party in office is the manifold restrictions contained in the Federal Constitution. We have inherited our Parliamentary system from Great Britain, but the British Parliament is in a very different position- from that of Australia. We are restricted in our legislative action because we are bound by the interpretations of the Constitution by the High Court. I suggest that a thorough overhaul of the Constitution is needed. It .is impossible to secure this by the ordinary method of asking the people for specific powers to do certain things. I hope that the Government, in due course, will consider the advisableness of asking the people to give this Parliament full power to amend the Constitution. There could be certain safeguards in relation to the franchise and other matters which should not be interfered with except after a specific referendum. I desire to see this Parliament clothed with sovereign legislative authority. It is directly answerable to the people, and should be able to exercise supreme power in a democracy such as we claim to be. The British Parliament exercises such power. It has no written Constitution; its powers are based upon tradition and convention. The British Parliament could, to-morrow, alter the whole basis of its system of government by passing an act through both Houses. It could abolish the monarchy, or bring about almost any other revolutionary change. As one prominent constitutional authority is said to have declared, “ the only thing that the British Parliament cannot do in the exercise of its legislative authority is to change the sexes.” In other words the British Parliament is sovereign in every respect. Our Parliament, on the other hand, is hamstrung, hobbled and impeded by a Constitution which we have altogether outgrown. If the people of Australia were asked to grant this Parliament the power to amend the Constitution and make it a flexible document to suit the changing impulses of time and evolution I believe that they would do it. If such an alteration were made, this body would become a convention as well as a Parliament, and elections would be fought upon great issues of constitutional reform such as the abolition of the-States, the creation of new States, and the unifying of the functions of Government. Seeing that the State Parliaments have sovereign rights except to the extent that they have been limited by the Federal Constitution, I cannot see why the proposition that I have made’ should not be accepted by the Government. I hold that the people have refused to grant additional power to this Parliament in the past because they have felt that the changes that would be made in the Constitution would be irrevocable. We have had difficulty in trying to educate the people on constitution questions. There should be no limit to the power of this Parliament. If a particular government misused the power reposed in it, the people could turn it out of office. I trust that in the near future we shall be given an opportunity of considering the making of comprehensive alterations in the Constitution, and that a proposal will be made which will* render unnecessary in the future the adoption of the traditional methods of altering the Constitution.
.- One of the most important problems of government with which the people of Australia are faced relates to the preserving of industrial order. A comprehensive overhaul of the Commonwealth Constitution would involve many serious considerations. Any proposals for the amendment of the Constitution must awaken rivalries in the States, and between the various economic interests of the country as well as differences between people of varying political opinions.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said this afternoon that our immediate duty was to endeavour to get full power for this Commonwealth. He did not think that we need concern ourselves, at the moment, with the use to which such power might be put. Yet that is the main question which always exercises the minds of the people. The electors have hitherto voted in the negative on referendum proposals because they have been apprehensive of the use to which any additional power might be put; in other words, they distrust the Commonwealth Parliament. They have been unable to distinguish between the conferring of additional power and the exercising of it, or between the agency and the use to which it might be put. We would be wise to give close attention to this aspect of the subject, and do our best to combat any legitimate or illegitimate fears in this connexion.
The practical difficulty of persuading the Australian people that, for the purpose of achieving industrial order, it is necessary to equip this Parliament with additional powers is that this would be to the disadvantage of the States. But the present economic difficulty will remain insoluble unless we are granted additional power. I suggest, therefore, particularly to my friends on this side of the chamber, that we should seek, at this juncture, not an overhaul of the Constitution in its entirety but only additional power to deal with industrial relations. This would involve, not only a consideration of the attitude of employers to employees, but also of the attitude of the Commonwealth towards certain State instrumentalities.
There can be no doubt that the sovereign power of the States has been to some extent interfered with by the statutes passed by this Parliament. The States have not now complete authority over their own affairs, financial or otherwise. For example, an appropriation bill passed by this Parliament may have a serious effect upon a State, although the State is supposed to exercise sovereign rights over its citizens. The State Parliaments have quite definitely resented the manner in which this Parliament has invaded their authority. Theoretically, they have sovereign rights, but, practically, they have not. In these circumstances, it is of supreme importance that there should be a thorough investigation to discover the extent to which there is invasion by the Commonwealth and State Parliaments of the nominally sovereign rights of each other. An endeavour should be made to define, not perfectly but reasonably, the respective ambits of these conflicting governmental entities. In all the circumstances, I am of the opinion that any attempt on the part of this Parliament at this moment to obtain absolute political authority would fail. The people are not ready to crown with success any ambitious effort of a revolutionary character to make this Parliament in Canberra the sovereign and exclusive legislative machine for Australia. What we need at present is not a conference between employers and employees, but a conference between the States and the Commonwealth, who, at present, may be regarded as partners in the legislative control of Australia.
For Western Australia, for example, two authorities make the law, the Parliament of that State and the Parliament of the Commonwealth. In Tasmania and in New South Wales, a similar position exists. Both employers and employees are bound by what these governing agencies decree. I admit that there is a parallel in regard to taxation. I am convinced that any one attempt to solve all our constitutional difficulties must fail, because the people will view the exercise of power by this Parliament, in the light of what they believe to be its political effect.
– And its immediate effect.
– Yes. The estimate of that political effect will vary according to what party is in power. We cannot disregard the political consequences of constitutional change. It is true that, in respect of the proposals of 1926, I found myself out of harmony with representatives of my party, who, particularly in Victoria, and to a less extent in New South Wales, favoured the proposed amendments. I did not support them, for two reasons; first, because the proposed change would not have enlarged the sovereign powers of this Parliament, and would merely have conferred upon existing instrumentalities a sort of super authority to deal with the problem of industry; and, secondly, because it would have placed the exercise of this terrific power in the command of honorable members opposite, whose handling of the industrial problem generally had destroyed the true relations between employers and employees. The previous Government seemed to regard the employers as having a sort of proprietorial right over their workmen. One argument of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) did not appear, to me to be valid. He said that the coal problem in New South Wales could not be settled because of the limitation of the powers of this Parliament. If absolute legal power, irrespective of its uses, is the basis on which the coal problem can be solved, I submit that the New South Wales Parliament has sovereign power to settle the dispute. The industrial powers of the Parliament of New South Wales are unlimited, except in so far as they come into opposition to an award of the Commonwealth Court. In this instance, the Commonwealth has no power to make ar. award, because the dispute does not extend beyond the limits of one State. The mere legislative possession of industrial powers will not solve our problems. The willingness to use them, the view of the party that is predominant in the Parliament, are important considerations, whether in connexion with the coal problem, or any other. It is true that the limitations under which this Parliament suffers make it extremely difficult for us to assist very much in rectifying an industrial problem, but it is also true that. the evacuation by this Parliament of a field in which it already operates, would in no way improve the situation. Those who have special interests in industries, and legislative duties to perform, are gradually recognizing that Australia possesses a two-armed system of Government. It is no use saying that the right arm should be stronger than the left, or vice versa. “We have inherited this constitutional dilemma. I see failure for any attempt by one party in power in this Parliament, to take from the States without their agreement any of their industrial powers, because the rank and file of the party in opposition would support the States. That has happened in the past, and it is idle for us to deny it.
– It has happened both ways.
– Instead of calling a conference of employers and employees, instead of attempting to unite both political parties in this Parliament upon a common recommendation for constitutional change in respect of industry, it would be preferable for the States and the Commonwealth to confer together, with a view to grappling with this dilemma.
– The late Government tried that, with results disastrous to itself.
– That was the object of the Premier’s Conference, but the Premiers asked that the Commonwealth vacate the industrial field altogether.
– That conference was something quite different from what I am suggesting.
– I agree that there could be various forms of conferences; but an attempt was made along those lines.
– The former Prime Minister approached the States and said, “ “Will you give us everything ?” They said “No.” The States were not asked to confer so as to arrive at a common basis for improving the industrial position. ( There are certain things which the States believe that the Commonwealth could do better than themselves. Among them are the solving of a number of social problems. Unemployment insurance is one of these. It is unfair to ask any State to undertake unemployment insurance. I believe that, broadly speaking, the States would agree that the basic wage, from the stand-point of its commodity value - the standard of life - properly comes within the scope of federal power. Neither this Parliament, nor any court that it established, would get the States to agree that every little variation in conditions, such as camping allowance, dirt money and one hundred and one other things which come within the scope of industrial regulation, should be subject only to Commonwealth sovereignty. That would be wrong. The States will not hand over everything. Domestic servants, for instance, should not be the subject of Commonwealth law, because they are not engaged in any interstate industry. They do not compete one with the other.
– They are comparable with railway workers. ‘
– I look at the railways from another viewpoint. There is the problem of the capitalization of the railways and their economic future. One can see reasons for the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the State railways ; but not without their consent.
– The acquisition of the railways is very different from the fixing of the industrial conditions of railway workers.
– Yes; but, if the Commonwealth acquired the railways, its instrumentalities should regulate the wages and conditions of the railway workers. Our industrial difficulties will be greatly aggravated by delay, and I suggest that we shall surely delay the solution of this problem if we try to load it with the whole body of constitutional powers required by this Parliament. That might well stand over. The Constitution has recently been reviewed by the constitutional commission, and very many of the conclusions and recommendations of both the majority and minority on that commission will be most helpful in bringing about a solution of our industrial difficulties. There should be an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth as to their respective powers. I believe that the States at present would agree, without any enlargement of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, that at least the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should have the effect of a common rule. That, in itself, would assist considerably in solving the industrial problem.
– The States would not agree to that.
– I think that the States would agree to the Commonwealth Court having the right to make a common rule. I do not believe that employers or employees, or any State Government, would contend that an award in a particular industry should only be partially applicable to it. Employers should not be exposed to the temptation to employ nonunionists at lower than award rates. There should be no variation of the conditions of employment in various States in the same industries.
– But this variation has obtained for 25 years.
– That is all the more reason why we should deal with the problem now. I hope that we have profited by the failure that has attended previous efforts. The influences that have contributed to the defeat of the referendum proposals in the past are still operating, and we must try new methods to secure the necessary reform.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat is usually clear in his presentation of an argument, but I must confess that the speech that he has just concluded has left me bewildered. Either this Parliament should possess increased industrial powers, or it should not. I believe that it is entitled to them, and, until it has them, its functions cannot be properly discharged. It is the duty of the present Government, particularly with the majority it has behind it, and having regard to the issue upon which it was elected, to attempt at once to solve the constitutional difficulties in which this Parliament finds itself. I believe that we shall ultimately acquire the power we seek, and that that power can be secured without an infringement of the sovereign rights ofthe States.
I rise more particularly to refer to a matter of local importance. In the office of the Attorney-General at present, there is a case involving a dispute between the New South Wales and the Queensland milling authorities in connexion with the transportation of flour on the Queensland railways. A deputation of New South Wales flour-millers recently waited on the Attorney-General to present their side of the case, and I am bound to say that, from what I have been able to gather from their statements to the Minister, they have taken a one-sided stand. It was said by the deputation that an unconstitutional act had been’ committed, but I submit that nothing unconstitutional has been done. I think that inquiry will show that for many years several New South Wales industries have been acting contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, to the detriment of Queensland. The New South Walesmillers, in particular, have been about the biggest sinners in this respect. The f.o.b. price of flour ex Sydney for Queensland is now at least 10s. a ton less than that for the Sydney home trade, and for years it has been the practice of the New South Wales millers’ combine to dump flour and offals into Queensland. In addition, those millers enjoy a concession in railway freights on flour and offals sent over the New South Wales railways. No honorable member can dispute these facts. The effect of the concession, which is given by way of rebates, is that flour can be landed at Wallangarra from Sydney, a distance of 492 miles, at a cost of 5s. 6d. a ton, which is only the cost of taking flour from a Sydney mill to a Sydney bakehouse. The cost of railing Queensland flour and offals or Queensland maize from Wallangarra to Sydney, however, is 19s.11d. a ton. Thus there is a discrimination in the railway freights on those particular commodities as between Queensland and New South Wales. In consequence of the treatment to which Queensland has been subjected, the market for Queensland wheat has been imperilled, and particularly for wheat grown on the Darling Downs, which is, after all, the principal, if not the only wheat-growing area in that State, apart from the Maranoa district. A market can be found for this wheat only as flour and offals, and the competition of the New South Wales millers has been one of the facts to which we have had to address ourselves. This destructive competition has greatly prejudiced the interests of both primary and secondary industries in Queensland for many years; but it has been possible for the Queensland Government to bring about an understanding between the wheat board and the millers, which is now operating very satisfactorily. The agreement is now operating for the first time, though not without considerable opposition from certain quarters, and I regret to say from certain interests of growers. But I think that the arrangement is proving satisfactory, and, that when this season’s operations are closed, even its opponents will have to admit that something very useful has been done for the wheat producers of Queensland. The success of the agreement was threatened by the railway rates quoted in New South Wales. In the understanding between the Wheat Board and the millers in Queensland, the immediate objective is to produce on the Darling Downs sufficient wheat for Queensland’s needs, with a later objective of providing a surplus for export; but if discriminatory rates are to prevail as between one State and another, an act of injustice will be perpetrated. It was with the idea of rectifying that injustice that the Queensland railway authorities advised an adjustment of the rates hitherto prevailing, and the New South Wales millers complained to the Attorney-General that this would be an infringement of the law relating to interstate trade. I may say on that point that, in framing the freight rates on the Queensland railways, the authorities in that State did no more than copy, word for word, and letter for letter, the regulations governing those matters that obtain in New South Wales. I have before me a copy of the schedule of the rates operating on the Queensland railways, as well as a copy of those imposed by the New South Wales railways authorities. I am moved to speak on this matter, particularly, by reason of the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), in the course of a recent debate, when he taunted Queensland with doing something that was unfair, and was resented by New South Wales. I submit that nothing unfair has been done by Queensland, and that, in all the circumstances, the Attorney-General, when he considers the matter, will find that what I have said is correct. He will see that what has been done has been of distinct benefit to the great wheat-producing interests of Queensland.
.- I have been tempted to rise because of the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan), and also because I desire to stress the need for further industrial powers for this Parliament. Both wheat and wool-growers are penalized by the differential railway freights, and by the operations of the brokers. Some time ago, a party of graziers in the north-west of New South Wales formed a company, by which they thought that they would be able to ship wool and wheat at the port of Newcastle. Two sales have been held with the approval of the Wool Council, and they have proved most successful. Although they have that approval, although sales have been held for two years, although the railways of New South Wales are losing £60,000 a year because of this arrangement, and although the wool producers themselves are losing a further £60,000 in extra freight, the brokers are fighting to prevent the sales being held in Newcastle. The Federal Government has no power to interfere in this matter. In Sydney the railways will carry wool from the warehouse to the wharf free of charge; but in Newcastle, if such carriage is necessary, it has to be paid for. These things are to the detrment of the primary producers of Australia, and the sooner the Government seeks from the people, by way of referendum, increased power to control this and other similar matters, the better it will be for Australia. It is scandalous to think that a group of brokers can set themselves up in defiance of those who grow the wool; that such a group can insist upon the wool-growers sending their wool 100 miles further to be marketed in Sydney. These agents ought to be cleared out of the way, so that trade may follow its natural bent.
.- I have no desire to prolong this discussion, but I feel that I must reply to a statement of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin). He made the astonishing suggestion that, instead of the Commonwealth Government seeking enlarged constitutional powers, it should call a conference of representatives of the State Governments, and through them obtain permission from the various States to exercise a wider control over industrial matters. 1 was surprised to hear this proposal from the honorable member for Fremantle, because, to my mind, it is so utterly impracticable. In the first place it would, I think, be utterly impossible to secure agreement among the representative’s of six State governments of various shades of political colour. There is some point in the honorable member’s statement that the State representatives were not asked to consider this particular aspect of the matter when they previously refused to concede increased industrial powers to the Commonwealth. The difficulty, as I see it, is that the proposal of the honorable member for Fremantle would involve the passage of uniform State legislation, because obviously it would be impossible for the Commonwealth Government to exercise certain powers in one State which it could not exercise in another. The proposal would involve an agreement to put through both Houses of all the State Parliaments legislation which, to the dot of an “ i “ and the cross of a “ t “, must be identical. The question then arises as to how long such an agreement is to last. The proposal is, if I may say so, so absurd that I am surprised that the honorable member should have sponsored it.
– Once the powers are surrendered through uniform legislation by the’ States they cannot be taken back.
– That is a point to be considered, and it must also be considered whether it would be possible to embody permanently in legislation an arrangement which would be constitutionally unchallengable.
– It is provided in the Constitution that the States may delegate powers to the Commonwealth.
– There is considerable difference of opinion as to the meaning of that section.
– The doubt on that point appears to be so great as to render the honorable member’s proposal impracticable. The honorable member for Fremantle opposed the suggestion made by myself and others that the Government should, at an early date, draft proposals for submission by referendum to the people for granting this Parliament enlarged powers, on the grounds that no such referendum would be carried. I believe that such a proposal could be carried in the . present temper of the people. Previously, the people were not educated to the extent to which industrial unrest and uncertainty has been fostered by the limited powers enjoyed by the Federal Parliament under the Constitution. As a result of the last election campaign, they are now much better informed. Public opinion has been crystallized. On the subject of wider federal powers for the control of marketing arrangements, I think I can speak for the rural areas which I represent, and for Victoria generally, when I say that, among the wheat-growers, dairymen, and wool-growers, there is a strong feeling in favour of the passage of legislation of a federal character. I believe that if the Federal Government had the same power to control marketing arrangements within Australia that the State Parliament has in Queensland, it would meet the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the primary producers. I suggest that the Government should ask for increased powers only in respect of industrial control and marketing arrangements. There are other questions, I know, such as the creation of new States, but it would not be wise to place too many issues before the people. It is of vital importance, however, that the Federal Government should be endowed with powers to combat the prevailing industrial unrest, and to control marketing, particularly in regard to our export industries, so that we may compete successfully in the markets of the world. Any attempt to put the proposal of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) into effect would merely cause unnecessary delay.
– I do not think that this is the occasion for a full-dress debate on the subject of constitutional reform. The discussion which has taken place was provoked by certain remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes).
It has been freely stated that the Commonwealth should have increased industrial powers. Since I have become a member of this Parliament, I have heard frequent statements regarding the limited authority of the Commonwealth, statements almost amounting to complaints. It is interesting to hear these statements because, when I was a member of a State legislature, and also of a State Government, I frequently heard complaints as to the limited powers of State Parliaments, and State Governments. The position seems to be that members of this legislature feel that the powers of the Commonwealth are limited, because of the large residue of power which remains in the States, and that this Parliament is, on that account, incapable of doing the things which it would wish to do. On the other band, the members of State Parliaments feel that their powers are very much limited, because of the vast powers residing in this Parliament. It appears to be agreed that the present Commonwealth Constitution is crippling not only the usefulness of the Commonwealth Parliament, but that of the State Parliaments also. Both the Commonwealth and the States have limited powers. There is a twilight zone about the line where State powers end and Commonwealth powers begin, a zone which, apparently, constitutional experts have not been able to explore. This uncertainty should be removed at the earliest possible opportunity. But when honorable members speak of the need for increasing the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, they should remember that it is important to come to grips with the subject and not content themselves with vague generalities. Do honorable members mean that the industrial powers of the Commonwealth Parliament should be increased, or that the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be increased ?
– There is a difference.
– As the honorable member says, there is a big difference. The proposals submitted in the referendum of 1926 were for the purpose of vesting a wider jurisdiction in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– It was more farreaching than that.
– It was, but the main objection in the constituencies to those proposals was that if adopted they would have conferred an increased jurisdiction upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and did not propose to confer upon the Federal Parliament power to lay down the principles and standards upon which the Federal Arbitration Court should proceed. The High Court has recently shown a disposition to give decisions which enlarge the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In the earlier years of federation its interpretations were very greatly in favour of the States, and considerably restricted the powers that were thought to be exercisable by the Commonwealth court. In the engineers’ case it held that the Commonwealth Constitution had to be construed just as any statute is, that the powers conferred are those contained in the document, and that, therefore, the doctrine of the immunity of State instrumentalities did riot apply. Consequently, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration now has jurisdiction in an industrial dispute to prescribe conditions of employment in State enterprises such as railways and tramways. Again, in the “ 44-hour “ case,” known as “ Cowburn’s case,” which was decided recently, it was held that an award of the Federal Arbitration Court overrides even a State statute inconsistent with it. The New South Wales Parliament had passed legislation designed to pre- scribe a 44-hour standard in the regulation of hours in that State. In Cowburn’s case the High Court held that, since the statute was in conflict with the provisions of federal awards that applied to employees affected by that legislation, to the extent of that conflict the State legislation had no effect. In the Burwood Cinema case, the High Court gave a decision which, to some extent, modified the application of the common rule doctrine.
– That also has been affected by the decision in the gas case.
– That is so. In its recent interpretations of the Commonwealth Constitution, the tendency of the
High Court has been, as I have said, to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. But it has not universally followed its prior decisions, and the result has been to intensify the inconvenience and uncertainty to which previous speakers have referred. I should like to know whether those honorable members who suggest that the Commonwealth should be given increased industrial powers mean that the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be enlarged, or that this Parliament should have wider power in regard to legislation on industrial matters.
– Does not one follow on the other?
– No; that is where a misconception has arisen. The vesting of increased jurisdiction in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration would not necessarily give to this Parliament greater power to legislate with respect to industrial matters. But, if the Constitution were amended in such a w.ay as to vest in this Parliament the power to legislate with respect to industrial matters, no doubt one way in which that power would be exercized would be to reconstitute the federal court and lay down the standards and principles which it had to observe when making its awards. If that were done, we should have in force in the federal sphere a system similar to that which is in force in the States at the present time. “When honorable members talk of enlarging the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, do they mean that the Constitution, should be amended so as to vest in this legislature the power to prescribe standard hours of employment throughout Australia; in other words, do they mean that this Parliament should have vested in it the power to pass legislation prescribing, say, a 44-hour week for the Commonwealth? It is desirable that we should have a definite statement from those honorable members.
– What is the honorable member’s view?
– The policy of the Government with regard to this matter doubtless will be announced very soon. This is neither the time nor the place to make a statement of that policy. The impression I am trying to convey is that there is a delightful vagueness, ambiguity, and obscurity in the statements of honorable members opposite regarding the necessity for increasing the industrial powers of the Commonwealth. If the Government should come down with a proposal to vest in the Federal Parliament the power to prescribe standard hours and thus regulate the conditions upon which the Federal Arbitration Court shall proceed in the declaration, for example, of a living wage, it will be interesting to hear what honorable members have to say regarding the advisableness of increasing the industrial powers of the Commonwealth. As a member of a State Government one always felt that the Commonwealth had too much power, because it prevented the State from doing what it considered was necessary. But when one comes into this legislature one hears the complaint that the Commonwealth has too little power. The State Parliament of New South Wales some time ago passed the 44-hour week act. When that legislation was being prepared the position occupied by the Commonwealth had to be taken into consideration. One found that the power of the Commonwealth was so great that it prevented the State Parliament from passing a, 44-hour week act that would be universal in its application. Then when the question of child endowment was being considered by the Parliament of New South Wales the most intricate and complex constitutional questions arose, as to whether the State legislature could tax the wage-shee4 of employers in respect of employees who were working under federal awards. I believe that the powers of the Commonwealth are too limited, and that the Constitution requires very drastic alteration. Any referendum proposed should have for its object the granting of legislative power to the Commonwealth Parliament in respect of certain industrial matters, not merely the vesting of jurisdiction in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The chief obstacle to the efficient working of that court is its inability to make a common rule. Its awards now apply only to the parties to the dispute upon which it is adjudicating, and persons connected with them in a limited way. The Commonwealth has a definite and limited charter. The legislation passed by this Parliament under that charter must be referable to conciliation and arbitration, and to an industrial dispute; and that dispute must extend beyond the limits of any one State. All of those elements must be considered as a composite quantity creating the industrial power of the Commonwealth.
I have endeavoured to draw from some honorable members opposite a definite and clear statement as to what they mean when they declare that the Commonwealth requires increased industrial power; whether they mean that the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be enlarged, or thai power should be given to this Parliament to legislate in respect of industrial matters. I shall be pleased if they will make their position clear.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Department of Home Affairs.
Proposed vote- £260,649.
.- I call attention to the methods of propaganda adopted by the Minister for Home Affairs in relation to the work of his department. One would think that he was the only Minister who had advised Australian girls against accepting theatrical employment in the Orient. An astonishing announcement appeared in the press, which suggested that in the past no precautions of this characterhad been taken. Then, a few days ago the press stated that the present Minister had appointed Dr. Woolnough as Commonwealth oil expert to report on oil prospecting, and Mr. Chapman as paleontologist. The truth is that these appointments were made a couple of years ago. In yesterday’s newspapers appeared an announcement of the Government’s approval of an ordinance to establish a university college in Canberra. When the facts are examined it appears that that statement no more than represents the position as it was when the last Government left office, and that the present Minister has done nothing further.
– Yes; the Government has adopted the scheme.
– The system of bursaries was adopted by the last Government, and the necessary provision was made in the estimates of the Federal Capital Commission.
– Which were not adopted by the last Government.
– Provision was made by the last Minister for Home Affairs. The success of any scheme of university education at the present stage of Canberra’s development must depend upon arrangements being made with either Melbourne University or Sydney University, or, preferably, with both, for their recognition of the teaching work done at Canberra. It will be impossible for some time for students to take a full degree course here. They can be given tuition in some subjects of a degree course, and arrangements must be made with the nearer universities, not to the exclusion of others, for the recognition of such work. I am familiar with the subject, not only as a Minister in the last Government, but also as a member of the Council of the Melbourne University. For some time negotiations on this matter have been proceeding between the universities, the University Association in Canberra, and a committee appointed by the last Government. The Minister’s statement to the press indicated that a scheme had been completed; but when I asked him this morning whether arrangements have been made with any university, he replied that the matter is receiving consideration.
– I stated that negotiations are proceeding.
– Negotiations have been proceeding for months past. I know of my own experience the difficulty of moving the governing bodies of universities; but I protest against the Minister making statements which suggest that he has started some new policy which reflects his initiative and energy, when, in truth, he is merely continuing schemes that were initiated by his predecessor. I mentioned this morning his statement that great economies are being effected in the salaries of members of the Federal Capital Commission - that Mr. Christie has been appointed Chief Commissioner at a salary of £1,600, as compared with the £3,000 paid to his predecessor, Sir John Butters. The appointment of Mr. Christie at the reduced salary was definitely arranged by the last Government. I warn the Minister that these methods of propaganda will defeat their own ends.
.- The proposed vote of £8,412 for the Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo includes the provision of £1,362 for the salary of a director. The former director, Dr. Duffield, died some time ago, and apparently no successor has been appointed. The observatory is carrying out a very important scientific work as part of a world-wide scheme of research, but unfortunately very little is known of it. I ask the Minister to give the committee some particulars regarding the manner in which the £8,412 will be expended, the return that Australia may expect to receive from it, the progress that is being made in research work, and the intentions of the Government regarding the appointment of a director.
For the Forestry Branch, £8,577 is provided, and the latest available report of its activities is one furnished to the House in 1927. An examination of it discloses a series of complaints - the year’s work had been carried out under difficulties, the staff was insufficient, the students were not properly housed and had to be boarded out under unsatisfactory conditions in the Printers’ Quarters, the equipment of the school was incomplete,and a suitable man had not been found for the position of lecturer on Botany. Doubtless some progress has been made since that report was presented, but the committee is entitled to know why no later report is available, and whether the matters complained of have been rectified.
.- This morning I asked a question of the Treasurer regarding an application by the Inigo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust, of Brisbane, for financial assistance. The Treasurer stated that the application had been referred to the Commonwealth Meteorological branch. This matter has been before the department for many years. About four years ago
I asked several questions in the House and had a lot of correspondence with the Meteorological branch, the officers of which appeared to be opposed to Mr. Inigo Jones in every way. The trust is financed entirely by the voluntary contributions of Queensland, citizens and newspapers, and the organizer, in a letter to me, dated 4th December, said -
The economical value to Australia of correct long-range weather forecasts would be of incalculable value, and would also be the greatest factor in bringing about financial stability and general prosperity. Groat strides have been made in recent years in determining the lines on which such research work should bo carried on, and Mr. Inigo Jones feels assured that inside three years correct long-range forecasts can be made giving definite areas which will be affected by drought, the period of duration of such drought, as well as giving the definite areas which will benefit by good rainfalls.
For many years Mr. Inigo Jones has been issuing these forecasts with surprising success, but for some unexplained reason the department has refused to give him any assistance. For a time he was refused access to the records in the Brisbane Meteorological Office, but that has since been conceded. Apparently the officers of the branch do not understand the value of long-range forecasts or are personally opposed to Mr. Inigo Jones. I ask the Minister to examine closely the whole of the facts. Our pastoralists and others would find this long-range forecasting most useful if it could be shown that it is reliable. Mr. Inigo Jones has had experience in the department, and has been a life-long observer of weather conditions. In the circumstances, I trust that the Minister will give this matter his personal consideration, and see that Mr. Jones gets fair play.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) seems to be unhappy in his new environment. He thinks it incumbent upon him, apparently, to offer some carping and querulous criticism of everything that the Government proposes to do. Possibly after he has been in his present position for some time - say ten or fifteen years - his outlook may become less pessimistic. One can well understand that his state of mind may have been caused by the result of the recent election.
The honorable gentleman seemed to think it impudent of me to make certain statements to the press with the object of protecting the interests of Australian artists who may contemplate travelling in the East. I cannot understand why he should object to my warning girls who propose to enter into engagements to travel for theatrical and show purposes in China, India, and the islands of the Pacific.
– I did not object to that.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition object to the last statement I made in this connexion with regard to a troupe of girls who proposed to go from Australia to Manila to become poppy-shows for the natives there?
– I made no objection of that description, and, in any case, my remarks were not made in a querulous spirit.
– There appeared tome to be every reason why I should warn the parents of these girls of the conditions that they were likely to encounter. I feel sure that upon reflection the Leader of the Opposition will realize that there was very little substance in the objections that he made in this connexion. Apparently, the honorable gentleman is under the impression that I have said that I appointed Dr. Woolnough and Professor Chapman to certain positions. I do notknow whether some one has told him this or whether he has read a report which he has interpreted in that way ; but, however he came by the idea it is not correct.
Something has been said about the Federal Capital Commission. I do not intend at this stage to enter upon a discussion of the Government’s intentions in that connexion, but I assert without any hesitation that already we have been able to effect economies which would not have been effected had the previous Government remained in office. These economies will reduce the expenditure by £10,000 or £20,000, and at the same time ensure more efficient management of the Federal Capital Territory.
– From what the Minister has said I should have thought that the economies would have gone into six figures fit least
– May I remind the the Leader of the Opposition that the more we save the greater will be the reflection upon the Government of which he was a member. From an examination of the departmental flies, it appears that the previous Government intended to retain the services of Sir John Butters as a consulting engineer in an advisory capacity, at a cost of £1,600 per annum.
– I know nothing about that. The proposal did not come before the Cabinet.
– Certain inquiries have been made in regard to the Observatory. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), so far as I can discover, had no interest in the Observatory during the years the previous Government was in office, but he has suddenly developed an unquenchable thirst for information.
– I obtained certain information direct from the previous Minister, but I want it supplemented.
– The main purpose of the Observatory is to co-ordinate the observations made throughout the world in connexion with climatic conditions, with the object of forecasting the nature of the seasons.
The students at the Australian School of Forestry are recruited from the various States. They are trained in the science of forestry, and are required to pass examinations to qualify for the diploma of forestry. I understand that a report of the work of the school was presented in 1927, but there is no statutory obligation upon the principal to submit regular reports.
– What about the appointment of a successor to Dr. Duffield?
– That matter will be considered next year.
I have received certain letters in connexion with the work of Mr. Inigo Jones, which I have referred to the Meteorological branch for a report.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from 4th December(vide page 696), on motion by Mr. Theodore -
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia, at the following rates (vide page 683). upon which Mr. Bernard Corser had moved by way of amendment -
That the following proviso be added to subdivisiong: - “Provided that the super tax hereby proposed to be imposed shall not be payable by any resident of Australia who was on active service outside Australia with the Naval or Military Forces of any of the Allied Powers in connexion with the war between His Majesty the King and his Allies and the Emperor of Germany and his Allies, which took place in the years 1914 and 1918, and whose military or naval duties required him to be in any part of the field of operations in connexion with the war.”
.- I urge the Government to reconsider its decision to impose this additional taxation. Since the motion was introduced, an additional tariff schedule, covering about 100 items, has been tabled in this chamber. The additional income which the Government will receive through the customs, following upon the introduction of this and other new tariff schedules, should render this direct taxation entirely unnecessary. But, even if this were not so, I should urge the Government to impose a tax on amusements and luxuries, instead of this tax on companies and individuals who are producing the wealth of this country. During recent years, the Commonwealth Government has been steadily evacuating the field of direct taxation; but the State Governments have been steadily entering it. The result is that to-day the total amount of direct taxation imposed by the Commonwealth and the States is almost as great as the amount imposed during the peak period of seven or eight years ago. ‘In 1921-22, the direct taxation imposed by the Commonwealth amounted to about £4 per head, but in 1928-29 it had been reduced to about £2 8s. per head, a diminution, in round figures, of about £1 12s. The direct taxation imposed by the New South Wales Government in 1922-23 was £311s. 9d. per head, but in 1927-28 it was £51s. 8d., an increase of £1 9s.11d. That practically absorbs the whole of the decrease in the federal rate. In Victoria the direct taxation during that period increased from £211s. 3d. to £4 2s. 5d. ; in Queensland from £4 4s. 6d. to £5 19s. 6d; in South Australia from £3 10s.10d. to £6 10s. 2d.; in Western Australia from £2 17s. 6d. to £3 17s.1d. ; and in Tasmania from £3 6s. 6d. to £5 5s. 1d. In practically every instance the States have more than occupied the field of direct taxation vacated by the Commonwealth. Under those circumstances, and considering the fact that the heavy duties that are being imposed cannot, during the remainder of this year, have much protective incidence, I urge the Government to reconsider its decision to increase direct taxation. If it fears that the revenue to be obtained indirectly will be insufficient, I ask it to consider the advisability of imposing direct taxation on amusements. There is really no necessity to impose the lowest grade of taxation under this bill. It is proposed to levy a 10 per cent. super tax on taxable incomes from £201 to £1,500. That tax would bring in between £300,000 and £400,000, practically the sum that would be obtained by a tax on amusements. Those taxpayers who come within the lowest grade of direct taxation will feel acutely indeed the . increase in indirect taxation which has been imposed under the two tariff schedules introduced during the last few weeks. I urge the Government to exempt those taxpayers from the operation of this bill, particularly in view of the fact that during the last few months the revenue from customs and excise has actually been £1,597,000 above the estimated average which the Treasurer himself anticipates. The incidental circumstances operating during the last three or four months may have increased the customs revenue, but there is certain to be a much bigger return from the customs revenue this year before the effect of the increased tariff will be felt. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has moved an amendment to the effect that there should be some exemption from the super tax of those men who served overseas. It has frequently been stated by the Labour leaders that there can be no reduction of direct taxation so long as we are faced with heavy war burdens. It seems to me that the men who served overseas should be exempt from this super tax. I understand that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has had a request from the South African soldiers that they should also be included under the amendment, hut they, of course, do not come within the category of those who fought at the great war. This extra taxation is being imposed largely to enable us to meet our war debt.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scull in do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr, Theodore and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 2 -
After section 7a of the principal act, the following sections are inserted: -
Senate’s amendment. -
After sub-section (4.) of proposed section 7b insert the following new sub-section : - “ (5.) The provisions of sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of this section shall not apply in respect of gold held by any State saving bank.”
.- I move-
That the amendment be disagreed to.
This amendment proposed by the Senate makes provision that proposed new sub-sections 1 and 2 under this clause shall not apply in respect of gold held by any State savings bank. There seems to be on the part of the South Australia Savings Bank, and of most honorable senators, a somewhat unreasonable fear regarding what may happen to the gold possessed by that bank. I understand that it has a small gold reserve of about £240,000 which it desires to retain. The manager of the South Australian Savings Bank saw me in Canberra a few days ago, and I told him that the Government had no desire to appropriate the gold of that bank; that the question of its requisitioning would be decided by the Common wealth Bank; that that bank would not arbitrarily decide to requisition gold before consulting the convenience and requirements of the State institutions; and that the State bank of South Australia would have no greater claim for special consideration than other similar institutions. I understand that the manager of that bank saw the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, who informed him that there was no intention at present to requisition the gold of the State bank, and that, if the trustees of that bank thought it necessary to retain that reserve as a basis for credit, no doubt their wishes would be acceded to. The Senate has insisted upon inserting this amendment in the bill. I do not recommend that the committee should accept it, because, if inserted, it could be utilized to defeat the primary object of this measure. I do not say that the savings bank would lend itself to receiving the gold of other institutions thus assisting the evasion of a requisition in time of necessity by the Commonwealth Bank, but it would be possible for that to happen.
– Under the bill has the Commonwealth Bank power to discriminate in regard to requisitions?
– The Commonwealth Bank will have power to discriminate in its requisitions for gold. When the bill was under discussion on the second reading, I said that it would be reasonable to assume that the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank would consult other banks when requisitions were necessary. There is no antagonism between the Commonwealth Bank and the other banks. The private trading banks will, I think, readily co-operate with the Commonwealth Bank, because this is a matter of mutual concern. There is a disposition to view the possibilities of this legislation with alarm. I deprecate that. The bill has been brought down on the strong recommendation of the Commonwealth Bank. Although there has been criticism of the bill from some quarters, the banks as a whole have not developed any hostility or antagonism to it. They realize the necessity of mobilizing the gold reserves and of concentrating gold in the Commonwealth Bank, to enable it to provide facilities for exchange transactions. The private trading banks will benefit as much as the Commonwealth Bank from the administration of this measure. In these circumstances, we ought not to accept the amendment. Honorable members in another place are apparently not prepared to trust the Commonwealth Bank Board to administer the measure in a reasonable and rational manner. Their fear is groundless, and I consider that their stand on the matter is unreasonable.
.- There is only one point to which I think that the committee’s attention should be directed, and it is that the power of the Commonwealth to legislate with respect to banking is conferred by paragraph xiii, of section 51 of the Constitution. The power is a power to legislate with respect to banking other than State banking. This Parliament has no power to control banking, so far as it is carried on by a State. There is, however, power to legislate with respect to currency, coinage, and legal tender. The proposed new section, upon which this amendment has been made provides that where the Treasurer is satisfied that it is expedient for the protection of the currency, or the public credit of the Commonwealth, to obtain particulars of gold coin or bullion held by any person, the machinery of the measure may be used for the purpose of enabling the Commonwealth Bank to purchase that gold. It appears to me that it is most unlikely that any circumstances would arise in which it would be necessary in the judgment of anybody, whether the Treasurer or the directors of the bank, to requisition gold held by a State savings bank for the purpose of either manufacturing sovereigns or protecting the note issue. I can see that both of those objects could fall, under the heading of currency. The Treasurer assures us that it is most unlikely that action will be taken to requisition the gold holdings of a State savings bank. As the Treasurer himself does not control the gold of the Commonwealth Bank, and as the Coinage Act of 1909, provides that the coinage shall be in the control of the Treasurer, and not the bank, it is difficult to see how the requisitioning of gold by the bank’ from a State savings bank could bona fide be for the protection of the currency. I am suggesting that a difficulty might arise in the application of this measure, if the gold of a State savings bank were requisitioned, and if that bank raised the point that this legislation could not be supported’ by virtue of the banking power, because there is no power to legislate with respect to State banking. Having regard to the fact that the coining of money is controlled by the Treasurer, and not by the Commonwealth Bank, it is at least arguable that the proposed new section could not be supported as legislation under the currency power. I have no desire to see this bill, when it becomes an act, made the subject matter of litigation between a State savings bank and the Commonwealth or the Commonwealth Bank. Unless there is some imperative necessity to make the measure apply to State savings banks, I suggest that the Government might give favorable consideration to the adoption of the amendment. In saying this, I am not pressing the amendment, particularly; I am merely pointing out that there is a possibility of trouble, which could be avoided by further action if it were found that circumstances made it necessary to deal with the gold holdings of a State bank, or if it were found that the exclusion of such holdings from the scope of the measure was working towards the defeat of its general intention.
– But the honorable member can see the danger that might come from acceptance of the amendment.
– I agree that there is a certain risk, and I am not raising this point in a contentious spirit. The question is whether it is worth while running any risk at all. The High Court sometimes holds that an invalid provision in an act is inseverable from the rest of the act, so there is some risk in rejecting the amendment. It might be safer to accept it-
.- The Leader of the Opposition has stressed the constitutional aspect. I shall not argue that beyond saying that I cannot see how there can be any suggestion of this measure being invalid, even if it could be challenged on the power to take the gold of a State Savings
Bank. There is no special reference to State savings banks in the bill, but it is proposed, under the amendment specifically to exclude them. It is admitted that the amendment could defeat the whole purpose of the bill, and no reasonable argument has been advanced why it should be accepted. The Treasurer spoke for the Government, and said that the Government had no desire to appropriate the gold of State savings banks. The matter would be decided by the Commonwealth Bank. I confess I do not know why they have gold. I do not know why they require gold reserves.
– Will that gold be taken from them?
– I do not know that it will; but the power to requisition it provides a safeguard. I do not suggest that the State savings banks, as they are controlled to-day, would take the gold from other banks, but that course would be open to them, if the amendment were accepted. If there is anything in the constitutional point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, it would be wise to reject the amendment. As the bill has been drafted, there can be no challenge from the constitutional point of view until the measure is put into operation against the State savings banks, and this action may not be taken. There is no proposal to put it into operation with respect to the £200,000 in gold that is held by the State Savings Bank in South Australia. Strange to say, that is the only State from which a word of protest has come. I am informed that, in another place, a telegram was quoted by an honorable senator, purporting to be a copy of a message sent to me by Sir Robert Gibson, chairman of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank, in, which he indicated that he was not prepared to support or oppose this amendment. No such telegram was sent to me.
– I do not think that it purports to have been sent to the Prime Minister.
– I have a copy of a telegram sent to the Premier of South Australia, and probably that is the message that was quoted; but I understood that it was said to have been sent by
Sir Robert Gibson to me as Prime Minister. I have made inquiries in my department, and I have no record of the receipt of such a telegram. The other telegram to which I have referred was from Sir Wallace Bruce, who said that he had interviewed Sir Robert Gibson, who had expressed the personal view that the directors of the Commonwealth Bank would not recommend acceptance of the amendment to exempt the gold reserves held by State savings banks from the operation of the measure, but inclined to the view that the directors would neither oppose nor support such an amendment. That was as much as to say that they did not wish to enter into the discussion in this Parliament, and they were not prepared to recommend the adoption of such an amendment. If honorable members will again look up the quotation made by the Treasurer, in his secondreading speech on the bill, from a letter sent to him by the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank - a similar letter was sent to me as Prime Minister - it will be seen that the directors take a very serious view of the position. They opened the negotiations with the Government. We did not seek their advice on this matter; they proffered it. They drew attention to the power given to the Bank of England to call up gold. The bank that is responsible for the issue of notes must take the responsibility of safeguarding the gold reserves. The board of directors recommended this measure in the strongest terms that could be employed, and, on their recommendation, the Government has acted. We take the responsibility for the bill, giving the Parliament and the people the assurance that the powers conferred by the measure will be used with the advice and cooperation of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank, and will not be employed against any State savings hank or private bank unless the necessity arises. The Government will take the responsibility of protecting the gold reserves of this country from any possibility of their serious depletion. It is our duty to maintain the gold reserves behind the note issue. We cannot accept the amendment.
.- I do not advance the constitutional objection, but speak upon a practical aspect that has been brought under my notice. It is most important to maintain faith in this country in the stability of all the savings banks, -which are the repositories of the savings of the poorer classes of the people. The gold that is at present lying in the vaults of the South Australian State Savings Bank was specially placed there in 1907, when there was a serious disturbance in the United States of America. Ever since that time a line has appeared in the balance-sheets of that bank, stating that it held £200,000 in gold. Many of the depositors have been accustomed to seeing this statement every year, but when the next balance-sheet is published the item may have vanished. Only a couple of days ago I received a letter from an old constituent of mine in Coffs Harbour, asking me whether I thought there was any danger to his savings because of the Commonwealth Government’s proposal to concentrate all the gold in the Commonwealth Bank. I pointed out that his savings would be absolutely safe, but the fact that the letter was written indicates the atmosphere of uneasiness which has already been created. I ask the Government to accept this amendment. It can do no harm, especially if a safeguarding provision is inserted to the effect that gold reserves in State savings banks must be at no time greater than that held on the 30th June last. If it is true, as the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have said, that there is no need to assume control of the gold held by the savings banks, there can, in my opinion, be no objection to this amendment. If this exception is not granted a good deal of antagonism will be aroused in the States, and, at the same time, a certain amount of doubt will be caused as to the constitutionality of the measure. In my opinion, we should meet the hank on this matter. That cannot do any harm, and it may do some good.
.- I am surprised at the attitude taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on this matter. Their reasons for insisting on the amendment seem very trivial unless there is behind the proposal some purpose other than that disclosed. It has been suggested that some sentimental value attaches to the £200,000 in gold hold by the bank. I never heard before that there was much sentiment about gold, which is generally regarded purely as an instrument of profit. Are we to assume that the trading banks have the idea that if this exception is made in favour of the savings banks, they will be able to defeat the purposes of the bill by depositing their gold in the savings banks?
– This amendment has been inserted at the direct request of the savings bank. It has nothing whatever to do with the trading banks, and the safeguard I have suggested would prevent the trading banks from availing themselves of it.
– The position appears to be somewhat vague. Under one section of the Constitution the Commonwealth has no power to deal with State savings banks; but, on the other hand, it has been granted full power in regard to currency. Just what is the position of the State savings banks? If they are legally compellable to meet all demands in gold they could not stand a ten minutes rush. The Victorian State Savings Bank always holds as little gold as possible, because gold hoarding does not pay. It must pay 4 per cent, on every pound ot gold it holds. Its practice is to put the gold into the trading banks, and hold as little till money as it can. The depositors get receipts for their money, and the savings bank has the right by a series of deposits in the trading banks maturing monthly to draw on the trading banks up to the extent of £200,000 monthly to meet claims should they be made. In the meantime the gold is earning 2 per cent. The gold reserve may be regarded as a form of till money for the savings bank, but it is on deposit, and is earning interest. I am surprised that this amendment should receive the support of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). Either they consider themselves bound to support it because their friends in the Senate are responsible for its introduction, or because they think that there is behind the amendment a movement on the part of the trading banks to use the savings banks for the purpose of destroying the effectiveness of this measure.
.- I dissent from the view that there is any ulterior motive behind the request that the State savings banks should be exempt from the provisions of this bill. The gold reserve is held by the Savings Bank of South Australia because its directors believe that to be in the best interests of the community. There was a run on the savings bank in 1914, and it was due to the fact that the bank was able to pay out in gold that the temporary panic was so quickly allayed.
– Notes would have been just as good.
– In times of uncertainty the possession of gold gives a feeling of security which the possession of notes is not able to convey. Besides, a person who has withdrawn his money feels much more anxiety about keeping gold in his house than he would about keeping notes. It is not true that this gold reserve represents so much idle money which the savings bank would otherwise be able to let out as interest. The Savings Bank of South Australia pays its depositors a higher rate of interest than does any other savings bank in Australia. The extra security afforded by the possession of this gold reserve is one of the factors which enables it to do so. It pays 4¾ per cent, on deposits up to £500, and 4£ per cent, on deposits from £500 to £1,000. The Commonwealth Savings Bank, which accepts larger deposits, pays 4 per cent, up to £1,000, and 3 per cent, on deposits between £1,000 and £1,300. The South Australian Bank accepts deposits without limit from friendly societies, and pays the higher rate of interest on the whole of them. In addition its funds are available on good security, at a very reasonable rate of interest, for the promotion of legitimate enterprises. Out of a total of £23,500,000 available for investment it has £6,549,340 invested in 9,572 mortgages. This indicates that the possession of a gold reserve is not an excessively conservative precaution. It has a definite value, and has contributed to the conspicuous efficiency of the bank. This efficiency is measured by the rate at which it can lend money, and the rate of interest it can pay its depositors. Judged by those standards it gives better service to the public than does the Commonwealth Savings Bank. It is not in the same position as a private bank. It is dealing with a very large number of persons who have had little experience of currency conditions. The customers of most of the private banks know that legal tender in the form of notes is just as good as gold, but many of the men and women who deposit with the savings bank have not had the advantage of a financial education. The population of South Australia is approximately 600,000, and there are 488,500 accounts in the State savings bank. That, of course, does not represent the number of individual depositors.
– What has that to do with gold deposits?
– It shows that the number of depositors is so great that it must include a great number of persons who do not realize that a pound note is as good as a sovereign, and for that reason are likely to become anxious if the gold reserve of the bank is removed.
– Does that not apply to other State savings banks besides that of South Australia?
– The other State savings banks do not follow the practice of showing the amount of their gold reserves in their balance sheets. In the Victorian State Savings Bank balance sheets, for instance, the gold reserve is lumped together with the currency. In the South Australian Savings Bank there are 217,862 accounts of less than £20 each. There are 40,000 accounts of between £20 and £50, while the average value of all accounts held by the bank is £66 3s. 3d. The board which manages this bank conducts its business, not for profit, but in such a manner as has contributed to the welfare of the community. The board now asks that it may be allowed to retain its gold reserve, and to continue showing it in its balance sheet. Apparently the Prime Minister and the Treasurer fear that if this amendment is granted the State savings bank’s may be used by the trading banks of Australia to defeat the purposes of the bill. That difficulty could be met either by limiting the amount of gold which may be held to that actually in the possession of the savings banks on the 30th June last, or by limiting it to 1 per cent, of the deposits. It is difficult to understand why the Government will not accept an amendment of this sort at the request of an institution such as the South Australian State Savings Bank. If that were a private institution there might, perhaps, be some reason for viewing the request with suspicion. The attitude of the Government towards the request of this bank, which holds the savings of the people placed in its keeping for the purpose of tiding them over hard times, is absolutely inexplicable. The Treasurer has stated that there seems to be a tremendous amount of anxiety as to how he and the Commonwealth Bank Directors will exercise the powers proposed to be conferred on them by this bill. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the anxiety is not so much as to how he and the present directors may act, but as to what action may be taken by their possible successors. No one knows better than the Treasurer himself that statements made in this House with regard to currency inflation, and also in the press, are such as to cause alarm in the minds of people with savings to safeguard. I ask him not to treat such criticism as has been offered as personal in character, and to concede what, from every point of view, must appear to be a reasonable request from a public institution.
.- There is certainly nothing ulterior in this request of the State Savings Bank of South Australia. The position simply is that that bank wishes to maintain unimpaired its credit with its depositors, which number almost 300,000. The very fact that this bill will take from it the small reserve of gold that it holds may shake the confidence of the people in it.
– This bill will not take the gold from it.
– It could be taken if the Treasurer should so desire. The depositors in this bank comprise mostly those whose savings are not great - who can easily be stampeded if a feeling of lack of confidence should be aroused. I cannot admit the correctness of the Treasurer’s contention that the acceptance of the amendment would defeat the purpose of the bill. It would be a very easy matter to regulate the amount which the bank could hold. I have pleasure in supporting the amendment.
.- It is strange that South Australia should be the only State which is raising any difficulty in this matter. I should like to be informed by honorable members who come from that State, whether the depositors in the Government Savings Bank there are paid in gold when they present withdrawal slips. I presume that they are paid in Commonwealth bank notes. In 1927, the following sums were deposited in the various State savings banks of the Commonwealth : -
It is strange that those who are in charge of the State Savings Bank of South Australia should be unique in the Commonwealth in raising these groundless fears. Doubtless this action merely foreshadows a canard that will later be broadcast in South Australia, that this Government is taking away the people’s savings. The position which these gentlemen are endeavouring to maintain is entirely untenable; because we have not been told that there is any rule applicable to banking in South Australia which requires this institution to pay its depositors in gold.
May I say a word upon the constitutional question raised by -the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) ? This is an illustration of the extreme legalism of the federal system under which we are governed, and shows the necessity for giving complete power to this Parliament, so that its position in all matters will be absolutely certain. I do not feel that there is any risk in this particular case. The bill has been drafted by officers of the Commonwealth Crown Law Department. Those gentlemen have had a wide experience in the working of the Constitution, and are experts in constitutional law. The bill is warranted by tbe provisions of the Constitution itself. Section 51 gives the Parliament the power to make laws with respect to currency, coinage and legal tender. On the subject of banking, it is true that the Constitution lays it down that the power of the Commonwealth relates to banking, other than State banking ; but it proceeds to say -
Also State banking extending beyond the limits of the State concerned, the incorporation of banks, and the issue of paper money.
Section 51 (xxxix) provides that the Commonwealth shall have power to legislate with respect to “ matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof.” I, therefore, submit that this bill is expressly made referable to the powers of the Commonwealth with respect to currency, coinage, legal tender, and the issue of paper money. It will not operate unless the Treasurer issues a proclamation ; and before he does so he will satisfy himself that such action is expedient for the protection of the currency or the public credit of the Commonwealth. I suggest that the Commonwealth has complete power in relation to the protection of its currency and its public credit. The High Court would not challenge the expediency of any proclamation that might be issued ; it would leave to the discretion of the Treasurer the question whether a proclamation was justified on the ground of expediency. In view of the fact that the provisions of the bill have been carefully drafted by the Crown Law Department, and that there does not seem to be any doubt as to the constitutional warrant for it, its passage ought not to be delayed.
Motion agreed to. “ 7c- “ (2.) Any person who desires to export gold from the Commonwealth may apply in writing to the board for the approval of the Treasurer of the export of the gold. “ (3.) The board shall refer to the Treasurer with a report thereon any application received by it under this section.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out subsection (3.) of proposed section 7c.
– There is no objection to this amendment. I, therefore, move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
.- I desire to express my satisfaction at this amendment having been accepted by the Government. It is a distinct improvement of the bill.
Motion agreed to. “ 7c “ (4.) The Treasurer may in his absolute discretion approve or refuse approval to any application made under this section.
Senate’s amendment. - Leave out sub-section (4.) of proposed section 7c and insert the following sub-section : - “ (4.) Where after the receipt of a recommendation from the board for such approval the Treasurer is of opinion that it is expedient so to do he may in his absolute discretion approve of any application under this section.”
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Senate’s amendment. -
After proposed section 7d add the following new section: - “ 7e. Sections 7b and 7c of this act shall remain in operation until the thirtieth day of December One thousand nine hundred and thirty and no longer.”
– This proposal of another place, if accepted, would have the effect of limiting the operation of the act to the 30th December, 1930. I do not propose to accept it, because the matter is such a vital one. Apparently, there is indisposition on the part of honorable senators of another place to trust the Government. If the amendment were inserted in the bill serious consequences might ensue. If it became necessary to requisition the reserves of gold held by the trading banks and then to place a restriction upon its export, it is likely that the Commonwealth Bank would make arrangements with the trading banks to take over their gold and, so far as was practicable, give them cover in London or arrange cover for exchange purposes through the Bank of England. In the light of what has been done in the past in these matters, the Bank of England might arrange to give cover to the equivalent of the gold held in Australia, and ask that that gold be not shipped immediately, but ear-marked and held at its disposal to be shipped when required. Undoubtedly, that would be the easiest and most convenient way to handle such a transaction. It might, indeed, obviate the need of shipping the gold; but in any case it would hypothecate the gold and place it at the disposal of the Bank of England. It might happen that the Bank of England, under such an arrangement, would not require the gold to be shipped until after the expiration of the next calendar year. One cannot forecast the length of time for which it might have to he held. For this reason it would not be advisable to accept the amendment. I, therefore, move -
That the amendment be disagreed to
.- The fact that the Treasurer accepted the previous amendment, although he had resisted it when it was moved in this chamber, gave me a faint hope that he would accept this one also. When the bill was introduced it was supported by the statement that it was on substantially the same lines as English legislation and that it was asked for by the Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank. As a matter of fact the English legislation contains no provision enabling the Treasurer or the Bank of England to limit the export of gold; on the contrary, all gold bona fide required for immediate export is excepted from the requisitioning power of the Bank of England, and the public is entitled to obtain gold from the bank in 400 oz. bars. Therefore this bill is essentially different from the legislation which was passed in England so recently as 1925 and 1928. The letter which the Treasurer read from the Commonwealth Bank Board, when moving the second reading of the bill, did not contain any request that power to prohibit or restrict the export of gold should be vested in either the board or the Treasurer.
– Rather the reverse.
– Yes. I am informed that the Government has received a later communication from the board, and I ask the Treasurer whether the directors of the bank have, since the bill was introduced, expressed any view as to the desirability of including the clauses relating to the export of gold. These provisions, combined with that enabling the Commonwealth Bank to requisition all gold make possible the abandonment of the gold standard. Whatever may be the views of honorable members on banking, currency, credit and finance, they will admit that that would be a very serious step to take, and because of the significance of this provision, involving, if put in operation, the abandonment of the gold standard, it can only be regarded as experimental legislation. For many years we have managed without legislation of this character; that, of course, is not necessarily a condemnation of it, but in regard to the very delicate matter of international credit it is wise to proceed warily. The bill has been introduced avowedly on account of certain emergent circumstances that are said to exist at the present time. That being so, it is reasonable to ask that its operation should be watched during a limited period, after which Parliament may have an opportunity to reconsider it in the light of experience.
.- This amendment is absolutely unnecessary, and if agreed to would defeat the whole purpose of the bill. I hope that the committee will not agree to it.
– At the second-reading stage I said that I had had both written and oral communication with the chairman of the Board of Directors and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank regarding this legislation, and that the definite recommendation of the chairman was contained in a letter, the relevant portion of which I read. In subsequent communications regarding different aspects of the bill, there has been no suggestion that the duration of the act should be limited.
– Has there been any recommendation from the bank authorities as to the desirability of controlling the export of gold ?
– Discussions have taken place upon that subject, and the Government is carrying out the general desire of the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank. If the committee has any doubt that the bank desires to have power to control definitely the export of gold if the necessity arises, I assure honorable members that this power is included in the bill upon the board’s recommendation.
– Is the recommendation in writing? The letter which the
Treasurer read on the previous occasion suggested that the hoard was not much concerned with that aspect of the bill.
– The recommendation of the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Governor of the Bank was very definite and was conveyed to the Prime Minister and me verbally.
.- The amendment already accepted by the Government and that now before the committee, if agreed to, will remove to a large extent my objection to control of the export of gold. If such control is vested in the Commonwealth Bank and entirely removed from political interference, and a definite time limit is placed on the operation of this provision, all danger of the convertibility of our currency being destroyed will be removed. We shall have an opportunity to reexamine the legislation after it has been in operation for twelve months, and to decide whether it would be better to follow strictly the English legislation or continue the power to prohibit the export of gold.
– Why did not the right honorable member insert that provision in his bill of 1925?
– Whilst that measure covered new ground it did not destroy the convertibility of Australian currency. This bill makes possible a dangerous departure from international usage in regard to the gold standard, and we should do nothing that might injure Australian credit abroad. It is suggested that there may be exchange difficulties. But they will not be permanent. The exchange position continually fluctuates. At one time there are difficulties in England and at another difficulties in Australia. In spite of all that has been said, I submit that the letter read by the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) from the directors of the Commonwealth Bank does not ‘ definitely recommend that an embargo should be placed on the export of gold but rather the contrary, as the following quotation from it will show : -
My board is of the opinion that the last resource which should be adopted would be any course which meant even temporary departure from the operation of the gold standard on the part of Australia; such measure would reflect most adversely against Australia in respect of oversea credit, and incidentally have a most serious effect upon our abilities to raise loans abroad. As a measure which would very materially help the position in the meantime, and in addition, having regard to the precedent, would, in the opinion of the board, be a sound measure of permanent legislation, my board definitely recommends your Government to consider immediately the bringing in of legislation on similar lines to that which now exists and is operating in England.
The English legislation does not prevent the export of gold, but actually provides for it in certain cases. The letter specifically states that the directors of the bank do not desire to do anything that may interfere with the convertibility of the currency. It is universally recognized by economists that an embargo on the export of gold renders the currency inconvertible. The .directors of the bank recommended the Government to introduce legislation similar to that passed by the British Parliament, and understood that such legislation would not prohibit the export of gold. In this connexion I quote the following paragraph from the letter : -
Whilst this legislation in itself would not prevent exportation of gold from Australia, it would place the gold in Australia definitely in the control of the bank. Once placed in this position there would only be one authority in control of the gold in Australia.
All that the bank requires, apparently, is that our gold reserves shall be concentrated.
We have a right to ask what is the opinion of the private banks on this subject. A good deal of the gold that will be concentrated belongs to them and should not be taken from them against their wish. A paragraph in the financial column of yesterday’s Melbourne Argus observes in this connexion that -
The associated banks of Victoria have forwarded to the Federal Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) their views on the bill now before the Federal Parliament, providing for the mobilization of gold held in Australia. The opinions expressed by the banks have not been made available for publication, but it is said that a reasonable case has been presented after a careful review of the difficult exchange position now prevailing.
Upon an important issue of this description honorable members should be given every information, particularly as there is a disagreement between the two Houses of Parliament. I submit, first, that the Commonwealth Bank directors have not asked for this provision, and, secondly, that the Government has not shown that it is necessary. It is quite probable that the associated banks have suggested to the Treasurer another and better way out of the difficulty.
.- It is difficult to follow the reasoning of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). An endeavour has been made to show that the directors of the Commonwealth Bank do not desire the power sought to be reposed in them by this bill, but I assert that they do desire it.
– The letter which the Treasurer read suggests otherwise.
– It does nothing of the kind. It refers to the British legislation in a certain connexion, but then goes on to deal with the export of gold. On this point the directors say that -
It should be pointed out that the nominal rate of 35s. per cent, is what is known as above “ gold point “, that is to say, that it would be cheaper to export gold from Australia to London rather than pay 35s. per cent, exchange. When this point has been reached, it becomes necessary for those in charge of gold reserves to see that the position does not get out of hand, and this immediately affects the position of the Commonwealth Bank.
What is the meaning of that? It is surely that when the nominal rate of exchange reaches 35s. per cent, it is cheaper to export gold than to pay the exchange rate. The Commonwealth Bank directors desire, in the interests of Australia, to concentrate our gold reserves and to prevent gold from being sent overseas, when such export would unduly reduce our reserves.
What is the substance of this amendment? It does not attack the principle of the bill. The measure is either sound or unsound. Honorable members opposite have not dared to declare that it is unsound.
– We say that it is experimental.
– It is more than that. It is based upon sound principles which have been adopted in other parts of the world.
– This bill goes farther than the measures of other countries have gone.
– The honorable member does not desire to be convinced against his will, and I shall not attempt to convince him. The amendment is either sound or unsound. The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has had some experience with the Commonwealth Bank, and he should know that the bank authorities always do their best to protect our credit. The amendment is childish. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) would not have agreed to such a limitation being placed upon vital legislation introduced by the last Government. We are responsible to the people of this country for what we do. I say definitely, as the head of this Government, that we regard this and the other amendment as vital and capital. If they are persisted in by another place, this bill will be wrecked. The directors of the Commonwealth Bank realize that there is a serious danger of the credit of the country being injured if our gold is exported to any great extent, and we are proposing to safeguard the position by the means suggested, in the bill. To suggest that the operation of the measure should be limited to the 30th December of next year is ridiculous. As the Treasurer has pointed out, a serious position might arise on the 10th December next year.
– Then the Government could ask for the period of the operation of the measure to be extended.
– The honorable member does not seem to realize that Parliament may not be in session at that time. A most difficult position might arise with which we should find it impossible to cope. The Treasurer has stated that one Australian firm alone has indicated that, if it cannot make better arrangements for credit in London, it intends to present to the Commonwealth Bank £2,000,000 worth of Commonwealth notes and demand gold, which it will export. If one Australian firm could do that a score could do it, and we should be powerless to meet the situation. The passage of this measure will probably necessitate the making of arrangements with the
Bank of England for credit in London against the gold reserves held in Australia. This may be essential, not merely for the purpose of the Government, but for the carrying on of our ordinary trade and commerce. There is no suggestion that we intend to rob the banks of their gold. “We shall place in their vaults legal tender to the value of the gold that they hand to us.
– But it will not be legal tender overseas.
– The gold which it represents will be available at the discretion of the Commonwealth Bank to provide credit overseas. It is extremely unlikely that the Bank of England would enter into negotiations of this kind with us if the period of the operation of this measure were limited to twelve months. It is essential that the bill shall be agreed to without these amendments. I shall not take the responsibility of pretending to the people of Australia that the position is safeguarded when it is not safeguarded, and the position will not be safeguarded if these amendments are agreed to.
.- I hope that the Government will reconsider its position. If it does not do so, I trust that another place will insist upon the insertion of these amendments. We should riot be asked to agree to extraordinary legislation of this description, which must seriously affect our trade and commerce, without being given much more information than has been supplied to us. The information that I have received is to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank directors asked for a temporary measure, which would enable them to concentrate our gold reserves. But the Treasurer introduced a bill which, if passed, would have given him absolute power to refuse the request of one applicant to export gold and to grant that of another. If we refuse our financiers the right to export their gold our credit must be seriously impaired overseas. How shall we be able to carry on our commercial operations if we cannot meet our accounts? If our gold is retained here, irrespective of requirements overseas, it will render our notes inconvertible, and that will be serious. It is true that the financial depression which exists at present has created credit difficulties. But a somewhat similar state of affairs existed in New Zealand in 1927. At that time the banks increased the interest rates, but were able to reduce them in 1929. The banks had been making larger advances than the deposits warranted. They increased interest rates with the result that the position soon changed. We should be prepared to follow the example of New Zealand. I have no objection to the establishment of a central bank or to giving wider control to the Commonwealth bank, but before Parliament agrees to a measure like this we should have information as to what its effect will be on the credit of this nation, and that is why I desired inquiry by a special committee.
– Why not give it a trial?
– We are asking that it be given a trial for twelve months. I object to taking a leap in the dark, and giving this power to the Commonwealth Government for all time.
– The people have been prepared to give us a trial for three years. Are we to allow another place to limit our period of administration?
– This is new legislation so far as the finances of Australia are concerned, and the Senate was created for the purpose of reviewing hasty and illconsidered legislation. The moment that we place an embargo on the export of gold our credit will be affected. As to any arrangement being made between the Commonwealth Bank and the Bank of England, respecting our gold reserves, the Treasurer knows perfectly well that there will be ample time next session to pass the necessary legislation to meet such a situation. I hope that the Government will agree to the Senate’s amendment.
.- The Treasurer is apparently not prepared to respond to the request that he should inform the committee of the substance of the communication received by him from the Associated Banks of Melbourne. If such a communication as referred to in the Argus has been received, I suggest that the committee is entitled to know its contents. The Prime Minister has purported toreply to the points which have been raised by honorable members on this side, hut he did not in any way touch upon the fact that the Bank Board expressly avoided recommending the placing of any embargo on the export of gold. The board definitely and clearly recommended legislation on English lines, and the characteristic of English legislation as distinct from certain continental legislation, is that it contains no provision for the prohibition of the export of gold. The rest of the speech of the Prime Minister was against placing a time limit on the bill’s operation. He assumed that by the 30th December, 1930, the Commonwealth Bank might have lost all the gold that it had requisitioned. It is evident that the bank would still have the gold, and would be able to finance on that gold on the 1st of January as on the 30th December.
– The gold would have been handed back.
– No. The Commonwealth Bank would have paid for the gold by the issue of Australian notes, and it would have the gold on the 1st January, and thereafter. There would, therefore, not be the financial disturbance which the Prime Minister has suggested would take place as a result of the amendment. I rose principally to ask whether the Treasurer would state the views of the Associated Banks.
– It is true that I have had communications, oral as well as written, from the members of the Associated Banks of Melbourne and Sydney, but it is impossible for me to traverse the whole of the conversations and correspondence. There is really no necessity for me to do that. There was no recommendation in any communication from the Associated Banks suggesting that the Government should put a time limit on the operation of this bill.With regard to the restriction upon the export of gold, the view of the Associated Banks, as far as I can recollect, was that the banks should be given the right of ordinary cover in London to the extent of the requisitions of the Commonwealth Bank. I informed the Associated Banks that that was a matter for discussion with the Commonwealth Bank authorities. The Prime Minister has clearly defined the policy of the Government, and has justified our opposition to this amendment. If another place insists upon the amendment, it will have to bear the responsibility of destroying the bill. The bank authorities have made it clear that they regard the present situation as menacing, and that it should be met by legislation of this character. We were asked to pass legislation before Christmas, and the Government is prepared to carry out the wishes of the Commonwealth Bank.
.- The imposition of a time limit upon the operation of this bill does not affect the question of urgency. The object of the bill is, first, to concentrate our gold reserves and, secondly, to prohibit the export of gold. Under the amendment that prohibition would operate immediately for thirteen months from now. It is, therefore, idle for the Prime Minister to suggest that a time limitation placed on the bill would prevent the Government from taking action to meet any unforeseen and urgent situation that might arise.
Question - That the amendment be disagreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
That Mr. Scullin, Mr. Theodore and Mr. Anstey be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for disagreeing to amendments Nos. 1 and 4.
Reasons brought up by Mr. Theodore, and adopted as follows: -
As one of the objects of the bill is the mobilization of the whole of the gold resources of Australia in case of necessity, and as this objective could not be attained if savings banks or any other institutions were excluded from the provisions of the bill, it is undesirable that savings banks should be so excluded.
As any proclamation relating to the export of gold will be made only after the receipt of a recommendation from the board, and as any such proclamation will indicate the period for which it is to remain in force, and as the necessity for action under the hill may arise after the thirtieth day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty, it is undesirable to limit the operation of the act to any specific period.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This matter can be dealt with shortly, with the utmost good feeling between this committee and that in another place. I have agreed to the amendment inasmuch as I have suggested it myself. It is merely a verbal amendment to clause 8.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 11th December (vide page 1043).
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.-I desire to register my protest against the passage of this bill. I had intended to speak on the second reading, but the measure has been rushed through so hurriedly that honorable members have scarcely been able to follow the procedure. I presume that the loan of over £6,000,000 authorized by this bill is additional to the £10,000,000 borrowed in Australia for State purposes.
– No; that £10,000,000 will cover the amount provided for by this bill.
– The Treasurer has made reference to the price of Australian stocks in London. I think that he said, in reply to an interjection by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), that 5 per cent. stocks were being discounted at £89.
– Commonwealth stocks are slightly higher than that.
– At any rate, there is a margin between the prices of New Zealand and Commonwealth stocks. Possibly the Government is powerless to alter the present loan arrangements, and to that extent I do not condemn it for adopting a policy similar to that of the late Government; but anybody who knows anything of finance realizes that Australia has reached the limit in regard to borrowing, and, if the present policy is continued, it can only lead us into further difficulties. Speaking on the first Loan Bill, which was passed to provide funds to meet our war liabilities, I pointed out the foolishness of the present policy, and I claim that it is time we called a halt in borrowing to meet the financial needs of the Commonwealth. There is a source from which those requirements have been met in more strenuous times than those now being experienced, and, since we are now enjoying peace and comparative prosperity, we should either cease saying that we are not over-borrowing, or admit that we are still fooling the general community. I suggest that during the coming year the Treasurer will require more money than he now proposes to raise by way of loan. By our borrowing policy we are merely playing a trick upon the workers of the Commonwealth in the interests of the “ money-bags “ who are juggling with gold. Our present difficulties are due to the enormous interest bills that we have to meet on borrowed money, which we only receive by way of a transfer of credit. I myself have used a Commonwealth bond for the purpose of building a house, and, if that money had already been spent by the Commonwealth, how could I use it again? Whenever a loan bill of this nature is introduced, I shall record my protest against it. I object to this fetish of borrowing until governments find themselves up against a dead end. Great Britain has made her notes inconvertible, and she will have to use them and the credit of the country for the purpose of meeting her needs. The note issue of Australia, which has totalled £59,000,000, has never been repudiated and has never given a. check to industry. In the last twenty years, Sydney has been practically re-built ; even buildings erected fairly recently are now being pulled down to make room for more modern structures. This shows that the country is prosperous. It is said in some quarters that an inflation of the note issue brings about an increase in the prices of commodities. I recall that, during the war period, we taxed excess profits to the extent of 75 per cent., allowing the profiteers to retain 25 per cent, of the “loot.” In objecting to the passage of this bill, I am not breaking faith with the Government or with my party, but I am carrying out a promise to my constituents. If the Government continues in the course that it is now pursuing, by perpetuating the system of borrowing, it is riding for the fall that comes to all capitalistic governments that adopt deliberately the immoral, and almost criminal practice of over-borrowing. I wish to impress upon the Government what must be a necessary consequence of continuing our present borrowing policy.
– I do not wish to delay the business of the committee, but there are a few things which I feel I must say, especially after listening to the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates). He belongs to a party which believes in the socialization of most of our public activities, and I remind him that it is impossible to build railways, post offices and homes for the people entirely out of revenue. To put the cost of constructing such capital works on to the revenue account would be impossible ; it would tend to retard our rate of development rather than accelerate it. Consequently, if the honorable member desires that public borrowing shall be completely stopped, he should be prepared to start further back, and stop the prosecution of those public works which Ave now consider to be necessary. During the past six years £23,000,000 has been spent on works for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Of this amount two-thirds was spent on labour in Australia, and the provision of copper wire mined in our mines, and manufactured into wire in the factories of Australia. Provision is mad© for the expenditure of £1,000,000 for the construction of war service homes. Surely it is reasonable, when homes are being constructed to house the people, that the money for them should be raised by loan, seeing that the homes are paid for over a period of 30 or 40 years. It would be an intolerable burden to require the taxpayers to provide out of revenue all the money required. It has been found necessary in every country of the world to allow the people to pay for their homes by instalments when a comprehensive housing scheme has been undertaken. We should be proud of the fact that in Australia so many people own their own homes. We need to impress upon those from whom we borrow money that the public debt of Australia is quite different from that of other countries, because the money borrowed by us has been used for the creation of national assets. Take our railways, for instance. Although they may not be paying now, we have created a railway system which will serve the needs of a population three or four times as great as the present, and eventually the railways will pay.
– The right honorable gentleman has himself said that our railways are not an asset, and that he would sell them if he could.
– I certainly did say that I would sell the railways if I could, but -I have never said that they are not an asset. I have always maintained that they are an asset because
Of their indirect benefit to Australia, and if we had a greater population they would become a source of revenue instead of being, to some extent, a drag upon the nation because of the interest which must be paid on the cost of their construction. Against the money which has been borrowed by the States there are tangible assets in those States themselves.
– The honorable member has said that the railways are not assets.
-I ask the honorable member for Adelaide to cease from interjecting. It is not possible for the debate to be conducted on proper lines if he continues to interject.
– The Government’s loan programme represents a curtailment as compared with previous programmes, but the last Government must be given some credit for this. Last year, loan expenditure amounted to £7,700,000 ; this year it has been reduced to £5,200,000. When honorable members who support the Government were in opposition, they complained that this curtailment would increase unemployment. The position of the Commonwealth Treasurer has altered during the last few years in regard to the country’s loan commitments. To-day he is no longer a free agent, responsible only to this Parliament. As Chairman of the Loan Council, he is responsible for finding money, not only for the requirements of the Commonwealth, but for those of the States also. The time has come when the Commonwealth’s loan policy should cease to be a party question. The Loan Council is composed of representatives of different State governments of varying political complexions, and non-party decisions must be arrived at. It is not possible, I maintain, to raise within Australia all the money needed for State and Commonwealth public works. That, I know, was a plank in the Prime Minis ter’s platform, but if we are to continue our present practice of providing Governmentowned facilities for the people, we cannot raise all our requirements in Australia, and at the same time afford opportunities for the development of private enterprise. I have always admitted that we should raise as much of our loan money as possible in Australia, but we should avoid trespassing on the needs of private enterprise. That was the policy followed by the last Government. In previous years we have raised as much as £13,000,000 for State and Federal requirements. In other years it was necessary to carry out large loan conversions in Australia, and we could not then raise money here for public works. It will be possible to carry out the Prime Minister’s policy of raising our requirements for public works within Australia only if honorable members opposite’ assist to fill Australia with people. We should then be able to produce enough to permit of our meeting our own loan requirements, but that condition of affairs can be brought about only by hard work. It cannot be done by utilizing soft money as the honorable member suggests. We have used too much soft money in the past, and that, to some extent, is responsible for our present difficulties. I can promise that the two parties on this side of the House may be relied upon to support every sound proposal for the improvement of Australia’s credit. Already the financial agreement with the States and the provision of a sinking fund by the last Government have tended to produce that effect, while the fact that Australia’s borrowing is controlled by a loan council will promote confidence in the money markets upon which Australia relies for her loan requirements.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), when introducing this measure, was good enough to tell us that our credit in London was lower than that of New Zealand, South Africa and the other borrowing dominions, but he was not able to tell us just why that should be. If honorable members will study this bill they will find that it provides for the construction out of loan money of many works which should be paid for out of revenue. For instance, it is stated in the bill that every State may carry out certain works from loan money up to the value of £300 in each case. When the Fisher Government was in power it took particular care that public works should be paid for out of revenue. We should give the financial interests on the other side of the world credit for noticing how we expend the money we borrow. There is also in the bill an item relating to passage money and medical fees for assisted immigrants. Apparently, if an immigrant coming to Australia requires so little as a dose of salts or castor oil, or any’ other medical comfort, the cost is to be defrayed out of the loan account. This will appear a ridiculous item when the measure is read on the other side of the world, for we must remember that other Parliaments take our official papers as we take theirs. As I have pointed out, each State is allowed to spend, out of loan money, sums amounting to not more than £300 in each case. I do not know how many such sums there will be. They may amount to £299, or £200; some may be as low as £10 or £12 for replacing glass in broken windows, or for painting shutters, but they can all, apparently, be paid out of loan funds. Loan bills used to be brought before Parliament by the last Government, and I suppose this Government has copied its predecessors, and perpetuated the same stupid way of drafting them. I trust that my observations on these matters will be helpful to the Government. There are several other items in this measure that ought never to find a place in a loan bill. The expenditure on them should be defrayed out of consolidated revenue. I have no desire to obstruct the passage of the bill, but I trust that the departmental officers will give some consideration to the representations I am making and endeavour to prevent extravagant expenditure from the loan fund. During the term of office of the Fisher Labour Government, every effort was made to refrain from borrowing. Over a three-year period £1,000,000 was provided out of revenue for postal work, and the money was found by means of taxation. The result was that large interest payments were obviated. The present policy of continually borrowing ought to be stopped. I am not so foolish as to say that we can carry on without borrowing; but I certainly think that if we exercise our faculties properly we can reduce it considerably. In the last seven or eight years, financial matters have not been brought forward until the end of the session, when they have been discussed during all-night sittings or late at night. I trust that the present Government will not continue that practice. I represent an important constituency, which contains some of the ablest and most earnest men in the Commonwealth. They are connected with financial institutions and large businesses, and are well acquainted with our present financial position. It is my responsibility to look after their interests. We are adopting an unfriendly attitude when we go on the London market to raise a loan in a time of financial stress. That is the case at the present time. Any person who studies the financial journals will realize how acute is the position. The rate of interest for short dated bills is now Qi per cent. This financial stringency is having an adverse effect on industry, and affects not only Australia but every other part of the Empire. It is a reflection upon Australia that she should have to pay more for her money than do South Africa and New Zealand. Some one must have the courage to draw attention to the dangerous position we are occupying. Our national * debt at the present time amounts to £167 per head. That is a staggering burden for such a small population to carry. Years ago, when McMillan, Stuart, and other Treasurers in New South Wales were faced with a deficit they sold Crown lands at £1 an acre to make up the deficiency. Some of that land has since become very valuable. In the Clarence River district, and along the North Coast of New South Wales, it .is worth as much as £100 an acre.
I trust that these few remarks of mine will have some effect and that next year we shall be given more time for the consideration of Australia’s problems. I hope that the Government will not again ask the House to agree to the borrowing of money for the mending of shutters and the cleaning of windows. Do honorable members realize that even the cost of sending food to the lighthouses is to be charged to loan, and that telephone boxes, wires, poles and other perishable material used in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department are to be paid for with borrowed money, upon which our children will have to pay interest? I do not like having to make these observations; but it is my painful duty to take the last advantage that will be presented this session to protest against the callous indifference of the Government and Parliament to the manner in which loan moneys are applied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration of Governor-General’s message, resumed from 11th December (vide page 1046), on motion by Mr. Forde -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922-1927.
.- Honorable members experienced great difficulty in following the case presented by the Assistant Minister for the proposed increase of the bounty, because of the pace at which he spoke; but since yesterday I have obtained some particulars from the Trade and Customs Department, and have also examined the reports placed before Parliament which are submitted annually by the manufacturers who receive bounties under the provisions of the act. I propose to quote to the committee figures showing the importation of galvanized iron sheets, flat and corrugated, the production in Australia, and the number of persons engaged in local manufacture. Contrary to what one would expect they show a diminution of exports, and an increase of local production and of the number of persons engaged at Lysaght’s factory. The importations in the last four years have been -
Honorable members will see that between 1927-28 and 1928-29 the importations decreased by 20,000 tons - equivalent to nearly 20 per cent. The particulars of local manufacture are -
I turn now to the number of persons engaged in Lysaghts’ works. The Assistant Minister spoke of the possibility of large numbers being dismissed. It is possible to confuse the number of persons employed in the factory with the number engaged in the production of a particular commodity. Possibly men have been dismissed from the factory; but they may not have been engaged in the manufacture of galvanized iron. By the provisions of the Bounties Act, under which £404,000 has been paid to Lysaghts in respect of the production of galvanized iron sheets, it is necessary for the recipient of the bounty to submit an annual report to the Trade and Customs Department. These reports show that the number of persons employed by Lysaghts in the manufacture of galvanized iron sheets in 1926-27 was 454, and in 1928-29, 545. Summarized, the statistics I have quoted reveal that for the year ending the 30th June last the importations were less than in any of the last four years; the local production was greater, and the number of employees has increased by over 20 per cent. in the last two years. Unless the Minister can adduce very convincing figures to supplement those that are available to me, there would appear to be no justification for increasing the bounty.
Another factor should carry weight with us in considering this subject. “We know that the coal industry is in a difficult position. Honorable members of the last Parliament will recollect that the Prime Minister of the day gave reasons which convinced his Government thatit would be a good thing to make a temporary grant of1s. per ton to a fund for the purpose of reducing the price of export coal, to use a general phrase. The proposal was to reduce the price of coal by 5s. in States other than New SouthWales, and by 4s. in New South “Wales. Speaking from memory, the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company gave an undertaking about that time that if the price of coal were reduced by 4s. a ton it would reduce the price of steel by 12s. a ton. If such a reduction could be made in the price of steel it would appear that a substantial reduction could also be made in the price of galvanized iron, lt seems inevitable that within the near future the coal mines will resume operations and that the price of coal will be reduced. I say nothing whatever, at the moment, about who will bear the cost of the reduction. If the price of coal is reduced it should improve the position of the galvanized iron manufacturing industry. On this ground, also, there is little justification for the introduction of this bill at this juncture.
.- Certain factors with which the Leader of the Opposition is evidently unfamiliar should be borne in mind. Personally, I am opposed to the payment of bounties when an industry has been placed on its feet. I, and I believe the persons interested in this industry, would prefer a duty instead of a bounty in the existing circumstances. But in deference to the views of some honorable members opposite, who feel that the imposition of a duty upon these products would increase the price of them, particularly to the fa raters, the Government has introduced this measure.
The company which will be principally affected by the passage of this bill was encouraged to establish works in Australia by the promise that adequate protection would be afforded to it. Three years ago the Tariff Board made an exhaustive inquiry into the position of the industry. The company promised that if it were given sufficient encouragement it would duplicate its works at a cost of £250,000. The Tariff Board recommended that the existing bounty should be increased to £4 10s. to enable this to be done. The company, in all good faith, proceeded with the duplication of its works. In the eight years that it has been operating in Australia, it has paid only one dividend on the capital invested. If the plant is duplicated, the output will be increased from 30,000 tons to 60,000 tons annually and regular employment will be provided for between 400 and 500 additional men. It is estimated also that extra steel to the value of £35,000 annually will be required, and that £5,000 more will be spent annually in zinc from Tasmania. The coal consumption will be increased by 200,000 tons per annum and a large number of additional fire bricks and a considerable additional quantity of sulphuric acid will be needed. Moreover, the wages bill will be increased by £300,000 annually. In addition to these direct advantages, there will be other indirect advantages to associated industries.
The question which we should ask ourselves is: Shall we enable this company to produce all the galvanized iron we require here or shall we compel it to close its works and oblige our people to import galvanized iron from abroad? The company cannot be expected to continue its opera tions if it cannot pay a reasonable dividend on the capital invested. Seeing that a bounty of £4 10s. per ton was recommended by the Tariff Board three years ago, and that the company has incurred considerable expense in expectation of the recommendation being approved by thi3 Parliament, I submit that we should pass the bill. Probably in twelve months’ time it may be possible to substitute an effective duty for the bounty now proposed.
– Nothing that the honorable member for Newcastle has said seems to justify the proposed increase in this bounty. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has shown clearly that this industry has made good headway under the existing bounty. In the year ended 30th June, 1928, we produced, in Australia, 22,990 tons of galvanized iron, and in the year ended 30th June, 1929, we produced 28,500 tons of it. This shows that the increased encouragement given by the advancement of the bounty from 52s. to 72s. per ton was effective. I cannot see, therefore, why we should add an additional 18s. to the bounty now. Under the existing conditions the manufacturers have increased their output and there has been a corresponding decrease in imports. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to the fact that it is highly probable that there will be a decrease in the price of coal in the near future. If the decrease amounts to 4s. a ton in New South “Wales, it would materially reduce the costs of production in this industry.
– That is not an accomplished fact.
– No, hut it is eagerly looked forward to, and it is considered to he inevitable that some such arrangement must be made. In the absence of any evidence that an increase of the bounty is immediately necessary, we should at least wait to see whether the coal dispute is settled before coming to a decision. It takes three tons of coal to produce a ton of steel, and if the proposals for a reduction in the price of coal are acceptable to the coal-mining industry the cost of producing steel will be 12s. a ton less than it is to-day. I do not know whether the saving is as great on galvanized iron as it is on steel, but it must be very substantial, and I submit that, for that reason alone, this proposal to increase the bounty should be deferred until we ascertain what is to be the future cost of coal. The figures show that this industry is making substantial headway under the existing tariff. There is therefore good and sufficient reason for deferring the proposed increased bounty on iron and steel.
– I much prefer that assistance should be given to an industry by way of a bounty to an increased tariff.
– I agree with that absolutely.
– If it is necessary to encourage an industry to employ labour by giving it assistance, the people generally should be taxed to pay for this. According to the figures submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, Lysaghts employed 545 persons in 1928-29. Let us assume that there are 500 workmen receiving a wage of £250 a year. That would amount to £125,000. The local manufacture is about 30,000 tons. Therefore, a bounty of £4 10s. a ton would amount to £135,000. In other words the amount of the bounty would more than pay for the whole of the wages bill. Surely that is an extraordinary position. I strongly urge the Government to reconsider its decision before going on with the bill. Lysaghts have been extending their works for some years, and if the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition are correct it appears to me that by giving this bounty we are greasing the fatted pig.
– We are providing Lysaghts with free labour.
– That is what it amounts to. This money has to be raised, and I have grave objections to taxing the people for this purpose. The money is better in the pockets of the people than in the hands of a Government, which is too fond of paying large sums of money for the encouragement of certain secondary industries. I urge the Government to reconsider its decision before finally passing this bill.
.- In view of the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition it is doubtful whether this industry is worth the price that we are paying for it. Already bounties have been granted to it to the extent of £400,000. The total number of employees at Lysaghts’ works at the end of last June was 545, which means that for every employee directly engaged in this industry it costs the taxpayers of Australia £200 a year. If the expectations of those who support the proposed bounty are realized, the output of this industry will be doubled, and, in that event, the taxpayers next year will have to raise £200,000, or more, in order to pay this bounty. The industry is not worth the price. The other night we discussed the grants that were being made to certain States. Those were not bounties, but something in the nature of partial compensation for disabilities under federation. A grant of £2,500,000 was made rather grudgingly to one State; yet this iron and steel industry has already been assisted to the extent of £400,000, and that sum is still to be increased. We do not know how long this burden will be placed upon the community. This industry is apparently well established, and for that reason I can see no reason for increasing the bounty.
.- I do not desire to speak at any length, because any protest against the payment of this bounty will be useless. The point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that under the old bounty of £3 12s. a ton, production increased, importations decreased and employment increased. The figures clearly indicate that.
– The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition are incorrect, according to the latest figures of the Commonwealth Statistician in respect of the Customs Department.
– The figures are not far out.
– If the figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition are authentic, I cannot understand why the Government should propose an increase in the bounty from £3 12s. to £4 10s.
– The Government is carrying out a. promise that was made three years ago.
– The facts are that without the additional bounty production increased and importations decreased.
– The Government is giving effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which was made on condition that the works were extended.
– Lysaghts had no guarantee that the bounty would be increased. The Tariff Board’s findings are not necessarily carried out. The cry that we should enable our infant industries to get a footing is becoming too common. It used to be said, although it is rarely said now, that once these industries became established the duties would be lifted.
– That , applies to primary products as well.
– The fact is that the bigger the self-styled infant industries become, and the more hands they employ, the larger is their appetite for higher and still higher duties or bounties. Where will this end? The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) referred to the primary industries. Undoubtedly some of our primary industries are receiving benefits because of the local consumption. They receive higher prices locally than they do overseas, and that raises a point which cannot very well be discussed under this bill. We are to-day providing other countries with primary products at a price lower than those we are charging our own kith and kin.
– We are bearing, that ungrudgingly.
– Yes, but where will this policy end? Australian sugar may be purchased more cheaply in London than in Brisbane. Australian dried fruits are sold at a lower price in London than in Mildura, where they are produced. A similar remark applies to our butter. The natural corollary of the bounty system is that it should be applied to our exporting primary industries. 1 object to preferential treatment to secondary industries, leaving the exporting primary industries to sell their products at prices governed by the law of supply and demand. I have always bitterly opposed the policy of the late Government of increasing the protection given to secondary industries, while, beyond the appointment of a few export control boards, no such assistance has been given to the primary producers to enable them to meet the imposts due to the system of protection. The primary producers have to contribute their share of this bounty, and we have the clear statement of the Minister that at the back of the bounty is a duty. This’ will have to be paid by those who use galvanized iron, and the greater number of them are the outback settlers.
– The figures quoted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) were not correct. I have obtained from the Customs Department the latest particulars available from the Commonwealth Statistician, which show that there has not been a f falling-off in the imports of galvanized iron, but an increase. The figures are as follow: -
The latest figures available show that the imports have increased since 1925-26 by about 18,000 tons. The production figures also indicate an increase, but there is a good explanation for that. A very definite promise was made to the company, first in 1920, by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, I think, was responsible for its coming to Australia and establishing branch works here. The bounty was first paid in 1923-24. Mr. Massy Greene, and later Mr. Pratten, as Minister for Trade and Customs, gave the company a definite assurance that, if it extended its plant, he would not only help it with a bounty, but would also impose a sufficiently high duty to enable it to carry on successfully. As a result of the promise given, the company extended its plant from eight mills to twelve. This resulted in increased production, and there has been a gradual increase in the number of employees. One honorable member remarked that this increased bounty should not be granted, because there might be a reduction in the price of coal. I point out that, if the working costs come down, there is nothing to prevent a reconsideration of the amount of bounty if the Government of the day deems it advisable; or the substitution of a duty for the bounty; that matter can be left for the future. The company has been carrying on in Australia under great difficulties. We have been told by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that we have no proof that the company has not been making phenomenal profits. Under the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act, the department is required to examine the accounts of these companies every twelve months, and satisfy itself as to the profits made. Section 9 of the act provides -
If the net profits of any person, firm, or company claiming bounty under this act exceed, in any year, fifteen per centum on the capital employed in respect to the business in connexion with which bounty is payable, the Minister may, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, withhold so much of the bounty payable as will reduce such net profits for that year to fifteen per centum on the capital employed in the business.
Therefore, the interests of the taxpayers ‘ are anply safeguarded. This company has only paid a dividend for one year during all the years in which it has been operating; that was a dividend of 5 per cent. Before a company can obtain a bounty under this act, it must satisfy the Minister that it uses all Australian materials, and pays the rates of wages laid down by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. There is a maximum expenditure under the act, in any one year, of £250,000, and any sum not expended in the year can be carried over.
The total amount of bounty paid up to the 4th December this year was £404,816. The present carry over amounts to £275,000, which, together with the £250,000 provided for the current year, makes a total of £525,000 available.
The Tariff Board went carefully into the whole subject in 1926, and, when this company obtained the price of £29 a ton as against the present price of £24 10s. a ton, the board recommended a bounty of £4 10s. a ton. To-day we find that, in some qualities of galvanized iron, the English price of iron landed in Australia is 30s. a ton less than the Australian price. For 26 gauge primo quality iron the price in store in Sydney for the British manufacture is the same as the Australian price, including the bounty. This company finds that it would be impossible to carry on without the bounty; it would have to go out of manufacture in Australia, and to import all the iron required to supply the Australian market. But it has developed the industry in Australia, and its aim is to increase the production of this commodity. I believe that it is the duty of the Government to assist the company. The payment of this bounty will mean an extra expenditure of £9,000 for the present financial year and the employment of an additional 350 men. The company will greatly extend its plant, expend £250,000 of additional money, and double its output. We have evidence that another company intends to manufacture galvanized iron in Australia, and I believe that in a few years the whole of the demand will be met by local factories. Is it not better to manufacture this commodity in our own country than to import it? If we do not give the bounty, the 600 men now employed in this factory will be put off. Honorable members should pass the bill without further delay.
Friday, IS December 1929
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Thnt Mr. Forde and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Fordeand read a first and second time.
– It is necessary, I think, to point out that the increased bounty based on the number of employees engaged in the industry, and on production for the year ending the 30th June, 1929, will amount to £235 for each employee.
– Where does the honorable member obtain those figures?
– There are 545 employees, and the output of galvanized iron last year amounted to 28,514 tons.
Sitting suspended from 12.4 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. (Friday.)
– In the second clause of the bill is set out the amount of bounty which it is proposed shall he given. There is to be an increase from £3 12s. to £4 10s. a ton. In this particular industry 545 men were employed for the year ended the 30th June last. The production of galvanized iron was 28,515 tons (a) for the twelve months and the amount of bounty paid at the old rate was £102,650. If we study the figures relating to the number of men employed, and the amount of bounty paid, we come to the surprising conclusion that the latter amounted to £188 for each man. Now it is proposed that the bounty shall be increased by 25 per cent. Assuming that the same ratio is maintained between the number of men employed and the number of tons produced, the future payment will be at the rate of £235 per annum, (b) for every man engaged in the industry. If we add the duty of £1 a ton, which the industry enjoys, and regard that as though it were a bounty, we find that we. shall be subsidizing the industry altogether to the extent of £287 for each man engaged in it. While I agree that it is necessary in some cases to provide bounties and (c) protective duties, there comes a point at which for economic reasons, any further assistance would be absolutely ridiculous, because the result would be an economic absurdity. I believe that that stage has now been reached in connexion with this industry. I call attention to this fact, because at times we are apt to get a little out of perspective, and fail to realize the effect of our action. One advantage of a bounty as compared with a duty is that we can see exactly what we are doing in the direction of subsidizing those who are engaged in a particular industry. Although I much prefer to manufacture our own requirements, to importing them, in connexion with this particular industry we have reached the stage when it would pay us equally well to pension off at the rate of £5 10s. a week every man engaged in it, and import all that we require. That is a ridiculous situation.
– As a justification for this measure, the Minister stated that we were under an obligation to the company which is engaged in the manufacture of galvanized iron sheets.
– We are not under an obligation to the company; but in the interests of the workmen, and of those who are prepared to keep this industry going we ought to give some assistance.
– I was referring to the statement of the Minister, that certain promises were made to this particular company by Mr. Massy Greene, the late Mr. Pratten, and the late Mr. Oakley. The point I wanted to make was whether it is right that individuals, even though they be Ministers of the Crown, should make promises to companies without the authority of Parliament, if not of the Cabinet; and whether, on the strength of such promises, Parliament should subsequently be bound to take certain action. That appears to me to be a pernicious principle.
– Such a promise would be made subject to the approval of Parliament.
– There would be nothing in a promise that was made subject to the approval of Parliament. Hard-headed men who are engaged in business of this nature do not usually invest large sums of money merely on the strength of a promise that something may be done if a future parliament approves of it.
The point raised by an analysis of the figures by my friend the honorable member’ for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) is a rather striking- one. Assuming that his figures are approximately accurate-
– They are.
– Then the Commonwealth taxpayer is finding the money to pay the wages of this particular company.
– If the figures quoted by the honorable member1 for Gippsland are correct, it is a wonder that the company does- not pay dividends.
– The fact that, notwithstanding all that has been done for this company, it has been able to pay only one paltry dividend of 5 per cent., is an indication of the rottenness of the economic position. The Minister has stoutly repudiated the suggestion that the company is, in effect, pocketing the profits by constructing buildings out of theminstead of out of capital. Very few honorable members who sit on this> side have/ any enthusiasm for this1 business, audi I venture to suggest that there are some honorable- members on the Govern^ ment side who think along; similar lines.. I certainly have none, As th& honorable member for Gippsland has said, we are going a little too- far. I have never known a more convincing, illustration of that fact.
Bill agreed to, and reported without, amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from page 1202) :
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £4,195,116.
– At a late hour yesterday afternoon, honorable members had placed in their hands a statement setting- out the expenditure of the Defence Department for the year 1929-30-. It was termed, an explanatory statement, and was prepared at the direction of the Minister for- Defence (Mr. A. Green). At page 5 the following paragraph appears -
H’.M.A.Sl Moresby will continue; until approximately December,, 1929, the survey and triangulation of the Great Barrier Beef, for which services special funds were provided under Defence Equipment Act 1928’.
The work referred to is the survey of the coast of Queensland, particularly in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef. Funds for it were made available by the late Government, in the first- place, in 1924, and further provision was made in subsequent years until 1925. Judging by this statement, it is not intended to proceed further with this very valuable work, which was commenced in 1928. The survey arose out of a- resolution that was passed by the Pan Pacific Congress; held in Melbourne in August, 1923,. as> follows : -
That, in view of the scientific and economic interest attached to the Queensland coastal: waters within the Barrier Reef regions, the Government of the Commonwealth is specially urged to undertake a detailed hydrographic survey of this area ait the earliest possiblemoment, and to make available- funds’ and facilities to enable the Navy Department to carry out the work without delay.
This survey was intended to cover a distance of 1,200’ miles along the- east coast of Australia. To make it possible, theBritish Government placed the Moresby at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government without charge, and also madeavailable scientific experts to* assist in the survey. In the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef, the coastline is treacherousand constitutes a> great d’anger to vesselstravelling along it, particularly those- proceeding to the East Indies and the China seas. The charts that are being used today for the navigation of those waters were marked by Captain Flinders well1 over 100) years ago. Apparently the- Government, now proposes to discontinue thework. Very valuable work has been done by the survey parties. They have examined the Curtis Channel and located a number of shoals not shown on the chart. Other uncharted shoals were- discovered near the Hillsborough Channel and outside’ of Townsville, showing clearly theneed for proceeding vigorously with this work. Altogether over 900 square miles of ocean have been sounded and 192 miles of the Queensland coast surveyed. Very little is known of the direction and set of the currents, and because this area is subject to hurricanes and tropical storms, it presents great difficulties to navigators. Storms and hurricanes cannot be controlled, but we should do all in our power to see that our navigators have up-to-date charts, and so prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of life. Many disasters have occurred on the coast, and I hope the Minister will give to the committee an assurance that the survey will proceed, par-‘ ticularly as the British Government has been generous enough to place a vessel at the disposal of the Commonwealth. I understand that at present the vessel is in the vicinity of Port Jackson.
Another feature of this report is the tribute paid by the Minister and the officers of the department to our citizen forces, which the Prime Minister recently described as a farce and inefficient.
– According to a newspaper report the Prime Minister made that statement at a social function in Melbourne, and it has been repeated in this chamber. This statement, prepared by direction of the Minister for Defence, says -
There has been a general all-round improvement in the citizen forces, while steady progress has been made and maintained by all ranks. The standard of efficiency is reported to be the highest since the Great War.
Notwithstanding that testimony the citizen force is to be disbanded on the ground that it is inefficient.
Another paragraph refers to the Aerial Ambulance Service. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) raised this matter in the House some time ago, and I hope that he has received a satisfactory reply from the Minister.
– I have.
– I desire to pay a tribute to the good work Q.A.N.T.A.S. Ltd. is doing for the transport of doctors, nurses, and patients, in the outback portions of Queensland. This service was inspired by the Presbyterian Inland Mission, and I am pleased to know that the Government proposes to continue the subsidy that was made available by the last Government.
Under the heading of “ Munitions supply branch,” I read that the manufacture of rifles at the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, has been discontinued. I hope there will be an explanation of that. Whilst I regret the necessity for preparing for war, I think we shall be particularly foolish if we discontinue entirely the manufacture and collection of the necessary arms and equipment even for our volunteer army. I ask the Minister to explain how the Lithgow factory will be utilized after it discontinues the manufacture of small arms.
The concluding paragraph of the explanatory statement prepared by direction of the Minister for Defence states that the programme approved by the last Government for the development of munition production in Australia has been practically completed. Is the matter to be left there, or has the Minister any further proposal to put forward for supplying our requirements of munitions?
A scheme has been adopted for the development of an air port for Brisbane at Archerfield, near Cooper’s Plain. In reply to a question I asked recently, the Minister informed me that an amount of £11,500 has been reserved out of the unexpended balance of the Civil Aviation Trust Fund to meet the cost of the initial preparation of the site. This project has been considerably delayed because of the difficulty experienced by the Lands Department in getting the land at a reasonable cost. That difficulty was overcome only recently, and I hope there will be no further delay in proceeding with the work. I was sorry to hear the Minister state, when dealing with the loan estimates, that the Government does not propose to proceed with the construction of the Anzac memorial square at Brisbane. I hope the Archerfield air port will not meet with the same fate. Many people who are out of employment in the district have written to me, asking that the work be commenced as soon as possible. In all parts of Australia are large numbers of unemployed. The Government promised to find work for everybody, and I urge it to proceed at once with the preparation of this air port, and so relieve unemployment m one district, at any rate.
– I have-not had an opportunity to do more than glance hurriedly through the explanatory statement of the estimates of expenditure prepared by direction of the Minister for Defence. The opening paragraph states that the period of the five-years’ developmental programme initiated by the last Government in 1924 expired on the 30th June last. That is evidence of something accomplished. The last paragraph says - “ The programme approved by the late Government for the development of munitions production in Australia has been practically completed.” I notice, also, that the strength of the citizen forces is to be greatly reduced. With the completion of these two programmes, and with a smaller citizen force to train, will the Government maintain the present expen- sive staff and overhead organization of the Defence Department? During an earlier debate I was asked if I thought that the Secretary of the Defence Department should receive a salary of £2,000, and I replied that he should. The Secretary has an opportunity to render great service to the Minister, and to earn every penny of his salary. The present occupant of that office returned from London only about two years ago/ and probably has not yet had time to tackle his job as thoroughly as he should. But I recommend to him the example of the first Secretary for Defence, Captain Collins. He was very careful in administering the departmental funds, and Be allowed no overmanning, overstaffing, or overpayment. Because of his rigid control of the expenditure he incurred the displeasure of the military officers, and was constantly attacked by them; but he was able to manage the department most economically. Glancing through the Estimates, I find that the present Secretary is almost embarrassed by a multitude of accountants and other financial assistants. In addition to an assistant secretary drawing £1,012, are a finance secretary, who receives £1,112; a chief finance officer, £888; an accountant, £624; and six district financial officers, averaging £645 each. Turning to the naval side, I find that a director of navy accounts is receiving £962; and two accountants ‘l- £756 each.
Large salaries are also paid to finance officers in the air force. Apparently there is no co-ordination between these three branches of the service. The Secretary for Defence should advise the Minister on matters of this description.
I am amazed to discover that no fewer than eight officers of the army staff corps receive salaries in excess of £1,000. It appears that £1,000 is the minimum salary in this section of the service. The First Naval Member and Chief Member of the naval staff is paid £3,000 per annum; the Secretary of the Central Administration £2,000 per annum, and two other officers in the Central Administration more than £1,000 each. One officer alone has been granted an increase of £100. The First Chief of the general staff receives, in addition to his salary, an allowance of £500.
Reference to page 142 of the Estimates will show that it is proposed to increase the salaries of members of the permanent staff by £3,870- from £126,705 to £130,575. If this sort of thing is allowed to continue, our experience of 1908-9 will be repeated. When the defence estimates were under consideration that year the Labour party was successful in securing a reduction of the vote by £1,000,000 Sir John Forrest was at that time Minister for Defence, and he threatened to resign, but upon pressure being brought to bear upon him, he reconsidered his intention and retained his office.
If a casual glance through the Estimates reveals such anomalies as those I have mentioned, I feel sure that a complete analysis of the position would astound, not only the Minister, but honorable members generally.
I have been astonished to discover that the Commonwealth is making contributions to the Imperial Navy Pensions Fund, the Imperial National Health Insurance Fund, the Imperial Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Imperial Widows, Orphans and Old-age Pensions Fund. In addition to that, officers - usually men who have been retired on a pension in England - are brought out to Australia from Great Britain to take up the principal positions in what we are pleased to call the Royal > Australian Navy. These men have their fares paid to Australia and receive their salaries prior to taking up and subsequent to ceasing duty here. This is an extraordinary position. We are spending a large sum of money in training men at the Jervis Bay Naval College. When they reach a certain standard they are sent to England for further training. Upon passing their examinations there they come back to Australia to such subordinate positions as sub-lieutenants, although they are qualified to take up positions as lieutenants. This is not as it should be. The fact of the matter is that the Royal Australian Navy is a mere appendage of the Royal Navy. It is deplorable that after nineteen years, our own Australianborn trainees are not permitted to fill responsible positions in the Royal Australian Navy.
The position at the naval base at Western Port is even more unsatisfactory than the position at Duntroon. Everything possible is done to anglicize the staff there. The men who play Australian football are seriously prejudiced in regard to advancement. The English officers in charge are doing their utmost to encourage English customs and English games. Soccer and rugby footfall are played in preference to the Australian rules game, as is the case at Duntroon.
I trust that the Minister will investigate the matters I have brought under hie notice. If he does so I shall feel that my remarks have not been in vain.
.- I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) to an anomaly in connexion with the Imperial pensions paid to residents of Australia who served in the British Expeditionary Forces during the war. The case of Mr. Lawrence Browne requires some explanation. Mr. Browne was a sergeant in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He arrived in Australia in April, 1909, and resided here until he left for England in June, 1915, to enlist in his old unit. He returned to England only because he was rejected for service in Australia. He arrived in England on 29th July, 1915, enlisted at once in his old unit, served in various theatres of war, and was discharged in England on the 16th . April, 1919. He returned to Australia on the 16th September, 1921.
He went to Canada ‘in 1919 en route for Australia, but was detained there owing to the illness of his wife. Mr. Browne claimed payment of the £50 grant which was given to Imperial reservists domiciled in Australia, provided that they returned to Australia not later than the 30th June, ‘ 1920. Browne did not return until fifteen months after that, but his case is deserving of special consideration. Each of these cases should be considered on its merits. There are only 25 to 30 applicants, and the expenditure involved, according to the defence files, is £5,000. I wish to draw attention to the manner in which’ this financial regulation has been manipulated in the interests of one individual only. We are all ready to pay a tribute to Captain Hinkler, who flew to Australia and subsequently returned to England. Captain Hinkler was an applicant for this Imperial service grant. He was not eligible, because he had not complied with the conditions of domicile. Yet he was given the sum of £153 by the, late administration, because of the allegedly special circumstances which the Government claimed entitled it to disregard the regulation. I do not cavil at Captain Hinkler getting this grant, but if the Government could place a liberal interpretation upon that regulation in one case, the whole of the other cases should be reviewed. Browne sold up his home and left Australia because he was not accepted for service here. He went to England, served in the Imperial army, and returned to Australia. On several occasions I have brought this case under the notice of the Minister. I again ask him to review them carefully, and wherever possible to rectify the anomaly that exists at present.
During the budget discussion I criticized the Government’s defence policy and its decision to abolish compulsory training. To-night I shall confine my remarks to other matters to which I think the Government’s attention should be drawn. I look upon compulsory training as a fail accompli. It will not be amiss for me at this stage to point out that when a soldier member of this House speaks on a subject of which he has some knowledge, I do not think that it . should be regarded as an opportunity for honorable members such as the disgruntled and ex-military honorable member . for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch), and the bellicose pacifist from Corio (Mr. Lewis), and others to resort to jibes and suggesting of boasting. There is not a single soldier member in this chamber who has made reference to his war service. Personally, I take no especial credit for going to the war. I feel that it is only what every fit man should have done. But if an honorable member has had peace-time training of troops as well, I submit that he is entitled to speak on this subject, and with at least authority equal to that of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) on the ethics of the Carters Union, with which he would be more familiar than the subject of defence. When any honorable member talks on a subject with which he claims some acquaintance it is right that he should receive a fair hearing.
In the explanatory statement of the defence estimates of expenditure, I notice the following paragraph -
Royal Australian Air .Force and Civil Aviation. - The Defence Committee was instructed to report on (1) the position of the Air Force in relation to the Navy and Army, and the continuance of the Air Force as a separate organization.
Let me urge the Government not to do anything rash in that direction. This is a matter on which the Air Force feels keenly. If the Royal Australian Air Force were split asunder and placed under separate army and navy jurisdiction that would undoubtedly be a retrograde step. It would be going back a decade. Any one who saw the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps operating side by side would realize that there was not proper co-ordination between them, and it was that fact which brought the Royal Air Force into being in 1918. The Royal Australian Air Force is built on lines similar, -to those of the Royal Air Force. It has an air board, and because that board is composed of officers of senior rank who are comparatively highly paid, they are looked upon as fit subjects for the pruning knife. It is suggested that the Air Board should be abolished, and the personnel divided between the Army and the Navy. Let me point out that with this arrangement the senior officer will have to be attached to the
Army branch, and his immediate subordinate to the Navy branch, and so on, and if a saving is to be made in that direction, it will have to be paid for over and over again in the lower grades. There will be duplicate training staffs, duplicate materiel and personnel in many directions. The Navy and Army personnel must get fair consideration in respect of claims they make. The Air Force is a young man’s arm. It is the most modern arm, and, because its senior officers are young men, their representations should receive at least similar consideration to that given to those put forward as behalf of the older services. I am making no suggestions, but I urge the Government not to do anything rash iu that direction. I have its assurance that the suggested splitting of the Air Force does not originate with the Ministry. If that is so, let me urge the Government to listen to the representations of the Air Force first, and then to those of the other defence arms. The Air Force will not suffer by the abolition of compulsory training, nor, in a lesser degree, will other specialist arms. There is a glamour about the Air Force that will always attract sufficient volunteers, while an abundance of young Australians want to learn to fly. The paragraph in the supplementary statement continues -
I welcome any conference between the military and civil branches of aviation, but let me warn the. Government that if it endeavours to make flying postmen of the defence arm it will fail. At the present time the principal air services in Australia are being undertaken by subsidized private companies, and in every instance there is great efficiency. In fact it is asserted throughout the world that our air services are as efficient as any that are operating. But at the same time some liaison between the two is desirable. - There are schools of thought that contend that the air force should co-operate with the civil branch, and there is no doubt that training in cross country flying should be encouraged as much as possible. .1 urge the Government to adopt the recommendations of the two branches of aviation, -that is, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Civil Aviation Department. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) when speaking the other night was distinctly unfair to the air force. He said that it was useless, or words to that effect and that when a plane was lost in Central Australia, the air force could not go to the rescue of the aviators. There were many things associated with that incident with which the honorable member should familiarize himself. At that time the air force was using gift equipment. Aeroplanes of 1917 design had been given us by Great “ Britain. Those machines were perfectly safe and satisfactory for training, but they were not suitable for long distance cross-country flying. It was the irony of fate that the suitable Wapiti machines, such as honorable members have seen flying over Duntroon, were just landing.
– I did not complain of the air force as a force; I said that we had received little result for an enormous expenditure.
– We have in Australia pilots equal to the world’s best. Among them are Squadron Leader Kingsford Smith, whose Pacific flight is still the world’s greatest aviation achievement, Hinkler, Squadron-Leader Cobby, our war “ ace,” and many others. It does not become honorable members with their slight acquaintance of aviation, to belittle the officials of the air force under parliamentary privilege. The air force cannot reply, and it should get a fair deal from this Parliament. This great arm of defence with its many ramifications, should receive the sympathetic attention that is given to other institutions. The air force is largely ancillary to the other arms of defence, as would be discovered if this country were invaded. Certain honorable members referred, the other night, in disparaging terms to what they termed militarism, and I am sure that their utterances must be embarrassing to the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) and to many members of their party. If this country were invaded we should have to rely, to a great extent, upon the air force. It can act independently and, like the navy, can leave these shores if required for action elsewhere. Under those circumstances, it must be maintained at a standard of efficiency.
I hope that the Government will give consideration to the establishment of an air service between Tasmania and the mainland. Some years ago, when President of the Aero Club, I was approached and asked if I would organize an air service to Tasmania. I went to great pains to bring it about, but was unsuccessful. The late -Postmaster General (Mr. Gibson) and the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons), then Premier of Tasmania, were enthusiastic about the scheme and were prepared to assist in establishing it. In 1927 the late Government promised an air service to Tasmania, but, unfortunately, the financial stringency that followed prevented the Government from carrying out its promise. In my opinion, some of the present steamer subsidy might reasonably be paid to subsidize an adequate air service to Tasmania.
There are no insurmountable difficulties, because members of the Royal Australian Air Force have accomplished the journey on several occasions. When the British flying boat flight recently visited Australia, the pilots considered it an easy matter to provide a workable service. Undoubtedly a flying boat is most suitable for the purpose, but other types could be used, and the establishment of an aerodrome at Launceston is a step in the right direction.
The time is ripe for a bold policy in regard to aviation generally, and particularly civil aviation. Too much attention, in my opinion, is given to the carrying of mails by aeroplane instead of the transport of passengers. The written and spoken word can be conveyed most quickly from place to place electrically. But if a person could have breakfast in Melbourne, lunch in Launceston, and return to Melbourne the same day by means of an air service, it would be a step in the direction of overcoming some .of the difficulties under which Tasmania., now suffers. One of those difficulties is the almost annual strike of seamen that occurs during the Christmas season. Tasmania would then receive more of the tourist trade to which she is entitled.
The Minister for Defence has taken exception to my recent criticism of him, and has endeavoured to disprove certain facts and figures quoted by me. I realize that he is new to the work of his department, and is more or less bewildered; but what I have quoted is unfortunately true. On the 6th December last T asked the Minister a question regarding the proposal to adopt a new military uniform, and I inquired if it would be provided by June next. The reply that. I have received is as follows: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that sufficient stocks of the existing pattern uniform are held to permit of issues being made to any persons duly enrolling in the military forces.
I ask the Government whether it is fair to indulge in what almost amounts to false pretences. It is almost playing a confidence trick to say, time and again, that attractive uniforms are to be given to volunteers. Much has been said on this matter, as well as on the formation of Scottish and other national regiments. The establishment of compulsory military training and the abolition of national regiments was a great democratic movement. The uniform issued to the troops was considered good enough for active service, and in it the traditions of the Australian Imperial Force were founded, and it should be suitable for use under any system. But the Government, unfortunately, promised that a more attractive uniform would be provided, to induce men to volunteer. It was quite wrong to promise that. The Government now says that it will continue to issue the uniforms that it previously condemned.
The Minister has told us that volunteers were coming forward as they should, and has accused me of discouraging enlistment. I take no exception to the figures quoted by him, but I was correct in my statement that only about 10 per cent, of the rank and file were enlisting, as from the figures he has quoted have to be deducted the officers, non-commis sioned officers, and band, who number about 70 in each case. That I am not discouraging enlistment is proved by my own battalion, in which the enlistments are at least equal to the best in Victoria. For this I claim no personal credit, as special facilities are afforded the Melbourne regiment in the way of extra recruiting depots. When I criticized the voluntary system, I did it as a matter of policy, and in my capacity as the member for Balaclava.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) spoke of boy conscription, and the enlistment of children of 11 years of age. Has he read the Defence Act? He ought to know that, at the age of 17 years, the senior cadets begin their training, and after that they serve for three years in the citizen forces. Even now, if Australia were invaded, the honorable member for Corio could be conscripted to do his share, and, if he were a conscientious objector, non-combatant duties could be found for him.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said that he hoped that the survey work round the Australian coast would be proceeded with. Finally, I trust that the excellent work of the Air Force in completing the survey of the Great Barrier Reef will not be interrupted. This duty gave excellent opportunities to Air Force pilots to demonstrate the usefulness of the Seagull amphibian machines while aerial photographs furnish some of the best material available for map-making.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) spoke of the withdrawal of the Moresby from the work of surveying our coastline. The late Government was responsible for that, because no provision was made by it on the Estimates for the £60,000 that would have been required to carry on the service this year. The present Government, on assuming office, was faced with a deficit of £5,000,000, with a prospect of a deficit of £2,000,000 at the end of the year, unless heroic efforts were made to square the ledger. No one is keener about this survey than I am, and no part of the coast is more in need of it than that of Western Australia. Still, the honorable member to whom I have referred was entirely mistaken in saying that the charts are over 100 years old.
Defence has not been thrown overboard by this Government, as the honorable member suggested, but a policy has been introduced in accordance with the platform of the Labour party, which favours voluntary instead of compulsory military training. So far as the manufacture of munitions is concerned, the leeway has been made up, and there is a full supply at present. If more munitions were manufactured they would deteriorate, and would have to be destroyed. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) referred scathingly to the salaries paid to various officers in the Defence Department, and it is my duty to defend men who are not in a position to speak for themselves. The Secretary to the Defence Department has onerous duties to perform. He entered the department us a civilian, and he has to act as a buffer between the military, naval, and air arms of the service, each of which is anxious to obtain a good deal of money. It is his duty to advise the Minister in this matter. In comparatively few cases have the salaries of officers been raised. The fact that this year £712,000 is to be spent less than last year shows that a radical saving is being effected.
– The Minister has included special defence expenditure which was met out of reserves; but, taking the ordinary votes, the expenditure on his department will be £507 more than last year.
– The late Government proposed to cut down the expenditure considerably. It decreased the Estimates by £500,000, and this Government has made another cut of £160,000. The following savings will be effected in the various branches of the department : -
If we were prepared to dismiss superfluous officers who, as a result of the suspension of compulsory training are not for the time being fully employed, we could make greater savings still. We shall continue to effect savings, however, by refraining from making appointments as vacancies occur through retirements, deaths, &c.
– If the honorable gentleman will look at his own Estimates he will see that there is to be an increase in defence expenditure this year of £637,000.
– I have already indicated the savings it is proposed to effect. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) alleged that too big a proportion of the personnel of the Australian Navy had been imported, but the fact is that 75 per cent, of the personnel to-day are Australians. His allegation might have been true once, but not now. The suggestions offered by honorable members in the course of this debate will be reviewed more fully later, and will be given what consideration is possible. Honorable members cannot expect me to effect a revolution in the administration of a department in three weeks. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) referred to the treatment of an ex-service man, Lawrence Browne, by the department, over the payment of a grant. It must be remembered that there are certain regulations governing these matters, and in this, as in the payment of old-cage pensions, &c, anomalies sometimes occur. This man had been discharged from the forces fifteen months subsequent to the 30th June, 1920, the last day on which, according to regulations, payments could be made. In those circumstances, I think there were reasonable grounds for not giving the man a grant. It has been mentioned that Hinkler received a grant of £130, although his case was similar. That, I maintain, was an unfortunate way of recognizing Hinkler’s achievement, and represented a lack of judgment on the part of someone associated with the last administration. I can promise the honorable member for Reid, however, that I shall give further consideration to this case.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) brought up the subject of the control of the Royal Australian Air Force It is not part of our policy to amalgamate the Air Force with the Army and Navy. If we have any predilection in the matter at all, it is in favour of keeping the Air Force separate. However, if we can preserve efficiency, and at the same time save money by an amalgamation, the proposal will be considered. Already a committee has been set up consisting of senior officers of the departments concerned for the purpose of amalgamating the financial control of the different branches.
The Brisbane aerodrome is being proceeded with slowly, it is true, but as fast as funds will permit. Other aerodromes will be constructed when we are able to put the work in hand. The kind of uniforms which will be served out to volunteer trainees has not yet been decided upon. Personally, I am opposed to anything gay in the way of uniforms. Perhaps Brigadier-General Dodds, than whom there is no more enthusiastic officer in the Service, may, in his desire to attract young men to the Service, have made some unauthorized statement as to the uniforms to be issued, but have made no pronouncement on the matter.
– In the course of my previous remarks I said nothing against the Secretary of the Defence Department. The Minister has said that he finds that officer efficient and willing, and I believe him. I think, however, that the secretary should co-ordinate the activities of the department with a view to reducing expenditure. If the Minister looks at the Estimates he will be able to see for himself that what I said about increased expenditure this year in the department is correct. It is shown in these documents that the estimated expenditure for 1929-30 is £4,345,116, while the expenditure for 1928-29 was £3,687,820, showing an increase for this year of £657,296. The Minister has challenged my figures, and in reply to him I can only say that they are the figures supplied in his own Estimates. I have also used the Minister’s own figures in relation to the Navy. Some time ago I asked the Minister a question regarding the number of persons in the Navy who had been trained overseas. My question was -
What number of officers, warrant officers, petty officers, and men, snowing each class separately, who received pay in the Australian Navy on 1st November, 1929 -
received their first training in Australia ; and
received their first training elsewhere ?
To this the Minister replied -
I presume that the figures supplied to the Minister by his department are correct, yet in order to destroy my case he said that those figures were wrong.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £927,321.
– When Ministers have been asked during the last three weeks for information in regard to the new tariff schedule, evasive replies have generally been given. We have been told in reply to our requests for particulars that full information would be given when the tariff was under discussion. There must be a great deal of information in the possession of the department in the way of Tariff Board reportB. I ask that information regarding the present tariff schedule, together with the reports of the Tariff Board, be sent to honorable members during recess, so that they shall not he required to wait for them until Parliament re-assembles.
– I think that is reasonable.
– The Department of Trade and Customs is responsible for the administration of the Navigation Act. Honorable members must have observed with surprise that early this week a proclamation was issued under the Navigation Act permitting vessels of a certain description to trade from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart without complying with the provisions of the Navigation Act. Similar proclamations have been made from time to time since 1926, the purpose being to afford an opportunity for providing a better shipping service for Tasmania during the summer months.
– That opportunity has never been availed of.
– I know, and that is why I used the words I did. Only this week the proclamation I referred to was issued, hut in another place to-day, in answer to a question, it was stated that the proclamation was about to be revoked.
– It was revoked to-day.
– We know that, in the meantime, the Seamen’s Union has got busy.
– That is an absolutely unworthy statement, and there is no truth in it.
– Every honorable member knows that a resolution passed by the Seamen’s Union, dealing with this particular matter, has been published in the press. Any one who improves his mind by reading the Labour Daily will be under no misapprehension as to the object which that resolution was intended to serve. It is, of course, entirely for the Government to say whether it was that resolution which brought about a change of policy within about four days. But any honorable member is at liberty to inquire why a proclamation should be made at the beginning and revoked at the end of the week.
– That can be done decently, without making insinuations.
– I make no insinuations. Even if I were to say straight out that upon re-consideration, the Government thought it was wise to comply with the request of the Seamen’s Union, I cannot see why the Government should be ashamed to admit it. There would be no insinuation which the Government could resent.
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that that is not the explanation.
– I have no idea what the explanation is, unless the original action was taken hastily and in ignorance. I understand that the Government has no objection whatever to receiving instructions from outside bodies, which it regards as authorities in any particular matter. I should have thought that it would not resent the suggestion that in a matter affecting seamen, it had consulted the Seamen’s Union.
– We did not do so.
– That is what this Government would hold itself out as ready to do, and unless it was prepared to pay great attention to the wishes of the Seamen’s Union, it would soon find itself in a very awkward position. I find it difficult to understand the resentment of the Prime Minister. So far, no explanation has been given of this striking reversal of policy. On the 9th December, permission was given for these vessels to sail to Tasmania, without complying with the provisions of the Navigation Act. On the 12th December, the proclamation was revoked. No ill results, I expect, have happened, because it would be quite impossible in the time for any action to be taken on the faith of the proclamation. It appears that the original action was taken after very little consideration. If it was right, and nothing has since happened, why was it reversed on the 12th? What did happen? The only other possible explanation is that the original actionwas taken in either error or ignorance of some essential facts. The position in regard to the Tasmanian trade must have been well known to the Government when the proclamation was made. The Prime Minister should explain the access of wisdom to the Government between the 9th and the 12th December.
– The access of wisdom to which the honorable gentleman has referred, is no more easily explained than is his acidity.
– “Assiduity” is a nicer word.
– The honorable gentleman has been a veritable acid drop since the 12th October last. In almost every speech, he has displayed querulousness. In this matter he has made insinuations based on an absolute misunderstanding of the facts, and has endeavoured to make a little cheap political capital out. of incidents which he, having had ministerial experience, might have known could be simply explained in answer to a question. He has insinuated that we are dictated to by the Seamens Union. I should make no apology for consulting any organization, or any body in the community, and ascertaining their views. But in this case, there was no consultation and no dictation.
A full explanation of the matter appears in to-day’s press. It is a simple one. For some years the suspension of the Navigation Act has been a routine matter. The British shipping companies did not avail themselves of it, and no advantage to Tasmania has resulted. No tourists have been carried there on British boats. It was a gesture by the previous Government, a political action to “ play up “ to Tasmania without giving that State anything of advantage to it.
– Does the Prime Minister suggest that the previous Government was to blame because the British shipping companies did not avail themselves of the suspension of the Navigation Act?
– Not at all. All that I say is that for years the suspension of the act was a routine action. This year the department followed the usual routine when the time arrived to make the suspension. It prepared a minute for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton), who brought it to the Cabinet; but it was turned down flat by the Cabinet, which determined that in the busy season Australian boats were entitled to do all the business they could get, and that, if they were unable to carry the tourists who were offering, permits could be granted to overseas boats to carry the surplus if they so desired. Through some inadvertence, regarding which I have been unable to get an explanation, that point was not made clear to the department. An executive minute was prepared on the old routine basis, and, apparently, was signed in error by the Minister with a number of other documents. The proclamation was issued and published on the 9th December. I saw the publication on the 10th, and immediately called the Cabinet together and had an executive minute prepared. To- day, a special Gazette notice revoked the suspension.
The statement is made in the press that a telegram was sent to me by the secretary of the Seamens Union. I have not yet seen that telegram. I have not been in my department for two days, and it may be there. The one thing certain is that before the telegram could have been despatched the Cabinet had acted, and within 24 hours had repaired the mistake that was made.
– The. Prime Minister might also state that a wire has been received from the secretary of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce stating that the suspension of the coastal trading sections of the Navigation Act is of no value to Tasmania.
– We did not think that it would be; but we did not propose to do it. The Navigation Act is on the statute-book for the protection of Australian shipping, which is carried on under Australian conditions.
I notice that one newspaper has made the insinuation that we suspended the Navigation Act with the object of “ playing up “ to Tasmania, because there is a by-election in that State. The anwser to that is that the suspension was revoked before the election was held. It was a simple error, such as might easily be committed by busy Ministers. All the insinuations of the Leader of the Opposisition thus vanish into thin air.
– I congratulate the Prime Minister upon his highly successful explanation - which is, that his Ministers sign documents without looking at them.
.- I take this opportunity to raise a question concerning the tariff schedules that have been tabled. I have a case that I wish to present, although I know that it has already been placed before the Minister. But I also know that, to-day, representatives of the timber interests have been working in those interests and no doubt have made certain representations. I wish to get in behind them with other representations on behalf of certain primary producers in the district that I represent; I refer to the dried fruitgrowers. With a fair proportion of last season’s crop still on hand, and another crop approaching the time for marketing, their position is not as rosy as one would wish it to be.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask the honorable member for Angas to indicate where that item appears in the Estimates ?
– I could find it as easily as could many other honorable members found items to justify their speeches tonight. This matter concerns the officers of the Department of Trade and Customs. Those officers are engaged to help in framing tariff schedules for presentation to this Parliament. The tariff schedule that has been tabled deals with primary producers in my district. Therefore, I claim the right to bring this matter before the committeee.
– I remind the honorable member that if there is not an item in the Estimates affecting this matter he will be out of order in discussing it.
– The Estimates cover all the activities of the department. If you wish to sit me down, I invite you to “ have a go “. It isnot a bad hour at which to go home to bed. A wide discussion has been allowed on each of the departments. I shall exercisemy rights as a member to claim for the primary producers I represent the protection they should have. If you refuse me that right I shall insist until you put me out.
– I again rule that the honorable member may only discuss items appearing in the Estimates.
– On a point of order, I submit that it is in order to refer to any work done by the officers of the department whose salaries are provided for in the Estimates. It has always been the practice to discuss on the estimates of a department, the policy of the Government in relation thereto. Unless that were allowed the discussion on the Estimates would be almost useless. The provision for the salaries of the officers covers their work, the laws they administer, and the. duties imposed upon them by the policy of the Government.
– When a previous tariff schedule was before the House, and before it had been considered, the then Chairman of Committees ruled that it could not be discussed on the Estimates unless they contained a specific item relating to it.
– I shall overcome that by referring to the salary of one of the officers in the department and the provision for the Tariff Board. At the same time I resent your attempt to take from me my rights.
– Order! That remark is disorderly and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I shall not withdraw it. You tried to deprive me of rights which have been permitted to other honorable members.
– I insist upon the honorable member withdrawing his disorderly remark.
– I shall not. I am not going to be bounced in this chamber.
– I have no desire to take extreme action. I again ask the honorable member for Angas to withdraw his remark.
– I refuse.
– The honorable member will put me to the painful necessity of naming him.
– Try it on. You tried to take an unfair advantage of me.
– Will the honorable member withdraw his statement?
– I will not. You tried to put something over me.
– It is my painful duty to name the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb).
– I make a final appeal to the honorable member for Angas. He has undoubtedly disobeyed the Chair. He has been asked to withdraw a disorderly remark and he has refused to do so. The honorable member knows the rules of debate, and if he persists in his defiance of authority, he will put me under the painful obligation of moving that he be suspended. I again appeal to the honorable member to put himself right with the Chair.
– I will not do it. The Chairman tried to silence me becauseI frequently call for a quorum.
– I move -
That the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) be suspended from the service of the committee.
– Can I ask a question?
– There can be no discussion of the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In the House:
– I have to report thatin committee the honorable member for Angas refused to withdraw an imputation against the Chairman, and was suspended from the service of the committee for the remainder of the sitting.
– With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I make a final appeal to the honorable member for Angas. I have no desire that he shall be suspended ; but the forms of the House must be observed. The Chairman of Committees was very lenient with him, and the honorable member will enhance rather than diminish his status in this House, by withdrawing his imputation against the Chair. I therefore appeal to him to withdraw the offensive remark and apologize.
– I have no intention to withdraw it. The Chairman of Committees tried to take away from me rights that were allowed to other honorable members.
– Order ! If the honorable member is not prepared to purge his offence, I have no alternative but to put the question -
That the honorable member for Angas be suspended from the service of the House.,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Angas then withdrew, being suspended from the service of the House under Standing Order 59, for the remainder of the sitting.
– Two long tariff schedules have been laid on the table of the House; but the reports of the Tariff Board have not been made available to honorable members. The impression is general that many items in the schedule have been prepared without any recommendation from the Tariff Board, and apparently after very little consideration in the department. To a new member from a. primary-producing district, it is a revelation to find the manner in which certain honorable members resent any criticism of the sacred mysteries associated with the preparation of tariff schedules. Any suggestion that Ministers and their officers may not be acting in the interests of the majority of the people is met with various forms of abuse, and suggestions are made that such critics are in favour of the importation of black labour, undermining the standard of living, and throwing Australians out of employment. That is most unfair criticism of those who merely ask that tariff duties shall be the result of mature consideration, and likely to help to build up Australian industries. One honorable member said that the new schedules had already provided work for several hundred men in his electorate. That may be true, but what is meat for one electorate is poison for another.
– Does the honorable member wish to poison off all men engaged in secondary production ?
– No, and I do not desire to see men in other industries, who are having a bad time, loaded with fresh burdens after very little preliminary investigation. The duty-
– The honorable member may not discuss tariff duties.
– Do I understand you, sir, to rule that when dealing with the Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs, an honorable member may not discuss customs duties?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Honorable members will he in order in discussing the work or salaries of officers of the department, or the administration of the department, but they may not go into the details of the tariff schedule.
– In accordance with Standing Order 228, I formally dissent from your ruling that it is not in order during the consideration of Estimates of the Department of Trade and Customs discuss duties of customs and move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– There can be no debate on this motion ; it must be decided forthwith.
– Such motions are always debated.
– “ Decided forthwith “ means decided at once, but not necessarily without debate.
– My objection to your ruling, sir, is founded upon the proposition that in discussing the estimates of any department it is one of the most valuable rights of honorable members to discuss the policy of the department and the laws administered by it. The principal law administered by the Customs Department is the tariff, and I submit that honorable members are entitled, in accordance with the long-established practice of this Parliament, to discuss under the Estimates for the Trade and Customs Department, any matter affecting the tariff. To rule otherwise would be to restrict debate seriously. This matter is of vital importance to all honorable members. When the proposed vote for the Attorney-General’s Department was under consideration this afternoon a long debate occurred on the subject of industrial law. Many of the details and principles of our legislation in this connexion were brought under comprehensive review. I dealt specifically with certain matters arising out of the Industrial Peace Act, and other honorable members dealt with other subjects of a like nature.
– I submit that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) have no relation to the point of order which was taken when the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) was speaking. The honorable member proposed to deal with the quantum or amount of duty proposed to be imposed on a particular item ; but that is not the subject with which the Leader of the Opposition was dealing.
– The Leader of the Opposition is in order.
– This subject is of vital importance to all honorable members.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to have regard to the records affecting the high office of Chairman of Committees. It has been repeatedly ruled that argument may not ensue upon a motion of the kind now before us. It has also been repeatedly held that “ decided forthwith “ means decided forthwith and without debate. I have on occasions argued to the contrary, but have been overruled. -A distinction has always been drawn * between “ debate “ and “ decision.”
– If the honorable member’s point is properly taken he is himself out of order.
– The Leader of the Opposition has, I understand, moved that your ruling be dissented from. I submit that there should be no debate upon such a motion.
– It will be realized that I am only a Temporary Chairman of the committee, and that 1 have to decide a question of this kind largely on my own judgment.
I am satisfied that “ decided forthwith “ means decided without being postponed until to-morrow or some later time, but not necessarily decided without debate.
– A distinction has always been drawn between deciding a question without amendment, adjournment, or debate and deciding a question forthwith. A few moments ago we decided a question without debate. I submit, sir, that the honorable member for Wakefield, or any other honorable member, is entitled to discuss the tariff, seeing that the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs is under consideration. To rule otherwise would be to seriously limit our opportunity to criticize the administration of various departments.
– I propose to discuss, sir, a hypothetical duty that might be imposed hastily and without any report having been made upon it by the Tariff Board. It must be apparent to all honorable members that a duty which might prove beneficial to persons in one part of Australia might be highly detrimental to persons in another part of it. Recently five distinguished economists inquired into questions relating to the Australian tariff, and recommended that in the future there should be more inquiry than formerly before additional duties were imposed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is not in order in anticipating the debate upon an item already upon the business-paper.
– I do not propose, sir, to discuss any particular item of the tariff, but rather the functions of the Tariff Board. I submit that the Tariff Board has been ignored in connexion with certain items in the tariff schedules that have been tabled recently. It appears to be obvious that the recommendations of the five economists to whom I have referred have not found favour with the present Government, for it has introduced new duties without any inquiry whatever having been made in relation to them. The object of the Government has been, apparently, to provide additional protection for as many industries as possible in the shortest time possible. This policy might cause a great deal more unemployment than the new duties will be able to relieve. I protest against the maimer in which the Tariff Board has been ignored in this connexion. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), only the other day, that if a certain duty were imposed it would re-act upon the Australian consumers.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the honorable member continues his speech in that strain I shall have to request him to cease altogether.
– In order to explain the difficulties which beset the Tariff Board, I must take a hypothetical tariff item and illustrate its effect on the community. I have not referred to any particular item, and I submit that my remarks are in order. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Swan that if a duty were imposed to protect a particular commodity to which he referred, it would cost the Australian consumers considerably more than the wages paid in making that commodity in this country.
– 1 ask the honorable member not to continue his remarks unless he takes up a different line of argument.
– It is only by a full inquiry by the Tariff Board that we can prevent excessive charges from being levied upon the Australian consumers. Such charges are passed on by all in a position to do so, until they finally accumulate and rest upon the unfortunate primary producer who has to market his product overseas.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must resume hi? seat.
– In reply to the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers that they have had no opportunity of discussing the tariff schedule, T would point out that it is no unusual thing for tariff schedules to be left on the table of Parliament for several months before being discussed.
– The Acting- Minister is out of order in referring to a matter that has already been decided.
– I am replying to the criticism of honorable members that Tariff Board reports have not been made available to them.
– I did not criticise; T made a request.
– When the late Government went out of office 40 Tariff Board reports had accumulated in the Customs Department. They had never been laid on the table of this chamber. Under those circumstances, criticism comes with very bad grace from one who was a member of the late Ministry.
– The reports were always laid on the table by the late Government when the items were brought down.
– Not at all. Frequently items were dealt with and no report was submitted to honorable members. That was our constant complaint when we were in Opposition.
– That happened in two instances only.
– On one occasion a tariff operated for three .years before being ratified by Parliament. The Massy Greene tariff operated for nine months before being ratified. No major tariff has ever been dealt with immediately.
– I asked that the Tariff Board’s reports be made available so far as possible before next session.
– Every reasonable step will be taken by the Government to make the Tariff Board’s reports available to honorable members. This Government has been in office for one month, and it is idle for honorable members opposite to charge it with delaying the tabling of reports.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Works, £302,910; Department of Health, £147,000, and Department of Markets and Transport, £98,070, agreed to.
Proposed vote, £386,837.
– In the division under the control of the Attorney-General’s Department, I notice the item, “ Tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act - £5,000.” Has the Attorney-General anything more definite to say with respect to the continuance of this expense? I raised this matter yesterday afternoon, and there was a general discussion on industrial law and policy. Is there any justification for the expense . of maintaining the tribunals under the
Industrial Peace Act, that are doing no work? Apparently, it is not proposed that they shall be kept employed.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). It is extraordinary that this important item should be treated with indifference. It ill-becomes the Ministry, at this early stage of its career, to ignore questions put to it by the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps the Attorney-General, if he is in difficulty over the question, could have a consultation with the Treasurer, who is a tactician in these matters.
Mr. PATERSON (Gippsland) [3.5 a.m.’. - I can assure the committee that the Country party is equally interested in this subject. For the year 1928-29, the expenditure was only £1,951, yet the sum of £5,000 is provided for this year, when less will be required. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to enlighten the committee as to the justification for the item.
– The Industrial Peace Act was passed in 1920, for the purpose of dealing with certain industrial difficulties that had arisen at that time. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which had been on the statute-book for many years, was considered not to have been entirely successful, and an endeavour was made to introduce a new system of dealing with industrial disputes. The Arbitration Act provides that interstate disputes shall be heard by a single judge; but, under the Industrial Peace Act, an attempt was made to introduce the parties to a dispute into its determination, by giving them representation on the tribunal. It is true that there is a provision in the Arbitration Act for assessors to sit, but, unfortunately, this has been seldom utilized. Under the Industrial Peace Act, there is provision for representatives of both sides to sit together, with a chairman appointed by the Government of the day. In making the choice, the desires of the parties are studied. These tribunals have been sitting for a number of years in the coal industry. Theoretically, they can deal only with interstate disputes, but, in fact, they have been dealing in an irregular manner with many other disputes, and the present position is that all the matters controlled by industrial peace tribunals are in a condition of complete confusion. I challenge anybody to say clearly what the position is with respect to the hundreds of so-called awards supposed to have effect under the Industrial Peace Act. The late Government, attempted to deal with this matter, and the effort failed ; but that does not relieve the present Government from its responsibility. I do not ask it for a complete and industrial policy at this stage. I wish to know why it is now proposed to provide £5,000, to be spent in the current year on these tribunals? Nothing like that sum was spent last year. It was proposed by the late Government to abolish these tribunals.
– Yet the late Govern.ment provided this sum.
– For a portion of the year only. There was a provision at the end of the Estimates of the AttorneyGeneral for an amount expected to be saved, that was largely made up of savings to be effected in connexion with the Arbitration Court and the Industrial Peace Tribunals. It is true that the general figures were left unaltered in many cases. It was proposed in the Maritime Industries Bill, introduced by the late Government to put an end to the Industrial Peace Tribunals. If the present Government were using them to settle the present coal dispute, one could understand their continuance, but that is not being done. The provision seems to be entirely unnecessary.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes, Refunds of Revenue, £1,000,000 and Advance to the Treasurer £3,000,000 agreed to.
War Services Payable out of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £1,419,821.
– I appeal to the Government to prevent the ejection of any occupants of war service homes who are in arrears with their contributions towards the repayment of principal and interest. I have submitted a case to the Minister, and it has been very reasonably dealt with. . I have another case pending, and I should like a general order, at this particular season of the year, that no ex-soldier be ejected from his home until after the new year. Unemployment is prevalent in Queensland and other parts of Australia, and this measure of relief might he afforded at this juncture.
– I think that the honorable member knows the exact nature of the order already issued regarding evictions of men occupying war service homes. No doubt a number of them would have been ejected had it not been for the recent change of government.
– That is contemptible.
– A lot of these men had already been threatened with eviction; notices had been served on them, and the honorable member knows it; yet he suggests that I have no right to infer that they would have been evicted,if I had not countermanded the order.
– I thanked the Minister for. the consideration shown in the case that I brought under his notice, and now ask for a general order.
– I have given a general order, and I can assure the honorable member that I shall see that no occupant of a war service home is evicted, either before the new year or afterwards, unless given every reasonable opportunity to meet his payments.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, Commonwealth Railways, £618,650 agreed to.
Proposed vote, £10,373,399.
– In regard to the item of £4,000 for the salary of the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I wish to touch upon a reference made by the Leader of the Opposition to a question I asked in this House the other day. The honorable gentleman spoke of the persistent attacks made upon men occupying high State positions, and said that such attacks were calculated to render it increasingly difficult to obtain the services of first-class men. He remarked that hostile criticism and the imputation of improper motives were generally detrimental to the best interests of the service. The questions I asked were not directed against this officer in any personal sense whatever. I deprecate the assumption by the Leader of the Opposition of a superiority quite unwarranted by the facts. He referred to my question in a manner which I thought would have been considered a breach of the established procedure of this House. I claim that any honorable member of this House in asking questions concerning important services or important offices under the Crown should not have his motives impugned. For some time past I have been interested in the career of the gentleman occupying the position we are now considering. There are many reasons for that. In the first place we find that this officer is in receipt of a salary of £4,000 a year, and that he is an importation into this country. My questions were not inspired by any personal animus against the officer, but by a desire to establish the principle of preference to Australia and Australians in all our legislative and administrative acts. This gentleman receives £4,000 a year - a greater salary than that paid to the Prime Minister. It is a monstrous thing that this should be so. Is it implied that, no Australian is competent to fill this position. Is there anything to justify the subordination of officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, who have spent their lives in honorable service to their country? My attention was first drawn to this officer by the issue of a quantity of very skilful publicity matter systematically issued in his interests. I engaged in a research of such publicity. The result would astound any one interested in such activities. Quite a number of questions are still to be addressed to Ministers concerning this officer and his activities.
– He has given up a great deal of his personal leisure in order to increase the efficiency of the department.
– Yes, and he has put many good Australians out of jobs. He has been described as a man who has performed wonders since he has held this position. I admit that he has performed wonders, but they are not of the kind we should admire. He has worked wonders in skilfully securing orders for overseas combines and manufacturing firms to the constant and systematic disadvantage and loss of Australian manufacturers, and to the impoverishment of Australian workmen. If honorable members opposite have any large amount of generosity at their disposal, let them begin at home; let them be just before they are generous.
– It is a pity that the honorable member is not.
– I am perfectly just from my point of view. I am speaking now out of a desire to ventilate something that very much needs ventilating. The appointment of this officer is characteristic of a number of appointments for which the late administration was responsible. They were of such an amazing character that this country has- been absolutely swarming with chairmen of evasions, presidents of prevarications and directors of delays. A great deal has been said and done from time to time in the name of efficiency, and some of us have come to loathe the very word because of its misapplication. Efficiency experts may well be classified with experts of the three card trick, and of the walnut and the pea. Against that kind of expert any member of this House is, I think, entitled to raise his voice in protest. The Leader of the Opposition has said that this officer saves his large salary several times each year, but we have not been favoured with any particulars to substantiate that claim.
– He saves his salary several times monthly, I should say.
– Yes, and he has been responsible for millions of pounds of Australian money being paid away to overseas interests, and for thousands of Australian workmen being deprived of a livelihood.
– The honorable member does not supply any figures in support of his statement.
– Why ask me for figures when the honorable gentleman to whose remarks I am replying failed to give any particulars of the large sums allegedly saved several times each year by the superlative qualities of this intellectual giant. TEe claims made on behalf of this officer may be justified to a very large extent, but I suggest that a very poor compliment has been paid to the intelligence of this country. The Leader of the Opposition, in the course of his reference to my questions in the House, said that some persons achieved some small degree of popularity with the unthinking by advocating ‘ certain methods, but that they did an ill-service to Australia. I am willing to concede that the honorable gentleman believed what he said, but I urge him to think again. Honorable members will observe in his statement the same calm . assumption of superiority, as previously stated by me, and a claim for a monopoly of good intentions, good thinking, and good service to Australia. The conclusions arrived at by the Leader of the Opposition suggest confused thinking on his part, and have led to the acceptance of conditions which are certainly doing a real ill-service to Australia. I deprecate the line of criticism that has been indulged in by the Leader of the Opposition in having singled out one who ventured to ask certain questions. I had every justification for asking those questions. I did so in the best interests of the public services of the Commonwealth, and on the principle of “ Australia first, now and always.”
– I have not risen to defend the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, but . I cannot refrain from expressing amazement that the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat should adopt such a hostile attitude towards him. Mr. Brown is recognized throughout Australia as a man of outstanding ability. He is in control of its greatest business enterprise, and is doing wonderfully good work in the service of the Commonwealth. The principal charge of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) against Mr. Brown is that he is a Britisher. I have not the slightest doubt that, although the association of the present Postmaster-General with Mr. Brown has been very brief, he recognizes in him a gentleman of outstanding ability. That was the opinion held of him by the late Postmaster-General, and it is held also by others who have been in close association with him.
My reason for rising was to refer to the proposed vote for South Australia. I regret that this year it has been reduced by £88,717. We know, of course, that the condition of the finances is such that they must be carefully handled. I pay a tribute to the late PostmasterGeneral ‘foi1 the manner in which he administered the Postal Department. Unquestionably the department has made wonderful progress during the last seven years, particularly in regard to the facilities which have been given to the more remote portions of the continent and to rural producers generally. I sincerely hope that the policy of the present PostmasterGeneral will be along similar lines.
The policy of the late PostmasterGeneral was to establish services where, ever possible without providing buildings of too costly a nature. There comes a time in nearly every town when the building that was erected many years ago is no longer suited to the business that has to be transacted. There are several such buildings in my electorate. At the Wolsley post office ;a considerable quantity of mail matter has to be dealt with. It is a most inconvenient office both from the point of view of the public who have to be served and also for the postal officials who have to handle a mass of mail matter in a space that is too crowded for efficient working. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide a very much better building. The present structure is on railway property that is not easy of access, and is altogether too cramped for the work that has to be done in it.
The post office at Edwardstown is on the boundary of my electorate and that of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) who, if he were here, would support my remarks concerning it. Edwardstown is a rapidly-growing suburb, but the postal facilities are not in’ keeping with the volume of business that has to be transacted. The buildings at Meningie, Malang and Clarendon also have outlived their usefulness.
From conversations that I have had with the Postmaster-General, I believe that it is his intention to continue to extend the facilities that were provided by the late Postmaster-General. While he is doing that I hope that he will consider the needs of towns where the postal facilities are out of date.
Where there is more than one town close to the border of two States considerable inconvenience is caused by the fact that one has not a telephone directory of the other.- The* residents of such towns would be deeply appreciative if the PostmasterGeneral would instruct his department to provide for the use of subscribers in each town telephone directories relating to both.
– I hope that the Postmaster-General will not accept the picture that has been painted by some honorable members regarding the valuable service that is being given by his department. It is claimed that great progress has been made by the department during the last six or seven years. I am not acquainted with the work or the capabilities of the gentleman who is receiving £4,000 a year to control the business of that department, but I can say that during the last six or seven years both the postal buildings and the postal services have sadly declined. The buildings, more especially in the western districts of Queensland, are in a shocking condition. A system has been established - and I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will not allow it to continue - of inviting tenders for the erection of post offices. The majority of the buildings in my electorate are tumbling down ; and in places where settlement has sprung up postal facilities have not been provided for the people.
Mount Isa to-day has a population of 3,000, and its requirements are served by four officials who are housed in a tin shed. If the Government had been subject to the provisions of the Queensland Shearers and Sugar Workers Accommodation Act it would have been prosecuted every year since the discovery of Mount Isa. The officials there are expected to give good service to the public, and unquestionably they do their best under adverse conditions. When. I was there two months ago I endeavoured to enter the post office at 4 o’clock in the afternoon to despatch a telegram. The place was packed, and there was no chance of another person getting in. I notice that funds have not been provided for the establishment of a post office there. The other day I was advised by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that it had invited applications from persons who were willing to erect a building which they would be prepared to lease to the department for the next five years for the transaction of postal business. In a town which is growing as rapidly as Mount Isa that class of post office will not serve the public, and the department is merely humbugging the people who are living there. It is claimed that a greater quantity of ore will be produced at Mount Isa than has been taken from Broken Hill. The company has proved already that the field contains £90,000,000 worth of payable ore. I hope that the Postmaster-General will instruct his department to proceed forthwith with the erection of a post office. Every day the newspapers in North Queensland are urging that this work be proceeded with. Those who are being well paid to give services to the public should take more heed of the criticism of the department in the press. I have received a letter asking me to see if anything can be done in regard to the erection of a new post office at Mount Isa. My correspondent says -
The only thing I growl about is the post office. “Inadequate” is the mildest term that could be applied to it. I have heard many other terms. I cannot understand the Commonwealth administration failing so hopelessly. Imagine the business of a concern like this, and the correspondence of 3,000 people going through a rickety little tin shack with about four hands, apparently, to do it all. If you could use your influence to wake them up at head-quarters, every one would be grateful. As it is, mail is mislaid and delayed, and hard tn get at all.
I hope that the Postal Department will wake up, and not wait until some person is prepared to erect a building and lease it. No blame can be attached to the present Government. If Mr. Brown is responsible for the so-called efficiency that has prevailed in the postal department during the last four or five years he has been overpaid to the extent of £4,000 a year; because the service has declined. Letter carriers have been dismissed, and the work has been let out on contract. Post offices have been closed where public service was being carried on. In one place a postal official devotes his time to the telegraph lines while his wife looks after the post office. The boy who delivers telegrams from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. has to attend to the switchboard on what is called sleeping shift, from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. That may be all right in exchanges which receive only two or three calls nightly, but this service in towns with a population of S,000 amounts to sweating and exploitation of child labour. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) spoke of the generous manner in which his constituency has been treated. Evidently the policy of the last Government was to build post offices in districts represented by its supporters. I hope that the present Government will give service to people in the country districts regardless of who represents them.
– I cannot remain silent after hearing the attack that has been made upon the Director of . Posts and Telegraphs. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) seems to bear resentment against Mr. H. P. Brown, mainly because he was not born in Australia.* That may have been Mr. Brown’s –misfortune; but it was not his fault. If he could have been consulted he might have chosen Australia as his birth-place. He is now an Australian by adoption, and I remind the honorable member for Martin that a man from other parts of the British Empire can be just as good an Australian as the native-born. Mr. Brown and I can at least claim to be Australians by our own choice, whereas the honorable member for Martin is an Australian because he could not help it.
– You did not bring all the brains in the world with you.
– I have not suggested that we did, but Australians by adoption are not necessarily inferior to the native born. Because of the rapid developments in connexion with wireless and electrical science generally, the head of the Postal Department requires to have not only administrative ability, but also wide technical knowledge. Such a combination in one man is rare, but it- is found in an extraordinary degree in the present Director of Posts. Mr. Brown was lent to Australia by the British Government for two years at a time when the Commonwealth Government was proposing to initiate a policy of postal and telephonic extension, involving the expenditure of millions of pounds. He proved so valuable an officer that the last Government decided that Australia could not afford to lose him, and all the deputy directors in the different States were quick to congratulate him upon his permanent appointment, because they realized that he had special qualifications for the post. The head of the Victorian Railways and the principal railway commissioner in New South Wales receive even higher salaries than that which is paid to Mr. Brown.
– There are plenty of complaints about Mr. Clapp.
– There may be, but in my opinion Mr. Brown’s job is a bigger one than that of any railway commissioner in Australia.
– But the railway commissioners do not regularly and systematically strangle Australian industries.
– The innuendo is not justified. The honorable member should not attack a person who is not in a position to defend himself;’ I know that Mr. Brown could obtain from private enterprise a much larger salary than he receives in the Commonwealth service. lt is a tribute to his ability that a large private concern is prepared to bid against the Commonwealth Government for his services.
– I do not take advantage of my position in Parliament to criticize government officers, but I am bound to support to some extent the remarks of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge). He did not suggest that persons coming to this country from the other side of the world could not become good Australians ; rather did he complain that Australians have to leave their own country to be appreciated. I speak feelingly, because three of my own children have left Australia. The policy of the Postal Department during the last few years has been entirely wrong. In my own electorate, rents are being paid by the department which would more than cover the capital cost of adding a story to the Newcastle post office. Notwithstanding these high payments, the accommodation provided for the officers is inadequate. In other places postmasters, who were really caretakers of Commonwealth property, are to be moved out to make way for the constructional staff and others. That is a short-sighted policy. Country people should have all the facilities that can bo provided, hut I know of places where the department is regularly losing revenue because it will not make adequate provision to gather it in. As soon as the Postmaster-General has had time to get into his stride, he should look into these matters, and, while ensuring that the interests of the department are protected, give better service to the public.
.- On other occasions I have said in this House that officers who have not an opportunity to defend themselves should not be attacked by honorable members. I do not know the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, but I have heard severe criticism of his administration, and the Postmaster-General should inquire into the statement that a lot of postal material is being imported which could be made in Australia. Criticism of this kind has come from officials and others in different States. I heard something to that effect in a capital city only a fortnight ago, and the remark made by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge) suggests that such criticism has some foundation. The salary of £4,000 paid to Mr. Brown is excessive, having regard to the fact that in young and developing country districts services that would not cost much but would be of great benefit to the residents are withheld because of the financial stringency.
– That is not the fault of the head of the Department.
– No; but for the salary of £4,000 we could get the services of an Australian who is equally well qualified. The South Australian Government engaged a railways commissioner from America at a salary of £5,000 a year for seven years ; the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is an Australian, and I would prefer him to Mr. Webb at the same salary. The amount that could be saved on the salary of Mr. Brown would provide some of the services that are at present denied the people in the rural areas. We should give Australian engineers an opportunity to show what they can do. The Deputy Directors are Australians, and they are always ready to investigate, personally, the requirements of country districts. I would give such men an opportunity to show what they can do as head of the department, rather than import a man from overseas at an excessive salary. While I deprecate the making of charges against a public servant who is not able to defend himself, I must admit that there is justification for some of the statements of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Eldridge).
It has been said that I should be the last to complain about the work of the previous administration, because of what has been done in my electorate. I reply that my electorate is the second largest in the Commonwealth. This may not count for much in the ordinary way, but it counts for a good deal when it comes to the provision of postal facilities. Eyre Peninsula, which is part of my electorate, is half as large as Victoria. Until a few years ago it was not developed to any extent, but rapid advances have been made there recently, and the provision of postal facilities is very much behind the requirements. I visited the town of Minnipa a few months ago and found that the small post office there was overcrowded to a serious degree on the business day of the town. A similar condition of affairs was noticeable at Wudinna. At Kimba the young postmaster is obliged to live in a most dilapidated house, although a block of land was purchased some time ago for the purpose of erecting a house for him.
I urge the Government, notwithstanding the financial stringency, to give close attention to the requirements of the country districts.
.I have privately asked the PostmasterGeneral to do his best to provide employment for certain married returned soldiers who, as temporary employees of his department, have recently been dismissed. I cannot understand why 80 or more young men should have been brought from various towns in Queensland and as far north as Cairns and placed in the positions formerly filled by these returned soldiers in the Sydney Post Office. It must have cost the Government between £20 and £30 on the average to bring these men to New South Wales. The Minister for Markets and Transport has assured us that there will not be any more evictions of soldier tenants from war service homes, and I appeal to the Postmaster-General to give an assurance not only that there will be no further retrenchment of returned soldiers who are temporarily employed in his department, but that as far as possible the men already dismissed will be re-employed.
– The reason why the services of certain temporary officers have been dispensed with is that a system of training introduced by the previous administration some time ago, particularly in the telegraph department, has produced a number of qualified young men who, as permanent officers of the Public Service, are entitled to preferment when positions become vacant. In the circumstances the Government has had no option but to give these men employment in preference to temporary employees. Men have been brought from Queensland to New South Wales because positions have become vacant in New South Wales to which such officers had a prior right of appointment. We cannot keep the work of the Public Service in the various States in watertight compartments, and I suggest that very few honorable members would desire to do so.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral make every attempt to absorb these dismissed temporary employees in some other capacity?
– I repeat the assurance that I have already given to the honorable member that every attempt will be made to do so. No one regrets the retrenchment of these men more than I do.
Certain criticism has been levelled against the permanent head of my department, Mr. H. P. Brown. I have not had a long experience of the Commonwealth Public Service ; but I was for a long time associated with the Public Service of Tasmania, and I learned to value the loyalty and fine service rendered to that State by its public officers. I also learned during an extended ministerial experience there that it was the duty of a Minister to be loyal to those who were loyal to him. I have every intention of being loyal to my officers. I wish to say quite definitely that I have had no reason to believe that there is any lack of loyalty or efficiency on the part of the head of my department towards me or the Government. This officer has rendered and is rendering splendid service to Australia. He was loyal to- the previous Government, and has been loyal to this Government. He regards it as his duty to carry out the policy of whatever Government may be in power, and that is the right attitude for the head of a department to adopt. Any criticism of the department should be levelled against the previous Government or against this Government, but not against individual officers of the service.
– Why have my motives been impugned ?
– I have not impugned the honorable member’s motives, but I consider it my duty to be loyal to officers who have been loyal to me.
– My motives have been misinterpreted, and improper suggestions have been made in respect of them.
– Nothing was said about the honorable member’s motives. I did not misinterpret them.
– Nor did I.
– It has been said that the permanent head of my department is not an Australian. For my own part, I favour the policy of preference to Australians, but neither I nor this Government is responsible for this particular appointment. In any case, I trust that we shall not be so narrow as to refuse to recognize the merits of a man who is a native of another part of the Empire.
– What I contended was that as there were Australians competent to discharge these duties, preference should have been given to one of them.
– I am an Australian native; but my parents were not, although they helped to build up this country. Those- who come here from other parts of the Empire should be encouraged to assist in the development of Australia. I hope that we shall not count it against a man that he is not an Austraiian native.
Some comment has been made about the salary that is paid to Mr. Brown. This was fixed by the previous administration, but again I suggest to honorable members that we shall gain nothing and possibly lose a great deal by offering poor salaries for the leading positions in a department which handles millions of pounds every year. A good man can save his salary ten times over in his department. We must look at this matter broadly and aim at securing the greatest possible efficiency. Until I am convinced that an officer is not earning his salary I shall have no objection to paying it, whatever it may be.
The honorable member for Martin asserted that the permanent head of my department was doing things detrimental to the best interests of Australian manufacturers and was assisting outside manufacturers. It has been the policy of successive Governments to administer this department as a business undertaking. In these circumstances the permanent head of it must act in a business-like way. If a particular Government desires to give special preference to Australian products at a considerably greater cost, I have no doubt the head of the department will carry out the policy provided that he is given the necessary funds to do so.
– It has been the policy of previous administrations for many years to give preference to Australian products.
– I believe that is so.
– I claim that under the previous administration this officer discriminated against Australian enterprises, Australian technique and Australian workmen.
– The honorable member has not proved those statements.
– I can produce overwhelming evidence in support of them.
– .Th: previous Government must accept responsibility for what has happened in the past, and this Government will hold itself responsible for what happens in the future. It has been said that great things will happen when the present Postmaster-General gets into his stride. That, of course, will depend upon the amount of money made available to me by the Treasurer. The provision of additional postal facilities in country districts depends upon financialconsiderations.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has said that the Department has been guilty of sweating. I shall look into that matter. If there is sweating it can be overcome only by providing sufficient money from revenue to prevent it or by cutting down the service. I was surprised to hear .the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) speak in such complimentary tones of the previous Postmaster-General and then proceed to find fault with a number of postal buildings in South Australia.
– I pointed out that the buildings had become obsolete.
– New buildings can be erected only when funds are available for the purpose. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) suggested that an extra storey should be added to the post office at Newcastle, but there, again, the money has to be found to carry out that work. It is of no ase finding fault with the head of the department, because, unfortunately, the funds at his disposal are limited. This Government is doing much more than the previous Government did and proposed to do this year. When I took office I found that it would be necessary to dismiss at Christmas time over 1,300 men engaged upon new works, because the money made available by the previous administration for such work would be absorbed by that time. Recognizing that these works were necessary I put the case to the Cabinet, and I obtained the assurance that an additional £400,000 would be made available. That has enabled me to continue those works until the end of this financial year. The 1,300 men who were to have been dismissed are to continue in employment and an additional 400 men will be engaged. The suggestions that have been made by honorable members will be given serious consideration by the department and myself, but it must be recognized that the state of the finances is the key to the situation. I hope that the position in regard to postal and other facilities will, by the end of the financial year, be so much improved that honorable members on both sides will have little cause for complaint.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, Territories of the Commonwealth, £222,350, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to-
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such serviced, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1929-30, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £23,258,064.
Standing- Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Theodore) agreed to -
That towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1929-30, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £10,974,401.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Scullin and Mr. Theodore do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply: (Consideration resumed from 29th November, vide page 523).
Proposed votes - Department of Home Affairs, £33,000 ; Department of Defence, £71,884; Department of Trade and Customs, £16,982; Department of Health, £33,936; Territories of the Commonwealth, £131,500- agreed to.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1929-30, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £290,576.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
Resolution of ways and means, covering resolution of supply, agreed to, reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Theodore and Mr. Scullin do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Theodore, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it did not insist on its amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives.
.- On behalf of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) I move -
That a select committee beappointed to inquire into and report upon the position of the tobacco-growing industry of Australia, with special regard to the following aspects: -
I do not intend to discuss this matter, because a similar motion was submitted by the honorable member for New England in the last parliament and carried. The tobacco associations in the various States desire that the committee should be appointed. About £3,000,000 is sent out of Australia annually for tobacco, and the growers of this commodity in this country consider that there is no sufficient reason why the greater part of that sum should not be diverted into their pockets.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Sitting suspended from4.40a.m. to 2.30 p.m. (Friday).
Report No. 1 presented by Mr. Tully, read by the Clerk and agreed to.
– In accordance with my promise to the Leader of the Opposition, I now lay on the table of the House copies of the correspondence which has passed between the British Government and the Government of the Commonwealth regarding the suspension of certain portions of the Migration Agreement.
The following papers were presented-
Taxation - Twelfth Report of the Commissioner, years 1925-26, 1926-27, 1927-28, and 1928-29.
Ordered to be printed.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance of 1929 - No. 8 - Executive Council.
Public Service Act - Sixth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 2nd December, 1929.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1929 - No. 19- Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages - (No. 2).
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1929-
Central Australia -
No. 15- Gaming (No. 2).
No. 16 - Public Service (No. 2).
No. 17 - Testator’s Family Maintenance.
North Australia -
No. 18 - Roads.
No. 19 - Gaming (No. 2).
No. 20- Public Service (No. 2).
No. 21 - Testator’s Family Maintenance.
Mr. Coleman, as chairman, brought up the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on Agricultural and Pastoral Leases in the Federal Capital Territory.
Assent to the following bills reported -
South Australia Grant Bill.
Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill.
Arbitration (Public Service) Bill (No. 2) 1929.
Tasmania Grant Bill.
– What is the position, Mr. Speaker, in regard to the questions standing on the notice-paper for Friday? Will an opportunity be provided to deal with them to-day?
– This is a continuous sitting from yesterday, so that it is impossible that the sitting set down for Friday can take place. We cannot have two sittings on the one day, and therefore the questions on notice for to-day cannot be dealt with. Sitting suspended from 2.33 to 5.55 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Bill.
Appropriation Bill 1929-30.
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1929-30.
Valedictory - Review of Commonwealth Industrial Legislation - Tariff Board’s Reports - Brindabella Telephone: - Tamworth Post Office : Political Meeting - EdenMonaro Election - Wine Industry - Coal Industry Tribunals: Military Supplies: Monetary Relief: Action of New South Wales Government.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
This is the first occasion on which I have had the honour, as Prime Minister, to move the adjournment of the House for the Christmas recess. Although it is not the end of the session, I take advantage of this opportunity to extend to you, Mr. Speaker, to the Chairman of Committees, the clerical officers of the House, the members of the Hansard staff, and the attendants who minister to our needs in this Parliament, as well as to honorable members generally, the compliments of the season, and to wish all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
.- I associate myself with the kind wishes expressed by the Prime Minister to you, sir, to the Chairman of Committees, the clerical officers of the House, the members of the Hansard staff, and the members of other staffs, all of whom play a part in service to the community. I appreciate the manner in which the duties of all have been performed. I wish them, and all the members of the House, a happy and enjoyable Christmas, and a prosperous Hew Year.
.- The subject that is causing most concern to the majority of the people of this country is the need for the review of our industrial legislation. Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that early in the new year we shall have an opportunity to review the whole of our industrial machinery?
.- I have pleasure in echoing the sentiments that have been expressed towards you, Mr. Speaker, as well as towards honorable members generally, and the members of the various staffs who have always been so good to us.
I wish to draw attention to two matters upon which I feel considerably aggrieved; 1 refer to the taxation that is being imposed on the people by the tariff schedules that have been placed upon the table of this House, and the absence of reports of the Tariff Board, requests for which have been made time after time. Those reports must be in the hands of the Minister, and they should be made available to honorable members. Recommendations made by the Tariff Board are for the guidance of not only Ministers, but also Parliament and the public. It is contended that many of the proposed new duties have a scientific basis. I should like to know who is the scientific genius who induced the Minister to increase the duty on microscopic slides by 2,600 per cent., and on hoods for children’s hats by over 1,000 per cent. We should be given an assurance that the reports which have been dealt with will be sent to honorable members so that they may be able to make some preparation for the debate on the schedules.
Last night this House passed a bill to give further assistance by way of bounty to a firm which manufactures corrugated iron.. The amount of the bounty to be paid is sufficient to pay the salaries of all who are employed in the industry. Will the Prime Minister follow the practice that has been adopted ‘in the United States of America and give to the farmers the assurance of a guaranteed price for their wheat; and also will he consider the advisability of giving a bounty on the production of gold in Australia ? Having reached the present stage in our protective policy, we are justified in asking that something be done for that section of the community which provides the wealth that enables the Government to give effect to proposals such as that which I have described.
I express regret that it has been necessary to adopt this stand in the closing hours of the Parliament; but I am perturbed because many of the reports of the Tariff Board have been dealt with by the Minister, but have not been presented to this House. I consider that we are entitled to demand that they be placed before us as early as possible.
.- The Leader of the Opposition is always courteous, and generally serious; but in the early hours of this morning he was in a perfectly kittenish mood. He raised points of order, decided them himself, and then moved that his ruling be dissented from. Although he is one of the most temperate and sober of men, he momentarily gave the impression of a member of the Band of Hope who had taken strong waters. It was at the unholy hour of 3 o’clock in the morning, just after the graveyards had ceased to yawn and give up their dead, that he unexpectedly rose and asked me why it was proposed to appropriate a certain sum for industrial tribunals that had not been functioning for some time, and which, in his view, apparently, are not likely to function. The appropriation for the year, 1929-30, amounts to £5,000. I remind the honorable gentleman that this appropriation arises out of the operations of a tribunal that operated regularly under his own administration, and in respect of which similar appropriations had previously been repeatedly made. The honorable gentleman was Attorney-General for three or- four years. I have occupied that high office for a little more than that number of weeks. It would be reasonable to suppose that he would know to. what these appropriations refer. In the last few years the appropriations and the expenditure have been as follow: -
As the honorable gentleman well knows, these are coal tribunals, three or four of which have operated from time to time in the coal-mining industry. Regarding the future, I should like to inform the honorable gentleman that the policy of the Government in regard to the industry is not to be announced forthwith. I hope that explanation will satisfy the honorable member. On personal grounds, I would be sorry indeed to offend him, and at this Christmas season, while wishing you, Mr. Speaker, the compliments of the season, and joining with those who have expressed their acknowledgments to the staff of the House, I hope that my honorable friend will enjoy for many years the distinguished position he now occupies.
.- On the 6th December, 1929, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) addressed to me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
On the 10th December, 1929, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) addressed to me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
To other questions asked by honorable members, replies will be furnished as soon as the information is available.
– I desire to associate the Country party and myself with the seasonal good wishes expressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I desire to impeach certain newspapers in New SouthWales. Not only have I been accused of moral and political turpitude, but they have charged me with perversity and questioned my veracity. The Sydney Morning Herald and the political go-getters of the Opposition have been making allegations against me in connexion with the Eden-Monaro election. So long as the newspapers were willing to allow me to reply to their charges and misrepresentations I did not mind their criticism, but when they deny me that justice to which I am entitled as a member of this Parliament, I shall use Hansard to vindicate myself in the eyes of the public. I sent the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald: -
I read with a good deal of amusement the report -that appeared in your pages in which the ludicrous meandering of the Nationalist organizer named Mr. Campbell is chronicled. One can easily imagine, the spectacle of a gentleman with an obsession, peregrinating -amongst the A.R.£(p’ workers, tickling their pericardium –. asking them how I succeeded in visiting cemeteries, and “ getting the dead “ to rise and put their figure one in the top square - thus enabling EdenMonaro to become my preserve.
This gentleman will certainly find some sensational copy if he listens to the man in the street and they know the nature of his quest. Surely he will bid fair to become the joke of the campaign.
As to that gentleman’s allegation that I forgot to say so and so, my reply to him is that I forgot more .than he ever learnt, and that I am not going to forget to tell him that while he “strains at a gnat” not many will be found to “ swallow “ this camel.
Mr. Campbell’s reference to my son having had his name struck off the Goulburn roll proves him to be one so unreliable that the organization to which he belongs should advise him not to rush into print and thus disclose the fact that he is totally incapable of handling a matter to which the press is devoting so much “ big primer “. Strange to say, the press has not published the speech of mine to which Mr. Campbell is essaying a reply. Despite Mr. Campbell’s blundering ipse dixit about “definitely and unequivocally” denying my claim for the manifold qualifications of Cusack, junior, that Cusack is enrolled on the Federal Capital roll, on the Eden-Monaro roll, on the Goulburn State roll, Yass municipal roll, &c, &c, is a fact, and his right for being thus enrolled is an indefeasible one, Mr. H. Campbell notwithstanding.
The Sydney Morning Herald chose to publish only half my statement, and I object to the circulation of half-truths concerning me, and my position as representative of an important electorate. I have sent replies to other newspapers, which, instead of publishing them, have tried to further misrepresent me by using phraseology extracted from them. Although the chief rib of the backbone of the go-getters withheld the information, I was able to supply the Goulburn Penny Post with my son’s numbers on the electoral rolls in Canberra, the Eden-Monaro electorate, and the Goulburn electorate, but that journal refused to publish the facts and charged me with perversion. During the election campaign the Canberra Times published canards about my health, and in that way tried to injure my candidature. It was a most unworthy attack. When that journal reported my utterances in this chamber it insinuated that my intelligence was of a low order, and that I used words which its reporters did not understand, and which, probably, I did not understand. If you, Mr. Speaker, will make available a room in this building, I am prepared to take that adolescent scribe on my knees and instruct him in the meaning of every phrase I use. I might have further bewildered him by referring to a partisan press that pollutes itself by permitting its participation in perquisites provided by the purse-proud political parvenus of plutocracy, and 1 could have gone on to say that a press that strives to poison the public mind by platitudes and purchased adulterated pabulum is unworthy of consideration. If I am to be assailed by the press, and refused a fair deal, I shall exercise my rights as a member to circumvent its hostility by publishing the truth in Hansard. Some of the journals which suppress many, bright phrases I have uttered, publish the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and long leading articles based thereon. In that way, men who are provided with accommodation in this building are able to misrepresent me and the party of which I am a member. I resent these tactics; if an organization is financing these gentlemen of the press, and they cannot survive without the aid of such funds, the Labour party should take steps to terminate this corrupt state of affairs. The newspapers cannot make us believe that there is more dust in their sunbeams than in any other part of the room, and if they wield the pen against me I shall wag the tongue against them. I intend to protect my honour and reputation. If the newspapers will not publish the replies that I send to their comment regarding myself, I shall use Hansard to secure publicity. I do not want the newspapers to revise my contributions to their columns. Let them leave the inverted commas, the ordinary commas, the full stops, and the grammatical construction as I submit them.
Motion (by Mr. Thompson) negatived -
That the honorable member for EdenMonaro be no longer heard.
– I have furnished the Goulburn Penny Post with certain figures relating to the enrolment of electors in Eden-Monaro which they have refused to publish. I shall in the future treat that newspaper, together with the Sydney Morning Herald, with the greatest contempt. Certain sections of the press have commented upon the attack made in this chamber by the honorable member for Hunter on this Government. I do not know whether those newspapers consider that the honorable member was actuated by lofty ideals and altruistic motives in making that attack. Another newspaper has alleged that the officers of a particular Government department had been guilty of espionage. These journals all get their nourishment from the same bottle as the Sydney Morning Herald. But it is time that they were brought to book.
Whenever a Labour member takes his seat in this chamber for the first time he is subjected to a biological survey by the press. The word should be spelt “ buy-ological.” I am reminded that during the war a book was printed in Germany, in which was recorded the alleged weaknesses of certain British Ministers of the Crown. It was said that one was weak financially, and another was unduly susceptible to sexual attractions. Others were charged with other weaknesses.
– I rise to a point of order. I find it impossible to understand the remarks of the honorable member. [ wish to ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you will make arrangements to enable his utterances to be comprehended ? Why is he not stopped from speaking?
– I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to realize that he has already made a full protest. He should show the House the respect which he would desire it to show him.
– I will conclude my remarks by saying that it would give me the greatest pleasure to hold Granny Sydney Morning Herald in one hand, while with the other hand I pulled her journalistic nose for misrepresenting me.
!- During the early part of last week a request was made to the Government on behalf of the wine grape growers for an additional bounty of 9d. per gallon on wine for export, which the Prime Minister stated that he would carefully consider. The position of these wine grape growers is deplorable. Many of them will receive far less than the basic wage from their holdings this year. I trust that the Prime Minister will announce the intention of the Government before we rise. Even if an adverse decision has been reached it will be better for these people to know it than to remain in suspense.
– I wish to identify myself with the good wishes that have been expressed to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House. I am reminded that it was at this period of the year that the lowly Nazarene came to earth, with his message of peace and good-will to his men. In this connexion, I bring under the notice of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence, certain rumours that are current, to the effect that the federal authorities, in conjunction with the New South Wales Government, are transporting military equipment to Newcastle, to be used in connexion with the unfortunate industrial dispute on the coalfields there.
– There is’ no truth in the rumour!
– I trust that the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Defence, will make a definite statement upon this subject.
.- Honorable members of this chamber rarely hear me speak, except on the subject of coal ; but I desire them to know my viewpoint. During the whole time that I have been a member of this Parliament, my constituents have been in serious trouble, and it is vital to them that I shall continually bring under the notice of the Government the urgent necessity for granting them some relief. Christmas wishes have been expressed this evening to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the officers of the House. I am unable in any letter that I write to a constituent of mind to express such pleasant sentiments. My constituents are undoubtedly suffering a grave injustice. Possibly this is because the Government lacks certain constitutional power. The people of this country returned this Government to office. During the election campaign the Labour candidates exploited the coal position and the sufferings of the people. “What is the miners Christmas box? What are their greetings? They are filled with an utter despair. Starvation and misery stalk through the Hunter electorate. Have the miners broken the law, or refused to obey the award ? No. They desire to be law-abiding citizens and to obey the law. The previous Government stood behind the coal-owners, ready to club the miners into submission and eager to break the award under which they were working. Although all parties in this House realize the extent of our constitutional difficulties, they have, at least, some duty to perform to the coal workers. Honorable members cheer one another, so why not give the mining community greetings? What would bc wrong in both sides of this House agreeing to give the mining community some little comfort for Christmas? In my electorate there are women with careworn faces, and on the advent of the anniversary of the lowly Nazarene something should be done for them. 1 mentioned in my last speech, when I was in a different mood from that in which 1 am to-day, but I should like to enjoy my holidays in my electorate, secure in the knowledge that the mining community are getting some little comfort. I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether hu would oppose a grant to these people, who have committed no wrong and broken no law? Would the members of the Opposition criticize this Government outside this House if it were courageous enough to give, say, £20,000 or £25,000 to the miners to tide them over the Christmas holidays ? That would be little enough. There are 36,000 of my constituents absolutely on the verge of starvation, and I appeal to all honorable members not to let this opportunity pass without giving them some assistance. I do not wish to criticize the Government, but I withdraw nothing of what I said on Tuesday last. Had this Government had the courage to take over the mines, the people of Australia would have suffered no opposition. We on this side of the House would have lost nothing. We would have lost not one Labour supporter or one Labour vote. When the late Prime Minister committed an unconstitutional act in attempting to deport Walsh and Johnson, did he lose one Nationalist vote ? No, he did not. He was returned to power. Did the last Premier of New South Wales lose any votes when he committed an unconstitutional act by trying to place a tax on newspapers? No, he did not. Therefore, 1 say that had this Government attempted to take over the mines it would have lost nothing even if it had failed. The Government should be prepared to carry 0U its election promises to the people, and had it taken any action to open the mines, that would have strengthened its hands when asking the people for full industrial powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. Yesterday I put a question to the Attorney-General, and it has not yet been answered. I do not say that the AttorneyGeneral has deliberately not answered, but when I asked the question he requested me to place it upon the notice-paper for to-day. There is no notice-paper for to-day. This House will adjourn, and my constituents will have to suffer a long period of want before that question is answered. I believe that in courtesy to me the Attorney-General should answer that question to-day. I also intended to direct to the Minister for Defence the question that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) raised. What I wish to know now is whether this Government has the courage to give some cheer to the miners, who have committed no breach of the law? There does not seem to be any sympathy among honorable members for the mining- community. The miners are looked upon by some persons as being of a red revolutionary character. That is an altogether erroneous idea. These people are law-abiding citizens. They desire to remain law-abiding citizens. The only time when sympathy is extended to them is when the public reads in the daily press that 20, 30, or perhaps 50 miners have been sent to eternity through some explosion or other disaster. These men go down into the bowels of the earth, toiling to procure the fuel required to keep industry going, to provide power for transport purposes, and to give the community warmth in winter, and the other comforts that result from the use of electricity and gas and the operations of steam-driven machinery, for a thousand purposes. Honorable members do not realize, as I do, that these comforts are purchased at the cost of the sweat and blood and the miserable lives of the miners.. Honorable members do not understand my position. Some complain that I speak with too much emotion. But from my tenderest years I have been closely associated with the people employed on the mining fields, and know their sorrows and hardships. When a mere child of eight I saw my eldest brother brought home a corpse, and my father a cripple, as the result of an accident in a mine ; and in later years I have had to convey the news of tragedies to the wives and children of men who have been killed. I implore honorable members to consider this matter from my viewpoint and to try to appreciate what I am telling them. They will find, if they study them with sympathy, that the miners are only human beings, after all. In conclusion, I urge that the questions I am about to ask may be answered before the House rises. This is what I ask the AttorneyGeneral -
In view of the fact that the New South Wales Government proposes to permit a breach on the miners’ award by employing miners and others at Rothbury colliery at lower rates than those specified by the Federal Coal Tribunal, which was created by this Parliament, and has been registered under the Industrial Peace Act, does the Attorney-General intend to take action to restrain the State Government and others from committing a breach of the award?
I direct my next question to the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green), or to the Prime Minster (Mr. Scullin), whichever of those Ministers is able to answer it-
Is there any truth in the published statements that two van loads of equipment, such as bedding and tents, arc being sent from the Liverpool military camp to the Rothbury colliery? If such orders have been issued by any responsible officer of the Defence Department, will the Minister for Defence immediately cancel them?
My final question I direct to the Prime Minister and to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I cannot answer a question. I have already spoken on the motion now before the House.
– My question is as follows -
Will they take their courage in their hands,, and grant £23,000 - not £1 per head - to the suffering women and children on the northern coal-fields ?
.- I do not propose to cover the whole of the ground traversed by my friend, “ the honorable member for Hunter, but I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the very serious position on the coalfields. One realizes that much has been done, and that the powers of the Commonwealth Government are limited with regard to this matter; but, since it appears that the trouble will spread beyond the borders of New South Wales, and as the New South Wales Premier is positively taking sides against the miners, will the Government give the whole position its earnest consideration, to see if something can be done now to make the mine-owners fall into line and bring the trouble to an end ? The honorable member for Hunter knows that I am fully conversant with the position on the coalfields. The mine taken over by the State Government is not only dangerous, as they all are, because of the poisonous gas to be contended with, but, especially so, because of the natural dip of the seam. It is a mine in which no amateur should work. Yet this is the mine which has been selected by the New South Wales Government to be put into operation. Why? Because the company that has been operating it has never been able to make it pay owing to the difficulties experienced in working it. Has this action been taken to prove that the mine-owners are right in saying that they only make a profit of 2s. a ton ? Is the object to break the strike? Is that why the hardest mine to work has been selected? No-
There is something sinister in the whole affair. I realize that the limitation of the powers of the Commonwealth Government prevents it from taking action at the moment; hut immediately “ they -get the necessary power will not the Government act in the name of humanity and bring to heel these mine-owners who are willing that- thousands of work-people on these fields should starve, so that their profits may not be reduced ?
– The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) has asked if early action will be taken next year to deal with industrial legislation. It is our hope that we shall be able to proceed with that legislation at an early date in the neW year.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) wishes to know if we will furnish to honorable members, during the recess, such reports of the Tariff Board as may be available. So far as is practicable, the Government will endeavour to do that for the convenience of honorable members.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Cameron) has made an inquiry regarding the wine bounty. The statement that I made on this subject a fortnight ago, stands. The Government has decided to renew the bounty at the present rate, at least, for at least another year. The request that the bounty be made payable for a longer period and that the amount be increased is receiving serious consideration.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked me a very important question, one which has been repeated by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The rumour that the Defence Department was providing equipment for the New South Wales State Government in connexion with the coal dispute, was circulated last night, and was denied, last night, by the Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green). We followed the matter up to-day, and got into touch with Brigadier-General
Heritage, the Commandant in Sydney. He advised us that no such transfers of military stores could be made without his authority. That was all he knew of the matter, but he would have inquiries made. We again communicated, through the Secretary of the Defence Department here, with the Sydney office, and received a telephone message to the effect that no Government stores had been despatched from Liverpool during the last two days, but it had been ‘ascertained that two truck loads of stores, including bedding, the property of the National Rifle Association, had been returned :by truck following upon the National Rifle Association meeting at Anzac Rifle Range, Liverpool. Although the Brigadier had been informed that the National Rifle Association stores had been ° sent to Darling Harbour to go into their regular storage, he made private inquiries and learned that the National Rifle Association had made certain stores available to the Government of New South Wales. A quantity of bedding and other equipment had been sent by this association to Rothbury. We immediately issued -instructions to the Defence office in Sydney that the National Rifle Association should not make available any equipment to the State Government, or to any other- body in connexion with the coal dispute. About twenty minutes ago we received a telephone message from the Commandant in Sydney that the necessary instructions had been issued to the National Rifle Association. The Commandant stated that the secretary of the association had assured him that the order to withdrawthe equipment had been issued. We shall not permit any organization in receipt of a grant from the Government to usurp the rights of the Government-
– Is it not the right of this Government to supply material for men who want to work?
– It is our right to prevent any organization in receipt of a Government subsidy from taking part in an industrial dispute without our consent. While this Government is in office it proposes to govern the country, and will not be dictated to by any outside organization.
If defence equipment is to be used, it will be made available only with the consent of the Government. We refuse to take sides with any Government, or with any body of persons in an industrial fight against the miners of New South Wales. “In regard to the other remarks of the honorable member for Hunter, I remind him that he is not the only member who represents an electorate in which misery exists. His is not the only district in which misery stalks the land; his is not the only ear attuned to the cry of hungry women and children. There is hardly a member of this House who has not in his electorate to witness poverty and suffering resulting from long-drawn-out unemployment. In my own electorate there are 5,000 unemployed, some of whom have not worked for two years, They receive no support from their fellow workers, and no benefits from child endowment.
– There is plenty of poverty in my electorate.
– Yes, in the droughtstricken areas represented by the honor.able member for Wimmera there is suffering enough. This Government has done more in the last few weeks to relieve unemployment than had been done for a long time before. It is all very well for honorable members to talk about unemployment with sobs in their voices. We have to be practical. We have been charged by our political opponents, as part of the political game no doubt, with having failed to solve the problem of unemployment in «the two months we have been in office.
– That charge was never made.
– We have, at any rate, done something to lay the foundations of Australian industry by keeping out floods of imports. Only to-day I received a letter from the representatives of manufacturers in a ‘number of States, and it is evident that there will bc a very rapid acceleration of production, and an increase in employment. We have done more than that to tide over the immediate difficulty. We have made available! to the States £1,000,000 to be expended for the relief of unemployment.
– That money was available already.
– It was not. If it were, why did not the State governments take advantage of it, and provide work for the unemployed? It is available now only because the Commonwealth Government has made it available; because we have guaranteed that £1,000,000 will be returned to the fund, in addition to what money is required for the ordinary road-., programme. The States will not be required to contribute Id. towards it. It was necessary under the previous arrangement that the State governments should contribute 15s. for each £1 before they could avail themselves of this money. They were not able to do that, because they had reached the limit of their borrowing. We make no boast about what we have done ; we regard it as our simple duty, but it is a substantial contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem, and the only sound contribution which the Government can make. So far as the northern coal-mining areas arc concerned, I have asked the honorable member for Hunter, and the honorable member for Newcastle, to make special representations to me regarding any road programmes upon which money may be spent in their electorates. I have done this because I desire to relieve the sufferings of unemployed miners and their families; sufferings which have been occasioned by the action of their owners in locking out their employees. We have not betrayed the miners on the northern fields. We have taken every step possible to effect a settlement of the dispute. 1 inform the honorable member for Hunter, however, that we are not a Government of school boys, filled with impractical ideas. We refused . to listen to requests to seize the1 mines without having any constitutional or legal power. The very moment an officer sent by us attempted to take possession of a mine he would be arrested by the State authorities, and they would be acting within their rights.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable gentleman agrees with me.
– But members of the honorable gentleman’s party said during the election campaign that a Labour Government would seize the mines.
– We were returned to Parliament to make . laws, not to break them. It is our duty to obtain greater power, so that we may make what legal enactments are necessary under constitutional authority. But if, by reason of an extension of the dispute beyond the borders of the State of New South Wales, the opportunity is given to the Commonwealth to intervene, all the power of arbitration and legal enactments that this Government can bring to bear will be made available for the settlement of the dispute. But we shall expect that both sides will come to the tribunal and abide by its decision.
– Is the Prime Minister asking for an extension of tho dispute?
– No; I am merely answering a question that was asked by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). Not once have I asked for an extension of the dispute. All my efforts and the efforts of my Government have been directed to the. settlement of the dispute ; to bring conciliation to bear upon the troubles of this country; not to be provocative, but to bring about peace with justice to all concerned.
My last word is that I repudiate the suggestion that we have been listless, inactive, or without sympathy. We have been active and sympathetic. We have done everything it is possible for us to do. But we are not going to do what is stupid oi- illegal. We shall observe the laws of this country and assist all working men who are engaged in a just fight. We shall resist tyranny wherever possible, but we shall apply the law in the proper manner. We have expressed the sympathy that we have for hunger and poverty in all parts of Australia by substantial contributions to the solution of the problem.
– Before putting the motion, may I be permitted to tender my felicitations to honorable gentlemen upon having concluded their labours prior to the Christmas vacation, and to say how very warmly I appreciate the words of greeting and kindly recognition that have been uttered with respect not only to my services, but also those of the Chairman of Committees, the clerical officers of the House, and the members of the Hansard staff and all other staffs from the highest to the lowest. On their behalf I heartily reciprocate those kindly greetings. I trust that honorable members will have a pleasant recess, and come back further strengthened for their labours.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 7.8 p.m. (Friday) to a date and bour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 December 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19291212_reps_12_122/>.