13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to announce to honorable members that I have received from Mrs. Coleman a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy in her bereavement.
Wireless Listeners’ Licences
-Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether an inspector of the Postal Department discovered that a number of residents of the Federal Capital Territory had been availing themselves of the wireless broadcasting facilities provided without having taken out a listener’s licence entitling them to do so? Is it proposed to prosecute in every case, or are some persons to be immune from prosecution?
– Having read in this morning’s Canberra Times the paragraph which has given rise to the honorable member’s question, I obtained the following information by telephone from Melbourne: - (a) Thirtyfour cases were detected, in respect of which there will be 32 prosecutions; (b) In the other two cases, prosecution was waived on the authority of the Deputy Director, Sydney, on account of the poor circumstances of the persons concerned ; (c) Of the 32 cases in which there is to be a prosecution, eleven are known to be government officials, six refused to state their occupation, in nine cases the Sydney office is not sure of the position of the persons affected, while the remainder are residents of the Federal Capital Territory; (d) During the few days in which the inspections were being made in Canberra, 124 new listeners’ licences were taken out.
Employment ofCanberra Residents.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact, as is stated in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, that the Government has decided not to send persons from Canberra to Port Augusta for work on the East- West railway? Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with that work, and thus give those who are unemployed locally an opportunity to obtain employment?
– A definite decision has not yet been arrived at as to whether men shall or shall not he sent from Canberra to the work that is to be carried out on the East-West railway, but the probability is that they will not be. Work will have to be found for these men, but a determinationhas not yet been reacted in regard to its nature. The bulk of the work on the East-West line is of an urgent nature, and must continue. That which is most urgent will be proceeded with forthwith.
Attitude of Argentina - Provisions of Ottawa Agreement
– Has the Minister for Commerce received official notification of the rejection by Argentina of the proposal for a levy on meat imported into Great Britain?Can the honorable gentleman say what effect that will have upon the negotiations between the Governments of Australia and Great Britain that are proceeding with respect to exports from Australia, and will he intimate what stage hasbeen reached in those negotiations? Has the Commonwealth Government used as the basis of the discussions the need for the continuance of the present volume of exports from Australia ?
– Apart from the paragraph which appeared in this morning’s press., I have no knowledge of the attitude that is being adopted by Argentina. We have received proposals from the British Government, and have taken up an attitude that is consistent with the declared policy of the Government to endeavour to increase, not to decrease, the volume of exports from Australia. With a view to obtaining the fullest collaboration with the particular interests concerned, a conference of the Meat Advisory Committee has been convened, and will be held in Canberra next week.
– In view of the great uncertainty that appears to exist as to the termination of the arrangement entered into under the Ottawa agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government with respect to meat, will the Minister state definitely whether the agreement terminates this year, as is freely mentioned by many people, or whether it will remain in operation for a period of five years?
– Under the terms of the Ottawa agreement certain specific benefits were conferred on Australian meat producers, principally in the direction of quantitative restrictions on foreign meat products imported into Great Britain, but there was in the agreement a reservation which provided that after the 30th June, 1934, Great Britain would be free to review the incidence of this provision with a view to making any necessary adjustments. The period has therefore expired and that country is free to review the whole incidence of the Ottawa agreement so far as it relates to those restrictions. The question asked earlier relating to certain negotiations which are now proceeding is evidence of the fact that Great Britain is now exercising its rights under the agreement.
Criticism of Provisions.
– Has the attention of the Assistant Treasurer been drawn to a statement by Mr. J. Y. McGrath, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 10th July, criticizing the proposed amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act as being consistent, not with a policy of give and take, but rather with a policy of all take and no give? If so, will the honorable gentleman state whether the examples given by Mr. McGrath, as to the effect of the proposed amendments, are correct?
– I have read the article in question, and am pleased that the honorable member has raised the point, because I have watched the press closely for comments on the Income Tax Assessment Bill. The opening statement in the article is that the bill was drafted at several meetings of tax-gatherers. That is completely misleading,because the bill is based primarily, and almost entirely, on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Taxation, which cannot in any way be described as a body of taxgatherers. The fact that the terms of the bill were discussed at meetings of taxation officials has not in any way coloured its provisions. The point that the writer of the article seeks to establish is based on a misconception. Its general tenor is to the effect that the clauses of the amending bill, which prescribe the statutory exemption, and the manner in which it shall be deducted, first from income from property other than dividends, secondly from income from dividends, and lastly from income from personal exertion,will work out to the disadvantage of certain classes of taxpayers. Two examples are given, one of a man with an income of £400 from rents and interest and £50 from dividends; and the other, a man with an income of £400 from personal exertion and £50 from dividends. Ratherexaggerated language is used in an attempt to show that the man whose income is principally from personal exertion would be badly treated under the provisionsof the amending bill. Had the author of the article taken the matter to its logical conclusion, and worked out the amount oftax payable in each case, he would have found that the man whose income came principally from personal exertion would pay a little over £5, while the other man, whose income came principally from property, would pay a little over £6, and in addition a special propertytax of £12, a total of over £18. Therefore, the result is diametrically opposite to the point which he has sought to establish. May I say, in conclusion, that I deprecate unjustified public criticism of this bill in an attempt to disparage those who have been responsible for the drafting of it, while it is stillbefore the House.
– I ask the Assistant Treasurer whether any representations have been made to the Government regarding anomalies which have arisen in the collection of sales tax on imported goods by wholesale merchants, and by retail traders respectively, and, in particular, the anomaly arising because the figure of assumed increase in price and turnover in the case of retail traders was ascertained and established at a time when the exchange was much lower than it. is to-day? If such representations have been received is it the intention of the Government, if such anomalies do, in fact, exist, to correct them before the House is dissolved?
– The situation set out by the honorable member has been brought under the notice of the Government, and is being considered at the moment.
Presentation -Cotton Industry
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made last week by the Queensland Minister for Agriculture in the following terms: -
If some decision is not made in the near future the next Federal Minister to visit Queensland will hold an inquest and not an inquiry into the cotton industry.
Also whether his attention has been drawn to a statement of a Canberra correspondent, which appeared in certain Queensland newspapers, to the effect that the doubts as to the future of the cotton industry had been set at rest by an important statement made by him on the subject in the House of Representatives? Is it possible that the honorable gentleman made his statement so inaudibly that honorable members did not hear it? I should like to know when an official announcement will be made of the Government’s policy in regard to the cotton industry, and also when the reports of the Tariff Board relating to this industry will be made available to honorable members?
– I have not seen either of the two press references referred to by the honorable member, but he and other honorable gentlemen know that the Government has been giving close consideration to a comprehensive plan to consolidate the cotton industry, and that this consideration is based upon a comprehensive inquiry by the Tariff Board. The Government hopes to be able to carry its policy into effect during the life of this Parliament, but whether it will be able to do so or not will depend upon the manner in which honorable members generally facilitate the transaction of business. I visited Queensland recently in my ministerial capacity, and made some inquiry into the cotton industry. If the honorablemember desires another Federal Minister to visit Queensland, I shall be very glad to visit his own electorate during the election campaign and explain to his constituents the Government’s policy in regard to the cotton industry.
– Is it a fact that there is an accumulation of about 80 Tariff Board reports in the hands of the Govern- ment, and that the Government intends to present only a few of these to Parliament during the present session? If so, is it the intention of the Government to ease up on the accepted principle of carrying out, substantially, the reportsof the Tariff Board ?
– There are not 80 Tariff Board reports in the possession of the Government. I have already announced that I intend to make a statement in regard to these reports, but the question just asked by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Forde) “drew” me a little. As I intimated to that honorable member, it is the intention of the Government to bring down the report of the Tariff Board on the cotton industry, and also the reports of other industries associated with it.
– Only those reports ?
– No, others as well. When those reports are tabled it will be for honorable members to determine whether they shall be dealtwith or not before the House rises. In view of the recent amendment of the customs legislation, which provided that resolutions in regard to customs matters must be finally dealt with before the expiration of six months after they have been introduced or else they lapse, it would be futile for the Government to bring down all the reports that it has in hand unless it could see some likelihood of having them dealt with within the specified time limit. It is intended to, deal with the most important of the reports.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the petrol known asC.O.R. in Australia is identical with that known as B.P. in England and whether B.P. petrol in England is controlled in any way by the Shell Oil Company ?
– The petrols known as C.O.R. in Australia and B.P. in Great Britain are both derived from fields in Persia owned by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, but neither petrol is a product of the Shell Oil Company.
Glass Industry - Meat Trade
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me if, and when, it will be possible for him to make an announcement of the Government’s intentions regarding the glass industry, and the associated question of the prohibition by the Belgian Government of the importation of our meat into Belgium ?
– The Government has had many communications from both Belgian representatives and the Government of the United Kingdom on the subjects . mentioned by the honorable member, and negotiations are still proceeding with a view to reaching finality in regard to these undoubtedly very difficult subjects.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Commerce -
The honorable gentleman replied in the following terms: -
This committee is a company registered under the Companies Act and is not subject, in any way, to Government control. Consequently I am unable to supply the honorable member with any information as to its administrative arrangements.
I now ask the honorable gentleman whether power to administer the Dairy Produce Act has been delegated to this company and whether he is aware that some of the directors of the company are among the largest traders and speculators in butter in Australia ?
– As I intimated to the honorable member last week, the organization to which he has referred is a private company which has had no statutory powers whatever delegated to it by this or any other government. The company can act as it has done only with the assent of the industry itself. Without securing contracts from those engaged in the industry it would entirely fail, as would any other company.
– Will the Minister for the Interior explain the procedure adopted by divisional returning officers in removing names from the electoral rolls ? Were any special instructions issued to these officers in regard to unemployed electors who have been sent to districts out of their own electorates for temporary work, or who have been compelled to remove to river banks and lake shores to eke out an existence in temporary bag shacks and tents ?
– No special instructions, nor instructions of any kind, are issued to divisional returning officers in regard to the enrolment of the electors. There is a set procedure for keeping the rolls as clean as possible. Persons, whether unemployed or otherwise, who move from one division to another are required, by law, to notify the change of their address. If they do not do so, the departmental organization, which operates largely through the postal authorities, is set in motion, and any changes that are subsequently necessary in the electoral rolls are made. Any man who shifts from one electoral subdivision to another is required to notify the change of address, and when that is done his name is transferred. Only routine work of this character is being done by the department.
Dismissal of Employees at Brisbane.
– Following on my remarks in this chamber on Wednesday evening last in respect of the dismissal of employees at the National Broadcasting Station, Brisbane, and the treatment meted out to artists and others by the manager, Major Conder, the Postmaster-General promised to inquire into my complaints and to have the matter fully investigated. Will the PostmasterGeneral, when holding the promised inquiry, and in order to safeguard the interests of the dismissed employees and others who are interested, make the necessary arrangements to have the following aggrieved persons heard at such inquiry : -
Miss Olive Donoghue, late office assistant and typiste, of Windsor, Brisbane.
Mr. Harry Borradale, elocutionist, late of 4QG, Brisbane.
Mr. D. Felsman, late manager of the programme department, 4QG.
– The Broadcasting Commission has certain statutory powers which have been conferred upon it by this Parliament, and which cannot be interfered with by myself or anybody else. One of the statutory powers relates to the arrangement of programmes and the appointment and dismissal of office-bearers. I shall carry out the undertaking which I gave to the honorable member to forward all his statements to the Broadcasting Commission. I am quite sure that the fullest inquiry will be made into those statements and all aspects of the case, including the question which the honorable member has just asked.
Agreement between Producers and Manufacturers.
– A few days ago a statement appeared in the press in connexion with the stabilization of the cotton industry to the effect that the objective might be reached by means of an agreement between the producing and the manufacturing sections similar to that governing tobacco. Can the Minister state whether there is any agreement existing between the producers and the manufacturers with regard to tobacco?
– I do not know from what source the honorable member has. gleaned his information, whether from theCastlemaine Mail or the Sunraysia Daily, but in any case I did not make such a statement.
– In connexion with those States in which now divisions are to be created, will the Minister make arrangements for the printing of more up-to-date maps so that the candidates may ascertain exactly the extent of the electorates ?
– The order for the printing of the maps will be given when the Senate passes the redistribution scheme, and when it is being placed consideration will be given to the suggestion of the honorable member and other honorable members with a view to making the maps more suitable.
– Referring to the question of an open market for treasurybills in Australia, the Minister, on the 28th June, said that the matter had been discussed with the Loan Council, and that the unanimous opinion of that body was that the time was not ripe for the creation of such a market. Has the Minister noted a denial by Mr. McCallum, the Minister for Works in Western Australia, of that statement, and also Mr. McCallum’s further utterance that the Loan Council had appointed a committee to report on the organization of a bill market in Australia, that the committee had reported that it was unable to agree, and had therefore submitted no report, and that the Loan Council had come to no decision, but had requested the committee to meet again, and to submit a report even thoughit involved a majority and a minority report? Further, is the Minister correct in saying that the Loan Council was unanimously against the creation of such a market, or is Mr. McCallum correct in his denial of that statement?
– I have no alteration to make to the statement which I previously made. I can only say that Mr. McCallum’s remarks must have been wrongly reported. I am not at liberty to disclose the decision of the Loan Council, or the way in which the individual members voted. I have nothing further to add.
Settlers’ Goods Destroyed by Fire - Birdum to Daly Waters Railway Construction.
– Will the Minister take advantage of the presence in Canberra of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways and discuss with him the best and most expedient method of reimbursing settlers of the Northern Territory for the total loss of their food supplies while under the charge of the Railway Department, with a view to arriving at an arrangement under which portion of the £20,000,000 which the Government intends to make available for necessitous primary producers will be earmarked for the purpose of making recompense to settlers for losses occasioned through circumstances over which they had no control?
– I shall take advantage of the stay in Canberra of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways by discussing with him the occurrence of the fire which took place at Darwin, but I do not hold out any hope to the honorable member that the second part of his question will be considered by Cabinet.
– Is it a fact that approximately £100,000 worth of railway construction material is at present, and has for some time been, lying at a place called Birdum awaiting the completion of the railway between Katherine and Daly Waters, and that the earthworks to Daly Waters have been completed ? Will the Minister also state whether he is prepared to recommend that this work be proceeded with in order to relieve unemployment, and to utilize a considerable quantity of that railway construction material which is at present lying at Birdum ?
– I am unable to state what quantity of railway material is lying at Birdum station. I do not see any prospect at the present time of proceeding with the construction of the railway.
– Is it a fact that the cost entailed by closing down construction on the Katherine-Daly Waters railway line, together with the cost of reopening the work at a later date would be equal to the cost of carrying the work to its completion at the present time? Will the Government issue instructions for the completion of the line before the material at present on the ground deteriorates to such an extent that new material will have to be purchased?
– I shall have inquiries made into the condition of the railway material lying at Birdum railway station, but I can assure the honorable member that there is no prospect for the timebeing of the railway being extended.
– Has the Prime Minister any further information regarding the proposed co-operation with the British Government to deal with the activities of the Matson Line in the interests of Australian shipping and seamen ?
– No further communication is to hand. The Cabinet has not had an opportunity to consider thoroughly the proposal of the British Government, but will do so in the near future.
– Has the Minister for Commerce anything further to report regarding the embargo placed by New Zealand upon importation of citrus fruits from Australia?
– As has been already stated, a conference was held in Canberra a few weeks ago, at which this subject was discussed. The results of that conference have been communicated to New Zealand, but as they will probably involve discussions between New Zealand and the United States of America, it is unlikely that anything can be done for a few weeks.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that there is a shortage in Sydney of postal voting forms, the reason given being that, as the Government proposes to amend the electoral law, no more forms are being printed? How long is this shortage expected to continue?
– The honorable mem ber may rest assured that ample supplies of forms will be available before the elections.
Alleged Breach of Award
– On the 8th May last, a communication was addressed to the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Brisbane, drawing his attention to a breach of the award in that mail officers were employed in the mail branch on Sunday without the presence of supervising officers. I have received a communication on the matter from the Queensland branch of the Postal Workers Union of Australia, in which it is stated that the Deputy Director had advised the secretary of the union that he could do nothing in the matter until he had received a reply from the Public Service Board. In view of this complaint, will the PostmasterGeneral take the necessary steps to see that the complaint is dealt with?
– I shall have pleasure in placing the complaint before the necessary authorities, and asking that it be dealt with as quickly as possible.
– In view of the fact that the Government proposes to raise a loan to assist necessitous farmers, will the Prime Minister extend the scheme to include the occupiers of war service homes, many of whom are in circumstances equally as necessitous ?
– When the Government brings downproposals for the relief of primary producers, or any other section of the community, it will supply the fullest information to honorable members.
– I have received from the Right Honor able the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House this afternoon for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The urgent necessity of providing for immediate unemployment relief pending consideration of a comprehensive plan by the new Parliament “.
Five honorable members having risen
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I do so for the purpose of calling attention to the urgent necessity of providing for immediate unemployment relief pending the consideration of a comprehensive plan by the new-Parliament. I hope that when the new Parliament assembles there will be a. new government in office to carry out the plan, but I am concerned for the moment with the immediate position. It is seven months since this Parliament went, into recess, and it will probably be another three months before the new Parliament can assemble. The best part of the year will have gone with practically nothing done by Parliament to deal with unemployment, which is undoubtedly the greatest problem confronting Australia to-day. Therefore, I make no apology for moving the adjournment of the House to discuss this most important matter.
We are now in the depth of winter, and the sufferings of the unemployed are still acute. Statistics may be quoted to prove that the volume of unemployment has lessened, but those statistics bring no COInfort to the thousands of men who are out of work, or to their families who are in want. Certain relief works have been put in hand by the States, by municipalities and, to some extent, by the Commonwealth itself, and these works could be speeded up and extended if more money were made available. The Commonwealth Government has been boasting about its surplus revenue, and how it proposes to dispose of it. I suggest that there is no more crying need at the present time than to devote some of that surplus to the relief of the unemployed. There are works at present in hand which could be made to absorb still more workers if money were provided. I am not now referring to long range enterprises such as uniform railway gauge conversion, about which we have heard for so many years,, nor to the building of workmen’s homes, of which there is undoubtedly a shortage in every city - the Commonwealth, by co-operation with the States, could make money available for that purpose, but I am not pressing for that just now - I am urging the Government to speed up existing works, and to start others which would provide immediate employment in order to tide the workless over the winter months.
– Which government is going short !
– None of the State governments is providing sufficient work to make a substantial contribution towards the solution of the unemployment problem. Their complaint is that they have not sufficient money.
– They have more money than they know what to do with.
– That is not so. They say that if they had more money they could provide more employment. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has repeatedly stated in the press that prosperity has returned, or, at any rate, is returning; but such utterances merely drive the unemployed to despair. I am not going to say that there is not some improvement in the position, but I say that the continuation of the present statements regarding prosperity is causing the workless to despair of anything being done. The Government is so self-satisfied, so complacent, while 300,000 Australian workers are still unemployed !
The Prime Minister, in a speech made in connexion with the Martin byelection, after indicating that the Government is perfectly satisfied with the present trend of events, proceeded to make political capital out of the employment position by saying that during the regime of the Scullin Government unemployment had risen by 14.9 per cent., whereas up to February last it had fallen by 6.1 per cent. The recital of such figures, even though they are supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, is merely begging the question, and providing an excuse for shirking responsibility. I do not question the accuracy of the statistics used by the right honorable gentleman. They are gathered from trade unions with about 400,000 members. Actually there arc nearly 750,000 trade unionists and returns showing the unemployment figures for the members of particular unions are submitted by only half of them. Furthermore, the statistics quoted by the Prime Minister take no account whatever of the 90,000 boys and girls who leave school each year in search of employment, and who are not registered as unemployed in the books of the trade unions. They have not had a chance to join a trade union, as they have never been employed. We know only too well the tragedy of the youths of Australia at the present time. I remind the Government that it will get nowhere with this problem merely by quoting comparisons of employment statistics or comparing the position during one regime with that of another, especially when the changed circumstances of the time are taken into consideration. I am aware that as an offset to the 90,000 boys and girls leaving school each year there are 50,000 people who die or retire from work, making the net addition to the labour ranks about 40,000. But comparisons of this sort prove very little. If I were to descend to that line of argument I could show that, during the time the Prime Minister was a member of the Labour Ministry, unemployment increased by 12.7 per cent. The right honorable gentleman could rightly be asked to accept some share of the responsibility for that increase, but, as I say, I do not use that argument against him any more than I could by pointing out that after he became Prime Minister unemployment rose by 2 per cent, to its peak level of 30 per cent., the highest on record, and that even 12 month’s later the figures were slightly higher than when the present Government took office.
Nothing is said by the Government of what the States are doing to assist in the relief of unemployment, inadequate as it may be. The States are bearing nearly all the responsibility for the unemployed of this country. I approve of the statements made recently in an address delivered at Bentleigh by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett)
The plea that the Commonwealth Government had no direct responsibility for the care of the unemployed could no longer bc sustained.
The Commonwealth was in the happy position of anticipating a surplus, and the Commonwealth Government’s first step should be to grant to the States sufficient money to enable some increase to be made in the present semi-starvation rate of unemployment dole. Certainly, this should take precedence over any restoration of cuts or reduction of existing taxation,
I endorse entirely that statement. If we are to make comparisons, let me point out that the greatest improvement shown in the unemployment figures is in Western Australia since a Labour government has been in office. However, comparisons do not help to provide for men and women who are suffering privation.
This is a serious position, and cannot be turned aside simply by showing a certain percentage of reduction in the unemployment figures. To show the point of view of the States, I would quote from the Age, of the 31st May of thi3 year, a statement attributed to the Chief Secretary for Victoria, Mr. Macfarlan -
The Chief Secretary, Mr. Macfarlan, said that the Federal Government had played an insignificant part in relieving unemployment as, while the Victorian Government had spent the staggering sum of £8,500,000 in two years, the Federal Government had merely lent the State £4»0.000.
The Minister in Charge of Sustenance in Victoria, Dr. Shields, also said that the Federal Government should make available for unemployment relief, its surplus because the States were finding it difficult to find money for relief works. This, he said, was preferable to reducing taxation as was done last year. These are statements made by two responsible Ministers of the United Australia party Government of Victoria. The present Commonwealth Government takes credit for any change in the circumstances, which lias really been brought about by expenditure on relief works of State Governments and municipalities. Here in Canberra, where the Commonwealth Government has sole control over these matters, we find that unemployment has doubled since the present Government took office. The unemployment figures in Canberra have risen from 400 to 800 in that period. A brilliant statesmanlike suggestion was to transport 100 men from Canberra to South Australia, a State in which record unemployment prevails. I merely mention these facts in the hope that the Government will lose some of its self-satisfaction and get busy with the important task of finding work for the unemployed men and women of Australia. I suggest that it should follow the policy adopted by the British Broadcasting Commission ; that of allowing the unemployed to broadcast their conditions. That is having a pronounced effect in arousing human sym- pathy and interest in the greatest tragedy in the life of human beings. I agree that the position in Australia has improved. The principal cause of that is the increased price of wool, which has added £22,000,000 to the national income. That has aroused a feeling of optimism, which has led to an improvement of trade, and that in turn has resulted in the provision of an additional amount of employment. The Government was not responsible for the raising of the price of wool, but it will take all the credit for that, and every other fortuitous circumstance which arises. Comparisons with other years, or with what happened under other administrations, will not provide help for those who are in need. The question to be considered is, what should be done now. I do not object to optimism - I believe that a hopeful outlook is a good sign - but over-optimism merely irritates suffering men and women. Nearly three years have passed since the last elections, when lavish promises were made that money would flow plentifully into industry, and that work would be provided for all. In the propagandist literature that is even now being distributed, this Government is taking credit for the money that is being spent by State Governments. All that it has done, as the head of the Loan Council, is to make provision for the raising of the money. As the Government of the Commonwealth it has not shouldered its share of the responsibility. I ask that something be done before Parliament is dissolved. The question of our workless men and women is one that urgently demands attention, and I make the appeal in the hope that Parliament may respond to it.
– The question raised by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) has worried, and will continue to worry, all of us, so long as unemployment remains at its present level. The right honorable gentleman suggested that I have made it appear that a degree of prosperity has been achieved, and that we are satisfied with the position. I have never uttered such sentiments. I have emphasized the progress that has been made, which, in the existing circumstances, is wonderful.
– Where is it?
– The Leader of the Opposition deprecates the quoting of comparative figures, but as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) wishes to be informed where there are evidences of progress, I shall be obliged to give such figures. I know that many other circumstances are responsible, in addition to the effect of the administration of a particular government, but there is no denying the fact that the methods and policies of governments play an extraordinarily big part in the decision as to whether the degree of unemployment shall bo greater or less. The right honorable gentleman anticipated me by objecting to the use of figures which indicate the improvement that has been effected since his Government went out of office. He asserted that even after the present Government came into power unemployment increased. That is so. The Lang Government in New South Wales was responsible for that. Is it merely a coincidence that every quarter since that Government was removed from office there has been an improvement in the employment figures? The reduction of unemployment in Australia has been coincident with a similar happening in only six or seven other countries. With the exception of those countries, all from which statistics can be obtained disclose increases in their unemployment figures.
Let us see what improvement has been effected in Australia. In the second quarter of 1931 the figure was 27.6, and the average for that year was 27.4. In the second quarter of 1932 the figure reached the highest point of 30 per cent., and the average for the year was 29 per cent. In the second quarter of 1933 the figure was 25.7, and the average for the year 25.1 per cent. In the second quarter of 1934 the figure dropped to 20.9, the lowest since 1930. When the previous Government took office it was 13.1. and when it left office it was 28. When the Lang Government was put out of office in New South Wales, the figure had risen to 30 per cent. In view of the difficulties which all countries are experiencing in dealing with this problem, an improvement of over 9 per cent, in the last two years is an achievement which, if not entirely satisfactory, should justify a real hope that further progress will be made in the future. During the life of the previous Government the unemployment figure increased by 14.9 per cent., while, during the life of this Government it has been reduced by 7.1 per cent. I am emphasizing the position in order to show that when a demand is made for special treatment we are able to point to the fact that the circumstances to-day are not so bad as they were when the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues were in office, when special treatment might have been expected.
Let us consider what is happening in the factories. The three States which supply such figures are New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia. Taking the figure 100 to represent the position in January, 1930, we find that in New South Wales there was a drop to 76 in January, 1932, and a recovery to 97 in March, 1934. In South Australia, there was a drop to 70 in January, 1932, and a recovery to 94 in March, 1934. In Western Australia, there was a drop to 65 in January, 1932, and a recovery to 93 in March, 1934. These are actual facts, and they indicate the progress which has been made in those three States.
Let us now look at the total number of persons employed in the secondary hdustries of Australia. It has frequently beer suggested that the policy of this Government would have the effect of reducing the number of persons employed in those industries. In 1929 the total was 450,000. In 1932, there had .been a huge drop to 336,000. What progress have we made since that year? Is there any indication of additional employment having been found for our workers? The estimated number of employees in June, 1933, was 400,000, while within the last few hours the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales has unofficially advised that it estimates that the figure is now practically back to 450,000. This is an indication that- the methods of government adopted have had the effect of restoring confidence, and of making possible the provision of employment in various directions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) quoted repre- sentatives of the Victorian Government, and an honorable member of this House, as having said that the Commonwealth Government should do more to assist the States. I remind those State ministers who make such a suggestion, that the Commonwealth Government is greatly concerned about the unemployment of Australian youths, which is the saddest aspect of the question that we have to contemplate. In the comprehensive plan that awaits the next Parliament that is one of the problems which will have to be dealt with systematically. So greatly concerned about the matter was the Commonwealth Government, that it decided it should share the responsibility with the States. I was particularly impressed during my visit to t. b e electorate of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), where I saw the splendid effort that was being made by young people to preserve the last shred of their respectability in the difficulties that confront them. Desiring to help the States, the Commonwealth will make available to them the sum of £2,000,000, but threequarters of that amount will be absorbed by them in meeting their budgetary difficulties, leaving only £500,000 with which to meet the unemployment situation.
– They should not have been given it.
– I disagree with the honorable member. One of the reasons for the increase of employment is that the policy of those governments which stood behind, and are still adhering to, the Premiers plan is the establishment of budgetary equilibrium and the restoration of confidence, which, in turn, makes for the employment of our people. Ministers recognize that it is not sufficient for the Commonwealth only to balance its budget; the States also must improve their positions. The policy of the Government has been directed wholly towards an improvement of the employment position. At one stage it was found that the Commonwealth had to assume responsibility for a substantial portion of the unemployment problem. It will be remembered that, as was done by the previous Government, a certain sum had to be contributed to the States for special purposes, particularly the winter relief scheme of which the Government of New South Wales would not avail itself, in consequence of which the Commonwealth itself had to disburse the money in that State in the relief of unemployment. When the representatives of the Commonwealth Government discussed this matter with the representatives of the States, they pointed out that, as only a limited amount of loan money was available for unemployment relief, the Commonwealth Government would simply be taking money from the States if, as a Government, it participated in the relief measures to any large extent. The Commonwealth Government felt that it would be wiser for the State governments to spend such money as was available, because they could provide the essential work, and also had the machinery through which the money could ‘be spent. The Commonwealth Government, consequently, did not take any considerable part of the money raised for unemployment relief.
I have indicated that there has been a marked improvement in the unemployment position. The right honorable member, in moving his motion, said that sufficient was not ‘being done at present by the various governments, and that the State governments were not making a substantial contribution to the solution of the problem.
– I also said that the Commonwealth Government was not doing so.
– The right honorable member asked what the States were doing. I shall give a few figures that will enlighten him. In 1930-31, when the unemployment figure was 24.3 per cent., a total amount of £26,900,000 was spent by the Commonwealth and State governments on relief. The Commonwealth grant to the States that year for road purposes was £2,000,000. In 1931-32, in half of which year the right honorable member’s Government was in office, the unemployment figure was 28.7 per cent. Surely that was a figure that demanded special consideration ! In that year, £22,997,000 was provided by the Commonwealth and the States for relief, and the Commonwealth paid to the States £1,812,000 for road purposes. In 1932-33, when the unemployment figure was 28 per cent., being a drop of .7 per cent, compared with the figure for the preceding year, and when the present Government was in office during the whole of the period, £25,652,000 was provided, the Commonwealth’s contribution to the States being £1,922,000 for road purposes. In 1933-34, when the unemployment figure was 22.7 per cent., the amount of money provided by the Commonwealth and the States for relief was £27,680,000. In other words, although there were fewer unemployed, more money was provided. The Commonwealth contributed £2,207,000 to the States in that year for road purposes. I emphasize that it was only because of the improved conditions, due to the administration of .this Government, that it was possible to raise an increased sum to provide additional employment in that year. For 1934-35, the amount provided for unemployment relief is estimated to be £35,030,000. Although the unemployment figure is still falling, the conditions generally have made it possible for the governments to contemplate spending this greatly increased sum. The amount to be contributed by the Commonwealth to the States for road purposes this financial year is estimated t0 be £2,200,000. Surely these figures show clearly that there has ‘been no lack of sympathy by this Government and the State governments with which it is co-operating, for the people who are unfortunately still out of employment. The Government is aiming this year at an expansion of its public works policy wherever such extension can be usefully made, and it will definitely increase the amount available for public works. In the last financial year, the money made available for public works was almost twice the amount spent on such works in the previous year by the ‘Commonwealth, and more than twice the amount spent in that way two years ago. When the financial proposals of the Government were introduced in 1933-34, provision was made for a definite increase of expenditure on defence, on public works, and in other directions, for it was felt that such increases were justified ‘because of the improved conditions. Where, in the past, the Government was compelled to be niggardly in its expenditure, in consequence of the serious circumstances that prevailed, it was last year able to be somewhat more liberal. If the circumstances which had: prevailed when the present Government came into office had continued., it would have been impossible to raise more money for unemployment relief; but happily the conditions improved. I claim, therefore, that the Government is entitled to credit for the beneficial effects of its policy. In consequence of the administration of the Government, it has been possible to give the States .relief in many ways, and to enable them to do more to help the unemployed than would otherwise have been the case.
But, after all, as I have said on several occasions, it is impossible for governments to employ on public works all the people who are out of work. Public works can absorb only a certain number of them. It is necessary to create a situation which will encourage private enterprise to reabsorb the people. The figures that I have quoted show that what the Government has aimed to do in this direction it has, to a large extent, actually done. The number of people engaged in private industries, and particularly secondary industries, has rapidly increased, and, while I acknowledge that the present position is still far from satisfactory, it can at least be said that, by giving* relief to private industry, the Government has made it possible for many people to be re-absorbed, and has created a degree of confidence that previously did not exist. I submit, therefore, that both by acting in co-operation with the State governments in providing money for public works, and by encouraging private enterprise, the Government has succeeded in ameliorating the position to a large degree. Substantial amounts have been and arc still being made available to the States through the Loan Council for expenditure on works that will absorb many of the unemployed. I repeat that if the Commonwealth . Government were now to step in and take part of the money that is available for unemployment relief it would be quite likely to create difficulties for the States by preventing them from getting the money that they required. I know that the right honorable member for Yarra does not like comparisons between the conditions that now obtain and those that prevailed while his Government was in office, but the fact remains that the unemployment figure is substantially lower now than it was when his Government was administering the affairs of the Commonwealth and that the State governments are now able to do substantially more than they were then able to do to meet the difficulties of the situation. If there are difficulties in regard to the unemployed now, there were still greater difficulties in regard to them when the right honorable member’s Government was in office.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has answered the charge of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) that insufficient was being done for the unemployed by stating that the Premiers plan is to be adhered to, and that budgets must be balanced irrespective of whether the people who live in the electorate of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who have bravely suffered in the past, must now have torn from them the last shreds of respectability. Budgets must be balanced in spite of the fact that £2,000,000, which should have been made available to help the unemployed in the Hunter and other electorates in New South Wales was diverted, except for £500,000, to other purposes. At all costs, apparently, the Premiers plan must be observed. That is of paramount importance to the Government; all other considerations must be set on one side, even the imperative needs of the unemployed. The Prime Minister has referred to conditions in New South Wales.
It will be interesting to honorable members if I outline from first-hand knowledge, just what those conditions are. The official returns disclose that the unemployment figure in that State is 25. S per cent, or, in round figures, 26 per cent. If that is all the improvement that could arise from the change of government, the sneering remarks that have been made about the Lang Administration are entirely unjustified. But when it is remembered that in’ compiling the unemployment figures in New South Wales, men who receive only one or two or three weeks’ work in five are recorded as permanently employed, it will be seen how misleading the figures are. I know that they are compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, but the basis of the calculations should be borne in mind. Probably honorable members generally do not realize that under these conditions in New South “Wales married men with one child who receive 18s. 9d. a week, married men with two children who receive £1 3s. 5d. a week, and married men with ten children who receive £2 9s. lOd. a week are regarded as permanently employed, although the basic wage for the State is £3 7s. 6d. a week! If this is the kind of prosperity that the Premiers plan has introduced, the people of New South Wales may be relied upon to deal with it very shortly as the people of Tasmania dealt with it a few weeks ago. I wish to direct attention also to the position in regard to concentration camps in New South Wales. Single men are called up and told that they must go right away to the far-flung parts of the State and live under conditions which are a disgrace to civilization or else be denied all food relief. This is the kind of economic conscription that the Premiers plan has introduced. Where, then, is the marked change for the better in New South Wales? How can it be said that the conditions have improved compared with those that obtained when the Lang Government was iu office ? The Government will have to find some stronger excuses for its failure to improve conditions before it can hope to convince the people of New South Wales that it should be continued in office.
Even the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), speaking in his own electorate, quite recently admitted that unemployment was the greatest national problem that had to be faced, and that whether they liked it or not they would have to face it and treat it by some new methods. Ho added that the United Australia party would have to realize that it had been following the wrong track, and that sooner or later it would have to adopt new methods to suit the times. I should like to hear the honorable .gentleman stand up to that statement in this House. Whether he has the courage to do so or not his remarks indicate what he, and, I have no doubt, some of the supporters of the Government, are really thinking. It was natural, of course, to expect the Prime Minister to quote in this debate the unemployment figures compiled by the Com monwealth Statistician, and to point out that these are based on returns furnished by trade unions; but I wish to emphasize the statement that has already been made that only 53 per cent, of the unions return their figures to the Statistician. In addition, when men are obliged to retire from their union because they are unable to obtain work in their own calling, they are not classed as unemployed, at all. They are not considered to be members of the union unless their names continue to remain on the books of the organization. Further, it should be realized that in the last quarterly summary the total membership of the trade unions was shown to have dropped, between 1931 and 1932, by 160,000. We can only assume, therefore, that there has been a general decline in the membership of trade unions. The reason, of course, is that many men have had to resign because they have been forced out of their ordinary occupation owing to the general stagnation in industry. Many of these men have been obliged to look for work in other occupations, or to accept relief work. I have found, in travelling through many parts of the country, that thousands of men have been unable to pay dues, owing to meagre pay on relief jobs, necessary to enable them to retain their trade union membership. In all these circumstances, it must be admitted that no reliance whatever can be placed on the figures quoted by the Prime Minister to-day as an indication of the real unemployment position. In the statement by the Commonwealth Statistician that was made available to honorable members to-day, it is admitted that the returns in regard to unemployment do not contain much information relative to rural districts. The Statistician, as a matter of fact, has been unable to obtain anything like a general view of the position in the rural districts, and has admitted that the figures are not a true reflex of the position. We have, therefore, to be guided by our general information and we must also always bear in mind that even men engaged oh relief work in New South Wales are considered as being permanently employed. That is, to say the least of it, an indictment against present-day civilization. The Australian governments, so we are informed, are faced with the difficulty of trying to balance their budgets, but surely if it is important that those governments should proceed with the solution of national problems as indicated it is equally important that working men who have wives and children should also be placed in the position of being able to balance their household budgets. The paramount duty of any Government is to give first consideration to the poor unfortunate people who are unemployed, and not to seek to give relief, as has been the case, to other sections of the community more fortunately situated. The 10 per cent, reduction in real wages is another striking example of the low standard of living of even those in employment. Our workers were forced to accept a reduction in real wages of 10 per cent, in 1931, yet a few months ago, when the workers put their case to the court claiming an increase of wages on account of the claim of the Government that this country -is well on the road of prosperity, the restoration ordered by the court in respect of the basic wage, which had previously been reduced by 10s. 6d. for skilled and 8s. for unskilled work, was Id. per week as applied to Sydney. The same thing applied in regard to the State award in New South “Wales. The wages were reduced by 16s. a week, and in April last, when the workers were told that prosperity had arrived, a restoration of ls. a week was made. So much for the Premiers plan, national prosperity and all the figures contained in this statement! A much stronger argument than that will be required to satisfy the workers. Despite all the cheap talk about the Lang Government, the actual position is that 26 per cent, of unemployment’ in the State of New South Wales represents a decrease of between 3 and 4 per cent, since the change of government, and to accomplish this men who have been put on relief work are regarded as being permanently employed. Another important factor is that men who were formerly employed by the Main Roads Board and municipal councils on water works are n.ow being employed on the same work under relief work conditions, which means that permanent hands have been displaced. Honorable members who are supporting the Government may sup- port that kind of thing, but I am satisfied that the public generally will definitely show that it is not prepared todo so when given an opportunity to vote within a few weeks time.
– The most important question that can engage the attention of any government is that of unemployment. It is, to-day, engaging the attention of every government in the world, and it is being given the constant, consideration of this Government. The outstanding feature of the administration of this Government is that it has done more than any previous government, to meet the difficulties of the unemployed citizens of the State.
– This Government has done absolutely nothing for the unemployed.
-Order ! The honorable member must not interject.
– This Government has done more than any other government to find work for the unemployed citizens of the Commonwealth. When it first took office it set out to restore confidence in this country. Unless there is confidence in the country, few people are prepared to spend money in it, so that the restoration of confidence has an important bearing on the restoration of financial equilibrium, and the provision of better conditions in any country. No government can raise money while it is not in a position to meet its debts, lt has to balance its budget before it can obtain additional funds with which to provide work for its workless citizens. I do not propose to deal with the loan programme because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has already referred to the tremendous and gigantic sums of money which have been raised by the Loan Council mainly to enable the State governments to provide employment for their unemployed. The efforts of any previous government to provide employment fade into insignificance compared with the efforts of this Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) opened the debate on this question in. an exceedingly moderate way, and although I am not desirous of ruffling him to any extent I think that I am entitled to point out that his explanation of the statistician’s figures proved nothing and showed clearly that even before he made his speech he had examined them, and that he was aware of the fact that any further explanation of them would be to his own discomfort and disadvantage. I have not time to quote the figures but nothing will deter me from using them to the fullest extent on the platforms of this country. I would point out that the figures of unemployment are sent in by the trade union secretaries. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) showed clearly in his speech that trade unionism had, of recent years, been fading away. He gave some reasons for that, but omitted the principal reason which is that in New South Wales the numerical strength of the unions has declined owing to the disgust of the workers at the control of trade unions being placed in the hands of Jock Garden.
– That story has whiskers on it.
– To-day thousands of workers in New South Wales decline to be associated with the leadership of trade unionism in that State. Time does not permit me to go further into that matter, but I have some interesting statements to place before honorable members with respect to the f efforts made by the late Government to solve the problem of unemployment. I shall quote first the statement of Mr. Yates, who at one time represented the electorate of Adelaide, and is now the selected Labour candidate for. that electorate. Speaking of the Scullin Government, he said -
What is public life coining to when elections ure won on cries that work will be found for the worker, and as soon as the election is over the cry is forgotten t So far this has been an “ All-Talkie “ Government. If work is not provided for the workless, I cannot go back and face those to whom I promised that work would be found.
The honorable member for West Sydney was for some considerable time a member of the Scullin Government, and, of course, the words of Mr. Yates apply to some extent to him, although not to the same extent as they do to other honorable members who were members of that Government for a longer period. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who was at that time a supporter of the Scullin Government, said -
The Government says it cannot do_ anything. If that is so, why did the members of it criticize the members of the previous Government ?
That is a wise remark that might be aptly applied to the position to-day. He continued -
My people were deserted by the party which promised to protect them. The people listened to the promises made on behalf of the Labour party, and the promises appealed to them. Notwithstanding the suffering and the poverty of the poor unfortunate coal-miners, they provided £1,000 for the purpose of assisting to fight the election campaign in New South Wales. It is now apparent that the money was got under practically false pretences.
That condemnation of the late Government was supported by the Leader of the Labour party in another place, Senator Barnes, who said -
Everyone knew the position of the Government. It has not a “ bob “ to spend in anything. Tens of thousands of men are walking the roads looking for work, and the Government cannot get sufficient money to give them an opportunity to earn something.
How any member who was a member of ° the Scullin Government, with its record of condemnation, can have the effrontery and audacity to attack this Government which has done so much to relieve the unemployed, passes my comprehension.
.- All Australian Governments, both State and Federal, have undertaken substantial public works expenditure from loan for the purpose of alleviating unemployment. Some expenditure of this kind will no doubt always be necessary, and so long as it results in reproductive, or- reasonably reproductive work, no one can cavil at it. Indeed, we are to-day in a position where we are perhaps not quite so critical as to the wholly reproductive character of works of this kind as we would be if employment were more general, and for some time, at least, we shall require substantial sums to be made available from loan for the provision of public works. At best this i9 only a temporary palliative and does not provide permanent jobs for men. Unemployment is really the biggest problem that is facing Australia to-day. Only temporary relief can be provided by relief works, and when a joh is finished those who were engaged on it can look forward for further employment only to some other public work. Short range experiments have been made with the object of assisting the unemployed. A few years ago an attempt was made to increase employment by placing an almost total prohibition on imports. That experiment failed miserably as the figures will show. In the year 1928-29, when the tariff was relatively moderate, the’ number of employees in the factories of Australia was 450,000, hut in the year 1931-32, after enormous increases of tariff had taken place and prohibitions had been imposed, that number had declined to 336,000. I believe that permanent jobs can be provided in substantial numbers only by private enterprise, and to this end it is necessary for us to follow a long-range policy, rather than confine ourselves to temporary expedients. The degree of activity in the secondary industries is dependent largely upon the purchasing power of those engaged in the primary industries, many of which are now very sick indeed. This applies par- 0ticularly to the wheat industry, and the butter industry would be no better off were it not for the measures passed by the various Parliaments of the Commonwealth to enable butter producers to obtain a home consumption price for their product. The wheat industry is in a pitiful plight to-day, many of those engaged in it having on their shoulders such a load of accumulated debt that they actually fear any substantial improvement in prices lest it lead to their being pushed off their holdings by the mortgagees.
I am convinced that we could do more to solve the unemployment problem by making cheap money available for rural rehabilitation than by spending the same amount of money on public works. The money could be used to assist primary producers who are now insolvent through no fault of their own, and it could be applied so as to lift a load of debt many times greater than the actual amount of cash involved. Moreover, it would give hope where despair rules to-day. There is no doubt that money wisely spent in rural rehabilitation would give splendid results in the way of providing employment, even in the secondary industries. Such action, coupled with the fixing of a home consumption price for wheat, would arrest the desertion of the wheat areas that is going on to-day and retain on the land people who are drifting into the cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
In addition, interest rates should be reduced. If the bank rate were reduced to 4£ per cent., both primary and secondary industries would be stimulated, and more employment created. Trade barriers between the different parts of the British Empire, and between Australia and other countries outside the Empire, should be lowered by means of reciprocal agreements in order to increase the flow of trade which has been clogged for the last few years. World trade has shrunk to one-third of its previous volume, largely due to the trade barriers erected by one nation after another in an attempt to attain selfsufficiency. This has been followed by unprecedented unemployment. We should remember that borrowed money spent by governments on works rarely provides as much employment as does a similar sum of money spent by private enterprise. For that reason, and for the other reasons I have mentioned, it would be well for us to put into effect as soon as possible, the long-range policy I have suggested.
.- I realize that the problem of unemployment is an important one, not only in Australia, but also in practically every country in the world. I listened with interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who told a story which might have appealed to a stranger who did not know the facts. He attacked the Government for not having done enough to assist the unemployed, but he was sufficiently refuted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) who pointed out that this Government has, during its term of office, done all that was humanly possible to solve the problem. One might be pardoned for believing, after listening to the Leader of the Opposition, that the Scullin Government had done everything for the unemployed, and the present Government nothing. We know, of course, that the position is exactly the reverse.
In normal times the volume of unemployment in Australia is about 6 per cent, of the working population. When the .
Scullin Government came into power the figure was about 13 per cent. In 1929, the Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government brought down a tariff schedule providing for absolute protection, and he stated that the new policy would practically cure the unemployment evil. He said that he was sure that employment would be provided for an extra 50,000 men as a result of the tariff, and a few weeks later, when bringing in an amended schedule, he said that employment would be provided for at least 100,000 more men. We know now that, within seven months of the introduction of higher tariffs, the number of unemployed had increased by 30,000. By the following year an additional 111,000 men were out of work, and within two years the percentage of unemployed crept up to 29 per cent. Nobody knows how high it would have gone had there not been a change of government. After the present Government came into power there was a 1 per cent, increase in unemployment, which was only to be expected as the benefit of the Government’s new policy could not be felt immediately. Since then, however, the figure has dropped from over 30 per cent, to just over 20 per cent., which means that practically one-third of the unemployed in Australia have gone back to work. What will these men say when they are asked to support the policy of high protection, which cost them their jobs before? I feel confident that they will recognize that their interest lies in supporting the present Government, which has done so much for them.
The Government cannot provide employment for all idle men. It can give work to a certain number, and they are already employed. The others must be absorbed by private enterprise, and the present Government has done everything that can be done to bring this about. If the Government spent £20,000,000 of borrowed money on non-productive works for the relief of unemployment, work would be found for a certain number of men for a few weeks or a few months, and then, when the money was spent, we should be back to the old position, except that we should have to go on paying interest on the money borrowed. The Government has done much better than that by reducing the burden of taxation last year by over £7,000,000, and by following a policy which has enabled interest rates to be reduced. This has stimulated private enterprise, and created avenues of employment. The Government has also reduced import duties, and I believe that it is the intention, when returned once more to power, to make still further reductions. In this way it will, help to provide employment for those now, out of work.
– The problem of unemployment is fundamental, and we should ask ourselves whether the Commonwealth Government can do anything more than it has done, or whether it should do anything more. I believe that it has been sadly remiss in its duty to the unemployed, and I do not make that charge without believing that I can prove it. I do not propose to compare this Government with the last in an endeavour to show that one did more for the unemployed than the other. It is despicable, I think, to fritter away our time in making such comparisons, when men are hungry and in urgent need of help. I desire, however, to correct one slight error made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). He said that the percentage of unemployment to-day was lower than it had been at any time since 1930. Even if we accept the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, -with which I am far from satisfied, that statement can be shown to be untrue. For the third period of 1930 the figure was 20.6 per cent., while, at the present time, it is 20.9 per cent. I am not going to split straws about a fraction like that, but merely point out that, even in 1930 the percentage of unemployed was lower than now.
I believe that the Commonwealth Government should accept more responsibility for the unemployed. The State governments have done all they can. They are short of funds, and cannot do more until more funds are provided. Only the other day, Dr. Shields said that it was impossible to increase allowances to the unemployed - he could not make more work, food or clothing available - and that governments could not ignore invalid, old-age and soldiers’ pensions when determining which mem- bers of families should receive sustenance employment. Never before have we sunk so low as that. The standard of living in Australia to-day is lower than at any time in the history of the country. In fact, there is no standard at all. The aggregate wage fund earned by the people is no greater to-day than it was last year, or the year before that. What has happened is that the same inadequate wage fund has been spread over a larger number of people, thus reducing the standard of all. I say that that is what has already happened and this is the way in which the wrong has been inflicted. All State and municipal officials now recognize that the method of granting men one or two days’ relief work has not brought about the results which were desired, and that we should get back to normal working conditions. But the fund they have at their disposal will not permit of it. The present system has set up a vicious condition under which governments are content to continue this form of relief instead of dealing with the main problem of unemployment. Under these circumstances it is difficult to get back to normal working conditions. The Minister in Charge of Sustenance in Victoria (Dr. Shields) has pointed this out. I can imagine the Postmaster-General asking, “Why does not the honorable member prove what he is saying?” I have already proved that the Prime Minister erred in dealing with the figures relating to unemployment, and I contend that the statements made by other Ministers on this subject, that there has been a wonderful improvement in respect of employment, are misleading. Dr. Shields, in answer to an important deputation which came before him yesterday or the day before, said that no further provision could be made by the Victorian Government for sustenance, because of the lack of funds. He also said that the receipts from the unemployment relief tax had fallen during the year ended the 30th June, by £185,000. That tax is collected from everybody who is earning £2 a week and over. So far as the State of Victoria is concerned it is evident that there has been no improvement.
The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said that the fact that there is so much cheap money available as evidenced by the enormous over-subscription of the recent £12,000,000 loan is a sure sign of an economic improvement throughout the country since this Government took office. Surely anybody who knows anything at all about economics knows that this is one of the surest signs of a lack of confidence in this country. The fact that money is tied up and that people are afraid to invest it in ordinary activities that create employment is quite a sufficient reply to the statement that the investors of this country have confidence. There is no denying this fact, however, that the Government has more than done its duty to the 20 per cent, of the people which it represents, but has done nothing to help the other 80 per cent, who are the real producers of our country. It has handed back to the wealthy interests £9,000,000 in relief from taxation, some of which has been imposed for 20 years. At the same time it has done little to assist the unemployed. The State Governments and the municipal authorities have done their share in tackling this problem, but their efforts have not met with the results anticipated.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– The Government should do for the unemployed what it proposes to do for the struggling farmers. There never was a . period when money was so cheap, and the Government could quite easily spend £20,000,000 in an effort effectually to relieve the menace of unemployment.
– How would the honorable member expend such a sum ?
– On public works. The statement made by Dr. Shields shows that there is plenty of work to be done if this Government will only lend the money with which to finance it. The Commonwealth Government controls the Loan Council and the Commonwealth Bank, and thus retains control of the finances. It cannot be said that it is not responsible for the solution of this problem ; it is quite wrong to say that it is the responsibility of the States. I make this statement, and I deny any contradiction of it, that the crime figures have gone up by leaps and bounds since this Government has been in office. Every month sees an increase in crimes of violence. Insolvencies have increased and so also, unfortunately, has the number of suicides. This state of affairs is accentuated by unemployment. The Government should give this matter its very serious consideration and assist the States to get back to normal working conditions.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Holloway) adopted an idle argument when he said there had been no substantial improvement in the unemployment position. How can the honorable member get away from the facts in regard to the basic industries, the steel, galvanized iron and cement industries, which are very much tied up with the general business activities of the country? It is a fact that during the last month there have been complaints from merchants that the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, the Australian Iron and Steel Works at Port Kembla, and Lysaght’s Limited, have been unable to supply current orders, and requests have been made to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) that, in view of the delay in securing supplies, permission should be given for the importation of British iron and steel. Despite the fact that these works are operating at high pressure, the orders cannot be filled in sufficient quantities to meet the merchants’ demands. This is the surest index of increased business activity. I would also remind the honorable member that there has been a tremendous increased activity in the building trade during the last two years. This industry is fairly indicative of the trend of prosperity of the country. Investments in real estate are now approaching boom conditions, and large numbers of dwellings and flats are being erected in the cities and in suburban areas.
We were led to expect that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) when speaking to this motion would put before the Government concrete proposals for the relief of unemployment; but he has done nothing but ventilate complaints and now probably regrets having raised the matter at all. However, he has done one thing ; he has opened the election campaign, and the people will see from the remarks of the right honorable gentleman and the most effective reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) how to appraise the value of the policies of the two principal parties in this House when their verdict is sought in the near future. The story of unemployment since the advent of the present Government and, to a large extent, because of the advent of the present Government, is one of declining unemployment. The facts were quoted by the Prime Minister to-day. Unemployment, however, is still serious, and its consideration will continue to engage the attention of this Government as it deserves. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that a comprehensive rural rehabilitation scheme plus a greater flow of cheaper money will be beneficial to the masses - the masses whom we know it is particularly difficult to employ for a reason easily stated. When considerable loan money is available for expenditure large bodies of men are engaged in unskilled labour. They are men not trained to any particular trade, and we shallfind it difficult to place them in employment unless we re-embark once more in considerable pick and shovel work. If the Leader of the Opposition is as sincere as he would wish us to believe the best contribution he could make would be to refrain from threatening the stability of this country as the newspapers report him to be doing. That is the best service he could render to the unemployed. Two matters have been placed before us to-day; one is the policy of the Government as exemplified by its actions up to date and by the indications given by the Prime Minister for the future - confidence has been rebuilt and our job is to extend it; as it is extended, investment will widen and additional employment willresult. On the other hand are the suggestions emanating from the Leader of the Opposition, which propose nothing of a constructive nature, but merely unspecified expenditure on unspecified public works of an unspecified value.
.- I endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). In dealing with this problem we should give consideration, not to what other governments have done, or have failed to do, but to what can be done by the Commonwealth Government to improve the position of the unemployed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Postmaster-General (Mr. Parkhill) have both claimed that this Government has done more than its share in easing the position of the unemployed. I would remind the House that the State Governments have attacked this problem from the point of view of feeding and clothing the workless. We find that, even taking the figures quoted by the Prime Minister, the percentage of unemployment is still 26 per cent., and to keep this figure down to its present level many men are working under atrocious conditions knee-deep in mud and slush. Their work is only of a temporary nature. Many of them are working merely for the dole. If we wish to provide relief for the unemployed we must do something of a permanent nature. The PostmasterGeneral referred to the attack that I made upon a government which I was elected to support. The action which I took on the occasion in question was deserving not of condemnation, but of commendation. It was consistent with the attitude that I have always adopted. A government that will not fulfil the promises that it makes will meet with opposition from me. It is said that budgets must be balanced. Unquestionably, the States are confronted with a gigantic task in that direction. I have no desire to condemn this Government any more than it deserves, but I do contend that it could have done more than it has done. Time after time I have pleaded for assistance to be given to the States, which are doing all that lies within their power to feed and clothe the workless. I have requested, by letter and in this House, that clothing and blankets be provided for these unfortunate people. I am acquainted with medical practitioners who have gone bankrupt because of the free treatment they have given and the medicine they have supplied to those who are unemployed. The Prime Minister has referred to the tragic position that exists in my electorate. The right honorable gentleman recommended to Cabinet the erection of a. hydrogenation plant, but that work has been delayed. A reply to a question that I received to-day states that the matter has been held up because it has been asserted that the extraction of oil from Victorian brown coal is likely to be a more economic and more beneficial project. Such an argument cannot be sustained, in view of the analytical tests that have been made of the oil content of the Newcastle coal compared with that of the brown coal. This is probably propaganda, and is designed to show that the Government is prepared to do something, but immediate action is required if it is sincere in this matter. Is it to be expected that an unemployed single man can live on 9s. 4£d. a week, and a married man without children on 15s. 4d. a week? How can men be loyal to a country that will not give them an opportunity to live ? The young people are the hardest hit. They have noble ideals and aspirations and want to share in the work of the Commonwealth, but on the very threshold of life they arc told that society has no use for them. It must be admitted, that there are many contributing factors, with which probably the Government cannot cope. The problem is an international one, and must be dealt with on an international basis. Surely, however, the Government can say where it stands in regard to the reduction of the hours of labour! The present position has been brought about not so much by monetary causes as by the advent of machinery, c which has displaced human labour in industry. Every nation has reached in production such a standard of efficiency that all want to sell and none to buy. A re-adjustment of the economic structure is called for, and if it be not made discontent will prevail. In my electorate are many thousands of men with children who are not being given a fair chance. Women who are about to bring children into the world are ill-fed, and when the children are born they are stunted in growth? and ill-nourished, while the mother is undermined in health. I cannot help feeling deeply on this matter, because so much misery exists in my electorate as well as in other parts of Australia. I believe that every honorable member honestly tries to do his best to alleviate distress.. But we have to act collectively, and to tackle the question, if necessary, from a non-party point of view. otherwise there will raise its head in this country the monster that has appeared in other countries, and a dictatorship in some form or other will be the result. Blood will be shed, if those who have children are denied the right to work. They will fight to obtain food for their offspring; and they cannot be blamed if they do. The Commonwealth says that it is not its concern to feed and clothe the people and preserve their health. I say that it is. What is to prevent the Commonwealth Government from making available military clothing and blankets, instead of providing on the Defence Estimates an additional £4,000,000 for the destruction of human life? Thousands of those who took part in the last war are unemployed, and their children need food. Many of them are being evicted from war service homes. I plead with the Government to show a little human sympathy with them, and to give them clothing, boots, and medicine. If it acts along those lines, it will show that it is genuinely desirous of helping the unemployed until some definite solution of the problem i3 found.
– On one occasion I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) say that in no circumstances would he ask any man or government to do what he himself was unable to do. That statement is interesting in the light of the debate that has taken place this afternoon. Perhaps it explains why the right honorable gentleman deprecated any tendency by honorable members on this side to compare what the present Government has done with what his Government was able to do during its tenure of office, when it was faced with the responsibility of dealing with the unemployment problem. Having referred the matter to treasury officials, I find that it was not possible for the Scullin Government to raise one penny of new money by public subscription in Australia during the last eighteen months of its occupancy of the treasury bench. Yet £38,500,000 has been raised in that way since the Lyons Government came into power, and1 the great bulk of the money has been expended in providing some form of relief for the unfortunate unemployed of this country. I mention this fact because the chief criticism levelled ait this Government by the right honorable gentleman was that insufficient money was being provided for unemployment relief. The previous Administration threw itself on the mercy of the banks during the whole of its term of office, and relied almost entirely on the funds which they provided by means of treasury-bills in order to carry on the necessary work of administration. During that period, extremely little unemployment relief of any kind was made available either by the Commonwealth Government or by the Governments of the States.
The Leader of the Opposition ha3 admitted that very substantial improvement has taken place in the employment position during the last two and a half years, but has attributed that almost solely to the rise in the price of wool. I would point out to the right honorable gentleman that the rise in the price of wool actually began to take effect about last September, when the 1933 wool sales began. Practically no wool cheques would be paid before the end of that month, or perhaps some time in October, consequently the higher price of wool could not be reflected in the employment position until at least the beginning of 1934. A reference to the official employment statistics will show that by far the greater part of the improvement in employment took place before the position could be affected by the higher price received for wool. At the end of December, 1933, unemployment had been reduced from the peak figure of 30 per cent, to 23 per cent., only about 2 per cent, higher than to-day’s figure. That effectively answers the suggestion that the improvement has been due almost solely to the rise in the price of wool.
Both factions of the Labour party, and particularly that led by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), have deplored the conditions under which relief workers are employed. The honorable member for West Sydney also made a violent attack on the Government because, instead of having improved those conditions, it had made remissions of taxation. All that he really said was that the conditions under which relief workers are employed are wholly unsatisfactory.
But those condition’s, while every one must deplore them, cannot be used as an argument against relief work. All will admit that the Government cannot provide relief work for the whole of the unemployed under union terms and conditions. What has been demonstrated in this debate is that the aim of the Government should be, not so much to provide relief work for all unemployed, as to make possible permanent employment in industry; and that can be done only by the application of the policy which the Government has adopted of attempting to make industry attractive and payable, by lifting burdens from it and enabling it to become established upon a profitable basis. The proof of the strength of that argument is furnished by the evidence which is available on all sides, that improvement has taken place in every phase of industry, that the amount of employment is steadily and consistently increasing, and that the present upward trend promises to be not only maintained, but also accelerated, with the passage of time.
.- The problem of unemployment should be considered apart from efforts of supporters of particular parties or governments to obtain credit for what a particular party or government has done. The difficulties must he faced, and the question is : What can be done to meet them ? I do not suggest that a mere wave of the hand will be sufficient to solve the problem; but more can be done than either this or the previous Government has done. One honorable gentleman suggested this afternoon that a reduction of the tariff would provide work for more people; but I know that a slight increase of the tariff in a certain direction would result in the employment of 700 more hands to-morrow. We keep referring to committees of one kind and another the subject of the extraction of oil from shale and coal, although we are all aware that oil is being extracted in England to-day from worse shale and coal than we have available for the purpose. Two brothers who live in the Hunter district, in my own old home town, have demonstrated that by low carbonization methods they can produce oil on a commercial basis. As a matter of fact they are driving their own motor lorries on a by-product from their operations which they obtain at a lower cost than oil bought from the importing companies. Benzol has been produced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited at Newcastle for many years, and it is being sold to the oil importing companies, which use it to fortify their own products. I suggest that the Government should at once do something to make possible the establishment on a large scale of works to extract oil from our shale, which is the richest in the world, and also from our coal. Here is a practical suggestion that could be applied immediately.
– In the few’ minutes available to me I wish to stress certain figures which, so far, have not been emphasized sufficiently. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in the speech with which he introduced this debate, said that more money should be spent on unemployment relief. One sentence will be sufficient to destroy that illusion. Only a fortnight ago it was stated at the Loan Council that £4,000,000 of the money provided for the States last year for expenditure on unemployment relief had remained unexpended at the end of the financial year. That amount will now be added to the amount of approximately £21,000,0000 to be raised this year for expenditure on loan works by the States. It cannot be suggested that the States have not all the goodwill in the world to spend money on the relief of unemployment, but more money was available than they were able to spend. The amounts actually spent on unemployment relief in the last three years by all the governments of Australia and under all headings including revenue and loan have been as follows: -
The estimated expediture for the current financial year is £35,000,000. Those figures speak for themselves. I do not think, however, that any honorable member has suggested that the expenditure of loan money is a final solution to this problem. It is only a palliative. It is true that it is the only method so far devised, other than that which this Govern- ment is pursuing, of increasing confidence and establishing conditions under which private industry will be revived ; but it is still not a permanent solution. In America vast sums of money have [been spent on unemployment relief, but the actual degree of re-employment has not been so great as in Great Britain, where more orthodox methods have been followed. The British “Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the House of Commons fifteen months ago, said that the British Government had definitely put behind it the suggestion that it should indulge in a vast campaign of spending in order to relieve unemployment. According to figures provided for him - and I think our figures would be similar - every £1,000,000 spent on unemployment relief results in the direct employment of 2,000 men and in the indirect employment of 2,000 more. Assuming, therefore, that we had 200,000 unemployed, we should need to spend £50,000,000 year by year to keep them in employment. No honorable member has with any success discounted the two principal sets of figures that have been quoted during this debate. I refer to the figures which show that in the last two years unemployment has been reduced from a peak of 30 per cent. to the relatively low figure of 20.9 per cent., and to those that show that factory employment had been increased from 336,658 in 1931-32 to 370,727 in 1932-33, being an increase of 10 per cent. On the basis of figures for the three States, New South “Wales, South Australia and “Western Australia, it may be forecasted that the number of persons employed in factories in 1933-34 will be 405,400, being an increase of another 10 per cent. It will be seen, therefore, that in the last two financial years there has been marked improvement. In spite of the fact that honorable members opposite display some reluctance to give the word “ confidence “ its face value, the business community is quite prepared to do so. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said, the result of the last loan was not necessarily a good thing; but if we had not had a good response it would have shown one of two things, either that investors, small and large, did not have confidence in the Government, and/or that the money could have been more usefully employed. In the circumstances, I claim that the result of the loan showed clearly and distinctly that the people of Australia who had some savings were content to lend their money- to the Government for the time being. That situation did not exist while the previous Government was in office.
As I know that other honorable members wish to speak to the question, I shall content myself with pointing out that no other method Qf tackling the unemployment problem offers prospects of better success than the orthodox method which this Government has followed.
– It would be amusing, if it were not so tragic, to listen to members of this Government express their sympathy for the unemployed. The Government may be put in the same class as a parent who deserts his family, and leaves it to the fender mercies of a hard, cold world, and then expresses sympathy ‘ with it. Ministers cannot .avoid responsibility for having allowed unemployment in the territories directly under their control to double, itself. In the Northern Territory the number of unemployed has more than doubled since they have been in office. In these circumstances, the Government cannot expect us to believe that it is sincere in its expressions of sympathy for these unfortunate people. As a matter of fact, it is so indifferent to their welfare that it will not grant food relief to unemployed people in the Northern Territory unless they were there before 1930. Hundreds of miners in that remote part of the Commonwealth have not been able to get 1 lb. of flour from the Government to help them through the difficult period that they have encountered. 1 have informed the Government frequently that it could help these miners to produce, large quantities of gold, for hundreds of them have, in the aggregate, thousands of tons of valuable gold-bearing stone at grass. All they need is some help to enable them to get it transported to treatment plants which the Government should erect; but the Government, while expressing sympathy with the men, refuses to do a single thing to help them. So far it has attempted to shirk its responsibilities for its own unemployed by claiming credit for what the State governments have done. I have asked the Minister to grant help to the men working in the great auriferous belts in the Northern Territory who are now obliged to pay£ 1 a week each for water, but he has declined to sink a bore or to do anything else for them, although the fields upon which they are working have been favorably reported upon by the Commonwealth’s geologist. In fact, theGovernment seems to think that the sufferings of these miners are a just retribution for their audacity in attempting to develop the country in which they are working. Any other government in Australia or in any other part of the world for that matter would be anxious to help the miners to produce the gold that is within their reach, but this Government declines to do anything. An attempt has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) this afternoon to show that conditions have improved in New South Wales. I invite the right honorable gentleman to confine his attention to the unemployed for which his own Government is responsible. If he will not do anything for these people, Parliament should take the matter into its own hands. In the light of its action, I feel justified in saying that the Government’s expressions of sympathy with the unemployed are so much moonshine, and I shall take every opportunity that is presented to me during the election campaign to broadcast this opinion from the platforms of this country. It will not be possible, then, for the Prime Minister to shelter behind the State governments. Government geologists have reported that some of the fields in the Northern Territory are not only rich but even spectacularly rich, yet the Government will do nothing to help the miners to develop them. Here is an opportunity to produce the real wealth of which the Prime Minister speaks so often, and it would be reproductive work which would do much to rehabilitate Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Riley) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question - That the House do now adjourn - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker-Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were presented
High Commissioner for AustraliainLondon - Report for 1933.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No.76.
Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquired at Cambridge, Tasmania - forDefence purposes.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 1 - Customs Tariff.
No. 2 - Judiciary.
No. 3-Ordinances Interpretation.
No. 4 - Deserted Wives and Children.
No. 5 - Legitimation.
No. 6 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No. 7- Dog.
No.8 - Administrator’sPowers.
No. 9- Explosives.
No. 10 - Compensation to Relatives.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Terrtory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 3 - Public Service.
No.4 - Mining.
No. 5 Workmen’s Compensation.
No.6 - Brands.
No. 7 - Licensing.
No. 8 - Crown Lands.
No. 9 - Dingo Destruction.
No. 10 - Clinics.
No. 11 - Supreme Court.
No. . 12 - Alsatian Dogs.
No. 13 - Crown Lands (No. 2).
Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 66, 67.
Motion (by Mr. Casey )agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to repeal section 52m of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1933.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
. -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In introducing this bill, which is confined to the repealing of section 52m of the principal act, the Government is, of course, actuated by the sole desire to wipe out the necessity for pension contributions by relatives of pensioners. A brief history of this matter is that in 1932 in an endeavour to stem the rapidly increasing cost of pensions, measures were introduced requiring, among other things, relatives of pensioners, who were in a financial position to do so, to make some contribution towards the cost of the pension. As was pointed out at the time by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), it was common knowledge that there was a considerable number of pensioners whose relatives were in a good position to make some contribution at least towards the pension. It was not at that time or at any time since the intention of the Government to seek contributions from relatives other than those who were in a good financial position, and the Government gave its earnest of that in the conditions which were imposed for the seeking of these contributions. Those conditions were, as is widely known, that no contribution was sought from a married man, relative of a pensioner, unless his income was at least £312 a year. In addition, an exemption was given in the shape of £50 for each child. Other exemptions were provided for children undergoing education at the cost of the relative. In effect, therefore, a married man with two children would not be asked for any contribution towards a relative’s pension unless he had £412 a year, plus, possibly, other amounts for children who were being educated. The level at which the Government fixed the salaries of individuals was relatively high before any contribution was sought from the relatives. When that measure was introduced, the pensions staff throughout Australia was heavily engaged on a number of reforms in other directions, so that at the. time these provisions of the act were applied only to now pensioners who came on the books after the 12th October, 1932. The pressure on the pensions staff throughout Australia has only quite recently diminished to the extent that it was able to undertake the much more onerous task of seeking contributions in respect of the large body of pensioners who we’re in existence before the 12th October, 1932. In the last three or four months, the work of seeking contributions from the relatives of those pensioners has been begun. But the Government’s experience in this matter over the last couple of years has been heightened by the experience of the last few months. In short, the position is this: that the amount of money which has accrued to the Government by reason of relatives’ contributions has been comparatively small, so small in fact that the cost of collecting them has been probably more than the actual contributions, and the Government has decided to withdraw these provisions altogether. The repealing of these provisions will take effect as from the 21st June of this year, and instructions have already been issued that no contributions are to be accepted from relatives in respect of instalments of pensions due on or after that date.
– What was the cost of the administration, and the amount received?
– That matter might be discussed more appropriately at the committee stage, but I might refer to a question which the honorable member asked a week or so ago. On that occasion I said that in respect of contributions towards pensions which were in existence before the 12th October, 1932, the insignificant sum of £6 had been received. That figure was queried by some honorable members, but I have now to confirm that that was the position at 31st May on the latest figures then available.
– That is another proof of the low wages of the workers.
– It is a proof of the generosity of the Government in fixing the scale of income at such a height that comparatively few people came within the law. In this simple measure the Government seeks to wipe out the necessity for relatives to contribute towards pension payments.
– Is the bill retrospective ?
– Only to the 21st June of this year, that being the date on which the Government decided to introduce this amending legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Makin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend section 12 of the Wheatgrowers Relief Act 1933.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. White do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Wheat-growers Relief Act of 1932, so as to provide for an additional payment to the State of Tasmania. When the original bill was introduced, the Prime Minister explained that, as Tasmania produced very little wheat, it had been decided tomake a special rebate to that State to offset the effect of the flour tax. During the time the tax has been in operation, a sum of £45,000 has been paid by the Commonwealth to Tasmania by way of rebate. It has been estimated, however, that the total receipts from the flour tax in Tasmania amounted, approximately, to £53,000, so that the Tasmanian Government, under the terms of an act passed by the Tasmanian Parliament, has become liable for the refunding of an additional £8,000. We have been advised to this effect by the Government of Tasmania, and the present bill is designed to empower the Commonwealth Government to pay this sum of £8,000 to the State of Tasmania.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from the 4th
July (vide page 193), on motion by Mr. White -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a small, non-contentious measure, and I do not intend to oppose it. It deals with a very important industry, and, from what I can gather, the representatives of that industry have no objection to the proposed amendment of the Distillation Act. Section 59 of the act provides that no Australian wine shall be fortified to contain more than 40 per cent. of proof spirit, and we have been informed that there is a demand in the United Kingdom for Australian wine fortified to the extent of 42 per cent. Anything that can be done to encourage the sale of wines of a quality acceptable in England should receive our support.
– What is the alcoholic content of foreign wines?
– South Africa fortifies wine very strongly, and it is to enable Australia to compete with wine from that country that this amendment has been produced.
.- I support the bill as further evidence of the attention the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) gives to the welfare of Australian industry. This amendment will be welcomed generally by winemakers throughout the Commonwealth. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has pointed out, this is not a far-reaching measure. It will not lead to the sale of a greatly increased quantity of Australian wines, but it deals with one of those details which, properly attended to in a number of separate instances, bring about in the aggregate substantial benefits. The bill gives authority for increasing the proof spirit content of Australian wine for export from 40 per cent. to 42 per cent. The previous restriction shut out Australian wines from certain markets which demanded heavily fortified wines. It is generally said that wines with a high alcoholic content are used in Great Britain for the purpose of blending with the rather meaner wines made from grape must, dried grapes, or mixtures of grape-juice and sugar and other fermentable products. A certain amount of rich, fruity full-bodied wine is required to bring these other wines up to a saleable standard.. At present, the demand for that kind of wine is largely supplied from South Africa. This little amendment will enable Australia to obtain her share of the trade.
.- If I understand the matter rightly, this bill will enable wine to be fortified to the extent of 42 per cent. of proof spirit. That, I believe, will make it nearly as strong as whisky or brandy.
Mr.White. - The wine is not for the Australian market.
– I do not want to poison my fellow men, whether they live in Australia or overseas. The medical fraternity is unanimous in condemning liquor with a high alcoholic content. I have drunk wine in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and many other countries, and found it beneficial to the human system. Following the French custom, I diluted the table wines of the country with an equal quantity of water. I believe that the light wines of Italy, France and Portugal are good, as are the light beers of Germany, but I think it is infamous to add to the alcoholic contents of our Australian wines.
– Whisky contains nearly 80 per cent. of alcohol. It is proposed to fortify Australian wines to the extent of 42 percent. with spirit specially manufactured from doradillo grapes.
– Nature did not put the alcohol there in the first place. When one tastes port wine in Oporto, it is something wholly different from the port wine sold in London. In the latter case the alcoholic content has been so increased as to make the wine hardly fit for drinking except as a liqueur. Cocktails are the curse of humanity because of their high alcoholic content, and if I had my way I would prohibit their sale. The high alcoholic content of our Australian wine probably accounts for the drunkenness among wine drinkers which one sees in Melbourne. If wi nes were sold in Sydney and Melbourne of the same kind and quality as those sold in Paris and Madrid, there would be less drunkenness, and it would be better for our people. General Booth stated on one occasion that the light wines of the Continent, and the light beers of Germany were good for mankind. I oppose any attempt to increase the quantity of alcohol in Australian wines. Let us manufacture a true wine, so that wine drinkers in the world will see that we are able to supply them with a wine that will not destroy them.
– I rise merely to clear up a misapprehension in the mind of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. If the honorable member went through the wine districts of Victoria and New South Wales he would know that similar wines to those he has mentioned are made in Australia. It is a case of know your own country. Sweet wines, however, must be fortified, so that they will keep during exportation when passing through the tropics. This request is for wine for export only. Because we are at a disadvantage compared with South Africa, which usually fortifies its wines up to 42 per cent., I ask the House to agree to the proposal contained in this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.9 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure deals merely with the method of calculation of the unimproved value of leasehold estate in certain types of Crown leasehold which are subject to federal land tax. The cases concerned are conditional leases - that is to say, leases that have a fixed term, with the right of purchase - in New South Wales.
By an act passed in the New South Wales Parliament about eighteen months ago - the Crown Lands (Amendment) Act 1932 - the rent reserved on conditional leases was reduced by 22½ per cent. as from the 30th December, 1932. The effect of this reduction is actually to increase the unimproved value of these leases for federal land tax purposes. This results from themethod of calculation of the value of these leases for land tax. That method is this: the amount by which 4½ per cent. of the unimproved value exceeds the actual rent is capitalized on the interest tables, and that is taken to be the capital sum upon which federal land tax is payable. The complicated point involved may be clarified if I give an example of the manner in which this is arrived at. Let us assume that one of these conditional leaseholds would be valued, if it were freehold, at £10,000. The figure arrived at from the calculation of 4½ per cent. on £10,000 is £450. Let us suppose that the actual rent reserved on that property is £250. The difference between 4½ per cent. on the freehold value, and the actual rent reserved, is £200. That sum is capitalized on the interest tables at 4½ per cent., giving a figure somewhere between £5,000 and £6,000, and that is the amount upon which federal land tax is payable. Honorable members will thus see that if the actual rent payable is reduced, the difference between the reduced amount and 4½ per cent. on the capital value is increased, and when capitalized gives a higher capital value upon which federal land tax is payable. Therefore, the reduction by the New South Wales Government of the actual rent reserved has fortuitously had the unfortunate effect of increasing the capital sum upon which federal land tax is payable. Honorable members will see that the action of the New South Wales Government, which was designed to give some relief to these particular leaseholders during a period of depression, would, in the absence of action by the Commonwealth Government such as the bill proposes to implement, result in the Commonwealth receiving by way of land tax a substantial proportion of the relief which the State Government sought to give. That, of course, is not a situation that the Commonwealth wishes to bring about. It has no desire to take advantage of what has resulted from the action of the State Government.
In effect, the bill is a simple one. As honorable members will see by its terms, it re-instates for purposes of the calculation of federal land tax the old actual rent reserved before the reduction of 22½ per cent. was made. That is its sole purpose. It is to be made retrospective to assessments for the year commencing on the 1st July, 1933, the first assessments affected by the reduction made by the New South Wales Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th July (vide page 327), on motion by Mr. White -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is quite satisfactory in its broad principles, but I hope to be able to show where it might be improved. In view of the impending elections, and the fact that the existing act will expire on the 28th February next, I agree with the Minister that action with respect to the wine export bounty is necessary before this Parliament is dissolved. I consider, therefore, that he has acted wisely in introducing this measure.
The wine industry like many of our other primary industries, has been experiencing a very lean period, due largely to the problem of over-production, and to some extent to blunders by State Governments, which put thousands of men on land that, in many cases, had been expensively and unwisely purchased, to produce grapes, of which already there was surplus production, or of which a surplus would be produced when the new areas were opened up. If Australia had twice as big a local market as it has, all would be well. Some misguided primary producers are sometimes disposed to criticize the policy of protection, and the building up of local industries. They should realize that it is to the interest of primary producers to foster secondary industries and the building up of a local market, in which they can rely upon getting a much better deal than is possible in overseas markets, where they have to compete with the products of blacklabour countries.
When the Scullin Government assumed office, the wine industry was in a parlous condition. The reduction of the bounty to ls. a gallon by the Bruce-Page Government on the 9th March, 1928, had made the outlook very uncertain. A large deputation, representative of wine-makers and grape-growers, waited upon me as Acting Minister for Trade and Customs and urged that the bounty be increased to a figure above ls. a gallon; I believe that the request was for a bounty of 2s. a gallon. On the 12th March, 1930, the Scullin Government brought down a bill which provided . for the payment of a bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon on fortified wine exported. Summarized, the main provisions of that bill were: (1) It increased the rate of bounty from ls. to ls. 9d. a gallon’; (2) it provided for a trust account, into which the additional excise duty of 5s. a gallon on fortifying spirit should bo paid - the whole scheme was financed by that additional excise; (3) it provided that the rate of bounty fixed should operate for a period of five years; (4) it tightened up all the conditions relating to the rates paid for grapes and for fortifying spirit used in the industry and in the manufacture and export df wine; and (5) it made provision for conditions of ‘employment and :rates of wages with respect to the la’bour employed in the manufacture of fortified wine and in the production of grapes used in that manufacture. At that time the industry was on the verge of bankruptcy, and many grape-growers and wine-makers were faced with ruin. The stimulus that the increased bounty gave to the export trade is shown by the figures relating to the quantity of wine exported. In 1929-30, the exports totalled 1,500,000 gallons, valued at £550,000. In 1930-31, the figures were 2,000,000 gallons and £508,000 respectively; and in 1931-32 they were 2,800,000 gallons and £908,000 respectively. It will thus be seen that substantial relief was given to the glutted Australian market, and that exports increased at a time when it was highly desirable that Australia should have credits overseas.
The importance of the wine industry to Australia is obvious to any person who has paid a visit to the wine-producing districts. The present Minister for .Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has done so since assuming the responsibility of office, and I also had the pleasure of visiting those districts in South Australia, Victoria, and the irrigation areas of New South Wales. The importance of the industry may be gleaned from the fact that 12,500 persons, including grapegrowers, are directly employed in it, and that their dependants number 15,000, making a total of 30,000, including 600 workers in the wineries and 3,500 growers. The industry is most important to the State of South Australia, and as that is one of the States which claim to labour under disabilities due to federation, this Parliament should.be specially sympathetic towards any of its industries, but particularly to an industry that gives employment to such a large number of persons as is engaged in the wine industry. I strongly urge the Minister to see that all wineries, whether they be proprietary or co-operative, are obliged to pay the fixed price for grapes within a reasonable time. That, I consider is important, because most of the growers are on the bread-line, and must have almost immediate payment for their grapes. There have been cases of growers who have been kept waiting for a considerable period. The Minister evidently realizes that there is cause for complaint, because, in making his second-reading speech, .he said -
To ensure that growers received a reasonable price for .grapes, all claimants for bounty have, since 1927, been required to give an undertaking under the Bounty Act that they would pay fixed prices before bounty was paid to them. The time within which payment, was to be made, however, was not fixed, and although most makers have honoured the undertaking within a reasonable time, some companies have not paid growers for a number of years.
That is an aspect which might be investigated further by the Minister.
– I have a provision to deal with that.
– It is necessary that it should be dealt with. There is a cooperative cannery on the irrigation area, and it has to pay suppliers within the period allowed to all other firms, in order to obtain the bounty which is payable on canned fruits. What applies to that industry might also be made applicable to the wine industry. I believe in cooperative control, and consider that cooperative wineries which are under the management of representatives of the growers should be encouraged in every reasonable w-ay.
There are some anomalies in the industry, but wine production is such a complicated business that it would be too much to expect that a bounty could be paid and the whole scheme administered without some anomalies. I should like the Minister to give some consideration to the adjustment of the excise duty on concentrated grape must in order to bring it more into conformity with the present rates of excise duty on fortifying spirit. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs the” excise duty on fortifying spirit was raised to 10s. and lis. a gallon in order to finance an increased bounty. Certain makers were then exploiting the revenue by the use of concentrated must which was not then dutiable. The Scullin Government then imposed an excise duty on concentrated must equivalent to the then excise duty on fortifying spirit. In October last the excise duty on fortifying spirit was reduced to 6s. 6d. a gallon, but no adjustment was made in the excise duty on concentrated must. It has been suggested in some quarters that the use of concentrated must should be prohibited. I do not accept that view, but I certainly think that it should be regulated on an equitable basis, having regard to the excise duty on fortifying spirit. I understand that it is necessary for wine-makers to use a certain amount of concentrated must in the blending of their wines to equalize sugar contents, and that the present inequitable duty is preventing a reasonable use of it. I realize that this point cannot be met in the present bill, but I trust that the Minister will give us an assurance that he will carefully consider the suggestion.
In the course of his speech, the Minister said -
Price fixation is a very contentious subject, but it is hoped that at an early date all the States concerned will fall into line.
I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman has conferred with State Ministers and urged them to support the request of the grape growers that the necessary power should be given to this Parliament by the State parliaments to fix prices for grapes used for making wine for home consumption, or that the States concerned should themselves take the necessary legislative action to ensure that the grape growers shall be paid a reasonable price for their grapes.
– I explained in my speech that I have held many conferences on the subject. South Australia is favourable, New South Wales is not favourable yet, and Victoria’s attitude is uncertain. At any rate, it is a State and not a Federal matter.
– I trust that the Minister will take the subject up with the State governments once again, and endeavour to protect the grape growers. It is absolutely essential that $hey shall be protected against certain wine-makers who arc not prepared to pay a fair price for grapes. In days gone by other primary producers have had a similar experience to that through which the grape growers are now passing. For many years the sugar cane growers of Queensland had to be satisfied with any price that the millers cared to pay them for their cane. Ultimately the State Parliament passed legislation which resulted in the setting up of Cane Prices Boards, consisting of representatives of the growers and the millers with independent chairmen. These boards fixed fair prices for cane.
– Queensland was lucky in that it had no Legislative Council to contend with.
– That legislation was passed in 1915, before the abolition of the Legislative Council. The State Governments could give the Commonwealth power to deal with grapes as it now deals with dried fruits.
– We have asked them to do so, but they are not willing.
– The Minister explained, in the course of his speech, how the pricefixing machinery used by the Federal Government for a number of years had broken down in 1933. In reality, the Commonwealth Government had power to fix the price of only those grapes used for the manufacture of wines for export. Owing to the limitation of the Commonwealth Constitution the Federal Government does not possess the necessary power to fix prices for grapes used for the manufacture of wines for the Australian market, and evidently some of the States are not prepared to clothe the Commonwealth with the power. I hope, however, that the Minister will bring his irresistable powers of persuasion to bear upon the recalcitrant States.
Unfortunately, much of the best Australian wine does not go overseas. The cheaper, immature wines are exported and create a bad impression on the English market. To-day any man who cares to rent an office and set up as the representative of some overseas firm and register himself as a buyer, which is easily done, can buy wine at whatever price he cares to pay. He can get the grapes and the spirit in their converted form at very much below the scheduled prices without investing any capital in the company, invoice the goods overseas at the proclaimed price, and take the very life blood out of the grower and small wine-maker through the low price that he pays for the wine. Naturally the wine is not handled properly and is not properly aged. The Wine Export Control Board should take steps to investigate this subject. The overseas buyers who purchase wine under such conditions arrange with the concerns through which they purchase to apply for the bounty. The London companies can then invoice the wine at the Overseas Marketing Board’s price to their London branches and make an undue profit out of a purchase in Australia. But the price paid for the wine does not allow the growers to get the fixed price for the grapes. It seems to me that the overseas buyers who have offices in Australia have been, in reality, getting a big proportion of the bounty, and the benefit has not been passed on to the grape-growers. The Minister admitted that there were good grounds for believing that some Australian makers were selling wine at a figure below the Wine Export Marketing Board’s minimum price. There is no doubt that this is perfectly true. Could not the honorable gentleman make a special effort to prevent the exploitation of the growers that has been going on by this means? He should insist upon a minimum price being paid for wine for export under bounty bought straight from the producer whether f.o.b. or at the producer’s cellar door. This minimum internal price for export should be supervised by the officers of the Customs Department in the same way as they supervise the prices for grapes and spirit. I agree with the general provisions of the bill, and shall support the measure.
.- I support the general objects of the bill, but regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has thought it necessary to proceed so quickly with the consideration of it. The bill was brought down on Friday of last week. There was no mail out of Canberra on Friday for South Australia, the largest wine-producing State of the Commonwealth, and the earliest day on which copies of the bill could reach Adelaide was last Monday. In very few cases could copies of it have reached the actual wine producers before yesterday. No written comment on the measure could therefore reach representatives of constituencies in which wine-making is carried on earlier than to-morrow and, from some districts, earlier than Friday. I do not anticipate any criticism of the fundamental basis upon which the bill is framed, but certain technical innovations in the machinery for supervising the price-fixing provisions of the bill may give rise to comment. It is unfortunate, therefore, that no opportunity was given for such representations to reach honorable members before the debate was continued. It was particularly desirable that the committee stages of the bill should have been delayed to afford such an opportunity for comment.
– Any suggestions that come forward can be considered when the bill is before another place.
– To some extent that meets the situation. The bill departs from the existing legislation in two important directions. First, the rate of bounty is somewhat reduced, and, secondly, a sliding scale reduction of the rate of bounty is provided. It was generally anticipated that there would be some reduction of the rate of bounty. A number of wine exporters actually expressed a desire for the margin to be reduced somewhat, for the very reason that the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fordo) advanced, namely, that they believed that some of their competitors were cutting prices by allowing discounts and by other arrangements with overseas buyers. Personally I think that it would have been more desirable for the Overseas Marketing Board to reduce the price so that there would have been no margin, for I find it very difficult to believe that it is not easier to sell a large quantity of any commodity at a lower, than at a higher, price. I understand that the Minister has expressed the hope that the prices will now be raised to make up for the reduction of the bounty. I hope that it will be possible to raise the price without reducing the absorptive capacity of the British market for Australian wines; but it is hard to believe that even a small increase of price will not make sales slightly more difficult. However, I freely acknowledge that a considerable section of wine-makers will actually welcome a slight narrowing of the bounty, in order to make more difficult any price cutting against the regulations of the board. I think that nearly every honorable member in the House will agree that the right way to provide bounty assistance to any industry is by a sliding scale. Assistance should be given to an -industry on fairly generous terms when it is in its swaddling clothes, in difficulty, or facing some special crisis; but assistance on such a generous scale cannot be justified when an industry has become efficient, cut its costs, and established its selling organization on a sound basis.
The clause which provides that the bounty shall be definitely assured for five years, insofar as such a provision can be an assurance in such a capricious parliament as this is, will undoubtedly be welcomed. In the past the industry has suffered more from changes of policy in regard to bounty and plantings, and by Government intervention in other ways, than from any other cause The frequent fluctuations of the bountyhave made it difficult for the industry to be put on a stable and solid basis. This, assurance that a reasonable bounty will be paid for five years should be of substantial assistance to the industry, and should help it to progress oncemore to the position of stability and prosperity which it enjoyed some years ago. The other provisions of the bill are much more complicated, but every honorable member can, agree with them in principle. By these> provisions the Minister seeks to ensurethat the benefits of the bounty will actually reach the grape-growers. The bill also contains a number of safeguards: to ensure that the prices fixed by the Minister for grapes used in the process of wine for export under the conditions of the bounty shall be paid by the winemaker. That, of course, has been thepolicy of all governments since the bountyhas been in operation, but it has not always been possible to ensure to thegrower the fixed price which it was intended he should receive.
Various questions have been raised, respecting the Beaumé or sugar content of grapes and the difficulties and disappointments of growers in regard to grapes purchased for home consumption. Then there have been difficulty and” complication with respect to the dates of payment for grapes used for wine upon which bounty has been claimed. The bill seeks to provide a number of additional safeguards, and gives the Minister power to acquire security from any wine-maker that he is selling wine at a price which will enable him to returnthe fixed price to the growers who have supplied him with grapes. I hope that that provision will apply also to the owner-maker. The Minister has told the House that it applies to the co-operative wineries, and there is no reason in equity why it should apply to one type of winemaker and not to another. If the cooperative wine-makers who process the grapes of their members must sell at prices which enable them to meet the quarterly distributions to their growers, it would be clearly an impossible position if owner-makers, some of whom have large vineyards, were able to undersell other wine-makers in either the export or the Australian market by slightly reducing the return which they were prepared to take in the value of the grapes . grown by themselves. In South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, there are makers who process mainly their own grapes, and they should be placed in exactly the same position as the cooperative wineries. The co-operative wineries have in the past had difficulty in keeping up to date with their distributions largely because they have processed the full grape crop of their members. In some districts where there is no cooperative winery, a number of growers, finding towards the end of the season that there was no sale to the proprietary wineries for their grapes, have made arrangements to process their grapes at their own expense in some winery which they have hired for the purpose. Those growers would be in the same position as some of the wine-makers in the other States who grow and process their own grapes, and if only one section were prevented from cutting the price to the detriment of the proprietary or co-operative wineries, which are compelled to make their distributions punctually, then the other section would be in a specially favorable position, and much the same difficulties as have arisen in the past would arise in the future, although in a slightly different form. I hope that, the Minister will be able to tell us in committee that he has some machinery with which to meet cases of that sort.
Another question has also arisen in respect of the administration of the present provisions for ensuring that fixed prices are returned to the growers. The cost of marketing wine will, of course, vary considerably according to the freight which it is necessary to pay from any particular winery to the principal towns in Australia where it is sold or to the port from which it is exported. In some cases this expense, although only a few pence or less a gallon, represents an appreciable amount on each ton of grapes processed. For instance, the long freight from the Murrumbidgee to Sydney for export is more than the freight from a vineyard on the Adelaide Plains. There are all sorts of intermediate freights. I hope that the Minister will be able to give the House the assurance that the wording of the bill will not prevent him from arranging a scale of prices which will take into account these differences in the cost of processing grapes in the various areas.
– Does not the honorable member think that the advantage of irrigation in those distant areas compensates in some measure for freight ?
– It may, in some instances, but not in others. There are some vineyards and wineries which have to pay high freights, although not so large as those from the irrigated areas, as compared with other wineries which are close to the seaboard. I am not opposing but supporting this genuine effort to make price fixing more effective and really useful to the growers ; but I submit that with the greater rigidity that will be given to the marketing, some vineyards and wineries may be much more favorably placed than others. For instance, the Minister asked whether I did not think that the advantage of irrigation outweighed the disability of the long freight. I think that it does to the extent that irrigation makes it possible to grow grapes more cheaply; and to that extent, in order to place the wineries on the same basis, the irrigated grapes should be marketed more cheaply than the non-irrigated grapes. Grapes are not always equal in quality. There is a general idea that those grown on irrigated areas are not equal in quality to grapes grown elsewhere, but if the wineries in the irrigated areas are compelled to pay the same fixed price for grapes as wineries elsewhere, their costs will increase. The additional freight will be an extra expense, and it is possible that they may not be able to market their wine in competition with other wineries who buy a better quality of ‘grape at the same price. Those are only some of the complications about which I, at the moment, am not prepared to express a dogmatic opinion, and I think it would have been helpful had the opinions of the growers and the wine-makers been obtained. If the Minister assures me that the points that may be raised can be dealt with in the Senate 1 am prepared to withdraw my request that more time be allowed for the discussion of the bill in this House. With those not very serious reservations I support the bill.
.- I do not think that any honorable member will oppose the passage of this bill which represents, in fact, a third instalment of a real and material benefit which this Government has given to the wine industry. In view of the possibility of an early election and the fact that the bounty expires next year, I am glad indeed that the Government has seen fit to introduce the bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has tried to convey to the House the idea that this industry derived some great benefit during the regime of the Scullin Government, which he claimed had increased the bounty. I hope to be able to show that no real benefit was given to the wine industry during the regime of the Scullin Government, and that, in fact, rather the reverse was the case.
– Judging by the honorable member’s remarks he is evidently not in touch with his own electorate.
– I shall prove to the honorable member and to the House that the Scullin Government, instead of assisting the industry, imposed an additional burden upon it. The wine industry, in common with other primary industries, has, during- the last three or four years, been passing through difficult times. During the war, when supplies of brandy and wine were difficult to obtain, there was strong competition among wine-makers in Australia for grapes, and prices were forced up. During the early post-war period the high price of grapes induced the Governments of South Australia and Victoria to settle returned soldiers on the land for the purpose of growing grapes. In this way a large number of new growers came into the industry, and it became evident about 1922 that more wine was being produced than could be sold. This problem of over-production has remained with us in varying degrees up to the present time, and has lately been accentuated by the reduced consumption in Australia because of the depression. To help the industry out of its difficulties the Wine Export Bounty Act was passed in 1924, and the bounty then made payable has been altered from time to time. This bounty, of late years, has been directly bound up with the subject of excise.
Prior to 1914 no excise was levied on wine, or on fortifying spirit used in wine, except a small amount to cover the expense of customs supervision. In that year, however, an excise duty of 8d. a gallon was imposed on wine, and in 1918 the duty on fortifying spirit was raised to 6s. a gallon. In 1925 the excise duty on spirit made from doradillo grapes was reduced by ls. a gallon. It was found that this discrimination reacted most unfavorably upon the industry. It was hoped by this reduction to force some of the surplus doradillo spirit into consumption, but no material benefit was felt in this direction, while it had the effect of increasing costs against the wine-makers in certain areas, notably in the Rutherglen district. During the regime of the Scullin Government the export bounty on wine was increased to ls. 9d. a gallon, but, at the same time, the excise duty on fortifying spirit was raised to 10s. on doradillo spirit, and lis. a gallon on spirit distilled from grapes other than doradillos This had the effect of imposing an extra burden of taxation, amounting to 5s. a gallon, on the wine-makers, who, because of the depression, were unable to pass’ on the extra charge. It added to the cost of production at the very time it was desirable that costs should be reduced. - Later the bounty was reduced, but the high excise impost remained. That was the position when the present Government assumed office, and it quickly reduced the excise duty to a flat rate of 9s. a gallon, thus conferring a real benefit on the industry. In the last budget presented by this Government the excise was further reduced to 6s. 6d. a gallon, and I have been told by wine-makers that this reduction was instrumental in extricating them from a most difficult position.
This bill proposes to continue the payment of the export bounty on wine for a further period of five years. In 1925-26 the export of wine from Australia amounted to 1,085,000 gallons, In the year just closed the quantity exported amounted to 2,678,000 gallons, the increase being undoubtedly helped by the encouragement afforded by the wine export bounty. The value of the wine exported in 1928-29 was £500,000. In 1931-32 this had increased to £908,000, while for 1932-33 there was a slight decrease, the amount .being £788,000. These figures serve to emphasize the benefit to the nation of this export industry.
The bill is designed to benefit all sections of the wine industry. The bounty is to be slightly reduced ; but I do not anticipate any serious opposition to that. The Minister has stated that, if too high a bounty is paid, the’ way is opened for price-cutting on the London market, which has had an adverse effect on the fortunes of the industry during the last few years. “Wine is in a different category from most other products, in that the industry can ‘be injured by selling too cheaply. At the present time our wines are selling in Great Britain more cheaply than those of South Africa, though most people conversant with the industry will admit that our product is superior. Any further cutting of prices abroad would not only injure the wine-makers, but also damage the prestige of our wines. The bounty is to remain at ls. 3d. a gallon for two years, and is then to be reduced bv Id. a gallon for the next three years. The principle of thus gradually reducing the bounty over a period of years is sound. I feel certain, however, that, if conditions warrant it at the end of two years, the bounty of ls. 3d. a gallon will be continued. It may even be increased.
The payment of a fair price to the growers for their grapes is a matter which has been causing a great deal of anxiety, not so much in my own district, as in others throughout Australia. The act provides that the ‘bounty shall be paid only after the grape-growers have received a certain fixed price for their product. Until last year it was the custom all over Australia for a fixed price to be paid for grapes, whether those grapes were used in the making of wine for export or for home consumption. Last year, as we know, a certain wine-maker came to the conclusion - and I cannot understand why it was not thought of before - that he need pay the fixed price only for those grapes used in the manufacture of wine for export. Apart from this dispute, however, it is most important that the grape-growers should receive their share of the wine bounty, and this is provided for in the bill. It is also provided that no wine-maker may share in the bounty unless he pays award rates of wages to his employees. Thus all sections of the industry benefit from the bounty.
The Minister stated that he was trying to induce the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales to agree to the fixing of a fair price for all grapes used in the making of wine. I have nothing to say against that, but merely point out that, if too high a price is fixed, it may induce more people to come into the industry, and the evils of over-production will be brought upon us again. I suggest that, if the States agree to the proposal of the Minister, the position should be very closely watched in order to prevent over-production.
– That can be regulated each year, when prices are fixed.
– I am anxious to ensure that the grower shall get all the benefit possible out of the industry so that he may prosper side by side with the other sections of the industry. I congratulate the Minister and the Government on having mastered this most intricate subject. The Minister has undoubtedly taken a lot of trouble in familiarizing himself with an industry in which a great deal of internal differences exist. Having travelled throughout the wine-growing areas he has seen a good deal of the industry. Undoubtedly this measure will prove very beneficial. The vignerons, and wine-makers in my district have expressed in no uncertain way their pleasure at the actions that have been taken by this Government, which has culminated in the measure which is now before the House. I am sure the House will support the bill.
– I do not agree that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has mastered the wine industry. I know of no one who has done so. The more one delves into this industry and tries to understand it, the more is one likely to find how complicated it is. I do, however, appreciate the fact that the Minister has tried to obtain a good grip of it, and that in this bill there arc evidences of his effort to tighten up the legislation in regard to the wine export bounty. This measure is another effort to assist the wine industry and the people engaged in it. I shall not traverse the chequered career of that industry since 1924, because the Minister has already most effectively done so. But I may say that it is one in which I have taken a close interest since it was my privilege iu 1924 to sit at the table where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is sitting now, while the first Wine Export Bounty Bill was being debated. In 1929, when I was again returned to this House, the wine industry was in a parlous condition, but I entirely disagree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) when he says tha t the Scullin Government did not help it. As a matter of fact that Government was responsible for infusing fresh life into the industry. Although it increased the duty on fortifying spirit by 5s. a gallon, representing an increase of about, ls. a gallon on wine, it had the effect of transporting from these shores thousands of gallons of wine that would not otherwise have been exported. If that wine had remained in this country chaos would have overtaken the wine industry.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has told me that in his electorate some people said that as I talked so much about wine bounties I must be a big vigneron or a wealthy wine-maker. This is the last occasion upon which I shall be speaking in this House on the wine bounty as the member for Angas. My work on behalf of this industry has not at all been because I have had any financial interest in if. I have simply laboured in the interests of the grape-growers in my electorate.
The bill is mainly a re-enactment. of the existing law with a number of new fea tures that have already been mentioned. I welcome in it the provision for fixing a minimum price instead of what is, in the opinion of the Minister, “ a reasonable price “. Of course as the prices of grapes and of spirit have been fixed by the Minister since 1927, it might seem that the alteration is a distinction without a difference, but it is certainly more definite than the old provision and should aid the administration of the act. The minimum price also includes, in the actual words of the bill “ a price so determined with interest as fixed by the Minister “. I am pleased at this, because in this industry, as I think the Customs Department and probably the Minister are well aware, there has been a considerable amount of side-stepping in regard to interest payments, and any tightening-up of the legislation in this respect will be welcomed by the growers. I should like to know if the Minister intends to fix the interest rate payable on instalments due after the end of July of each year. Provision is made for the payment of the first instalment at the end of July - and I hope the Minister will inform the House whether interest will be paid, on the instalments owing. I submit that it should be so. The -Minister should help the growers in this respect. Many of them are carrying overdrafts from the banks and it is not fair that the maker should obtain the grapes, say, in March or April and pay for them late in the year, havingthe use of the grower’s capital, while the grower, at the same time, is paying 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, interest on his overdraft, or else living on the credit of the business people of the town. One of the troubles in connexion with the industry is that the growers are Afraid, especially at the present time, when there is an over-supply of grapes, of the makers boycotting them if they bring -their cases under the notice of the departmental officials. Without mentioning names, I can quote a case which occurred in the Barossa district in 1933. The grower, having delivered his grapes in March or April, was to be paid for them in J une. He sought from the maker an advance against his crop and the maker granted him a loan at 7 per cent, interest. Payment for the grapes became due in
June, but the maker did not pay until September, and then only portion of the money due. The balance is still owing. No interest has been paid in respect to the unpaid debt. It is only fair that the grower should be protected from this sort of thing, and I welcome a provision which gives the department and the Minister this power.
I have received a letter from another man in regard to the non-receipt of interest payments. Now that legislation is being tightened up genuine efforts should bo made by the department to see that 4he growers are protected. The bill provides that the first instalment is to be paid at the end of July. I hope the Minister will inform the House as to the Government’s intention in regard to lump sum payments for grapes and what period will be allowed to the maker before interest is charged in respect of grapes delivered in March or April.
I am glad, also, to notice in this bill that attempts are made to deal with the very difficult matter of the maker who sells his wine to another maker for export. I think the department should institute inquiries into this very difficult problem. When wine is sold in this way the exporting maker is the one who receives the bounty. What facilities the department has to check this practice I do not know. Certain rumours in the district which I represent are that the first man has been evading his responsibilities to the growers in this respect. Another provision which I welcome is that the Minister may require security by bond or guarantee or a cash deposit to secure compliance with the actNow that this provision has been inserted in the legislation, I hope that where it is found that any wine-maker is inclined to be “slippery” - I use the word intentionally - a bond will be demanded. I lope that the Minister will be able to impose a retrospective penalty in cases where makers have been obtaining bounty under these conditions in the past. Take the case that I have already mentioned, that of a wine-maker who has not yet fully paid for his 1933 grapes. I cannot prove that he proposes to make application for the bounty. If the department knows what kind of grapes he purchased, it should be possible to ascertain whether he makes or has made.a request for bounty on the wine made from them; and if he has side-stepped his obligations either a portion or the whole of the bounty should be withheld. The provision giving tho Minister and the department the right te review back to 1930, will, I believe, have an effect that will be all to the good.
I notice also that an attempt is being made to tighten up the labour conditions. I am astonished that such action should be taken by a United Australia party Government.
– Because, in my opinion, it is not the usual practice for the more conservative side of the House to look after the interests of the manual worker.
– I shall be pleased if there is more evidence of such solicitude in the future. Apparently, I have slightly misjudged the party that sits on my left.
The provision dealing with the ruling rate in a district is a wise one. So far an I know, there are some portions of the industry in which awards do not operate. The ruling rate in a community is known to everybody. I regret that in my recent journeyings in my district I was informed that wages considerably below the ruling rate have been paid in some instances. In this case, it is not the winemaker who is at fault. So far as I have been able to ascertain, wine-makers generally and many growers are observing the prescribed labour conditions. I admit that it would be difficult for the department to find out what wages are being paid in the production of the grapes.
– We have the right to inspect all books.
– That is not the point, because some growers do not keep books. Unless a check is placed upon the few growers who are offending in this respect, they will lower the standard throughout the length and breadth of the district. If road-workers, knowing who I am, tell me in the course of conversation what wages they received in the grapegrowing industry, surely an officer sent out by the department could obtain similar information. So soon as it became known that it was dangerous to accept grapes for bounty purposes from a man who was breaking down the labour conditions in the vineyard, a good effect would be felt throughout the district. I am battling, not only for the grape-grower, but also for the men who have to work for him. If a bounty is to be paid on the export of wine, it is only fair that all those who are engaged in the production of the commodity, which ls required for the manufacture of that wine, should be given a fair deal.
– That is the object of the bill.
– I have already said that I realize that the Minister has tried to tighten up the position; and I believe that he has succeeded in doing so. But a lot more than printer’s ink is required in these matters. I know men who have said, “ You can make what laws you like ; give me the administration “. If necessary, the number of officers in these districts should be increased, so that the matter may be fully policed.
I regret that the bill does not contain a provision to check the Beaume test efficiently. Throughout the district that I have traversed there is evidence of dissatisfaction in connexion with Beaumé tests. Many growers have told me that they seldom receive the 5s. above the standard, but that in a number of cases they are paid 5s. below the standard. The Government fixes the standard Beaume content at a certain number of degrees. Foi every degree above that standard of sugar density, 5s. a ton is paid, and for every degree below it 5s. a ton is deducted. If I may accept the statement of the growers to whom I have spoken, the reductions have been considerably more numerous than the increases. I showed to the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, one maker’s cart-note which deliberately and definitely had printed on it “ Standard Beaumé “. The cartnotes are supposed to show the actual Beaume of the grapes brought in, but so sure was this maker of his ground that he had “ Standard Beaumé “ printed on his cart-notes. I mentioned the matter to Mr. Gollan, when he was in the Department of Trade and Customs, and he told me that it was impossible to police it. If that be so, the only alternative is to pay a fiat rate all round. I do not wish to argue in favour of a flat rate. I proposed to spend five days in the district in order to learn whether the growers wished the Beaumé test to be continued or abandoned, but after I had been there two days I returned to my home and went to bed with my nerves on edge. The views expressed to me were so conflicting, contradictory, and varied, that I was unable to arrive at a decision. But there are in the department efficient officers who could advise the Minister. Some growers told me that the proper course is to take a few bunches of grapes off the load and submit them to the Beaumé test. Others said that the test should be taken from under the press; and others, when it is all mixed together in the tank. Some of the growers do not want the Beaumé test, because they believe that they get the worse end of the stick, and favour a flat rate. I ask the Minister and the department to go further into the matter. If it cannot be policed, it would be better out of the way.
The bill also embodies the principle of a diminishing bounty. I agree with those who have already spoken, that no one can find fault with that principle. I wish that someone had thought of it in 1924, when the actual bounty was 2s. 9d. a gallon.
– If provision had then been made for it, we should not have had the trouble that we now have.
– I agree with the Minister. I have to accept my share of the blame. All that I can say is, that I listened to those who were engaged in the industry, and was “ sold a pup “ in regard to the bounty that was needed I presented the “ pup “ in the best way I could. The effect of that heavy bounty was to increase production and aggravate the position without helping the industry. A diminishing bounty would have acted as a deterrent against the tremendous plantings that were made for some time. But I question whether ls. 3d. a gallon is sufficient as a starting point. In defending that amount, the Minister said that the Viticultural Council had recommended not less than ls. a gallon. I should like to know whether that is the considered opinion of the whole of the Viticultural Council, or of only one section of it.
– It is nearly always divided in its opinion.
– I should like to know which section secured the ear of the Minister. One section appears to consider the interests only of the home market.
– That is the Government’s opinion; I can show the honorable member the correspondence on the subject.
– I do not doubt the Minister’s word, and have never had occasion to do so. 1 have always found him straight. But, although the Viticultural Council represents the wine-makers, the honorable gentleman must not think that it always acts in an unbiased manner in the interests of the whole of the industry. The last two bounties were ls. 4£d., and ls. 4$d. In 1933, the ls. 4£d. exhausted the whole of the £96,000 which came from revenue, and every 5s. that had. been paid into the trust account. I do not know what the position is this year. According to the act, a list has to be laid on the table in July. Having paid the maximum of ls. 4.8d. for this year, has the whole of the £96,000 from revenue or any part of it been drawn upon ? Not having that information, it is difficult for me to know whether ls. 3d. a gallon is as far as the Government can go, and also whether it is sufficient for the purpose.
– Very little of the Consolidated Revenue was drawn upon. Of the £96,000 only £23,000 was used.
– That means that amounts are coming more freely into the export encouragement fund. Wine-makers must now be using practically current stocks of spirits, instead of using old stocks, as they were doing two or three years ago. If they were doing that last year they will have to do it to probably a greater extent this year. It seems to me to be quite reasonable, therefore, to expect that there would be sufficient in the export encouragement fund to provide a higher rate of bounty than ls. 3d. a gallon, for the first year at any rate. I hope the Minister in his reply will give us some light on this point. The honorable gentleman said that the lower rate of bounty would probably cause an increased sale of Australian wine in London. He seemed to think that there would be an increase in the prestige of Australian wine on this account. Like the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), I find it difficult to believe that a higher price in London will increase to any extent the sale of our product. That would be quite different from ordinary business experience. I shall not vote against the bill, for there is a good deal in it that should be beneficial to the industry; but I ask again whether the starting point could not be higher than ls. 3d., remembering that the bounty will be only a ls. in 1939. Of course, the rate may not be ls. 3d. next year, nor even ls. in 1939, unless sufficient funds are forthcoming to strengthen the export encouragement fund.
I recognize that, after all, the continued solvency - I will not say prosperity - of the grape-growers will depend largely upon what the Governments of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales are prepared to do. T agree with the Minister that unless those Governments do something to protect the interests of the grape-growers the provisions of this bill will be circumvented by wine-makers purchasing grapes for making wine for home consumption at prices that will bring down the price of grapes all round. The Minister does not seem to be too optimistic, but I sincerely trust that the State Governments that I have mentioned will do something to protect the growers or else delegate to the Commonwealth Government power to fix the price of grapes used for making wine for home consumption. Unless this i3 done, the grape-growers will continue to live in a state of great uneasiness. Speaking for South Australia, and knowing the extremely conservative tendencies of the members of the Legislative Council in that State, I find it hard to believe that legislation will be passed through the State Parliament that will interfere in any way with private enterprise and particularly with a private enterprise which has so strong a pull in South Australian politics as wine-making.
– I wish to reply briefly to several points which have been raised by various speakers. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) referred to the price-fixing power of this Government. I dealt with this subject in my second-reading speech. As the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has pointed out, this is a matter for the State Parliaments; but I am hopeful that the steps that are now being taken to ensure that the provisions governing the bounty are observed will be effective. The Wine Export Bounty Act of 1924 was framed primarily to help the growers, and, although the constitutional powers of the Government are not broad enough to enable it to fix the price of grapes used for making wine for home consumption, E trust that the wine-makers will not take advantage of the situation.
Unfair practices by certain wineries were referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and also by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). This subject is dealt with in clause 17 of the bill, which provides that -
The Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty which would otherwise be payable under this act to any claimant if be is satisfied that-
Then follow certain provisions which give the Minister considerable power. If the Minister is not satisfied that all the provisions of the law have been complied with, he may withhold the bounty. It seems to me that that is as far as it is possible for us to go under our limited constitutional powers. We certainly have authority to scrutinize the books of winemakers and exporters if there is any suggestion that they are indulging in unfair practices. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) referred to grower-wine-makers who evade the act. It is certainly very difficult to check the operations of these people. The honorable gentleman also asked that when the fixation of prices was under consideration the position of wineries operating in irrigation areas distant from the seaboard should be protected. Such wineries have certain advantages; but I assure the honorable member that when prices are being fixed - usually it is after the representatives of the industry have failed to agree and the matter is referred to the Minister - all the circumstances are taken into account. Reference has also been made to the position of co-operative wineries. These are corporate bodies and must be dealt with like other trading organizations.
– Will co-operative wineries definitely have to pay for the grapes before they can collect the bounty?
– In the course of my investigations into the affairs of this industry, I found that there were various systems of finance in operation. In some places, for example, a more or less cart-note currency was used. The honorable member for Angas asked whether interest could be charged quarterly on unpaid accounts. I point out that hitherto a discount of 2$ per cent, has been provided to encourage prompt payment. This practice is now being made a part of the law.
– The Berri Company has not paid anything for years.
– Some of the companies have unusual methods of finance, but ultimately they must pay.
– Some of them have been drawing the bounty for years, but have not paid anything.
– In some cases cooperative companies have given receipts to the growers which really amount to a promise to pay. An attempt was made to organize the industry on a quota basis, but the Government found it necessary to compel makers to have their wine identifiable. It is a pity that all these provisions are necessary, but some of the makers were not prepared to play the game by the growers, and so precautions had to be taken to protect the growers’ interests. The honorable member for Angas said that the Beaumé tests were not satisfactory. I have heard similar complaints. The department has given consideration to the improvement of the system, and, at my request, the growers are making investigations and hope shortly to submit proposals to me.
– Some of the excise officers have each to police about four wineries.
– It is not possible to have an excise officer at every winery, because that would entail too great an expenditure. The honorable member said that it would be an advantage to sell Australian wines overseas at low prices, but as I pointed out in my secondreading speech, South African wine is being freely sold at higher rates, although it is no better than, if as good as, Australian wine. Australian wine should command a price as high as that of South African wine. Recently in a British publication I saw a damaging reference to Australian wines to the effectthat the common impression was that Australian wines were good onlY for christening battleships. That is a reputation which we have to live down by exporting good quality wine which will command proper prices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Definitions).
.- I wish to know from the Minister in what way it is intended to arrive at the minimum price, and how it will be policed. During my second-reading speech I gave an indication of the difficulty which I anticipated might arise if it wore not possible to discriminate between the prices paid in different areas. I understand that, under the present system, different prices are arrived at for different districts. The act provides that the Minister shall fix a reasonable price. In clause 4 we find the words, “ the minimum price determined by the Minister as the price to bo paid for grapes of that kind or fortifying spirit “. I am somewhat anxious to know whether the Minister will, under the wording of the clause, have the same latitude as he has at present to agree to a schedule of prices which varies from one area to another. Although it may be possible to grow grapes more cheaply in some areas than in others, if the allocation of the cost is the same for grapes in all areas, although the grapes may not be of equal quality, the wine-maker, whether co-operative or proprietary, may be placed at a disadvantage in selling wine and returning the stipulated prices for grapes, .because those prices may be more than the value of grapes in one district than the value of grapes in another district. In the past this variation of value has, to some extent, been made good by the sliding scale of prices under the Beaumé system. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has accurately explained to honorable members the difficulties which the
Excise Department has mct with up to the present in its efforts to enforce a graduated scale of payments according to that system. That graduated scale of prices has completely broken down, except in a limited number of cases and especially in the case of wine-makers who have not returned the full price to the growers. The wine-makers who have been particularly good to the growers by paying cash, have, in a number of cases, evaded the Beaume system. Naturally, when they are actually paying cash they feel the extra payment of 5s. a ton, whereas the makers who are paying on terms, particularly the co-operative winemakers, are les3 inclined to press the growers out of their rights. The attempt to place all districts on an equitable basis has broken down to a considerable extent, if not almost entirely, and it is important that the Minister should have sufficient latitude, and that the phrasing of the clause should not deprive him of the discretion which he has had in the past to arrange a schedule of prices equitable to all districts.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has raised two questions. The first is in respect of the payment of different prices in different districts. The practice is that before the vintage takes place each year, the representatives of the co-operative and proprietary wineries and the growers meet in conference and try to arrive at a scale of prices for the various types of grapes. They generally disagree and leave it to the Minister to decide the minimum price. It has been contended by at least two honorable members representing South Australia that the Beaumé test for sugar density is not a fair test. I have asked the growers for their considered opinion as to how the laws may be checked up, and when a decision is arrived at it can be carried out by regulation. We are seriously considering how those who are still evading the law may be brought to book.
.- The Minister has, to some extent, misunderstood me. The principal act obviously leaves it open to the Minister to determine a schedule of prices, which varies from district to district. Has the Minister an assurance from either his own office or the Crown Law office, that the use of the words “minimum price determined by the Minister as the price to be paid for grapes of that kind “ will allow him to still prescribe, where desirable, different minimum prices as between different districts and localities?
– Clause 14 deals with that matter.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Rate of bounty).
.- Would I be permitted at this stage to move for an increase of the amount of the bounty?
– The honorable member cannot move for an increase of bounty.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Prices of grapes or fortifying spirit used in production).
.- I should like the Minister to let it be definitely known that the bounty in future will not be paid unless the grower is paid in cash for his grapes.
– That is stated in the clause.
– It is also stated in the act, and had the intention of the act been carried out, the price would have been paid in cash, but some of the co-operative companies, particularly the Berri company, have not been paying cash for the grapes supplied to them. The balance-sheet of the Berri Co-operative Company shows that, year after year, the payment for grapes has been simply a book entry, giving credit to those who have supplied grapes. The position appears to be well known to the department, since it has been brought under its notice on more than one occasion; but apparently it has winked at this practice. Clause 11 provides that no bounty shall be payable unless the Minister is satisfied that the grower has received or will receive in cash, payment in full within the prescribed time or payment by four equal quarterly instalments, the first of which is payable on or before the 31st day of July next following the date of delivery of the grapes. The necessary machinery is in the clause, and I trust thai the Minister will give definite instructions that the terms of the act will be carried out. A great deal of anxiety has been expressed by the growers, and a great deal of comment has been made with respect to the action of some private wine-makers who buy grapes for wine not intended for export at a price less than that prescribed for the purpose of obtaining the bounty. But, although those private wine-makers pay a lower price than that prescribed, their action is not quite so bad as that of the co-operative companies, who have, for many years, paid nothing at all. If my request is agreed to, this provision will be given effect, and the department will in future ensure that the price is paid in cash to the growers ; otherwise, no bounty will be paid.
.- Clause 11 provides that no bounty shall be payable except under certain conditions. The first condition is that the grapes shall be paid for at the minimum price, the second condition is that the fortifying spirit must be sold at not less than the minimum price, and the third condition is that the wine must not be sold at less than the minimum price. I should like to know what the position would be if the world price for wine which has to be exported should happen to fall below the price which the Minister considers is necessary to enable the grapes to be paid for at the minimum price fixed, thus making it impossible for the wine-maker to compensate himself out of the export price for the price paid for the grapes.
.- I should like the Minister to give some information regarding what is meant by “Payment in cash in full within the prescribed time “. At present it is laid down that payment shall be made by the 30th June. We must remember that the grape-growers are working on overdrafts, and the tradespeople with whom they deal are waiting to receive their money. I trust that the Minister will not allow his sympathy to go so far as to extend the period for cash payments. If the makers get the grapes in March and April, they should be required to make their cash payments not later than the 30th June.
I should also like to see some provision in the act to ensure that the fixed price for grapes is paid by a wine-maker who sells his wine to another firm which, in turn, exports it and collects the bounty. I have myself been trying, without suc- cess, to frame an amendment to meet such cases.
.- What proof will the wine-maker be required to furnish that he has made the cash payments within the prescribed time ? We know that the intention of the makers is always good, but in the past they have made excuses that they could not find the money, and the growers have been kept waiting sometimes for years.
– Clause 13 covers that point.
– I should like to receive an assurance that the section will be enforced, and the growers’ interests preserved.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked whether those provisions of the act requiring the payment of a minimum price for grapes would be strictly enforced. The act provides that a bounty shall not be paid unless the Minister is satisfied that the price paid, or to be paid, for grapes used in the production of wine on which bounty is claimed is not less than that fixed by him. Another section allows payment to be made in quarterly instalments. One of the principal purposes behind the bounty was to ensure that the growers should receive a reasonable price for their grapes ; but, as honorable members know, certain cooperative companies run by growershareholders who send in their grapes for processing have, in the past, given cause for offence. It is now intended to force them to pay cash for the grapes.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) asked what would happen if the world price of wine were so low that wine exported from Australia could not be sold at the price fixed. I remind him that the price is fixed by the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, and no one knows more about the wine trade than do the members of that board. The Minister has the benefit of their advice when the price of grapes is being fixed, and it is not likely that too high a price will be stipulated.
The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) asked what was meant by the “ prescribed time “ mentioned in the clause. The time is not prescribed in the bill, but will be prescribed by regulation. Previously, it was six months, and I intended to make it six months again. If, however, . it is thought, for any reason, that a shorter time is necessary, further consideration will be given to the matter.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked how we could bring those people up to the mark who are not paying the growers for their grapes. Clause 13 provides that -
The Minister may require security by bond, guarantee, or cash deposit, or by all or any of these methods, for compliance with the provisions of this act, and the Regulations, and for the performance of any undertaking given in pursuance of this act.
That also partly answers the question which has been baffling the honorable member for Angas regarding makers who sell their wine to others for export abroad. Their cases can be investigated under that provision, and appropriate action taken.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has not yet answered my inquiry as to what can be done to ensure that owner-makers do not break the law by selling their wine at a price which will not return to them the equivalent of the minimum price for their grapes. There are quite a large number of owner-makers in Victoria who process only their own grapes. In South Australia also there are some makers who are themselves large growers. They may decide to use grapes they purchase outside their own vineyards at low prices for making wine for the home market. They may use grapes from their own vineyards with which to make wine for export, collecting the bounty on that, and cutting the price overseas, as many makers have already done in spite of the efforts of the Overseas Marketing Board. The prominent maker who did so much to defeat the intentions of the Minister to maintain prices last year would be in a position to act as I have stated. Such action would be just as dangerous to the market as is the processing of grapes by co-operative companies which cannot sell their wine fast enough, or at a sufficiently high price, to return their grower shareholders the full fixed price for their grapes within the period stipulated in the bill. Then there is the intermediate case of a group of growers, or perhaps two partners, who have been unable to sell their grapes, and who make arrangements with a winery to process the grapes for them at so much a gallon. What can the Minister do to see thatsuch wine is not exported, and bounty collected on it, though the fixed price is not paid for the grapes? These are major points which, if not tackled, may prove just as upsetting to the wine industry as, in the past, has the processing of grapes by growers who did not want to see them rot on the vines.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has referred to wine-makers who may be acting outside the law. There are always to be found persons who will try to evade the law. Sometimes they can be brought to book; at other times they cannot. There is no law which cannot be successfully broken by some one. The fact remains, however, that the present system is working well, and the bounty is achieving the object desired. In 1925-26, when the bounty had been in operation for a year, Australia exported 1,085,000 gallons of wine, but in 1931-32, exports had increased to 2,841,340 gallons. Australia to-day is second only to Portugal in the export of wine to the United Kingdom. Such evasions of the law as are taking place are not numerous and, so far, cannot be overcome. However, if honorable members have any bright suggestions for overcoming the difficulties they have referred to, I shall be glad to hear them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Minimum prices) -
.- I am not sure that this clause gives the Minister power to fix a different minimum price for the same kind of grape in different localities. It would be possible to fix a minimum price for wine at the point of delivery or shipment, which would automatically vary at the winery with the cost of shipping, but I cannot see how that variation can be passed back to the price of grapes, unless the Minister has power under the act to draw up a schedule of minimum prices which would vary not only as between one kind of grape and another, but also as between districts where the cost of processing and shipping the wine was not in all cases the same. The cost of growing grapes varies according to rents and the cost of the land and charges for water, and other factors. These charges reflect a difference in the value of the grapes. Grapes may be worth more in some localities that are remote and inaccessible, and may be more expensive to produce than in convenient centres near the seaboard. Clearly the growers in the less favoured places which produce smaller tonnages of better grapes should receive a higher price than those whose production costs may be lower, although their grapes when delivered may have to bear heavier processing cost for the production of wine. Clause 14 provides that the Minister may determine the minimum price to be paid for grapes and fortifying’ spirit used in the production of fortified wine in respect of which the bounty is claimed. I suggest that it would be safer to make quite plain that the Minister has the power to vary the minimum price.
.- The honorable member bases his criticism on a purely hypothetical case. He says that grapes grown in one district may call for a difference in price compared with those grown in another district, but I remind him that there are compensating conditions in many districts. In the Great Western District in Victoria, something like a ton to a ton and a half of grapes is grown to the acre, while in a river settlement like Berri as much as eight tons have been produced from one acre. I ask the honorable member if, in paying a wheat bounty or a bounty to cover any other industry, differentiation is made between one district and another. The honorable member cannot mention a case in which that has occurred. I think his point a reasonable one, but there is no precedent for it.
– There is a precedent.
– No. The point has never arisen; but to satisfy the honorable member I shall seek the opinion of the Crown law authorities on the matter, and if it is desirable to do what he has suggested, I assure him that the alteration can be made in the other chamber.
Mr.HAWKER (Wakefield) [10.19].- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has already admitted that according to the schedule of last year, the price of identical kinds of grapes was fixed at 10s. a ton lower at Griffith in New South Wales, in order to compensate the makers for the additional freight involved in the long haulage from Griffith to Sydney. I ask the Minister to make the wording of this clause so clear that he can permit the same variation as between prices in different districts in the future, as I am informed, he has already prescribed in the past. What the Minister hassaid in respect to the Great Western District of Victoria, where the production of grapes to the acre may be less than a ton, is beside the point. The grapes grown in that district are dry wine grapes, and not wine-making grapes on which bounty is paid. But even if a bounty were paid in respect of these grapes, the growers would have a much better case for higher prices than would be paid in districts where the yield may be from 5 to 15 tons. It is also unfair to the maker of wine in a district where the production of grapes is high that ho should have to pay a price based on the average for grapes grown in some other district. I ask the Minister to provide this very slight verbal amendment which would give him the same powers in future as he has exercised in the past.
– I have already given the honorable member that assurance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Power of Minister to withhold bounty).
.- In the past, there have been complaints that certain wine-makers sold wine to overseas buyers resident in Australia at a price under the f.o.b. price proclaimed by the Wine Overseas Marketing Board as the minimum to be paid for export bounty wine. This weakness in our legislation has been exploited by the overseas buyers who simply invoice to their London houses at the proclaimed price, and give the co-operative companies so small an actual price that as little as 26s. a ton on the average for the term of the present bounty has been paid by one winemaker. All that an agent has to do to-day is take an office as a representative of an overseas firm and register himself as a buyer. He can then buy wine atwhatever price he likes. He then calls upon the winery to make application for the bounty. There have been many evasions in the past, and I ask the Minister to tighten up the act in order to prevent serious impositions in the future.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 21 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to amendments Nos. 1 to 4 made by the House of Representatives in this bill, and to amendment No. 5 with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Senate’s message -
That the word “prohibition,” proposed new section 278, be left out, and the word “ proclamation “ inserted in lieu thereof.
.- I move-
That the amendment made by the Senate in the bill to amendment No. 5 of the House of Representatives be agreed to.
The Crown law authorities consider that the word “ proclamation “ should be substituted for “prohibition” to secure uniformity throughout the clause.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests:
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) 1934.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) 1934.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short and non-contentious measure, which merely aims at giving clear legal effect to the intention of Parliament when it passed the Flour Tax Assessment Act. It contains no provisions that have the effect of imposing any disabilities or further obligations upon those who were affected by the tax. Although the tax was lifted on the 31st May last, this ratifying measure is still required because of administrative action having been taken within the last six months, with the approval of the Government, to give effect to the clear intention of the law. The necessity for such action arose because, in the administration of the law, it was discovered that, in certain cases, self-raising flour was subject to double taxation, and that refunds could not legally be made of tax paid on, first, selfraising flour and ordinary flour not consumed at the termination of the tax; secondly, flour exported from ships stores in certain circumstances; and thirdly, flour purchased in one of the States for consumption in the Northern Territory. The levying of the tax in those cases was clearly contrary to the intention of the law, because Parliament definitely contemplated that the tax would not have to be paid twice on any flour, and that flour for export or for consumption in the Northern Territory should be exempt. It was also clearly intended that a refund of £4 5s. a ton should be made with respect to flour that was not consumed when the act ceased to operate. That is all that the bill contains, with the exception of a minor drafting amendment to correct a word that was wrongly used.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
General Elections : Printing of Rolls : Postal Voting Forms: Maps: Removalof Names of Absentee Unemployed: Supplementary Rolls: Abolition of Postal Voting Provisions : Hours of Polling : Booths in Country Electorates: Boundaries in Victoria and Western Australia - Northern Territory : Aborigines Reserve at Tennant’s Creek.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to deal with a situation that is likely to arise in connexion with the printing of the electoral rolls. Last week the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) in reply to a question asked by a member of the Country party, stated that the rolls would be complete and ready for use in eight weeks’ time. That will be within about a week of the elections.
– May I point out to the honorable member that the rolls for the distant divisions are printed and sent out first, and that it is the last of the rolls to be printed that will be ready in eight weeks’ time.
– I wish to clear up certain matters that were brought under my notice as the result of investigationa that I made over the week-end. Before commenting on the general situation, I wish it to be understood that I cast no reflection upon the officers of the Electoral Department in Sydney. They have been most obliging, and are prepared to go to almost any lengths to assist the party organizations in this important matter. But the circumstances that apparently will arise from the late printing of the rolls will cause many persons to be placed at a disadvantage in the impending campaign. I have found that the rolls for one of my subdivisions, printed only last year in connexion with the Legislative Council referendum in New South Wales, have had struck off them a little over one-third of the names that appeared on them. A casual perusal of the rolls generally will cause astonishment because of the large number of names that have been erased from them.
This applies particularly to thicklypopulated industrial centres, such as those that I represent. Because of the conditions that exist to-day, changes of residence are made more frequently than has been the case previously, because men have to move from place to place to obtain work. This is especially noticeable in the . case of those who live in hostels, seamen’s institutes, and the like. Even though they may be absent for a few weeks, however, the probability is that they will return to their former addresses, when the temporary work that they have obtained is finished. The fact that their names have been struck off the roll will not be known either to them or to those who are endeavouring to have prepared as complete ta roll as possible, until the roll is actually available. Returning officers may be willing before the roll is printed to inform those who are interested as to the state of the rolls; but they are not expected tq do so, and perhaps if there is any unwillingness it would hardly be fair to place them in. the position of having to do so. If the printing is likely to be the chief cause of delay, the responsibility is placed on the Government bo hare it spread over a number of establishments. The information that I have obtained discloses the fact that it will be principally a question of printing. The adoption of my suggestion may prove more costly, but that should not he a deterrent. What concerns the -average elector and the party organizations is the availability of the rolls at the earliest possible moment, and the obligation is placed on the Government to see that every facility is offered to them in this regard.
Another factor which makes it more important on this occasion that the rolls should be printed quickly is the redistribution of certain of the States. Almost one-half of another division has been added to my electorate, and confusion must naturally arise as to the division for which a number of electors are enrolled. I believe that the staff of the Electoral Department will have all the adjustments made very shortly. Many printers are looking for work, and the opportunity is here presented to provide it for them by spreading the printing of the rolls over a number of establishments.
No postal voting application forms are yet available, because the electoral officers have been advised that it is the intention of the Government to amend the law in this respect. It is necessary that these forms should be made available as early as possible. As an illustration of how to effect economy, which it has been suggested is necessary, I quote the following: Two polling-booths have been abolished in one of my subdivisions, with the result that many persons, who formerly were able to vote in close proximity to their homes, will in future have to travel some distance to exercise the franchise. On account of physical disability, some persons will he unable to travel, and will have to make application for a postal vote.
– Postal voting application forms cannot be used until the writs have been issued.
– The point that I want to make, quite frankly, is that districts will be canvassed by party representatives, and it is not desired that large areas shall have to be canvassed twice. During the course of the canvass application forms for postal votes could be left with invalids, and the position would be more satisfactory to all concerned. I should like the Minister to give this matter serious consideration.
.- I want a definite statement from the Minister as to whether the elections in Western Australia and Victoria will be fought on the old boundaries. The honorable gentleman stated just before the vote was taken on the redistribution of Victoria that, if the House rejected the proposed boundaries, the election in that State would probably be fought on the old boundaries. A number of paragraphs have appeared in the newspapers, some of which are to the effect that the commission might be able to bring down fresh boundaries in the case of Victoria, but that the election in Western Australia would have to be fought on the old boundaries.
– In Western Australia selection ballots are proceeding on the basis of the old boundaries.
– I have been asked to make inquiries into this matter. If the Minister will say definitely that the election in Victoria will be fought on the old boun dares, that can be accepted as authentic. So far, he has not been able to give me a definite reply; all that he has been able to tell me is that he thought the old boundaries would be used.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) to the following article which appeared in the Melbourne Star newspaper of the 10th July:-
Protesting at the proposal to hand over to gold-miners the aboriginal reserve at Tennant’s Creek and send the aborigines to a new area, the patrol missioner for Central Australia for the Aborigines Friends Association (Mr. E. E. Kramer) has forwarded a report to his organization.
He says there are 300 or 400 members of the Warramunga tribe, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) is considering whether they will bc allowed to retain their hunting-grounds and watering-places, or whether about 240 miners will be allowed to enter the reserve.
Mr. Kramer says the reserve contains the best water supply in the district, consisting of a billabong 400 yards long, and several -waterholes. The proposed new area is desolate land with spinifex hills and stunted mallee. There is no water and no game. The rocky hills on the present reserve, because of their peculiar shapes, are sacred totem places, and the leaders of the tribe are loth to give away their recognized inheritance.
If the natives settled on a new area, it would be necessary to sink a well, as the soakages in Sandy Creek did not last.
Through the introduction of prospectors and other white men, the tribal life is gradually being broken up.
That article contains a series of misstatements from a source that has been fruitful in mis-statements in the past. I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Kramer made that statement, for so much of it is entirely contrary to the facts. To say that there are 300 or 400 natives on that reserve is ridiculous. The number would be about 40 or 50. To say that the rocky hills are sacred totem places is also absurd. The remarks about the nature of the country and the existence of water are also entirely inaccurate. It is also ridiculous to say that the leaders of the tribe are loth to give away their inheritance. Zuta and Charley are the head men of that tribe, and they both waited on Dr. Woolnough and myself twice while we were in that area some little time ago and asked for a change in the location of the native reserve. I invite the Minister to consult Dr. Woolnough and also Mr. Bell, the Director of Mines, for substantiation of my remarks. In a statement which Zuta and Charley made to Dr. Woolnough and myself they asked that the native reserve be shifted to a location further east, to include Gross Creek and the Boxer waterholes. They pointed out that the new reserve would have many advantages over the present one. They made it clear to us that the mining area was useless from the point of view of water, game and yams, and that the natives never go on it, whereas if the reserve were altered to the eastern areas to include Gross Creek, the Boxer waterboles and the old racecourse soaks, the natives would have definite and good hunting grounds for euros, kangaroos and other game. They would also have good country instead of bad and a better opportunity to secure yams. Every government official who has visited the existing reserve knows that the natives never go on it. I challenge Mr. Kramer to disprove any of the statements that I am making, and I invite the Minister to consult his own officials on the subject. He would be wise to be guided by them rather than by missioners who, it is obvious, frequently do not know what they are talking about. If Mr. Kramer made the statement that I have quoted he must have deliberately mis-stated the facts as to the number of natives of the tribe, and the nature of the country in the reserve. The suggestions in the article are quite contrary to the views of the natives as described to Dr. Woolnough and myself in our recent interview with their leaders.
– I wish to support tho remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) in regard to necessary electoral action by the Government. I should like to know whether it is intended to issue new maps showing the changes in the various divisions. The present maps are useless for all practical purposes. Soon after consideration was first given to the alteration of boundaries of the Reid,
Barton and Lang electorates, certain maps were shown to us; but after further consideration they were altered and we have not seen the new maps except on one day when they were available, in the Minister’s office in Sydney. I ask that maps be issued showing the names of streets in the electorates. That should not bo difficult to do. I also ask that the returning officers in each electorate be instructed to provide candidates with the names of electors who have been enrolled since the printing of the rolls. The current printed rolls are quite out of date. Many names of people who have shifted out of an electorate, and later shifted back into it again, have been removed from the roll and so far as we know have not been restored to it. People who shift from one house to another in the same street are liable to have their names removed from the rolls. I regret to have to say that the rolls are at present in a deplorable condition. This is due to some extent to the fact that many people have been compelled to leave their permanent addresses temporarily. For instance, the single men who have been practically forced to enter concentration camps under the State Government’s afforestation scheme in New South Wales are in an anomalous position. These men are obliged to leave home, go into camp, and work for 30 hours a week for 30s. If they do not do so they become ineligible for other relief work. Will such men be enrolled where the concentration camp happens to be, or at their permanent home address ? The men have left their homes in the expectation of being away »ix or seven weeks, or perhaps two months, and frequently they have felt that it was neither necessary nor advisable for them to apply for a transfer ; but I should like to know definitely where they will be enrolled. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to make subdivisional maps available as soon as possible.
.- I wish to support the remarks made by several honorable members last week about the uselessness of the electoral maps that have been issued recently. Apparently they were based on old parish maps, for they contain names of estates printed in large type which mean nothing in a political sense to people nowadays. It is particularly necessary that the street names and boundaries of subdivisions should be printed in clear type on the electoral maps. Polling places should also be marked clearly on them. All name’s that are of no value for electoral purposes should be eliminated. I support the request that postal voting forms should be issued as early as possible. It requires quite a little time to obtain a form and lodge a postal vote. First, the application has to be sent to the returning officer, then the ballot-paper has to be sent to the elector, and after that the marked ballot-paper has to be returned to the electoral authorities within a specified period before the closing of the poll. Unless postal voting facilities are made available in adequate time many invalids and persons who are travelling will be disfranchised. If as has been suggested the Government intends to amend the Electoral Act a bill to provide for it should be introduced at once and consideration of it should take precedure over other business. Any amendment’ of the law in relation to postal voting is a particularly urgent matter in view of the fact that so much time is needed to obtain and return the voting form.
.- I support the suggestion of other honorable members. Now that the Electoral Act is to be amended and an election is to take place within two months, the amending legislation should be brought forward as rapidly as possible to allow this House to deal with it.
As I understand that excellent maps showing the name of every street were obtained for the purpose of the census, I suggest that the electoral maps should also show the name of every street. As regards my own electorate the maps which were printed in the past were not of much use, but the present maps are considerably better, and so long as the Government provides maps similar to those which were first placed before us by the commission I shall be satisfied. However, I understand that that will not be the case in regard to electorates in other States. I also suggest that the previous policy should be followed of placing a subdivisional map in front of the section dealing with each particular subdivision.
I also ask the Government once again to consider seriously the abolition of postal voting. It was abolished by this Parliament for a number of years because of the abuses to which it was put: At the elections which recently took place in Western Australia there were considerable abuses in regard to postal voting. If the Government is not’ prepared to abolish this system I suggest that only officials appointed by the Government or members of the police should be allowed to deal with postal votes.
In future the Government should not practise false economy by reprinting the rolls only in time for each election. The rolls should be reprinted at least once every eighteen months. At present the reprinting of the rolls is being delayed because of the fact that there is not sufficient room on the rolls to allow of many of the names being placed in alphabetical order. The names have had to be inserted in the various spaces on the roll. They are not in alphabetical order, and in consequence delay and confusion have taken place in the printing office.
I also suggest that the Government should consider altering the hours of voting, and make them from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I do not know whether that is a practice in the other States, but in Queensland the poll for the State and municipal elections close at 6 p.m.
.- I ask the Government to give consideration to the provision of additional polling booths in country electorates. In many country towns with from 50 to 200 voters there arc no polling booths, and these people have, in some instances, to walk from one mile to two and a half miles in order to record their votes. In the southern portion of my electorate at a place called Pelican Plats there is no polling booth. This town is situated right on the boundary of what will be the Robertson electorate. In addition there is no polling booth at Pelton or Blacksmiths near Swansea.
I have already referred in this House to the fact that an abnormal number of people are being struck off the electoral rolls. My attention has been drawn to this fact by the electoral officers, and many people whose names were pre viously on the roll will receive a rude shock when they attempt to vote at the next elections. When the census was taken many people were absent, perhaps on vacation, from their homes, and because no particulars were then obtained in regard to them in their place of domicile they have been struck off the electoral rolls. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the restoration on the rolls of the names that have been struck off until the department has been notified by the persons concerned of any change of address.
– ‘Che honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and others have referred to the electoral rolls. The fact that numbers of names are removed from the rolls is due to electors moving about. Actually, the responsibility for seeing that his name is not mistakenly removed rests upon the elector himself. If he intends to be absent from his subdivision for a reasonable period, he should notify the returning officer in his electorate. It is the duty of any man absent from his electorate for a certain period, to see that his name is removed from his old roll and transferred to the roll for his new district. Otherwise, it would be impossible to keep the rolls in order, or to conduct an election with any decency. It is evident that, in the Hunter electorate, the percentage of removals is higher than elsewhere, and I will see that the remarks of the honorable member for that, district are brought under the notice, not. only of the Chief Electoral Officer, but also of the returning officer for the Hunter electorate.
We anticipate that the rolls for the forthcoming elections will be cleaner than for years past. As a rule, we rush out to the country and utilize the old rolls. It is true that returning officers supply booths with supplementary rolls, but as the added names are written in, they are impossible to follow. The candidates and those outside work on old rolls which are not up to date. On this occasion, however, the rolls will be newly printed and brought up to date. The printing will take eight ‘weeks. In this connexion, the advice given by the honor- able member for West Sydney has been anticipated. We have realized the necessity for printing the rolls as quickly as possible, and in. order to do so we are having the work distributed. Portion of (he printing will be done in Canberra, but it is not possible to distribute the work too widely, owing to the necessity of maintaining uniformity in printing. The size and style of type have to be studied, and not all linotype machines are capable of being used. Where the proper type of machine oau be employed, it will be utilized.
– It will then take much less than eight weeks.
– We may bring the time down to seven weeks. It would have been much longer otherwise. There has been no delay. The work has already been in progress for the last ten days. Rolls for the country districts are being commenced first, because they have to be distributed over wide areas. I have given instructions that this work is to be expedited so soon as the redistribution proposals are accepted by the Senate. The authority has been prepared and is now awaiting signature.
With regard to postal voting application, forms, I have made inquiries since the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spoke this afternoon, and I am informed that any discrepancies in this direction will be rectified. It is the intention of the Government to bring forward a bill proposing several changes in the Electoral Act, but this is not the time to outline what these changes will be. When the bill is before the House, additional changes may also he effected as a result of discussion in either chamber.
Statements have been circulated that fresh proposals for electoral redistribution in Victoria and Western Australia will be brought before the House in time to bc put into force at the next election. I have inquired whether it would be possible to have further redistribution proposals in the two States submitted to the House in time to permit the approaching election to be conducted on the new basis, but I find that this is impossible. The- election in Western Australia and Victoria will, therefore, take place on the old boundaries’.
I do not know whether it will be possible to have the rolls at hand with the names of absentees crossed out. It would be an impossible task to prepare them in that way, but if a candidate were interested he could consult with a return* ing officer, and have the rolls for his electorate brought right up to date. Speaking off-hand, I cannot say exactly what is the law on the matter, but it is laid down in the act that where a man is absent from an electorate for a certain time, he is liable to a fine if he does not have his name removed from the roll of that particular electorate and transferred to his new electorate. How* ever, if a man’s name is on a roll for an electorate he is entitled to vote on that roll.
I have had a chat with the Chief Electoral Officer to see if anything, could be done with a view to issuing better mapsHe is afraid it would not be possible to do so in time for the next election, but, in any case, we cannot take steps in the matter until the redistribution proposals are passed through the Senate. If, however, it is possible to issue new maps in place of the present ones, we shall do so.
As to postal voting forms, I can only give to the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) the same reply that I gave to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The honorable member, however, goes further, and would like to see the abolition of postal voting. That is not the intention of the Government. We still believe that voting by post cannot be avoided, and that we should make it possible for electors to vote by post I may say that the measure we are bringing forward does not anticipate any change in this respect.
So far as polling hours are concerned we shall maintain uniformity with the majority of the States in which polling closes at 8 p.m.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) suggests an increase in the number of polling booths. I am in sympathy with him in this respect, particularly as I represent a country electorate, and appreciate the problems arising from distances between polling centres. Of course, it is suggested that the use of the postal vote does away with the necessity for a number of small booths, but I do not believe that the number of booths should be decreased.
The honorable member for Hunter also referred to the question of electors having their names struck off the rolls, apparently without the knowledge of the electors concerned. AsI have already pointed out, that is a matter for the elector himself, and I cannot see how the Government can rectify discrepancies of that kind. The Government goes to a lot of trouble to keep the rolls as clean and up to date as possible, and there are generally sufficient people in each electorate to watch the interests of these people. However, I realize, as I said before, that people going about from one place to another looking for work, are often sufferers in this respect. I shall personally inquire into the need for polling booths at Pelican Flats and Pelton.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) raised a question in connexion with the reserve for aboriginals atWarraminiga close to Tennants Creek. I am pleased to be able for once to agree with the honorable member. Some time ago this district commenced to develop as a centre for whites, and I agree with the honorable member that it would be advisable to move the aboriginals further east so as to avoid bringing them into contact with the whites. But immediately the suggestion was made complaint was raised that an injustice was being done to the natives. Therefore, before taking action, we resolved to have an inquiry conducted by officers of the department, and to make a survey of the new area. The officers reported that it was infinitely better country than that at Tennant’s Creek, that the water supply was superior, and that the natives would be very pleased to go there. Consequently, it has been decided that the natives will be moved into the new area as soon as possible.
– Will provision be made in the amended Electoral Act for releasing the votes polled at each booth?
– No. It is provided that the votes shall not be released unless the number is over 100.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the general dissatisfaction amongst the workers of Australia because of the incomplete and unsatisfactory manner in which the cost of living index figures are arrived at, willhe consider the necessity of appointing a committee, upon which the workers shall have a representativeto inquire into and report upon the scope and method of determining same?
– It is assumed the expression “ cost of living index figures “ is used to indicate the “ retail price index numbers “ prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. The method of preparation of the retail price index numbers was very fully reviewed by Professor L. F. Giblin, when Acting Commonwealth Statistician, in a pamphlet published under the title of “ Wages and Prices “. It has also been closely investigated by the present Commonwealth Statistician, who does not consider any useful purpose would be served by the appointment of a committee of inquiry. The use of these index numbers in connexion with wages is the responsibility of the wage-fixing tribunals. In all the circumstances, the Government thinks that no good purpose would be served by the appointment of such a committee.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government at the next election, by means of a referendum, give the citizens of Australia an opportunity to express their opinion as to whether the people who destroy good foods of any kind because they cannot be sold at required prices or because of any other commercial reason, should be considered as criminals or not?
– It is not considered that any circumstances have arisen which would warrant the taking of the course suggested by the honorable member.
e. - On the 6th July, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What were the total exports and imports for each of the financial years 1921-22 to 1933-34 inclusive (a) including bullion and specie; and (b) excluding bullion and specie, and what was the adverse or favorable trade balance for each year?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with a statement containing the information required.
petrol Production from Coal.
– On the 6th July, the honorable member for Hunter asked the following question, without notice: -
Some time ago the Prime Minister definitely announced that ahydrogenation plant would be set up for the purposes of extracting oil from coal. Has the Government yet determined when and where this plant will be erected?
I desire to inform the honorable member that I did not at any time definitely announce that a plant would be set up in Australia for the production of oil from coal by what is known as the hydrogenation process. I told a representative gathering of coal-mining interests at Cessnock on the 23rd March, 1934, that I was prepared to ask Cabinet to give consideration to the question as to whether it would be advisable, in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, to ask Imperial Chemical Industries Limited to undertake the construction of a plant in Australia concurrently with construction at Billingham-on-Tees. In accordance with that promise I brought the matter before Cabinet early in April, hut during the intervening period, that is, the period betweenthe 23rd March and early April, other States had made representations on the subject. It appeared to the Government that there was considerable divergence of opinion as to whether it would be more economical to treat brown coal as compared with black coal, and as to whether the northern coal-fields would he the proper location for such a plant. Therefore, in order that these unknown and undetermined factory might be cleared up, the Commonwealth Government decided to appoint a committee comprising the best authorities available on the subject. Dr. A. C. D.Rivett, Chief Executive Officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, is acting as chairman of the committee, and the other Commonwealth representatives are Mr. L. J. Rogers, the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, and a representative of the defence services (Commander A. D. Nicholl, R.N.). Mr. Norman Taylor, of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand, has been nominated to act on the committee of Synthetic Coal Oil Products Proprietary Limited,and each of the States, with the exception of Western Australia, which does not desire to be represented, is represented by technical men of high standing. The terms of reference to the committee are to report upon -
Dr. Rivett has reported that it is inadvisable to call the committee together until certain up-to-date information is obtained from England. This information is expected during the present month, and the committee will be called together about the end of the month. In the meantime, however, Dr. Rivett has, by letter, set out a number of matters that might receive the consideration of, members of the committee, so that the honorable member can take it that no time has been lost in getting down to consideration of the subject.
Interest on Public Debt.
s. - On the 6th July, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What were the total interest payments made from Commonwealth revenue on both our internal and external debts for each financial year from 1929-30 to 1933-34 inclusive?
The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follow. -
Interest payments from Commonwealth revenue were -
Exchange charges on external interest were -
The revenue has benefited each year by the following recoups of interest in respect of loan moneys lent by the Commonwealth -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340711_reps_13_144/>.