13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the file concerning the claim for compensation made by British settlers in Victoria?
– I shall inquire whether the file can be ‘tabled at this juncture.
– Some time ago, I pointed out that the report for 1931 of the Taxation Commissioner gave the relative assessable income of the three great basic industries, farming, pastoral and mining, compared with the rest of the community, and asked that similar information be supplied with respect to the year 1932. As that information is rather important at the moment, will the Assistant Treasurer furnish it?
– I was not aware that the honorable member had asked to be supplied with this information. I shall see if it can be supplied to him.
– Has the Prime Minister read the report which appears in this morning’s press regarding the visit to Belgium of the High Commissioner for Australia in London, for the purpose of dealing with trade relations between Australia and Belgium, and his statement that the question is now one for the two governments concerned? What action does this Government propose shall be taken in order to improve our trade relations with Belgium?
– I am not yet in a position to make any statement in regard to the matter.
– Can the Minister for Commerce give the relative proportionsof butter exported and consumed locally last year, and at the presenttime?
– During 1931-32, the last year for which complete figures are available, 52 per cent, of the butter produced in Australia was exported. During 1932-33, the respective quantities were, 101,000 tons exported and approximately 80,000 tons consumed locally.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to lay on the table of the House the papers which deal with the disposal of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, particularly those relating to the last transactions with the White Star Line?
– Already information on this subject has been given to the House. On a previous occasion, I stated that the communications which had passed between the Commonwealth Government and its representative overseas contained a great deal of confidential matter which could not be tabled. If the honorable member desires specific information, and will indicate what it is, I shall be glad to make it available to him, if that is possible.
– Will the Postmaster-General indicate exactly how far the Australian Broadcasting Commission is permitted to go in the presentation of sponsored programmes, a condition attaching to the use of which is an acknowledgment by the national service % For example, is the commission permitted to broadcast sounds from films, on. the understanding that the film agency is acknowledged ?
– -My recollection of the act is-, that it provides that the commission is not entitled to use sponsored programmes. I shall, however, look into the details of the honorable member’s question, and obtain definite information for him.
Ten want’s Creek Gold-field - Pastoral Leases.
– I have received from Tennant’s Creek gold-field a telegram which states that a 6-ton parcel of Pinnacles ore averaged 9 oz. to the ton at Peterborough. “Will the Minister for the Interior now give favorable consideration to my previous request to send a geologist to this field, and to authorize the erection of a government battery, with the object of developing the field, and thus absorbing many unemployed in the Northern Territory?
– I shall give every consideration to the honorable member’s request.
– When may the House expect to receive the report of the committee which was appointed early in the present year to inquire into conditions of stocking and other matters concerning pastoral leases in the Northern Territory ?
– An interim report of the committee was received to-day, but has not yet been considered. It is a fairly voluminous document and appears to cover the subject fully. I shall communicate with the honorable member after it has been examined.
Fifth report brought up by Mr. E. F. Harrison, read by the Clerk, and - by leave - agreed to.
– At an auction sale of tobacco leaf held in Melbourne last July, lots, valued by an expert at from1s. 6d. to 2s. 9d. per lb., failed to elicit a bid from buyers. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the report of Mr. Marks, Senior Agronomist, Australian Tobacco Investigation, has been received ? If it has, when will it be made available ?
– I shall be glad to give the honorable member some excerpts from the report if he so desires. The report of Mr Marks did not bear out the criticism that was made with regard to the sale, the fact being that the grade of the leaf was inferior and, therefore, attracted no bidders.
– Is it intended, before the House rises, to give legislative effect to any agreement which may be entered into as a result of the negotiations that are taking place between the governments of Belgium, France, Japan and the Commonwealth ?
– It is unlikely that any such trade agreement will be negotiated before the House rises.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make any statement with regard to the value of the assistance which the Government intends to give to those engaged in the wheat industry?
– I have already indicated that I shall make a pronouncement on the subject when that is possible. So far that is not so.
Regional Station at Dubbo.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to announce when the building of the regional broadcasting station in the vicinity of Dubbo will bo begun ?
– Tenders for the building of the station referred to closed a few days ago, but its exact location has not yet been determined. I shall endeavour to obtain additional details regarding the matter and supply them to the honorable member.
– I have been approached by certain men who are living in what is known as No. 4 camp in the Federal Capital Territory, and who desire to know whether it is likely that they will receive a call up for employment between now and Christmas?
– That aspect of the matter has not received consideration, but it. appears to me that such a possibility is doubtful.
– I should like to know whether there is any truth in the statement that there is to be a redistribution of New South Wales electorates? If so, when is the Government likely to receive the report on the subject, and when will the necessary legislative action be taken ?
– A report has been received concerning the proposed redistribution of electorates in New South Wales, and, with similar reports dealing with other States in the Commonwealth, was placed on the table some days ago. Cabinet has considered the appointment of the necessary commission, and is awaiting confirmation by those concerned of their appointments. It is possible that an announcement may he made on the subject to-morrow.
– Is it not a fact that improper or insufficient food is a great cause of rickets, which in the last century the Germans used to call “ the English disease “ on account of its prevalence in Britain? Is not rickets, which was a disease unknown in Australia 50 years ago, now appearing in our community?
– The absence of essential vitamines in food is the cause of rickets. It is perhaps not quite correct to say that rickets was unknown in Australia 50 years ago, but it seems to be true that more cases of rickets are seen now in medical practice than was the case previously.
Loan Council’s Attitude
– Is it correct, as was stated in a Queensland weekly newspaper, that desperate efforts were made by members of the Queensland Opposition to prevent the allocation by the recent meeting of the Loan Councilof £2,000,000 for the building of a bridge at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane? Is it also correct that the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland (Mr. Moore), and some of his supporters, including Mr. Kenny, communicated with members of the Loan Council who hold similar political convictions to theirs, urging that, because of political considerations, they should oppose the granting of the loan to the Queensland Government? The subject is of great importance, for it concerns the subordination of the national welfare to party politics. Therefore, if the Prime Minister cannot give the House full information concerning it, will he cause inquiries to be made, and convey the information so obtained to honorable members?
– As the direct representative of the Commonwealth Government on the Loan Council, and also chairman of that body, I give an emphatic denial to any such suggestion. I received no communication from any person on the subject.
– Did any of the State Premiers do so?
– I can speak only for myself, and I state emphatically that I received no communication on the subject, alao that no question of party politics has at any time been allowed to obtrude upon the deliberations of the Loan Council, by which every proposal submitted by a State is considered on its merits. In fairness to every other member of the council, I assure honorable members that no such outside influence is permitted to interfere with their judgment.
The following paper was presented: -
Superannuation Act - Eleventh AnnualReport of the Superannuation Board, 1 932-33.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of a bill for an set to approve an agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Latham and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to give effect to the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
Clause 5 - 1 .From and after a time and date to be fixed by proclamation there shall be payable on the importation into Australia of the goods specified in the schedule to this act (being the produce or manufacture of the dominion of New Zealand ) when -
Senate’s request -
Leave out “ goods specified in the schedule of this act,” and insert “ undermentioned goods.”
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This is purely a drafting amendment. If this amendment were not made all goods covered by paragraphs a and b of subclause 1 of clause 5 of the bill would be excluded from the provisions of the measure.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Ordered - That the bill, amended accordingly, be returned to the Senate.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 2 -
The operation of sections three, four, and five of the Spirits Act 1932 is hereby suspended until the first day of October, 1935.
Senate’s amendment -
At end of clause add “ and sections three, eleven and twelve of the Spirits Act 1906-1923 shall until that date have, and be deemed at all times to have had effect as if that date were the date fixed by the Spirits Act 1932 for the commencement of sections three, four and five of the last-mentioned act.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a drafting alteration to make it quite clear that the two years’ period of maturation will operate until the 1st October, 1935, after which the three-year period will again operate. The question of maturation of whisky is now in the hands of the Tariff Board. This alteration is necessary to correct an error which should have been noticed when the bill was still in this chamber.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st November (vide page 4864).
Department or Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £498,700.
.- The Estimates provide for an increased expenditure of £28,000 in this great revenue-producing department, but no objection can be taken to that increase when one considers the nature of the work done by and the amount of revenue derived from this department. In 1928-29 the customs revenue amounted to £29,500,000 and the excise revenue to £11,500,000, making a total of £41,000,000. In 1931-32, the customs revenue amounted to £18,500,000, and the excise revenue to £9,900,000, making a total of £28,400,000. In the last financial year the custom’s revenue amounted to £21,300,000, and the excise revenue to £11,700,000, making a total of £33,000,000, which represents an increase of £4,600,000 over the revenue for the previous year, due substantially to reduced duties and increased imports. In collecting that revenue of £33,000,000 only £28,000 was expended in administrative charges.
I notice by a recent press statement that the permanent head of the Trade and Customs Department, Mr. E. T. Hall, has had to retire owing to ill-health, and I desire to pay a special tribute of praise to that gentleman. He was a most conscientious and trustworthy officer, and for aconsiderable period gave loyal service to the department, and to successive governments. His ill-health was brought about largely by his close and honest application to his work. The duties of the Comptroller-General of Customs are onerous and nerve-racking, as is shown by the fact that Messrs. Whit ton, Oakley and Hudson, who previously held the position, all practically died in harness. In the circumstances, Mr. Hall was wise in retiring,- and now that the strain of responsibility has been lifted from his shoulders I trust that he will enjoy good health once again. In severing his connexion with the Service, in which he had spent practically a lifetime, he took with him the esteem and respect of a capable and loyal body of officers, and as ex-Minister for Trade and Customs I wish him many years of happy life in his well-earned retirement. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) will arrange for the new Comptroller-General of Customs - whoever he may . be - to make periodical visits to other parts of Australia to enable him to keep in touch with the officers of the department and to give promising young officers in the .other States an opportunity to transfer to the larger centres and the central office for the purpose of gaining experience. I know that during the last four or five years the concentration of work in the department has made it almost impossible for the permanent head and. his deputy to visit the capital cities and other important centres in the States. It has sometimes happened that, in a department like th.is, brilliant officers have been sidetracked at remote centres such as Townsville, Rockhampton, Newcastle, Perth and Fremantle. Because their ability and experience have not been brought directly under the notice of the Comptroller-General of Customs, quite unintentionally their qualifications have been overlooked, particularly when prompt’ appointments have had to be made. I believe that in the future when high positions in the Public Service are being filled, merit should prevail over seniority to a greater extent than it. has. in the past.
– Is not that largely in the hands of the Public Service Board?
– The Public Service Board was created by the Parliament, and the Government could, no doubt, formulate a policy which would be observed by it. In making promotions to-day the board does not consider seniority alone; that is only one of the factors taken into consideration. Owing to the policy of preference to returned soldiers, which has operated over a number of years, and against which I shall not say anything at the present moment, there have been no appointments from the youth of Australia to the Commonwealth Public Service. That, of course, will make it difficult to fill high administrative positions, within the Service within the next ten years. Many returned soldiers entered the Service when they were middle-aged, and a large number of them, although conscientious officers, have not had an opportunity to obtain the sound training and early experience in administrative work which are usually gained by an intelligent officer before he reaches the age of 21 years. I hope that in the Department of Trade and Customs and other departments of the Public Service an effort will be made to recruit brilliant youths, and to give them later an opportunity to qualify for high administrative positions. 1 agree with the decision of the Minister to establish in his department, a tariff revision branch. As a matter of fact, such a body has existed in practice for quite a long time. Certain officers have been entrusted with the work of tariff revision, but, unfortunately, their salaries have not been commensurate with the responsibility placed upon them. I am pleased that this branch is now under the control of a capable officer of the department whose status has been increased as the result of his appointment.
I notice that the departmental vote includes the item “ Tariff Board “, the expenditure this year being £4,628, as against £4,029 last year. While I do not agree with many of the recommendations of the Tariff Board, I realize that it has to carry out important functions. I do not criticize the board for its recommendations, but I do criticize the Government for its ‘blind acceptance of many of those recommendations. For the chairman of the Tariff Board, Mr. McConaghy, I have the greatest respect and admiration. Just before the last elections the United Australia party promised that if returned to power its tariff policy would be largely based on the recommendations of the Tariff Board, but it was never expected at that time that the Government would become such a slave to those recommendations.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Senate has been blindfolded?
– I know that the Senate refused to accept a certain duty which was imposed as the result of a recommendation of the Tariff Board. I hope that in that case the Minister will abide by the recommendation. In the main, the board has recommended decreased duties, and no doubt that meets with the policy of the Government. I believe that the board carries out its work conscientiously, but, unfortunately, the Government seems to treat it as a sort of body of supermen, whose recommendations must stand, notwithstanding the views of honorable members or of people outside who stand for the development of Australian secondary industries under an adequate protectionist policy. According to a reply which the Government gave to a recent question asked by me, the Tariff Board has a considerable number of inquiries to make. It made 33 inquiries in 1928-29, 51 in 1930-31, 55 in 1931-32 and 7.1 in 1932-33. which is an average of 60 inquiries a year. At the present time there are 167 matters awaiting attention,’ so that the board has practically three years’ work already before it.
– Many of the matters now before the board are of a minor nature, and should not take so long to dispose of as those which previously occupied its attention.
– I presume that applies to the past, and that the board has not been engaged upon the consideration of major matters all the time, so that it will probably not make much faster progress in the future than in the past. I know that some of the inquiries on the board’s list refer to industries for which increased protection has been asked, and I hope that they will be dealt with first before further unemployment is created.
No matter what government is in office some kind of tariff board will be necessary. It should, however, be comprised of men who have at heart the best interests of Australian secondary industries, and who are imbued with a protectionist spirit. They should not be the catspaw of any political party or government that wishes to tear down Australia’s tariff wall.
I should like to know whether the Minister has yet received the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarn? I received a telegram -to-day from one of the cottonspinners which emphasized the need for immediate action. The message states that if Parliament goes into recess before something is done to protect the industry, the spinners will not be able to negotiate next season’s crop, and hundreds of employees will be dismissed. Increased markets are necessary, and they can be obtained only by imposing duties on those cotton yarns now being admitted free. Spinners and knitters can land Japanese yarn in store to-day for less than they pay for Queensland raw cotton. This subject has been before the board for over twelve months, and the industry was never in a more serious position than it is to-day.
– The honorable member must not pursue that discussion. He must confine his remarks to the vote before the Chair.
– I have just been informed by telephone that 200 workers in a spinning mill are to be put off to-night because there is no market for the product of their labour. The Minister should bear in mind that importations of yarn increased twelve times as compared with what they were three years ago. Definite action should be taken before Parliament rises, or both the primary and secondary branches of the industry will be in serious trouble.
.The Estimates this year show a considerable increase in the expenditure of the Customs Department as compared with the previous year, and this at a time when we have been assured that everything is being done to cut down administrative costs. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to the constitution of the Tariff Board. Under the act, the chairman must be an officer of the Customs Department. I do not desire to reflect upon the present . chairman, whom I regard as a capable and conscientious man, but there is no doubt that anofficer who is dependent On the Minister for his pro- motion must feel that he has a greater duty to his department than to the people of Australia. The board should be as independent as it is possible to make it, and its chairman should be quite free from anything in the nature of ministerial interference or control. I have been informed that, in the past, attempts have been made by the Minister to induce the board to bring in reports favorable to the policy of the Government. The honorable member for Capricornia said that the members of the board should be imbued with a protectionist spirit, and should not be the catspaw of any political party. I am afraid that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had the choosing of the members of the board they would, without, any question, be the catspaw of a political party. The members of the board should be independent of all political parties and their duty should be to obtain all the information relevant to subjects under inquiry, and place the facts before Parliament.
– Whom would the honorable member put on the board?
– I am not now suggesting who should be appointed; I atn merely replying to the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the act will be amended to ensure that Tariff Board reports - which frequently contain recommendations for increased taxation - shall be the property of Parliament as well as of the Government. The board is responsible to this Parliament to an even greater extent than to the Government, and reports should be laid on the table of the House within a reasonable time after their presentation to the Government. What I am asking for is a greater measure of parliamentary control. By granting to governments powers in regard to the making of regulations, Parliament is losing to a large extent the control that it should have over the expenditure of public funds as well as over the administration itself. Too often governments go beyond the spirit of an act, and by proclamations are able to assume powers that the Parliament never intended they should have. The Customs Act was not designed to enable embargoes to be imposed upon trade and commerce.
While I believe in giving certain powers to governments, I consider that the exercise of them should be within the control of this Parliament. I urge honorable members to insist upon the preservation of their rights. They should be supplied with the fullest information in regard to the imposition of taxation upon any section of the community.
.- I endorse the remarks of the Deputy. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) concerning the retirement, on account of ill health, of Mr. Hall, the Comptroller of Customs. It has been my privilege to consult Mr. Hall on many occasions, and I have always found him courteous, and eager to advise and assist. I hope that the respite which his service has merited will be accompanied by good health and be enjoyed for many years.
I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to refer to the Tariff Board, for further consideration, the duty on axe handles, in the light of a report on the subject that has been made by Mr. Galbraith, of the Melbourne University, since the matter was considered by this Parliament.
– I am afraid that if the honorable member were allowed to deal with that subject his remarks might, lead to a revival of the discussion on the tariff item dealing with axe handles, which would not be in order.
– Then I ask the Minister to read the report of Mr. Galbraith, which appears in the Melbourne Sun Pictorial of the 4th November last, and to refer the matter back to the Tariff Board for further consideration.
– I promise to read the report and to consider the honorable member’s request.
– Statements that other honorable members and I made during the consideration of this item, are amply supported by this report. If the Minister reads it, he will realize that the question is deserving of further consideration.
I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that Parliament must have some body to advise it on tariff matters. I am not concerned with the personnel of the Tariff Board; whether it could be improved is a matter of opinion; but
I believe that the board is performing its duties conscientiously, and that it considers it is acting in thi best interests of Australia, bearing in mind always the terms of the Ottawa agreement. As to whether or not the Government should, willy-nilly, adopt its reports, is a debatable point. In connexion with axe handles, it was clearly shown that the board made a mistake. I am pleased to have the Minister’s assurance that he will read and take cognizance of Mr. Galbraith’s report. “Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling) [3.26].- For the moment, I am not concerned with the composition of the Tariff Board; but I am concerned with the board as an institution, to the extent that I believe that its function is to advise governments and Parliament, and not’ to formulate policies. “While the Scullin Government was in office, the position of Australia was so critical, and the need for prompt action so necessary, that information and advice concerning the drastic steps considered advisable had !to be obtained speedily from the board. That, however, did not mean that its recommendations had to be accepted. In many instances, they were rejected.
– A lot of them were never produced to Parliament-
– We were not concerned about a lot of them, because we could not delay action until they had been received. After all, if a government has been commissioned by the people to administer the affairs of Australia in accordance with the terms of a declared policy, all that is necessary is to bring that policy into operation. I do not say tha# prohibitions and embargoes would have been imposed had a cataclysm not struck Australia and the world. But I do contend that we were elected on a policy of high, protection. We still advocate that policy, and, when we again go to the country, will strongly urge the adoption of full and complete protection of the primary and secondary industries of Australia.
– The honorable member must realize that, if he were permitted to continue along those lines, another full debate on the tariff might ensue.
– The circumstance to which the honorable member has referred is yet a long way off.
– The reason that I now make the declaration is that there are comparatively few months to go. In all probability, we shall return from the elections as a government. If that be the case, we shall be expected by my friend the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) to follow slavishly every recommendation of the Tariff Board. Since the advent of the Lyons Government, the ‘board’s recommendations have, generally speaking, not been along the lines of what might be termed high protection. They have reflected, not a fiscal policy which meets with my personal approval, but the fiscal beliefs of the present Minister and Government. Nevertheless, I believe that the board is valuable and necessary. If information were not collected and collated by it for the guidance of governments and parliaments, that duty would have to be performed by officers of the department. Although I do not desire the abolition of the Tariff Board, I maintain that this Parliament should not slavishly adopt its recommendations or decisions. The Government has shed on to the board too much of the responsibility that Ministers should carry.
A question that might particularly be referred to the Tariff Board is, the constant attacks on Australian materials and production. The Women’s Mirror, which is printed by the Bulletin Newspaper Company, of Sydney, has published an article, headed “ Buying furniture.” The writer of it signs himself “ Salesman,” but does not give his name. In it he says -
Do not be guided by the weight of a piece of furniture. Many of the cheap and unreliable timbers are heavy. Tasmanian oak, for instance, is a heavy timber, but is not comparable to Japanese oak for any class of furniture.
The beautiful timbers which decorate the interior of this building are of Australian production. High-class furniture is made from Tasmanian oak, and beautiful furniture from Tasmanian blackwood.
– There is no such timber as Tasmanian oak; it is hardwood.
-“ Tasmanian oak “ is a trade name. Although it may be more rightly described as Tasmanian hardwood, it is a splendid timber, and for all kinds of joinery work is held in very high repute by artisans and carpenters. It is anti-Australian of the Sydney Bulletin, which has always proclaimed its adherence to a policy of high protection, to permit the publication of an article condemning an Australian timber, and expressing a preference, on the ground of quality and beauty, for a Japanese wood. I suggest to the Minister that inquiries might be made into the origin of these anonymous attacks that are launched from time to time.
– As one who, for a brief period, administered the Department of Trade and Customs, I wish to , express my very deep regret at the premature retirement of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Mr. Hall, who, unfortunately, has been in indifferent health for a number of years. I wish him a very happy, healthy, and prosperous period of retirement. He has faithfully served the Commonwealth from his youthful years onward, and leaves behind him a brilliant record. He can certainly enter upon his retirement in the pleasurable consciousness that he has earnestly and consistently discharged his very arduous duties in the interests of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
Having a lengthy knowledge of the very high standard of the officials of the Trade and Customs Department, I can understand the anxiety of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) regarding its future personnel. From the time of Doctor Wollaston, the first ComptrollerGeneral, who was followed by Mr. Lockyer, there has been a succession of most able heads of the Trade and Customs Department. At one time it could be said by the Comptroller-General of Customs that he had under him a number of young officers who possessed an international knowledge of customs affairs, were excellent linguists, and were highly trained in the technicalities of the department. I hope that that is still the case, and that the high standard that has been so consistently set will be maintained.
There is no more important department in the Commonwealth Public Service, and it is essential that every endeavour should be made to ensure that it functions smoothly and efficiently. Honorable members know how strenuous are the duties associated with the Trade and Customs Department, the long stretches of hours its officers are called upon to work, and the intricate problems that they are asked to elucidate. It is essential, therefore, that there should be junior officers to understudy the seniors and relieve them when possibly through illness it becomes necessary to do so. Despite Australia’s financial position, there should be no undue cheeseparing in connexion with the personnel of the department; rather should the Government err on the liberal side in this connexion.
I have been wondering whether the recently-formed tariff revision branch of the Trade and Customs Department is to supersede the Tariff Board.
– Oh, no.
– I have no wish to make invidious comparisons; but, from my own experience, I know that there are officers in the department who are better fitted to give information to theMinister than are members of the Tariff Board. It is only natural. I think the Minister is wrong in attributing omniscience to theboard. When we were young we were told that, if we were to become useful community units, we should equip ourselves thoroughly for certain tasks. A jack of all trades, we know, is of little use to any one, and makes but little headway. It is impossible for members of the Tariff. Board to be able to pronounce comprehensively and definitively on matters of trade, commerce, technical subjects and so forth. My chief objection is that the Government follows too slavishly the recommendations that are made by the board. After all, Parliament must accept responsibility for any policy that is pursued. The important thing to consider is what is the expressed opinion of the electors, and on that score there can be no doubt, for it has been unanimous ever since federation. However, as I objected to discursive and irrelevant speeches by honorable members on other items, I shall not offend now by introducing extraneous subjects. I again urge that every endeavour should be made to maintain the high standard of the Trade and Customs Department, on the efficient operation of which so much depends
– I desire to say something with regard to this big and important department. Reference has been made to its large staff. I am of the opinion that there is much work for it to do, and it appears to be impossible for the present staff always to keep abreast of requirements. While I believe rita t Parliament and the people have confidence in the Tariff Board, it appears to me that there is a hiatus between giving effect to its recommendations, in relation to duties for certain industries, and considering the effect of those duties upon other industries and the country generally, and I should like the Minister to consider attaching to the Tariff Board an economic adviser or other outside expert to consider aud report on such problems.
Honorable members should also be supplied with reliable information regarding the prices which obtain in Australia and elsewhere. Recently there was a discussion on cornflour in this chamber, and it was found that, whereas the wholesale price of cornflour in Scotland is less than half that charged in Australia, the price of cornflour in packets in this country is practically identical with that charged in Great Britain. Allowing for the 25 per cent, exchange against Australia it is evident that the English retail price seemed disproportionately high. Such matters require explaining. We had another experience in connexion with galvanized iron, being told that in New Zealand, where the commodity is admitted duty free, the price is higher than in Australia ; also that the price in Perth is £24 a ton. I should like to know why Australian galvanized iron is not saleable in Auckland, which is no farther away from Newcastle than is Perth. When I asked the Customs Department what had been the export of Australian galvanized iron to Auckland, I was informed that the figure for the last year, for which returns are available, was 1 ton 9 cwt. On enquiry, the information was supplied to the Senate that the price’ of galvanized iron in New Zealand is £19 a ton whole-
Bale at the warehouse, the cost to the retailer being 30s. extra.
– Those figures are not correct, and were contradicted by the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
– The honorable member is not in order in endeavouring to revive the debate on the item of galvanized iron.
– We do not know which prices are correct. The prices seem to be so out of harmony that it would be advisable for the Government to appoint a body from which reliable information can be secured. Something similar occurred in regard to machinery, honorable members being informed that the difference between the price of a binder in the Commonwealth and in New Zealand was £18. The cost of transport would not amount to half of this sum, yet only one Australian binder was sent to New Zealand during the year.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the vote that is before the committee.
– I am pointing out the disparity between these prices, and urging the Minister to provide facilities to supply honorable members with accurate price information. I hope that the honorable gentleman will not forget my suggestion that an expert should be attached to the Tariff Board to examine the effect of tariff recommendations upon other industries than those immediately concerned, and upon the community generally - a subject that previously has received scant consideration.
.- I regret , that this Government has not been sufficiently interested in the matter of reciprocal trade relations to effect trade agreements between this country and its good customers. When members of the present Government were in opposition they laid considerable stress on the advisability of effecting such agreements, apparently regarding the matter as urgent, but during the two years that this Government has been in office those same honorable members have become apathetic on the subject.
It is true that certain negotiations have taken place between Australia and other countries, but in reply to a question this afternoon the Prime Minister intimated that lie is not at all hopeful that action will lie taken to complete trade agreements in connexion therewith before the House goes into recess.
– It has been stated over and over again that that cannot be done before, the tariff has been finally disposed of.
-“ Where there’s a will there’s a way.” The fact is that the Government has not shown any real inclination to effect trade agreements with Australia’s good customers, and it is unfortunate that this important matter has not progressed sufficiently to enable the Government to implement the necessary agreements before the House rises.
I wish to refer briefly to the subject of primage duty. The members of the Country party have exercised extraordinary influence over this Government in obtaining relief from primage duty for primary producers.
– Order ! The honorable member may not proceed along those lines.
M.r. RILEY. - I take it that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and his officers occupy a fair amount of time in dealing with primage duties, trade arrangements with other countries and the like, and I desire to discuss the effects of their administration in this connexion. We are providing salaries for officers who deal with primage duties, and some latitude should therefore be allowed honorable members to discuss that subject.
– The honorable member may not discuss the subject of primage duty or the influence that certain parties have exercised on the Government in that connexion.
– I ask that as relief from primage duty has been afforded to many primary industries steps shall be taken to give similar relief to certain secondary industries. I refer, particularly, to the co tt.011-spin n in g in dustry.
– The honorable member must know that, be will not be in order at this stage in discussing any particular item of the tariff schedule.
– I submit that I should be allowed to proceed along the lines taken bv the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde).
– I called the honorable member for Capricornia to order when he digressed in that direction.
– I do not desire to discuss any particular item of the tariff but I feel compelled to say that during the eleven years I have been a member of this Parliament I have not known the discussion of the Estimates to be restricted so much as this year.
– The Chair has not unduly restricted the discussion ; but a debate on items of the tariff schedule cannot be permitted under the guise of a discussion of the departmental estimates.
– The cotton-spinning industry has been receiving attention from the Minister and his departmental officers for over twelve months. Nearly a year ago, the Tariff Board was requested to make an investigation into the industry. Unfortunately, its report has not yet come to hand. I ask the Minister to give an undertaking that if it does not come to hand until two or three weeks after Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess, he will do whatever he can under departmental by-law to give effect to any recommendations made by the board for the benefit of this industry.
– I cannot say what’ will be done until I see the report.
– The Minister has power, without reference to the Tariff Board, to classify cotton yarns. He could therefore classify cotton tweed yarns. Cotton-, spinning mills were established in Australia under definite promises of protection, but the Government is not now prepared to provide conditions which will allow the mills to produce at their full capacity. The Minister has said frequently that he wishes to assist, economic secondary industries. I ask him to assist this industry which is, in every sense of the word, a valuable adjunct to Australian industrial life. I regret, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling has prevented me from discussing this subject as I intended to do, but I appeal to the Minister to show practical sympathy with this industry.
– I take it that I shall be in order in discussing whether the Trade and Customs Department is being effectively administered and whether the money provided for it has been well spent. I do not wish to discuss the integrity of the members of the Tariff Board, for everybody knows that they are excelled* gentlemen of great ability. I am of the opinion, however, that the board has been overloaded with work. In fact, the whole department has been understaffed during the last two or three years, probably because of the abnormal conditions that have prevailed. I notice that a slight increase of expenditure has been made in the salaries of members of the board, out I-do not think sufficient has been done in that regard. If this board is to be a tariff-making body instead of the advisory body it was originally intended to be, it should be enlarged considerably. We should have an advisory board to advise us on tariff matters, similar to the board which advises the British House of Commons on such subjects ; but in consequence of the actions of this Government, the Australian Tariff Board has become the Australian tariff-making machine, and has superseded Parliament in this regard. Under these circumstances, the board is unable to cope with the work that requires to be done. Various recent happenings have proved the truth of my statement. I instance, in particular, the inadequacy of the board’s inquiry into cornflour, tools of trade, particularly axe handles, and the electro-plating of radiator shells. When the discussion on these items of the tariff schedule occurred in this chamber, many statements were made by the Minister (Mr. White) on the authority of the Tariff Board, which have since proved to be incorrect. This indicates that the board’s inquiries were altogether too limited in their scope. On the subject of axe handles, for instance, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) made certain remarks which caused a controversy in the press. Sworn declarations have since been obtained proving that the honorable member’s statements were correct, and that those of the Tariff Board and the Minister were incorrect. The board reported that no Australiangrown timbers were suitable for the manufacture of axe handles of the highest type as used by professional axemen; but tests since made by university experts have demonstrated that axe handles made from Australian spotted gum are superior to those made from American hickory. I have an axe handle autographed by Mr. Galbraith to this effect and sworn declarations from professional axemen who have won prizes at the last Melbourne and Sydney shows, stating that they used handles made in Australia from Australian spotted gum. But unhappily, the damage has been done. Similarly, statements made in this chamber by the Minister, with the backing of the Tariff Board, regarding the price at which cornflour was sold in the Melbourne shops, have also been proved to be wrong. As to the electroplating of radiator shells, it was suggested, one inferred, that the Government’s policy was designed to give effect to the provisions of the Ottawa agreement; but it has since been demonstrated that the action taken in that connexion, which has .wrecked this young Australian industry, was beneficial only to the United States of America. I urge the Minister, in these circumstances, to request the board to make a fresh inquiry into each of these items in order that the mistakes made may be rectified.
– The subject of the electroplating of radiator shells has already been referred back to the board, and I undertake to ask the hoard to make another inquiry into the subject of axe handles.
– I hope that when the Minister replies to this debate, he will make an official statement to that effect. These axe handles are of native timber and are manufactured by Australian workmen. I have shown that, in certain instances, the investigations of ‘ the Tariff Board have not been complete, and that damage has resulted, but apart from that I suggest to the Government that, the Tariff Board should be an advisory and not a tariff-making body, and that further inquiry should be made into these cases.
– I wish to associate myself with the tribute paid by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to Mr. Hall, the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, who has just retired. I have already, through the press, paid tribute to his integrity and ability as a senior officer of the Public Service. I pointed out that the worry and overwork entailed in the Customs Department had taken a heavy toll of officers and Ministers. As a senior official who has rendered long and honorable service to the Commonwealth, I” hope that, in his retirement, he may be long spared to his family and his friends.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members have referred to the increase of expenditure in the Trade and Customs DepartmentMost of the increases are automatic, and I shall enumerate some of the items so that honorable members may know that, far from being unnecessary, they are essential in a department which invariably works under heavy pressure. Of the £28,600 which kas been referred to, £26,100 is accounted for as follows : -
Many officers of the department work late at night and during week-ends at the request of the Minister. They have done their utmost to help pass into law the extraordinarily large tariff schedule which has for some months past been debated at great length in this House. Additional amounts requested by collectors of customs in various States under general expenses amounted to £2,500. Honorable members will see that the items of expenditure are moderate indeed. In 1900-1, when the staff numbered 1,136, the total administrative expenses amounted to £282,634, the net customs and excise revenue to £8,189,529, the percentage cost of collection being 3.45 per cent. This year the staff numbers 1,458, the total administrative expenses amount to £567,700, the net customs and excise revenue amounts to £32,200,000, and the percentage cost of collection is 1.76 per” cent. From those figures honorable members will realize that the Customs Department, with its ramifications in every State, and its large employment roll, is administered most economically. During the last few years the work of the department has been exceedingly heavy, particularly in connexion with the tariff schedule, which has been before honorable members since March last. The New Zealand trade agreement has yet to be disposed of, and a considerable amount of research work has been undertaken in the wine industry, with, I am pleased to say, considerable success. An investigation has also been made by the department into the tobacco-growing industry, but the results are not altogether approved by some sections of the tobacco industry. However, it must not be forgotten that the Government is dealing with a difficult problem, and is hopeful of bringing about improved conditions in the industry. The report on this industry which was recently furnished by a departmental committee is illuminative, and will shortly be discussed in Parliament. A certain amount- of work has been done iu connexion with the cotton industry. Frequent conferences have taken place between the officials of the department and the spinners and growers, with a great deal of satisfaction to the industry generally. A number of alterations have also been made under the commerce regulations relating to the marking of the country of origin on certain imported goods. The censorship of books, which is a thankless task, has now been undertaken by a voluntary body of public-spirited citizens. Restrictions on the importation of pistols have been imposed, and it has been decided to grant awards for film production and scenarios, particulars of which will be made known within a day or two. Some twelve hills have been brought before Parliament and debated. During the time while this additional work has had to be performed, an internal re-organization has taken place, and a tariff revision branch has been established. The work of that branch will, among other things, be to keep the Minister in . touch with tariff affairs and changes overseas, and to investigate the possibilities of trade agreements.
The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) expressed disappointment at the inaction of the department in negotiating trade agreements, but he would change his opinion if he knew the amount of time that had been spent in consultation with the consuls and officials of various countries in an effort to bring about reciprocal trade treaties. We have nui de it clear to the consuls of the countries concerned that, naturally, no agreements can he finally completed until the tariff has passed both Houses of the Parliament. However, negotiations are proceeding with five or six nations, which have, in the main, a favorable trade balance with Australia.
– If the Parliament adjourns before the agreements are entered into, they will be delayed for months.
– It is wise to hasten slowly, particularly in matters relating to changes which must necessarily affect most of the people, but I can assure honorable members that much progress has been made and that .my next task will be to complete this work. The members of the Country party- have frequently expressed disappointment because of the fact that the Government, on taking office, did not immediately reduce all duties; but that has not been done for the reason that, the Government is following the definite policy enunciated by the Prime Minister at the last elections that it would make no tariff alterations until full inquiry had been made by an expert board. The Tariff Board acts in an advisory capacity to the Government. Despite what was said to the contrary by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), we have not, slavishly followed the recommendations of that board. I agree that in the main we have accepted its advice, but it must be remembered that it is the Government’s responsibility to watch the revenue, and that more than half the duties in the tariff schedule are revenue producing. I wish to pay a tribute to the excellent work of the Tariff Board. The fact that the Ottawa agreement had to be woven into the tariff fabric increased its work enormously. Some honorable members have expressed the fear that certain industries may suffer because of the Government giving effect, to the decisions of the board, but. I think that the results to date indicate that their fears have been unfounded.
– It is too early to speak with certainty.
– Honorable members opposite must be pleasantly disappointed at the fact that certain secondary industries have not been adversely affected as the result of the tariff.
– One company - Davis Coop Proprietary Limited - is dismissing 200 men to-night.
– I shall deal with that matter in a moment. Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) quoted figures showing that as the result of the tariff policy of this Government employment in the secondary industries has increased. The London Times of the 14th October, in its trade and engineering section, paid a tribute to Australia on account of its financial recovery and the betterment of its conditions. A paragraph reads -
Prudence suggests that it is wiser to develop a new policy with some .regard to established activities and to proceed step by step towards the ultimate goal.
That is what the Government has been doing, despite the criticism levelled at it both inside and outside of this chamber. It is paying no heed to criticism, but is steering between the Scylla and Charybdis of extreme tariff thought, with the best results generally for the Commonwealth.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked that some action be taken in respect of the report of the Tariff Board on cotton yarn, but I would point out that there must be a beginning and ending of the schedule somewhere. The reports of the Tariff Board have seldom been delayed by the Government, and in nearly every instance they have been tabled in both Houses of the Parliament as soon as received. Of course, some delay must take place. Whether anything can be done for the cotton industry by way of classification, as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) has suggested, will be ascertained when the report has been received. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated that one firm is likely to dismiss 200 of its employees. Let me say emphatically that the Government refuses to be stampeded by such a statement.
Similar statements have been made by other industries, which, after inquiry, were found to be acting from selfish motives, and were using their unfortunate employees to try to force the Government to make certain concessions.
Mr.BEASLEY. - To what industry is the Minister referring?
– The cotton industry. Threats of this kind were made early this year in regard both to the price and the purchase of Queensland raw cotton, and also in regard to requests to be allowed to import raw cotton from overseas. There are almost prohibitive duties on the main lines of manufactures of this industry.
– I cannot allow the Minister to discuss the cotton industry.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) suggested that the Tariff Board might be empowered to take action against those who maligned Australian industries. The board frequently commends Australian industries, and has paid tributes to the efficiency of many of them, but we cannot ask it to take cognizance of all criticism, whether favorable or otherwise. If particular industries are misrepresented, those concerned with them have plenty of opportunity, through the press and otherwise, of placing the facts before the public.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) suggested that an economic adviser would be useful to the Tariff Board to consider the effect of tariff alterations upon industry generally, and, I presume, in particular, upon primary industry. I feel that there is a great deal of merit in the suggestion. It is not necessary that the board should confine its activities to inquiring into secondary industries; it might extend the scope of its inquiries to embrace primary industries also. This phase of the work need not be undertaken by the same personnel, but if some economic inquiry of this kind were held there would be less guesswork when help to primary industries had to he considered.
The honorable member for Riverina also referred to certain figures which had been quoted in the Senate regarding the price of galvanized iron in New
Zealand. Those figures were misleading, and the honorable senator who quoted them was immediately contradicted by the Minister in charge of the tariff in the Senate.
– But who was right?
– The Minister was right, as the following particulars will show-
– I cannot permit the Minister to discuss the matter in further detail.
Mr.Forde. - But this is important.
Mr.Fenton. - We should be allowed to hear those figures in order to correct the erroneous impression conveyed by the honorable member for Riverina.
– If there is a general desire by honorable members to hear the figures I shall give permission for them to be quoted, but I remind the Minister and other honorable members that I cannot permit anything in the nature of a general tariff debate upon the question now before the Chair.
– The figures quoted by the Minister in the Senate are as follows : -
Landed cost of 26 gauge orb iron, £23 12s. 4d.; wholesale price, £25 2s. 2d. The manufacturer’s local price of Australian 26 guage Orbquality iron, ex wharf, less average discount, is £22 7s. 7d.
I could give the selling price also, if necessary, but as this is not a tariff debate it would not be in order. I take this opportunity of saying that, as a result of the duties passed in the Senate, employment has already been provided for an extra 300 men.
– Order ! The Minister is now abusing the liberty I gave him.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) mentioned. primage. The Chairman has ruled that we may not discuss that subject, so I suggest that the honorable member bring the matter up again when the primage bill is before us. I remind him, however, that there have already been numerous primage remissions, as is shown in the budget statement.
– What about axe handles?
– By way of interjection I informed the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) that the matter would be looked into with a view to taking action, and he may regard that statement as official.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Health:
Proposed vote, £100,800, agreed to.
Department of Commerce
Proposed vole, £313,340. [ Quorum formed.]
.- It was reported in the press recently that the Government proposed to appoint trade representatives in New Zealand and Batavia, and at Shanghai, and the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) has said that, before the appointments are made, it will be necessary to pass certain legislation. Will he inform us whether that legislation will be introduced before the end of the session? It is necessary, I think, particularly in view of the agreement between New Zealand and Australia, that we should have a trade representative in New Zealand. If the right kind of man is selected he should be able to do a great deal to encourage more friendly relations between the two dominions. Unfortunately there has been, for some years past, a good deal of ill-feeling in commercial circles in Australia and New Zealand, and that feeling had reached its height at the time the late Mr. H. E. Pratten, then Minister for Trade and Customs, visited New Zealand in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a trade agreement. I believe that a better feeling already prevails as a result of the visit of Senator MassyGreene; who was successful in arranging an agreement between the two dominions. As I have stated previously, I was not satisfied with all the articles of that agreement, particularly those relating to citrus fruits, the wine industry and certain Australian manufactures, but I recognize that it would be impossible to negotiate a trade agreement which would please everybody. The agreement has now been ratified by the Parliaments of New Zealand and Australia, and I should like to know when it is proposed to bring it into operation, and when a trade representative is to be appointed. Will the trade representative who is to be ap pointed to Batavia spend all his time there, or will he be expected to represent Australian interests in the surrounding islands? I should also like to know what the office is expected to cost. To what extent has the Minister followed the policy which was under consideration by the last Government of appointing cadets in the commercial intelligence branch of the Department of Commerce ? It should be possible to train well-educated, intelligent young men in the art of commercial diplomacy, and in matters relating to the trade of Australia with other countries, so that they would be able to render valuable service to Australia in overseas fields. While the last Government was in office, a trade representative was appointed to Canada, and, from reports I have read, he appears to have been doing useful work. Will the Minister inform us to what extent he has been successful in developing additional trade between the two countries, especially as a result of the CanadianAustralian trade agreement and of the Ottawa agreement? From the experience I gained during the six and a half months as Acting Minister for Commerce - or of Markets and Transport, as it was then called - I formed the opinion that Australian trade representatives in other countries perform most useful work.
I should like the Minister to give an assurance that legislation providing for the stabilization of butter marketing arrangements will be introduced before the Christmas recess. Honorable members will recall that this subject was considered at a conference of State Ministers of Agriculture, as a result of which certain recommendations were made to the Commonwealth Government. Both the Queensland and Victorian Parliaments have passed legislation necessary for the carrying out of common marketing plans, and the Parliament of New South Wales is, I believe about topass similar legislation. But complementary federal legislation is necessary to give the dairying industry the power to control the marketing of its produce, and to obtain for butter a price that will cover a fair cost of production and give a reasonable return to the producers of it. As I stand for the protection of Australian manufacturers, so that they may compete against the manufacturers of other countries in which cheap labour is employed for long hours, to be consistent, I must also stand for the granting of similar protection to primary producers. The dairying industry is a most important one. Dependent upon it, either directly or indirectly, are 600,000 persons. Those who are engaged in it are forced to accept a price that is based largely upon world parity. The Australian worker is not asked to accept the wage that is paid in Japan or England, although unfortunately unemployment has forced many workers down to a standard of living lower than that. That, however, is not in accordance with the ideas of the Australian Labour party. Honorable members on this side believe that those who are engaged in the dairying industry are entitled to the redress of their just grievances. The Labour party has in its platform a definite plank which provides for Australian-wide co-operative marketing for dairy-farmers and other sections of the primary producers. This is a live question among the dairy-farmers, of whom there is a large number in my electorate. All that I want the Minister for Commerce to do at this juncture is to promise definitely that he will introduce this legislation before the Christmas adjournment.
– He has made that statement in answer to a question.
– I did not hear him make it, and shall not be satisfied until I have obtained a definite assurance from him. The reply given to a question from this side of the chamber a few days ago by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) led me to believe that the Government did not intend to introduce this legislation during the present session. The Minister for Commerce may be able to disabuse my mind of what may be an erroneous impression.
I admit that the question of what is to be done in regard to the wheat industry is a complex one. I became associated with it, as Acting Minister for Markets, while I was Minister for Trade and Customs, and found it very troublesome. I consider that the Government has delayed a decision too long. The matter may have been considered at the party meetings held to-day, and probably the Minister will be able to make an announcement of the Government’s intentions. Wheat is now being harvested in the Riverina and other parts of New South Wales, and immediate steps will have to be taken by the Government if the growersare to be assisted during the present season. Whatever may be done for those who have been able to produce wheat, some measure of relief should be given on an acreage basis, through the States, to those who have not obtained a fair crop. It is unfortunate that wheat is grown in certain parts on unsuitable land. I do not think that it should be the policy of the Commonwealth to bolster up inefficient production, or to encourage the growing of wheat on land that is not suited to its production. I should, however, like the Minister to indicate when the necessary legislation is to be introduced. Can he say that the Government will take action before the present session ends? If so, when? I desire to have a reply to-day.
– One of the most unsatisfactory aspects of the administration of the Department of Commerce is its absolute failure to arrive at a decision in regard to the attitude that should be adopted towards the heavilysubsidized Matson Line of Steamers. It is just on three years since this matter was first brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Government. Its origin dates back to the time when the exhonorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) occupied the position which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Stewart) now holds. Those who are most deeply interested in this matter are the workers in maritime industries, and my representations are made on their behalf. These men realize that, sooner or later, their employment will be jeopardized if this highly-subsidized American line is allowed to continue to trade without hindrance or interference on the Australian coast. They feel that companies whose vessels are registered in Australia, will transfer their registration to another part of the world. In this connexion reference might be made to the Union Steamship Company, which I. am given to understand is connected iu some way with Canadian companies. The operations of the Matson Line constitute a real danger to Australian seamen, stewards, butchers, and others engaged in seafaring occupations. A body known as the Maritime Council, through its secretary, Mr. Tudehope, of the Marine Butchers’ organization, has repeatedly made representations on the matter to the Commonwealth Government. The last occasion was a little more than a month ago, when a deputation waited upon the Minister, who said that he would far sooner argue the case from the point of view of the unionists, than attempt to justify in any way the continued inroads upon Australian maritime trade.
In response to the representations that were made, the Government first replied that the matter would be discussed at Ottawa, where the Australian representatives would consult with the representatives of New Zealand and Great Britain. Ottawa has come and gone, yet action has not been taken. It was then said that it was necessary for further consultations to be held at the World Economic Conference, or at other conferences which were projected at about that time. That period has passed, and we are still iu the same position. Later, we were told that the matter would be further considered and discussed with the New Zealand Government. Somehow or other, nothing definite can be arrived at. It appears to me that the longer the matter remains undecided the more secure will the American subsidized companies become. If the Commonwealth is not prepared to employ methods similar to those adopted by the United States of America to prevent the exploitation of Australian trade, let it say so. Those who are affected will have to accept the decision whether they approve of it or not, and will have to devise means outside of governmental action for dealing w ith the problem. I put it frankly to the Minister that the time has long gone by for a definite pronouncement on the subject. In order that the committee may have some idea of the manner in which the American system works, and of the extent to which the Australian trade is being monopolized, I read the following extract from the San Francisco Times of the 9th October, 1933 :-
In 1929, under the Jones-White act, Mr. Herbermann set out to borrow $7,122,750 from the Shipping Board to build his four “ Ex “ passenger liners. He got the cash at less than 1 per cent, interest.’ When his Government loans began to gall, ho went to Washington to get them extended, spent $11,300 in 30 days on “ entertainment.” The Shipping Board’s comptroller recommended disapproval of the extension, because Export Steamship owed $3,952,000, had assets of only $1,172,199. Robert Patterson Lamont, then Secretary of Commerce, wrote the Shipping Board that he saw no objection in the 3->to-l balance-sheet.
In 1928, Mr. Herbermann procured for his line a ten-year ocean mail contract at $1,044,000 per year. When his new ships began to operate Walter Brown, then PostmasterGeneral, increased this subsidy to $2,185,000 per year. But Export Steamship was not overburdened with postal charge. From August, 1928, to June, 1929, its ships carried precisely 3 lb. of mail, a cost to thu Government of $234,980 per lb. In 1929 it carried 1 lb. of mail for $115,335. For fiscal 1931 it carried 8 lb. of mail for $125,820 per lb. Its defence, was that ocean mail contracts are only a legal pretext for an outright subsidy, that its ships always had cargo space reserved for mail, but that the Post Office Department assigned them no more than enough to keep their contract valid.
Senator Black estimated that Export Steamship Corporation, the first of 50 shipping companies on the committee’s list for scrutiny, had received federal subsidies and benefits worth $20,003.1 51 since 1928. Yet Export officials testified that their company was now “in worse condition” than in 1930, that it still owed the United States some $8,000,000. of which $1,200,000 was already past due. “
This gives some idea of the extent of the operations of these companies, as well as of the fictitious use that is made of mail contracts for the purpose of maintaining subsidies. The Government must be aware of the position, which is common knowledge, and should show without further delay just where it stands in the matter. If the Americans are permitted to “ put it over us “, as they obviously are doing, we might as well hoist the white flag and make a complete surrender.
– Why not hoist the “ Stars and Stripes”? ‘
– Perhaps it would be more fitting to do that. At present these companies are evidencing their utter disregard for the Commonwealth Parliament, and undermining our authority in our own country, in fact they are demonstrating that we are puppets in their hands. The longer that state of affairs continues the more difficult it will be to check, it. It would appear that these companies possess sufficient information to make them confident that the Government is not likely to interfere and so are pushing on with “every means at their disposal. That I regret, as also do the people whom I represent on this matter.
I think that the Minister should explain just exactly the effect of the plan which his department instituted. allegedly to assist the citrus fruit-growers of Australia. I. hold the opinion that the Minister is deserving of strong criticism, for he it was who declared at the last general election that business methods should bc employed in conducting the affairs of government departments. The Australian citrus growers were informed sonic time ago that the Government was prepared to introduce a scheme of relief, which it considered had been rendered necessary by the adverse conditions that have affected growers as well as other sections of the community. I would remind honorable members that in normal times the citrus growers worked out their own salvation quite satisfactorily, and, therefore, are now entitled to the fullest consideration. A good deal of publicity was given to the intention of the Department of Commerce to assist growers by establishing a practical scheme. The Government recommended that citrus growers should concentrate on the export market which, while it might nor wholly remove their difficulties, would, it was claimed, rectify many of them. At that time it was estimated that there would be a surplus of 250,000 eases of fruit for export, and Colonel Herrod, Secretary of the Fruit-growers Federation, told a meeting at Lisarow early in the autumn that he had carefully estimated that the English market was capable of absorbing an additional 20,000,000 cases at payable prices. It was expected that the Government would assist the growers to obtain that market, and the growers, doing their part, made a supreme effort to provide for collective export by concentrating on proper packing and grading methods. Even the most extra vagant suggestion which they submitted for assistance was modest enough, and no more than might have been accorded them fairly, without making any appreciable drain upon the public funds. The growers suggested that for the first season’s export they should be guaranteed Sydney parity. It was estimated at the time that the granting of that request might have cost the Government £5,000. As it turned out, however, it would have cost no more than half that sum, although had it been granted the Australian citrus growers would ere this have’ been placed on a sound and generous basis for many years to come. Their request was not granted, as the Government stated that it desired to approach the problem from another angle. After procrastinating, it sent a representative to ‘London to arrange for the marketing of Australian fruits, which was something like locking the stable door after the horse had gone, because other countries had already exploited the market and arranged for the export of their citrus fruits to London in an orderly fashion. The plan evolved by the Government was that it should guarantee the cost of landing the fruit in Great Britain. That certainly suited some sections of business men, for it gave shipping companies a good deal of new business and guaranteed them against possible loss. The box combine was given a great deal of new and absolutely safe business, and the railways were guaranteed their share. The grower, unfortunately, was guaranteed nothing, for unless the shipments sold at an average of above 13s. a case, it was unlikely that he would receive any return.
The history of the whole scheme shows up the Government in a very unfortunate light. The whole of the facts concerning the industry were known to the. Minister from the very beginning, but they wel” not available to honorable members, and if there was criticism at the time, made under a misconception of the circumstances, it does not free the Government from blame. I cannot say whether Ministers had some idea of overcoming existing difficulties in connexion with New Zealand, but this Government owes a direct responsibility to the people of Australia, and irrespective of what other countries may do, it must protect our own people. It agreed to provide what “was more or less a subsidy on export, and I shall explain what happened. The Otranto, which left Australia in June last, carried 25,000 cases of citrus fruits, the first shipment under the department’s scheme, and they realized an average of lis. a case, the loss to the Government being 2s. a case. The shipping companies and the box-makers lost nothing, but the growers lost everything. In July, the Orestes and the Cormorin took 14,000 cases each, on which shipments the Government lost ls. a case. Again, the shipping companies and boxmakers lost nothing, and the grower received - nothing. The trouble was that the market was glutted as a result of the action of .Spain and Brazil, whose growers were exporting under a bounty of from 3s. 6d. to 4s. a case, which had been allowed to them as a set off against the disadvantages from which they were suffering from the operation of the Ottawa agreement. It is desirable that honorable members should pay more attention than they have done hitherto to the real , effects of the Ottawa agreement on some of our smaller primary industries, which are, at present, passing through very trying experiences. It should be borne in mind that growers of citrus and other fruits always have to wait for many years for the first returns from their orchards, and this makes it all the more unfortunate for them when they get ho return from a crop. I suppose the citrus-growers work,, on the average, just as hard as the dairy-producers, but, unlike the dairy-farmers, they have to work for a number of years before their operations become profitable.
I was informed only yesterday, that the mandarin-growers of New South “Wales have been instructed by the State authorities to destroy all the fruit that remained on their trees at the end of October. This order was, no doubt, issued for the protection of the growers, for, if the fruit were left to hang on the trees, it is quite probable that pests would flourish, and cause the growers additional distress. It is distinctly creditable to many growers that, when they saw that their fruit was likely to be left on their hands, they took steps to distribute it free
Mr. Beasley. in the thickly populated areas of Sydney. In some instances, the cost of transport was borne by others who are deserving of the hearty thanks of every section of the community.
The final consignment to the overseas market to which I shall refer were made by the Clan MacDougall and the Or ama, which left Australia in September and October, respectively, with 13,000 cases of fruit, which were confidently expected to show a net return of about 5s. a case. The shipments, which resulted in a total loss to the growers, in the first two months totalled 53,000 cases. The reduced enthusiasm of the growers resulted in their sending consignments totalling only 38,000 cases in the following three months. As the growers had failed to obtain any return for their early shipments, it was natural for them not to be too hopeful about the later shipments.
I have often heard the Minister for Commerce say that business methods should be applied by the Government when it engaged in any commercial enterprise, and during his political campaign before he entered this Parliament he frequently chided governments for a lack of initiative; but now the honorable gentleman has himself had experience which may somewhat alter his outlook. No doubt the Minister has learned that people are frequently able to do things in ordinary private business that they cannot do in government business.
– I have certainly learned that. I should like to have the same authority in government business as I have in my own private business undertakings.
– Probably the honorable gentleman will now have a little more sympathy than formerly with some of his political opponents, who have been responsible for administering certain government business undertakings, and have had to face even greater difficulties than ho is facing.
– I confess that I have.
– It is such experiences as the Minister has recently passed through which do much to help honorable members opposite to appreciate common difficulties which in the case of Labour Governments are sometimes more extensive. I hope that the
Minister will acquit me of any desire to criticize him unfairly, because of the difficult circumstances in which he now finds himself. After all, these primary producers were led to believe that, if business methods were adopted in the marketing of their products, everything would be well, and their interests would be safeguarded. They have now found that, in spite of the so-called business methods adopted by this Government they are still in great difficulties. I am putting forward the case for these producers, because I believe that it is desirable, in the best interests of the country, that they should be helped; but I am also concerned about the interests of my own electorate, for the greater the volume of primary products shipped overseas the better it is for my constituents who are interested in work on the waterfront. I am, therefore, on this occasion speaking directly for both primary producers and workers generally.
I hope that the Minister will make a satisfactory reply to the important questions that I have asked him regarding the Matson steamship line, which is being heavily subsidized by the Government of the United States of America, and the citrus-growers, who are being ruined by the difficulty in marketing their products.
.- I wish to refer briefly to the important part that the Department’ of Commerce is playing in the control of our exporting industries. I believe that if the same degree of interference occurred in secondary industries that is now occurring in exporting primary industries the manufacturers of Australia would complain bitterly. I do not, wish to say anything disparaging of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), for I believe that, he is carrying out his duties remarkably well in the face of many difficult problems.
I direct particular attention to the mutton and lamb exporting industry. I understand that under the Ottawa agreement the exports of mutton and lamb from Australia this year are to be limited to 165,000,000 lb. In 1920, our exports of mutton and lamb totalled 246,000,000 lb. I am afraid that this year a lot. of mutton and lamb will be left on our exporters’ hands after our export quota has been reached. What, is to happen to it? This year New South Wales has so far exported 64,000,000 lb. and Victoria 79,000,000 lb. of mutton and lamb, leaving 13,000,000 lb. and 25,000,000 lb. respectively, for each State to Teach its quota. It may be said that we are not much more than half way through the export season. This has been rather a late year for lambs, and as S4 per cent, of our exports consist of lamb it appears to me that great difficulties will face this industry before the end of the season is reached. I believe that after the Government agreed to a restriction to 165,000,000 lb. under the Ottawa agreement, it made another agreement for an additional curtailment of a small amount. I do not know whether any agreement- has been made to cover any period beyond the end of the 1933 season, but I hope not. No doubt the provisions of the Ottawa agreement covering the control of the export of mutton and lamb were advantageous to Australia, and I have nothing to say against them, but, in general, the less government control there is in our exporting industries the better it is for the country.
The Government has entered into an international agreement for the restriction of the exportation of wheat. I believe that it was wholly wrong for any agreement to be made for the restriction of the production or exportation of wheat. If mankind could control the weather, there might be nothing wrong in controlling wheat production, but if the harvest should fail in only two of the principal wheat-producing countries of the world there would be a wheat famine. If is bad enough to be starved in a time of plenty, but to be starved through the artificial restriction of production would be a calamity of the greatest magnitude. I have no doubt that in consequence of the weather during the last week or two a load of anxiety has been taken off the. mind of the Minister, for the wheat yield of Australia has undoubtedly been seriously affected. Had it not been so the Government would have been forced to buy anything from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 bushels of wheat. How it would have found the money to do so I do not know, nor do I know what it would have done with the wheat that it purchased. The Government should have declined to enter into any agreement for the restriction of wheat exports. If the wheat merchants and pools operating throughout Australia would make provision for the storage of the wheat and issue certificates upon which the banks may make advances to the wheat-growers the wheat could be held ; but when governments enter into the business and begin building up huge reserves these reserves are always in the minds of the buyers, and make it difficult to dispose of future harvests.
I ask the Minister to inform me what the position will be when our export quota of mutton and lamb has been reached. The proper method of dealing with this and other producing industries is undoubtedly to allow the law of supply and demand to control the situation. That law should have been allowed to operate in the wheat industry. Difficulties always arise when governments intervene in industry. I cannot understand why the Government has not made provision for the appointment of boards of producers to control their products at least within Australia. When marketing is subjected to political control, difficulties always occur. I hope the Minister will take an early opportunity to explain the position in regard to mutton and lamb. I shall not, at this moment, discuss at any greater length the wheat industry except to say that if a measure similar to the Dried Fruits Export Control Act had been adapted to the wheat industry the Government would not have found such great difficulty in devising a means to assist the wheat-growers.
.- Since the Estimates for the Department of Commerce were discussed last year, the Government has seen fit to suspend for six months of the year the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act insofar as they relate to Tasmania. The Government liars undertaken to continue that service to Tasmania this year. Last year, when we requested that this concession should be made, we expressed the view that it would harm no one, and would benefit, not only Tasmania, but also the people who wish to visit that State. The events of last year clearly demonstrated that our arguments were sound, because the incursion of British mail steamers of approved type into the Tasmanian tourist trade did not, as many honorable members feared it would, have the effect of robbing the coastal service of any of its business. On the other hand, the coastal steamers trading between Sydney and Hobart, and across Bass Strait, benefited uniformly from the increased turnover. Because of the improved conditions, the number of tourists visiting Tasmania last year increased by 9,000. Without an adequate shipping service that traffic could not have been handled, and there would have been a definite loss to Tasmania, without any benefit accruing to any one. lt is good to see our people making use of tourist steamers to travel freely from Australia to Noumea and other places adjacent to the mainland; but it is much better to know that they can journey just as freely within the Commonwealth under conditions which appeal to them, and which lead to increased shipping business. We were also informed in the budget speech that improved traffic arrangements across Bass Strait were contemplated. I am given to understand that the Government has opened up negotiations with a view to providing a better service across the straits. Such improvements are long overdue. I hope that the Government, when giving further consideration to this matter, will keep in mind the probability of trade increasing as the result of the institution of a better shipping service. On the 21st of this mouth the Melbourne Age published a statement by the Hon. J. C. Watson, an ex-P.rime Minister of the Commonwealth, who is now leading the executive of the combined motorists’ associations of Australia. That organization recently held a conference in Hobart, and no doubt many of the delegates who atteaded it are now better informed as to facilities for travelling between Tasmania and the mainland. The article reads -
Launceston, Monday. “I am surprised that such an excessive fare is charged passengers travelling between Launceston and Melbourne,” said Mr. J. C. Watson on Saturday, before leaving on his return to New South Wales, Mr. Watson is president of the X.K.Al.A., mid also of the Australian Automobile Association, which has just concluded its conference in Hobart.
The trip, added Mr. Watson, occupied only a comparatively short time, and there va.g no doubt that the prevailing rate would retard tourist inline to Tasmania to a considerable extent. “ The bulk of the tourists will riot cross the Strait when they have to pay such excessive’ fares for themselves, and above all an exorbitant rate for their own cars,” he added. 1! am surprised that some members of Parliament have not taken the matter up before this.”
Mr. Watson, in making his concluding statement, was evidently not aware that some honorable members of this Parliament, at least, had taken this matter up with the Government. One benefit which accrued to Tasmania because of the action of the Government shortly after the Parliament rose for the Christmas vacation Inst year, was the reduction of freights between Tasmania and the mainland, a reduction of fares as between Hobart and Sydney, and also a reduction of charges for the transport of motor cars. Whether the freights and fares have been reduced as much as they might, have been “J arn not prepared to say; but if is desirable, in the interests of all concerned, that they should be reduced to the lowest payable limit. T believe that the shipping companies have at. last realized that, in order to increase their business, they must , provide facilities for the ‘tourist traffic to Tasmania. The people who visit that State should be able to travel in comfort, and to be catered for decently and economically. The tourist organizations of Tasmania naturally desire to meet the requirements of tourists, but a fundamental requisite is the permanence “of the arrangements made for improved travelling facilities. We appreciate the action of the Government, this year, and we hope that it will be continued next year and the year after. But in order to give to tho.«e people who conduct hotels or guest houses, and run tourist services by means of fleets of motor cars, the necessary encouragement, to improve their facilities; so as to handle the tourist traffic properly, there should be no doubt left in their minds as to the permanence of the facility granted by the Commonwealth Government. I hope that the Minister will be able at no distant date to assure the representatives of Tasmania that there will be some permanence of freedom in the communications between Tasmania and the mainland.
.- I should like to have from the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) a statement regarding the Government’s proposals for the stabilization of butter marketing. The dairying industry has, undoubtedly, suffered greatly during the last twelve or eighteen months. The price of butter to-day is below the cost of production. Each State has different methods of marketing and organization. I understand that the Dairy Export Control Board has been in communication with the Minister for Com moree who has promised to introduce a bill dealing with the dairying industry before the Parliament rises for the Christinas vacation. No one is more capable of handling the dairying industry than those engaged in it. Some of the States are large exporters of butter. Queensland exports about 75 per cent, of its production. The stabilization of the industry will assure a permanent market to the producers and enable them to receive a fair return for their labour. The moat industry is also in a serious position. Our big exporting industries, such as the butter, meat, and wool industries have been looking to the Department of Commerce for some assistance in respect of marketing, and a number of people engaged in those industries have been wondering what is’ really, the policy of the department, because up to date, it has not’ justified its existence. I hope that the Minister will extend to the meat and wool industries the marketing facilities that it is intended to extend to the butter industry. Queensland is a large producer of meat, but the graziers of that State are not permitted to send their product into New South Wales. Mr. P. A. Brown, the secretary of the United Graziers Association, Queeusland, has forwarded to me. a letter in which he complains of fees and rates charged on meat entering the metropolitan abattoirs area of New South Wales. The regulation setting out the charges was framed by the New South Wales Metropolitan Meat Board, and I am bringing this matter under the notice of the Minister, because I consider that this regulation infringes the provision of the Constitution which establishes free trade between the States. The letter reads -
At a meeting of representatives of the United Graziers Association, Brisbane Fat Stock and Produce Brokers Association, and the Queensland Cattle Growers Association, held on Monday last, the regulation of the New South Wales Metropolitan Meat Industry Board imposing fees on the owner of any meat forwarded or . brought into thu metropolitan abattoir area, was discussed.
The representatives took strong exception to the fees provided in the regulation, as thuy considered same unnecessary and unwarranted, and an unreasonable charge for the services rendered.
It was pointed out that the fees must bc ultimately borne by the growers, thereby reducing the price per head to them.
The representatives strongly urge on you an early consideration of this impost of fees, and trust that the regulation, which certainly hampers interstate trade, will be repealed.
The regulation reads -
Fees not exceeding the rates set out hereunder shall be paid by thu owner of any meat forwarded or brought into the metropolitan abattoir area -
Beef at per quarter, ls. All other beef at 50 lb. or portion thereof, Od.
Mutton, per carcass, 4d. All other mutton at per 50 lb. or portion thereof, Od.
Veal from calves under six mouths’ old at per carcass, two sides equal one carcuss, ls. All other veal per 50 lb. or portion thereof, Od.
Pork at per carcass, two sides equal one carcass, 2s.
Pork at per carcass under 30 11)., ls. All other pork at. .per 50 lb. or portion thereof, ls. Od.
Bacon, green or smoked, at per side, fid. All other bacon at 50 lb. or portion thereof, ad.
Meat in tins at per 50 lb. or portion thereof, Od.
This is hampering the graziers of Queensland in the marketing of their product. Action should be taken by the Commonwealth to prevent a State from enforcing regulations which interfere with interstate freetrade.
On the 26th October, 1932, the Commonwealth Wool Inquiry Committee furnished to the Government a report containing many important recommendations in regard to the marketing of wool. In 1913, the freight charge on wool between- Australia and the United. Kingdom was fd. per. lb., but, at the present time it is no less than 1.062d. per lb. The committee recommended, that the
Government should take action to have shipping freights reduced, and also railway freights in those States in which they were too high. Present freight charges were fixed when wool was selling at peak prices, but last year wool was selling for as little as 6d. per lb., and there is no certainty that the improved prices of to-day will be maintained. Important concessions have been made to the shipping companies by way of taxation reductions, and the Government should ensure that some of the benefits of those remissions are passed on to the wool exporters. In Victoria and Queensland, railway freight charges have recently been considerably reduced, and the shipping companies might well follow that lead. Shearing and other labour charges in connexion with the production of wool have been reduced by 30 per cent., but shipping charges are unaltered. Moreover, some of the firms which handle wool have been making profits and adding to their reserves during the whole period of the depression, which seems to indicate that their handling charges have been unnecessarily high. If they do not reduce these charges the Department of Commerce might be able to arrange a system by which the growers could, market their own wool for considerably less than they now pay to the wool brokers. The Government has adopted the recommendation of the Wool Inquiry Committee by reducing the land tax, and it should also follow up its recommendations in regard to reduced freights on wool. I am sure that those engaged in the dairying industry will appreciate the Minister’s promise that legislation will be brought down this session to cover the marketing of dairy products, but I hope that the Minister will follow this up by doing something to assist the other two great primary industries, namely, meat and wool.
– I was pleased to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) express approval of the Government’s policy to appoint trade representatives in various overseas countries. I give the assurance which he sought that the necessary legislation to enable the appointments to be made will be introduced before Christmas. Although the legislation “will not specifically indicate the centres to which the representatives will be appointed, I am able to inform honorable members that it is the present intention of the Government to appoint trade representatives and establish offices in New Zealand, Batavia and Shanghai.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that we might appoint cadet3 to a Commercial Intelligence Department, so as to train them in the important work of representing Australian trade interests abroad. The staff to be appointed to the trade representation offices will, for the most part, consist of young men who wilt receive the training mentioned by the honorable member. No doubt future trade representatives will be appointed from their ranks.
The honorable member also asked for an assurance that legislation dealing with butter marketing would be introduced during this session. In reply to a question asked yesterday, I gave a definite assurance that such legislation would be introduced before the House adjourned, and I now repeat that assurance. It is the intention of the Government to introduce within the next day or two legislation along the lines of the Dried Fruits Act of 192S. The only request made of the ‘Commonwealth Government in this connexion is that we should introduce legislation prohibiting interstate trade in butter unless the prescribed quota of the total production of the licensee is sent overseas. The wording of the bill will follow very closely that of the Dried Fruits Act, and the measure will be introduced and, we hope, passed through Parliament within the next few days. Queensland is the only State which has, so far, passed legislation in connexion with butter marketing. I understand that the necessary -bill is practically through the Victorian Parliament, and that a. similar measure will be introduced into the Parliament of New South “Wales on Thursday next. The Commonwealth Government will not await the passage of the necessary legislation through all the State Parliaments, but will place its own complementary act on the statute-book, and allow it to remain in abeyance until after certain negotiations have taken place with the
State authorities. It will then be made operative by proclamation.
The honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) complained of the activities of American subsidized shipping lines, and mentioned particularly the Matson Line. He referred to a statement which I made to a deputation which waited upon me in Sydney when I said that I would much rather be supporting the case of the deputation against the American shipping companies than contesting it. I do not retract one word of what I then said. Unfortunately, however, -the remedy for the trouble is not easy to find. The Commonwealth Government i3 prepared to play its part in trying to correct the position, but no finality has yet been reached. We frequently hear that the Government of New Zealand has already passed the necessary legislation to check the competition of this shipping line, and is only awaiting the passage of similar legislation by -the Commonwealth in order to take action. That statement is entirely incorrect. As a matter of fact, the New Zealand legislation, to which reference has been made, is merely a section of the Customs Act, and dates back to 1908, which was before there was any Matson Shipping Line, or any subsidized shipping problem. Although the New Zealand legislation dates back 25 years, it is, I understand, based on a section in the British maritime law of 1382. Therefore, the suggestion that Australia, through its reluctance to pass the necessary legislation, has been hampering New Zealand, cannot be substantiated. The Government is prepared to do whatever- is necessary to meet the position, and we have asked the Government of New Zealand to co-operate with us. We have had conversations through the Foreign Office with American representatives, and we are hoping ‘that, long as the delay has been, the remedy will eventually be applied.
The honorable member for West Sydney took the Government to task for what he describes as its callous indifference to the interests of the citrus fruit-growers. He said that, for some time after the situation became acute, the Government took no action at all, and that when it did move its action was inadequate. That is not a fair statement of the position.
Honorable members will recall that the embargo by New Zealand on the importation of citrus fruits from Australia very seriously affected the Australian industry, particularly the New South Wales section. At one time Australia exported 250,000 bushel cases of citrus fruits to New Zealand annually, but due to circumstances over which we had no control, New Zealand imposed an embargo which meant the sudden and complete stoppage of that trade. It therefore became necessary for the industry and the Government to collaborate in finding other markets. I am happy to be able to say that we have been very successful in that effort. It is true, as the honorable member said, that the first shipment of citrus fruits to the United Kingdom - to which he referred as the Otranto shipment - arrived on the London market . simultaneously with the arrival of 200,000 cases of Spanish fruit. That was a misfortune which neither the industry nor the Government could have foreseen, and the result of it was that prices were not so satisfactory as were desired. It is a pity, however, that the honorable member confined his remarks to this and one other shipment. The committee would have been better informed had it been given particulars of all the shipments that have been made. For example, the prices obtained for the Buteshire shipment only this week, not only released the Government from its guarantee, but also satisfactorily remunerated casemakers and others associated with the citrus industry, and proved most profitable to the citrusgrowers themselves. The suggestion that the Government is indifferent to the welfare of these growers is entirely negatived by the written testimony of accredited representatives of the industry. I have endeavoured to secure, but have been unable to do so, a letter that was received from the secretary of the Federal Citrus Growers Organization, in which he effusively commends and thanks the Government for the very great assistance, it has rendered to the industry in having guaranteed the whole of the expense on the fruit that has been shipped overseas. Prior to the application of the New Zealand embargo, the largest quantity of fruit shipped to the United Kingdom in on© year was approximately 14,000 bushels. This year, however, the shipments have approached a total of 80,000 bushels. It . is hoped that the London market will prove a regular and not a transitory one, and that our shipments of fruit to it will be not only maintained at the present level but even increased.
– What progress is being made in the Canadian market.
– The costs associated with the consignment of citrus fruits to Canada, especially to the eastern provinces of that dominion, make the venture economically almost impossible. A few thousand cases have been sent to the Pacific coast, but there is a definite limit to the absorptive capacity of that market. With a view to safeguarding itself, and ensuring that the efforts of the producers will not. be wasted, the Government has also contributed the sum of £500 towards tlie expense of sending to the United Kingdom a representative of the industry, to watch the arrival of ‘ shipments, and investigate the possibilities of developing additional markets on the continent of Europe. That officer, who was selected by the industry itself, has already sent to Australia valuable reports concerning the issues to which I have referred.
The honorable gentleman also made passing reference to the mandaringrowers. I happen to know that there has been, a definite attempt to trade on the disaffection of mandarin-growers, particularly in the electorate represented by the Minister for Commerce. But what is the position ? Has the Governmnent been . indifferent to the condition of these growers? After all, this is. essentially a State matter. The only justification for making any claim upon the federal authority is the unfortunate effect of the New Zealand embargo. The Commonwealth Government, however, has not drawn very carefully the line between State and Federal responsibility. It has not even asked the State Government to assist in the ratio of 4 to 1, which would be perfectly warranted, but has suggested the contribution of £1 for £1 to an amount of £10,000. Appreciate help could be given to the mandarin industry if £20,000 were available for the purpose. I have had furnished to me ample evidence of the appreciation of the industry of that action of the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) made some reference to the restrictions imposed on the export of meat. The only restriction which operates against the export of mutton and lamb, to which the honorable member specifically referred, is that contained in the Ottawa agreement, by the terms of which the Commonwealth undertook that during 1933 the exports would not exceed the quantity exported during the twelve months ended the 30th June, 1932. That was the peak year of Australia’s shipments of mutton and lamb to the United Kingdom, and it is a compliment to Australia’s ambassadors at. Ottawa that they were able to secure it as the datum year. It is true that in several of the States, the quota fixed so as to conform to that requirement has been exceeded; but it would be perfectly untrue to suggest that any shipment of mutton and lamb which could have left Australia has been prevented from so doing. Some of the States have not. exported to the limit of their quota, and it has been competent for my department to make adjustments as between the States. I say officially that it is not anticipated that one carcass will be held in Australia as the result of the operation of that provision of the Ottawa agreement. As a matter of fact, the agreement terminates on the 31st. December next, and any ship which leaves Australian waters after that date will be right outside its ambit. Therefore, there are only two or three weeks in which mutton and lamb could be placed on board ship with any risk of the vessel leaving Australian shores before the end of the year.
The honorable member for Corangamite also referred to the participation of the Commonwealth in the International Wheat Agreement, and for the first time “the agreement has been condemned as one which should not have been made.. It is perfectly obvious that the honorable gentleman has had no caucus talk with other members of the party to which he belongs. From them I have received congratulations on the part played by the Government in this matter, not because they like the agree ment - they do not like it any more than the Government does - but because they appreciate the circumstances which rendered participation in it expedient. I venture to suggest that, with the depreciation of American currency, the time is coming when even the Australian critics of the agreement will change their tune. Australia has recently acquired in the East a very valuable business in flour and wheat. The entry of Australia into that market excluded from it a large quantity of American wheat and flour. That was made possible by the depreciation of Australian currency in comparison with that of the United States of America. So long as that position obtained, so long had Australia a very good chance of maintaining its position in the East; but with the depreciation of the American dollar below sterling, and its close approximation to Australian currency, that advantage is likely to be lost, and the provision pf the International Wheat Agreement which binds the United States of America not to export mons than 47,000,000 bushels of wheat this year, and a corresponding quantity next year, may yet prove most valuable to Australia. If the relation of the two currencies were altered in the direction towards which they are now tending, and the United States of America were free to unload 400,000,000 bushels, the position of Australian wheat exporters would be very serious. Consequently, I repeat that even some of those who have not been at all enthusiastic in regard to the agreement may yet live to change their tune.
The . honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has made some reference to the part played by the Department of Commerce in connexion with the exemption from the operation of the navigation laws of certain tourist traffic to Tasmania. I am pleased to confirm his statement that the very large number of tourists who travel to Tasmania in exempt ships has apparently had no effect on the existing interstate services, which, in fact, have shown increases over the corresponding period of the last tourist season. ‘ It is true, as- the honorable member has suggested, “that the Government is : making provision, and is at present conducting negotiations, for the improvement of the quality of the permanent interstate service between the mainland and Tasmania.
The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) devoted the greater part of his speech to the condemnation of certain restrictions that have been imposed by the Abattoirs Board in Sydney on the importation into that, city of Queensland meat. This, of course, is a matter that not only is not referred to in these Estimates-, but also is entirely outside the control of the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth may legislate in regard to interstate trade.
– There is no differentiation against interstate trade; the restrictions apply equally to Queensland meat and to meat from other districts in New South Wales. I have no doubt that the honorable member would find quite a number of members of the committee prepared to join with him in protesting to the Government of New South Wales against the conditions that have been imposed.
.- I desire to refer to the necessity for the compulsory installation of wireless equipment on intra-state vessels. This matter has been under review since about 1920, when the late Mr. Pratten was Minister for Trade and Customs. The different States were then invited to say whether they were willing to hand over the necessary powers to the Commonwealth, but, unfortunately, a number of them were not prepared to do so. The recent foundering of a coastal vessel, with an unfortunate loss of life, points to the necessity for immediate action.
– What was the nature of the recent inquiry?
– The Minister for Commerce set up a departmental committee, which took evidence in regard to this matter and others, and presented a report; but no action has been taken upon it, although I understand that there has since been a Premiers Conference. There is to be another Premiers Conference early next year, and I should like the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to state whether he intends to make an endeavour to have the Common wealth vested with power that would enable it to protect the lives of seamen. The sinking of the- Christina Fraser, and many other vessels within recent years, has been responsible for rather serious loss of life. The Governments of the States are anxious to obtain Commonwealth assistance when it is a question of protecting primary industries, but are rather diffident about handing over to the Commonwealth the power to protect human lives. I hope that they will not further impede this essential reform, and that no time will be lost by the Government in compelling the installation of wireless on intra-state vessels, with the object of protecting hitman life.
– It is true that, following on the loss of the Christina Fraser, I appointed a committee to investigate the desirableness or otherwise of equipping small vessels of that type with wireless, so that they might be able to meet possible emergencies. In Australia our existing legislation in regard to the provision of wireless on shipping is at least as advanced as that of any other country in the world. It provides that all vessels carrying passengers and all other vessels of more than 1,600 tons register must be equipped with certain types of wireless. But the Government is not prepared to discriminate between the lives of passengers on ships and the lives of crews of other than passenger vessels, and it is because Ministers believe there is room for improvement in this direction that the committee in question was set up. That committee has submitted a report to the Government. During the currency of its sittings, the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria requested that the ambit of its inquiries should be extended to cover intra-state vessels. Obviously, the Commonwealth can only exercise legislative control over interstate shipping. We very readily acceded to the request of the Premiers in question with the result that the committee has already reported upon the installation of wireless iu respect of both interstate and intrastate shipping. The report upon intra-state shipping has been forwarded to the Premiers with a view to ascertaining what are their intentions in connexion with it.
Obviously, it is undesirable that Ave should approach this question from one angle, and that the State authorities should approach it from another. I can assure the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Riley) that it has not been lost sight of, and that, as soon as we arrive at an understanding with the State Governments for the purpose of ensuring uniformity of action, legislation will be introduced to safeguard the lives of those men who go down to the sea in ships.
.- Of course, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) is aware that during the past season the apple exporters of Australia have suffered losses rather than made profits from their industry, and that the freights they have been charged for the transport of their produce has been much higher than it was in pre-war days. Consequently, anything the Minister can do by way of inducing the shipping companies to provide them with cheaper freights may possibly enable them to make a profit. Not long ago, I read a statement that a shipper of a hundred cases of apples, had received a debit note of £5 odd for them. That amount, added to his cost of production, meant a loss of £25. During the past season, both freight and commission charges have been maintained, which means that all the concessions have been made by the grower. If the Government could provide for cheaper transport for our apples - for a freight comparable with that which obtained in 1914 - it would be of great assistance to our apple exporters.
.- It is true that fresh fruit exporters from the Commonwealth have not participated in the reduction of freights to the same extent as have some other exporters. That circumstance, however, is not altogether dissociated from the fact that the industry is one which cannot speak with one articulate voice. But, if the men engaged in this industry fail to benefit by their experience, I shall be very much surprised. While certain other forms, of export have benefited by appreciable reductions of. freight, consequent upon an overseas conference between representatives of the Transport
Association and the shipping interests, our apple exporters have not so benefited. In the first instance they were refused any freight concessions at all; but, as the result of intervention by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and myself, the matter was re-opened, a further conference took place, and they were offered a reduction of 2d. a case upon all shipments made in June, and 3d. a case upon all shipments made in July. Of course, those are the lightest shipping months during the whole export season, so that the concession is not so great as it might appear at first sight.” But it is something that has been accomplished as the result of government intervention between the parties. Ministers, however, are not satisfied, and, following upon our representations to -the High Commissioner, only last week, Mr. Bruce had an interview with certain shipping representatives in London. He has since regretfully informed us that the shipping interests are unable to grant anything further than the concession to which I have just referred, namely, a reduction of ‘2d. a case on all fresh-fruit shipments made in June, and of 3d. a case on all shipments made in July. But there is still some hope for the fruit industry, because negotiations are again proceeding between the Apple and Pear Council and the shipowners, which we hope will result in a further concession in respect of shipments of fruit.
.- I wish to deal with the lighthouse establishment on the Western Australian coast. ‘Speaking from memory, there are 310 lighthouses on our Australian coast, which, extends over a distance of 10,000 miles. But in Western Australia,’ instead of having our quota of 100 lighthouses - that is, one-third of the total number - we have only seventeen or eighteen lighthouses. I recognize that the shipping on the Western Australian coast is very small as compared with that on the eastern coast; but travelling along the coast and to Singapore are certain passenger vessels, and a valuable trade, also, comes from Singapore - a trade which supplies the Western Australian market with certain commodities. In the absence of proper lights, the tides make shipping along that portion of the coast extremely perilous. At the port of
Broome, the tide rises 16 or 17 feet, so that it is impossible for vessels to go between the Lacepede Islands, which lie off Broome, and they are thus obliged to make a detour of several hours because of the absence of requisite lights. Further on, is the port of Derby, on King’s Sound. There is one lighthouse at Cape Levique; but there are no leading lights to King’s Sound. This is one of the most difficult parts of the ocean tonavigate, because the tide there rises to’ a height of 20 feet. Vessels proceeding to Wyndham are compelled to make a detour outside the Holothuria banks along a portion of the coast which has not been chartered at all. Mention is sometimes made of the difficulty experienced by navigation along the Great Barrier Reef, off the Queensland coast, where a survey pf only about 40 square miles has been carried out within a period of three years. But on the Kimberley. coast - at Walcott Inlet and other places - where the tides are very dangerous to navigation, no survey has been undertaken. I know that it is impossible for the Government to find money for lighthouses at the present time ; but I do hope that, with Australia’s financial recovery, the Minister will be . prepared to give favorable consideration to the erection of some lights along this portion of the Western Australian coast.
– I shall certainly give consideration to the representations that have been made by the honorable member. I have already been in correspondence with him in respect pf the need for a lighthouse in one specific case.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
MISCELLANEOUS S ERVICES.
Proposed vole’, £1,177,970.
. - I should like to know how the amount of £4,663 which is provided for “Commonwealth representation. Imperial Economic Committee “ is to be allocated. The sum of £250 is set aside for “ World Conference on Reduction and Limitation of Armaments,” whereas £3,497 was expended on the same item last year. Does that indicate indifference on the part of the Government towards the reduction aud limitation of armaments? An amount of £150 is to be appropriated for “ Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Unemployment,” for which purpose £89 was expended last year. I do not know whether this committee consists of the former secretary of the Committee for Public Works, but the problems that it is endeavouring to solve deserve most serious consideration by the Government. Will the Minister state whether the committee nas submitted reports or recommendations, and if so, what effect has been given to them? I realize that Cabinet Ministers are kept busy with the affairs of their departments. So many matters engage their attentions that there is a danger of the problems associated with unemployment being neglected unless some one is definitely deputed to attempt their solution. Despite the magniloquent election promises made by Ministers that they would cure the ills of unemployment if returned to office, the Government has done practically nothing.
An amount of £5,000 is to be expended on the development of the fishing industry. Obviously that will place very few in employment. The Governmentrecently approved the expenditure of £15,000 for the construction of a fisheries research vessel, which again can do little to relieve unemployment.
Something must be done by the Government to give a fillip to existing industries and encourage the creation of new ones. Remissions of taxes afford some relief to industries that are. already operating, but a policy is required that would help those others which could easily be built up if the necessary encouragement were given. The magnificent response to the £10,000,000 loan which was launched last week and oversubscribed in two days, proves that financial institutions and the public have money available for sound investment. The Government should, therefore, do everything possible to promote the establishment of new primary and secondary industries. There is room for much good work in connexion with Australia’s fishing industry, and something could be done to assist the flax industry which has not proved to be a marked success. The Government would be justified in making money available for the employ- ment of exports from Belfast or elsewhere who could ad vise those iu the industry, for the failures of the past have been largely due to the lack of expert knowledge on the part of those engaged in it. Many persons in the various States, including Tasmania, style themselves flax experts who know- little about either the cultivation or processing of flax. If the Government concentrated its attention on the development of the industry, Australia would, in a few years, bo able to supply its requirements of linseed and its’ by-products, while the supply of the material necessary for Australia’s requirements of linen and cornsacks Would provide employment for an additional 3,000 persons. There is certainly little justification for importing fibre, paper! and other by-products of flax.
An amount of £20,000 is to be expanded on “ tobacco investigation’ and instruction’’, and I should like to know just how it is proposed to spend this money, and when it is intended to make a genuine endeavour to provide a staff of men to give helpful information to tobacco-growers. I hope that the Government will not procrastinate until harvesting time again comes round, but that it will act promptly.
– I .should like an explanation from the Minister representing the Prime Minister of the reason for the large increase of the vote for the “ Contribution to cost of Secretariat - League of Nations”. An amount of £20,000 was voted last, year, and the expenditure was £50,323. The appropriation for the present year is to be £54,000. From time to time we have read reports in the press to the effect that the Australian representative has advocated economy in the administration of the League Secretariat, but has met with little success. How little has been that success honorable members realized only when they received the Estimates, which show that the expenditure this year is to be two and a half times greater than the amount voted for the purpose, last year. I am not advocating . that the Commonwealth’s contribution should be reduced below an amount that would be reasonable for a country of the importance and standing of Australia, but I believe that the amount set down in these Estimates should produce a definite protest from this Parliament, which has had to cut down so considerably expenditure iu connexion with Australia’s defence, and public arid social services. It would appear that those concerned are shirking their responsibility by failing to put into operation the economies that aru necessary in connexion with the League of Nations Secretariat. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an account of what is being done by the Secretariat, and give an assurance that those countries which pay their dues promptly will not be involved in unduly large expenditure because of the reluctance of defaulting countries to support proposals for economies. “
.- The sum of £3,725 is allocated to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but no special provision appears to have been made foi1 fuel research. According to the annual report of the New South Wales Mines Department, for 1933, a committee of inquiry, appointed by the State Government, came to the conclusion that the low-temperature process of Lyon Brothers, of Wallsend, for the extraction of oil from coal was scientifically sound, .and that the claims of the company in respect of the products obtained were not extravagant. The hydrogena’tion process, according to press reports from England, has given even better results. The time has arrived when the Government should take definite steps to assist, the coal industry. It has been languishing for a long time, and it is in a more depressed condition tha1! any other industry. In 1932 coal shares quoted on the stock exchange had depreciated by £6.300,000 since 192S, while bank shares during that period had appreciated in value by £6,717,000. In 192S, the capital of the Abermain Seaham Company amounted to £1,200,000, and its shares were quoted at. 26s. 9d. : but in October, 1933, they were worth only 10s. 6d., and* the decrease in the value of its shares was £975,000. The shares of the Caledonian Company, whose capital amounted to £1,023,599, dropped in value in that period from 18s. 9cl. to 2s. 9d., the reduction of the share capital being £818,879. The shares of Hetton Bellbird
Collieries Limited dropped in value from 24s. to 5s., and of Excelsior Collieries Limited from 23s. lOd. to 2s. 6d. Some shares have fallen from 10s. 6d. to ls. 6d., and others are practically valueless. The following schedule, compiled from the records of the Sydney Stock Exchange, gives a comparison of share values in coal companies in January, 1928, and in October, 1933:-
The total loss of share-value- sustained by these and other coal companies, where it is possible to ascertain share values, amounts to the staggering total of £6,300,000. This does not include certain English shareholding companies, such as Hebburn Limited, as. it is not possible to ascertain their share-value loss. “While the shares in coal-mining companies have depreciated £6,300,000, bank shares have appreciated in value during the last twelve months as follows: -
Similarly, the shares in shipping and interstate industrial companies, which exploit the New South Wales coal trade, have greatly increased in value during the last twelve months, as is shown by the following figures : -
Those figures show that in twelve months bank shares increased in value by more than the coal companies’ shares decreased in five years. In view of these facts, I ask how the Government can sit idly by and watch the desperate plight of, not only the small shareholders, but also the workers in this industry, who are going to the wall. In many instances beneficiaries under wills cannot pay probate duties, and workers cannot refund to the Government money claimed in respect of the property of their parents who were pensioners.
Every effort should be made to rehabilitate the coal industry. I regret the callous attitude adopted by the Government to this industry, as shown by a reply given to me some time ago by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who said that the industry had cut its own throat, because the coal-owners and the coal-miners had combined for the purpose of fleecing the public. I disagreed with the Minister when he made that statement, and I again repudiate his suggestion. Even if the industry had cut its own throat, is the National Government entitled to allow it to bleed to death? Many factors have contributed to the disaster which has overtaken this industry. The introduction of hydroelectric schemes, and the increasing use of oilburning boilers and internal combustion engines have reduced the demand for coal. Foreign fuel is imported for industrial and transport purposes, although a suitable fuel can be extracted from either coal or oil shale, of which there are enormous quantities in this country. I again appeal to the Government to come to the help of the coal-mining industry before the Par liament goes into recess. Only last month, at Cessnock, two of the largest mines closed down, involving 1,500 persons in loss of employment. In 1925, the annual output of the industry throughout Australia was 13,626,000 tons of coal valued at £11,370,215, and the number directly employed in and around the mines was 30,457, apart from those engaged in transport and other subsidiary industries. In 1930, 22,996 persons were employed, a decrease of 7,461, while the output of coal had dropped to 9,531,359 tons, a reduction of 4,095,418 tons. The value of the output was down, to £7,458,598, a reduction of £3,911,617. A comparison of the position in 1925 with that in 1930 is given in the following table : -
Those figures do not indicate the state of the industry to-day, because owing to the lockout on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales during 1929-30, the position in some of the other States had improved. According to the latest returns of the New South “Wales Mines Department, the output of that State in 1931 showed a reduction of 5,011,977 tons, and the value of the production indicated a falling off of £4,695,172. The latest Year-Book does not give the actual reduction of the number of employees, but the northern branch of the Miners Federation has supplied me with figures showing that in the northern district, of New South Wales, although 14,500 persons were employed from 1925 to 1929, the number is now only 8,500. In the northern districts alone, the number of employees has been reduced by 6,000 owing to the closing down of mines, and these men are unemployed. In addition, approximately 5,000 lads between the ages of 14 and 22 years, who in normal times would have been absorbed in industry have not. done any work
According to the newspapers, the British Government is doing a great deal to encourage the extraction of oil from coal. It has decided to assist this project by a bounty of 4d. a gallon on all oil produced. On this subject, the following interesting statement appeared in a recent issue of the Newcastle Morning Herald: -
British naval estimates contain a reference to the recent purchase of home-produced oil for the navy. It is also stated that trials of a boiler of a new express typo have been satisfactorily curried out, and will be continued under service conditions on H.M.S. Ghianlia.il. Arrangements have also been made to carry out trials of another type of water tube boiler in course of manufacture which offers the possibility of a greater output for a given weight. . . ‘.
Trials of various fuels, including burning tests of coal oil mixtures and of fuel oil produced from coal, have been continued at the oil fuel experimental stations .at Kaslar. After preliminary trials in H.M.S. Westminster a contract has recently been placed for a quantity of oil fuel produced from British coal by low temperature carbonization.
This process is not considered the best one. The most economical and also the most efficient is, I understand, the hydrogenation process, by the use of which it is claimed that motor fuel can be produced at a cost of from 7d. to 9d. a gallon.
I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to my representations and that, late as it, is to come to the rescue of the coal-mining industry, action will be taken to put it on a better basis than it is at the present time.
Every mining student - there should now be many in this House, because ever since my election to it I have been talking about the coal position - knows that the difficulties of the coal-mining industry are due to scientific developments in power units for modern, industries. Whatever may be our differences of opinion as to the manner in which the industry in. this country has been carried on, let us now do what is possible to rehabilitate it and restore contentment to the many thousands of people who were employed in it. The industry should not be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. I am certain that if the Government comes to its rescue now, in the perhaps not distant future, it will come into its own again. Competent authorities estimate that the world’s supply of flow oil will be exhausted within 100 years. Industry will “then be forced to give attention to the production of fuel from other sources. It is the duty of this Parliament to legislate for not only the present, but also the future needs of the nation. Since the use of modern combustion engines as power units is becoming more general, we must, sooner or later, exploit our known resources of fuel oil to meet future demands of industry. I, therefore, in all sincerity, urge the Government .to take practical steps for the rehabilitation of the coal-mining industry. In making this request, I do not ask for the coal industry more than has been done for other industries, such as the wheat, tobacco, citrus and dried fruits, butter, gold, zinc, beet sugar, wine, galvanized iron, cotton and other industries which have been directly and indirectly assisted by governments. Why should not this Government do something to assist the coal-mining industry ? Ministers and their supporters declare their belief in private enterprise. Why do they not offer an inducement to private enterprise to develop the coal-mining industry along the lines I have indicated ? Personally, I believe that it should be nationalized, but as that is not the policy of the party now in control of the destinies of this country, the Government should encourage private enterprise to establish plants for the extraction of oil from coal. I am not unmindful of the fact that wealthy foreign oil interests would endeavour to stifle any such project because if the process were placed on an economic basis they would be unable any longer to exploit the people of this country to the amount of £18,000,000 per annum for its requirements of fuel oil.
– I understand that the honorable member is directing his remarks to the vote for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The honorable member must confine his remarks to that item.
– The extraction of fuel oil from Australian coal resources is definitely linked up with the work of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I therefore contend that my remarks are relevant to the item under discussion. An adequate supply of fuel oil would have an important effect on the transport industry in Australia, and measures for the production of that fuel would not only do much to restore the coal-mining industry -but would also assist in keeping our transport services active in the event of war in the Pacific interfering Avith our overseas fuel supplies. We cannot afford to see it languishing further. The exploitation of our known resources of fuel oil would provide more employment and thus take a great number of workers off the dole. The Government may argue that it is not concerned with the dole payments iu the various States, but, as it makes grants to some of the States, it is, indirectly, helping them to maintain their unemployed. If, then, we could provide our own requirements of fuel oil, Ave should be able to keep in Australia the £18,000,000 which we send abroad in payment for foreign oil supplies and, at the same time, we would revive the coalmining industry. The condition of the mining districts at the present time is a tragedy not only to the miners themselves but also to the business people and tradesmen. If Ministers or any of their supporters paid a visit to some of the districts they would, I am sure, be distressed at seeing the condition of the people. In many cases homes which the miners treasure are being taken over by the banks. It may be news to some honorable members that 85 per cent, of the people in mining districts own, or prior to the depression were purchasing, their own homes. It is tragic to see the look of. abject despair on the care-worn faces of so many of these people who have had to hand over their homes to the batiks because they could not meet the payment? due on them. The banks are waxing fat, and piling up profits at their expense. This should induce honorable members to support any project to revive the coal-mining industry. I sincerely hope that this Government will bring forward a practical proposal to save the industry and thus bring contentment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country.
– I support the appeal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) to the Government to take definite action for the rehabilitation of the coal-mining industry. The obvious facts of this essential industry point, more perhaps than anything else, to the absolute failure of the existing system of capitalistic control, and re-organization upon, the basis of nationalization is required if the industry is to be saved. I know, however; that it is futile to make any such suggestion to this Government. The placing of this very important public utility on the same basis as national transport is a responsibility that will have to be discharged by a Labour government. The reasons for the present desperate plight of the industry are apparent, to honorable members on this side of the House at all events. Even if the Government does not take the steps which the Labour party thinks it should take, we hope that it will do something to savean industry that is down and out. It will not profit us to dwell upon the grievous mistake made by the colliery proprietors, supported by the New South Wales Government, when, some years ago, they locked-out their employees for fifteen months and surrendered what was left of the trade which, even before that dispute had occurred,
Avas slipping from their grasp. Now 7,000 good citizens of the Commonwealth are idle Avith no hope of re-employment,’ and the remainder of the employees in the industry are, for the most part, ekeing out a precarious existence on intermittent work. Every day the position becomes worse
Our export markets for coal have been seized by other countries, and the problems of the industry have gradually increased until its position to-day is serious indeed. In the early stages, the coal industry of Australia attracted many people from the other side of the world. Many British miners came to Australia, some with their families, and settled here. Others married here, acquired homes, and reared families. A rather notable trait in their character was their ability to make themselves self-reliant. They naturally looked forward to continuity of. employment because they thought that the industry was absolutely essential and would have to be maintained in all circumstances. Unfortunately, the dark shadow ‘of unemployment came over them, and many are now experiencing want and misery. These men are naturally looking to this Government for some relief. Over 7,000 men are affected, most of them being dependent on food relief or intermittent work. Even within the last month or two, mines that were giving fairly regular employment have further curtailed their activities. That action has, of course, added to the seriousness of the position. Like the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) I have been consulted by officials of the Miners Federation, led by a gentleman against whom neither the Government nor any member of this House can point the finger of scorn. I refer to Mr. D. Rees, who, together with the general secretary, Mr. A. Teece, has appealed to me to call on this Parliament to do something to relieve the terrible misery and want existing throughout the coal belt.
Mr. Rees stated in a letter to me -
There is both a boiling point and a limit of human endurance and the miners are approaching both. Reckless ‘indifference lias been shown to rt,lie urgent need of control over the national industry of coal. Something must be done at once if wholesale despoilation of the workers and bankruptcy of the coal companies are to bo avoided. The whole policy of the Government seems to be one of wait and sec, while men starve and industry languishes.
A few weeks ago- 1 appealed to the Government to realize the urgent need of the great body of men who grow the
Mr. Beasley. wheat of this country, and the present indications are that the Government intends to give to them some assistance. I appeal again on behalf of another great body of men, those who mine coal in Australia, and who, I consider, have a similar claim for assistance. This matter is much too serious for political consideration to enter into its discussion. No object would be served in opposing the request of the honorable member for Hunter on party political grounds because he, as a representative of the miners, is not likely to lose his seat in this Parliament. I want the Government to act, and I do not want to prejudice any action it might feel disposed to take. Therefore, I shall keep to the facts and quote figures which cannot be disputed and can be checked by official records. Although the coal industry is for the most part located in New South Wales, its ramifications extend in some degree to the other States, all of which are dependent upon coal for industrial development. Mr. J. M. Baddeley, as Minister for Mines in the last Labour Government of New South Wales, attempted to bring down a measure to rehabilitate the coal industry in that State. So great is the chaos existing in the industry there that a national plan in which the Commonwealth and the State Governments should loyally co-operate, is essential to meet the situation. While for political reasons some honorable members may dislike the text of the bill introduced by Mr. Baddeley, the principles underlying it must be adopted ultimately because a beginning will have to be made on the basis of the report of the Coal Commission of New South Wales. When the measure was before the State Parliament, the greatest objection to it came apparently from the coal companies. But when the position is analysed, one wonders whether the objection came really from the shareholders who had their money invested in coal shares, or from certain holding companies and banks which by mortgage and interlocking are gradually obtaining, control of every coal mine in the Commonwealth at bargain prices. The stock exchange quotations reveal the fact that since 1928 over £6,000,000 has been lost by shareholders in mining companies.
The following table shows how shares have declined : -
Shares of Abermain Seaham Limited have suffered a decrease in value by £975,000. J. and A. Brown shares are worth £575,000 less. Caledonian Collieries have had a loss of £1,113,000. Another good example is that of the nominal £10 shares of the NewcastleWallspnd Company, which have dropped from £16 2s. 6d. to £3. Those figures are carefully compiled and do not take into account certain companies registered in Britain, for which comparative figures are not available.
Honorable members will quickly realize that this is not a matter of wages or working conditions, and that something must be radically wrong to produce results such as I have mentioned. These losses cannot be overtaken by another miserable 10 per cent, cut of the mine workers’ earnings.
It must be obvious that, like the wheat industry, coal-mining is a victim of the fall in commodity values, aggravated by a continually contracting market for coal in its raw state. The Government has an obligation in respect of the coal industry, and the men who earn their livelihood in it. National action is demanded from this national Parliament.Without going out of my way to be offensive, I say that the narrow, petty Government now in control of the largest coal-producing State - New South Wales - is incompetent, hopeless, hidebound and unapproachable.
No complete record of the overdrafts upon which the different coal companies are operating is available, but I seriously suggest that that is an aspect of the industry in which the Government should interest itself, particularly in view of the amazing position occupied on the stock exchange by the banks, in comparison with the coal companies. The stock exchange lists also show that for the past twelve months bank shares have increased in value by more than the coal companies shares have declined in five years. Bank of Australasia £5 shares have, since October 1932, advanced from £11 8s. 9d. to £.13 10s., representing an increase of £1,856,250 in capital value. English, Scottish and Australian Bank £3 shares have increased from £5 4s to £6 2s. 6d., a market increase of £925,000. Union Bank £5 shares from £9 5s. to £10 17s. 6d., an increase of £1,300,000. Nine banks alone within twelve months have shown market increases in share value totalling £6,731,166, while vital national industries such as wheat and coal have gone to the wall.
– Some bank shares have declined in value.
My, BEASLEY.- I have stated that nine banks, including the Bank of Australasia, the English, Scottish and Australian Bank and the Union Bank have increased their share capital to the amount of £6,731,166. The same state of affairs is disclosed in the share market reports of shipping and other industrial corporations which exploit the coal industry. The Adelaide Steamship Company’s shares have increased from 22s. to 25s. 3d. in twelve months; Burns, Philp and Company’s from 50s. to 54s.; Broken Hill Proprietary Limited from 38s. to 42s.; and those of Howard Smith and Company Limited from 10s. 6d. to 15s. 2d. Those four companies alone show a market value share gain of £3,235,895 in twelve months. I do not want to labour the subject; but I have quoted those figures to show how utterly hopeless it is to expect any regeneration of the industry from within ; how necessary it is for strong political action to be taken to place it on a sound basis, and to restore the right to work to the 20,000 men dependent upon it. The value of the coal industry to the whole industrial life of the community is too obvious to need emphasis. The possibilities of developing the extraction of fuel oil and other by-products are well known. I appeal to the Government to use all its powers and facilities to get the coal industry hack to production. Coal more than any other product is the index to prosperity, for all activity in industry is based on power developed from fuel. The present state of the coal industry indicates how far from prosperity, the Commonwealth really is.
– What prevents the coal industry from working out its own salvation ?
– I have already indicated that there is a marked tendency to divert capital from the industry to other investments, which, because they do not provide so much employment, are less desirable.’ The conditions under which we live are such that capital is being invested in directions considered more secure, irrespective of what industry may suffer as a result ; but it is useless to complain on that account.
– Was not the strike in the coal industry largely responsible for its decline?
– I am endeavouring to discuss this important subject dispassionately, and at this juncture do not propose to debate that phase of the question with the honorable member, although I could do so most effectively. The point we have to consider is that, during .recent years, conditions have changed materially, as COn 1 is not now used for the purposes for which it was used formerly. That is why an industry which was once so prosperous is now languishing. The circumstances which prevail in the coal-mining industry are due largely to the conditions 1111,1 er which we now live. .
– The coal-mining in* dustry had its opportunity when conditions were favorable. Mr. BEASLEY. - That, may be so, and had greater foresight been displayed by those controlling it, the position might not have been as acute as it is to-day. The interjection of the honorable member reminds me of the activities displayed by the company with which be was formerly associated’, and by which I was once employed, at Port Pirie. That company va3 always on- the lookout for new avenues in which to exercise its activities. Experts were employed in research work in an endeavour to determine the best way in which its by-products could be used, so that losses incurred in one department could be made up by increased returns from other departments. The company adopted modern and enterprising methods, and under the present system excellent results have been achieved. It may be true that those controlling the New South Wales coalmining industry were not progressive; instead of seeking hig money, they should have had their experts engaged iu ascertaining how the valuable coal deposits in New South Wales could be more effectively used. Greater consideration should have been shown to its workmen, many of whom came from the Old Country, and are now in a most deplorable position. I do not propose to argue as to who is responsible for the present state of affairs, or to dispute the assertion that the energies of the controlling companies should have been devoted to the development of the industry upon more modern lines. The responsibility now rests upon the Government to see what can be done in the interests of the industry, and of those who have to look to it for their livelihood. Whatever our views on the subject may be, we have to face the position as it is. I might condemn the social and economic system, under which we live until I am black in the face, but it would be useless to do so at the present juncture. I sincerely trust that the Government will make an immediate attempt to afford some relief to the 20,000 persons who depend upon this industry, and that before long it will submit a proposal worthy of an industry of the importance of the New South Wales coal industry.
.- It is not my intention to discuss at length the matters referred to by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) ; but it is interesting to note that investigations into the possibilities of commercially extracting oil from coal are being conducted in other countries. When I was in Great Britain over three years ago, experiments were then being made in Germany, and the reports received were not very encouraging. Investigations have been in progress in Great Britain for some time, and when conversing with a gentleman interested in this subject, I endeavoured to ascertain how long we shall have to wait for conclusive proof of whether oil can be extracted from coal commercially. Imperial Chemical Industries is at present, engaged in constructing a plant for this purpose, the initial cost, of which will be approximately £2,500,000, and I was informed that two or three years must elapse before it can be determined whether oil can be extracted from coal on a commercial basis. I know that encouraging newspaper reports have appeared, but the Government should endeavour to ascertain what has actually been achieved.
– A commercial unit is now being built in Great Britain.
– Yes, and I understand that the initial cost will be £2,500,000.
– The total cost will be about £12;000,000.
– Yes, and it will take from three to five years to complete the installation. The Government should ascertain through the High Commissioner in London the progress made in order to determine what may be done in Australia to provide oil fuel from coal. I shall do all in my power to assist in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Hunter, but it is useless to incur heavy expenditure until we ascertain whether satisfactory results are likely to be achieved. I have also been informed that if it should come to a fight with the companies producing and distributing motor spirit, they can reduce prices still further, and thus become dangerous competitors. I trust that, at an early date, the Government will place the latest information at its disposal before Parliament. “ Under this vote, £3,000 is to be paid to the trust fund for the investigation of the tobacco-growing industry, and £20,000 is to be appropriated for “ tobacco investigation and instruction.” Will the Minister explain the direction in which that money is to be spent? There is also an item, “ Commonwealth representation, Imperial Economic Committee - £4,363.” What inquiries are being conducted by that committee, and what benefit, if any, will they yield to Australia. Another interesting item reads - “ Broadcasting companies - ex gratia payment in respect of loss of licences, £9,000.” I am surprised that such an amount should be included in these Estimates. Should not such a payment be made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission ? There is an item, “ Royal Commission on Taxation Laws of the Commonwealth and the States - £4,000.” Some time ago, an ex-judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales was appointed to co-ordinate the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and of the States, and I should like to know if £4,000 is being appropriated for that purpose, and if so, how far the work has progressed. An amount of £4,000 is being appropriated for the Commonwealth Grants Commission, appointed to inquire into the financial disabilities of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Can the Minister say what stage the investigations of the commission have reached, and when a report is to be submitted? In division No. 101, there is an amount of £3,000 for “ Grant to Australian Commonwealth Association of Simplified Practice and Standards.” In what way is that amount to be expended? There is a- contribution to the British Woollen and Worsted Association. Is that for the purpose of advertising our woollen industry and promoting the sale of woollen products?
– I wish to support the plea that has been made for assistance to the coal industry. During the last few days we have listened to a long discussion on defence, and we have learned that oil must play an important part in the defence scheme of any country. I sometimes wonder what would happen to Australia if, in the event of war, its outside oil supplies were cut off. Even during the last six months the position in regard to the extraction of oil from coal has altered very greatly in Great Britain, and the prospects now seem extremely bright for the successful prosecution of this industry in Australia. Some time ago, the manager of a big plant in England informed me that better results had been obtained from samples of Australian coal than from
British coal. The subject has been investigated in Australia, and the royal commission, consisting of Mr. Justice Davidson, Sir Herbert Gepp, and Dr. L. K. “Ward, which considered the matter exhaustively, stated in the course of its report -
The money or its equivalent necessarily sent from Australia to pay for each gallon of petrol imported represents the prime cost of the petrol, plus the profit to the various overseas companies supplying and distributing the petrol in Australia. There is no means of determining this figure exactly, but, assuming that it is ls. 2d. per gallon, then the replacement by Australian products of ea eli 0,000,000 gallons of petrol at present imported would retain in Australia £290,000 sterling per annum. The greater portion of this sum of money would obviously be paid in Australia for coal, wages, stores and general maintenance of plant and machinery. In these calculations, no allowance has been made for capital expenditure in plant and machinery necessary in order to supply this proposal in practice. A tentative estimate for the first installation indicates a sum for this purpose of £50.000 for each .1.000,000 gallons of petrol. Probably this sum would bo reduced if application became wider. On the other hand, no allowance has been made for possible savings in overhead in the large gas works throughout Australia by the utilization to a considerably greater extent over each twenty-four hours of the present plant and equipment for the production and distribution of gas.
Something has been said about the coal industry in Australia having killed itself, the reference being to the industrial troubles which have, unfortunately, been too frequent. Nothing, however, is ever said of the action of the companies which, in order to obtain quick returns, have so mined the coal that no more than 40 per cent, of the deposit will ever be got out. I have seen the Lyon brothers at work, and I have witnessed experiments in the course of which tractors have been propelled by the gas produced from coal after the oil has been extracted. That gas is really a by-product, but it is cheaper than either coal or oil. Surely the Government would be justified in doing something to assist this industry. Mr. L. J. Rogers, who recently returned from abroad, investigated production methods in various parts of the world. Senator McLachlan stated some time ago that it would require £10,000,000 to erect a plant capable of producing oil from coal on a commercial basis, but Mr. Rogers has cut that estimate down to a few thousand pounds. He stated that we should be able to produce petrol from coal in thi3 country for less than the price at which we can import well oil at the present time. The Government has assisted other industries, and I am glad that it has. Let it do something now to assist the coal-mining industry, which is as deserving as any.
Oil can be produced, not only from coal, but also from shale, and in New South Wales we have probably the largest oil shale deposits in the world. At present those deposits are unused, although efforts have been made to exploit them by the crude processes hitherto in vogue. The Government should do something to enable Australia to make itself independent of outside supplies of oil, so that we shall no longer need to buy what we need from a country that has consistently refused to buy from us. Moreover, the American oil companies have for years bled Australia white by charging exorbitant prices for their products, as has been proved by the recent sensational drop of petrol prices brought about by independent competition. The Government should advance money for the erection of plant for the extraction of oil from coal and shale. I have for long held the opinion that while overseas oil companies are permitted to retain their hold on the Australian market, we shall never be able to develop a local industry for the production of either well oil, or oil from shale and coal. I appeal to the Government to do something to make us independent of those companies, and, at the same time, to assist our own people to find employment.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) mentioned the contribution of Australia to the finances of the League of Nations, and urged that the Government should dp what it could to have the league’s expenditure reduced. I remind the honorable member that the Australian delegation, at the last meeting of the assembly, strongly urged that expenditure be cut down, and the report of the delegation contains the following remarks on the subject : -
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), a member of the delegation, spoke on the subject in support of the English delegate, who made out what he described as an unanswerable case. Mr. Hughes is reported as follows : -
He reminded the committee that the league “ could not ignore the present unhappy position of the world. Take but one country, Australia,” he said. “For many years that country had been extremely prosperous, but in the last two years she had been brought to her knees. Economies, drastic and far reach ing, had been forced upon her and no class had escaped. Salaries, wages and pensions had all been reduced. The invalid’s pension, the soldier’s pension, had all been cut. It was essential to impress on the secretariat the need for so ordering its action as to secure the goodwill of the world.” He was strongly in favour of the reduction of salaries. “When prosperity caine, “ he said, “ then salaries could be raised.”
It is clear that the’ Australian delegation was wholeheartedly in favour of reduced expenditure. The League of Nations budget this year provided for an expenditure of £1,335,100, at par, which is less than that for 1932. Australia’s expenditure is put down in the Estimates before the committee at £54,000, but that includes the cost of exchange. For 1932, the expenditure, which, I shall assume, was about the same as for this year, amounted to £36,401 on a gold basis. For that year the contribution of Great Britain was £141,560, but actually it amounted to £182,000, because, in the meantime, Great Britain had gone off the gold standard, and the £1 sterling was then worth only from 14s. to 15s. in gold. An expenditure of £1,335,000 by the members of the League of Nations in an attempt to secure world peace is by no means excessive. After his retirement -from the Secretariat of the League of Nations, Sir Eric Drummond remarked in London that the League had been responsible for settling eight of nine major disputes which had been -referred to it. He is reported to have said -
There we’re nine questions, some of which represented a serious menace to peace, and all of which contained threatening possibilities. In every ca.se except one, the League had either solved the dispute directly or aided in finding a solution by peaceful means.
Had the League not been able to bring about a settlement in these eases, and had other means been sought for their solution, the cost might have made the expenditure on the League look trifling. Lord Snowden, then Chancellor of the British Exchequer, pointed out in February, 1930, that the Great War had left Great Britain with a debt of £7,000,000,000. He is reported to have said - ,
It takes the whole-time labour of 2,000,000 workers year in and year out to produce thu means to pay the annual cost of our debt service. “ We get a total of £520,000,000 a year - £.1,000 a minute - which the people of Great Britain have to provide for war purposes.”
According to the Manchester Guardian, “ the total war costs are estimated at £100,000,000,000.” Compared with those figures, Australia’s contribution to the League of Nations, which is seeking to establish and maintain friendly relations between the nations, is small, indeed. Nevertheless, our delegates were justified in pressing for the greatest economy possible consistent with efficiency. In some respects it is difficult to reduce expenditure. For instance, a special committee of jurists appointed to inquire into the. salaries of League officials advised that agreements had been entered into with the officials concerned, which could not be altered unilaterally. But the committee made suggestions in regard to salaries in the future. The New Zealand delegate pointed out the high cost of living at Geneva, and said that he could not agree to the reduction of the salaries of the lower-paid officials. In addition to other expenditure, there is the cost of the upkeep of the Permanent Court of International Justice, comprising fifteen justices - a tribunal which has already given over 40 decisions and opinions. The expenditure on thai court cannot be curtailed to any appreciable extent. Expenditure is also incurred by the League of Nations in connexion with health administration, and such matters as slavery, the white slave traffic, and social problems generally. Considering the nature of the work undertaken by the League, the cost to the nations is trifling. The public should be informed of the smallness of Australia’s contribution. When we consider the price of a battleship, we must conclude that an annual expenditure of £1,335,000 to preserve world peace is amply justified.
.- It is interesting to compare the speeches of champions of the League of Nations tonight with their remarks when a proposal for an increased expenditure on armaments was before us. Some honorable gentlemen have criticized the expenditure of the League of Nations on the ground that Australia’s contribution is too great; I criticize it because of the failure of the League of Nations to do what it was constituted to do.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) said that the League had settled eight of the nine main disputes which had been referred to it. In my opinion, those disputes would not have gone beyond the stage they reached even if the League had not intervened, or if there had been no League of Nations at all. The one major dispute which the League failed to settle was the only real test of its effectiveness - I refer to the dispute between China and Japan. In that disagreement, the other members of the League of Nations, so far from attempting to effect a settlement, actually exported arms and munitions to both China and Japan to enable them to continue the conflict. Those who were responsible for the formation of the League of Nations never intended that it should preserve world peace. In my opinion, the League was an amalgamation of the victorious nations engaged in the Great War, with the object of making the Treaty of Peace signed aat Versailles more effective. A remarkable feature of Australia’s membership of the League of Nations is that last year, although only £20,000 was voted towards the expenses of the League, £50,323 was expended. In other words, the expenditure approved by this Parliament was exceeded by 150 per cent. No government should expend money in excess of the amount authorized by Parliament. I should like to know whether Australia’s increased expenditure under this heading is due to the failure of other members of the League to meet their commitments. On page 33 of the report of the Australian Delegation to the Twelfth Assembly in 1931, the following paragraphs appear under the heading, “Reports of the Supervisory Commission “ : -
The reports of the Supervisory Commission were presented to the Fourth Committee by M. Osusky, the Chairman, who informed the Committee that, although not critical, the financial position of the League was less favorable than at the corresponding stages of the five previous financial periods.
Osusky dwelt at length on the position due to unpaid contributions. .For the first year of the League’s existence there were no arrears still due. For the second aud third years, the arrears now amounted to about 170,000 Swiss francs; for the fourth to the ninth year, they averaged 350,000 to 300,00u Swiss francs: for the tenth year they were 125.000 francs; for the eleventh they were over 1,000,000; and for the twelth, 1,400,000 Swiss francs. At the moment no State was in arrears for the first year; from the second to the tenth, not more than five; for the eleventh year, seven ; a.nd for the twelfth, fourteen, lt was urged that it would materially assist tthe League if the various governments could pay at least a portion of their contributions at the beginning of each year.
As time goes on, the number of unfinancial nations increases. To-day, fourteen nations are unfinancial members of the League.
Another anomaly is that one of Australia’s delegates to the Thirteenth Assembly of the League of Nations - a body whose main objective is alleged to be the preservation of world peace - is to-day the spearhead of the movement in Australia for an increase of armaments. On one day he presents to this chamber a report of the proceedings at the Assembly, and on another day he rises in his place to advocate greater expenditure on armaments. If the Government believes that Australia must inevitably be involved in another war, why does it continue to expend money on .the League of Nations? If war is inevitable, the money spent on sending representatives to meetings of the League of Nations is merely a means of providing favored Government supporters with a pleasure jaunt overseas.
Other expenditure under the beading “ Miscellaneous “ includes £4,363 for “ Commonwealth representation Imperial Economic Committee “. I should like to know the functions of that committee. A sum of £250 is set down in connexion with the world conference on the reduction and limitation of armaments. That item seems inconsistent with the Government’s decision to increase armaments. Under the heading, “ Commonwealth representation Permanent Mandates Commission, League of Nations, 1933 “. £100 is to bo provided. This appears to be a new item, and I should like to hear the. Minister’s explanation of it. In order to provide Commonwealth representation at minor conferences, £300 is included in these Estimates. The committee is entitled to some particulars of this proposed expenditure. Commonwealth representation at the Fourteenth Assembly of the League of Nations in 1933 is estimated to cost. £1,000. This also is a new item of expenditure, and I ask whether it is necessary, because Australia now has a seat, on the Council of the League. The sum of £500 is to be voted for Commonwealth representation at the Eighteenth International Labour Conference at Geneva in 1934. The “World Economic Conference claims £500 for this year. This and the other items I have mentioned should be explained in detail to the committee.
China and Japan were members of the League when they defied its authority. It would appear that a good many of the members of the League accept, its decisions only when they are favorable to their national aspirations. Japan has been given a mandate over certain territories which formerly belonged to Germany, and now claims that it received that mandate under the Treaty of Versailles, not from the League of Nations, and will, therefore, continue to control those territories after 1935, when it will cease to be a member of the League. I should like to know if that is an. official state ment by the Japanese authorities and, if so, what is the attitude of the Australian Government to Japan’s claims. All of the items mentioned should be explained, so that members of the committee may have an exact knowledge of the extent to which Australia is committed, and be able to judge whether it is likely that next year’s Estimates will show, as this year’s have shown, that the vote has been exceeded by 150 per cent. Many honorable members must feel disgust at the appropriation on one day of an additional £1,500,000 for purposes of increased armaments, and on the next day of enormous sums to defray the cost of Australia’s representation upon an organization which was established ostensibly to preserve peace, but which has shown itself to be incapable of achieving the results predicted of it. If it were consistent, the Government would withdraw from the League of Nations, and save at least, the expenditure thus incurred.
.- I desire to refer to- the proposed grant of £3,000 to the Australian Commonwealth Association of Simplified Practice and Standards, particularly in relation to agricultural implements. This is a subject’ of which I have no personal knowledge, and I shall, therefore, present to the Minister the case that has been placed before me, in the hope that he will meet the request that I have been asked to make. The Agricultural Bureau of Tasmania, an organization which embraces men who are engaged in different branches of farming operations through* out the State, has informed me that, on account of the absence of standardization, there is such a diversity of patterns of not only agricultural implements, but also the component parts of them, that a very serious additional cost is laid on the farmer when he is obliged to make replacements. I believe that there is a good deal of force in this contention, and I am confirmed in that belief by the opinion which has been expressed by a gentleman of no less eminence than Sir George Julius. From the case that has been placed before me, it would appear that the difficulty of securing standardization is caused by the manufacturers. Writing to Mr. Keam, a prominent official of the Agricultural Bureau in Tasmania, the
Chief Executive Officer of the Standards Association of Australia, Sydney, says -
Sir George Julius has referred to me your letter to him of the 1st instant, and has asked me to inform you as to the association’s efforts to deal with the need for standardization of parts of agricultural implements, and the difficulties which have so far prevented us from taking any effective action. We have on a number of occasions been requested to take the matter in hand, and there appears to be no doubt as to the benefits that would result to the farmer, nor as to the unanimity with which the farmers would endorse the proposal fur standardization. When we sought the views of manufacturing interests, however, we met opposition all along the line. Not only is there the fear, referred to by the contributor in the Tasmanian Fruitgrower and Farmer, that the manufacture of standard parts would become an independent industry, which would deprive the manufacturers of machines of this very lucrative section of their business, but the implement manufacturers themselves arc in competition with each other for this trade. The firms holding the predominant position opposed the proposal on the plea of excessive cost of alteration to patterns and plant, whilst other firms claimed that if parts were standard the one firm which has distributing agencies throughout the countryside, being more accessible to the farmer, would secure the great bulk of the replacement trade.
We may possibly have to invoke a little pressure from the Federal Government; we hope to be able to achieve something before very long. The Tasmanian agitation will, no doubt prove very helpful, and in view of the opportunity created by this fresh evidence of interest 1 am taking immediate steps to see whether we cannot now enlist the support of the principal manufacturing interests.
If we are to have effective standardization, here is a field for .exploration in practical work of no mean order. Had I been a farmer, I could have handled the subject much more effectively. I can merely add that the Agricultural Bureau of Tasmania has raised the matter with similar organizations on the mainland, all of which have given the general idea their blessing.
I am rather surprised that the Country party has not initiated action in this Parliament. I realize, of course, that it is not a function of the Government to interfere with the details of manufacturing operations; but if its influence were exerted, I have no doubt that the manufacturers themselves would evolve a scheme for simplifying and standardizing agricultural implements, which would he of material benefit to the farmer and of no detriment to themselves.
– Under what constitutional power could the Commonwealth take action?
– Results are often achieved merely by a display of governmental interest. If the manufacturers believed that only disorganized farmers were concerned about the matter, naturally their inclination to make a move would not be so strong as it would be if they knew that the Commonwealth was alive to the necessities of the situation.
The subject of coal-mining has been discussed by the honorable members for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and Hunter (Mr. James. It can fairly be stated that the coal industry of New South Wales is one of the seven wonders of the world. When anything crashes, as the coal industry has done, it is natural that those who have suffered in the fall should try to pass the blame on to some one else. The opinion at which I have arrived, after a close examination of the position, is that both of the principal parties in this case have been substantially guilty, quite apart from the changes that have developed in connexion with the use of coal since the war. The position on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales is, undoubtedly, pitiable. From time to time, graphic stories of the plight of the wheat-farmer, which doubtless are based largely on fact, are related in this chamber. The plight of the inhabitants of. the northern coal-fields of New South Wales is even worse. For years they have existed on the dole, and have not had the satisfaction of doing even a little work, because there has been no work for them, to do. They do not seem inclined to leave the coal-fields; and in any event, I believe that inability to adapt themselves to other occupations is a characteristic of coal-miners. They must present a very serious problem, not only to the Government of New South Wales but also to their representatibes in this chamber. The honorable member for Hunter has my full sympathy. I know that he is consumed with the desire to do something for them, and in the circumstances the fervour with which he speaks on this subject from time to time is forgivable.
But it is idle to expect the Government or anybody else to enable the industry to absorb the 1.0,000 or 15,000 surplus men. The productive capacity of the mines of New South “Wales is ‘72 per cent, above the market requirements of even a few years ago when demand was greater than it is now. The industry was once highly profitable, and was treated more like a gold-field than a coalfield. Pits were opened all over the place, and engaged in fierce competition with each other. Therefore the productive capacity, which was much greater than the absorptive capacity of the market before the use of oil reduced the consumption of coal, is very much more in excess of it to-day. This was the cause of the old coal vend, which was formed to keep up prices, becoming shattered. In the struggle for existence internecine warfare developed in the industry, and it is being continued to-day as keenly as ever. The weaker units are gradually being pushed to the wall. We have heard to-day that additional units are either shortening working time or closing down. The ace of spades - or should it be picks - is held at the moment by the Abermain-Seaham group, by reason of the fact that it has, with the Australian Gaslight Company, a contract for three years at £1 a ton, which provides a very good foundation upon which may be built a business of price cutting that’ may effect detrimentally others less fortunately placed.
In 1929 and 1930 a royal commission, set up by the Government of New South Wales in conjunction with the Commonwealth, investigated the coal industry, and presented a voluminous and valuable report. It was hoped that, as the result of its work, measures for the rehabilitation of the industry would be taken. But the political situation was not stable, and nothing was done. Responsibility rested primarily with the State Government, the composition of which was altered. The Lang Government, upon its return to power, brought down a bill which professedly was designed to rehabilitate the industry, but its terms were based upon only 50 per cent, of the findings and recommendations of the royal commission. The royal commission said that such and such should be done with respect to the control and management of the owners, and such and such with respect to the hours and conditions of the miners. The Lang Government discarded its recommendations in relation to the miners, but adopted those which applied to the owners. Naturally, the owners exerted opposition to the measure and nothing came of it. No action has since been taken.
In Great Britain, after much expenditure of money and lengthy investigations, steps are at last being taken to produce oil from coal on a commercial basis. A plant costing from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 is being erected by Imperial Chemical Industries Limited. That plant will provide full time work for about .1,000 miners, lt must be remembered that these miners are working in narrow seams, where the output of each man is low. A plant on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales that would absorb from ten to fifteen times the number of miners embraced by the English scheme would obviously involve an enormous capital expenditure. From my experience of chemical and engineering processes, I have no doubt that the present process is far from perfect. Within the next two or three years particularly very substantial improvements will be made with the object ‘ of reducing costs and raising recoveries. In my opinion it would be neither possible nor profitable for the Commonwealth to do anything ‘ like the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited is doing in England. If any Government here ought to do that, obviously it is the Government of New South Wales, and, if it proposed any serious step in that direction, I am quite sure the Commonwealth Government, which is just as keenly interested in the citizens of our northern coal-fields as it is in those of any other part of Australia, would stand behind that Government, and render whatever help it was able to give. It is very much .to be regretted that .the coal industry, before it threw away the market it enjoyed, was characterized by an almost complete absence of any research work. It did not seem to look beyond the next ship which was to visit Newcastle to take away a cargo of coal. It semed incapable of visualizing the necessity for cheaper production or the altered economic position which was confronting the industry. The changes which have taken place did not come with extreme suddenness, and, consequently, the industry should not have been caught unawares. When the time came that the hewers of coal were less in demand than they had been their troubles ijnmed.iat.ely multiplied, and they became importunate in their claim for State help, by way of either bounty or subsidy, to enable them to continue hewing coal. Had the industry displayed anything like the originality which the metalliferous industries of Australia have exhibited, and without which the latter would have been dead, the coal industry would be in n much better position than it is to-day. Indeed, it is a metalliferous company which alone has displayed any desire to engage in research work in connexion with coal deposits in Australia - I refer to the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, which has been so roundly abused in this chamber on many occasions. This company has invested £1,000,000 in a plant which has just started work with a view to extracting byproducts from coal. It is only within the past few weeks that the company blew in the second half of its ovens. It is much to be deplored that the coal industry in its prosperous days did not look to its own salvation. Although the representatives of the coal-miners are justified in urging the Government to do something for them, I submit that it is not the job of the Commonwealth to do all that they ask. The developments in England are being very closely watched by the Commonwealth Government, and the information gained there is being made available to it. It is to be hoped that when once the British concern is an established success, similar action will be taken in Australia, and, if that is done, we shall then witness the development of the industry here. But we shall not see that development until two important things are assured - first, that the technical process is right, as to recovery and costs, and, secondly, that the continuity of the production of the raw material necessary to keep the plant working is guaranteed. One of the principal evils from which the coal industry has suffered has been the lack of continuity of production. People will not invest their money in an industry which has to erect a plant costing £10,000,000 or £12,000,000, if that plant may be running to-day, but idle to-morrow, simply because of a picnic or a coursing meeting. It is essential that the plant must be run on the best possible lines, and to that end the very best technique is essential and the very best of goodwill between -the employees and employers is necessary.
In reply to an interjection by me the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. “Watkins) stated that Mr. Rogers had said that the installation of the necessary plant to extract oil from coal could be completed for an expenditure of a few thousand pounds. Mr. Rogers was in America with a quantity of oj.1 recovered from Austraiian shale. He was instructed to ascertain whether various American firms could crack this oil, whether they could guarantee a plant for similar operations in Australia, and to secure firm prices for such plant. But, in that case, the job is purely one of cracking the oil after it has been extracted from the shale, whereas the matter we are discussing is the recovery of oil from coal - an entirely different proposition,
– On page 179 of the Estimates, it is proposed that an amount of £150 shall be set aside for the work of an advisory committee on unemployment. That amount, I suggest, is indicative of what is expected from this body. Only £150 is to be expended in securing, for the Commonwealth Government, the advice of this committee upon the huge question of unemployment. I have not seen any reports from the committee, anc I doubt whether other honorable members have done so. But I am certain that, if the committee is really functioning, it has never heard of the Northern Territory, because, if it has, it surely could not be responsible for the policy adopted by the Government in connexion with the unemployed there. It is idle to suggest that unemployment in the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory is a State responsibility; it is the direct responsibility of this Parlia- ment, and cannot be shirked. But, when it conies to alleviating distress amongst the unemployed in the Northern Territory, the Government adopts an entirely different attitude. Only a few days ago I asked what was the justification for its refusal to grant relief to the unemployed who were not in the Northern Territory prior to 1931. In reply, I was told that -
In view of Mie large influx into the Northern Territory of unemployed men from the States, the Government decided in 1932 to limit the granting of unemployment relief to men who had been in the territory for a period of twelve months prior to 3 1st December, 1931. M the time, the Government was expending large sums of money in maintaining unemployed men who could not be regarded, in any way, as permanent residents of the territory. The majority of them had recently arrived in the territory from the States, many as stowaways on boats trading to Darwin.
There was no opportunity, whatever, of these men securing employment in the territory, neither government nor private funds were available for developmental works.
The Government realized its responsibility for maintaining the unemployed who were permanent residents of the territory, but considered that, in the interests of the men themselves, they should be discouraged from leaving the States and proceeding to the Northern Territory.
It was decided, therefore, to fix a period which should be regarded as qualifying for being regarded as a permanent resident, and for unemployment relief. The period of twelve months prior to December, 1831, was adopted.
The men who were in the Territory on 31st December, .1931, and did not qualify for unemployment relief, were offered, at the expense of the Government, passages back to the States from which they proceeded to the territory. Many of them accepted this offer.
Persons ineligible for relief who remained in the territory, and those who arrived since, did so knowing the conditions, and at their own risk. lt is not proposed. a.t present, to make any alteration in the existing procedure.
It will be noticed that the date specified is ‘twelve months prior to 1931, three years ago. If a prospector who has battled through hundreds of miles of waterless country is compelled to seek medical treatment in centres where there ii a doctor available, he is not eligible for relief work unless he was in the district prior to 1930. We have heard quite a lot about, the so-called sympathy of this Government for the unemployed, but invariably it shelters behind the excuse that unemployment is the respon- sibility of the States. It cannot resort to such a quibble in connexion with those who are unemployed in the Northern Territory.
I deny the statement that there is no opportunity for men in that area, and say that the Government, and not the workers, has fallen down on the job. It is futile to say that . in such a huge territory, which is urgently in need of development, there is no opportunity to provide employment. The Prime Minister (Mr.- Lyons) has told the world that Australia is rounding the corner; that prosperity is here. Unfortunately, that is not to apply to the unemployed who come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.
This Government transferred men who were unemployed in the Northern Territory to the States, a procedure which continued until the then Premier of Western Australia objected to the dumping of unemployed in that State. It was quite a simple process for the Commonwealth Government to provide secondclass passages for these men from Darwin to the West or to Thursday Island, and so pass all responsibility on to the States.
The Government, has failed to do its duty to these men and has informed them frankly that if they remain in the territory they do so at their own risk. Simultaneously, it, declares that, it is essential to populate and develop the Northern Territory! Hundreds of men of the best type went to that area recently to pursue mining operations, but because of an adverse fate they are now worse off than when they left the States, and they are denied relief by the Commonwealth Government because they were not in the territory before 1931, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) having stated definitely that he does not propose to make any alteration of the existing practice. In other words, the unemployed in the Northern Territory are condemned by the Administration to a lingering death from starvation.
In an endeavour to show that this Government has helped the unemployed the Minister said that, in addition to the meagre assistance that is being given to those who are out of work in the Federal Capital Territory, these men are to be given an extra month’s work as a sort of
Christmas gift. When I asked whether that would also be applied to the Northern Territory the honorable gentleman emphatically said that it would not. Unfortunately, the unemployed of the Northern Territory are too far removed from Canberra and cannot march on Parliament House when driven to desperation.
Recently I put up a case for a man who had been in the Northern Territory for just three years, and I received the following reply from the Minister : -
I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th October covering a communication received ‘by you from the Secretary, North Australian Workers’ Union, Darwin, regarding tlie grant of relief work to- Mr. W. Morga.li of Katherine.
As Mr. Morgan cannot comply with the residential qualification laid down in respect to relief work in the Northern Territory, it is regretted that nothing can be done for him.
Cases somewhat similar to that of Mr. Morgan have been submitted from time to time, but as a line of demarcation bad to be made, no approval has been given for the alteration of the arrangements “no.w in force.
Obviously, it is the duty of the Government to alleviate the distress of these unfortunate men, and its callous attitude is merely driving them to excesses, for which they cannot be blamed.
The Government has claimed that there are no opportunities to provide work in the Northern Territory. Hundreds of men there would be only too glad to go prospecting if they were given rations. The Government will not even send geologists to examine the rich fields that undoubtedly exist in the territory, which would open up a wonderful avenue for the employment of the workless, who would soon be producing wealth and become valuable citizens. The other day I showed the Minister an account of a crushing that had been sent to Peterborough which averaged 9 ounces to the ton.
The Northern Territory also possesses iron-wood timbers which are admirably adapted for use as railway sleepers. In fact, it has been demonstrated that, after having been used for 50 years, only 5 per cent, of these sleepers have had to be replaced. They are better and infinitely cheaper than the steel sleepers which are imported.. If a contract were let for ironwood timber sleepers for replacement purposes, many men who are now unemployed would be enabled to make a living.
As we are approaching the festive season, and it is intended to provide extra work for the unemployed in the Federal Capital Territory, I hope that the Minister, imbued with the spirit of the words “ On earth peace, goodwill towards men,” will break down the barriers that have been erected against the unfortunate persons in the Northern Territory by inducing the ‘Government to honour its obligations to those who are directly under its control. As this is not a party matter and it is the responsibility of every honorable member to see that unemployed in federal territory are given a fair deal, I move -
That the amount be reduced by £1 .
If this amendment is carried, it should be regarded as an instruction to the Government to provide more work for tha unemployed in the Northern Territory, and to remove the residential qualifications as laid down by this Government debarring those with less than three years’ residence in the territory from participating in relief works.
.- Some time ago, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) accused members of the Country party of having failed to emphasize the need for the standardization of agricultural machinery parts; but this Parliament has no power to deal with that matter. Certain machinery parts, the factory cost of which was £1,640, were recently imported, and the landed cost of the goods was not less than £4,600. This fact shows that useful as standardization would be, there are other and better ways of assisting the man on the land.
A number of honorable members apparently desire that Government assistance should be given to those engaged in the extraction of fuel oil from coal. While I agree that the Government should do everything possible to assist research, the work of extraction should be left to private enterprise.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) about the increasing cost of sending representatives to various conferences in Great Britain and at Geneva. While it may be wise to have Australia repre sented at the gatherings of the League of Nations, the increase from £20,000 to £54,000 in the vote for Australia’s contribution to the cost of the Secretariat of the League needs explanation, because it seems greater than we can afford.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), referred to the importance of the mining industry. The Western Australian Government has done much valuable work in assisting prospectors, and in many instances, remarkable results have been obtained. Two friends of mine made fortunes in the early days by gold prospecting, and I noticed in the press recently that, on a claim which they had abandoned, another man had picked up £15,000 worth of gold almost on the surface, and rich pre is still being found.
– This Government will not even, send a geologist to the mining fields in the Northern Territory.
– Is it thought that it is futile to attempt to develop the Northern Territory? The allocation of £500 for “ Investigations in connexion with the development of North Australia” is ridiculous. The fact of the matter is that developmental work is too costly, because the economic conditions are impossible. Some time ago, the managing director of the Dutch-East India Company reported that he was conveying sugar from Java to Sydney for transfer to New Zealand at 25s. a ton. At the same time Australia was paying a subsidy amounting to £3 15s. a ton to one of the shipping companies trading between Sydney and Java to land cargo at Darwin. If the Government would grant exemption from customs taxation, and relief from the operation of the Navigation Act, and the federal arbitration laws for at least 25 years,’ some hope could be entertained of the development of the Northern Territory. I am more familiar with conditions in the far north-west of Western Australia than with those in the Northern Territory. There are fewer settlers in that part of Western Australia now than there were 25 or 30 years years ago, and I believe that a similar remark may he applied to the Northern Territory. One government after another has en deavoured to populate our empty north, but no beneficial results have been obtained, despite the large expenditure that has been incurred. I am interested in a copper mine at Barrow Creek, and I have seen specimens of ore from this “show” containing SO per cent, of copper; but nothing can be done to develop the mine owing to the high operating costs.
We are told that it is of the utmost importance that Australia should be actively interested in the work of the League of Nations, but the people of this country could do something in the direction of protecting themselves by populating and developing our empty spaces in the north. If a motion were submitted for a reduction of the amounts voted for sending delegations to assemblies of the League of Nations and for other trips abroad, I should give it my support. We cannot afford this expenditure. Information which I have placed before the House on other occasions shows that, while by means of bounties and tariffs we have established industries in this country, action in other directions has tended to destroy them.
.- I disagreed with some of the statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) concerning the Defence Estimates. I supported those Estimates by my voice, but was not required to vote upon them. I direct attention to the increased expenditure on account of the Secretariat, League of Nations, the amount provided this year being £54,000, compared with an expenditure last year of £50,323. Can the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) say if this increase is due to the failure of other member nations to pay their contributions to the League, and if our ratio of expenditure bears any relation to the expenditure of other countries on a population basis ? Although in one material issue the League has failed to do what was expected of it, it should not be entirely discredited, because it has rendered valuable service to the cause of peace among the nations. The fact that it has failed once does not justify our withdrawal of. support from it. To fail is not necessarily an admission of incompetence. If it were, this Parliament might as well cease to f miction, because it has, on many occasions, failed to do what was expected of it.
An amount of £3,000 is set aside for investigation of the tobacco-growing industry. Last year a similar amount was provided. I should like - to know bow that money is to be expended, and under what authority. The expenditure on Commonwealth representation on the Imperial Economic Committee is set down at £4,363. Last year the amount expended was £1,530. Can the Prime Minister give the reason for the substantial increase ?
This year £3,000 is provided for assistance to the Australian banana industry. I should like the Minister to explain in what way that money will be expended. The Government this year intends to pay £10,000 subsidy towards the provision of improved passenger service between Melbourne and Launceston. Honorable members are entitled to some information concerning this proposed expenditure, which is over £6,000 above the amount expended last year. The sum of £5,000 is set aside for the development of the fisheries industry. Are we to understand that any portion of this amount will be paid in subsidies to private enterprise? I understand that recently a deputation waited on the Prime Minister at Canberra iti rega rd to this matter, and certain assurances were given.
The expenditure on tobacco investigation and instruction this year is £20,000. A certain amount of information has been furnished to honorable members in connexion with this matter, but we have not yet been informed how the money will be distributed. I believe it is to be spread over a period of five years, and that a portion of the vote will be set aside for each State, but I am unable to say whether it is to be expended through State departments or directly by the Commonwealth.
The amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has my hearty support. The Government cannot in this case excuse itself by pleading that unemployment in the Northern Territory is the responsibility of any
State Government. The obligation is on this Government to do something for the unemployed in the Northern Territory, and also in the Federal Capital Territory. The member for the Northern Territory has told us that persons who have not been living in the territory for three years are not entitled to sustenance relief. That is a most disgraceful state of affairs. The Government might be excused’ from blame if ample notice had been given of its intention to withhold relief from persons who have not been living in the territory for the period mentioned, because then persons going to the Northern Territory would know what to expect. I hope that the Minister will be able to show that the charge made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory is not strictly accurate, because I should be sorry to know that any Government could be so callous as to withhold sustenance from any citizen of the Commonwealth in need of it, wherever he might be. There is a number of other items which I might feel disposed to discuss, but after my experience this afternoon I am not sure that I would be in order. Honorable members will recall that when I attempted to direct attention to experiments which had been carried out a-t the Melbourne University to test the suitability of Australian timbers for use as axe handles, I was ruled out of order by the Chairman, who stated that, if I were allowed to mention that matter on these Estimates, other honorable members would also be entitled to discuss tariff items. But later, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) dealt with precisely the same subject without intervention by the Chair. My complaint now is that a certain amount of partisanship was shown by the Chairman of Committees this afternoon.
– Order !
– I hope that the Minister will reply to all the matters that have been raised by honorable members during the debate on this item. * Quorum form.cd.~]*
– I wish to call the attention of honorable members to item 13, relating to the World Conference on reduction and limitation of armaments. Recently we debated for nearly 48 hours the question of Australian defence, and this particular item brings out prominently the point which several honorable members tried to make during that debate, and which was touched upon by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) to-night when he read from the Covenant of the League of Nations a particular definition regarding the disarmament problem and the obligation of nations in that direction. The question of world disarmament arose partly out of the Treaty of Versailles, in which it was provided that, in order to render possible the initiation of a. general reduction of armaments by all nations, certain reductions of the armaments of Germany should be insisted upon. From that began the world move for disarmament, but unfortunately disarmament has not been carried out by a great number of the nations. The idea was that Germany should have a low standard of armaments sufficient for its own defence in a. disarmed world, and that the other nations should reduce their armaments in accordance with that standard; but because of international jealousies, regard for frontiers, international distrust and similar reasons, the disarmament, which everybody was eagerly anticipating, was seriously delayed. Nothing much happened until 1929, when a preparatory committee sat to prepare a draft convention for submission to all the nations of the world. After three years’ work the representatives on that committee were in a position to submit their scheme. Most of the nations signified their intention to take part in the general disarmament conference, when 33 nations submitted plans for disarmament; but no two of them would agree on any one scheme. Each nation thought that its own scheme was super-excellent, and would pay no heed to that of any other nation. Outstanding among the plans was that of Great Britain. Sir John Simon made a most excellent contribution to the discussion, one which might very well be taken as a basis for world disarmament. He said -
We take the view that the temptation to resort to armed conflict is obviously reduced as defence is strengthened at the expense of attack. Since our common object is not to increase, but to diminish, the sum total of armaments and their expense, it follows that we must direct spev.i-.vl attention to such prohibitions or limitations as will weaken the attack and so remove the temptation for aggression.
That scheme was debated at the general convention at which the representatives of many nations were assembled, including our Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), Unfortunately, the continental nations with land frontiers feared the British system, and counter proposals were put forward, principally by the French. Those proposals set up such a discussion among the representatives of the nations that no real progress was made. Fearing a breakdown, the chairman, Mr. Arthur Henderson, was able to postpone the conference until the British Delegation submitted a compromise which it was hoped all nations would see fit to accept. That compromise embodied certain portions of the French and the British schemes. The ideas underlying the compromise were that super heavy guns should not be used by any one nation, but should be pooled internationally under the aegis of the League of Nations ; that naval craft should be kept below .10,000 tons, certain conditions as to their armament being set out; and that aircraft, war aircraft especially, should be internationalized, so as not to lie the weapon of any particular nation. However, difficulties arose, and the Disarmament, Conference was postponed from time to. time. It appears at times as if the other nations of the world are not. wholeheartedly in favour of disarmament. They give lip service, but do not seem to make any practical contribution towards disarmament, whereas the British nation has definitely made more than a fair contribution towards disarmament. For instance, Great Britain has reduced its cruisers, which, after all, are the police force which guards the transport of foodstuffs in time of war, from 114 in 1914 to 4S_, and four others in the course of construction in 1932. During that period it also reduced the number of its torpedo boat destroyers by 172. Great Britain has 152 destroyers, the United States of America 259, and Japan 104. Although Great Britain has reduced its monetary expenditure on naval defence since 1924 by approximately” £6,000,000, other naval powers have not reduced their’s below the 1924 standard. The figures I quoted a few clays ago in connexion with the defence estimates show that the United States of America is spending approximately £57,000,000 this year, Japan about the same amount, and Great Britain only £8,250,000. If all nations disarmed to the point of providing for their own protection, there would not be aggression on the part of any nation. Under the League of Nations, the Commonwealth has the right, without infringing any disarmament convention or arrangement, to increase its armaments up to the point considered by Australia and other nations as adequate for our own protection. I do not think that it can be said that, with the solitary exception of Great Britain, any other nation has reduced armaments to the limit of safety for its own protection. A few clays ago honorable members opposite accused me of sabre-rattling, of war-mongering, and of favouring extravagant expenditure; but. I say most definitely that I welcome the» day when every nation will, by a bona fide act, reduce armaments to such a degree that we can reduce our present defence forces, and still feel secure. For these reasons we should make every effort o encourage disarmament. Last year, £3,497 was expended to meet the cost of our representation at the Disarmament Conference, and this year only £250 is to be appropriated.
– Our enthusiasm must be on the wane.
– I am afraid that it must be so. The Government may have lost heart owing to the numerous occasions on which disarmament proceedings have been adjourned, and possibly it considers that no improvement will occur this year. I have not lost heart, and I still believe that in disarmament Great Britain will lead the world, as it has led in other great movements. The Commonwealth should assist. Great Britain along that road until we have complete disarmament, which may not come in our time, but perhaps during the lives of our children. I earnestly appeal to the Government to see if Australia cannot help by providing a larger amount to forward the disarmament movement.
– Last year the Government appropriated £1,000, and this year it proposes to place £3,000 into a trust fund to assist the Australian banana industry. I desire to make a special appeal on behalf of the Western Australian banana industry, for which practically no provision has been made. In the Ottawa agreement, provision is made for the annual importation of 40,000 centals of Fijian bananas at a reduced duty of 2s. 6d. per cental. This should provide a revenue of £5,000 a year, of which Western Australia is allocated £100 foi’ assistance to banana growers. In Western Australia we are attempting to establish the industry, but bananas grown in that State will not be competitive with those produced in Queensland or northern New South Wales, as experience has shown that bananas produced in the eastern States cannot be landed in Western Australia in a fit condition to compete with those imported from Java. The product of the Western Australian industry will compete with that of a black-labour country, and will be used solely to meet the local demand. We are grateful for the assistance being given .by some young Queenslanders, who have transferred their allegiance to the western State, and are_ showing our people how to grow bananas. Unfortunately, as is common in all tropical and sub-tropical zones in the same latitude, the rainfall on the western coast of Australia is light, whereas that on the eastern coast is heavy. In these circumstances we have to depend upon irrigation, which increases overhead costs. The growers have had to install large pumps, driven by Diesel engines, and that costs much money. The water is drawn from what appears to be the dry bed of the Gascoyne River, but there is an inexhaustible supply under the sand. The growers also have to contend with very strong winds, and banana plants will not grow satisfactorily
Tinder those conditions. It has been found necessary to make brush hedges fourteen or fifteen feet high, and, in order to lace the hedges together, the seven year bean, which grows profusely, has been planted against them. It is evident, therefore, that a grower must have capital, but the primary producers in Western Australia, as in other places, generally start with little capital. In spite of all these difficulties a determined effort is being made to supply the market in “Western Australia with locally-grown bananas to the exclusion of those grown in Java. The balance of trade between Western Australia and Java is heavily against Western Australia, and we wish it to be on a more even basis. We import large quantities of tea from Java, of a second rate quality, it is true, but, in these times, it is largely used. In 1931-32, duty to the amount of £6,752 was paid on bananas imported from Java, while in that year the amount paid by the eastern States was nil. Last year, Western Australia paid £8,382 duty on imported bananas, while the eastern States paid only £1,508. even though, under the Ottawa agreement, provision was made for the admission of bananas from Fiji. Under that agreement the duty on Fijian bananas was reduced from Ss. per cental to 2s. 6d., but it has been found that, although the agreement permits 40,000 centals to be admitted annually, actually only 20,000 centals will be imported this year.
If the eastern States, under the terms of the Ottawa agreement, pay £5,000 a year in duty on imported Fijian bananas, they are entitled to devote the whole of that amount to the development of the banana-growing industry in the eastern States. Western Australia does not want, any of that money, but it thinks that the £8,382 which it pays in duty on bananas imported from Java should bc devoted to the assistance of the banana-growing industry in Western Australia. That is only just. The expenditure of that money would enable the growers of Western Australia to obtain proper equipment. I trust that the Minister will give favorable consideration to this request, and use his influence to have it accepted by Cabinet.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) suggested that the money set aside for the relief of unemployment in the Northern Territory should be used for the encouragement of gold prospecting. No other part of Australia has been so neglected by prospectors as has the Northern Territory, although there is every reason to believe that much of it is auriferous. In Western
Australia, the Mines Department has sent out hundreds of men prospecting. It is true that they receive only the dole, which amounts to nothing more than a grub stake, but that is all any prospector wants. The men are working under very happy conditions, and they never know when they may drop on a fortune. The same system might be introduced in the Northern Territory, and I heartily support the honorable member’s request.
.- Item 12 provides a sum of £4,363 for Common- wealth representation at an Imperial Economic Conference. It is proposed to hold another Economic Conference in. London? Provision is also made for expenses to cover Australia’s representation at a world conference for the reduction of armaments. I hope that something tangible will result from the conference, because the limitation of armaments is a thing greatly to be desired.
We have hoard much from honorable members representing Queensland constituencies about the need for assisting the banana industry, and frequent references have been made to the importation of bananas from Fiji. We in South Australia have not seen any Fijian bananas yet, and have had to get along as best we can with those grown in Queensland. I am not complaining of that, but we should like occasionally to get a few of the Fijian bananas just to be able to compare them with the Queensland product. I have an idea that those who supply us with our bananas are apt sometimes to be a little lax regarding quality.
The Estimates provide a sum of £4,000 for the expenses of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I should like to know from the Minister whether the various States, whose affairs are to be inquired into by this commission, have yet sent in the data upon which it will work. For- the development of the fisheries industry, the sum of £5,000 is to be allocated. I am not so optimistic about this venture as some other honorable members appear to be.
I hope that the £500 to be set aside for investigations in connexion with the development of Northern Australia will be wisely expended.
– The money has already been spent.
– In my opinion, £500 is not sufficient for the purpose. On the two occasions on which I visited the Northern Territory, I made a number of investigations, and came in contact with a number of persons who knew the territory well. I formed the, opinion that the country is rich in minerals, but I do not believe that it is of any use to search for minerals from the air. It would he better to supply prospecting parties with motor trucks, and assaying and mining plant, and other equipment to enable them to examine the country thoroughly. The men who are willing to search for gold and other minerals should be encouraged, for, in the event of their success, the country will gain. Unfortunately, many of the past efforts to develop the Northern Territory were not too wisely directed, and I hope that future expenditure will be along sounder lines. /
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). For some unexplained reason the Government is driving unemployed people out of the Northern Territory merely because they have not been there long enough to qualify them to receive sustenance. The greatest need of the territory is a considerably increased population, and the Government should do all it can to that end, and not depopulate the territory because of a technical non-compliance with certain regulations.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) was justified in referring to the expenditure last year on the Secretariat of the League of Nations. Although only £20,000 was voted, £50,323 was expended. This year it is expected that £54,000 will be required. It would appear that those nations which are prepared to meet their obligations are being called upon to pay more because other nations are in arrears with their contributions. The report of the 13th Assembly shows that the arrears amounted . to 3.287,387 gold francs. The SecretaryGeneral stated that, up to the 19th December, 1932, the proportion .of con tributions for the current year was 58.83 per cent., or 64.14 per cent, if the arrears of contributions received to that date were added. That was 8 per cent, less than on the same date in 1931. As the Secretariat disbursements amounted to only 47.5 per cent., there was a cash balance of 3,750,000 francs. Australia has already met its obligations to the League, and I see no reason why it should be called upon to meet the defaults of other nations.
The report also states that there has been some attempt at economy on the part of the League. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) referred to this matter in this chamber some time ago, when he said that the League had endeavoured to economize in the salaries of its higher-paid officials. He mentioned that after about seventeen sessions the net result of the League’s deliberations was an increase, instead of a. decrease, of expenditure. At the same time, the budget of the International Health Organization of the League was thoroughly examined, and an attempt made to reduce its estimated expenditure by 200,000 francs. In resisting the proposal, the Secretary-General pointed out that the activities of the health section were based on a special article of the covenant, and that the work which was being carried out was of the greatest importance, especially to certain overseas countries which derived no direct benefit from the political activities of the League. Finally, it was decided to reduce the estimates of the Health Organization by 73,369 francs. That organization is one of the most important sections of the League’s activities, and has done more effective work than, perhaps, any other section. The same thing has taken place in connexion with the International Labour Office. Mr. Harold Butler, its recently-appointed Director, stated that the budget for 1933 was 159,000 francs less than for the previous year. He stated that a reduction of expenditure had been effected by postponing the proposed maritime conference - a matter of great importance to seafaring men of all nations. Means could be found to postpone that particular conference, in order to save 159,000 francs. Let us look at the other side of the picture to see how tho higher paid officials were treated in these measures of economy. There was very little discussion of the budget of the Permanent Court of International Jusrice, which was adopted at 2,660,196 gold francs, a modification of the original estimate by the amount of only 1,100 gold francs. There, as here, those who are doing the most useful work have had to hear the greatest burden of sacrifice. Until other nations, which, up to 1931, owed over 3,000,000 gold francs to the League of Nations, are prepared to discharge that liability, Australia should refuse to increase the amount which it paid last year.
A smaller matter which requires explanation is the grant to the Australian Commonwealth branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association. Last year, the vote for this item was £1.60, but the expenditure was £250. This year, it would appear that. £250 is to be spent on this organization. I should like to know why £150 was not sufficient last year, and why the estimate this year is based on last year’s expenditure.
The vote for the relief and repatriation of distressed Australians abroad was £200 hist year, but only £84 of that, amount was spent. Judging by the amount which the department estimates is required to repatriate distressed Australians abroad, it looks as though there will be only two successful applicants this year. I have had the greatest difficulty with a number of cases that I have taken in hand. On one occasion only was some concession granted in connexion with the payment of the expenses of repatriation. Although the reasons advanced in support of repatriation by the persons in whom I have interested myself were many and varied, I have not so far been able to glean from the department the exact nature of the circumstances in which a person must be placed to justify repatriation by the Government.
Last year, the vote for the Commonwealth contribution to the world conference on the reduction and limitation of armaments was £2,200, hut the expenditure amounted to £3,497. This year, it is proposed to appropriate a paltry £250 for this purpose. It may be true that the Government has come to the conclusion that disarmament conferences are useless, and for that reason does not propose to be represented on them. On the other hand, however, the Government may intend to take part in the race in connexion with the provision of armaments, and may have lost all enthusiasm for conferences that are designed to limit them.
There was no provision in the Estimates last year for an ex gratia payment in respect of loss of licences by broadcasting companies, consequently, the provision of an amount, of £9,000 for this purpose on the present occasion demands explanation.
The subsidy towards the provision of a continuous passenger steamer service between Hobart and Sydney during the winter months is estimated to amount this year to £4,154. The expenditure on this item last year was £1,846. It is also proposed to pay £10,000 by way of subsidy towards the provision of an improved passenger service between Melbourne and Launceston, upon which only £2,700 was expended last year, although no appropriation was made. I do not think that Tasmania is faring badly in connexion with subsidies. About twelve months ago, honorable members who represent Tasmanian constituencies argued that it, was desirable that overseas vessels should be allowed to trade between Austraiian and Tasmanian ports. In order to satisfy the demands that, were then made, the Government, suspended the operation of the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act. I understand that that practice has been continued. What, then, is the’ reason for the increase of the subsidy by £2,000 in the case of the service between Hobart and Sydney, and of £7,300 on the service between Melbourne and Launceston?
The amount provided for the development of the Northern Territory is paltry. It would appear that £500 is the limit of the Government’s generosity. I under-, stand from the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) that i hat’ sum has already been spent. Perhaps this alleged . wilderness is being prepared for the time when some overseas company will assume exclusive rights in the ‘ territory.
The expenditure last year on valuation fees in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers amounted to £110. I should like to know exactly the valuations for which these fees were paid. The sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was a tragedy from the point of view of Australia. The negotiations that have taken place subsequent to the original sale are somewhat remarkable.From time to time, honorable members on this side of the chamber have endeavoured to probe the position. Only to-day, when the honorable member for West Sydney’ (Mr. Beasley) attempted to obtain information, he was told by the Prime Minister that the negotiations which were taking place were confidential, but that if there were any particular matters upon which he desired to be informed an endeavour would be made to supply him with the particulars. It seems remarkable that in transactions of this kind, where the property of the people of the Commonwealth has been disposed of, we. can usually derivemore information from the press than we can get from the Government itself, notwithstanding that we are supposed to possess the privilege of knowing exactly how Commonwealth money is expended and property disposed of. The latest report from the Government upon this matter is that the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers has again changed hands and that as a result of that change, the Commonwealth has lost a further sum of £600,000. Only a few months ago, there appeared in the British newspapers the report of a meeting of the board of directors of the White Star Line, at which the chairman said he did not consider that the company had experienced very good treatment at the hands of the Commonwealth, and thought that the latter ought to take into consideration the financial difficulties of his company. He did not suggest that the company should surrender the ships if it could not pay for them, but he did think that the Commonwealth should be approached for the purpose of securing a further reduction of the purchase price. As already indicated, on the original sale of the vessels, there was a loss to the Commonwealth of over £4,000,000. As a result of a further handing over of these ships to another company, an increased loss of £600,000 was sustained. Despite the fact that British newspapers tell us that the chairman of directors of the White Star Company is negotiating with the Government for a further cutting down of the purchase price of these ships, the Government will give us no assurance that this is so. If there have been no negotiations to that end, why could not the Prime Minister reply definitely to the honorable member for West Sydney, whodesired to know what stage these negotiations had reached? Now, we find on the Estimates an item of £110 for valuation fees in connexion with these ships. We are entitled to be told what those fees are intended to cover. The Government ought to satisfy the curiosity of honorable members as to the exact position of the negotiations between the White Star Company and the Commonwealth regarding the latest sale of these ships. If the White Star Line is satisfied with the price it contracted to pay for their purchase, we should be told that it is satisfied. On the other hand, if it is negotiating for a reduction of their purchase price, we are entitled to know why the Prime Minister, in answer to my question, said that there had been negotiations of that character, but they were not being carried any farther. It is up to the Government to make a clear statement showing the exact position regarding these ships which were sacrificed in the first i nstance at aloss of some millions ofpounds.
– Order ! There is no item on this year’s Estimates in reference to the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers.
– That is so, but what is the item of £110 to which I have directed attention intended to cover? That money has not yet been voted by Parliament.
– Where is the item?
– On page 108 of the Estimates. The expenditure is there, notwithstanding that it has never been sanctioned by Parliament.
– That is last year’s expenditure.
– I admit that, but this House did not authorize the expenditure. It did not appear upon last year’s Estimates. It has certainly beenspent but the expenditure has never been approved by this House, and until it is approved we are entitled to seek information upon it.
– It is not on the Estimates under discussion.
– Then why does it appear on them ?
– -For the information of honorable members.
– The money has been expended but its expenditure has not been approved by this House.
– That is all right. The honorable member will get the information he desires.
– I understand that the allowance will appear on Supplementary Estimates, but it is not. included in the Estimates under discussion.
– The question raised to-night by the honorable member for West Sydney is one of the utmost importance - I refer to the proposal to extract oil from coal. The. honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) dealt very exhaustively with the rise and fall of the coal-mining industry. He dealt with that industry from the time when it was making huge profits, and he traced its rapid decline until to-day, when many of the collieries are closed and the mining community numbers 72 per cent, over capacity. I question whether his figures are correct, but I do know that thousands of miners have been unemployed for months and that many collieries have been closed through lack of trade. The honorable member for Denison did not assist us to find a solution of this problem by suggesting thatin times gone by the coal industry should have done something which it did not do. If that argument has any value, we might with equal force apply it to the wheatfarmers. We might urge that, they should have followed the trend of the wheat markets of the world and, as a consequence, should not have grown so much wheat. Indeed, we might apply the same argument to every industry that we subsidize. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) is in the same boat as the honorable member for Denison. He ascribes the whole of the difficulties of the coal-mining industry to strikes. But the difficulties of that industry are not peculiar to Australia. Similar difficulties face it throughout the world. Is it con tended that strikes are responsible for the world-wide condition of this industry? Unless the honorable member applies his standards to the coal-mining industry throughout the world his argument lacks force. The coal-mines of Australia are perhaps, the richest in the world, but they are lying i’dle, the capital invested in them lie3 idle, thousands of coal-miners are idle, and their families are in destitute circumstances. It is unnecessary for me to point out how desperate is the plight of those families or how desirable it is again to place the coal-mines in operation. It is all too obvious. While all that regrettable idleness exists, Australia is almost entirely, dependent on overseas supplies for the fuel that it needs as motive power for its industries, aud for defence purposes. Just as coal and steam eliminated the wind-jammers of old, so oil-burning ships have eliminated coal-burning vessels, and we are entirely dependent on outside sources for the fuel that is used to propel them. Our industries are similarly situated. Honorable members must realize that if Australia were blockaded in time of war, or if, for any reason, in time of peace, supplies were held up, its oil resources would be insufficient to last more than a month. That is a position that should not be tolerated.
It has been said that there are well-oil resources in Australia which have never been thoroughly investigated because of the influence exerted by moneyed overseas oil companies. I am not in a position to say whether that is true or untrue, and I shall not speculate on the subject, but I do know that there are private interests which are prepared to spend £10,000,000 overseas in an endeavour to obtain oil from coal.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot allow the item “Broadcasting Companies - ex gratia payments in . respect of loss of licences £9,000,” to pass without lodging my protest. A claim was originally made by the Dominions Broadcasting Company because of a statement that was allegedly made by myself and the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that its licence and the licences of other companies would be renewed. I wish to make it clear that that statement -was not correct, for at no time did I, nor did Mr. Bruce in my presence, make a definite statement that the licences of those companies would he renewed. There were two companies operating independently in Sydney, two in Melbourne, one in Perth, one in Adelaide, one in Hobart, and a government station in Brisbane. It was quite obvious to everybody that broadcasting could not be carried on successfully and economically unless the activities of those stations were co-ordinated, so the Postmaster-General’s Department made it clear that the licences of these companies would not be renewed unless they amalgamated. They did not amalgamate, but two or three boardcasting companies in New South Wales and Victoria became associated clearly, in my opinion, in an endeavour to hold up the Government until it was compelled to make use of their stations for future broadcasting purposes. That occurred just prior to the expiration of their licences, the first of which lapsed on the 16th July, 1929, and the last, that of the Hobart station, iu 1930. By myself and in company with the then Prime Minister I interviewed a number of representatives of the companies at different times at Canberra and Sydney, and I say clearly that no promise was made that their licences would be renewed. The companies made a claim
On the Commonwealth Government for £64,000, which was investigated by the Public Accounts Committee. Counsel was engaged a.nd evidence taken, but I am not sure that the committee submitted a report.
– Its proceedings were interrupted, and it did not submit a report.
– The fact that, an ex grat’ia payment is to be made indicates that the Government does not hold itself responsible for the payment of this money, hut I feel that it is doing wrong in making this payment, for which there is no legal or moral claim. Had the companies co-ordinated their activities they would have had a claim, when they made application for fresh licences, to cover the whole of Australia; hut they did not get that far. They were treated most liberally by the Government, which could have refused to renew their licences with the result that their stations would have been so much scrap iron, superseded, as they would have been by modern stations built by the. Government. At that time their stations were becoming obsolete, having been erected when broadcasting was in its infancy. In the circumstances I enter my protest against this money being paid to the broadcasting companies. 1 do not think that it is justified.
– Why not move for its disallowance?
– I have no intention to do that. The Government does not accept responsibility and it should not pay the money.
– I confess to a considerable amount of sympathy with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) in his remarks on this matter, but the case is surrounded by special circumstances which, I am sure, are not absent from the honorable member’s mind. The claim as originally made was for £64,260, for losses alleged to have been incurred in endeavouring to bring about an amalgamation and combination of the broadcasting companies at the suggestion of the Prime Minister of the day (Mr. Bruce), and the honorable member for Corangamite, who was then Postmaster-General. I was AttorneyGeneral in the same Ministry. When the claim was first made I examined- it, and my natural response was, “ If there is a claim, let action be taken in the courts, and the Commonwealth Government will, of course, be bound by the judgment.”
But the claim was submitted on a moral basis. It was admitted by the companies that they had no legal claim. In about 1927,- the companies were getting a share of the listeners’ fees paid in the various States. The quality of their programmes varied greatly, and the Government was not satisfied with it. A royal commission which was appointed to report on wireless broadcasting, recommended that certain changes be made to bring about au improvement of the programmes, and a suggestion was made by the Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General of the day for the amalgamation and co-ordination of the companies. It was afterwards repre- sented that a promise had -been given that if they agreed to amalgamate they would receive an extension of their licences. The Government of the day contested that statement. The companies, however, based their claim on the assertion that they had been requested by the Government of the day to amalgamate and co-ordinate their activities. A proposal was submitted foi- amalgamation; but the Government was not satisfied with its terms in regard to the capitalization of the assets of the companies, the proposed dividends and other matters, and accordingly a new policy was formulated involving acquisition by the Government of the assets of the companies and the provision of the programmes by contractors who were to be selected after they had put in tenders for the service. The existing companies expected to obtain the service, but they failed in their tender. It was then that the claim was made by them for £64,261, and it was pressed, not on legal, but on moral grounds. The companies were invited to take their case to the court, but they were not prepared to do so ; they expressly stated that they had no legal claim. J.t was urged that the matter should not be determined by the Government itself, and, accordingly, a suggestion was made that it should be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts. Both parties concurred in that suggestion, and. the matter was to have been referred to that committee. A. change of government, however, took place, but the new Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), thought it proper to allow the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into the matter. The inquiry was proceeding, when certain charges were made as to the conduct of some persons concerned, as the result of which a royal commission was appointed. The report of the commission did not support any of the charges. The Public Accounts Committee then asked to be relieved of its obligation to report further, and the right honorable member for Yarra will doubtless agree with me when I say that that must have placed his Government in an embarrassing position.. Accordingly, the particular tribunal which had been agreed upon for the purpose of making a report and recommendation on the matter did not proceed further. The Public Accounts Committee had referred the matter to au accountant, who reported that, on a fair basis, the stun of £26,000 was payable to the companies. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), did not accept that recommendation, but had a further inquiry made by a leading officer of the Public Service, who reported that £18,562 was the maximum amount that could be properly paid. The matter was not concluded in the term of the Labour Government, and this damnosa haereditas descended to the present Government, which has agreed to a settlement for £9,000. This is an ex gratia payment in complete and final settlement of the whole matter, and, in all the circumstances, I suggest that the arrangement might well be agreed to by the committee, though it is an unsatisfactory story. Of course, if I were regarding the matter merely from a legal point of view, I should say exactly as I did at. the outset- that the companies had no legal claim. If there had been such a. claim, I think that they would have sued the Government, and would not have adopted a procedure which has resulted in the reduction of their claim from over £64,000 to £9,000. However, three governments have dealt with th% matter, and each thought that the claim should not be rejected out of hand.
– ‘[ support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). The Government is not dealing fairly with the unfortunate unemployed in the territory. Apparently the Government regards it as a crime for those men to be out of employment. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) remarked, the Government, instead of endeavouring to drive mcn away from the territory, should try to encourage them to populate that pa. r,t of Australia. Last year £500 was voted for an Australian delegation to the International Labour Conference at Geneva, and the expenditure amounted to £287. The amount, provided for the 1933 conference is £250. If the delegate who attended the last conference received his salary in addition to expenses the Commonwealth owes mc a considerable sum of money, because in 1925, when 1 had the honour to’ attend the conference as a representative Of the Australian workers, I received only uy daily expenses. In 1924, the delegate from “Western Australia received in addition to expenses, his weekly salary. I understand also that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), who attended the 1926 conference, was paid his salary, in addition to expenses. On my return to Australia from the 1925 conference, I submitted a report to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and also a claim for salary in addition to expenses, but this was refused. I hope that the Government will not treat-future delegates in the way that I was treated. All delegates, whether they represent employers or employees, should be treated alike, at all conferences. I am pleased to know that the Government intends to continue sending representatives to the International Labour Conference, notwithstanding the adverse report subsubmitted by the delegates representing employers and employees at the 1930 conference. It will be recalled that they stated that no good purpose would be served by Australia’s representation at future conferences. I am convinced that great good will accrue to Australia from representation at such gatherings. I do, however, suggest that Australian dele;gates should receive ‘more assistance. Under the existing arrangement, they are considerably handicapped. Other countries appoint substitute delegates and advisors. ‘Consequently, when the various sub-committees are appointed, they have representation on all of them, whereas Australia, having only one delegate representing employers and one delegate representing employees, is frequently unrepresented on some of the committees which sit simultaneously. This was my experience in 1925. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the committee information concerning the expenditure of this vote.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
CUSTOMS TARIFF (NEW ZEALAND PREFERENCE) i933.
Bill returned from the Senate with a message intimating that it had agreed to the bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
– I move -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 5 o’clock p.ni. this day.
As honorable members are aware, the object of this motion is to enable honorable members to accept the hospitality which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has so courteously offered to honorable members this afternoon.
– I -protest against any delay in calling the House together to-day. Honorable members who desire to partake of the hospitality of the GovernorGeneral this afternoon may do so, but there is no ‘reason why other honorable members should be debarred from proceeding with the work of this Parliament. This House has been adjourned far too frequently without adequate reason. On a previous occasion the sitting of the House was delayed on the excuse that the Loan Council was meeting in Melbourne and that some honorable members wished to inspect the cordite factory at Maribyrnong; the day of the meeting and the inspection happening to coincide with the date of the Melbourne Cup. I suggest that the excuse offered by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on this occasion does not warrant the delay that will take place in carrying on the work of this Parliament. Honorable members are called upon to sit here until unreason^ able hours, such as has happened tonight, and on one occasion last week we were called upon to sit for 25£ hours-. It is not fair to ask honorable members who come here from various parts of Australia to participate in the deliberations of this chamber, to agree to con- tinual adjournments of the business of this chamber. I therefore protest against the action of the Government in delaying the meeting of this House to-day.
.Will the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) intimate to the House the hour at which it is expected to conclude the sitting to-night, or is it the intention of the Government to continue the sitting until Friday ?
– It is impossible to announce at this stage precisely to what hour the House will sit to-night. The Government is anxious to dispose of the business within reasonable hours and there is no reason why there should not be a full and adequate discussion of the various items of the Estimates. I suggest that we should be able to finish the Estimates in the evening, but of course that is a matter entirely in the hands of honorable members themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rouse adjourned at 12.15 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated,: -
Report of Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
N asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :
Exports of Lamb.
N asked the Minister for
Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
To the 12th November,1933, the total mutton and lamb exportedfrom the Commonwealth was121,405,179 lb. The quotas originally allotted to Victoria and New South Wales were -
After allowing for additional grants from the amount held in reserve and from States which will notfill their quotas, these totals will be increased to approximately 82 000,000 and66,000,000 respectively.
As at the 12th November, 1933, the amount still to be exported in order to fill the quota was -
asked the Minister for Commerce, -upon notice -
Whether he is inapositiontogiveany information to the House regarding the quota made under the bacon import restriction order issued by the president of the Board of Trade on the 7th November, and approved by the House of Commons last week?
– Under the British Agricultural Marketing Act 1931, pigs and bacon marketing schemes have been approved for the purpose of securing the extension of the home pig industry and the stabilization of the total supplies of bacon inthe United Kingdom. The bacon marketing scheme applies to all bacon and hams produced in Great Britain from pigs killed and cured and carcasses cured in Great, Britain. It thus covers the relatively small amount of bacon cured in that country from imported live pigs and carcasses, practically the whole of which come from the dominions. Under the bacon import restriction order issued by the British Board of Trade on 7th November, the allotments for Australian baconer pigs, ranging from 1.20 to 160 lb. dressed weight, are - From 15th
September, 1933, to 28th February, 1934, 12,000 cwt.; from 1st March, 1934, to 31st December, 1934, 50,000 cwt. These allotments are based on estimates which have been furnished and are of an elastic nature, being subject to review at a later date.
Bacon-curers in the United Kingdom are required, under the Marketing Act, to purchase baconer pigs from Australia on a contract basis, that is to say, a definite -contract must first bemade between the curers and the Australian firms. Shippers are also required to procure Commonwealth certificates declaring that the consignment is of Australian origin and a portion of the quota.
Itis not expected that this arrangement will result in the restriction of exports of thisclass of meat from Australia.
Concessions to Newspapers.
s. - On the 20th October, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Will the Prime Minister supply honorable members with a statement showing the particulars of the privileges and concessions granted to the press of Australia by this Parliament, particularly in relation to parliamentary, telegraph, telephonic, postal, railway, and fiscal facilities, showing cost of each item ?
The departments concerned have been communicated with, and have furnished the following information : -
Parliament. - JointHouse Department. - Offices with the usual accommodation are provided in ParliamentHouse for the representatives of the press. During periods of parliamentary recess a rental is charged by the Joint House Department for the use of the rooms. Press representatives engaged at Parliament House are served in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms on the same terms as members and officers of Parliament. Library. - Press representatives are accorded the facilities of the Parliamentary Library for reference and research in connexion with the reporting of parliamentary proceedings.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Except in the case of charitable institutions, theNewspapers and news-collecting organizations are the only undertakings in Australia which enjoy the privilege of preferential rates. It is estimated that the annual value of the concessions is -
In addition to the foregoing, the twenty (20) newspapers privileged to employ dictaphone facilities for press work obtained during the year 1932 £38,000 worth of press matter on the basis of the prescribed telegraph tariff, for which they paid the department only £12,000 in trunk Hue and telegraph fees.
Department of the interior. - Rooms are madeavailable for the use of press representatives engaged on reporting Commonwealth activities, in the Commonwealth Offices of Canberra. Sydney,and Melbourne. No rental is charged.
CommonwealthRailways. - Press representatives are permitted to travel on Commonwealth railways ata reduction of one-third of the ordinary fare, provided that they are travelling for bona fide reporting purposes. A requisition signed by the proprietors of the newspaper is necessary to ensure the granting of the concession.
e. - On the ‘16th November, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Will he supply the following information in respect of the years 1931-32, and 1932-33 respectively -
tobe made into cigars.
to be made into cigars.
At any future conference of the tobacco industry held at Canberra, will the Minister take the necessary steps to invite at least one tobacco’-growers’ representative from each State to the conference?
I am now able to furnish’ the honorable member withthe following information : -
As direct contact with tobacco-growers is confined in the main to the States by virtue of the fact that instructional and demonstrational work are the functions of the States, representation of the character suggested is a matter for consideration by the States. If the majority of the Statesrecommend that tobacco-growers be invited to any future conference on the tobacco industry which maybe convened by the Commonwealth, full consideration will be given to such recommendations.
Conductors on New South Wales Sleeping Cars.
– On the 24th October, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) asked me a question, without notice, in regard to certain conditions applying to conductors employed on railway sleeping cars arriving in Canberra.
The matter was taken up with the Railways Department of New South Wales, as the conductors mentioned are employees of that department; and the following advice has now been received from the secretary of the department: -
Conductors are at times retained in Canberra waiting departure of the sleeping car on the up journey. The conductors arrive usually on the Wednesday morning, and arc not required until the Friday evening when Parliament adjourns. This arrangement obviates unnecessary passenger time and tends to more economical working. So far as the statement that these conductors are not paid for such time, is concerned, I desire to state that in computing the time of the conductors at the end of the pay fortnight the time lost by them waiting at Canberra is taken into consideration. Clause 8, sub-clause (e) of the traffic employees award of 10th February, 1S20, reads - “ Every employee shall bt paid in respect to work performed on week days according to the number of days or shifts worked in the period or according to the number of hours worked iu the period, such pay being calculated upon whichever of these alternatives (lives the greater amount.”
In calculating the pay of the conductors, the days waiting at Canberra are regarded as days on which they are on duty, aud should the amount of pay be greater ou the basis of the number of days on duty than on the basis of the total number of hours worked iu the period, they are paid accordingly in terms of the award. Owing to the lengthy shifts worked by conductors they have a good deal of time oil duty at their home station, consequently they ure usually paid on the basis of the total number of hours worked in the period, and seldom is it necessary to compute their time on the basis of the number of days or shifts to arrive at the greater amount.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1933/19331122_reps_13_142/>.