13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G.H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of thefacts that clause 16 of the Broadcasting Bill recently passed by this House commits the Commonwealth Government, through the Broadcasting Commission, to provide “ adequate and comprehensive “ programmes, and that such programmes will not be available to Tasmanian listeners owing to the lack of telephonic communication between Tasmania and the mainland, and the absence of the necessary regional stations in Tasmania, will the Government place upon the Estimates a sum sufficient to provide these facilities, or alternatively, as an act of fairness, reduce the lieence-fee payable by Tasmanian listeners until such time as they are given the same service as listeners on the mainland ?
– The Government cannot see its way clear at present to reduce wireless licence-fees in any part of the Commonwealth. The erection of additional regional stations in Tasmania would involve considerable expense, but 1. shall consult with the Treasurer to see it’ anything can be done in that regard.
– Will the Minister for the Interior take the first opportunity of discussing with his colleagues the advisability of taking the census without delay?
Mr.ARCHDALEPARKHILL.- This subject has now been passed over to the Treasury. The question of taking the census is still under the consideration of the Government, but a decision will be made as soon as possible.
Leap Year Payments
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in the statement reported in the press that £30,000 has been paid to the Public Service during this financial year, mostly to officers engaged on an annual salary, owing to this being leap year ? If so, is there any precedent or authority for the adoption of such a course?
– I understand that the amount mentioned by the honorable member has been paid, but beyond that, I have do information on the subject. The Leader of the Government in the Senate undertook to consider the position seriously, if this Government were in office when the next leap year comes.
– In view of the fact that mauy war service homes are untenanted through the ejectment of their owners, and are falling into a state of disrepair through being unoccupied, does the Government propose to reduce the capital cost and the interest payments due in respect of such homes, so that the present occupiers may be able to continue their payments ?
– The questions raised by the honorable member, and a number of others, have been referred to a committee of inquiry, consisting of senior returned soldier officers of the Public Service, and the committee has been asked to furnish its report to the Government before the end of June. When the report comes to hand the Government will consider it, and take such action as it may deem necessary.
– In view of the uncertainty that exists in regard to the exchange rate, and the obviously depressing effect that that uncertainty is having upon the prices obtainable for our exportable commodities, will the Prime Minister indicate the policy of the Government in regard to the fixing of the exchange rate.?
– The policy of the Government is to leave the fixing of the exchange rate entirely to the Commonwealth Bank Board without any interference whatever. It feels that this matter should be decided by the Bank Board, which has full information of all the circumstances. The Bank Board makes its announcement week by week of what the exchange rate will be. The Government “does not intend to interfere with this in any way, and there is, therefore, nothing that it can do in regard to the matter.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a report in the press to the effect that on the continent, oil . is being extracted from coal, and that- suitable fuel for motor cars is being obtained from this source at a lower price than that paid for petrol ? In view of the fact that the process being used is similar to that which Lyon Brothers have been experimenting with at Newnes, will the Government see whether something more can be done in Australia to encourage the extraction of oil from our coal on a commercial basis?
– I shall make inquiries into the subject.’
– Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), upon notice, regarding the importation of eggs and egg pulp.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The payment made to the Australasian Performing Sight Association in respect of musical copyright royalties covering the programmes transmitted over the national stations is’ provided for in an agreement between the association and the Australian Broadcasting Company.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. The imports of Lactose (sugar of milk) into the Commonwealth during the financial years 1929-30 and 1930-31 were -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What are the latest price levels of (a) Australian exports; (5) primary products; and (c) manufactures?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Central Australian Gold Prospecting Expedition
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will take a referendum of the people to decide the question of having one Parliament, and establishing provincial councils throughout the Commonwealth?
– The Government has had under consideration the question of proposed amendments to the Constitution, and at an appropriate time all suggestions will be fully gone into before the Government’s intentions are announced in detail.
– On the 17th March, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked me a question without notice regarding the claims of South Australian firms in connexion with supplies for Federal Government instrumentalities. Reports which have been obtained from the Treasury and Defence Departments indicate that this matter has been the subject of very full consideration, but that it is not considered desirable to alter the existing practice, under which tenderers in every State are afforded an opportunity of obtaining a share of the whole of the Commonwealth’s requirements. Copies of the departmental reports on the matter are being furnished to the honorable member.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked me a question, upon notice, part 3 of which was as follows: -
Will he compare costs per head of popula tion of Government (Federal and State) with that of New Zealand, and place the tabulated statement thereof before the House?
In my reply of the 17th March, I indicated that certain information was being obtained from New Zealand. This has been received, and I am now in a position to furnish the following figures: -
Cost of Parliamentary Government per Head ofPopulation.
Common wealth and States (total) - Year ended 30th June, 1930, 4s. 4d. (Includes expenditure on general elections - Commonwealth, Victoria, Soutli Australia, and Western Australia - during the financial year.)
New Zealand - Year ended 31st March, 1930, 3s. 2d. (No general election held during the financial year.)
A section dealing with the “ Cost of Parliamentary Government per head of Population,” is prepared annually by the Commonwealth Statistician for publication in the Commonwealth Year-Hook. Included by the Statistician in “ Cost of Parliamentary Government “ is Commonwealth and State expenditure on the following, viz.: Cost of the establishments of the Governor-General and Governors: parliamentary and ministerial allowances; printing for Parliament; salaries of parliamentary staffs; salaries of staff of electoral offices and cost of elections; and other expenditure incidental to the foregoing; but the cost of government administration generally is not included by the Statistician. For the purpose of obtaining a comparative figure, the New Zealand Treasury has taken as far as possible the same items of expenditure as are shown under the heading “ Cost of Parliamentary Government “ in the Commonwealth Year-Book.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motionby Mr. Gullett), read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Bruce), read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hawker) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland with respect to the inspection of meat at the abattoir of the Queensland Meat Industry Hoard.
Bill brought up, and read a. first time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister from moving a motion without notice undersection6 of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts 1.932, and the debate on the motion from being continued withoutinteruption by Standing Order 119.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority of the members of the House.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys bo made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for the purposes of financial assistance to the States -in the provision of relief to persona out of employment.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Fenton do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons., and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Government has frequently expressed its desire that something be done to relieve the unemployed, particularly during the winter months, when suffering and distress is more acute than in the summer.
– This will not buy them blankets.
– The measure of assistance now proposed will find temporary employment for bread-winners and enable blankets and other comforts to be secured. I am disappointed that honorable members who have been asking that something be clone for the relief of the unemployed seem to show chagrin that the Government has submitted a definite proposal. The Commonwealth Government recently summoned a conference of State Premiers to consider this urgent problem. In order that the greatest measure of relief might be afforded, the Commonwealth desired that concerted action be taken by the seven governments, of Australia, but considered it essential that any scheme of relief should be based upon the observance of the Premiers plan by all governments. Joint action by all the governments, however, was rendered impossible by the definite intimation from the Premier of Now South Wales that he proposed to have nothing further to do with the Premiers plan, and by the refusal of the Acting Premier of Victoria to subscribe to a motion reaffirming adherence to it.
– To parts of it.
– Partial observance could not be regarded as adherence to the plan. To date, the Government of Victoria has carried out the plan, and will continue to do so until the end of the financial year, as a result of the provision ‘ already made. This relief, however, is intended to extend beyond the 30th June, and the Commonwealth, therefore, desired a reaffirmation of the determination of governments to live within the plan. The Acting Premier of Victoria was unable to agree to that. Nevertheless, the Government of Victoria has observed, and is still carrying out, the Premiers plan. As those two governments had no intentention to continue under the plan in future, the other governments, of necessity, had to confer as to how they could meet the situation. The proposal that my government has to submit to this Parliament to-day was arrived at in conference between these governments and the Commonwealth Government. They all took the view that, as a basis of any action for the relief of unemployment, there must be strict adherence to the plan, that it must be put beyond doubt that interest obligations will be met in the future, and that progressive steps must be taken for the reduction of budget deficits. It was definitely felt that if these things were not done, the general position in Australia would become worse, and instead of the unemployment position being alleviated, an increase in unemployment would be inevitable.
The conference considered that the most effective method of providing work for the unemployed would he by the cooperation of the Governments with public authorities and private enterprise, and it agreed to the following proposals: -
– Is the allocation to be made on the basis of population?
– A general agreement was arrived at as to what was a reasonable distribution of the money, and it is to be allocated, roughly, on a population basis. As the Government of New South Wales is in default in respect of both its internal and external interest payments, the Government of the Commonwealth is not prepared to issue Commonwealth securities on behalf of that State.
The position in regard to New South Wales presented great difficulties. It was obviously impossible for the Com monwealth to borrow moneys for a State which refused to meet the interest on its earlier borrowings, That is one of natural results of the Lang plan - the credit of the State is destroyed. But a greater difficulty arose from the fact that this policy of repudiation adopted by the New South Wales Government has made it impossible for the Loan Council or any of the members of the Loan Council, to borrow money from the public, either for unemployment or any other purpose. Any attempt to float a public loan in present circumstances would most surely fail. It was because of this disability that the Commonwealth was forced to limit the present programme of unemployment relief to an amount of £3,000,000. Yet, though the New South Wales Government has placed this obstacle in the way of unemployment relief, the Commonwealth Government proposes to provide an amount of £600,000 for expenditure in the State of New South Wales. This sum will be used by the Commonwealth Government to’ provide work for the unemployed in that State. We recognize that the tax- payers in New South Wales are also taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, we have an obligation to the unemployed of New South Wales, as well as to those of the other States. We disregard the fact that the New South Wales Government has adopted a policy with which we do not agree - a policy that destroys the possibility of raising substantial sums for the relief of unemployment. The sum of £600,000 will be made available to provide work for the unemployed in that State. In the event of the Government of New South Wales meeting its obligations with regard to its interest indebtedness, and adhering to the Premiers plan, the Commonwealth Government will be prepared to make similar arrangements with that State to those contemplated, with regard to the other States. It is sometimes said that the Commonwealth Government is guided in its action in this matter by party bias, but that is not a fact. My government says to the New South Wales Government, “Do these things that are essentia], as they are being done by thrPremier of South Australia.” So long as the Government of Victoria continues to observe the plan, so long will it have the benefit of the proposed financial assistance.
– Do not class Mr. Hill as a Labour man!
– The Premier of South Australia is a better friend of the workers than many who criticize his actions. If all governments had adhered to the Premiers plan as closely as Mr. Hill has done, the unemployed would, be in an infinitely better position than that in which they now find themselves. On the basis of the figures that I have submitted, there would be an expenditure in New South Wales for the relief of unemployment of £1,200,000, instead of the £000,000 that the Commonwealth Government alone will provide.
The bill now before the House provides for the carrying out of the arrangements made by the Commonwealth Government in Melbourne. The amount involved under the scheme is £3,000,000. Of this, £1,200,000 is to be raised by the “States, and £1,800,000 by the Commonwealth. The Loan Council has given the States and the Commonwealth authority to borrow money by the issue of treasurybills op certain terms and conditions, and it is intended to finance the proposed relief works in this marmor. The Government has the assurance of the Commonwealth Bank Board that the moneys required under the bill, if not obtainable in any other way, will bc provided by the Cgmm.onwen.lth Bank on the security of treasury-hills. So far as the works in New South Wales are concerned, au employment council will be appointed by the Commonwealth Government, and it will consist of not less than five hot more than seven persons. No work will be undertaken which is not recommended by this council, and approved by the Treasurer. It is proposed that members of this council shall be asked to give their services without remuneration. I have no doubt that there will be found a number of public spirited citizens of ability who will be prepared to undertake these duties in the interests of the unemployed and of the State concerned
Every effort will be made to provide the maximum of employment with the funds available. Local governing authorities which can put before the council schemes for works to be financed with the aid of some of their own funds will naturally expect the most favorable treatment.
– Are the municipal authorities expected merely to provide materials?
– It is hoped that 100 per cent, of the £600,000 allocated to New South Wales will be spent in providing employment. A local body may make application for a portion of the money to enable it to carry out a particular work, for which a certain amount of material may be required, and no doubt the employment, council will insist on the local authority finding the necessary material.
– Will the conditions of employment be those enjoyed by member? of the Municipal Employees Union?
– We lay down no special industrial conditions. In those cases in which we co-operate with the State Governments, the State laws will be observed. Where a local authority is prepared to supplement the amount made available under this scheme, more employment will be provided than in cases where the amount at the disposal of the employment council is not so augmented. We are hoping, therefore, that much more than £600,000 worth of employment will be found as the result of co-operation with local governing bodies. The only conditions laid down by the Commonwealth are those set forth in the bill. No industrial conditions are prescribed at all; we are concerned with the relief of unemployment. We desire the cooperation of the States, and wish them to carry out the work in the way they think proper under their existing laws and regulations.
None of the money under this scheme is to be used for sustenance. It must be spent on works, and, as far as possible, on reproductive or revenue-producing work. We are hoping that if the money is wisely spent, further assistance may be forthcoming at a later stage. Unless proper supervision is exercised, however, it is probable that the money will merely provide jobs for a limited time for a certain number of persons, and when it is spent ‘the same number of persons will bc seeking jobs again.
In all States except New South Wales employment councils have been appointed, upon which are to sit two representatives of the Commonwealth Government. Before Commonwealth money will be spent on any proposed work, the undertaking has to be approved by the two Commonwealth representatives on the council, unless an appeal is made over their heads to the Commonwealth Treasurer, and he approves. The State may, of course, spend its own money on any such disputed undertaking, but no Commonwealth £1 for £1 subsidy will be made available.
The Government does not pretend that this measure represents a solution of the unemployment problem. We recognize the seriousness of that problem, however, arid the duty devolving on Commonwealth and State Governments to meet the situation to the best of their ability. Although this is not a permanent solution of the difficulty, we could not allow winter to come on without doing something to relieve the distress arising out of unemployment. We believe that this measure is a practical contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem, and if the money is spent on suitable reproductive works much permanent good ought to result. In some of the States work is being done under unemployment schemes in country districts where assistance is being afforded to primary producer’s in carrying out the developmental undertakings. Schemes of that kind may come under the provisions we have now before us. They should increase production, and should ultimately be reproductive. Works which would provide increased facilities and services to municipal authorities and local governing bodies would also be suitable, especially if they would become revenue-producing. Such works would benefit the districts in which they w7ere carried out, as well as provide relief to the unemployed.
The Government will do its best to select the right type of person to supervise this work. In all the States we are carefully selecting the Commonwealth representatives who will sit upon the unemployment councils. In New South Wales we shall find five or seven men to give their services in this capacity.
– Are five or seven persons to be appointed in each State?
– No; all the States except New South Wales already have employment, councils in existence, and the Commonwealth will nominate two members to sit on each pf them. In Tasmania, for instance, there are three members already appointed to the employment council, and the Commonwealth will appoint two more. The number of State nominees may vary as between one State and another, but the number of Commonwealth nominees will remain constant. In New South Wales, the council will consist entirely of Commonwealth nominees, but it has not yet been decided whether the number will be five or seven. We shall take care to ensure that the personnel of the committees is such as to inspire confidence- that the money will be wisely spent.
There is no special provision in the bill for the relief of unemployment in the Federal Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. In each of those territories provision has already been made from time to time for unemployment relief, and this will be continued. Unemployment relief in those areas is the sole responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, and the question of subsidies does not arise. It is proposed to make available approximately £10,000 for unemployment relief in the Federal Capital Territory, which should place the relief on practically the same footing on a population basis as those in the States. Provision will also be made for unemployment relief in the Northern Territory.
This proposal has already been accepted by the Governments of Australia, and I believe that it will also be accepted by the unemployed themselves as an important contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. I am sure that it will be received with relief and gratitude by the unfortunate men out of work, and particularly by their dependants.
– The Prime Minister said that all the members on the unemployment council of New South Wales will be Commonwealth nominees. Must there be unanimity among them in regard to a proposed undertaking before Commonwealth money will be made available for it?
– Unanimity will not be required. Although there may be five members of the council, three will be suffi-ClOut to form a quorum. The Government, in selecting the personnel for the councils, will endeavour to arrange that town and country interests are both adequately represented.
.- I support the bill introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and hope that it will have a speedy passage through this House, and that early action will be taken to “give effect to the provisions for the relief of unemployment. It can be claimed, I think, that the action of the Opposition in moving the adjournment of the House to discuss unemployment some time ago was successful to this extent, at any rate, that the conference was called in April instead of in May, and that action is now being taken in May instead of being deferred until the middle of the winter.
As the Prime Minister has admitted, this is but a small contribution to the solution of the problem, and in no way realizes the hope that was raised in the hearts of the people during the last election. I hope, however, that steps will be taken subsequently to enable those hopes to be realized. It is somewhat unfortunate for the Government and the Prime Minister that reference was made during the introduction of the bill to some of the negotiations that took place at the recent conference in Melbourne. I do not propose to traverse the proceedings fully, because I would rather that we dealt with this important matter as harmoniously as possible; but I am constrained to make passing reference to the change that took place at that conference after the first few days. The Prime Minister, representing the Commonwealth, attended that conference in what seemed a most unusual frame of mind. I have presided at many such’ conferences, but never have I known any Commonwealth Government representative to present an ultimatum to the State Governments. We have always regarded such meetings as conferences, where the representatives really confer, exchange views, and evolve a policy. The repre- sentatives of this Government, however, went to the conference after having received a report of an expert committee. Having adopted the report, they- presented it to the conference as an ultimatum. A proposal was put before the conference involving the expenditure of £10,000,000 on unemployment relief on condition that certain recommendations of the expert committee would be accepted by the State Governments. The Prime Minister made- some reference just now to the Acting Premier of Victoria. The Acting Premier accepted the basic requirements of the Premiers plan, in that he subscribed to the principle of balancing budgets and of meeting obligations. That was all that was ever definitely stipulated in the Premiers plan. The method by which those things were to be done Avas left to the discretion of each State government.
– Mr. Hogan evidently thinks differently.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it. The ultimatum put before the recent conference in Melbourne included what amounted to an instruction to each State government to pass legislation, or take such action as may be necessary, to compel the making of a 10 per cent, cut in the real wages of the workers of Australia.
– Does not the Leader of the Opposition agree with that?
– I do not; I never did.
– Is that not part of the Premiers plan?
– No. The Prime Minister said that it was, but he is wrong. I presided at the conference which evolved the Premiers plan, and can claim to know as much about the plan as any man living. As president of the conference that adopted the plan, I give an emphatic denial to the claim that the Premiers plan included a general 10 per cent, cut in real wages. The Premiers plan applied only to public servants; to federal public servants, which w.as our concern, and to State public servants, which was the concern of the State Governments. The main features of the plan were that governments must balance their budgets, reduce interest rates by 22-J per cent., and make a 20 per cent, cut in all adjustable government expenditure, but each government was to be allowed to work out the plan in its own way.
– The right honorable gentleman’s Government applied to the Arbitration Court, for a reduction of wages.
– We did not. We applied the Arbitration Court’s reduction of the wages of those workers ‘who were working under Arbitration Court awards, but we never sought to enforce a 10 per cent, reduction in real wages, irrespective of how far there were reductions in the cost of living. As a matter of fact our Government refused to make the last cost of living cut in the wages of government workers. In regard to Commonwealth public servants proper, we made no reduction other than cost of living reduction in the remuneration of those on the basic wage, and for those receiving more than the basic wage the cut in real wages ranged from 3 per cent, for those receiving £220 a year, up to 24 per cent, for those receiving salaries of £2,500 a year. Never once did we agree to a 10 per’ cent, cut all round in real wages. If such a step were taken by this Government, the basic wage workers in our Public Service who are now on £3 10s. a week would be brought down to £3 3s. a week. A further 30 per cent, reduction in wages to-day would make a 30 per cent, aggregate cut in the wages of our workers. The Prime Minister has stated that the reduction of interest by 22^ per cent, and the conversion of our internal debt on that basis was proposed and agreed to on the understanding that wages would be reduced by a similar amount. He declared that unless the arrangement were fairly carried out the reduction of interest had been obtained on false pretences. How can the honorable gentleman justify a reduction of 30 per cent, in wages because interest has come down 22-J- per cent.?
– The right honorable gentleman is referring to nominal, and not real wages.
– I refer to nominal wages.
– Interest rates came down by more than 22£ per cent.
– -That is not so, and I am sorry to say that under the adminis tration of some governments it did not. come down by even 22£ per cent. However, that is. not the fault of those who framed the Premiers plan. I do not want to enter upon a discussion of that plan, but I wish to make it perfectly clear that when it was adopted it was realized that the national income of Australia was down, and that all of us had to make a sacrifice, whether we liked it or not. That sacrifice was made on the understanding that we would get our budgets financed where they fell short during the three year3 that it was agreed they should remain unbalanced, and that advances were to be made by the bank for loan works and new works to stimulate employment.
This measure makes a slight advance along those lines. I emphasize again that when the 20 per cent, reduction was to be applied to practically everybody, it was never agreed by the Government that I had the honour to lead that the 10 per cent, reduction approved by the Arbitration Court was to be in addition to any falls in the cost of living up to that time or for the future. It was realized that that would operate most cruelly on wageearners. If this Government now affirms that the Premiers plan stands for a 10 per cent, cut in real wages, it means that it proposes to cut the basic wage of federal public servants by another 10 per cent.
– The right honorable gentleman had better ask Mr. Hogan about it, as it has his support.
- Mr. Hogan does not support such action. That will be apparent to the honorable member if he reads the speech that M!r. Hogan made at the conference. The honorable member can go further, and recall that the Victorian Government did not make a general reduction of 10 per cent, in the real wages of public servants. Yet that was the ultimatum “that was placed before the State Governments at the last conference, which they were asked to swallow. Because Mr. Tunnecliffe refused to do so, he was charged with breaking away from the arrangement.
– We shall see what the electors have to say.
– That has no bearing on the issue and cannot alter the facts. The electors’ said a different thing in 1931 from what they did in 1929, and they will probably say something different in future elections. I ask the honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) whether he supports a 10 per cent, cut in real wages?
– I support the Premiers plan.
– But that did not include a 10 per cent, cut in real wages.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must realize that he cannot continue to discuss the Premiers plan indefinitely. I realize that he has been led into making many of his remarks on the subject by the numerous disorderly interjections of honorable members on my right. I ask the right honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall do so. I had no intention of pursuing the subject so far. I hope that the Prime Minister will see the light, and realize that it would be an outrage to enforce a further 10 per cent, reduction under the shelter of the Premiers plan. I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that governments must balance their budgets and honour obligations. My colleagues and I made considerable sacrifices in support of those issues. I am satisfied that we cannot drift indefinitely, and I believe that the most effective way to balance our budgets is to get our idle men back to work.
The Premiers plan is not sacrosanct, nor is it like the law of the Medes and the Persians. It is merely an emergency measure to meet an extraordinary situation. It was hoped that private enterprise and banking institutions would back it up a little more than they have done, so that more unemployed would be absorbed, budgets would be balanced, and, eventually, some restoration of wages might be made. We all hope that that may yet be clone, for a continuation of the policy of deflation can lead only to degradation.
Because this is a small step in the right direction I welcome and support it. As the Prime Minister has said, it is a special winter unemployment relief. I take it that it is intended to cover the few months of winter pending such time as further conferences can be held with the State Premiers to evolve some more permanent solution of the grave problem of unemployment. I do not wish to criticize the Government and say that it ought to right the trouble in a few months. That is impossible. An absolute” and permanent solution of the problem will not be realizable for a long while; it may even be impossible of achievement under existing social conditions. The whole system of society under which we are .living seems to be breaking down. We have the extraordinary paradox of millions of people on the verge of starvation at a time when the world was never better equipped to supply them with all the needs of human life. Last year we endeavoured to meet the situation in a partial way by introducing the Fiduciary Notes Bill, which provided for the issue of £1S,000,000, £6,000,000 of which was to go to necessitous farmers, and the remainder to provide employment for one year at the rate of £1,000,000 a month. It was estimated that that outlay of £1,000,000 a month on employment would directly absorb 50,000 persons, and that in a short time a further 50,000 would be absorbed by private enterprise. Every honorable member knows that the first pay received by a hitherto workless man will probably be expended on the necessaries of life and on a few oddments for the home. Factories will begin operations and employ additional men as soon as we have built up a wage fund.
To give some idea of what we have suffered as a result of the cessation of expenditure on public works, I mention that Australian Governments borrowed and expended some £43,000,000 on loan works in the year 1927-28, £40,000,000 in 1928-29, £30,000,000 in 1929-30, in 1930-31, £15,000,000, and for this financial year, £8,000,000. I recall the years, 1922, 1923, and. 1924, when employers found difficulty in obtaining workers in many avenues of private industry. Yet those were the very years when governments were borrowing extensively and spending lavishly, employing men on many public works which could have waited until the lean years came. I hope that we have learnt a lesson. The figures that I have given indicate how the cessation of public works has added to the problem of unemployment. I am not criticizing; I merely state facts. It has been a necessity. Whatever Commonwealth Government was in power it could not have gone on spending at the same rate as in those years, because they included some special works that will not be repeated. I instance the Federal Capital works, which nobody can claim is reproductive. At the end of June, 1930, the combined deficits of the States and the Commonwealth amounted to £30,000,000, while the estimated deficits for the next period were £40,000,000. Contemplating that, the banks said, “No more money”. So the rehabilitation plan was adopted, which estimated a combined deficit for this financial year of £14,000,000 or £15,000,000. I understand that it is actually £1S,000,000. The banks made advances to meet that deficit, and they also advanced £8,000,000 to carry on incompleted loan works, and £3,000,000 to wheat-growers, making a total of £29,000,000 for the financial year. It is only fair to the banks that that should be made known, although, in my opinion, they could have done more, as they have not to meet the usual demand from private enterprise. Many people do not want to borrow money, because they see no outlet for their enterprise. We must make some outlet, and provide a wage fund in a legitimate way, without resorting to the old extravagance. If we put 50,000 to 100,000 men into work, the effort will gather momentum like a snowball rolling down, a hill, and the banks will then be called upon to finance private enterprises. It is a great privilege to hold a bank charter in any country, but, as well as having privileges, the banks have obligations. One of these is to see that the wheels of industry are kept, turning. I am, therefore, glad that this small measure of relief is to be financed by the banks.
– We have received about £85,000,000 over a series of years.
– I am speaking of last year and this year. The question which concerned mc, and which the Prime Minister has now cleared up, is that in this bill each State, excluding New South Wales, must provide a sum equivalent to that provided by the Commonwealth. I asked the Prime Minister how the money was to be raised, and he replied that the Commonwealth would receive an advance from the banks. I am not quite sure what, the position is in respect of the States-
– They will raise loans directly with their own banks, but the Commonwealth will co-operate with them.
– If a State is unable to raise its quota, is it to be denied its share of the Commonwealth grant?
– There will be no difficulty about that.
– I gather from the reply of the Prime Minister that there has been some discussion on this subject. I am glad that £3,000,000 will be provided for a period covering, at any rate, the winter months. Under the £18,000,000 fiduciary scheme we proposed to make £1,000,000 available each month for unemployment. We estimated that that would give direct employment to 50,000 men, and that if that policy had been continued consistently for a year, another 50,000 men would have been absorbed by private enterprise, because of the increased purchasing power created from the wage fund. The money now being made available would, if provided on that scale, employ 50,000 men for three months.- That number represents about one-seventh of the total number unemployed. Some three or four months ago I consulted with the Commonwealth Statistician, and from the information given me I arrived at that estimate.
– Unemployment is growing worse.
– That is so. If under this arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth, one-seventh of the unemployed were taken off the unemployment market only for three months there would be little advantage, excepting to the 50,000 men concerned. But if this scheme is continued as a consistent policy, and, possibly, added to, as it should be, and extended over a year to give it a proper trial, I believe that it will employ, not 50,000 men, but at least 100,000 men, and probably more, because of the indirect benefits that would accrue. I hope that this is only the first step along the road which we must travel as a Commonwealth, in co-operation with not only the States, but also public bodies and the private employers of this country. I support the bill. I hope that it will have a speedy passage, and be put into operation immediately, so that the unfortunate workless will, instead of receiving sustenance, gain some measure of prosperity and indepen-
.- I support the bill, the object of which is to raise £1,800,000 to assist the States in the relief of unemployment. We are told that it is proposed that the five States, excluding New South Wales, are to raise some £1,200,000 and that the Commonwealth is to raise £1,200,000 with which to subsidize those States, and in addition £600,000 for the relief of unemployment in New South Wales. Most of us realize that only the desperate position in which Australia is placed with regard to unemployment would justify the borrowing of money for the carrying out of works in order to relieve unemployment. Most of us agree that such works ought to be reproductive to the extent of repaying interest and sinking fund on the capital expended. I realize that this money is being provided as a grant, and that, therefore, the States are not expected to repay the Commonwealth interest or sinking fund, but, nevertheless, the Commonwealth and the State Governments concerned should only burden themselves with an additional interest and sinking fund cost for the future, if they feel satisfied that the expenditure will be indirectly returned to them through channels of taxation, or as other revenue.
Before the House adjourned for the Easter recess, the Country party proposed that a substantial portion, or at least some portion, of the £15,000,000 raised to-day throughout Australia for the relief of unemployment, should be used, not as direct sustenance, but to pay wages to those who are prepared to carry out improvements on land, and other works. I hope that the Prime Minister stressed that proposal at the Premiers Conference which took place a few weeks ago, although he has not yet told us whether it was ever considered. The unemployed relief payment has increased to the extraordinary large sum of £15,000,000 per annum, and 20 per cent, of that sum would be £3,000,000, equal to the amount which it is proposed to raise under this bill, and by the five States in co-operation with the Commonwealth. The use of money which is raised by taxation does not involve any addition to the interest burden of the Commonwealth or of the States concerned, and the greater the amount we take from the unemployment relief fund for the provision of wages in the carrying out of works, the better it will be for Australia as a whole. That is a sounder proposition than the borrowing of money on which interest and sinking fund have to be paid. The proposal that we put before the House some few weeks ago included improvements to farms, such as ringbarking, destroying noxious weeds and animals, erecting rabbit-proof fences, sinking dams and so forth. I hope that the States have been apprised of our proposals, and that work will be carried on on the lines that I have indicated. One proposal was that silos for the bulkhandling of wheat should be built with some of the unemployed relief money. I understand that if those silos could be erected at a sufficiently low capital cost, approximately 3d. a bushel could be saved in the handling of wheat. It was also suggested that many of our workers could be employed in the sewering of country towns. Whichever method is agreed upon for the provision of the money, whether it is obtained from loan or from unemployment relief taxation, the same measure-stick of reproductiveness should be applied to the works on which it is proposed to expend it. In deciding upon certain works we must determine whether they will meet interest and sinking fund payments, either direct or indirectly. A big factor in determining whether works can be reproductive is the cost of the materials used on them. Some interesting figures were recently provided by the Commonwealth Statistician, showing the tremendous gap which exists to-day between the average prices of primary and manufactured goods. He showed that, taking 1911 as a basis, and taking primary and manufactured goods both at the figure 100 in that year, both classes of commodities rose during the five years ending 1929 to 176. That means that both primary and secondary products increased in price by 76 per- cent., the ratio between them remaining the same, and the same amount of one being exchangeable for the same amount of the other. Since then the position has changed considerably, and the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician show that at the end of December last, which is the latest date for which figures are available, the average price of primary products had decreased to 118, while the average price of manufactured goods had increased to 200. Presumably, the sales tax, primage duty and other factors, have had something to do with the extraordinary increase in price of manufactured goods at a time when world prices generally are falling. The difference between 118 and 200 is as the difference between three and five, and while that difference obtains, unemployment must continue to exist, because the primary producer selling on the basis of three when purchasing goods on the basis of five can obtain only three-fifths of the volume of goods which he formerly obtained. The result has been that many factories which are producing articles required by the primary producers are on short time, or, indeed, closed up altogether. Until there is some conformity in respect of the prices of primary and secondary products, we cannot hope to find a solution of the unemployment problem. If the ratio of three to five were four to four, prices would be in conformity, and the primary producer would be able to purchase his normal scale requirements as before, and thus provide employment for many of the people who were previously engaged in the primary and secondary industries. Recently the committee which was appointed by the Commonwealth to make a preliminary survey of the economic problem, and to recommend to the Government what steps should be taken to deal particularly with the problem of unemployment, submitted its report to the Premiers Conference. That report contains some interesting figures, which bear out the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures of 118 and 200 for primary and manufactured goods respectively, although the figures are arrived at on an entirely different basis. The committee provides figures showing that, taking the import and export prices at the figure of 100 in 1926-27, for the year ending the 30th June last, import prices without duty; but including exchange, - had dropped to 82, while export prices had dropped to 57. If we add to the 82, 10 per cent, for primage, and an average of- 25 per cent, for customs - and those figures cannot be said to be exaggerated - the 82 becomes 110. “We see, therefore, that while the export price is shown by this committee, in. its report for the year ended 30th June, as 57, the import prices, adding 35 per cent, to cover duty and primage, is 110,’ or almost double the export price. In the one case, therefore, we have 118 and 200, and in the other 57 and 110. The point which I am making is not only entirely relevant to the subject of unemployment, but it stresses the necessity for bringing more closely together the average prices of our primary products on the one hand, and of our manufactured goods on the other. Unless this is done, we shall not be able to solve this tremendous problem, which, so far, has baffled the minds of the ablest men, not only in this country, but also in other parts of the world. I believe that one of the great obstacles to the reduction of the price of manufactured goods to a reasonable level is the tremendous height to which our customs duties have been pushed, plus 10 per cent, primage on top of the 25 per cent, exchange rate. Until something is done to bring the price of manufactured goods and primary products nearer to each other, we shall not get far towards a permanent solution of our unemployment problem.
An illustration came under my notice the other day of the detrimental effect which the high price of manufactured goods is having on the provision of employment in country districts. A grazier wished to construct six miles of fencing. The necessary posts had been split for two years, and the man was waiting until the price of fencing wire should fall to a figure which he could afford to pay. He had several good men waiting to do this work, but he has not been able, so far, to find the money to buy the fencing wire. If the price of the wire were lower, he could immediately find employment for the men who are seeking work. His case is that of many others in our country districts. If the price of iron and steel products generally, such as galvanized iron, fencing wire, barbed wire and wire netting, could be brought down to a figure which our primary producers could afford to pay, much larger quantities of these materials would be sold than at present. This, in turn, would mean that more men could .be employed, both in manufacturing and using the goods.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that the drop in wages had been in the region of 30 per cent., taking into account the Arbitration Court reduction of 10 per cent, in real wages, and the 20 per cent, drop in the cost of living; and he argued that as the bondholder had had his income from interest reduced by only 22£ per cent, the wage-earner should have suffered only a similar reduction. I hold no brief for the bondholder, and have no intention to argue his case against that of the wage-earner; but in fairness to both, I point out that- if the cost of living should rise appreciably within the nest year or so, the wageearner would automatically, through the Arbitration. Court, receive a compensating increase in wages. It may be no time before the reduction of 30 per cent, referred to by the Leader of the Opposition becomes only 20 per cent, or even 15 per cent. But in the case of a bondholder, the reduction will continue over a long term. The earliest maturity date of the new consolidated stock is 1938, and the latest 1960, which is 28 years from now. Further, the reduction of interest suffered bv bondholders has not been only 22£ per cent. In some cases, it has been more than 30 per cent. The rate of reduction depends upon the length of time which the original bonds had to run before maturing prior to conversion. It is true that in one sense the reduction represents 22£ per cent. ; but that is only for the remainder of the existing term of the old bond. Let us suppose that some one had invested in the 6 per cent, issue maturing in 1932 which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was instrumental in floating, and his bonds had only eighteen months to run to maturity. If those particular bonds had been converted into one of the later maturities in the new consolidated stock the reduction of interest would be a shade over 30 per cent. The bondholder’s interest return is determined on two factors. He would suffer a 22-J per cent, drop for the remainder of the period of the existing bond, about eighteen months,, and a drop to 4 per cent, from 6 per cent, for the whole of the remaining period. When these two reductions - 22-J per cent, for eighteen months and 33^ per cent, for as many years - are merged together it will be seen that the man who converted his bonds of the latest issue of 6 per cent, stock may suffer a reduction of over 30 per cent.
– Has the honorable member taken the premium into consideration ?
– I have. If a man who took up 6 per cent, bonds in 1930 had his bonds converted into the 1960 maturity class, the reduction of interest which he would suffer would be considerably more than 30 per cent. The man who, unfortunately, has had his wages reduced by the Arbitration Court and by the reduction in the C03t of living may, if conditions improve, get back something of his losses, whereas the bondholder will be obliged to suffer his loss during the whole of the remaining period of his term. The extent of the sacrifice suffered by a bondholder is determined by the dates of maturity of his old and new stock. The sacrifice made by a man whose consolidated stock matures in 1938 is nearer 22£ per cent, than is that of the man whose stock matures at a much later date.
– But he is sure of his income, and that cannot be said of the wageearner.
– I agree with the honorable member. We must also remember that lower rates of interest may rule in the future, particularly if we can get to some standard of security in Australia, and put out’ of office governments which will not stand to their obligations. Therefore, the man whose stock matures in 1938 may find himself in a. somewhat improved position, for if his stock had matured during a period when lower interest rates were offering he might have had to re-invest at lower rates.
– Order ! It must be clear to honorable members that I cannot allow the debate to proceed along these lines. The purpose of this bill is “to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to persons out of employment “. The remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) are interesting, but they are not pertinent to the bill.
– I regret that I have been drawn much farther from the point which I set out to make than I intended to go; but I was anxious to reply to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) to which I directed attention.
I shall support the bill, but I am definitely of the opinion that we shall not find any permanent solution of our unemployment problem until we recognize that the price of manufactured goods to-day is beyond the reach of those engaged in primary production. The farmers cannot afford to buy the quantity of manufactured goods which they . really need. We must apply ourselves to the long-range method of dealing with this problem. We must bring down our production costs; and the first step in that direction must be taken through the Customs Department.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, and upon the steps which it took at the recent Melbourne conference to deal with this problem.’ It has, in my opinion, given positive evidence of the earnestness of its intention to tackle this grave social problem of unemployment which confronts Australia. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) tried to_ gather comfort from the thought that the action of the Opposition in moving the adjournment of the House, some little time ago, to discuss the problem of unemployment really influenced the Government in introducing this bill, I cannot let him get away with that idea. I have no desire to divulge ‘the secrets of the party room; but I must inform the right honorable gentleman that ‘honorable members who support the Government had been giving consideration to the plight of the unemployed of this country for quite a long while before the Opposition introduced that motion, and the Government itself had been concerned with the subject right from the date when it assumed office. We did not shout from the housetops that we were seeking to find a means of assisting our unfortunate fellow citizens, but the Government has not allowed much time to elapse before coming to grips with this problem.’ It is a great pity - that even in the face of the distress of the unemployed, persons who hold responsible positions in some of the States did their very utmost at the recent Premiers Conference which was summoned to deal principally with this important subject to neutralize the practical and common-sense efforts which the Government made to get the conference to face the situation. If obstacles had not been raised on that occasion, a much greater sum of money could have been made available to relieve the present position. No one would be stupid enough to say that unemployment was peculiar to Australia. It is a world-wide problem, and every nation is facing it more or less courageously. But our conditions in this new country, remote from the world’s markets, differ considerably from those of other countries, and we cannot tie ourselves down to lines of procedure which are thought satisfactory in old-established and well-settled communities. If we could develop a little more courage in this country we should be able to do much more than we are doing now or have done in the past to meet the circumstances which face us. We have had evidence this afternoon of lack of courage and constructive ability. The mention of a reduction of wages is sufficient to put some honorable members to flight. It is obvious, particularly to those who have had the responsibility of conducting businesses and producing goods which must be sold at some margin of profit, that costs must be reduced to meet the market. One of the biggest factors in cost islabour, and one is doing no kindness to the workers by telling them’ that wages must on no account be cut. They, as well as other charges, must be reduced., and it is only because of lack of courage that honorable members run away from that necessity. The Leader of the Opposition, in a professed desire to assist the Government to solve the unemployment problem, brought forward again the proposal for the issue of fiduciary notes ; the people rejected that plan decisively on a previous occasion, and the right honorable gentleman has not, in the meantime, developed any more constructive idea. I believe, however, that this debate will disclose that ideas are not so scarce on the ministerial side as they are in certain other quarters. Prior to thelast Premiers Conference in Melbourne, the experts were commanded to present a report. A sick person sends for the doctor; if the patient has common sense, the doctor’s prescription is followed. If the doctor recommends an operation, the patient undergoes it; if a nasty medicine is prescribed, the patient takes it, trusting to the knowledge and skill of his adviser. But lack of courage prompts many people to evade the physician’s prescription. They refuse to take the rasty medicine, and even go to the extreme of persuading others not to follow the advice of the man who knows his job, can read and interpret symptoms, aud trace effects to causes. The malady from which Australia is suffering to-day is unemployment, but the people are persuaded not to take the pills prescribed, notwithstanding that the sufferers are increasing daily, and that many thousands of our citizens are falling by the wayside. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the 10 per cent. reduction of wages by the Arbitration Court. On thissubject the experts who advised the Melbourne conference stated -
This judgment of the Arbitration Court was taken as a standard for the Premiers plan–
Apparently, the right honorable member for Yarra does not know that, although he presided at the conference in May of last year -
It was assumed that the lead of the Federal court would be followed by State tribunals, and it was planned that both government salaries and interest charges should be cut by an amount which was judged equivalent to n 10 per cent. cut in real. income. These cuts in salaries and interest have not been carried out completely, but substantial progress has been mode towards the objective. The same can hardly be said of wages. The direct jurisdiction of the Federal court is limited.
No State court has imposed the full reduction awarded by the Federal court-
That is almost true; the experts did not know the position in Tasmania -
In some States the court’s powers of altering wages have been limited to cost-of-living adjustments, and no action has been taken by Parliaments to give them wider scope. In many industries, particularly in New South Wales, there has been no adjustment even to the falling cost of living, so that real wages in these industries have been substantially increased. The net result over all Australia has been on the average no reduction at all in real wages. Nominal wages have on the average fallen by only 12 per cent., as contrasted with 20 per cent, under federal awards, and real wages have actually risen by 8 per cent, on the average as contrasted with a fall of 10 per cent, under federal awards.
– I am loth to intervene, but the honorable member must realize that if he is permitted to continue his argument regarding the reduction of wages, other honorable members will want to reply, and this debate will be unduly prolonged through the interposition of matters that are not strictly relevant to the bill. Passing reference, by way of illustration, may be made to wages and other matters, so long as they are definitely connected with the bill.
Mr.HUTCHIN.- I shall endeavour to show that the quotation I have made is pertinent to the discussion which this bill provokes. Costs in industry have a most important bearing on employment. This bill proposes as a palliative during the approaching winter the expenditure of borrowed money on public works. Our main objective is to restore people to productive work which will show a margin of profit, because profit provides more employment. The experts say that real wages in Australia have not been reduced, and surely the Government is entitled to require, when proposing palliative expenditure, that not only private enterprise, but labour also, shall contribute its quota to the restoration of industry.
I propose to offer a few brief suggestions which I hope will be helpful. During the last 30 years the development of Australia has been lopsided ; the cities have grown abnormally, while the country has been steadily depopulated. The two principal causes have been the high protective tariff and the lavish expenditure of borrowed money. This has caused the cities to become bloated in every sense of the term ; building has proceeded far in advance of the needs of the time. That is true of private enterprise, as well as of public buildings and utilities. During the boom period we saw bank vieing with bank, and insurance company vieing with insurance company, in the building of magnificent premises. Costly town halls, departmental stores, flats and clubs have been erected in an effort to achieve greater and yet greater magnificence. This building frenzy, involving the expenditure of an enormous sum of money, has given employment in unskilled work to a steadily increasing number of people at very high wages. Men who, we may assume, had formerly been employed on the land, or in mines, have been attracted to the cities. The boom having burst, the feverish expansion of the urban areas can no longer be continued, and large numbers of people whose wages have come from money borrowed for public works and from sums advanced by banks, must look elsewhere for employment. To-day the cities offer little prospect of absorbing our idle thousands. In the secondary industries we see the same excessive development, due to similar causes. Our factories are heavily over-built. People declare lightly that private enterprise can employ 80 per cent, of our people; can it do that with the present industrial structure? We have establishments which are capable of producing three times as much iron and steel as Australia is likely to require for many years, and the excessive overhead costs are reflected in the prices of the products to such an extent that every day in this House questions are asked regarding wire, wire-netting, nails, rails, galvanized iron, steel, &c. We have to realize that the industry is too big for the needs of the country, and the overhead more than the market can afford. The cement industry had a wonderful run. Anybody who owned a limestone quarry, and proposed to produce cement, could get an advance from the banks. To-day, half the cement works are idle, because their productive capacity is much beyond the requirements of the community. Even if what some honorable members are pleased to consider normal times should return, that industry will not take up again the whole of its unemployed. We can pro- duce three or four times as many cigarettes as the community will buy; in fact, increasing numbers of people are rolling their own. The confectionery industry is over-developed. Dozens of small woollen plants are dotted about the countryside, capable of producing more goods than the community can afford to purchase. These results are due to too much finance being available, and to inadequate finan,cial control- during an era of false prosperity caused by heavy borrowing. The boot-making industry in Victoria is a striking illustration of the policy of booming and overbuilding; it has little chance of reemploying those people who claim to belong to it. The output of which our breweries are capable is much beyond the pockets, if not the absorptive capacity, of the community. The motor and furnishing trades are in like case. The experts reported to the Premiers Conference that one essential to the bridging of the gap between costs and prices is increased efficiency. To achieve that, wages must be among the first costs to be cut. Everywhere labour costs are being reduced as mechanical appliances improve. In America to-day ore is being hauled from a depth of 5,000 feet by electrical winches, which are set in operation by the mere closing of a switch inside a locked chamber. That plant operates throughout an eight-hour shift without any attendant. A few years ago, men were employed on the turnstiles through which visitors to and from Manly were required to pass, and the fare was collected from each passenger; but to-day the traveller obtains change at a cash box, and drops his 6d. through a slot, 20 or 30 men having lost their former jobs. Increased efficiency admittedly reduces employment for the time being; yet, eventually, matters will right themselves, and the community will derive an advantage.
Let us consider for a moment the effect of increased efficiency in primary indus- tries. It is well known by all who follow agricultural development that the yields per acre to-day, in many lines, are much heavier than formerly, and that the manpower employed is much less, owing to improved methods and the introduction of new machinery. In whatever direction we turn, whether to the possibility of go- vernments absorbing the unemployed by means of public works, or to the feasibility of secondary or primary industries providing the necessary employment, difficulties are met. The outstanding fact is that whereas 50, 60, 70, or 80 years ago,’ the movement of the people was towards the interior of this continent, during the last 30 years they have been returning to the coast. This drift of population, together with the reduction of man-power, and the world-wide economic depression, has much aggravated the position in which we find ourselves to-day. If we are to adopt a policy offering any prospect of dealing effectively with the problem of unemployment, and the provision of useful occupations for the youths of this. country, who are coming into the firing line as workers at the rate of 60,000 per annum, we must look to a progressive and commonsense land policy. By that means we shall not only concentrate our energies on the production of things which we can sell overseas, and will improve our trade balance. but we shall also reduce the cost of living, and give our secondary industries, of which we need a sufficiency, but not an over-sufficiency, a much better chance of supplying the primary producers with what they need at a price which they can afford to pay, and also, perhaps, finding an export market in certain directions. The importance of this, measure is sufficient to justify any suggestions which can be offered. While approval should be given to this temporary measure, valuable as I recognize it to be, we should attempt to direct thought generally to what has been termed a longrange policy for the removal - I will not say the relief - of unemployment.
I have already mentioned the serious position of secondary industry in Australia. We are sending a delegation to Ottawa primarily to obtain preferential treatment of Australia in the markets of Great Britain and other dominions in regard to both our primary and secondary products. We cannot expect to get everything and give nothing. Britain is a country of secondary production, and she looks to Australia as a field in- which to place some of her secondary products, presumably, for the main part, machinery. If we are wise, we shall not deny Britain the Australian market, which she can supply with certain things that she can make properly, but which Australia cannot manufacture on a commercial basis, because the turnover would be comparatively small supplying our home requirements. This all goes to show that our policy must be orientated towards the development of the resources of the land.We must spread our population over the country, and let the people draw their sustenance from the land. The good old Book says that man shall live by th 3 sweat of his brow; but too many people in Australia have been lured to the cities. We can increase our wealth mainly by developing the lands of this continent.
.- 1 much regret that the Government seems unwilling to cease inflicting hardship on the people of New South Wales. The consideration of this matter should be approached impartially, but Ave find that, under the Government’s proposal, the people of New South Wales will not derive the same benefits as those to be conferred upon the other States. This is all because New South Wales happens to be governed by a man named Lang. Provision is made under the bill for the other States to set up unemployment councils of their own; but clause 5 provides - (1.) For the purpose of granting financial assistance to the State of New South Wales, the Commonwealth may, out of the amount borrowed under the provisions of this act, expend an amount not exceeding Six hundred thousand pounds on approved works in that State to provide relief to persons out of employment. (2.) For the purposes of this section there shall be an employment council consisting of not less than five, nor more than seven, members appointed by the Governor-General.
The Prime Minister stated that, in the* event of New South Wales agreeing to the Premiers, plan, it would receive the same advantages as are to be enjoyed by the other States. In other words, the New South Wales Government is asked to reduce the basic wage in that State from £4 2s. 6d. a week to £3 3s. a week, which is the basic wage in South Australia. It is proposed that the Commonwealth Government shall raise £1,800,000 and that the Stages shall supplement that sum to the extent of £1,200,000, making a total of £3,000,000. The unemployed in Australia number about 400,000, of whom about 100,000 reside in New South Wales. Under this scheme, the £600,000 to be allocated to New South Wales will give each unemployed person in that State a mere £6 by way of wages to tide him over the winter months. In short, he will receive only about eight days’ work. The sum of £475,000 is to be distributed in Victoria among 60,000 unemployed, each -of whom will thus receive about £8 in wages. This shows that the sum to be made available in each State is but trifling.
Bolder action than this is required. We should draw on the credit of the nation, as we did during the war period. That policy was not. then described as one of inflation. No doubt the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) would have thrown into an internment camp anybody who had had the temerity so to describe that policy. Call it what’ we like,” that system of finance is still used by the banking institutions in their own interests. If it was deemed desirable to utilize the credits of the nation for the purpose of killing our fellow men, we are justified in adopting the same policy when money is urgently required to feed the people, and to provide them with useful employment. The policy of the Labour party provides for the nationalization of banking, and for the utilization of national credits. The banks had no hesitation in coming to the aid of the Commonwealth Government in 1914, because they realized that the winning of the war would be in their own interests. The Avar was fought in the interests of the moneyed classes throughout the Empire. It was essential to them that the war be won, and they, therefore, manipulated public finance for that purpose. They drew against the assets and earnings of the people, and issued notes in excess of the statutory limit. I do not propose to take the Government to task for what it is doing now; I urge it, as a matter of fact, to make still more money available. If we were to increase the note issue, basing the extra currency on the productive capacity of the people, no harm would be done, and Ave should be able to carry out many necessaryworks. Everybody realizes that Australia is, unfortunately, visited too often by droughts, and we should make provision against them. Suchworks as the Burrinjuck damwould make productive large areas of land which are now little better than desert. As a result of the construction- of the Burrinjuck dam, lands which were previously barren are now fertile and productive.
– The country irrigated from the Burrinjuck dam was never barren.
– I understood that it was, but, at any rate, its productivity has since been greatly increased. Water conservation schemes could be carried out in many of our coastal areas, and inland areaswould derive much benefit therefrom. By this means Ave could increase population and production. Rather than have hundreds of thousands of unemployed receiving the dole and doing nothing, Iwould favour placing them on the land free of cost to them. Many country towns are in need of sewerage and water,which could be provided for them out of money advanced under this scheme. Those living in country towns pay high rates, and are as much entitled to water and sewerage facilities as are those in the cities. Even if they had to pay somewhat higher rates in order to get these things, theywould not object, provided the moneywas available. Every one recognizes the need for a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia, and a great many unemployed could be absorbed in thework of unification. Australia differs from the older countries of Europe in that Ave have land on which Ave could place our unemployed. There is no reason why they should remain idle on the dole. The committee of expertswho were called in to advise the Premiers Conference recently, recommended that unemployed men might be given areas of five acres or so, on the holdings of farmers and graziers, so that they might grow vegetables and other foodstuffs for themselves. I do not approve of that. If people are to be put on the land, they should be given land for themselves; they should not be asked to improve land for somebody else.
– The honorable member believes in the privateowvnership of land ?
– 1 believe in the 99 years’ lease tenure. At the end of the term, the laud should be re-appraised, and the occupants given preference. The suggestion of the committee of experts is just what one might expect from those armchair sociologists.
I am curious to know what powers are to be given the unemployment councils which will be charged with the allocation of relief funds. Is it proposed that they shall usurp the functions of State Governments, and control the expenditure, not only of the money provided by the Federal Government, but also of that raised by the States for the purpose of taking up Commonwealth subsidies? In all the States, except New South Wales, the State governments are to have the privilege of appointing a majority of the members of the council, but in New South Wales the Commonwealth Government is going to appoint the whole council. I can imagine what will be the political views of those appointees; they will certainly not be the same as Mr. Lang’s.
Much could be done by the Commonwealth Government to stimulate industry in Australia. While the last Government was in office, an attempt was made to develop the shale-oil industry at Newnes, and thus make Australia, in some degree, at any rate, independent of oil and petrol supplies from the United States of America. That policy was just beginning to justify itself when the present Government came into office, and now the works at Newnes are on the market, if not already sold. Another promising industry was the extraction of oil from coal, but that, too, has languished from lack of support. Owing to the competition of hydro-electric undertakings, and power plants run by internal combustion engines, coal in its raw state is not required in the same quantities as previously, and suggestions have been made to place the industry on a new basis by the extraction of oil from coal, but little progress has been made in that regard. There are at Newcastle two enterprising young Australians, who have been producing high-grade oil fuel from coal, but they need money to develop their business. The Government says that it has no money, and advises them to go to the bank. We all know, however, that the banks will advance nothing. Some time ago, when I was making a plea in this House on behalf of this industry, Mr. Latham said that those concerned in the coal industry had cut their own throats. Presumably, in his opinion, they are not deserving of any assistance. Even if it be true that, from a commercial point of view, these men cut their own throats, is it wise to allow so promising an industry to bleed to death, when a very small infusion of capital would save its life? The coal industry is worth saving in this country. It has been alleged that the miners have been profiteering, and, though I deny that, even if it were so, they merely proved themselves apt pupils of their employers. I have shown on many occasions that the mine-owners made huge profits on the pretext that the cost of production necessitated an increase in the price of coal. I have on many occasions conclusively demonstrated that the increase in the price of coal was three times as much as was war.ranted by the extra wages that were paid to cover the higher cost of living. At the Premiers Conference the Prime Minister intimated that it Avas desirable to provide £10,000,000 to relieve unemployment. That certainly would have given some appreciable relief. Next, £5,000,000 Avas the amount mentioned. Now the Government introduces a measure which proposes that the Com.monwealth shall provide only £1,800,000. In another week the figure would reach the disappearing point. I am aware that the States are to raise a further £1,200,000 among them, making the total £3,000,000. Some of the States are in such a bad way that they are unable to pay municipal rates and other taxes. How are they to raise this additional amount? This Government is only tinkering Avith the trouble. It should go further, adopt the plan that Avas sponsored by the Scullin Government in the late stages of that Administration, and issue fiduciary notes, currency based upon faith. After all, is that not the nature of our present currency. We have a gold reserve of about £11,000,000 standing behind a note issue of £51,000,000. Each of our £1 notes has engraved upon it a promise that the bearer will be paid one sovereign when he presents the note at the Commonwealth Bank headquarters. We know how hopeless is his chance of getting gold for the paper.
I do not worship the fetish of a gold reserve. It is merely an international device to facilitate the adjustment of trade balances. Gold is quite unneeded in the internal financing of the country. We had no adequate gold reserve when we built our East-West railway during the war years, and we do not need one now.
Unfortunately, our banking institutions dominate our government, and dictate their policy. We shall get nowhere until a government gains power that will resist the decrees of the private banks. It was thought that we were on the way to a better state of affairs when the Commonwealth Bank was inaugurated, and took over control of our note issue. Unfortunately, there was a serious omission; trafficking in cheques was left in the hands of the private banks. Consequently, the people are still being exploited by those institutions.
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show how, by securing the credit of the nation, we could finance works! which would provide employment for our workless. That would be possible if our cheque system were under the control of our national bank, as is our note issue. Any benefits that accrued from cheque transactions would go to the people, as they should. A law should be passed declaring that after a certain day it would be illegal for any private banking institution to issue a cheque, and proclaiming that in future that could be done only by the Commonwealth” Bank. Then we should close up the leak in our financial structure and be able to find money for our unemployed. Under the prevailing economic system unemployment is inevitable.
Australia is fortunately situated in comparison with other countries. We have resources that merely need the application of labour to be developed and to enable us to produce sufficient to meet all our requirements. Were they developed we should attract a greater population to our shores, and, instead of clamouring for overseas markets, we should be able to dispose of our products here. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) declared that we should be content to supply Great Britain, an essentially secondary industry country, with our primary products. He is content that we should be the wood and water joeys for the Mother Country. I say, “Let us develop Australia, and make our own secondary industries absorb our primary products “. Let the slogan be “ Australia for the Australians “. I am Australianborn, and my creed is “Australia first, Australia next, and after that Australia again “. Let us advance the nation by building up our population, and utilizing our own products.
.- I support the bill. Prior to our short recess I suggested in this chamber ways in which any advance might best be spent to absorb our unemployed, and I sincerely hope they will have the consideration of the members of the combined unemployment councils. I urged that a certain portion of any such advance should be used to pay wages in both primary and secondary industries. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) also put forward suggestions that merit consideration.
The £3,000,000 that is to be provided by the Commonwealth and the States will not go far to relieve unemployment in Australia, but if a fairproportion of it were expended in industry that would lead to permanent work being found for a number of persons. Just prior to coming to Canberra recently I was approached by a Mr. Swain, a South Australian manufacturer of handbags, who stated that he had read my speech, and that if the scheme were adopted he would be prepared to employ an additional six men as clippers, to cut out patterns, which would compel him to put on an additional 38 permanent employees. That is only one example of the benefits which would accrue from the adoption of the proposal.
– Did he state that he would not employ those men unless he could get a portion of this grant?
– He said that he was now working at very small profit, and that what he proposed to do would make his profits even smaller, but he was prepared to take such action to help the country, and, incidentally, to build up his own industry. A large portion of this money should be expended in assisting primary industries. Let me suggest one way in which money could be profitably expended in South Australia. Up to a few months ago, the lighthouses on Kangaroo Island were served by the Commonwealth steamer Lady Loch. It was a most expensive and unsatisfactory service. I understand that that steamer has now ceased to run in South Australian waters, and- that a contract has been let for the conveyance of stores and other requirements to the lighthouses on Kangaroo Island. The stores are landed at one part of the coast, and conveyed by road to the other end of the island. The contract has been let at £1,500 per annum. A few weeks ago I visited Kangaroo Island, and met some of the local councillors, and also the contractor. They informed me that, if the Commonwealth expended £2,000 in the construction of a’ road through the island to serve the lighthouses, the contract could be let for £500. As a matter of fact, if the road is constructed, the contractor is prepared to take the contract at that figure for a fairly long term. Thus, by expending £2,000 the Commonwealth could effect a saving of £1,000 per annum. Kangaroo Island is composed of ironstone country, and the road, once constructed, would be practically permanent. I suggest that the Commonwealth give this suggestion serious consideration. The Government also proposes to make a grant of £10,000 for work in the Federal Territory. Let me suggest how a portion of that money could be wisely expended. A few weeks ago I inspected the pine forest at Mount Stromlo. I am deeply interested in afforestation, and claim to know something about it. I noticed that the trees, which are Pinus insignis, are from fifteen to sixteen years old. They were planted, and are now standing, 8 feet apart. The system of planting is correct, but the timber should have been thinned out many years ago. I suggest that a number of men in the Federal Territory should be employed removing every other row both ways, leaving the trees 16 feet apart, so that, in years to come, good timber may be obtainable at Mount Stromlo. The trees should be thinned out if there is to be any return at all from them. I am quite prepared to meet the Conservator of Forests, and to discuss this subject with him.
– If alternate trees were removed, would they be of any commercial value?
– No; but, unless they are removed, the forest will never be of any use. Unfortunately, the same position obtains in respect of the pine forests in South Australia. I suggest that the planting of Pinus insignis in the Federal Capital Territory should cease, because the rainfall is inadequate, and the conditions generally are unfavorable to it. We must also take into consideration the distance from the market. At present the freight from here to Sydney is £5 a ton. One ton of good log timber contains about 300 super, feet, and the freight would work out at about 32s. 6d. per 100 super, feet. We have to allow 2s. per 100 super, feet for the felling of the trees, and the cost of conveyance to the nearest railway station would be 3s. 6d. per 100 super, feet. The cost, therefore, of marketing the timber would be about 38s. per 100 super, feet, making no allowance at all for royalties. A better quality of timber can be imported from Canada, and delivered in any one’s back-yard at about 16s. 9d. per 100 super, feet. I hope that the Government will consider my suggestion, and that a portion of this money will be allocated to industries which will show some return for the expenditure, and thus lead to the permanent employment of a number of our workers.
.- I welcome this bill, my only complaint being that it does not go far enough. In view of the large number of unemployed throughout Australia, the proposed expenditure will merely act as a palliative for a few months. It will employ for that period one in every seven of those who are out of work at present. This attempt to relieve unemployment falls far short of what the people of Australia were led to believe would result from the election of the present Government.
– Why introduce party politics into the debate?
– This matter transcends party politics. It is just as well that wo should face the position, and not accept this measure as afulfilment of the Government’s election promises. The Government, in introducing this bill, had those promises in mind. The people were told that a vote for Lyons was a vote for “ jobs for all “. The Government has been in office for over four months, and it was only reasonable to expect that legislation would be introduced for the relief of unemployment. But this measure does not grapple with the problem. It will, for a period of three months, provide work for only one of every seven men out of employment. Unfortunately, many thousands of our Australian citizens are to-day on the verge of starvation. Many of our factories are working at part time, not because the people do not want their products, but because they have not the money with which to purchase them. Australia’s capacity for wealth production has never been greater than it is to-day, yet the number of people out of employment is a record. I should like the Prime Minister to outline a brief comprehensive scheme for the relief of unemployment throughout Australia under which the Commonwealth would act in co-operation with other parts of the world. During the election the impression created in the minds of the people was that all that was necessary to relieve unemployment was the return to office of the United Australia party. The Government cannot complain if a great deal was expected of it, or if there is now considerable disappointment because so little has been done. On . the 4th of December last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
By a change of government every man out of work will be brought nearer to reemployment. Restore confidence, and the money will flow into industry. Men will begin to be employed and the whole thing will grow like a snowball.
Men out of work had visions of a great magician ushering in a new era of prosperity in which no man would be unemployed, while even the boys and girls leaving school, to the extent of 60,000 a year, according to the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), would find work. During the election campaign, candidates opposed to the Labour party said . that by a change of government confidence would be restored, and money would flow into Australia. Whether or not that confidence has been restored I leave honorable members to judge for themselves. I now invite- their attention to the following paragraph, which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of the 2nd of May : -
Government securities were marked down steadily during the week, and their average annual interest yield increased by 2s. to £4 19s. 9d. per cent., which is the highest yield obtainable since gilt-edged stocks made their rapid recovery towards the end of last year. In other words, prices of Australian consolidated securities have relapsed to the level recorded about the middle of December,
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the subject before the Chair is not the pre-election speeches of honorable members supporting the Government.
– I have listened carefully to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). So far his observations have been quite in order. He has been developing his argument in his own way in order, I assume, to show that confidence has not yet been restored. I now ask him to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the raising of this loan, the restoration of confidence, and the flow of credits are interwoven. My quotation from the Melbourne Argus shows that Australian stocks to-day are lower than at any period since the middle of December last. I submit that that indicates that there has not been that restoration of confidence which we were told would follow a change of government. I am glad that even the limited amount of £1,800,000 can be made available, but I maintain that the release of that amount will not solve the problem confronting us. In my opinion, we shall have to look beyond Australia to solve it, because it is an international problem. Before it is solved, the governments of Britain and her dominions, as well as of other countries, will have to meet to discuss it in an international conference. We cannot hope to solve the unemployment problem of Australia while the rest of the world is in a depressed condition, and other countries are unable to purchase the commodities which we can export. Our interests are interwoven with the economic conditions of other countries. I should like to hear the Prime Minister’s views regarding this bigger problem “of securing the co-operation of other countries with a view to dealing with unemployment. In the absence of any pronouncement as to the policy of the Government, I can only assume that it proposes to follow a policy of deflation. In this connexion, I wish to refer to an eloquent address which Professor Gregory, a prominent economist, delivered in Melbourne to the Australian Economic Society. Professor Gregory said that if he were asked to say which is the greater evil - deflation or inflation - he would find it extremely difficult to give an answer. The Labour party stands for a safe middle course between the extremes of inflation and deflation. Within recent months, economists and bankers throughout the world have changed their ground regarding inflation and deflation, and the making available of credits in order to find employment for the people. When the Scullin Government was in office, the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales advocated a policy of deflation, but I notice that in a recent issue of that bank’s monthly bulletin it is stated that the policy of deflation must stop, if Australia is to regain her former prosperity. We would do well to examine the position iii other countries, for only by so doing can we hope to solve this problem, or even to alleviate it to any great extent in this country. The United States of America is tackling this question. President Hoover recently said -
We must put some steel beams in the foundation of our credit structure.
The message reporting that statement added -
He drew attention to the huge deficits in government finance, and recommended the establishment of u group of discount banks throughnut the country, to make loans on homes, thus encouraging home builders, and the creation of a reconstruction finance corporation, with authority to issue its own debentures and to aid a variety of businesses, that were in difficulties due to the depression.
The Reconstruction Finance Corporation has since been created. Its articles of association provide that the credit of the American nation, to the extent of £450,000,000j is to be used in the form of fiduciary debentures to liquefy and cause to flow the credit of the United States of America to enable private banks that were closed because of the freezing of their securities to secure a supply of money to be made available to industry. The establishment of that corporation has already brought about improved conditions in the United States of America; it has caused a flow of credits. It is true that that has resulted in a slight increase in commodity prices; but, on the other hand, businesses generally are employing more persons, and the- people are enjoying better conditions. In that country there is an upward trend. That is what we want in Australia to-day.
A good deal has been said about the gold fetish. When the Scullin Government suggested the abandonment of the gold standard, we were told that it was composed of wild-eyed visionaries who were, in fact, reckless inflationists. Some bankers said that the abandonment of the gold standard would destroy our credit. I remind honorable members that Great Britain has since abandoned the gold standard, and that, in consequence, conditions there have improved.
– Conditions in Britain improved because the budget was balanced.
– The budget was not balanced until England went off the gold standard and conditions improved. Mr. Reginald McKenna, a director of the Midland Bank, recently stated -
Either we must have a soundly managed gold standard’ which can only be secured by well-ordered international action, or we must definitely abandon gold and rely upon a managed standard without any metallic basis. In cither event, one thing is certain; the art of monetary management must bc relied upon more and more to obviate such a catastrophe to economic life as we arc witnessing to-day. Our experiences in the last few months have taught us which of the alternatives mentioned we should choose.
Two-thirds of the currency of Great Britain to-day is fiduciary. It is a governmentmanaged currency, issued by the Bank of England, under the authority of the British Parliament. Notwithstanding the example which we have in
Britain of a fiduciary note issue of about £280,000,000, when the Scullin Government proposed a fiduciary note issue for Australia with a definite limit of £18,000,000, it was said that such an issue would wreck the financial structure of Australia. If honorable members will look at the Melbourne Herald of yesterday, they will find there the following cabled reference from London to Australia shipping her gold abroad : -
As long as Australia keeps her bullion idle a few hundred thousand pounds in interest goes begging. Shipment of her gold overseas would merely bring Australia into line with England. Such legislation can no longer be regarded as revolutionary. The wholeworld is becoming mildly inflationary, with the approval of bankers and leading economists.
Had any one suggested a few months ago that Britain would depart from the gold standard, or that we in Australia should adopt a mild form of inflation, he, would have been regarded as mad by orthodox conservative bankers. Honorable members know that during the war many countries adopted a policy of reckless inflation.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I submit that the making available of credits to relieve unemployment in Australia cannot be divorced from the subject of world-wide finance. Before Australia can get out of the financial doldrums, this problem must - be tackled internationally; it is useless to do this piecemeal. I urge the Government to do its best to have this problem considered at an international conference. In that connexion it would be interesting to know what instructions have been given to our representatives who are soon to go abroad, and what their views are on this important subject.
This measure of relief is as a drop in the ocean, and will not solve our problems. While any proposal which will provide work, even for one person in seven, for a period of three months, is welcome, we must realize that it will not go far to solve our difficulties. The financial policy formulated by the Scullin Government, while upholding the honour of Australia, would have released credits to stimulate industry and absorb the unemployed.
That policy was based on the stabilization of price levels at the 1929 standard. The proposals of the late Government were comprehensive, sound, and practicable. They covered the whole field of financial ‘ rehabilitation, and were designed to achieve the re-absorption in industry of unemployed workers, the maintenance of national solvency, the honouring of obligations, the restoration of sound budgeting, and an equitable pooling of the national income over all sections of the community. The essential principle underlying those proposals was the establishment of a central reserve bank. The Scullin Government desired to issue, through such a bank, fiduciary notes to the value of £18,000,000 to meet the position which faced the country. Of that amount, £1,000,000 was to be made available each month for twelve months to provide work for the unemployed. We were told that that was wild inflation, and that it could not be allowed. But to-day some of the leading economists of the world, including men like Keynes, Cole and McKenna, are advocating that price levels should be increased, as a means of getting the world out of it’s present sick economic condition. They are, in other words, advocating a form of inflation. Just as some honorable gentleman opposite laughed when it was suggested that Great Britain and Australia should abandon the gold standard, so they laugh now when it is suggested that some other unorthodox method should be adopted of meeting our difficulties. But the gold standard was abandoned to the great benefit of the people of both Great Britain and Australia; and some of the other despised methods of meeting the situation, including a measure of inflation, will also be adopted, sooner or later, with the same satisfactory result to the people. The gold standard was a fetish. We are better off without it.
Unfortunately, when the Scullin Government proposed a release of credits it was told that that was impracticable. When it attempted to co-ordinate our banking practice by establishing a central reserve bank its efforts were thwarted. In fact’, the members of another place went so far in their hostility to the proposal that they called a prominent banker to the bar of the Senate for cross examination.
– Order ! The honorable’ member must connect his remarks with the bill.
– My object in referring to these matters is to show that if the previous Government had been allowed to give effect to its policy it would have done a great deal more than this Government is proposing to do to reduce unemployment. While I am glad that £1,800,000 is being made available for this purpose, I am pointing out that the Scullin Government would have made a much greater sum available for this purpose if it had been allowed to do so. It was said, when that Government was in office, that its policy was inflation, but it is interesting to note that the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales has recently said that a modified form of inflation would probably have to be adopted in order to lift the country out of the slough of financial despond into which it has fallen. Economists, bankers, and others, do not care to call their various schemes inflation, but that does not alter the fact that they are, in many instances, methods of inflation. Sir Josiah Stamp, the distinguished British economist, recently made the following three statements which are worthy of attention : -
Sir Josiah Stamp is right, particularly in his last statement. If there is not a measure of inflation, debts cannot be paid.
– The honorable member must not continue to speak in this strain.
– Although I am glad that this bill has been introduced, I regard it as only a palliative. So far, the Government has merely tinkered with this big problem. It should do far more than it is doing. The most that this proposal pan do is to provide work for three months for one out of every seven unemployed persons. When it is remembered that some of our unemployed have been out of work for two years, it will be realized how inadequate this proposal is. This Government has a majority in. both Houses of the Parliament, and it should do better than this. The previous Government, it must be remembered, was in a minority in another place. It is within the power of this Government to put into effect measures of monetary reform by means of which unemployment could be very greatly reduced. I need not particularize reproductive public works that’ could be put in hand, other honorable members having already done so. The Government has promised a very great deal, and the people are naturally disappointed that after having waited so long, this most insufficient palliative is being applied to this great problem. Much more than this will have to be done before real relief can be given to the people.
– I regard this measure as a palliative which will not meet the real needs of the case in any way. I regret that the Premiers Conference was not permitted to consider some of the useful suggestions on unemployment submitted by the Country party in response to the invitation of ‘the Prime Minister.- At least something could be done to ensure that the dole money, which is being uselessly spent at present, would be used in such a way that a permanent asset would be obtained for the country. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), who is to be complimented upon the excellent speech he delivered, and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), hit the nail on the head effectually when they said that, unless the causes of unemployment, as well as its effects, are taken into consideration by this Parliament, nothing effective will be done to solve the problem. The application of political palliatives will only get us deeper into the mud. The honorable member for Gippsland drew attention to the great disparity of the prices of primary and secondary products in this country, and rightly said that this was an important contributing cause of unemployment. The honorable gentleman’s reference to a man who wished to construct 6 miles of fencing, but could not do so because the wire netting which he required was too costly, leads me to refer to a letter which I received on the 18 th March from a relative of mine in New South Wales, in the course of which he said -
I am wanting seven miles of wire netting, and I don’t intend buying until there is a substantial drop in it. The best netting costs £58 a mile landed at Baradine. There is a large amount of country around here infested with rabbits.
Unless the people are able to wirenet their “holdings to preserve for stock feed which is at present being destroyed by rabbits and other pests, the pastoral industry will remain in an unsatisfactory condition. The proprietors of the wirenetting factories of this country are not rendering the service which they should be rendering to the primary producers. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) referred to this fact. Because of the low prices which the primary producers are getting for their wool and wheat, they are unable to expend large sums of money in combating the pests which do damage on their holdings. If the dole money were spent in assisting settlers to make their holdings rabbitproof, something worth while would be done for the country. The expenditure of the money in this way would not only mean that larger quantities of wire netting would be manufactured’ but also that employment could be given to many people in fencing and other similar work. The money spent in this way would be repaid and could be kept circulating continuously. The Premiers Conference did not give that consideration to the taxpayers of this country which they deserve. The payment of a dole to a man for doing nothing is an offence to his self respect. It is of the utmost importance that the breadwinners of this country should be provided with work ; but the honorable member for Denison has shown clearly that the policy of centralization, with which this country is cursed, is doing a great deal to increase unemployment. The primary producers, upon whom this country must rely for her prosperity, are left to suffer, or else are obliged to make altogether disproportionate sacrifices in order to keep the parasitical inhabitants of our great centres of population in unprofitable employment.
– The honorable member must realize that the home market is the best that the producers can have.
– Arguments along those lines have been exploded long ago. The income of our people is £160,000,000 less per annum now than it was three years ago, yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) says that we must not do anything to touch wages. Certain sections of our people enjoy fixed incomes, whereas the primary producer is left to the mercy of world market conditions. The wages of the workers of this country are regulated by the Arbitration Court, subject to cost of living fluctuations, and the returns of our manufacturers are protected by a very high tariff; but the primary producers have no protection whatever.
– What about the exchange rate, bounties, and the like?
– W e should be in our graves if it were not for the exchange rate.
– I am trying to face the facts of the situation. Let us take the case of a farmer who three years ago borrowed £300, at 6 per cent. On that loan he would be paying £18 per annum, which, at the time the money was borrowed, represented 60 bushels of wheat; but to-day it represents 180 bushels of wheat. If the farmer could meet his commitments in the commodity which he borrowed upon, and at the same rate, he would be all right; but, when it requires 180 bushels of wheat to discharge an obligation which 60 bushels discharged three years ago, he finds himself in an impossible position. Some honorable members have urged that, whatever happens, wages or hours of labour must not be touched. They pay no regard to the difficulties of employers whose production costs are too high to permit them to market their products at a profit. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) also declared that Australian consumers want goods made in Australia. Why should our manufacturers of galvanized iron charge more than double what is a reasonable price to our primary producers ?
– Order ! It is most unpleasant for the Chair to be obliged to intervene so frequently; but almost every honorable member who has spoken in this debate has offended against the Standing Orders by not confining his remarks to the subject of the motion. I have already read the preamble to remind the House that it is considering a measure for the relief of unemployment. The bill provides that the Treasurer may borrow £1,800,000 for this purpose, and honorable members may direct their remarks to the works upon which this money may be expended. Provision is made for grants to the five other States, and there is separate provision for the relief of unemployment in New South Wales. Honorable members, in discussing the measure, will be quite in order in making references to the effect of wage reductions, or the extent to which the tariff may be responsible for unemployment, but such references must be brief, and strictly relevant to the purposes of the bill. I hope that honorable members will observe this direction from the Chair, and thus make further intervention unnecessary.
– I always endeavour to obey our Standing Orders, and I regret that you, Mr. Speaker, deemed it necessary to take exception to my observations because, in my opinion, they relate to a matter of paramount importance. The preamble to the bill states that it is a measure “ to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to persons out of employment “. This subject was fully considered at the recent conference of Premiers in Melbourne. If this Parliament were not -entitled to consider cause and effect, and decide what should be done with the people’s money, I should be still more in favour of secession and its abolition. If galvanized iron were within the reach of the man on the land, it would be possible for our primary producers to give more employment to people seeking it. Owing to the high price of fertilizer, our farmers are prevented from using it more extensively, to obtain greater wealth from the soil, and give more employment to rural workers. The inability of the men on the land to purchase these necessary commodities at a reasonable price has a direct bearing on our unemployment problem. Costs in our secondary industries should be reduced, so that the area of employment may be increased. Our labour friends should recognize thai if the purchasing power of the wages received is increased through a lowering of the production costs, the people as a whole will be happier and better off than they are to-day. This worshipping of our wages standard without regard to world economic conditions is absurd. While regarding the bill as a palliative, I support it, and I hope that the money to be raised will be expended on useful purposes.
– Bearing in mind your injunction, Mr. Speaker, I shall endeavour to confine my remarks strictly to the objects of the bill. The problem of unemployment transcends in importance any other that’ could be brought before the House at this juncture, because it so vitally affects the interests of orderly government and the contentment of the people. We expected that the recent Melbourne conference would evolve proposals -which might be brought before this Parliament for the relief of unemployment, but instead of facing this difficult problem in that spirit of co-operation so admirably displayed by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) when this subject was debated last month, leaders at that gathering, ignoring the needs of the nation, gave full rein to a policy of masterly inactivity, and instead of bringing forward a practical scheme designed to benefit the nation, adopted proposals on the lines of political expediency. Now we have the spectacle of the New South Wales Government pursuing a policy which is resulting in a chronic state of industrial business stagnation, causing an alarming flight of capital from the State, and intensifying unemployment and distress among its people. It is apparent that these people are chasing the shadow in their endeavours to settle our unemployment problem on political, rather than on economic, lines. Governments everywhere are unable to find a solution for unemployment, unless, of course, we exclude the Russian Soviet Government, which, we are given to understand, has resorted to some form of conscription of labour which the Australian workman would not, in any circumstances, tolerate. If we are to overcome our difficulties, we must have complete harmony and co-ordination between all Australian governments. I approve of the scheme that has been- brought down, and I am glad to know that New South “Wales is to participate in it, notwithstanding the drawbacks of the Melbourne conference. I consider it an excellent proposal that the money shall be expended through the various shires and municipalities. These bodies have efficient plants and organizations to ensure the wise expenditure of all moneys allocated to them without costly supervision and overhead charges, which otherwise would be incurred by the Government. It has been suggested that these bodies might be able to make some contribution towards the sums apportioned to them, and so increase employment, but I would remind the House that it is probable that no local governing body in New South Wales would be able to borrow money in any circumstances. The Local Government Act of New South Wales also requires the approval of the Minister for local government for any such projects. In the present state of New South Wales politics, this probably means the Premier, but notwithstanding all that has been said about him, I believe he would not turn a deaf ear to any proposals brought forward for the relief of unemployment. Because the situation is desperate, early action is necessary. I am pleased that this measure has been introduced; we want to get on with the job, and I express the hope that very soon relief works will be in progress in all the States, in order to provide some assistance during the coming winter.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Gullett) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) put -
That orders of the day be postponed until a later hour this day.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
Application to the State of New South Wales: Attachment of Further Classes of Revenue.
– Pursuant to the suspension of the Standing Orders earlier to-day for this purpose, I now move -
That, a resolution having been passed on the 16th March, 1932, by each House of the Parliament under section six of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act 1932 resolving inter alia that the provisions of sections seven to thirteen (inclusive) of Part II. of that Act should have effect with respect to eight classes of revenue of the State of New South Wales specified in the resolution to the extent of the amount set forth in the certificate of the Auditor-General embodied in the resolution, this House resolve in pursuance of section thirteen a of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts 1932, that sections seven to thirteen (inclusive) of Part IX. ofthe Financial Agreements . Enforcement Acts 1932 should have effect with respect to the following other classes of revenue and portions of classes of revenue of the State of New South Wales, namely : -
Revenue from interest payable to the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales by any statutory body constituted by or under any law of that State but not including revenue from interest. payable by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales ;
) One-sixth of all revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls, and other moneys in respect of the Government railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales, or by any other body or authority, or any department, which is, on or after the date of this resolution, substituted in whole or in part for the Transport Commissioners of Now South Wales, or which exercises at any time any power or function which, at the date of this resolution, is exercisable in whole or in part by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales;
Any portion of the revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls and other moneys in respect of the Government railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales, or by any other body or authority, or any department, which is, on or after the date of this resolution, substituted in whole or in part for the Transport Com- missioners of New South Wales, or which exercises at any time any power or function which, at the date of this resolution, is exercisable in whole or in part by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales (other than the onesixth portion specified in paragraph (x) of this resolution) which is attributable to an increase in rates imposed on or after the date of the passing of this resolution;
Revenue from death duties;
Revenue from stamp duties other than death duties;
Revenue from fees payable in respect of the issue, renewal or transfer of licences for the brewing, manufacturing, sale or disposal of fermented or spirituous liquors;
Revenue from the sale, lease, disposal or alienation, under any tenure whatsoever, of Crown lands or of any lands which have been acquired by the State, and revenue from licences to occupy any such lands;
Revenue from fees payable in respect of the registration of motor vehicles and the issue of drivers’ licences, from the renewal of such registration and licences, and from any payments required to be made in pursuance of any condition imposed in any licence or permit issued in relation to motor vehicles.
The motion is in accordance with the amendment of the act agreed to yesterday. The first resolution of this Parliament had specified eight classes of the revenue of the State of New South Wales as subject to attachment by the Commonwealth, and this motion specifies eight additional classes. The wording of the items is necessarily somewhat involved, and, for the convenience of honorable members, they may be briefly summarized as follows : -
Classix. - Interest payable to the Treasury by statutory bodies, but not including interest payable by the Transport Commissioners ofp New South Wales.
Classx. - One-sixth of all railway revenue.
Classxi. - Any portion of railway revenue) other than the one-sixth already referred to, attributable to an increase inrates imposed on or after the date of the passing of this motion.
The Commonwealth proposes to attach a definite proportion of the existing railway revenue, leaving sufficient for the operation of the railways.
– If the balance left to the State is not sufficient for the operation of the railways, will the Commonwealth guarantee to make up the difference?
– The knowledge possessed by the Government of the railway revenue now collectable suggests that the possibility mentioned by the honorable member is very remote. The railways of New South Wales earn an amount substantially in excess of operation costs, but provision was made in the amending legislation agreed to yesterday for the Commonwealth to attach the whole of any increase which is attributable to any advance of rates on or after the date of the passing of. this motion. Further classes of revenue which may be attached are -
Classxii. - Death duties.
Class xiii. - Stamp duties other than death duties.
Class xiv. - Liquor licences.
Class xv. - Revenue from the sale or lease of land.
Class xvi. - Revenue from the registration of motor vehicles, &c.
Class ix. will cover all interest payable by statutory bodies to the Treasury of New South Wales, except the interest payable by the Transport Commissioners.
– What is the difference between revenue from interest and interest itself?
– Revenue from interest is revenue obtained by the payment of interest on money that has been advanced or invested by the State. As the interest on the public debt of New South Wales is now being paid by the Commonwealth, the diversion from the State Treasury to the Commonwealth Treasury of all interest payable by these statutory bodies is reasonable. The purpose of item ix. is to enable that to be done. For instance, the Sydney Harbour Trust, which has an interest liability of over half a million pounds has surplus revenue available to meet a large portion of that amount. The trust should pay to the Commonwealth at least the surplus available.
– Is that interest due to the State Government?
– What of interest due to the Commonwealth Bank, or some other lender ?
– This motion, seeks to attach only money that would be payable to the State of New South Wales. Apparently the surplus moneys of the Sydney Harbour Trust are at present being diverted to other purposes, because the State Government is not applying them to the payment of interest. Another example is the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board, which has large statutory obligations in respect of debt forming a portion of the public debt of New South Wales. The total interest liability of all bodies covered by item ix. is estimated to be approximately £2,200,000 a year, and the amount due and payable during the balance of this year should be about £500,000. Interest payable by the Transport Commissioners is omitted from this item because provision is made under item x. to attach a portion of railway revenue, and in other items to attach revenue from motor vehicles. The surplus of revenue on other activities controlled by the Transport Commissioners would be very small, and is not dealt with by this motion.
Class x. covers one-sixth of the railway revenue.
– What is the estimate of that?
– One-sixth for the remaining two months of the financial year is estimated to be about £370,000. According to the latest figures available the surplus of revenue over working expenses is approximately one-fifth, and that amount should be available for the payment of interest due on capital invested in the railways. In taking power to attach only one-sixth, the Commonwealth is leaving an adequate margin for carrying on the work of the railways under present conditions. Although one-sixth is specified as attachable, that proportion can be reduced by proclamation if deemed necessary.
It is estimated that the revenues payable under this motion would be about £10,000,000 a year, and that the receipts for the balance of this financial year may reach £1,700,000.
Item ix. - interest payable by statutory bodies - will be made the subject of a proclamation under section 7 of the act, and the amount will be payable by the bodies concerned direct to the Commonwealth.
– Does the one-sixth refer to the whole of the revenue for the year, or to the amount estimated to be collected during the two remaining months?
– It will apply only to the revenue received during the currency of the proclamation, and the estimate of £370,000 quoted by me relates only to the remaining portion of the ‘ financial year.
– How is that proportion calculated ?
– Estimates have been prepared of the revenue for the whole year, and for May and June separately. The amount estimated to be received during the remainder of May is £140,000, and in June £230,000, making a total of £370,000.
The remaining items will be proclaimed under section 10, and the moneys concerned will be payable in the first place to State officers as at present; directions will be issued to those officers, requiring them to pay the moneys to the Commonwealth. This course will avoid any difficulties in the ordinary dealings with the public. At this stage I particularly desire to notify the public that no action need bo taken by them immediately after the passing of this motion. Proclamations must first be issued before the revenues now specified become payable to the Commonwealth. After those proclamations have been issued, clear directions will be given by the Treasurer regarding the method of paying the moneys involved to particular officers, who, in turn, will make them available to the Commonwealth. I request the public, therefore, to await the issue of these directions, which will clearly explain what is to he done.
– Will any member of the public be called upon to make payments to the Commonwealth?
– This motion relates, not only to the railway revenues, but to amounts payable by statutory bodies to the State of New South Wales. No change from presentpractices will be necessary, however, until the issue of the proclamations, and the publication of directions by the Treasurer.
– Is the Government likely to change its mind?
– The honorable member knows that there has been no change of mind since we started out on this track; and there is no likelihood of any change of mind in the future. Butwe wish the public clearly to understand the position step by step, as each is taken.
The resolution is consequential upon and in conformitywith the legislation thatwas passed yesterday, and I ask the House to agree to it.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons)was quite right when he said that this is consequential uponwhat the House did yesterday. Because of that, I do not propose to repeat any of the arguments that I then submitted. But this is a serious step, and there are some important aspects of it in regard towhich Ave should have a little further enlightenment.
The Prime Ministerwarned the public regardingwhat need not be done until a proclamation is issued. I endeavoured at the time to elicit from himwhat his statement actually meant. Am I to take it that if a private citizenowes an account to the Railway Department of New South Wales, he will have to pay one-sixth of it to the Commonwealth ?
– The statement of the Prime Minister will give rise to a degree of uncertainty, if not of uneasiness. I assume that the New South Wales Railway Department, like that of other States, runs monthly or fortnightly accountswith the suppliers of its requirements, and other personswho do businesswith it. Towhomwill those accounts have to be paid?
– Unless there are very strong reasons for acting in a contrary manner, the same channels as are now employed will be used; but thosewho collect the moneywillhave to pay it over to the Commonwealth. In the first place, the payment will be made by the public to the officers of the State, aud then by the latter to the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Apparently, the Prime Minister is not able at the moment to answer definitely the simple question, if a trader owes £500 on account of raihvay freight, is he to pay thewhole of it to the State Railway Department, or deduct one-sixth and pay it to the Commonwealth ?
– Of course hewill not deduct one-sixth. The full amount will be paid to the Railway Department, and Ave shall deal subsequentlywith the department.
– In that case, the warning given by the Prime Minister has no application. I gathered from the honorable gentleman that the one-sixth was calculated on the estimated revenues of May and June, not on the average for a. complete year.
– It is based on the estimate for the whole year; but these are the amounts that will be collected, in accordance with that calculation, for the two months of the present year that remain.
– Has the point been considered that the revenues of May and June may not reach the high average attained in December and January?
– These are the estimates for each month, that were furnished by the New South W ales officials in January last.
– That explanation makes the matter more understandable.
The Prime Minister was asked by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) if the Government was prepared to guarantee that ‘the employees of the New South Wales Railway Department would receive the wages to which they were entitled under the awards governing their employment, should the revenue which remained after the deduction of one-sixth not be sufficient to pay working expenses, which consist mostly of wages.
– I have already pointed out that the one-sixth is the maximum that will be attached. If it should bo found that a less amount should be taken in order to leave in the hands of the State a sum sufficient to run the railways, that less amount will be taken.
– Then, the Government undertakes not to deprive the department of such an amount that it will be unable to meet working expenses.
– We have never proposed to take anything from the State servants.
– Is the right honorable gentleman for or against Mr. Lang?
– The honorable member for Boothby has jumped about so much from one party to another that he does not know where he is.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! Interjections and conversations across the chamber are highly disorderly. I ask honorable members to refrain from further interruption.
– I do not propose to debate the merits or demerits of the question, because already that has been done fairly well. But, notwithstanding the flippancy of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) and some other honorable members, I am concerned about the probable effect on this very big undertaking.
Before the resolution is voted upon, we are entitled to ask questions regarding it without being sneered at. A. very serious step is proposed, and we do not want any excuse to be made for the holding up of this great transport service of New South Wales. I take it that the Prime Minister has given the assurance that sufficient revenue will be left with the State to enable it to pay all working expenses, including wages.
.- The taking of action against New South Wales step by step, as the Prime Minister so frequently reiterates, indicates to me, and I believe to the whole of the people of Australia, that the Commonwealth is gradually assuming control over all the functions of the State, and bringing about unification by force. This Government may be likened to a highway robber, who sticks up a coach and relieves the travellers in it of the results of their labours. The legislation that has recently been passed undoubtedly has exhausted the patience of the people. Does the Government believe that the citizens of New South Wales will tamely submit to being treated in this fashion?
– They are welcoming it.
– That opinion has been formed by the honorable member as a result of his association with fishermen and niggers. He has no knowledge of what is happening in the Sydney metropolitan area. Heavy losses were sustained by the New South Wales railways last year and the year before, and the withdrawal of one-sixth of the revenue, which they earn will impose on the State a burden of much greater severity. I anticipated the reason for the application of the legislation passed yesterday to officers of the Railway Department. Those who collect the revenue of the department will now be compelled to hand it over to the Commonwealth Treasury. I believe that no State officer will obey such an instruction, and that it will be necessary for a federal officer to be placed on every railway station throughout the State if the Commonwealth is to get one “ razoo “. Will the Commonwealth have the audacity to remunerate such officers out of State revenues? Will those who are already in employment be chosen for this duty, or will the ranks of the unemployed be drawn on for the purpose? There may be men registered as unemployed who will be prepared to undertake the work, but I would not guarantee that they would hand over the cash that they received.
I do not think that the Commonwealth Government realizes the state of mind of the people of New South Wales. They will not allow the functions of government to be taken from them by another legislature that came into being many years after they were given responsible government. This legislation, if enforced, may bring about a state of rebellion. Those chiefly concerned in its passage, particularly the right honorable member for Flinders-lane, will not be in the State when any of its revenue is being attached. I do not know whether he will be deputed to collect the tolls on the Sydney harbour bridge.
– De Groot is to be in charge of that.
– The right honorable gentleman would not be as lucky as was “ De Goat,” the companion of the honorable member for Parramatta. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to treat this matter with levity. I have come in contact with many persons who are greatly incensed at this legislation. This Government is prepared to stoop so low as to attach even death duties. Why does it not go further, and take the pennies out of the children’s money-boxes ? I feel sure that this policy will not be successful. The Premier of New South Wales has beaten the Government in every move on the political chess board, and I venture to prophesy that within a fortnight the Ministry will be asking this Parliament for further legislation on this subject. Does the Government desire to see insurrection in Australia, and possibly have a flutter with its army and navy? I am concerned about the welfare of the people of Australia as a whole.
– So are we.
– Honorable members opposite are more concerned about the interests of the Shylocks overseas than about the hungry in Australia, when they are prepared to attach the revenues of New South Wales, and send the money abroad for the payment of interest. They are a spineless-
– Order !
– Your intervention, Mr. Speaker, came just in time.
-The honorable member must withdraw the word “ spineless “.
– I withdraw it. I represent a constituency, in which the residents, through circumstances over which they have no control, have suffered more in the last five years than have the people in any other part of Australia. The remarks made from time to time by scoffing individuals opposite, who have never known what it is to be in want, have roused my feelings, and if I had not been called to order it is probable, Mr. Speaker, that you would have had cause to have me ejected from the chamber.
The Government is attempting to take over the control of the railways of New South Wales, and if they cease running, the transport of primary products will cease and chaos will result, simply because the Government desires to pay interest to bondholders overseas, many of whom have never seen Australia, and have done nothing but exploit this country. We have given more to the people overseas than we have had in return. Are we to be bled white by them? Is Australia to remain for ever a nation of primary producers, and to have no secondary industries? Because of our policy of developing secondary as well as primary industries, the financial strings have been tightened. Loans have been withheld, and high rates of interest are exacted. The people of Australia have not only made great war sacrifices, but they have also voluntarily converted their internal loans. Yet the Government does not suggest that Great Britain should convert her internal debts. We should tell Britain that as we gave her our best when she was in trouble, we now expect her to help us out of our financial difficulties. What does the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) propose to do when he takes up his post as resident Minister in London? He should claim for Australia the same consideration from Great Britain as has been given to Italy, France,
Russia and the Argentine. Britain buys wheat from Russia, a country which repudiated a debt of a billion of money, in preference to buying Australian wheat. Australia, apparently, must go cap in hand to Britain for everything it requires. Britain demands the last pound of flesh in the way of interest, even if men, women, and children in Australia are reduced to starvation. That is a display, not of humanitarianism, but of extreme barbarism. We hear of atrocities in China, but there the authorities at least have some consideration for the claims of humanity. When they decide to inflict the death penalty the punishment is meted out instantly; but this Government is slowly starving the people of New South Wales under this rotten, legislation.
– The houorable member must withdraw the word “rotten.”
– I withdraw it. In conclusion, I warn the Government that the course it is pursuing may lead to bloodshed, and I am sure that no honorable member of the House, on this side, at any rate, wishes to witness that.
.- The first class of revenue specified in the motion has some relation to the subject of unemployment. It was argued in the debate this afternoon that money should bo spent on reproductive works, in preference to the dole. The Government of New South Wales, at one period, lent £750,000 to the Water and Sewerage Board and to shire and municipal authorities for the purpose of carrying out reproductive works, and now the Commonwealth Government proposes to seize interest received with respect to that loan. Although we were previously assured that funds allocated for the relief of unemployment were not to be touched, the Government, by a back door method, proposes to seize such funds. Will discrimination be shown between interest on unemployment funds and other interest paid by the various bodies that I have mentioned? The Sydney harbour bridge is being paid for partly by means of the tolls collected by the railway and tramway authorities. So far as I know, the toll receipts are passed on to the firm which built the bridge, and if this money is to be seized, the Government of New South
Wales will be forced by the Commonwealth Government to repudiate the debt owing on the bridge. We are assured by the Prime Minister that after the deduction of one-sixth of the revenue of the railways of New South Wales, there will be sufficient left to pay wages and working expenses. The Prime Minister also said that if one-sixth of the revenue was more than sufficient to cover the interest payments, the State Government would be allowed to retain a larger proportion than that provided for under the proposal. We know that the railway revenue is falling, and if five-sixths of it is insufficient to pay the wages of the employees, will this Government agree to accept less? If it does, will it have sufficient to meet the interest payments due on the money invested in the railways?
– Not indefinitely. The Commonwealth Government has had to make up the shortage.
– We are told that this Government desires to recover all the money that it has paid on behalf of the New South Wales Government; but it now appears that one-sixth of the railway revenue will not be sufficient to meet the interest commitments. Then how can the New South Wales Government be expected to meet them? There may be something to be said in favour of the seizure of death duties. Many of the wealthy’ citizens of New South Wales may be only too pleased to learn that the revenue duties payable upon their estates at their death will pass to a government representing the party which they have always supported. But the seizure of railway revenue is one of the heftiest tasks this Government has ever undertaken. Because of a warning uttered in another place to-day about the possibility of a change in the title of the public body nowin control of the New South Wales railways, the motion was altered, but there is another possibility of difficulty. If the State Government decides to decentralize the railway system, and make each section meet its own expenses instead of paying the whole of the revenue into the head office, the Commonwealth Government will find the task of seizing that revenue a very different proposition from that of seizing money in a bank or taxation office.
– If the commissioners make that change they will also find it a very difficult proposition.
– The commissioners are the creatures of the Government, and will he obliged to obey the Government. The Government would decide the matter.
– The courts would decide it.
– Up to date the Commonwealth Government has not had the courage to tackle the State Government.
– In this instance it will tackle the commissioners.
– The Government is courageous enough to tackle employees who do not answer questions, but lacks the courage to tackle the State Government which directs the policy administered by the commissioners. If the State Government decides on a decentralization policy so far as its railway revenues are concerned, the Commonwealth will have a difficult task ahead of it.
– It will be very quickly undertaken.
– I ask the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) to cease his interjections and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) not to reply to interjections.
– If it is the intention of the Commonwealth Government, by threats of legal proceedings, to force officers of the State Government to do its bidding, and answer questions so that the Commonwealth may seize and divert the railway revenue to the payment of interest, I do not know what will be left to the New South “Wales Government with which to carry on the railways. “Why does not the Commonwealth take over the control of the State railways? In the long run it will have to do so if its legislation in this direction is not to turn out the failure it has in other directions. The people who are likely to suffer inconvenience in this dispute between the Federal and State Governments are those who use the railways. When this motion is agreed to, the Commonwealth Government will have attached almost all the money in the State of New South Wales except, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has suggested, that in the children’s money boxes; and when it is prepared to seize death duties and such-like sources of State revenue I do not think it is above laying hands on children’s money boxes.
.- I also desire to enter my protest against this motion, particularly as I realize that it is an attempt to injure a body of men whom we, in New South Wales, regard, as the most loyal it is possible for any State to have in its service. Since a memorable occasion in 1917, which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) will remember well, a body of railway workers . has grown up in New South Wales which is devotedly loyal to the State. The proposals of the Commonwealth Government will create discontent among these men. My electorate probably contains more railway men than ‘any other electorate in Australia, and, realizing the position in which they will be placed, and the difficulties they will be called upon, to experience, I move -
That paragraph x be omitted.
.- I support the amendment, because I think an attack upon the railway revenue of a State, with the possible consequence of lower efficiency in its railway service, is a very dangerous thing for the Commonwealth Government to attempt. A railway system should be kept up to the highest state of efficiency, and the railway staff should not be disturbed while the service is running. Although I understand that, in allocating the quota of railway revenue proposed to be seized, care is being taken to ensure that sufficient is left to the State to maintain the present efficiency of the service, it is more than possible that, as the result of this interference, the railway revenue will fall. Rightly or wrongly, action of this character must have a disturbing effect upon all State public services, and a fall of revenue is a natural consequence. I, therefore, urge upon the Prime Minister the need for care to ensure that his officers carry out the work entrusted to them in such a way that there shall be no interference with the economic conditions of the men who are running the State railways. The position being almost electric at this moment, the least interference with the conditions given to them by law would probably be as the last straw which they could bear, and this would incite them to hold lip the railway service. A railway service is a very dangerous one to trespass upon. I hope that the Government will make sure that the amount of revenue seized will be so reduced, if necessary, from time to time that, although it is proposed now that five-sixths of the total revenue shall be left to the State, at least sufficient may remain to enable the efficiency of the railway service to be maintained whilst this particular dispute is being settled.
– The’ fear of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that under this motion we shall attach the tolls’ on the Harbour Bridge is without foundation. There is no intention on the part of the Commonwealth Government to attach them under this motion.
The impassioned utterances of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would make it appear that this Government is desirous of taking something from the widows and orphans and from the poor of New South Wales. The honorable member, if he were fair, would direct his denunciation at the head of the New South Wales Government. The honorable member exclaims against raiding the money-boxes of the children, yet he supports a man who has raided the banks of £1,000,000, which included the provision that should have been made for those entitled to contributions under the Family Endowment Act. The man to whom the honorable member should have applied his epithets is the cause of all the misery and destitution in New South Wales to-day, and it is utter nonsense to declare that some one else is responsible. The affairs of New South Wales have been mismanaged from the first day Mr. Lang was returned to power, and all the noise that the honorable member for Hunter can make will not mislead the intelligent people of this country into any other belief. Therefore, I am prepared to leave this matter to the people of New South Wales. Mr. Lang pretends to speak for the people of his State. Let him, then, appeal to the electors, and we shall soon see who is entitled to speak in their name. The people of New South Wales, as a whole, are ashamed of what is taking place in that State.
– Did not the Prime Minister say, when speaking in Sydney, that child endowment was an unfair burden on industry?
– I did not say anything of the kind. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) asked me whether the surplus over and above working expenses would be sufficient to pay the whole of the interest upon the capital indebtedness of the railways. When I replied that it would not, he asked what was the use of seizing the surplus; why not attach sufficient railway revenue to pay all the interest owing? Probably honorable members opposite, who are making so much noise over this affair, are disappointed that the Commonwealth has declined to seize some of the money required to pay salaries and wages to the railway workers. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that there was a danger that there might not be sufficient money left in the hands of the State Government to pay the ordinary working expenses of the railways. No such danger exists. No injustice will be done to users of the railways, or to the men who work them. There will be no interference with the rendering of services to the public; no alteration so far as the Commonwealth is concerned in rates or fares. and no tampering with wages or salaries. The Commonwealth is merely demanding from ‘the Government of New South Wales that it shall pay to the Commonwealth Government a part of the surplus railway revenue, over and above what is required for working expenses, in order to satisfy the debt which the State owes to the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports urged the Government to be quite sure that it was not seizing too great a portion of the railway revenue. The figures by which we are guided were not arrived at by guess work, but were obtained from the budget Estimates of the Treasurer of New South Wales. In the Estimates for 1931-32, on page 330, the estimated income from the railways for the year is stated to be £15,802,800.
– And since that estimate was made the Government has put commercial motor traffic off the road.
– That is so, and, as a result, there ought to be an increase in railway receipts. In January, after six months’ experience of railway working, the Treasurer’s estimate of total receipts was somewhat higher than his earlier one. Thereceipts for the last two months indicate that the estimate on which we have” been proceeding was a conservative one, and the surplus of £370,000, which we estimated to receive for part of May and the whole of June, will probably be exceeded. The estimated revenue for May was . £1,111,000, and the estimated expenditure £957,000; for June the estimated revenue was £1,556,000, and the estimated expenditure £1,058,000. These estimates were prepared during the early part of this calendar year, that is, in the second half of the financial year, and were made with a full knowledge of what had taken place during the previous six months. The surplus for the full two months is estimated to amount to £652,000, which represents 24.4 per cent. of the estimated receipts, or considerably more than the 20 per cent. to which reference has been made. Authority is being taken by this resolution for the Commonwealth to obtain one-sixth of the State railway revenue. Therefore, we propose to leave in the hands of the Railway Department of New South Wales a substantial margin over and above what is required for working costs.
Question - That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr. Gander’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackat).
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from page 426.
– I am profoundly disappointed to find that the -amount provided in this bill is hopelessly inadequate to meet the pressing problem of unemployment in Australia. The declaration made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) at the Premiers Conference, in Melbourne, led us to believe that a sum greatly in excess of that provided in the. bill would be made available. At the commencement of the proceedings of that conference, specially convened to consider this important subject - possibly the most important that could engage our attention at this juncture - the Prime Minister made a gesture in the direction of providing £10,000,000 to relieve the unemployment problem in Australia. The conference had not been in session for more than a week before the amount originally mentioned had been reduced to £5,000,000. After a little further deliberation it was reduced to £3,000,000. Moreover, the conditions provided in this measure reduce the amount to such an extent that the Commonwealth’s portion of any financial provision being made for those so seriously circumstanced will not exceed £1,800,000. Had the proceedings of the conference continued much longer the whole amount would have dwindled still further, and possibly no provision whatever would have been made. I admit that £1,800,000 is more acceptable than nothing at all, hut it does not meet the position. It will assist only to a very small degree indeed in meeting the imperative needs of those who at present are experiencing great hardships. The capacity of the people to meet the rigours of the approaching winter is less than it has been during the earlier years of the depression. Before then those who were able built up a small reserve to meet unemployment or sickness, and, if they had been able to avoid those unfortunate conditions, would have had a larger amount in their old age to enable them to battle with adversity. All such resources are now exhausted, and the people are less able to meet the winter than in any previous year. The sum of £1,800.000 is totally insufficient to meet the desperate needs of our people. It was mentioned during the debate this afternoon that it is sufficient to meet for only three months the requirements of approximately one-seventh of those who are at present unemployed Surely the Government must realize how lamentably it has failed to cope with th, urgent necessities of the unemployed when it seeks to appropriate this amount which is the total sum likely to be provided for this purpose in the immediate future. In discussing this measure, the Opposition has shown a good deal rf tolerance. Prior to the meeting of the Premiers, in Melbourne, the action of honorable members on this side of the chamber were in the direction of encouraging and assisting the Government. Even to-day we have expressed the hope that this is only an instalment of a more comprehensive plan to relieve unemployment. But I am afraid that this amount will bn required to cover a period longer than the months that are immediately before us. If rumour be correct, this Parliament is to go into a long recess upon the termination of either this period or the period to follow. When Parliament is in recess, it is unlikely that the Premiers will assemble to evolve a further plan for relieving unemployment. That means that no further legislation can be passed by Parliament in order to provide additional assistance.
– Relief can be afforded when ‘Parliament is not sitting.
– Then why the need for Parliament to authorize this appropriation ? The Minister knows that it is essential. I recall tlie record of the Government of which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) was a member. We cannot forget the record of the Bruce-Pago Government.
– It sat as long as other governments.
– If the honorable member will refer to the records he will find thai during the six years the Bruce-Page Government was in office Parliament did not sit on as many days as did the Scullin Government during the two years it was in office.
– It might be better for the country if Parliament did not sit as long as it does.
– At a time of national emergency this Parliament should be in session throughout the year. Members are paid to be here. We have no right to shirk our responsibility to the people whom we represent. Having regard to the record of the Government which preceded the Scullin Administration, there is a grave danger of Parliament going into recess foi’ a lengthy period without anything further being done to assist those in distress. I view the position with apprehension, and feel dissatisfied with the amount provided for the immediate relief of those who are so unfortunately placed. There are numerous reproductive works on which loan moneys could be spent by the States. For instance, the Minister for unemployment in -South Australia has a programme for providing the essential requirements of the people on reproductive works, on which £2,000,000 could be spent. If such works were undertaken in South Australia relief would be afforded to those who have had to contend with long periods of unemployment, trade would be rehabilitated, and further essential services would be provided. I am astounded that the South Australian Minister for Unemployment, who attended the Premiers Conference in Melbourne, and submitted a request for an advance of £2,000,000 to cover the unemployment relief requirements of his State, should have accepted without protest and definite challenge a subsidy of £195,000. When the Premiers Conference meets at the end of this financial year, it will be absorbed in the immediate require- ments of balancing budgets and to the recommendations of the committee of economic experts. The matter of unemployment will be absolutely lost sight of, with the result that we shall hear nothing more of it from this Government until early in 1933. I know that when the public outcry occurs in a few months’ time, honorable members opposite will ad vance the excuse that the Government cannot launch out into an all-embracing scheme until its delegates return from the Imperial Conference at Ottawa, and submit a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of all of the units of the British Commonwealth of nations. We know that those delegates will not return until the closing months of this year, and that the Federal Parliament will probably not assemble until February or March of next year.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it.
– I happen to know a little more than the honorable member imagines. With some of its most distinguished members absent, the Government will hasten into the security of recess to escape the serious criticism that would otherwise be levelled at it in this chamber. It will be interesting- to watch the progress of events during the next few months, to see whether my forecast is correct. In the meantime, I shall not allow the opportunity to pass without urging upon the Government the need for a far greater measure of relief than that which is being provided. The Prime Minister at one stage stated that the Commonwealth would find £10,000,000 to meet the situation. That amount has been, whittled down to £1.800,000. I shall not recapitulate the promises that this administration has made and broken. Let it suffice for me to say that the outcome of the Melbourne Premiers Conference represents one of the most tragic and colossal failures that have been recorded in the public life of this nation. That conference solved nothing, and gave no hope to those who are workless. It failed to realize the urgency of the need of our unemployed, particularly during the harsh months of winter. While accepting what the Government has offered I arn not at all satisfied. If the Standing Orders permitted me to do so, I should move that the amount be increased. As I cannot do that, I shall do everything possible to make the Government realize its responsibility in the hope that it will formulate a really worth while scheme, designed to give some appreciable relief to our workless legions.
.- I am p (based that the Government, has at least done something to relieve the problem of unemployment. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) declared that he is disappointed with the sum provided. If it be of any consolation, I assure him that I, too, am not satisfied with this amount, but I realize that it represents a genuine endeavour to do something. The bill is a tangible result of the determinations of the Premiers Conference, and will do something to lessen the hardships of the unemployed during the coming winter. Obviously, the problem cannot be solved at the first attempt. Various other schemes have been advanced, but they bore no fruit. I remember very clearly the fiduciary notes bill that was introduced by the Scullin Government designed to provide £18,000,000 to cope with the situation, with which I disagreed because I realized that it was unsound, and instead of relieving would have accentuated unemployment. In the present instance, the Commonwealth and State Governments are to raise £3,000,000 on a £1 for £1 basis.
– All except the outlaw State.
– I shall deal with that in a moment. Victoria is to receive £475,000, Queensland £310,000, South Australia £195.000, “Western Australia £145,000, and Tasmania £75,000, which makes a total of £1,200,000. The Commonwealth Government has also generously provided £600,000 for unemployment relief in New South “Wales. Unfortunately, the Government of that State will not enter wholeheartedly in the scheme, consequently it is necessary to set up machinery to carry out the relief. To this end the various shires and town councils of New South Wales will put forward their claims to the Commonwealth Trea sury, and the £600,000 will be allocated as is deemed advisable. In the other States there will be unemployment councils which will co-operate with the Government in the distribution of this money, which we know will be expended wisely on approved works. It is proposed to establish these councils in the near future, and it is essential that they should be practical bodies. The Council in South Australia is very much alive and is using every effort to relieve unemployment. It has various schemes in hand, but cannot give effect to them because of the shortage of funds. Now that the Commonwealth is making money available, this body will be able to function properly. South Australia is to raise £195,000, and that amount will be subsidized by the Commonwealth Government on a £1 for £1 basis. This money should not all be spent on materials, and at least the Commonwealth grant of £195,000 should be expended on wages. A genuine attempt is now being made to relieve unemployment in South Australia and throughout the Commonwealth generally. The South Australian Ministers who attended the recent Premiers Conference submitted several schemes for the relief of unemployment. Now that money is being provided, some of those schemes will be proceeded with. They comprise reproductive works such as water conservation, sewering, the reconditioning of wharfs at Port Adelaide and at various out-ports of South . Australia, and the clearing of lands in good rainfall areas for future settlement.
– The wharfs at Port Adelaide, if they are not repaired, will soon be floating down the river.
– The honorable member is well aware of the dangerous condition of those wharfs. It is a work of a reproductive nature, and many men could be employed on it.
– The money that is being made available will not accomplish much.
– I admit that, but it cannot be denied that the commonwealth Government, and some of the State Governments are at least making a genuine effort to .relieve unemployment.
– In which portion of the bill does it provide that the municipali- ties and shires of New South Wales shall receive moneys for the relief of the unemployed ?
– That is not specifically stated in the bill, but I understand that the Prime Minister has made an announcement to that effect. As the Lang Government refuses to co-operate with the Commonwealth, some other authority must undertake the distribution of money for the relief of- unemployment in New South Wales, and if the municipalities and shires of that State apply to the Commonwealth Treasury for portion of these moneys, I have no doubt that their applications will be favorably considered.
– That is not provided for in the bill.
– The Lang Government has made a horrible mess of the finances of New South Wales, and the sooner it goes out of existence the better for that State and Australia generally. A good deal can be done to relieve unemployment by encouraging private enterprise. In normal times 2,000,000 men are employed in Australia. Of that number 400,000 are employed on governmental works, and the remainder - 1,600,000 - are employed by private enterprise. In view of the large proportion employed by private enterprise it is only logical that a good deal of this money should be devoted to the stimulation of production.
– Private enterprise will receive all this money in the end.
– For the last two and a half years I have been endeavouring to persuade the Commonwealth Government to render some assistance to what is known as the alkali industry in South Australia. The possibilities of this industry were brought to my notice by Mr. George McPhail, of Adelaide. The present Government has given much consideration to the alkali industry, and it received some encouragement from the previous Government. I hope that portion of the money which is now being provided by this Government will be used in establishing that industry. On the 2nd May, the following paragraph appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser, and,
I believe, was also published in other newspapers throughout Australia: -
Suggested Manufacture at Port Adelaide.
The Minister in control of Development (Senator McLachlan) announced to-day that the Commonwealth Government is in communication with Imperial Chemical Industries, the leading manufacturers of the alkali industry in Australia, in connexion with the recommendations made in a report by an expert committee, comprising the chief executive officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Dr. A. D. C. Rivett), the South Australian Director of Mines (Dr. L. Keith Ward), and Mr. S. Fowler, of the Development branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, who investigated the possibility of establishing the industry at Port Adelaide.
Senator McLachlan said that the report is of a confidential character, because it contains certain information furnished by commercial interests under a promise that their confidences would be respected. He thought, however, that certain of the conclusions might he published without detriment to the interests concerned.
Substantial Possibilities. “ The committee expressed the view that a good case has been made out for the further consideration of alkali manufacture in Australia, particularly in view of the desire of the Commonwealth and State Governments to foster economically sound industries, and that further examination of the proposition is fully warranted “, said Senator McLachlan. “ With this object in view, the committee considers that the best available guidance should be sought from the leading authorities in this manufacture in the Empire. “ The value of imports is in the neighborhood of £300,000 a year, so that the possibilities of the industry from the point of view of employment are fairly substantial. The Government is therefore anxious to do what is possible to stimulate development, provided that this can be accomplished on economical lines. It realizes, however, that there are formidable difficulties in the way of establishing a new industry such as this, and that those interested should proceed cautiously, taking full advantage of experience built up over years by efficient organizations in other parts of the world. “ A special tribute is due to Mr. Price, M.H.R., for his untiring efforts in the interests of establishing the industry at Port Adelaide,” added the Minister.
There are many other concerns in Australia which are capable of development. If they were investigated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it is possible that other industries would be set up in this country, and provide employment for our people. But, until that is done, it is our duty to do what we can to relieve the existing unemployment.
– In common with many other honorable members, I expected that, as the result of the recent Premiers Conference, the Government would bring forward a measure providing for the expenditure of a greater sum than that set out in this bill for the relief of unemployment. The present Government has been in office for five months, but it has done nothing to solve the problem of unemployment.
– What did the Scullin Government do?
– During the first six weeks of the Scullin Government’s administration it made available to the States the sum of £1,000,000 for the relief of unemployment. That Government gave greater evidence of an interest in the unemployed workers of Australia than the present Government has done. Within a few months of that £1,000,000 being made available, a further £1,000,000 was distributed among the States for the same purpose. This bill provides for the sum of £1,200,000 being advanced to the several States on the condition that they raise a similar amount. Victoria will receive £475,000 and Queeusland £310,000, with varying amounts for the other States. With the State’s own contribution, Queensland will, under this proposal, have £620,000 to spend; but that will be as a drop in the ocean when divided among the 33,000 unemployed workers in that State. If divided equally among that number, each man would receive about £18, which would entitle him to three weeks’ work at the basic rate for that State Does the Government regard such a contribution as a fulfilment of its pre-election promise to the electors ? The unemployed workers of Australia will be sadly disappointed when they become acquainted with the provisions of this measure, particularly when they reflect that, during the election campaign, they were told that a change of Government would mean work for all, and prosperity for Australia.
The grant of the first £1,000,000 to the States by the Scullin Government for the relief of unemployment contained a provision that all the work performed as a result of the grant should be paid for at the basic rate then in force. I regret that a similar provision is not contained in this bill. The Nationalist Government of Queensland obtained control of the treasury bench largely because of the promises it made to the unemployed of that State - promises which, so far, have not been fulfilled. I understand that the Queensland Government submitted to the Premiers Conference a number of schemes for the relief of unemployment, all of which were based on the rates of pay and conditions of labour which exist now in connexion with relief work in that State. The pernicious scheme of the Moore Government provides that men engaged on relief work shall be subject to the following conditions in regard to pay and conditions of work: -
Those unemployed workers in Queensland who will obtain work will, no doubt, be asked to accept similar conditions and rates of pay, notwithstanding that men working practically alongside them, in private employ, will receive the basic wage. While I am disappointed that the Government has not made more money available for the relief of the unemployed, I am glad that with the approach of winter work will be provided, even if only for a short time, for some of the people who are in such great distress.
.- I, like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), hoped that this bill would have a speedy passage; but since the right honorable gentleman’s speech was delivered we have heard lengthy discourses on the relative merits of inflation and deflation, the virtues of the gold standard in relation to the currency, the merits of a fiduciary note issue, and the importance of paying high wages; and one honorable member even saw fit to make a somewhat humorous prophecy respecting the intentions of this
Government. Though this measure is designed to do good, it does not go far enough. I must confess to disappointment at the result of the Premiers Conference. The one man in Australia to whom some honorable members look for guidance attended the opening session of the conference, but then ran away and misrepresented to the New South “Wales people the policy of the Government. If that gentleman had any constructive suggestions to offer he should have had the decency to remain at the conference and do what he could to improve the policy placed before it.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) expressed the view that land should be made available free of charge for the unemployed. I recommend that he offer the suggestion to the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang), who has it in his power to make millions of acres of valuable land available in this way.
I should like some information from the Government as to the part that municipal and shire councils will be able to play in the expenditure of this money. The bill provides that the money shall be made available for many different classes of works. Municipal and shire councils, particularly in New South Wales, could give valuable assistance in the expenditure of the money. During the last couple of years these local governing bodies have had to dismiss many of their best employees, some of whom had more than twenty years’ ‘continuous service to their credit. This has been necessary because many ratepayers have fallen into arrears with their payments. In these circumstances, the councils have not been able to do as much maintenance work as they should have done. Such work is reproductive in a real sense, for if roads and streets are allowed to fall into serious disrepair now it will cost twice as much money in a couple of years’ time to restore them to a good condition. I feel, therefore, that provision should be made in the bill for the employment council to make money available direct to local governing bodies for the purpose of maintaining their roads and streets in good order. Such money would be spent wholly in the relief of unemployment. If the Government does not give me an assurance that the council will be able to do this, I shall move an amendment at the committee stage to provide that it shall be done.
.- Although I shall support the bill I, like the last three speakers, must express disappointment that the amount of the proposed vote is not larger. We all hoped that the £10,000,000 which the Government desired to make available would have materialized. It is well, however, that certain honorable gentlemen who represent New South Wales constituencies should realise who is chiefly responsible for the failure of the Government to obtain approval to the expenditure of that sum.
I wish to correct a statement made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). Although I do not suggest that the honorable gentleman intended deliberately to mislead the House, he was in error in saying that the Scullin Government, during its comparatively brief life, caused Parliament to sit for more days than it sat during the life of the Bruce-Page Government. The actual number of parliamentary sitting days during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government was 416, and during the Scullin Government 206, or a little less than half.
It has been said that the £1,800,000 proposed to be voted will provide employment for only one-seventh of the number of persons unemployed. It must be remembered, however, that the Governments will not need to provide sustenance for that one-seventh during the period of their employment, and this will release some additional funds. I hope that the Government will still concern itself about the six-sevenths who will still remain unemployed. The position of the ordinary unemployed is distressing; but the position of the unemployable is even more distressing. Men of 45 and 50 years of age, some of them returned soldiers, are feeling their position very keenly. Some of them have said to me that even if work is found for people, and even if private enterprise provides additional work, they will have little chance of getting a job because by that time they will be too old. Their situation is extremely serious. Then again, we must remember that clothing, boots and fuel are necessary for these people, and even if work is found for them in the latter part of May they will still be in great need of these other necessaries. The Government coal dump on the South Coast could bemade available for fuel supplies. Prior to the Easter adjournment I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) if it were possible to arrange for some organization to provide clothing for the unemployed, and I suggest that the employment councils, which exist in some States, and the one which is to be established in New South Wales, should, in addition to the task of administering this grant for unemployment, also be requested to supervise the supply of clothing and fuel this winter. It is futile to rely on unserviceable and part-worn clothing belonging to the Defence Department. I believe the department last year gave away about £150,000 worth of this clothing, but the department does not exist for that purpose. It must confine its attention to its own requirements. It should not be difficult for these unemployment councils to devise some scheme to meet the position. The people generally in the country are sympathetic, and are quite prepared to do what they can if they get a lead. It has been urged by some that the works to be undertaken should be reproductive, or revenueproducing, and by others that the money should be wholly expended on labour. It is difficult to reconcile these varying viewpoints. In my electorate, one section of road between Sydney and Melbourne has been untouched for many years, and is now in urgent need of repair. This could be done at a cost of about £10,000 or £11,000, and it would give employment to the whole of the unemployed in the city of Goulburn for about six or seven mouths. Furthermore it would not call for any expenditure in the way of material. It seems to me that that particular work; and other jobs of a similar nature, might well be considered as suitable, under this scheme, although they might not be regarded as revenueproducing undertakings. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) urged that provision should be made to enable municipalities to handle some of the money. I distinctly remember hearing the Prime
Minister, when replying to the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) last week state that municipalities and other similar bodies should prepare their schemes, and submit them direct to the Government, so evidently it is the policy of the administration to make this money available to municipal and other local governing bodies. The amount proposed to be expended is very small, having regard to the magnitude of the unemployment problem, but I hope that it will be wisely expended, and be the beginning of a move for the settlement of the grave problem that confronts us.
– All honorable members will agree that our unemployment problem transcends in its gravity all other difficulties that have confronted the Commonwealth. It has been truly said that, if we do not settle it, it will settle us. I was somewhat disappointed with the Prime Minister’s statement, but after some years of experience in this House, I have become hardened by the many rebuffs as far as my constituency is concerned. The Prime Minister told the House that no provision is being made for the Northern Territory, although I can assure honorable members that the unemployment difficulty there is as acute as anywhere else in the Commonwealth. The Government is placing £10,000 on the Estimates for expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory. An equal sum should be provided for the Northern Territory, because, as the leader of the Government has admitted, the unemployment problem in federal territories is definitely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Our troubles in the Northern Territory will not be met by the transport of unemployed persons at Darwin to the other States, where the labour market is already so seriously congested. The Government would do well to establish an employment council in the Northern Territory to carry out duties entrusted to similar bodies in the various States. On many occasions I have urged successive Ministers to appoint representatives of the farming, pastoral, and mining interests to visit the Northern Territory with me and to see for themselves the possibilities there for the absorption of large numbers of our unemployed. When considering the means to solve this problem, which is nation-wide in its incidence, we should free our minds entirely of possible State advantages from any scheme that might be evolved. If it can be shown that it is an economically sound proposal to settle the unemployed in a given portion of Australia, we should be prepared, irrespective of geographical boundaries, to give it our cordial support. The Northern Territory has an area of 532,000 square miles - more than four times the size of Great Britain and Ireland, and equal to the combined areas of Germany, Franco, Italy, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland. In that great country there is an immense extent of land equal to the best in any other part of Australia, and since it is unalienated, it could be utilized for land settlement on a big scale. But, unfortunately, there appears to be some sinister influence at work retarding its development. I have said on numerous occasions that vested interests, more than anything else, are responsible, and I repeat that we should systematically exploit the possibility of land settlement. We cannot expect to surmount our present difficulties if we tinker with the unemployment problem by giving the workless a job shifting sand. The influences at work to retard the development of the Northern Territory are illustrated by the following paragraph published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of the 3rd May : - ‘
The stars in their perhaps slightly devious courses are fighting against Australia’s meat producers. First there was an hysterical outburst in the still freetrade Star against our meat. Now Sir Edmund Vestey, joint head of the Blue Star Line, pleads for Argentine meat’s vested interests, which are largely Vestey interests. As arguments these effusions need not be taken too seriously. They do show, however, the bitter fight which freetraders and foreign meat interests are making against our meat exporters.
Vestey Brothers control large areas of land in the north of Australia, and they are systematically circulating statements that this country is a waste which cannot be economically worked. In their desire to preserve the areas they hold for their own future use, they will stoop to any level. The Brisbane Standard, referring to the issue of pamphlets damaging to the Australian meat trade, said -
The public was told to-day that if the scheme was adopted beef would be ls. a mouthful. The freetrade Star rushed reporters to Smithfield, where they were anonymously told that it was practically impossible for Australia to fatten bullocks in less than five years. Even then they were uneatable, and it was also emphasized that all Australian beef which was frozen might be sold with foreign beef in special shops, necessitating increased marketing costs.
In contradiction to those statements, I quote from Northern Territory Bulletin,, No. 9 of 1913, a report of the visit of American cattle men -
Just prior to my visit to the Territory this year, a party of four American “land seekers “ made a tour of the country, spending four months, and working their way as far south as the Wave Hill Station, in latitude 17* degrees. One of them, Mr. Toye, was of our company on the Adelaide River trip, so that I had the opportunity of hearing at first hand their opinion concerning the Territory. Mr. Toye spoke repeatedly of their amazement at the extent and fertility of the country - its climate, its soil, its water supply, were a constant revelation to them. From their report, 1 glean a few sentences - “ It is hard for one to realize, coming from a land where the population is increasing at an alarming rate, and where land-hunger is already a menace, that here is a country with immense areas of land capable of intense cultivation standing idle and empty! … In our trip through the Victoria Tablelands we covered mile after mile of splendid pastoral country where cattle, whose equal it would be hard to find, were running in a wild state. . . Unlike other parts of Australia, the rainfall is certain and abundant, starting with 50 inches on the coast and diminishing to 24 inches at Wave Hill, far into the interior. The Santa Clara Valley, admittedly the garden of California, has only 12 inches. . . . Some nf the stations had small gardens, where the finest vegetables and fruit grew. . . . The high interior tablelands arc ideal sheep country, and also eminently adapted for horsebreeding. At Wave Hill,- we saw a muster of 400 head; they wore certainly splendid types of horses, bred without systematic effort, and in-bred for years; they run wild over the plains. . . . From a. cattle-man’s point of view, this country is far ahead of the United States, where, in the winter, mortality among stock is great. . . . It is hard for any one who has not seen these tablelands to realize their extent and value. … On the’ lower coastal belt are boundless alluvial plains where the grass is ever green - the climate is warm, and buffalos wallow in the swamps. This is, indeed, the country for rice and sugar-cane, lt reminds one of nothing so much as the Mississippi Delta, where the people allude to their country as the Garden of Eden. . . . It is no wonder that we say: ‘Here is the country for the man who wants to settle on the soil,’ when you consider its fertility, the Abundance of water that can be obtained, that the same country in California is valued almost by the foot, and that this country alongside a navigable river is lying here almost untouched, waiting for settlers to develop its vast resources “. [Quorum f owned.]
– What is the carrying capacity of the land?
– The Chief Inspector of Stock in the Northern Territory, who is a recognized authority, declares that the land will carry from 15 to 20 beasts to the square mile. If a committee of members would visit that territory, as I have frequently urged, they would see for themselves the carrying capacity of the land. Rural development schemes in Australia have failed dismally to provide employment for our people. About £200,000,000 has been expended on them in the last decade, yet 60,000 fewer people are engaged in the primary industries than in 1921. These tragic results are largely due to the unsuitability of the land and the boom prices paid for it. Many of the unfortunate settlers had no hope of paying even the interest on capital cost of the land. In the Northern Territory, however, all vacant land belongs to the Crown, and if the Government he seriously desirous of relieving unemployment, this area presents an excellent opportunity to do so. According to a reply given in the Senate on the 29th April, the Commonwealth paid the steamer passages of 275 unemployed persons who desired to leave the Northern Territory. Their destinations were - Queensland, 65; New South Wales, 48; Victoria, 67 ; and Western Australia, 95. These figures are exclusive of those who travelled by rail from Central Australia. The cost of these free passages was approximately £2,200. Nothing is gained by the removal of unemployed men from one market to another that is already over-supplied. Last year, the ordinary vote for the relief of unemployment in the Northern Territory was £22,590, which was apart from a special grant of £5,000 and an amount of £2,100 made available under the Precious Metals Act for the assistance of prospecting, making a total of £29,690. That is a substantial sum; but there is nothing to show as a result of its expenditure.
– The slaughtermen were responsible for the closing of the meat works at Darwin. With such happenings, how can it be expected that expenditure will be reproductive?
– My honorable friend is ignorant on that subject. Sir Edmund Vestey claims that Australian meat is uneatable. He has been carrying on a most intensive campaign against the Australian cattle industry.
– He paid award rates of wages.
– Vesteys deliberately inflated wages in the territory, so that it would not be profitable for others to compete against them there. There is no doubt that the real wealth of which the Prime Minister so often speaks can be produced in the Northern Territory by expenditure along the lines that I suggest. I have received a number of letters, as well as petitions, one of which is signed by 35 miners, asking for assistance. The batteries required cost approximately £115. Hundreds of tons of stone have been accumulated, the gold content ranging from 1 to 20 ounces; but the men have no method of treating the ore. Instead of sending men out of the territory to increase the congestion in other labour markets, it would be infinitely preferable to provide these batteries and keep them in employment there. They would not only produce real wealth, but also develop mines that may prove of the greatest value to the whole of Australia. The giving of sustenance will not improve either the territory or the men themselves, nor will it solve the problem of unemployment; but, by the provision of batteries, these areas could be profitably worked, and the gold recovered would be a national asset. There are from 100 to 150 men prospecting in the territory. They are not of the feather-bed type; they arc genuine prospectors, and are different altogether from those that may be found in metropolitan suburban areas. They will travel a distance of from 400 to 500 miles from the rail head, their only food a little flour, their roof the sky, their bed the ground. Little crosses mark the last resting places of many of these pioneers. They have thousands of tons of stone that could be profitably treated. If the Government will stand up to its part of the contract, and assist them over the pioneering stage, they will respond in the most vigorous manner.
I have seen the report of a committee, of which Senator McLachlan has the direction, that was set up by the Federal Government to investigate the great fishing industry. It refers to the tremendous benefits which this industry would confer upon Australia if properly exploited. The committee is most enthusiastic concerning the prospects of its development. Here, also, is an avenue for the absorption of the unemployed in the north of Australia. This report states that, in Canada, the fishing industry provides employment for’ 80,000 men. Fishing fleets have been imported, and a new trawler purchased at a cost of £25,000. The report goes on to say that the Governments of Canada and other countries started on similar lines to those adopted here. But, from the various reports that have been published, one would think that there was no such place as the Northern Territory. It does not seem to be realized that the waters of that portion of Australia are teeming with edible marine’ products. It appears to be forgotten, also, that we .have the greatest pearling beds in the world. There is a 36-ft. rise and fall in the tide, and two tides a day. Fish can be caught in hundreds of tons merely by the use of wire netting. If this question is engaging the attention of the federal -authorities, why do they not recognize the possibilities that. exist in their own territory? If the experts would cast aside State influences, considerable improvement would result. I know only too well that the Northern Territory has no party political significance, and that, consequently, it is overlooked to a considerable extent. If it carried 20,000 or 30,000 people, and had party political significance, there is not the. shadow of a doubt that it would be visited by governmental committees, ‘ and that within six months thousands - of persons would be peacefully engaged in it in various occupations. Some honorable members will no doubt wish to know why so little development has occurred in the Northern
Territory, although it has beela occupied for a century; but I again point out that development has been confined almost entirely to the sour coastal belts. I could convince any competent committee that this territory could absorb the whole of the unemployed in Australia. It is futile to expect the workless to be reinstated in employment in the southern centres, where industry has already reached the saturation point. If this problem is considered from a .broad, national point of view, good will result. I appeal to the Government to appoint a committee, free from party bias, to visit the Northern Territory during the next parliamentary recess, and to furnish an independent report as to the prospects of useful development there. I’ have no doubt that such a committee would unanimously support me in the representations that I have constantly made regarding the remarkable possibilities of that portion of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. J. Harrison) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320505_reps_13_134/>.