13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Mrs. Richardson, daughter of the late Honorable Agar Wynne, and from Mrs. Heitmann, widow of the late Mr. E. E. Heitmann, letters thanking the House for its resolutions of sympathy in their bereavement.
– Will the Prime Minister inform honorable members when the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will be made available to this House, and also state why the details were given to the public before the report was presented to Parliament?
– The Assistant Treasurer is about to lay the report on the table. The sole object in making it public yesterday, instead of waiting until to-day, was that the budget speech, which is to be delivered to-day, will absorb the whole of the available newspaper space to-morrow, and on that account very little publicity would have been given to the report. It was considered desirable that not only honorable members, but also the people of the States particularly concerned, should be placed in possession of the fullest information in relation to the matters dealt with by the report.
– Ilay on the table-
Commonwealth Grants Commission - Report on the applications made in 1933 by the States of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania for financial assistance from the Commonwealth under section96 of the Constitution.
– Will the report be made available to honorable members at once?
B Class Licences
– Is it a fact that the Postal Department has decided not to issue any further B class wireless broadcasting licences in New South Wales?
– Further B class licences will be issued as additional wave lengths become available.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Commonwealth Government is in active negotiation with the Government of Belgium in relation to the making of a trade treaty? If so, what stage have the negotiations reached?
– The Government of Belgium has made to the Government of the Commonwealth certain definite pro posals for a trade treaty, which this Government is examining at the moment. A number of difficulties have to be overcome, but I am hopeful that at an early date the way will be made clear for a trade treaty, not only with Belgium, but also with certain other foreign countries.
– Has the Prime Minister received from McIlwraith McEacharn Limited, advice concerning its purchase overseas of a new motor ship of1 0,000 tons for the Australian coastal trade, instead of having it constructed in Australia, a matter to which I referred last week?
– I have received no further information on the subject.
– In view of the necessity for an early decision in regard to regulations governing the export of fresh fruits next year, particularly in relation to quotas, varieties, and orderly marketing conditions, will the Minister for Commerce consider the early calling together of the Apple and Pear Council?
– I have already given this matter consideration, and am expecting to receive, this afternoon, a telephone message from the Chairman of the Apple and Pear Council, with a view to giving effect to the request contained in the honorable member’s question.
– In the preparation of the budget, has the Treasurer given consideration to an increased grant to Papua ?
– The budget papers will shortly be in the hands of honorable members, and will furnish them with the fullest information in relation to the matter referred to.
– I have received from Norfolk Island both letters and cablegrams concerning the deportation from that island of Mr. Macarthur Onslow, an ex-officer of the Australian Military Forces and an Australian citi zen. A resolution passed at a public meeting, attended by 404 residents, comprising two-thirds of the adult population of the island, describes the deportation as a gross miscarriage of justice. A meeting of returned soldiers carried a somewhat similar resolution. A paragraph of the letter conveying this information to me reads -
The foregoing resolution was carried at a meeting attended by 35 ex-servicemen, which was addressed by Mr. Onslow, and at which do was closely cross-examined as to the reasons for his deportation, to which he replied that he knew of no reason. The feeling of the meeting was that the regulation above referred to is un-British and unjust, as applied in this case particularly, and that the injustice was addod to by the test having been carried out in the German language.
I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that Mr. Macarthur Onslow was deported from Norfolk Island on the sole charge that he did not understand the German language? Does the Government acquiesce in the deportation of an Australianborn citizen from Australian territory because he has not learned a foreign language? Does the Government propose to hold an inquiry into the matter?
– I ask the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper. I shall make a statement to the House at the earliest opportunity; I hope it will be to-morrow. In the meantime let me say that the friends of the person concerned would have acted more wisely had they refrained from having the matter raised in this House.
– In criticizing the speech of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) during the debate on the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, I used certain expressions which you, Mr. Speaker, asked me to withdraw. When myHansard proof was submitted to me it contained a complete report of the incident, and Iwas so satisfied with it that I requested twenty copies to send to my constituents; I felt that it was a correct report of what occurred. But when I saw the printedHansard, I found that my references had been excised, leaving only Mr. Speaker’s comments on the matter. And worse than that, I noticed printed in italics the following words, to which I take grave exception - “Mr. Archdale Parkhill having been required by Mr. Speaker to withdraw an unparliamentary expression”.I submitted the report yesterday to several unprejudiced persons in Sydney, and the impression left on their minds was that I had used words of a grossly unparliamentary character, when as a matter of fact such was not the case. Therefore, I think that I am entitled to make this explanation, and to state that the words which I was asked to withdraw were merely “ whining “ in one instance, and “ miserable tone “ in another.
– I am sorry if the omission of the words referred to by the honorable gentleman has caused him any inconvenience, or if any misinterpretation of them has resulted in his being misrepresented, but the practice of the House for some time has been to omit unparliamentary expressions which have been withdrawn at the direction of the Chair. I am sure that the head of the Hansard staff attempts to do his work faithfully and well, and he generally succeeds. No doubt he will regret any inconvenience that has been caused to the honorable member.
– In future, Mr. Speaker, when it is decided by you, or the Leader of the Hansard staff, to omit any portion of a member’s speech, will the matter be first referred to the honorable member concerned ?
– It is not the practice of the chief of the Hansard staff to omit any portion of an honorable member’s speech. I distinguish, of course, between a relevant portion of a speech and an unparliamentary expression. This is the second occasion on which this subject has been raised in the House. It will be remembered that early in the last session I informed honorable members generally that I intended to have unparliamentary expressions which had been withdrawn omitted from the Hansard report, and briefly explained my reasons for following that course. On a subsequent occasion the matter was again referred to and I then stated definitely that unless it was the desire of honorable members that unparliamentary expressions should be incorporated in the Hansard report the new practice would be adhered to. I then gathered from honorable members that no alteration of the practice that had been adopted was desired.
– Will the Government implement all the recommendations of the Tariff Board for the granting of tariff protection to additional types of cotton yarn before the Parliament is prorogued ?
– Several tariff items will be included in a schedule and submitted before Parliament rises, and as many as possible will be disposed of during the life of the present Parliament. In my second reading speech on the Raw Cotton Bounty Bill, I explained what the Government intends to do with regard to the cotton industry.
– Some time ago I asked the Postmaster-General when the new broadcasting station at Grafton was likely to be in operation. . The Minister, I believe, replied that he would be able to advise me on the matter later. As I havenot heard from him, can he now furnish me with a reply to the question?
– The honorable member asked for this information, and I gave a reply in a statement a day or two later. Presumably the honorable member was not present at the time. I then said that it was expected that the station would be in operation at the end of the year.
Wireless Listeners’ Licences
– Referring to the 124 new wireless listeners’ licences taken out in Canberra recently, how many persons holding those licences obtained them subsequent to the visit of the departmental inspector to their homes ? Will the Postmaster-General lay on the table of the library a list of the names of those who were without licences when the inspector visited their dwellings ?
– I have already explained to the honorable member the full facts known to the department. It has nothing to hide in connexion with the matter. I have made the fullest inquiries from the departmental officers in Sydney as to what transpired, and I am assured that only 34 names were taken and prosecutions were Instituted in 32 cases. In the other two cases no prosecution was made owing to the financial circumstances of the individuals concerned. Of course, I do not know for what period any persons have been using wireless sets before taking out licences. That does not come within the ambit of the inquiries made by the department. If the owner of a wireless set can produce a listener’s licence, no inquiry is made as to how long he has been using his set unless there are special circumtances.
– In one instance a licence was produced and yet the holder of it was prosecuted.
– I have already said that in special circumstances such inquiries are made. If it is known that a listener has had a set for a considerable period and he produces a licence taken out only a day or two previous to the visit of the inspector action is taken against him. *
– Some surprising revelations could bc made.
– I have frankly stated all I know on tha matter, but in view of the honorable member’s question, I shall be very glad to make some additional inquiries to see whether there are any occult circumstances that warrant further consideration,
– A few weeks ago I asked the Minister for Repatriation for a return showing I he number of appeals by soldier pensioners. I should like to know whether he ia yet able to furnish me with the information. If he cannot do so now will ho endeavour to do so later in the week?
– 1 obtained the information asked for by the honorable member and was permitted to have it incorporated in Ilansard. If there are still some particulars which the honorable member desires, and he will let me know just what they are, I shall see whether they can bc provided for him.
PREMATURE Release of Budget to the PRESS
Mr. RIORDAN (Kennedy) >24].On a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to a practice which is developing of the Prime Minister and other Ministers making certain documents available to a section of the press before they are made available to honorable members. I moved a formal motion of adjournment some little time ago for the purpose of discussing this subject. Privileges which honorable members of this Parliament have, appreciated in the past are the receipt of first-hand information regarding legislation which the Government proposes to place before Parliament, and the opportunity to peruse certain documents before they are released to the public. Honorable members expect these rights to be preserved for them because they are acting in the capacity of direct representatives of the electors. Last Sunday I was surprised to read in a section of the press in Brisbane some information regarding an increase of customs duties and a reduction of excise on tobacco, which honorable members have been endeavouring to elicit fi-om the Government for the last twelve months.
– It was supplied from Canberra. It is generally known by members of the House that the representatives of a certain section of the press of this country are able to obtain any information they desire from the members of this Government. We all know that it is the practice of the Commonwealth Treasurer to make advance copies of the budget speech available to the sub-treasurei’3 in each State, on the distinct understanding that no information is publicly released until after .the budget speech has been delivered; but since 12 o’clock to-day certain representatives of the press have been locked up in the subtreasuries in various capital cities with copies of the budget speech, and we know from past experience that immediately the Treasurer begins to deliver the speech the information that it contains will be published in the streets of every capital city of the Commonwealth. Thus the information is public property before it has been presented to this House. This is not the first occasion on which such a thing has occurred. Last year the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Francis) quoted from a certain document in a debate in this chamber, but when honorable members asked for copies of it they were informed that it was confidential. The next day the Prime Minister was very apologetic in explaining that the information had been used under a misapprehension in consequence of the very busy time through which Ministers were passing. He expressed his regret at what had occurred, and said that, in the future, when such information was used by Ministers it would also be made available to honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) on that occasion pointed out that, if the document in question were confidential, it should not have been presented to Parliament in that way; but the Prime Minister, in reply, said that the Assistant Minister for Defence had used it to rebut certain statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). If a system is to be allowed to grow up in this country of giving advance information about prospective legislation and advance copies of public documents to a section of the press, we shall certainly head for a dictatorship. Within the last ten days honorable members have endeavoured in this House to obtain some informotion about the budget. Parliament was adjourned for a week, ostensibly for the purpose of enabling the Treasurer to complete the preparation of the budget. Yet two days afterwards statements appeared in a section of the press indicating the specific reductions of taxation and increases of pensions that would be provided for in the budget. On my arrival in Sydney from Brisbane yesterday morning I was surprised to find in the Sydney press an outline of the budget provisions in this connexion.
– But was the outline correct?
– If we judge from previous experience of the same kind we shall conclude that it is. So-called forecasts that a certain privileged section of the press have published regarding the intentions of this Government have p roved to be correct in almost every detail. I f such information had not been supplied by the Prime Minister, then somebody in his department must have released it. In connexion with the budget, however, and the promise to release it, no one can be to blame but the Prime Minister himself, who promised that it would be made available to pressmen at a certain time this afternoon. Perhaps by the time the Prime Minister rises to deliver the budget the newspapers will have the speech set up ready for printing, and the papers will be on the streets ten minutes afterwards, practically before members of this House know what the speech contains. I move -
That the practice of releasing in various capital cities reports and printed statements at the same time as such reports and statements are disclosed to this House, is a breach of Privilege, and this House declares its right to be the first to receive such reports and statements, and the speeches thereon.
I hope that the Prime Minister will in future give some consideration to the privileges of honorable members, and that you, Mr. Speaker, will see that those privileges are respected.
.- It is time that a protest of this kind was made. This Parliament is the highest authority in the land, and we are entitled to have first-hand information on important matters with which Parliament is concerned. The practice has grown up of giving the press information in advance of Parliament. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) pointed out that the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission was released to the press before it was made available to this Parliament. It is well known that a certain section of the press - of which the Melbourne Herald, controlled by the Baillieu group is the keystone - is the power behind the throne so far as this Government is concerned. As a result, it receives favoured treatment from the Government, while newspapers which support the political opinions of members of this side of the House are placed at a disadvantage. We all remember that last year, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), on behalf of the Country party, began a debate on the tobacco inquiry report, the full text of his speech was printed in the Melbourne Herald three hours before the right honorable member delivered it. We were treated to the farcical exhibition of the right honorable member delivering in this House a speech which had appeared word for word in the Melbourne newspaper some hours before.
The budget should not be made available to the press before it is delivered in this House. It is the most important statement made to Parliament in the course of the year, and already the newspapers have been filled with conjectures as to what it will contain. No doubt, on this occasion, as on others, those conjectures will prove to be fairly correct. Now that it has become the custom to release to the press important information before it is made available to honorable members, it is only to be expected that before long even tariff secrets will be revealed in the same way. Once the wall of official silence is broken down there is no limit to the leakages that may occur.
– I shall be brief, because I do not propose to assist the mover and seconder of this motion to achieve the object they have in view.I want to deliver the budget speech to honorable members as soon as possible, and not have it delayed as is the wish of those who have spoken to this motion. The speech of the honorable member who moved the motion was a mixture of misrepresentation and ignorance. He was not even correct as to the hour at which press representatives are allowed access to the budget in the sub-Treasury offices. It is not true that the hour fixed was 12 o’clock to-day. No press representative had access to the budget until 2.30 p.m., and it is impossible for pressmen to send out information regarding the budget either by telephone or any other means until I rise to read the speech to honorable members. The honorable member said, further, that certain sections of the press have received special privileges from this Government. He said that when he arrived in Sydney one morning certain information was there to be read in the newspapers, but I remind him that when he spoke of privileges it was not the morning press that he had in mind. For my part I do not care what time the budget is made available to the press. It is not the press with which we are concerned, but the people of this country, who send us here. They have a right to know what the budget contains. This practice of releasing copies of the budget to the press has grown up over the years. I did not establish it. Indeed, press representatives would have had less time to study the budget before its delivery had I not been delayed by the mover and seconder of the motion; and we have not forgotten that, when the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) sat behind the Government in 1930-31, press representatives were given access to the budget at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, although the Treasurer did not rise to deliver the speech until 4.29 p.m. The honorable member is talking nonsense when he speaks about special privileges being granted to the press by this Government. It is not necessary to say any more; so, in order that the honorable member shall not be assisted in the attempt that he has made, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– I ask the Minister whether definite action will be taken before Parliament adjourns either to approve or to disapprove of a reciprocal trade treaty between Italy and Australia?
– I refer the honorable member to the reply which I gave earlier this afternoon in regard to the trade agreement with Belgium. Efforts will be made to consummate trade treaties with various foreign countries. To-day the Government was in communication with the representative of the Italian Government with regard to this matter.
– Will the Minister for Commerce indicate whether it is the intention of the Government, before the Houses rises, to introduce an amendment of the Navigation Act to secure to Tasmania those shipping conditions which are essential to her sea-borne trade, in particular her tourist trade?
– It is the intention of the Government to introduce a measure designed to accomplish what the honorable member has suggested. Tomorrow I hope to ask for leave to introduce the measure.
– I ask the Assistant
Minister when the report of the. Commissioner of Taxation for the year 1931-32 will be presented to Parliament, and if it will not be presented this week, whether it will be possible for him- to furnish from that report, for the information of the House, the assessable income of the various Australian industries during the year 1931-32?
– I shall make inquiries in regard to the date on which the report can be released. I shall be glad if the honorable member will place the latter part of his question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inquire whether the proposed rise inthe retail price of bread is justified, and will he take steps to ensure that there is no imposition on the consuming public?
– The price of bread is a matter for State governments.
– In view of the proved presence of petroleum oil in Australia and in portion of the Mandated Territory, and bearing in mind the promise allegedly given by the Prime Minister that he would materially assist in developing the industry for the extraction of oil from shale, will the right honorable gentleman give serious consideration to the question of assisting bona fide companies operating in the search for petroleum oil?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Has the Government decided on the number of trade commissioners to be appointed to the East, and at what places they will be stationed? Have any of these trade commissioners yet been appointed?
– The Government has already approved of trade commissioners being stationed at Batavia and Shanghai, and is at present considering the question of appointing a representative in Japan. No appointments have yet been ratified.
– Will the report of the Tariff Board on feldspar be presented before the House rises?
– Some reports of the Tariff Board will be laid on the table of the House; but, at the moment, I am not in a position to inform the honorable member whether the report on feldspar will be included.
– Can the Minister inform the House whether the embargo on the shipment of citrus fruits to New Zealand has been lifted, and when citrus-growers will bo able to export their product to that dominion?
– I intimated early in the month that this matter was receiving the consideration of the Governments of both dominions, but that, as it involved consultation between New Zealand and the United States of America in respect to reciprocal trade relations between those t wo countries, it was unlikely that finality would be reached within the next few weeks. As the result, however, of representations made since to the dominion of New Zealand, we have been able to secure immediate entry into that country of citrus fruits from South Australia.
Communications between Australia and Great Britain.
– Will the Prime Minister make available to the House the text of the secret cables presented to the meat conference, which sat in Canberra last week?
– It is not intended to submit these cables to the House, as there is no need for them to be made public. Representatives of the meat industry, who met the Commonwealth in conference, had placed before them so much of the cables as it was necessary they should have to enlighten them with regard to the position. These proved helpful to them in their deliberations, and indicated that the Commonwealth had pursued a policy of which they unanimously approved.
Reportof Tariff Board
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet received the report of the Tariff Board upon the importation of cheap incandescent lamps from the East ?
– This report has not yet been received.
– Does the Prime Minister consider that there is a prospect of this House ever receiving the report of the Petrol Commission ?
– I am in no better position than the honorable member to say when the Petrol Commission will make its report. The matter is entirely in the hands of the members of the commission.
– Could not the right honorable gentleman hasten its presentation ?
– I am afraid that it is impossible for me to do so.
– A fortnight ago the Prime Minister announced to this House that he intended to wait upon the Governor-General with a view to having Parliament dissolved in time to permit of an election being held on the 15th September next. Has the right honorable gentleman yet approached His Excellency on this matter? If not, will he do him that courtesy and advise the House if the proposed dissolution has vice-regal approval?
– I shall decide for myself the date upon which I shall wait upon the Governor-General. When I do so,i shall give the information to honorable members and to the country.
– In the event of wireless licence fees being reduced from £1 4s. to £11s. per annum, will the PostmasterGeneral favourably consider the alteration of the regulations to permit of the issue of free licences to blind persons of 14 years of age and upwards instead of as at present, 16 years of age and upwards ?
– So far, there has been no reduction of wireless licence fees; but I shall have consideration given to the honorable member’s request.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 81.
Bankruptcy Act - Rules - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 77.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 79.
Copyright Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 78.
Dairy Produce Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 82.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 80.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1933 -
No. 9 - Interpretation.
No. 10 - Crown Lands.
No. 11 - Importation of Plants.
Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 1 - Education.
No. 2 - Sellheim Grave.
No. 3 - Crown Lands.
No. 4 - Executive Council.
No. 5 - Motor Car.
No.6 - Companies.
No. 7 - Customs.
No. 8 - Ordinances Revision.
No. 9 - Slaughtering.
Motor Car Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Sellheim Grave Ordinance - Regulations.
Papua Act -
Ordinances of 1933 -
No.9 - Immigration Restriction (No. 2).
No. 10 - Public Service (LieutenantGovernor’s Leave).
No. 11 - Native Labour.
No. 12 - Immigration Restriction.
No. 13 - Land.
Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 1 - Superannuation.
No. 2 - Copra Producers Assistance.
Public Service Act - Appointment of V. L. Steffanoni, Department of the Treasury.
Messages reported transmitting estimates of revenue and expenditure and estimates of expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c., for the year ending the 30th June, 1935, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to the Committee of Supply.
– In the third budget speech which it is my privilege to make to this Parliament, it is appropriate that I should outline the main features of the remarkable improvement in the Australian economic situation which has been achieved during the period of office of the present Government. Before I proceed with this, however, let me sketch briefly the international economic background against which our progress in Australia has been made.
When this Government took office the world, and Australia with it, had been sinking into the trough of industrial depression for over two years. Unemployment was widespread, price levels had declined disastrously, production and world trade were still failing off rapidly, and the public finances of nearly all countries were causing grave apprehension. Towards the end of 1931 the position was aggravated by a series of shocks to the international financial system. Britain was forced off the gold standard, confidence in many currency systems was lost, and there began a period of exchange instability which led to almost chaotic conditions of international trade. The loss of purchasing power in the industrial countries of Europe led to a rapid contraction of markets for primary products oversea, and this contraction was accentuated by the raising of tariffs, the imposition of quotas, and the other restrictive measures by which governments were attempting to protect the immediate interests of their own people.
It was in these circumstances that the people of Australia installed the present Government. At the outset there was little it could do but hold the position from further deterioration by offering its most active opposition to the policy of repudiation and confiscation, wherever it raised its head. Once confidence in our national integrity had been restored, the new government was free to devote itself to the constructive task of restoring industry and employment.
It was obvious that a complete return to the prosperity of 1929 couldnot be accomplished so long as the depression continued to run its course in other countries. But much could be done to set our own house in order, to restore internal industrial activity, and to ensure, so far as lay within our power, that we should be in a position to take full advantage of any improvement in economic conditions oversea.
That policy, I have no need to remind honorable members, did not involve sitting back and waiting for something to turn up. Indeed, had we done so, we should still be waiting; and we should be unable to record the very gratifying revival which has taken place in Australia.
The outside world has fulfilled neither our hopes nor our expectations. There have been some signs of reviving activity in the last twelve mouths; but they remain portents rather than accomplished facts. Price levels in Britain and the United States of Amercia are little removed from the 1931 level, and in Prance and Germany they are very much below that level. Of these four countries, Britain is the only one in which industrial production in 1933 was higher than in 1931. International trade has declined even beyond the already low levels of 1931. Comparing world trade in that year with the position revealed in the first quarter of the current year, its total value had fallen by 41 per cent., its physical volume by IS per cent., and its price level, in terms of gold, by 29 per cent. A closer examination of the course of world economic developments reveals that in 1932, our first year of office as a government, the international situation became very much worse than it had been in 1931. In 1933, our second year of office, there was some improvement, but, as has been shown, it was not sufficient to offset the deterioration of 1932. Even now the world position is little better than it was when the present Government came into power.
Of greater concern to Australia is the price level of our major export commodities. Throughout 1932 and the first half of 1933 the price level of our principal exports remained lower than it was when the Government took office. Compared with the lowest levels to which .they fell, some export prices rose appreciably during the export season of 1933-34. Unfortunately, they have subsequently relapsed, and the sterling export price index-number for June of this year was only 54.2, compared with 47.7 when the Government took office, and 100 in 1927. In terms of gold currencies, the index-number for June of this year was almost exactly the same as the indexnumber for December, 1931.
Taking into account Australia’s relatively great dependence on oversea markets, and the lack of any appreciable improvement in world conditions since 1931, it is not remarkable that we have had an up-hill struggle. Nevertheless,
Australia has made considerable progress towards recovery and has been more successful in her efforts to retrieve the position than almost any other country.
Let us consider first the great improvement in employment which has taken place since the Government assumed office. The unemployment percentage reported by the trade unions to the Commonwealth Statistician reached its highest level - 30 per cent. - in the second-quarter of 1932. It had risen to that level from 28 per cent, during the Government’s fight against repudiation in New South Wales, the peak of unemployment coinciding exactly with the dismissal of the Lang Government in that State. In the following and every successive quarter, up to the present time, the unemployment percentages have steadily declined. In the second quarter of 1933, the percentage had fallen to 25.7, and in the second quarter of 1934 to 20.9, the lowest percentage recorded since August, 1930. Making allowance for the unemployment which existed before the depression, it is evident that the unemployment due directly to the depression has been cut almost in half.
Statistics of factory employment tell a similar story. It is estimated that the total numbers of factory employees, for the whole of Australia, increased from 336,658 in 1931-32 to 405,000 in 1933-34, an increase of 68,0.00 or approximately 20 per cent.
The recovery that has already taken place is evident also in the statistics of production. The value of recorded production in recent years has been as follows : -
On the basis of the above figures, which do not include all production, it is estimated that the national income has risen from £438,000,000 in 1931-32 to £458,000,000 in 1932-33, and to about £497,000,000 in the year just closed.
The physical volume of output in certain industries, and particularly in those concerned with construction, has increased much more than these figures would indicate. The production of pig-iron and ingot steel at Newcastle had fallen in 193i to about 42 per cent, of its 1928 level. In May last, it had recovered, to over 130 per cent, of the 1928 level - a three-fold increase.
Reviving activity in the building industry is indicated by the rising number of building permits issued in the six capital cities and their suburbs. Comparing the year 1931 with the twelve months ending in March, 1934, permits issued for new buildings and dwellings increased from 3,838 .to 6,715, the value represented rising from £3,068,000 to £7,442,000. The total value of all buildings, alterations and additions for which permits were issued rose from £4,197,000 to a little over £10,000,000. While still well below pre-depression levels, this marked revival in building activity is a welcome evidence of returning confidence and enterprise.
Another industry which has developed remarkably is the woollen textile industry, the output of woollen cloth having more than doubled since 1931.
Financial indexes of business conditions also reflect the improvement which has taken place during the Government’s period of office. Bank clearings in the six capital cities, excluding Treasury Bill transactions, were averaging only about £25,000,000 weekly in the first quarter of 1932. In the first quarter of this year they averaged nearly £34,000,000. Savings Bank deposits rose from ° £194,500,000 at the end of 1931 to £205,500,000 in March of this year.
The progressive reduction of interest rates has formed one of the main objectives of government policy. Low interest rates are essential to primary and secondary industry alike, and provide a powerful stimulus to enterprise and new invest- ment. While the Government, as a borrower, is of course interested in securing its own requirements as cheaply as possible, it is even more concerned with interest rates on private advances. In this, direction, acting in co-operation with the Commonwealth Bank, its efforts have been attended with considerable success. The following reductions of interest rates have been made by the Commonwealth Bank since the Government took office : -
Similar reductions of deposit rates have been made by the trading banks. The rate of interest now being paid by the Commonwealth Savings Bank is the lowest that has been paid by that bank since its inception in i912, and the rate of the State Savings Bank in Victoria is lower than it has been for 30 years.
The rate charged on overdrafts by the trading banks in 1931 was from 6^ to 1 per cent. Recently the associated banks of Victoria announced that their maximum rate for advances to primary producers had been reduced to 5 per cent., and for advances to public hospitals and churches to 4$ per cent. The Sydney banks have announced a maximum rate of 5 per cent, on all overdrafts. Published records of overdraft rates, available back to 1890, show that this rate is lower than any previously recorded. Trustee company and insurance company rates on mortgage loans have also been reduced very considerably, new money being now available at from 4^ to 5 per cent, against from 6 to 6-J per cent, in December, 1931.
The Government is naturally gratified that confidence in the future of the country has been so far restored that these rates are possible. Its policy of creating conditions favorable to low interest rates will he continued, and while the present sound methods of government continue, further interest reductions may be confidently anticipated.
Reductions of the rates on government borrowings have been very substantial. Attention has already been called to the reduction of the treasury-bill rate from 4 to 2£ per cent. On new borrowings from the market the reduction has been equally substantial. The cost of new borrowings is regulated by the current yields on government securities, and the remarkable degree to which these have fallen is a tribute both to the credit of the Government and to its success in securing the reduction of rates on other types of securities. On the 23rd September, 1931, when quotation of the new conversion stock commenced, the net price of our 4 per cent. 1938 securities was £79 Ss. 3d. The latest market quotations show the same stock at. a net price of £104 19s. Sd. In September, 1931, the average interest yield, including redemption, over all 4 per cent, issues was £6 6s. 9d. per cent. The average yield of all 4 per cent, issues now is £3 4s. 6d. per cent. Probably no other country in the world can show such impressive evidence of improvement in public credit.
The finding of profitable outlets for -our exports, as already indicated, has become a problem of major concern. Exports of merchandise, together with the value of current gold production, but excluding gold exported from reserves, increased from just over £79,000,000 sterling in
1931-32 to £83,500,000 sterling in 1932-33, and to approximately £97,000,000 sterling in the year just ended.
In spite of a large increase of imports, the commodity balance of trade, including new gold production, was more than sufficient in each year to cover public interest charges oversea. The balance of trade, including gold currency produced, but omitting gold exported from reserves, amounted to £35,000,000 sterling in 1931-32^ £26,600,000 in 1932-33, and will be approximately £38,000,000 in the year just ended.
This satisfactory position has been maintained in face of a reviving demand for imports, stimulated by increased internal activity. . Imports of merchandise have risen from £44,043,000 sterling in 1931-32, to £56,843,000 sterling in 1932-33, and reached approximately £59,000,000 iii 1933-34. The increased . value of imports has been accounted for to some extent by higher prices, but a close examination of the various items shows conclusively that the increase is very largely due to a greater demand for imported raw materials and other goods essential to industry.
It is evident, therefore, that Australian industries have not been hampered by the moderate increase of imports over the abnormally low level of 1931-32. Indeed, their expansion would have been impossible had imports not been allowed to increase. Another pleasing feature of the oversea trade position is the increasing share of our import trade secured to Great Britain The following table shows the trend since 1931-32 : -
During the year further conversions of London* issues over which the Common wealth held options of conversion have been effected. In the budget speech for 1933-34, were detailed the operations effected up to September, 1-933.
The following table shows the whole series of conversions carried out in London since October, 1932. The first two conversions were on account of definite maturities, the remainder on account of optional maturities: -
As shown above, the total conversions of both optional and definite maturities since October,1932, amount to £109,849,000. The average rate of interest, prior to conversion, on the loans making up that total was £511s. per cent. and the average, after conversion, was £317s. 8d. per cent. The savings amounted to - Interest, £1,827,000; exchange, £456,000; a total of £2,283,000 per annum. This annual saving of £2,283,000 is shared by the Commonwealth and States as follows: - Commonwealth, £395,000; States, £1,888,000.
A feature of the whole series of conversions was the progressive improvement in the terms on which the loans were issued. The first conversion was effected in October,1932, for a 1936-37 maturity with a yield of £41s. 2d. per cent. The last operation was effected for a long term at £313s. 8d. per cent., showing a very substantial improvement in our standing on the London market. Taking into account both the amount and terms, the last loan is probably the most successful Australian issue ever made in London.
Before this series of conversions was inaugurated, the rate of interest paid on some of the Australian loans in London was as high as 61/2 per cent. At present the highest rate paid on any Australian Government issue in the United Kingdom is 51/4 per cent. and that rate is paid only on an amount of £17,870,000.
Future Conversions in London.
Statements setting out full particulars of loans domiciled in London, and indicating our options of conversion, will be found in the budget papers.
The following table shows the loans which will fall due for redemption in London before the 31st December, 1935 : -
In view of the improved position of Australian credit in the London market, consequent on the efforts made by Aus tralia to rehabilitate her finances, the Government confidently anticipates being able to effect these additional conver- sions just as successfully as it did tie heavy conversions carried out since October, 1932.
All statements of our London debt include an amount oE approximately £80,000,000- war indebtedness to the Government of the United Kingdom under the Funding Arrangements Act. I would remind honorable members that the Government of the United Kingdom agreed some three years ago to a suspension of payments on this debt and that this suspension still continues.
Short-term Debt - London.
This debt was in 1931 carried in varying proportions by the Commonwealth Bank, Australian trading banks, the Westminster Bank and the British public. It eventually became impracticable to issue further treasury-bills on the market on acceptable terms. Arrangements were therefore made with the Commonwealth Bank to take up treasury-bill issues from the public as they matured. The Commonwealth Bank has gradually absorbed the shortterm debt in London, until, at the present time, it holds £30,125,000 out of the total of £33,625,000. The Commonwealth Bank will take up the balance of this debt, £3,500,000, not later than the 30th September next. The rate paid on these treasury-bills for £3,500,000 will then be reduced by -J per cent.
Debt Domiciled in New York.
The Government has been and is closely watching the position in the United States of America and, should any favorable opportunity arise for dealing with the Australian securities issued in New York, action will be takes
No fact is more eloquent of the improvement of Government credit in Australia than the appreciation in the prices of our stocks since the National Debt Conversion. As I have already stated, the average yield from the 4 per cent, stocks is £3 4s. 6d. as compared with £6 6s. 9d. in September, 1931.
Loans Raised in Australia.
The following table sets out particulars of the four loans which have been raised by the present Government, on behalf of the Loan Council, for State public works and for funding treasurybills :-
It will be noted that, during 1933-34, £8,650,000 in all was raised for funding treasury-bills, whilst deficits for the year amounted to approximately £7,000,000. As all loan services are now being provided without recourse to the issue of treasury-bills, and as the Loan Council is funding - in the year of issue - treasury-bills to an amount equal to that of the deficits, the peak in the volume of these bills has been reached.
When, in 1931, the Commonwealth Bank, at the request of the Australian Loan Council, secured the co-operation of the trading banks in financing by treasury-bills, the Commonwealth Bank undertook to re-discount treasury-bills at a fixed rate. At the same time the Commonwealth Bank guaranteed the payment of the treasury-bills at maturity. During recent years the mounting total of treasury-bills issued in Australia has caused considerable concern in financial circles. With the checking of this growth, important changes have been made in the conditions on which treasurybills have been taken over by the trading banks from the Commonwealth Bank.
Both the undertakings given by the Commonwealth Bank have now been withdrawn, and that bank, in future, will determine, from time to time, the rate at which it will re-discount treasurybills.
The system of treasury-bill financing has served a valuable purpose in that during the most intense period of the depression it provided a means of meeting deficits and of continuing public works when no other method of finance was possible.
The question of the establishment of i-n open market for treasury-bills has been under consideration by the Loan Council during the past year, but a final decision in the matter has not yet been reached. Though an open bill market is generally regarded as the proper aim, there is some difference of opinion as to the wisdom of taking action in this direction iu present circumstances.
The gross loan expenditure of the States for 1934-35 is estimated fit £25,000,000, as compared with £19,000,000 last year. A considerable sum is in hand to meet this year’s loan expenditure, but it will be necessary to borrow during 1934-35 for the balance of the loan works requirements and for the funding of treasury-bills. Subject to the principles of sound finance being maintained, it should be possible to borrow this year’s loan moneys on terms at least as good as, if not better than, those of the loan floated in June of this year.
The following statement shows the movement of the public debt since the 30th June, 1932 :-
The increase in the aggregate public debt of the Commonwealth and the States in the two-year period was approximately £34,800,000. State debts increased by £40,600,000, whilst Commonwealth debt decreased by £5,800,000.
The short term debt included in the above aggregate public debt was’ as follows : -
Of the short term debt £33,625,000 is domiciled in London, and £4S,469,000 in Australia.
The improvement in the aggregate deficits of the States is shown in the
As there have been no deficits in the
Commonwealth accounts since 1930-31, the improvement in the aggregate results of Australian finance for the last four years may be regarded as fairly satisfactory in the difficult circumstances existing, and especially having regard to tho fact that the contributions for Commonwealth and State debt sinking fund purposes now considerably exceed the amount of the deficits, the total of these contributions for 1934-1935 being over £8,000,000.
Financial YEAR 1933-34.
The following table gives the estimated, and the actual, revenue and expenditure for last year : -
The improvement in revenue was principally under the following heads*. -
In addition, the flour tax, which was imposed after the budget, yielded £3,254,000.
In. the Postmaster-General’s Department, the revenue exceeded the estimate by £406,000, whilst the expenditure was £454,000 below the estimate - a net improvement of £860,000.
The increased yields under nearly all heads of revenue reflect the general improvement of conditions in Australia during the past year. The higher pi ices for wool were a factor in bringing about this improvement.
The expenditure of the year includes £3,045,000 provided, after the budget was introduced, for relief to wheat-growers. Of this sum, £1,254,000 was raised by means of the flour tax, and £1,791,000 was a charge on the general revenue. The flour tax was abolished on the 31st May, 1934, in view of the buoyancy of other revenue.
Increases of expenditure over the estimate included war services £124,000, miscellaneous expenditure £170,000, special appropriations £176,000, and federal aid roads £208,000. The last item was offsot by increased revenue from the petrol tax. The increase under war services represents the cost of conversion of loans raised for war purposes. The increase under special appropriations includes £100,000 advanced to Victoria for assistance to migrant settlers. This sum is repayable to the Commonwealth. The amount charged as expenditure for the wine bounty was £73,000 less than the estimate, as the bounty was, to a large extent, provided from the increased excise collections. The miscellaneous expenditure includes £20,000 provided for assistance to doradillo grape-growers in South Australia, an excess of £31,000 on exchange, and sundry other increases.
New works expenditure was £216,000 below the estimate, whilst savings on bounties and defence expenditure totalled £81,000 and £80,000 respectively.
The other variations in expenditure do not call for comment.
It will be remembered that, in framing the budget for 1933-34, considerable reductions were made in tho rates of a wide range of direct and indirect taxation in an effort to relieve industry, to stimulate employment, and to reduce interest rates and the cost of living. The improvement that has taken place generally has justified the Government’s action. In spite of the reduced rates of taxation, the revenue has increased during the year that has just ended, and, as honorable members are aware, there was an excess of receipts instead of the expected deficit.
Honorable members will , also remember that it was anticipated in the last budget that the reduced rates of taxation would result in a deficit for 1934-35, and that it would be necessary to offset the expected deficits for 1933-34 and 1934-35 against the accumulated excess of receipts of the years 1931-32 and 1932-33.
The situation has altered since that time, and the prospects for the present financial year are such that we arc able to present a budget for 1934-35 in which expenditure and revenue will balance.
Other considerations have also influenced us in refraining from drawing on the fortuitous accumulations of past years towards the budget of the present year. The budgetary position of State governments continues to be difficult, and the Commonwealth Government has thought it advisable to propose that a sum of £2,000,000 should be made available to State governments from the accumulated excess of receipts of the past three years. It is proposed to make this sum available to State governments in proportion to population and without any stipulation as to how it shall be employed.
The Government has also been giving considerable attention to the question of defence. Owing to the financial situation in recent years, it has not been possible to maintain our defensive arrangements at anything like a proper standard, with the result that, in the next few years, we are faced with expenditure considerably above the level of recent years. For this reason we propose to allocate the balance of the excess of receipts of the last three years, amounting to £4,160,000, to a trust account, which it is proposed should be drawn on for defence purposes over the” next few years in order to relieve the budgets of these years from any sudden and excessive increase in this regard.
The allocation of £2,000,000 to the State governments, together with the creation of this defence equipment trust account, will absorb the excess receipts of the past three years, amounting to £6,160,000.
Last year, expenditure and taxation concessions, to an annual value of £9,000,000, were provided in the budget. It is important to note that these concessions in taxation and expenditure are oi only being fully maintained in the present budget, but are also being supplemented by the liberalization ot old-age and war pension legislation, by adjustments in salaries, and by further sales tax and primage relief.
No further variations of the rates of tax are proposed in respect of income tax, land tax, or estate duty.
The income tax yield for 1934-35 is estimated at £8,500,000, as compared with collections last year of £9,315,000. This reduction is due to the fact that the outstanding taxes at the 30th June, 1934, are considerably below those at the 30th June, 1933. The arrears to be collected this year will therefore be less than those collected last year. This is the first time for four years that the carry over from one year to the next has diminished. Other factors adversely affecting the yield for 1934-35 are the averaging provisions of the law and the allowance made for losses sustained in past years. These reduce both the rate of tax and the balance of income subject to tax. On the other hand, the general improvement in incomes in 1933-34, which are the incomes to be assessed in 1934-35, is estimated at 10 per cent, and will, to some extent, offset the losses already referred to.
The amending Income Tax Assessment Bill already before the House is not expected to affect the revenue materially, being designed to simplify the preparation of returns by taxpayers and the administration of the act. This amending bill deals with aspects of taxation affecting mainly - almost solely - the Commonwealth system.
Land tax collections for 1934-35 are estimated at £1,200,000, as compared with actual receipts for 1933-34 of £1,325,000.
Estate duty for 1934-35 is» estimated at £1,550,000, as compared with the yield of £1,511,000 last year.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission on Taxation which affect the Commonwealth and the States jointly are contained in the second and third reports of that body, and cover a wide field of proposed taxation reform. These have already been closely examined by those concerned and will be finally considered by a conference of State Ministers which it is proposed to call at an early date.
Honorable members have, no doubt, perused the copies of the reports by His Honor Sir David Ferguson and Mr. E. V. Nixon, and will join with the Government in expressing their appreciation of the highly valuable work of the Commission, and the lucid recommendations that have been submitted to the Commonwealth and State Parliaments.
The fourth report of the royal commission dealing with estate duty and land tax has yet to be received.
It is proposed to set aside the amount of £220,000 for relief from sales tax. The Government has been influenced by its desire to give such relief as the finances permit in directions which will give the greatest possible assistance to industry and relief to individuals.
A list of the proposed additional exemptions, expressed in general terms, will be made available to honorable members.
The list of proposed exemptions includes -
A wide range of articles classified as building materials.
Certain requirements of the dried fruit industry, the mining industry, the fruit growing industry, and the pearling industry.
Twenty additional articles or groups of articles used for primary production generally.
Fifteen miscellaneous articles or groups of articles. .
A reduction in the basis of tax on spectacles.
Exemptions from sales tax granted in earlier years by the present Government were of the annual value of £1,970,000. Adding the £220,000 of exemptions now proposed, it will be seen that the total annual value of the exemptions granted by this Government is £2,190,000. In addition, the rate of tax was reduced by 1 per cent. last year - equivalent to £1,350,000 per annum. As compared with the peak period, it may be said that the total effect of reductions in rate of, and exemption from, sales tax is £3,540,000 on an annual basis.
The exemptions will come into operation on the date of commencement of the amending legislation.
Reductions of primage duty to the extent of £400,000 are proposed. Of this, £250,000 is in respect of cotton piece goods of United Kingdom origin, and which are not made in Australia. This should be a direct benefit to a wide range of users in Australia and will increase the preferential advantage of piece goods of British origin. The balance of the remissions relates to essential raw materials for Australian industry and certain items of medical and general use. Full details are being published in the proclamation reducing the primage.
During the year just closed, a steady monthly increase took place in the volume of mail matter handled by the Post Office, the postal receipts showing an increase of 4.26 per cent. over the revenue for 1932-33. This is indicative of the general improvement in business activities, and there is every reason to anticipate that this improvement will be maintained during 1934-35.
Having in mind the need for improving the shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania, the Government recently entered into an arrangement with the contractors for the Bass Strait mail service to provide an up to date new mail ship which it is anticipated will be available early in the year 1935.
The Government has accepted tenders for an air mail service operating between Singapore and Darwin, and thence south wards in two branches to the State capitals. This service will link up with the existing serviee between London and Singapore, and should be greatly appreciated.
The national importance of the broadcasting services and the need for their progressive improvement is recognized by the Government. With 600,000 listeners paying licence fees, the expenditure of substantial sums is warranted. Seven new national stations at present under construction are expected to be opened during the year. It is hoped to continue vigorously the construction programme of additional stations, and also to take other measures for the betterment of the broadcast service.
The listeners’ licence fee will be reduced from 24s. to 21 s., the loss of revenue being £90,000. This is the third reduction of the licence fee since 1924. During the year the Government agreed to the free grant of listeners’ licences to blind persons, and about 1,000 such licences have been issued.
Development. - The improvement in the national economic outlook is reflected in the figures showing the development of subscribers’ services. During 1933-34 there was a net gain throughout the Commonwealth of 13,740 telephones as against a gain of 3,036 for 1932-33. In 1931-32 there was a loss of 13,429 telephones, whilst in 1930-31 the loss was 22,114.
Revenue Proposals. - Although the telephone charges in Australia are already very favorable to the user in comparison with charges prevailing in many other parts of the world, it is proposed to make certain reductions which should be of substantial benefit.
Some time ago a system of charges in respect of residence telephones in metropolitan areas was introduced whereby a reduction of £1 per annum in the ground rental was conceded, but the call fees were increased from l1/4d. to l1/2d. in respect of the first 960 calls per annum. It is now proposed to abolish the l1/2d. charge and impose the standard fee of l1/4d. The change will benefit some81,000 existing metropolitan subscribers whose joint accounts will show a saving of about £50,000 per annum.
The concessional rates granted to public hospitals at a cost of £20,000 per annum will be continued.
It is further intended to modify the basis of charging for trunk line calls not exceeding distances of 40 miles. The reduction will affect 10,000,000 calls per annum, and will be of special benefit to country subscribers. The loss of revenue is estimated at £50,000 per annum.
Rural Automatic Exchanges. - A number of installations in each State is being provided for in the Estimates for the current year.
Tasmanian Cable. - It has been decided (o connect the mainland with Tasmania by submarine telephone cable. Tenders have been called for the necessary plant, and the laying of the cable will be proceeded with as quickly as possible so that the service will be brought into use at the earliest practicable date.
The cable, in addition to providing for adequate telephone channels, will also contain facilities to enable the relaying of broadcast programmes between the mainland and Tasmania.
During the year the extensive work of re-construction of the telegraph service was practically completed. This involved the abolition of large and costly provincial traffic centres, an extension of the principle of direct working between important traffic points, and the establishment of additional multiplex machine facilities.
The loss of £209,000 in telegraph working expenses for all States in 1930-31 was converted to a surplus of over £92,000 in 1932-33.
The revenue adjustments already detailed will result in an annual loss of revenue of £830,000, made up as follows : -
The total estimated revenue for the year, after allowing for the remissions of taxation to which I have referred, is £72,193,000. The details comprising this total are as follows: -
The estimated revenue for 1934-35 includes a sum of £400,000, representing further accumulations of income arising from the liquidation of ex-enemy properties. In 1930-31, a sum of £1,500,000 was paid to the Commonwealth revenue from this source.
Last year, the Commonwealth contributions to State revenues, exclusive of the £3,045,000 provided for relief to wheat-growers, totalled £13,212,414. For 1934-35, the ordinary provision for this purpose will be £13,524,000 - an increase of £331,586. In addition the Government proposes to make a non-recurring payment of £2,000,000 to the States as a whole. This sum will be apportioned amongst the States on a population basis. The £2,000,000 is being provided out of the accumulated excess receipts of past years in a desire to assist the States in their present difficult financial .circumstances. An increase of £270,000 is also proposed in the special grants to be made to certain States, bringing the total of these grants to £2,400,000.
The provision for special grants of £2,400,000 to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, is in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was appointed last year to advise what financial assistance should be granted by the Commonwealth to the States. The report of this commission has just been received.
It is the desire of the Government that the special grants to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, should he placed on a more permanent basis. At the present time, however, the Commonwealth Grants Commission is not in a position to make a recommendation as to the period for which the special grants now recommended should be continued. The Government proposes, therefore, that the grants recommended be paid for one year and that, in the meantime, the question of a more permanent basis be further considered.
The above moneys will be allocated as follows: -
In addition to the £4,400,000 above referred to, the Commonwealth will, in 1934-35, make the following contributions to State revenues: -
The Government proposes to restore entirely the 10 per cent.reduction imposed by the Financial Emergency Act in the case of the wife of a returned soldier receiving a war pension on the ground of her husband’s incapacity. With the restoration of this reduction, an additional £109,000 per annum will be distributed amongst 57,359 wives.
Under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931, the supplementary allowance of 7s. 6d. per week paid to soldiers suffering loss of vision in one eye was reduced by 20 per cent. This reduction is being restored, the cost in the 1,550 cases concerned being £6,000 per annum. Living allowances to married men temporarily totally incapacitated, which were originally reduced by 20 per cent., are also being restored at an additional cost of £1,000 per annum, 104 men being affected.
An attendant’s allowance is also being provided, at a cost of £5,000 per annum, for certain badly disabled men.
With a view to giving relief in certain specified cases where the decision of an appeal tribunal operates harshly, it has been decided to empower the tribunals to grant arrears in approved cases. It is anticipated that the additional cost will be approximately £2,000 per annum.
It will be seen from the foregoing that the Government is granting to the returned soldier and his dependants further restorations of approximately £123,000 per annum. Allowing for these further restorations and for a full year’s provision of the concessions made last year, the total expenditure on war pensions in 1934-35 is estimated at £230,000 more than the actual expenditure in 1933-34.
The provisions of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act are also being liberalized in other directions.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Last year, the partial reduction in the rate of pension made in 1932 was restored and the Government liberalized the property provisions of the law.
In addition, relatives of pensioners have been relieved of the obligation to contribute to the cost of the pension.
As a result, the number of pensions and the expenditure on pensions will increase materially. During the year 1933-34 the number of pensioners grew from 249,167 to 260,679, an increase of 11,512, involving an additional annual liability of more than £500,000.
The expenditure on invalid and oldage pensions for the present year is estimated at £12,000,000, as compared with £10,963,000 last year - an increase of over £1,000,000.
The maternity allowancehas previously been paid at a flat rate in respect of the birth of each child. It is proposed to amend the law by providing: -
These concessions arc estimated to cost £60,000 in the present financial year.
Commonwealth employees were, on the 1st July, 1934, being paid at £1,900,000 per annum less than they would have been paid on the 1930 standard. Of this amount, £1,550,000 represents reductions based on the fall in the cost of living, whilst the remainder - £350,000 - represents reductions under the Financial Emergency Act.
It is proposed to restore salaries in the Public Service and in the naval, military and air services to the extent of £270,000 per annum. On this being done, the percentage reductions in Commonwealth salaries, including reductions due to the cost of living, will be -
Salaries up to £388 per annum will be affected only by the cost of living reductions, approximately £48 per annum.
The percentage reduction on all salaries, including cost of living reductions, will average 15 per cent.
On the cost of living figures for last year, the salaries of public servants would normally have been reduced from the 1st July, 1934, by £6 per annum. This reduction would have affected only those officers whoso present salary is less than £4 per week, because the higher-paid officers have already been reduced under the Financial Emergency Act by a greater amount than the amount due to the fall in the cost of living. It has, therefore, been decided that, in the application of adjustments in accordance with the cost of living provisions, action will be taken to ensure that such adjustments will not operate in any case where actual reduction of the present rate of pay would be involved.
The Government, while being mindful generally of the health of the people of the Commonwealth within its constitutional powers and responsibilities, has given particular attention to the increased dangers from imported diseases by the more rapid transport facilities provided by the new air-mail service with Asia and Europe. After careful consideration of all aspects of the problems of hygiene in the tropical portions of the Commonwealth and in its tropical dependencies, we have put in hand a comprehensive programme aimed at improving the conditions of healthy living enjoyed by those engaged in the development of the tropical north of Australia, which must become an increasing factor in the economic life of the Commonwealth.
From the 1st January, 1934, the Government reduced the rates of interest on the war service homes by1/2 per cent. per annum, the rate now payable being 4 per cent. per annum.
Owing to the difficult financial position the previous Government ceased granting loans for the erection of homes and the discharge of onerous mortgages. The present Government, in furtherance of its policy to assist returned soldiers, has placed £75,000 on the Estimates for these purposes. In addition, provision has been made for minor additions and improvements.
The Government has not yet received the interim report which the Royal Commission on Wheat is preparing. I regret, therefore, that at present I am not in a position to announce the Government’s policy in regard to wheat. An announcement will, however, be made before this Parliament comes to an end.
Subsidy in Respect of Fertilizer.
In 1932-33, a sum of £250,000 was provided to assist farmers in the purchase of fertilizer used in connexion with the growing of crops other than wheat. The subsidy was at the rate of 15s. a ton on fertilizer applied to the soil during the period 1st December, 1932, to 30th November, 1933.
The Government is satisfied that the benefits which accrued from the payment of the subsidy justified its renewal. It has, therefore, been decided to provide for a subsidy on the same basis in respect of fertilizer applied to the soil during the period 1st July, 1934, to 30th June, 1935.
The sum of £250,000 has been allocated for this purpose, of which £200,000 is provided in the Estimates for 1934-35, a.nd £50,000 will be payable in the following year.
The apple and pear crop is the most valuable of all Australian fresh fruit crops, and the industry supports a large number of producers. It is particularly important in Tasmania, where it is the most valuable primary industry.
Last year, owing to the extremely low prices received for exports to the United Kingdom and Europe, the industry was reduced to a serious condition. The Government therefore made an investigation into the position of the industry, and subsequently provided the sum of £125,000 for special assistance. This was the first occasion on which assistance of this kind had been granted to the industry by a Commonwealth Government. To govern the distribution of the grant, the Fruit Growers Relief Act 1933 was passed through this Parliament.
The Government has received advice that this year’s export trade has also been unremunerative and that the industry has suffered particularly from the adverse seasonal conditions existing during the harvest.
The Government has therefore decided again to assist the industry. Accordingly the sum of £125,000 has been provided in the budget. This sum will be allocated to the States in proportion to their respective shares in the export trade during the year 1933;34.
The money for assistance to apple and pear growers will be paid to the States, and the States will be asked to consult with the industry as to the method of distribution. Each State therefore will be free’ to assist the producers in such ways as may particularly meet the position existing in the State concerned.
The Government has decided to renew, for the year 1934, the guarantee to exporters of oranges, to countries other than New Zealand, of the r3-imbursement of their out-of-pocket marketing expenses.
This guarantee was adopted last year owing to the loss of the New Zealand market, and was designed to encourage the export of oranges to other countries.
As a result of the guarantee, 113,000 bushels of oranges were exported to the United Kingdom during the 1933 season, compared with an average of 10,000 bushels during the preceding five years.
As was the case in 1933, the amount of the guarantee this year is -limited to the sum sufficient to bring the price up to 13s. p:r export case of 1^ bushels. It is confidently anticipated that as a result of negotiations now proceeding, the valuable New Zealand market will be re-opened to Australian citrus fruits.
For the last two years the Government has been giving serious consideration to the position of the dairying industry. At the Ottawa Conference preferences were secured for dairy products, which, under the marketing conditions exist:ng at the time, were of considerable value to the dominions in the United Kingdom markets. The subsequent action of various countries in restricting importation of butter and cheese, however, resulted in increased quantities of these commodities being supplied to the United Kingdom, which has become practically our only world market.
The Government, after consultation with the industry and the State Governments, introduced legislation to assist dairy farmers by facilitating control of domestic and export trade. Late in 1933 acts were passed through the Parliaments of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania for this purpose.
In the State acts, power was taken to regulate trade within the State, whilst the Commonwealth act was designed to regulate interstate trade. In actual practice, the authority set up by a State fixes that proportion of the State’s production which is to be sold on the local market. The Commonwealth authority preserves this quota by regulating movements of butter between States.
The legislation in effect gives the industry opportunity to fix a reasonable price for butter and cheese consumed in Australia and to spread evenly amongst all producers the advantages of the domestic price.
The Government, after exhaustive inquiries by the Tariff Board, has decided to strengthen the assistance to the growing and manufacturing sections of the cotton industry by means of a new bounty scheme and tariff measures.
In future bounty will be paid only or. the Australian manufacturers’ requirements of raw cotton plus 20 per cent., instead of on an unlimited quantity of seed cotton as at present.
The principle underlying the Government’s proposals is to provide spinners with raw cotton at the equivalent of world’s parity prices and at the same time to ensure growers a reasonable return. Costs of yarns now dutiable will be reduced and this should be reflected in the cost of the finished articles. With the continuance of to-day’s world prices for raw cotton there should not be any substantially increased cost to the community on account of bounty.
The present Wine Export Bounty Act expires in February, 1935, and the Government has therefore introduced into the House a new Wine Export Bounty Bill under which the bounty will be continued but reduced on a sliding scale from ls. 4.8d. per gallon until it reaches ls. per gallon. Provisions have been inserted in the new bill ensuring that the grower will receive payment for his grapes within twelve months from delivery instead of waiting, as has been done in some cases, for years. It is not expected that there will be a substantial increase in the amount of the wine bounty payable during the current financial year as the new rate of bounty will permit of increased exports without unduly increasing the total amount of bounty.
The Government is devoting a good deal of attention to the question of negotiating trade treaties with foreign countries with a view to promoting, developing and safeguarding Australian export industries.
In negotiating these treaties the Government will necessarily take into consideration its obligations to Australian industry as well as its obligations to the United Kingdom under the Ottawa Agreement.
The facts already outlined indicate very clearly that the Government has, during its term of office, paid special attention to the position of the primary producer, realizing the important part which he plays in the general welfare of the country as a whole.
It is interesting to note the extent to which assistance has been rendered to the primary producer.
In the last three financial years, including provision for 1934-35, actual cash expenditure to the amount of £1,200,000 has been provided in the assistance of primary producers along lines which were in operation in the financial year 1931-32 when the present Government assumed office. In addition to this, the Government has embarked on new propoals over the last three financial years which have involved an additional aggregate expenditure of approximately £5,800,000 during this period, making a total expenditure of approximately £7,000,000 in aid of primary production.
In addition to the direct financial assistance given to primary producers by way of expenditure, grants, &c, the needs of the primary producers have been catered for by exempting from primage duty and sales tax materials required by rural industries. Practically every item which the primary producer purchases, either in the way of implements or aids to production, has been exempted from primage duty and sales tax. The benefits conferred on primary producers by relief from primage duty and sales tax, including those for which provision is made in the present budget, approximately total £920,000 on an annual basis and £1,970,000 during the life of this Government.
The direct assistance which has been provided for primary producers in the three years may be summarized as under : -
With low world prices for our exportable primary products, the Government has constantly recognized the necessity for doing everything possible to meet the position of primary producers and to enable them to maintain production on the basis necessary not only for their own welfare but also for that of the nation as a whole.
The following is a summary of the special expenditure concessions for which provision has been made in the budget and which have already been explained : -
Special reference has already been made to the increase in liability in respect of invalid and old-age pensions of about £1,000,000, which is accounted for by the restorations made last year, the liberalization of the property provisions of the law and the relaxation of the obligation on the part of relatives of pensioners to contribute to the cost of pensions.
The total estimated expenditure for the year, including provision for the budget proposals already explained, is £72,179,190. Details of this total together with a comparison with the actual expenditure for 1933-34, are as follow : -
The principal increases in expenditure calling for further explanation are in connexion with defence and new works.
The reductions of defence expenditure in recent years were inevitable in the circumstances of depression that have existed, but it should be realized that they were achieved only by allowing our national defences to drop below those that are considered essential, even on a most meagre basis.
It will be remembered that the defence policy of this Government was outlined by the Minister for Defence in his speech at Sydney on the 25th September, 1933. In pursuance of the principles then laid down for the progressive development of an effective defence policy, the Government is making provision in this budget for the beginnings of the rehabilitation of the three arms of the service.
Compared with the defence expenditure of 1933-34, the programme entails a gross increase in 1934-35 of about £1,900,000 subject to anticipated savings of about £120,000.
Of the increased expenditure, £600,000 is to meet additional normal requirements on the basis of the present defence organization and £1,300,000 is for expansion.
As has already been announced, it is the intention of the Government to take over from the British Admiralty in August, 1935, a new cruiser of the Leander type to replace H.M.A.S. Brisbane, which is already obsolete. In addition, a naval sloop is under construction at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
The naval items of the defence vote involve an increase over 1933-34 totalling about £750,000, which includes provision for payment of one-fifth of the cost of the new cruiser.
The Army portion of the programme provides for the progressive re-armament of our coast defences and for other items. This will entail additional expenditure over that of last year of about £250,000.
The Air Force programme involves the expenditure of nearly £300,000 more than in 1933-34.
Further development of munition services entails additional capital expenditure of £20,000.
The expenditure for 1934-35 provides for the co-ordinated development of the three services, and the programme represents a substantial advance in the security of the Commonwealth.
In the last budget speech, I deprecated an alarmist attitude in regard to defence measures, and the warning is repeated now. A feature of the intervening period has been the inability of the Disarmament
Conference to achieve a Convention. On the contrary, re-armament has taken place in many parts of the world. Though the League of Nations has been experiencing heavy weather, the Government refuses to believe that the ideal of international co-operation for which it stands will fail to survive. Nevertheless, the British Government has stated that the Empire has disarmed to the point of risk, but as no Great Power has followed the lead given by the British Government, the present position cannot be indefinitely continued. In the light of its responsibility for national security, the Commonwealth Government must take a realist view of the situation, and it is because the present defence strength is below the minimum necessary for security under Article 8 of the Covenant ofthe League of Nations that the Government has formulated its defence programme.
NewWorks from Revenue and Loan.
The Government has decided on a substantial increase of new works expenditure in 1934-35, particularly on postal works necessary to provide the additional services required by the public. As portion of the new works expenditure will be provided from revenue and the balance from loan, it is desirable, for purposes of comparison, to set out the proposed expenditure as follows: -
Of the £1,585,781 to be expended from loan funds, £1,000,000 for postal works is to be raised in the market, whilst the balance - £585,781 - is in hand.
In addition to the £2,845,051 already mentioned, it is proposed to provide £1,160,000 for new works, &c., from the Defence Equipment Trust Account, as against £360,500 expended from the trust account last year. The total amount available for new works in 1934-35 will thus be £4,005,051, an increase of £1, 976,641 on the actual expenditure for 1933-34.
The amounts available from all sources for the respective works services will be as follows: -
The increased expenditure provided in the budget under several heads will assist in relieving unemployment. The chief of these increases are -
Of this amount, it is estimated that over £3,000,000 will be expended in Australia, and will, directly or indirectly, provide additional employment.
It must be recognized that there is limited scope for the Commonwealth to increase its expenditure on public works of a necessary and desirable nature. The States are in a. much better position to undertake developmental works, and are in fact increasing their loan programmes for 1934-35 by £6,000.000. This increase of State loan expenditure, coupled with the increased expenditure provided in the Commonwealth budget, as set out above, will considerably assist in the relief of unemployment.
The effect on the budget of the special proposals already outlined is as follows : -
The following is a summary of the estimated receipts and expenditure for 1934-35, showing the effect of these proposals : -
The legislation necessary to give effect to the budget proposals will be introduced almost immediately.
In presenting the budget last year, I expressed the belief that the improvement of our position, then recorded, would carry to the people of the Commonwealth a message of hope and of faith in Australia. I. venture to claim that the present budget justifies that hope and renews that faith. The improvement has been steadily maintained, and if we are still some distance from the realization of all our hopes and aspirations, we may rejoice that we have travelled a long way from the abyss of two or three years ago.
Behind all our endeavours are the sustained efforts of the Australian people, but the fact that we are now able to point to a credit balance and to a complete restoration of Australia’s credit both at home and abroad, that, wc can recount, great loan conversions at progressively lower rates oversea and large loans at progressively lower rates at home, that we can point to a notable reduction in unemployment and a healthier internal situation, to easements in taxation and to a substantial measure of restoration of pension and Public Service deductions - the fact that we are able to recite these achievements is because of the Government’s consistent policy of sound finance.
Without the accompaniment of a sound financial policy, of’ fidelity to obligations and of careful management of resources, the splendid efforts of our people could not have an effective outcome. The results so far achieved are the justification of that policy, and the pressing needs of the immediate future are the warrant for its continuance.
I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £7,182”, be agreed to.
The following paper was presented -
The Budget 1934-35 - Papers presented by theRight Honorable J. A. Lyons, P.C. M.P., for the information of honorable members on the occasion of the budget of 1934-35.
Ordered to be printed.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide relief to taxpayers; to amend laws relating to a financial emergency; to provide financial relief for certain primary producers; and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill 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 comprehensive measure designed to give effect to the majority of the relief proposals announced this afternoon in the budget speech. For convenience, the bill has been divided into eight parts, namely : -
II.- Sales Tax.
I propose now to outline the main features of the bill, leaving detailed information on individual clauses to be dealt with in committee.
Part II. of the bill, which is very lengthy, contains proposed amendments of the several Sales Tax Assessment Acts to give effect to the further exemptions announced in the budget speech. The proposed exemptions include a wide range of articles classified as building materials ; certain requirements of the dried fruit industry, the mining industry, the fruitgrowing industry, and the pearling industry; specified foodstuffs; twenty additional articles or groups of articles used for primary production generally; fifteen miscellaneous articles or groups of articles; and a reduction of the basis of tax on spectacles. A detailed list of items expressed in general terms has been made available to honorable members.
Last year, the position of primary producers received special consideration, and it was thought the further exemptions then granted exempted from sales tax practically all known items used by primary producers. It has since come to the notice of the Government that a few other items are used by primary producers, and these have been included in the list of additional exemptions. The relief involved in these exemptions is estimated at £220,000 a year. The exemptions will come into operation on the date of commencement of the amending legislation. There are also certain minor amendments with a retrospective effect, which will be explained in committee.
Part III. deals with maternity allowances. Under the existing law relating to maternity allowances, an allowance is paid at a flat rate in respect of each birth, and there is also a flat rate income limit, above which an allowance is not payable. It is proposed to grant concessions in two directions, namely - (1) The income limit of £208 per annum is to be progressively increased by £13 per annum for each child under 14 years of age, subject to a maximum income limit of £299 per annum; and (2) the present allowance of £4 is to be increased progressively by 5s. in respect of each child under fourteen years of age, subject to a maximum payment of £5. The cost of these concessions is estimated at £60,000 a year.
Part IV. of the bill deals with war pensions. It will be remembered that, when the Financial Emergency Act was passed in 1931, no reductions were made in the pensions of disabled soldiers, war widows, orphan children, or widowed mothers. On the recommendation of the soldiers’ committee, which was set up at that time, the reductions were restricted to the pensions of relatives, and to certain allowances paid under regulations to ex-soldiers and their dependants. In the case of the pensions of wives of incapacitated soldiers, the reduction was 221/2 per cent. Last year a partial restoration of 121/2 per cent. was made in their case, and it is now proposed to restore the pensions in full. This further restoration will involve an additional £109,000 a year, and will benefit 57,000 wives. Incuding the restoration made last year, the total relief represents £245,000 a year. Other concessions in respect of repatriation benefits announced in the budget speech are not incorporated in this bill, as they will be given effect partly by the Australian Soldiers’Repatriation Bill now before the House, and partly by the amendment of the relevant regulations.
Part V. deals with salaries and wages. Honorable members are aware that, under arbitration awards and Public Service regulations, the salaries of Commonwealth employees are adjusted annually in accordance with the rise or fall of the cost of living. The original Financial Emergency Act embodied comprehensive reductions, including a reduction on account of the fall of the cost of living, and a further reduction of real wages on a percentage basis, ranging from 1 per cent. to 24 per cent. Last year, by the provisions of the Financial Relief Act 1933, a partial restoration was made of the reduction of real wages, namely, the reduction over and above that due to the fall of the cost of living. The amount involved was £550,000, and it had the effect of fully restoring the reduction that had been made in “ real “ salaries up to £250, calculated according to the 1930 standards. It is now proposed to make a further restoration of £270,000, which will have the effect of restoring in full the “ real “ reduction of salaries up to £388, and of partially restoring the reductions above that amount. As compared with July, 1930, the reduction on account of fall of the cost of living for an adult male is £48, and that reduction will not be affected by the proposed restoration. With this restoration, the percentage reduction of Commonweath salaries., including reductions of the cost of living, will be -
From £389 to £1,000- 121/2 per cent.
From £1,001 to £2,000-15 per cent.
From £2,000- 171/2 per cent.
Salaries up to £388 per annum will be affected only by the cost of living reduction of £48. The percentage reduction on all salaries, including cost of living reductions, will then average 15 per cent. A corresponding adjustment will be made in the case of females.
In the case of members of the naval, military and air forces, adjustments will be made which will have the effect of putting them in relatively the same position as other members of the Public Service.
There are also minor consequential alterations, which will be explained in committee.
Part VI. of the bill deals with relief to primary producers. In the Financial Relief Act 1932, provision was made to assist farmers in the purchase of fertilizers used in growing crops other than wheat. A subsidy was paid through the State Governments of 15s. a ton on fertilizers applied to soil in 1932-33, the total payments being approximately as follow : -
The subsidy proved of considerable benefit to primary producers, and encouraged the desirable practice of adequately fertilizing the soil. In view of the results that accrued, the Government is satisfied that further assistance is justified this year. Provision is accordingly made in the bill for £250,000 to enable payment to be made of a subsidy of 15s. a ton on fertilizer applied to the soil in the growing of crops other than wheat during the twelve months from the 1st July, 1934, to the 30th June, 1935. It is estimated that £200,000 will be payable this financial year and £50,000 next year. Following previous practice, the amount will be paid to the State Governments for distribution to the primary producers concerned, after claims have been certified by the Department of Commerce.
Part VII. of the measure relates to assistance to fruit-growers. Last year, under the Fruit-growers Relief Act, £125,000 was made available to the States for assistance to apple and pear growers because their industry was in a serious condition as a result of the extremely low prices received for exports to the United Kingdom and Europe. In the current season the industry is reducing exports and restricting them to types of fruit considered most suitable. As half the crop will be exported, the oversea prices are of great importance to the industry, particularly in Tasmania. Unfortunately, prices received to date for the current year’s apple crop are very unsatisfactory, and growers will have difficulty in making ends meet. Further, the industry has suffered from adverse seasonal conditions. The Government feels that assistance is still necessary, and proposes to provide a further £125,000 to the States for this purpose. Last year the assistance was limited to growers who had suffered loss from exports, and, as a result, wore in a position of financial difficulty. On account of the practical difficulties of administering such an arrangement, and in deference to the general views of State Governments, it is proposed to dispense with this condition and to leave the method of distribution to the State Governments, which, through their departments, are more closely in touch with growers than is the Commonwealth Government. The £125,000 will be allocated to the States on the basis of exports for the year from July, 1933, to June, 1934, the amount for each State being -
The State Governments will be asked to consult wi th the industry as to the method of distribution. Each State will, therefore, be free to assist the producers in such ways as may particularly meet the conditions existing in the State concerned.
Part VIII. refers to the commencement of the relief proposals. Generally, they will take effect on the date of the commencement of the legislation ; but, in the case of war pensions and salaries, the restorations will apply to the whole of the first pay after that date. The Government is anxious that the relief provided in the bill should not be delayed, and trusts, therefore, that the passage of the measure through the House will be expedited.
– Some of the fruitgrowers have not benefited from the distribution of the last bounty. Could they not be given advantage of the conditions to be provided under this bill?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will be placed before the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), with a view to seeing if it can be adopted.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Archdale Parkhill 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.
The purpose of this measure is to appropriate the sum of £1,000,000 for postal works out of loan funds to be raised under the authority which is provided for in the bill. No loan funds have been specially raised for the purpose of works expenditure since 1930, and the only works expenditure from loan fund that has been appropriated since that date has been the appropriation of £810,000 passed by Parliament last year, this amount having been provided by a repayment to the loan fund of the proceeds received from the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. With the exception of the appropriation of £810,000 last year, the works expenditure since 1930 has been met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and, owing to the financial stringency, coupled with the cessation of new loan moneys for works purposes, it has been necessary to restrict works expenditure to urgent and essential requirements. The position has now been reached where the provision of additional funds to carry on absolutely essential works is a matter of urgent necessity. This bill provides for the expenditure of £1,000,000 for the carrying out of postal works, namely, telephone exchange services, trunk line services, buildings and sites. In addition to this amount, the sum of £244,000 is being provided for other postal works on the estimates of works from revenue, making a total of £1,244,000. The amount actually expended on such works during 1933-34 was approximately £865,000, so the total amount now to be appropriated from revenue and loan represents an increase of approximately £379,000.
The past year revealed a considerable increase in the activities of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The post office revenue for 1933-34 exceeded the budget estimate by £406,000, and the revenue for the preceding year, 1932-33, by approximately £522,000. During last year, there was a net increase throughout the Commonwealth of 13,740 telephone subscribers as against a net increase of 3,036 during 1932-33. This bill provides the minimum amount considered to be necessary to enable the requirements for telephonic services to be met.
Provision is made for new buildings and sites, the expenditure on which will be approximately £150,000, which includes £60,000 for buildings required for the new regional broadcasting stations. The total expenditure on new works from all sources this year will be approximately £4,070,000 as compared with a total expenditure during 1933-34 of £2,330,000, or an approximate increase of £1,740,000. A considerable portion of this increase will provide additional employment in Australia, and to that extent will contribute, along with increases of expenditure in other directions, to the relief of unemployment during the current year.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from page 612 on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £7,182”, be agreed to.
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of Estimates for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c.
Debate resumed from the 13th July (vide page 549), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- It can safely be said that the whole of the amendments proposed in this bill to the principal Electoral Act could be left unmade without the slightest injury to any one. In view of the fact that we are on the eve of a general election, any proposals of this character should be quite above reproach; otherwise the electors may feel that they are not being treated fairly. Every amendment of the Electoral Act should be most carefully scrutinized before it is accepted. Since the introduction of this bill the Government has intimated that it does not intend to proceed with the provision which, to honorable members on this side of the chamber, was the most obnoxious of all. I refer to the proposal that inmates of institutions partly or wholly maintained by the Government should be forced to exercise the franchise in the electorate in which they lived before entering the institution. In view, however, of the fact that the Government has recorded in Mansard a number of arguments in support of this highly undesirable proposal, I consider it necessary to state our arguments in objection to it. The Government actually intended to force the inmates of these homes to accept a set of most harassing conditions not inflicted on the average elector before they could exercise the franchise. The people concerned are mostly invalid or aged persons, and, had this proposal been adopted, they would have been obliged to use the absentee or postal vote. As honorable members are aware, the use of either of those forms of voting obliges the elector to write the names of all the candidates upon the ballot paper. If that system were adopted, it is easily conceivable that the people who are brought together into these homes from the far-flung parts of the Commonwealth would be faced with extraordinary difficulty in attempting to vote, as the candidates and probably the parties would be unknown to them. They would be obliged, in the first instance, to secure enrolment in the division in which they formerly resided. But many of them are well advanced in years and might find it difficult to remember the name of the division in which they formerly lived. Insistence upon this proposal would also have placed many of these people in a most embarrassing position, for their names would appear on the electoral roll of their home town with an indication that they were living in some poor-house or other.
– Is the honorable member desirous that the Government should proceed with this amendment ?
– I am not; but I wish to place on record the grounds of our objection to it. The vast majority of the people who enter institutions of the kind referred to in section 41 of the principal act have undoubtedly seen better days, and probably when they left their old homes they let it be known that they intended to live with relatives or friends. If eventually their names appeared on the electoral roll of their home town branded with the sign of pauperism the more sensitive of these people would suffer keenly. I know that the Government desires to scatter the votes of the inmates of these homes for political purposes, but the welfare of the people concerned should be considered. The Minister, in introducing this amendment, attempted to justify it on the ground that the persons concerned enjoyed community of interests with the people in the division in which they formerly resided. But does he imagine that persons who leave their old homes in such circumstances as oblige them to enter public or semi-public institutions of a more or less charitable nature will ever retain any community of interests with the residents in the electoral divisions in which they formerly lived? Probably most of them will never see their old homes again. The people who live in the Newington home, in the Reid electorate, for instance, have not, in the majority of cases, the remotest possibility of returning to the localities in which they formerly lived. I am pleased that the Government has decided to withdraw this objectionable’ provision, and I hope that it has in mind a permanent withdrawal and not merely a temporary withdrawal to tide over the coming election period.
Another proposal of the bill with which’ I disagree is that electors should be forced to mark preferences opposite the name of evei’3’ candidate on the ballotpaper. The Minister argued that this will probably result in fewer informal votes. If the honorable gentleman had had much experience in scrutineering he would realize that the fewer marks the average elector has to place on a ballotpaper the more likely he is to record a formal vote. It is possible that there may be the names of thirteen or fourteen candidates on the Senate ballotpaper for New South “Wales in the coming election. If electors have to markpreferences against every one of those names, I contend that it is much more likely that they will cast an informal vote than if they had to mark only seven preferences. At present only seven preferences need be indicated on the ballotpaper, and I submit that that is quite enough. Another objection to the new proposal is that it may force people to show a preference for candidates for whom they have no desire whatever to vote. The Minister argued that preferences should be shown for all the candidates whose names appear on the ballotpaper if the system of voting were to be completely preferential, but I hardly think that the honorable gentleman will seriously contend that the present method of counting the votes for Senate candidates is really a preferential system. I endorse the view of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) that the present system of voting for the Senate is not truly preferential. It is, as a matter of fact, a system which is closely related to the “ first-past-the-post “ method. I am inclined to think that if we were0 entirely honest in this matter we would discontinue the present so-called preferential system of voting for Senate candidates, and revert to the old system of voting by placing crosses against the names of the candidates that we desire to see elected. In effect, the present method of counting the Senate votes is practically the same as it would be if the electors voted by placing crosses against the names of the required number of candidates. There would be less likelihood of informal votes being cast if the electors were required to vote only for the number of persons to be elected than there is when they have to vote for all the candidates whose names arc on the ballot-paper.
It is proposed in the bill to give power to the chairman of a meeting to have ejected from the building in which a meeting is being held persons whose conduct is disorderly. I have no objection to that. No matter what party is holding the meeting, or what opinions are being expressed, the speakers are entitled to be heard in silence; but if that protection is to be given to those holding meetings in halls, why should it not be also extended to those holding meetings in. the open?
It is also provided in the bill that members of the police force may arrest without warrant any person creating a disturbance. I agree that the chairman of a meeting, or a candidate, or other speaker should have the right, if they desire to exercise it, to request the police to preserve order; but if such person requires the police to arrest without warrant a disorderly interjector, the onus of prosecuting him will rest, as the bill now stands, on the Commonwealth. That, in my opinion^ is not right. The onus of conducting the prosecution should rest on the person or persons who feel aggrieved and order the arrest.
The bill further provides for imposing a penalty of £100, or six months imprisonment, on authorized witnesses who attempt to influence postal voters. That seems to me to be a rather ridiculous provision. I am not opposed to the principle, because I believe it would bc wrong for such witnesses to try to influence voters, but I cannot see bow the provision is to be enforced. An authorized witness does not take a regiment of persons along with him when he goes to witness a vote. He usually goes alone, and even if the voter subsequently lodges a. complaint, it is only a matter of one man’s word against that of another. Seeing that authorized witnesses arc usually persons of good repute in the community, I have no doubt that, in most cases, a magistrate would accept the word of one of them even against that of a voter.
It has been stated by some honorable members that the system of postal voting should be abolished. ‘ The party to which I belong does not subscribe to that opinion, because the abolition of postal voting would disfranchise many worthy people, including a great many seamen who have no other means of voting. It would also disfranchise those persons who, through old age or infirmity, are unable to attend a polling booth. If the system of postal voting has been abused in the past, we should seek to remedy the abuses, but we should not, because of those abuses, disfranchise a deserving section of the people.
– Most of the objections to this bill voiced by those who have spoken have been directed against that provision which the Government has now decided to withdraw. I assure honorable members that the Government had no ulterior motive in advancing that proposal. The principle has been in operation in Queensland since 191.5, since when successive Labour governments have come and gone, but the act still remains in force. It would not have inconvenienced the inmates of homes. The officers of the Electoral Department would have consulted the inmates, and thee in charge of the homes, would have learned where the people came from originally, and would have entered them on the rolls of those districts in which they formerly resided. T.he inmates of these homes retain a feeling for the district in which they formerly lived, and it was believed that they would take more interest in politics if they could retain their association with their old places of residence. They would be no more marked out or advertised as inmates of homes than they are now, because, at the present time, they are shown on the rolls as residing in the homes. However, nothing can be gained now by arguing about it, because the clause will be dropped.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) may rest assured that there is no hidden menace in the provisions relating to incorrect enrolments. The proposed amendments do not conflict with or alter the principle already embodied in the Electoral Act, but are merely complementary thereto. For instance, the provision in the bill that an elector shall not be enrolled in respect of any address other than that at which he is living at the date of his claim involves no departurefrom the existing law as generally applied. Its purpose is simply to have expressly stated in the act that .an elector shall be entitled to enrol only in respect of his place of living; that is, his domicile. This will make it clear beyond any doubt that he is not entitled to enrolment for a business address, or care of a post office, or any address other than that at which he actually resides.
Similarly, the proposals set out in clause S of the bill do not affect the basic right of electors in any way. The clause is merely a machinery one enabling the electoral officers immediately to adjust the rolls whenever it comes under notice that an elector has, by mischance or otherwise, had his name placed on the wrong roll. Cases have occurred in which electors resident in close proximity to the boundary between two electoral divisions have been erroneously enrolled for the division adjoining that in which they are actually resident. Under the law as it stands the electoral officers are unable to remedy such enrolment between the issue of the writs and polling day; but, with the amendment now proposed, such action will be possible. It is considered that no honorable member can have any objection to the proposal in the bill that, when a person not entitled to enrolment for a division obtains enrolment therefor by making a false statement in his claim, the enrolment should be subject to removal by the electoral officers upon the facts being established. These clauses are designed with the sole object of promoting the purity and correctness of the rolls, so as to ensure, as far as it is humanly possible, that the members elected to this House may be truly representative of the majority of their constituents.
The provision in the bill making it an offence for an authorized witness to influence, or attempt to influence, the postal voter clearly indicates that the Government is desirous of imposing all reasonable practicable safeguards in connexion with postal voting.
– But how is an offence to bc proved?
– It has been said by the returning officers after every election that attempts are made to influence the votes of electors in this way. There must by some evidence available, or the returning officers would not make the complaint. The Government is not prepared to recommend the abolition of postal voting, or the imposition of irksome and unnecessary restrictions which would make the system unwieldy and unworkable. For this reason the suggestion of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker), that electoral officials or police officers should be required to take the postal votes of persons in hospitals, cannot be accepted. The honorable member for Oxley pointed out that, in his electorate, the great majority of postal votes always favoured the United Australia party candidate, whereas, in his opinion, it was more natural that the tendency should be the other way.
– The position is the same iti nine electorates out of ten.
– That may be so; but I cannot admit that there is anything sinister in it. In my own electorate an application lias been received for the right to exercise postal votes in a district where the electors would otherwise have r.o travel 18 miles to a booth. I have every reason to suppose that the votes from that district would favour me. The people are settled on the land, and I do not think that a Labour vote would come from there. In other localities it is possibly quite different.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) may rest assured that there is nothing in the provisions of f. I.i o hill relating to the correctness and adjustment of the rolls to cause the disfranchisement of any elector enrolled for the division for which he is entitled to be enrolled. The right honorable mein bor suggested that, because of the redistribution changes and the late publication of the rolls, wider discretionary powers should be vested in the presiding officers. In this connexion, however, it is considered that all reasonable requirements are met by the existing provisions of section .121 of the Electoral Act, which provides that, notwithstanding anything contained in the act, when any person entitled to be enrolled on the roll for a subdivision claims to vote, and his name has been omitted from or struck out of the certified list owing to an error by an officer or a mistake of fact, or when any person who is enrolled for a subdivision and his name cannot be found by the presiding officer on the certified list, he may be permitted to vote if Le makes a declaration in the prescribed form.
– What is the percentage of declaration votes?
– It is very low, and it would thus seem that the rolls are fairly correct. Any such vote is enclosed in the envelope containing the voter’s declaration and its admission to scrutiny or rejection is determined by the divisional returning officer after due investigation. It is not anticipated that there will be very much confusion or misapprehension resulting from the redistribution changes. In most cases where subdivisions have been transferred from one division to another, they have been transferred intact. Furthermore, action will be taken by the electoral officers after the proclamation of the new divisions to inform the electors affected as to the changes made, either by advertisement in the public press or by a notification posted direct.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) suggested that the proportional representation system should be applied to Senate elections. This matter has been exhaustively examined by the present Government and by previous governments, but the concensus of opinion of the departmental officers who have fully analysed the proposals, is strongly against the innovation. This matter has been under the consideration of the Government again during thu last few weeks, but it cannot see its way clear to have the proposal incorporated in this bill. I, personally, rather favour what the honorable gentleman has advocated in connexion with proportional representation, but it seems to be impossible to carry it into effect..
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) seems to be of opinion that the bill does not go far enough, and that many other clauses should be included in it; but I remind the honorable gentleman that the electoral officers, who have had long experience, are of the opinion that the bill will result in improving the system of voting, and will ensure that the candidates returned from the elections actually reflect the desire of the electors on polling day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to,
Clauses 4 and 5 negatived.
Clause 6 (Claims for enrolment or transfer of enrolment).
.- This clause proposes, to amend section 41 of the principal act by adding at the end of sub-section 3 the words “or to have his name placed on a roll in respect of any address other than the address at which he is living at the- date of lodgment of the claim”. I ask the Minister what is the exact meaning of the proposed alteration.
– The purpose of the amendment is to prevent an elector from using a post office address, and to ensure that the place of residence is stated. When an elector merely gives a postal address his place of residence may be untraceable. For the same reason an elector may not. use his business address. A man may conduct a business in one place and yet be living some distance away from it. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the place of residence is stated.
– Many electors in the past have given the address of a club of which they are members. Does this amendment also preclude the using of tho club’s address ?
– A residence may be said to be the place where a married man usually lives and where his wife and family live. If he is a single man and :i member of a club he must choose either his club or his place or residence.
.- There are difficulties which the Minister may not see in .this regard. I have in mind the fact that there are 60 or .70 pensioners who live on the Chullora reserve which is really part of the Rookwood Cemetery reserve. The postal authorities will not deliver their mail to the Chullora reserve, and their only address is care of the Chullora Post Office. What will be the position in regard to these people ?
– If those people are resident on the reserve their place of residence can easily be stated.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– In answer to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) stated that this clause provides for a situation in which an elector may find himself by reason of the electoral office declining to recognize a post office as his address. It is well known that at the moment a number of electors are placed in circumstances which compel them to give a post office as their address. The claim for enrolment must have stated upon it the postal address of the claimant, so that the electoral office may have means of locating him. I point out, however, that compliance with the postal regulations also is involved, and that, if those regulations are not observed, the elector is placed in an unsatisfactory position. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has cited cases of large numbers of men being forced to camp wherever they are able to do so. I know that some time ago a large body of men was camped for a considerable period round the Sydney Domain. In such circumstances it would be difficult to give an address that would meet the requirements of the postal regulations. These men may bo within a certain area for a specified time, but not in any particular spot at a given time, and it may be difficult for the electoral office to locate them. The case is similar with men who are on the track. If the Minister is correct in his statement that the department will not recognize a post office as an address, such men may be deprived of their right to vote. The honorable member for Dalley has reminded me that tho banks of the Murrumbidgee river at Wagga arc a favorite camping ground with a large number of men. The point that I desire to stress is that such addresses are not accepted- under the postal regulations, and the elector has no option but to give the nearest post office as his address.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is taking an exaggerated view of the position. If a man lives on the banks of any stream he can state that fact in his claim for enrolment. The requirements of the Electoral Act will be met by those who are in the Rookwood cemetery area if they state that they are camped in that particular locality.
– It is not a recognized address.
– The claim for enrolment requires two addresses to be given, one the postal address and the other the place of residence. There have been instances of registered letters being returned unclaimed from post offices which have been given as their addresses by the persons concerned. The department must be in a position to locate a person who claims that he is entitled to a vote. The only object of the Government is to make the law more secure. No hardship is involved. The Income Tax Assessment Act requires the taxpayer to state not only his place of residence but also his postal address, consequently this is not a new practice.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Inmates of Institutions).
– I wish to direct attention to the motive which actuated the Government in introducing this measure. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) made quite clear in his secondreading speech the views that are held by the Government. He then said -
It is considered that, as a general rule, persons who arc compelled through force of circumstances to leave their ordinary places of residence to become inmates of institutions of the nature mentioned would infinitely prefer to have the right which this bill proposes to concede, of continuing their electoral association with the division embracingthe place at which they lived prior to entering the institution. The majority of these persons have little or no interest in the division in which the institution happens to be located, hut, on the other hand, many of them have rooted interests in the division in which they were previously living, resulting from a long period of active work and residence in the respective divisions concerned. In making special provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to institution inmates wo are not altogether breaking new ground. The Electoral Act of Queensland provides that, for the purposes of enrolment and voting, inmates of charitable institutions shall be deemed to live in the electoral districts in which they respectively lived prior to becoming such inmates; whilst section18 of the Electoral Act 1907-1921 of Western Australia provides, amongst other things, that every person who is wholly dependent on relief from the State or from any charitable institutionsubsidized by the State, except as a patient under treatment for accident or disease in a hospital, shall be disqualified from being enrolled or from voting at an election.
The Government is anxious to achieve uniformity in electoral legislation. There are uniform electoral rolls in all of the States exceptWestern Australia and
Queensland. The variations that exist in the electoral laws of Australia may be a contributing factor in preventing the consummation of the desirable reform of uniform electoral rolls. Such rolls would do away with serious duplication. The conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that met at Melbourne in the early part of this year decided to abolish, as far as possible, every form of duplication, and appointed a special officer, Mr. Duncan, to investigate the -question. Among the many recommendations that that gentleman made was one that there should be uniform electoral rolls. This is a step in that direction.
Speaking to the motion for the second reading of the bill, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) inferred that this particular alteration was proposed with the object of assisting me personally. I give that an emphatic denial.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Assistant Minister in order in discussing this clause, which at my request the Minister for the Interior has promised will be withdrawn.
– The Assistant Minister is in order.
– In reply to an interjection by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Oxley said that many years ago an anti-Labour government had enacted this provision. I point out that it was the 1915 Elections Act of Queensland which first embodied it. Paragraph ii of sub-section 3 of section 19 of that act reads -
Inmates of charitable institutions shall be deemed, for the purposes of this act, to live in the electoral districts in which they respectively lived or were enrolled immediately prior to their becoming such inmates.
That act was assented to on the 23rd November, 1915, and was passed by the Ryan Labour administration, which came into office in June of that year. Successive Labour governments led by Mr. Theodore, Mr. Gillies, and Mr. McCormack, which held office in Queensland until 1925, retained that section of the act. The inmates of charitable institutions in Western Australia are not entitled to vote, and no provision has been made for them by successive Labour governments in that State.
– Having promised to withdraw the clause, I shall do so by leave of the committee.
– The correct procedure is to negative the clause.
.- A most peculiar position has arisen in connexion with this clause. The Minister in charge of the bill has definitely promised its withdrawal, yet one of his colleagues ha3 argued very strongly in favour of it.
Mr.Francis. - I have given the reason for its introduction.
– The honorable gentleman said that the clause was necessary because it would prevent duplication of enrolment. If the Government honours the promise given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins), the honorable gentleman will have to vote contrary to the arguments he has just used. It is well known that, until the advent of a Labour administration in Queensland, inmates of charitable institutions were not entitled to exercise the franchise in that State. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Francis) has repeated the statement made by the Minister for the Interior in his second-reading speech, that inmates of charitable institutions in Western Australia are disqualified from enrolment and from voting at an election. The honorable gentleman, apparently, ‘ is proud of the fact that this Government has not proposed to go to those lengths. It would seem, however, that it is desirous of reducing, as far as possible, the effectiveness of this vote, for under this proposal the votes of inmates of institutions would have no effect. Many of them have been inmates for twenty years or more, and have lost all contact with the various localities from which they originally came. The effect of the clause would be to assist the interests of supporters of the Government as opposed to those of Labour candidates. This would happen, for instance, in Fremantle. Under the recent distribution, the Dunwich institution, which comprises the Island Subdivision of Oxley, was taken from my electorate and placed in Moreton, which is represented at present by the Assistant Minister for Defence, but Dunwich invariably gives the Labour candidate a majority, of four to one. That is why the Minister is fighting bitterly to-night, in defiance of his own Government, to retain this provision in the bill.
– That is not so.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9- -
After section forty-seven of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 47a. Where a person, whose name has been placed on the roll for a division, is not entitled to enrol for that division and that person -
.- Earlier in the day the Minister dealt fully with the effect of paragraph a of the proposed nev/ section 47a, but did not explain the position in regard to paragraph b. Why was it thought necessary in the past to prevent such an alteration of the roll between the date of the issue of the writ and the date of the poll, and why is it now proposed to change that policy?. I should also like to know the position in regard to a person whose name has been wrongly placed on a roll through no fault of his own. In such a case provision should he made to enable the name of such a person to be placed on the correct roll to prevent his being disfranchised.
– No elector will lose his vote if he is entitled to be ‘enrolled, and if his name has been placed on a wrong roll through an official error. At the present time he receives twenty days’ notice of the intention to remove his name from the roll if he has been wrongly enrolled, and this bill gives the returning officer the right to place his name on the proper roll. In some eases, however, a person under the age of 21 years may make a false declaration, and his name, of course, would be removed from one roll, but not placed on another. In other instances unnaturalized persons become enrolled when they are not entitled to a vote. As the law now stands, if such a discrepancy is discovered twenty days before the issue of the writ, the name can be removed, and it is now proposed that if the. name of a person who is entitledto a vote is incorrectly on a roll through no fault of his own, the name can be removed from that roll and placed on the roll for the subdivision to which he belongs.
This is an important point. In closely populated areas we find divisions and subdivisions zigzagging through a municipality, and it would be an easy matter for electors to become enrolled for wrong divisions or subdivisions. The Minister admits that if a mistake is discovered before the issue of the writ the personconcerned receives 20 days’ notice of intention to strike his name from the roll, but this clause goes further and gives the divisional returning officer power, after the writ has been issued, to remove his name from the roll without giving him an opportunity to defend his position. The clause states that the divisional returning officer may take certain action “ upon receipt of a certificate from the Commonwealth Electoral Officer “. I should say that the divisional returning officer would be more intimately in touch with the electorate than the Commonwealth Electoral Officer. The latter official would probably receive his information from some interested canvasser if it were proposed to remove a name from the roll between the date of the issue of the writ and the election. Although there might be no fraudulent intent on the part of an elector, he might have his name removed from the roll after the issue of the writ, and one naturally asks what provision is made to enable an elector to be re-enrolled in the event of his name being improperly removed.
Mr. PERKINS (Eden-Monaro- Minis provides for the insertion of a new subsection, which states (inter alia) -
The divisional returning officer for the division for which the elector is enrolled shall direct the registrar keeping the roll on which the elector is enrolled to remove the name of the elector from the roll, and the divisional returning officer for the division in which the elector is living shall direct the registrar keeping the roll for the subdivision in which the elector is living to place the name of the elector on that roll and to notify the elector of the change of enrolment, and the respective registrars shall comply with those directions accordingly.
Of course, if a person has been fraudulently enrolled he is not entitled to a vote, but if an official error has occurred the mistake will be corrected.
– But he would lose his vote in the meantime.
– No. He would be notified of the change, and his rights would be in no way affected
.- If the Minister has correctly indicated the intention of the Government, it should be more clearly expressed in the bill. Clause 8 makes provision for an instruction to the registrar to take a name off a roll on which it has been wrongly placed, and to put it on the proper roll, but clause 9 provides only for the removal of a name from the roll. One has no sympathy with an elector who makes a false statement, but he may have been enrolled for a certain division through a mistake on the part of the electoral officials, and he should not, be disfranchised on that account.
– Under clause 8 provision is made wherebya name may be removed from a roll on which it has been improperly placed, and added to the roll for the subdivision to which the elector belongs. If a resident of Canberra, who is not entitled to a vote, had his name placed upon the Goulburn or Queanbeyan or some other roll, the divisional returning officer would have power to strike it off, and obviously the person concerned, who would not be entitled to a vote at all, could not have his name placed on another roll. Under clause 8 the divisional returning officer would make inquiries as to the division to which an elector belonged if his name were removed from the roll: but under the clause now under consideration power is given to remove a name from the roll where there is no need for inquiry as to whether the person concerned is entitled to be enrolled elsewhere.
– This is a specific power to be used after the issue of the writ. It seems to me that the case would bc met if paragraph b were deleted.
.- I suggest that the words “ or any other division “ be inserted in paragraph b after the words “ that division “. Such an amendment would certainly clarify the meaning.
.- The power provided in clause 8 can be exercised only before the issue of a writ. It is necessary, I think, that some amendment be made to clause 9, which deals with the correctionof inaccurate enrolments after the issue of the writ.
– The addition of the words, “ or any other division “, as suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), would not meet the case. The object of this clause is’ to deal with enrolments after a writ has been issued for an election. Two classes of persons are concerned - those who obtain enrolment by a false statement, and those who obtain enrolment for a place of residence not within the division. If a man obtains enrolment by a false statement he is not entitled to any consideration. That, I think, will be the view of every honorable member. But it seems to me that a man who is enrolled for a place of residence not within the division is not entitled to a vote for the division for which he is ostensibly enrolled. Where a mistake has been made I think that other provisions of the act give the divisional returning officer power to allow the man to vote for candidates in the division in which he really lives. If an honest mistake has been made in the enrolment of an elector, it should be corrected. The Minister should look into the matter carefully before any alteration is made.
– Many electors may be disfranchised through wrong enrolment at a time when a redistribution is being effected.
– If a mistake of that nature has been made, I think there is power to correct it.
– Clause 8 provides power to make alterations up to the date of the issue of the writ, but not afterwards.
– Section 121 concerns the case of omission from the roll by mistake. If this amendment as made, sub-section 3 of section 47 will remain in force. If a man is accidentally enrolled for a place of living not within the division, he should be allowed to vote in his proper division ; but I do not think that we shall achieve that object by making the alteration now suggested.
.- We are not desirous of doing anything to help an elector who obtains enrolment by a false declaration; but we wish to ensure that a person who is erroneously enrolled for a division in which he does not live shall be allowed to vote in his proper division. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) has argued that a mistake of that character can be corrected; but no one can be enrolled after the writ for an election has been issued unless specific provision is made for it in this bill. Under the existing law names cannot be taken, off or put on the roll after the issue of a writ; but, if this bill is passed, names may be removed from the roll, but not added to it. I agree that a person who makes a false declaration does not deserve consideration; but a person who, by honest mistake, is enrolled in a wrong division, should not be deprived of a vote. The suggestion of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) would cover a few cases, such as those of residents in theFederal Capital Territory, aliens, persons with criminal convictions against them, and the like; but, to meet the case that I have in mind, I suggest that paragraph b of the clause be struck out.
.- I think the clause is necessary. It is well known that, in some areas, persons obtain enrolment for divisions three or four miles away from where they live, and there is very little chance of detecting fraudulent enrolments of that kind. In the old days, it was quite usual for scores of people from, say, Bankstown, to go into a “ residential “ in another electorate, and become en rolled. Certain sections of the community appear to be able to pack the rolls very easily. I think a safeguard against that kind of thing is necessary. It is the responsibility of an elector to see that he is properly enrolled prior to the issue of the writ, and if he fails to do so he must abide by the consequences. The door should be closed against every possible manipulation of the rolls.
– I have consulted the departmental officers, and I am satisfied that the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) is wise. If paragraph bis deleted the intention of the law may not bo so clearly stated, but its provisions will still be adequate. I therefore move -
That the word “or”, paragraph (a), and paragraph (b) proposed new section 47a he omitted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 (Duty of Authorized Witness) .
. - I suggest that the clause be omitted, as it would be merely so much dead wood in the act, and would be impossible to enforce. It is proposed to amend section 93 of the act by adding these words -
An authorized witness shall not influence, or attempt to influence, in any way, the vote of an elector voting by post before him.
Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.
I do not think that the Crown would ever be able to prove an offence under that clause against any authorized witness. These persons are drawn from the most reputable classes of the community, including postmasters, policemen, school teachers and justices of the peace. In the event of a complaint being made it would be merely the word of the voter against that of the witness, and, in most cases, a magistrate would probably take the word of the witness. The Minister said that the officers of his department had urged that this provision be included in the act because of irregularities that had come under their notice. I should like the Minister to inform us what evidence has come into the possession of his officers that influence has been brought to bear on voters in the manner complained of. I suggest that the only evidence available would be in respect of -actual forgeries, and that is covered by another section of the act. I do not suggest that we should condone efforts by authorized witnesses to influence voters, but I am pointing out that it is practically impossible to deal with the matter in the way proposed by the Government.
– The Government regards this clause as a very necessary one. Some people take objection to postal voting, and say that it should be abolished; others believe that the system should be extended. The Government believes that the public should not be denied this facility, which is a great boon to those residing long distances from a polling booth, or who, through illness, are unable to attend a booth to cast their votes. It may be true, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) suggests, that, in the case of a complaint, it would be only the word of the voter against that of the witness; but we must remember that, in many cases, a witness attends more than one voter, and if half a dozen voters can be found to testify against him it should not be difficult to prove a charge. If the witness is a reliable person, -and does not attempt to influence voters, this clause will do him no harm, but it provides a necessary penalty against those who may be proved guilty of committing an offence. The department is not likely to take action unless it has a reasonable chance of securing a conviction. It has been proved by experience that a provision of this kind is necessary, and I ask honorable members to agree to it.
.- The system of postal votiing is a convenience to persons far removed from polling booths, or who are ill; but there has been so much wrong-doing in connexion with it that a good case can be made out for its complete abolition. Insofar as this clause will tend, to remove what has been a scandal, it will be an improvement on the existing act. Any one who is sick, and who has to call in an authorized witness should be protected against improper influence being brought to bear upon him.
– No one disputes that.
– Well, if that is accepted, we should provide penalties to be imposed on those who offend, and the fact that it may be difficult to prove an offence should not cause us to refrain from attempting to do so. In any case, I do not think that it will be so very difficult. When I stood for country electorates, I could have obtained ample proof of improper influence being used in connexion with postal voting. I know of cases in which certain employers were practically the only authorized witnesses in tho district, and they brought influence to bear upon their employees to vote as they wished. They used their position in such a way as to make it practically open voting, but the law provided no penalty for their action.
– It works both ways.
– I cannot imagine an employee intimidating his boss into voting in a particular way. It is necessary that the provision be included in the act in order to clean up this matter of postal voting.
.- Although I support this clause, I am not very enthusiastic about it, but my lack of enthusiasm is due to an exactly opposite reason from that which moves the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). In my opinion, the clause does not go nearly far enough. Undoubtedly it will be difficult to prove offences under this provision. We know of cases in which persons have brought influence to bear upon their relatives, but it is obviously impossible to prove anything because, in the event of trouble, members of families will support one another. I do not think that we could go far wrong if we abolished postal voting altogether as was done on a previous occasion. When I referred to postal voting abuses the other night, the Minister asked me to furnish examples. Since then I have gone carefully into the figures, and I find that in ten electorates in Queensland the Labour party during the last elections won five, but in only one did it secure a majority of the postal votes, and that was only a small majority. At the previous election the position was the same. In nine out of ten electorates we were defeated on the postal voting. Even when the Labour member was returned by a majority of 10,000, we were beaten by two to one on the postal votes, so that it is evident that the votes were not fairly cast. No one will suggest, 1 suppose, that a majority of those who obtain postal votes, and who are sick in hospital, must always be politically opposed to Labour, I have known of cases in which persons canvassing for me were told by nurses in hospitals that they could not go in to see patients, though those patients were not very ill at the time. I learned later that, almost immediately afterwards, canvassers representing the opposing political party were admitted, and secured the votes of the patients. It depends upon the political opinions of those in charge of hospitals whether or not canvassers are admitted to interview patients, and it is futile for us to pretend that this is not so. I am not surprised that the Government is reluctant to abolish postal voting, because the figures show that the system favours the present Government to such a marked extent. It was a Labour government which abolished it first, and it was an anti-Labour government which restored it. I hope that it will be a Labour government that will in the future abolish the system once more.
The honorable member for Dalley said that, if postal voting were abolished, sailors at sea would not be able to vote. That is not so, because they would be able to obtain absent voters’ forms before they went to sea, and in that way coUld record their votes fairly before authorized electoral officers. If the Government is not merely pretending to be concerned over the abuses of the postal voting system it will take this opportunity to tighten up the act so as to make those abuses impossible. I again ask that arrangements be made to have postal votes collected by police officers, or other authorized officials. The expense would not be great, as there are, on an average, only about 800 such votes for each division comprising, approximately, 50,000 voters. It is most important that our electoral act should he properly framed, because upon it must depend the nature of the legislation which future parliaments will enact.
.- Will the Minister have inserted in this clause a provision that when a person applies for a postal vote the returning officer be required to furnish a ballot-paper with the names of all the candidates printed on it? In the forthcoming election in New South Wales, there may be from fourteen to sixteen candidates for the Senate, and in some electorates five or six candidates for the House of Representatives. When a person makes application for a postal vote, the returning officer sends him a blank ballot-paper for the House of Representatives, and also one for the Senate. In the case of the Senate ballot-paper, there may be fourteen or sixteen blank spaces, and in the case of the House of Representatives there may bo eight or nine blank spaces. The elector is required to write in every name. If it would be possible for the Minister to instruct the electoral officers to have the names of the candidates printed on the ballot-papers, much difficulty in this respect would be overcome. I ask the Minister to accept my suggestion.
– What the honorable member suggests is already in operation. I am advised by the Chief Electoral Officer that no postal ballotpaper is sent out unless the names of the candidates are printed on it.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that many people who are working in the outback portions of Australia never have an opportunity to vote at a Commonwealth election, although they are keenly interested in federal politics and are regular readers of Hansard. If they desire to record their vote they must send an application for a postal vote to the divisional returning officer. A man living in the neighbourhood of Hall’s Creek, where there is no polling-booth, must send to Kalgoorlie, 2,000 miles away, for the necessary postal voting papers. We are shortly to have an election within three weeks of the closing date for the receipt of nominations. Obviously, a man living so far outback will be unable to secure his postal voting papers and return them to the divisional returning officer in time to have his vote recorded. The pioneers in the outback country, engaged as they are in most arduous work, are keen Australians every one’ of them, and should not be disfranchised. No doubt tho honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has also experienced this disability in connexion with his own electorate, as has also the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). The position is -not so bad in connexion with State elections in Western Australia, because these men are permitted under the State law to vote by post, and the mailmen collect their votes, though not in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) in his remarks concerning the collection of postal votes from patients in hospitals. Many miners living in Pilbarra, in my electorate, have not a possible chance under the system which exists at present of recording their votes.
.- To secure a postal vote it is necessary for an elector to make application to the divisional returning officer. In the case of men living, say, at Herbertvale, in the Gulf country, the nearest divisional returning officer is located at Charters Towers. It takes the mail five weeks to reach Charters Towers from Herbertvale Therefore, five weeks must elapse between the date of posting the application and its receipt at Charters Towers. A further five weeks is taken up in the despatch of the ballot-paper to Herbertvale. Actually the time required to record the vote is about twelve weeks. If the elector were permitted to make application to the subdivisional officer, say, at Camooweal, he could secure his postal ballot-paper within a week, and, at the outside, it would not take him more than three weeks to record his vote. No difficulty is experienced by the taxation authorities in reaching the men in these remote areas, and every facility is extended to them to furnish their income tax returns without delay; but when the privilege of recording a vote for the election of a representative of the National Parliament is involved, every possible obstacle is placed in their way. During the last four or five years the polling booths in this area have been abolished in the interests of economy and in this way settlers have been deprived of the vote. It. has been suggested that the. postal voting provisions should be deleted; but I remind the committee that people living in the outback are disfranchised in any case.
If a sick person makes application for a vote he is sent two blank ballot papers upon which he has to write the name of the candidate or candidates for whom he wishes to vote. In the case of the Senate candidates he has to number the ballot paper 1 to 6 and write in the six names of the candidates. This is a test of memory that should not be imposed upon a sick person. If he expresses a wish to vote for a particular party and the witness supplies him with the name of the candidate of that particular party the witness renders himself liable to a charge of having used influence to secure a vote. I agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) that the names of the Senate candidates at least should be printed on the postal ballot paper or written in by the returning officer before the ballot paper is sent out. The Minister’ has given us assurance that that is already done but I doubt if the information which has been supplied to him is correct. The name is written in by the elector or, in cases where the elector may not be able to write, by the witness. I believe that action should be taken along’ the lines suggested’ by the honorablemember for Reid’, and that the postal vote facility should be extended by provisionbeing made for the supply of postal ballot papers by the nearest subdivisional returning officer in the district in which the absent voter resides.
– I understand the department is changing the application form and that some additions are to be made to it in the event of this bill being passed. As I have already secured a number of the old forms from Canberra- and distributed: them in Sydney I should like to know from the Minister whether those forms will be considered to be in keeping with the requirements of the act, and will be accepted by the department.
– No alteration has been made in the form. This clause deals only with penalty to be imposed on those who attempt to influence people to vote by post in a particular manner. The Chief Electoral Officer has advised me that, wherever possible, the names of candidates for both the Senate and the House of Representatives are printed on the postal ballot-papers.
.- There will then be seventy-four separate ballot papers with the names of ail candidates for the Senate and candidates for the House of Representatives in every polling booth in Australia on polling day
– I suggest that the Electoral Department would experience no difficulty in providing Senate ballot-papers throughout the Commonwealth. It- would, however, bc most difficult to supply to every polling place the exact number of ballot-papers that might be required for every division of the House of Representatives. There is no knowing where an elector might be on polling day. Therefore, so far as the House of Representatives is concerned, I consider that it will be necessary for the person who wishes to vote as an absentee to write upon the ballot-paper the name of the candidate for whom he wishes to vote. My experience of electioneering extends over a considerable number of years, and I. can see no way of altering that procedure.
.- Form 30 reads -
It is the duty of the presiding officer, before issuing this ballot-paper to an elector, to fill in- the name of the division for which the elector declares that he is enrolled, and the names of allcandidates for that division, if not already printed thereon.
– That suits me.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Sectiononehundred and twenty-three of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting paragraph (a) of subsection (1.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - “ (a) Where his ballot-paper is a ballot-paper in accordance with Form £ in the schedule-he shall place the number 1 in the square opposite the name of the candidate for whom he votes as his first preference and shall place the numbers 2, 3, 4 (and so on, as the case requires) in the squares opposite the names of all the remaining candidates so as to indicate the order of his preference for them;”; and
.- The present method of voting for the Senate is altogether undemocratic. Take, for example, the vote for Western Australia, in which the total enrolment is approximately 182,000. Unless one party groups itself with another, one group may receive 90,001 votes and secure the return of three candidates, while another group which receives 90,000 votes will have no representation,
– - Proportional representation is needed.
– Proportional representation should be adopted. At the elections held in 1931, the Country party, for its own salvation, made a working arrangement with the United Australia party, under which one group comprised two United Australia party candidates and one Countryparty candidate. Senator Pearce received 40,000 primary votes, and ex-Senator Needham, a labour candidate, 63,000 primary votes. In other words, 63,000 electors wanted Needham before any other candidate, while only 40,000 electors held that view in regard to Senator Pearce. Yet by reason of the method of counting adopted, those who voted for Needham were left unrepresented. Such a system is absolutely unfair. Under the proportional system it would be impossible to have only one Labour senator and all other senators members of a different political party as happened some’ years ago when Senator Gardiner was the sole Labour representative. A visitor from Mars would natur ally conclude from such a spectacle thatpracticallyno votes had been cast for other than the dominant party. Yet at the next elections the position was largely reversed. It is quite on the cards that there will be a big turnover of votes to the Labour party at the impending elections. Imagine the position with which ah administration would he confronted in six years’ time if there were another change, and a Senate composed of a majority of members of the Labour party attempted to block legislation,as was done in connexion with every measure brought forward, by the Scullin administration ! In such circumstances it is impossible to give expression to the will of the people. The only fair system is that which gives one vote one value. The sooner a government is returned which will have the courage to make the required change, the’ better it will be for all concerned.
.- I am opposed to the provision which requires an elector at a Senate election to vote for every candidate. Let us suppose that sixteen candidates offer themselves for election. The argument advanced by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Perkins) is that fewer informal votes will result than is the case at present. Tens of thousands of electors cannot mark their preferences from 1 to 7, and poll a formal vote. Therefore, the Minister’s argument falls to the ground. The honorable gentleman further stated that this proposal embodies the real spirit of preferential voting. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), however, has shown that the question of real preferential voting is not involved. The present’ method is no different from that which required ballotpapers to be marked with a cross. The principle of “ first past the post “ is the proper one. In no circumstances should electors be compelled to indicate a preference for any candidate whom otherwise they would not tolerate. In any case, if a voter desires to indicate his preference to the fullest extent he now has the right to do so ; consequently the franchise would not be restricted if in that respect the act remained unaltered. Because I hold the views that I do, I move -
That paragraph (a) be omitted.
.- I am in favour of the clause as it stands. The principle laid down for the election of members to either House of the Commonwealth Parliament is that of compulsory preferential voting, and that can be given effect only by insisting that electors shall vote for every candidate, whatever the number of candidates may be. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) objects to this particular provision on the ground that electors will be compelled to vote for candidates of whom they do not approve. At the last Senate election in New South Wales, although there were fourteen candidates, hundreds of thousands of electors indicated their preferences only as far as No. 7, because tho party organizations ask them to do so. The honorable member for Dalley practically admits it. He believes in the principle of “first past the post”, and the present method more nearly gives effect to it than any other. The amendment of the law as now proposed would break down the principle advocated by the Labour party, whose organization invariably advises its party supporters to vote only for the minimum number of candidates for whom they are compelled to vote. That party believes that the fewer the number of candidates for whom their supporters vote, the easier it is to exercise control over them at the election. If it were permissible for an elector to vote for only three candidates, the honorable member for Dalley would no doubt advocate that: but no political organization has the right to urge an elector to vote for a certain number of candidates only.
The object of the preferential system is clearly to make the vote of every elector effective, yet, at the last election in New South Wales, the votes of tens of thousands were not effective, because full advantage was not taken of ‘the preferential principle. If we believe in the principle of compulsory preferential voting, we should insist on the electors voting for the full number of candidates as provided under the present law.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), who complained that probably about 90,000 electors in Western
Australia are ‘not represented in the Senate, might also have said that in bis own electorate about 20,000 supporters of the United Australia party are not represented. My friends in the Country party favour proportional representation, because they believe that it would give their particular political section representation in the Senate, but the result would be that at every election a representative of the United Australia party, the Country party, and the Labour party would’ be returned, any one party of which would hold the balance of power. The framers of the Constitution contemplated that by providing for six senators from each State, three to retire at each election, the Senate would be essentially a State House. If the present system for the election of the Senate were superseded by that of proportional representation, the probability i3 that each of the three existing parties would return one representative, and a government that might have a good working majority in the House of Representatives would meet with a deadlock owing to the party representation in the Senate. The advocates of proportional voting for the Senate should be logical and seek to apply it, also to the election of members of the House of Representatives. The clause as it stands is absolutely sound, and gives effect to a principle that has stood the test of time.
.- What the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has said about the results of Senate elections is correct, but that does not necessarily imply that his suggested remedy is practicable. At the last election, the Labour party secured the return of only three senators, while the ministerial party returned fifteen. On a previous occasion, the Labour party had only one member in the Senate, and the Government party had 35. Following the double dissolution in 1914, Labour returned 31 senators out of 36, and but for the fact that one South Australian Labour candidate died after the nomination day and before the poll, 32 Labour senators would have been returned. Although the results are unfair, I do not believe that the adoption of proportional representation would remedy the position. It was believed at the outset of federation that the senators would represent, first and foremost, State interests generally; but, of course, under the party system they are as definitely bound to their respective parties as are members of the House of Representatives, because, in recent years, the voters have been divided into Labour and anti-Labour camps. Up to 30 years ago, the various political parties were more or less of the same type; but once the Labour party became a definite political force, all the other parties united against it. The Senate to-day represents those who believe in the Labour party and those who do not. No method of electoral reform can alter this position ; the only remedy is to abolish the Senate, a policy for which the Labour party stands. I believe that at no very, distant date my party will take action in that direction. At every election, we should adopt the easiest possible method of voting to enable the elector to make his intention clear. At present, we have candidates standing under different colours, and it is not easy to give effect to the principle of “ first past the post “. Therefore, the preferential system has been adopted, and although I am not altogether satisfied with the results, it is the fairest possible in the circumstances. The strongest argument against it is that it may lead to confusion on the part of the electors, but the elector is given full opportunity to exercise his choice. Under the present law, he must vote for twice the number of Senate candidates required, plus one, no matter how many may be standing. In the past, the electors have been told to vote for seven candidates, and if the number happens to be fewer than seven, an increase in the number of informal votes occurs. According to a suggestion in the press, four Senate candidates may require to be elected in South Australia, which would mean that the electors would be required to indicate their preferences for two sets of four candidates, plus one. If five persons have to be elected, the people have to vote for twice five candidates, plus one. It seems to me, therefore, that the simplest provision to make in the interest of uniformity, is to require the electors to show the order of their preference for every candidate on the ballot-paper. It seems possible that in
New South “Wales at this election there may be Federal Labour, State Labour and Douglas Credit candidates. These three groups will have at least one common objective, the defeat of the present monetary system, and the electors should be permitted to exercise their votes for these candidates in the order in which they desire.
, - The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Dein) speaking in opposition to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) declared that it would be disastrous if a Labour senator, a Country party senator, and a United Australia party senator were returned for each State at the coming election, because it might have the effect of preventing the passage through the Senate of the legislation passed by this chamber if his party was successful. I always thought that advocates of upper houses, like the honorable member, regarded them as chambers of review; yet he now seems to think that it would be disadvantageous if a mixture of parties were returned to the Senate, as apparently he desires no obstacles to effect the policy of his party. If the honorable gentleman really holds the views that he expressed it seems to me that he should join forces with those who’ desire the abolition of upper houses; because, under those conditions, the Senate would be an exact replica, in its political views, of this House. That being so, why the necessity for this institution at all? It is simply duplicating the work and, therefore, should not exist. The honorable gentleman also referred to the practice of issuing “How to vote” cards to electors, but electors are not obliged to accept such cards. They only take them if they wish to do so.
– This Parliament should not consider parties.
– The honorable member is the outstanding example of a “ party hack “ in this chamber, and I cannot understand why he should wish to hide the fact. If he belongs to a particular party he should be prepared to carry its banner and take what is coming to him. There is nothing in the present law to prevent an elector from exhausting his choice of candidates. He may, if he wishes to do so, vote for every candidate whose name appears on the ballot-paper. Party organizations have limited the number of candidates on their “ How to vote “ cards because they desire to reduce informal votes to the lowest possible percentage. I believe that the more names there are on the ballot-paper that have to be voted for, the more likelihood there is of the paper being informal. J, therefore, support the amendment.
– The officers of the Electoral Department, and also the members of .the Government have given deep consideration to the clause now _ under consideration, and recommend it because it will make the work of the electors simpler, and allow one list of instructions to be issued. At present one set of instructions has to be issued for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate. Seeing that probably 90 per cent, of the electors vote according to cards that are issued to them, and that it is no more difficult for cards to indicate preferences for all the candidates than, it is to indicate only a selected number, we feel that the clause may safely be adopted. I do not think that it would lead to a great increase of informal votes. It must be remembered that sometimes the No. S preference is required to secure an election. On at least two occasions that has been tho case. One of the objects of this clause is to provide- for ‘the use of the preferential system in its entirety. If No. S preference is required, and only, say, 150,000 voters out of 260,000 have recorded their No. 8 preference, the other 5”0,000 are disfranchised, and that is undesirable. If people go to the polls, they should at least make an effective vote.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Disorderly behaviour at meeting) .
.- We do not complain that candidates should be deprived of the right to keep their meetings as orderly as possible, but we think that there should be no dis= crimination between meetings held in public halls and meetings held in other public places. . The proposed new subsection 5 in this clause reads -
A member of a police force of a State or Territory or of the Commonwealth may arrest without warrant any person who commits an offence against the last preceding sub-section.
If a policeman is requested by the chairman of the meeting or a candidate, or another speaker, to remove an interjector, I think the onus of prosecution should rest upon the person who issues the instructions to the police. Why should the police officer be required to take the initiative ? The proper person to dp so is the person who orders the removal of the interjector.
.- - Although the State electoral law permits the chairman of a meeting to have an interjector removed, the federal law does not do so-. The object of the proposed new sub-sections (3) and (4) of section 177 of the principal act, is to give the chairman of the meeting power to carry out his duties effectively. No question of prosecution arises merely upon ‘the removal of an interjector from a meeting, but if the ejected person later returns to the building, then the police may take action without warrant, and it seems to me to be reasonable that they should be able to do so. There is, therefore, nothing unreasonable in this clause. It has been inserted in the first “place merely to bridge a gap iii the ‘existing law> and in order to invest tire chairman with authority to deal effectively with a meeting. To-day a chairman can warn an interjector who disturbs a meeting, but he has no authority to order his removal. This measure gives him that power.
– I was referring to the clause dealing with power to arrest.
– If an interjector returns after a chairman has ordered his removal outside the building, it is perfectly reasonable for the police to carry out the law as it affects ordinary order in the community. I sec no objection to this provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Title consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and with an amendment of the title; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th July (vide page 493) on -motion by Mr. Marr -
That the bill be -now read a second time,
.— This is a measure I think the Opposition will be able to support. It is quite all fight so far as it goes, but we should like to see further concessions given to this very deserving section of the community. There is really no monetary concession extended in this measure which merely gives constitutional hacking to a number of Cabinet decisions that have been made fromtimeto time in regard to pension rights of returned soldiers There has been a fear in the minds of ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis that the decision made by the Cabinet in 1925 might betaken away by a subsequent Cabinet. Although all successive governments since 1925 have approved of the decision of the then . Cabinet - and I think it very unlikely that any government would alter it - the. soldiers desire that their fears may be allayed, and the Opposition has no objection to the manner in which it is dealt with in this bill. Representatives of returned ‘soldiers’ leagues -made similar requests to previous governments, and the Government of which I was a member had intended to introduce a measure of this kind, but ‘something always turned up to prevent it from doing so. The pay ment of allowances to blind soldiers is a reasonable proposal. This was pro- vided for by regulation by previous governments. The amendments proposed to sections 22, 39, 40, 45 and 45 (y) are also non-con ten tious. In 1924 a royal commission, appointed to inquire into war service disabilities, recommended that a permanent pension should be paid where tuberculosis had resulted from war service. That was done by regulation, but this bill will give effect to that recommendation. There is no doubt that many of those who have been through the nerveracking experience of active service for some years feel no effects of the experience until they get older, when possibly, as a result of a great economic strain, such as unemployment, they break down in health, and find it necessary to apply for a pension. Ithink honorable members of this House, irrespective of party, are anxious to make the lot ofthese ex-soldiers ‘ lighter. We know that the average man in the best of health finds it difficult in these days to obtain ‘employment, and earn a livelihood for himself and his family, while those who are maimed and suffering from, war disabilities are labouring Under enormous handicaps. Therefore, though it is not proposed in this measure to confer any direct monetary benefit, it provides for statutory authority for concessions of various kinds already granted, and is to be commended.
– I am in complete accord with this measure as faras it goes, but I take this opportunity to bring forward a proposal designed to ensure more sympathetic treatment for the dependants of disabled pensioner ‘soldiers whose death by misadventure may have arisen out of war injuries. As the act now stands, if a blind soldier, or one who is minus a leg, is killed in a street accident, the onus of proving the accident was attributable to War injuries rests upon his dependants, and this imposes, in many cases, an almost impossible task upon them. I know of one case in Melbourne in which a returned soldier was in receipt of a pensionof £2 a fortnight because ‘of ‘disabilities resulting from gunshot wounds in the head. The man was suffering from partial deafness, and practically total blindness of the right eye. In October last, he stepped off the pavement at a fairly dark point in the street to catch a tram, and, while crossing the street, was struck on his blind side by a taxi-cab travelling at about 25 or 30 miles an hour. He received injuries which resulted in his death. It is stated in the act that the benefit of the doubt in such cases shall be given to the pensioner,- or, in the event of his death, to his dependants. In this case, however, the matter first went before the Deputy Commissioner and his board, and then before the Commissioner himself on appeal. Finally it was carried to the Entitlement Tribunal, but iu every case the decision went against the dependants. It was maintained that there was no doubt at all that the man owed his death to negligence. It was an almost incredible decision, and appears, to me to have been based on immaterial evidence, namely, that of a brother who had rarely seen the deceased, and who was admittedly on bad terms with him. The brother said that he did not even know that the pensioner had any defect in his vision, The question of blindness should not have come into the minds of the commission, because the department was paying the man a pension of £2 a fortnight principally on account of his blindness, although his partial deafness was also a consideration. The attitude taken up by the authorities in this case was prejudicial to the interests of the man’s widow and, indeed, to the dependants of pensioners in all similar cases. 1 am making no complaint against the Government, but 1 .do think that we have handed over too much power to this commission, which has developed into a somewhat distant bureaucracy over which we have no control. It has become rather arbitrary, and not quite so sympathetic as honorable members here believe. I say that with great reluctance, but with great feeling. In this case, when the soldier was discharged, his vision was unimpaired, but the blindness developed later and became progressively worse. Up to the time of his death he had been in constant employment in the one position for ten years, showing that he was a sound man. Nevertheless, the commission left to the widow the task of proving that hia death was due to his war disabilities. I am sorry that the case did not come under my notice until after it had been dealt with by the State board. It is evident that there was no sympathetic consideration of the case from beginning to end, and no one from tile commission visited the scene of the accident to attempt to reconstruct the occurrence. Complete credence seems to have been given to the evidence of the brother, evidence which should never have come into the matter at all unless it was admitted that the commission was at fault in having paid a pension to the man in the first place.
– What was the finding of the coroner ?
– Accidental death.
– Was any action taken against the taxi-driver?
– I do not think so. The case of this widow was one for sympathetic treatment by the commission. I give notice* of an amendment that, in cases in which the disability of a soldier pensioner is due to war wounds, and he meets his death by misadventure, the onus should be on the commission to disprove that his death was due to war service. Acceptance of the proposed amendment would not involve the Government in heavy expenditure; but it would mean a great deal to the persons concerned. Although the tribunal, if convinced that a prima facie case has been made out, can send the case back to the commission, the fact remains that the tribunal is the arbiter of what is a prima facie case. That is not satisfactory. In most cases the cause of death Ls attributed to war service; but, in this and other cases, the dependants have not had that measure of justice which this Parliament and the people of Australia intended.
– Most honorable members believed that, when the tribunals were set up, effect would be given to their decisions by the Repatriation Commission. Within the last two or three weeks I have had brought under my notice the case of an ex-soldier who appeared before the appeals tribunal. After reviewing the evidence, the tribunal decided that the man’s complaint was due to war service. A decision to that effect was communicated to the commission, which, after further consideration, informed the applicant that, although his trouble was due to war service, the circumstances did not warrant the granting of a pension to him. That ex-soldier is attending a hospital ; previously he was engaged on relief work, but was unable to continue with it because of the poor state of his health. When 1 discussed this matter with officers of the department in Sydney, they informed me that the commission was acting within the law. The basic principle underlying the Repatriation Act is that assistance shall be granted to men who suffer disabilities as a result of their war service. Then following in their proper order are various ways of determining the amount of pension to be paid. If the commission rejects the case presented by’ the applicant in the first place, the matter is referred to the appeals board. When the appeals board was constituted, every member of this House thought that the commission would have no right to override its decisions. Certainly no member would have supported any provision giving the commission that power. I do not desire to mention this ex-soldier’s name, and, indeed, do not think that it is necessary to do so, for I believe that the Minister, after examining the facts, will not stand for this kind of treatment.
.- I support the bill; but I do not think that it goes far enough. Most honorable members who have endeavoured to obtain redress for soldiers are agreed that the present procedure is most cumbersome, and that it takes too long a time to obtain tho decision of the tribunal. When an ex-soldier appeals to the Deputy Commissioner, and his appeal is refused, the case goes to the Chief Commissioner in Melbourne. By that time several months may have elapsed. Should the Chief Commissioner also refuse the application, it is dealt with by the appeals tribunal - an itinerant body which does not always deal with cases as promptly as applicants desire. A case came under my notice recently in which an application made in January, 1933, was decided only in June, 1934. Although the verdict was favorable to the applicant, the decision was made retrospective for only six months.
When appearing before the tribunal, a soldier applicant should be entitled to be represented by his own doctor. A soldier who reports ill may be taken to the Randwick Hospital and placed in a cot. Should his application for a pension be rejected, a representative of the returned soldiers appears on his behalf before the tribunal. ‘ That advocate, as well as the department, should be entitled to the assistance of a doctor. I have brought several cases under the notice of the department during the last twelve months, and during my membership of this House I: have brought something like 100 cases before the Commissioner, and have dealt with them personally. 1 have found, generally, that the soldier has been placed in an unfair position inasmuch as he has not been able to present personally his claim before the tribunal, nor has he had the money to secure assistance. If his claim is rejected by the medical officers of the Prince Edward Hospital, he is then given the right of appeal. An advocate may appear for him, but he has not the right to call the medical referee to help him in his claim. I think I may claim fairly that I am the only member of Parliament who has personally appeared at the sittings of the Appeal and Assessment tribunals. I have been keenly interested in the working of these tribunals, and have endeavoured to understand the cause of the tremendous delay which takes place in the settlement of claims. In some cases, there is a delay in the settlement of the appeal of from six to eighteen months. In one case, that of a widow whose husband died nine months ago, no decision has yet been arrived at as to whether or not she is entitled to a pension, and she is not aware of the position in which her case stands at the moment. This state of affairs may be readily understood when it is considered that one tribunal is endeavouring to deal with from 800 to 1,000 cases a year. In my opinion, separate tribunals should be set up in each State to ensure that a decision shall not be delayed for more than a week. More businesslike methods should be followed.
At the present time the tribunal sits in Sydney, and, after hearing cases, it proceeds to Melbourne; in some cases six months elapse before the soldier hears the verdict of the tribunal. Many ex-soldiers, who have been through all the Horrors of war and have suffered sickness and shock, have reached £0 or 50 years of age before applying for a pension, and because they have no hospital record from the date of their discharge, there is a hard and fast rule that their claims should be rejected.
Many men have been forced by their circumstances to relinquish their membership of the soldiers’ organizations. These men place their cases before a member of Parliament, and quite frequently we find that the department shuts the door on the representative of the people.
– Even if the men have relinquished their membership of the organization, they can still get assistance from the advocate in the department. Mr. Quinlan is a good man.
– The soldier is entitled to assistance in presenting his claim.
– The Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia would not turn these men down merely because they are unable to pay their membership fee.
– I know of cases where men have been turned down several times No facilities are provided for honorable members to1 investigate matters for thesoldiers. I have here written authority from the relatives of six ex-soldiers- to examine their papers; but when I go to the department for advice I find that a clerk is sent along to ask. me what I want to see. I have- first to ascertain- the history of the applicant and then the names of the doctors who- attended him’. Probably tlie- investigation of the file’ will keep me occupied for four hours. I suggest that, instead of one central tribunal, there should be tribunal’s in each of the ‘States to* determine these cases, and that they should bt- able to arrive at a decision within 48 hours after the hearing of the appeal, or at most within a week. T hope the Minister will inform the House that in future these decisions will b«’ expedited.
– Order J The honorable member is getting rather outside the’ scope of the bill, which is clearly to amend certain sections of the Australian’ Soldiers’ Repatriation Act arid to repeal others. I am sure that it is not the- desire of tho House that there should be a’ general debate on the war pensions tribunals. I ask the honorable gentleman to address himself to the bill.
– I say that the proposed amendments do not. meet the position. One case which has been brought before me is that of an ex-soldier who was receiving a 75 per cent, pension. Because he met with a motor car accident, his pension was reduced to 55 per cent., and subsequently, in consequence of a cycle accident, it was further reduced to 25 per cent. The pension was” granted because of war disabilities’, and I am unable to understand why it should be reduced after he had suffered further disabilities.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Riley) adjourned.
The following answers to questions weft circulated:-
Retail Price Cutting in United States of America.
Will be ascertain whether a recent press report is correct that over 1,600,000’ retail stores in the United’ States of America, employing over 6,000,000 persona,, have Mated price cutting?
How many persons have been deported from the Commonwealth, since the present Government tookoffice, for each of the following reasons: -
illegal entry into the Commonwealth;
criminal offences or criminal records;
connexion with white slave traffic; and
connexion with communist or other political activities?
Total 401 up to 30th June, 1934;
Co-ordination op Health Departments.
Will he have legislation prepared to enable his department to join with the Health Depart ments of the States in protecting the health of the people by following more systematic, scientific, and successful methods than those at present followed by the- seven separate’ departments!
Value op Banking Premises.
Surplus Military Clothing
What was thequantity of surplus or disused naval and military clothing issued to State governments for the relief of the unemployed from the 1st January, 1932, to the 30th June, 1934, at (a) Brisbane, (b) Sydney, (c) Melbourne, (d) Adelaide, (e) Perth, and (f) Hobart, respectively?
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Mining in toe Northern Territory.
I now desireto advise the honorable member as follows:-
Sitting Days of Judges
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that the number of days on which each member of the courts in question sat is as follows: -
Garden Island - Apprentices
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the fee of 5s. was charged to meet the cost of conducting the examination, including fees paid to members of the staff of the ‘Sydney Technical College for setting and correcting papers, advertising and printing.Re- funds were made in certain cases where candidates withdrew before the date of the examination. The amount received in fees did not cover the cost of holding the examination, and it is not proposed to make refunds to unsuccessful applicants. It may he mentioned that a fen of 5s. ‘ is charged for the examination for appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 July 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1934/19340724_reps_13_144/>.