13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took thechair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House,at its rising, adjourn until
Wednesday nextat : 3 p.m.
– Honora ble members would be obliged if the Prime Minister would indicate the Government’s intentions regarding the days on which the House is to sit after next week, so that they way be assisted in making whatever arrangements they wish to make in their electorates.
.- If the motion that I have moved were not passed ii would be necessary for the House to meet on Tuesday of next week. Some honorable members may have made arrangements that might place them in a difficulty if the House were to meet next Tuesday. The Government, therefore, proposes to commence the sittings next week on Wednesday, and subsequently to sit on four days in each week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to a question of privilege. Yesterday I asked a question, without notice, of the right honorable the Prime Minister, and was requested by him. to place it on the notice-paper. I did so. As originally phrased, the question read -
Has he readan article appearing in the Sydney Sun of 4th October to the effect that, as an outcome of a reduction of1d. per lb. customs duty and the removal of the 10 per cent, primage on tea, the public cannot expect a reduction ill the retail priceof this commodity; if so, will he inform the House as to whether thiscan be takenasan indication that the remission of taxation to wealthy sections or the community means additional “money to them and no relief to the general public!
You, Mr. Speaker, disallowed the question in that form, and I accordingly amended it to rend as follows: -
Has he read an article appearing in the Sydney Sun of the 4th instant to the effect that, as an outcome of a reduction of1d. per lb. customs duty and the removal of the 10 per cent, primage on tea, the public cannot expect a reduction in the retail price of this commodity; if so, will he inform the House as to whether . the Government intended this reduction to be a relief to the general public or to wealthy commercial interests?
Upon receiving my notice-paper this morning I saw that the latter portion of the question had been omitted without my consent. Yesterday, when I asked the question without notice, the Attorney- General (Mr. Latham), in a voice that was audible to honorable members on this side of the chamber, advised the Prime Minister to ask that it be placed on the notice-paper.
– He did not.
Mr.WARD.- He did. He then said in a voice that was quite audible to honorable members on this side of the chamber, “and I shall see that no propaganda goes into it “. I desire to know what the exact procedure is -when questions arc placed on the notice-paper by honorable members. Can they be altered without the consent of the honorable member concerned, so as to suit the Government? I should also like to be informed as to who exactly is loading th is Government and this chamber.
– Order !
– What I am anxious to learn is, if a question is directed to the Prime Minister, and he is incapable of answering it, is the Attorney-General in order in directing him as to what course he should pursue?
– Order ! I point out to the honorable member for East Sydney that the Standing Orders provide that in the asking of questions no comment or opinion may be offered. The question submitted by the honorable member in writing contained an expression of opinion. In accordance with the practice of this and of all other Parliaments, the Chair may exercise discretionas to what questions may appear on the notice-paper. Usually the Clerk of the House peruses the questions that are submitted, and if he is in doubt as to the propriety of any question it is submitted to the Speaker. In this case the honorable member’s question was submitted to me. I considered that the latter part of it was objectionable, and that part was erased.
– On a point of order, I should like to know whether it is within your province, Mr. Speaker, so to alter a question without consulting . the honorable member who has seen fit to submit it, as to reduce it. to a form in which he might not feel disposed to allow it to appear on the notice-paper? In this case the Clerk of the House, in the first instance, consulted the honorable member for East Sydney, an action which that honorable member naturally appreciated very much. But then the amended question was still further altered without any reference to the honorable member. In the exercise of your discretion are you, sir, permitted to carry the matter to such an extent, and then direct’ that the question be placed on the notice-paper?
– - In reply to the honorable member for West Sydney I may say that on no occasion is a question altered in such a way that the intention of the honorable member who submits it is distorted. Every care is taken to preserve the inquiry in the form desired by the honorable member ; only comments are erased. In this case it would appear that the honorable member for East Sydney was consulted concerning the form of the question as originally drafted, but was not consulted in regard -to the alteration of his amended question. There was really no need to consult him on the second occasion, because the alteration merely took the form of omitting comment, which, as honorable members are a ware, is not allowed to appear in a question, being a breach of the Standing Orders.
RegionalStation innorth Queensland.
– Prior to the adjournment last May the PostmasterGeneral advised me that he anticipated being able to furnish within a week or ten days definite information concerning the establishment of a regional broadcasting station in North Queensland. Although more than four months have since elapsed, I have not, so far, been able to obtain from him anything definite in the matter, my inquiries- having elicited merely the intimation that investigations are still being continued with a view to the establishment of a station in a suitable location. I should like the honorable gentleman to say whether, he is now in a position to indicate the location of the station, if it is intended to erect one.
– The honorable member is labouring under a slight misunderstanding. I announced in the last period of this session that a station would be established in the neighbourhood of Townsville. The honorable member has repeatedly asked me to state the exact location of this station, and my answer has been that- it takes time, first to go over the area to ascertain the most suitable site for a station that will give satisfactory reception throughout the whole of the district, and, secondly, to purchase the land on which to erect it. Any premature announcement would have the effect of raising the price of the land against the Govern ment; therefore one cannot be made until a decision is finally arrived’ at. That cannot be done in a few moments, because considerable measurements have to be taken to ensure that no mistake is made. I assure the honorable member that no time is being lost, and that the matter is being prosecuted with the utmost expedition. So soon as the details are completed, I shall be pleased to make a pronouncement on the matter.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the proposed reduction of 2s. 6d. a gallon in the excise on fortifying spirit applies to that portion of the excise collected for general revenue purposes, or whether the whole or a part of it applies to that portion which is paid into the trust fund?
– That aspect of the reduction has not yet been considered. I shall inform the honorable member when it has been.
– Will the Prime Minister consider thecase of the Commonwealth railway employees when making provision for the restoration of a portion of the emergency salary cuts to other Commonwealth officers? The right honorable gentleman is aware that these men have suffered the full cost-of-living reduction, as well as a lowering of their conditions under the Drake-Brockman award.
– The section of the Commonwealth Service referred to by the honorable member is working under an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The Government, of course, will take no action with respect to those who come directly under the court.
– They are affected by the cost of living.
– The court deals with that matter. When it adopted a new basis in the fixing of the cost of living, which was to the advantage of the workers, the Commonwealth promptly applied the same method to the Public Service generally. We cannot undertake to interfere, however, with decisions of the Arbitration Court itself.
– In view of the doubt that has been expressed in certain press organs, and in other quarters, as to the validity of the Prime Minister’s claim that the Commonwealth budget proposals will effect a reduction of interest rates, can the right honorable gentleman say definitely that, as a. result of the tax remissions proposed in the budget, banking and insurance companies will reduce their interest rates; and, if so, by how much?
– I am not in a position to make a definite statement as to the extent to which reductions will be made. I have said that the whole object of the tax reductions was, in addition to giving relief to the taxpayer, to bring about conditions that would enable reductions of interest to be made. I have not the slightest doubt that such reductions will he made at an early date as the result of the action of the Government in reducing the taxation burden. What is more, 1 have not the slightest doubt that the reductions made in the near future will not be the only reductions within the next few months.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that certain remissions of taxation are expected to be passed on to the general public in the way of reduced interest rates and otherwise, will the right honorable gentleman inform me what action the Government intends to take if the commercial community neglects to pass on the benefits of these remissions? Will the taxation that is being lifted be re-imposed?
– I say without hesitation that the main object of the Government in granting remissions of taxation is to afford relief to the whole community. If it is found that the action we are taking is not having the desired effect in that respect, we shall give further consideration to the position.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, if the Government brings down a measure to take over certain activities of Amalgamated Wireless Limited and the cable companies, it will give consideration to the position of the employees of such companies, who would be affected? I am advised that such employees are perturbed about any change of the kind in consequence of a statement made some time ago by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs, that if certain events occurred the services of such employees would not be required. I do not ask the Minister to state the intention of the Government in regard to such negotiations, but only whether he will give consideration to the employees, if any such move is made.
– I am not aware of any statement by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs of the nature referred to by the honorable member. The honorable member’s question, however, deals with the policy of the Government and upon that subject I do not propose to . give any information. A statement will be made upon it at the appropriate time by the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister for the Interior able to inform me whether a passport was recently made available to a person named Girard, employed in the Sydney tramway service, to enable him to attend a Communist conference in Russia? If so, will the honorable gentleman state the particular circumstances under which the passport was issued?
– I believe that a passport carrying only limited privileges was granted to a tramway official to attend a Communist conference abroad. It has been the custom to issue passports under such circumstances.
– In view of the statements made during the last election campaign on behalf of the parties supporting the Government, does the Minister regard the action of the Government in granting a passport to this person to enable him to attend a Communist conference as one that will meet with the approval of the right thinking people of Australia?
– Perhaps I was in error in saying that the passport was granted to this person to allow him to attend a Communist conference. He was desirous of attending a conference abroad, and the policy of the department has been to grant passports in such cases. AsI have said, the passport is limited. It will merely cover the journey to Russia, and back again, and will not give the holder a roving commission. The issuing of such passports has been serviceable in certain cases, for some persons who have gone, abroad to conferences -of the kind indicated, have returned to Australia converted to sanity.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs is aware that Messrs. Rylands Limited and John Lysaght Limited, manufacturers of fencing wire and wire netting, have insisted on fixing the minimum retail price for these goods, and that when complaints were made to him . he replied that it was done in the interests of the consumers?
– Price fixing is a common practice in many industries. Although it may suit Rylands Limited and John Lysaght Limited to fix the price of certain goods which they manufacture, the honorable member knows that the price of galvanized ironis not fixed. Merchants generally agree that price fixing in certain circumstances is to the advantage of consumers.
– Can the Prime Minister inform me whether the Commonwealth Government has yet made available to the Western Australian Government the sum of £100 which was allocated to Western Australia from the £5,000 set aside some time ago for the assistance of the banana-growers of Aus-
– I shall look into the matter.
– Has the attention of the Government been drawn to a meeting held recently in Paddington at which boys of tender years made disloyal utterances concerning the British Empire? Will the Government co-operate with the State Government to take drastic measures to prevent a recurrence of this nature?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Attorney-General.
– During the last few years it has been the practice of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to employ telephonists as casuals because no examination has been held for the appointment of permanent officers. I ask the Postmaster-General whether, now that an examination is to be held, he will give special consideration to the case of those telephonists who have been casually employed but have now reached an age which debars them from competing in the examination? Will the Government show some leniency to these persons and give them an opportunity to qualify for a permanent appointment?
– I shall look into the Public Service regulations governing this matter with a view to giving consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– In view of the fact that a committee consisting of members of the Government parties, which inquired recently into certain aspects of our pension legislation, recommended that the Government should not attach the property of deceased pensioners below a value of £500, and that considerable publicity was given to that recommendation, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to. give effect to the recommendation in the bill which it is proposed to submit to honorable members a little later to-day?
– The intention of the Government will be made clear when the Financial Relief Bill is introduced this afternoon.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will make available to honorable members before the introduction of that bill a return showing the result, up to some convenient date, of the substantial amendments of our invalid and old-age pension legislation towards the end of last year. I should like to know in how many cases property has come into the hands of the Crown and the total value of such property. I should also like to know in how, many cases relatives of deceased persons have forfeited the property of their parents and also the value of such forfeited property. Any other information on this subject would also be acceptable.
– I shall give honorable members as much information as possible when introducing the bill, but it will not be practicable for me to furnish the honorable member with the specific information that he desires before the hill is introduced, for I hope to introduce it early this afternoon. In any case, ‘the actual figures in relation to the matters he has mentioned would be entirely misleading. The real effect of the provisions to which the honorable member has referred will be seen in the total number of pensions surrendered, and not in the amount of money that the Government has collected from the relatives of deceased pensioners. When I introduce the bill I hope to show the general effect of the amendments of our pensions law.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that, while the Commonwealth Government is restoring the salaries of federal public servants to some extent, the Government of South Australia is reducing the salaries of certain of its officers. I ask the Prime Minister what steps this Government proposes to take to ensure that Public Service salaries throughout the Commonwealth will be placed on a more equitable basis as between the Commonwealth and the States. Is it proposed to do this through the Grants’ Commission or in some other way?
– The proposed restoration of the Federal Public Service salaries by the Government is consequent upon an undertaking given by me when I was Leader of the Opposition in the last Parliament. The Commonwealth Government cannot provide for individual States in this matter ; they will themselves have to consider their position. A Commonwealth Grants Commission has been set up to investigate the case of different States which may be in financial difficulties. One State at least has made a definite application for assistance and two others will certainly do so. After hearing the case submitted by these States the Commission will make its recommendations to the Government, which, in turn,- will submit its proposals to Parliament.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board upon the following subjects: -
Ordered to be printed.
Alumina, including Alumina Ferric.
Bonnets and Instrument Boards, being Vehicle Parts.
Electrical and Gas Appliances, viz., Wall, Stand or Table Lamps.
File and Chisel Handles unattached and Tool Handles unattached.
Gelatine of all kinds.
Records for Gramophones, Phonographs and other Talking Machines.
Woven and Embroidered materials - in the piece or otherwise as covered by Tariff Item 107 (a); and Ribbons and Galoons as covered by Tariff Item 107 (b).
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Thirteenth Annual Report by the Trustees, 1st July, 1932, to 30th June, 1933 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children).
Financial Relief Act - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1933, No. 85.
Service and Execution of Process Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1933,’ No. 108,
Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board -
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers -
Treasury Loan Account as at 30th April, 1933, with the AuditorGeneral’s . Certificate.
Liquidation Account for year ended 30th April, 1933, with the Auditor-General’s Certificate.
Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balancesheet as at 28th February, 1933, with the Auditor-General’s Certificate.
– I lay on the table copy of the final act, with appendices, of the conference of wheat export- ing and importing countries “which “was held in London, at the offices of the High Commissioner for Canada, from the 21st to the 25th August, 1933, and move -
That tlie paper be printed.
For the information of honorable members, I should like to indicate the circumstances which actuated the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with State Governments, in joining in the discussions which resulted in the formulation of this agreement. For several years past the world price of wheat has been seriously depressed, the reasons being -
Increasing nationalism in Europe, taking the form of high duties and import quotas with high internal prices, thus encouraging home production and leaving little room for import.
A case in point is. that of Germany, and the following table shows the growth of the German tariff on wheat, and its effect on production and import: -
The table shows that whereas in 192S-29 the tariff import duty on-wheat into Germany was 2s. 6d. per cwt., equivalent in Australian currency to ls. 4d. a bushel, it has since been increased, first to 3s. 3d., then to 7s. 6d. a bushel, later to 9s. 3d.; and, finally, to 12s. 6d. sterling per cwt., at which the figure now stands. That is equivalent in Australian currency to an import duty of 13s. lid. a bushel. The result of that is made manifest in the table, which shows that, whereas in 1928-29 the production of wheat in Germany was 123,000,000 bushels, it has increased by 61,000,000 bushels in the three years to which I have referred, to 184,000,000 bushels. Consequent upon that the imports of wheat into Germany have declined from 78,750,000 bushels in 1929” to 23,330,333 bushels last year, and information which is in the possession of my department indicates that, instead of importing wheat this year, Germany will have an exportable -surplus.
What is true of Germany is equally true of other European countries which formerly imported large quantities of wheat, but which to-day are entirely selfdependent in that respect. For instance, Italy purchased over £5,000,000 of Australian wheat in 1922, yet to-day is growing sufficient for its needs, notwithstanding the fact that until two years ago it was importing nearly 90,000,000 bushels of wheat yearly. The aggregate effect of this effort of European countries towards self-dependence is best illustrated by comparing the anticipated world import demand for the ensuing year, namely, 562,000,000 bushels, with the figure for earlier years, which seldom fell below S00,000,000 bushels.
A second factor in price depression is the continued expansion of production in the principal exporting countries, stimulated by various forms of assistance by the governments of those countries. The following figures for Australia will illustrate this point: -
Honorable members’ will recollect that it was in 1930-31 that the then Prime Minister appealed to agriculturists to grow more wheat, as a probable result of which, combined with the monetary inducement offered, production jumped appreciably.
The two factors that I have mentioned created a third, represented by the resultant accumulation of surplus stocks in North America. At the 1st August, 1933, it was estimated that these stocks totalled 440,000,000 bushels in excess of a normal carry over. ‘The very existence of these surplus stocks, known, of course, to all wheat-buying communities, was an effective barrier to price recovery, and it was realized by all authorities that the dispersal of these stocks was a condition precedent to the restoration of a remunerative price level.
Because of this recognition, wheat occupied a prominent place in the agenda of the World Economic Conference, and, indeed, became at an early stage one of the pivotal issues. However, prior to the full conference assembling, Australia was invited to confer with the three other principal wheat-exporting countries, United States of America, Canada, and Argentina, with a view to preparing plans for the dissipation of the world surplus, and the correction of the wheat position generally.
Both at this conference and at the full conference held at Geneva, Australia, through her representative, the Resident Minister in London (M.r. Bruce), demurred at all proposals for re3trictio.11 of production as a remedy, and pressed for a lifting of the excessive European import restrictions. It was found, however, Vo be impossible to induce European countries to reduce their barriers while world prices were at such a low level. Those countries maintained that the exporting countries must first reduce production and export, and raise the world price, thus minimizing the danger of importation of cheap wheat to the detriment of their own agriculturists. In these circumstances, and because the subject of wheat had assumed grave importance at the World Economic Conference, the Commonwealth Government intimated that it was prepared, in conference with State governments, to consider a concrete plan provided that’ the contribution required of Australia would not impose serious curtailment of our export limits.
A conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held in Sydney on the 1st July, 1033, to consider a plan which had been suggested in London by representatives of the major exporting countries. The proposal was that the export of wheat from Australia from the 1933-34 harvest should not exceed 142,000,000 bushels, and from the 1934-35 harvest, 113,000,000 bushels, plus any amount of the 142,000,000 bushels that had not been exported during the 1933-34 season. The Premiers agreed to Australia collaborating in the direction proposed. The resolutions passed at the conference with the Premiers - Queensland and Western Australia representatives intimating that they were not in full accord - were, briefly, as follows: -
Following upon the tentative London agreement, it was necessary to conduct negotiations from London with other exporting countries and with the European importing countries in order to make possible a world agreement to include the smaller exporting countries, and also to provide, if possible, for an expansion of demand by the importing countries. However, when final estimates of European crops were obtained as a result of discussions with European countries, itwas ascertained that the world import demand during 1933-34, previously estimated at 750,000,000 bushels, would not exceed 562,000,000 bushels. This was primarily due to the bountiful harvests in France, Germany and Italy, which in the past have all been large importers of wheat. The abundant crops during the last two years have left Italy with sufficient wheat for her own requirements and have provided both France and Germany, not only with sufficient wheat for themselves, but also with export surpluses - an unprecedented position. The world import demand during 1934-35 was originally estimated to reach 800,000,000 bushels, but was subsequently also reduced to 746,000,000 bushels. The . difficulties of negotiating with the importing countries wore very great, but at length agreement was reached as to the probable import demand for the next two years and the allocation of exports from the exporting countries to meet that demand. The allocation finally reached is set out hereunder -
The whole of the export of 47,000,000 bushels from the United States of America and 42,000,000 bushels of Canada’s quota, as well as approximately 150,000,000 bushels for the home consumption of the United States of America, will be drawn from the surplus stocks, thus reducing the same from 440,000,000 to 200,000,000.
It will be observed from the figures that, despite the enforced reduction of the estimate of world demand during 1933-34 and 1934-35 from 1,550,000,000 bushels to 1,308,000,000 bushels, Australia lias been able to maintain,without reduction, the original arrangement to export 255,000,000 bushels during the two years. That’ was done, notwithout some effort on the part of this country. Itwas estimated at the World Economic Conference that the carrying out of the two years’ plan would practically eliminate the present. world surplus of wheat, this objective of course being helped by the 15 per cent, acreage reduction during 1934-35 to be imposed by Canada and the United States of America.
– And the Argentine?
– No. The Argentine, like Australia, has adopted the export basis. The agreement contains, inter alia, articles in which the signatory Governments of wheat importing countries agree that substantial improvements in the price of wheat, should lead to the lowering of customs tariffs, and they express their preparedness to begin such adjustments of tariffs when the international price ofwheat reaches 12 gold francs per quintal and is maintainedat that level for sixteenweeks. At the present rate of exchange, the price mentioned is equivalent to about 4s. sterling per bushel. This price is understood to mean a dutyfree price c.i.f. on the world market and willbe the average price of all parcels of importedwheat of all grades sold each week in the United Kingdom.
– Is that an estimate or a guarantee?
– It is definite.
– What is a quintal?
– A quintal is 220£ lb. and. 12 gold francs represent 15s. Id. sterling or about 18s. lOd. in Australian currency. Lest it be considered that the condition imposed by the importing countries before mitigating their import restrictions is not likely of early attainment, attention is drawn to the other undertakings forming .their contribution to the agreement. These are expressed in article 6 as follows : -
The Governments of the wheat importing countries in signing this instrument: -
Agree henceforth not to encourage any extension of the area sown to wheat and not to take any governmental measures, the effect of which would bc to increase the domestic production of wheat.
Agree to adopt every possible measure to increase the consumption of wheat and are prepared to bring about the progressive removal of measures which tend to lower the quality of breadstuffs and thereby decrease the human consumption of wheat.
Agree that in order to restore more normal conditions in world trade in wheat the reduction of customs tariffs would have to bc accompanied by modification of the general regime of quantitative restriction of wheat imports and accept, in principle the desirability of such’ a modification. The exporting countries for their part agree that it may not be possible to make substantial progress in these modifications in 1933-34 but the importing countries are prepared to make effective alterations in 1034-35 if world prices have taken a definitely upward turn from the average price of the first six months of the calendar year 1933. The objective of these relaxations of the various forms of quantitative restrictions will be to restore a more normal balance between total consumption and imports, and thereby to increase the volume of international trade in wheat. It is understood that this undertaking is consistent with maintaining the home market for domestic wheat grown on an area no greater than at present. It is obvious that fluctuations in the quantity and quality of the wheat harvest resulting from weather conditions may bring about wide variations in the ratio of imports to total consumption from season to season. lt is important to note in respect of the last mentioned observation that quite unusual seasonal conditions in Europe during the past two years have induced harvests much above the average, a.nd even normal conditions during the currency of the agreement will mean considerably lower harvests and the consequent improved import demand. The undertakings quoted provide evidence that the
European wheat importing countries are appreciative of the serious position created by non-economic and artificially stimulated over-production in their own countries and of a readiness to participate in corrective action. This may be counted as one of the achievements of the conference.
A few months ago, when the agreement was formulated, it was estimated that the Australian crop for 1933-34 would not exceed 155,000,000 bushels, even if weather conditions were perfect for the remainder of the growing period. The latest estimates are for a crop of about 163,000,000 bushels, while some estimate an even larger crop. If the next Australian harvest exceeds 155,000,000 bushels, there will be available for export a quantity of wheat - in the form of grain and flour - in excess of the quantity which Australia is permitted to export between the 1st August, 1933, and the 31st July, 1934. If this is so, it will be necessary to devise machinery to regulate export in order to ensure that Australia will observe her undertaking. _ In the formulation of any policy towards this end the State Governments and the wheat and flour industry will be taken into the fullest consultation. Preliminary consultation suggests that very little difficulty will be experienced in this connexion. If the latest estimate of 163,000,000 bushels is realized this season, Australia will have a permissible crop of 192,000,000 bushels for the 1934-35 harvest before restrictive action under the agreement will be necessary. The Government confidently anticipates that the agreement will achieve the objective set out in its preamble - “ to adjust the supply of wheat to effective world demand and eliminate the abnormal surpluses which have been depressing the wheat market, and to bring about a rise and stabilization of prices at a level remunerative to the farmers and fair to the consumers of breadstuff’s “.
.- The document which the Minister has just read to the House reveals that the world has” at the present time reached a most amazing position. Quite recently there was called together in London a world conference representing 66 nations, with the object of devising means to lift the world out of its economic depression, and the only proposal that has emanated from that conference is to restrict the output and production of foodstuffs in a “world in which .100,000,000 people are in wantIt is astounding that Australia, as a producing nation, should join in a proposal like that without any other conditions for world, recovery being attached to it. The Minister has read an extraordinary document, and it is amazing to this Parliament that the Government should have given consent to the agreement. When the discussions took place at the World Conference, Mr. Bruce, who represented Australia, made loud protests, and he put his finger upon the weakness of the proposal when he said that it. was a gospel of despair. For his action he was applauded by the press and supported by, I think, every sensible person in Australia. Yet this Government has now agreed to the proposal which its representative protested against. There are two fundamental objections to this agreement, which document, I suppose, has been signed and delivered in the name of Australia even before this Parliament is consulted. The reading of the document to-day is a very mild gesture, but it adds to the affront given to the representatives of ‘th e people in this Parliament. The first objection to the agreement is that, although the world is faced with world want, foodstuffs are to be restricted. The second objection is that the producing countries who have suffered the burden of the crisis are now being asked to suffer the whole of the burden of recovery. No nations are being called upon to make a sacrifice except the producing nations, of which Australia is one. Any one who followed the discussions at the World Economic Conference fully realized that, linked up with the question of the disposal of the world’s wheat surplus as a temporary emergency, was the question of monetary reform, in order to raise world’s prices. One was the corollary of the other. When Mr. Bruce agreed to consider the temporary arrangement for the disposal of the wheat surplus, monetary reform was to be part and parcel of the whole plan. The conference adjourned sine die without any effort having been made to bring about monetary reform to deal with the financial position and to raise world’s prices, and- now the producing countries are asked to shoulder the whole burden of recovery. The Minister said that the pivotal question for economic recovery which faced the conference was the lifting of the world out of want and misery, yet the producing countries are now asked to grow less foodstuffs while millions are starving throughout the world. If that is where the statesmanship of those who attended the conference has landed the country, if that is how the moneylenders and. the great captains of industry have run the world, Mr. Bruce was justified in saying, as he did, that this proposal would lead to communism. But now, our Commonwealth Government has instructed, directed or advised him to enter into this agreement for the restriction of production. It is a proposal which will never be endorsed by me, nor by the members of my party, as part of the recovery plan for the world or for Australia. It was difficult for ]llc to follow closely the statement which the Minister read rapidly, but it appears that even the Premiers Conference, which partially endorsed the principle of restriction, attached two very important conditions, while two States, Queensland and Western Australia, the latter a big producer of wheat, refused to approve of the proposal at all. The measure of approval granted by the Premiers Conference was, as I say, qualified by the stipulation that the major question of monetary reform should- be dealt with before any restriction was placed on production. The present proposal calls on the producing countries to shoulder the whole of the burden of which they already bear the greater part. The present world depression began with a fall of world prices, manipulated by the great money lending authorities for the purpose of depressing prices and wages so that the interest on long term securities would purchase more. The restoration of the gold standard in Britain and other countries was part of this .policy. It struck a blow at the wage-earners by throwing them out of employment, and at the producers by destroying the market for their produce. And these are the two great sections of population which are again to be called upon to make the greatest sacrifice as the result of a conference which should have endeavoured to spread the sacrifice’ as equally as possible.
Mr. Bruce opposed this suggestion, and was loudly applauded. Now, however, we find that the proposal is to be agreed to. Let no one deceive himself; . the restriction of the export of wheat must lead to a restriction of acreage. No matter what the nature of the agreement entered into may be, if it does not lead to a restriction of acreage, it must inevitably lead to the building up of surplus stocks of wheat, a condition of affairs which will have a more depressing effect on prices than if the wheat were exported. The withdrawal of wheat from sale by the United States of America and Canadian authorities did more to depress prices than if all the wheat had been thrown on the market. Restrictionof export must lead to a decrease in acreage, a curtailment of employment in the field, in the machinery factories and in the manure factories, and a diminution of the demand for transport, thus reducing the power of the world to consume the foodstuffs produced. It must, therefore, accentuate instead of solve the present problem. The Government’s proposal represents a further instalment of the policy of depression and deflation, although it has been introduced in association with what the Government has called “ The Restoration Budget”. There is no guarantee that the supply of wheat throughout the world will be reduced, though there is supposed to be an agreement about reducing acreage in two countries - the United States of America, which is not a great exporter of wheat, and Canada, which is. Even if the acreage is reduced in those countries, there will still be a carry over of wheat in the United States of America, and the effect of the proposal will not be, as anticipated, to increase the price. Any benefits which Australia might derive from an increase of price would be more than offset by the losses she would sustain. Surely this is an industry which ought to be expanding instead of contracting. During the last three years our annual output was 212,000,000 bushels. Under this proposed arrangement, our production will be restricted to 160,000,000 bushels and 190,000,000 bushels for the two consecutive years. It is inevitable, therefore, that acreage must he restricted, unless we are hoping for a bad season, and I am sure no one is hoping for that.
– Nevertheless it will come.
– If it does, then there will be no need for us to agree to this foul policy of restriction - this policy of damnation for the world at large, as well as for the producers of Australia. I do not object to a rise in the world price of wheat; Iam in favour of it. I am prepared to support the introduction of an Australian price for wheat, so that the producers may get a fair return for their labour, just asI believe other sections of the community should ; but I do not stand for the restriction of acreage, production, export and employment, which the acceptance of this policy must involve.
Then there is another aspect. We are a debtor nation. We are scratching along now trying to meet our obligations overseas. As a matter of fact, we are not meeting -them, because some of them have been suspended. How can a debtor nation like Australia meet its obligations if it restricts the export of its wheat, as the export of its other commodities have been restricted by the Ottawa Agreement?
– The honorable member’s Government, when it was in office, restricted imports by imposing prohibitive duties.
– We are now talking of exports, which arc vastly different. Recently there have been two conferences, the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, and the World Economic Conference in London. The net result of both is a proposal to restrict production and export from Australia and other producing countries. Yet we boast about these things !
– Give examples of any restrictions imposed at Ottawa.
– Restrictions were placed on our export of meat.
– By purely voluntary action.
– Of course, and the proposed restriction on the export of wheat is also voluntary action.
I have here a very interesting article which appeared in the September number of the Round Table, a publication which honorable members opposite usually treat with considerable respect. The article deals with this proposed restriction on wheat export, and, with the indulgence of honorable members, I propose to road portion of it, because it expresses mo3t tersely what I should like to say myself. The article states -
Those who objected to plans for regulation of supply, notably Mr. Bruce on behalf of Australia, were prepared to enter into temporary arrangements for liquidating stocks of some commodities millen stocks were a menace to the market. But even in these cases it was recognized that action was to be taken only as .part of a general plan for raising prices and increasing general spending power. When it became evident that no general, plan of this nature was possible, and that the main work of thu conference was the initiation of schemes for restriction (or, as advocates prefer to say, regulation) of production, Mr. Bruce was much more outspoken in his criticism. He deplored tlie concentration of effort upon this problem, contested the view that restriction schemes could raise general prices, and drew attention to Ohe ensuing growth of collectivism “ that would follow a widespread adoption of regulation of production.
There is much in these criticisms that will Hud ‘favour in all the Dominions, and in other oversea* primary producing countries. That restriction scheme’s - and in present circumstances all plans for regulation are pla.ns for restriction - cannot increase spending power and raise general prices is self-evident. They merely transfer spending power from one group of producers to another, and they may actually retard investment because the falling prices of unrestricted goods, and the unused capacity in industries producing restricted goods, offer little scope for new investment. Apart from the great practical difficulties of their operation, they offer small comfort to primary producing countries which have incurred heavy debts for the purpose of expanding their production, it was indeed a gospel of despair that those countries were asked to accept. With no prospects of monetary action to increase spending power and raise prices, and no prospects of a reduction of the many barriers in the way of imports of foodstuffs and raw -materials into European countries, the overseas exporting countries were in effect asked to shoulder still more of the burdens of the economic crisis.
– “Who wrote this a article ?
– -It is not signed, and I presume, therefore, that the magazine accepts responsibility for the opinions expressed. The article confirms my own opinions formed by reading the cables from time to time. I was particularly pleased to observe that Mr. Bruce took a strong stand against this iniquitous proposal, and that he would consider a temporary arrangement only if it were to be accompanied by an attempt to solve the monetary problem so as to increase the purchasing power and raise prices. The Round Table article goes on to point out that the British representatives at the conference joined with the gold bloc nations to prevent the discussion of proposals for monetary reform, while enthusiastically agreeing to schemes involving the restrictions of production which would benefit their own producers at the expense of those in the dominions. The conference resulted in a triumph for the gold bloc nations, a triumph for those who stand for the restoration of the gold standard, which depresses prices against the producing countries, injures the workers and detrimentally affects countries in the position of Australia. I shall never fail to raise my voice against an iniquity of this kind whenever I have the opportunity to do so.
.- We have just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) of the failure of the World Conference to raise the purchasing power of the people who through their inability to trade abroad are in want of food, and that because of that failure we have had to fall back upon what the right honorable gentleman denounces as a gospel of despair - a proposal to restrict the export of wheat from producing countries. I do not believe that any honorable member likes the proposal, but if there was one thing which, more than any other, tended to destroy tlie purchasing power of the world, and make it impossible for the hungry peoples of the world to buy the food produced abroad, it was the policy of worldwide embargoes and prohibitions put into effect in Australia, by the Government of which the present Leader of the Opposition was then the leader. Whatever we are able to do in Australia will probably not mean very much otic way or the other, but there is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister of this country, did what little lay within his power to injure the trade of the world. So far as Australia could affect the situation, he injured the purchasing power of the world and made it difficult for people overseas to trade with us, to buy our wheat, butter, our meat ‘ and our wool. The right honorable member referred to the monetary position of the world, and that is also important, but it is an absolute travesty of the facts to say that the British Empire joined with the gold bloc countries to prevent the introduction of money arrangements which would increase purchasing power. That is amply proved by the declaration of the British countries that they were in favour of a policy of cheap money, and this policy has been followed by the Bank of England in an endeavour to restore purchasing power and make the curtailment of production unnecessary.
I do not think that any honorable members, including the supporters of the Government, favour this policy of restriction. I am sure that the Resident Minister in London did his utmost to influence the World Conference in the direction of recovery by raising world purchasing power which he considered was in the best interests of Australia. In doing that, he was endeavouring to give effect not only to the policy of the Leader of the Opposition, but also to that of every other member of this House and of the Government. It has often been said that we have not any right to occupy this country unless we develop it. It has been stated that by our immigration restriction laws and our efforts to keep up a high standard of civilization, we are preventing other people from occupying this continent who would develop it more rapidly than we are doing. To me it seems dreadful that Australian representatives should have to sign an agreement to restrict, and, so to speak, back-pedal on even the stage of development to which we have attained. There is no one in this House, regardless of the political party to which he belongs, who likes this sort of proposition. But in world affairs, Australia is a comparatively small country and, consequently, in matters of this kind is unable to call the tune. We have not the slightest doubt that had we a free hand, and our producers were not cluttered up with unnecessary expenses and costs due to the tariff impositions imposed not only by the Government le.d by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), but also by preceding governments, our producers would be able to hold their own, and that we, as a people, would be able to hold this country, if our producers had an “open go,” we should be able to face the disposal of any accumulated surplus and operate on a solid basis. We must, however, face the facts as they are to-day. One of the first handicaps under which our producers might have to operate at any moment, comes from the great danger they would have to face in competing with heavily subsidized wheat, exported from countries such as the United States of America. That country has an enormous home market and it could, by establishing a home price for wheat, or by imposing a flour tax - they call it a processing tax - ensure remunerative prices for its wheatgrowers, while, at the same time, dumping its surplus overseas at prices which would be ruinous to Australia. Iri these circumstances, however reluctant the Government may have been, it must have felt that, considering the position of our farmers, it was bound to adopt the proposal, which was supported by practically every other country in the world. The Government was not able effectively to oppose so many other nations, however much it may have been convinced that a policy based on a free hand would have been better for Australia and the whole world. I think that it is plain that the Government had to negotiate’ in this matter in the belief that this policy, horrible as it is, Avas the best that could be adopted, in its endeavour to give Australia something approaching a fair deal. Any one who studies the figures, and particularly the restrictions which are to be imposed, will agree that, as is right for ar young country such as Australia, they are relatively much lighter than those imposed on other countries. The Government has avoided the responsibility of interfering with production and the difficulties associated Avith policing a limitation of production. But it has landed itself with, the responsibility of dealing with a surplus if a surplus should occur. I cannot endorse its proposal until I definitely understand what it devises. I have a feeling that the Government has gambled on a drought and that Providence has twisted on it. If that is so, it will be faced with the necessity for doing something which Australia does not desire, and which the Government apparently did not contemplate when it accepted the agreement. I was very disappointed to hear the Minister say that the Government had not devised a scheme for disposing of any surplus. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held in July, the following resolution was passed : -
This conference approves the principle that on account of the existence of a world surplus of wheat there should be no accumulation in Australia during the next two years over normal requirements.
It is assumed that any surplus wheat will be taken right out of the market, and that the Government is opposed to the pernicious solution of simply shifting some of the carry-over from America to Australia.
– That issue does not arise for eighteen months.
– If it is taken out of the market some means must be devised for denaturing it or converting it into motor spirits, or using it as stock feed. That is the only means by which the surplus could be utilized. I understood the Minister to say that no surplus will be carried over. Is the Government to frame regulations providing for some form of control, regulating the quantity of wheat in which each farmer can trade, the percentage which he shall be at liberty to sell, or the percentage which each merchant or trader can export? If that is so, it will necessitate meddling with the product of the farmer or the introduction of some socialistic scheme. Among the resolutions of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers which were made public by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on the 3rd July last was one which read as follows : -
That this conference approves the principle that a proportion of any benefit in increased prices for. wheat of the season 1934-35 over present prices should be made available for the purpose of purchasing and dealing with any surplus during that season not required for domestic use or available for export, but that no diminution of that benefit should be made except on transactions in which the price . is at least 3s. a bushel at sidings. Any balance of the fund created by contributions from such increased prices, after providing for necessary expenditure, to be returned to the wheat-growers concerned.
I gather from that statement that the Government undertook to finance the elimination of any surplus without drastic control. To-day we heard that the Government is contemplating devising some form of regulating the sale of surplus wheat. Such an announcement is most disquieting, not only to the wheatgrowers, but also to those honorable members who are opposed to government meddling in matters of trade. Such an innovation would establish a precedent from which a departure would be difficult. Surely the Government will stand up to its undertaking given. in July last to . accept the responsibility of eliminating any surplus. If, as the Minister contends, the agreement does raise the price, it will be fair to levy on any increase beyond 3s. a bushel at sidings to finance the elimination of the surplus in order to comply with the agreement. On the other hand, if the price does not reach 3s. a bushel at sidings, it is clearly the Government’s job to find the money to deal withthe surplus. If there is not some assurance in this direction, fear will arise in the minds of the wheatgrowers that the quota allocated to Australia may be exceeded, and there will be a rush on the part of the growers to sell their wheat. In such circumstances, prices would fall still lower, if not in Liverpool, at any rate in Australia. Such a condition of affairs would be liable to give rise to a set of circumstances which would be favorable to the setting up of more regulations than wo have had in the past. The Minister said that, on his estimate, there may not be a big surplus; but, like ghouls, the Government appears to be waiting for dry weather to relieve it of any responsibility in that regard. I am sure, however, we, and the members of the Government also, do not wish for this misfortune. According to outside estimates, there is certain to be a considerablesurplus beyond the quota for this year. In these circumstances.- I hope that the Minister will be in a position to assure the House that necessary measures will be devised, and put into operation in good time, and that whatever is decided upon will not interfere with the operations of the farmers. Further, it is hoped that it will not involve the establishment of compulsory pools or the framing of regulations, from which it would be very difficult to escape in the future. At any rate, there is no question that the agreement reached in July must be carried out. It entails great responsibility upon the Government, which deserves sympathy for the difficulty which it must face in finding a satisfactory way out of the dilemma. This arrangement is not of the Government’s own choosing; it was thrust upon it by the world’s general economic conditions. Honorable members opposite must realize that tlie problem is a difficult one, which had to be tackled and some solution attempted.
– I am sure that honorable members generally, and particularly those engaged in the wheat industry, are interested in the statement made by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) on the Government’s policy covering the wheat industry, and the effect of that policy upon Australia. Many honorable members will be surprised to learn that in recent years Australia has reached such an. important position in the world’s wheat production. From the statement made by the Minister, it will be seen that Australia was generally regarded as producing about 5 per cent, of the world’s wheat, but in recent years we have been able to export in the vicinity of 25 per cent, of the importing requirements of the whole world. The Minister pointed out that the importing requirements of other countries are approximately 560,000,000 bushels, and that Australia has been able to export during each of the last three years about 150,000,000 bushels. This shows the important position which we have reached with respect to the wheat requirements of the world. The Minister’s statement will be of particular interest to the wheat-growers of Australia by reason of the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in his budget’ speech, made practically no reference to the wheat industry. Some years ago this industry was regarded by the Government as being of sufficient importance to be asked to take certain action in order to rehabilitate our financial and economic position. I have no hesitation in saying that one result of the continuous effort of those engaged in the wheat industry during the last two or three years has been to make the important work of the Resident Minister in London comparatively easy by reason of the large amount of credits established in London from the sale of our wheat and other primary products. It now comes as rather a rude shock to our wheat-farmers who, two years ago, received much needed assistance in the form of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel, and last year were further assisted to the extent of a couple of million pounds to tide them over their difficulties, to find that, when prices are nothing like what they were a year or two ago, instead of receiving further help in a practical WaY they must be content with this agreement, concerning the efficacy of which there is some doubt in the minds of those most directly concerned. I assure the House that I am heartily in accord with the objective of the agreement, even if I have some misgivings as to the wisdom of the method that has been adopted. In the first place, it seems to me somewhat hazardous for any debtor country to agree to a proposal for a restriction of its exportable products. I have no doubt that the Governments of the States concerned are well aware of this aspect of the proposal, but in all probability they were induced to accept the scheme in the belief that our wheat-farmers will obtain a higher return for the relatively smaller exportable surplus that will be placed on the world’s market this year. But I am confirmed in my misgiving on this point by the experience of one of the most important wheat-growing countries of the world, the United States of America, which during recent years has been endeavouring to raise wheat prices by the doubtful expedient’ of withholding supplies from the market. The immediate effect of its policy has been to create uncertainty, and to such an extent that the position hi the United States of America has been a bugbear to the markets of the world, and to the detriment of all wheatexporting countries in the last three or four years. Therefore, there seems good reason to doubt the wisdom of this proposal to restrict exports, and some ground for the fear that the effect of the agreement on the market will be the reverse of that anticipated. At the moment, if one may judge by market quotations, the agreement is being absolutely ignored. The object, professedly, is to raise the price for wheat. Unfortunately, up to date, there has been no evidence of an upward trend. On the contrary, prices are sagging very definitely, the value of Australian wheat f.o.b. being in the vicinity of ls. a bushel below the peak of the market some two or three months ago, and there is no indication of advance in the near future. According to information supplied to me from the country, forward prices for new season’s, wheat are on the basis of 2s. a bushel, at country railway stations, a figure which all honorable members will admit is very little above one-half the cost of production. How can our wheat-farmers be expected to carry on indefinitely under such unfavorable conditions? The price offering is bad enough in all conscience; but I very much fear that, as a result of this agreement, by the middle of the marketing season, conditions will have become so chaotic that the position of our wheat-farmers will be that there is no price at all. The agreement has been entered into on the understanding that lbc Australian wheat crop this year will not exceed 150,000,000 or 155,000,000 bushels. I am at a loss to understand how that estimate was arrived at, because the average production for the last three years has been in the vicinity of 205,000,000 bushels, and we have had an exportable surplus of about 150,000,000 bushels.
– With his knowledge of the wheat position, does the honorable member challenge- the forecast?
– I have no hesitation in saying that the Australian wheat crop this year will be from 20,000,000 bushels to 25,000,000 bushels above the conference estimate, especially if, within the next few weeks, we get useful rains in our more important wheatgrowing areas. It is quite possible that our total wheat production this year will reach 180,000,000 bushels, and I view with misgiving any proposal which may prevent our wheat-growers from exporting every bushel of wheat which they produce above the export limit of 105,000,000 bushels fixed in the agreement. At the end of last year, we had a carry-over of about 35,000,000 bushels.
– That was the normal carry-over.
– That may be so. If, this year, our production totals 1S0,000,000 bushels, we shall have available for home consumption and export about 215,000,000 bushels. If we deduct from that 50,000,000 bushels required for home consumption, plus a carry-over of 35,000,000 bushels, we shall have a total of 130,000,000 bushels, and after exporting 105,000,000 bushels provided for in the agreement, we shall have a surplus of from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 bushels over and above our ordinary carry-over, for which there will be no market. All the circumstances, therefore, seem to point to the fact that, as the marketing season advances, our farmers will have wheat to sell, but there will be nobody to buy it. Traders will be unable to operate because of the agreement restrictions. We shall thus reach a position of chaos. As it is obvious that, under this agreement, we shall not be able to market the whole of our wheat production this year, the responsibility is on the Government to see that every farmer who grows wheat shall obtain at least some price for his production delivered at country sidings; and I know no reason why the wheatgrower should not be enabled to obtain at least the cost of production, as is the case with those engaged in other industries. As I have stated, present prices are most unsatisfactory. A telegram which I have just received informs me that as low as 2s. a bushel is being offered for wheat at country stations. That is an impossible price. It is absolutely essential that there should be some organization to take complete control of the whole of the crop this year.
– And action should be taken immediately.
– In order to save our wheat-growers from disaster, there is greater need, to-day for such an organization than there was when it was in existence several years ago. Wheat will be coming on the market within the next six weeks, and I am afraid that if an effective organization is not established to control it, the market position will become quite chaotic. I was impressed by Mr. Bruce’s remarks at the conference which considered the world position and reached the agreement which is now before us, also urging a reduction of tariff walls. Restrictions to trade through tariffs are the chief obstacles to . world recovery to-day. If some of these restrictions could be removed, and if tariffs were lowered all round, many of the world’s troubles would automatically disappear. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had something to say about an attitude of selfishness that was apparent at that conference. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that selfishness is at the root of many of our troubles. Unfortunately, his Government did not, and those now behind him do not, set the world a better example in this respect. I entirely agree that the position of the world would be infinitely better if many of the present restrictions to trade were removed. As a last word, I urge the Minister to lose no time in establishing an effective organization to implement the agreement and control the production of the coming season. I appreciate the difficulties that will confront him in. giving effect to the agreement, particularly as between the Commonwealth and the States ; but as we are assured that the majority of the States are in agreement with the Commonwealth in this respect, many of those difficulties should easily and speedily be overcome.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in his opening remarks this morning, said that this agreement was an amazing one. I go a little further, and say that the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) was equally amazing, because, while he declared that he wholeheartedly supported the proposal, practically every word uttered by him was in condemnation of the agreement reached at Geneva.
– The honorable member is distorting the remarks of my colleague.
– Well, that is how the case was put for the Country party by the representative of that party who has just resumed his seat. We have heard something about the selfishness of political parties in this House, in their attitude towards various proposals that are brought forward. My experience during the last two or three years is that the Country party in this chamber has had a monopoly of selfishness. It is, indeed, interesting to consider this agreement in the light of many propositions that have been put forward within recent years for the purpose of promoting the proper development of Australia and other countries. I well remember the efforts of the propagandists of the present Government party and its policy ‘to impress upon the people the necessity for increasing production. In all walks of life the cry went out, “ There must be more production “. It was urged that if Ave could only overcome that aspect of our difficulties all our other problems could be solved, and everything would be quite satisfactory. It is strange that those who then advocated greater production are the very people who now demand a lowering of production. But the most important factor of all, and the one for which these persons are deserving of the greatest measure of condemnation, is that reduction of production is proposed on the very necessaries of life. I am. reminded by my colleague that if it were a case of trouble on the waterfront, as the result of which the shipment of wheat would be interrupted” and we should be prevented from supplying necessary foodstuffs to people in other parts of the world who were in a state of semi-starvation, .the Crimes Act would be invoked to force the waterside workers to load the wheat into the ships; but when it is a question of reducing the production of wheat, which must necessarily result in a lessening of supplies to those overseas who to-day are in a state of semi-starvation, no mention is made of the Crimes Act, and the Country party believes that that policy should be followed. We have already had in this House examples of the effect of agreements, not only on the wheat industry, but also on other important primaryproducing industries. We have restricted the export of meat as well as of dairy products, which also come within the category of the necessaries of life.
Honorable members interjecting and conversing audibly,
– Order ! I request honorable members to refrain from frequent interjections and loud conversation. It is most disturbing to a speaker to have to make himself heard above the loud hum of conversation. Honorable members should consider what their feelings would be if they were placed in a similar position. No matter what opinions’ an honorable member may express, he is entitled to be heard without frequent interruption.
– A. further point raised by those who have given these proposals half-hearted support is the manner in which the surplus over and above what is agreed upon for export is to be distributed. Up to date, no definite indication has been given of what is likely to take place in that regard. . It has been suggested that any such surplus might be fed to animals. Perhaps it would be better to take action of that sort rather than to destroy altogether wheat that could not be exported. Honorable members know from their reading that in other parts of the world in which overproduction has occurred the practice has often been adopted of destroying what could not be disposed of. I say without fear of contradiction, however, that there is not the slightest necessity to destroy foodstuffs within our country, because there is room for a considerable extension of activity in connexion with the distribution of the necessaries of life, including bread, among those who are unemployed at the present time. There should, therefore, be no doubt as to the manner in which any surplus should be handled within our own country. I suggest that when the organization is set up to regulate the matter it will be very difficult for our friends to satisfy themselves that it is not some form of State socialism. There will have to be a central authority to undertake the duty of regulation in accordance with the terms of the agreement. We have not yet been advised as to the manner in which export will be regulated, nor as to what authority will determine whether one man’s product shall be sent overseas and another man’s kept in Australia. It can safely be affirmed, however, that, as has already been the case in matters of this kind, those who wield the greater authority in the organizations that are set up for this purpose will have most of the say, while the men in the humbler ranks of the farming community, whose allotments are small and whose influence is slight, will have to carry the bulk of the burden. The cry will go out among the growers that it is advisable for them to sell quickly so as to be sure of disposing of their product; and, as I know from personal observation and from the reports that have been submitted, that many wheatgrowers are in a precarious position, they will be anxious to act upon that advice. The result -will be that those who “ bear” the market in this and other products will take their toll at the expense of this unfortunate section of the farming community. The merchants will again come out on top. as they always do in these cases. I cannot understand a party which claims to represent the farming community espousing the cause of the merchants and of those who “ farm “ the f armers. Only one member of the Country party in this House, who, I am sorry has gone from us, ever adopted a definite attitude in favour of assisting the struggling farmer and of defeating the aims of those who have been “ farming “ the farmers for over a . generation. Members of the Country party joined in condemnation of the prohibitions imposed by the previous Governments on imports, an action that was rendered necessary in order to meet the situation that had been created by a government which those gentlemen supported during the seven years that it was in office, in which period millions of pounds worth of goods for which payment could not be made were imported into this country.
– We kept the people in work all the time; there was no unemployment,
– Such a situation was created that these unfortunate people have since, not only been out of work, but have been denied even the necessaries of life.For over seven years my right honorable friend sat on the treasury bench, and must accept his share of the responsibility for the present state of affairs.
– The wages were then higher than they are now, and every one was in work.
– The right honorable gentleman had to raise short-dated loans on the London market in order that payment might be made for imports, with the result that when the government led by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) came into office it found necessity for liquidating those loans cropping up almost every fortnight. That was the aftermath of the policy followed by the government of which the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was a member. The steps taken by the Scullin Government to balance the tradeposition were designed to keep out of Australia goods that were not actually needed in this country at that, time, and honorable members who now sit on the other side of the House then commended that Government for its action. To-day, those same gentlemen condemn the. action of the Scullin Government. It seems that they do not know exactly where they stand. It is easy to be wise after the event; but certain circumstances confronted the country at that time, and they had to be met immediately. 1 and ray colleagues feel that the conditions which render necessary the policy that is to be pursued under this agreement must be opposed by the right thinking people of this community with all the means at their disposal.. This is a severe indictment not only of the existing social system, but also of the mentality and outlook upon social questions of those world statesmen who are responsible for the situation which has arisen. We shall not be a party to even the printing of. the document. I say quite frankly that the situation with which we are confronted to-day should be used as an illustration in exposing to the world at large, or at least to our own people, the radical and fundamental insecurity of the whole structure of society. It shall be our aim to direct attention to what we consider are the real causes of our present troubles. Honorable members generally know as well as
I do the extent to which the world is suffering from the lack of the necessaries of life. Let them be big enough to stand up and declare that there is something fundamentally wrong with a state of affairs that produces results of this character.
– There is. Remove tariff burdens.
– The honorable member knows that the conditions are the same in countries with low tariffs and high tariffs, in countries that’ have arbitration systems as well as in those that have not. Throughout the world the people are in a state of semi-starvation. One cannot lay the blame on this, that, or the other thing; the cause is far more deep-seated than that. We shall seize every opportunity to draw the attention of the public to the great wrong that is being perpetrated. Because of that fact, we shall oppose the printing of this ‘ document.
.- It is most unfortunate that the Government should have entered into an agreement of this character. The restriction to be imposed upon the production of wheat will affect my State particularly, because it looked to the expansion of its wheat areas for a considerable degree of its development. It is unnecessary at the present moment, however, to do other than demand that the Government shall let us know as speedily as possible how it proposes to act upon the agreement.
– Is the honorable member favorable to a compulsory wheat pool?
– I have a great objection to compulsion at any time. In the circumstances, however, something must be done. I was hoping that the Minister would tell us what action the Government proposed to take. Only two courses may be followed- that of a compulsory wheat pool, which would enable the grower to obtain an extra price for his wheat in the local market, or that of a sales tax on flour.
I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 119.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Lyons) read a first time.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, etc.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 5th October (vide page 3338).
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote. £222,070.
– I appeal to honorable members to help the Government to give these proposals a speedy passage, in order that there may be no delay in providing the employment that is involved. I have no wish to prevent discussion in this House, but if the proposals are not agreed to to-day, at least a week’s delay will be caused in providing the employment to he given by this expenditure, because the Senate will adjourn to-day over next week. If it is possible for us to send the Works Estimates and the Loan Estimates to the Senate to-day, there is every prospect that they will be passed immediately. I had hoped to move the second reading of the Financial Relief Bill this afternoon, so that honorable members might be able to debate that measure early next week.
– The argument advanced by the Prime Minister that it is necessary to pass these Estimates without delay because the subject of employment is involved, is not fully borne out by the facts. Last night, in discussing the vote of the Department of the Treasury, I referred to additions and alterations to the Government Printing Office, for which over £6,000 is being provided. My object was to find out what the Government intended to do in the matter of selecting men for employment. Naturally, members are anxious to assist their supporters and others to obtain work, and I was astonished when I was informed that although this sum appeared on the Estimates for approval, the work was practically completed.
– That is merely one item.
-We shall find other items as we proceed.
– Then the honorable member must take the responsibility for delaying the passing of these Estimates.
– We shall not hesitate to take our responsibility. For four months honorable members have been in their electorates when Parliament might have been sitting to deal with these matters.
– The honorable member must discuss the question before the committee.
– I take it that it is our duty to become conversant with every detail of governmental activities, and that cannot be done without the fullest discussion. Last night, only after a considerable debate on the first item could the committee obtain much information that would otherwise have been withheld. We should not allow that practice to continue.
– The Prime Minister was entitled to give the committee reasons why he wished certain estimates passed as soon as possible, but there cannot be a debate on that point. I again ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the vote for the Department of the Interior.
– The Prime Minister has asked that the Estimates be dealt with speedily because of the employment aspect, and that leaves a suggestion of political propaganda.
– If the expenditure to be authorized in connexion with war service homes is urgent, the committee should have had an opportuinty to deal with the matter months ago.
– The question before the committee is not whether these Estimates should be passed to-day. The Prime Minister has given certain reasons for asking the committee to pass them without delay; but, as I have already ruled, that matter cannot be debated.
– I take it that the reasons put forward by the Prime Minister have no bearing on the question before us.
– That is so.
– Then I am relieved of responsibility.
– I did not indulge in any propaganda. I merely made an appeal to the committee.
– The Prime Minister took an unfair advantage.
– The honorable member must discuss the question before the Chair or resume his seat.
– On certain items enumerated under the vote for the Department of the Interior, full information has not been given. The Minister (Mr. Perkins) dealt last night with the expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act, and replied to comment in regard, to the expenditure on the National War Memorial at Canberra. References were made by the Assistant Minister in charge of War Service Homes (Mr.Francis) to the proposed expenditure of £30,000 on war service homes. The committee has not yet had any information regarding the £25,000 to be provided for work on -the Commonwealth Offices at Brisbane. No doubt, honorable members from Queensland are aware of the purpose for which these offices are to be used, and the nature of the building, but other honorable members should be informed as to the details,” and as to whether the proposal meets requirements. I trust that the Minister will furnish full particulars later.
When details were asked for last night regarding the proposed expenditure on war service homes, the Assistant Minister was unable to supply them. A sum is set down for payment to municipal councils with respect to certain homes from which the occupants have been evicted, and certain “ fees “ are lumped with “ rates “ and “ taxes “. Were these fees paid to bailiffs, and are they to be charged against the former occupants of the homes?
– The item “fees, rates and taxes “ should be dissected. I understand that the Tasmanian Government has refused any longer to be a party to the administration of war service homes, and that the Commissioner made strong comment on the matter on the occasion of his visit to that State a few months ago. Although the amount appearing under the heading “fees, rates and ‘taxes “ may not bo large, the principle of lumping those items together is not to be commended.
The honorable member forCalare (Mr. Thorby) has strongly condemned the department’s methods of administration, but I have not experienced the same difficulties as he has had ; generally speaking, I have no complaint in that regard. After all, directions may have been sent from the Treasury as to how certain expenditure was to be hidden, and if that fear is entertained we are entitled to press for the fullest information.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I strongly deprecate the veiled suggestions in -the remarks of honorable members of the Lang party concerning the items now under discussion. I made it very clear last night that £290 of the money proposed to be voted is provided for sums which may be due to municipal councils in respect of kenbing, guttering and roadmaking in connexion with unoccupied laud held by the War Service Homes Commission, and £5,000 is due for fees, rates, taxes, &c, payable in respect of homes which have reverted to the commission. It may be said that practically the whole of the £5,000 is due definitely for rates to the councils. The balance is due for taxes, valuation fees to councils and payments to commission agents.
– And for bailiffs’ fees?
– That is not so. Not one penny of this money is for the purpose suggested by the honorable member. I wish to make it very clear that the Government desires to help the returned soldiers. I ask my ex-colleagues of the Australian Imperial Force to accept my assurance that there is not any foundation in fact for the suggestions made by honorable members opposite, for political purposes, in regard to the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I desire to do everything in my power to help returned men who are purchasing homes for themselves. I do not desire to’ see a single returned soldier leave the home which he is buying. Everything that I can do, in keeping with the policy of the Government, will be done to assist the returned men in these hard, times. It must beremembered that not only the occupiers of war service homes, hut also others who arc purchasing homes, are in difficulties in these days. I cannot too strongly deprecate the suggestions of certain honorable members to whom I have referred that the Government is not acting fairly to the occupiers of war service homes who have rendered valued service to their country. Every occupier of a war service home, who is abiding by the recommendations of the committee of inquiry and who is making repayments according to his ability to pay, may rest contented in the knowledge that the Government will deal fairly with him.
– The Assistant Minister is not in order in discussing the administration of the War Service Homes Department under this item. When the General Estimates are under consideration an opportunity will . be available for that purpose.
– I only desired to reply briefly to certain remarks of honorable members sitting opposite. Provision is being made in these Estimates for the repayment of outstanding amounts for road-making and sewerage work in connexion with reverted homes, and also for the provision of sewerage in other war service homes. If any returned soldier in occupation of a war service home is finding it difficult to install sewerage facilities, but is able to make small monthly repayments to extinguish the capital cost over a period of years, he will be able to obtain assistance for that purpose when these Estimates are passed.
– I have been informed on a number of occasions that no money was available for that purpose.
– Money will be available for it after these Estimates are passed.
– I am pleased that some provision is being made in these Estimates for beginning the building of new Commonwealth offices in Brisbane. The amount of £25,000 which is being provided for this purpose is, however, quite inadequate. The buildings to be erected are estimated to cost £90,000, and £25,000 will hardly permit a beginning to be made, for the land on which the building is to be erected is at present occupied by premises used by the Defence Department. These will have to be demolished before even the excavations for the new building can be made. It seems to me that this demolition and excavation work will cost almost the whole of the £25,000 now being provided. However, the citizens of Brisbane will accept this vote as an indication of the Government’sintention to go on with this work. I point out to honorable members that the construction of this building will not only be an improvement to the city of Brisbane and its wonderful Anzac Square, but will also be profitable to the Government, for when the building becomes available for use it will no longer be necessary for the Government to pay large sums in rent for certain offices at present leased from private individuals for government purposes.
.- I am pleased that some provision is being made in these estimates to assist the occupiers of war service homes. During the last twelve months I have, on several occasions, been informed by the War Service Homes Administration that no money was available for assisting occupiers of war service homes to install sewerage facilities. I take it that it will now be possible for all war service homes to be equipped with this convenience where it is available. Let me make it clear that I do not question the sincerity of the statement of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) that he is sympathetic with returned soldiers. My fear is that the honorable gentleman does not give expression to his own feelings in this connexion, but is too easily persuaded to do what the department wishes him to do.
– The honorable member may not, at this stage, enter upon a general discussion of the War Service Homes Administration.
– My difficulty is to get the Minister to give a cash value to the sympathy that he feels for occupiers of war service homes. I wish to know whether amounts which are paid by the War Service Homes Commission in rates and taxes on behalf of certain occupiers of war service homes are charged against the soldiers’ equity in these properties. It appeared to me that the Assistant Minister evaded this question in the speech which he delivered last night. Will the honorable gentleman say definitely now whether amounts paid by the Commission to municipal councils in rates and taxes on properties which have been evacuated by returned men are charged against the equity which such men still have in the properties concerned, or are such amounts charged against incoming occupiers?
– The honorable member’s questions are not relevant to the Works Estimates.
– I rise to a point of order. Do I understand, Sir, that although part of the money now being voted for war service homes purposes is to meet rates and taxes on certain properties it is not in order for honorable members to discuss this subject?
– I understood the Assistant Minister to say that none of this money was being made available for that purpose, but I must confess that it is hard both for the Chair and for honorable members to draw a clear line of demarcation in this matter. I do not desire unnecessarily to hamper honorable members in discussing matters of concern to them and their constituents, but I appeal to them to make their remarks as relevant as possible to the item before the Chair.
– I asked the Assistant Minister last night, and I ask him again now, whether certain men who are in difficulty in keeping up the payments on their war service homes, and are paying less than they would be paying normally, will have charged against them any amounts which the War Service Homes Commission may pay to municipal councils and the Water and Sewerage Board, which are pursuing these men. I am not so very much concerned about men who are able to make full payments in respect of their homes, but I am deeply concerned about the men who are in arrears in their payments although they have made every reasonable effort to meet their obligations. I should not be surprised if, since this subject was under discussion last night, the Assistant Minister had been in communication with the War Service Homes Commission on this very point. I want the honorable gentleman now to tell us exactly where the returned men stand in this connexion.
.- I entirely agree with what the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has said on this vital subject. I also want to know how this money is to be charged against the properties in respect of which it may be paid. If 1 could be certain that the money is to be spent purely to reimburse councils for rates legitimately due in respect of war service homes, I should be satisfied to approve of the proposed vote.
– Then the honorable member, may sit down, for that is the case.
– The Assistant Minister has not yet said so in specific terms.
– I have said so again and again.
– There are two questions that need consideration. The first relates to soldiers who have got into financial difficulties and have either left their homes voluntarily or been ejected. Last night I tried, and I am still trying, to get the Minister (Mr. Francis) to say whether any amounts which may be paid to municipal councils by the commission subsequent to the dispossession of a returned soldier of his home will’ be charged against the property. I also want to know whether work on footpaths and kerbs and gutters which is done after the soldier abandons a home will be charged against any equity that he may have in the property. In the case of such a property being resold is the charge for work of this kind, which is done after dispossession, made against the equity of the original owner of the home?
– It is not sufficient for the Assistant Minister to make an interjection of that kind. We want him to tell us definitely what the procedure is. If we are assured that none of these charges is to be made against a man who has become dispossessed of his property and has no equity in it, but leaves behind a debt for which he is being harassed by the Crown Law Department, my colleagues and I will be satisfied to pass this amount.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) have referred to the Commonwealth offices that are to be erected in Brisbane. This is not a new matter. In 1922 the Works Department was concerned about the housing of Commonwealth departments in Brisbane, and the matter was submitted to the Commonwealth Public Works Committee, which made investigations and submitted recommendations. However, no action was taken by the Government. Because of the alteration of State and municipal building sites in Brisbane, the subject was again referred to that committee in 1927, which submitted a recommendation; but because of the depression which followed shortly after, no action, was taken. Our officers in Brisbane have carried on under difficulties, as they have been housed in six buildings spread over a wide. area. The scheme submitted by the Public Works Committee entailed an expenditure of £371,000. The present project makes provision for a building which will cost £90,000, and will be capable of providing ample space for the existing Commonwealth departments in Brisbane, and even leaving a trifle to spare.
– Will the federal members’ rooms be moved to the new building?
-No. The site of the building will adjoin Anzac-square, and the structure will bo in keeping with others erected by thu Statu Government.
The honorable member for Brisbane complained that only £25,000 was to be expended on the building this year. After consulting its departmental officers in Brisbane, the Government has decided that that is all it oan set aside for the purpose this year. The amount will enable the preliminary work to be carried out, and it is hoped that next year’s Estimates will make provision for the completion of the building. It must be remembered that we have not yet passed through the depression, and that it is necessary to apportion the limited funds that are available as equitably as possible. The expenditure of this £25,000 will result in a saving of £900 in rentals, and it will be a great convenience to have all the officers under one roof. The building will provide 830,000 square feet of office space. The matter of permanent federal members’ rooms in Brisbane will be considered later. I thoroughly recommend this project to honorable members, and assure them that the object of the Government is to provide as much employment as is possible with the limited amount of money that is available, and to continue to give effect to its policy of preference to returned soldiers.
.- I desire to apologize for the rancousness of my voice, the use of which I have partly lost through advocating that the Government should keep its promises to returned soldiers, and also in advising the people of New South Wales not to buy capitalistic newspapers on Thursdays.
The Minister administering war service homes (Mr. Francis) has scoffed at honorable members of my party foi* taking up the cudgels on behalf of the occupiers of war service homes. No party in this chamber has a greater right to do so, for my colleagues and I live in electorates in which there are more war service homes than in any other centre, and we are continually in touch with “ the occupants of these dwellings. The Minister assured the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that none of the money to be expended under the War Service Homes Act is to be set aside for fees to bailiffs. Last year I asked the honorable gentleman whether ho intended to have returned soldier purchasers of these homes evicted, and he said, “I promise that not one man will be evicted “.
– The honorable member’s remarks are irrelevant.
– I contend that portion of this amount will be expended for the payment of bailiffs to evict purchasers of war service homes. Last year the Government had not any money for the purpose, but now it intends to instruct these bums to walk in and throw the ox-soldiers out. The Minister knows that hundreds of en ses of evictions are either taking place or being contemplated.
– That is a disgusting statement. The honorable member knows that it is absolutely false.
– When I get my voice back next week I shall give the honorable gentleman the tickling up that he deserves. Isupport the protests that have been made by members of the party to which I belong..
.- Repeatedly the Minister administering war service homes (Mr. Francis) has declared that his Government has not evicted purchasers of war service homes. I have in my possession documents which have been written since this Government took office, definitely threatening proceedings against occupants of these dwellings if they do not hand over their keys.
– I remind the honorable member that the debate concerns the expenditure of moneys for “ additions, new works, buildings, &c.” His remarks could be uttered more appropriately when the committee is dealing with the general Estimates.
– I am endeavouring to point out that if the Government would refrain from paying these bailiffs to do this objectionable job a good deal of money could be saved.
– The amount provided in these Estimates is not for the purpose of evicting returned soldiers who are occupants of war service homes, and I must insist upon the honorable member confining his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– The expenditure of this money concerns the revaluation of war service homes after their occupants are evicted, and much of the contemplated expenditure could be avoided if the men were not evicted. I have here a letter from the War Service Homes Department dated the 1st July, 1932, which is certainly during the regime of the present Government. It is addressed to a man named McLean, 22 Scholey-street, Mayfield. I might state that I have permission to use the names to which I shall refer. The letter reads -
I am instructed to inform you that this casehas been set down for hearing on the 13th July, 1932, and that unless the keys are lodged at this office at, or before, 10 a.m. on that day the hearing will be proceeded with and. a warrant obtained.
I also have a notice of application to a court of summary jurisdiction for a war rant against another occupant of a war service home, dated the 24th June, 1932, and similar documents against a Mr. Cundee, of Southern-street, Waratah, and a Mr. Fishlock, of Wrille-street, Mayfield.
– The honorable member must realize that if he were in order in discussing such matters the whole subject of war service homes could be dealt with under this item. Honorable members will have an opportunity to proceed along those lines when the general Estimates are before the committee.
– The Minister stated definitely that his Government had not evicted returned soldier occupants of war service homes. I give that an emphatic denial. The Government is continually doing that sort, of thing. Why does not the Minister tell the truth?
The occupants of some of these homes, and I refer particularly to the mining districts about Newcastle, have made application to the department for the installationof a sewerage system, but the department refuses to give the necessary guarantee to the local water and sewerage board for the installation; therefore, these persons have to carry on with an obsolete sanitary system which should be found only in remote centres. Only last Monday, I introduced a deputation to the Deputy Commissioner (Mr. Richardson) on this subject, and he saidthat he would not give such a guarantee where a purchaser was in arrears in his payments. The guarantee should be given in any circumstances, because if these homes are not brought up to date with this necessary service their value is depreciated. It is time that the War Service Homes Department gave consideration to a general revaluation of these properties. That matter was also dealt with by the deputation which waited on Mr. Richardson. Apparently the Minister will say anything. His statements are absolutely unreliable.
– I ask that that charge be withdrawn, as it isincorrect.
– The honorable member must withdraw.
-.- I withdraw. I had done so before the honorable member started to complain. When statements are made in this chamber by responsible Ministers to the effect that certain things will not bo done, we expect at least that those things will not be done. I have given ‘to purchasers and occupiers of war service homes who are in arrears with their payments because of intermittency of employment on the coal-fields, the definite assurance, on the word of the Assistant Minister, that they would not be evicted from their homes. The Assistant Minister, when he makes a promise, should have the decency to carry it out. The interest charges on these homes should be reduced, at least in accordance with the Premiers plan.
– The- honorable member may not discuss the general question of the administration of the War Service Homes Department.
– Will the Assistant Minister inform honorable members of the details of the item relating to the erection of a national library, for which the proposed expenditure is £7,000?
.- The amount of £30,000, which appears on the Estimates for expenditure in connexion with the work of the War Service Homes Department, includes certain sums for which the Government holds itself liable on account of repairs to vacated homes, and rates and taxes owing to municipal authorities. I suggest to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) that a great deal of expenditure could be avoided if returned soldiers with dependants, others who are out of employment, also widows of returned soldiers, could occupy them and act in the capacity of caretakers. The Assistant Minister has already stated that he is anxious to assist returned soldiers, whether they be purchasers or tenants of war service homes, and he can assist them considerably in the way I have suggested. Many of these people are to-day living in hostels, or sleeping in the parks at night, and frequenting soup kitchens by day; others are occupying bag humpies at Happy Valley, and other centres on the outskirts of Sydney. I dare say that similar conditions prevail in the other capital cities of Australia. I suggest that the Assistant Minister, instead of giving lip service, should show that he has some sympathy for these unfortunate people by allowing them to occupy vacated war service homes. If he adopts my suggestion, the upkeep of the homes will be lessened, because while the houses remain empty everything of value is removed from them.
.- Some time last year I had occasion to request the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) to aid certain war service home purchasers by connecting their properties with the sewerage system, and his reply was that money was hot available for that purpose. I am glad to be able to say that when money became available the work was put in hand. Nearly all honorable members, particularly returned soldier members, have had numerous cases to place before the Assistant Minister respecting the disabilities of the purchasers of war service homes, In the cases brought, forward this afternoon by members of the Beasley group, there has been a notable absence of cases where decent treatment has been meted out to them. Some of the cases which have been submitted to me make it appear as if the department has been rather harsh in its administration, but of course, one has to look at both sides of the question.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the item before the Chair. The general administration of the department cannot be discussed on this item.
– The item provides funds to meet certain liabilities, and I am glad, indeed, that money is” now being made available to assist the purchasers of war service homes, and although difficulties may have been experienced in the past, I am perfectly certain that the Commissioner himself does his best in the interests of the purchasers.
– The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) has asked me for information regarding the proposal to erect a national library. For some time past the Library Committee has been agitating for the erection of a national library. The Library, as it exists at present, is not being carried on under the best conditions. It consists of 104,000 volumes, and of that number 17,000 are housed at Acton, some thousands are in the basement of this building, and many more are boused in the building at “West Block. In consequence, it is difficult for the officials of the Library to carry out their duties properly. They have pointed out in a resolution which they carried at a recent meeting, that if some assistance is not given the Library service will break down, and they have asked the Government to erect a building. It is now intended to erect one-fifth or one section of the proposed permanent structure, which will eventually comprise the National Library at ‘Canberra. The actual site has not yet been selected. There are four sites to be inspected, and all are within a range of from 400 to 600 yards of Parliament House. The scheme will extend over a. period of from 30 to 40 years. It is proposed eventually to erect a seven-storey building.The building which it is now proposed to erect will be quite adequate for present requirements, and based on the present rate of the growth of the library, which is ‘7,000 volumes a year, will provide sufficient accommodation for the next five years… When the building is eventually completed, the ground floor will be shelved differently from what is proposed to-day. It is necessary to havea National Library at Canberra, and Iask honorable members to endorse the Government’s action by passing this item.
– I should like to know from the Minister-
– The honorable member has already spoken twice on this item and may not speak again.
– I spoke only once.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole. £293,196.
I hope, Mr. Chairman, that you will not consider that I arn addressing the Chair on this item if the Minister is not sufficiently courteous to give me the information that I require.
– The honorable member has made reference to the call from the Chair, and, in addition, has reflected upon my ruling. His remarks are definitely out of order.
– The proposed expenditure in connexion with the first item under Division No. 6 - Reserves of stores, including ammunition ordnance, torpedo stores and coal and oil fuel - is £5. That seems to be an insignificant sum, and I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) to indicate thu nature of the item. The proposed expenditure in connexion with Division No. 7, Item 1 - Buildings, works and sites - is £21,650, whereas the expenditure last year was £768. Surely wo arc entitled to know how that money is to be expended, what works are tobe constructed, how the labour is to be engaged, and under what rates and conditions. The military branch of the service also provides for increased expenditure, particularly in respect of Item No. 1 under Division No.8 - Arms, armament, and ammunition. There is also an item for the construction of a motor launch at a cost of £1,200. This seems to be a new departure altogether, and I should like to know why the military department requires a motor launch. The proposed expenditure on Item No. 3 - Defence work, including fortifications, coast defences and engineering works - is £8,000. Where are the coast defences which are to be improved, and in what way is the money to be expended? The proposed expenditure under Division No. 9, Item 1 - Buildings, works and sites - is £70,410. The Assistant Minister has made no explanation of that item. Had it been possible, he would have allowed all these items to be passed without discussion or inquiry. Under the heading of “Royal Australian Air Force “ - Division No. 10 - it is proposed to expend £61,335 in connexion with land plane equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and ammunition. I am anxious to know the nature of this equipment, and where it is to be manufactured and purchased. Item 2 of Division 10 covers the provision of seaplane equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and exchange for which an a mount of £376,250 is provided. Under the heading of Civil Aviation, £500 is to he allocated for buildings and works, and also £13,700 for similar undertakings under the Department of the Interior. In the Munitions Supply Branch the total proposed expenditure under the control of the Department of ‘Defence is £39,153 as against £19,153 last year, or an increase of £20,000. Notwithstanding this huge increase, the Minister has not offered any explanation to the committee. In the Department of the Interior, £40,000 is provided for buildings, works and sites, as against an expenditure of £2,252 last year. The total amount expended by the Department of Defence in 1932-33 was £54,930, but the amount proposed to be expended this year is £293,196. I should like the Assistant Minister to explain why such sudden activity is being displayed in this department? Why should there be a speeding up to provide additional defence for this country, particularly in view of the fact that Australia has just been granted a non-permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations, which allegedly was constituted to preserve the peace of the world? I should like the Assistant Minister to state definitely what the Government has to fear. Is it afraid of an invasion from overseas; is it preparing to invade some other country, or to assist some other nation in the invasion of other territories? Why should this money be expended on new defence works when so many unemployed and their dependants are being deprived of the necessaries of life? I submit that the expenditure of one penny piece on defence is unwarranted and should not even be considered until the Government has kept its promises to the people, and has provided every man, woman and child in this country with adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I believe that the Government, although professing to believe in international peace, is actively preparing to participate in warlike operations. I shall not record my vote to assist the Government to bring about such a tragic happening as that which occurred in 1914. I am opposed to this expenditure and am anxious to obtain some information to give to my constituents and to the people of Australia generally. Will the Minister indicate where the additional expenditure is to be carried out and where these new defences are to ‘be set up ?
– I am quite ready to give to the committee the fullest possible information of the Government’s proposed expenditure on defence. As honorable members are aware, this Government has, ever since it assumed office, done everything within its power to assist in ensuring international peace. In this connexion, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) represented the Commonwealth at a disarmament conference where the possibilities of universal disarmament were thoroughly canvassed, but without immediate result. In now taking steps to ensure that this country shall be adequately defended, the Ministry is merely exercising a proper function of government. Unfortunately, owing to the financial and economic depression, the Defence Department has, for some years, been deprived of the funds necessary to keep our defence forces equipped even on a nucleus basis. Later, I shall distribute a memorandum setting out in detail the Government’s defence proposals, which can be fully discussed when the general Estimates are under consideration. The first item “ Reserves of stores, including ammunition, ordnance, torpedo stores and coal and oil fuel, naval establishments, machinery and plant, £5 “ is inserted in these Estimates in order to keep the vote open. Division 7, “ Buildings, works and sites, £21,650 “ will be explained by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), the Minister in charge of works, as the provision is to cover building construction. Division No. 8 “ Arms, armament and ammunition, construction of motor launch, defence works, including fortifications, coast defences and engineering works, £23,463 “ is required to cover the cost of current requirements. The amount of £1,200 for the construction of a motor launch is needed to replace two unserviceable motor launches now operating in Sydney Harbour for army, navy and other purposes.
– Why should the cost of arms, armament and ammunition be increased by £6,000?
– Because we propose to develop the militia forces and replenish stores.
– The Minister said that it was to provide the cost of ammunition for current requirements. This is additional.
– The supply of ammunition is down to bedrock, and the proposed vote is to replenish supplies. Item No. 3 for which £8,000 is provided, is to cover the cost of completing certain defence works at Darwin. Division No. 9, which covers new works, will be explained by the Minister for the Interior. In Division No. 10, £61,315 is allocated for the pro- vision of landplane equipment and plant including spar© parts, machinery tools, ordnance supplies, and ammunition, and to replace aeroplanes which have crashed, or to re-equip existing units. Under item No. 2, £376,250 is allocated for seaplane equipment and plant, including spare parts,- machinery, tools, ordnance and engineering supplies, and exchange. This amount is necessary to provide new seaplanes for tlie Navy.
– Has provision been made for exchange, because the Government proposes to purchase this equipment overseas?
– At present the most modern machines are not obtainable in Australia, and provision has, therefore, been made to meet the cost of exchange if purchases should be made overseas. The amount of £19,153 in division 14 is provided to liquidate the annual payments needed to complete the purchase of a small arms factory at Footscray. Item No. 2 of the same division, for which £20,000 has been allocated, represents a part payment for machinery and plant for the new naval cordite factory at Maribyrnong. The Government hopes that when this factory is completed, it will be in a position to manufacture the peace-time requirements of cordite for the Australian Navy, and, probably, there will be an excess sufficient to supply the requirements of the British Navy operating in Far Eastern and New Zealand waters. Divisions Nos. 7, 11 and 15, covering additional works, will be explained by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins-).
– In division No. 7. £21,650 is provided for buildings, works and sites. Some years ago it was decided to build nine oil tanks at Darwin. Nos. 1 to 4 have been constructed, and Nos. 5 and 6 ave nearing completion. The amount which the committee is now asked to appropriate will be sufficient to com plete tanks Nos. 5 and 6, and also Nos. 7, 8, and 9, which will fulfil the original programme. The other amounts cover expenditure in New South Wales and Victoria. An amount is provided for the erection of a building at Newington, and others at Flinders naval base.
.- I intend to oppose any additional expenditure on new defence works and buildings. There is every evidence that the Government, having a substantial credit balance, is being driven by panicky outside influence to prepare for war. Although the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has denied that the proposed defence expenditure is in any way associated with warlike activities, it is clear that certain persons in Australia, particularly in Sydney, are using the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to propagate their views. It i3 a sad commentary upon the Government’s policy to find, at a time when it is providing extra accommodation for mentally-deranged soldiers who fought in the last war, and . when it should be relieving the burdens of those who are struggling to pay for their war service homes and to meet their obligations in other ways, that this additional expenditure should be suggested. The Government Is unable to pay adequate pensions to soldiers, but in the budget presented by the right honorable the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) the provision for defence works is increased by £1,462,000. It has been said by those who advocate additional defence preparations that the surest defence is preparedness for war. I suppose that the best way to display a friendly feeling towards one’s neighbour is to put on a pair of boxing gloves. The Government is contributing a huge sum annually to support the League of Nations, which was established allegedly for the purpose of creating an atmosphere of peace. At the same time the Government is preparing for war. As soon as certain persons find that the Government has a credit balance, they encourage it to spend money on preparations’ for war, instead of applying it to the peaceful development of the country. The Government, in its proposals to increase military and, naval -preparedness, displays its fear of the outside influences by which the right honorable member for North Sydney is being kept to the fore as the principal protagonist. The statement made by the right honorable gentleman in Sydney was doubtless sponsored by certain imperialist organizations. He said that, if war broke out to-morrow, the Government could raise £100,000,000.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the proposed vote ‘before the committee.
– I am showing that the influence of that gentleman has prompted the Government to adopt a a panicky policy. the TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable gentleman’s remarks have no bearing on the proposed vote.
– I contend that it would be far better to devote this expenditure to the scaling down of the valuations of war service homes, to the provision of better hospital accommodation for those who were stricken in the last war, and to a more charitable extension of the pension benefits to those who are suffering as a result of war service. For that reason, I am opposed to any increase of the vote.
.- I am not in sympathy with those who have been indulging in a lot of war-scare propaganda,.which is calculated not to improve our relations with neighbouring powers, but rather to aggravate and irritate other nations. Those of us who have had the misfortune to participate in a war do not wish to repeat the experience, nor do we wish to do anything that might force our young men of to-day into that position. But it is no time to prepare for war when war has already broken out; that policy is too costly in terms of human life. One of the greatest difficulties encountered by those who had some training before the last great war was to train and to fight simultaneously. I assure honorable members that it would be unwise to place our country in the position of having to prepare for war in time of war.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should arm to the teeth in time of peace?
– I view defence as I. do insurance against fire and burglary; it is a necessary precaution, and one that we cannot afford to neglect. I sincerely hope that the proposed vote makes provision for the defence of the city of Hobart as well as of other capital cities of Australia. I have recently had occasion to inspect the defences of that city, and I assure the Minister that the necessity for expenditure there is as great as in any other part of Australia. The port of Hobart is capable of accommodating the fleets of the world. A little further round the coast is the port of Huon, which also can accommodate very largo vessels. At the present time these two ports are practically undefended. I trust that the Minister also will not lose sight of the fact that attention must he paid not only to coastal fortifications, but also to aircraft and anti-aircraft equipment.
– I should like the Minister to. say whether the item “ Arms, armament and ammunition” makes provision for an additional grant to the small arms factory at Lithgow for the manufacture of rifles, machine guns, and other arms of defence. In Lithgow recently I was approached by persons who had heard of the possibility of an extra grant being made to the Lithgow small arms factory, and who were extremely anxious to benefit from any employment that might thereby be provided. In normal circumstances a large proportion of “the men who interviewed me would be strongly disposed to support the Labour party. I should very much have liked some of them to be here this afternoon to listen to the speeches of those who claim to be their representatives in this Parliament, yet who bitterly oppose any suggestion that Lithgow should share in an increased defence vote. I am confident that they would entirely dissociate them- selves from most of the remarks that have come from the members of the Lang group. They are in a position to appreciate the value of this vote as a means of providing employment, and would, I feel sure, readily admit the necessity for making adequate provision for the defence of Australia.
I should also like the Minister to say whether the item, “buildings, works and sites, £23,000,” makes provision for the construction of a new transport shed at the Richmond aerodrome. I have advocated the construction of this shed for many months, and have had good reason for doing so. The present building is a crazy structure, with a list to port of about 20 degrees, and a roof that is held on by weights and other more or less- obsolete and antiquated contrivances. It is not only a blot on the landscape, but ds also a distinct menace to the lives of people in the vicinity. Although it houses transport vehicles to the value of many thousands of pounds, it could not withstand a 50-mile gale. If it were blown over, persons in the vicinity would probably be killed; and, in any event, a great deal of damage would be done to homes and other buildings.
– The vote includes ia sum of £21,600 to be expended at Richmond. Of that amount, £5,000 is set aside for a building in connexion with mechanical transport.
.- I oppose the additional expenditure of £240,000 on ‘the provision of new defence works. It is rather amusing to hear those honorable members who claim to be representatives of the Australian people, trying to justify this additional outlay by the plea that a greater degree of employment will be provided. One would imagine that Australia, instead of being a young and practically undeveloped country, was developed to such a stage that there were no national works to be undertaken other than the production of arms and munitions for purposes of destruction. The claim of a person holding those views to represent any considerable section of the Australian people is an indictment of this Parliament. Earlier in the discussion of these Estimates, some honorable members regretted the inability of the Government to make additional provision for the construction of weirs, locks and other works, under the River Murray Waters scheme. The reply of the Government then was that it was anxious to expend a greater sum upon those Works, but was prevented from doing so by the financial circumstances that confront it. Yet the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) now says that the unemployed should be put to the work of making rifles and ammunition for purposes of destruction. I suggest that whatever money the Government has available should be devoted to works of a national character that will promote the well-being and not the destruction of humanity. At the present time the view is universally expressed that the peace of the world ought to be preserved. This additional provision for defence purposes, instead of having a tendency to preserve peace in either this or any other country, is likely to provoke other countries to take similar action that will eventually lead to armed conflict. For that reason, I am not prepared to support the vote. Surely, the electors of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) are not so prosperous that he cannot suggest works ‘that might be undertaken for their benefit. Are there not some of his constituents without a roof over their heads? Are not some living in bag humpies at Yarra Bay and in other parts of Sydney- and suburbs, who could be provided with homes by the expenditure of this money? Are there not many thousands existing on the miserable dole allowance < of the New South Wales Government, who could be supplied with sufficient foodstuffs and clothing? Surely, the honorable member is not so devoid of imagination and of ideas as to be unable to conceive of other avenues in which this money might be more profitably expended. We on this side are more concerned about the plight of the unfortunate unemployed than are honorable members opposite. We are genuinely desirous of giving to the workless an opportunity to make provision for their wives and families. That object would be achieved by undertaking works of a national character that would confer some benefit upon humanity, not by preparing for warfare, the result of which would be the destruction of humanity itself.
– A point that is continually emphasized by supporters of the Government, and one from which we do not dissociate ourselves, is that it is desirable that government expenditure should be devoted to reproductive purposes. Certain undertakings for the provision of employment, such as tho chipping of grass, the making of roads, are often condemned on the ground that they are not reproductive. The first assurance usually sought by treasurers from bodies that seek financial assistance is that the work proposed to be embarked upon is of a reproductive character. If the works that the Government is proposing cannot be shown to be reproductive, surprise need not be felt if they do not receive cordial support from other governments. These defence works are not in that category. On the contrary, they are intended for destructive purposes. This must be the conclusion of all those who view impartially this proposed additional expenditure. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has argued that this expenditure is bound up with the adequate defence of this country. Defence is a very wide term. The honorable member is entitled to his opinion, but he will, I take it, recognize that there ii- another aspect of this matter, and that is, nhat at a time like this, when the activities of all governments are supposed to be directed towards the maintenance ot world peace, the expenditure of a considerable additional sum on military preparedness is hardly warranted. Another consideration, that has an important bearing on this discussion is the need for the establishment of friendly relations between Australia and other countries. This morning in the debate on another subject, reference was made to an “ open go “ in trade relations. I suggest that we are all in a position to admit that wars have their roots in trade disputes. That view was strenuously contested by certain sections during the last Great War, but now that we are able to view that great conflict dispassionately, its commercial origin and purpose must be recognized. We are now talking of sending trade representatives to the East with the object of expanding our trade with China and Japan. Is it not extraordinary that we should, at the same time, also have this intense propaganda for additional defence measures because of the alleged possibility of invasion by Japan or some other Eastern country? This propaganda is occurring in all directions, in order to bolster up the arguments that have been adduced for strengthening the defences of this country. It should be remembered that behind all this activity are the elements that hope to reap some financial reward from expenditure on armaments. These people have at their disposal ample funds for the dissemination of their views. They have behind them all the organs of publicity, which they are using to the fullest extent to’ induce the Government to increase substantially the defence vote. This great advertising stunt is definitely intended to maintain a public agitation sufficiently strong to justify the proposals of the Government. I note that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) approves this additional expenditure. Doubtless -he has iu mind certain definite advantages that will accrue to his employers, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which will be in a position to provide much of the material required for war purposes. Honorable members’ of my party do not support this expenditure, and we are not disposed to countenance this form of propaganda to assist the munition makers of this country or any one else. We believe that the best way to demonstrate our friendly relations with other countries is to. cease this war talk, and to devote our energies towards making adequate provision for the employment of our people, instead of adding to the taxpayers’ burden by increasing defence expenditure. I do not suggest that we accepted at its face value all that was said about the last war being a war to end war. Indeed, subsequent events, particularly this more recent propaganda, seem to give the lie to that assertion. The honorable member for Macquarie has said that the people of Lithgow, and particularly the employees of the Small Arms Factory, would entirely dissociate themselves from our views on defence expenditure. I put it to the honorable member for Macquarie that the Small Arms Factory can be fully employed in the production of articles of a more useful character, apart altogether from the manufacture of arms and munitions. Its capacity in this respect was fully demonstrated during the regime of the Scullin Government. I well remember that the factory was manufacturing considerable quantities of useful articles including shears, cutters, cinematograph appliances, and various other engineering requirements. We contend that already adequate provision is made foi’ the defence of Australia, and that the activities of Lithgow Small Arms Factory might very well be extended to the production of such articles as I have mentioned. So far from complaining, the employees of the factory would applaud any such proposal, because I can readily appreciate that in the economic struggle through which they, in common with other sections of the community, are passing, their chief concern is to be assured of remunerative employment. They would much prefer to be employed in the manufacture of the articles I have mentioned than in the manufacture of weapons of war. Theirs is a bread and butter problem, but their position should not be exploited for war purposes.
An attempt is being made to justify this expenditure on the ground that it will provide increased employment. Though I am aware that such a proposal would not be entertained, the Government might, with equal justification, contend that the establishment, of a cocaine factory would be warranted because of the employment it would provide. We must face the realities in this discussion; Seeing around us so much evidence of the effects of the last war, we should hesitate before embarking on expenditure which might lead to another conflict. I did not take an active part in that war, but when I visited the battlefields seven years afterwards, I saw enough to convince me that those who faced all its horrors are not likely to view with any equanimity the prospect of another great conflict. I realized fully what our soldiers went through then, and I now wonder that so many of them are able to tolerate the conditions that are being imposed upon them to-day. Their fortitude under adverse conditions is a marvellous tribute to their character. I meet numbers of these men nearly every day of the week. They approach me with request’s to do what I can to assist them, and from what I know of their conditions, I am satisfied that since adequate defence provision is already made, the best gesture which the Government could make would be to provide Other avenues for their employment. Competition in industry has reached such a stage that now only able bodied men have a chance of employment. A few minutes ago, my colleague, the honorable member for Dalley - (Mr. Rosevear), showed me a letter which he had received from seven limbless soldiers formerly employed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, who were thrown out of work when that establishment was handed over to private enterprise. These men have wandered about the streets of Sydney vainly looking for a job. It is the duty of the Government to give its attention to this matter, and to spare no effort to remove the disabilities which have been imposed upon these men. Commonwealth governments have incurred heavy expenditure on sending delegations to disarmament conferences. The ex-member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) attended one disarmament conference at Geneva, as also did the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and some years ago, Senator Sir George Pearce went to the United States ‘ of America on a similar mission at a cost to this country of about fS.000. Apparently, now there is a. different spirit abroad. Propaganda is being indulged in for the purpose of increasing expenditure ou defence. Members of my party claim that adequate defence provision is already made; and that there is no justification for the proposed extra expenditure.
– The speech just delivered By the honorable member for Wést Sydney (Mr. Beasley) will give scant comfort to the people of Lithgow. The honorable gentleman said that during the term of the Scullin Government, the Small Arms Factory was engaged in the manufacture of a number of articles of commercial use, and Suggested that the additional expenditure now contemplated will .mean that the activities of the factory will be confined to the manufacture of munitions of war. That is not so. The fact that the Government is proposing an increase in the defence vote does not mean thai the manufacture at Lithgow of the articles’ mentioned by the honorable member for West Sydney will be1 curtailed. The factory will continue to supply ns many Orders as can be obtained. If the honorable member for West Sydney would read the Lithgow newspaper, ho would realize that the opinion of the people of that town regarding the Government’s defence measures faithfully reflects the opinion of the people of Australia. Local opinion is that, in recent years, the sum provided for the maintenance of the Small Arms Factory has been totally inadequate to ensure the, employment of skilled operatives whose services would bo of great value to the Commonwealth in time of war. If the honorable member for West Sydney were to speak to the people of Lithgow as he did this afternoon, he would soon be made to realize how incorrectly he interprets their views on the subject of defence.
.- The attempt to justify a programme to provide for military preparedness on the ground that it will give employment, is discreditable. During the war economic conscription was applied iri .order to force men to go to the front. Now the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) tries to justify defence expenditure on the ground that it will provide employment. Recently the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) advocated economic conscription to get young, men into the army by saying that some form of preference might be given to those who joined the forces under the new defence scheme. If the people of Australia are expected to pay a huge additional bill for preparation for war, at least some indication should be given as to the direction from which danger is anticipated. We understand that the League of Nations has, to a degree, removed the possibility of war. Australia has no potential enemy in the Pacific-
– Prior to ‘the last war, we did not know who would be our enemies.
– I contend that we did. The cry that we should prepare for war is similar to that raised in Great Britain, France and Germany prior to 1914. Germany and France, because of their geographical con tiguity, declared that military preparedness was essential, and Great Britain claimed that it must have a navy strong enough to defend its shores and trade routes. It is now proposed to keep peace by preparing for another war. I am inclined to believe that the Government is bowing the knee to popular clamour. This stunt has, no doubt, been engineered by the Associated Press in. Sydney, backed up by certain imperialist organizations there, which are using certain well-known politicians as spear heads for their attack upon the people of Australia. This explains ‘the unusual course adopted recently by the Minister for Defence. If members of my party had asked questions in this Parliament yesterday as to the Government’s intentions regarding defence, we should have been informed that it is not usual to disclose government policy in reply to questions. But the Minister for Defence and his colleagues were so stirred regarding the subject of defence that over a week ago the Minister attended a luncheon at the Millions Club in Sydney, and there expounded the Government’s defence policy before announcing it to its own party and to the Parliament.
Honorable members tell us that men should be encouraged to join the defence forces. But what are Ave doing for our soldiers in the last Avar? Eight limbless soldiers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard were thrown out of employment when the yard was handed over to private enterprise. We are asked to vote over £17,000 to the Repatriation Department for the care of sick and wounded ex-soldiers, while an additional sum of £1,462,000 is to be spent in preparation for “the next Avar. The Government is, apparently, panic-stricken. If increased expenditure on defence can be justified on the ground that it Will provide more employment, Ave could similarly justify the encouragement of sly grog-shops, two-up schools, and cocaine factories. The best way to encourage men to be prepared to fight is to make their living conditions worth fighting for.
– I cannot refrain from commenting on the remarks that have fallen from those honorable members opposite who pose as champions of the returned soldiers. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) has indulged in a tirade against the Government on the ground that it has not given proper treatment to these men; but Avhat was the attitude of the party to which he and. his colleagues belong, when the last war occurred? Did it not refer to the soldiers as “six bob a day murderers”? -The CHAIRMAN.- Order!
– I ask that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) be called upon to withdraw that remark, and apologize. We have the greatest respect for themen who went to the war, and we are trying to do our best for them.
– If the honorable member for Wentworth attributed the statement to honorable members in this House, it must bc withdrawn.
– I did not refer to an honorable member of this House. The statement was made by a member of the Lang party in New South Wales.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has merely aggravated his insult, instead of withdrawing his remark and apologizing.
– If the honorable member referred to a member of this committee his remark must be withdrawn ; but if it was applied to somebody outside I cannot order its withdrawal.
– I have already stated that I did not attribute the remark to a member of this Parliament; but I now definitely apply it to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, Ward), who has just called me a “six bob a day murderer “. I ask that he be required to withdraw his remark and apologize.
– I said that the honorable member was a military “copper “.
– I consider those remarks highly offensive, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I did not hear those words, but if they were used they must bc withdraVn. Personally offensive remarks are distinctly disorderly.
– I withdraw them.
– The honorable member for Dalley said that certain ex-soldiers who had been employed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard had been thrown out of work ; but I have not overlooked the fact that when the Scullin Government was in office, retrenchment in various public departments, snch as the Post Office, resulted in numbers of returned soldiers being put out of work. Among them were limbless soldiers, and those men have not been reinstated.
– My Government conserved every possible job for returned soldiers in Commonwealth departments.
– The honorable member for Dalley took exception to the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie, who pointed out that employment would be provided by the passage of these Estimates; but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned last evening that unless money was expended on promoting the work of extracting oil from coal, Australia would be in a helpless position in time of war, so far as oil fuel supplies are concerned, but no objection was raised by the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable’ member for Dalley put a pertinent question when he asked whether it was advisable to put on boxing gloves to convince one’s neighbour that one’s intentions were peaceful. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) questioned whether arming to the teeth would be likely to be taken as a peaceful gesture. I reply that it would be inadvisable for that honorable member to venture into the underworld unless he was able to use hisfists or had other means of protection. Honorable members opposite should put their pacifist ideas into operation in Arnheim Land, and thus possibly relievethe Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), who is in an embarrassing situation, because of the hostile attitudeof the aborigines in that part of Australia. Much propaganda has been indulged in during the discussion of these Estimates. The expenditure of this money will not only provide employment, but will also assist development, promote the stability of the country, and’ assure protection against invasion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £15,420, and Department of Health, £4,950 - agreed to.
REPATRI ATION DEPARTMEN T.
Proposed vote, £17,934.
.- I regret that no provision is made in this vote for necessary work at the Randwick Hospital. Having been a patient in that institution, I have personal knowledge of the need for improvements there. In February last, I drew attention to a number of alterations that were required. Many of the buildings are in urgent need of repair. Some of the beds in the wards have not been painted for years. Chipped enamel on hospital bedsis not hygienic, and the hospital authorities would like to see this work put in hand without delay. They do not ask that any major works be undertaken, but only that the buildings and contents be reasonably maintained. Unfortunately, there is every prospect of this hospital being required for many years: I am afraid that there will be no scarcity of patients. I should be glad to indicate to the Minister at the hospital some of the work which requires attention.
.- I have tried all methods of evading the necessity for bringing up in this House the matter of the engagement of labour at the Repatriation Mental Block, Callan Park, New South Wales, for which the sum of £6,720 is provided. Some time ago when the Government allocated a certain sum of money for the improvement of the aviation landing ground at Mascot, it decided to employ local men for the work. I ask that a similar policy be pursued in connexion with work done at Callan Park. When men have been required for work there, the call-up has generally taken place at Burwood, about ten miles away. Local men have complained to me of this, and I ask the Minister to look into it with a view to giving them preference.
– I have seen the Repatriation Hospital at Randwick on many occasions and noticed the necessity for some of the repairs mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The necessary work will be undertaken as soon as funds are available.
– Could not a small sum be included in these Estimates for these minor jobs?
– Some provision may be made in the Supplementary Estimates.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to the engagement of men for work at the Callan Park Hospital. The Government decided that all work at that institution should be performed by returned . soldiers, and informed the Government of New South Wales, which engages the labour on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that in the engagement of men the whole of the western suburbs of Sydney should be regarded as the field from which they should bo drawn. Burwood is one of those suburbs, and I understand that all districts are taken in turn. I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
.- These Estimates provide for the expenditure of £17,934 on hospital accommodation for some of the wreckage of the last war. That sum is not sufficient for the purpose. I know of many instances of” returned soldiers having been refused treatment at these hospitals on the ground that the provision of such treatment might be regarded: as tantamount to an admission of responsibility for their disabilities. On occasions, men about to enter the operating theatre at the Randwick Hospital have suddenly been transferred to a public hospital for this reason. I ask for more generous hospital treatment of returned soldiers, even if the men concerned have been denied war pensions. The health and physique of men who actively participated in the Great War must have been undermined to some extent by their experiences at the front, and I hope that more adequate provision will be made for their treatment.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Department of Commerce, £14,770 - agreed to.
Proposed vote - Commonwealth Railways, £63,000 - agreed to.
Proposed vote, £830,840.
– I draw the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) to the unsatisfactory condition of ‘the post office in Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. It is generally regarded as a disgrace to the City of Melbourne. This building occupies a valuable site in the heart of Melbourne, where it is surrounded by new, modern buildings. At its rear in Elizabethstreet is a building generally described as “ the tin shed.”- This shed is an eye-sore. Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether the Government proposes to expend any money on making this portion of the general post office less unsightly.
.- Probably no public utility is of greater service to the people in outback districts than the telephone. In times of sickness, or in the event of an accident, a telephone is invaluable. In the wheatgrowing belt of Western Australia the State Government has spent about £670,000 on the construction of a railway to open up new country, and one would have thought that the Commonwealth Government would have followed quickly with telephone facilities for the settlements along the line. Last year 200,000 bags of wheat were railed from one siding along this new railway. When telephone facilities have been sought for this area, the responsible officer in Western Australia has rejected the applications on the ground that, it would not pay the department to provide them. I admit that that is the position at present ; but experience has shown that telephone lines which have been provided for districts opened up by railway extensions have soon proved a paying proposition for the department. Persons who go out into the back country to increase production should be assisted in every manner possible. They contribute considerable sums to the revenues of the Commonwealth through the customs and the post office, and some responsibility devolves on the Commonwealth to assist them. I therefore hope that . the Postmaster-General will give favorable consideration to the provision of telephone facilities in these areas. I do not ask that. telephones be provided at every small settlement along the railway ; but they certainly should be supplied to the more populous centres.
.- In recent years there has been too much cheeseparing in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I am inclined to think that the provision made this . year is not sufficient. A department so profitable should be willing to give the people better service. I know of instances in which residents have ‘been prepared to pay for the services they have sought; but where the cost of installing a telephone exceeds £25, they have been required to contribute the cost in excess of that sum. Previously the amount was £20. In my opinion, that condition should be removed, or, at least, the Deputy Postmaster-General in each State should ‘be given some discretionary power. I know of cases in which the provision of these facilities would have been a sound business proposition for the department, but, because of the restriction to which I have referred, nothing could be done. Such a ‘policy is unsound. I urge that greater provision be made to assist outback settlers. Mr. A. GREEN (Kalgoorlie) [4.15].- I have had discussions with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) and, having some knowledge of the department which he administers, I know the difficulties under which he labours. I know that he must cut his coat according to his cloth, and, in this case, the amount of cloth is regulated by the Treasurer. However, seeing that Australia has “ turned the corner,” I hope that there will be an extension of necessary telephone services, which are of prior importance, and also that the department will proceed with the erection of ‘presentable postal buildings, particularly in the wheat towns of Western Australia. These towns differ from those in the wheat areas of the eastern States in that they are of recent growth. In the east, when the post offices were operated by the States, most towns were provided with adequate buildings, but so’ quickly has population increased in some of the Western Australian wheat towns, that the official building programme has not kept up with it. In some districts, where no wheat was grown ten years ago, 150,000 bags are now loaded each season at the sidings., Usually the post office is the worst public building in the town, and is under the control of a non-official postmaster. Very often the post office is the only Commonwealth building in a town, and quite unworthy of the federal authority. I trust that funds will be made available for replacing buildings of this kind.
.- I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) to give consideration to the need for providing suitable telephone communication between Hobart and the principal towns of the west coast of Tasmania. I do not suppose that, in the whole of Australia, there is another community of the size of that in the mining settlement of Queenstown, with its population of between 7,000 and 8,000, which is not in communication by telephone with the capital city of ‘the State, and other large centres. The people of Queenstown, as well as those of Hobart, have made frequent representations, both to the present Government and to the previous Government, to have this disability removed. Their case is the stronger by reason of the fact that a new road has been constructed between Hobart and the west coast, and the traffic is constantly growing. Moreover, along this road there are several isolated settlements entirely without telephone communication. Much smaller settlements on the mainland enjoy the benefits of telephone communication, so that the request of the Tasmanian west coast settlements is well worthy of. consideration by the department.
.- A great deal of expense is incurred by the Postal Department in renting buildings for housing members of its staff, when, by erecting buildings for itself, or by putting another storey on the post office, the whole of the staff might be satisfactorily accommodated on government premises. Another point is that in some towns post offices erected 60 or 70 years ago have never been altered or enlarged, although, in the meantime, those towns have become busy commercial centres. There is a post, office at Stockton in which one could not “ swing a cat,” and the office at Islington is little better. In the latter office all telegraphic business has to be transmitted over the. telephone. It is time something was done to provide better facilities at. such places.
.- I desire to urge upon the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) the necessity for re-erecting the post office at Bangalow. About three years ago, this office, and several other buildings in the town, were destroyed by fire. Most of the other buildings have since been replaced, but the post office site remains unoccupied, except by the ruins of the former office, while the department is paying £2 2s. a week for a rented building in which to carry on its business. The foundations of the old building are practically undamaged, and, if the rent now being paid for temporary premises were capitalised at 5 per cent., a sum would be obtained which would enable a suitable building to be erected and properly maintained. The present temporary premises are entirely unsuitable, and are not even conveniently situated for either the townspeople or visitors. To reach them it is necessary to cross the railway line; and go down a side street, and the building, even when found, bears no mark to indicate that it is a post office. This matter has been before the department for some time. I first took it up twelve months after the previous building had been destroyed, and have been making periodic representations on the subject ever since. Bangalow has many substantial brick buildings in its business centre, and that the premises which house the post-office should be such an eyesore reflects little credit on the Commonwealth. The Bangalow business men’s association has taken the matter up, and the townspeople feel so keenly about it that, on two occasions, they have held public meetings to discuss it. The first one I attended, and subsequently, when it was found that the Government -did not propose to >accede to the request of the residents, an indignation meeting was held at which so many people were present that it was necessary to have the meeting in the pavilion at the local show ground. The reply sent by the department to requests for action is hardly satisfactory, as is shown by the following extract: -
Under existing conditions, however, it is regretted that justification could not bc shown for the expense which -would be involved in acceding to their wishes; and steps arc accordingly being taken to renew the lease of the present premises for a further period. As mentioned in my letter of 25th July, it Ls the intention to arrange for the matter to receive , further consideration when the estimates for the next financial year (1934-35) are being prepared. “This matter should not be shelved for another twelve months. Last year the postal department made a profit of about £1,000,000, which is entirely opposed to the principle that the post office should not be a taxing machine. Its purpose is to give service to the public at. the lowest cost. A. portion of that profit was contributed by towns such as Bangalow, which are of sufficient importance to have an official post- office. I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter so that, among the buildings to be erected this year by the department, may be the new post office at Bangalow.
.- On Sundays and holidays the settlement of East Hills, down at Bankstown on the George river, has a population of about 15,000 people; but this locality is without telephone communication. About six weeks ago ,a person met with an accident there, and it was necessary to go two miles to telephone for an ambulance. I ask the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) to take steps to see that .a more convenient telephone is provided. Also at East Hills are two or three places to which the PostmasterGeneral, at my request, granted the concession of postal bags, but those places are still without telephones. I should like the Postmaster-General to have telephones installed in those places. I thank the honorable gentleman, for granting the extra postal ‘facilities at South Strathfield in respect of which I made representations. The Minister for Health (Mr. Marr) promised me that certain representations ‘that I made to him would be considered favorably when finance was available. I hope that the honorable gentleman will now redeem his promise. I have made application to the PostmasterGeneral for additional postal facilities at Auburn, Lidcombe, Belmore and Guildford, in which districts the intelligent people of the Commonwealth live. I was told that lack of finance made it impossible to grant my requests. But that excuse cannot now be made by the Postmaster-General. I therefore ask that honorable gentleman to provide the facilities for which I asked. I also heard the honorable gentleman make a couple of promises to “ the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). I suggest that, in’ the circumstances, these promises to grant extra facilities in the divisions of Reid and Darling, should be given precedence.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £22,000.
.-] . should like some information as to how this money is to be expended, particularly in view of the proposal which the Government is considering to hand this territory over to private companies for exploitation. Last year an amount of £6,660 was spent on the Northern Territory, but this year £22,000 is to be ‘spent there.
– I have a long list of works on which this money is to be spent. The items are, in most cases, small ; but I shall read a number of them which are typical -
– Is this money being spent in the area -that it is proposed to hand over to private companies
– The Government hopes that private companies may be induced to take up some of this country, but they have not done so up to date, and it is necessary for us to carry on with the job. The stock are in the area and must be cared for. The Government will spend -this money in the hope that some return will be obtained for it. Other items On the list are -
I take it that honorable members do not want all the details of the list, for some of the proposed works are estimated to cost only about £100. The list that I have read is typical of the kind of work that is to be put in hand.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - federal Capital Territory, £115,200 - agreed to. ‘
That therebe grunted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1933-34 for the purposes of “Additions,New Works, Buildings, &c”, a sum not exceeding £1,624,880.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Perkins do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the billbe now road a second time.
This bill is a comprehensive measure which incorporates all of the special budget proposals except those relating to income tax rates, which must be made the subject of a separate measure. The measure is designed to give effect to the proposals that were announced in the budget speech, which cover a wide range of legislation; for the purpose of con venience the bill has been divided into ten parts, namely: -
I propose to outline the main features of the measure, leaving detailed information on individual clauses to be dealt with in committee.
Last year there was a reduction of land tax by 331/3 per cent. The bill provides for a reduction to 50 per cent, of the former rates and the relief to taxpayers in the assessments for 1933-34 will be £400,000.
The chief alterations in respect of income tax relate to life insurance companies and overseas shipping. Provision is made for an important variation in the basis of assessment of life insurance companies. There is tobe an exemption from tax of a company which, according to the actuarial valuation of its insurance liabilities, is not making a profit. In cases where a profit is being made, there is provision for a deduction in the assessment of an amount equal to 4 per cent, of that part of the valuation of liabilities at the end of the year in which the assessable income of the company was derived, which bears to that valuation the same proportion as the value, at that date, of assets from which the company derives assessable income bears to the aggregate of the value at that date of all the assets of the company! Owing to differences in the accumulation rate of interest at which companies have valued their liabilities, a simple method is provided for converting all the different bases to a common 4 per cent, basis. A definition of “ valuation of liabilities “ is also included.
To some extent, these alterations as affecting life insurance companies are directed to effect a reduction of interest rates charged to industry.
Questions have been asked by honorable members as to the possible effect of the proposal to the Government in this regard. In the Daily Telegraph of today there appears a statement that the Australian Mutual Provident Societyhas indicated that it will reduce its interest rates on mortgages from 5-1/2 per cent, to 41/2 per cent., the former rate of 5 per cent, that was charged to public bodies being reduced to 41/4. per cent. That is the first fruits of the budget. The existing taxation is forcing some of the weaker companies into an actuarially unsound position. An alteration of the law is therefore necessary. The estimated reduction of tax from these proposals is £710,000. The Australian Mutual Provident Society estimates that the amount involved in the relief that it proposes to give will be £277,000.
In the case of overseas shipping companies, the tax is at present an arbitrary basis of assessment representing 71/2 per cent, of total receipts in respect of goods, &c, shipped in Australia. It is proposed to reduce this arbitrary rate from 71/2 per cent, to 5 per cent., and the estimated reduction of tax will be £25,000.
Part IV. of the bill, which is very lengthy, contains proposed amendments of the several sales tax assessment acts, to give effect to thefollowing: -
With regard to No. 1, the principal exemptions may be divided broadly into : -
The further exemptions affecting primary industry will have the effect of exempting from sales tax practically every item used by primary producers.
Regarding No. 2, under the law as it now stands, “ registered “ persons, that is, wholesale merchants and manufacturers, are not required to pay sales tax on goods sold to Government departments. The provision, however, did not allow freedom from tax where the person who sold goods to Government departments had already borne the tax either in the purchase price or when importing the goods.
– Does that include sales to municipalities?
– I do not think that it does. To meet these cases, the law was amended as from the 5th October, 1932, to authorize the Commissioner to refund the tax already borne on goods sold . to Government departments, provided that tax was excluded from the sale price. It is now proposed to amend the law so as to grant the necessary exemption in these cases and avoid refunds.
Concerning No. 3, it may he stated that these assets, as distinct from land and buildings, are “ goods “, and as such are subject to sales tax when sold by registered persons. In many cases where the businesses of taxpayers have been sold as going concerns, reconstructed, or wound up, liability to sales tax has been avoided’ by so framing the agreements of transfer as to cause the whole of the assets, including assets which are not goods, to be sold for a lump sum consideration. In such cases, there is no amount for which the goods, as distinct from other assets, are sold, and liability to tax does not arise. When, however, the goods are sold for a specified amount, sales tax is payable in respect of thatamount. It is considered that freedom from tax should be allowed in respect of sales of plant in all such cases, and also in respect of sales, of similar goods by persons who have taken possession thereof under bills of sale.
As to No. 4, it is proposed to continue the exemption of those items which were temporarily exempted under the Financial Relief Act of 1932. The items in question were mentioned in detail in the budget speech.
Provision is also made for the reduction of the rate of sales tax from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent., and the reduction will operate on the date on which the amending, legislation receives the royal assent.
The annual reductions of taxation as the result of these proposals will be -
This is the largest single item of taxation remission in the budget proposals, and it will be spread among the whole population.
Part V. makes provision for the repeal of the entertainments tax, which will involve a loss of revenue of £140,000 a year. If it is so desired by the States concerned, the Commonwealth will continue to collect State entertainments tax where it is at present doing so.
Part VI. deals with invalid and old-age pensions, and provision is incorporated in the bill for the restoration of the reduction in the rates of pensions which were made ‘by the Financial Emergency Act 1932, and, as the result, about 38 per cent, of the pensioners will have their pensions increased by an amount up to 2s. 6d. per week. In addition, the limit of income, including pension, has been increased from 27s. 6d. to 30s. a week. The pensioners concerned will receive an aggregate benefit of £635,000 a year.
When the budget speech was delivered it was announced that the pensions law would be amended so that, in future, the rate of pensions will he varied automatically iu accord a nee with the rise or fall in the retail price index number for food and groceries, provided that the maximum pension shall not be greater than £1 a week nor less than 17s. 6d. a week. The necessary amendment is made in the bill now under discussion, and the following scale for determining the maximum rate of pension is provided: -
The effect of these amendments will be that the rate of all pensions will be varied by 6d. a week between the minimum and maximum proposed for every increase or decrease of 100 units in the index number. When the amendments included in this bill become law, it is intended immediately to increase all pensions by 2s. 6d. a week, provided that the rate shall not exceed 17s. 6d. a week. The result of this will be to bring about a email over-payment in the case of a limited class of pensioners until their cases are reviewed, and the exact pension determined in accordance with the new provisions. Th6 cases relate to persons whose rate of pension is affected to a slight extent by income of less than <2s. 6d. a week, or by the possession of a property of small value. To review the pensions before making the increase would cause delay. These pensioners must, therefore, expect to have their pensions reduced when the proper amount of the pension for which they are eligible has been determined. The aggregate amount of the over-payment will not be large, and provision will be made in supplementary estimates to cover the over-payment.
The Financial Emergency Act 1932 introduced a new feature into the pensions law, by charging the estate of a pensioner at his death with the amount of pension, paid after the 12th November, 1932, as a debt due to the Commonwealth. Since that act was passed the Government has decided that, where a pensioner died before the 31st December, 1932, or where he surrendered his pension before that date, there would be no charge on his estate for the pension paid, and that, where a pension was surrendered after the 31st December, 1932, the pension paid between the 12th October, 1932, and the 31st December, 1932, would be excluded from the Commonwealth charge. The necessary amendments, with retrospective effect, are made by the present bill.
Under the present law encumbrances on the real property of a pensioner existing at the 12th October, 1932, or to which the Commissioner has subsequently granted consent, and encumbrances on any property of a pensioner created bona fide for value before the pension was granted, have priority over the Commonwealth charge. The bill extends such priority to all encumbrances on personal property whether created before or after the grant of a pension. Moreover, the consent of the Commissioner will not bo necessary to enable a pensioner to borrow moneys on the security of his personal property. To protect the security for the Commonwealth charge, the Financial Emergency Act 1932 requires every .pensioner to furnish an undertaking that he will not mortgage or transfer his real property without the consent of the Commissioner. It also makes it an offence for any person to accept a mortgage or transfer without the prior consent of the Commissioner, and it voids any mortgage or transfer made in contravention of the act. The present bill repeals the provision voiding mortgages or transfers.
Careful consideration has been given by the Government to the effect of the recent property provisions of the pensions act, with the object of ascertaining whether they were operating harshly and called for amendment. The conclusion arrived at was that the law was based on sound principles, and that adequate provisions existed for granting relief in cases of hardship. It is interesting to note that since the Government’s policy in this direction was announced, no fewer than 12,074 pensions have been voluntarily surrendered, and that the claimants for pensions have numbered only 31,500 as compared with 44,750 for the corresponding period of the previous year, a reduction of 13,250. These figures are a clear indication that in the past pensions had been paid to a large number of persons whose circumstances, including the circumstances of their relatives, were such that although they were eligible for, they were not in need of, a pension.
After the passing of the Financial Emergency Act, the Government decided to exclude from income for the purposes of the pensions act, the value of sustenance or food relief to the unemployed, or wages for work in lieu thereof; also to exclude miners’ phthisis allowance from income for the purpose of determining whether a person is eligible for a pension in excess of 15s. a week. Provision is made in the bill to give effect to these decisions.
Other amendments, mainly of a drafting character, ar© designed to clarify the intention of the law and these will bo explained in detail when the bill is being considered in committee.
– “Will any allowance received by old miners in the way of pipe and tobacco money be excluded from income for the purposes of the pensions act?
– Any money paid by way of allowance for miners’ phthisis is excluded.
– The case of the Collie fund has been before the department for months.
– I am not sure whether that and similar funds will be excluded. However, that matter can be investigated.
Part VII. of the bill deals with war pensions. When, r.he Financial Emergency Bill was under consideration in 1931, a soldiers’ committee was set up to advise the late Government as to what, reductions should be made in war pensions in order to effect the saving desired. The recommendation of that committee was acted upon by the then Government, and limited the ‘reductions entirely to dependants of deceased soldiers and to dependants of ex-soldiers who were drawing pensions.
– There was a reduction in respect of disabled soldiers who had lost one eye.
– That was not the intention of the act. These recommendations were made by the soldiers’ committee, and the Government accepted them.
Pensions in respect of disabled soldiers - their own pensions - war widows, orphan children, and widowed mothers - provided they became widowed within three years of soldier’s decease - were not subject to any reduction. The pensions of wives of incapacitated ex-soldiers were reduced 22$ per cent. The bill provides that the reduction shall be 10 per cent, instead of 22-^ per cent. This affects 57,69S wives, and the annual cost of this concession will bc £136,000. In the case of other dependants, the reduction was made of 22-£ per cent., and the pension was granted only if the pensioner was without adequate means of support. This reduction operated harshly in many cases, and the bill provides for the removal of the 221/2 per cent, reduction. The pensions in this case will thus be restored in full, provided pensioners are without adequate means of support. This means that the pensions will be payable where the personal income is less than 30s. per week, or where the pensioner’s property, other than a home, is of less value than £200. The number of pensions in this group is 15,138, and the annual cost of the restoration will be £111,000.
Under the various regulations relating to cost of living adjustments, in conjunction with further reductions under the Financial Emergency Act, the salaries of officers have been reduced, compared with salary standards of the 1st July, 1930, by £42 on account of the cost of living adjustment, plus a further reduction in real wages under the Financial Emergency Act which varies from approximately 1 per cent, to 24 per cent. The hill provides for a restoration of the reduction in real wages - that is. the reduc tion in excess of that due to the cost of living of -
In the case of members of the Military, Naval . and Air Forces, adjustments will ho made corresponding as far as practicable to the adjustment in respect of other members of the Service. There are also consequential alterations which will be explained in committee. The cost of these restorations will be approximately £550,000 a year. The proportionate benefit will be mainly derived by the lower-paid ranks of the Service. For instance, in cases where salaries were paid up to £250 as on the 1st July, 1930, all reductions imposed over and above the cost of living reduction will be fully restored. The following table shows the effect of the proposed legislation in the case of adult males : -
It is not intended to interfere with t he operation of the cost of living adjustment as provided for under Public Service Regulation 106a. Provision is made in the bill for this method of adjustment to apply to all salaries. Should, however, the cost of living fall so as to warrant another reduction next year, such reduction willbe first absorbed by any existing reduction there may bo over and above the cost’ of living reduction.
Part IX. of the hill deals with pensions to officers. Under the Financial Emergency Act 1931, superannuation pensions were reduced by 20 per cent, of the share of the pension payable by the Commonwealth. Owing to the advanced ages of many of the pensioners, the Commonwealth share of the pension is much more than £1 for £1, consequently, the deduction is greater than 10 per pent, of the full pension, the average reduction being about 18 per cent. In many cases, the effect was to reduce the superannuation pension below that of an old-age pension. For instance, a widow formerly in receipt of a superannuation pension of £52 per ann’um may now be receiving less than £42 per annum. The cost -of this restoration is estimated at about £67,000 a year. The bill also provides for restoration of judges’ pensions. = Provision is made for the several parts and sections of this bill - other than part 1 and section 19 - to commence on such dates as are fixed by proclamation. In the case of sales tax, the reduction in the rates will take effect on the date on which the amending legislation receives the Royal Assent, and the further exemptions will take effect following the proclamation.
– The sales tax exemptions should be put into force immediately, because trade is being held up.
– I stated in the budget speech when the exemptions would operate. If they were made retrospective, considerable difficulty would arise in administration.
In the case of restorations of reductions of salaries and pensions,, the same principle is being incorporated in the bill as was followed when the reductions were originally effected. The restoration of these reductions will be applied to the first pay day after the commencement of the respective sections in pursuance of proclamation. No time will be lost in issuing the proclamation, and I trust the bill will be passed without delay in order that the concessions provided for may take effect as early as possible.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the expending of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
House adjourned at 5.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– No information is held regarding the gold’ holdings of all Australian banks. The Commonwealth Bank lias, however, furnished the following information regarding the note issue department : -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Whether he will make available any reports furnished by the Director-General of Health (Dr. Cumpston) or Dr. Cilento relating to tho danger of disease being introduced into the Commonwealth following the inauguration of the United Kingdom-Australia air mail service?
– There is only one typed copy of each report, but I shall be -very glad to make these available at the Department of Health for the honorable member’s perusal.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - l and 2. It is understood, from representations received from the Limbless Soldiers Association of New South Wales, that eight members of the association employed at Cockatoo Island could not be taken over when Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Limited, assumed control of the dockyard.
The position of these men has been receiving continuous attention, but up to the present, owing to the considerable number of persons already registered for employment, no opening in which the Commonwealth Government could suitably utilize their services has been found.
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the exact statutory authority under which the Tariff Board makes its basis for assessing the rates of duties that it suggests in its recommendations to the Minister ?
– The Tariff Board Act 1921-1929.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that all public hearings by the United States Tariff Board Commission are heard at Washington, and that the Canadian Tariff Board holds its public hearings at Ottawa, will the Minister consider the advisability of transferring all public hearings by the Commonwealth Tariff Board to Canberra, and provide for the continuity of proceedings in each case?
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Hashe read an article appearing in the Sydney Sun of the 4th instant to the effect that as an outcome of the reduction of1d. per lb. customs duty and the removal of the 10 per cent, primage on tea, the public cannot expect a reduction in the retail price of this commodity; if so, will he inform -the House as to whether the Government intended this reduction to be a relief to the general public?
– My attention has been drawn to the press statement to which the honorable member refers. I indicated in the course of the budget speech on the 4th October, that the Government expects that the remission of customs and primage duties on tea will be passed on to the public.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the fact that unless a pensioner makes application for an increase, in accordance with the regulations, the pensions department continues to pay the reduced rate of pension, . and that many of the pensioners are not able to make the necessary representations or are ignorant of their right to an increase, will the Government issue instructions to the pensions department to increase all pensions automatically by 2s.6d. per week without making it necessary for pensioners to make application for such an increase?
– As announced in the budget speech, it is the intention of the Government to increase all pensions below 17s. 6d. per week by 2s. 6d. per week, provided that no pension shall exceed l7s. 6d. per week. It will not be necessary for any pensioner to make application for this increase.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government has yet taken any action to carry out the recommendations contained in the report of Sir Herbert Gepp upon the gold-mining industry, which was submitted to the conference of Commonwealth and Statu Ministers held in June last?
– As mining comes “within the purview of the States, the proper course was to bring Sir Herbert Gepp’s report on the gold-mining industry to the notice of the respective States. Action to that end was taken at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in June last, but the States did not express a desire to co-operate on the lines proposed by Sir Herbert Gepp.
e. - On the 5 th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331006_reps_13_141/>.