13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Sydney “ Sun “ : Comments on Par- liamentary allowance decision.
Debate resumed from the 8th November (vide page 4247), on motion by Mr. Ward-
That the printerand publishers ofThe Sunday Sun newspaper, having been adjudged guilty of contempt, they now be called to the bar of this House forthwith in order that the House may demand from them an explanation of their conduct, and, if necessary, deal with them as it thinks fit.
– This motion follows upon one previously passed by this House. The antecedent motion had the unanimous support of members of this assembly.
I think it may be said that members of Parliament do not resent political criticism. They are, themselves, engaged in political criticism, and expect it from the press and the public. It would be foolish indeed for a debating assembly to resent the expression of a difference of opinion. But the case is very different when criticisms are made that are not based upon facts, and that in part are based upon definite mis-statements of fact, not only us to what Parliament has done, but also as to the circumstances in which it has been done. There has been a natural and a justifiable resentment of some of the criticism to which members of this House, and of another place, have recently been subjected.
We, Mr. Speaker, are jealous of our own reputation, and of the reputation of Parliament. We consider that, in being jealous of the reputation of Parliament, we are consulting the interests of the people whom Parliament represents. This is not, as it has been represented in some quarters to bc, a question of the assertion of some peculiar right of Parliament, even though it is described under the term “privilege”. The privileges of Parliament are, in the last resort, the protection of the people. Honorable members generally have agreed with the expressions of opinion iri 41.:e House which, on the whole, have been very moderate find temperate in character. Accordingly, the House, I atn sure, received with satisfaction the announcement that a letter had been written by three of the directors of the Board of Associated Newspapers Limited in the following terms : -
Without in any way limiting thu right of their newspapers to criticize the actions of Parliament, they assure” the Minister that they, and the majority of the board., were definitely opposed to, and deeply regretted, the use of offensive language, such as had recently been used by certain of their publications. They asked him to convey to the Prime Minister an assurance that the whole matter would be dealt with at the first meeting of the board, which, owing to the absence interstate of several directors, could not be held until next week.
That meeting of the. Board of Directors of Associated Newspapers Limited has been held, and a letter addressed to the Prime Minister has been received from the chairman, of the board. Before reading it I should like to say that honorable members are accustomed to the use from time to time of a certain amount of offensive language in criticisms in the press and elsewhere. The point that I emphasize, however, is that what we resent, and are entitled to resent, are imputations upon personal honour, and suggestions of indirect and dishonorable motives.
The letter addressed to the Prime Minister is dated the loth November, 1933, is signed by Sir H’igh B. Denison, Chairman of Directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, and is in the following terms : -
My dear Prime Minister.
At a meeting to-day of the Board of Directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, the subject-matter of the interview which took place on Tuesday last between one of your Ministers and three of the directors of this company was brought up for consideration.
The matter was discussed in all its bearings, and I was authorized to write you in the following terms : -
The press, as represented by the journals published by this company, is very sensible of its responsibilities, not only to thousands of shareholders, but to the public of Australia. These papers are bound to no political party,and have in the past, and will in the future, fearlessly and faithfully discharge their duty to the public, as they see it, by criticizing when necessary any action of parliament or any government, whatever the party of which it may be composed. At the same time, it will just as faithfully support any action which appears to it to be for the good of Australia, whatever the colour of the Government which may be responsible. This, you will agree, is the function, and duty, of a free press.
In pursuance of this policy the editors of the Sun, Sunday Sun. and Telegraph uncompromisingly condemned the action of Parliament in increasing, at this particular juncture, and in the particular manner, the salaries payable to its members. This condemnation has the unanimous approval of the board of this company, and wo venture to think, of the public opinion of Australia. So much for the policy behind the article complained of.
Now as to the verbiage employed. The article in question was reviewed in detail by my board to-day. It was undoubtedly garnished with somewhat highly coloured phrases, and broadly used similes, which, being designed to arrest attention, have apparently been construed as imputations against the personal honesty of members. My board agrees that the language employed is capable of such a construction which, however, the editor of the Sunday Sun assures us was never intended, and you will recognize that it was not practicable to submit it to the board before publication.
My board unanimously, therefore, desires to offer you complete assurances that imputations of personal dishonour were not intended, and regrets that many members of the Federal House should have misunderstood the position.
In this letter, the opportunity is taken to announce and to proclaim the ideals of the press. I think there are few honable members who will disagree with the general statements that are made in the letter with respect alike to the functions and the responsibility of the press. But
I think that I am right, in saying it is the view of honorable members of this House that the principles represented by that statement of ideals- have not been followed or applied in the case under consideration. The proper extent and limit of political criticism is a matter upon which there is often room for difference of opinion. In this matter, however, it appears to me that, apart from extravagant and offensive language, the essential factor is the imputation upon the honour of honorable members by describing them in the words which the article contained, and which I do not propose to repeat for the purpose of giving further publicity to them. In this letter, we find a direct admission that the words arc capable of that construction, together with a unanimous statement by the board that imputations of personal dishonour were not intended.
The letter amounts to a withdrawal of all imputations of personal dishonour while-! allowing to stand the political criticism which members of Parliament are prepared to bear. Varying opinions have been expressed in the House on the subject, and it will be the duty of each honorable member to justify the action that he took on the substantive matter out, of which the incident arose. It appears to me that the essential insinuation which was objected to - and it was more than an insinuation - has been withdrawn. I need not say anything about the antiquity of the mea-iis whereby Parliament protects its privileges which, as I have already said, are really designed for the protection of the people, and to secure freedom of debate in their interests. j advise the House to accept what is unusual in respect of many newspapers, this expression of regret and withdrawal of all imputation against the honour of honorable members; and I indicate on my own behalf, and I think on behalf of all o r 11 p i, honorable members, that the genuineness of the letter and the withdrawal that, it makes will be further evidenced if it is given publicity equal to that which was given to tue original* statement which appeared in the Sunday S litt: In all the circumstances, I suggest that Parliament, will consult its own honour and dignity if it is content with this expression of regret, and takes no further action in the matter.
– Mr. Speaker-
– As the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) did not rise to continue the debate, he has forfeited his right to do so now. but he may ask for leave to speak.
– by leave- Tha reason why I did not rise was because at the conclusion of my previous remarks on this subject it was considered desirable to await the decision of the board of directors of Associated Newspapers Limited. A letter has now been received conveying the result of the deliberations of that board. Obviously, every honorable member must form his own opinion on the matter, but to me the attitude of the board seems to be greatly at variance with the information which was continued in the document read in this chamber about a week ago, in which three members of the board of directors expressed the opinion that they and the majority of the board were definitely opposed to, and deeply regretted the use of, the language published in their newspapers, to which exception had been taken. The letter that has just” been read to the House by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) is a volte face. It contains no declaration that the board is opposed to, or deeply regrets the use of, that language. On the contrary, it indicates that the board takes the attitude that its newspapers were entitled to use the language complained of in order to arrest the attention of the public.
If the House is prepared to allow the matter to remain in that position the opinions of honorable members have undergone a considerable change since the subject was originally dealt with in this chamber. I am not, disposed to accept the decision of the board of directors, and I am of the opinion that no other honorable member who voted for the original motion should be prepared to do so. The suggestion that the editor of the Sunday Sun had no desire to impute dishonorable motives to honorable members is the lamest excuse that I have ever heard advanced. As a matter of fact it will be found that ever since the first objectionable statement appeared in the
Sunday Sun, the offence has been repeated, although in a minor degree, the issue of that newspaper on Sunday last being no exception. In the circumstances, if the House is prepared to allow the matter to remain in the position suggested by the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham), I am satisfied beyond doubt that’ all argument as to the necessity to maintain the dignity of Parliament have been thrown to the winds.
Much could he said about the value or otherwise of the motion before the Chair. In my opinion, the mere adoption of it would have no real effect upon those who have been responsible for its submission. The only effective way of dealing with these people is to inflict such a drastic financial punishment upon Associated Newspapers Limited as would subject those who are guilty to the wrath of their shareholders. The Government of New South Wales has already given a precedent by withdrawing from the Labor Daily all State Government advertising, and it has even gone to the extent of declining to pay for advertisements in that paper for the ordinary call-up of men for employment. The Labor Daily publishes those calls-up, but receives no payment for doing so.
– What is the reason for the withdrawal of all State advertising from the Labor Daily ?
– I know of no other reason than the fact that the Government does not agree with the political opinions expressed in theLabor Daily. If this action can he taken against the Labor Daily I advance the practical suggestion that this Government should take similar action against Associated Newspapers Limited, and withdraw all Federal Government advertising from it for the next six months. The punishment could be carried a step further. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) has pointed out that the concessions offered by his department to the newspapers of Australia are worth over £500,000 per annum. The concessions that are extended to newspapers in the form of postal and telegraphic facilities are not extended to the general public, and some action could he taken by this Parliament in that direction. I suggest that we should withdraw all thesepostal privileges for the next six months. The shareholders of Associated Newspapers Limited would then take immediate steps to put Sir Hugh Denison and his board of directors in their proper place. That is the only way to handle this problem. We must affect detrimentally the finances of these people if we are to bring them to their senses. No action should be taken to interfere with working journalists employed by this newspaper, because they have to carry out their instructions, but if we interfere with the profits and dividends of Associated Newspapers Limited the shareholders will immediately take steps to deal with the directors. If the Government is in earnest about this matter it should immediately proceed to withdraw Commonwealth advertising and postal facilities from this newspaper company.
Has the House forgotten the memorable speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) about a fortnight ago on this matter ? None of us could have expressed ourselves more forcibly than he did when he spoke of the “bowelless commercialism” that animated this particular newspaper company. I was not present in tee chamber at the time, hut I read the Minister’s speech, and I am certain that the majority of honorable members approved of it. I am sorry that he is not present here this afternoon to speak in similar terms. Nevertheless, his remarks are on record. We must impose a penalty upon Sir Hugh Denison and his board of directors if we are to prevent a repetition of the offence, and the punishment must he of such a character as to live in the memory not only of the directors themselves, hut also of the shareholders, so that they will take care in the future to report truthfully the actions of members of this Parliament. I submit that suggestion to the House and the Government in the hope that it will be given serious consideration.
– This question involves the privileges of the Parliament which we should jealously guard. The question of privilege has arisen in a similar case once before in this House, when complaints were made about serious allegations against the honour and dignity of this House and also the honour and’ integrity of honorable members.’ Parliament is endowed with high powers in respect of the privileges. This House has the same powers and privileges as the House of Commons. After all, any attack upon the honour and integrity of Parliament detrimentally affects not only ourselves but also’ the parliamentary system of Australia, under which we have the- most democratic form of government in the world. Anything that is done to affect the honour of Parliament or to destroy its- usefulness in the eyes of the public is a wrong done to the people generally, as well as to the individual member of Parliament. Therefore, the step taken by honorable members is perfectly justified. They have received an apology from the directorate of Associated Newspapers Limited. I should have preferred a more complete apology, but’ there is no doubt about the meaning of the communication that has been read to-day, and, under the circumstances, I think the action which was taken when this subject was first raised in this chamber has been justified. We should, however, make provision for the future. It is a recognized principle that new legislation imposing punishment should not apply to past actions. Therefore, the only penalty that this Parliament would be justified in imposing on such an occasion as this, would be,- by virtue of our privilege, to summon an offender to the bar of the House to admonish or censure him, or imprison him, within the limited power the House possesses. According to Odgers’ text-book on libel, Parliament has the power to inflict a fine, but in 1908, before a select committee of this Parlia-ment, Professor Pitt Corbett, Mr. GavanDuffy and Professor Harrison Moore expressed a doubt whether Parliament had the power to inflict a fine. On the 28th May. 1908, Sir John Quick, as chairman of that select committee, submitted a report, and in it was stated -
One of the unquestionable powers and privileges of the House of Commons is to punish persons proved to be guilty of printing and publishing or uttering any false, malicious and scandalous libels or statements reflecting oil the honour, integrity and probity of the House or duy of its members.
That is a clear exposition of our constitutional powers. The committee- came to- the conclusion-
The- ancient procedure- for punishment of contempts- of Parliament is generally admitted to be cumbersome, ineffective, and not consonant with modern ideas and requirements in- the administration of justice. It is barely consistent with the’ dignities audi functions of a legislative body which has been assailed by newspapers- or individuals to engage’ within the chamber in conflict with the alleged offenders, mw to perform the duties of prosecutor, judge and’ gaoler.
Unfortunately the Government of the day went out of office and was not able to give effect to the recommendation of the committee. The committee- suggested that, in respect to a serious breach of privilege, Parliament, instead of summoning offenders before it and subjecting them to punishment, should provide* that the offenders be brought before a judge of the High Court so that the cases could be decided in a summary way. The Government might well consider the advisability of placing the procedure relating to our privileges upon a modern basis instead of following ah ancient procedure. It is better that an outside power rather than ourselves should pass judgment on any offenders. In Great Britain the Parliament is the guardian and protector of its own privileges, and, therefore, no matter what changes we may institute by legislation, there should always be the reservation that nothing in the act should be deemed to take away or interfere with the rights or privileges of this Parliament. This House has justified its action against Associated Newspapers Limited, and did right in taking the means at its disposal to prevent a repetition of the highly improper criticism directed at honorable members. There has been a change in the latitude given in respect to press criticism in modern times. A wider latitude is now given, and rightly so, because the press is supposed to make criticism in the public interest. But such criticism must be based upon facts. Chief Justice Cockburn, in his judgment in Wason v. Walter states the law. He stated that the full liberty of public writers to comment on the conduct of public men was only recently recognized. But newspaper comment must be honest and fair on the facts. It has, in the cir- cumstances of tlie case, to be fair and legitimate criticism of the conduct of the person censured. Frequent repetition looks like malice. Not only are we perfectly justified in defending ourselves; if we have not the spirit to do so, the public would deem us deserving of the criticism directed against us. We have made our protest - it has been published throughout the land with the result that already there is evidence that public opinion in the matter has changed - and we shall now serve our interests best if we accept the suggestion of the Attorney-General to allow the matter to stand, taking at the same time, legislative action to ensure that future offenders will know that they will be liable to punishment, as are other persons who attempt to injure the honour and reputation of any man. As I look back over the years, I am reminded of many members of this Parliament who have sacrificed themselves in their endeavour to serve the public interest. Members have in the performance of their duties collapsed on the floor of Parliament. Mr. Alfred Deakin sacrificed his life in the service of the nation, Sir Frederick Holder collapsed in the chamber and died in Parliament House, Mr. E. L. Batchelor and others have also impaired their health in public service. Mr. A. E. Roberts, a former member for Adelaide, fell dead in the Queen’s Hall, Melbourne, after the conclusion of a speech in the chamber. The high character and honour of members of this Parliament are such that we may justly feel proud of our record. We are entitled to preserve the reputation of this Parliament, and when reflections are made on the parliamentary institution and its members, we are justified in taking a firm stand to preserve their honour and integrity, and to show future offenders that they will get the punishment which they deserve.
.- In my opinion, the letter read by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) is far from being a satisfactory apology from the Board of Directors of Associated Newspapers Limited. Rather, I describe it as a cowardly shuffling in order to get out of a difficulty. I listened with interest to, and was almost in complete agreement with, the observations of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), but I would give more weight to the element of truth in press criticisms than the honorable member for Darling Downs did. Members of Parliament are exposed to criticism of every kind. As the Attorney-General justly said, we must expect it, and, generally, I think, honorable members welcome it. “I am sure that I shall have the support of all the legal members of the House when I say that, in criticizing members of Parliament, the press is in exactly the same position as is any private citizen. Its rights of criticism are neither greater nor less than those of any other member of the general community. In certain cases, it may be said that the press has a duty to lead the public mind; but that duty is one of imperfect obligation, if in the performance of the public duty of calling attention to public abuses it errs in good faith, it is entitled to the protection of the law. The foundation of all criticism, whether by the press or by a private person, or by any person acting under a sense of duty or n»t, is either an honest belief in the truth of the statement made when it is made under a sense of duty, or the genuine truthfulness of the statement when it is made where there is no such sense of duty. If a person writes to me asking me to say what I know about another person and I reply saying that I believe he is untrustworthy or dishonest, I may be wrong; but if I can prove that I believe the statements to be true I am protected. If, on the other hand, I ‘ write without any duty to another person and tell him that a certain man is dishonest and untrustworthy, it does not matter that I believe that my statement is true; it has to be true in fact. If I am acting under a. call of duty I am directed te say the truth as nearly as I can. That is to say, if I have to write something and I write something which is not true, I am protected so long as I believe what I have written. But where I am not writing under a sense of duty I publish the statement at my peril. If I write a letter to a friend, and in it say that another man is a scoundrel, my belief that he is a scoundrel is no defence.
In that case I must be right iu my statement. I make it at my peril. Similarly, a writer in a newspaper publishes his statement at his peril. It may be said that a newspaper owes a certain duty to its readers, but that is not the case here; it is not a duty of that kind. Nevertheless, I shall argue it as if ‘it were. So long as the writer has a genuine belief in the facts, as he describes them - a reasonable and honest belief founded on a certain amount of knowledge which would permit an ordinary reasonable nian to entertain the belief - he is not guilty of libel. In the Sunday edition of the newspaper, published by the same company, whose chairman of directors wrote the letter which we have heard read to-day, the following language is employed: -
The salary grab came as a thief in the night. But why did they creep together at midnight to arrange their salary grab in the furtive fashion of sneaks t
I ask honorable members to consider the nature of that language. According to the editor of this newspaper those are merely colourful epithets put into a plain narrative in order to give a certain zest to the reader. I read on and find the following: - “‘Cometh as a. thief in the night.” . . the midnight meeting of private members of the Federal Parliament to jockey the public for 11 £7f> rise in their salaries, by a swift and shameless parliamentary vote, next day.
If that is the way in which the author of those remarks is in the habit of writing about his friends and still imagines that he will retain their affection I envy him his powers of imagination. Omitting a couple of paragraphs I read on and find -
There is no law to control honorable members who vote £75 a year extra to their honorable selves. They are left to their own honorable instincts to judge what their patriotic service is worth -
Every phrase reeking with contemptuous implication. The article continues - “ So arc they all, all honorable mcn.” But why did they creep together at midnight to arrange their salary grab in the furtive fashion of sneaks?
Was there no way of showing the public their honest claim that they must organize their dip into the public purse with the celerity and secrecy of a pick-pocket?
These are phrases which. Sir Hugh Denison thinks one ought to regard as merely coloured. I particularly direct the attention of the House to the next; passage, which reads -
You may hear the honorable men defend themselves by saying that, once upon a time they had £1,000 a year, and even now are taking only £825.
That, no doubt, if plainly and honorably stated, would go some distance towards showing that this was a truthful statement of the case. But this is a mere parenthesis. There is no statement of facts, nothing from which an uninstructed public could obtain any information. It. is a phrase which the editor is good enough to put into our mouths, and his comment is that if the statement is made by us -
This may serve to make the act of rapacity seem more cowardly but not less contemptible.
All these statements ure in large type at the head of the front page of the newspaper. What I ask the House to do is to bear in mind the facts surrounding the incident. Years ago, before I had the honour of being a member of this House, honorable members received a salary of £1,000 a year. They voluntarily agreed to deprive themselves, first of £100 a year, then of another £100 a year, and later still of a further £50 a year. When the financial circumstances improved, they restored to themselves £75 of that which they had lost. This newspaper does not cither say or even hint at that. It merely says that Ave may put forward some ridiculous excuse which, while not making “ the act of rapacity less_ cowardly, makes it more contemptible “. I care nothing for the language that has been used except insofar as it makes perfectly clear what the allegation against us is. I do not care whether the act of restoration is described as an act of rapacity, or whether we are told that we met at midnight with the celerity and the secrecy of pick-pockets. That is not my principal complaint, although it. furnishes ample evidence of the malice with which the charge was made. What I chiefly complain of is that this article does not set forth the truth of the situation, and that the whole of this newspaper’s comments are based upon the initial lie that the restoration to honorable members of £75 a year was an increase of their salary. That initial lie is a suppression, of the truth, which is that honorable members, who received £1,000 a year some three or four years ugo, themselves reduced the amount and were only partially restoring it. That point is in no way met by Sir Hugh Denison’s letter of apology, which ignores the essential feature of the whole of rue libel complained of. If Sir Hugh Denison cannot see that, I venture to think that every honorable member can, us also the paucity and the ineffectiveness of the excuse that has been . made. I regret that in this matter I cannot see eye to eye with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham). I am always more happy when in matters of this kind I find myself on his side. Two other members of the Government have given tlie House the benefit of their opinions. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Postmaster-General (Mr.’ Parkhill) have spoken in language as strong as could be desired, both about the nature of the offence and about the character of those who were guilty of it - not Sir Hugh Denison, but those under him who, apparently, have a free rein to publish any libels they choose to insert in the columns of this newspaper.
– Sir Hugh Denison has now given his endorsement of that.
– I entirely agree with the observation of the honorable gentleman. Sir Hugh Denison has now associated himself with what has been written, because he has submitted the poorest possible camouflage of a condemnation of it. It is, in reality, no condemnation at all. If I vote for the increasing of my salary by £75 per annum, I have no objection to being called a pickpocket and a marauder - I am sufficiently case-hardened by lengthy political experience not to mind very greatly if some persons place that interpretation on my action - but if, in fact, I have voted, as the majority of honorable members of this House have, to lower my salary by £2r”<0 a year, and in view of an entirely different financial situation, I restore by a mere fraction what I have abandoned, a man who calls me n pick-pocket and a marauder must, under the law, explain the full facts before he can obtain tlie benefit of the defence of fair comment. All comment must be based upon a full and truthful statement of the facts, and one which obviously is not animated by malice. Lacking those essentials, comment is libellous and cannot be defended. That is the law both in England and in Australia, and a newspaper is as much bound by it as any private person who writes about another. But this newspaper long ago established the principle that if you tell a lie about a man you can escape all consequences, moral and legal, by maintaining the lie; that the only thing necessary is, never to make any renunciation or withdrawal of what has once been said. Only yesterday, evidently exercising its supposed privilege to maintain the original falsehood, it reported rather ignorant, statements by certain persons who have no particular claim to comment on this matter, and it still refers to the incident as “ the salary grab “. Apparently, in its judgment, it is thus completely exonerated.
I arn a comparatively new member of this House, having been in it only since the last, election; but I believe that I have made the acquaintance and know the character of all honorable members. I cannot, of course, as a hardened politician, claim to be a man of unspotted character-; but I have occupied high offices and positions of great, responsibility, and have never taken a halfpenny of public money and would not dream of doing so. I am not a thief, and have never, been a party to midnight marauding or the picking of the public’s pocket. I bitterly resent an attack of that kind. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), whom I particularize only because they occupy conspicuous positions and have been members of this House for a longer period than many of us, are utterly incapable of such action. Yet they and we. it is said, engaged in a conspiracy. “ We met in private at midnight “. The -impression is given that I met members of the Country party, the Lang party, and the official Opposition. I did nothing of the kind. I held no consultations with any. of those gentlemen on the night in question. Members of tlie Government party met their leader in his room. The decision to restore a portion of members’ allowances was based upon a fact that was known to every man in that room - the heavy loss per annum that the bulk of them had experienced. That loss justified our action, yet the action itself is reported without the justification for it, and is then described in all manner of abominable terms. In these circumstances I am utterly unable to accept as an adequate apology the letter that has been read by the Attorney-General.
I agree that one is bound to accept the view put before the House by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), that, under the present law, we have no adequate means of imposing punishment. So far as I have been- able to ascertain, no action has yet been taken, under section 4.9 of the Constitution, which reads -
The powers, privileges, and immunities of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, add of the members and the committees, of each House, shall bc such as are declared by the Parliament and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom and of its members and committees at the establishment of the Commonweal tb
If one turns to our own Standing Orders one finds what action was doubtless intended to be taken under that section.. The first standing order reads -
In all casus not provided for hereafter, or by Sessional- or other Orders, resort sh,711 be had to the rules, forms, and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland in force at the time of the adoption of these Orders, which shall bc followed us far as they can be applied to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.
That carries us no further. In the first place it is very doubtful whether it covers privileges, and immunities; and, in any case, the Standing Orders, whatever they cover, are declared in the Constitution already to be those of the House of Commons. In the language of Sir John Quick, in the passage that has been read, they are somewhat obsolete and not entirely suited to modern conditions. But the honorable member for West Sydney has referred to a power which the House can exercise; it can express its opinion, to which effect can be given by the Government without resort to legal action.
I feel very strongly that some person representing the offending newspaper, either the author of that letter or any director who agrees with its authorship, should be called to the bar of the House and interrogated by or through you, Mr. Speaker. It would then be possible to ask him whether a feeble, mendacious, misleading excuse such as that contained in the letter can be applied to articles containing not merely objectionable epithets - to which I object,, though only in a secondary degree - but also visible, intentional, and inexcusable mis-state- ments of fact.
– What would be the use of first finding a person guilty, and then having him before Parliament to be tried?
– The resolution, that we carried on the motion of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) passed judgment on the article, and not the author of it, and it is quite conceivable that any person charged with having published the article should have a defence. Suppose, for instance, that we called Sir Hugh Denison before the bar of the House, and he said, “ I have been out of Australia for some time; I was not here, and I knew nothing about the matter. Now that I do know something about it, I am perfectly willing to express regret.” Until it has been indicated and, indeed, proved that the company was in some way responsible through its directors or anybody else, “the House should not act in a punitive spirit’. The broad principle to be observed is that every peI:son is entitled to. bo heard in his own defence before being condemned, and this company is entitled to be heard through its directors or any. accredited officer before punitive action is taken against it. Personally, I confess that this is rather a quickening of the spirit on my part than any desire to see justice done. I should very much like to see a- Knight of the British Empire, presumably a man of honour and one who is highly respected, brought to the bar of the House and asked how he, as an educated Englishman, . can reconcile the words of his letter with the nature of the article complained of without showing himself by that very experience to be guilty of the most wicked mendacity.
My own feeling as a man - and, after all, politicians are entitled to have feelings just as much as other men - is that this letter aggravates the offence; it adds insult to injury. The article is a definite and serious injury” to every member of this Parliament, and the letter which has just been read is an insult, because it practically suggests that we are children, to be put off with a few soft words; that we are so changeable that a fortnight after the offence we have forgotten about it sufficiently to be misled by such an effort as has been read by the AttorneyGeneral.
– Does the honorable member regard the language complained of as being more severely condemnatory of honorable members than that which was contained in the leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald ?
– Even if other newspapers have rivalled the Sunday Sun in offensive terms, there is ample time to consider their case after we have dealt with the one which now occupies our attention. There may be strongly extenuating circumstances in the one case which may not apply to the other. A newspaper may have shown readiness to give publicity to both sides of the case, and may prove that its intention was to condemn parliamentarians, not on untruths, but on something that it believed called for condemnation. However, those aro matters upon which I do not intend to speculate.
I submit that this matter should not stop here, and that this excuse should be accepted not as something ending the incident, but rather as something enlarging it, carrying it to greater lengths. Honorable members should be prepared, not only to defend the institution of Parliament, but also to defend themselves as men. The present-day cry is that men of the right type do not enter Parliament. How can we ask men of the right type to come into this House and exercise their judgment on matters calling- for delicacy of treatment if comments such as these are to pass unpunished? What would such a man think if, when his opinion did not agree with that of an editor, writing to the dictation day by day of those who direct the policy of his newspaper, he was denounced as a scoundrel and thief, and his life-long friends were prompted to rise against him and condemn him, while he was denied the opportunity of being heard in his own defence by people ignorant of what he had done except from what they had read in the columns of the offending newspaper ? Honorable members should not be quick u, countenance that position. While some may say that we should grin and bear it I contend that we should not grin and bear anything which is based on lies. We are entitled to have the truth published free from either distortion or sneers, and, until Parliament obtains a genuine retraction which shows some measure of contrition, of shame even, for the offence, the House will not be doing its duty if it permits the matter to rest without taking further action.
– This matter has now been before the House for several weeks and I believe that there is not a member of Parliament, or any fair-minded member of the community, who has not resented the words used in the article under review. Last week three of the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited addressed an apology to Parliament for the words used in the Sunday Sun, and their letter was most acceptable to honorable members generally. To-day, the Acting Leader of the House (Mr. Latham) has read a letter which may, or may not, be acceptable to honorable members. In order to afford an opportunity to discuss that letter and to express an opinion upon the suggestion that has been made by the Acting Leader of the House, I move as an amendment to the motion submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) -
That all tin: words after “ That “ first occurring’, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words: - “the withdrawal contained in the letter dated the 15th November. 1033, from the chairman of directors of Associated Newspapers Limited to the 1’rime Minister be accepted, and that no further action be taken with respect to the matter.”
I do not agree with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that any person should be brought to the bar of this House to answer questions or to apologize in connexion with this matter. The only persons who should speak in this chamber 11 re those who have been elected by the people. In any case it would be difficult r.o choose the proper person to bring before the bar of the House, because neither the name of the publisher nor that of the editor is mentioned in the newspaper. It might be necessary to bring the whole board of directors, or even the shareholders, before the bar of Parliament.
Question - That the words proposed to bo omitted stand part of the question - resolved in the negative.
– The question is now - “ That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted. “
.- I move -
That all the words after “‘That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof thu word*: - “in the opinion of this House the registration of Associated Newspapers Limited under the Posts and Telegraphs Act be cancelled until such time as the company makes adequate apology.”
The first letter, which was signed by three directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, may, or may not, have reflected the opinion of the majority of the directors of that company. In any case it admitted that the opinions expressed in the edition of the Sunday Sun that has been under review were wrong, and that the policy of the newspaper was at fault; and the impression was given that when the full board of directors met in Sydney it would do the proper thing and endorse the apology tendered by those three directors. The majority of the directors, although they have watered down the apology made by three of their number, have expressed regret and admitted a wrong against honorable members. But I do not consider that their apology is adequate. Nothing short of punishment which detrimentally affects the revenue of that company will be sufficient to meet the case. Associated Newspapers Limited with other companies are, under the privileges conferred upon them under the Post and Telegraph Act, receiving concessions -amounting to something like £500,000 a year. Every direct and indirect taxpayer of Australia is contributing towards the dividends of those newspapers. The cancellation of the registration of this company will immediately place, it in the same position as an ordinary company. Taking into consideration the share transactions of Associated Newspapers Limited of Sydney, its absorption of the Evening News, its manipulation of the Daily Guardian, and its various other moves, every one of which affected adversely the pocket of the trusting shareholders, it cannot be contended that its directorate is fit to pronounce upon the morals of the public of Australia, including members of Parliament. If the true history of this company is ever written it will be » » revelation to the taxpayers generally, who ure subsidizing it under the Post and Telegraph Act. As the letter from Associated Newspapers Limited is totally inadequate, I have moved to the effect that its registration under the Post and Telegraph Act be cancelled.
– I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). The question before the Chair is, “ That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted “. If that is negatived, the honorable member may move to insert other words.
– I support the proposal of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). No honorable member who voted for the original motion charging the printer and publisher of the Sunday Sun with contempt could be satisfied, with what the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has been pleased to call a withdrawal of the statements to which exception has been taken. I agree with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that the letter is really an aggravation of the original offence. It states, among other things, that the press as represented by the journals published by this company is very sensible of its responsibilities, not only to thousands of shareholders, but also to the public of Australia. The let,te also states -
In pursuance of this policy the editors of the Www., Sunda i/ San and Telegraph uncompromisingly condemn the action of Parliament in inn-casing at this particular juncture and in the particular manner the salaries payable to ids members. This condemnation has the unanimous approval of the board nf this company and we venture to think of the public opinion of Australia.
This letter, which the Attorney-General claims to be a withdrawal of the original statements, is really only repeating tlie offence, because it again refers to the partial restoration of salaries as an increase of allowances. The AttorneyGeneral and other honorable members have said that an attack by the press on members of Parliament is grave in that it tends to weaken our parliamentary institution. I suggest, to the Attorney-General that his action in attempting to cover up this, question is a clear demonstration of the weakness of this parliamentary institution, and of the fact that we have no actual power to enforce respect of individual members or of the Parliament itself. The Attorney-General carefully refrained from stating the exact powers that Parliament had, and in what way they could lie exercised in dealing with Associated Newspapers Limited for having misrepresented the position and led the people generally to form a. wrong opinion of the actions of their representatives in this Parliament. On previous occasions the State Governments, and also the Com.monwealth Government, have, ‘through their various departments, taken action against certain journals for having published in their columns matter that was unpalatable to them, and various concessions, such as that conferred by the Postal Department have been withdrawn. If that could be done in one case I suggest that it can be done in. this. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) interjected when the honorable member for Martin was speaking that a. leading article appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald was probably more damning of parliamentary institutions and Ministers generally than that which appeared in the Sunday Sun. Surely the honorable member for Fawkner, who is a member of the legal fraternity, would not, when, defending a criminal, endeavour to excuse him on the ground that greater criminals were at largo? On this occasion we are dealing with those who control Associated Newspapers Limited; they are the persons who are on trial. Already Parliament has adjudged them guilty of contempt. Members on this side have met the Government in every possible “way, in order to give the directors of the Sunday San, time to consider their position and to make adequate apology and recompense for their conduct, but it would appear that these gentlemen intend to defy Parliament. I do not agree with the Attorney-General that the letter which he read to-day is a complete withdrawal on the part of the board of directors of the company. I, for one, am not prepared to accept it as an apology. Apparently, the only way to deal with these people is to effect them financially. If Parliament has not the power to inflict a fine on them, or to imprison them, Parliament certainly has the power to withdraw concessions granted to their newspapers until such time as the directors make an apology which Parliament considers adequate. The directors say that they have a duty to perform to the public. That, may he, but so have members of this House. They talk of the necessity for a free press. In their view, a free press means the concentration iti the hands of a few individuals of the right to misrepresent public men and to distort their remarks with a view to misleading the public. Certain newspapers in Australia, have never yet published a full criticism of men who they would have the public believe are beyond criticism, merely because they occupy positions on the directorate of Associated Newspapers Limited. Tin1 letter which wo heard read to-day was signed by Sir Hugh Denison, a man whom the courts of this country found guilty of having traded with the enemy during the war years. The directors also state that, their newspapers have no political affiliations, and have no leanings towards any particular political party. There is a. strong conviction throughout the country that those who control most of the newspapers of Australia exercise a tremendous influence over the anti-labour parties of this country. lt would appear that some honorable members opposite are afraid that if they vote to inflict a penalty on these newspaper directors, they themselves will bc roundly criticized in the columns of the newspapers and left without support at the next election. I do not suppose for one moment that the newspapers of this country will publish everything that, is said here to-day. I hope that every supporter of tlie policy of the Labour party in New South Wales - the State in which the Sim newspaper has its greatest circulation - will refrain from buying this yellow journal in future. If Parliament is either powerless to act, or desires not to inflict a penalty on those who control these newspapers, the people can punish them by refusing to purchase these scurrilous ‘”’ rags “ which circulate throughout this country. I agree with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that the original offence was aggravated in later issues of the Sunday Sun. The Sydney Sun of the 9th November contained a leading article headed, “ The Press and Parliament from which I extract the following: -
We moy hate a tyrant who rules a. people harshly, but we cannot feel contempt for him. Contempt can only arise from the actions of the person or institution against which it is directed. So, when we hear of members of Parliament declaring that criticism brings them and Parliament itself into contempt, we may generally refer that complaint back to its foils gt. origo in Parliament itself.
Evidently, those who control that newspaper are still of the opinion that the members of this House did something of which they ought to be ashamed, and are deserving of the contempt of the people. Nevertheless, the letter read to-day contains the following paragraph: -
My board unanimously therefore desires to offer you complete assurances that imputations of personal dishonour wore not intended-, and regrets that many members of the Federal House should have misunderstood the position.
No honorable member could have misunderstood the meaning of the article complained of. There can be only one opinion regarding the attacks, the untrue statements, and the implications in the press day after day. If honorable members fail to agree to the infliction of a penalty ou those whom they previously adjudged guilty of contempt, they are issuing an open invitation to those who control the newspapers of Australia to slander members of Parliament at their own sweet will, knowing that, after the damage has been done, all they have to do is to write to the Prime Minister a letter containing ridiculous statements which purport to be a withdrawal, and no further action will be taken, because, as the Attorney-General has put it, the honour of Parliament will have been upheld. Every honorable member who has any respect for the parliamentary institution, if not for his own integrity and honour, has no alternative but to vote for the amendment.
– There appears to be some misapprehension regarding the question, before the House. I do not think that honorable members generally realize that, by inserting the words originally proposed, we should make it impossible to Omit them, that the only amendment that can be moved would be to add word3. The original amendment was -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words - “The withdrawal contained in the letter dated the 15th November, 1933, from the chairman of directors of Associated Newspapers to the Prime Minister be accepted, and that no further action be taken with respect to the matter mentioned in the motion.”
The House has already decided to omit all the words after “ That.”
The question now is - “ That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted.” If that question is resolved in the affirmative, further words may be added; but, if resolved in the negative, it will be open to honorable members to move further amendments.
– Honorable members should know what is involved in any action such as has been suggested in a proposed further amendment which at the moment is not before the House. Apart altogether from the general consideration of the desirability of using powers under the Post and Telegraph Act to deprive a company or individual of facilities which, in the ordinary sense, are essential for the carrying on of its business, there is the consideration that these matters are controlled by the legislation of this Parliament. Section 28 of the Post and Telegraph Act defines a newspaper in terms which it is not necessary to. occupy the time of the House by reading. Section 29 provides that the Deputy Postmaster-General - an officer of the department in each State - may revise the list of newspapers from time to time, and may remove a newspaper from such list. He may, however, remove a newspaper from the list only upon certain stated grounds- if it does not comply with the requirements of a news- paper as defined in section 28; if it contains indecent or obscene ^ matter; if it has an over-great proportion of advertisements; or if for any other -reason it does not comply with the description contained in the preceding section. For any of those reasons - but not for any other reason - a Deputy PostmasterGeneral may remove a newspaper from the register. I point out, further, that the removal may take place only by the act of a Deputy Postmaster-General, not that of the Postmaster-General himself.
– An amending bill could alter that position.
– Moreover, the removal may take place only on certain stated grounds. If the Deputy PostmasterGeneral acts under this section, the act provides that any person aggrieved by such action may appeal to a justice of the High Court, or to a judge of the Supreme Court of a State, by summons or petition in a summary manner, and the justice, or judge, may decide whether the action taken under this section was justified in law, or in fact, and may make such, order as to the restoration to the register, or otherwise, as to him may seem just, and may award damages and costs, or either, in his discretion. It is well that honorable members should be aware of the legal position before they vote.
– But the AttorneyGeneral knows that that can be altered by amending legislation.
– Yes, and we can sit here until Christmas to do it.
– What is wrong with sitting until Christmas?
– Not on this silly business.
– I am dealing with the law as it stands. I think honorable members will agree that I ought to inform the House of the fact that, under the existing law, the Postmaster-General has not the power to cancel the registration of a newspaper, that the removal can be only by a Deputy Postmaster-General - I doubt whether any House would itself give directions to a subordinate, though important, public servant in relation to such a matter, or, indeed, in rela tion to other matters - and that, if the Deputy Postmaster-General were so to act, an appeal would lie to a judge of the Supreme Court or a justice of the High Court, who might award costs and damages against . the Commonwealth. I as’k honorable members whether it is wise .to adopt a course which, as the law stands at present, might involve Parliament and the Administration in the consequences that I have indicated.
– What course does the Attorney-General suggest should be adopted ?
– I have a good deal of sympathy with what the honorable gentleman himself has said concerning the deficiency of the machinery for dealing with these matters. I am quite prepared to recommend that the Standing. Orders Committee, which is the natural body to deal with a matter of this kind, should examine the question, and bring up a report recommending an up-to-date and appropriate method that would not be open to the objections to which, undoubtedly, the application of the present antiquated machinery is open.
– Are there not regulations determining the rates of newspaper postage ?
– There are statutory provisions. I suppose it would be .possibleto provide that “ A. “ should pay twice as much postage as “B”; but that would be a most remarkable action, which any responsible assembly would hesitate to take.
– We are dealing with an immoral journal.
– I suggest that, unless we are able to deal with it in a manner that is genuinely consistent with the dignity of Parliament, it is better not to run the risk involved in any other course of procedure. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members not to support the amendment which has been foreshadowed, but to adopt the motion in -.its amended form. We would thereby consult our own dignity. The Standing Orders Committee might then be asked to examine the whole question.
– I do not propose, nor do I consider that
I am competent, to follow the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in. his legal exposition of the case. I merely wish to deal with the question from the ‘point of view of the man in the street.
It has been said that the publication of the matter complained of has brought this Parliament into contempt, and that it is most desirable that the dignity, power, and influence of this institution should be preserved. It may be argued by the Attorney-General, and by honorable members opposite, that anything which might have a tendency to lower this institution to such a level that those essentials were not observed would be serious, and would possibly lead to a state of affairs of which they would not approve. But already action has been taken in regard to certain other publications which, the responsible authorities argued, sought to undermine constitutional authority in Australia, and to bring Parliament into contempt, and no difficulty was experienced in doing so. I am not now arguing either the merits or demerits of the case, but am merely drawing a parallel. On the one hand the law was sufficiently clastic to meet the position, and there was no question of calling upon an officer subordinate to Parliament, such as a Deputy PostmasterGeneral, to take the necessary action. The law was applied so effectively that, not only was registration cancelled, but in one case a number of papers were seized and destroyed, the reason given for such action being that” the articles contained in those publications were of such a character as to bring constitutional authority into disrepute. If that could he done in one case, why cannot it be done in another?
– By legislation ?
– It was not done by way of legislation in that case. lt seems to me that if I were a person of high authority and influence, and with sufficient wealth to direct the policy of a chain of newspapers which could make and unmake governments, I could “defy governments and parliaments, and that if on the other hand I were associated with those who were not of much consequence, and were small in number, and with limited wealth, I would be an easy prey capable of being rolled over without any trouble by the existing law and regulations. It is common knowledge that, when it i3 a question of finding an excuse, no one is more adept than the man who has had legal training. He can always,find plenty of reasons, obstacles, regulations and laws to enable him to effect his purpose. Then: is nothing personal in that remark. Iri a matter of this kind, we should not be influenced to too great an extent by the arguments of such men. Not long ago, when honorable members opposite considered that certain action was warranted against a State Government on the alleged ground that the well-being of the nation was at stake, the law was quickly amended. To-day, the position ls reversed. I remind the Government, that we are living in very unsettled times, and that it is now creating a precedent that will probably have forcible repercussions before many years have elapsed. “We propose to push this matter to the utmost so that we may test the sincerity of the party that sits opposite. Let honorable members opposite not squeal if they and this Parliament are again brought into disrepute. I nui satisfied that if the Government wished to take action, it could do so. There is nothing, for instance, to prevent the withdrawal of its advertisements from this company’s newspapers in less than 24 hours.
– That would be a boycott.
- Sir Hugh Denison has been charged before the courts of this country with having traded with the enemy. Is such a letter as he has written to the members of this House to be allowed to go unchallenged? Can the action I have suggested against such a man he described as “immoral”? I could place before the House facts concerning a number of these gentlemen associated with this company who regard themselves as the guardians of public morals that would not redound to their credit. So far a.s I am concerned, they will not “get away with it.” This is not the first time that members of my party has been criticized. “We are accustomed to it. “We are not afraid of these publications, which have hounded us down and misrepresented us for many years, and I have no doubt, will continue to do so; and because we are not afraid, we now intend to see whether the Government and its supporters are prepared to act in accordance with a precedent that has already been established. If they are not, the time may not be far distant when they will regret their failure to defend an’ institution that they consider is necessary to safeguard thewell-being of Australia.
.- As a private member, it is not my duty to instruct the Government as to what it should do to give effect to a resolution of this House, which declared that the newspaper in question was guilty of contempt. The board of directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, in my opinion, has not only added insult to injury in the letter it, has addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), but has also deliberately undermined the authority and the prestige of this Parliament in a way that has never been attempted by any other body in this country. I have carefully read the letter several times, and I say deliberately, that no body of men, Communists included,has ever issued a more damning document against the Australian Parliament. Its statements are vicious and malicious, and are ‘actually an endorsement of the filth that was originally complained of. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the Government to take whatever action is open to it to bring this organization to heel. I contend that the letter is not an apology; it is a carefully designed and deliberate insuit to this Parliament. One of the statements in it reads -
In pursuance of this policy, the editors of theSun, SundaySun, and Telegraph, uncompromisingly condemn the action of Parliament in increasing, at this particular juncture, and in the particular manner, the salaries payable to its members. This condemnation has theunanimous approval of the board of this company, and, we venture to think, of the public opinion of Australia. So much for the policy behind the article complained of.
Far from being an apology, that is practically an endorsement of everything that was published. There is a sort of veiled retraction in the statement that the article was not meant to be a personal attack on individual members of this House. When I first read the article, I regarded it as the work of an irresponsible servant of the company, and disagreed with the view expressed by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Parkhill) that in penalizing that employee, we might be punishing one who had merely carried out the instructions of a higher authority. But therecan now be no doubt in the minds of honorable members that the editor fulfilled the wishes of his employers, the board of directors of Associated Newspapers Limited. “We are justified in saying that. I repeat, these men are doing their utmost to destroy the dignity, authority, and power of Parliament by holding its members up to ridicule, publishing insults in their newspaper day after day, refusing to apologize when called upon to do so, and then adding the further insult of this letter to the Prime Minister of Australia. I venture to say that in some countries- such an institution would not merely be closed down, hut those responsible for the publication of the newspaper would be gaoled. “We have often attacked bodies of men who are known as Communists, charging them with being guilty of treasonable utterances and of endeavouring to destroy the institutions of the country which we are endeavouring to govern to the best of our ability under the existing Constitution. Here is an organisation under the guidance of men who profess to be responsible citizens,but who, to my mind, have proved that they are no better than the worst class of Communist who skulks about the community, and should he treated as such. Gaol is too good for them.
.- I oppose the suggestion that we should accept what purports to be an apology from the directors of Associated Newspapers Limited, and I express astonishment that the Government of the highest and proudest Parliament in Australia should be so ready meekly to bow the head and bend the knee to a group of newspapers. It makes me wonder what is going tobe the position when, in the near future, further amalgamations of newspapers take place and these great combines become even more powerful than they are now. I am still more astonished that the legal head of the Government, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham),with his own extensive training and the advice of his department, has not been able to evolve some means to inflict a punishment on those who have so savagely and bitterly launched an unmerited attack upon honorable members. That Parliament possesses certain punitive powers is undoubted. Members of the House of Commons have fought bitterly in the past to gain the privileges which they now enjoy and jealously preserve. Sections 49 and 50 of the Commonwealth Constitution state in no uncertain language that the powers possessed by this Parliament are similar to those which were enjoyed by the House of Commons when the Constitution was drawn up 33 years ago; therefore, it is obvious that it is within the power of Parliament to punish the directors, publishers, or editors, of the newspaper which has offended. Yet no mention has been made by the Attorney-General of the intention of the Government to use those powers, or to introduce legislation to provide means to deal with similar occurrences in future.
– I have said that thatwill be done, but I do not propose to1 advertise any weaknesses that may exist in our legislative machinery merely for the benefit of other persons. It would be very unwise to do so.
– Whatever weaknesses there may be in the Constitution it gives this Parliament powers similar to those possessed by the House of Commons 33 years ago. If there are any weaknesses they can be remedied in half an hour by the introduction of the necessary legislation. I realize the strength of the argument advanced by the AttorneyGeneral concerning the Posts and Telegraphs Act. I thought that it would not bo possible to pass legislation merely ‘to punish an individual. However, the honorable gentleman has stated that merely by altering the act it can be made intra vires, which strengthens my argument.
The subtly-worded statement which is. embodied in the letter addressed to the Prime Minister proves, by its phrasing, the meticulously careful preparation of those responsible for it. I believe that the directors have obtained expert opinion, and have so worded the letter that it conveys the maximum amount of insult and the minimum amount of apology, also to give as much further publicity as possible to the action of this Parliament in making a partialrestoration of members’ salaries. However, that is irrelevant to the discussion, and we are now debating what would be suitable punishment for the bitter and undeserved attack that has been made upon honorable members. .Those responsible have persisted in their attacks, and the latest letter reminds me of the words of Pope, for its contents -
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to’ sneer
The action of Associated Newspapers Limited has been aggravated by the covert sneers which are contained in the letter. It has been described in comical language as an “ apology.” It is not even a half-hearted attempt at an apology. I submit that, by accepting this so-called apology, we shall detract from, instead of add to, the dignity of Parliament. We should remember that we have inherited privileges which have been hardly won and zealously guarded, privileges for which men have fought and died, and it is our duty to hold high the torch that has been handed to us. Parliament possesses great powers, which it should not hesitate to use.
The Attorney-General said that he hoped that the so-called apology would be given publicity equal tq that given to the offending newspaper article. I am satisfied that it is the intention of those who drafted the pseudo apology to give it equal publicity to that given to the offending article in order that those who read it may be deceived by the subtle propaganda of those who control Associated Newspapers Limited. I suggest that the Government should retrace its steps, and decide not to be so meekly submissive to the power wielded by a section of the press, but to take definite and firm action to deal with these persons in accordance with advice which should be_ obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department. I also urge it to introduce legislation providing penalties of imprisonment and other methods of dealing with similar offences in the future. Parliament has tlie power to introduce retrospective legislation, and I remind the Government that the Moore Government, in Queensland, did not hesitate to resort to that method when it wished to launch an attack on a supporter of the Labour party, who was at the time a member of this Parliament.
.- It would be wise if an “ innocent abroad “ - a neophyte in .politics, such as myself - were to approach this matter dispassionately, and with that in view I have been jotting down a few ideas as the discussion proceeded. When I was a boy I was advised, among other things, not to disturb dirty water, to let sleeping dogs lie, and, if I became involved in a quarrel, to be guided by the axiom, “Least said soonest mended.” I have found, throughout life, that whenever I remembered and gave effect to that advice, things went well, but whenever I neglected it I had occasion for sorrow. Now I am extremely sorry that this endeavour to discipline the press has been brought so prominently before Parliament and the people. I am sorry that we ever consented to deal with it. The attitude of honorable members leaves me in a state of bewilderment. Why are they so mad about this press criticism? Can we honestly resent it? I really do not think that we can. For years honorable members have called, one another all sorts of names, and by innuendo and suggestion have said of one another things far worse than, the statements which have appeared in the press. Honorable members will agree that for years they have, by innuendo at least, accused one another of political trickery and have imputed motives to one another. Now, when the press makes a .plain statement, they object. Why? I do not see any consistency in their attitude. It reminds me of a woman who tells you what an awful husband she has, what a monster he is, what a life he is leading her, and how she does not know that she can continue to live with him; yet, when you endeavour to comfort her by saying that you knew all the time that her husband was not worthy of the angel whom he married, she turns on you, and says, “ He is an infinitely better man than you ever were; if he were like you I would have divorced him long ago. At least he is a man, whereas you are a mere apology for one.” And she talks at great length about his possessing angelic qualities that actually are enjoyed by no man this side of Jordan. That is exactly what we are doing to-day. For many years we have by suggestion and innuendo been calling one another all sorts of names. When I first entered this Parliament I was quite’ a greenhorn. One honorable member rose to his feet and made a wonderful speech, his face fairly flaming with sincerity. He said that the Prime Minister had forgiven his wealthy land-owner friends land tax to the amount of £1,500,000, because they had subscribed to the party funds, and he also accused him of using his political position to ‘buttress his own commercial interests. I knew the Prime Minister. He came of great stock and his people have a fine record. I expected great things from him, and after hearing this member’s speech I thought to myself, “ What is to become of Australia now that this awful man has control of the destinies of the people ? Instead of being in this House he should be behind bars. “ The member who was speaking evidently ran short of expletives, sat down, and then left the chamber. I followed him and found him walking in the Queen’s Hall composedly smoking a pipe. I said to him : “ Have you any proof that the Prime Minister is guilty of the charges that ,you made against him ? If you have, something must be done quickly or the country will be ruined. “ He looked at me and, pulling his pipe out of his mouth, replied, “ Watson, old man, do you know my real opinion of the Prime Minister ?” I said, “ No, except from what you said in the House. “ He said: “I think that the Prime Minister is one of the finest men in Australia. “ I then said: “But your statement will appear in Hansard and be broadcast throughout Australia and other parts of the world. Why did you do it ?” He replied : “ When you have been in Parliament long enough you will learn that it is all in the game. “ I object to this foolery about the press because it is entirely wrong. Instead, we should pass a vote of thanks to the press for having impelled us to discover qualities in each other that were lying dormant, or that we had failed to realize were there.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Marr’s amendment) - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I do not wish to allow the extraordinary vote whichhas just been taken to pass without making some comment on the subject before the Chair. I have not spoken on it previously, because I have no great concern about the criticism levelled by the press at honorable members, but . I do object to the malicious misstatements which appeared in the Sunday Sun, and which have done a grave wrong and injustice to the members of this Parlia ment. I protest against the inadequacy of the so-called apology which has been tendered by the chairman of Associated Newpapers Limited, Sir Hugh Denison. I did think that the directors of that company would have had sufficient decency to make amends before this matter came up for consideration to-day, but instead of attempting to repair the damage the directorate has made the position immeasurably worse. I therefore join with other honorable members who have expressed their utter disgust and disappointment with the attitude of Associated Newspapers Limited. In the letter sent by the chairman of directors to the Prime Minister it is stated that the directors are sensible to their responsibilities, and that they fearlessly discharge their duties to the public. That statement is not in conformity with the conduct of the company during the last twelve months or so. It will be remembered that during the regime of the Scullin Government a duty of £1 a ton was imposed on newsprint, and as the result the Associated Newspapers Limited and other newspaper proprietaries agreed to increase their price from1d. to 1½d. A ton of newsprint produces 10,000 copies of a newspaper of sixteen pages, and for every £1 collected by the Commonwealth by way of the duty on newsprint, these newspapers robbed their readers of £20 16s.8d. They then have the audacity to attack and malign members of this Parliament. When the duty on newsprint was removed, the Associated Newspapers Limited showed no regard for the welfare and interests of the wage-earning community, the unfortunate pensioners and others, because the price of its daily newspapers still remains at lid. At the time that they were insisting upon the balancing of the budgets and calling on the workers, the pensioners and the public servants to make sacrifices, the newspapers were enjoying special privileges which cost the people of Australia £500,000 a year. They have not been either decent or sincere. They speak of the sensitiveness of other people, but where was their sensitiveness when they raised the price of their newspapers by 50 per cent.? For a. number of years I have endeavoured to end the losses caused through press telegrams being transmitted at lower rates than other telegrams, but the present Government will not take action. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) will not even supply the information which I have sought regarding this concession and others. Honorable members will recollect that some months ago the Postmaster-General announced that the concession granted to newspapers in respect of the use of dictaphones would bo discontinued, but he has conveniently overlooked this matter. A few weeks ago I asked a question in this connexion and received the following reply: -
With reference to the question asked by you in the House on 25th October, Ifind that, in view of the confidential nature of some of the documents, it would be inadvisable for the departmental files relating to the use of dictaphones on trunk lines to be laid on the table of the House. If, however, you will indicate precisely the information you desire, I will give consideration to the practicability of making the particulars available.
There should not be anything on that file not readily accessible to honorable members. The extraordinary division just taken reveals the fears of many honorable members that if they are not careful they will lose the support of the press at the next election. I regret that the Government and its supporters have not shown sufficient courage and determination to see this thing through. The Government has failed in its duty, but the time will yet come when the country will not have to meet losses caused by making unreasonable concessions to newspapers. They are merely huge business undertakings which are out for profits irrespective of their source. They are prepared to accept money from the pensioners, wage-earners and others whom they seek to injure at every opportunity. The pensioner who is forced to pay 1½d. for a paper which ought to cost him only a1d. is subjected to a tax of 13s. per annum by the newspaper companies.I hope that I shall remain a member of this Parliament long enough to support a government which will deal firmly with these companies and take from them the privileges and concessions which they now enjoy at the expense of the people.
– I. rise to make a personal explanation. I did not vote against the amendment just now, because, on an examination of the Post and Telegraph Rates Act, I found that-
Mr.Rosevear. - I rise to a point of order and ask if the honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation regarding a vote he has given. I understand that the making of a personal explanation must be confined to the correction of a statement in which an honorable member claims to have been misrepresented.
– Until the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) proceeds further I cannot tell what his personal explanation will be. As an old parliamentarian the honorable gentleman surely knows thathe may make a personal explanation only if he thinks he has been misrepresented.
– My reason for not supporting the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) was that it was in conflict with statute law. I took the only action possible in the circumstances. If time had permitted further amendments to be drafted it might have been possible to prepare an amendment which would not have conflicted with the existing law. My vote was not evidence of any lack of sympathy with the suggested amendment.
Question - That the motion, as amended, be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Monetary and Economic Conference, London, 1933 - Report covering period 12th June- 26th July, 1933, by the Australian Minister in London.
Ordered to be printed.
Science and Industry Research Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year ended 30th June, 1933.
. - I ask leave to move -
That Standing Order No. 70 (11 o’clock rule) be suspended until the end of the year.
This Standing Order relates to, the introduction of new business after 11 p.m., and it is desired to suspend it for the remainder of the year in order to facilitate business.
Leave not granted.
– I lay on. the table the report of the Tobacco Inquiry Committee appointed to investigate certain aspects of the tobacco industry in North Queensland.
– Is the report to be printed?
– The statement has been made to me that this report has already been published in certain sections of the press. Is it the practice of the Government to make available to the press important documents of this description before they are presented to Parliament ?
.-I move -
That the paper be printed.
For the last four weeks honorable members have endeavoured to secure the presentation of this report to Parliament. Only last week the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) stated that it was more than unlikely that the report would be either presented to Parliament or distributed among honorable members. Later in the week the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) quoted extensively from it, and then said that as it was a confidential document, it could not be made available to honorable members. The public have had to bear the expense of the compilation of the report, and should know what it contains.
This afternoon I heard from Melbourne by telephone that the contents of the report had been published in the evening newspapers. I do not know what practice is followed by the Government, but I contend that no report should be given to the press before it is presented to this Parliament. The mere placing of the report on the table places honorable members in the position of having to discuss the question of its being printed before they have had an opportunity to learn the nature of its contents.
– There is no objection to the report being printed.
– The message that I received from Melbourne stated that the report condemned the Mareeba tobaccogrowing areas.
– Has that already been published ?
– It is published in the afternoon newspapers in Melbourne, and I presume also in Brisbane and Sydney. I understand that the idea in releasing the report to the press was to give certain Queensland members an advantage over others. The probability is that only favoured newspapers have been supplied with copies, and that the Daily Standard in Brisbane and the Labor Daily in Sydney have been overlooked. Under the rule adopted in the Queensland Parliament, documents which have not been released for publication are marked. “ confidential,” and placed in the boxes of honorable members. Last week the Assistant Minister for Defence said that this was to be a confidential document until laid on the table of the House, and then abused his position by quoting extensively from it in an endeavour to rebut statements that had been made concerning the tobacco industry. If other honorable members are agreeable to their rights being filched from them, I am not. Outsiders should not be supplied with information that should be given in the first place to Parliament. The Melbourne Herald, in which the report is published this afternoon, is the mouth-piece of the United Australia party.
– And of the tobacco combine.
– As the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) reminds me, it is also the mouthpiece of the tobacco combine. Apart from the information that has been conveyed to me by telephone, I have no knowledge of what the report contains. If it condemns the tobacco-growing areas of Mareeba, seven years have been wasted in the investigation of the possibilities of tobacco cultivation in that centre. Had the report been made available to honorable members concurrently with its release to the press, the matter would have been debated this afternoon on a formal motion for the adjournment of the [ House; because, in the Mareeba district alone, there are 866 registered tobacco- growers, and the number in Australia is 6,000. Are these growers to be sacrificed in the interests of the tobacco combine Imports are flowing into Australia from overseas. I charge the Cabinet with having withheld this report, which was available weeks ago. Honorable members have a genuine grievance in this infringement of their privileges. In my opinion the high-handed attitude adopted by the Government is deserving of the severest censure. It would appear that Parliament is only a secondary consideration. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) undertook to have the report presented to Parliament early in this week. Its presentation after it has been given to the press makes it second-hand. The House should register the strongest protest against information being supplied to the press before it is placed before Parliament. If the Government wishes the press to have these documents it should not make fish of one and flesh of another. If the Melbourne Herald and the Brisbane Telegraph receive copies they should bo furnished also to the Daily Standard. This is one of the biggest “ ramps “ I have seen put over in any parliament.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has a genuine grievance against the Government for having laid this paper on the table without moving that it be printed, and also for having made it available to certain sections of the press at 10 o’clock this morning while denying it to honorable members. Last week the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) mysteriously drew the report from his pocket and read passages which purported to prove that statements made by members of the Labour party were untrue. I cannot believe that the whole report is condemnatory of the Queensland tobacco industry. Surely some good can be said for this industry, which has been carried on for years under the expert advice of the Commonwealth Tobacco Investigation Committee? While I have every .respect for the Chief Accountant of the Customs Department who acted as chairman of the committee which has just completed its inquiry, I do not think that the report of that body should override the conclusions of years of work by the Commonwealth
Tobacco Investigation Committee. This afternoon the Minister for Customs (Mr. White) resorted to trickery and tried to slip this paper on the table “without the knowledge of honorable members.
– Order ! The honorable member must use more reasonable language.
– The report was mysteriously slipped on the table. I admit that there was some juggling going on and that it was difficult for you, Sir, to see what was happening.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to use parliamentary language.
– One of the most astonishing incidents in connexion with the report is that the first knowledge which honorable members gained as to ils general contents was from a telephone conversation with Melbourne, in the evening papers of which the report appeared to-day. Surprisingly enough we also learned that there appears in this evening’s Melbourne Herald a report of a speech relating to the dairying industry, and allegedly delivered by the Leader of ibo Country party (Dr. Earle Page) after he had moved, the adjournment of the House this afternoon. Though it is now f!.30 p.m. and the Herald was sold in the streets of Melbourne at 3.30, that speech has not yet been delivered in this House. In prominent headlines the Leader of the Country party is reported to have put up a doughty fight on behalf of the dairyfarmers.
The tobacco industry has grown into one of the most important industries in Australia, and its progress closely concerns some honorable members. The growers have been continually urging the honorable member for Kennedy to obtain a. copy of this report, because they want to know whether the results of two years of hard work and their life savings are to be jeopardized. As a result of the protective policy of the Scullin Government the little country town of Mareeba, in which there were previously hundreds of unemployed, has been transformed into a prosperous centre where all are busy. Is that good work to be spoiled? In the circumstances, is it surprising that honorable members on this side should desire to ‘see the report of the committee which inquired into the Queeusland tobacco industry?
– Honorable members can obtain copies of the report.
– Why did not the Minister act in a straightforward manner and move that the paper be printed? Honorable members have their rights, and 1 strenuously object to reports being given in priority to the Melbourne Herald, the Brisbane Courier-Mail and Telegraph, and even the Sydney Swu, against which honorable members ‘ opposite fulminated so vehemently this afternoon. The action of the Government in forcing honorable members to resort to the telephone to discover what was in a public report further humiliates Parliament, which a few nights ago was subjected to the indignity of having to listen to selected passages being read from this so-called secret document. It is time that honorable members had it in their hands. Therefore, the motion of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has my wholehearted support.
.- There appears to be a great deal of excitement, among honorable members opposite over very little. Had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) merely asked a question without notice he could have obtained the information that he desires. [ tabled the report, and purposely did not move that it should be printed, because it is of such a voluminous nature that to print it would be costly. However, a limited ti umber of copies are available to honorable members, and it is for the Printing Committee to decide whether the report shall be printed. Representatives of the press waited on me stating that they would like copies of the report in order to condense it for their newspapers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows that it is a common practice to hand copies of the budget, customs schedules, and other voluminous reports to the press for condensation. This report was given to press representatives about two hours before the House met.
– I was told that it was given to them at 3 0 o’clock this morning.
– The honorable member may have been told many things that are not true. I impressed upon the rep- resentatives of the press that the report was confidential, and that extracts from it should not be published before it was dealt with in this chamber. There appears to have been a misunderstanding somewhere, and I regret that there has been a violation of that confidence. I made no comment on the economics of’ the tobacco industry when I handed out the report and asked the press representatives to seek no comment elsewhere.I can understand the anxiety of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to obtain a copy of the report, and he and other honorable members who are interested in the tobacco industry will now be able to do so.
– There are800 growers in my electorate who will want copies.
– It will be for the Printing Committee to decide whether 800 or8,000 copies shall bo printed.
– Will the Government see that honorable members are supplied with confidential reports before they are given to the press?
– Honorable . members may make representations in that respect just as the press did.
– We are entitled to receive reports before the press does.
– I admit the merits of that claim generally, but would honorable members insist that they should receive copies of the budget speech or of tariff schedules simultaneously with their being forwarded to Western Australia and other States where press representatives are waiting to publish them simultaneously with their presentation in this chamber? Again I express regret that my request was disregarded by the press, and I shall make inquiries as to who was responsible for the breach of trust.
– The serious part of this matter is that by its action in distributing important reports to the press before making them available to Parliament, the Government brings honorable members into contempt. The Minister for Trade and. Customs (Mr. White) knows that his argument regarding the treatment of budget speeches and tariff schedules is not relevant.
It would appear that in this case as in others preference is being shown to the afternoon press. It is useless for the Government’ to endeavour to hide that fact. Its action gives certain publications a decided financial advantage by supplying them with matter which they are able to publish hours before their morning contemporaries. The only reasonable basis is to prevent the publication of such documents until they are actually tabled in this House. If, because of delay, a certain evening journal misses a scoop that is merely its bad luck, but it should not receive special consideration at the hands of the Government. All members of the Parliament should at least be placed on the same footing in regard to the distribution of reports, and the members of the Ministry should not be permitted to circulate reports of this kind before they are given to other honorable members. It appears that the contents of this report have already been published this afternoon in the newspapers of Sydney and Melbourne, and I suppose that they have also been published in the evening editions in all capital cities, yet honorable members have had no opportunity to peruse the report. If the supporters of the Government happened to be in Opposition, and a Labour Government resorted to this practice., they would be loud in their condemnation of it. The Government evidently considers that the press is more important than the members of Parliament. I suggest that Mr. Speaker should take action to ensure that members have access to governmental documents before they arc made available to the press.
. - I am surprised that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has released this report to the press before its presentation to Parliament, more particularly as only about a week ago, when I asked for a. copy of the report for publication in a newspaper with which I am associated, and which is keenly interested in the tobacco industry, he personally promised me that no copies would be supplied to the press before the report had been made available to honorable members. I accepted that promise in. good faith and did not bother any more about the matter. I am the president of the Australian Tobacco Growers
Association, and as such I consider that I am entitled to a certain amount of courtesy from the Minister, at least on tobacco questions. Realizing his difficulties I hare always endeavoured to be courteous to him. His disregard of his undertaking to me is to say the least of it, cavalier and I resent it very much. I do npt know whether the Minister intends to oppose the printing of the report.
– I am not opposing it.
– I am glad to have that assurance, because the report should be widely distributed throughout the tobacco-growing districts in Australia. I do not consider that the committee which conducted this investigation was competent or suitable. It was a committee of departmental officers appointed by the Government in a hasty and haphazard manner, and the tobacco-growers generally have no confidence in it whatever. I do not know what methods were adopted in making this inquiry, but I was surprised indeed to notice in the Sydney Morning Herald, about a month ago, an obscure paragraph to the effect that this tobacco committee was taking evidence in camera in Sydney. I concluded that the committee in publishing the paragraph had in mind the taking of the evidence of the representatives of the tobacco combine. I have had experience of such committees before. The combine dislikes giving evidence in the open. The select committee of which I was chairman received a request from the representatives of the combine to allow the directors to give evidence in camera. That request was acceded to because the committee did not wish to exclude any evidence which would aid it in framing its report.
– It is only reasonable to expect the combine to object to disclosing its financial affairs to the public.
– In that instance the combine wished to tender private and confidential evidence.
– No evidence was taken in. camera in Sydney.
– I shall have to accept that statement, but I 3hall expect the Minister to amplify it later. The tobacco-growing interests do not accept the report of the committee. Certain summaries of it have been published throughout Australia, but apart from those we consider that the composition. of the committee was not. in the best interests of the industry. Any committee of inquiry into the tobacco-growing industry should include in its. personnel a direct representative of the growers who has some actual knowledge of the industry and is likely to be sympathetic with the growers. The great majority of the growers have no confidence in a committee composed ‘ of departmental officers because similar committees have, in the past, sacrificed their interests to those of the great tobacco combine. I assure the Minister that this fight on the tobacco issue is not finishing. It ha3 only just begun. I ask him to give an assurance that this matter will be discussed before the House rises for the Christmas vacation; otherwise action will be taken with a view to forcing such a discussion. The tobacco industry has definitely crashed as a result of the policy of this Government, and a grave crisis has now been reached. The time has come for a complete showdown so far as the Government is concerned. I ask the Minister to facilitate a discussion on this issue so that the feeling of the House may be tested.
– If the honorable member will move for the adjournment of the debate I promise him that it will be called on again before the House rises.
– I accept that assurance and move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– The honorable member cannot at this stage move such a motion, but he may ask leave to continue his remarks.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the debate bc now adjourned.
Question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 31
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– In to-day’s press it is reported that the original estimated cost of works to be undertaken by the River Murray Waters Commission has been reduced by £3,000,000, and that additional works, not covered by the original agreement, and estimated to cost £1,200,000 are contemplated, making the net reduction of the original estimate £1,800,000. Can the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) say whether the report is correct, and, further, whether the additional work comprises the construction of a barrage near the mouth of the river, a weir at Yarrawonga, two weirs on the lower Murrumbidgee, and a bridge over the Hume Weir? If the report is correct, can he say further whether the members of the commission have returned to their respective States, and will make recommendations accordingly? Will the Minister also inform the House whether the Commonwealth Government has agreed to bear its share of the additional work, and if so, when such works will be commenced?
– The report in today’s press of the proceedings at a meeting of the River Murray Waters Commission yesterday is correct. The Commission decided to recommend to the four contracting parties - the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - that certain works, including a barrage near the mouth of the river, two weirs without locks on the lower Murrumbidgee, a weir at Yarrawonga, and a road over the Hume Weir, the estimated cost of which is £1,200,000, be undertaken. Whether or not the Commonwealth Government will pay its share of the cost is a matter for consideration by Cabinet. These works were unanimously recommended by the commission ; it is for the several governments to say whether they shall be constructed.
– How much is to he expended ?
– The total cost of the works in question will be £1,200,000. If the Commonwealth and the other contracting parties proceeded with the whole scheme as originally outlined, including the construction of an additional twelve or thirteen weirs on the Murray, and a considerable number of locks and weirs on the river Murrumbidgee, the expenditure would amount to an extra £3,000,000.
– Will the barrage at the mouth of the river Murray be proceeded with when the other works are put in hand?
– That work is contained in the recommendation that I have just mentioned; but before it could be proceeded with, the approval °* tuevernments of the Commonwealth, Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales, would have to be given to it. So soon as a decision is arrived at, I have no doubt that those Governments will be anxious to proceed with the work as early as possible. It is expected that, if the whole of the works mentioned are carried out, they will occupy a period of five yea’rs, and give employment to an average of 1,000 persons.
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House what will be the proportionate contributions which the Commonwealth and State Governments will make towards the £1,200,000 programme that is to be proceeded with ?
– The proposal is that the four Governments which are parties to the agreement shall each contribute one-fourth, that is £300,000.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been directed to a report that appeared in the press last Wednesday, to the effect that he had written to the executive of the Graziers Association, stating that, in view of the conflict of opinion among interests connected with the meat industry concerning the extent of the power that should be given to the proposed council for the control of exports, the Government had decided that it could go no further in the matter? If that is an accurate report, of. the honorable gentleman’s communication to the Graziers Association and other meat interests, does it mean that regulation of exports, which may become necessary as the result of any quota arranged with Great Britain or other importing countries, will have to bo on ministerial responsibility alone, and as the result of such consultation with the interests concerned as the Minister in his discretion may consider desirable?
– The letter to which the honorable gentleman refers was sent by me to the Graziers Association because of circumstances that have arisen since the original request was made to the Government for the formation of an Australian meat council. Honorable members who are interested will remember that, at a conference held in Melbourne in January of this year, requests were * formulated for presentation to the Commonwealth, suggesting the establishment of a meat council with complete power to regulate shipments of meat from Australia. Subsequently, a large and an influential section, which was represented at that conference, at a meeting in Melbourne decided to protest against the granting to any meat council of such powers as were contemplated in the original proposal. I intimated to the Graziers Association that, until there was complete agreement as to the measure of control desired, it was impossible for the Government to proceed with the suggested legislation. It is true that, in these circumstances, any arrangement concerning the restriction of meat exports, or matters of that nature, would have to become a governmental obligation, assisted, as far as possible, by the various interests concerned.
– Is it a fact thai the Department of Trade and Customs is prepared to supply honorable members, on request, with a list of prohibited books which, under the regulations are classed as “obscene” and “blasphemous”, but not those classed as “revolutionary” and “ seditious “ ? Is the real reason for the non-disclosure of the names of these latter works that, it desires the department not to advertise them, or that, the works being of a political nature, the Government wishes to prevent disclosure of the class and political bias of the Censorship Board ?
– I assure the honorable member that the Censorship Board has no bias. If he will place the remainder of his question on the notice-paper, I shall supply him with an answer to it.
– In view of the almost, universally expressed conviction that Australia’s credit has been restored, will the Government advise the Common- wealth Bank Board immediately to unpeg the rate of exchange and allow it to find its natural level?
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state when the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the disabilities of certain States may be received, and if its recommendations will determine the grant to be made this year? If the report is not available before the Christmas adjournment, will the Government distribute it among honorable members as soon as possible?
– The only application that has so far been made for the commission to hear a claim is that of Tasmania, which was received, I think, last week. Special steps were taken to bring the application promptly before the commission, which is now carrying out the preliminary work. I think one can say it is quite certain that no report in relation to any State will be received this year. When reports are made the Government will consider them, and, in accordance with the special terms of the act, bring them before Parliament. The amounts of this year’s grants are fixed by the budget.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarn ?
– No ; but it is expected any day.
– In view of the proposal of the Government to assist the wheat industry to the extent of £2,000,000, does it not consider that the coal industry, which has suffered more acutely and for a longer period, ought to be assisted, particularly in view of the fact that the Imperial Government has given a bounty of 4d. a gallon on oil extracted from coal, the cost of which, under the hydrogenation process, according to the latest published reports, is 9d. a gallon ? Will the Government state whether it intends to adopt a definite proposal for the encouragement of this industry by way of a bounty, so that Imperial Chemical Industries may be induced to install a plant in Australia on land that it has already purchased from the Government of New South Wales?
– I think it highly improbable that the Government will have the necessary means to provide a bounty in the manner suggested. As the honorable member is aware, the question that he has raised is engaging the attention of the Government. I presume that a report on the subject will be received from Mr. Rogers.
Sit ting suspended from 6.16 to8 p.m.
Pastoral Leases - Treatmentof Natives
– Has the committee which was appointed to inquire ‘into pastoral leases in the Northern Territory lodged an interim or final report ? If so, will the Minister for the Interior make it available to honorable members so that they may inform their minds on the subject in anticipation of the granting of a charter for the development of the Northern Territory ?
– The report to which the honorable member refers has not yet been received.
– Will the Minister for the Interior confirm the statement which appeared in the MelbourneAge of the loth November to the effect that in reply to a statement made by me in this House, the honorable gentleman said : “Judge Wells has denied the published statementby saying that there was no outside interference in the Stott case which was recently heard in Darwin. “
– That statement is not correct, for I did not make it. I have heard nothing from Judge Wells in regard to the matter.
– Is the Minister for Commerce in a position to inform the House as to the results ofrecent negotiations between the representatives of the four major wheat exporting countries - the
United States of America, Canada, Argentine, and Australia - and representatives from the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics in regard to the dissatisfaction which they feel about quotas that have been allotted to Russia under the International Wheat Agreement?
– No actual allotment has yet been made to Russia, but that is to be done at a meeting of the committee to be held on the 27 th November.
– Has the Minister for Customs received the report of the Tariff Board on coir matting ? If so, may honorable members expect to have it tabled before the House goes into recess ?
– The report of. the Tariff Board on coir matting has not yet been received, and I do not think it likely that it will be to hand for several weeks.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to a promise that was made last week by the Postmaster-General that inquiries would be made from the Treasury regarding the amount of money that it would be possible to grant to Mrs. E. L. Kelly, whose husband was killed in Canberra last week as the result of a motor accident.
– I do not know anything of the subject to which the honorable member refers, but I shall see that attention is given to his question.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in a position to announce what action the Government proposes to take in respect of subsidies which are paid to the foreign shipping trading between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji ?
– No. Communications have been despatched by this Government to the Government of Great Britain and New Zealand, but it is impossible to make any statement on the subject at present.
– In view of the fact that latest statistics disclose that the Commonwealth Government has a surplus revenue of £3,500,000 for the current half year, is it the intention of the Government to allocate portion of that amount to special Christmas relief work %
– I can assure the honorable member that he is under a complete misapprehension with regard to the sum of £3,500,000. There will be no surplus whatever when the commitments of the year are taken into account. It must be understood that reductions made by the budget have not yet taken full effect. The idea that there is a surplus of money for disposal arises entirely from some newspaper headings which were based upon a complete misconception of the actual state of the Commonwealth finances.
– In view of the grave anxiety on the part of cotton-growers and spinners with regard to the investigations of the Tariff Board into the cotton industry, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarns has been received, and when it will be distributed among honorable members ? I do not ask that it shall be printed.
– The report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarns has not yet been received. Obviously it cannot be distributed until the Government has considered it.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether negotiations are taking place between the White Star Company and the Commonwealth Government in regard to the overdue payments on the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers ? If so’, will he advise what stage the negotiation* have reached ?
– If I may answer the honorable member without prejudice, so far as I aware the Commonwealth Government is waiting and hoping, but the financial position of the White Star Company is such that it is operating under an agreement which provides that all its affairs are run by trustees for the benefit of creditors. According to the latest information available it does not appear at all likely that a dividend will be declared, at an early date. I am afraid that we can only wait and hope.
– Has the Minister for Commerce any information regarding the negotiations which are at present in progress between the Australian High Commissioner and shipping companies in London for a reduction of freights on apples and pears?
– Such negotiations were taking place early this week, but the result has not yet been indicated to the Government. We were told this morning that the ship-owners have deferred final consideration of the subject.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that 10,000 Communists voted at a general election about three years ago, that over 2,000 Communists voted in the Flinders electorate at the lost federal election two years ago and that over 3,000 Communists recorded their votes for a communistic candidate at the recent Flinders by-election? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of framing legislation which will bring about the disfranchisement of any person who is proved to bo guilty of association with any communistic or other disloyal organization, so that he may be prevented from contesting municipal, shire, State or Federal elections?
– As section 41 of the Constitution provides that no person who is entitled to vote for -a State election can bo disfranchised for a federal election, it will bc apparent to the honorable member that it is beyond the power of this Parliament to legislate with respect to disfranchisement in the manner that he suggests. Although that is a complete answer to the honorable member’s question, I can take the risk of saying that I am sure the Government would regard with great hesitation any proposal for disfranchisement because of political convictions, and that the best way to counter political opinions which are regarded as being dangerous to the community is to answer them. The Government will be very glad indeed to provide material to honorable members who desire it for the purpose of showing the failure of communism in the only country in which it has yet been tried.
Mi RIORDAN.- Does the AttorneyGeneral attribute the growth of the communistic vote to the increasing army of unemployed or to the influence of communistic doctrines? Does he consider that the growth of communism within the last few years has been the result of the failure of the National Parliament to relieve the distress among the unemployed and does he blame the unemployed for voting for any change that may bring in its train some relief to them and their dependants?
– As the honorable member has asked the. Attorney-General for a personal opinion, the question is not in order.
– In view of the growing communistic vote, will the Government take steps to relieve the distress among the unemployed people of this country?
– The Government has already taken such steps.
– In view of the fact that the capitalistic form of society has failed in every country in which it has operated, can the Attorney-General supply any information to honorable members which would enable them to combat the insidious propaganda of those who are trying to perpetuate that chaotic system?
– I admit that I tremble at the prospect of endeavouring to inform the honorable member on that subject.
– I have received the following wire from the Adelaide Corn and Produce Exchange: -
There will be a large surplus of barley for export, the chief market being Belgium, which usually takes 75 per cent, exported surplus. Harvesting has already commenced, reaping general in fortnight. Urgently necessary Go vernment make representations secure lifting Belgian embargo.
– Order ! I am almost’ tired of informing honorable members that they must not read lengthy telegrams, letters or newspaper extracts when asking questions. An honorable member should base his question on the information supplied. He should not give the information and then ask a question.
– Has the Minister received representations from the Adelaide Corn and Produce Exchange in connexion with the matter of barley? If so, what action does he propose to take to help the industry?
– I have received quite a number of representations from South Australia in connexion with this matter. The High Commissioner is at present in Brussels negotiating upon the subject.
– In view of thu statement made by the Attorney-General on the 31st March last that the Government hoped at an early date to consider the desirability of some degree of reorganization of the Commonwealth Bank, with a view to giving it greater powers in order to clothe it formally and fully with all the attributes of a central bank, can the Attorney-General, before the House goes into recess, give the House some lead as to what class of’ legislation the Government suggests?
– I answered a question on this subject, yesterday. In March I said that the Government would consider the advisability of introducing legislation in order to give the Commonwealth Bank completely the attributes of a central bank. I was asked a question on another day, and said that the Government did >ot propose even to consider that question until after the International Economic Conference had concluded its deliberations. Yesterday I said that the matter had been considered at the International Economic Conference, and that, in view of the circumstances, to some of which I referred, the- Government did not, propose to introduce such legislation.
Restoration of Salaries
– In view of the healthy condition of the Commonwealth finances, will the Government take steps to give some measure of relief to the lower-paid Commonwealth public servants who received no benefits under the recent budget which provided foi- tlie restoration of certain wages?
– Under the recent Common wealth budget there was a complete restoration of all reductions of wages under the financial emergency legislation in the- case of Commonwealth employees earning up to £252 a year. I.” am aware, as honorable members generally are aware, that there is a special class of employees in the post office who are being continued in occupations involving junior work, and are not receiving the senior pay; but, that is a separate matter which has been fully debated in this House. I repeat that all the reductions made under the recent financial emergency legislation have been completely restored in the case of every employee earning up to £252 per annum.
– In connexion with the legislation dealing with invalid and old-age pensions which the Prime Minister has promised to introduce into the House, will the Government, when framing that legislation, give consideration to the payment of pensions to persons who are proved to be tubercular to any degree ?
– The Government is now in the course of framing its proposals which will be debated in this House shortly - I hope next week - and I do not think that the honorable member would wish me to anticipate its intentions.
– Upon whose authority did the Minister for Trade and Customs have printed the report, of the committee of inquiry into the tobacco industry?
– On my own authority.
– Is the Minister for Commerce yet in a position to state what appointments have been made as Trade Commissioners in the East or in New Zealand, and what are the intentions of the Government in that direction?
– As legislation has to precede any appointments, none has yet been made.
– In connexion with the anticipated legislation dealing with trade representation in the East, will the Minister for Commerce give full conconsideration to the suggestion that a trade commissioner be located at Shanghai instead of Hong Kong?
– The fullest consideration will be given to all the representations that have already been made, and are likely to be made during the passage of that legislation through this House.
– Has the report of the Tariff Board on feldspar yet been received by the Government, and, if not. when it is likely to be available?
– The report has not yet been received, and I cannot indicate when it is likely to be received.
– Will the Government consider the introduction this session of legislation under section 49 of the Constitution to deal with the powers and privileges of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and of the Parliament as a whole?
– The Government is definitely prepared to ask the Standing Orders Committee to consider the matter.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to announce whether commissioners have been appointed to redistribute the federal electorates, and, if not, when does he expect such appointments to be made?
– The commissioners have not yet been appointed, but it is hoped to appoint them at an early date.
– In connexion with the certificate that has recently been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer regarding the census in relation to electoral matters, when will the commissioners who are to undertake the redistribution of seats be appointed, and when are their reports likely to be presented to Parliament, and made available to honorable members for consideration?
– The commissioners will be appointed at the earliest possible date, but just how long it will take them to prepare their reports it is impossible for me to say.
– Have representations been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs regarding the serious effect of recent importations upon the aluminium trade, and is he prepared to refer the matter to the Tariff Board with a view to giving further assistance to the local industry?
– I know of no recent representations; but, if the honorable member will forward any representations that he has received in that direction to the department, they will receive consideration.
– Will the Minister refer to a communication which was forwarded to his department on the 29th September last by those interested in the aluminium industry, with a request that it be given assistance ?
– I said that I know of no recent request;but, if the honorable member has one, I shall be glad if he will hand it to me, so that I may give it consideration.
– In view ofthe reported return of the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, to Australia early next year, will the Attorney-General say whether that gentleman is corning on private or official business ?
– The honorable mem- ber has asked a question based on a hypothesis. If Mr. Bruce conies to Australia on private business, he will come out on private business; but, if on public business, he will come out on public business.
– In view of the reported trip of the High Commissioner to Australia early next year, will the AttorneyGeneral state whether that gentleman will be allowed to come to Australia on private business at public expense, and if he desires to come to Australia on private business, will he still be High Commissioner ?
– I have no knowledge the private business of the High Commissioner. In any case, his private business is not a matter of public business.
– Is it the intention of the Government to allow the High Commissioner to come to Australia next year, and, if he does, will the cost be borne by the Government?
– The Government has no intention in the matter at all. The whole thing at present is mere invention. It is a newspaper fill-up. Of course, Mr. Bruce may come to Australia,but I have received no information on that subject.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The necessity for immediate legislation to improve the marketing of Australian dairy produce.”
Five honorable members having risen in theirplaces,
.- For the purpose of drawing attention to the necessity for immediate legislation to improve the marketing of Australian dairy produce, I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The dairying industry is the third largest industry of the Commonwealth on the basis of the value of its production, which last year was over £21,000,000, while on the basis of the number of persons permanently employed it is the largest in the Commonwealth; for 154,000 persons are permanently engaged in it. Hundreds of thriving towns depend upon it, and employment is given to thousands of others in butter factories and establishments in which cans, boxes, and other equipment are made. In addition, many transport workers on trains and ships are engaged in handling the products of the. dairy farms. Of a total production of 418,000,000 lb. of butter last year, 226,000,000 lb. was exported. The dairyfarmers of Australia, who are passing through a time of crisis, ask the Commonwealth Parliament, not for monetary assistance, but for legislation to enable them to maintain that complete organization which they have established for the development of the industry, and the marketing of its products. They ask for legislation similar to that which has been passed to assist other industries - a bill of two pages, containing four clauses. They approach the Commonwealth Parliament simply because the required legislation cannot be passed by the State Parliaments, because of their constitutional limitations. The State Parliaments, however, have recognized the urgent necessity to do something to assist the dairy-farmers. The Queensland Parliament has already passed the necessary legislation, and last Tuesday a similar measure passed its second reading in the Victorian House of Assembly; I understand it will reach the committee stage to-night. I have received a telegram from the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture in which he states thatnext Tuesday a butter marketing bill is expected to pass all stages in the Legislative Assembly of that State. As honorable members know, changes have been taking place in connexion with the Legislative Council of New South Wales, but I am assured that as soon as the election is over, the necessary legislation will be introduced into that chamber also, and that it is confidently expected it will have a speedy passage. These various State legislatures have recognized the acute position of the dairying industry, and have come to its assistance. The dairy-farmers approach the Commonwealth Parliament confidently, because they remember that the present Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was Attorney-General in the Government which introduced legislation to assist the dried fruits industry. Legislation on similar lines is now sought for the dairying industry. It is worth placing on record what the Attorney-General said in 1928. It is as follows : -
In the modern world thereare industries that can compete effectively against their large-scale competitors only if they are organized for marketing problems. There are two ways to establish a marketing organization which willenable them to sell their products upon reasonably profitable terms, and to free themselves from themarket irregularities which occasionally are deliberately produced by powerful competitors. Either the Government must itself establish that organisation or it must provide the industry with the means to doso. That is the principle upon which export control boards have been appointed in certain industries in the marketing of whose products there are special and peculiar difficulties.
The right honorable gentleman said that the dried fruits industry had its own special and peculiar difficulties. Similar difficulties have now arisen in the dairying industry, and therefore the various dairying organisations throughout Australia ask for action similar to that taken to assist other enterprises. The industry which makes this request is the best organized in Australia from a cooperative point of view. From time to time references are made to the wonderful cooperative organizations among the dairyfarmers of Denmark, but in some of the Australian States - notably in Queensland and New South Wales - the cooperative organization among the dairyfarmers is quite the equal of that of Denmark. Australian butter is of the highest quality, and its marketing system is well-nigh perfect. But. the organization has gone as far as it can go by itself. It now asks the Commonwealth Parliament to cover those fields of operation which private organizations cannot cover; it asks for statutory power to do its own work. The organization which the dairy-farmers of Australia have created has established a stabilization scheme, which has resulted in the butter producers of every State receiving practically the same for their butter irrespective of whether some are more favorably situated than others. That is the result of the evolution and operation of the Paterson butter scheme. Under that scheme butter produced in Australia and consumed in the home market is sold at the London export parity price plus the bounty paid, but less the costs connected with sending it to London. It has been suggested that, if this legislation were passed by this Parliament, there might be some exploitation of consumers. But that is not so. The mere fact that 1,200 miles away there is in New Zealand another dominion in which dairying is carried on extensively is a substantial check to exploitation.
-There is a duty of 6d. per lb. on imported butter.
– There is a duty on. almost everything which enters this country, and no one asks the Australian industry protected by the duty to forego the benefit of it. The dairying industry asks for more than the protection it already has; it asks for helpful legislation to enable it to maintain its organization. The Commonwealth Parliament has full power to safeguard the position. The prices paid to producers for butter are about the same throughout Australia. They havebeen maintained at slightly better than export parity, but not nearly at a rate which corresponds to the rate which might haveoperated under the duty. I have figures which Show that, in practically all the States, there is this market equality. Despite the fact that there is a stabilizationscheme and a protective duty on imported butter, the returns during the last few years show a deplorable state of affairs in the industry, owing to the world slump of prices. Some figures I shall give in regard to northern New South Wales, which is probably the principal dairying district in the Commonwealth, and in which conditions are most naturally adapted to it are informative. Out of 18,078 suppliers to a certain number of factories,8,931 received less than £10 each in July last for their own labour and that of their families, the use of equipment, their farms, and their cattle. Last March, which is probably the best month in the district mentioned, because it is in the rainy season, 4,600 suppliers out of a total of 14,900 to the same factories, were paid less than £10 each, many of them receiving only £5 or £6 for the month, More than 5,000 suppliers received less than £20 each for their year’s efforts.
– What was the highest amount paid?
– About £50; but only a few received that amount, and practically all of them were share-farmers who had to share what they received with the owners of the land. Of the 800 suppliers to the Ulmara factory, I suppose about 90 per cent, either own or rent their farms, yet two-thirds of them last year received an average of not more than £10 a month for the whole year, a>nd out of their receipts they have to pay rent or interest. That is true, also, of the factories in the Wide Bay district of Queeusland.
– Why has the right honorable gentleman selected March last, when the price was 14s. a cwt. lower than it; is to-day?
– I selected March because, during that month, the returns of actual butter or cream produced would have been from 100 to 150 per cent, greater than in September or October. If the Minister knew anything about dairying, he would know that, tows come into milking from October to J December, and are at their maximum capacity about March when grass and feed are most abundant. With th.i exception of Victoria, the production of milk is greater in March than, during any other month. I also gave the returns for the month of July, and have given the returns for the Ulmara district for a full year. I mention also that two-thirds of the suppliers in that district receive on an average less than £10 a month for their produce. The position of the dairyfarmers is desperate, and, unfortunately, the price of butter continues to fall steadily. In 1920 the price of butter was fixed by the British Government at 336s. per cwt. In 1921 the London price was 231s. per cwt., and the Australian price 275s. per cwt. To-day the London price i? S4s. per cwt., or about I05s. in Australian money, because the Australian producer gets the benefit of the exchange; it is from 110s. to 114s. per cwt. in Australia. Last month a number of Victorian factories received only 7-Jd. per lb. for their butter. In the northern districts butter suppliers received 9d. per lb. at the factory. Last year butter suppliers were paid as low as 6d. per lb., which, taking into account the depreciation of
Australian currency, represented under 5d. pei1 lb. sterling, or, in gold, less than 4d. per lb. at the factory.
During the last couple of years a new situation has arisen. As the result of the unprofitable nature of many other rural industries a substantial quantity of homemade butter has been sold by people who have bought a few COWS. Under the stabilization scheme a levy is imposed on every pound of butter made to provide the export bounty. This homo-made .butter, which has risen to a total output of 10,000 tons a year, derives the advantage of the local price, but makes no contribution to the bounty which is responsible for it. The action taken by the States has been dictated by the necessity for placing the industry on a proper footing. The States say that they have no control over butter which passes from, one State to another, and they have asked the Commonwealth to pass a short enabling bill to cover the whole field.
– Would that mean a compulsory pool ?
– It would not mean a compulsory pool, although complete power would be gi ven over the whole of tlie Australian output.
– Did not the dairy-farmers ask for a compulsory Coin mon wealth butter pool ?
– They say that with this legislation they would be able to handle the whole matter in the way that they desire. The idea is to have a system of licences, which would be granted only when those who consigned butter had complied wilh the conditions governing the industry as a whole. Provision would also be made for an equalizing payment as well as for quotas in connexion with export and home consumption.
There are special reasons why the Commonwealth should take immediate action in connexion with the dairying industry. In the first, place, 154,000 persons are permanently” employed in it. The industry is more highly organized than any other in Australia, and its exports have been handled much more efficiently, since the Export Control Board has been able to regulate them over the year, than they were handled a few years ago. About eight years ago, the whole of the butter was shipped from Australia in probably four months. To-day, although the system is not perfected, it is much improved by shipments being made throughout the year. The States are passing legislation with extreme urgency. During the last ten years the industry has made itself conspicuously more efficient. In New South Wales alone the quality of the cattle has so improved that the average annual butter production of each cow has increased by 30 lb., while in the last three years the yield has increased from 161 lb. to 170 lb. for each cow. The Government has admitted that it is cognizant of the claims of the industry, but desires to postpone action until with al! other primary industries it may be dealt with under a comprehensive marketing policy. The reply of the dairying industry is that its position entitles it to special consideration, for the reason that its organization is already complete, that legislation for general control lacks only Commonwealth action, and that the flush season of butter production is approaching. If action is not taken immediately, it may not be possible until August or September next, by which time the butter season will have passed and the industry will be in a state of chaos that may result in general ruin. [Leave to continue given.) If the industry is able to keep itself afloat - and. it will be able to do so if the requested legislation is passed - it will probably do more towards solving the unemployment problem, especially in rural districts, than can be done by any other industry; because this is essentially an industry that can be started very quickly, as land is available and cattle can be made ready in from a year to eighteen months.
– What is the total value of the output?
– Last year it was approximately £21,000,000. Before the slump occurred three years ago, it, was £40,000,000. The value of the butter exported last year was between £9,000,000 and £10,000,000. I urge the Government to pass this legislation, and if the States have not completed theirs, to hold, the Commonwealth legislation ready for immediate proclamation so that the scheme may bc operated from the moment, .that the last State is ready.
– The right honorable gentleman (Dr. Earle Page) has correctly stated the case by saying that all that is asked is that Commonwealth, legislation be enacted to make effective certain State legislation. The trouble is that, up to the present, there is no State legislation to be made effective, other than that passed by Queensland. From time to time the suggestion has been made in this House that the Commonwealth has been guilty of inaction and. delay in this matter. Let me review the actual position. At. the Premiers Conference held in Melbourne last Juno, it was decided that the States should submit to their Ministers for Agriculture the subject of a marketing scheme for butter, and the Commonwealth Government undertook to consider such a scheme when it was submitted by the States. So far we have heard from only two of the six States and indirectly from a third. Queensland has intimated that it has enacted its legislation, and New South Wales, on the 31st October - only little more than a fortnight ago - advised that, the preparation of its measure was completed. It is true, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has said, that the bill is likely to be introduced, on Tuesday of next week. The Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales also informed the Commonwealth that Victoria proposed to enact legislation of a similar character, and for our information furnished a typewritten copy of it. That legislation, we know, is now before the Victorian Parliament. But that covers only three of six States, all of which export butter. I remind the right honorable gentleman aud the House that legislation of the character sought by bini can be enacted by this legislature only on a universal basis; it must apply to very State in the Commonwealth.
– Why did not that principle apply also to the dried fruits legislation ?
– It does apply to the dried fruits industry. A Dried Fruits Export, Control Act has been proclaimed, and a control board has been se* up in every State, but the distinction between dried fruits and dairy products is that there is no’ production of dried fruits in two of the States, whereas butter is produced in and exported from all the States. The requirement that legislation enacted by this Parliament must apply equally to every State may not concern Tasmania and Queensland in respect of dried fruits, because those States do net produce dried fruits, but it seriously affects them in the case of dairy products.
May I remind the House that the dairying industry is not without export control. There is in existence at the moment a Dairy Produce Export Control Board, which comprises representatives of the industry itself, and which has very wide powers indeed, including the power to regulate the exports of butter from Australia abroad. I am sorry to say that it would appear that the full powers conferred by this legislature on that board are not exercised in that direction. I agree that the board has done excellent work, and I have no wish to belittle that work; but in reply to the statement of the right honorable member for Cowper that, whereas in days gone by, it was usual for the whole of Australia’s dairy produce to be marketed and sold within a period of four months, the operation now extends over the whole year, may I point out that, during the year ended the 80th June last, a good deal of irregularity was associated with the manner in which shipments of butter were made to overseas markets. For example, the consignments totalled 16,000 tons in November, 1932, and only 1,500 tons in June, 1933. Other monthly shipments were 4,000 tons, 5,000 tons, 5,000 tons, 9,000 tons, 16,000 tons, 10,000 tons, 9,000 tons, 11,000 tons, 11.000 tons, 4,000 tons, 3,000 tons, and 1,000 tons. I suggest that there is room for considerable improvement in the utilization of the powers and authority already vested in the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. Last year the price that Australian butter realized in London, was, on an average, 23s. per cwt. less than that paid for the Danish product, but the Government is not prepared to accept that margin as a true indication of the difference in quality between the two products. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board has the power to fix minimum prices for export butter, which if exercises in so- far asf.o.b. sales are concerned. It baB authority to recommend the Government standard of quality and to arrange to finance the industry, also to make contracts for the whole industry in respect of freight,’ insurance, &c. Those powers it exercises.
This is not the first time that a request has been submitted to the Federal Parliament for legislation of the character mentioned by the right honorable gentleman. In 1924, when the Dairy Produce Export Control Board was being introduced, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said -
With regard to the bill now under consideration, dealing with the export of butter, I may say that proposals were submitted to the Commonwealth Government some months ago asking that action should be taken to control of the interstate trade and to fix the prices on which it should be carried on. The Government refused to accent a scheme of that character, because it would be contrary to the whole spirit of federation. When the Common-wealth came into being, it was intended that there should be no longer any restriction of trade between the States. To establish such a control us was suggested would certainly be a negation of the federal idea. The Government felt that it would not ultimately have been in. the interests of the industry to take such action as was suggested’.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), who has submitted this motion, was a co-leader in the Bruce-Page Government.
– The’ Minister does not understand the position. At that time there were no marketing organizations in the States.
– A request had been made to extend the legislation which was being introduced and to confer on the Dairy Produce Export Control Board the powers to which I have referred. During the same debate the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said -
I am sorry that this bill is not sufficiently comprehensive. It does not deal with the whole of the problems confronting the dairying industry. It’ is necessary that the question of marketing, not only the one-third of the products of the industry that are exported, but also the two-thirds of its products locally consumed, should be dealt with. With a view to inducing the Government to reconsider the matter, I intend to move for the appointment of a tribunal, whose business it will be to fully investigate the conditions of the industry and to fix a reasonable- price for interstate trade.
The whole purpose of this motion is to control interstate trade. State Governments cannot control it, and they have approached the Commonwealth Government to p:ass complementary legislation to enable that control to be set up. While the honorable member for Capricornia was speaking an interjection was made : “ The industry would have a great deal to fear from a tribunal that would fix prices, “ and the interjector was the right honorable member for Cowper.
I ‘have been dealing so far with the powers conferred by existing dairy produce export control legislation. The extension which is now sought is designed to supplement State legislation which, as I have already indicated, has been passed by Queensland and is in the course of being enacted by New South Wales and Victoria. The legislation that has been agreed to in Queensland, and it is com* parable with the proposals of the other two States, contemplates that the production and distribution of butter in that State shall be carried on only under licence, a condition of the licence being that every producer of butter must export a prescribed quota of his production. In New South Wales and Victoria there is a limitation which excludes producers of under 500 lb. per annum, but in Queensland every producer of butter must, before he sells 1 lb. of that commodity in his State, undertake to export a certain quota - 60 lb. or thereabouts. During the year 1932, 52 per cent, of the whole of the butter production of Australia was exported. It is therefore reasonable to suggest” that the quota which would be fixed under this legislation would be in the vicinity of 52 per cent. That means that a farmer who is producing 10 lb. of butter a week would have to undertake to export 5 lb. of it overseas. We know that that is impracticable, and the purpose of the legislation, which I do not decry, is to make if impossible for persons to produce butter in that way by compelling them to send all their cream to the factories. That would be all right if there were no constitutional difficulties to overcome. The States have a right to impose conditions on the conduct of business within their boundaries so long as they do not impinge upon the powers of the Commonwealth. For instance, they are unable to discriminate between, interstate and oversea dealings. That is why they come ito the Commonwealth Government ito ask it to legislate, so that farmers in one IS tate will not be permitted merely to send their product over the border into another State, but must send the prescribed quota overseas. It has been suggested that this is not intended to be a price-fixing scheme. I submit that any scheme which contemplates limiting the marketing of any product locally must necessarily be largely in the nature of a price-fixing scheme.
Let me examine the effect of the dried vine fruits legislation, which, of course, is the nearest class of legislation aimed at in the motion, and is, in fact, the only legislation of its kind in operation in Australia to-day. The present export quota produced in Australia is 80 per cent, of currants, 90 per cent, of sultanas, and 67 per cent, of lexias. What is the result of that on the home consumption price ? I am not criticizing, I am merely giving the information to honorable members. The price of currants overseas is £37 lis. a ton, the home price being £49 19s.; that of sultanas is £43 overseas and £58 in Australia. A similar position exists in respect of lexias, the price in Great Britain being £28 2s., and” that in Australia £35 12s. a ton.
– The price in Great Britain would he on a sterling basis.
– That is so. I do not wish to prejudge the matter, I am merely stating the actual purpose of the legislation which is sought. It is useless to ask the Commonwealth Government to implement State legislation which does not exist. Three States of the Commonwealth which would be vitally affected by such legislation have not approached this Government or given the slightest indication of their opinions upon the issue.
.- I support the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). It’ is evident from the speech of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) that the Government intends to go into recess without passing this marketing legislation. For weeks, we have listened to numerous replies to questions that have been asked by honorable members as to whether the Government intended to introduce this legislation, during the present, year. We were assured that the whole marketing problem would be carefully considered by the Government, and that a decision would be made as early as possible. It was not until the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) yesterday expressed some doubt as to the practicability of introducing such legislation during this session that honorable members representing dairying constituencies realized that the Government had jio intention of introducing it before the end of the year.
The Australian Labour Party has a. definite policy in regard to marketing which is set out in plank 11 of its platform as follows: -
Australian-wide co-operative pools for thu marketing and financing of fu nil products.
– Why did not the Scullin Government give effect to that policy?
– There was a NationalistCountry party majority against us in the Senate. The Scullin Government introduced a wheat bill providing for an Australianwide wheat pool and a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, but the bill was rejected by the Senate in which there were many Country party representatives. As the Minister has said, this is no new subject. It was in conformity with the policy of the Labour party that I made strong representations in 1924 on this subject. At that time the Bruce-Page Government’ was in power, and it .consisted of practically 50 per cent. Country party members and 50 per cent. Nationalists. I urged it to introduce comprehensive legislation, and I think that the attitude of the Government was clearly set out by the statement made by the then Premier of Queensland, which, appeared in the Daily Mail, of the 5th August, 1924, as follows : -
Owing to my brief stay in Melbourne, i was unable to see Ifr. Bruce, but f. discussed the matter with Dr. Earle Page. Dr. Page stated that the Commonwealth Government had considered the request of Die interstate Dairying Conference, hut the Government ha.d seen formidable difficulties in the way of giving legislative effect, to thu proposals, and regarded any scheme which necessitated a regulation of market prices as impracticable. 1 also discussed, the scheme with the Premiers nf Victoria and South Australia, who were in Melbourne at the time, with a. view to considering joint action of the latter States acting independently <if the Commonwealth Government. Both Premiers were will i iw to assist in any co-operative proposal calculated to secure stabilization of the homo markets and better methods of export.
It will be seen that the right honorable member for Cowper, when Acting Prime Minister, pointed out to the Labour Premier of Queensland that, in the opinion of the Government, the scheme was impracticable. I have other statements here which were made by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), which I shall not quote as some of them, have already been referred to by the Minister for Commerce. This matter is not being hurriedly brought before the Parliaments of. Australia, The Australian Labour Party has always adopted the attitude that the members of any section of tho community should not be robbed of the enjoyment of an Australian economic, standard of living merely because tho dispose of their commodities in countries in which such a standard does not prevail. No section of industrial workers in Australia expects the farmers to work for less than a living wage. The workers do not stand for the production, of butter by sweated labour, or by forcing the dairy-farmer to subsist on the return that he receives for his commodity exported overseas and sold in competition with the products of the cheapest labour countries in the world. Just ?is tho workers in our secondary industries enjoy a standard of living higher than that ruling in other countries, such as China, Japan, Germany or England, so the dairy-farmers of Australia have a right to enjoy a relatively higher standard of living in this country, in which protection is the accepted fiscal policy. Tho genesis of the legislation which has been passed in Queensland and is under consideration in Now South Wales and Victoria, is to be found in the disastrous prices which have been ruling for dairy products. Recently the price of butter on the London market was lower than it has been for two decades past.
– That is not so.
– It. was so in M-arch lust; when thu price was 63s. per cwt..; to-day it is 87s. per cwt. In Iti unary, 1929, it was 175s. per cwt. and in January, 1932, it was 120s. per cwt. The price to-day is much lower than it was twelve months ago, and does not give a fair return to the dairyfarmers. The indust ry is in a worse position to-day than it was in 1924, when it first approached the . Commonwealth Government for marketing legislation. Home honorable members are always discounting the value of the Australian market; but owing to the growth of our. secondary industries under the policy of protection, the home market has become extremely valuable. There are 500,000 workers employed in our factories. In the dairying industry 79 per cent, of products are consumed in Australia and 21 per cent, exported. In the pastoral industry, 44 per cent, of the products are consumed in Australia and 56 per cent, exported. In. the agricultural industry, 65 per cent, of products are consumed in Australia and 35 per cent, exported. Those figures disclose the immense value of tlie Australian market.
After hearing the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) on his return from Ottawa, I did not think that, there would bo any need for further legislation in regard to the butter industry. We were told by the honorable gentleman that as soon as the agreement was ratified an immediate improvement in butter prices would take place. What has been, the result? The price of butter and other primary products has fallen tremendously since the ratification of the Ottawa agreement, and to-day the dairy-farmers arc in. a serious position. During the last four months England imported more butter from Russia than from Australia. What thu industry is now asking for is a scheme that has emanated from Queensland. It was drawn up by the best, brains of the dairying industry of that State, and was given legislative backing by the Queensland Labour Government. In 1925, that Government passed the Commodity Fools Act, which made possible the handling of £18^000,000 worth of farm products per annum in Queeusland, at the same time providing a maximum return to the man on the land. The stabilization of the dairying industry will not be possible without a price level common to the whole of Australia, or at least to the central ports of Australia, and it is, therefore, necessary to devise machinery to bring that about. In view of what has been done for other industries, tlie dairyfarmers are justified in making this request. Because of the bad times, there is a tendency for wheat-growers and other agriculturists to engage in dairying. According to the report of the Agricultural Department in Sydney, from 20 to 30 licences are being issued daily to individual dairy-farmers in New South Wales, entitling them to engage in the manufacture of farm-made butter for sale. [Leave lo continue given.’] Now that a number of small farmers are obtaining licences to make butter and selling it in competition with pooled butter, the tendency is to break down prices generally just as .men who work for wages lower than those ruling under the stipulated award rates help to lower the standard of living of their fellow workers. The Commonwealth Supervisor of Dairy Products, in a recent report, said -
Export is mafin possible only by factory system. Reversion to farm system will lower quality, destroy export trade, reduce home consumption, and encourage use of margarine
On the 28th October last, a committee representative of the Australian dairying industry met the Minister for Commerce in Sydney and put its case before him. On. the following Tuesday, the 33 st, October, the committee again discussed the matter at Canberra with, the Minister for Commerce, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis). Naturally the representatives of the dairying industry expected that something would result from those interviews, because they were informed that the Government was entirely sympathetic with tlie dairy-farmers, and would consider their request at an early date. They were hoping to have a definite pronouncement from the Government. The dairying industry is asking for State and Commonwealth legislation. The State legislation required is- -
The object of the proposed Commonwealth legislation is to buttress the measures that will be passed in the several States. The Commonwealth law would control interstate dealing by means of licences. The licences would be conditional, empowering the licensee to engage in interstate trade only on condition that he sells a definite proportion of his products overseas. The act would also provide for the determination of a quota by the Minister for Commerce after consultation, where practicable, with representatives of State boards. This legislation, when passed by the Commonwealth, would affect at least three of the eastern. States and enable the board to fix a fair and reasonable price for butter in the Australian market. There are approximately 120,000 dairy-farmers in Australia, and 600,000 people are dependent upon the industry. The Minister for Commerce has stated that legislation should be introduced in all the States of Australia. The Queensland Minister for Agriculture, speaking on this subject on the 3rd November, said -
To be quite frank the question 1ms been asked if he would bc prepared to go on with the legislation in the event of only three eastern States agreeing to participate. I do not think that the objection can be sustained, inasmuch as the three eastern States are producing 75 per cent, of the total butter and cheese output of the Commonwealth, and it is obvious that a scheme which is to operate among the three eastern States is a satisfactory scheme, and will lead to successful results. It would appear, however, that the Commonwealth Go- vernment is prepared to go on with its legislation when the State Parliaments 1]ave passed their legislation.
The Queensland Minister for Agriculture made that statement on the strength of the information that he obtained from the representatives of the dairying industry after they had consulted at least three Commonwealth Ministers, who promised that legislation would be introduced if they could succeed in inducing the States to introduce similar legislation. It is probable that the Commonwealth Government did not contemplate that the three eastern States would pass that legislation ; but Queensland has passed it, and it is under consideration in Victoria and New South Wales. All we ask is that the Minister gives the House the assurance that, before this Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation, legislation will be introduced providing for a scheme of stabilization. The prices of butter have been reduced to such an extent that the dairy-farmers are working practically under coolie-labour conditions. The Labour party does not stand for that. Tho Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), speaking some time ago, indicated that he was in favour of giving legislative backing to primary producers to enablethem to control their own industries. That, has been done in the case of the dried fruits industry. The sugar industry enjoys a substantial measure of protection, and the prices realized give a fair return to the growers. I cannot understand the attitude of the Assistant Minister for Defence, because he represents a large dairying district. Judging by the speech of the Minister for Commerce he has no intention to introduce legislation this year, but I urge the Government to give effect to its election promise to assist the dairy-farmers.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Forde) has not been quite fair to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), since that honorable gentleman has not turned down the proposals of the representatives of the dairyfarmers.
– He has criticized their’ proposals.
– He has not rejected them. On the contrary his attitude is sympathetic with the marketing problems of the primary producers generally. Mr. F. W. Bulcock, the Secretary for Agriculture in Queensland, speaking in the Queensland Parliament on the 27th October last, said that the following recommendation was submitted to a conference of Premiers : -
That the Commonwealth Government be asked to introduce legislation to appoint marketing boards in each of the States, similar to theDried Fruits Act, for the control and marketing of primary products.
He went on to say -
A responsible federal Minister told me that if an industry indicated a definite desire to undertake any particular form of organization and to embrace a form of orderly marketing acceptable to the industry itself, then the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to give favorable consideration to the demand or the request.
– That is the opinion of one man.
– The Attorney-General told that to a conference of Premiers.
– The first condition laid down was that the States should desire the legislation. Where there is co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, the former could not superimpose legislation upon the States; legislation by the States would be needed. Obviously, it is a case in which both the Commonwealth and the States must work together to a common end. The Australian dairying industry, which has grown enormously, is an outstanding example of co-operative enterprise. The importance of the home market is realized by the dairymen, and that is why they are sympathetic with Australian secondary industries. They desire some stabilization of prices in the home market because, under existing conditions, Australian prices for butter are dependent on conditions in Great Britain. If there is a slump in Britain, prices fall in Australia. The dairymen ask for power, not to exploit the consumers in Australia, but to stabilize the industry in such a way that they will receive a reasonable return for the butter sold in the home market. Although conditions are better than they were, there is still room for considerable improvement from the Australianstand-point. Until recently the dairy-farmers of Australia suffered many hardships, and, therefore, they desire some orderly system of marketing in order to ensure a fair return for their labour. They also desire some control of interstate transactions, for they have found that the efforts of one State to secure orderly marketing of dairy produce are sometimes frustrated by another State, to the detriment of the industry generally. The dairying industry should be established on a national basis. Unfortunately, some dairymen are not prepared to share the home market with their fellow dairymen, and for that reason action similar to that taken in connexion with the dried fruits industry is desirable. They ask for legislation to provide for an export quota as well as for control of the home market. These things cannot be accomplished by legislation passed by individual States; there must be co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. The bill introduced into the Queensland Parliament has been drafted on that principle.
Some honorable members have criticized the Minister for Commerce,but I am confident that he is not hostile to the dairying industry. He merely wishes to know what the industry itself desiresbefore he can say whether or not his Government can accede to its request. We have reached a stage which renders prompt action necessary, and, therefore, I hope that an indication of the Government’s policy in this matter will be given to us before the House rises. The suggestion made for consideration by the Government is reasonable, namely, that Parliament pass legislation which need not be put into operation until a date to be proclaimed. It could also be considered whether it should not be provided that the act. shall not be proclaimed until a number of States have passed certain complementary legislation. The important thing to do is to get the act on the statute-book so that it can be put into operation when the States are ready to move in the matter. Queensland has already passed the necessary legislation, and Victoria and New South Wales are proceeding along similar lines. Those States contain a very large percentage of the dairymen of Australia, and their action is . sufficient to justify the Commonwealth in cluing something for this industry. There ure certain constitutional limitations. For instance, the Constitution provides that no law of the Commonwealth shall give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or part thereof. The dairying industry asks for legislation which shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.
The importance of the dairying in-, dustry to Australia cannot be overemphasized. There are large tracts of country, particularly in Queensland, suitable for dairying, arid these areas should be populated by people who will. live on their own farms. The potentialities of Queensland, from a dairying point of view, are almost unlimited. Certain areas of the State have a good rainfall and good land, and with modern methods of dairying and of manufacture a great future is assured. Already in the tropical portions of the State, dairying is being carried on successfully. Anything that wo can do to assist this industry and to keep people permanently on the land is worth doing, and, .1. hope, therefore, that, the Government will give the request of the dairy-farmers its sympathetic consideration. I should bo better satisfied if the specific problem, confronting us were dealt with now and the general problem left until later.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support, the motion, but there would have been no need for this debate had the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) carried out his promise to the dairyfarmers when they met him in conference. He has told us that he is waiting for the States to introduce legislation. Queensland, has already passed a bill to assist the dairying industry, and Victoria and Now South Wales have promised to introduce similar legislation. The Commonwealth Government is not faced with any constitutional difficulty in bringing in the necessary bill. I do not agree with the right, honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) that only a small measure is required. If we are to have a proper marketing system, a comprehensive measure should be introduced. I believe that the dairy-farmers of Aus tralia should have a home market, price. The party with which I. am associated realizes the need for a home consumption price, and is prepared to assist in the stabilization of this industry. In order that they may obtain cheap . .goods from overseas, members of the Country party, which claims to represent the dairy-farmers, are willing to sacrifice the secondary industries, the workers in which constitute the home market for the dairying industry. That the dairying industry is of great importance to Australia is shown by official statistics. Each year Australia produces about :i 86,607 tons of butter, valued at £21,335,000. Of that, quantity 100,893 tons are exported, the value of such exports being £9,264,000. The home market accounts for 85,714 tons. The Hunter V alley produces 10,000 tons of butter per annum and in addition 8,000 tons of cheese.
Commonwealth legislation to stabilize the dairying industry, create a butter pool and fix a uniform price for butter is longoverdue. It should not he difficult to determine Australia’s requirements and to allot, to each State its fair proportion of the local market. Adjustments could be made to meet the case of a State which sold in the local market a greater or a smaller quantity of butter than its allotted proportion. The introduction of Commonwealth legislation would enable the domestic trade to be regulated in such a way as to ensure that every State would get its fair share of that trade and that prices would not operate to the disadvantage of either the consuming public or the dairy-farmers. Constitutional difficulties may arise and it may be found necessary to amend the Constitution. On a number of occasions the Commonwealth has sought the people’s authority to control industry, trade and commerce, and to fix prices. This Parliament has the power to protect industries by means of embargoes and tariffs, but sometimes manufacturers and others have taken advantage of that protection to charge excessive prices for their products. We have to recognize that, in the course of two or three years, the Paterson scheme will become defunct, as the result of increased exports and i lie refusal of many dairy-producers to contribute to the levy imposed by it. lt is essential that there shall be legislation t.o take the place of that scheme, to ensure price stabilization. The measures passed by the States will be ineffective unless Commonwealth legislation is enacted. One can understand the anxiety of the dairymen that the federal authorities should go ahead with the matter. The industry should be placed on a national basis, and the Minister for Com meroo should have control, not, only of the quotas of the individual States, but also of the price charged. The right honorable member for Cowper has suggested that there should be control boards. If such boards are appointed, I claim that, they should be representative, not only of dairymen, but also of the manufacturers of dairy products, the cooperative distributing companies, and the consumers. Licences should be granted to co-operative distributors, as is done in the case of dried fruits. .For a considerable number of years I have been interested in the New South Wales Cooperative Wholesale Society, which markets substantial quantities of the butter produced by the dairy-farmers of the Hunter Valley, and assists them with their exports, which are purchased by the British co-operative movement. As a general principle, each producer should be compelled to export an equal proportion of his product, and thus bear a fair share of the lower price obtained overseas. That object can be achieved only if the Federal Government co-operates with the States. Without its cooperation, State laws would be ineffective. A State Minister could determine the proportion of dairy products to be marketed within the State, but that, would not prevent manufacturers in one State from marketing a portion of their product in another, thus avoiding the export of their full quota. Federal legislation would prevent interstate trade except under licence, which would only bc granted subject to the condition that the licensee complied with the export quota fixed by the Minister for Commerce.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) adjournment of the House moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) to discuss the urgent need for the stabilization of the dairying industry. Honorable members doubtless realize that the dairying industry is in a most precarious position at the present time. For the last twelve mouths, dairyfarmers have been working at a loss. The efforts to. have the price stabilized and sales controlled have been necessitated by the unfortunate plight in which tho dairyfarmers have been placed by low prices overseas. Is there any reason why the Australian price should be subject to that which is received abroad? The industry is too valuable to bc pushed aside. The desire .to have it stabilized is dictated by the needs of the unfortunate people who are struggling to make a living in it. Its value to the community exceeds that, of any other industry, not excluding the wool industry. The value of its exports, including butter, cheese. condensed and dried milk, is ‘ £13,000.000 and, in addition, production valued at £27,000,000 is consumed within the Commonwealth. The association with it of practically one-tenth of the total population of Australia bears out my contention that it is the most important industry that we have. From the point of view of primary settlement, it is worthy of the greatest encouragement. So important is it that the relief expected from the stabilization scheme should not be delayed. I am more greatly impressed with the motion of the leader of the Country party by reason of the reply of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to a question that I asked last week. The honorable gentleman has not yet indicated to the House whether the promised legislation will be enacted during the present sittings of this Parliament. If the industry is to be saved, that legislation must be enacted before the Christinas adjournment, no matter what other business has to bc transacted or what reason there may be for an early adjournment, even if we have to sit until Christmas Day. I am not concerned as to the position of the legislation in thi States. Let the Commonwealth not fail to have ready the enabling legislation, which must, be passed if State legislation is io be made effective. There is constitutional opinion to the effect that it is not necessary for the whole of the States of the Commonwealth to enact laws governing the matter. In the case of the dried fruits industry, only the three States concerned passed legislation. The three eastern States, being the principal exporters, could upset any situation that might arise out of the legislation passed, and so long as they and the Commonwealth are in line, the whole of the requirements of the stabilization scheme will, be met. There are enemies outside Australia with whom we have to contend. The more the industry is welded together the greater will be the possibility of resisting action opposed to its welfare. Enthusiasts in the cause of promoting the supply of Danish butter to Great Britain are again raising their heads in the hope of inducing scattered organizations throughout Australia to agree to some scheme for the restriction of exports. We cannot agree to any restrictions. We want to make our organization sufficiently powerful to insist upon the determination to hold the market in Great Britain and thwart the activities of influences in Great Britain which may have capital invested in Denmark or the Argentine. We depend on our exports to meet our overseas indebtedness. Under the Ottawa agreement we have a right to the British market. The industry has been induced to adopt scientific methods to improve pastures, make factory management more efficient, and increase production. If we are to maintain our exports against Danish competition, we must still further improve the quality of our production and not consent to a quota being given to either Denmark or other countries.
.- I represent a fairly large proportion of the dairying community in the Commonwealth, and I feel that the position of the dairy-farmer during the last twelve months has been most precarious. I have received letters from those engaged in the industry urging that the Government should take action to stabilize the price of butter to enable them to receive a fair price for their labour. The Farmers’ Wives Association of Millaa Millaa have written to me as follows: -
As our member, you will know we dairyfanners are being tried to the uttermost - and unless stabilization comes very quickly, a number of us will not recover. Urged by desperate need and acute distress owing to the prolonged parlous state of the industry, we wired Mr. Lyons at the Premiers Conference pleading that the stabilization proposals submitted by the Interstate Committee be given effect to at the very earliest possible moment. May we ask your help and advice.
I remember that in 1922-23, when the Queensland Labour Government, of which I was a supporter as a private member, introduced market organization bills, its action was strongly condemned by members of the Nationalist and Country parties as being the first step towards the socialization of industry, and it was claimed that the scheme had its birth in Russia or some other such place. Here is a letter from a farmer, which, incidentally, clearly shows that he has no confidence in the Ottawa agreement. It reads -
There is barely tucker in it. No margin to pay any wages, rent, interest, &c. A lot of dairy farmers, after years of hard work, seven days a week, fourteen-hour days, are being pushed off their farms. No actual evictions yet, but the load of debt is increasing every day. There are a lot of farms for sale at gift prices. Farmers that have been squeezed that hard that they are compelled to agree to a sale at any price.
The writer encloses a printed pamphlet that he has received from the marketing organization of Queensland, asking him to get in touch with other farmers in the different States of the Commonwealth, and urge them to press for legislation similar to that which exists in Queensland to be passed in their own State in order that their industry may be stabilized. That letter is interesting after the. glowing promises that were made as to what Ottawa would do if we would only sacrifice our primary and secondary industries, and throw those engaged in them on the unemployed market.
The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), who has submitted this motion, strongly supported the Ottawa agreement which, he claimed, would assist our meat producers and dairymen by obtaining a stable market for them. Russia was not a party to the Ottawa agreement, and it is of interest to read how that country has fared since the arrangement was entered into. The figures which I shall quote are taken from the monthly sum- mary for October, 1933, issued by the into Great Britain during the last week National Bank of Australasia Limited, of September and the four weeks of and they show that the arrivals of butter October were as follow: -
That table clearly shows that Russia, which did not cringe to Great Britain or alter its fiscal policy, obtained more butter trade from that country than did Australia, and that Great Britain will always trade in the cheapest market. The summary also states -
The weekly arrivals of butter from Russia arc again surprisingly heavy, and, from the beginning of August to the end of October, no less than 17,040 tons have been received from that source.
So much for the agreement for which members of the Nationalist and Country parties have sacrificed Australian industries. Members of the Country party now come along and ask that a market should be provided to give producers a stable price ! Mr. Walker, who represents the dairying constituency of Cooroora in Queensland, and was Minister for Agriculture in the Moore Government, made the following statement in the Queensland Parliament on the 3rd of this month : - “ We have organized efficiently in Queensland through the action of the Government, which brought in tlie commodity marketing legislation known as ‘ The Primary Products Pools Act Amendment Act of 1925,’ which has been responsible for much of the legislation that has followed, and for the efficient working of tho Board, and for the setting of an example to other Boards. “
Those pools and boards were inaugurated by a Labour government, which has led the world in this respect. Prior to the establishment of the Paterson butter stabilization scheme, the Queensland Butter Board fixed the price for this commodity, and it may surprise honorable members to know that a Nationalist mem ber of the Queensland Parliament, who was later Treasurer in the Moore Government, and is in private business as a produce merchant, began to import butter from New Zealand in an endeavour to smash the Queensland butter pool, which indicates how much Nationalists are in sympathy with legislation such as that now sought !
The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has stated that this legislation would be impracticable unless State Governments co-operated. Does not a similar position exist with regard to the wheat industry in connexion with which the Government proposes to introduce legislation to stabilize the market ? Despite the anxiety of the Government to go into recess at the end of next week, it will have to take action to relieve the wheat, dairying and other primary industries. In some States producers cannot make provision to feed their stock, and if they encounter a bad season they are faced with ruin, I regret that the limited time at my disposal does not enable me properly to state the case of the dairymen, hut’ I point out that the mover of the motion which is being debated was the deputy leader of the Federal Government when the Queensland Government endeavoured to have similar legislationpassed by this House, and- that he did not then use his influence in the interests of farmers.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- As I represent a district in which there are many farmers engaged- in dairying
I do not wish this matter to be dealt with without saying something on the subject. I am glad that the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has submitted his motion because I was anxious to know where the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) stood. At the outset, let me express agreement with the contention of the Minister regarding the difficulty of introducing the legislation that is required. The honorable gentleman referred to the output of dairyfarmers in the coastal districts, which is substantially borne out by my experience in the Upper Hunter and other sections of the electorate which I represent, and I think that the position was attributable in a measure to drought conditions, as well as to low prices.
There is no doubt that dairymen are endeavouring to put their iudustry on a reasonably sound basis. In my district, in addition to having their herds tested, dairy-farmers engage in irrigation and the conservation of fodder. However, without continued protection and price stabilization, the case of the farmer is practically hopeless.
I believe that the Minister has given a correct historical survey of the position dating back to a year that I remember quite well, for I was then a supporter of the Bruce-Page Government, which was disinclined to introduce -legislation similar to that now sought. I wish to be perfectly frank on the subject. I suggest that the conditions for the dairy-farmers and marketing generally are now much more serious than they then were, but [ am not yet satisfied that it is practicable for the Government to take action until a move is first made by all of the State Governments. From the candid utterances of the Minister I am inclined to think that no such unified action has been completed by the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, nor can we ignore South Australia and Western Australia, which also export butter. In the past, certain factories have been able, through their organizations, to obtain a greater share of the local market than others, and have not subscribed their full share of the export quota. One of the essentials of a stabilization scheme is that all suppliers shall contribute to the scheme and bear their full share of the export quota. While I think that the time has not yet. arrived for the Federal Government to take .action, I realize that the position is serious enough to warrant the Paterson scheme being superseded. Perhaps the primary producers, of which I am one, may have made a mistake in evolving some policy of protection such as that which is enjoyed by secondary producers; but with .the costs of production so against them, compared with the benefits accorded to secondary producers, they. had no alternative. Without a. prohibitive tariff against New Zealand butter we could not have given effect to the Paterson stabilization scheme. I trust that the Minister will realize the importance of this industry, and, before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation, introduce legislation to complement that of the States. The smaller exporting States have had the advantage of the Paterson scheme without having to bear the same responsibility as the larger exporting States, and that, has also been the ease in respect of the local market. I have always understood the position to be as stated by the Minister, because I have told my constituents definitely that the Commonwealth could not take action unless the States acted in concert. I hope that before the House rises for the Christmas vacation the Minister will be in a position to introduce a bill to provide for a stabilized scheme of marketing.
‘10.16 J . - I wish to deal only with the legal aspect of this matter, although I am well aware that there are other aspects. Any legislation dealing with the subject now before the House must comply with the provisions of the Constitution. Section 99 of the Constitution provides that any law of trade commerce or revenue shall not give preference to one State or any part of a State over another State, or any part thereof. Under that provision, combined with Section 92, which provides for interstate freetrade, it has been held in effect by the High Court in relation to the dried fruits legislation of the Commonwealth, that federal legisla- lion on such a matter as this dealing with interstate fraetrade must be uniform throughout all the States, and is invalid if there are divergencies or differences in its application to the different States. Under the Dried Fruits Export Control Act authorities are set up for the purpose of giving licences for interstate trade. Under the present decision of the High Court, that, may lawfully be done, notwithstanding the provisions of section 92. But, as there was production of dried fruits in New SouthWales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia only, and as it was only from those States that dried fruits could in practice be exported into other States, by an oversight on the part of the department these licensing authorities were appointed only in respect of those States and not in respect of Queensland or Tasmania, which do not produce dried fruits. But as no authorities were appointed to issue licences for interstate trade in Queensland and Tasmania, though there was no interstate trade of a relevant character from those States, the High Court; held that all the regulations were invalid. The regulations were held to be invalid because the act did not apply equally to all the States. In the case of butter, however, all the States export butter at varying seasons and in varying quantities, and it is obvious that any federal legislation, for reasons of business, apart from reasons of law, must be federal in the true sense and apply in every State. The scheme of control such as is embodied in the Dried Fruits Act and complementary State legislation is only practicable where all the producing and exporting States act in conjunction with the Commonwealth, so that an authority may be set up in each State to exercise both . federal and State powers. The principle of the Dried Fruits Act up to the present, has not been successfully challenged. According to the decision of the court, in view of the fairly obvious economic and commercial necessities of the case, it is quite useless for the Commonwealth to legislate in order to bring about the desired scheme of control until all the States legislate upon identical or, at least, substantially similar lines. That may be unfortunate, but it has to be accepted as the position. It is not created by any political decision on the part of the Government. It is a supervening general consideration which would be of equal importance and. significance whatever government was dealing with the matter. Unfortunately, although this question was put before the State Governments in June last in almost the same words as I have used to-night, and their legal advisersall agreed with my statement of the law, up to the present, only one State has passed a law dealing with the matter, another State has introduced a bill, and another has said that it intends to introduce a bill.
– The Governmenthas received a telegram to the effect that the State legislation will be passed by next Tuesday.
– We have heard nothing from the three other States. As to the possibility of passing legislation in NewSouth Wales without a Legislative Council, I do not want to give an offhand opinion, but I know that, at present, all kinds of legislation are being held up in New South Wales on account of what is generally regarded as the absence of a Legislative Council.I understand that at, present there are only fifteen members of that council, and that another fifteen are being elected to-day.
– The legislation could bo passed by the lower House.
– That has no more significance in law-making than the passing of a measure through this House. I am not professing to state precisely what the position is in New South Wales, but I admit that I would be astonished to find that the old Legislative Council, over which I understand an almost regular funeral service has been held, had reassembled on Tuesday next. That, however, does not matter. Until all the States pass substantially identical legislation, it is not practicable, whatever may be the desire of any government, to bring into operation, in the case ofbutter, any such scheme as is in operation in the ease of dried fruits. These considerations are quite independent of other matters to which, doubtless, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has referred. The authority in which the High Court decided this matter is James v. the Commonwealth, volume 41, of the Commonwealth Law Reports, page 442.
.- I am naturally interested in this subject, because I represent by far the largest dairying constituency in the Commonwealth. More than half of the butter of New South Wales is produced in my electorate. It will therefore be seen that my constituents are keenly interested in this matter. There seems to be some misconception in the minds of certain honorable members, including the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) concerning the interstate conference which was held in 1023 prior to the introduction of the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill. I represented New South Wales at that conference, and at that time it was realized that it was of no use to ask for a stabilized scheme of marketing, becausethere was no proper organization in existence which could give effect to it. Now that the dairying industry has been thoroughly organized, as is shown by the success of the Paterson scheme, there is no reason why a stabilized marketing scheme for Australia could not be properly operated. Since last October, I have urged the Government to give this matter consideration. When the scheme was first proposed, the Minister for Commerce said thathe would give it sympathetic consideration, but now he has changed his ground completely.
– I have not pre- judged the matter at all.
– The Minister says that if the scheme is to be successful the six States must be brought into it. The opinion of eminent counsel has been obtained in more than one State, and it is to the effect that the suggested legislation would be perfectly valid and in accordance with the Constitution and the decision given by the High Court. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has asked the Government to show its bona fides by passing this legislation immediately and proclaiming it later. If we are to believe rumours, Parliament will not re-assemble until after the main portion of the butter season has passed, and if this legislation and the supplementary State legislation were passed within the next week or two the date of proclamation could be postponed.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 15th November (vide page 4571).
Proposed vote, £157,500.
– The subject to which I desire to refer was brought forward when last year’s Estimates were under consideration. An undertaking was then given that the matter would be investigated, and a report submitted; but, so far as I know, the information has not been supplied. I refer to the work of compiling a consolidation of the statutes and the attitude of the Attorney-General’s Department to this matter.Some time ago two legal gentlemen of Sydney compiled a consolidation of Commonwealth statutes, and the result of their efforts commended itself to the legal profession generally. Up to that time the Attorney-General’s Department had not contemplated the compilation of such a volume, although it must have realized the necessity for it. The two gentlemen mentioned undertook this work without asking for any subsidy from the Commonwealth, although in other States, particularly Victoria, the consolidation of the statutes has involved the Crown in considerable expense. When the work had reached the stage that the volumes were ready for sale to the public, the Attorney-General’s Department issued a circular to the legal profession, over the signature of the Solicitor-General, stating that the department intended to compile a consolidation of Commonwealth statutes. The issue of that circular no doubt affected the sale of the volume compiled by the two young men whom I have mentioned, for among the prospective buyers there would be some who would expect more details, and, perhaps, greater accuracy, in an official publication. The issue of the circular is the more reprehensible because the publishers of the other volume sent a copy of it to the department for its perusal; it was only after that was done that the department sent out is circular. I should like to know whether the head of the department was acting within his rights in issuing that circular, unless he had received instructions from the Government to do so. In fairness to tho Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), I ought to say that the circular was sent out during his absence overseas at a conference. Tho right honorable gentleman might not have been responsible for the circular; but since his return he baa had ample time to ascertain the reasons for it, and I therefore hope that he will give an explanation of the action taken. It may be said that the time has not yet arrived for the department to undertake the work of consolidating the acts of this Parliament, because of other contemplated amendments to existing legislation. A work of this character is a big undertaking, and it is doubtful whether it could be completed during the life of one Parliament. Obviously, the issue of the circular was designed to affect the sale of the product of the two legal gentlemen mentioned. I am informed on good authority that their compilation is a good work; it is up to date, the book itself is well bound, and those who have bought it are satisfied with its contents. I should like the Minister to say definitely whether it is intended that the department shall undertake a consolidation of the acts of this Parliament, and whether the Government considers that the heavy expense involved is justified when the work has already been done. If a consolidation is necessary, why not accept the work of these two men, and let the members of the legal profession know that this work is available?
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) regarding the failure of the Arbitration Court to deal with a number of important cases. A striking illustration of the delay in hearing and dealing with cases was given recently in connexion with the dispute in the wool and basil industry of New South Wales. It appears that the workers had a claim before the court for at least eighteen months, but could not get it heard, and that in sheer desperation they decided to resort to direct action. All their attempts to arrange a conference with the employers failed. I have also in mind another organization whose case has been before the court for many months without a decision having been arrived at. All that its officials can ascertain from the court is that a decision has been deferred. There the matter remains. Happenings of this nature tend to bring the court into disfavour. Some time ago, when an effort was made to secure a reduction of 10 per cent, in real wages, the court acted quickly, on the ground that, because the national income had fallen, prompt action was essential; but now that circumstances have changed, and the workers are seeking a restoration of the amount taken from them., there are said to be many obstacles in the way of hearing their case. A tribunal such as this court which so willingly reduced wages should at least be just as willing to restore them when the conditions which may have justified the reduction have disappeared. When it is thought by the opponents of Labour that conditions justify a reduction of wages the press of Australia gives great publicity to the need for a reduction; but when circumstances change, its silence is profound. There is no doubt that when the court reduces wages there is- widespread support of its action by all the employers’ organs of publicity; but when the position is reversed., those whose interests are allied to a policy of low wages are silent. We, unfortunately, are living in times when the workers are glad to have a job under conditions not at all palatable to them, and cannot do anything that might jeopardize their position. The employers are aware of this, and take every advantage of it. This Parliament ought to be used as a sounding board, so that the court may know what the feeling is in regard’ to the restoration of the cuts. I hope that some good will arise out of the discussion, and that the court will take notice of the circumstances in which the workers are placed and immediately restore to them the reduction of 10 per cent, in their wages.
.- I join with the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) and
West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in protesting as strongly as I can against the undue delay which has characterized the attitude of the judges of the Arbitration Court towards the restoration of the 10 per cent. cut. With astounding celerity, the court has facilitated every cut that has been made.
– I remind the honorable member that there is no item on these Estimates which deals with the judges of the Arbitration Court.
– The workers of Australia had 10 per cent, of their wages filched from them under false pretences.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are distinctly out of order.
– In what respect?
– In respect to the statement that the judges filched from the workers. No reflection may be made upon the judges.
– As the result of certain action, the great, majority of the workers who come under the Arbitration Court lost 10 per cent, of their wages. In my opinion, that cut was wrongfully made, and was opposed to all economic thought. It was the outcome of the panic which at the time swept through the community. As a member of the Scullin Government, I agreed to the intervention of the Attorney-General of the day. That Government did everything in its power to prevent the Arbitration Court from wrongfully reducing the wages of the workers of Australia. The celerity with which those wages were reduced-
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that what he is saying is a distinct reflection upon the judges, and is not, in order.
– Well, then, I shall say that the workers of Australia should not have had their wages reduced, and that the 10 per cent, cut should be restored to them. If I cannot say that in the Federal Parliament, on the Estimates dealing with the Arbitration Court, where can I say it?
– It is easy to say it. without abusing any one.
– If the term “ abuse “ suits my right honorable friend, it may very well he applied in this regard. If the Standing Orders allowed me to do so, I should use much stronger language. Of course, the AttorneyGeneral and the Government are not free from the serious charge that they did everything possible to bring about the reduction of the wages of Commonwealth employees. When the panic and the stampede took place among the private employers of this country, they so impressed the judges of the Arbitration Court asto induce them to bring about the 10 per cent, reduction, for which there was no justification.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in saying that the Attorney-General - to whom, I presume, his remarks apply - stampeded the judges into doing something improper.
– I said no such thing. I am not responsible for the interpretation that you may place upon my remarks. You have no justification for saying that I made such a statement. I was referring, not to the AttorneyGeneral, but to the general position. The people of this country were stampeded.
– Order ! The honorable member distinctly referred to the Government; and as the department which the committee is now considering is in charge of the Attorney-General, I was justified in the statement that I made.
– With all due respect to you, sir, I was dealing not with the Attorney-General but with the general position which existed at the time of the 10 per cent. cut.
– Order ! The honorable member may not argue with the Chair. The committee understands distinctly that he was reflecting upon the Government. He is entitled to do that, but he cannot be permitted to say that the Government stampeded the court.
– Well, then, I shall say th at the employers of this country were stampeded, and rushed in a panic to the Arbitration Court to obtain a 10 per cent, reduction of the wages of their employees. Economically that reduction was unsound, and there was no justification for it. Unemployment was greater because of it than it would have been had the cut not been applied. Certain highly placed persons in. the community now reluctantly agree with that con ten- tion, which was put forward by the Attorney-General in the Scullin Government. When the organizations of employers appealed to the court for the reduction, the court functioned like a sausage machine and disposed of case after case in a very brief period; but now that it is a question of restoration, it is said that all sorts of legal difficulties have to be overcome. Last night the AttorneyGeneral went to considerable trouble to give to the committee and to the people of Australia certain so-called facts. He said that, because of the demands that were being made upon the Government for assistance by different primary producers in Australia, the time was probably not opportune for the restoration of the cut. I have dealt with the general position very briefly, circumscribed as I have been by the direction of the Chair.
– Order !
– I should like to have gone more fully into it.
– The honorable member was circumscribed only to the extent that the Standing Orders insist upon the .debate being relevant to the question before the Chair.
– Th a t is what I said.
– It is not what the honorable member said.
– Very well, it is not what I said.
Mir. Ward. - On a point of order. Will the Chairman inform honorable members what Standing Order prevents comment, upon the actions of judges of the various courts? ?
– If, when addressing the Chair, the honorable member is called to order, he may ask for a ruling. At present he has no call to intervene.
– I shall now deal with the particular responsibility of this Government. It has adults working for the wages of juniors. It has set a bad and an infamous example to the employers of Australia, and they are taking every advantage of it to sweat their employees. This is a sweating Government. It has done everything possible to help the mean employer, who wishes to run his business more cheaply than his competitor. Since it assumed office it has done everything possible to bring about a lowering of wages and conditions of the workers of Australia.
– It restored what the honorable member’s Government took away.
– The Assistant Minister was one of those who approved the lowering of wages and conditions of men who had not been affected by the action of the Scullin Government, and assisted to ‘ have the Arbitration Court approached in order to bring about a 10 per cent, reduction of wages. The Scullin Government refused to do that.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that it is correct. He also knows that the 900 adults who are working under the basic wage, together with other employees of the Commonwealth Government, are still suffering from the reductions made by this Government. Notwithstanding the appeals which have been made from this side of the House, and objections raised by the men concerned and their organizations, these infamous conditions still exist. It is only to be expected that a government which stands for the employers cannot be expected to stand for the workers. That sums up the position clearly. This Government encourages the mean and contemptible employers who sweat their employees, and itself sets an example by employing men below the basic wage, and taking every possible means to bring about a reduction of the wages of those who are not in its employ.
For many months the Opposition lias been endeavouring to persuade the Government to recognize the need for the creation of a tribunal in the Federal Capital Territory which will give those who are in private employment an opportunity to have their wages and conditions regulated ; but, so far, those appeals have fallen on deaf ears, and the AttorneyGeneral has not provided facilities’ to wipe out conditions which are a disgrace to this or any other Territory. There is probably no other city in the Commonwealth in which the industrial conditions are so deplorable as they are here. Prior to my leaving the office of the Minister for the Interior, I was making arrangements to have the matter adjusted, and had I been in that position for another couple of months those arrangements would have boon completed. However, I promise that when a Labour government again assumes office in the federal arena the workers of the Federal Capital Territory will be adequately protected. For the time being I leave it at that, trusting that even at this late hour, instead of persisting in making restorations to the wealthy in the community, the Government will do something for the poorer man by restoring portion of the money which was filched from him.
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) the position which exists in Australia as a result of the conflict between Federal and State awards. It is perfectly well known to the right honorable gentleman, who I am sure, appreciates how desirable it is that there should bc uniform industrial conditions throughout Australia. I do not know how many years have passed since the matter was first submitted to the people of this country by way of a referendum for the amendment of the Constitution, but I know that it has been done on no fewer than three occasions. Other attempts have been made, by negotiation with State Governments, to induce them to surrender to the Commonwealth the powers that are necessary to, enable it to create machinery to effect uniform industrial conditions. This is, perhaps, the only important issue on which employer and employee have one mind. But tho months and the years have passed, and nothing has been achieved. I submit to the AttorneyGeneral that an earnest effort should be made to appeal to the people by way of referendum for authority to amend the Constitution in a way that will permit of the standardization of hours and conditions of labour all oyer Australia. Even that falls far short of what I desire. I believe that there should be vested in this Parliament power to make laws on all industrial matters, and for many years I have advocated such amendment of the Constitution as would give this Parliament power over the whole economic field. This legislature, which calls itself a National Parliament, has absolutely no power over the things that really matter.
It is national only in name, and when it tries to exercise the powers that it does possess it finds that it cannot do so effectively, because of the limitations which are imposed on it by the present distribution of powers under the Constitution. I urge the Attorney-General to speed up any negotiations with the State Governments designed to have additional powers surrendered to this Parliament. One effective way would be for him to make it plain to the reluctant or hesitant States, that in the event of their not surrendering those powers it is the intention of this Government at the earliest possible moment to submit the matter to the people by way of referendum. I know too well all that can be said against the submission of a referendum other than at a general election, but the right honorable gentleman knows how important it is that there should be industrial peace, and that the most potent cause of industrial trouble is the overlapping of awards, and the inconsistent decisions which emanate from various courts. I do not desire to trespass upon the time of the committee any further, but I hope that the AttorneyGeneral so thoroughly appreciates the position that he will take my words in the spirit in which they are uttered, and meet the desires of this committee, and of the country, that the present unsatisfactory state of affairs should be terminated at the earliest possible moment.
.- The continued passiveness of our Arbitration Court, which prevents a restoration of wages being made to the workers of Australia, greatly accentuates the effects of the existing depression. The methods of the court have created the feeling that it works with great rapidity when there is to be a reduction of the standard of living of the worker, and with extreme slowness and reluctance when the beam swings in the other direction. When wages were to be reduced the case of one industry was used as a test case, and the reduction was promptly applied to all industries. Now when there should be a restoration of the 10 per cent, cut in wages, the court considers it necessary to deal with each industry separately. If that procedure is persisted in, . it will be years before all industries have their cases finalized. That is tending to destroy the principle of arbitration, and to undermine the confidence of the workers in the Arbitration Court. The court as at present constituted is doing little or nothing to rectify the disabilities and anomalies under which the great mass of the workers are suffering to-day. Why should not this National Parliament give a direction to the court to restore the higher wage standards? The Bruce-Page Government threatened to destroy arbitration altogether, and, but for the prompt action taken by the great mass of the people at the time, our system of arbitration would have been wrecked. This Government is seeking, perhaps on more subtle lines, to undermine confidence in the principle of arbitration. The judges of the court, who were appointed by the BrucePage Government, naturally taking their lead from this government which has similar political beliefs, have not hesitated to reduce wages and working conditions, but it should be made clear to the court that it must observe a uniform procedure under all circumstances. The reduction of 10 per cent, in the wages of the workers has added to the ranks of the unemployed, and the consequent decline of the purchasing power of the community has restricted both primary and secondary production. To-day there are employed in the postal department 900 men in receipt of a salary below the basic wage. The present actions of this Government and of the court are undermining the confidence of the workers that their wrongs may be redressed by the court, or that they will secure from it the restorations to which they are entitled. This unfortunate possibility we should do all in our power to avoid. I hope that any expressions of sympathy which tho honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) may express for the workers, if he speaks on this subject at all, will be more genuine .than his present demeanour seems to indicate.
– Order !
– Might I inquire- the reason for the attack which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has made upon me, since I have been listening attentively to his speech?
– I have already called the honorable member for Hindmarsh to order. His remarks are definitely out of order.
– I ask the Chair to observe more closely the demeanour of the honorable member for Werriwa. I seek from you, sir, the same protection as you afford to others.
– The honorable member must not reflect upon the Chair. I saw nothing in the demeanour of the honorable member for Werriwa to which exception could be taken.
– The honorable member for Werriwa was seeking to embarrass me by certain mannerisms which, to say the least of it, were undignified. This subject is far too serious to be treated with levity. As the honorable member for Werriwa has many thousands of workers in his electorate, he should pay due regard to the seriousness of their position.
– The honorable member’s remarks are of a personal nature and therefore out of order. The demeanour and conduct generally of the honorable member for Werriwa in this committee have been exemplary. I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh not to- make personal reflections upon other honorable members.
– I ask that I should receive from the Chair the same consideration as is extended to other honorable members.
– The honorable member has repeatedly reflected upon the Chair, and I must ask him to withdraw his statement.
– I shall withdraw it, and refuse to say any more on the subject because of the treatment which I have received from the Chair.
– I name the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), to take the necessary action.
– I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) to withdraw his remarks; otherwise I shall have to support the Chair.
– I withdraw and apologize.
.- In view of the fact that the
Government has undermined the position of the Public Service Arbitrator, I wonder whether the expense of continuing this office is justified. Although both the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) have repeatedly said that it would be wrong to attempt to interfere with the conduct of the Arbitration Court, the way in which the Government has attacked the principle of arbitration is one of the worst features of its administration. Only yesterday the Attorney-General showed sensitiveness about intervening to restore to a number of men something which was taken from them, and which otherwise they may never get. When, because of financial difficulties, it was considered necessary to reduce the pay of public servants, tlie Government decided that about 900 adults in. the Public Service should continue to receive juvenile rates of pay. The excuse that the finances of the country justified that action cannot be advanced now, yet these men are still receiving the pay of minors. As a temporary expedient, the action of the Government was bad enough, but the worst feature associated with it Avas the Government’s attempt to legalize its illegal act by appealing to the Public Service Arbitrator to sanction the continuance of the payment of juvenile rates to men over 21 years of agc. To the credit of the Arbitrator, he refused to carry out the Government’s request. He said that the public servants concerned were entitled to men’s pay, and that there was nothing to justify him in. reviewing his award. The Government then did what the AttorneyGeneral has many times said should not be done - it introduced legislation to legalize something which the Arbitrator said should not be done.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong ; a motion for the disallowance of the award was passed in accordance with the terms of the appropriate statute.
– Whatever form the Government’s action took, the fact remains that it was taken in order to overcome a determination of the Arbitrator. The Government set out to undermine a fundamental principle underlying our legislation ; and that is why I question the wisdom of maintaining the office of Public Service Arbitrator. Knowing, however, that the public servants wish to have this office retained, I shall not vote to abolish it. This is the most glaring case of a government seeking to legalize what it knows to be illegal that has occurred in the history of the Commonwealth. Since the budget proposals of the Government include the remission of about £7,500,000 of taxation there is no justification for continuing to pay juvenile rates to adults.
– I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that there should be greater uniformity of industrial conditions throughout the Commonwealth. I mentioned this matter on the general debate, and shall not repeat what I then said. I am content to remind honorable members that the leaders of all political parties, as well as the leaders in industry, are of one mind in this matter. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made a point of it in his policy speech, as did also the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) . and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). State Ministers and other leaders have also suggested that this is a reform worth instituting. Every year considerable losses are incurred in industry because of the overlapping of awards. On page 222, volume 7, of the reports of the South Australian Board of Industry, the president is reported to have said -
The hoard feels impelled to draw the attention of the Minister of Industry to the menace involved to industrial peace, stability, and efficiency, as a result of the non-existence of machinery for harmonizing, basic wage rates throughout Australia.
The failure to harmonize the basic wage rates throughout Australia has caused industrial unrest which is affecting the whole community. Not long ago, the Commonwealth took action to deal with a State which was out of step with the rest of the Commonwealth in financial matters. If uniformity in financial affairs is desirable, it is equally desirable in the industrial field. The Government should take this matter in hand, and try to harmonize at least the standard working week and the basic wage, so that in reality there may be free trade between the States. The late Mr Justice Higgins once said -
But although I dismiss the application, this case puts in a glaring light the inconvenience and danger of the constitutional position. Hero are two tribunals - one constituted by the Commonwealth and one constituted by a State - handling the same subject-matters independently as if the other tribunal did not exist. There is no co-ordination, no interdependence between the courts, and the disputants are only too apt to treat the courts as rival shops. This position involves grave danger to industrial peace and to the continuity of operations in industries. But I cannot see how the position can be altered without a change of the Constitution.
Leaders of industry are looking to the Government to bring about that change of the Constitution. On a previous occasion, I showed how the leaders of industrial unions were taking advantage of the lack of uniformity in industrial matters. I pointed out that in some cases they advise members of one union to resign and join another union.
Silting suspended from 1H5 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 17 November 1955 [Quorum formed.’]
There are two Commonwealth awards operating in the same field as the determination. The resulting complications are chaotic. If it were desired to design such a situation it might be conceived by the disordered mental efforts of a commission of lunatics. Not only are there two’ living wage rates arrived at by different methods and different authorities, but the very bases of the two jurisdictions also differ.
The authorities that I have quoted favour the scrapping of duality in the arbitration system. Not only the leaders of political parties, but also the leaders of industry outside, are in accord with this desire. One wonders why this alteration of the Constitution has been held up for so long by the present Government. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General has good reasons for the delay, and that he will state them. I have shown, in a previous address, that the direct loss of wages due to the overlapping of Federal and State industrial awards amounts to £30,000,000, in addition to which there is the loss of production in industry. I ask the Attorney-General to take into consideration the statements of the authorities that I have quoted, and to consider the petty jealousies and bitternesses that arise, as well as the extraordinary conditions that obtain in the different industries. I know that referendums have been defeated from time to time. I believe, however, that there is now more complete accord than there has been previously, and that the time is ripe for the submission of the question to the people. If it is not the intention of the Government to hold a referendum, I have no doubt that the Attorney-General will explain the reason.
– The. honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has brought before the committee the question of the disallowance of an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. If the Government proposes to continue that policy, it might be as well to consider the advisability of abolishing the office of Public Service Arbitrator.
A number of adults in the Commonwealth Service are to-day receiving less than the basic wage. It is all very well to suggest that the Attorney-General is prevented by wonderfully fine scruples from approaching the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I consider that the disallowance of the award of the Public Service Arbitrator is indirectly an intimation to the court of the Government’s policy, and that it suggests a steadying up by the court at the present juncture.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) have both stressed the desirability of effecting uniformity in the industrial laws of Australia. No doubt there is a good deal to be said in favour of that contention. It must not be forgotten, however, that when it is proposed to bring a case before the federal court, employers all over the Commonwealth have to be sought out and cited. Any person who purchases an undertaking after an award has been given is exempt from its provisions by virtue of the fact that he was not cited. I should expect a State like
Queensland to1 refuse to surrender its industrial powers to the Commonwealth; Any industrial dispute; or any claim for an award in that State, is handled quickly. As a matter of fact, no matter how busy the court might- be,- a delay of three months would be’ rare. If a dispute threatens,- an industrial magistrate is instructed to see if it is possible to prevent it. Should it be too big for an industrial magistrate to handle; it is dealt with by a member of the Board of Arbitration and Conciliation. In this way the development of a large number of disputes is prevented. In the federal court the time that elapses between the lodging of a claim and the hearing of the case, on the average, is twelve months. The inability of this court to deal expeditiously with cases has caused a feeling of hostility towards it to be aroused. The honorable member for Wentworth has stressed the anxiety of the leaders of industry to stabilize working hours and the basic wage. It is a difficult problem to secure the acceptance of even that principle by governments in Australia. Within the last month or two the Commonwealth Court has had before it the question of hours, and has granted a 44-hour week only to key industries, in which there was the danger of a hold-up. A 48-hour week is out of harmony with the present system of production and manufacture. Everywhere in the world except in Australia and Great Britain, employers and employees alike are seeking a shorter week than 44 hours. In the majority of European countries, the aim is to have a week, of 36 or 40 hours. Some States are more prepared than others to give consideration to the reduction of hours. It seems to be the desire of the federal court to lengthen rather than to shorten hours, and that has, a tendency to arouse ‘ a feeling of opposition ‘to its being given authority to make a declaration on the subject. But the greatest difficulty of all is the action for which the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) says this Parliament was responsible. I say that it was not the whole Parliament, but only a majority of it, which favoured the disallowance of the award of the- Public Service Arbitrator. That action at least gave an excuse to those who preside over industrial tribunals for adopting a similar attitude. With all due deference to other opinion, I say that the actions of governments have a definite effect on tho minds of, not only industrial courts, but also other courts. I know that Mr. Justice “Webb, and other justices who preceded him in the Queensland Arbitration Court, always sought to ascertain what was in the mind of the legislature when the law was framed. If the award of the Arbitrator was disallowed because the financial obligations under it could not be met, it is reasonable to assume that the Arbitration Court will adopt a similar line of reasoning and say that employers generally are not in a position to pay the wages claimed. Doubtless, if it had the power which this Parliament possesses, to make a man work for less than the basie wage or go on the unemployed market, that power would be exercised. The court has not the power to grant a common rule, and frequently the whole of the employers in an industry cannot be cited because of the difficulty of reaching them. Industrial organizations who cite a case have to supply the number and the names of the employees, and state whether they are adults or -juniors. Then, when the case comes on, they have to produce witnesses to swear to these facts. The employer’s representative may be able to prove that between the lodging of the claim and the hearing of the case the circumstances have entirely changed. When a claim was made some years ako before the late Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Federal Arbitration- Court by the ironworkers, Engineering and General Metal Workers Union-, one of the employers cited was “ Walker Brothers.” The correct name of the firm is Walkers Limited-, and, when the award took effect, Mr. Farquhar, then manager of the wellknown Maryborough firm, said that, as the award did not apply to his firm, it would not be observed, if provision were made for the granting of a common rule, I have no doubt that on many occasions it would prove most useful._ In one instance an application was filed for an award covering the pastoral workers of Western -Australia-, and, despite nine months’ work on the part of the Australian Workers Union in visiting stations and securing the names of employers and employees. it was found that not one- half of the men were covered by the award, because it was stated by the employers that the .conditions which applied when the inquiries were made by the union did not obtain at the time of the hearing of the case. If the court fixed a basic wage and a maximum number of hours of work, as suggested by the honorable member for “Wentworth, the constitutional difficulty would remain, because the procedure of the court is slow. The waterside workers in Queensland waited for many months for Mr. Justice Beeby to hear their plaint. I am aware that the inability of Mr. Justice Beeby to deal with the case was due to an unfortunate accident, from the effects of which he is probably still suffering; but another member of the court should have taken his place.
– How long would it take the court to visit Mount Isa?
– For the time being the Mount Isa mine is closed down, and no court will intervene until the employees resume work. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the leaders of industry and the unions are both at fault, but I claim that the employers are more often blameworthy than the unions, because of the methods adopted by them in trying to evade compliance with awards of the court. Fair employers observe the awards, but these have to be policed carefully because of the actions of unscrupulous employers.
– My interjection concerning Mount Isa was designed to help the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), but he apparently misunderstood me. I was referring to the distance of Mount Isa from the centres of population, and tho desirability of industrial tribunals being close to their work, so that quick decisions may be obtained. I asked tho honorable member how long it would have taken the federal court to go to the mine, or to .deal with the dispute that has resulted in the closing down of that important industrial enterprise, with serious consequences to Queensland. In a country of 3,000,000 square miles, considerable elasticity is required in connexion with the arbitration proceedings to enable the courts to function quickly. Mount Isa is in the Gulf country, and the Federal
Arbitration Court is chiefly confined to the more populous centres of Sydney and Melbourne. The distance of Mount Isa from those capitals, quite part from differences in latitude and climate, points to the futility of over-centralization of industrial authority in Australia. I have had experience of the industrial systems of several States, of the size of Australia from an industrial point of view, also of the varying conditions that are to be met in different parts of the Commonwealth, Rather than continue to centralize industrial control, I contend that the fullest measure of decentralization is highly desirable. In Queensland an industrial court operates over a very extensive area, and finds it difficult to be at hand when industrial disputes take place. These often occur suddenly, and the wider the area over which an industrial authority has to act, the slower will be its movements.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr, E. J. Harrison) have endeavoured, from time to time, to convince honorable members of the desirability of a uniform basic rate of wage and uniform hours of employment. The suggestion naturally comes from Sydney, which is the largest manufacturing centre, and has a larger population than any other city in Australia.
– I quoted authorities from all States.
– I intend to quote facts from all .States. Owing to political happenings in New South Wales during tho last five or ten years, industry in that State has been laden with costs which, had it not been for the protection of the tariff, would have crippled it. Industrial interests in that State, which find themselves at a disadvantage compared with their competitors in other States, have been endeavouring for a considerable time to saddle industries in other States with disadvantages similar to their own, and they have taken effective action to this end. I have before me a copy of a judgment of the Federal Arbitration Court, which came to hand only this morning. The plea put forward by those honorable members who have addressed themselves to the subject of uniform hours and a uniform basic wage is that, if these matters were decided by the federal court, uniformity would be obtained, but it is well known that the federal court itself does not provide uniform conditions. Tradesmen in various crafts, whether engineers, carpenters, or any others, have different wages and hours under various federal awards. The federal court considers each industry on its merits. The judgment before me is that of Mr. Justice Beeby, in regard to the textile industry. In this case the court has made an attempt to provide uniform basic rates of wages, and it has done so by fixing the basic wage operating in the industries in the various States on the basis of the average of the price index figures for the five capital cities, excluding Brisbane. The policy of the Arbitration Court since 1907, has been to fix wages in accordance with the standard laid down in the Harvester case. Yet it has now fixed a basic wage which has the effect of giving workers in Sydney 6s. a week below the Harvester standard, while employees in South Australia will receive a rate above that standard. This has been done in order to bring the actual money wage in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania, into line. Employers who complain that there is a lack of justice in this have some reason for doing so, as also have the employees.
– What does the honorable member mean by the “ actual money wage “ ?
– The actual money received in the pay envelope. A given amount would not have the same purchasing power in Sydney as it would have in Mount Gambier.
– Where is the unfairness from the employers’ point of view?
– Unless all the factories in Australia are to be situated in Sydney then the person who is controlling a factory in another State and depending upon the Victorian and New South Wales markets to sell nine-tenths of what he makes is completely cut out by the added cost which he incurs, not only in bringing supplies and raw materials to his mill, but also in putting his article on his most valuable market. While it is all very well to be mathematical in these things, we must be practical. I put it to the committee, that if the prime labour costs in an industry are similar in all States, applying equally to industries in the more important States which have a large turnover and to industries in the less populated States, there will be no possibility of the decentralization of industry in Australia, or of industrial development in South Australia, Tasmania or Western Australia. Whether that is a desirable thing from the point of view of Australia or not-, I leave honorable members to judge. In the judgment which I have before me there is a significant remark by the judge which goes a long way to admit what I have contended. It reads -
The South Australian employers made special application for exemption on the ground that the added wage cost resulting from the award would ruin the local mills. Two mills employing about 400 hands arc at present operating in South Australia. If these had been poorly equipped establishments trying to lay the foundation of an industry to meet local requirements I would have probably granted their application on terms. But the principal mill employing most of the labour is a wellequipped establishment which sells more than two-thirds of its output in other States.
The judge went on to say, however, that it would be “ tried on the dog,” and, after twelve months, if the .South Australian industries languished, the matter could again be submitted to the court, when, perhaps, it would be revised. This is a practical illustration of the theoretical case which has been advanced for a uniformity throughout Australia of basie wage and hours. In the textile industry in New South Wales which is affected by the recent award of the court becoming operative on the 1st December, certain margins had previously been laid down or agreed to. In the desire of the New South Wales industry to bring costs in other States up to its standard, those concerned went to considerable lengths. The offer of New South Wales employers of a 14s. margin for the group which includes weavers in charge of looms was an illustration of this, and respecting it the judge stated -
I formed the opinion that this offer was inspired more by a desire to bring competitors in other States up to an established New South Wales margin than by a consideration of the relative value of labour.
Those in New South Wales realize that if the margin for weavers were reduced by the federal court they would have a strike on their hands, and their method of avoiding such a contingency was to endeavour to bring about .an increase of the wages paid by everybody else.
– Does the honorable member want to see strikes in other States?
– No. I am merely showing that it is impracticable to have uniform arrangements such as these throughout Australia. I shall try to show that it is not in the national interests that the cost of living reflected in wages in highly populated centres like Sydney should be laid down by the federal authority as the minimum cost of wages in rural places such as Albury. Bendigo, Mount Gambier, Warrnambool and Launceston. If that were done Sydney and Melbourne would be the only places in Australia in which there could be a successful development of secondary industries. If that is not a matter of serious national concern I do not know what is. Surely, on the ground of justice, it could not be claimed that if £3 10s. a week at Mount Gambier were equal to £4 at Sydney for the purchase of food, clothing and shelter, it should be laid down by the court that an employee at Mount Gambier should get more than £3 10s. or his confrere in Sydney less than £4. Nobody could argue, that that is ideal justice from the point of view of either the employee or the employer, and it is patent that the result would be an over-centralized Australia still more centralized.
– Surely the honorable member would not suggest that there should be a uniform basic wage throughout Australia.
– I am merely showing what the court has done.
– That is not the argument that we have advanced.
– The argument has been advanced that there should be a uniform basic wage, and I have given an instance showing what the effect would be. The textile industry of Tasmania is conducted on a highly competitive basis, and persons living in New South Wales do not object to buying its excellent pro ducts. However, the action that has been taken by the court may deprive residents of New South Wales and Victoria of these very good products, by reason of the fact that costs will knock them off the Sydney and Melbourne markets. It may lead to the expansion of mills in New South Wales, to the detriment of those in Tasmania and South Australia, with the result that representatives of the last two States will come to this Government and point out that matters are getting worse and worse, and appeal for help. While such appeals may be ridiculed, that will be the effect. I maintain that we must work for further decentralization rather than centralization, and the best way to bring it about is to allow local communities to fix their own arrangements so far as possible. Public opinion will always look after unfair competition.
Some people seem to regard one Australian industry as equal to any other Australian industry. We have industries operating under a sheltered tariff; also others which are completely exposed to world competition. While it may suit highly protected industries in Melbourne and. Sydney to undertake to pay a given wage, which they are enabled to do as the result of the tariff, the export industries could not regard such a wage with equanimity or be convinced that it was an equitable one for them. I give the example of the Mount Lyell and Railway Company, which is operating in Tasmania, and employs some 1,500 persons. With copper at £31 a ton the company is losing money on its mining operations. The Federal Arbitration Court has accepted the position. The basic wage for Queenstown is based od the price index figure for that centre. It would be impossible to contemplate for a moment that it should be fixed, as was done in the textile case, on the average of the five capital cities, or on Sydney or Melbourne alone, for if that were done it is certain that the Mount Lyell and Railway Company would not be able to continue its operations.
The difficulties in the way of industrial uniformity are great, and it is a highly improbable dream to think that, by referendum or otherwise, such an ideal could be brought about. Honorable member* representing Queensland would be the first to admit that, were a referendum put to the people of their State to bring its industries under the jurisdiction of the federal court, they would vote in the negative. Honorable members representing New South Wales would give a similar admission, as also would those who represent Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
– I do not think that that would be the case in South Australia.
– I definitely think that it would. Some misguided persons might think that, by coming under the federal court they would get more wages than those at present available to them in South Australia, but were they to realize that a temporary increase of wages might ultimately mean the loss of their jobs they would change their opinions.
I do not see much .prospect of unifying industrial standards throughout the length and breadth of Australia, as, in my opinion, the difficulties to be overcome are insuperable. There must be regard to the economics of the different industries and to the local conditions under which they are conducted.
.- I associate myself with the remarks that have been made by several honorable members on this side regarding some votes that come under this item. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Reasley) has referred to a certain consolidation of the statutes of this Parliament, which were produced by two Australians, one of whom was a Labour candidate for a federal constituency at the last general election. I am informed that a circular was sent out from a private establishment to legal practitioners throughout Australia advising them not to buy those books as the Government was considering the issue of a special consolidation of its own. It is stated that the circular was upon Government paper bearing the title of a sub-department of the Attorney-General’s Department. The incident is so unsavoury that it should be investigated without delay, and a statement, made by the AttorneyGeneral. I agree with all that has been said with regard to the 10 per cent, reduction of wages under Arbitration Court awards, and I suggest that, as on other occasions, the Attorney-General has appeared in the courts on behalf of the Government, he should do so in connexion with this matter to expedite the restoration of wages in industry.
– The Commonwealth Government has never been represented in the court in respect of an industrial matter to which it was not a party.
– That may be so, but I know of no reason why the Government should not be represented in the Arbitration Court in connexion with this matter.
The other point to which I desire to refer has to do with decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator. I very much regret that the Government ignored the Arbitrator’s decision some time ago, and employed 900 public servants at less than the basic wage. I hope that it will reconsider the matter, and, in future, accept the Arbitrator’s decision.
I realize that, being in Opposition in this chamber, I have to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to discuss these items. In view of what occurred to-night, members of the Opposition are particularly favoured if they are allowed to discuss matters that come before this Parliament.
– Order! I do not know what the honorable member means. Every member of the Opposition has an opportunity to be heard. Following the practice laid down for the conduct of debate, the call is given alternately to honorable members on the right and left of the ‘Chair.
– I thought that I had made my meaning as clear as words could make it.
Under division 28, Secretary’s Office, there appears an item of £400 for legal expenses. Last year, the expenditure under this head was £748, although no provision was made in the vote for it. Can the Attorney-General explain thi3 item?
– It represents the actual expenses last year on litigation for the Commonwealth. We hope that the expenditure will be less this year.
– There is also provision of £1,000 for the publication of Commonwealth statutes and statutory rules. In connexion with this matter, I suggest that, whenever an amending bill is passed, the consolidated act should be printed at the back of the statutes. Sometimes, when an act is consolidated, we find beside the title in the statute-book, an asterisk indicating that the consolidated act is printed in pamphlet form. It would be more convenient if it appeared at the back of the statutes for that year.
– The printing of the consolidated acts in the statutes is entirely a matter of expense.
– I understand that it is. As the vote under this heading last year was £1,000, and the expenditure only £597, it should be possible to adopt my suggestion without exceeding the vote this year.
I again appeal to the Government to establish in Brisbane a branch of the Crown Solicitor’s office. As the third largest capital city in the Commonwealth, Brisbane is entitled to this privilege. For several years the Brisbane firm of Chambers, McNab and McNab has been receiving from the Commonwealth about £1,000 a year for legal services - mainly advising whether or not the Commonwealth should prosecute certain persons. Such decisions, I contend, should be made, not by a private legal firm, but by officers of the Crown Law Department.
I am pleased to know that the Government has decided that the Brisbane sittings of the High Court are to be resumed. Some years ago, on the score of economy, the sittings of the Court were confined to Sydney and Melbourne, with the result that Queensland litigants were put to considerable additional expenditure. Can the Attorney-General say when the High Court sittings in Brisbane will commence ?
– It will be at the usual time next year.
– I should also like to know . when the Government intends to give effect to its promise to alter the bankruptcy law. A bill containing about 50 pages was passed, without discussion, about eighteen months ago, and a committee, of which I was a member, was appointed to offer suggestions as to desirable amendments. That committee presented a comprehensive report containing several recommenda tions which the Government embodied in a bill that was introduced a few months ago. It has since been withdrawn with a view, I understand, to the introduction of a new measure. In the meantime, it is the intention of the Government to pass a shorter bill dealing with a number of urgent matters affecting the bankruptcy law. I am afraid that, as Parliament will shortly adjourn for many months, the amending bankruptcy legislation will not be dealt with before the next election.
– The Government hopes to deal with the matter in the next session.
– I am glad to know that, following the retirement of Mr. Mole, the public curator in Brisbane, the Government appointed an official receiver, who will deal with the whole of the bankruptcy administration in that city. The number of officers has been increased from four to twelve. The majority of them were formerly employed by the State Government, so the change really means that the Commonwealth has made a forward move.
.On a number of occasions I have addressed questions to the Government regarding the work of the office of Patents, Trade Marks and Designs. I now wish to direct attention to the increased charges for registration and renewal of trade marks. The fee of £5 now required’ is excessive. I hope that the Government will give favorable consideration to the request from the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce that the fee be reduced to £3, £2 to be lodged with the application, and the balance to be paid on the registration of the trade mark. A study of the returns recently published reveals a considerable reduction of the number of registrations, and also of the number of renewals of trade marks. Complaint is made that, following the transfer of the central office from Melbourne to Canberra, persons having business with the office are put to heavy additional expense. It has been suggested that relief, in the form of an allowance for train travelling, might be made. I hope that the Government will favorably consider the suggestion.
– From the discussion to-night it would appear that some honorable members are under the impression that “we have in this country courts of justice when, as a matter of fact, they are courts of law. I am not surprised at the inactivity of the Arbitration Court in restoring the 10 per cent, reduction of wages, because I know that, like the Government, the court always obeys the dictates of big business. One amazing feature of the item before the committee is that while we have been talking about the necessity for the judges to restore the 10 per cent, reduction of the wages of the workers, the Estimates disclose the fact that these alleged selfsacrificing gentlemen have not seen fit to forgo any portion of their salaries.
– The salaries of the judges of the Arbitration Court are not included in the item before the Chair.
– Last year the estimate for travelling and subsistence on account of the Arbitration Court judges was £3,000, and this year it is £4,000.
– That is accounted for by the resumption of sittings in the capitals of the other States.
– Is this expenditure incurred on account of supplying luxuries to the judges while they are travelling from State to State?
– Travelling allowance and subsistence is the usual phrase and it appears about four or five times on some pages of the Estimates.
– Is the whole of the £4,000 absorbed by the payment of £2 2s. a day to the judges for travelling expenses ?
– That sum covers the travelling allowances of the judges, their associates, and the staff of the court. The amount of the allowance depends on the number of judges travelling. At times a dozen persons would be travelling.
– Are the judges and the associates paid a flat rate per day or are they allowed to book up against this item any expenditure that they incur while travelling from State to State?
– The travelling allowance is so much per day and is on the same basis as the Public Service allowance.
– The judges of the Arbitration Court while advising every other section of the community to make sacrifices have not been prepared to suffer reductions of their own salaries.
– As a matter of fact, a number of the judges dispensed with their travelling allowance altogether.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral supply the names of those judges ?
– I do not propose to do that.
– Then I am still without the information which I require. The judges who have refused to suffer any reduction of their salaries should not be entitled to draw an extravagant travelling allowance. Judge Dethridge receives a salary of £3,000 per annum.
– I have already ruled that the honorable member may not discuss the salaries of the judges of the Arbitration Court.
– These gentlemen would not suffer any hardship if their travelling allowances were dispensed with. I suggest that any judge receiving a salary of £3,000 can well afford to pay his own travelling expenses. Many of the judges who are considered to be the personification of honour and integrity have not the slightest compunction in collecting what might be termed pin money. The salaries of the officers of the various courts have, judging by the Estimates, been reduced in accordance with the financial emergency legislation, and I contend that unless the judges of the Arbitration Court are prepared to restore to the worker the 10 per cent, reduction of wages, they should not be entitled to travelling allowances in addition to their salaries. The judges can blame only themselves for the fact that they are held in contempt by the great mass of the workers. The decisions of the court cannot but convey the impression that onehanded justice is being meted out.
– The honorable member may not reflect upon the judiciary.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. Chairman, I should like to be informed of the standing order upon which you base your ruling.
– The 10th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, page 263, states -
Certain matters cannot be debated, save upon a substantive motion which can bo dealt with by amendment, or by the distinct vote of the House, such us the conduct of the Sovereign, the heir to the Throne . . . members of either House of Parliament and Judges of tlie superior courts of the United Kingdom, including persons holding the position of a judge, such as a judge in a court of bankruptcy.
The same edition, on page 316, states: -
Unless the discussion is based upon a substantive motion drawn in proper terms, reflections must not be cast in debate upon the conduct of the Sovereign, the heir to the Throne . . . members of either House of Parliament, and judges of tho superior courts of the United Kingdom.
My ruling that the judiciary may not he reflected upon by an honorable member i3, therefore, in accordance with the practice of the House of Commons, and is consistent with many rulings that have been given in this House and other Houses of Parliament in the Commonwealth.
– That procedure has not always been followed. May’s Parliamentary Practice states that reflections must not be cast upon members of either House of Parliament; yet we have had many reflections cast upon us, not only inside, but outside this chamber. May’s Parliamentary Practice also refers to “ the superior courts,” and it, is very doubtful whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Court could be included in that category.
– May’s Parliamentary Practice specifically mentions a judge of a bankruptcy court, and tho honorable member would not suggest that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is inferior to a bankruptcy court.
– .Some, of the decisions of the Arbitration Court suggest that it is quite the opposite of a superior court. I am not disposed to vote travelling allowances to the judges. The Government should instruct the Arbitration Court to expedite hearings or, as certain honorable members of tlie Labour party have suggested, the court should make a test case, and make the award a common rule, applying to every industry within the Commonwealth in the same way as the 10 per cent, reduction of wages was applied. It may bc that the judges do not read, the daily newspapers, and are unaware of the fact that this Parliament has restored 10 per cent, of the amount by which the allowances of honorable members were reduced. If that fact were brought under the notice of the judges, they might be prepared to restore the 10 per cent, reduction of the workers’ wages. The Government might also suggest to the judges that they would be rendering a service to the country generally if they dispensed with their travelling allowance, particularly as they have suffered no reduction of salaries. I do not suppose that any judge, even if his travelling allowance were withdrawn; would go without a meal or suffer any undue hardship or inconvenience while travelling. The committee is justified in asking the Government, to compel judges to pay their own travelling expenses, having regard to the fact that over 900 employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, many of whom have families to support, are receiving less than the ridiculously low basic wage of £174 per annum. In answer to a question, the Attorney-General said that these lower-paid public servants had had the reduction of their salaries restored, but he was evading tlie main point at issue, because the workers on the basic wage in the Commonwealth Public Service did not receive any benefit under the present budget.
– They are on the full basic wage.
– The Justices of the High Court, who are always defended by the Attorney-General, receive a higher daily travelling allowance than a worker receives as his weekly wages. While on this subject, the Attorney-General might say exactly how many hours these justices work each week, and what duties they are supposed to perform while sleeping on the Bench.
– The honorable member is again disregarding my ruling.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say if Commonwealth employees receiving less than the basic wage are to continue at their present wages, and whether young public servants on reaching their majority are still to be paid as juniors. The number of adults receiving junior rates is rapidly increasing. Already, there are 900 in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department receiving less than the basic wage. The determinations made by the Public Service Arbitrator arerarely in the interests of the workers, out if one should happen to be favorable, the Government, which is always talking of upholding the dignity and decisions of the courts, immediately sets the machinery in motion to disallow itIs this to be a permanent feature? Are adult employees to be compelled to receive Jess than the basic wage, while certain favoured individuals receive as a daily travelling allowance almost as much as is paid to a man for a full week’s work in industry? The work which judges perform is governed by the instructions they receive. The Government is not anxious that the work of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be expedited. The Attorney-General is just as much a slave of big business interests as are the courts. The amount provided for travelling and subsistence for those associated with the Bankruptcy Court increased from £1,349 in 1932-33 to £1,650. Is that due to the fact that the Bankruptcy Court is to meet in other capital cities? As Justices of the court usually get the lion’s Share of the pickings handed out the Government should remember that Mr. Justice Lukin receives a salary of £2,500 a year and also a pension of £1,000 a year from the Queensland Government. This gentleman is so well paid that the Government should compel him to pay his own travelling expenses. Imagine allowing £2 2s. a day for the travelling expenses of a judge whose railway fares are paid by the Government ! If one of these gentlemen should be travelling to Western Australia by boat, his meals, as well as his accommodation, are provided ; but he still receives £2 2s. a day. Expenditure of this kind should be closely scrutinized by the committee.
– What is the AuditorGeneral doing?
– He is usually interfering in matters which do not concern him. A bankruptcy judge receives a travelling allowance of £2 2s. a day, while a. man on the basic wage in New South Wales receives only £3 6s. 6d. a week, out of which he has to pay an unemployment tax of 3s.,. reducing it to £3 3s. 6d., with which he is supposed to keep himself, hia wife and family in decent comfort. Workers cannot expect to receive justice from the courts, which do only what big business dictates.
– The honorable member is again reflecting upon the courts.
– Although only £722 was spent last year on office requisites, stationery and printing, £950 is provided this year.
– The system has been changed in Queensland, where bankruptcy is now under direct federal control, thus increasing Commonwealth expenditure.
– Does that apply to postage, telegrams and telephonic services?
– It is a different system. The main reason for the increased expenditure is the establishment of a federal administration in Brisbane. Previously, the work was done by the State, and an adjustment made as between the Commonwealth and the State. We shall now receive revenue which we did not receive previously. These amounts are to cover the expenses of the Inspector-General, who has to visit Brisbane more frequently than before.
– I understood the Minister to say that the operations of his department have been extended, and that the work has been increased.
– This is for administrative work. The bankruptcy judge does not visit Brisbane. The work is done by the Queensland Supreme Court.
– There does not appear to be any necessity to continue to employ a Public Service Arbitrator, having regard to the fact that any determination he makes in. favour of public servants is immediately disallowed. The Attorney-General will say that the Government has statutory power to disallow these determinations ; but, even if it has, it should not exercise it.
The expenditure of the Commonwealth investigation branch also has been increased. Have additional police or investigating officers been appointed?
– An additional appointment has been made in Canberra, and also in Sydney.
– Is sufficient work done by this branch to warrant an increase of the number of investigating officers?
– The department has conducted 7,000 inquiries.
– What has been the nature of those inquiries?
– They have related mainly to applications for passports and naturalization, and to other such matters.
– The salaries of the associates of justices of the HighCourt have been reduced from £2,532 to £1,977. Reductions have also been made of the amounts received by the Principal Registrar, the Deputy Registrar, the Senior Clerk, clerks, and assistants.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.Although provision is made in these Estimates for law books for the Crown Solicitor’s office, and the High Court, no provision is made for law books for the bankruptcy administration. Some months ago complaints were made to me by legal practitioners in Brisbane about the absence of statutes for use in the Bankruptcy Court.
– I think that was before the Commonwealth took over the whole of the bankruptcy administration. I shall look into the matter.
– I should like some information regarding the amounts paid by the Commonwealth to the States for the services of judges in bankruptcy. I do not know the present position, but some years ago £150 per annum was paid by the Commonwealth to the Queensland Government for the services of each judge in bankruptcy. The Moore Government of Queensland introduced legislation whereby that money was to be made a gift to the judges. I submit that, as the money is paid to the State Governments for the services of the judges, it should go into the Consolidated Revenue of the States. There is no reason why the judges should get this extra pay. I assume that the position in the other States is the same as it is in Queensland.
– No. I shall explain the position when I reply.
– I should like some information in regard to the position in Queensland. Prior to the bankruptcy administration being taken over by the Commonwealth the States did the work, and I suppose that some payment was made to them or to their officers by the Commonwealth. What is the reason for an increase of expenditure now that the Commonwealth has taken over this work ?
I support the request of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the Attorney-General should disclose the names of those judges who have foregone their travelling expenses. There are many in the community who consider that some judges are deserving of censure for not having reduced their expenses, and it is only just that the names of those who did voluntarily make this sacrifice should be known so that credit might be given to them.
– I do not propose to give the information, because the judges have informed me that they do not want any advertisement.
– At the moment I am not arguing the merits of the matter, or even suggesting that the judges should be paid less, but we should know what action has been taken by the different judges in this connexion.
– The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) asked for information regarding the payment to their Honours, the Justices of the Supreme Court of Queensland, for discharging bankruptcy duties. The Commonwealth makes this arrangement with the States whose judges act in bankruptcy for the Commonwealth. It was my duty to introduce the administration of the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act when the act was brought into operation. I thought that it would be improper to make bargains with individual judges, and that in such matters governments should deal with governments. Some governments have paid the money to the judges who do the work; others have riot. It is a matter entirely for the State Governments.
With regard to the increase of the amount paid in connexion with bankruptcy administration in Queensland, the position is that, previously, when the work was done by the State staffs, an account of all receipts and payments was kept, and the Commonwealth paid any balance necessary to meet expenses. Now the Commonwealth pays all expenses and receives all the revenue.
The honorable members for West Sydney (Mi*. Beasley) and Oxley (Mr. Baker) mentioned a certain reprint of Commonwealth statutes which has been brought out by the Law Book Company of Sydney. It is true that a circular was issued from the Attorney-General’s Department notifying the intention, which had been formed for some time, not to reprint’ the statutes, but to print an annotated edition of the statutes of the same nature as the books of the statutes from 1901 to 1911 with which honorable members are familiar. An annotated edition of the statutes is distinct from a reprint. One of the functions of the Government is the provision of an accurate edition of the statutes in as complete a form as possible. No one can do that as effectively as the Government. The matter was discussed with the company, and it was arranged that a fair opportunity should bc given for the sale of its edition on the market. Consequently, the Commonwealth edition will not be brought out before September 1935. That arrangement is acceptable to those interested in the other publication.
– Will a circular to that effect be issued?
– The decision arrived at has been announced, and is generally known.
Several honorable members have said that: there is delay in dealing with applications to the Arbitration Court for a restoration of the 10 per cent, reduction of tho basic wage which was made in January, 1931. The court has been accused of having rushed to reduce wages, but of not hastening to restore them. I shall not admit that the court needs any specific defence; it is above being affected, either in itself or iti its reputation, by some of the things which have been said hero to-night. I propose, however, to mention some relevant facts. The application for the reduction of the basic wage was initiated on the 15th August, 1930. After the application had passed through a number of stages, a decision was ultimately arrived at in January, 1931.
All the cases submitted to the court asking for restoration of the 10 per cent, on general grounds have been dealt with. The court has intimated that it is prepared to consider applications for a restoration of the 10 per cent, reduction, and that it will deal with them early in 1934. Some time ago, the then listed applications were refused. There arc now no applications on the file of the court dealing with this matter, except two or three of a specific nature, such as that in respect of the Crown Glass Company, and others which do not raise the general question. There has been no delay on the part of the court. In a report on this matter which has been laid on the table of tho Library, the Industrial Registrar states -
The court has already intimated that it apprehends that fresh applications for a general rescission of tho above-mentioned reduction will be made and that such applications, if made, will lie dealt with early in 11134. No such applications have yet been filed.
In the light of that statement, it’ will be seen that many of the remarks made during this debate are not consistent with tho facts.
– The Minister just said that several applications had already been dealt with.
– They were dealt with and refused two or three months ago. There are now no cases pending, and, therefore, it is useless to ask either tho court or the Government to expedite the hearing of applications which have not been made.
Mi’. Holloway. - The right honorable gentleman knows why there are no cases pending.
– How can the court or the Government expedite something which is not in existence? The court has said that it will deal with any applications which are submitted to it. The fact is that the cases are being worked up and prepared thoroughly by both sides. That is only proper. I have no doubt that, there will be a hearing early in the new year. There is no ground for the charge of delay, because all the applicationshitherto made have been dealt with.
– The court has been, asked to hear a general application.
– I explained last night why that section of the legislation had practically broken down. It is a matter which it is beyond the power of the court to alter. I asked the trade unions to make a suggestion to meet the case, but they have not done so. I am willing to consider favorably any suggestions for an amendment of the act to provide for a single hearing on the general question.
– Suppose the employees consulted with the manufacturers and agreed to select one or more cases?
– That was done under the section to which I referred last night’. It has been decided that the Arbitration Court may deal with only one dispute at a time, and that it cannot make a general rule. The honorable member knows that I want the Arbitration Court to be able to give general rulings, but it is not the fault of the Government or this Parliament that it cannot do so.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) mentioned the absence of any tribunal in the Federal Capital Territory able to deal with private employment. I find it difficult to believe that the matter is so urgent as the manner of speaking of the honorable member would suggest. The last Government was in office for two years, and did nothing about it. However, I shall look into the matter, and see whether there is need for action. I should prefer to deal with whatever cases may arise by representations to those concerned, if such representations were effective, than to overload a relatively small community with industrial machinery which a little common-sense on both sides might render unnecessary.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin), as well as some honorable members on the other side of the House, referred to the old subject of the conflict between Federal and State awards, and said that the Government really ought to solve the problem. It was suggested by the right, honorable member for North Sydney, who has had a great deal of experience in such matters, and by the honorable member for Wentworth, that there ought to be no difficulty in bringing about’ a ‘suitable amendment of the Constitution, so as to secure uniformity in wages and conditions of labour throughout Australia, and to prevent overlapping of Federal and State awards. Various governments have tried to deal with the situation, and referendums were held in 19.11, 1913, 1919 and 1926. At all of them extension of federal powers was sought, and in 1926 all political parties were agreed in supporting the proposals. Though the proposals did not go so far as some honorable members on tho other side desired, they were prepared to accept them as an improvement on the existing condition of affairs. In both Houses of Parliament, there was a majority, according to my recollection, of 80 votes to 3 in favour of the proposals.
– Mr. Lang and Mr. Bavin both opposed them.
– That is so. In Victoria, the Opposition was led mainly by those who were political friends of Mr. Bruce and myself, who might have been described as the leaders of those who favoured the proposals. This matter is not nearly so easy to deal with as the right honorable member for North Sydney suggested. We thought in 1926, when we had the Government and the Opposition in agreement, that we would be able to do something, but we were beaten by the people who had the right of deciding the matter. The honorable member for Denison has had a wide experience of industrial affairs, and possesses an extensive knowledge of the subject. Some honorable members, no doubt, do not agree with what he said, but they cannot deny that his utterances were deserving of consideration. I could cite quite as many authorities .as did the honorable member for Wentworth. I could even go so far as to cite myself as an authority.
The present duplicated industrial system, as operated by Commonwealth . and State authorities, i» almost a lunatic system. If any One had thought it out before federation, and said that that was what we ought to bring about, nobody would have regarded him even as nearly sane.
Unfortunately, there is no real agreement as to what ought to be done. For example, when one government is in power, employers in New South Wales cheer the State system; when another ‘government is in power, they cheer the federal system. The trade unions are sometimes strong supporters of the federal system, if there happens to be a good federal award ; but if in a particular industry they can do better under a State award, they become supporters of the State system for that industry. I do npt blame them for that; it is natural. The fact is that while a particular trade union may support a federal award at a particular moment, it still wishes to have the power to appeal to a State tribunal if, as has been said, “ the Federal Court goes crook on it.” In reality, both parties believe in the duplicate system, which necessarily means overlapping. Members of Parliament, judicial and industrial tribunals, and industrial authorities may concur in saying that the present system is pretty well mad, but that does not alter the fact that there are big vested interests in the duplicate system, under which either the employers or the employees may have something to gain by having recourse to a tribunal other than that which, at the moment, controls their industry. I have always believed in one control for one industry, whether that control be federal or State. I have been led to the conclusion that, until we have exclusive control, either Federal or State, our present difficulties cannot be solved, but I am unable to get many people to agree with me. Hardly any one is in favour of exclusive federal control or exclusive State control. Many are in favour of complete federal control with power in the federal system to override the State system, that is, power to bring about a conflict, and make the federal award prevail. In that case> however, there is conflict and overlapping.
I doubt very much whether, having begun with the .Constitution as it is, we can do much better than struggle along under it. I have tried, according to the best of my ability, to find a solution of the problem, but without success. I have learned that a man may sit down and in an hour draw out a plan which is really sound in principle, and which may win the private approval of both sides in industry; but that does not mean that it will be accepted by the people, because other interests, very important to those concerned, obtrude themselves, so that the existing system, with all its imperfections and duplications, is preferred to any other.
Hardly any federal awards apply in Queensland. When I last had the figures taken out some time ago, the number did not run to double figures. Many federal awards apply in -New South Wales, and there is also an enormous number of State awards. In Victoria, a large number of Wages Board determinations, which are really State awards, apply, and also a considerable number of federal awards. In South. Australia there is a relatively small number of federal awards, and a much larger number of State awards. In Western Australia, there is a general disinclination to have anything to do with the Federal Arbitration Court, and very few federal awards apply. That is not unnatural, because Western Australia is so far away, and it is so difficult to arrange for judges to go there, that Western Australian employers and employees prefer, for the most part, to submit their cases to tribunals which possess precise local knowledge. In Tasmania, there is no special enthusiasm for federal awards, either. The position, therefore, is that in four States of the Commonwealth there is apparently no desire for an extension of federal powers, and three of those States are, generally speaking, definitely opposed to an extension of federal powers in any direction. This was illustrated at the Premiers Conference held in June last. At the Transport Conference, which was held at the same time, the industrial position of the Australian railways as a whole was considered. It was easy to point out the absurd position that has been created by duplicate control by State and Federal authorities. The position is almost incredible, but when it was moved that the Commonwealth should retire from the field and allow the States to occupy it, the four nonLabour State Governments agreed, but the two Labour Governments said that they wanted the Federal Arbitration Court to retain its power to make awards for State railway employees, while State Parliaments should also have authority to legislate upon matters affecting their own railways. Therefore, while it is easy to draw up a plan which would be worthy of consideration, it is necessary, before a referendum is taken, to ensure that there shall be some reasonable chance of the plan being accepted by the people. Up to the present time no one has been able to devise a set of proposals that the people have been prepared to accept. I have no wish to leave the matter there. I admit that I have felt it to be hopeless, on account of the vested interests on both sides in industry. Speaking generally, it is considered, not as a matter of principle, but as a matter of interest. That is only natural, and one cannot complain of it; but the consequence is that it is very difficult to arrive at a solution of the problem on grounds of principle. In February next, however, it is expected that the representatives of all the governments, including the Commonwealth Government, will meet at Hobart for the purpose of discussing the constitutional relations of the Commonwealth and the States. This is a substitute for the constitution convention that was originally proposed. Something useful may there be evolved.
Reference has been made to the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in his policy speech at the last election. The suggestion was placed before the people, in rather carefully-framed language - that perhaps it would be best to have the basic wage and standard hours determined upon identical principles throughout the Commonwealth, matters more local in character being left with local tribunals, with the idea of obtaining the benefits of local knowledge, elasticity, flexibility, and the promptitude which is most important in industrial affairs. Since then, the Government has received from many quarters suggestions concerning various forms of amendment, but there has not been sufficient concurrence in any plan likely to command the support of the people and to justify a referendum. Something may arise out of the discussions at the Hobart conference.
In regard to the Public Service Arbitrator, I have explained the position so often that I feel that I ought to ask the committee to pardon me for doing so again. The position is that valid Commonwealth statutes are binding upon every one. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot make “an award inconsistent with any federal law. That, however, does npt matter in the case of that court from the point of view of the contents of its award, because this Parliament has no power to legislate generally on industrial matters themselves. It can legislate only for arbitration and conciliation for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. That does not entitle it to fix the terms and conditions of labour in industry in Australia, with which subject the Commonwealth Arbitration Court deals. But if this Parliament had power to legislate on industrial conditions, undoubtedly the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would be bound by such legislation.
The Public Service Arbitrator, however, deals with Commonwealth public servants, in relation to whom the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make laws - and has made laws - determining the terms and conditions under which they may work. This Parliament has passed a Public Service Act, under which, as under other acts, regulations are made which are laid on the tables of both Houses, and which may be disallowed by either House. These statutes and regulations deal with the wages, salaries, and terms and conditions of employment of persons employed by the Commonwealth, and are laws of the ‘Commonwealth. If a Public Service Arbitrator were appointed without any special conditions, he would be bound by the Public Service Act and the regulations made thereunder, as well as by regulations made under other acts. But Parliament did not desire him to be bound in that way, and accordingly provided that he might make an award overruling or inconsistent with even a statute of this Parliament - such as the Public Service Act - or any regulation made under any act. Such an award, indeed, would have the effect of repealing the legislation of this Parliament. But in order to enable this Parliament to say whether it preferred its own legislation to the alteration of that legislation by the Public Service Arbitrator, the Arbitration Public
Service Act provided, as far back as 1920, that where the Arbitrator made an award inconsistent with Commonwealth law,he was to report the fact to Parliament, whereupon the AttorneyGeneral should give an opinion as to whether or not the award was inconsistent with Commonwealth law. That opinion, accompanied by the award, has to be laid on the table of this and another place, and either House has the right of disallowance, and of saying that it prefers that the law or the regulation shall stand which it formerly had either actively approved, or accepted by reason of not having disallowed it. If the Public Service Arbitrator makes an award which does not interfere with the law, there is no power of disallowance. Inthe case of the postal employees, the Public Service Arbitrator made an award which was inconsistent with either a definite section of the Public Service Act or a definite regulation. He reported the fact, and the Attorney-General agreed that it was inconsistent. The statute provided that it was for the Parliament to determine whether its own law should apply, or whether it should adopt the variation of that law made by the Public Service Arbitrator. Of course, when such a matter comes before Parliament, it is a question as to what is the proper thing to do. That, I agree, admits of considerable difference of opinion.
-I take it that the Attorney-General does not suggest that the Public Service Arbitrator overruled a federal law when he asserted that officers who had reached the age of 21 years should be paid the adult wage.
– I do. There was in existence legislation by statute or regulation which applied to officers who were doing that particular work. The Public Service Arbitrator himself said that his award was inconsistent with that legislation. Therefore, it was for Parliament to decide which it preferred; and contrary to the view of honorable members opposite, Parliament determined that it was proper that the legislation and not the award should apply. Thereason for that decision, which I do not wish to discuss, was to obviate the dismissal of the men covered by the award.
– Does the right honorable gentleman remember that I appealed to him to consider means whereby the difficulty might be overcome now?
– That is really a matter for the Postmaster-General. I assure the honorable member that I do not feel satisfied with the position as it stands; no one can; but it was a choice of evils. It was felt that it was better to keep these men on, than to turn them adrift and put youths in their places. The problem is most difficult, and I do not believe that any one can suggest a completely satisfactory solution of it. Of course, it exists only in hard times, because in good times these officers would be able to get other work, for which they would be paid the adult wage. Although theoretically that may be thecase to-day, actually they are very glad to have this work.
Many questions have arisen regarding the proposed Bankruptcy Bill. The chambers of commerce and bankruptcy trustees, at a recent conference, made certain suggestions, including one for a separate act for deeds of arrangement”. This proposal should be specially examined, particularly by the Parliamentary Bankruptcy Committee, before general amendments of the act are introduced; but the Government intends to proceed with certain amendments that are of immediate importance.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) spoke of the registration of trade marks. The fees were increased in 1929 when the Government was searching for new fields of revenue. The increase was brought about merely to make the patents, trades marks and copyright office self supporting. I shall consider whether it is possible to reduce the fees, but at the present time I can hold out no promise that a reduction will be made.
Much difference of opinion has arisen on the subject of the removal of the Patents Office from Melbourne to Canberra, but that transfer is incidental to the establishment of the Federal Capital.
– I listened with interest to the explanation of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) as to why 900 adults are employed in the Public Service at junior wages. As the Attorney-General has ad- mitted, this matter has been discussed for many months, yet’ fresh excuses are being found for the injustice that has been done.
– I submit that the wages of postal employees cannot be discussed in considering the Estimates of my department. A number of honorable members questioned the propriety of disallowing an award under an act administered by my department, and I replied to their criticism, though I am not sure that a. discussion on a previous decision of tho House is in order.
– The Attorney-General devoted at least fifteen minutes of his speech to the disallowance of a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. I submit, therefore, that, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is in order in discussing tho subject.
– It appears to mo that this matter could be dealt with more appropriately when the Estimates of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) are under consideration. I was not clear as to the circumstances under which an award of the Public Service Arbitrator was disallowed.
– It was done by resolution of the House.
– To be consistent, I shall allow the honorable member for Dalley to proceed.
– So far as I remember, the excuse offered for failure to pay certain adult employees in the post office more than junior wages was the serious financial position of the Commonwealth. It. was stated that if their wages had to be increased it would be necessary to dismiss these adults, but now we are told that the payment of the low rates is due to legal difficulties.
– This reduction was made by a vote of this House, and therefore it cannot be properly discussed upon the Estimates.
– On the subject of industrial arbitration, the United Australia Party seems to be disunited. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) advocated the holding of a referendum for the purpose of bringing about a uniform arbitration system throughout the Commonwealth. He said that the captains of industry we’re now demanding this reform, and he quoted several opinions in support of his contention. But I remind him that the captains of industry and the party to which he belongs have been bitterly opposed to his suggestion. “When the Scullin Government tried to bring about uniform wages and conditions throughout Australia, the honorable member’s party fought it bitterly, with the assistance of financial backing from the interests which the honorable member now says favour the proposal. The employing class has exploited the position for many years. It has taken advantage of the fact that industrial conditions in different States vary, and it will continue to do so for its own advantage. The captains of industry have always endeavoured to use State Arbitration Court awards as a means of forcing wages down to tlie level of the lowest rates operating in Australia, and they have similarly advocated a working week of not fewer than 48 hours. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) adopted a different . view from that of the honorable member for “Wentworth. Apparently he desires an arbitration tribunal in every town in the Commonwealth. He suggested that there was an insufficient number of State courts, and complained of selfish tactics on the part of employers of labour in Sydney, because they pay to weavers 14s. a week above the standard wages in the textile industry. He added they had forced that rate upon employers in South Australia, who export two-thirds of their products. Yet, at the same time, he spoke of neglect by the Sydney employers of the interests of employers in the other States. I do not know whether it is possible for governments to give an indication to the courts as to their wishes in the matter of a basic wage. It appears to me that Australia has realized the bad effect of constant reductions of wages. If our industries are to prosper and our primary producers are to enjoy a good home market for their products, the courts should be prepared to raise the wage standards of the workers, but I doubt whether the workers can obtain benefits from the courts as at present constituted. The employees would have a better chance of improving their position under a- unified arbitration system.
I say that because I am convinced that setting the conditions of one State against those of another has always had a tendency to force down the standard of living of the workers in industry to that of the lowest State. Although the honorable member for Denison complains that the secondary industries in the weaker States are not able to pay the wage standard which obtains in the more densely populated States, I believe that if a reasonably high standard were applied to all industries in Australia it would prove to be to the advantage of all concerned. While temporarily it might be a strain on industries in the weaker States, eventually the higher standard of living would be generally beneficial. I have yet to learn that low wages have improved the position of any State in the Commonwealth.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) skipped lightly over my reference to the consolidation of the statutes, and did not answer my question asking why his department sent out a circular on the subject to all members of the legal fraternity in Australia.
– I thought that I did. It was because the department has for some time been preparing a consolidation of the statutes, which it intends to print.
– The honorable gentleman said that the matter was discussed with the Law Book Company, about which I am not concerned.
– That company was acting for the authors, and all the dealings of the department have been with it.
– That is of no interest to me. I know that these two men prepared a consolidation of the statutes, and sent copies of their work to the department. Almost immediately afterwards the department notified its intention to proceed with a consolidation of the statutes, and circularized all legal practitioners in the Commonwealth with the result that the work of these young fellows was seriously affected.
– That is not so. It has been selling quite well.
– Every honorable member will agree that such a circular could have only a detrimental effect on the publication of those men. I know of instances where persons who received the circular refrained from buying their consolidation. I ask if there is anything wrong with that work.
– I do not wish to criticize the work, which is merely a reprint.
– It is apparent to me that somebody is going to get a decent job out of the department’s consolidation, just as the late Mr. Justice Cussen did. He appeared to have received thousands of pounds for his consolidation of the Victorian statutes.
– Unfortunately for him, the only reward that he received was the thanks of the Victorian Parliament. I assure the honorable member that the work is being done by the legal officers of my department, for whom it will be valuable training.
– I cannot accept that statement. I want to know why the department sent out its circular. Is it the duty of officers to circularize every legal man in Australia about such a matter? On the one hand the Government professes a desire to encourage private enterprise, yet as soon as these two men made a success of their venture, the department stepped in and nullified their efforts. I am quite certain that there was a definite motive for sending out that circular, and I am not at all satisfied with the explanation that has been given.
The Attorney-General also failed to deal with the specific case that I advanced in connexion with the delay of the Arbitration Court in dealing with the case of the wool and basil workers of New South Wales, which ultimately led to a strike. I have pointed out that officers of the organization had stated their case, which was before the court for eighteen months, but the men were unable to have their grievances adjusted or obtain a restoration of their wage reductions. Owing to the general depressed conditions, the subsequent strike could not be other than unfavorable to them in times such as these. I should like to know why the matter was held up by the court.
– The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) religiously refrained from referring to the privileges that are enjoyed by justices.
– I admit that I did not reply to the honorable member’s question, and I do not propose to do so.
– I dare say it is because the right honorable gentleman hopes to occupy one of these positions some day.
– The honorable member is out of order. He must proceed to discuss the item that is before the Chair.
– When an honorable member endeavours to obtain information from the Attorney-General, concerning an item which comes within the province of his department, he refuses to give it. I wanted to know the names of the judges who received this pin-money, and what allowances were paid to them?
With reference to the disallowance of the Public Service Arbitrator’s decision, the Attorney-General stated that two courses were open to the Government, to accept the Arbitrator’s decision or abide by the existing statute. It is regrettable that the Government allowed the statute to prevail and by that means prevented a large number of employees from obtaining a wage to which they were justly entitled.
– The honorable member during a discussion of these Estimates, must not criticize the action of Parliament in respect to its resolution upon the Public Service Arbitrator’s award.
– I object to the action of the Government, which was harmful to a number of employees.
– Order !
– I am discussing the advisability of continuing the Public Service Arbitrator’s office. In order that the workers who are involved in this decision may understand all that it means, the Attorney-General should send to them a copy of his remarks. They would then know that they and their dependants were legally starving.
If the Attorney-General is not prepared to give information asked for ih regard to the privileges enjoyed by the justices, surely he will tell us why he will not supply it. Are we to understand that it would disclose such a disgraceful situation that it could not be made known ?
– It is only fair that the people be given the names of those who do not draw the allowance.
– That information at least should be supplied ; otherwise all the members of the judiciary may be placed in the same category. The public are entitled to this information which the Attorney-General, for some unknown reason is withholding.
– I have given the reason, as the honorable member knows.
– It is not sufficient merely to make the bald statement that’ the justices are on the same scale of allowances as those provided for the Public Service. We should know what justices have agreed to forgo their allowances, and the names of those justices who continue to draw this extra money. Whenever claims for higher wages or improved conditions are made on behalf of the workers, every item of expenditure which might affect the award is placed before the court. Apparently, the justices are supreme to Parliament, and the amount of their allowances, pin money, and other privileges must not be disclosed. In other words, we are asked to believe that they are so superior to the representatives of the people that they would not take one penny more than they we’re entitled to receive.
– Are they required to sign a chit?
– Certainly not: nor are they required to punch the “ bundy “ when they take their seats on the bench. That indignity is reserved for the lower strata of society. After a mau ha3 graduated through, the legal school, and made a display of political bias in the practice of his profession, he becomes qualified for a seat on a court bench.
– The life history of the several justices of the courts forces one to the conclusion that they reached their present eminent positions by a suitable display of political bias while engaged in the legal profession.
– The appointment of justices is not, at the moment, before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to remove the impression that the elected representatives of the people have no right to question the actions of the justices. Judging by the results that have accrued to the workers through the operation of the courts, the expenditure on their maintenance is not warranted. Certainly the extra payments, in the form of allowances, should be discontinued. If the justices were underpaid, there might be some reason for the generous scale of allowances provided for them; but having in mind the enormous salaries which they draw, ranging from £2,500 to £3,500 a year, additional expenditure on allowances is not warranted. I can only conclude, from the refusal of the Attorney-General to give information about the allowances paid to justices, that he is hiding something which, if disclosed, would be unpalatable, or that some day, he hopes he may occupy the exalted position of justice of the High Court.
– I do not know whether the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is suggesting that there is some scandal attaching to the subject mentioned by him. It did not occur to me at the moment that there was anything more in his observations than a consideration for the trading interests of the gentlemen who had brought out the edition of the statutes to which he referred. The Commonwealth publishes the statutes. It has already brought out. one consolidation, and it proposes to bring out another edition in the normal course. There is nothing whatever unusual in what it is doing.
– Is it usual for the department to send out notices -to the legal fraternity announcing its intention to issue an edition?
– I assume that when the present edition was being prepared, it was thought proper to notify the intention of the department to people who might be interested. I did not want to enter into details, because it seemed to me that all misunderstanding between the parties had been removed. As a matter of fact, the gentlemen who published the edition now in circulation saw the department some time ago and asked it if it would arrange for his firm to publish it through the Government Printer. The department was not prepared to accept that proposal and said so. A little later, we received this new edition, and the gentlemen responsible for its publication, saw me about it. They admitted that it had been published secretly because of the fear that, if the department had known of his intention, it would have hastened the publication of its edition. Accordingly, their edition wa3 not issued through the Government Printer. As I have said, all misunderstandings have been removed, and the Government has done what it was not bound to do, namely, it has allowed this firm a free run for a number of years in order that it may have a reasonable chance of getting rid of its edition.
The work of preparing an edition of federal statutes is valuable to the officers of my department, because it familiarizes them with the statutes with which they are dealing every day.
I think that the honorable member for West Sydney also asked if some one was going to be given a job by the department, and he referred to the consolidation of the Victorian statutes by the late Sir Leo Cussen. It may be news to honorable members to learn that, for that wonderful and monumental legal work, Sir Leo received no payment whatever except his allowance as a judge. I doubt that any other person in the legal world could have brought out that edition of the Victorian statutes. The legal department of the Commonwealth publishes statutes, statutory rules, and arbitration reports. The arbitration reports are printed by the Law Book Company Limited, and the statutory rules by that company and Butterworths Limited. I do not know if I have dealt with all the points which the honorable member raised, but I have endeavoured to do so.
With reference to tho remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I need only say that
I always give information that is of public interest if it is sought bona fide for public purposes, and is asked for in a courteous manner. I have already explained that what the various members of the judiciary have done in relation to salaries and travelling allowances has not been advertised, because they have re- quested that it should not be made known. Those who have made these concessions have asked that their action should not be advertised. I, therefore, do not propose to reveal their names. That is the reason which I gave, and the honorable member for East Sydney when he spoke on the second occasion was aware of it. To me it appears to be a good reason. The honorable member frequently speaks on the subject of the judiciary. I am. quite unacquainted with his qualifications for dealing with that subject, but he always speaks in the same manner. I deplore any action which tends towards disrespect for the judiciary. No useful object is served by it. No one. has any real doubt as to the complete impartiality, disinterestedness and ability of gentlemen, who, because they sit on the Bench, are high enough for men like the honorable member to throw mud at them. I suggest that no useful service is rendered by such action, even though private animosity may be gratified by attacks of this character.
Mr.Ward. - I have no private animosity against the judges.
– It is difficult to suggest any other reason. The honorable member has said again and again, that all judicial decisions are dictated by class interests. No one believes that, not even the honorable member himself. I know more than honorable members opposite of the character of the judges, more particularly the arbitration judges, who are discharging most difficult functions. Those judges will never satisfy everybody, and the least that we can do, so long as we are convinced of their integrity, ability and impartiality, is to give them support by at least abstaining from unnecessary and unwarranted offensive criticism.
Mr.Ward. - We are not convinced.
– In that case the proper way to deal with this matter is to move for the removal of the judges on certain grounds.
– What chance have we of doing that?
– There would be no chance of doing that in any responsible assembly.
– There would be no chance if the assembly were class biased like the Atomey-General and his supporters.
– There are no facts to support the insinuations made. If there were facts showing that any judge is dishonest in his judgments,. I would be the first to support any motion for his removal from the Bench. But to endeavour to make differences of opinion on highly controversial matters criteria of personal character is really rather ridiculous, and renders no service to any interest in the community, including the interest which the honorable member for East Sydney claims to represent. I plead for a spirit of belief in the good faith of gentlemen whom we have no reason to suspect of acting in bad faith. No one has ever adduced evidence to that effect. Supposing that the honorable member for East Sydney were in a responsible position and gave a decision with which I did not agree and thought was wrong; or supposing that I were in a similar position, andhe thought that my decision was wrong; would either of us say that the adjudicator was dishonest and insincere without there being any evidence to that effect? I earnestly appeal to honorable members not to allow differences of opinion on matters of industrial policy to lead to suggestions of dishonesty.
– The differences of opinion are too consistent to be honest.
– I have met employers as well as employees and the representatives of trade unions, and the honorable member would be surprised to learn their views. I find that the decisions of the Arbitration Court are criticized on their merits often just as vigorously by employers as by employees. I appeal to honorable members not to cast unjustifiable aspersions on the character of gentlemen who are not in a position to defend themselves.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Departmentof the Interior.
Proposed vote, £338,370.
– During the last few months, the position in respect of the operations of the River Murray Waters Commission has become accentuated, principally because of the lack of water in the waterways under the control of the commission and probably also because of certain economic conditions. I have endeavoured on many occasions to elicit from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) the intention of the Commonwealth Government, as one of the four contracting parties to the agreement, with respect to the settlement of many of the problems which confront it. Until recently, a deadlock existed in respect of certain alterations to or deviations from the original agreement, including barrages in the vicinity of the mouth of the Murray, a diversion weir at Yarrawonga, a bridge over the Hume Weir, and two weirs on the lower Murrumbidgee. The construction of the river Murray works has extended over a fairly long period. They are of tremendous importance to the people of Australia, and particularly to those settled along the Murray and its tributaries. Many aspects of this work are causing much uneasiness and alarm among the land-owners located along the lower Murrumbidgee; but as I have previously dealt with them at length, there is no need for me to refer to them this morning. The four contracting parties have agreed to the alteration of the agreement to the extent of dispensing with thirteen locks on the river Murray, and eight or nine locks on the Murrumbidgee, and to substitute the additional new works which I have mentioned at a cost of £1,200,000. That will mean a saving on the original estimate of £1,800,000. We were informed yesterday by the Minister that the expenditure of £1,200,000 will be allocated equally between the four contracting governments. The Commonwealth Government should accept its share of the responsibility for carrying out this work, particularly as the expenditure to which it is now committed is considerably less than the original estimate. The Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of £300,000.
– This item was discussed on the Works Estimates.
– I know that, but the salaries of the officers who are supervising this work are provided for in these Estimates. It is essential that these additional works should be carried out because of the necessity, not only for water conservation and irrigation, but also for the provision of employment. This is a reproductive work, and the Government should not hesitate to make the money available so as to provide immediate employment for a large number of our workless citizens. I appeal to the Government to do everything in its power to make the £300,000 available - I am confident the States will do their share - in order that men may be put to work as speedily as possible.
– The citizens of Brisbane are naturally interested in the Government’s intentions with respect to the proposed Commonwealth building in Anzac Square. For some time, I have been endeavouring to obtain information from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) as to the Government’s intention to proceed with the building for which an appropriation was made in the Works and Buildings Estimates. A few days ago I asked the Minister whether the Government proposed to proceed with the erection of a Commonwealth building, or whether it intended to purchase the building offered to it by a private person or company. The Minister stated that the whole matter was under consideration, and that the information I required was not then available. Within the last day or two, a report appeared in a Brisbane newspaper to the effect that the Government had definitely decided to proceed with the construction of a Commonwealth building. If is rather surprising that such an announcement should be made only a few days after the Minister said that the matter was under consideration. I trust that the report is true, because it is time the Government proceeded with the work in question, because the completion of a modern Commonwealth building will add considerably to the appearance of Anzac Square, which already has outstanding architectural features. The Commonwealth Government entered into an undertaking with the Queensland Government to erect a building on its portion of the square in keeping with the structure erected by the State Government on the corner of Edward and Adelaide streets. The last information received from Brisbane is to the effect that the State Government is now awaiting the decision of the federal authorities regarding the erection of Commonwealth offices in Anzac Square. It is hoped that this work will be proceeded with as early as possible, and thus provide employment. A few weeks ago, when this matter was before the House, I mentioned that the amount appropriated for this building is too small to relieve the unemployment in the building trade in Queensland. If the Government intends to proceed with this structure it should endeavour to procure the whole of the material required in Brisbane or at least in Queensland. The material used in the insurance building adjoining the Brisbane General Post Office is Benedict stone. I do not know what stone the Commonwealth proposes to use, but I suggest that the Commonwealth architects should inspect the insurance building to which I have referred, with a view to giving a Queensland industry an opportunity to supply the material. I trust that the Minister will make an early announcement as to the Government’s intentions with respect to this building.
.- I join with the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) in urging the Government to expedite building construction in Brisbane. The Queensland Government has now carried out its 8 art of the undertaking. If this Government moves in the matter, the State Government will also be able to proceed further with it3 buildings. On these Estimates, the Government is appropriating £46,710 for the rent of buildings for the current year, and if this ‘building is constructed ‘ in Brisbane a considerable sum will be saved annually in the matter of rent. An early start should therefore be made with this work. The Government should provide for the accommodation of its own employees in government buildings wherever practicable and thus save unnecessary expenditure.
Provision is also made in these Estimates for the cost of administering the Electoral Department. Last year I made certain comments with respect to postal votes; and although I am not going to repeat in full what I then said, I again urge the Government to abolish postal voting. A great deal of abuse occurs under the postal voting system. Because of the greater assistance which government candidates receive at election time by their being able to employ more female canvassers, they are able to gain greater benefits from postal votes than do the candidates of the Labour party. Actually they receive more postal votes than they are entitled to. I have said outside this chamber, and I repeat it now, that I am satisfied that in 1929, when-I was defeated by only 100 votes out of a total of 56,000 polled, the Oxley seat was thieved from me in consequence of the activities displayed by my opponents in the matter of postal votes. In ordinary circumstances, these votes should show the same swing either one way or the other, as is shown by the other votes cast in an electorate, but in the case I have mentioned that was not so. If there is any differentiation at any time, the swing, so far as postal votes are concerned, should be towards candidates of the Labour party, representing, as they do, the poorer people who, owing to” their inability to pay for motor cars, are more likely to use the postal system when in ill-health. It is reasonable to assume that the health of the poorer people is not likely to be as good as that of people in more fortunate circumstances, because, in many cases, they are unable to obtain the most nutritive food or essential medicinal requirements. Nevertheless, the postal votes generally favour anti-Labour candidates. The only possible explanation is that our political opponents, possessing a superior organization, and having an ample supply of funds, can employ canvassers who concentrate upon this work throughout the year. The organization of the Labour party in Queensland consists of a paid secretary and female assistant in the office, whereas the Nationalist party has women who are paid all the year round to keep the rolls up to date and who make it their business to work the organization on a systematic basis. A Mrs. Service, a prominent organizer of the Nationalist party in Brisbane, boasted to me, not knowing who I was, of the number of votes which she had stolen from Mr. Burke, who was a candidate for the Brisbane seat before its present representative was elected, and from me. In the best interests of this Parliament I definitely suggest that the postal voting system should be dispensed with as was done for a considerable period some time ago. I realize that this Government will not move unless it can find a precedent. It would appear that, in the opinion of the Government, to do something which has not been done before, is to commit the unforgivable siu. In this instance, however, the Government’ would have a precedent. Should the Government not be willing to abolish postal voting altogether, I suggest that the provisions of the act be tightened considerably. In my opinion, it would be better if the only persons authorized to collect postal votes or to make application for the forms, were members of the police force.
I also suggest that any elector be authorized to witness applications for votes, and voting papers, as is the case in connexion with State elections in Queensland. Under the federal law, only certain specified persons are entitled to act as witnesses, although other persons, or classes of persons, may be added to the list by regulation. It is laid down that, if necessary, all public servants, both Commonwealth and State, may become witnesses’, but that regulation has not been put into operation. I suggest that, in the event of the Government, not being willing to allow any elector to be a witness, it should use its power to authorize Commonwealth and State public servants to act in that capacity.
I also suggest that prior to each election, the various State Governments be requested to make arrangements for officers of the police force to canvass the electorates thoroughly. A canvass generally takes place before a State election, but not before a federal election, and that is the reason why there is often a great difference between the State and Federal rolls. Last year, when I made certain suggestions of this nature, the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Parkhill), said that it was the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to amend the Electoral Act. So far, I have had no indication of what alterations, if any, are contemplated. I hope that the Minister will give us some information on this subject to-night.
I should like an explanation of the item, “Repatriation of unsuitable migrants, £100.” I suggest that arrangements be made to repatriate those persons who have come here from other countries and have become a burden on the community because of their inability to obtain employment, if they wish to return to their own country. I have found it impossible to get the Government to agree to assist such cases. It would be in the interests of all concerned for the Government to spend a small sum in sending back, particularly to England, Ireland and Scotland, some of the more deserving of these cases.
I congratulate the Minister on his accurate estimate last year of the cost of running the Ministerial motor car. Under this heading £1,000 was voted last year, and exactly that amount was expended. The sum set down for this year is £950, and I compliment the Minister on the proposed economy.
– Last year, £300 was voted for the repatriation of unsuitable migrants, but only £39 was expended. This year £100 is to be set aside for this purpose. Prom time to time, migrants from Great Britain become stranded in Australia, and Australians become stranded in Great Britain. On a number of occasions I have approached the Minister with a view to obtaining some provision for the repatriation of these people, but without success. “When I approached the department on behalf of an Australian who was stranded in .Britain, I was informed that it was unable to provide for his repatriation to Australia unless he was in ill health. I was then able to show that this man had been a patient in a London hospital for four months, but that did not alter the department’s decision. The doctors who attended him said that his condition was the result of starvation. The man had been unable to get sufficient to eat. Another case concerned a man and his wife and two children who were stranded in Australia. The man. had no hope of obtaining employment here, but there was a distinct probability that he would obtain work if he could get back to England. His relatives there were willing to provide for him until he could obtain employment. Notwithstand- ing that he and his family were a burden on the State, I was unable to induce the department to repatriate them. I was told that unless the man became an inmate of a charitable institution in Australia he could not be repatriated. So long as the family remained outside the walls of charitable institutions nothing could be done for them, but if they became inmates they could secure repatriation. Later, the woman died, leaving the man with two children, one of whom was a child about three months old. The father asked that the child be repatriated to England where his relatives would look after it, and stated that a friend who was leaving for England would take care of the child on the journey. Despite the man’s awkward position the department was adamant. If it is possible to provide money to repatriate unsuitable migrants, it ought to be possible to provide for the repatriation of desirable persons who, through circumstances over which they have no control, have become a burden on the State and desire to return to their native land. Similarly, provision should be made for the repatriation of stranded Australians who cannot obtain employment abroad.
The sum of £500 is set down for payment of commission for the collections of loans to migrants. I should like an explanation of this item. If, as apparently is the case, loans are made to migrants by the Government, why does not the Government collect the repayments? I should like to know to whom this commission is paid.
– The Western Australian Government draws it in a good many instances.
– Does the Western Australian Government lend money to migrants?
– Yes, under certain conditions.
– There is another item of £400 for parcels transmitted over the East- West railway. Last year provision was made for this under a different item, but the cost was £3S1. I should like some information as to how the £400 is to be spent. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) mentioned that last year £1,000 was spent in running expenses for the ministerial motor car, and this year provision is made for a further £950. Item 25 covers “ other incidental expenses “, and the amount provided is £2,000, but there is nothing to show how it is to be spent.
For the Governor-General’s establishment, there is an item of £1,000 for food, lighting, fuel and power. I do not want to inquire too closely into the domestic affairs of the GovernorGeneral, but that amount seems to me to be somewhat high. One wonders whether there is a family ghost in the establishment which makes it necessary for His Excellency to keep the lights burning all night. Over 50 per cent, of the total maintenance expenses is represented by a sum of £5,277 which is paid, year after year, to the Government of Victoria for the lease of a building in Melbourne previously occupied by His Excellency the Governor-General. Some explanation, I think, should be given of that amount. On page 73 of the Estimates is the item “ Other services, non-recurring works, £3,500 “. To what does that refer?
A Greek, who lives in my electorate, has made representations to me regarding the refusal of the immigration authorities to permit his aunt to enter Australia. The lady, who is about 36 years of ago, is described as a milliner, and the reason given by the authorities for refusing to admit her is that she may enter into competition with Australians for employment in this country. There is, I understand, a regulation covering the matter, but I have been assured that this lady has already in Australia, six nephews and six married nieces, all of whom are prepared to give an undertaking that she will not become a charge upon tho State. I ask the Minister whether it would not be possible to waive the regulation in her case, or, if that could not be done, to have it amended. [Quorum formed.)
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the works which are controlled by the River Murray Waters Commission, and made particular mention of the weirs which it was proposed to construct on the Mumimbidgee River. It was provided in the original agreement, that nine or ten locks and weirs should be constructed across the Murrumbidgee, but circumstances have so changed since the making of the agreement that residents along the river are now not concerned with navigation, hut only with water conservation for irrigation purposes. Therefore, the Government of New South Wales has asked that the new weirs be built’ without locks so as to save expense. That Government’ intimated that it would be content to wind up the scheme if the four works agreed to at yesterday’s conference were carried out, together with the works at present in progress.
A meeting of the contracting parties was held yesterday, when it was decided to ask that the two weirs be constructed. It was also decided to ask that another work, namely, the construction of barrages near the Murray mouth, be undertaken, although this work was not in the original scheme. . It was originally intended to construct a lock and weir a hundred miles up the river, but it was found upon investigation that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain proper foundations, so that the work would be very costly and, even when completed, of doubtful use. A certain amount of salinity was supposed to have taken place, rendering the water unsuitable for irrigation during dry periods. In order to avoid this it was recommended by the South Australian Government that barrages be constructed below Goolwa at a cost of £500,000. This, as I say, was not in the original agreement, but it was decided at the meeting yesterday to submit the proposal to the various governments concerned with a view to having the act amended so as to include this work. At Yarrawonga a weir was to be constructed by the governments of Now South Wales and’ Victoria, but they have asked that if they join in carrying out the work at the Murray mouth, and the construction of a road over the Hume dam, the Yarrawonga work be carried out at the joint cost of the four parties. The four undertakings are estimated to cost £1,200,000. It was proposed at the meeting that the agreement should continue in force for another five years, the new works, and those already in course of construction, to be completed by the end of that time. The Hume dam is to be raised only sufficiently to impound 1,250,000 .acre-feet of water, as compared with 2,000,000 acre feet provided for in the original scheme. Thu3, the remaining works will be completed for £1,200,000, as against £5,000,000 which would be needed to carry out the original undertaking. The various parties are unanimously in favour of the new arrangement, which is to be submitted to the various cabinets, including the Commonwealth cabinet. In one way, it will involve the Commonwealth in extra expenditure, because we shall be expected to provide £97,000 more than we had already agreed to provide.
– But the Commonwealth will effect a saving as compared with what its expenditure would have been on the original scheme.
– That is so. Up to the present, the undertaking has cost £9,250,000. The original scheme would have cost £15,000,000, and it is estimated that the amended scheme will be carried out for £12,000,000. I have visited most of the places where work is being carried out, and also those places where it was proposed originally to construct weirs and locks. I am convinced that to have proceeded with the original scheme would have been to throw away money. At Mildura, where it has been possible for many years- to navigate the river, there has not been one river vessel during the last twelve months. It does not look as though there will be much in the way of navigation in the future.
The honorable members for Brisbane (Mr. G. Lawson) and Oxley (Mr. Baker) have sought information concerning the construction of Commonwealth offices in Brisbane. I owe an apology to the honorable member for Brisbane for having failed to notify him before an announcement of the Government’s intention appeared in the press. After it had been decided to expend a certain sum on the construction of a new building, a proposal was submitted to the Government for the purchase of a building in a central position, which it was held would be suitable for Commonwealth requirements and would effect a saving of from £40,000 to £50,000. It was not considered Tight that the name should be published while the negotiations were proceeding. When the matter was taken to Cabinet, it was decided that the original proposal should be proceeded with. I immediately had a wire despatched to Brisbane, so that there might be no delay. This evening I signed a contract for the immediate removal to another site of the miniature rifle range now on the site of the new offices. The concentration of Commonwealth activities in one centre will not only result in a saving of expenditure) but also provide a certain amount of employment. It has been stated that the Commonwealth Government was bound by an agreement with the State Government to erect this building. Although a search has been made in the department for such an agreement, it has not been found.
The honorable member for Oxley suggested the amendment of the Electoral Act. I am hopeful of bringing forward such legislation.
– Can the Minister give me an idea of what is in his mind ?
– The provisions relating to postal voting will certainly be dealt with. It is not proposed to abolish that System, although, as every honorable member knows, it has not proved as satisfactory as was expected. I do not know whether the honorable member is right in his contention that it favours ohe political party. It might favour the party that is most vigilant.
– Where one party is able to employ canvassers all the year round to work the hospitals, it has everything in its favour at the elections.
– I do not know that there is any advantage to be gained from working” throughout the year, because the same persons are not at all times in the hospitals. I agree, however, that changes ought to be made in the system, in order to remove some of the evils that have become apparent.
The honorable member for Oxley also referred to the vote for defraying the cost df the return passages of unsuitable migrants. A very small amount is involved. Last year only £39 was spent. Migration has been a dead letter for many years, and this fund is drawn upon only in extreme cases. Of course, if the Government consented to pay the return fares of migrants who are unemployed, the amount that it would have to provide would be large. A similar vote is provided for the repatriation of Australians who are stranded abroad. The amount spent under this heading last year was £84.
– In one case I made representations here and they were rejected; yet representations which were made in London were successful.
– I am unable to supply particulars of that case, but I shall have it inquired into.
Portion of the amount provided for commission to certain people in connexion with migration is to cover the claim of the Government of Western Australia for services rendered up to 4th March, 1933, in connexion with the collection of loan repayments from migrants. Until recently, a commission of 5 per cent, on loan repayments collected from migrants was paid to the immigration authorities in each State, but this work is now being performed by branches of the Department of the Interior in Victoria and Western Australia.
Although the cost of the ministerial car is debited to the Department of the Interior, it is used by all Ministers as well as by distinguished visitors to Canberra, and as a pay car. Originally, the cost was distributed among the different departments, but last year “it was charged to the one department, and collections were made by that department from the others.
The item “ Fuel, light and power “ in connexion with the establishment of the Governor-General, seems large, but it is barely sufficient for requirements.
The item concerning State Government House, Victoria, provides for the payment to the Government of that State of a sum of £5,277, being the annual amount agreed upon as compensation for the surrender of the unexpired portion of the ten years’ lease of the building formerly occupied by the Governor-General in Melbourne. The total amount of compensation involved is £42j865j and payments at the rate of £5,277 per annum will be mads until the agreement expires on the 31st December, 1938.
– Who is using the building now?
– I fancy that it is being- used by the State Government.
In regard to the works referred to by the honorable member for Dalley, I may say that it is proposed to devote the sum provided towards the erection of a police cottage, and the alteration of the A.D.C. block at Government House to provide dining-room accommodation which is lacking at’ present.
Migration is a troublesome question. This Government is observing the rules and regulations made by the Scullin Government, which found it necessary, on account of the falling off of employment in Australia, to limit migration to the greatest possible extent. It was laid down that only near relatives were to be admitted, except in extreme cases. Even a brother of a person already in Australia was not admitted if he was over age. “Where an intending migrant has been able to show that he possesses a certain amount of capital, and is not likely to bc an expense to the community, the ban has been lifted.
– The person whose case I mentioned has twelve relatives in business, all of whom are prepared to guarantee that she will not be a burden on the community.
– Under the regulation made by the previous Government, she is not permitted to come to Australia under the migration provisions. The feeling has been expressed in correspondence from honorable members and others, that it is time the ban was lifted in certain directions, and it is my intention to make to cabinet suggestions that will liberalize the law.
– I understand that a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand has been reached with regard to the treatment of persons naturalized in either Australia or New Zealand. Persons naturalized subsequent to the agreement receive the full rights of citizenship, but those naturalized prior to the agreement do not enjoy those rights. It seems to me that’ a person naturalized in New Zealand fifteen or twenty years ago and coming to Australia is more entitled to be admitted to full citizenship than a person naturalized there only five years ago. I know a person in South Australia who enjoyed naturalization rights in New Zealand for 30 years, but is deprived of those rights in Australia. I hope that this anomaly will be rectified.
I join with the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) in their request for more sympathetic consideration of the claims of British migrants who, because of continued memployment, are desirous to return to the United Kingdom where they have friends and relatives who would assist them to obtain work. I realize that it is difficult to arrange for the return of large numbers of migrants, but, in a number of cases, employment is guaranteed to them if they can obtain a passage to Great Britain. A certain man who came to Australia a few years ago has impaired eyesight, and will ultimately become totally blind. He has no friends in this country who can give him substantial assistance, and he must eventually become a direct charge upon the State; but he has relatives in England who would see that he was provided for on his return. Many British migrants came to Australia because of the definite- promise given that they would have favorable prospects, and the Government is under an obligation to see that’ in cases of distinct hardship their return to the Old Country is facilitated. Through tho Migrants Association in South Australia I have had many such cases brought under my notice, and I have realized how tragic are the circumstances of these unfortunate persons, through their inability to obtain satisfactory employment. I hope that the Minister will do something more substantial for these persons than is proposed in the present Estimates.
Some time ago I brought under notice the case of a young woman who had’ remained in England with ‘a view to being married, although her parents had migrated to Australia, ‘ Later her engagement was broken off, and, when her parents desired to obtain a passage for her to Australia, the department declined to grant it. The girl has no relatives in the Old Country, and as her father is employed in the South Australian Railway Department, which in itself is a guarantee that she would be adequately provided for on reaching Australia, and can assure her of employment here, favorable consideration should be given to the case. I do not advocate wholesale migration to these shores at the present time, because our first duty is to place in suitable employment the hundreds of thousands of Australians who are now out of work. The .honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) spoke of a case similar to that of the young woman mentioned by me, and I hope that the Government will be less harsh in its administration in these matters. I shall be pleased if the Minister will personally review these cases and give them the most sympathetic consideration.
– Another meeting of the River Murray Waters Commission has been held, and an agreement has been reached concerning the further work to be done. It now remains for its recommendation to be approved by the governments of the contracting parties. The commission previously agreed to recommend certain works and the matter was referred to the several governments concerned; but necessary works have not been proceeded with, and the Commonwealth Government is largely responsible for the delay. Continuance of the work of completing the Hume weir to the 2,000,000 acre-foot level, with a gap in the centre so that the inundation of further property will not be necessary, and the building of a bridge across the gap, and other works, have been recommended; but because these works would involve the Commonwealth in a further expenditure of £97,500, the completion of the work has not been authorized. I am aware that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) is giving close attention to this matter, and I hope that he will be able to induce the Government to bring about the resumption of activities at the weir. I am quite sure that if all the Ministers of Cabinet took a trip to the Hume Weir and saw how near to completion it is, they would not hestitate a moment about having the job completed. I do not ask that the weir should be completed entirely up to the 2,000,000 acre-feet level, which would involve the inundation of Tallangatta and the purchase of surrounding properties, including some of the finest land in Victoria; but I recommend the completion of the job, as advised by the commission,, up to the 2,000,000 acre-foot level with the ex ception of a gap in the centre which would make the capacity 1,250,000 acre-feet and the building of the bridge over the top of the wall. In regard to the bridge I should like the Ministers to look to the future when this national work will be completed, and to imagine a beautiful level surface at the top of the weir, perfectly suitable for a road, replacing the existing road some hundreds of feet below. This road is constantly in need of attention. It passes over two old bridges, and has a rise of almost 300 feet to the main Upper Murray to Albury road. They would then instantly appreciate the folly of not abandoning the old road, and agreeing to the construction of the bridge along the top of the weir. I understand that the cost of building the new bridge would be approximately £30,000, while the cost of repairing the old ones is £15,000. It is not logical to assume that an intelligent Cabinet would do other than quickly realize that the building of the bridge is much the more suitable and economic of the two works. I hope that the Minister will place these matters before Cabinet in the most attractive light, and that as the result I shall learn shortly that it has sanctioned the work and will make the money available at as early a date as possible.
Quorum formed. 1
– I should like a little information with regard to the Fairbridge Farm School, which is in Western Australia, and is designed to train boys, who are brought from the Old Country, in farming duties. Last year the vote was £3,315, of which £1,742 was expended. This year there has been a reduction of almost £600, and I should like some information on the subject. For the International Map of the World, no expenditure has been appropriated. I assume that it refers to a continuation of the international map of Australia, the” first portion of which dealt with the Federal Capital Territory. Is the matter in abeyance merely because of lack of funds?
A more important matter to which I desire to direct the attention of the Minister, is that of postal voting. It must be evident to honorable members generally that in the more sparsely settled districts of Australia, a large number of persona are practically disfranchised. The position is dealt with adequately by the State Governments, and I suggest that some action should be taken by thiB Government. There are no fewer than seven subdivisions in my electorate - Broome, Derby, Gascoyne, Onslow, Pilbara, Roebourne and “Wyndham - in, which a number of persons, such as prospectors, are disfranchised when a federal election, is held. I had occasion to visit those districts when a State election was being held last February, and I found that every person was provided for, whereas, prior to a federal election, if a person living in the “Wyndham subdivision, for instance, applied for a postal vote, it was most unlikely that he would be able to record it in. time. During the summer months the air mail does not function, on account of the rain, and if the application were sent to the Divisional Returning Officer at Kalgoorlie he would have to send the ballot-papers a distance of 1,500 miles to a centre which is dependent upon a mail once every six weeks. Consequently the voter would not receive his ballotpaper until weeks after the election had taken place. In those remote districts there are many prospectors who take particularly keen interest in political affairs. The State Government arranges that the mail driver shall deliver postal votes to outlying districts. There is no fear of any improper dealings, for the men are wide-awake, and know the candidates whom they wish to vote for. In any case, they are few in number, and their votes would not sway an election. The Commonwealth Government should abandon the present circumlocutory methods and provide means to enable these electors to vote.
As the Minister stated, the existing methods with regard to voting at hospitals permit the man who gets in first to secure all the votes in his favour. No doubt the weakness lies in the act.
Another important matter which needs attention is the duplication of rolls. Unfortunately, it has been found impracticable, as yet, to adopt a uniform Federal and State roll in “Western Australia, although it has been done in New South “Wales. Perhaps blame is attributable to both sides, and it may be that
State electoral officers are not prepared to relinquish some of the powers they now possess. I hope that every endeavour will be made to bring “Western Australia, into line with other States which have adopted a uniform roll for State and Federal purposes.
I have tried repeatedly to have a meteorological branch established at Geraldton, an important seaport in Western Australia, about 300 miles from Perth, which has a climate entirely different from that of the capital. Farmers in the West are extremely interested in meteorological data, and when they go to Perth they throng the post office looking anxiously to see what are the prospects of rain. This lack of meteorological information is a very serious matter to them and they would be glad if the Minister could arrange for a daily rainfall map to be exhibited in the post office at Geraldton. Their request could be complied with without much additional expenditure, because the data are prepared at Geraldton daily, as elsewhere. All that is required is a telegram from Perth giving information about the rainfall in other centres.
.- I understand that arrangements are being made to provide accommodation for federal members in the new Commonwealth building to be built at Brisbane, but as it will be a couple of years before it is completed, Queensland members are desirous of improvements being effected to the rooms which they now occupy at the General Post Office. Recently, considerable expenditure has been incurred on the the federal members’ rooms in Sydney and Melbourne, and we think that Brisbane, being the third largest capital city in the Commonwealth, should receive consideration. One objection to the present rooms is that there is no accommodation for constituents who come to see members on public business. They are obliged to stand outside, and when a member calls to see them, he has to wait until they settle among themselves who shall interview him first. While several rooms are placed at the disposal of federal members and each has a telephone, the arrangement is not at all satisfactory, as there is no switch attendant. If a member happens to be absent from any par- ticular room when a telephone call is made to that room, there is no one to advise the person making the call that the member asked for is in the building. Provision was made for federal members in the new Commonwealth Bank building, butI understand that some objection has been raised on account of the rent demanded. As the Commonwealth Bank and post office are both Commonwealth buildings, I fail to see how the charge for rent for federal members’ rooms in the Commonwealth Bank should cause trouble. I hope that the Minister will, without delay, enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth Bank authorities requesting them to make available for federal members one floor of the bank building until accommodation is provided in the new Commonwealth building.
Another matter which I should like to mention is the proposed redistribution of electoral divisions. I am assuming that the Government has decided to appoint redistribution commissioners following the publication of the census figures, which shows that a rearrangement of federal constituencies is desirable, and I urge the Minister to make a statement on the subject prior to the adjournment of Parliament. We believe that there should be a redistribution in every State, thus removing a certain amount of suspicion in the minds of some honorable members due to the rumour that, for political party advantage, the Government does not intend to order a redistribution in Tasmania. I have not seen the census figures for Tasmania, so I am not in a position to challenge the contention that a redistribution in that State is unnecessary. But I point out that although the population of some of the electorates may be just within the quota, if is extremely probable that in the course of a year or two the drift of population will be such as to justify a redistribution before the taking of the next census.
Last year the sum of £500 was provided for an international map of the world and only £469 was expended. Will the Minister explain that item? I notice also that a number of items are prefixed with an asterisk, and a footnote states that in 1932-33 they were provided for under miscellaneous services. As one item represents an amount of £1,000. that sum, I contend, is too large to be included under miscellaneous services. If similar amounts appear in the Estimates for other departments, it is quite conceivable that a Government could conceal a considerable expenditure, in the aggregate, under this heading. Under many branches there appear amounts “ withheld from officers on account of rent.” Will the Minister explain these items?
– I agree with the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) that we should have some assurance from the Minister with regard to Government proposals for the redistribution of federal electorates. It has been stated that redistribution will not be required in Tasmania or New South Wales. For the information of honorable members, and in view of a rumour that is circulating that, for political reasons, electorates in those States will not be altered, the Government should make it clear whether it intends to proceed with a redistribution in all the States.
Other matters which I bring to the notice of the Minister are the lack of hotel accommodation in the Federal Capital Territory, and complaints of preferential treatment among Government employees. It has been stated that a certain Government employee has been banned from one of the Government hostels for an alleged offence, while a higher official, against whom a similar charge was made, is permitted to remain there. Since the Hotel Kurrajong was set aside for the accommodation of single men and persons employed in compiling the census, members of Parliament have been accommodated at the Hotel Canberra, and many complaints have beeen made lately of the inadequate staffingof that establishment. On a number of occasions, the employees are unable to cater for the large number of visitors, and not infrequently members of Parliament find, upon returning to Canberra to resume their parliamentary duties, that rooms which they are accustomed to use, are occupied by visitors. That is not the desire of honorable members and I ask the Minister to rectify this matter.
With reference to the Electoral Office, I agree with the honorable member for Oxley, that the Government would be wise to pay stricter attention to postal votes. That system of voting allows of misuses on the part of political parties who have wealth at their command, and I suggest that it would be better for the community generally if the postal votes were entirely eliminated.
– I should like to obtain from the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) a reply to a certain suggestion that I made a few moments ago. I mentioned the fact that certain buildings in Brisbane had been built of Benedict stone. It is a new stone to Brisbane and, I think, to Australia generally, but it has given entire satisfaction. I suggest that the Minister should call for a report on that stone to ascertain whether it is suitable for the new Commonwealth building in Brisbane. I should also like to know whether that building will be constructed by the Works Department or under contract.
– I wish to refer to that section of the Department of the Interior which is participating in the search for petroleum oil in the Commonwealth. That section has been operating for some years, and its efforts up to a certain point have been successful. During the depression the vote was reduced and has not yet been restored. I am keenly disappointed with the lack of publicity which has been given to this branch, which is one of the most important of any department in the Commonwealth. The potentialities of petroleum oil in Australia are considerable. I do not by any means wish to decry the efforts that are being made to extract oil from coal and shale, but the whole of the known shale oil deposits in Australia would probably be sufficient to supply the requirements for only two years. The position is different with regard to coal oil, although supplies of that must ultimately become limited ; but those fields should be exploited if only for the purpose of absorbing our unemployed miners. If the Government is willing to subsidize the hydrogenation process of extracting oil, it should certainly make a similar amount available for the exploitation of the potentialities of petroleum oil in Australia. The presence of oil has been definitely established in more than one locality in Queensland. For some years oil, and also petroleum gas, have been procured at Roma. In some of the western towns of Queensland the presence of oil is plainly discernible in the water supplies. Geologically that State is rich in oil. The work that has been carried out in the Longreach district has been of immense importance in locating oil structures. Some 60,000 gallons of oil have been secured from a number of wells which have been sunk at Lakes Entrance in Gippsland. That work is .still proceeding, but the wells are what are termed “mean pumpers”, and up to date have not been a commercial proposition. They are, however, important as an indication that’ a reservoir of oil exists in that particular locality. Oil indications have also been found in Western’ Australia. No less than £500,000 has been expended by various companies throughout Australia in the search for oil. During the last five years valuable work has been done in the Mandated Territory A comprehensive geological survey of a part of New Guinea has been almost completed and closed structures have already been located. It will, of course, be necessary to carry out scout drilling in order to test those structures. In the Longreach district, the geological formation is vague, and geologists have been working there for the last five years in an endeavour to locate various structures. Difficulty was experienced until such time as the Scullin Government made available some Defence aeroplanes and the services of photographers, and of Dr. Woolnough and Mr. Hossfield, for the purpose of making an aerial survey. That was the first aerial survey undertaken, in Australia, and the results were extremely valuable. I suggest to the Minister that greater advantage should be taken of the services of those officers. For some obscure reason the Government has decided that the use of Defence aeroplanes and photographers shall be confined exclusively to Defence operations, but there is no better “training for the pilots and tho photographers of the Defence Department than the making of aerial surveys in oil-bearing localities. The amount which has been made available this year-about £6,000 - is comparatively small and its expenditure is highly problematical unless the Minister decides upon a more vigorous policy and places at the disposal of the various companies,which are searching for oil throughout Australia, the services of the Government geologists and Defence photographers and aeroplanes. I am firmly of the opinion that petroleum oil will be found in payable quantities in Australia. The chances of discovering oil are so great that legislation should be passed dealing with the control of the production of oil. As oil was discovered in the United States of America before legislation dealing with its production and control was passed by the State and Federal legislatures, we should see that we are not confronted with the unfortunate position with which the American States were faced. It was only after great difficulty that uniform legislation was passed covering all the activities associated with the production and control of oil. When I was in charge of this section of the Department of the Interior I endeavoured to obtainexpressions of opinions from the variousState Governments in the hope of the Commonwealth co-operating with the States in definitely determining a uniform oil policy. At present varying legislation is in operation in the different Australian States, and I do not think any of it even approaches uniformity, in the matter of control, area of leases, and the amount of royalty to be paid by the fortunate discoverer of supplies in commercial quantities. The Western Australian Government is at present drafting a petroleum bill, which is to be brought before the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Commonwealth Government will obviously have to work in conjunction with the States concerned, but the production of oil should be left entirely with the Commonwealth Government. Even if the States will not transfer their administrative rights it is essential that there should be uniform legislation, and I hope that the Minister will do everything possible in that direction. At this stage I donot propose to discuss further this important subject. One could say a good deal more upon it. I am not satisfied with the published reports, that adequate use is being made of the geological staff, or that the activities of the Commonwealth are in keeping with the great potentialities in this respect which Australia undoubtedly possesses. I trust that the Government will formulate an active policy and facilitate the discovery of oil in payable quantities in every possible way. Oil has been produced in Queensland, the Mandated Territories, Victoria, and in Western Australia, and although not in commercial quantities, the necessary closure is here, and it should not be long before it is produced on an economic basis.
-I am pleased to learn that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) has announced that it is proposed to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and that among other things provision will be made for an alteration of the present postal voting system. I should like, however, to protest against the present method’ of redistribution which obtains in the Commonwealth. I recognize, of course, the difficulty in amending the act; but relief may be given by allowing a minimum where an electorate is particularly large. When the Scullin Government was in power a redistribution was due, and on making inquiries I found that it was then proposed to add another 12,000 square miles to my already fairly extensive electorate, which covers 909,000 square miles out of a total of 975,000 square miles in Western Australia. I mention this matter in the hope that the Minister will pass on the information for the consideration of the redistribution commission. Already I have to travel 11,000 miles and occupy nine months in doing so if I am to visit a section of my constituents. Naturally a good deal of the country is sparsely populated, and frequently I am asked when visiting an isolated portion, if that is the first time I have been there and when I am coming again. It is physically impossible for any man to do more than I am doing. In my electorate there are 21 State electorates out of a total of 50, and 12 Legislative Council members out of a total of 30.
– How does the number of electors in the Kalgoorlie electorate compare with the quota?
– It is still below the quota, but I think that the latest figures will show an increase. If the area of my electorate were increased by 12,000 square miles, it would include a portion of the electorate now represented by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and I could not possibly visit an additional number of constituents.
I rose more particularly to mention a matter which I have brought under the notice of the Minister by correspondence. Miss Holman, M.L.A., has written a letter concerning the Triplet family incident which occurred on the Trans-Australian line. The Labour Women’s Central Executive of Western Australia is -asking for a full inquiry into the matter. I do not suggest’ what form such an inquiry should take, but the facts of the case from the departmental officers’ viewpoint is that a man named Triplet, who was travelling by motor car, called at the ‘Cook railway station and informed the station master that one of the male members of the party was ill. He asked that he should be taken over the railway to Kalgoorlie on the assurance that he would defray the cost later. The station master at Cook wired to the traffic manager at Port Augusta for instructions. The official report reads -
The station master at Cook at once telegraphed the Chief Traffic Manager, Commonwealth Railways, Port Augusta, and advised him of the position. In view of the circumstances the Traffic Manager authorized the conveyance of the sick person, also the brother to Kalgoorlie by train on their undertaking to pay their fares after arrival at Kalgoorlie.
There seems to have been some misunderstanding in the matter, as previously a brother had not been mentioned in the case. Actually, it was a lady who was ill. The report continues -
The Chief Traffic Manager asked that something definite should be given in the way of an undertaking and this undertaking should include the address of the place from which the parties started, and the address on their arrival at (heir destination. It should also include the motor car registration, &c. The Chief Traffic Manager, further asked that Mr. Triplet communicate with his people by wire from Cook so that the money could be telegraphed to Kalgoorlie to be available on the arrival of the train there. The station master at Cook is very definite that he did not decline to carry these passengers free of charge for the time being. He states he made the message from the Chief Traffic Manager clear, but apparently on being asked for the addresses, means of identification, &c, Mr. Triplet elected to go on. He certainly was not refused transport. The first that the Commonwealth Railways knew of a woman being in the party was telegraphic advice from the editor of the Daily News, Perth, notifying the death of the woman and asking for particulars. So far as the railways knew’,” the party consisted of three men, two of them wishing to go on by train, the other electing to remain with the motor car.
It seems unfortunate that the woman should have died in such circumstances, and- her death has caused indignation in many quarters. The station master at Cook was bound by the departmental rules and had to await instructions from Port Augusta. The people of Western Australia asked for an inquiry into this incident. I do not know what kind of inquiry would meet the case, but I suggest that at the first opportunity Mr. Artlett should interview Miss Holman, M.L.A., who has taken up the case on behalf of the Women’s League, and explain things to her. The EastWest railway is different from other railways in Australia ; the refusal to take a sick person on board is more serious in the sparsely settled areas traversed by tha.t line than it would be in other parts of Australia. I do not blame Mr. Artlett for acting as he did, but I suggest that, in future, station masters on the EastWest railway be allowed a little more discretion in such cases.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) mentioned several matters affecting naturalization and migration. I can inform him that the same law is being administered in the same way as previously. There does appear to be an anomaly in regard to naturalization, but the existence of such an apparent anomaly suggests that there is some good reason for it. Otherwise it would have been removed before this.
Although in some ways a laudable desire, it would be impracticable to pay the passages to England of all the migrants who desire to return. The expense involved would be tpo great. If we adopted the practice in a case of persons coming here from overseas, there would soon bo a demand for an extension of the principle to persons separated from their families in different parts of Australia. The suggestion is impracticable.
The honorable member also mentioned the case of a young lady who wished to be re-transferred to Australia at the expense of the Government. If my memory serves me rightly, this person had her fare paid to Australia when she came here. Later, she went back to England, and now, it appears that she wishes to come out to Australia again. There must be some limit to the Government’s responsibility in these cases. I do not think that the Government could do other than it did in this instance.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) brought under my notice several matters connected with the River Murray “Waters scheme. The River Murray Waters Commission has made a number of suggestions, which will now have to be considered by the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Commonwealth. Before any action can be taken, the four governments will have to agree to it. It has not been easy to obtain unanimity among the States in regard to river Murray works. For instance, the South Australian Government has not always been willing that other works should he undertaken, unless provision was also made for the construction of a barrage near the mouth of the river. Similarly, the Victorian and New South Wales representatives on the Commission have not always been . in harmony. Some years ago it was agreed that the capacity of the Hume Reservoir should be limited to 1,250,000 acre-feet, and there appears to be no good reason for departing from that’ decision at present.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to the Fairbridge Farm School. This school, which has accommodation, for approximately 300 children, is situated at Pinjarra, 55 miles from Perth, and is conducted under the auspices of the Child Emigration Society of England and the Children’s Farm School Immigration Society of Western Australia. The object of the society is to transfer children from orphanages and children’s homes in Great Britain to better surroundings and environment overseas. The present arrangement regarding the Government contributions towards the cost of maintaining tha children at this school is that the British Government provides 5s. and the Governments of the Commonwealth and Western Australia 3s. 6d. each per head per week, the Commonwealth liability being limited to 300 children, or a total of £2,730 per annum. The original agreement, which operated from the 1st July, 1922, provided for equal contributions by each of the three governments named of 5s. per head per week. From the 1st July, 1926, the payments by the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia were reduced to 4s. 3d. per head. On the 1st July, 1932, Western Australia further reduced the rate to 3s. 6d. per head, and the Commonwealth, in accordance with the terms of the original arrangement to contribute on an equal basis with that State, similarly reduced its contribution, such reduction to operate from the 1st November, 1932. The contribution by the British Government has remained stationary at 5s. per head per week, and it is understood that this will continue until the 31st March, 1934. During this week I have received an application for a further 72 children to be brought out to the school. I shall have to submit it to Cabinet, and I hope that it will be dealt with within the next few days.
The honorable gentleman has asked for information regarding the international map of the world. No money for this purpose is provided in these Estimates. Jm the past a special vote was made to cover this expenditure, but in future i: will be charged to the ordinary departmental vote. The work is to be continued.
I shall look into the position with regard to postal voting under the Western Australia law. It is desirable that electors shall be provided with facilities for voting, irrespective of the locality in which they live. If the Western Australia authorities have found that the scheme mentioned by the honorable member is practicable, it should be worth investigating.
The honorable member also referred to the duplication of electoral rolls. This matter was inquired into by Mr. Duncan, an officer of tie department, who visited every State. Most of the States have now come into line, but, naturally, both the Federal and State electoral officers are jealous of their rights. Where one roll for both State and Federal purposes is used, the system works well; it is much more convenient both to the department and to the electors.
In regard to the exhibition ‘of meteorological telegrams at the Geraldton post office, every week applications of the kind referred to by the honorable gentleman are received. They are submitted to the meteorological officers, who state that in many instances the intimation would be of very little use. There must be some limit to the supply of equipment of this kind, but I shall have inquiries made in order to ascertain what has been done.
The honorable member’ for Oxley (Mr. Baker) referred to the accommodation provided for federal members in Brisbane. It is hardly likely that a move will be made to the Commonwealth Bank in that city, since a new building for the bank is under construction. ‘ I do not see much likelihood of a transfer, but I shall have an investigation made.
Provision for the redistribution of seats is made in the Constitution, which practically indicates the persons who shall constitute the .commission. A day or two ago I placed on the table of the House the necessary certificate. In the readjustment of electoral boundaries honorable members are consulted, and every effort is made to ensure that the matter is arranged equitably. The States which will be affected are named in the report which I placed on the table. In terms of the Constitution a redistribution will be necessary in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland. The act provides that where more than 25 per cent, of the. seats do not agree with the quota, a distribution must take place. In New South Wales less than 25 per cent, of the seats require adjustment, and on that ground alone a redistribution would not be necessary but on other grounds a redistribution appears desirable. For instance, one electorate contains about 36,000 electors compared with S8,000 electors in another district. The Returning Officer says . that, in his opinion, there should be a subdivision of New South Wales: The position is different in Tasmania, where the electorates are now more evenly divided than in the other States, and, indeed, than when the last distribution was made.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) also referred to the redistribution of seats. The answer which I have just given to the honorable member for Oxley will meet the case mentioned by him.
Reference was also made to the Government hostels in Canberra, and it was stated that certain people have not been allowed to take up their residence therein. I shall have inquiries -made in this connexion. Hotel accommodation at Canberra provides a difficult problem. For instance, last night a number of visitors to this city were unable to secure rooms at the Hotel Canberra. That has occurred several times lately, whereas at this time last year the Government was losing £40 a week on that hotel and a similar sum on the Hotel Kurrajong. Canberra is undoubtedly gaining in popularity and something will have to be done next year to provide further accommodation. If certain suggestions which have been put forward by officials are agreed to, the provision of further accommodation will be necessary. As regards staffing arrangements, we know that, even apart from the layout of the building, the Hotel Canberra is a difficult place to run. Last winter, for instance, there were frequently only four or five people at breakfast, but there might be 40 or 50 for luncheon. At the present time, the hotel is full, but there may be an exodus within a day or two. In the circumstances, it is very hard to arrange for domestics, and though the management looks well ahead, some inconvenience must necessarily be experienced if a great many people arrive unexpectedly. That is true of all hotels which cater for a tourist trade. Speaking as one who lives at the hotel a good deal, I can say that, all things considered, the management does very well. It is true that honorable members cannot always have the same rooms when they return after the week-end. nor do I think that they should expect to have them. On the whole, I think that they are well treated, and have very little to complain of.
.- In my opinion, divisional returning officers are not sufficiently remunerated, having regard to the responsibilities they carry. There are 28 such officers in New South Wales and, according to the Estimates, £12,795 is divided among them to cover salaries and expenses. This averages £457 for each. That is not enough, when we bear in mind that they are called upon fairly regularly to supervise a big staff at election times, and they also have onerous duties to perform in connexion with the taking of the census. They are not paid overtime, and, at an” election, many of the clerks under them receive, in salary aud overtime, as much as their superiors. The divisional returning “officers are capable and efficient men who always treat parliamentary candidates with every possible courtesy. Their duties occupy them all the year round, because, between elections, they have to compile rolls, and take measures to guard against electoral irregularities. The committee should make a recommendation to Cabinet that their salaries be increased.
– It is ti matter not for Cabinet, but for the Public Service Board.
– We know very well that Cabinet can give a direction if it so desires, and that the direction will be carried out.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister what seems to me to be an anomaly in regard to our naturalization laws. Only last Monday, the case was brought under my notice of an Australian woman who married an alien, and had, therefore, to accept his nationality. A litt.lo while ago the husband was killed, leaving her with a family of six small children. In New South Wales there is a Widows Pensions Act, but, because the woman is deemed to be an alien, she is not entitled to receive a pension. The law should be amended to meet such cases. Even though the woman were regarded as an alien while her husband was living, surely she should, upon his death, automatically revert to her Australian nationality. Before she can obtain a pension she must take out naturalization papers. I called at the Crown Law Office, which administers such matters in New South Wales, but I was informed that it would be a month ad least before tb necessary formalities could be completed.
In the meantime, the woman and her six children are without means of support.
– The salaries of divisional returning officers are controlled by the Public Service Board. My department administers the Electoral Act, but has nothing to do with the fixing of salaries. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that these men are capable and efficient.
Regarding the case of the Australian woman who was married to an alien, the honorable member will be pleased to learn that a change of the law is contemplated, which will do much to meet the situation to which he has referred. I have had the papers before me recently, aud suggestions will be made to Cabinet. These laws apply, not only to Australia, but to other nations as well; and it is proposed to amend them so that a woman, on her marriage, has the choice of retaining her own nationality, or taking that of her husband.
– But a woman should have the right, on the death of her husband, immediately to resume her previous nationality.
– I ‘ agree with the honorable member, but, as I reminded him, this is an international matter. Negotiations have to be carried out with other countries, and that takes time. A woman knows, when she marries a foreigner, that she must accept his nationality; and, as the law stands at present, there is nothing we can do in the matter. We must wait until the law is changed.
– When we were discussing the Estimates last year, I suggested that the Department of the Interior should call tenders for the lease of the government hotels in Canberra. Since then, I am pleased to learn, some of them have been let to private persons on satisfactory terms. At the end of last session the Minister for the Interior said that he would be prepared to take the same action in regard to the Hotel Canberra, and I now ask him whether tenders were called, and, if so, with what result. We know that there were heavy losses on the running of the government hotels last year, and I should like to know what the losses have been during the last six months. As a result of the leasing of two of the hotels, the losses should be lighter. The accommodation available in Canberra at the present time is not adequate. The other day I heard the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) trying to obtain accommodation for two or three people, but, so far as I know, he failed. I still think that it would be better for every one concerned if the Government were to hand over the control of the Hotel Canberra to private enterprise. I have no complaint to make of the service or the food provided, but the tariff is too high, and bears with particular severity upon those honorable members from distant States who have to live in Canberra for months at a time.
I also, suggested’ last year that the omnibus service in Canberra should be run by private enterprise. I know that it is a difficult service to conduct, and I do not expect it to pay, but the loss last year of between £9,000 and £10,000 was somewhat heavy. I should like to know from the Minister whether any effort has been made to lease the service.
– It is true that I- promised the honorable member last year that steps would be taken to lease the government hotels. Two of them have already been leased, and three or four tenders were received for the Hotel Canberra. It was felt, however, that as the Government had closed one of the hotels, it was entitled to receive for the Hotel Canberra a higher rent than had been offered for it. Consequently, it was decided to postpone, the matter for six months - five months of which have elapsed - and then to consider whether fresh applications should be called. I mentioned a few moments ago that at this period last year, the loss on two of these establishments amounted to £40 a week. The latest figures that I have, show that during the last five months they have made a profit of £1,500. I cannot say whether allowance has been made for interest and certain other charges. At all events, a considerable improvement has been effected, and if tenders are again called, reasonable offers may be received. If they are not, no great harm will have been done.
The same may be said of the transport service provided in the Federal Capital’. Year by year, the loss on transport has become less, and the reduction this year has been considerable. It seems to me that, with the transfer of additional departments to Canberra, the accounts would be balanced. In the past a considerable mileage has been run with old buses, which were second-hand when purchased. During the last six months, however, six or eight new buses have been added to the fleet. Thus necessarily the repair charges have been substantially reduced. One of the principle causes of the losses that wore sustained, was the repairing of old buses to keep them on the road. With the use of new buses, and an increase of the population, I hope soon to be able to report that the transport service is paying its way.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £3,522,820.
– This vote includes provision for certain proposals increasing expenditure on the alleged defence of Australia.
Recently, the Minister for Defence made a disclosure of the Government’s policy to a gathering of the Millions Club. This attempt to create an atmosphere of war hysteria, and to secure the adoption of a provocative and a defiant policy, has aroused serious apprehension and alarm. In offering the strongest opposition to the proposals that have been enunciated, I wish to emphasize the fact that the people of Australia are most gravely concerned at he signs of warmongering, of which there is far too much in these days, when we should be devoting our energies to the furtherance of peace. My views upon this subject have the endorsement of so eminent a person as Professor Roberts, of Sydney. At a luncheon of the Rotary Club in Sydney, recently, this gentleman referred to the efforts to stampede the Australian community into a feeling of war hysteria, and said -
Warmongers simply suffer from an abysmal ignorance of the realities of the foreign position …. While danger zones will always exist, there was no reason for the alarm of the last two months in Australia. If anything, there had been a distinct improvement in international relationships.
The Bishop of Adelaide, Dr. Thomas, also, during the last month, has made a declaration on the subject, deploring what the Minister for Defence has described as defence proposals, and stating that in themselves they constitute a wrong gesture. He then went on to say -
It was unfortunate that Australia’s election to the League of Nations Council should coincide with increased expenditure on Australian armaments. Whatever the Federal Government might do, the Australian people should declare themselves on the side of peace. Truly the time is come when a deliberate attempt should be made by international agreement to remove from the peoples of the world this intolerable burden, this continuing menace, which has been largely responsible for the distress of the past three years, and the removal of which would do much to restore prosperity and happiness.
The Women’s Non-Party Association of South Australia, too, has expressed strong opposition to the so-called defence policy of the Australian Government, on the following grounds -
At a meeting of the general committee of the South Australian Baptist Union, the proposed increase of the defence expenditure was discussed, and the following resolution was passed -
That this meeting of the general committee strongly protests against the proposal of the Federal Government to increase its armaments. We feel that this is a gesture of distrust towards the Disarmament Conference, and one that is likely to increase unrest and suspicion among the people. We realize that the best warlike preparations we can make are futile, and that armaments at any time are no security against aggression.
The anti-war movement in South Australia passed strongly worded resolutions, which were forwarded to the Prime Minister, vigorously protesting against the Government’s defence proposals. Worldwide movements to-day are aimed at the furtherance of the principles of international goodwill, and an understanding that will lead to the discontinuance of the mad race on armaments. The recent conference of returned soldiers also sought to give a proper lead to the public against warlike proposals. It is remarkable that the nations which allegedly the world has reason to fear, namely, those that are controlled by dictatorships, have actually declared their readiness to disarm, provided that other countries which are ruled by democracies are prepared to disarm in equal measure, with a view to the establishment of an international feeling of goodwill, and th« reduction of the increasing cost of armaments, which do not provide a solution of the problems of defence, but, on the contrary, provoke other nations to act in a similar manner. Money could be spent in ways that would be useful to our peaceful progress and would not give offence to neighbouring nations, or directly insult those that wished to maintain friendly relations with us. The unification of the railway gauges of Australia would give no offence, and it is absolutely essential if proper provision is to be made for rapid transport and general convenience. If the money now proposed to be spent in providing military equipment were devoted to the encouragement of civil aviation, and to the development of industries employing our own people, we should not be offering a direct challenge to * other nations, particularly those bordering on the Pacific. The” attitude Of certain honorable members, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), is not likely to promote friendly relations with neighbouring countries. I agree, to a great extent, with the sentiments expressed in an open letter written by Sir Thomas Henley, who stated -
Provoking war, encouraging war-mindedness will hasten and not defer that evil day; and to those who engage in such provocation should be applied the treatment accorded sufferers from mental maladies . . . The “ brass hats “ at Canberra are engaged in an attempt to stampede the Government into a “reintroduction of compulsory military training.” . . The life of the Government that dared to concede this outrageous demand would be forfeit at the next election, if not before . . To incite to war is a crime against humanity.
The writer indicated in his letter that the people of Australia should do nothing that” might provoke other nations to enmity, but should rather cultivate friendliness and a better understanding on matters of mutual interest. Fortunately, the desire to abolish war and establish amicable relations between the various countries of the world is growing. Even if the failure of tho recent disarmament conference has imperilled the peace of the world, we shall not assist to solve any problem by entering into another shambles such as was experienced from fifteen to twenty years ago. I bring under the notice Qf the committee some pertinent and striking advice recently tendered by the Rev. J. W. Burton, M.A., who is associated with the Methodist Church of New South Wales. This gentleman said - “ Our only hope of happiness and prosperity lies in continued friendship, and any introduction into this sphere of such irresponsible talk as inflamed the relations of Britain and Germany before the Great War is surely sheer madness.” . . . The thing on which both insist is that the foundation of a new world order of human health and happiness is an assured international peace. Without that the position is hopeless. Another war such as the last would irretrievably wreck European civilization . . . The point is now reached when nations can no longer bear tho waste of war. Our present economic condition is largely due to the colossal waste of 1914- 1918. “With the war costs it would have been possible to present every family, in the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, and Russia with a £500 house standing in a four-acre plot and containing £250 worth of furniture, besides providing for each group of 20,000 families a hospital, university, and schools, including the salaries of teachers, nurses, doctors, and professors.”
After losing 11,000,000 of the flower of the world’s youth and possibly £200,000,000,000 of the world’s wealth, dare any one say that this world of 1933 is a better world than that of 1914? . . . We are in Australia now faced with a recrudescence of militarism. As Christians, it seems to me, that we must raise our voice in protest. This is the way to war and not to peace … If armed force is our only weapon then we are living in a fool’s paradise. We are trying to make ourselves believe that with a 10-foot fire escape we can ensure the safety of dwellers in a 20-storey building.
Australia has such a tremendous length of coastline, and its population is so sparse, that no expenditure that the Commonwealth could afford, would be sufficient to guarantee it against aggression by hostile powers. Those who think otherwise are certainly living in a fool’s paradise. Our better course is to realize that our greatest security lies in trying to promote peaceful relations and friendly understandings with other nations. Let us fully justify our claim to nationhood by giving our own people opportunities to develop our great resources, and thus achieve a security greater than could be made possible by warlike preparations. We shall help to make war impossible by displaying a spirit of goodwill rather than by adopting a provocative and defiant attitude in our dealings with neighbouring races. Mr’.’ Burton further remarked -
When the “risks” arc so great (I speak after the manner of men), why not think of another kind of risk - the risk of friendliness and of goodwill? It works wonderfully well in private life - why not stretch it to international life? . . . If, instead of spending millions on these inadequate defences, we put that money and men into improving our social and economic life - what a difference it would make to Australia! At present it costs us nearly £100,000 a day for our expenditure on past wars and present defence.
These observations constitute a challenge to men like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), who would burden this country with an indebtedness which it would be incapable of carrying, owing to the tremendous liabilities left by the last war.
– The best way to secure peace is to get rid of some of the “ brass hats “.
– The dismissal of the military junta would no doubt assist in that direction.
– Who constitute the military junta in Australia?
– There are men of that type here who disseminate war propaganda, who would, if they could, arouse the spirit of international animosity, and loose the demon of hatred, by claiming that that would give Australia greater security, and who would involve this country in a mad race of armaments. I am as anxious as any man to ensure that Australia shall not be subjected to peril through invasion by another country seeking to deprive us of our heritage, but I think that we should be careful not to provoke other nations into pitting their finances against ours in a foolish endeavour to arm to the teeth.
– -The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I wish to congratulate the Go- vernment on having set aside an increased grant for the defence of Australia. After listening to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), I wonder how much of his discourse has been actuated by a genuine desire for peace and how much is attributable to a desire to put himself right with certain sections of the community.
– The honorable member might at least credit me with sincerity of purpose.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance that his utterances were sincere. There are several aspects from which to regard military training, not the least being the splendid disciplinary training that it affords to our young men, of whom there are, at present, thousands growing up and running wild, thereby constituting a definite menace to the social life of the community. For its disciplinary effect alone, military training is worth while. Another thing that should be taken into consideration is that the training of these young fellows, and the establishment of a greater military personnel, slightly takes the strain off the labour market.
While the placing of a few guns about our coast helps, it does not add greatly to Australia’s defence; and though it is necessary to have a certain number of battleships and cruisers, it is a form of protection which is too expensive for Australia. I believe that aircraft will provide us with the maximum amount of security, and I press for the establishment of an efficient air force. In that regard, and without any wish to incite other nations to war, I point out that Japan possesses a string of islands stretching almost down to New Guinea.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is injudicious to use the name of a country in that fashion?
– Possibly it is; my inexperience has led me to do so. That chain of islands affords a number of safe landing grounds which would enable a country to attack Australia with the aid of a fleet of aeroplanes; consequently it is imperative that this country should have an effective air force to meet such a contingency.
It is all very well to say that Australia, with a population of 6,500,000, can dictate to the rest of the world, and say that it is going to disarm, and wants the other countries to do likewise. I venture the suggestion that other nations would not take the slightest notice of our request. For Australia to neglect defence would be folly. Anything might happen which would result in plunging us into war. Students of history know that war has been a regular occurrence since the beginning of time, and that it may be expected again in the future. We must, therefore, be prepared for it when it comes.
The cost of aviation is expensive, although not nearly so great as other forms of defence. But gliding and soaring furnish a cheap method of training pilots. The Estimates provide £600 for this purpose, and I am interested to know how it is to be distributed. I understand that there has been a suggestion to pay it to certain clubs which use particular kinds of machines. While I admit that the money should go to wellestablished clubs, I do not think that there should be any restriction regarding the nature of the machines, and believe that it would be advisable to follow the lead of other nations, principally Germany, which bases its expenditure according to the qualifications of the pilot. I suggest that £1 should be paid to the holder of an A class licence, £2 to a B class pilot and £10 to the person who has a C class licence. Proficiency in gliding and soaring should he included in the qualifications which entitle any person to hold a pilot’s licence. Some may think that gliding is of no use in the training of pilots. I have had no actual experience, but I have witnessed a good deal of gliding, and I know that a Victorian gliding club has trained several pilots who have qualified for a flying licence after only three weeks’ instruction in a powered machine. Many also think that gliding can be done only from a high to a lower level. For their information, I shall read extracts from a book written by one of the foremost exponents of gliding in the world, Robert Kronefeld, a German. He says -
So I flew at a height varying fromsix to ten thousand feet above all the influences of the earth and travelled far across the plain. I was only forced to land by the coming of night.
These machines, therefore, can be manipulated at high altitudes, and are capable of flying considerable distances. Krone.feld goes on -
My distance from start to landing place was eighty-five and a half miles, and I attained a maximum elevation of seven thousand five hundred and twenty-fire feet.
That proves that gliders afford definite and valuable assistance to those who wish to learn to fly. My main point is that gliding is an inexpensive method of training pilots, and I should like the Minister to consider my suggestion when allocating the grant. At present there are only six persons in Australia who are qualified as soaring pilots and could hold B class licences, and comparatively few are fully qualified both to glide and to soar. Therefore, the amount of £600 should be adequate for the present year, and would enable the Government to give a thorough test to this method of training pilots. Any one who qualifies as a glider and can take advantage of air currents, which provide enormous power under certain clouds and in certain weather, is able to use a much lowerpowered machine for general aviation purposes. Gliding is not only a sport but also an initial training for pilots. I leave that suggestion with the Minister, and trust that a grant similar to that of this year will be made available next year.
– I congratulate the Government on having proposed reasonable measures for the defence of Australia, particularly in respect’ of our coastal defences. I cannot imagine for a moment that the attitude of the Government is one of aggression.
– It could not be called a peaceful gesture.
– It is not altogether a peaceful gesture, but at the same time it is not provocative or defiant. I disagree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who suggests that our attitude towards defence will breed international hatred. I assure him that my only wish is to live at peace with my neighbours. I do not consider that the economic development which is taking place in the East, and which has been referred to in the Sydney press in a manner not in the. best interests of Australia, will have a detrimental effect upon this country. In fact, I rather think that the more the East is developed economically, the better it will be for the trade of Australia; but we must not forget that, although this development may open up trade and commerce, it is backed by armaments. For that reason we should pay more attention to our coastal defences. Australia is probably one of the most democratic countries in the world, but it is also one of the -least armed, and therefore, it would be difficult to regard it as an aggressor. War does not appeal to the Australian character. The people of this country want to live at peace, and the longer they live at peace the greater will be their prosperity. Our experience of the last war was quite sufficient to make us anxious to avoid a repetition of it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke of government through democracy, and in that respect this country has set an example to the world. Many governments of countries which are supposed to have enlightened communities are sustained by military force alone, and if that force were removed those governments would fall.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) with regard to universal training. I have had considerable experience of the citizen forces of Australia, and, therefore, may be forgiven if I express myself freely regarding the advantages of universal training to the youth of Australia. I belonged to the old infantry forces of New South Wales, having joined up as a volunteer in 1897. I, therefore, know the disadvantages of the system of voluntary training. If it is necessary for Australia to have a defence force, the training should be universal, so that in the event of enemy invasion every man would be prepared to defend his country. If a hostile attack were made upon Australia while in a state of unpreparedness, the toll of life in this community would be tremendous. For that reason we should not hesitate to revert to the old system of universal training. Under that system our lads were taught to take a pride in their country. They were taught many desirable things that they should have learned in their own homes. They were taught bodily sanitation.
– Is not that a reflection on the Australian homes ?
– It is not. I became associated with universal training at Rozelle, Balmain, and the lads of that district fully appreciated their training and instruction in camp. In fact, many of their parents took the trouble to attend the drill hall to thank the instructors for what they had done for their boys. We endeavoured to make better citizens of the trainees, and we achieved something in that direction. Even under the voluntary system every man should be trained to defend his country in time of need.
Australia has an efficient defence arm which, unfortunately, has not in recent years received much support. I wish to make a plea on behalf of the rifle clubs of Australia which are rendering splendid service to this country. It is the cheapest form of service in Australia and a tremendous impetus would be given to it if the vote were increased. The membership of the rifle clubs in Australia is about 40,000. The men are efficient and can use their rifles. They are a decent-living and fair-minded body of citizens.
– What part will rifles play in the next war?
– The day of the rifle is not passed. The rifle dominated the last war because no man dared to expose himself for even two or three seconds. If,, at a time of invasion, Australia could place in the field a highly efficient force of 200,000 riflemen we should have little to fear, because we have a keen recollection of what happened when our men landed at Gallipoli and faced the Turkish rifles. The members of rifle clubs pay for their own rifles. The price is £4 cash and £4 15s. on instalment, and after the lapse of three or four years 15s. is remitted to the purchaser. Rifle barrels manufactured at Lithgow can also be obtained at 30s. each. This branch of the defence force is practically paying its own way and at the same time helping to keep Australians in employment. That fact should appeal to honorable members opposite. The rifle clubs are not receiving the support to which they are entitled, particularly in the matter of staff officers, of whom there are only six for the whole Commonwealth to control 40,000 men. Honorable members will agree that the number is totally inadequate. Rifle clubs, and particularly those in country districts, should receive the assistance of properly trained musketry instructors upon conditions acceptable to members.
I now wish to refer to the removal of the Sandy Bay rifle range, which has been before this Parliament for fourteen years, and which is now under review by the Government. I direct the attention of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) to the fact that this battle over a transfer has been going on for fourteen years, and the dilly-dallying on the part of the Government is causing a good deal of irritation to those who live in the vicinity of that “range, which is in such a dangerous position that it is an absolute menace. On the southern side of the range the filing mounds are within 5 or 6 yards of a public street, which is contrary to all musketry regulations. In fact, when firing practice is in progress, particularly on the southern side, if the officer in charge follows his musketry regulations, he should either ask every person living in the street to vacate his house, or order the military force practising on the . range to immediately cease firing. The range is in such a position that it is retarding the development of Hobart in a southerly direction. It extends from the water’s edge up to the higher ground on the southern slopes of Mount Nelson. One Minister - not the present Assistant Minister - inspected the range, and said that if it were . in a country town it would, not be tolerated for a day. Imagine firing mounds within five yards of Melbourne-avenue in Canberra being used by men firing directly at Red Hill. Such a condition of affairs would not be tolerated for five minutes, yet in Hobart, the Sandy Bay rifle range is within rifle shot of the General Post Office. For fourteen years the people of Hobart have been asking the Commonwealth Government to remove the range. I know that a serious proposition has at last been put forward. I have had numerous interviews with the Assistant Minister on the subject since I was first elected to Parliament, and I understand that he has informed the Hobart City
Council that if it will remove the range to an approved site, without cost to the Commonwealth, and will share with the Government the profits of the sale of the present site, jio objection will be offered to its removal. Negotiations of this character have been going on for fourteen years, but this shilly-shallying tires me. I again urge the Assistant Minister to give this matter his immediate attention, and sincerely trust that some definite decision, will soon be reached.
– We all share the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in regard to the horrors of war, which we all desire to avoid. The Federal Labour party, as a party, stands for general disarmament and world peace, if that can be achieved, and for the settlement of international disputes by international tribunals. Rut with other nations armed we must provide some form of defence. The platform of the Federal Labour party on the subject of defence reads: -
Adequate home defence against foreign aggression. ‘
Deletion of all clauses relating to compulsory training aud service, and raising of forces for the service outside the Commonwealth, or participation or promise of participation in overseas wars, except by a decision of the people.
That plank shows clearly that the party favours adequate home defence against foreign aggression. It is, however, opposed to sabre rattling and jingoistic tactics of certain war propagandists who render a disservice to Australia. I read a statement of one gentleman, who said that any foreign nation could invade Australia within a fortnight and nothing could bo done to arrest its progress. Such a statement is wide of the truth. War hysteria and provocative talk of that kind as indulged in by war propagandists are an insult to neighbouring nations, with whom we arc on friendly terms. With the use of modern fighting machines and poison gases another world conflict is too terrible to contemplate. Over 100,000,000 persons ore out of work, our monetary and economic system has broken down, privation and misery prevail, and the whole world is shuddering under the tremendous burden of war debt and interest as the result of the last great world conflict. God help civilization if the nations of the earth should ever be forced into such another conflagration with all its attendant horrors and misery ! The Federal Labour party believes that everything possible should be done to promote friendly relations with our neighbours. In this enlightened age, the imminent failure of the Disarmament Conference is deplorable. It is to be regretted that the principal nations cannot meet in conference and settle their differences, particularly when the huge expenditure incurred in maintaining armaments could be used in developmental work and essential services, thus making happier the lives of all the people.
Expenditure in the Defence Department was reduced during the years of depression from £5,000,000 to approximately £3,000,000, but this year there is an increase of £1,000,000. Of this amount £500,000 is to be used in improving arms of defence, the balance being set aside for administrative and other purposes. Among the items upon which it is ‘ proposed to spend additional money this year ‘ are sea and land plane equipment, £437,000; military buildings, £70,000; and drill sheds £21,000. There are also several smaller items. I do not pose as a military expert, and consequently I shall not take upon myself the responsibility of criticizing the forms of defence which have been recommended by the expert advisers to the Commonwealth. I should think, however, that, in a country like Australia, it would be wise, if money has to be spent on defence - and, unfortunately, that seems necessary, and even the Federal Labour party’s platform stands for adequate home defence against foreign aggression - special consideration should be given to the air force. I am pleased that some additional assistance is to be given to that arm. Many of the outback portions of Australia could be served with mail services by using some of the aeroplanes belonging to the Defence Department and pilots would gain valuable experience.
– That cannot be done; it would be a breach of the agreement of the League of Nations and of the Peace Treaty signed at Versailles.
– The Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department should be developed and encouraged, because the pilots who are trained iu civil aviation could be utilized in the air force in the event of war. One of the best means of placing Australia in a sound defence position is the establishment of Australian industries, both primary and secondary, in times of peace. To those who talk of the necessity for a larger population, 1 would say that we cannot develop this country by following a policy of freetrade. Yet there are some who advocate a policy which means the tearing down of the tariff wall which we have erected, and the encouragement of imports from countries which employ cheap labour. I have no intention to engage in a tariff debate; but I point out that our best means of defence is the establishment and development of secondary industries which will give lucrative employment to the Australian people, and make it possible to bring to Australia our kinsmen from overseas after we have solved our own unemployment problem.
Military experts have advocated the construction of a railway through the western portion of New South Wales and Queensland to Darwin, to open up large tracts of country including the Barkly Tableland. The building of such a railway would give work to large numbers of unemployed, and place money in circulation. It is the duty of the Govern- ment to increase the purchasing power of the community by spending money on reproductive works in times of depression. The development of a country is the best way to ensure its adequate defence. We should endeavour to build up in Australia a virile race under hygienic conditions, with a sufficiently high remuneration to enable them to purchase the products of this country, and to rear healthy families. These things are sometimes overlooked by those who are loudest in their advocacy of heavy expenditure on armaments, and indulge in sabre rattling, and the making of speeches which are provocative to friendly nations. As the Estimates provide for a small measure of restoration of our defence forces, I shall support them, although I hope that the Government will give some attention to the other means of defence which I have mentioned.
The unification of the railway gauges of Australia would provide work for thousands who are now unemployed. The Government could probably arrange with the Commonwealth Bank to make money available for the first units of this great national undertaking. I emphasize that the Labour party believes that money made available for defence measures, including the building of aeroplanes and the provision of other defence equipment, should be expended in Australia, instead of being sent out of this country. The Labour party insists on this work being done in Australia, so that this small increase of the defence vote may be of some real assistance to the unemployed.
– I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), who said that Australia needed no defence.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– I am sorry if I have misunderstood the honorable member. The provision of a defence force for Australia has no more significance in the international sphere than has the establishment of a police force iu the city of Adelaide. Those who favour a more definite defence policy do not advocate the creation of a force to be used in any act of aggression; but merely what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has rightly described as an adequate home defence force. In dealing with a subject of this kind, there is danger lest we should forget how we in Australia live. We do not live by consuming all our own production, but are dependent on overseas trade. Australia is an island exporting continent, and its trade has to flow overseas in time of war as well as in times of peace. In the event of war, that trade will be seriously jeopardized if the Empire trade routes are not adequately policed. That policing will not be done by other nations; it will be a matter entirely for the British Empire. Unless Australia’s export trade can be safeguarded in war, the foodstuffs required by those at the heart of the Empire will not reach their destination. The last war showed clearly that the greatest problem confronting Great Britain was the maintenance of the supply of foodstuffs to ils own people. It must bo remembered in this connexion that in
England there is never more than a sixweeks’ supply of grain in its granaries. Therefore, we must ensure that the trade routes between Australia and England are adequately protected. Those trade routes ate hot numerous; ohe passes through the Suez Canal, ons goes round the Cape of Good Hope, another around Cape Horn, and still another passes through the Panania Canal. Some of those routes would hot be available to us in times of war, whereas others would be available, provided we had a force adequate to police them. It is generally admitted that Australia cannot provide that force, for the cost would be beyond this country’s means. But, although Australia cannot by itself protect tho trade routes to Great Britain, it can supply its share of the defence force required to protect, its end of these trade routes. One of the first things necessary is the provision of defended harbours where the merchant shipping of the Empire may take refuge in the event of hostilities, and remain safe until the trouble in the vicinity has passed. Then we must have bases where our convoy protecting vessels and other fighting ships may refit -and refuel, and their crews be given a chance to rest. We must have a certain measure of defence for those ports. So far nothing that I have advocated can be deemed to be aggressive; it is merely defence for the protection of our trade. The defence of the ports along our coast may take the form of coastal guns, an adequate localized air force, or a localized naval force, in each case with a land force. Which of these means should ba adopted is a matter for experts to decide. Having -decided on tha means of defence, it is our duty to provide the necessary equipment. There is always the possibility that Australia will be attacked by an invading force - not a large force, but one sufficiently strong to occupy an area like that embracing Sydney and Newcastle, and to neutralize the commercial and industrial activities of the area during the period of occupancy.
Sitting suspended from 7.45 to 9.15 a.m.
– At the Australian end of our convoy line we have very definitely laid down certain specific policies. First of all we have the White Australia policy, and following on that we have been living for some time Under a high tariff policy, amounting almost to embargoes and prohibitions. We have, therefore) said to the world that we are prepared to be entirely self-reliant. Personally, I belieVe that it is an entire fallacy to think that we can do this under existing world conditions. We must therefore look for the proper way, in a comprehensive scheme of defence, to make Australia safe. There is surely no one in the whole community who is not anxious “that Australia shall remain in peace and comfort-. Her people have lived in peace since they first settled on this continent. No shot has been fired in anger by an enemy on Australian soil since the colonization, of this country, and we all hope that that record may remain unbroken. But as we have adopted the White Australia principle, and intend to keep this great open -country to ourselves, we must thank of what answer we shall give to other nations more populous than- our own which cast longing eyes on the very wealthy but sparsely populated parts of Australia. Do we intend quietly to stand by and take no notice of people who penetrate our defences, such as they are* If that were to happen it would be useless for Us to write letters to the newspapers Or to parley with those who came here. Even resolutions of Parliament would have no effect. We should, therefore, pay some attention to the necessity for providing for our own home defence and forming an adequate link with the defences of the Old Country. This, of course, is a matter for the people to decide. We are simply the representatives of the people. It is for the general electorate to decide whether some sort of defence establishment shall be set up. But we and they must know and face the facts. It is of no use to hide our heads in the sand. Nor, for that matter, is it of any use for those of us who lift our heads to tell the people Of this country that our shores are inviolable. That policy will get us nowhere.
Let us think, for a moment, of the Pacific basin. In the last few years there has been in operation the London Naval Pact which provided for pre- scribed ratios of warships to be maintained and not exceeded by certain maritime powers. This pact will continue until early in 1936. Under it Great Britain and the United States of America have a ratio of ten each, while Japan, the third important naval power in the Pacific, has a ratio of six. As this pact will expire very shortly we should pay some attention to the outlook. It has been indicated to us very, clearly from certain sources that the pact will not be renewed except on a basis of equality as between the three nations. If the pact is not renewed a tremendous armaments race will undoubtedly ensue, and this despite the fact that the League of Nations has been in existence for some time and has tried to do good work. Unfortunately, the League has not succeeded to the degree that we anticipated. We have seen the failure of its- interventions in Manchuria and in smaller hut nearer international troubles. Unhappily, also, we have seen the Disarmament Conference gradually disintegrate until most of us who pinned great faith in it are now obliged to confess that We no longer believe that good results will come from it in the near future. This is the result of the troublous times through which we are passing. Moreover, both Japan and Germany have decided to discontinue their membership of the League of Nations, and these defections from that comity bring us face to face with the possibility that the League itself may completely disintegrate or need to be revived by some of the stronger nations of the world intimating that they will insist upon other nations joining it. The point that matters is that, at the moment, the League is impotent. Consequently, certain naval powers are building up their navies at an exceedingly fast rate. The Government of the United States of America has recently decided to spend £59,000,000 on naval construction and on two bases in the Pacific. Japan, according to the League of Nations Year-Book for 1933., is budgeting this year for the expenditure of 695,000,000 yen which, at the normal rate of exchange, would be about £65,000,000. A footnote appears under this information to the effect that the proposed defence expenditure relates only to the general account, and no details are available regarding special accounts. While these two nations are building up their navies in this fashion Great Britain is providing for the expenditure of only £8,250,000 for naval construction, despite the fact that her navy is very largely a wartime navy and consequently i» deteriorating at a much greater rate than if it had been only a peace-time navy. Of course, it is not unusual for Great Britain to do that sort of thing. For many years now she has been carrying the flag of humanity among the nations of the world and has given a very definite lead in disarmament. It is regrettable that that lead has not been followed elsewhere. Not only has she allowed her navy to fall below the London Naval Pact standard, but she has also . definitely jeopardized the safety of her own food supply in wartime. She has decreased the personnel of her navy, from 162,000 men in 1914, just prior to the outbreak of war, to 100,000 men, a reduction of 37 per cent., whereas Japan has increased her naval personnel by 29,000 men, or 75 per cent., and the United States of America by 42,000 men, or 59 per cent. Empire warship tonnage has decreased by 925,000 tons. The tonnage of the United States of America in the same period has increased by 323,000, and that of Japan by 285,000. The figures relating to armies are somewhat similar. The regular army of Great Britain, just prior to 1914, was 233,000 officers and men, excluding Indian troops, for use in India, and forces employed in policing some of the distant parts of the Empire. Reserves, in the form of special reserve,- militia and other men with some training, brought the total up to 714,000. In 1933, the regular army was below 200,000, a reduction of 33,000 compared with the 1914 figures, and the Government has now available only 416,000, including reserves, as against 714,000 men in 1914. These figures do not include dominion troops. Let us look now at the position of the other two nations, which are deeply interested in the Pacific. The United States of America had in 1938, 140,000 regular troops ,and 288,000 reserves, making a total of 428,000 men, although that country has very much smaller overseas possessions than Great Britain, and does not need what might be called a domestic force. Japan, in 1933, had 259,000 men with the colours, and 2,000,000 other men trained as reserves. Australia, in 1933, has 27,000 men in her regular army, no reserves, and distinctly inadequate defence equipment.
– What about our Air Forces ?
– At the end of the war, Great Britain was undoubtedly the leading nation, in regard to fighting air services, whereas now she is classed as a doubtful fifth - some experts even place her sixth. It will be seen, therefore, that the Mother Country has made a desperate gesture in favour of disarmament. It would have only six weeks’ supply of food in her granaries if its overseas trade were cut off. Australia, of course, does a large export trade, but has also a substantial import trade. Raw material and other goods not manufactured or produced in this country must be brought here. Let us think, for a moment, of an everyday item like tea, of other ‘ items such as woolpacks, cornsacks, wheat bags, rubber, and so on.
– We should be making those things here.
– Neither jute nor rubber is grown in Australia. It is apparent, therefore, that even in war time we must import a considerable quantity of goods. If our industries are to be protected, we must keep the high seas open - in fact if traffic on the seven seas were not maintained by an adequate naval police force, we should soon be in a desperate condition. We cannot keep these ocean high roads open without help. We are dependent upon assistance from the Imperial Navy. Our duty is to forge a few links in the imperial defence chain, so that it may hold fast in time of war. But that imperial chain is, at the moment, wearing rather thin, because of the strain which disarmament and economic stress has placed upon it for some years past. Therefore, it behoves us more than ever not to rely too much upon what the Mother Country may do for us, but to help, 60 far as our finances will permit, to ease the load which Great Britain is bearing. Our pre-war navy, which was established by a Labour government, consisted of one battle cruiser, four light cruisers, and a quota of torpedo-boat destroyers and auxiliary ships. One of -those vessels, the battle cruiser Australia, more than paid for herself in the first two years she was afloat. After the war broke out there were in Pacific waters two heavily-armed German cruisers, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, which, except for the presence of the Australia, could have done what they liked with our sea-borne trade, our coastal cities, our industrial areas, and our large centres of population near the seaboard. The Australia cost a considerable sum of money, but the expenditure was well worth while. We also had, before the war, a land force established on a national basis. It was agreed in those days that those who took an interest and pride in their country, and felt that it was worth defending, should give up a modicum of their time to military training. I do not for a moment say that universal military training is necessary; if we are prepared to find the money to carry it out properly, voluntary training is a feasible system. Our experience with the voluntary system has not been a happy one up to the present, but I am in favour of it. I believe that if sufficient money is made available, it can be made so popular that those with any respect for themselves will join up, because they believe that the country is worth training for, and, if necessary, worth fighting for. The military training scheme inaugurated by the pre-war Labour government formed the pattern of the first division of the Australian Imperial Force, which has left its mark in history, and which owes a great deal to the training system in operation at the outbreak of war.
As I have said, we can have a satisfactory volunteer system, and an adequate naval force, provided we are prepared to pay for it. The following table shows what some other countries are spending on defence: -
Of each. £1 of revenue spent, England votes 2s. 6d. to defence; the United States of America, 3s. 3£d. ; Japan, 8s. 4d.; and Australia, 10¾d. When we include the extra £1,000,000, which it is proposed jo expend this year on defence, Australia’s quota will be raised to 4s. 3d. a head.
– Including works expenditure from loan, the total provision in this budget is £1,500,000.
– Then the cost, per head will work out at more than 4s. 3d. It is all a question of money. At the present time, we have in place of our pre-war naval unit of one battle cruiser and four light cruisers, only two light cruisers in good fighting shape. We have also two other cruisers, both firmly tied up, which are costing money for maintenance, and should be replaced. They could not be sent on service because it would bo unfair to the personnel to pit the in against modern cruisers. Australia is a party to the London Pact, by which we are allowed to have four cruisers as our share of the British Navy. At the moment we have but two. In order to bring the quota up to what is permitted under the Pact, Great Britain is building one of the cruisers that really should replace H.M.A.S. Brisbane “or H.MLA.S. Adelaide, although its financial difficulties arc as great as our own. We must take this matter seriously, otherwise our defences will be uneconomic. We are spending money to-day on something that is not likely to give us an adequate return. We are devoting revenue to the upkeep of armaments which will not be of any use in holding off an invading force.
All political parties agree that an adequate home defence force is necessary. What do we need to make our defences adequate, not only for coastal requirements, but also to protect our seaborne trade? I deprecate any one who is not, an expert stating whether submarines, aeroplanes, battle-ships or balloons are the proper form of defence for Australia. It is a job for experts to decide, and those experts are at present at the service of the Government. If they are not wanted, the Government should get rid of them, but, so long as they are retained, do not let us be so stupid as not to take their advice. They should be asked to draw up a plan, and then tho Government could decide whether that plan could be financed out of the country’s resources. One reads occasionally in the newspapers that there is an urgent need for strengthening this arm or that. That sort of talk gives the public a wrong impression, and leads them to believe that some particular arm is all that is requisite for Australia’s defence, whereas a proper scheme of defence should include all arms in their proper proportion. I have heard in this chamber during the last few hours of the necessity for improved air defences, but such -statements are, I believe, based on insufficient information. No doubt I shall be told by people who have not had time to study the matter thoroughly that, because of the result of some experiment which took place in the United States of America some years ago, aeroplanes are able to defend Australia.
– Aeroplanes are certainly more mobile than any other form of defence.
– They are, and therein lies their weakness. The American experiment was made by flights of aeroplanes directing missiles at a target that was not shooting back, and was not even moving. The difference between hitting a moving target that is shooting back, and a stationary target that is not, is as great as that between chalk and cheese. Aeroplanes are more mobile than other form3 of defence, and they are also more costly.
There is also the danger, unless we have great numbers of aeroplanes, that they may be lured away by the strategy of the enemy from the spot where they are really needed, so that an enemy force may gain an unopposed entry. A coastal defence gun is mounted in concrete. Its life is about twenty years, and most of the guns around the Australian coast have already come of age. Aeroplanes are not a cheap form of defence. I do not wish to run them down, but honorable members should understand the situation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– As no one has risen, I shall take my second period now. Coastal defences are established in (peace time when there is ample time to choose the best situation for them.
– What is the radius of their effectiveness?
– The effective range of 6-inch guns, with high angle mounting, is about 30,000 yards. The life of an aeroplane, on service, judged by ‘the experience of the last war, is not more than a month, and for every aeroplane 32 men were required aloft and on the ground. It is evident, therefore, that fixed defences are the cheaper, but I do not say that they are the only form of defence needed. The aeroplane has a larger range of effectiveness than fixed defences, and can survey the approach of an enemy over the water within a radius of 120 miles from its base.
If the suggestions I have put forward were accepted, we should not only have proper defence for our sea-borne trade, but we should have also an effective land force to protect our cities, railways, water works and mines. Our defence requirements have already been carefully worked out by capable soldiers who saw service abroad during the war. At the present time, our defences are only 20 per cent, of the minimum strength laid down by these authorities, and our equipment is not modern or ample. We have to provide a modern army to meet the modern army that an invader would send against us. An invading army would come with the latest armoured transport, and the latest vehicles, including assault vehicles, such as tanks. Our supply of such mechanical units is woefully inadequate. The Government is to be commended on the fact that it has begun the establishment of an armoured car unit, which is to be used experimentally to ascertain whether such unit’s are useful over all kinds of Australian coun-try. However, that unit is not equipped ; it is a drill unit only, and could not go into action. Wo have made no provision in the Estimates for the auxiliary vehicles necessary to carry the unit and its weapons. Those requirements have to be provided for. The Air Force has been given a certain amount of help, but gauged by the air strength of other nations, it still falls far short of what it should be. Japan, which is now in the front rank of warlike nations, has 1,600 fighting aeroplanes, 300 of which may be shipborne. The Australian Air Force has 24 aeroplanes, none of which is up to date. Siam, one of our nearest neighbours, has 200, and the Netherlands East Indies six times the number that we have. They are efficient machines of modern type adequately manned by very good personnel. If we are to remain British, maintain a White Australia, and preserve the homes of our people and the liberties that we think they should have, we must be prepared to have such a scheme of defence as would make it too costly for any nation, taking all the circumstances into consideration, to attack us. I do not suggest that war is approaching, or that sabre rattling is the right attitude to adopt ; but I do contend that a statement of the facts is fair and honest, because it will enable the people to judge for themselves. We rather are blinded by the immunity that we have enjoyed for over 100 years. That immunity has given to us a false sense of security that one day may cause us to suffer a very serious disaster. The training of the army and the air services is inadequate. Although there is an additional £2,500 or £3,000 on the Estimates this year, the probable object is to send some of our officers overseas, where they may obtain the wider experience that is not available in Australia, so that they may be better fitted to discharge their instructional duties upon their return to this country. I applaud that action. The” funds available for defence are considerably less to-day than they were in 1913, and the purchasing power of money is practically only half what it then was. I regard as wonderful what has been achieved, not only by those who are charged with the duty of organizing and administering the various services, but also by those who are actually serving, down to the last joined man. Only whole-hearted effort on their part has enabled our fighting services to reach the state of efficiency that they undoubtedly possess. But the safety point has been passed ; and, what is worse, in the middle of the bushfire season, we have poured petrol on the inflammable grasses that surround our national assets, and have sent the firecart away. We have done everything possible to disturb other people, and have not taken the necessary precautions for the protection of a country that we have been given to use to the best advantage. We have lulled ourselves into the belief that the Singapore naval base is our protection. Singapore is not yet a complete base, and until it is any enemy that might attack us, whether from the east or the west, would be drawn towards it. In my opinion Singapore, in its incomplete state, is definitely an invitation to an enemy to approach closer to Australia than we would wish. The natural complement of Singapore is a point on the Australian coast where our ships could refuel, rest their crews, revictual and repair slight engine-room defects. At the present time, some provision to this end is being made in the northern part of Australia. I believe, however, that whatever location is decided on for our northern base we must have a considerably heavier armament, land garrison, and air force, than we are now in a position to place there. Early steps must be taken to provide the protection that it most certainly will require if in time of war it is to function as a base from which our ships may operate.
The Royal Australian Navy has two light cruisers that have probably completed one half of their useful life. Although not of the latest type, they still arc useful; but they would be hopelessly outranged and outgunned by the new* modern ships, which carry practically double the armament on a lower tonnage. They are suitable for training purposes, and could be used on active service if there were an outbreak of hostilities in the near future; but they must have their complement of other smaller craft, such as torpedo boat destroyers, which form an integral part of a fighting squadron. The Commonwealth should be exceedingly grateful to the British Government for the loan of the flotilla leader and four torpedo boat destroyers that are now on their way to Australia. The cost of putting these vessels on the water was probably from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000. they are still capable of approximately five years of useful first-line work with a battle fleet. I understand that, in accordance with the usual custom, the British authorities placed them on the water complete to the last detail, and ready for foreign service in conformity with the conditions and rules of the British Navy. It is a valuable gift, for which I do not think that adequate thanks have been given. But as they, too, are growing old, a commencement must be made with a plan under which they will be replaced. I suggest that a start should be made immediately with the formulation .of a definite programme covering a series of years, under which navy replacements and such increases as might be required would be made, and the very definite increases that are needed by the Army and Air Force would not be subject to the whim of governments which, by passing the Estimates in December, allow only a limited period for the expenditure of the appropriation, and thus miss the opportunity to carry out a long-dated, connected plan. All modern implements of war that aTe suited to this country should be provided. It has not yet been definitely proved that the whole of the latest inventions would even be able to move across this continent, or to negotiate ordinary bridges. Experiments of -one sort and another should be made immediately, in order that there might be an opportunity to decide what is wanted. Those who are interested in service matters will remember the definite plan of a few years ago. During that period, the condition of our forces was improved until we had a trio of fairly adequate fighting services. Since that time, however, our aeroplanes have become out of date, wastage has not been replaced, and the most modern inventions have not been applied. I should like to elaborate a ten-year programme, but 3hall content myself with pleading for a continuity of policy in regard to the services. Concurrently, we should do what we can to improve our munitions supplies, by giving work to private factories from time to time, in order not only to keep their men employed, but also to give them the experience of working with the- specialized tools, jigs, and other devices that are necessary for the manufacture of munitions. Even though the cost might bs slightly greater than it otherwise would be, we should arrange to defray it. The Munitions Supply Board is a most adequately staffed organization, which only needs opportunity to set in motion idle wheels, not only in its own factories,but also in certain private factories which could be used for the production of munitions for training purposes in peace time and for use in war should such a crisis ever arise in Australia.
I plead with honorable members to understand that this is not sabre rattling, but an attempt to place the plain facts before the people of Australia, so that they may decide whether an imperial police force is necessary to keep this continent inviolate for Australians should war ever menace our shores.
– When the first item of the Estimates was under discussion last week, I availed myself of the opportunity to make my contribution to the debate on the defence of Australia and the Empire as a whole; consequently, only a few minor points have now to be dealt with. I endeavoured to point out that war is not desirable in any circumstances, that it is wasteful of material, money, and particularly, men, but that the possibility of it is not far distant.
As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) stated in the early hours of this morning that the policy of the Australian Labour party includes the adequate defence of Australia, the reduction of the strength of the forces a few years ago must have been forced on the Labour Government of the day by economic stress.
The budget proposals show an increased appropriation of £1,500,000. That increase is welcome, because signs of the necessity for it are apparent overseas. Last week I drew attention to a statement in the budget that, on their arrival in Australia, two of the four destroyers given to us by Great Britain would be put out of commission and kept in reserve. I hope that a report which I read in this morning’s press, on this matter, is correct. It stated that the Minister for Defence had said Australia would soon have four destroyers, and that all of them would be in commission.
I propose, now, to deal briefly with the treatment received by the personnel on whom we rely for our air, military and naval services. Consideration of the facts and figures regarding the pay of the mem bers of these services must lead to the conclusion that they are not adequately remunerated. The payments made to the three arms of the forces vary considerably. War service demands a long training. The naval cadet begins at the age of thirteen years and the military cadet enters his college at about the age of sixteen years. The training given is as long as that received by those entering the medical profession. In order to obtain the services of the best men, we must recognize the increasingly scientific standard that is required of them, and we must pay them adequately. I have previously drawn attention to the disparity between the pay received by the permanent fighting men in comparison with that of the clerical branches of the Defence department. The fighting man has no organization to put his case before the authorities, whereas the clerical officer has. The chief of the general staff receives about £1,200 a year. He is the executive commander of the whole of the forces of Australia, and it would not be difficult to show that hundreds of other men doing work of an infinitely less onerous nature, receive perhaps three times as much salary. The AdjutantGeneral is paid £890 a year, and the Quartermaster-General, £850. A Divisional Commander, who is also a Base Commandant, gets a similar salary, with occasionally small extra payments. A Divisional Commander controls the whole of the Defence Forces of a State, as well as a division, comprising 20,000. men of all ranks.
It is not possible to compare ranks in the military forces with those in the naval branch. The senior man in the army, the Major-General, is paid from £800 to £900 a year, unless he holds a special appointment, but the Rear-Admiral gets from £1,400 to £1,500. In the case of the army, the officer has to make contributions out of his salary, to the Superannuation Fund, whereas the naval officer, in addition to the salary mentioned, receives a substantial sum in deferred pay. Therefore, the army officer is very poorly remunerated. In an explanatory note issued by the Defence department, it is stated that the staff of naval medical officers is two under the complement, and difficulty is experienced in obtaining suit- able medical officers for this service. Naval surgeons must pass the usual medical examination, and at the age of 27 years, they receive from £409 to £466 a year. A surgeon-lieutenant, after six years service, and at the age of about 30 years, receives from £555 to £628 a year. When, at about the age of 45 years, he becomes a surgeon-commander, he is paid from £679 to £848 a year. But what competent medical officer in private practice in Australia, does not receive a much larger income than that at the age of 45 years? Such salaries -will not attract young medical students to this branch of the forces. An amazing feature of the Estimates is the large number of clerks, typists, messengers, assistants and deputy assistants employed, and in my opinion the Minister, the Assistant Minister and the Secretary of the Defence Department would do a great service to Australia if they thoroughly overhauled the administrative side of the department and discovered ways of reducing the heavy expenditure in that direction. Yet it is not nearly so important to effect a saving in that way as it is to improve the conditions in the Army, Navy and Air Forces so as to obtain the best men available, give them the best possible training and keep them in the service.
– Does the honorable member suggest that more warrant officers are required ? We are losing them rapidly.
– Our establishments are too low, and the opportunities for advancement too few. In the navy a man has to retire at a very early age, and instead of being fitted for a profession at the end of his term of service, he is merely a handy man. The improved conditions granted twelve months ago to the lower ratings, should have been followed up by increased pay to the remainder of the force. Those who were receiving a few pence a day extra through the passing of certain examinations, were left in their positions; the cream of the lower deck received no advantages. It was stated by the Prime Minister last week that something had been done to restore to members of the commissioned ranks the losses which they sustained about 1924. I recognize that the Government is trying to do its best for the forces generally, and I have drawn attention to certain anomalies with the view to helping it.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) suggested that the Government’s defence proposals, as disclosed in the budget, indicated that members of the Cabinet were suffering from war hysteria. Every utterance by the Minister for Defence and me on the subject of defencehas shown that the honorable member’s statement and the truth are as far apart as the poles. The Minister for Defence stated in Sydney recently -
I nui often asked by individuals what they can do to assist in defence matters. There are many ways in which the individual can assist.
First there is the political side, support the Government of the day in its efforts to place defence on a satisfactory footing. It is your money the Government proposes to spend on adequate defence. Therefore, I say support the Government, get in touch with your member and tell him you favour the expenditure of reasonable and adequate sums on this essential form of national insurance. We must bc careful of the over enthusiasm of unofficial bodies who cannot be possessed of all the facts. The Government alone has technical advisers who give their whole time to consideration of the problem, and who are in close touch with all the best authorities in the Empire. By all means, support these unofficial bodies in their desire to further defence measures, but, when they advocate this or that form of defence we must remember they are not in a position to know all the facts.
The Government alone are in a position to know how defence expenditure should be allocated, and what the type of organization should be.
The honorable member apparently forgets that the governments of the Empire are doing almost everything that is humanly possible to induce the nations to disarm at the earliest date, but its example to the world is not being followed. Ever since the last war, Great Britain has been disarming, as an invitation to the rest of the world to follow its example. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), in an able speech to-day, indicated what other nations are doing in regard to defence, and the definite obligation that rests upon this Parliament to see that Australia is adequately protected within the limits of its financial resources. For a long time we have put our faith in the League of Nations and in disarmament conferences, but I do not imagine that anybody is satisfied with the results of those gatherings up to the present time. The Government arranged for the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to place Australia’s views before the recent Disarmament Conference. The proposal of the Government is to carry out a comprehensive policy for the defence of Australia, for it is a sacred trust to ensure that the country is adequately defended. Australia is well worth defending, although any one listening to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) would not imagine that to be so. I ask him and his colleagues whether the White Australia policy is worth defending? Further, are our industrial system, our social legislation, and the policy of protection about which honorable members opposite say so much, worth defending? The Government recognizes that disarmament must not be onesided; but at the moment it would appear that the British Commonwealth of Nations is the only group which is making a genuine effort to disarm. Disarmament can be effected not by the British nations alone disarming, but by the general disarming of all nations. I hope that honorable members will not make defence a matter of party politics. This is a national matter and above party consideration.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) also referred to the naval policy of the Government, which is dealt with comprehensively in the explanatory statement issued by the Minister in connexion with the Estimates. It is imperative that an island continent like Australia, dependent as it is on overseas trade, should have a navy. Thanks to the generous co-operation of the British Government, Australia is now in a better position in this respect than it has been in for some years. I hope that the action of the British Government will be supplemented, and that before long we shall have a navy worthy of Australia.
In regard to the Army, one of the chief objectives of the Government is to begin the mechanization of the various branches of the Army. That is an essential development if Australia is to bring its army into line with those of other countries. Some honorable members have seriously attacked the coastal defences of Australia. I am pleased to say that for the first occasion for a long while steps have been taken to supplement those defences, the sum of £150,000 having been provided for the placing of high calibre guns at Sydney, Newcastle, Darwin and Fremantle. The undertaking is a big one, and will have to be carried out over a period of years.
– What is the total increase in the defence vote this year?
– A little more than £1,500,000. Provision is made in the Estimates for the purchase of aeroplanes and amphibians of the latest design. This will enable Australia to bring its air fighting services up to date, and we shall have the advantage of the contract price charged to the British Air Ministry. It is hoped that blue prints will be supplied with the machines, so that replicas may be manufactured either by the Government’s munition supplies branch or by local private firms if that is considered desirable.
Briefly, the policy of the Government is to ensure that a supply of arms and munitions for the army and reserves, also that it will have a highly trained staff in the use of those arms and munitions to instruct the personnel of our forces. It is pleasing to me that there has been a definite resumption of the training abroad of officers of both the Military and Air Forces, the following arrangements having been made -
Staff College, Camberley. - One officer for full year; two officers complete a two years’ course about December, 1933; one officer commences two years’ course in January, 1934.
Engineering and Mechanical Transport Course. - Two officers from December, 1933.
Advanced Artillery Course. - One officer from November, 1933.
Gunnery Staff Course. - One officer from September, 1933.
Special Small Arms Course. - One officer from October, 1933.
Army Service Corps Course. - One officer from December, 1933.
Exchange Duty. - One officer for full year.
Staff College, Quetta. - One officer completes two years’ course in December, 1933; one officer to commence a two years’ course beginning of 1934.
Training. - Two officers - complete training October, 1033 ; six officers - proceed for training in September, 1933.
B..A.A. Force OFFICERS
Imperial Defence College. - One officer completes course December, 1933.
R.A.F. Staff College. - Two officers - complete course December, 1933; two’ officers - commence twelve months course January, 1934.
Long Engineering Course. - One officer - commences twelve months’ course January, 1934.
Long Signals Course. - One officer - completes twelve months’ course March, 1934.-
R.A.. Force [for training). - Two officers for twelve months’ course from January, 1934; one officer for six months from June, 1933; one officer for six months from January, 1934.
Exchange Duly. - One officer - commences March, 1934.
The policy of the Government will ensure that Australia will have officers trained to the minute - products of the finest military colleges in the Empire. By the provision of £45,000 for the supply of a new pattern uniform to the Militia Forces, including a special pattern for Queensland because of its warm climate, it is hoped that the present enlistments will show a satisfactory increase and that a militia force worthy of the nation will be developed.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) has taken an active interest in gliding and has made many representations on the subject to the Government. Provision has now been made to give this arm of flying a trial, £600 having been set aside for the purpose. I shall see that the fullest consideration is given to his representations regarding the best method of allocating the amount. While the department ‘ does not share the enthusiasm of the honorable member concerning the instructional value of gliding it is anxious to give the science a fair test.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) spoke of the inadequacy of the coastal defences, concerning which I have already stated the Government’s intentions. He also mentioned rifle clubs and made particular reference to the Sandy Bay rifle range. For many years, this has been a thorny problem. Exercising commendable foresight, the Defence Department selected the site at Sandy Bay before the city of Hobart had developed in that quarter. The proximity of the site to the city facilitated access to it, and that was an important factor in its selection. The site is also eminently suitable because of the high hills which act as a stop butt, and greatly increase the safety of the range. Since the city has developed in the direction of the Sandy Bay rifle range, there has been a strong agitation for the removal s of the range. Conferences have taken place with the Hobart City Council, and the department has indicated that it is prepared to relinquish the site if another can be provided which will meet defence requirements. When I was in Hobart last September I conferred with a committee of the City Council and discussed the possibility of moving the range to another site at , Glenorchy. The decision then arrived at was that the council committee should submit a concrete proposal. This has been done, and the matter is being considered by the department with a view to determining whether it is possible to arrange the desired removal. It is necessary for the department to make a complete survey of the new site, and it is anxious in every way to co-operate with the desires of the council.
– Speaking officially for his party, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) declared that it favored disarmament and world peace. I, too, subscribe to those views, but I join issue with him when he contends that no troops should be sent overseas in the defence of Australia. Those honorable members who have seen war service are aware that it is far better to defend our hearth and home in another country rather than in our own. Those honorable members who witnessed the horrors and tragedies of war do not want to see Australia ravaged as were Belgium and France.
The honorable member expressed the hope that the Government should go in for a more extensive form of air defence. An -amount of £400,000 has been placed on the Estimates to purchase aeroplanes and amphibians. He also suggested that Royal Australian Air Force machines should be used to convey mails into the back country. I point out that, apart from being contrary to the letter and spirit of draft disarmament conventions, military aircraft are neither suitable nor economical for civil purposes. The employment of Royal Australian Air Force pilots on this service would result in their being less efficient for combatant duty, and that valuable reserve of pilots and aircraft mechanics, which should be supplied by a healthy civil aviation industry, would be lost.
The honorable member referred also to the desirability of having a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia. If the money could be found to finance both State and Federal Governments in this respect, I should be only too pleased to see the unification of gauges undertaken. At the same time, even ;the most intricate network of railways would not provide an adequate defence for the country. I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), but I am afraid that time will not permit rae to reply to all the points raised by him. I agree that the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference have not been the great success that was anticipated, and we have, therefore, to pin our faith to some other institution, such as a league of nations bordering the Pacific. Our problems are in the Pacific, and if we can foster harmonious relations with the nations bordering that ocean, at the same time carrying out an effective policy of defence, we 3hall go a long way towards ensuring the peace of Australia. The remarks of the honorable member for “Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) were informative, and will receive consideration in conjunction with the speech he delivered on a previous occasion. I am glad that he appreciates the increased vote for defence. He referred to the salaries and wages of ratings, and of the staff, noncommissioned officers, and officers of the army, navy, and air force. Last year certain increases of the wages of the lower ratings were granted, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has recently announced an improvement in the emoluments of the officers of the various defence services.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory) tlie Labour platform, which is definitely adequate home defence. The “White Australia policy is provocative of war. Its object is to exclude people from our shores, and in those circumstances we must be prepared to defend our action in declaring Australia white. “Well-intentioned pacifists contend that we should abolish all forms of defence. I wonder what would have happened in China and in Russia had all forms of defence been discarded. China is the most peace-loving nation in the world, and during the last century made no attempt to wage an aggressive war outside its own territory. That nation has continued its peaceful existence under primitive methods, and when invaded recently by a nation equipped with modern devices of war was helpless. Russia is bristling with armaments with the obvious intention of defending the system of government that it has established within its own borders. It has been well said that war is the device of the devil. Of course, burglars, thieves and thugs also are devices of the devil. Each of these evils is a product of the present social system. The last war was to save the world for democracy, but since that terrible holocaust many nations have adopted some form of dictatorship. The reason for waging that war has been lost sight of, and to-day the world is worse off than before. I pin my faith, rightly or wrongly, to disarmament, through the international education of the masses. The forerunner of that should be the lifting of the standards of all nations to a common level. So long as there are different standards of life throughout the world, so long will war obtain. “We ostracize the coloured races, not because we despise them, but because we fear that their entry to Australia would upset the standard of life here. This attitude is taken up for purely economic reasons, and is not dictated by any prejudice regarding colour, race or creed. “With equal standards of life throughout the world, the end of war would come, because the incentive to Avar would be removed. All the talk about the abolition of war while the existing state of society remains, is merely kiteflying; until we eliminate its cause we are not likely to be rid of war. Economic wars are the direct cause of military wars, and we cannot dissociate one from the other. Therefore, trade treaties, should be based more or less on the standards of life in the various countries. A country in which the standard is high should receive greater consideration than a country in which the standard is low, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a common standard throughout the world. It has been estimated that if the workers of Japan enjoyed the lowest standard operating in Europe, such a tremendous impetus would be given to the spending and purchasing power of that nation alone that it would be doubtful whether even under our present highly-mechanized system of production we could produce too much. The problem of the world to-day is not overproduction, but under-consumption and the variation in the standards of life, which lead to war. Peace invariably reigns in times of prosperity, and wars break out in periods of depression because of the mad economic struggles between rival countries for the domination of markets. If the standards of life in all countries were raised to one level we should have prosperity in the world, and there would be no occasion for one nation to engage in mortal combat with another. Equal standards are fundamental to the peace of the world, and can be obtained only if and when commodities are produced for consumption and not for profit. With the nationalization of the world’s products, the incentive for the great combines of capital to exploit various commodities would be removed, and then would be ushered in an era of peace based on complete understanding and world equity. It cannot be denied that the world con- ferences, no matter how noble was the inspiration behind them, have failed, mainly because of the activities of the commercial combines of the world, which have no regard for the lives of the people and are quite prepared to foment wars, because, the greater the war, the greater their profits. We must do away with cant, and get down to real fundamentals if Australia and the rest of the world are to progress and live in peace.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. E. Harrison) say that he was not in favour of compulsory training. I have memories of my own children coming home from work and having to rush away in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons for compulsory training. I know that from SO per cent, to 90 per cent, of the trainees hated the system, and the very thing which the authorities believed would strengthen our defence was actually weakening it.
I hope that some day medical science will find a cure for such dreadful diseases as cancer. Under existing conditions we know that there is no .permanent remedy except, perhaps, the knife. For the time being we cannot dispense with the knife. Neither can we dispense with adequate defence under our present social system. One great factor to be reckoned with in a scheme of defence is the great army of unemployed. These are the the men upon whom the Government would call to defend this country from invasion. But how can we expect people who are submerged below the breadline, to be patriotic? If the -military machine is to be effective, we must have a patriotic people. How can the people be patriotic in a country producing more than is required, and where there is absolute poverty? The very best preparation for defence is to have the nation physically and mentally fit and contented. This Government has given definite instructions that persons who have not been resident in the north for two years are not entitled to receive sustenance, yet they expect them to fight for this country. That is an impossible position. With all the talk of defence, I believe in an adequate defence system. We in the north feel it, perhaps, more than those resident in. the more populous centres in the south. The sparseness of the population in the Northern Territory reminds me always of a possible danger. Aliens have been coming into that part of Australia contrary to the law; but, if such a thing happened further south, there would be a great outcry about a direct violation of our White Australia policy. We cannot have a White Australia policy unless we are prepared to defend it. Such a belief will not lead us anywhere. Until we bring about an equalization of standards of life throughout the world, we cannot expect universal .peace. That will be the greatest factor in preventing war, and will have a much more beneficial effect on the proposals of the world than anything that has been suggested during this debate.
– I congratulate the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) upon his presentation of the Government’s policy. He did so in a manner wholly admirable; his exposition was lucid, and his replies to criticisms raised during the debate have been temperate. At this stage of the proceedings I do not propose to deal at length with this important subject; but I submit that a few general observations are called for. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) made some very pertinent observations in relation -to the causes of war with which I am almost in entire agreement. The causes of war are economic in character. When at Geneva last year, following that grand champion of peace, Ma-. De Valera-
– I heard that the righthonorable gentleman and Mr. De Valera were very friendly.
– Yes, I always shake hands with the devil wherever I meet him. However, I. pointed out that it was idle to talk about world peace while conditions that made for world disorder were present. World peace cannot exist in a world that is unstable economically and financially. Wars arise from naturally conflicting interests. Some honorable members seem to forget this. The Assistant Minister made a suggestion which commends itself to me, and, I hope, to every one else, that one way to world peace is by means of a Pan-Pacific union. Unhappily it is a counsel of perfection, reminding one of the obstinate juryman who said to the other eleven that the only way” to secure unity was for the eleven to agree with him. The way to peace in the Pacific may be through a Pan-Pacific union, but where there are ten in a boat with only sufficient food for three the question to be decided is “ Who is to have the food?” No abstract doctrine can guide that decision. In one of W. S.
Gilbert’s Bab Ballads, the surviving two of the crew of the Nancy Bell reached the point at which “ the delicate question - ‘ which of the two goes to the kettle,’ arose “. And when we consider peace in the Pacific, we have to consider similar problems. I adjure the Assistant Minister, wearied by his Herculean and incessant labours, to look at the Pacific with unbiased eyes. If we are to make friends with those in the Pacific - and we desire to do so - we must assume a friendly attitude and be prepared to make concessions. In the case of the Soviet that takes some doing. But our difficulties are not confined to the Soviet; the whole of the East is in the Pacific. It is impossible to deny that the ideals and outlook of the people in the East are different from ours. Say, for the sake of argument, that they want something which we have, and we cannot blame them if they do, are we to secure unity by surrendering to them that which we have, and which they want? Are we to purchase peace by surrendering everything we hold dear? The attitude of the apostles of peace in this House astound me; they are blind to the basic facts of life. They tell us that the way to peace is for the people of the world to get together ! They seem to imagine that those who want what we have would be content to go away from such a gathering with empty hands. But why should they ? The position in the Pacific to-day is like a powder magazine. You have only to enter it with a lighted candle to invite catastrophe.
I agree entirely with those who say that the way to peace lies in the improvement of economic conditions, and the removal of economic barriers.
– What becomes of the right honorable gentleman’s declaration that the last war was a war to end all ‘ wars?
– It only serves to demonstrate that those who indulged in such soporific philosophy at that time did not understand what causes war. The causes of war are economic in character, and are deeply rooted in human nature. From time immemorial man has struggled with man for anything that would give him an advantage in the struggle for existence. That struggle is still going on, and is likely to continue. What is trade unionism hut an effort to protect one section of the community against another? There is a violent conflict of interests between employers and employees, and labour is organized in order to protect the worker. In the same way there may be a conflict between the interests, let us say, of Australia and those of some foreign country. That violent conflict may be veiled by diplomatic phrasing; but the conflict of interests between nations is ever present, and it, therefore, follows that, unless a people is to be submerged, it’ must be prepared to hold its own. In the case of Australia, at any rate, it amounts to nothing more than that. My friends who denounce war cannot do so more vehemently than I do, but the right of a nation to live its own life in peace and security is as clear as is the right of an individual. The individual has no more rights than the nation. But the individual’s rights are protected by the law. In society the individual is free of the obligation to defend himself. He simply calls for the assistance of the police, and they come to his aid. Civilization rests on the rule of law, which, in its turn, rests upon force; without an effective police force laws would avail nothing. ‘Civil peace, the maintenance of law and order, rests on force, and is in like position; the maintenance of international peace rests on force. In the absence of an international police, we must defend ourselves. I do not intend to waste time by speaking of what has passed, other than to express my regret that the late Government suspended the operation of the sections of the Defence Act which provided for citizen training.
– We all believe in citizen training.
– I said that I regretted that the late Government had suspended the operation of the sections of the Defence Act which provided for citizen training, I mean compulsory military training. We all believe in education, but we insist on compulsory education. We have also compulsory voting, and have found it not incompatible with democracy. I do not know whether that is a good or a bad thing.* Sometimes when I look around me in this chamber, I think it is a good thing; at other times I think it is a bad thing; but as I have been returned under both systems I confess that I am, to a certain extent, indifferent to these passing political changes, and so probably is the public.
I come now to the present position of the Defence Forces of Australia. The Assistant Minister for Defence naturally made the best of things as they are, hut conditions are far from satisfactory. I shall go -back to 1922 in order to make a comparison. At that time the British Navy was incomparably the strongest in the world and, as Mr. Churchill said truly, its presence even in home waters was a sufficient guarantee of Australia’s immunity from attack. The present position is very different. The British Navy is no longer supreme, and that fact must be taken into account. Whatever we may think about the causes of war, the possibility of war cannot be ignored. Reports in this morning’s press tell of movements in the East which are so suggestive as to cause great anxiety. Certain of those movements are connected with the great proletariat Soviet. The Soviet, which some of my honorable friends opposite would say, is based on the eternal f oundation of an enlightened democracy, is supported by an armed force - a great red army. The economic changes and developments in Russia have been most amazing, but it cannot be denied that they are supported and stimulated - forced along if you like - by this red army. The Soviet, so we are told, is preparing for war. In another part of the same newspaper it is reported that instructions to German diplomats, made public in the Petit Parisien, are to drive a wedge between France and England. The jingoistic declarations of Herr Hitler and other not less disturbing statements show conclusively that conditions in Europe and the world generally are very unsettled. Preparations for war are being made on every hand. Australia can no longer regard herself as being secure behind the British Navy. We are living in a world in which there are evidently great possibilities of war.
– And our country is practically empty!
– That is so. Australia and the United States of America, with approximately the same area, have populations of about 6,500,000 and 136,000,000, respectively. We are doing practically nothing to build up our military, naval and air strength, while the United States of America is making strenuous efforts in that direction.
Besides all this we have notified the world in a rather provocative manner of our intention to maintain a White Australia. This political placard has been displayed to hundreds of millions of people in the East who find it hard to turn around without jostling one another. Australia has been protected by the British Navy ever since Captain Cook landed in this country, but to-day, in a world of chaotic unrest, the British Navy is no longer able to protect us by policing the seas and maintaining order. I have said that there is no international police force. But we should not be forgetful of the fact that, in other days, the British Navy performed the functions of an international police force, maintaining order on the high seas and guaranteeing justice and safety to lawabiding peoples in every land. Some honorable gentleman may deny this statement but the facts speak for themselves. We are a handful of people in a broad and comparatively unsettled land, who have stripped ourselves of practically every means of defence that we ever had. We most earnestly desire peace; we want to be friends ‘with all the world, and, of course, we must abstain from provocative statements and from the giving of offence by word or deed. But we are entitled to security, and to ensure it, ought we not to take steps to defend ourselves if attacked? At present we cannot do so. Australia was never so defenceless as she is to-day - and never in such danger of attack. In 1922-23, our Citizen Forces registered 61,269; our armed military forces, 37,156; our naval personnel numbered 4,114, our ships totalled 29, and our tonnage aggregated 75,619. And behind these considerable forces were the 250,000 of the Australian Imperial Forces who had returned from the war. I suppose we were then in as good a posi tion to defend ourselves as we could ever hope to be, and the mighty British Navy stood behind our own forces. The position to-day is very different. The British Navy has lost its supremacy and admittedly cannot detach itself from northern waters. There is no effective base in the Pacific from which it could operate. There is a base there, but it is not capable of defending itself against attack. And our own resources are tragically inadequate. The Minister put the best possible face on the situation,, but even he had to admit that even on paper our Militia Force had fallen in twelve months from 28,129 to 26,3;79. But these figures are misleading. Speaking for New South Wales, with the conditions of which I am reasonably familiar, I have no hesitation in saying that conditions are farcical - there is really no force at all. The Government is spending it3 money for no return whatever, drills are futile, and the attendances ludicrous. Frequently men come only once or twice, get a uniform and never come back again. Let us consider a typical drill. It is attended by two captains, two or three lieutenants, from eight to ten sergeants, and three privates, and costs from £4 2s. 6d. to £4 19s. 6d., according to. the number of lieutenants and sergeants. Frequently there are only two or three, or perhaps up to ten, privates, and from thirteen to fifteen officers. The amount that I have mentioned does not include the pay of the permanent staff, or lighting or other incidental expenses.
The expenditure on our present defence force is very nearly equal to that of 1922-23, when the Navy consisted of 29 vessels and the Military Force was worthy of the name; yet no results are being obtained.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the position of the Navy. Naval defence, of course, is essential. Leaving out of account the survey ship Moresby, which it will not be seriously contended contributes materially to our defence, the Navy at its peak consists of two cruisers, a flotilla leader, and two destroyers, for the defence of 13,000 miles of coastline. The present system of voluntary enlistment of the land forces has abjectly failed. I am not suggesting that there should be compulsory military training; but I do contend that tho Government has to face the fact that the militia does not attract the right kind of man. One reason is, that his mind is not informed as to the real position. I am satisfied that the young men of this country are very willing to defend it. What we now have to consider is, not the carrying of the banner of Australia in some foreign land, but the defence of Australia in Australia by Australians. Surely this should make an irresistible appeal to the young men of Australia ! As tilings are, there is no effective training, no esprit de corps, no regimental bands, no discipline or means to enforce it. An undisciplined army is only a mob ; camp training and detached drills attract a mere handful of men. In three or four of the battalions round about Sydney that have a normal training strength of 150, the number actually on the roll is only 25 to 30, and the number who present themselves for drill is only from three to ten. I am sure that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) is not content with that condition of affairs. It has been stated that 27,000 attend drills throughout Australia. Let me refer to some recent experiences of camps. When the first division went into camp at Liverpool, the 17th Battalion had an attendance of 150 instead of 400 men. A brigade in Victoria went into camp with 200 instead of 800 men as a minimum. If voluntary enlistment is to succeed, radical changes must be made. There is only a handful of men, and the officers arc losing heart. It is impossible to carry out necessary evolutions without men. Intricate and fascinating infantry drill movements cannot be executed with three men ; it is not even possible to “ form fours “. On land, on sea, and in the air the position of Australia, frankly, is most unsatisfactory. The Navy, what there is of it, is very good; but what is there of it?
– The right honorable gentleman’s time hai expired.
– I have listened with rapt attention to the strictures that have been passed by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) on the existing Defence Force. It is not my duty to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis), who is quite competent to look after himself. While Minister for Defence I visited night drills very often. A fine spirit existed among the men at that particular time. I believe that the Assistant Minister adopts a similar practice.
It is not necessary for me to make a confession of faith in regard to my native land. I certainly do not play secondfiddle to any man who has been imported into Australia, and I stand on an equality with any one who was born in this country, in my loyalty to it.
– Has the honorable member any knowledge of the art of defence ?
– Distinguished soldiers such as the honorable member supposes himself to be, can help us in that matter, and I am sure that they are prepared to do so. We have been told that the Government is spending an additional £1,000,000 on defence this year. If money and the ability of those at headquarters stand for anything, excellent results should be achieved. I rubbed shoulders with those fine officers at headquarters for a couple of years, and I admired the spirit that they exhibited under difficult circumstances.
Tho defence policy of the Scullin Government was criticized from (many angles, but principally, because it embodied a voluntary system of training. My party still stands for that system, and 1 declare that if it has not proved very effective the cause is that the idea has not been made attractive enough for the young fellows who are asked to volunteer their services as .citizen soldiers. It is impossible for Australia to develop a system of compulsory military training. In the United States of America, citizen soldiers elect their own officers after they prove their capability. It is essential that the man in the ranks should have the confidence of his officers. The honorable member for Franklin (“Mr. Blacklow) smiles, but it is a superior smile. Let me tell him that I took an interest in the Australian military forces when he was still in knickerbockers, and used to travel sixteen miles to and from the drill hall. My unit was the 2nd company, D battalion, and it drilled at the corner of
Punt and Commercial-roads in Melbourne. When I was Minister for Defence I visited that drill ball, and was presented with a badge from the new unit. I am not alone in the opinion that instructing men to form fours and turn their eyes right is not the best way to induce young fellows to join the Australian voluntary military forces. The whole thing must he made attractive, which the Government should be able to do with the money that is now being made available.
When the Scullin Government assumed office it was faced with a deficit of £20,000,000 for the financial year. In such circumstances, how was it possible to continue to allocate large sums of money for defence purposes? When the present Government came into power the voluntary system was receiving the approval of the young fellows to whom it was intended to appeal, despite the criticism of the present Assistant Minister, the Minister for Customs (Mr. White), the present honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), and some members of the Senate, one of whom was actually an officer in charge of a battalion in Tasmania. Is it any wonder that the Age of June, 1930, stated that the opponents of the voluntary military system were playing the dirty party game? When the Scullin Government took office there was a nominal citizen force of 47,564. Directly the new voluntary system was introduced the strength fell to 17,651, proving that practically 30,000 of those young fellows had no desire to be trained. The Scullin Government set itself an objective of 500 volunteers a month, and within two years, when it vacated office, the total enlistments numbered 28,000, or within 7,000 of the objective. Had that Government remained in office its hopes would have been realized. On the other hand, the efforts of this Government have resulted in a decline of 1,000.
– How did the honorable member’s Government bring that state of affairs about ?
– That is for the Minister for Defence to find out. He has been long enough in the position to take a little interest in it. The fact that the Scullin
Government was criticized by two members of the present Cabinet because it sponsored the voluntary system, which has since been retained, indicates that they had no valid objection against it, but merely wished to put the Government “ in wrong “ when it was experiencing difficult times.
It is true that my party is against war. I go further and say that its members do not believe that the world is in imminent danger of another war. Ever since I was a lad, the bogy of an “ imminent war “ has been held over the people. At that time, General Hutton was declaring that the Russians were coming to take Australia. Now the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) says that Germany intends to drive a wedge betweenFrance and England, and that the Red army of Russia will take possession of part of Australia. So far as I am concerned, those are all “ bedtime stories.” It should be our endeavour not to rattle the sabre or give credence to these fishwives’ tales. Any one can wave a flag or prate about the danger of war, but it takes a man of some restraint continually to hold out the hand of peace to other nations and to try to preserve that state of affairs.
When I was in Germany in 1927, in order to fraternize with the working people and talk with them about international war, I visited beer gardens, where lager could be bought for 2d. a glass, and coffee at 3d. a cup, and both of the best of their kind. When I visited Dresden, I was asked to address a meeting of 1,500 workmen which I did for twenty minutes on a Sunday morning. As I could not speak their language, an arrangement was made to translate my remarks, and I told those working people exactly what was the attitude of the Australian Labour party towards war. I only regret that, despite their efforts to prevent it, the Labour parties of Germany and Great Britain were driven into that dreadful upheaval of 1914. There can be no doubt that they were both sincere in their efforts to avoid it. Whatever may be said of the Germans, we are faced with the knowledge that Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were shot because of their efforts to prevent war. No one was shot for that reason in
Great Britain or any other country. That proves that Germans are a worthy people, and entertain the same human feelings towards their fellows as we do.
When our men were going to war in 1914, we were told that they were heroes going to end war. The echoes of the speeches of that time have scarcely died away when we are again told by scaremongers, even in this chamber, that we are in imminent danger of another war. Australia is not in any danger of another war for, at least, ten years. Japan is frequently referred to as the probable aggressor. Let us face the facts. Japan has obtained on outlet for its warlike energies, and efforts at colonization, for it has in Manchukuo, a country as large as New South Wales, with a scanty population and rich soil, one that can absorb millions of Japanese before there will be any congestion. Japan will be engaged for fifty years in subduing and colonizing Manchukuo, and while I do not for a momentuphold its policy there, it is simply following the example of other countries.
– What does the honorable member propose to do when Japan comes to Australia?
– No country can take and hold Australia. Two hundred thousand men, the flower of the British army, and the best trained soldiers in the world, tried to take South Africa from a handful of Boers and were unsuccessful.
A great difference of opinion exists as to what is the ideal form of defence. I think that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), correctly stated the position when he said that we should depend on all branches of arms. The trouble is that those in charge of each branch will ‘ assert that his section should be the mainstay of the defence of the country. Even military men of repute declare that, under present conditions, it is impossible for a hostile nation to attack a distant country, land, troops, keep up communications, and stay there. I honestly believe that that would be the position if any attempt were made to invade Australia.Some years ago an article appeared in McClure’s Magazine from the pen of Rear-Admiral W. F. Fullam, who was in charge of the American fleet in the Pacific during the war, and should be able to speak on this question with some authority. His article is entitled “ The Passing of SeaPower.” In order to substantiate his views, he cites the opinions of RearAdmiral Bradley A. Fiske, of the United States of America Navy, Admiral Simms, of the United ‘States of America Navy, Admiral Sir Percy Scott, of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir John Fisher, of the Royal Navy, Rear-Admiral S. S. Hall, of the Royal Navy, Vice-Admiral Mark Kerr, of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord Wester Wemyss, who was First Lord of the Admiralty after the war, Lord Sydenham, and’ last but not least, Admiral Von Scheer, who commanded the German fleet at the battle of Jutland, and put up a good “scrap” against the British Navy. This authority says -
The wings of “ sea power “ have been clipped. New naval weapons have vastly strengthened the defence and greatly weakened the offence in overseas warfare. Great armadas and armies cannot againcross the seas. Force cannot, as in the past, be carried over the oceans. With the sea as a buffer, weak nations can defy the strong. A puny power without a navy can challenge the strongest battle fleet. It can, with intelligent energy, make its coast impregnable against a hundred dreadnoughts. With an impenetrable barrage of mines, air forces, torpedoes and submarines, it can easily hold a maritime enemy 100 miles from its shores. The freedom of the seas is, in many respects, near realization. Aggression, expressed in ships, is chained to the beach.
I do not say that that view is altogether the correct one, but there is something to be said for it, since it is backed by the opinions of a large number of naval experts. There is a great difference of opinion on the defence question. We have been told that the Great War was a war to end wars; but the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has stated that we are still open to danger, and that Germany, together with the “ red “ army of Russia, is the great enemy that we have to face. I do not hold any brief for Russia ; but I distinctly recollect that the Russian delegate at the Geneva conference was the first to advocate entire disarmament. While the war was in progress Russia started out on a great experiment, and we can rest assured that the capitalistic combines throughout the world did everything in their power to prevent that experiment from being a success. I remember when Great Britain, France, and the United States of America attacked Russia from the north and tried to connect up with Kerensky with the object of forcing the Bolsheviks out of power.
– Russia betrayed the Allied nations.
– That nation was forced out of the war because it could not obtain munitions. Russia is the traditional enemy of Germany. The only way in which munitions could be sent to Russia, was through Japan, and that nation did not do what it might have done to help the allies in that respect. However, the war was responsible for the Russian revolution.
It has frequently been said that it is impossible for Australia to pay its national debt of £1,100,000,000, but it must not be forgotten that £700,000,000 of that sum was expended in waging war at a time when this country was not. seriously threatened. The great depression throughout the world is the direct result of the blood bath in which most of the civilized nations of the world took part. Carlyle, one of our greatest philosophers, expressed a spirit that still heats in the breasts of men, when, in Sartor Resartus. he said -
What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the net purport and upshot of war? To my own knowledge, for example there dwell and toil, in the British village of Dumdrudge, usually some 500 souls. From these, by certain “natural enemies” of the French there are successively selected during the French war, say, 30 able-bodied men.
At one time France was the natural enemy of Great Britain, and the British used to sing -
Thank God from whom all blessings flow,
Two thousand Frenchmen sent below.
Carlyle continues -
Dumdrudge, at her own expense,has suckled and nursed them; she has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and even trained them to crafts, so that one can weave, another build, another hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone avoirdupois. Nevertheless, amid much weeping and s wearing they are selected; all dressed in red; and shipped away, at the public charges, some 2.000 miles, or, say, only to the south of Spain; and fed there till wanted. And now to that same spot in the south of Spain are 30 similar French artisans from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending; till at length, after infinite effort the two parties come into actual juxtaposition; and Thirty stands fronting Thirty, each with a gun in his hand, straightaway the word “Fire!” is given; and they blow the souls out of one another; and in place of sixty brisk useful craftsmen, the world has sixty dead carcases which it must bury, and anew shed tears for. Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest! They lived far enough apart; were the entirest strangers; nay, in so wide a Universe, there was even, unconsciously by Commerce, some mutual helpfulness between them. How then ? Simpleton ! their Governors had fallen-out; and instead of shooting one another, had the cunning to make these poor blockheads shoot.
Those are the words of a great philosopher whom the forebears of many honorable members used to read. Ever since the war there has been a disposition, even among those who did their duty at the front and took their lives in their hands, to become obsessed with war. I can quite understand the attitude of the right honorable member for North Sydney, because he was a demagogue at that time. He had the powers that Hitler has to-day, and, in some instances, exercised them almost as brutally.
– That is not a fair statement.
– The honorable member did not experience those powers, but we who were at the front of the anticonscription movement did.
– It is a brutal statement.
– Yet it is true.
– The Labour party stands for the adequate defence of Australia, but we refuse to be stampeded by a lot of busy-bodies into the idea that war is imminent and inevitable. Instead of increasing the vote for defence purposes we should use the money in providing useful avenues of employment. There is only one way to overcome the difficulty in respect of the attendances, of the members of the citizen forces at the drill halls, and that is by, democratizing those forces - introducing a system under which the officers will take the men into their confidence, somewhat on the lines sometimes used in our industrial system under which the employer and employee meet together and confer for their mutual benefit.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis).
While agreeing with the principles that he has laid down in connexion with the defence vote, I think that one direction in which more interest might be displayed is in the allocation of money to the rifle clubs, which form an important part of our defence system. We appreciate the action of the Government in increasing the vote for these clubs by £5,000. It is not generally known that there are in Australia approximately 1,000 of these clubs, with a membership of 40,000. Many of the riflemen are returned soldiers, and they form the nucleus of a most important arm of defence. These men provide the bulk of the maintenance cost of the clubs; they supply their own equipment, and, as volunteers, are performing an important service to the country. It is generally agreed that there should be a. tightening up of our defence system and, in view of the fact that the riflemen are properly equipped, and have excellent records, their services should be utilized to a greater extent in connexion with the defence of Australia. They certainly would form the first line of our defence and should, therefore, receive every encouragement and assistance. The Assistant Minister for Defence has given every encouragement to the rifle clubs, and I believe that he has been responsible for the provision of an additional £5,000 on the Estimates. I suggest that further assistance might be given in the direction of the supply of rifles and ammunition. The men have to supply their own equipment, and any assistance in that direction would be greatly appreciated by them. I bring these suggestions under the notice of the Assistant Minister in the hope that they will be adopted so far as the finances of the country will permit.
.- I compliment the Government upon having increased the defence vote this year, but I regret that more money cannot be appropriated for protecting a country which is worth defending. The late Government made a great mistake in dispensing with the compulsory trainingof our youths.
– This Government has been in office for two years and has not re-introduced it.
– Then I blame this Government for not reverting to it. We are told that it is the policy of the Labour party that the citizens of this country should be prepared to defend it. A man physically and mentally fit should be compelled to defend the country in which he lives, and which provides him with those privileges which civilization offers. If we failed to educate our children they would have a complaint against us. Similarly, a young man who is not trained to fight will have a just complaint against his country when he is compelled to fight. Furthermore, one who enjoys the privileges of citizenship should also shoulder the responsibilities associated with that privilege. It is the duty of this country to train its youths to prepare for the possibility of war. I like preparedness; itis always a security. If we admit that it is necessary to defend this country against aggression, we must also admit that we must be prepared for the aggressor. The Labour Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Collier, said - that it would notbe wise to leave Australia unprotected and defenceless in the case of attack by a foreign power.
No one wants war; God forbid that another war should occur. But, all the same, Australia cannot afford to ignore the patent fact, that in preparation for another war, the nations are building up armaments, and Australia must be prepared for purposes of defence.
It would be folly to ignore the all too evident danger.
We have a wonderful country, which is not effectively occupied. We cannot expect our representatives who are sent to the Assembly of the League of Nations on matters pertaining to peaceful arbitrament to ask consideration when this country is not effectively occupied. Japan, which has a population of 90,000,000 people, is not nearly so productive as Australia, which has an adult population of only 2,500,000. I agree with the opinions expressed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that wars are based on economic considerations. I also concur in the views of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis), that it should be’ easy for us to establish harmonious relationships with our neighbours. The Labour party also suggests harmonious relationships, and advocates peaceful. arbitrament in the settlement of international disputes,but members ofthat party assist in creating more economic bitterness between Australia and other countries than does any other section of the people. They expect foreign nations to buy extensively from us, but they will not buy ls. worth of goods which those nations produce. That is largely the cause of the economic trouble with which we are now confronted. In order to bring about the harmonious relationships which they so strongly advocate, tariff and other economic barriers must be removed and’ natural trading conditions allowed. The policy of honorable members of the Opposition is largely, responsible for international bitterness. The Government should provide an adequate defence system, which could be strengthened by the compulsory training of our youths. Every father should provide his sons with a pair of boxing gloves, and teach him how to use them. Those boys who cannot protect themselves by the use of their fists have a right to blame their fathers for having neglected to teach them the art of. self defence. My sons have acquired that art, and I do not think that those honorable members who are opposed to compulsory military training would be willing to meet them in a boxing contest. The training of our youths encourages discipline and physical and moral development, and at a time like the present, when many of our youths are unable to find employment on leaving school, reasonable compulsory military training would be of benefit to them and of value to the country. “Why should they not fall into line with other citizens who are anxious to protect the country in which they live? Compulsory training does not mean training for war. Able-bodied men should not shirk their responsibility in this respect. We are actually losing more money in developing one industry than we are spending for defence purposes. The Government should increase its expenditure to provide a more effective training system, which would be not only of value to the young men of this country, but also of inestimable benefit to our national security.
.- It is with some hesitation that I obtrude in this discussion, after listening to the remarks of generals, colonels, majors and spare parts of ourso-called military organization. As an Australian, I believe that the greatest danger against which Australian citizens have to defend themselves at the moment is the professional soldier, who spends his time in engineering wars and urging others in this country to take up arms in conflict with theworkers of other lands. I listened attentively to the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and, if I remember aright, this alleged patriotreceived a certain gift for the services he rendered to his country during and after the last war. The right honorable gentleman said that the members of the Labour party would advocate peace at any price; but the right honorable gentleman would advocate anything at a price, and hehas proved it.
TheCHAIRMAN (Mr. Bell).- Order !
– I contend that the gift of £25,000 was not given for nothing. The right honora’ble member referred to the attitude of the Labour party in matters of defence. Personally I do not know what all the panic isabout. We have been told of the enormous armaments which Russia is building up to provide against aggression by other nations. Honorable gentlemen opposite never raise any objection to trading with Russia when there is profit to be made from it. I recommend these alleged patriots who are urging the people of Australia to expend money that they can ill afford on additional armaments, and especially the members of the Citizens Defence Committee of which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is a member, to consider the circumstances of one of their associates. I refer to a gentleman who was knighted some time ago. Most honorable gentlemen profess to believe that a knighthood is granted for services rendered to a nation, and that the recipients are the personification of honesty and integrity ; but are they aware thatthis particular gentleman engaged in very questionable dealings?
– Why was he knighted?
– Evidently he got his knighthood because he was able to pay for it.
– Th e honorable member’s remarks have nothing to do with the item before the Chair.
Mr.WARD. - I am pointing out that the most important defence that the people of Australia need is defence from the enemy within, and particularly from men like Sir Hugh Denison, a director of Associated Newspapers Limited. In consequence of the position that he occupies this gentleman is able to inflame the minds of the people and cause them to believe that they are likely to be drawn into armed conflict with another country. Sir Hugh Denison is a gentleman who, during thelast war, was actually convicted in a court of this country for having traded with [he enemy. In these circumstances t he people should bc warned against him. In my opinion there is no necessity whatever for the expenditure of more money to build up the armaments of Australia. Honorable gentlemen have suggested by innuendoes and otherwise that Australia is likely to be attacked by some unspecified overseas country. From some of them one inferred that Japan is a possible aggressor. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that we had a great unpopulated country upon which we had placed the placard “ Our policy is White Australia “. I ask the honorable member why Australia is not densely populated. Is it not principally because of the attacks which have been made on the living standards of the people? The policy of this Government has been such that our young men cannot afford “ to get married, and are compelled to live unnatural lives. Many of the unemployed have had their homes taken from them and are to-day walking the streets of our cities looking for work. What incentive is there for such men to marry and rear families. It has been proved to them in the last few years that if their children reach adult age they will look in vain for positions in industry and will have to subsist on the miserable dole which various governments will hand out to them. I ask honorable members opposite who appeal to the patriotism of the people: What incentive is there for the people to raise families? What have the workers to defend? It they had as much of this world’s goods as the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein), the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane)-
– The honorable member is entirely out of order in making these personal references.
– I am pointing out, sir, that the circumstances of the unemployed are very different from those of the honorable members to whom I have referred. If the unemployed had as muchto defend as certain honorable members of this Parliament they would, without doubt, have a different outlook.
– Why does not the honorable member for East Sydney go into partnership with Mr. Lang ?
– -That would be preferable to entering into partnership with the honorable member for Barton, who was chasing time-payment orders before he became a member of this Parliament.
– Order ! Such personal remarks are entirely disorderly. The honorable member for East Sydney must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair. He and other honorable gentlemen must refrain from personalities.
– Honorable members opposite provoke personalities.
– I am quite sure that the unemployed people of this country would willingly defend it if they owned as much of it as do some honorable gentlemen opposite, but the fact is that many people have nothing to defend. If honorable members opposite moved, as I do, among the returned soldiers who are walking the streets of our cities, aud saw them expectorating on the footpaths because they suffer from that terrible complaint of tuberculosis, they would realize how tragic is their outlook. Because the doctors associated with the Repatriation Department will not admit that the condition of such men is due to war service, the unfortunate sufferers are denied the bare necessaries of life, and are compelled daily to suffer the sight of hungry dependants; Before the supporters of the Government even think of preparations for the next war they should concentrate their attention upon mending the wreckage of the last war. Honorable members opposite are not concerned about the returned soldiers who were smashed in health and spirit in the last war.
– Order ! The honorable member must realize that it is distinctly out of order for him to declare that- honorable members are not concerned about returned soldiers who were smashed in the last war. He must refrain from making such remarks.
– If some honorable gentlemen opposite are to be judged by their actions we are justified in believing that they are not concerned about those who were smashed iu health and spirits in the last war. The money which the Government wishes to have spent in providing additional armaments should be used in providing additional pensions so that disabled soldiers who have been denied a pension might be able to obtain for themselves and their families the bare necessaries of life, or in providing medical attention for returned soldiers who need it. A certain eminent clerical gentleman said during the last war - and I believe that he spoke the truth - “If you stop the profit you stop the war. “
Honorable gentlemen opposite who have spoken in favour of an increased defence vote have also signified their approval of additional expenditure for sending delegates to disarmament con. (Terences, league of nations’ assemblies, and the like. They talk a lot of flapdoodle about the desirability of the ations of the world living in peace and harmony, but they vote in favour of a policy designed to arm people to the teeth so that they may engage in _ future wars. If additional expenditure on armaments can be justified, additional expenditure in sending delegates to peace conferences certainly cannot be justified. With one breath, certain honorable members speak of the benefits of peace, and with the next, about building up armies, constructing war ships and aeroplanes, and otherwise increasing the armaments of the nation. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) was complimented by one speaker on the fact that the Government had added an armoured car detachment to our military forces to increase its mobility. At least, the trade unionists of this country should realize the significance of this move. They should bear in mind that war equipment is used for other than war purposes. On many occasions, armed force has been used against the workers in many lands when they have fought for a decent standard of living. The mobile forces now being provided may even be used for that purpose. In any case, war propaganda should have very little interest for trade unionists. We should remember that one of these so-called patriots who, years ago, inflamed the minds of the people against the people of other lands, was well paid for what he did. An amount of £25,000 has been mentioned in this connexion, but, according to certain sections of the press, the figure was much larger than that. That right honorable gentleman once held other views. If men once sacrifice for the sake of gold the principles for which they have stood for many years, they may be expected to do the same thing again. The members of the so-called Citizens Defence Committee are more concerned about serving their own ends than in looking after the interests of the country. They know that war always makes possible the exploitation of the people. Those who have read the history of wars will not need convincing that the greatest sacrifices are always made by the workers. On occasion, an accident happens to a “brass hat”, but it is the workers who suffer most. There are to-day in Australia and elsewhere, thousands of returned soldiers in mental asylums. Some of them were mental cases when they returned from the war; others lost their senses while they were walking the streets of our cities looking for work. Other returned soldiers are finding it impossible to obtain a livelihood in the usual way, and have had to use their metal badges, which signified that they participated in the last war, as a help to them in seeking alms from the general public. It is a standing disgrace to this Government that returned soldiers should be obliged to use their war badges in order to get the bare necessaries of life; but they are compelled to do so because they have been denied even a miserable pittance by way of pension. There are organized bodies of returned soldiers in New South Wales, and, I believe, in other States, who, as members of Labour clubs, are pledged never again to take up arms or participate in a sordid trade war such as the last war was. Honorable gentlemen opposite have told us that the Japanese may attack Australia. L)o they suggest that the Japanese will come here to take from our unemployed the dole tickets that are at present issued to them? It is deplorable that while we are discussing an increased defence vote in this Parliament, returned soldiers should be sleeping in public parks and. elsewhere out iu the open, without sufficient clothing to keep themselves warm. In the light of this fact, it is high time that honorable gentlemen opposite ceased talking flapdoodle about the Empire and the flag, and concentrated upon devising ways and means for providing necessary assistance to those who participated in the last war. One of the greatest indictments of the present social order is that our leading scientists and chemists are using their time and ability in producing terrible gases and explosives for war purposes instead of in providing cures for some of the decimating ailments that at present afflict humanity. If another war occurs, tho front line will be not outside Australia, but at the door of every home. In fact death, in the shape of poisoned gas, will surround every man, woman and child in the community. Honorable gentlemen opposite, who call themselves Christians, surely cannot think it right to support any policy that leads to the development and use of death-dealing weapons and measures the like of which were unknown even in the last war. They should concentrate their attention on making this country so well worth while defending that every able-bodied man would be prepared to participate in its defence. But this will not be done by delivering flamboyant speeches of the kind we have had to listen to lately. The Defence Department is the most extravagant department that comes within the whole ambit of the govern mental activities. The Assistant Minister for Defence knows that that is true.
– It is not true.
– Many honorable members who are supporting this particular proposal for increased expenditure know, as well as I do, that it is an extravagant department. If the Assistant Minister denies that, let him tell the committee what amount was saved when the’ Royal Military College was transferred from Duntroon to Victoria Barracks, Sydney. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), who was in charge at Duntroon when the change was made, was guilty of gross extravagance in his management of that institution.
– That is offensive, to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The Chair cannot ‘ regard it as offensive.
– While the honorable member was in charge at Duntroon, the annual cost of the institution was approximately £62,000, but while the military cadets were trained at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, it was reduced’ to approximately £15,000. The honorable member for Bendigo will have another opportunity to address himself to the subject, and may be able to explain why, if there was not gross extravagance at Duntroon, such an enormous sum could be saved. Let the Assistant Minister ask anglers who go to Jervis Bay, whether their lines are not continually f ouled by the naval stores that had been thrown into the bay. The honorable gentleman cannot deny that these are facts. Honorable members opposite who occupy high and influential positions in the military service have wasted large sums of public money upon garden parties for the entertainment of the elite of the different capital cities. The lower ranks of both the military and the naval services have not received the benefits of additional expenditure by the department.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll) has said that on a previous occasion he ventilated certain of the grievances of the lower deck in the Navy. The honorable member cannot claim that his efforts were responsible for any relief that was given. The naval ratings can thank their own efforts for the redress of any of their grievances. They were not: able to obtain any benefits until they demonstrated their determination to take action against the Government if they were not given relief. When certain happenings occurred on vessels of the Australian fleet, and questions were asked in thi3 Parliament, the Assistant Minister, who evidently was ill-informed, stated that no trouble existed. It is known that the men were determined upon some course of action unless the Government moved to redress some of the grievances they had long asked to be rectified. Having initiated a debate which occupied the time of this chamber, for two hours, the honorable member for Werriwa voted against his own motion.
The party of which I am a member is not prepared, in the particular times through which Australia is passing, to assist the Government to expend an extra penny upon additional armaments. I notice a smile upon the face of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman). Many can recollect the time when the honorable member was characterized in Australia as a pro-Boer. The “ Empire was then engaged in another armed conflict. Circumstances have changed, and now, instead of being a pro-Boer, the honorable member is a pro-Britisher. Evidently, like some other honorable members opposite, he can change his colour and his party as often as it pays him to do so.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are entirely personal, and have nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I am of the opinion that any honorable member who, at the present stage in the history of Australia, supports the expenditure of an extra penny on additional armaments, must be either a knave or a fool; and when I look at the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) I imagine that the correct description is “knave.”
– Order ! If .1 have again to call the honorable member to order, either for reflecting upon other honorable members or for irrelevancy, I shall ask him to resume his seat. The remark that he has just made concerning the light honorable member for North Sydney is distinctly disorderly, and must have been regarded as offensive by the right honorable member had he been present.
– Is the honorable member not to be called upon to withdraw and apologize for having made such a remark about a distinguished member of this chamber ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) is not himself offended. I have called the honorable member for East Sydney to order.
– Every honorable member is offended.
– I desire to move-
– I take the point of order that the honorable member for East Sydney is ‘wholly out of order in saying that any member of this committee is either a knave or a fool.
– Order! The Chair has already ruled the honorable member out of order.
– Then I submit that the honorable member must apologize to the committee for having used such language concerning one of its distinguished members.
– Order ! The Chair took action immediately. The right honorable member for North Sydney has not taken exception to the remark, and it is not necessary for the honorable member for Martin to do so after the Chair has dealt with the matter.
– The right honorable member is not in the chamber.
– Order ! The Chair will not order as the honorable member for Martin suggests that it should.
– I move-
That the amount be reduced by £1. If this amendment is agreed to it can be taken as an intimation to the Government that any further expenditure of public money upon additional armaments, at the present period in the history of Australia, is unwarranted and unjustified. If the Government has moneys available in the Treasury, it might devote them to the purposes I have suggested. Honorable members opposite give a good deal of lip service to returned men who were smashed in the last war.
– Order ! Were it not for the fact that the honorable member is moving an amendment, I should not allow him to continue. I have already warned him twice that, unless he directed his remarks to the question before the Chair, and refrained from reflecting upon honorable members, I should ask him to resume his seat. If he should again offend, I shall certainly take that action.
– I commend the amendment to honorable members, because I believe that there are other more suitable purposes to which the money could be devoted. There can be no denial of the fact that, during the war years, certain persons became enriched, while others became impoverished. Those who became improverished, were mainly the persons who were -called upon to do the actual fighting, and to make the actual sacrifices. Individuals who accumulated enormous wealth, by their propaganda and their advocacy of war, from 1914 to 1918, . areto-day trying to inflame the minds of the Australian public against the peoples of other lands. In view of that fact, I suggest that this additional money should be made available for purposes other than those intended.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the amount he reduced by £1 (Mr. Ward’s amendment) - put.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Bell.) .
Majority . . 32
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15p.m.
.- Honorable members should be indebted to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr., Ward) for his speech to-day. He has clearly shown us that if at present no grave danger is confronting us from outside, we are faced with the greatest danger indeed from the enemy within our gate. The honorable member spoke a good deal about peace, but I should judge, without desiring to be disrespectful, that he i3 possessed of a somewhat dual nature. If his Utopian scheme and new form of government -were adopted, I should certainly object to placing myself under his domination or that of others associated with him. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred to the wonderful reception that he received in Germany, and said that he had been requested to make a speech there. He also said that the general feeling in Germany was towards peace among the nations. I venture to suggest that if the honorable member visited Germany to-day he would not be requested, or even permitted, to make, a speech. There has been a great change in German- affairs.
– The labour interests in Germany have been crushed.
– The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has pointed out the danger that exists throughout the world an’d the need for Australia to defend itself. No one would suggest that at the moment we are in danger of enemy invasion, but it is as well to put our house in order. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) spoke of the harmonious relations existing between Australia and the nations of the East. As the right honorable member for North Sydney has pointed out, the troubles among the nations to-day are racial and economic. We have hoisted the flag of White Australia, and therefore, from a racial point of view, we are not likely to work in harmony with the nations of the East. Australia is equal in size to the United States of America, yet the population of that, country is 130,000,000, while ours is only 6,500,000. Our best scheme of defence is to fill up our empty spaces and to induce people to come here so that we may have a population large enough to enable us to defend our shores if necessary. That is the great economic problem of Australia, and it should certainly receive the fullest consideration from those in charge of the destinies of this country. We possess both the racial and economic factors which tend to create war among the nations. The right honorable mem ber for North Sydney referred to our isolated position, and the change that had taken place in the defence system of Great Britain since the war. It is the duty of the Government, and particularly of the Defence Department, to do everything within their power to place our military forces on a proper footing. I am not a believer in compulsion generally, but if there is one thing that should be compulsory in Australia it i3 the military training of the youth of thi3 country. When the unemployment difficulty first arose, the Government had a splendid opportunity to institute a scheme of national training. It could have acted in collaboration with the States and invited the youths in the streets to undergo a course of military training in camps. Such a scheme would have done enormous good from the point of view not only of defence, but also of unemployment relief. I hope that even at this late stage the ‘Government will adopt some such scheme, and expend the greater proportion of this vote on the training of youths in military camps, in afforestation and in other directions. The. trainees could be given a low rate of wage with the right to dispense with training at any time.
I am glad that the Assistant Minister lias seen fit to give further assistance to the rifle clubs of Australia. These clubs could play an important part, in our defence scheme, because there are many first-class marksmen among their members.
Honorable members are asked to pass these Estimates after sitting all last night and to-day.
– The honorable member was not. present in the chamber last night.
– I decline to attend all night sittings. We are placing too much trust in the Executive for the time being. The Parliament should hu supreme, and while we are prepared to concede a great deal of latitude and power to the Executive, the Parliament should at all times fight for the preservation of its privileges. The Government’s attempt to rush these Estimates through is not fair to the House or to the country. We are asked to agree to the expenditure of £60,000,000 without giving full consideration to the various items. There is no justification for adjourning this House next week or the week afterwards. We come here at great expense, and Ave should hu permitted to discuss the Estimates calmly and dispassionately. As it is, little or uo discussion is being permitted on the Estimates. The prestige of the Parliament is being lowered day by day mid. year by year. I hope that, in the future, honorable members will insist upon exercising their rights so that the fullest consideration may be given to every item of expenditure before it is filially endorsed.
– I have listened attentively to the debate, and I am more than pleased with the tone adopted by most honorable members, although I do not agree with some of their arguments. The speech of tho Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) was highly technical, and a layman could not be expected to level any criticism at it. I listened to tho speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison). He is a professional soldier, and one would naturally expect him to hold the opinions that he expressed. His speech, and those of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. McNicoll), although of a militaristic type, were couched in terms which one could understand. One could understand that they were doing their best to avoid anything in the nature of provocation with respect, to other nations. I appreciate their points of view, although I do not agree with their ideas. The great tragedy is that while we are now preparing for the next war, which some people seem to think is imminent, we are still, living in the shadow of the last war, and we have in the community many sick and crippled men who are suffering as the result of their association with it. Our military hospitals are still full of mon. in middle life unable even to raise themselves from their beds, who, but for the- war, would have been, among the most perfect specimens of humanity in Australia. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said, our mental institutions also hold very many returned soldiers whose reasoning powers will never return to them. So we are’ still living in the shadow of the last war, and still trying to cope with the misery and disaster that it caused, not only to the soldiers themselves, but also to their wives, children and other relatives. Yet there is a desire to rush again into warlike preparations so that we may be ready for the next war !
I respect the point of view of all honorable gentlemen who have participated in this debate and do not doubt their sincerity. I hope that they will credit me with similar sincerity when I say that I do not believe that this, or any other country, is on the verge of war. The latest figures which I have received from Geneva indicate that military expenditure is at a higher rate to-day than, ever before in the history of the world. In fact, nearly double the amount is now being spent on preparations for war that was being spent in this way before the last war. The argument was used this morning that we must, therefore, prepare for war. History teaches us that preparation for war begets war. Before the last war Germany was the only country in the world that, was really preparing for war. It is certain that neither Great Britain nor Australia was doing so. In fact, the British Empire as a whole was quite unprepared for war. History entirely disproves the argument that preparation for war prevents war. The surest way to cause war is, I repeat, to enter into a feverish competition in ‘ armaments. Nations are, unfortunately, forced into panic-stricken armament races by the pernicious policy of international armaments firms which send their representatives to various countries in turn to use their tremendous influence to get cabinets to vote money for increased armaments. The international armaments organization is one of tha most perfect in human history and its agents are paid princely salaries to do their work. I do not say that, the agents of this organization are busy in Australia, or that the members of this Government are likely to be egged on in an armaments race, for the amount of money that we could afford to spend in this way is quite inconsiderable; but, unfortunately, the policy that I have described is in operation in other countries of the world. One honorable member said this morning that because other countries were increasing their armaments Australia should do so. That, of course, is the natural result of the propaganda that I have described. I have been a reader of international history for many years and I remember a good deal about Germany’s warlike preparations prior to the war, from the time of the Agadir incident and onward. On that occasion the Socialist leader fought with all his power against an increase in the German Government’s Estimates in order to send an armed force to Morocco. I believe that that incident was inspired by the agents of the international armaments organization. The same kind of thing has been going on ever since. In fact, it is almost a weekly happening these days for a conspiracy to be discovered. Such incidents do not occur in Australia, because it would not pay the armaments firms to send their agents here to work up a conspiracy; but in Europe and the United States of America these things frequently happen.
We should bear in mind that in the past, wars have not happened when people have expected them. On the eve of the last war Lord ‘Rosebery said in one of his famous speeches that there was a calm so profound that you could almost hear a leaf fall to the ground. It was just then that the war occurred. It rarely happens that a war breaks out when people prophesy it. If we go back over the last 100 years we shall find that every war has had a commercial or trade basis. I include the last war in this category.
– Once upon a time a lady’s glove could cause a war.
– That is so. A religious disagreement could also cause war, but those days have passed. It was for that reason that I referred to the period of 100 years. People do not fight over such things now, because their leaders do not go to war. In the early days there was some honour and glory in fighting for a lady’s glove, because the men who were responsible for the hostilities did the fighting themselves. If I had said, during, the war, that it was a trade war, the right honorable member for North Sydney. (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister, would have clapped me into gaol. I would not blame, him for doing so, for in war things have to be done properly from the war lords’ point of view. I agree with the late Lord Fisher, of naval fame, that there is no halfway-house to disarmament and that you might just as well try to christianize hell as to humanize war. I cannot accept’ the theory that preparedness- for war is an insurance against war. I believe that the surest and quickest way to war is to arm for it.” Armaments do -not ward off war. Of course, it is true’ that war may occur even though there is no preparation for it. Nothing is to be ascertained from such a line of argument. We must not shut our eyes to the conditions which exist in other parts of the world to-day, especially in Europe and the United States of America. In these countries the agents of the international armaments organization are very definitely at work.
I agree with a good deal that was said this morning by the professional soldiers who took part in this debate. My father was a professional soldier; he was in tho Dublin Fusiliers. I have often drilled in the square myself. I have also drilled in the square with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Blacklow), but I have no desire whatever for war. I hate it. I believe that every honorable member of the House hates war. There would be something seriously wrong with any man or woman who did not do so. War is a crime against humanity. Because I believe this I have always worked and shall always work for total disarmament, the removal of all causes of war and the establishment of a new social and international order, based on the pacifist principle of co-operation for the common good. I believe that every one would approve of that policy, but some people believe that it is impossible of achievement.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Bendigo, who has had a lifelong experience of militarism, say that he believes in the voluntary system, and that under proper control it would do all that was necessary for us. I was glad also that the honorable gentleman said that he had no desire to revert to compulsory military training. The Assistant Minister for Defence did not say exactly the same thing, but he gave us to understand that the Government, on the advice of its officers and such gentlemen, as the honorable member for Bendigo, intended to try the voluntary system. I have had some experience of compulsory military training, and it was not similar to that described by the honorable member for Franklin. I do not suggest that therehave not been some public schools where, with an exceptional man in charge, the compulsory system has worked harmoniously; but I know very well that in many industrial centres the system was a complete failure. I have known of boys being sent to Sorrento or Queenscliff for detention, because their parents would not allow them to go to the military camps. I know also that in the Collingwood troop there never was any proper discipline under the compulsory system. The men refused to take things seriously or to submit to the discipline desired by their officers, because they hated the idea of compulsion.
– That was not the usual experience. There must have been something wrong with the officers.
– I agree that officers make a great deal of difference. Some schoolmasters, who understand the psychology of youth, can do a great deal more than others who do not understand it, and the same thing is true of military training. I believe in voluntary military training and voluntary rifle clubs, for which I would provide annual competitions. I would encourage the development of our iron ore depositsand the development of national secondary industries that would be useful if ever the time came when the invasion of this country was imminent. I would also encourage civil aviation. I think that the £1,500,000 that has been added to our defence vote this year could well be used in placing our civil aviation on a scientific basis. Every penny of the vote could be used in that way, and machines should be designed so that they could be converted if need be, from civil to military purposes. I believe thatwe should do our best to increase our medical equipment, and by the unification of our railway gauges, improve our internal lines of communication. Our internal metal trades should be’ encouraged. We should, in particular, give some consideration to ship-building operations and the enlargement of our docks. Every capital city in the Commonwealth needs adequate docking facilities associated with it, so that the huge overseas vessels that come to this country may be properly serviced while here. We could build up our defence equipment on a basis that would not be offensive in any way. It would be a good thing for us to provide for physical training in the State schools. I could takehonorable members to some Siate schools where the teachers glory in providing their pupils with proper physical culture. Physical training should be universal under our education systems. I would insist upon physical culture on a scientific basis in every school; In saying that, I have not in mind tuition in the practice of stabbingbags of straw with bayonets. Real physical culture would result in the building up of a universal army that, if necessary, could be called upon to defend Australia. National workshops, which could be used in times of peace, should be standardized in such a way that they could readily be converted to war-time operations. I do not believe in’ adding to the expenditure for the purchase of tanks.
-What about the Boy Scouts’ organization ?
– That movement should be encouraged. It teaches’ discipline, gives healthy open-air training, and promotes proficiency in matters that make for good citizenship. It is not sufficiently encouraged. If Baden-Powell were to address this assembly in connexion with the boy scouts, his would be a pacific, and not a jingoistic utterance. The old idea of trying to prevent war by preparing for it, provides the shortest cut to war. The military budgets of the world last year aggregated 21,221,622,000 Swiss francs. When I was in Switzerland, 15 Swiss francs went to the £1. Thus the world is spending on armaments every year 1,200 times more than it is spending on the operations of the League of Nations, and 3,000 times more than it spends on the International Labour’
Office, which was designed to bring about international peace. It was, and still is, believed that international peace must be based upon social justice. The International Labour Office was brought into existence by that great man who died recently, Sir Albert Thomas, for the purpose of establishing international social justice in the form of decent living conditions of all peoples, as the basis of international goodwill.
It is now proposed that Australia shall spend more than she has been spending on measures of defence. I remember the speech that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) delivered when he returned to Australia from the last Disarmament Conference. The right honorable gentleman then said that the greatest of all the problems which confronted that conference each year was to draw the line between what was offensive and what was defensive. Such a line cannot be drawn, consequently there can be no international understanding. History proves that the small countries, which arc more or less unarmed, do not suffer as the result of that fact. They are never involved in war. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland have no trouble to keep out of wars, yet their expenditure on armaments is negligible. It is those who allow themselves to become panic-stricken, and enter into a feverish, race with others to build up all kinds of armaments, who eventually buy themselves into conflicts. I do not believe that any nation has evil designs on Australia. It is my opinion that the people of Japan and China would rather live in their own countries. The whole tendency of their economic development during the last few years has not been towards migration to Australia or some other country. Order is_ being established in Japan to a greater extent than in Australia. The internal conditions of that country are better than they have ever been. The Japanese are more patriotic and loyal to their country than are Australians to theirs. They are concentrating on the improvement of Japan, which they love as we love Australia.
I cannot bring myself to vote for the passing of these Estimates. I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, Ward), that we should limit tho vote to the amount expended last year. The British Government is still clinging to the hope that some formula for partial disarmament will be worked out.
– Three new cruisers are being built in Great Britain.
– Some are being sunk, and others built. The propaganda of the armament firms is, “ Sink some, and build more.” Why should Australia have got rid of the two vessels that did good work in the last war, when they were nearly new, and replaced them with second-hand vessels from England? I differ from the point of view expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison). I know that it is based upon experience; but because he is a professional soldier and unconsciously has the soldier’s outlook, he must of necessity advance the arguments that we have heard from him to-day. I am not suggesting that he is not as humane as I am, nor that’ he does not hate war as fervently as I do.
– He is quite a good citizen, in spite of being a soldier.
– That is what I want to make plain. It is a tragedy that we should be discussing preparations for the next war while still living in the shadow of the last conflict. I was an anti-conscriptionist, but I had and still have, hosts of good friends iu the ranks of the soldiers. Even my own flash and blood were opposed to me on the conscription issUe: I consider that, those who opposed conscription have reason to be proud of the fact that every man who left Australia went of his own free-will. The Australian troops “were outstanding; they stood almost alone, because they were the only soldiers who had not been conscripted. I have tried to follow, on an international basis, the history of miltary as well as other operations. I do not believe that we are doing the right thing when we add to our Estimates for war purposes. The Assistant Minister will probably say that Australia’s action is taken in conjunction or in co-operation with that of the rest of the British Empire. If we are to have naval and military operations, I agree that they must be on the same basis as those of the rest of the British Empire, and that munitions and arms must bc standarized, so that all may use the one type. I remember requesting the Naval Board two or threo years ago tohave cordite manufactured at Maribyrnong.
– Was that not against the honorable member’s principles?
– I was acting on behalf of unionists who wanted to get work. I believe that Australia would never be involved in a war if she minded her own business. Australians have occupied this country for nearly 200 years. Melbourne is 100 years old next year. Victoria is older than Melbourne, and Australia older than Victoria. We have never yet been invaded by a. foreign foe. Why should we conclude that the future will be different from the past? It is my hope that the development of huge combines, trusts, and cartels, which control investments in several countries rather than in one country alone, will be the means of ending wars. I believe that Norman Angel’s great illusion will prove to be true; that after a few years it will bo demonstrated that no nation is able to go to war, because it would mean the destruction of the capital and the property of its own nationals. But irrespective of that, every one knows that what to-day is the latest in military operations, tomorrow is obsolete. Nobody can conceive what warlike arms and ammunition will be introduced to-morrow.’ Everything that we buy, every ship that we build, every piece of armament that we make to-day, will be obsolete before delivery. Wo shall always be a stage or two behind the other man, as we are in connexion with other machinery. The span of life of every honorable member will have reached its termination long before there is any possibility of Australia being able to defend herself. Surely military men must laugh at the idea that within the next ten years we should be able to defend ourselves if a foreign nation invaded Australia. I do not believe any one would say that that is possible.
– I say so distinctly.
– I hope that it will never have to be proved. The quickest way to involve ourselves in war is to become frantic, and rush into military operations because others are acting in that fashion. That is the reason why disarmament is not possible. As with individuals, so with nations, some will have to take the risk of setting an example to the others. If we wait for everybody to do the one thing at the same time, it will never be done. The history of the world proves that. As an Australian native with a family in this country, I would be prepared to urge that Australia should not bother about arming to defend herself, because no other country will interfere with her. By doing that she would set an example, as the Scandinavian countries have successfully done, and nobody would interfere with her. Others would follow the lead, and sooner or later, all would be in peaceful alliance. But so long as we wait for all to take that action simultaneously, nothing will be done.
– I do not wish to delay honorable members in expressing themselves on this item, but since I have been Minister for Trade and Customs, I have spoken only on customs subjects, and this debate impels me to speak upon defence. I feel that one of the advantages of a democracy is to be able to come here among the representatives of the people, and hear them debate divers matters, giving reasons for their actions.
I have listened with interest to the opinions expressed on the subject of defence, particularly to those of the honorable members for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The honorable member for Melbourne Ports believes that it is possible, by pacifism, to bring about a spirit of international brotherhood and goodwill, a consummation we should all devoutly like to see. The honorable member for East Sydney declaimed against any kind of defence, and he strongly denounced war, as we all do. We have the strange paradox though, that while he and his colleagues seek to bring about international goodwill and general fraternization, they nevertheless carry on within the boundaries of their own country an intense campaign of class bitterness. To-day, the honorable member said nothing generous in support of our defence forces.
His speech was not in any way constructive but was charged with that rancour and bitterness which he directs against certain classes in the community. I do not think I wrong him when I say that.
We have heard a good deal about armaments, the advantages of voluntary and compulsory service, and the virtues of the different arms of the service, navy, air and land. But while most honorable members have probably had it in mind, it has not been mentioned that our greatest safety asset is man power, and that we must fill and develop the Commonwealth with people as enlightened as others elsewhere in the world. Napoleon said, “ God is on the side of the big battalions “, a truism which holds good to-day. Honorable members know that if there were another war which directly affected Australia, we. should have to. rely on Great Britain and its navy. We can best help ourselves by making as strong as possible, our navy,military and air forces, but it would be the headquarters of the Empire to which we should ultimately have to appeal to save us if, by some horrible mischance, the nations of the world again resorted to arms.
– We have already helped ourselves.
– I admit that, the Government has gone as far as it can, and I applaud it for spending so much on defence; obviously, it isimpossible, to. reduce taxation and still spend large sums of money on such items as defence.
A good deal has been said about what might happen in the next war. I realize that speeches in Parliament, from public platforms, and resolutions carried in the Domain or anywhere else, will never help us. The thing to dp is to train our defence personnel intensively, whether under a voluntary system or under compulsory service. I remember well that when I was in opposition, I prophesied - and my words were misconsttrued, but the prophesy has unfortunately come true - that the voluntary system would not be the success that the then Minister for Defence (Mr. A. Green) anticipated. I spoke as a commanding officer of a battalion in the Citizen Forces, after having seen both voluntary and compulsory systems of training in operation. I realized that compulsory service would be necessary if our Defence Force were to be strengthened to the maximum requirement. If every person who is of an age to join the militia were called up, we should have a force of only 750,000 men. It is essential in any case that those in the force must be ruled by patriotic sentiment.
I am sorry that the honorable member for East Sydney did not say something in favour of the men who did their best to save their country from the invader, for although the battle arena was not Australia, our fate was settled in France.
– I urged the Government to fulfil its promises to the unemployed.
– That is being done. The honorable member might at least have paid a tribute to the courage, selfsacrifice, patience, and. suffering of those who went overseas to serve their country, and whodo not ask for applause or praise.
– They ask for justice.
– And they are getting a. good measure of it. The honorable member said that men with their medals may be seen seeking charity. That is a pitiable picture, and if the honorable member knows of such cases he should bring them before the notice of the nearest returned soldiers’ organization so that these men may receive help from their comrades. I think that it can be honestly said that this Government and its predecessors have done their utmost to put into effect the world’s most generous system of repatriation. That there are still cases that do not come within the regulations is to be deplored, but it is always obvious that there must be some occasions on which returned men find it impossible to establish their claims that their infirmity is attributable to war service. I know that the Repatriation Department is administering the act humanely. Its officers are returned men, and they understand the psychology of those who fought beside them overseas.
Our sentiments towards defence should be that we are a family united among ourselves and friendly to our neighbours, but prepared to defend our country against aggressors. Much has been said about the scope of the next war. We know that science has brought about wonderful improvements in weapons of war, that there have been many gunnery improvements, that aeroplanes can attain a speed of 400 miles an hour, that bombing planes are capable of dropping bombs weighing tons while out of sight, and that deadly gases have been discovered that can obliterate a city’s population. By all the means in our power we should assist to spread the gospel of disarmament and take our part in conferences designed for that purpose. But do not let us discourage those who want to take a man’s part by joining the Citizen Forces. I ask those honorable members who have not served overseas or joined the Citizen Forces to join one of those units or the citizens’ committees associated with these battalions, so that they may appreciate what it means to take part in the defence of the finest country in the world. Then they would be doing something for their citizenship.
How . often have we heard during a tariff discussion that this or that secondary industry is necessary for the defence of Australia, and therefore needs high duties. Curiously enough the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) supported the local manufacture of cordite, perhaps because of the influence of a union. These persons are defence-minded when interested in an industry, but when it comes to national defence, the supplying of personnel and material, they fall far short of requirements. I hope that some honorable members who have a wrong outlook on this national subject, will have learned some of the difficulties confronting national defence, and have appreciated what the Defence Forces of Australia are doing. I support the vote of the Government, and am only sorry that more money is not available to enable our defences to be brought to a higher pitch of efficiency.
.- I oppose any increased expenditure on defence, as I claim that with so much suffering in our midst the time is not opportune to increase armaments in Australia. Why, our unemployed army numbers 400,000! It is all very well for honorable members opposite to talk about the country being worth defending. That would be perfectly true were everything normal, but those who are out of work are asking themselves what they have to fight fori All they receive is a miserly dole ticket. Many are crippled because of the sacrifices which they made in the last war, and yet are denied pensions. Some ‘ have even been evicted by this Government from their war service homes. Consequently, they are asking whether the country is worth while, and they realize that the promises so freely made to them have been repudiated to the last degree’.
There are many in our midst who are endeavouring to set up the bogy of another war, merely to help trade, for that is the purpose of all wars. We all admit that the world has reached such a state of efficiency as the result of the advances made in science, and the ‘mechanization of industry, that there is an over-supply of all that is needed for human comfort. Every nation of the world has an over production.’ All nations want to sell and none want to buy. High tariff walls are being built up by. one country against another. ‘ Should we, therefore, be surprised at the bitterness of the unemployed who have been made the political football of different parties, who are told by this party and that party that the problem of unemployment will be solved if they will only repose their confidence ‘ in this ‘ or that direction? During the last election campaign the present Government made a rash, promise that, if returned to power, it would relieve unemployment. Statistics reveal the fact that since its advent to office, there has been little or no improvement of the unemployed position throughout Australia. War will eventually come if we take no action to prevent it, and it must come if we continue the inhumane capitalistic system, which enables people to live in hunger, misery and want in the midst of plenty. What have the unemployed people to defend? We have not forgotten the promises that were made to the returned soldiers when they enlisted, yet thousands of them are to-day begging alms in the streets. Some of them, and particularly cripples, can be seen at the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, playing musical instruments.
– The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia has assured me that there is absolutely no need for those men to beg in the streets.
– The . failure of the Government to honour its promises to returned soldiers is a disgrace to the country. Our best defence is a contented community, and the Australian community generally is far from being content. This Government believes in complete disarmament, because year after year it sends its delegates to the Disarmament Conferences. Unfortunately, nothing is accomplished at those conferences, and as soon as the delegates return to their respective countries the race for armaments is resumed. Our contribution to the League of Nations is pimply wasted expenditure. “When the League was formed; one of its principal duties was to police the nations of the world, but when. Japan invaded China it defied the League of Nations, and the League was powerless to act. Since then Japan has been arming to the teeth. I am not a soldier, and never have been. The Government proposes to improve our coastal defences, but I suggest that we should first make some provision for transport. In the event of war, it is essential that we should have motor fuel for transport propulsion and for the purposes of the Air Force. It has been shown that oil can be extracted economically aud in commercial quantities from coal and shale, yet the Government refuses to take action to establish those industries in Australia. All it says is, “ Wait and see what other nations are doing.” Every encouragement should be given to our local chemists, who have shown conclusively that they are able to extract oil from coal and shale. The dole bill is increasing from day to clay, particularly, in the mining industry, because oil fuel is rapidly superseding coal as a power unit. Mine after mine is closing down, but no action is being taken by the Government to assist the industry. I noticed in the Sydney Morning Herald the other day a statement to the effect that Germany has invented a gas against which no gas mask is effectual, and that one part in 5,000,000 parts of air is sufficient to cause death. France is also reputed to have discovered a gas which affects tho lungs and inflicts terrible burns. Gas masks are of no avail, and it is stated that one part diluted in 10,000,000 parts of air is fatal in less than a minute. The increased production of armaments breeds suspicion and distrust, and causes other nations to increase their armaments until there is a race i-n the manufacture of those things for the destruction and maiming of human beings. Competition in armaments must lead to war. Therefore, there is no need for us to make provision for armaments.
– Opinions have been expressed on the question of defence by three groups in this chamber. First of all there is the enthusiastic group which believes in a defense policy for Australia linked up indissolubly with the defence policy of the British Empire. I fully subscribe to that policy. The second group is lukewarm in the matter and believes only in the defence of Australia. It dissociates itself entirely from the Empire policy of defence, and would defend Australia only against invasion, overlooking the fact that so long as we are an integral part of the Empire we must bring our defence policy into line with that of the British Empire generally. The third group consists of what might be termed militant pacifists. Those honorable members object to the defence of their country and to taking any part in it.
– Who are they?
– -Certain honorable members in this chamber have pointed the finger of derision at the Government on account of its’ treatment of the returned soldiers, and their attitude forces one to ask why they did not, when the Labour government was in power, take action to prevent the dismissal of returned soldiers who were declared redundant by the Public Service Commissioner. It is strange that these honorable members should now claim to have so much sympathy for the returned soldiers. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) strongly object to preference being given to returned soldiers.
– The decent returned soldier does not want preference.
– The honorable member is not capable of judging a decent soldier. “We are still an integral part of the British Empire, and we look to it to protect us. If the war, which has been prognosticated iu the Pacific, breaks loose, we shall be exceedingly glad to have the assistance of Great Britain, and there-, fore, it is our bounden duty to institute a defence policy in conformity with the ideas of the Empire as a whole. I commend the suggestion of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. P. Harrison) that it is necessary for us to lay down a comprehensive naval. policy for the protection of our trade routes. If, in the event of war, we fail to protect our maritime services they and also our trade routes will disappear. Honorable members will agree that trade routes are the arteries through which maritime services bring the flow of energy necessary for the maintenance of our well-being. I do not suggest that we should have fast cruisers, heavy battleships or aeroplanes for the protection of our sea routes, because that is a matter to bo decided by nien who have the necessary technical knowledge. War is natural to mankind and prior to .100 years ago could be caused by an incident with “Milady’s glove.” As war is natural to humanity, surely we owe it to ourselves to take notice of the state of ferment that exists in Europe. No one can say what new horror may be thrown up on the froth of its discontent and war occur. We. therefore, have a duty to do -what we can to protect those who are entitled to rely on us for protection. The sabre is being rattled in the scabbard to-day to a degree that is alarming. The report of skirmishing on a serious scale between Russia and Japan should make us realize that .a conflict may eventually develop between !hose countries and embroil Australia.. Unless we put ourselves in a position to preserve our neutrality, we may find ourselves forced into a conflict. The statements that have been made from time to time regarding the serious condition of our coastal defences have not been exaggerated. It has been my privilege to inspect these defences, and I assure honorable members that the Government is acting wisely in doing something to supplement them. The White Australia policy of the Labour party is compatible with the reason able defence of Australia, but, unfortunately, some honorable members associated with that political party do not agree with its policy in this respect. I ask them to reflect that, if we stand for a White Australia we must be prepared to support it. Otherwise we may find certain adjacent nations peacefully penetrating our northern territories and refusing to Iks dislodged. That kind of thing has occurred previously in the history of the world, and if it occurs in Australia we may find that the industrial standards of which we are justly proud will be seriously threatened. We have a wonderful heritage, and in our short history have made some remarkably successful experiments in social legislation of one kind and another. It was lately my privilege to’ inspect the splendid work that is being done in the development of the tropical parts of Australia, but unless we take steps to protect these and other parts of the Commonwealth by reasonably defending our shores, everything that has been done will be ruined. As members of the National Parliament we certainly should pursue a policy which will adequately protect the Commonwealth.
– I have received the following message from tho Senate: -
The Senate returns to tlie House of Representatives the bill for “ an act relating to duties of customs “, and acquaints the House of Representatives that the Senate has considered message No. 103 of that House, dated 9th November, 1033, in reference to such bill.
The Senate does not again request the House of Representatives to make the amendments indicated in requests Nos. 13, 14 (and agrees to the alteration made by the House in the date of the deferred duty), 15 and 25.
Tlie Senate 1ms agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in requests for amendments Nos. 2, !), 27, 41, 42, 44 and 45.
The Senate has resolved to press its requests for amendments Nos. 4, Hi and 28, and again requests the House nf Representatives to make such amendments, as shown iu the annexed, schedule.
I direct the attention of the House to the constitutional question which this message involves. Honorable members are. probably, aware that there is a difference of opinion prevailing as to the correct interpretation of section 53 of the Constitution, and that hitherto this House has not directly refused to consider requests which have been pressed by the Senate for the amendment of, tariff measures. The right of the Senate to press a request for amendment in connexion with the tariff has never been admitted by the House of Representatives, nor has the House determined its constitutional rights and obligations. The following are three subsections of section 53 of the Constitution which deal with this matter : -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriatingrevenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The Senate may at amy stage return to the House of Representatives any proposed law which the Senate may not amend, requesting, by message, the omission or amendment of any items or provisions therein’. And the House of Representatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments, with or without modifications.
The words. “ may at any stage return “ appear to me to be somewhat indefinite, and it is not prescribed that the right of a request by the Senate can be used only on one occasion. However, without further consideration and consultation I should hesitate to lay down a definite ruling affecting the interpretation of section 53 of the Constitution.
Like previous Speakers who have had occasion to deal with this position, I am of opinion that the question of the receiving and consideration of the message, is one to be determined by the House.
This question of the Senate pressing a request for amendment’ has generally been regarded of great importance as affecting the constitutional rights of the House. Precisely the same point arose on the consideration of the first Commonwealth tariff in the 1901-2 session, and on two similar occasions in the 1907-8 and 1920-21 sessions.
It was agreed in each instance that the question of receiving the message should be determined by the House itself. There is no joint standing order dealing with the matter, and there are no prece dents outside this Parliament. No other constitution, that I am aware of, so distributes the financial power between the respective Houses as ours does, therefore, we need to be guided wholly by our own Constitution, and the practice we have followed on three previous occasions.
The House may proceed to deal with the message with the qualification formerly expressed, to the effect that the public welfare demands the early enactment of this legislation, and, pending the adoption of a joint standing order, refrain from the determination of its constitutional rights or obligations, or it may refuse to consider the message.
.- The statement that you have just made, sir, indicates the importance of the questions which have arisen in consequence of the message just received from the Senate. In order that there may be a proper opportunity for the consideration of the issues involved, I move -
That the consideration of the foregoing message be made an orderof the day forthe next sitting.
-The circumstances of this sitting are somewhat exceptional, inasmuch as this is still a continuation of Thursday’s sitting. Therefore, under Standing Order 70 there can be no debate on the motion.
Motion agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the modifications made by the House of Representatives in connexion with the Senate’s requested amendments Nos. 1 and 2:
The following paper was presented: -
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended- - StatutoryRules 1933, No. 124.
consideration of estimates- supply Bill.
– I move–
That the House donow adjourn.
It had been hoped by the Government that the consideration of the Estimates would have reached a more advanced stage than has been the case; but it is recognized that this is largely due to the fact that an unusual amount of time was occupied yesterday by exceptional business. The Government desires to afford a full opportunity for the consideration of the Estimates, but it is the responsibility of Parliament and the Government to see that money is provided to meet the recognized and indisputable obligations of the Government. Accordingly, it is proposed to introduce next Tuesday, a Supply Bill to cover a few weeks to make possible the usual payments to the public servants next Friday. I suggest that it is not unreasonable in the circumstances to hope that an immediate passage will be given to the hill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at . 3.45 p.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions ware circulated: -
n asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s. - Information is being obtained, and will be conveyed as soon as possible to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), in reply to a series of questions, upon notice, in regard tlo revenue and expenditure in the FederalCapital Territory.
e. - Information is being obtained in reply to a series of questions asked, upon notice, by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), in regard to the tobacco industry.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the confirmation of the murders of two Europeans named Traynor and Fagan by Arnheim Land natives, making the total of 23 Europeans and many natives murdered by this tribe - (a) Is the Minister powerless in the matter, or does the Government intend to send out another “peace mission”; (b) will the Government give the settlers in the Roper River area an assurance that this tribe will be brought under control, and indicate the means proposed to be adopted?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
en asked the Assistant Minister for Defence; upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
s asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will he state the average price for bread ruling to-day in each State (or each capital city) of the Commonwealth?
– The latest information available from the Commonwealth Statistician is as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. Lyons (through Mr. Casey). - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Taxation of Chain Stores - Excess Profits on On- Discoveries.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
ey). - The Government has no intention at present of considering these proposals.
Pine Creek Railway.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
s. - The information is being obtained, and will be conveyed to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– On the 15th November, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) 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, 16 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331116_reps_13_142/>.