14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) look the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the following papers, previously laid on the table of the House, be printed: -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the applications made by the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for Financial Assistance in1935-36 from the Commonwealth under Section 96 of the Constiution.
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twelfth Annual Report for year 1934-35.
Nauru - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Nauru for year 1934.
New Guinea - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea for year 1933-34.
Taxation - SeventeenthReport of the Commissioner of Taxation, year 1938-34 and part 1934-35.
Western Australia - Report by the Joint Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, appointed to consider the Petition of the State of Western Australia.
– Will the Prime Minister table the communications that have passed between the British Government and his Administration on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute?
– I think the honorable member will realize that for obvious reasons it is not advisahle to lay on the table of the House communications of sucha confidential character as those that have passed between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government in this connexion. So far as possible, without producing secret and confidential communications, I shall place the fullest information before honorable members from time to time.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer give consideration to the insertion of a provision in the sales tax legislation giving to taxpayers the right of objection and appeal against assessments, similar to that which is embodied in the income tax and land tax legislation ?
– This matter was considered when the sales tax legislation was first framed, and has since been further considered on several occasions. It was thought then, and it still is, that in respect of a tax involving collections monthby month and embracing numerous transactions, any one or any number of which might be queried and appealed against, such a practice would be both unwieldy and impracticable.
– According to press reports, the Department of the Interior is requiring the lodgment of a guarantee of £100 with respect to each member of the Soviet soccer team that proposes to visit Australia. As a similar guarantee was not required in the case of the Czecho-Slovakian team and the Chinese team which came to this country, will the Minister for- the Interior explain the reason for this differential treatment?
– The practice to which the honorable gentleman has alluded is a general one, and has been in operation for a number of years. No discrimination of any kind is being shown against the Soviet soccer team.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether his attention has been directed to a circular or manifesto issued by the Co-operative Butter and Cheese Factories Association of Victoria, expressing concern at proposals for the re-organization of the Dairy Produce Control Board - concern which is felt also by the dairymen themselves - and whether he will confer further with the representatives of the dairying industry before taking definite action in this matter ?
– My attention has been drawn to this circular, which is based on a misapprehension and is a misstatement of the facts. It states that the Government intends so to alter the Dairy Produce Export Control Act as to give additional ‘ government control, whereas the intention of the Government as expressed by me and other members of the Ministry, is to increase the number of producers’ representatives on the board. In every other respect the powers and functions of the board will not be affected in the slightest degree.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state whether, in the proposed re-organization of the dairying industry, effect will be given to the recommendations of the National Dairying Council which emanated from the conference that sat in Sydney in April last?
– The recommendations of that conference were adopted by 17 votes to 16, which shows that there was a good deal of diversity of opinions among delegates. In any case, the recommendation was that three producers should be placed on the Dairy Produce Control Board. It is now intended that there shall be, not three producers, but six, on the Board.
– Certain land adjoining the Essendon Aerodrome is to be resumed by the Commonwealth. I have received complaints from several persons in New South Wales of having been notified by the department of the resumption of their lands at prices equal to 25 per cent. of those that were paid for them, and at approximately 25 per cent. of the shire or municipal valuation. I should like the Minister for the Interior to state whether any means exist for obtaining redress, or having some voice in the fixation of the amount to be paid.
– A good deal of correspondence has reached my department recently in connexion with this matter. About seven or eight years ago a considerable number of persons bought, in the vicinity of the Essendon Aerodrome, small blocks of land which it is now necessary for the Commonwealth to acquire so as to increase the area of the aerodrome. Three different valuations of those blocks were made by expert valuers, and in every case the amount offered to the holder of the block by the department was either equal to, or greater than, the highest valuation. In view of the representations that havebeen made by many persons who apparently paid a good deal more for the land a few years ago than it is worth to-day, I am inquiring into the matter to see in what way relief may be given. I assure the honorable member that everything will be done to treat the owners of the land fairly.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that for a considerable time much anxiety has been occasioned in Australia about the practicability of developing our coal resources to a greater extent than hitherto, and of extracting oil from coal. I understand that the right honorable gentleman promised, before he left for England, that he would inspect certain extraction plants there and report upon the subject on his return to Australia. Is he now able to make a report on the subject, and to indicate whether asuitable plant for the extraction of oil from coal can be installed in this country?
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. I did not undertake to inspect such plants. Even had I made such inspections, I should not have understood the various processes. I shall, however, take the opportunity, probably to-morrow, to make a carefully prepared statement to the House on the extraction of oil from coal.
Mr.WATKINS. - In view of the facts that the Postal Department is to be granted an additional £450,000 this year for departmental works to enable it to increase the scope and efficiency of the services it renders to the public, and that a city of the magnitude and industrial importance of Newcastle is still labouring under the disadvantages associated with manually operated telephone exchanges, I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Government proposes to allocate part of this additional money for the purpose of constructing the automatic telephone exchange -which is so necessary to the advancement of Newcastle and the convenience of its people?
– Several proposals for the installation of automatic telephone exchanges are before the Postal Department at present, and I shallbring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the request which the honorable member has made in respect to Newcastle.
– In connexion with the proposal of the Government to cause an investigation to be made into banking and monetary systems, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in order to ensure that greater confidence shall be imparted in the public mind in the report of the investigatingbody, the Government will avoid appointing to it men personally interested in banking ?
– The aim of’ the Government is to see that as far as possible those appointed to conduct this inquiry shall be entirely independent of the banking institutions, and other similar institutions in this country.
– I ask the Minister for Health, whether consideration will be given to making a grant of portion of Lord Nuffield’s gift for the benefit of crippled children to the Far West children’s health scheme which is carrying out extensive work in the country in the interests of crippled children?
– As the honorable member was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, I took steps to obtain a certain amount of detailed information in regard to it. It is considered important by the trust appointed to administer Lord Nuffield’s gift that there shall he in each State a co-ordinating body such as the Crippled Children’s Society already provides, and that the work of these societies shall be encouraged with the object of insuring continuity of supervision from the first knowledge of a case until at least the end of treatment, and, if possible, to the placing in employment of the person concerned.
The amounts allocated to each State from the gifts are as follows: -
These amounts will be devoted towards the following three principal aspects of this work : -
The amount allocated to New South Wales is to be distributed as follows : -
The money was given by Lord Nuffield definitely for the benefit of crippled children, and the Council of Advice has decided that the New South Wales Crippled Children’s Society shallbe the co-ordinating society in that State, and that society has been informed that it is to consider the needs of all local societies, so that its activities will now not be confined to the metropolitan area, but will be extended to the whole State.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the result of his negotiations with the Government of New Zealand regarding the export of citrus fruits to that dominion from Australia ?
– The only conference I had with any member of the Government of New Zealand was a short interview with the Acting Prime Minister of the dominion as I passed through Auckland, in which city I spent only a few hours altogether. There has been no further conference between representatives of the governments of Australia and New Zealand in regard to the citrus industry; but I hope that a conference on the subject will be held in the near future.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the negotiations between the Government of South Australia and the Commonwealth Government in connexion with thebuild- . ing of the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway have been terminated by the Commonwealth Government? I have received a very long letter from South Australia setting out the true position and I ask the Minister to explain to the House the actual situation, as between the two governments. Will it not he possible to reach an agreement on this subject without recourse to litigation?
– It is not correct to say that the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia have been terminated. Only to-day, a letter has been sent by the Commonwealth Government to the Government of South Australia in reply to one received by the Commonwealth Government on this subject on Monday last. I hope that the result of these communications will be that a satisfactory understanding will be reached between the two governments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that the Vacuum Oil Company is being permitted to send closed envelopes weighing, with their contents, one and a half ounces each through the post for lid., and whether it is also being permitted to deface the stamps affixed to such envelopes?
– I assume that whatever was done was in conformity with the regulations ; . otherwise some action would have been taken. However, I shall bring under the notice of the department the representations of the honorable member.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether he had an opportunity when he was abroad to confer with the ‘representatives of the Government of Great Britain and of the other dominions on the question of the nationality of married women, and, if so, whether an agreement was reached which will later be embodied in legislation brought before the various Empire parliaments ?
– The Attorney-General and I conferred with representatives of the British Government, and placed the views of the Commonwealth Government before them. The outcome of the discussion was that the British Government made it very clear to us that it desired, before taking action, to secure uniformity among all the Empire governments. For my part, I was not con vinced that the advantages of uniformity were so great that Australia would be justified in abandoning its aspirations in this direction. The reasons advanced in support of the attitude taken up by the British Government did not seem to be adequate, and we asked that the Government of Great Britain, through the Minister dealing with this subject, should prepare a memorandum setting out specifically the reasons why it thought uniformity should be obtained before any action is taken. We have not yet received that memorandum, though we expect it shortly.
– In view of the fact that much dissatisfaction exists among wireless listeners since the recent alteration of wave lengths, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General take steps to ensure that the wave lengths are altered in order to eliminate the interference which has become so pronounced ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s representations under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral.
– In view of the decision of the Government to reduce by ls. 4d. per lb. the excise on certain grades of dark tobacco of the kind used by aborigines, will the Minister for Trade and Customs arrange for a similar concession in regard to dark tobacco suitable for use by natives of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, where the market is so much greater?
– The Commonwealth Government has no control over what is sold in Papua and New Guinea, where the administration fixes its own tariff. As a matter of fact, the high price of the Australian tobacco prevents it’ from being a competitor in that market.
– Will the Assistant Treasurer state what progress has been made in regard to the Government’s proposal to institute a system of national insurance?
– The Government’s investigations have not yet reached a stage where anything useful could be said in reply to the honorable member’s question.
– I have before me a cabled report of the conference which sat in London on the 23rd May to discuss the marketing of Australian meat in Great Britain, and, in the course of that report, the following passage occurs -
Mr. Lyons was absent from the conference owing to the Royal tournament at Olympia, and the Australian delegation was ied by Mr. Menzies, the Attorney-General.
Seeing that this conference was said to be one of the chief reasons for the presence of Mr. Lyons in England, has he any explanation to offer for his absence from it?
– All the time that I was in Great Britain I was in close touch with all negotiations which took place between members of the Australian delegation and representatives of the Government of Great Britain. Nothing was done without my knowledge, though the actual details were handled at different times by the Minister in Charge of Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) and the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby). The honorable member for Werriwa has made a remarkable discovery - something which is just about on his level. I was present at the function at Olympia at the special request of the British authorities in order that I might represent the governments of the dominions, and take the salute from various organizations participating in that wonderfuldisplay. I was very proud to be associated with that function, and to have the honour to represent the dominions at it.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the House whether the department has yet had an opportunity to review the proposed dismissals of over 200 temporary employees of the department in Victoria? These employees have received notice of dismissal, and some of them, I understand, have already ceased work. When the matter was brought under the notice of honorable members representing Victorian electorates in this House, they communicated with the Prime Minister requesting him to use his endeavours to prevent these dismissals. I now ask the Minister whether anything has been done in this matter ?
– I have here some information which has been supplied to me by the department regarding the dismissal of certain temporary returned soldiers. I shall read this information, and if it does not completely answer the question asked by the honorable member, I shall complete my reply to him by letter. The department’s statement to me is as follows: -
The representations made to you recently bythe Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League, Postmaster-General’s Subbranch, through its honorary secretary, Mr. W. Ballingall, of 48 Hope-street, Brunswick, Victoria, cover four separate items, viz.: -
The dismissal of certain temporary returned soldiers;
The replacement of linemen by junior employees ;
Failure to give permanency to returned soldier employees;
The discrimination that is being exer cised in regard to the employment of returned soldiers on the ground of their domestic responsibilities.
The position in respect of the dismissals of certain temporary employees which occurred in Victoria is that the increased activity during the latter half of the last financial year, consequent on the Centenary celebrations and the effect of disastrous floods, necessitated the employment of an unusual number of temporary hands. The arrears of work which had arisen were recently overtaken, and, as conditions had become normal, the department had no alternative but to adjust the staff in conformity with the programme of work ahead. Everything possible was done to avoid staff reductions, but under the prevailing conditions they could not be escaped. The number of temporary hands being retained, however, is still substantially in excess of what may be regarded as the normal average employed prior to the unusual happenings in the latter half of last year.
The reference to the replacement of linemen by juniors apparently relates to the practice followed during the past year or two of filling vacancies by absorbing males from within the Service. The diminution of departmental activity arising from the recent depression closed temporarily the avenues in the adult ranksnormallyavailable to lads reaching adult age, with the result that a substantial number of adults on the permanent staff has been retained for lengthy periods on work of a junior character. As a means of partially ameliorating this unsatisfactory state of affairs, batches of suitable officers were drafted to a training class for linemen and were subsequently appointed to vacancies after they had qualified and demonstrated their ability to carry out the work satisfactorily. There waa obviously no alternative but for the department to utilize whatever means were available to absorb these permanent officers on work appropriate to their age and classification.
With regard to the permanent appointment of returned soldiers, the position in respect of linemen was recently reviewed in the light of the improved business conditions, and it has now been found possible to allocate a proportion of existing vacancies, and those likely to occur during the next year or two, for the appointment of qualified returned soldiers. The necessary steps in this direction will be taken at an early date.
The staffing situation in respect of other sections of the department is under constant review, and there is little likelihood of any necessity arising to recruit adults from outside the Service to other positions, such as those of mechanics, postmen, &c.
Apparently, the reference in the fourth item regarding discrimination being exercised in the employment of returned soldiers relates to the preference being extended to married men. The practice followed in this respect is strictly in accordance with the regulations framed under the Public Service Act, which define clearly the order of preference so far as the domestic responsibility of applicants is concerned. The order laid down appears to be the most equitable method of treatment.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate when the bill to ratify the sugar agreement is likely to be introduced ?
– It is hoped that .the bill to which the honorable member refers will be introduced before the Christmas .adjournment.
– Representatives of several municipalities in my electorate have combined with other bodies requesting that substantial reductions be made in postal charges. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the Minister has considered this request? Notwithstanding the fact that the budget has been introduced, will the Minister give some indication that this request will be fully considered ?
– As the honorable member’s question involves a matter of policy I am unable to answer him at this stage.
Construction or Vessels
– In accordance with a request which I have received from the Federated Society of Boilermakers, Iron Shipbuilders, and Structural Iron and Steel-workers of Australia, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if, in view of the reported intention of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited to have two 8,000-ton vessels constructed overseas, and in view of the protection afforded that company by the Federal Government, he will make inquiries into this matter and use his influence with the company to have such work carried out in Australia, with the object of providing employment for many Australian workmen who are at present unemployed?
– That is a matter for the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, and as that company has invited tenders for the construction of the vessels mentioned not only in Great Britain, but also in Australia, I cannot comment upon it at the moment.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the latter is aware that in very many cases during the last six months, whenever municipal councils and other public bodies have requested the placing of public telephones in their areas, the invariable reply received from the department has been to the effect that the sites proposed in each instance have been examined, and that the department has come to the conclusion that such telephones would be payable propositions, but, owing to financial stringency the department was unable to carry out such work. In view of these facts is it intended during the ensuing twelve months to provide additional public telephones where the department considers they would be payable propositions.
– The progressive programme of development “which the Postal Department intends to continue to carry out during the ensuing year includes the expeditious supply of additional public telephones; but I understand the department is experiencing some difficulty at the moment in securing a satisfactory supply of cabinets for such telephones.
– Is it a fact, as indicated by responsible people in Victoria, that the Commonwealth is preventing the erection of a beet sugar factory at “Warrnambool in that State?
– There has been some misunderstanding in Victoria regarding the beet sugar industry. The Commonwealth has never pretended to have legal power to prevent the expansion of the beet sugar industry. It has, however, a definite responsibility for ensuring export markets for the surplus cane sugar production and for maintaining adequate settlements in the vulnerable northern areas of Queensland, where cane sugar is produced. The Commonwealth necessarily takes an Australian view of this problem as compared with the more parochial view-point of the Assistant Minister for Agriculture in Victoria. If it is right and fair for butter and dried fruit producers to share pro rata the domestic and export markets, as State parliaments have recognized by legislation, it is equally proper that the beet sugar industry, if it is to expand, should share equally with the cane sugar industry the unprofitable export-
– The Minister is not in order in proceeding to debate a matter in answer to a question without notice.
– The Commonwealth is not able to prevent any expansion of beet sugar production in Victoria. I point out, however, that, at a conference of Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, held in June, 1929, the following resolution was adopted: -
That, if a State is growing any produce sufficient for Commonwealth consumption, and for which it is difficult to find a profitable export market, all the other States to be advised of such position with a view to safeguarding, if possible, the interest of the growers.
That resolution was unanimously affirmed in May, 1935, by the Standing Committee on Agriculture of the Australian Agricultural Council.
– I understand that the alkali industry is shortly to be established at Port Adelaide on a site formerly occupied by the rifle range. Has the Defence Department been able to secure another site for the rifle range ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Under date, 14th January, 1935, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited, intimated to the Commonwealth that the establishment of the alkali industry in Australia was under consideration and stated that an area of ground in the vicinity of Port Adelaide appeared to be suitable for the purpose of the production of salt. The area includes the Port Adelaide rifle range property and application was made for the rifle range lands to he made available for the purposes of the company. The attitude of the Defence Department to the application was that there would be no objection provided that a new range with a similar equipment of targets and of a like potential capacity as the existing range were provided on a satisfactory site. At the instance of Cabinet the question of an alternative site for a rifle range was investigated by representatives of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defence and the company, and, after an exhaustive search the only site which would be acceptable was located at Parafield. The estimated cost of acquiring the ground and constructing a rifle range thereon is: -
In addition there is a possibility of strong objection being taken to the closing of some of the roads which run through the area, and some additional expense may be involved in improvement of alternative roads to remove these objections. Also, as the site is 1-J miles from the nearest railway station, some guarantee would be required from the State or from some public body that a satisfactory means of transport is available from the city or the nearest railway station, to the range. On the 24th July, 1935, the company - through Sir Lennon Raws, C.B.E. - was informed of this estimate, and an alternative suggestion was advanced that the company might be prepared to accept the use of the danger zone of the existing range on the following conditions and at a rental to be fixed: -
A reply was received under date the 27th July, 1935, stating that the matter was being considered, and at present the decision of the company is awaited.
– I have received the following telegram from James Hardie and Company, of Brisbane : -
Strongly request elimination primage duty on crude asbestos.
As asbestos is not produced in Australia, will the Minister give favorable consideration to the request?
Mr.WHITE.- The Government has given careful consideration to the primage concessions that can be made this year, and, as stated in the budget, proposes to grant remissions of primage duty to rectify a number of the anomalies relating to raw material. Full details will be published in the Gazette issued to-day. Many honorable members have received a copy of the telegram which the honorablemember has read.
Yesterday, on the adjournment, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) referred to the matter of supplies of rubber goods required by the Defence Department. The honorable member stated that invariably, when the Defence Department has called for supplies of rubber boots, the North Australia
Rubber Mills Limited had submitted tenders which have compared favorably with those submited by southern firms, but up to the present it has not been able to secure any orders from the department. The honorable member also stated that preference shown by the Defence Department for manufacturers in other States is unfair to the Queensland industry.
I had immediate inquiries made into the honorable member’s complaint, and find that the Defence Department’s requirements of rubber goods are purchased under public tenders, which are invited in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The tenders are required to conform to departmental sealed patterns, and provision is made for firms to submit alternative tenders for their own trade patterns providing same closely approximates the departmental standard.
The contracts are allotted to the lowest tenderer for supplies which are considered by the departmental examining officers to be up to the contract standard. Tenders closed on the 9th August last for the supply of an approximate quantity of 3,500 pairs of gymnastic shoes covering the requirements of the naval, military and air services. This represented the largest quantity purchased in recent years, and the contract for the whole quantity was allotted to the North Australia Rubber Mills Limited, Brisbane, the amount involved being approximately £775.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether an invitation has yet been received from the British Government for Australia to be represented at the world sugar conference that is to be convened owing to the breakdown of the Chadbourne agreement? If such an invitation is accepted, will the policy to be advocated by the Australian representative be discussed in this House before his departure from this country?
– The Commonwealth Government has been informed that a world conference will be held in relation to the over-production of sugar, hut no specific request has yet been made for the sending of a delegate from this country.
Naturally, the whole subject will be discussed upon the introduction of the sugar bill which the Prime Minister has indicated is likely to be brought down, probably before the Christmas recess.
– -On account of the existing economic position, men who have attained the age of 60 years have little, if any, possibility of obtaining employment, and there is no provision for tho sustenance of those who are in poor circumstances apart from relief work. As the income derived therefrom is inadequate to provide them with necessaries in their declining years, and as they suffer other disabilities, will the Prime Minister consider an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act reducing from 65 to 60 years the age of entitlement to a pension?
– The Government has no intention of making an alteration to the age at which an individual becomes entitled to lodge a claim for an old-age pension.
EmployMENT of ABORIGINES
– A press report from Darwin states that aborigines who are employed on the survey ship M oresby say that they are asked to work from daylight to dark, and to do all the roughest and hardest work, for which they are paid only 3s. upon their return to Darwin after an absence of three weeks. Will the Minister responsible ascertain whether that report is correct, and if it is, will he take immediate steps to prevent such slave conditions from operating?
– For a number of years it has been the practice to engage for certain light work aborigines who are residents of Darwin and are desirous of obtaining employment. They are paid 5s. a week, of which 4s. is banded to the Protector of Aborigines. The practice has operated quite satisfactorily.
– In view of the expectations of Japanese exporters that substantial benefits will accrue to the Japa nese nation from the secret treaty now being negotiated with Australia, will the Prime Minister indicate what stage the negotiations have reached, and give the assurance’ that Australian industries will be adequately protected under any proposed trade treaty?
– A question on these lines was asked yesterday. The only reply that I can make to the honorable member’s inquiry as to the stage of the negotiations is that they are still in progress.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether further negotiations for a trade agreement between Belgium and Australia are in progress as the result of the recent notification of the Belgian Government?
– There are no negotiations for a new agreement. The representative of the Government, Sir Henry Gullett, is conducting with the Belgian, authorities in Belgium itself negotiations that he initiated prior to the intimation of the Belgian Government, in connexion with trade matters generally between Belgium and Australia.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the men engaged on the work at Liverpool Camp were stood down from Thursday, the 18th, until Monday, the 29th April, with a view to avoiding payment for the Easter holidays? If the honorable member has no knowledge of this, will he inquire into the matter and immediately issue the instruction that the men are to he paid for those holidays?
– My answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. In reply to the second portion of it, I promise to have inquiries made into the matter.
– In view of the spread of the awful disease of rickets throughout Australia, and its appearance in the Federal Capital Territory, will the Minister for Health take action that will ensure that every child attending school will have at least one and a half pints of milk a day?
– I do not know whether that is a matter of policy or of impossibility, but I shall give consideration to it.
– I lay on the table-
Copy of the Extradition Treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States of America, signed at London on the 22nd December, 1931. Notice of accession to this treaty has been given to the United States Government with effect from the 30th August, 1935, in respect of Australia, Papua, Norfolk Island, New Guinea and Nauru. This treaty replaces, so far as Australia, Papua and Norfolk Island are concerned, the provisions of the Extradition Treaties of 1842, 1889, 1900, and 1905. These Treaties were not applicable to New Guinea and Nauru.
– I lay on the table-
Copy of the Supplementary Extradition Convention between the United Kingdom and Austria, signed at Vienna on the 29th October, 1934. Notice of accession to this Convention has been given to the Austrian Government with effect from 30th August, 1935, in respect of Australia, Papua, Norfolk Island, New Guinea and Nauru. The Supplementary Convention is additional to the Extradition Treaty of 1873 with Austria, which applies to Australia and territories under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It provides that extradition may be granted in respect of any crimes or offences other than those set out in the treaty of 1873, for which according to the laws of both of the High Contracting Parties for the time being in force, the grant may be made.
– I lay on the table-
List of International Agreements (Treaties, Conventions, &e. ) to which Australia is a party, or which affect Australia, as on the 15th August, 1935, together with a prefatory note issued by the Department of External Affairs. and move -
That the paper be printed.
– It was only as the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) was about to resume his seat that he indicated that the motion for printing related solely to the last paper tabled. That would have escaped our observation had we not been closely observing the procedure. So far as can be judged, each of the statements is of importance, and consequently should be available to honorable members inprinted form.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. The first two papers that I tabled are, in fact, printed documents containing extradition treaties in the common form. The last paper is one prepared by the Department of External Affairs, and contains information in relation to treaties generally that affect Australia. It is the only paper that needs to be printed.
– We were not aware of that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 84.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Canned Fruits Export Control Board, for year 1934-35, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board - 11th Annual Report; together with a statement on the operations of the Act.
Control of Naval Waters Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 92.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 65.
Dairy Produce Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 47.
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for year 1934.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board for year 1934-35, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Federal Capital Territory for year 1934-35.
Debate resumed from the 25th September, 1935 (vide page 193), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply:
Debate resumed from the 25 th September, 1935 (vide page 209), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1935-36 a sum not exceeding £4,531,540.
Upon which Mr. Forde had moved by way of amendment -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
– Last evening the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made a scathing attack on the ex- AttorneyGeneral (Sir John Latham), and excused himself on the ground that rumours were current that the Government had committed itself to the appointment of that gentleman to the High Court Bench. The honorable member said he felt called upon to view the record of Sir John Latham during his membership of this Parliament, and then proceeded to make unfortunate mis-statements of fact and some most discreditable references to Sir John. He did so, he said, to show that Sir John Latham was not a fit and proper person to occupy the High Court bench. He also said that that distinguished gentleman was incapable of efficiently filling such an office. A third reason he gave why Sir John Latham should not he even considered for the position was that he was biased against the workers for certain reasons which were outlined. Because I corrected a statement made by the honorable member in the course of his speech, he challenged me to take up the cudgels onbehalf of Sir John Latham. I feel that the record of our former colleague, and also his political integrity, are so clearly set out in public documents in the various departments of the Public Service that there is no need for me to say anything on this score. The record of Sir John Latham is as a beacon to those who aspire to an honorable career in the service of their country. This is well realized, not only by members of this House, hut also by the community at large.
– Particularly when it comes to the administration of the law in one way for the rich and in another way for the poor.
– Sir John Latham has always been held in the highest repute; but his standing in the community was never higher than when he retired voluntarily from both the Ministry and the membership of this Parliament. I believe that Sir John Latham would have retired at any point in his career rather than have perpetrated a single injustice to any section of the community. When he retired from his high office, it was for private reasons.
I propose to deal in detail with the statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). His first charge against the ex-member for Kooyong was that he had taken certain action against the Australian Seamen’s Union to bring about the deportation of Messrs. Walsh and Johnson. The honorable member said that Sir John Latham was Attorney-General at the time of those hoped-for deportations, and when I corrected him on that point, he said that I would not be able to deny the truth of certain statements which he then proceeded to make regarding the association of Sir John Latham with the Abrahams case. The honorable member alleged that the Abrahams brothers were allowed to rob the Government, and so the public, of huge sums of money, and were also able to escape punishment, as well as the payment of their just dues, because of the protection afforded them by the then Attorney-General. He said that although the Abrahams brothers were charged with having defrauded the Government they were first allowed to escape the payment of their taxes; and, secondly, two of the three brothers were allowed to leave Australia. He even added that the Commonwealth Government had actually “ permitted “ them to leave the country.
– Many people still think so.
– I am addressing my remarks to sensible people, and I hope to convince them that these statements are quite untrue. Possibly certain ideas of this nature have gained credence because statements similar to that of the honorable member for East Sydney have been allowed to go unchallenged.
– What about Mr. Justice Starke’s opinion? He said that he did not know why the Abrahams brothers were being prosecuted.
– It is possible that he did not know; but I propose to explain the reason for the action taken against them. When I contradicted the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that the two Abrahams brothers were “ permitted “ to leave Australia, he repeated his statement, and I believe that one or two of his colleagues said “ Hear, hear “. The honorable member alleged that although proceedings had already been instituted against these persons, the Government withdrew the charges. He then went on to accuse Sir John Latham of culpability in this regard, and he made his attack with a good deal of venom. He (lid not even put in a saving word for the personal honour and integrity of thu absent gentleman whom he was attacking. I am not particularly concerned about the political significance of the remarks of the honorable member, for the Hansard record of various discussions that have occurred ,on this subject are quite sufficient to demonstrate beyond question the entire honesty of Sir John Latham’s actions as Attorney-General. But as a private member of this Parliament, and particularly as a member of a party different from that with which Sir John Latham was associated, I think it fitting that I should say a few words in defence of the personal honour of this gentleman.
In concluding his attack, the honorable member for East Sydney said -
If the honorable member for Wide Bay wishes to take up the cudgels on behalf of Sir John Latham let him explain to the community why these persons were granted immunity from prosecution.
Following upon the discussion last evening, I made a careful examination of the records relating to this case. The facts are that the firm of Abrahams brothers was somewhat notorious, and was long under suspicion of cheating the revenue by evading taxation. The Government and the Taxation Department were well aware of the situation, and did everything possible to keep the firm’s affairs under keen scrutiny. Proof of its wrong-doing was, however, hard to find. But the investigations of the officials of the Taxation Department were persevered with, and were carried back as far as 1918, and at last they brought good results. It was necessary to examine the financial affairs of 28 separate individuals, seven companies and twelve partnerships in an endeavour to estimate the exact amount of taxation which, the Abrahams brothers should pay. Even then no entirely satisfactory evidence was obtained upon which the law could be set in motion. The Crimes Act passed in 1926, offered assistance by providing power for the issue of search warrants in such eases. The Attorney-General, through the Taxation Department, exercised this new power, and caused a forced search to be made of eight houses and offices occupied by the offending parties and their agents. Where force was necessary to make a thorough search, it was used by the authority of the AttorneyGeneral, who considered that the most extreme steps were justified in the public interest. The evidence obtained by means of these searches established definitely that there had been fraud in understating the incomes of these persons, and that there had also been a serious evasion of taxation. The next step was to expose and punish the offenders, vindicate the law, and secure the amount of money owing to the Commonwealth. The direct prosecution of the offenders was rendered difficult, and all the circumstances of the case were complicated by reason of the fact that the two principals had left Australia before the raid was made on their various offices. The contention of the honorable member for East Sydney that there was a criminal prosecution was not true.
– There was a prosecution under the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– Two of the Abrahams brothers left Australia before the raid was made on their offices. The Government made no mistake in dealing with the guilty persons. Penalties were imposed totalling £266,000 on a tax evasion proved at about £90,000, the total amount due by the defaulting taxpayers thus being about £354,000.
– They admitted that more than that was owing.
– We shall get all the facts by degrees, and the recital of them will carry a complete refutation of the charges made by the honorable member against Sir John Latham. The Abrahams brothers were believed to be liable to further taxation and penalties, covering a period as far back as 1918, but the lapse of time made it hard to obtain proof of the allegations. Ultimately, an agreement was reached with-certain representatives of the brothers that an amount of £500,000, representing penalties, taxes that had been evaded, and disputed assessments should be paid into the Treasury. There was and is no agreement not to prosecute these persons for conspiracy. The two principals and seven other defendants were publicly exposed by court proceedings; but any attempt to reach the Abrahams brothers themselves by way of criminal prosecution, such as that referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney, would have involved great delay and enormous expense, and the result would have been uncertain. If that course had been followed, all other proceedings for the recovery of the money duc must have been held in abeyance, and the whole matter might have been delayed for years.
– What was wrong with an extradition warrant ?
– Any other action than that taken by the then Attorney-General on behalf of the Government would probably have been ineffective. As it was, the action taken resulted in a windfall of £500,000 to the Commonwealth Treasury. To have launched criminal prosecutions would have involved the country in enormous and futile legal expenses.
– The incurring of futile expenses is not considered when members of the working class are involved.
- Sir John Latham undoubtedly acted in the very best interests of the whole community. I remind honorable gentlemen, further, that he did not act entirely on his own initiative in this matter, but had the assistance of the Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral, the Crown Solicitor, and also five other eminent counsel - Sir Edward Mitchell, K.C., Mr. Owen Dixon, K.C., Mr. Dixon Hearder, Mr. Robertson, and Mr. Gorman. This array of legal talent, having considered all the circumstances of the case, came to the conclusion that the best interests of the country would be served by the acceptance of £500,000 from the Abrahams brothers. A criminal prosecution was not launched because the principals could not be located.
– From where did the honorable member obtain all this information ?
– From records of the various decisions at the time when the action was taken. The honorable member said that Sir John Latham, as Attorney-General, allowed the Abrahams brothers to leave the country, and then he sought to convey the false impression that, so far as Sir John Latham was concerned, there was one law for the rich and another for the poor. I remind honorable members that everything possible was done to prevent the Abrahams brothers from leaving Australia. Instructions were issued to passport officers, and to the various branches of the Customs Department, that on no account were these men to be allowed to leave the country. That they eventually did succeed in leaving was due, not to the action or desire of the Attorney-General, but to the venality of a. public servant who was, no doubt, corrupted by the Abrahams brothers.
– That is right; attack the poor unfortunate public servants.
– I am merely stating what the public servant in question himself admitted. A Customs officer named Gabriel admitted that he had assisted Emmanuel Abrahams on to a vessel on the 1st February, 1928, and that he also saw Emmanuel’s brother on board a vessel on the 7th December. This public servant was an inspection officer of the Customs Department, whose special duty it was to watch the interests of the Commonwealth, and, in this instance, to safeguard the interests of the Attorney-General’s Department and of the Treasury. He was charged with improper conduct and suspended; he appealed, but his appeal was dismissed, and be was discharged from the service. Therefore, it cannot justly be said that Sir John Latham was in any degree responsible for the escape of those men, and he did what was undoubtedly the best thing in the interests of the Commonwealth by accepting, on behalf of the
Government, a sum of £500,000 in discharge of all liability.
– Which was less than the Abrahams brothers owed.
– The only accurate information that could be secured was that these men owed £354,000. Even the taxation inspectors, who went into the matter as far back as 1916, were unable to find evidence that any greater sum was owing to the Treasury. These facts give a very different impression of the case from that which the honorable member for East Sydney sought to convey.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– If no honorable member objects I shall take my second period. The honorable member made a further attempt to besmirch the reputation of Sir John Latham by misrepresenting the facts in connexion with the John Brown case. He tried to convey the impression that Sir John Latham, in authorizing the withdrawal of the prosecution against John Brown, was again administering the law for the rich in a way different from that in which it was administered for the poor. Honorable members must have very short memories if they do not recall the history of the John Brown case. Sir John Latham, not being satisfied that there was a strong case against John Brown, authorized the Crown Law authorities- to obtain outside legal opinion on the question. That opinion was to the effect that there was a prima facie case against John Brown, and a prosecution was authorized. Then the representatives of the unions interviewed the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) in Sydney, and asked him to arrange a conference with the owners because they wished to put forward a proposition for the taking over of the mines by the men. Mr. Bruce conveyed to the Attorney-General by telephone the desire of the union representatives, and pointed out that the only way in which a conference could be arranged was to withdraw the prosecution. Sir John Latham did not rush the suggestion, as he would probably have done if he were in favour of one law for the rich and another for the poor.
This is what he stated in the course of a speech in this Parliament describing the negotiations: -
No objection can be taken to my submission of the matter to counsel for their determination as to whether there was a prima facie case on the evidence, nor to my acceptance of their recommendation in favour of a prosecution, in view of that fact that, in their opinion, there was a prima facie case. In a matter in which political considerations are more or less involved, it is wise for the AttorneyGeneral to obtain absolutely independent external advice.
Eventually a summons was issued, and the subsequent events are described by Sir John Latham as follows: -
Some days elapsed, and the Prime Minister, who was in Sydney, communicated by telephone with me in Victoria. He informed me that a new position had arisen in regard to> the coal situation. It is necessary to understand that at this time it appeared that all the resources of conference had been exhausted, that there was no chance of getting any further by conference, or even of holding a conference. It was in such circumstances that the prosecution was instituted. In the course of this telephone conversation, the Prime Minister told me that the miners had a proposal which they said would probably commend itself to the owners. It was something entirely new, and they were actually talking of getting the mines going by consent in the following week. The proposal of the miners depended upon certain estimates as to costs and profits of the mines, and the union representatives wanted to have another conference with the owners. The Prime Minister told me something of the nature of the proposal, and it depended almost entirely upon financial considerations. Then he went on to say that the difficulty was that the prosecution against John Brown was pending, and that the owner© would not go into conference with a prosecution hanging over their heads, since the essential thing in that prosecution was the profits which the mines were making. He asked me for my opinion of the situation. I replied that very special circumstances would1 be required to justify the withdrawal of a. prosecution when once it had been instituted.. I also said that there were obvious political difficulties in the way, because the motives of the Government would be in many quarters-‘ misunderstood, and in many quarters misrepresented. I asked him what was the real chance of success of this conference; did he think that there was any real chance of the mines starting work again if the conferencewas held. . . I was in the country at the time,, and was specially sent for to the telephoneand spoke from my place in the country. Inanswer to> my query regarding the chance of success, the Prime Minister replied that theproposal of the miners seemed to be the most promising that had yet been put forward, and’ that, in his opinion, there existed a real chance of success. I had already discussed with him some of the difficuties in the way of a successful prosecution, and it seemed to us that the success of the prosecution was doubtful. I expressed the view that, having regard to the thousands of men out of work, and the detrimental effect of the hold-up of industry, it would be difficult to justify preventing the holding of the conference . . .
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This discussion appears to be revolving round the subject-matter raised last evening by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) when he dealt with the probable appointment of Sir John Latham to the High Court Bench. It is high time that the Government gave this House some indication as to what its intentions are with respect to this matter. The present is the only opportunity that honorable members have to discuss this appointment, because immediately Sir John Latham, or any one else, is appointed to the High Court Bench, the forms of this House will prevent any discussion on the qualifications of the person so appointed.
There is not the slightest doubt that, week by week, during the last eighteen months, the anti-Labour press has been canvassing the appointment of Sir John Latham to the High Court. During that period, as may be seen from a study of Hansard, on every occasion on which this matter was raised by honorable members on this side of the House following press reports relating to it, we were told that it was not the intention of the Government to make such an appointment; and, as a matter of fact, Sir John Latham, as the then Attorney-General, himself indignantly denied that the Government had any intention to appoint him to the High Court. Prior to the last election he retired from politics after having stated in this House that he intended to do so in the interests of his professional practice because politics were taking up too much of his time. He added that he intended to devote the whole of his time to the practice of his profession at the bar. But now we find very definite statements being made that it is the intention of this Government not only to appoint him to the High Court Bench, but also to make him Chief Justice of that tribunal. Sir John Latham who ostensibly retired from politics in order that he might devote the whole of his time to the practice of his profession, for which reason he abandoned his political activities, is apparently prepared to give up his profession in order to accept this appointment!
– He has not said so.
– But we are saying so, and many people associated with this Government are saying the same thing.
– What responsible person i3 saying that ?
– If the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) so desires, he will have an opportunity to tell this House definitely that it is not the intention of the Government to appoint Sir John Latham to the High Court. Distinct proof has been forthcoming to reveal unhealthy and unsavoury intrigues directed towards securing the resignation of the present Chief Justice, and, according to press reports, this end has at last been achieved. The press, which as I said before, had been canvassing this appointment for Sir John Latham during the last eighteen months, has now selected that gentleman as Sir Gavan Duffy’s successor. Despite the hedging of the Assistant Treasurer on this matter, I claim that it is the definite intention of the Government to appoint Sir John Latham a Chief Justice to the High Court of Australia, and I challenge him and every other Minister in the present Cabinet to deny that emphatically. The Assistant Treasurer and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) appear to be indignant because this matter has been referred to, and they have sought to make it a personal issue. They claim that because of service in this House, Sir John Latham’s name should not be mentioned at all in connexion with this matter and that his capabilities for the position which he now seeks to fill should not be questioned. According to them also, the fact that Sir John Latham has had a lifelong association with politics and naturally must be biased politically, should not be questioned. I remind honorable gentlemen who take up such an attitude that Sir J ohn Latham himself, at one time, very scathingly attacked the appointments of Mr. Justices Evatt and McTiernan to the High Court on the ground that they were biased politically, if to-day it is wrong for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to attack an impending appointment, then it was wrong for Sir John Latham previously to attack those appointments. Apparently right or wrong in such mutters depends upon who are the a tracker*, and who are the attacked.
The honorable member for East Sydney attacked this proposed appointment on four grounds, the first of which is the political associations formed by Sir John Latham. Nobody can question the fact that Sir John Latham must he biased politically; I give him every credit for loyalty to his particular party. Neither can any honorable member question the further charge made by the honorable member for East Sydney, that Sir John Latham, during his period of service in this chamber, used his parliamentary privileges to make damaging references to the Industrial Workers of the World, men whoso liberty had been at stake owing to perjured evidence. Yet, ‘ it is such a man this Government proposes to appoint to the highest position on the highest legal tribunal in lbc land, although he po far forgot the first principles of British justice, that he used his privileges in this House, when the liberty of men was at stake, to make prejudicial references to them regarding certain grave charges with which they had been confronted. Irrespective of his party associations, any nian who would take up such an attitude is not a fit and proper person to be Chief Justice of Australia.
The next point raised by the honorable member for East Sydney dealt with the administrative decisions made by Sir John Latham when he was AttorneyGeneral in the United Australia party Government. The honorable member spoke of the corrupt settlement of the Abrahams brothers’ case. Although the Abrahams brothers were self-confessed criminals, and despite the fact that a special guard was kept over them, and that the Government of the day had amassed a great quantity of evidence against, there, they were able to leave this country. Defenders of Sir John
Latham say that these men could not be brought back to this country, and that a case could not be made out against them, because only one of them remained here. If that be the truth, I ask what has hecome of the effectiveness of our extradition laws, which anti-Labour governments in this Parliament have only too readily invoked in political cases when it suited its ends. The Government of the day could have invoked these laws to deal with the Abrahams brothers. Consequently the excuse that they could not be brought back to Australia and charged, will not hold water.
When dealing with this case Mr. Justice _ Starke said that the whole case seemed to be based upon a conspiracy, and asked why Abrahams brothers had not. been prosecuted for conspiracy under the Crimes Act which, I remind honorable members, Sir John Latham was so fond of amending in order to provide a dragnet law that would enmesh all working class organizations. There is no doubt that, when the Crimes Act was invoked against any working class organization, none of the accused was given any chance to leave this country in circumstances similar to those which surrounded the departure of the Abrahams brothers. The view of the case I am now submitting is not one expressed by any Labour party supporter, or by any person who can be accused of being biased politically; nor is it the opinion of the honorable member for East Sydney, who cited it during his speech last night. It is the opinion of Mr. Justice Starke, who said -
The whole case seems to he based upon conspiracy. Why they will not prosecute for conspiracy I should like to know.
The honorable member for Wide Bay elaborated on the preparations which were made to prosecute the charge against Abrahams brothers. Despite those preparations, the Abrahams brothers escaped. I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay that if, as he contends, it is wrong for the honorable member for East Sydney to express the opinions he has expressed on this matter, it must also be wrong for Mr. Justice Starke to have commented as he did on this case. Conversely, if Mr. Justice Starke was right in making his comments. then the honorable member for East Sydney must be right * in his criticism of Sir John Latham’s inactivity in this case.
The honorable member for East Sydney also criticized Sir John Latham’s action when Attorney-General in withdrawing the prosecution against the coal-owner, the late Mr. John Brown. Such criticism is supported, not only by persons associated with the Labour party, but also by the opinion expressed at the time by the late honorable member for Fawkner, Mr. Maxwell. I have on many occasions heard the late honorable member defending the judiciary and the legal profession in this chamber, and no one in this House can deny that be was transparently honest in such criticism, or that he would fail to express fi candid opinion of ‘a member of this Parliament, whether that member was his friend or foe. In a letter which appeared in the press at that time the late Mr. Maxwell said -
Tim announcement by the Prime Minister, reported yesterday, that in Older- to promote peace in thu coal industry proceedings against John Brown had been withdrawn conies. I have no hesitation in saying, as a painful shock to every member of the Ministry. In my opinion, respect of persons by those charged with the duty of enforcing the law is a much greater menace to the stability of the Commonwealth than open defiance of the law by those who object to it. As a Nationalist member of Parliament and as a lover of even-handed justice. I desire to dissociate myself from and ito publicly record my protest against the action of the Ministry in abandoning proceedings against Mr. John Brown, which had been instituted by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on grounds which, in his opinion, warranted a prosecution.
Such an opinion expressed by such a man must be valued by honorable members, yet the honorable member for Wide Bay contradicts the contention advanced from this side of the House, that the Government was not justified in withdrawing this prosecution against the late Mr. John Brown. The honorable member for East Sydney said that the Government’s policy was based on one law for the rich and one for the poor. He contrasted the withdrawal of the prosecution against John Brown with the treatment meted out to the Timber Workers Union and its officials, including the honorable member “for Melbourne
Ports (Mr. Holloway), who were associated with that particular lockout. On that occasion, the only solace afforded to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports by the Government was a sympathetic reference by Mr. Bruce about “ Poor old Holloway “. But the £.1,000 fine imposed on the union had to be paid. On the evidence of honorable members opposite, John Brown was a wealthy law-breaker, but was allowed to go scot-free.
The honorable member for East Sydney then dealt’ with the question of the prosecution of Jacob Johnson and showed clearly that after that prosecution had taken place the Labour movement in New South Wales became possessed of sworn affidavits by ex-Crown witnesses that they had committed perjury.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– No other honorable member objecting, I shall take my second term. These sworn declarations by certain important Crown witnesses indicated that they were prepared to swear that in the original case launched by the then AttorneyGeneral (Sir John Latham) they had given perjured evidence. Despite the pres-.- .-lion of all this material in which Crown witnesses recanted their court evidence and admitted perjury, the AttorneyGeneral refused to permit an inquiry to be held into the circumstances surrounding that corrupt evidence. Further, the honorable member for East Sydney said that one of the most remarkable features of the whole case was that between the time when these men were prosecuted and the demand by the Labour movement for an inquiry, certain vital papers connected with the case disappeared from the files of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
Further evidence of the reactionary bias of Sir John Latham is to be found in his abolition of trial by jury in the Federal Capital . Territory. This gentleman, who, during a lifetime of service in various interests settling the differences of employers and employees in the courts of Victoria, and, as Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, prosecuting those who violated the law, was himself responsible for the violation of a decision of the Public Service Arbitrator when he advised the Government to disallow a determination by that authority. Then in this chamber he defended the Government’s action in defying the decisions of its own appointee. But we see a difference in the treatment he meted out to workingclass organizations in his administration of the Crimes Act. The Crimes Act contains provisions for dealing with unlawful associations. Once an association is declared unlawful anybody connected with it, anybody who distributes its literature or prints it, or lets halls for the holding of its meetings, becomes liable to a penalty. This legislation was enacted under the guidance of Sir John Latham. Not satisfied even then to carryout the normal course of prosecution under his own legislation, he caused threats to be issued against certain hall proprietors in Sydney of their liability to a penalty of over £100 if they did not cease to let their halls to certain associations operating in that city.
– Quite right too.
– The point I am trying to explain to the honorable mem ber for Barton (Mr. Lane) is that under the particular amendments of the Crimes Act, which we’re the creation of Sir John Latham himself, the organizations had first to be declared unlawful before they became subject to a penalty. After an association had been declared unlawful, persons letting halls to it became liable to a penalty. Whether that is right or wrong is beside the point. But the AttoTney-General responsible for this legislation wanted to short-circuit the natural process of the law, and sent out letters to proprietors of halls in Sydney threatening that if they let their halls to particular organizations which at that time had not been declared unlawful, they would be subject to heavy penalties. When the matter was brought up in the House, the Attorney-General admitted frankly his responsibility for the threats made, and said that he was prepared to accept the consequences of his action.
We come now to another prosecution launched against aworking class organization. I refer to the prosecution of Devanny, under the particular amendments of the Crimes Act which Sir John
Latham himself framed and -which he should havethoroughly understood. Devanny appealed to the High Court, and by unanimous decision the appeal against the magistrate’s conviction was upheld. Mr. Justice Evatt, in delivering judgment, said -
I think it is very difficult to suppose that the section was intended to authorize such proceedings as took place in the present case. The informer was not satisfied with his first attempt at drafting an information, and filed a second one in respect of which the conviction under review was made. Counsel for the Commonwealth stated before us that the second information was the result of careful preparation on the part of the legal officers concerned. It is certainly one of the most amazing documents in the whole history of law.
Thus, Mr. Justice Evatt, in criticism of the handiwork of Sir John Latham! His Honour said that, in the indictment, there were 27,000 words, and that 40 would have been sufficient, and continued -
In my opinion such information as that which the magistrate not only allowed to be used, but acted upon, even on the question of sentence is an abuse of the process bf the Court.
Criticism not by a Labour man, but by a High Court Justice of an indictment framed by a Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral against a working class organization in New South Wales! The indictment was not only too wordy, but also faulty in a legal sense; to operate on such an indictment was an abuse of the processes of the court. Mr. Justice Evatt in further comment on this particular prosecution launched by the then Attorney-General, said -
I protest against the growing tendency to assume without argument or proof the existence of inherent power in the Commonwealth Parliament. In this case even the very name “ Crimes Act “ challenges inquiry.
It does or should compel a very searching inquiry for the purpose of deciding whether some at least of the provisions of the Crimes Act are properly framed.
When the honorable member for East Sydney challenges the ability of the exAttorneyGeneral, there is immediately an uproar from the Government benches, yet we see here one of the greatest constitutional jurists in Australia, Mr. Justice Evatt, not only condemning the structure of the Crimes Act itself in relation to particular amendments drafted by Sir John Latham, but also criticizing his method of presenting the case against the organizations and classing it as an abuse of the processes of the court.
I think the honorable member for East Sydney, in his summing up of the situation, was fully justified from every point of view. He was justified in raising a question which has been dragged through the press of this country for the last eighteen months. Nothing lowers the prestige of the highest legal tribunal in Australia more than the knowledge that appointments to the Bench have been made a matter of political intrigue and political patronage. Nothing brings the High Court more into contempt than public belief that appointments made to it are not above suspicion so far as political and public bias is concerned.
I could not understand how the Assistant Treasurer could declare last night that the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney were not worthy of a reply. The charge definitely called for a reply. During the last eighteen months the possibility of Sir John Latham’s political appointment to the High Court has been freely mentioned in the press. The Government has not taken the people into its confidence in regard to this matter, and the honorable member for East Sydney was thoroughly justified in taking up the attitude he did last night in comparing Sir John Latham’s treatment of working-class organizations with that he meted out to wealthy individuals who fell foul of the law. Any defence we have heard of his actions up to date has been paltry and merely eyewash. The Assistant Treasurer can, if he thinks fit, justify the appointment. He can set the public mind at rest by declaring that the suggested appointment is right or wrong. Nothing will do more to damage the prestige of the High Court in the eyes of the public and create more disrespect for this institution than the manner in which intrigue has been indulged in for the purpose of displacing the present Chief Justice and replacing him by a political puppet such as Sir John Latham, who because of his political bias, and his sponsoring of one law for the rich and one for the poor, because he amended the Crimes Act with a view to suppressing the work ing-class organizations, and because of his general attitude of political bias in this chamber, is not a fit and proper person to be elevated to the high office of Chief Justice of the High Court. I believe that an action against certain working-class organizations in this country will eventually find its way to the High Court. That, possibly, is one of the reasons why Sir John Latham- is being promoted , to the position of Chief Justice, in order to override the opinions of others who might take a more unbiassed view of the case.
I support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the” Opposition with regard to the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions to the former amount of 20s. a week. I do not know what justification the Government can plead for not having acceded to this request long ago. When the emergency legislation was introduced in 1931, not only every member of the Labour party who supported it, but also practically every other honorable member sitting behind the Government to-day pledged himself that at the earliest possible moment when the financial position of the country warranted it the cuts in the invalid and old-age pensions would be withdrawn.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I regret the turn that this debate has taken. Instead of addressing themselves to what is obviously a very important amendment, honorable members opposite have been content to indulge in personalities. Repeatedly, they have urged the necessity for the restoration of the old-age pension to £1 a week and the reduction of the hours of labour. [Quorum formed.] The opportunity is now presented to them to discuss those very matters, yet they prefer to make an attack upon a gentleman who has rendered signal service to this country, and would grace the High Court Bench.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) proposes that the acceptance of his amendment shall be regarded as an instruction to the Government to restore the old-age pension to £1 a week, and to have an investigation made into the possibility of the reduction of the hours of labour. It is not his intention that the Arbitration Court shall be approached by either employers or employees, with a view to its determining the practicability of instituting a shorter working week or of ascertaining whether such a change would be in the best interests of industry. [Quorum formed.] The honorable gentleman would have the Government compulsorily reduce hours. He must know that such action would be ultra vires the Constitution. The Commonwealth alone may not make that change, but it could do so in conjunction with the States. In common with other honorable members, I regard this subject as one of the first magnitude. The gradual improvement of labour-saving machinery has been responsible for unemployment, not only in Australia, but also in every other country, which cannot be counteracted by any other means than a shortening of working hours. But it is not .sufficient to say that hours shall be shortened by compulsory action; there must be a thorough examination of every aspect of the matter.
– The International Labour Office, in which Australia is represented, held such an inquiry.
– Some persons who consider that the reduction of working hours is essential are able to advance arguments which apparently brook no denial. There is, however, another school of thought which considers that such a step would be detrimental if applied in any one country, and not made general internationally. Those who have studied the matter know that the question of technological unemployment has to be viewed from many angles. The Acting Leader of thy Opposition pointed to one industry that would seem to give force to his argument - the bottle-making industry. Extraordinary figures can be quoted in regard to that particular industry. I wonder whether the honorable gentleman has considered the employment which was brought about by the change-over from the manual to the semi-automatic production of bottles ?
– I did not mention the bottle-making industry.
-T. HARRISON. - If that is so, the honorable gentleman has been in correctly reported. In the beginning, bottles were hand blown, but later the demand for the production of a cheaper article in larger quantities resulted in the production of semi-automatic machinery, and that opened up a large field of labour. The operations of allied industries also were given a great fillip. Instead of retarding industry, the production of semiautomatic machinery created a definite demand for labour. The printing industry had a similar experience. Those who can recall the hand-setting of type will realise the advantages of the linotype machine. The cheapening of the printed word increased production and brought about a considerable improvement in the labour market. There was also a very marked effect educationally. Wider avenues were opened up to those who sought to enlarge their educational attainments. There was also brought into being an immense army of persons whose energies became devoted entirely to the teaching of arts and crafts. Every advance leads to the opening up of more avenues for employment. The motor car and rayon industries, with their countless subsidiaries, provide an immense amount of employment. Arising out of the extraordinary increase in the volume of employment of technicians and the like, brought about by the so-called labour-saving machinery, there was imposed a higher standard of living, which demanded certain services. Those services were provided, and there has been a definite change-over from technical employment to employment in the services themselves. Notwithstanding the change that has been brought about by the developments following the increased mechanization of industry, there is still a definite lag in employment.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– With, the permission of the committee I shall take my second period now. In the United States of America, committees appointed to investigate this problem found that notwithstanding all that had been done to meet the altered circumstances occasioned by the introduction of labour-saving machinery, and also the advancement due to improved standards of living, there was a definite lag of about 15 per cent. The birth and death rates, and also the volume of migration, were taken into consideration in reaching this conclusion. In these circumstances it must be apparent that we cannot hope successfully to meet the difficulties due to the mechanization of industry by adopting the arbitrary methods suggested by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Other factors must be taken into consideration. The reduction of the working week would undoubtedly cause increased hourly rates and increased production costs and selling prices. Some honorable members opposite have argued that a reduction of working hours would mean an increase of employment and so an increase in the aggregate purchasing power of the people, which would offset the higher costs; but they have not com.pletely envisaged all the facts. “We must consider how a shortening of the working hours would affect the whole community. The reactions would undoubtedly be serious in certain directions. Take the case of the primary producer, for instance. He must sell his products on the open market in competition with those of other countries. A shortening of the working week would obviously increase his local costs and make it more difficult for him to sell at a profit. The primary producer is expected to purchase the products of our secondary industries, such as farming implements and the like. If the working week be curtailed, the production costs of our secondary industries must increase, and this in turn must mean higher prices for manufactured products. We know v’ery well that the honorable members of the Country party consider that every increase of customs duties leads to increased costs to the primary producer, which, in turn, cause added difficulties in the disposal of primary products at profitable prices. A reduction of the working hours with a consequent increase in production costs must therefore adversely affect the primary producer in these respects. Increased hourly rates can have no other effect than that. The primary producer cannot carry on his operations successfully with a 40-hour working week. Our friends of the Country party tell us that the primary producers work day and night. Any arbitrary reduction of the working hours must therefore bring in its train serious problems to those of our citizens who are obliged to compete on the world’s markets against producers of other countries in which low wages, long hours and low living standards prevail. The average purchasing power of the people has been seriously retarded by the depression to the disadvantage of the primary producer and any decrease of working hours would, in my opinion, only increase the disparity between primary and secondary producers.
Let us consider now, for a moment, the effect of a reduction of the working week on our secondary industries. It is a wellknown economic fact that when costs are increased for any reason, good factory executives immediately seek ways and means to increase production. This usually involves an extension of the mechanization of the industries concerned. An increase of production costs by the shortening of the working week would undoubtedly tend to force further mechanization upon industry. We have to realize, too, that an increase of costs usually accentuates unemployment, which, in turn, reduces the purchasing power of the people. If the demand for goods is reduced by reason of additional unemployment or increased costs, a reduction of production inevitably follows. To-day many of our industries are fighting for their very existence, and if Parliament does anything in an arbitrary way to disturb the capacity of industry to . adapt itself to changing conditions, serious results will follow for the people. A degree of elasticity is essential to enable industry to adapt itself to modern changes. Unless there is this elasticity, many industries will fail to survive the transition period. Some honorable members consider that international action could be taken to bring about a shorter working week generally, but I am afraid that such action would have the effect of hampering the more advanced countries, particularly countries like Australia with a high standard of living. A uniformity of working hours would be useless without a standardization of wages. Further, any agreement arrived at through the International Labour Office to standardize the working week could apply only to members of the League of Nations, and would not affectmany important nations now outside the League. These are mainly Asiatic races, but such important nations as
Germany and Japan cannot be ignored in this regard. International action affecting only the members of the League of Nations would undoubtedly lead to an accentuation of the disorders due to economic nationalism from which we are now suffering. A further concentration of production within the borders of specific countries must mean the raising of tariff barriers, and this would lead to misunderstanding and dispute. I contend, therefore, that international action to reduce the working week would be dangerous unless it were accompanied by similar action to standardize wages. Costs are determined by wages, as well as by working hours; and the standard of living, the population factor and economic conditions generally have a. great deal to do with the fixation of wages in various countries.
I have already said that arbitrary action by this Parliament to attempt to force industry to adopt a shorter working week would be ultra vires the Constitution. It would also be dangerous to a competitive country like Australia, in that it would jeopardize our standard of living and increase the tendency to unhealthy economic nationalism. I feel that we must give consideration to the definite lag in unemployment figures, not only in respect of pre-depression days, but more importantly in consequence of the introduction of labour-saving machinery. Highly desirable as the relief- of unemployment is at the moment, before anything like a complete absorption of labour can be assured, a great deal -more consideration must be given to the whole circumstances of industry than is possible in a debate of this description. A better understanding must be arrived at between the nations of the world before a shortening of the working week can be really successful. In the absence of this desirable state of affairs, a shortening of the working week would undoubtedly adversely affect both the primary and secondary industries of this country.
.- I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). I was associated with the Government which introduced the first financial emergency legislation into this Parliament, and I remind honorable members that that serious step was accompanied by a promise, endorsed by the party then sitting in opposition, that, immediately the budgetary conditions of this country improved, steps would be taken to restore our pensioners to their former standards, and to help, to the greatest possible extent, people who were without any regular work or income. The Opposition party of that day is the Government party of to-day ; but, although the budgetary position has improved to such an extent that large refunds and remissions of taxation have been made to wealthy interests, the lot of our pensioners and the workpeople of this country generally, and particularly of the unemployed, has not been; improved. Two years ago taxation remissions to the extent of £9,000,000 weregranted to wealthy citizens of Australia ; but very little was done at that time toprovide employment for the hundreds of thousands of our people who were out of work. The rate of the invalid and oldage pension should be immediately restored to £1 a week, and the Government should at once take steps to put intooperation a scheme of national insurance against invalidity, old-age and unemployment.
I now come to a consideration of theproblem of unemployment. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) has just delivered a speech, thekeynote of which was despair. According to that honorable gentleman thereis very little hope for any of the aged or young unemployed people of this community ever’ obtaining work, whilethe outlook for our young men and women is also dark and gloomy. It appears to the honorable member that thousands of our citizens must make up their minds to be satisfied for the remainder of theirlives with the dole or sustenance. Wehave heard a good deal lately about thereturn of prosperity and the necessity for developing the great natural resources of this country, but very few constructiveproposals have been advanced by the Government or its supporters. Thecensus of 1933 undoubtedly revealed a deplorable state of affairs in Australia.. Only 58 per cent, of the trade unions in this country register their unemployed members, and in 1933 the statistics obtained from this source showed that 106,000 people were out of work. We were astounded, therefore, to find that, according to the census of that year, 480,000 were unemployed, and an additional 27,000 were either on the dole or receiving sustenance, making 507,000 people of sixteen years of age and over “who could be said to be without permanent employment. Even taking the Statistician’s present figure of 77,000 unemployed, and adding the difference revealed between the 1933 figures of the statistician, and the census officer, we find that 366,000 people are unemployed in this country. That is alarming. The people of Australia are capable of producing great wealth, and there is much room here for development. It has been said times .out of number that we cannot possibly hold this country unless we people it. I am therefore entitled to ask what the Government proposes to do to cope with the grave situation that faces it? The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has promised to appoint a royal commission to inquire into unemployment, but that is tantamount to shelving the problem. We have asked that the working week should be reduced in order that additional employment may be provided; but the honorable member for Wentworth considers that this is impracticable. That story has been told right through the ages, yet we have had successive reductions of working hours from 56 to 48, from 48 to 44, and, in some cases, to 40. In the State of Queensland the statutory working week is now 44 hours, and it is the only State in the Commonwealth, and the only place in the world, where that obtains. Yet Queensland is the most prosperous State in the Commonwealth, and has the least unemployment. More than half the employees in Queensland are working only 40 hours a week, and no one can say that industry in that State is bankrupt as a result. In 1929, an administration holding the same political views as the present Commonwealth Government was returned to power in Queensland. It immediately repealed the legislation providing for a 44-hour working week, and re-introduced the 48-hour week. As an immediate result, thousands of government employees were thrown out of work, business languished, and there Was general distress throughout the community. The percentage of unemployment rose to 28 per cent. Then, in 1932, the Labour party regained office, and restored to the statutebook the legislation providing for a 44- hour week. Before very long those who had been displaced from employment were again in work. It is a fact that the volume of unemployment is greater in those States where the working week is 48 hours, than in Queensland where it is only 44 hours. The Commonwealth Parliamen should without delay pass legislation fixing the statutory working week at 44 hours or even at 40 hours. I know that some doubt exists as to whether the Commonwealth has power to pass such legislation; but, if it were to do so, I do not think that any State government would challenge its action.
Another means by which we might attempt to solve the unemployment problem, is by raising the school age from fourteen years to sixteen years. During the period from fourteen to sixteen years boys could attend secondary schools and study such subjects as farming, trades, &c, so that they would be equipped to earn their living when they went out into the world to seek employment. At the present time, thousands of boys leave school every year at fourteen years of age, are thrown on the employment market, and have very little chance of ever finding anything to do. In addition, it would be advisable to fix a retiring age of 60 years. That, however, would involve the making of some provision for the support of those who retired at that age. The Government, instead of expending its surplus revenue on the appointment of royal commissions, should devote it to the institution of a scheme whereby a man, upon attaining the age of 60 years, would be able to apply, not for an oldage pension, but for superannuation, which would be his by right and not by charity.
I had hoped that the Government would institute a more extensive public works policy. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has told us that an amount of £8,000,000 is to be made available for the prosecution of public works; but of this, I think, £3,000,000 has been earmarked for debt-adjustment purposes. That leaves only £5,000,000, which is not much more than is usually allocated for public works. There is a considerable accumulation of work which might be undertaken immediately. For instance, many long-standing applications for telephone extensions await attention, but there seems little prospect that anything will be done. If, in the opinion of the Postal Department, a service is not likely to pay, those applying for it are asked to guarantee the cost of its provision. Recently, the people of Longreach asked for a telephone service between that place and Stonehenge. Unfortunately, the new service, if provided, would not serve a great many people, although it would serve practically as many as can be settled in the area. Moreover, they are graziers who produce wool, the most valuable commodity that Australia has for export. The department, however, asks that the people themselves shall pay for the cost of constructing the line. A person who lives in the city area can have a telephone installed for £2, after which he pays only for his calls, which amount usually to not more than £4 or £5 a year; but the man in the out-back who wants a telephone installed, is compelled to pay so much a pole for the construction of the line, (hen rent for the service and a call fee as well. That is a reversion to the old system of guaranteed railways, which the Labour party abolished years ago. It is high time that Hie guaranteed telephone service was also abolished. There is little prospect of inducing men to settle in the out-back unless reasonable communications are provided. It should at least be made possible for settlers to summon medical assistance when it is required.
Ministers have spoken glibly about surpluses, but these have been achieved to some extent at the expense of country residents. In many parts of the country mail services have been discontinued because, the department says, perhaps only twelve or fourteen people live along the route. That may be so. .But those twelve or fourteen persons are taxpayers. They do not ask for two deliveries a day as in the city; if they have two deliveries a week they are more than content. If such mail services were extended, it would do much to encourage settlement in what is sn often described as the sparsely settled areas of the continent.
Unless something of the kind is done, such areas will continue to be sparsely populated for a long time to come.
.- I desire to associate myself in ali sincerity with the sentiments expressed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in moving his amendment, in so far as it refers to his desire to restore old-age and invalid pensions to £1 a week. He also proposes that the working week be shortened as a means of providing employment for those who are out of work. However, I point this out: Such a motion, coming from the Acting Leader of the Opposition, whom we may reasonably expect to possess a proper sense of responsibility, should be followed by some adequate explanation of the means by which the necessary funds are to be obtained. The honorable member was himself associated with the Government which was faced with the unpleasant duty of reducing old-age and in- olid pensions, t join with him and with every other honorable member in regretting the circumstances which caused that Government, to take that action. He should recollect that the government of that time was forced to make the reduction because of the financial exigencies of the moment. The budget which was introduced the other day projects only n very small surplus for this financial year. Therefore, we may reasonably expect the Acting Leader of the Opposition to inform us as to how the extra revenue of £1,420,000 necessary to restore pensions, is to be obtained. I am sure that he did not wish the committee to regard his speech merely as so much propaganda, but that he wished to be taken seriously. That being so, since he did not himself tell us where the extra money was to be obtained, we may be justified in assuming that he would have it obtained in the same way that his own Government obtained extra revenue when it was need, namely by the introduction of new taxes. His Government, when it bad to find more money, introduced the sales tax and primage duty. It also increased Customs duties of a purely revenue nature upon the staple foodstuffs of the people, such as tea etc. In other words, in order to obtain added revenue the Government, of which the Acting Leader of the Opposition was a member, found it inevitable to place added costs and taxes upon the basic foodstuffs and clothing of .the people. And in the absence of any constructive suggestion from honorable members opposite, we must assume that the mover of the amendment desires the Government to secure revenue from a similar source in order to provide sufficient funds to enable it to restore the pension to the full rate of £1 per week. With every other honorable member in this chamber I should like to see that restoration made, but I believe that before an honorable member occupying such a responsible position as that of the Acting Leader of the Opposition makes the suggestion he has now made he should regard it as obligatory upon himself also to furnish suggestions as to the means by which the Government could finance his proposal. It is estimated by the Government that at the existing rates of pensions a sum exceeding £12,000,000 will be necessary to meet the pensions bill for the current year. The proposed restoration would involve an additional expenditure of £1,420,000 per annum. I close my remarks on this part of the amendment by repeating that honorable members can only conclude that the amendment has been moved as a means of propaganda. If the amendment is to be taken at its face value, the mover is not possessed of a proper sense of responsibility. This is indicated by his neglect to suggest ways and means to raise the necessary additional revenue.
Dealing with the second portion of the amendment - the suggestion that hours of labour should be reduced - I associate myself wholeheartedly with the sentiments embodied in such a suggestion, but I view with caution any move which comes from a party which has at all times advocated higher wages and a reduction of the hours of labour for a certain section of workers, whilst it has shown itself callously negligent of the interests of another section of workers - rural producers and rural workers. It is a party which has never shown, at any rate in the State in which I reside, any disposition whatever to secure shorter hours or higher wages for rural workers. Consequently, I believe that this amendment can only be regarded as a gesture to secure shorter hours and higher wages for a certain favoured section of ihe workers of this country, namely, the members of the industrial unions of the cities. I am as anxious as any other honorable member that hours of labour should be reduced, but I am also anxious to see them reduced for rural workers and not, merely for one favoured section. Under the interlocking system of tariffs, based upon reports of the Tariff Board, and the awarding of wages by the Arbitration Court, the exporting industries of this country cannot at present undertake the added burden of costs that would inevitably fall upon them should a shorter working week be adopted generally. The whole financial structure of this country is based upon the stability of those export industries. We have incurred a heavy burden of debt overseas and to maintain the standard of living which honorable members opposite claim is so necessary for our people, there must, be a substantial importation involving overseas debt obligations. We can pay for those essential imports only by establishing and encouraging healthy exporting industries. To-day, these industries are in a precarious position. Certainly they are not able to bear any additional burden of costs such as would result from a general shortening of the hours of labour. I suggest that before we contemplate such a change, which I am as anxious as any other honorable member to see effected, it is necessary to place all workers, rural workers as well as those engaged in secondary industries, upon a common level. I do not desire to reduce the workers in secondary industries to the level upon which workers in rural industries find themselves to-day. Wholeheartedly, I desire to see the standard of living of the rural workers raised to that which is enjoyed by those who now have the protection of Arbitration Court awards. But as that can be done only by giving to those engaged in rural industry a measure of protection equal to that now enjoyed by those engaged in secondary industries, the only apparent means of achieving that end is the establishment of. a home-consumption price for the products of exporting industries. Then only shall we be able to view in its proper perspective the possibility of bringing about such reforms as a general reduction of working hours and an increase of the basic wage.
I believe that the progressive development which will be brought about through human ingenuity in industry will enable us to reduce hours, but I do not hold the view that such action should be taken merely in the interests of one section of workers at the expense of another section. We- shall have to adopt a proper system of planned economy. Already, we have developed a system of protection, the benefits of which are now being, enjoyed by workers engaged in organized secondary industry. I agree with such a policy, but we must complete the circle by providing a corresponding degree of protection for those engaged in our exporting industries. When we have established a planned economy .by these means, and have accelerated the progressive evolution of our banking and currency systems in this country, we shall be better able to increase wages and reduce hours of labour in industry. The evolution of our banking and currency systems has lagged, but the responsibility for that lag cannot be placed entirely upon the system itself; some responsibility for it must be taken by those people who, by the advocacy of wild-cat schemes, have caused a conservative outlook generally in monetary matters. When we have brought about a planned economy and have developed-
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the amendment. Last night, right at the very door of this Parliament in the capital city of the Commonwealth, between 400 and 500 people gathered clamouring for work, a large portion of the assembly being women with children in arms. Standing in the cold, these people appealed to this Government to find employment for them and their breadwinners.
One of the most urgent of. many works which might be put in hand within the Federal Capital Territory is the construction of a modern local hospital. The present public hospital at Canberra is out of date. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a clinic established under the supervision of’ Sister Kenny by the present Labour Government of
Queensland. While the Minister for Health has been going around the country making very nice speeches, very little effective work has been done by the Commonwealth Health Department. Clinics along the lines of those conducted in Queensland under the supervision of Sister Kenny should be established throughout the Commonwealth to deal with infantile paralysis. I remind honorable gentlemen opposite that there is an economic side to this matter, because the relief of each victim means that the Commonwealth will- be relieved of another claim for an invalid pension.
Appearing in .the budget is an item of £100 to be devoted to maternal and infant hygiene, and alongside that item appears an item of £11,100 proposed to be voted as a subsidy for the eradication of cattle tick in New South Wales and Queensland. Such a contrast, I submit, must strike honorable gentlemen. Clearly, it shows that this Government considers the eradication of cattle tick a more important matter than the preservation of human life.
– Those figures are only part of the Estimates; that contrast would not be apparent in a study of the full Estimates.
– Surely the Minister is’ not attempting to tell me that this Government is effectively providing for infant hygiene, or that it has established clinics to do this work? Twelve months ago, the Government talked of establishing such clinics, but nothing has yet been done. Almost a year ago, this matter was discussed in this chamber. Several hundred pounds is being spent in fitting out a clinic in the Royal North Shore Hospital. I have seen crippled children being treated in Brisbane at a clinic established by the Labour Government of that State under Sister Kenny, and remarkable results have been obtained. I have received particulars of individual cases from the mothers of children who have been treated there. During my visit, two mothers from New South Wales interviewed Sister Kenny and Dr. Rowntree with a view to having their .children treated there, but as the Queensland Government defrays the cost of maintaining the clinic, it was decided that children from another State could not be admitted. Of course the mothers returned to New South “Wales with their crippled children, and were broken hearted.
I understand that if a woman’s husband receives more than £247 a year, she is not entitled to receive the maternity allowance. A case has come under my notice in which the husband, whose salary is £248 a year, has a net income of only £230; yet his wife has been refused “the allowance. I have received a letter from this lady in the course of which she states -
I risked my life by not employing a doctor to assist me at the critical moment in order to minimize expenses, hoping to have the bonus to pay the nurse. I am now obliged to deprive my children of necessary nourishment in order to pay a few shillings each pay to the nurse for her services. We witness the spectacle of an important and respected Minister declaring far and wide with pathetic emotion that child-birth is rapidly diminishing, and beseeching and- imploring the mothers of the Commonwealth to do their duty in order that the white race may not perish.
I shall forward the communication to the Minister dealing with these matters.
Last session I mentioned the case of tubercular soldiers, many of whom have unsuccessfully applied to the Repatriation Department for war pensions. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) promised that the applications of these men would be carefully examined, and if it could be proved that their disability is due to war service, they would receive favorable consideration. Since it is impossible for the present tribunal to hear every application, I suggest that a tribunal should be established in each State. The way in which returned soldiers generally have been treated by the Government is disgraceful. Recently, a most distressing case was brought under my notice. A young man who went to the war in 1914, and returned in 1916, owing to war wounds, received a pension of 30s. a week. After spending a few months in Australia, he was sufficiently patriotic to re-enlist. On his second return from the front in .1917 he was sent to the Prince of Wales Hospital, and he received his discharge. Both legs and a portion of one hand had been amputated owing to war injuries. He has endeavoured, without success, to obtain a war pension. He was brought into my office by being carried on the back of another returned soldier. It was one of the saddest spectacles I have witnessed. This case is now being handled by my colleague, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), and I hope that the department will see that this unfortunate man, and others in a similar plight, are given more sympathetic consideration than has been shown to them in the past. Tt appears to me that the tribunal which hears their applications, and the medical officers employed by the Government, do everything possible to deprive them of justice. Many of them are not in a fit state of health to go before the tribunal and submit their cases.
Probably a larger number of purchasers of war service homes are to be found in my electorate than in any other. It seems to be the custom of the Government nowadays to issue ejectment orders against, or to intimidate, those occupants who are backward in their payments.
– The department is the worst landlord in Australia.
– That is so. During the depression, the War Service Homes Commission was turning occupants of these -homes out into the street, many property-owners in Sydney told their tenants that they could remain in the dwellings until they had obtained employment. [Leave to continue given.] Apparently the Government has no policy for the relief of the occupants of war service homes. I did not know until yesterday which Minister was in charge of the department. Last session we were told by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Hunter) that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) had gone to Europe to inquire how ex-soldiers were treated abroad. I was. informed on the 24th September that the honorable member for Calare is the Minister in charge of the department. I have no complaint to make about him in that regard, but I contend that the Government has done nothing to prevent the ejectment of the occupants of these homes. I have a record of the payments made to the department by a purchaser whose payments have been kept up regularly. He has been in occupation of his homefor ten years and nine months. He borrowed £821 ls. 9d., and after making prompt payments for the whole of that period still owes £732 6s. 5d. What hope has that man of ever making the house his own? If it were not for the fact that he receives the maximum war pension, he would have fallen into arrears, and would have been evicted long ago. In my electorate the police court deals daily with ejectment orders. I realize that the Deputy Commissioner has definite duties to discharge in connexion with the administration of these homes, but the Government cannot hide behind a public servant.
It will have to accept the responsibility for the action taken. Evictions should be suspended until something is done to relieve the plight of these unfortunate people who are unable to meet the payments due on their homes. Recently the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) attended a meeting of war service homes purchasers in Sydney comprising about 1,000 persons. The honorable member for Riverina was so impressed by what he heard at that meeting that, on the following day, he determined to interview the Commissioner for War Service Homes; but instead of going to the Commonwealth Bank building he sought that official at the Repatriation Department. Until then he wa3 not aware of the location of the office of the War Service Homes Commission. I mention this merely to indicate that some honorable members are not always handling these cases, and they, I feel sure, think that some of the statements made by other honorable members are exaggerated. I have a letter from one of my constituents in which he states that he was recently thrown out of his war service home because of his inability to meet the payment due under a purchase agreement of £1 3s. 6d. a week. He advises me that following upon his eviction the home was let by the department to another tenant at a weekly rental of 12s. 6d. Is that fair treatment to extend to a man who served abroad? After, all the promises that were made to these men they should not be subjected to such injustices.
No provision has been made for the restoration of the invalid and old-age pension rate to the amount previously paid. Before one penny of taxation of any sort is remitted to any section of the community the old old-age pensioners and the invalids of this country should at least be extended some consideration.
Last night and again to-day I have listened to some of the most serious statements I have ever heard in this House. While I have no personal knowledge of the ex-Attorney-General, Sir John Latham, I say that if the statements made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) and by some members of the last Parliament are correct it would be a scandal to appoint to a high official position a man not fitted to occupy such an exalted and honorable office as that of Chief Justice of the High Court. In the present occupants of the High Court Bench we have learned, honorable and brilliant lawyers, and if the position of Chief Justice has to he filled the Government could make a wise selection from their number.
– In supporting the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition I shall confine my remarks to the amendment itself. First, dealing with the question of restoration of invalid and old-age pensions I, in common with other honorable members on this side of the House, am of the opinion that the present rate of pension is totally inadequate. When the pension was reduced some years ago the Government of the day, compelled to effect the reduction through circumstances beyond its control, gave the definite promise that, immediately the finances of the country were in a sound position, the pension rate would be restored to its former level. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was then sitting in opposition, made a statement on the floor of this House to the effect that he would pledge his party to honour that promise immediately the opportunity was ripe. The right honorable gentleman’s party was elected in 1931, and since then no steps have been taken to redeem his pledge. Instead, the pensions act was tightened up by the introduction of pernicious provisions which placed the pensioners’ property in jeopardy, and resulted in many pensioners surrendering their pensions. In addition the Government, in order to convince the invalid and old-age pensioners that it was sympathetic towards them, inserted a scale in the 1933 act, providing for a rise or fall in the -amount of the pension in accordance with the rise or fall in the cost of living. It is indeed fortunate for the invalid and old-age pensioners that the cost of living has increased to such an extent as to provide for an addition of 6d. a week to their pension as from July last ! I believe that, in inserting the scale in the act, the Government was of opinion that the cost of living was on the down grade, and. that the pensions would not be increased at all. The amendment is phrased very cunningly - in such a way that the rate shall not rise beyond fi a week. We on this side of the House claim that the rate of pension should never be determined on a cost-of-living basis. When the pensions legislation was first introduced, the amount provided was considered to be just sufficient to maintain the pensioners. But £1 a week is totally inadequate to meet the needs of invalid pensioners. Those of us who have come into contact with invalid pensioners know that, in the majority of cases, they are compelled, as the result of their illness, to seek medical assistance, and have frequently to purchase special foods in keeping with the nature of their illness. These heavy demands . upon their pensions make it difficult for them to exist. I sincerely regret that the Government has not seen its way clear to restore to the old-age pensioners the full pension of £1 a week. As has already been pointed out by other honorable members on this side of the House, many .millions of pounds have been remitted to wealthy sections of the community, while the invalid and old-age pensioners have been left to live practically on charity or small contributions f rom relatives.
I desire now to refer to the administration of the pensions legislation in Queensland. In doing so I want it to be understood that I do not attach any blame to the officers of the administration branch of the Pensions Department. I say, however, that a thorough investigation should be made into the methods adopted in connexion with the examina tion of the applicants for invalid pensions. Some time ago I brought several cases before this House with a request that the system adopted in connexion with the examination of invalid pensioners should be inquired into. I suggested that a referee doctor should be called in to settle claims where the Government medical referee’s diagnosis differed from that of the applicant’s medical practitioner. I went to considerable pains to ventilate specific cases on the floor of the House, but unfortunately my efforts proved futile, and I was unable to achieve any improvement in the methods adopted. I desire now to mention the ‘case of a youth 21 years old, who unfortunately is now deceased. I bring this matter forward to demonstrate the lack of sympathy extended by the medical referee in examining an applicant for an invalid pension. This young man applied for an invalid pension in January, but his application was rejected by the medical referee on the ground that he was not totally and permanently incapacitated. Immediately after the examination he was admitted to the Brisbane General Hospital, where he was an inmate for some time, and that precluded him from approaching the department or the medical referee. At the expiration of six months I was successful in having this man re-examined. He was re-admitted to the hospital on the day after the examination, and three clays later I received a communication from the Pensions Department to say that, in the opinion of the medical referee, he was not totally and permanently incapacitated. On the following day I received a telephone message from his parents to say that he had died on the previous night. This unfortunate youth had never been able to work, and his father was only able to obtain relief work. That is only one of the many cases of this nature which have been brought to my notice. It discloses that the medical referee is not giving sufficient consideration to the applications which come before him for invalid pensions. I trust that the Government will deal with this matter more sympathetically, and that greater attention will be given to appli-cants for invalid pensions.
The Brisbane branch of the Red Cross Society has a tubercular soldiers’ home named Ardroyne at Corinda, in -which tubercular soldiers who have not been able to secure a war pension from the Repatriation Department are accommodated. Their claims have ‘been rejected because they cannot prove that their disability is due to war service. There are thousands of returned soldiers suffering from this disease who were passed as medically fit, but contracted the disease as the result of war service, yet cannot produce sufficient evidence to prove their case. [Quorum formed.’] The Red Cross Society is also conducting a small factory at Kangaroo Point, Brisbane, in which a number of returned soldiers who cannot find employment are undertaking light work, for which they receive a few shillings, which enables them to purchase medical requirements. Recently the Queensland Government decided to construct a bridge over the river from Kangaroo Point to Petrie Bight, and in order to do so has resumed property at Kangaroo Point, including that on which the Red Cross factory is situated. The factory has, therefore, been demolished, and the men who worked in it are now out of employment. The society, which is finding it difficult to carry on owing to lack of funds, has asked the State Government to provide another site on which to erect its factory. It is the function, not of the State Government, but of the Commonwealth Government, to provide such a site. The Commonwealth, authorities own a property at the rear of the new Commonwealth buildings now in course of erection in Adelaide-street, Brisbane.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I understand that the Defence Department still occupies an old building situated on Commonwealth land at the rear of the new Commonwealth offices in Anzac Square, and that it is used merely for the storing of old military equipment. It would be an easy matter for the Government to make that building available to the Red Cross Society for the establishment of a factory. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to that suggestion.
Representations have been made by a returned soldiers’ organization in Brisbane to the War Service Homes Department to have communications such as insurance renewal notices posted to occu pants of war service homes in sealed envelopes. At present unsealed envelopes are used and the men concerned are denied the privacy which is their right! The organization complained to the Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes in Brisbane and received what it regarded as an unsatisfactory reply. It was as follows: -
May 13, 1035.
Adverting to your communication of the 30th ultimo, I desire to inform you that, as the only information on the insurance renewal notices issued by the commission is the certificate number and premium payable, it is not considered that the notice is of a confidential nature and therefore it is not proposed to vary the procedure as to the issue of these.
At the request of the league I personally communicated with the Deputy Commissioner, and received a reply which was satisfactory neither to myself nor to the organization concerned. It reads: -
June 20, 1935.
Following upon your personal representations in regard to the despatch of renewal notices by the commission in unsealed envelopes, I desire to inform you’ that this matter was referred to the War Service Homes Commissioner as it was one which affected all the States in common. It is the practice of private insurance companies to forward insurance renewal notices in unsealed transparentfaced envelopes, and as the only information on the notice issued by the commission is the certificate number and premium payable, it is not considered that the notice is of a confidential nature, and therefore it is not proposed to vary the procedure as to the issue of these.
I should like the Assistant Minister to give serious consideration to this matter and to instruct the Deputy Commissioner to accede to the request which has been made to him.
I have listened attentively to the debate and particularly to the speeches of the honorable- members for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) and ‘Echuca (Mr. McEwen), relating to the reduction of the number of working hours. Both of those honorable members declared that unless certain events accompanied the suggested reduction the desired objective would be impossible of achievement. While I am pleased to know that the Government intends to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this matter, I believe that already it has sufficient information at its disposal to effect the reduction at once, and thereby replace in employment many thousands of Australians. The honorable member for Echuca declared that he was in favour of so extending the application of the principle as to embrace farmers and farm labourers. He claimed that the Labour party had never looked- after the interests of that class.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Mr. Gr ARDEN (Cook) [8.10].- I support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. The old-age pension should be increased to £1 a week, and a shorter working week should be instituted. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) to-night displayed the traditionally conservative attitude by expressing approval of the sentiment and then resorting to the use of the qualifying “ but “. He recalled to my mind the fight that the Labour party made for the 44-hour working week. Before that was instituted, every capitalist newspaper denounced it and claimed that it would result in the closing down of factories. The introduction of the principle had the reverse effect; it resulted in an increase of the productivity of labour. [Quorum formed.) Opponents of the 44-hour week said that Australian industry would be overwhelmed by the competition of European and Asiatic countries. Instead of the adoption of 44 hours as the standing working week proving a handicap to industry, it is admitted now by everybody that this country’s interests were served by it. The good results that attended that reduction would accompany a further reduction to 40 hours.
I wish to touch briefly on the subject of the restoration of the invalid and oldage pension to £1 a week. When Australia was experiencing the full blast of the economic blizzard, and salaries and social services had to be reduced, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) declared that the curtailment of pensions was the hardest task he had to undertake, and he made the definite promise to this House and to the people that when the budget was balanced there would be a complete restoration of payments to invalid and old-age pensioners. That promise has not been honoured although this Government has in the last few years remitted no less a sum than £7,000.000 to the rich land-owners of this country. The only increase of benefits to invalid and old-age pensioners has been an insignificant 6d. a week due, not to the goodwill of the Government, but to an increase of the cost of living. I hope that the Treasurer will soon give serious consideration to proposals for a complete restoration of pension payments.
Another matter to which I invite attention is the reported intention of the Government to appoint Sir John Latham Chief Justice of the High Court in succession to Sir Frank Gavan Duffy.
I doubt that any person in Australia has been subjected to more abuse than I have during the last 30 years. The person chiefly responsible for this consistent misrepresentation of me and my actions is Sir John Latham, the former AttorneyGeneral, who, for several years, took advantage of every opportunity to attack me in every way. I have nothing to say about his private life. I am concerned only with his public record, and I do not hesitate to say that his evident bias against the working classes unfits him for a position on the High Court Bench. It would be a standing disgrace to this Government if he were appointed Chief Justice. If a Labour government were in power now when the office of the Chief Justice is vacant, and if it were to make an appointment from the ranks of its legal supporters, an outcry would be raised by honorable members opposite from one end of the country to the other.
– What about the appointment of Dr. Evatt to the High Court?
– The present High Court judiciary includes some of the ablest legal men in the Commonwealth. No one can rightly say a word against Mr. Justice Dixon or Dr. Evatt.
Sir John Latham’s political bias was displayed in the sensational withdrawal in 1929 of the prosecution against the Abrahams brothers who were charged with having defrauded the Commissioner of Taxation of an amount of over £500,000. His excuse on that occasion was that if he had taken legal action, he would have been charged with vindictiveness. Was he troubled with the same scruples in regard to the timber-workers at about that time? No. I have a good reason to know because I spent a few days in gaol over the dispute. A few years ago I was taken to court no fewer than four times at the instance of the ex-Attorney-General, and I repeat that, because of his known bias towards the .working class movement, he is unfitted for a position on the High Court bench. We all recall also the prosecution launched against Jacob Johnson and the Seamen’s Union, and we remember, too, the reasons given for the withdrawal of ‘the prosecution against John Brown, the millionaire coal-owner, and a political friend of the Government of the day. But I wish particularly to emphasize his bias in connexion with the Abrahams case. Mr. Justice Starke, one of the High Court Justices commenting upon that case, said -
It is plain on this material that the defendants operated together and possibly with others systematically ici defraud the Commonwealth.
Sir Edward Mitchell, who appeared in. that case, urged that it would be difficult for the Government to prove the offence, and Mr. Justice Starke in reply said -
That is not for the Attorney-General to decide. That is for the jury to decide. They (the Abrahams brothers) might think that it was well worth ?500,000 in preference to being prosecuted criminally . . .
You first arrive at a compromises and then you ask the court to inflict penalties which you have inflicted yourself . . .
In addition, it looks very much as if there was an understanding that these people would not be prosecuted . . .
It looks as if not much attention had been paid to the injury done to the public. If a private citizen did this there might he something said.
Why were they not charged with conspiracy under the Crimes Act?
In marked contrast to its action in that case, the Government of which Sir John Latham was a member, operating provisions of the Crimes Act, threw into gaol many persons, and the onus was upon them to prove their innocence.
Although the Abrahams brothers had acknowledged their guilt, the AttorneyGeneral made a compromise with them, and withdrew the action. Sir Edward Mitchell, replying to the question asked by Mi1, .justice Starke, said they were not charged with conspiracy because, in the circumstances of the case, as the facts were ascertained after the Taid and on the certificate of the Attorney-General, it was determined that there was not a sufficient chance of getting a conviction before a jury.
To that Mr. Justice Starke replied -
A reasonable inference would be that they might have been committed to gaol.
Sir Edward Mitchell said
There was evidence at the time these facts were discovered from which there may be a strong inference drawn, but subject to great difficulty of proof.
To that Mr. Justice Starke replied -
That is not for the Attorney-General to decide. That is a matter for the jury . . .
If some such action had been taken at the instance of Mr. Lang, when he was Premier of New South Wales, we should have heard all sorts of allegations about what Labour was getting out of it. But. because the Attorney-General in a Nationalist federal administration agreed to a compromise with persons guilty of an attempt to defraud the revenue, nothing was said about it.
– The honorable member has exhausted his first period.
– With the consent of the committee I shall take my second period now.
– The honorable member forgets that Sir John Latham is an honest man.
– He may be honest in his private life; in his political life he was extremely biased. As I have said, I was arrested many times at the instance of the ex-Attorney-General. On one occasion I was charged with a certain offence, although I was able, subsequently, to prove that I was not where I was alleged to have been when the offence was committed.
There is really no occasion to make an appointment to the High Court Bench, and there is no reason why the Chief Justice should not be selected from the present judiciary. Honorable members will probably recall that, when Dr. Evatt and Mr. McTiernan were appointed by the Scullin Government, supporters of this Ministry, who were then in Opposition, said that there was no justification for the appointment of additional judges. It is, however, well known that strong pressure has been exerted to force Sir Prank Gavan Duffy to retire from the Chief Justiceship in order than Sir John Latham may be appointed to the vacancy.
I have already mentioned the withdrawal of the prosecution against John
Brown, the wealthy colliery proprietor, over the lockout of coal-miners in 1929. Dealing with that incident, the Melbourne Herald, which certainly is not a Labour paper, made this statement in its issue of the 9th April, 1929-
It will now be asked what new facts or circumstances have induced the Government to withdraw the prosecution. We fear that in suspicious quarters it may he suggested that the altered circumstances are that Parliament is now in recess. It will be suggested that the proposal to prosecute Mr. John Brown served a very useful political purpose. It will be suggested that subsequently in the Cabinet or in the party room it was considered impolitic to sool the law on to a wealthy mine-owner who might be a contributor to party funds. And it will be suggested that the Prime Minister was instructed to take the first favorable opportunity of getting the party out of the awkward position in which it had been landed by the legal enthusiasm of the Attorney-General.
The Adelaide Register of 11th April also referred to the matter. Honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies will readily admit that that paper was never a supporter of the Labour party. Yet it published the following paragraph: -
In the case of Mr, John Brown, the Federal Government has committed an amazing and even inexcusable blunder. In a democratic country nothing is better calculated to provoke intense feeling than the suspicion that there is, in reality, one law for the rich and another for the poor. The Government should not have launched a prosecution against an eminent and influential employer, except on an adequate basis of truth. But, once set in motion, the law which recently penalized the lumpers and timber-workers should have been allowed lo take its course.
The Melbourne Age, which sometimes supported the Scullin Government - perhaps on a fifty-fifty basis - discussed the matter on the 12th April in the following terms: -
Astonishment caused by the sudden withdrawal of legal proceedings against Mr. John Brown, coal-owner, is developing into intense public indignation. It is certain that no other Australian Government has, in recent years, so foolishly or brazenly exposed itself to the onslaughts of its opponents or subjected the loyalty of its fair-minded supporters to such severe strain as the Bruce-Page Ministry has done by this single set. To use the conference and the possible embarrassments of one of its constituent elements as a smokescreen will satisfy only those ready to defend the pact Ministry at any sacrifice. The com- munity’s sense of justice has been affronted its faith in the administration of the law has been shaken.
The Sydney Bulletin observed -
The Bruce-Page Ministry made a silly mess of its .dealings with the coal baron, Brown.
The Australasian also made some caustic comments on the subject. Every one of these newspapers is opposed . to the Labour movement, and yet they all stated that the action of the Government implied that there was a law for the rich and another for the poor. If Sir John Latham should be appointed Chief Justice of the High Court, I maintain, from our experience of him, that he will serve ths interests of the rich employers of this country. No poor man who appeared before him could expect to receive justice. Those of us who are familiar with his “make-up” realize that he cannot now change the basic principles of his life. He is bitter and vindictive, and no poor man or worker could expect to receive justice from him. It will be a scandal if he is elevated to the Chief Justiceship.
– I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) forsook his usual urbanity to say that it had been moved without any real seriousness - “ by way of propaganda “ I think his words were, I regret that he made that statement.” If he had been a member of this Parliament since 1931 and had followed the history of - the -financial emergency legislation in regard to pensions, I am confident that, being, a- fairminded man, he would be in accord with speakers on this side of the House in urging an immediate restoration of the pension to £1 a week. Four years ago Australia was in the trough of a great depression. Things have improved somewhat since then, and for this the governments which have succeeded the Scullin Ministry have taken all the credit. They have claimed they have been courageous in their administration and have achieved practical results. “When the Scullin Government took office . it found itself obliged to do unpleasant things, in many instances against the wishes of its best friends, and it did them with a great deal of diffidence. The public finances had to be restored to a healthy condition ; metaphorically, the Scullin Government planted and watered the tree, but this administration has picked the fruit. The present Government has not taken one courageous step, or squarely faced any one problem that has confronted it. The drastic action taken by the Scullin Government in. squarely facing up to its duty brought ignominy upon it, the stigma of which I and other members of that Government will carry for many years. Let me briefly recall tie circumstances that faced that Ministry. In May of 1931 the administration learned that by the following month it would not be in a position to pay 17s. 6d. a week to old-age pensioners, and would be able to afford to pay not more than 12s. in the fi. That applied to pensions, the salaries of public servants, and to other governmental expenditure. This dire position called for the drastic action which I have since justified many times in this House and I have no need to repeat the defence of it on this occasion. When the invalid and old-age pensions were reduced .the then Prime Minister and also the Leader of the Opposition gave assurances that directly financial conditions improved, pensions would be restored to their former level. It was promised that in this respect pensions would take precedence over public service salaries and other expenditure which had been subjected to the emergency reduction. That undertaking certainly should have been honoured long before largesse was handed out to the rich land-owners. As we stood for that restoration in 1931 so we continue to advocate it to-day. We ask the Leader of the Government to keep faith with our pensioners, and to remember the solemn pledge he made to them four years ago. In 1931-32 just before the Labour Government successfully floated the internal conversion loan of £560,000,000, the Leader of this Government and the Minister for External Affairs in another place, gave press interviews in Melbourne, in which they stated that the Government’s proposals were tantamount to repudiation, and would result in financial chaos. Nevertheless, the Scullin Government proceeded with the undertaking, and eventually brought about the biggest conver- sion loan in our history. As a result of that triumphant enterprise the Lyons Government in the year after the Scullin Administration left office reaped the benefit - a surplus of £1,314,000. Despite this surplus, and the promises made to them, our pensioners - the indigent poor of this country - were denied their only request that, as old soldiers of industry, they should be permitted fi a week on which to live. Although there was this big surplus an additional fl,000,000 was taken from the pensioners by the odious and onerous property provisions which were introduced into the pensions legislation, and made it impossible for them to leave their homes to their children, many of whom had provided those homes. The surplus in 1932-33 was f3,500,000, but still the Leader of the Government failed to keep his promise. I honestly believe that when he gave his undertaking in 1931 he was prepared to give effect to it, but powerful interests which are at the back of every anti-Labour government of Australia decreed otherwise. When these interests say “ march “ the governments concerned have to march; when they say “ jump “ the governments must jump. Instead of making restoration to old-air pensioners, the Government reduced the federal land tax, although there had been no increase in the rate of this tax since it was first instituted by the Labour Government led by Mr. Andrew Fisher. This tax was imposed on owners of properties of ‘ an unimproved value of more than £5,000. No farmer in Western Australia has ever had to pay federal land tax. If a man with a block of an unimproved value of £10,000 has made improvements to the amount of £5,000, without which it would be of little use to him, he does not pay a penny of land tax. The reduction of this tax did not help the struggling farmer ; but benefited the owners of large estates, although it was originally introduced for the purpose of breaking up big estates, and had been most successful in this respect. The largess distributed among wealthy landowners by this Government has been wrung from the old and indigent. The Government had another surplus in 1933-34, and a further reduction of taxation was made to the advantage of the land-owners. By this time this section of the community had benefited by remissions of taxation, and otherwise, to an amount equivalent to the full sum required to restore the pension to the former figure of £1 a week. The Commonwealth had a surplus last year of £711,000, but still the pensioners received no relief. It is estimated that the current financial year will end with, a surplus of £1,000,000, out of which we are told that the Government will remit £510,000 to certain classes of taxpayers, instead of fulfilling its pledge to the old-age pensioners by restoring their pensions. The reason given by the Government for remitting to the wealthy section of the community taxation amounting to over £9,500,000 is that it wished to make it possible for them to provide more employment. The Prime Minister has the habit of throwing bouquets at himself, ad nauseum, and of claiming credit for the better conditions in Australia in comparison with those in a number of other countries. He instanced the United States of America as a country in which the unemployment problem was more acute than in Australia; but he did not mention that it was in the throes of a depression unequalled in the history of the world. Bad though the position may be in the United States of America, it can at least be said for its President that he has tried to work along national lines in an effort to improve conditions, and has not been content merely to remit taxation to the moneyed members of the community. Mr. Roosevelt has been courageous enough to increase taxation and to shorten the hours of the working week. I do not say that his efforts have been entirely successful, any more than have the efforts of the leaders of the German nation; but these men have at least shown a willingness to work along national lines. That is what the Labour party stands for.
– -The honorable member has exhausted his first period.
– If no other honorable member wishes to intervene I shall take my second period now.
The Prime Minister quoted from the Statistician’s returns to show that the number of persons unemployed in Australia for the second quarter of this year was only 18.6 per cent, of the population. I admit that that is a big reduction from the figures of 1931, but the right honorable gentleman forgot to say that in 1932, six months after his Government came into office, the trough of the depression was reached. In Canada the proportion of unemployed to the total population is 15.9 per cent., and in Germany in May of this year, 11 per cent. Germany has in operation a scheme for the employment of large numbers of youths in forests and on farms. Even under the Hitler regime Germany is looking after its youths, whereas in Australia nothing is done for 50,000 of the 100,000 youths who leave school each year and can never hope to find employment. Last January the Prime Minister claimed to be greatly concerned about our unemployed lads, but he has done nothing for them. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) said that the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) had a weakness for incubating fresh ideas. The right honorable member is a rival to the Prime Minister in the art of saying things that mean nothing and of making promises which are not kept. Unemployment is not nearly so big a problem in Denmark as it is in Australia, the proportion of unemployed to the population there being 13 per cent, or 5.6 per cent, less than in this country. In Japan the proportion is under 5 per cent., and in the United Kingdom 13.1 per cent. Australia is lagging behind other countries, notwithstanding that in the wool market it has practically a monopoly and enjoys many other advantages.
The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) twitted the Labour party with being unconcerned about the unemployed on- the farms. The honorable member should know that the great need of the farmers is a compulsory wheat pool. He should know, also, that within three months after it came into office the Scullin Government met the representatives of the farmers in conference, and later had a bill prepared by a legal gentleman in the Wimmera district with a knowledge of wheat-farming - a measure unequalled among its kind. The Minister for Commerce, who is also the leader of the Country party in this House, has not said one word in favour of a compulsory wheat pool, notwithstanding that, according to the president of the Country party in New South “Wales, the majority of the farmers of that State and of Victoria and “Western Australia desire it. Had the right honorable gentleman been in earnest, he could have had a wheat pool in operation to-day, and thereby saved the farmers from being fleeced as they now are. Unfortunately, the farmers of this country are not affiliated with any organization which is really concerned with their welfare; they have linked themselves with people with whom they have no , interest in common. A number of their so-called representatives in this Parliament merely seek big jobs for themselves. At the beginning of last season the price of wheat in Australia was about 2s. Id. a bushel. The banks expressed the fear that the price would drop, and forced many farmers to sell their stocks of wheat. Last week wheat was quoted at 3s. 3d. a bushel, but the growers did not gain. The wheat-buyers of this country have benefited by ls. 2d. a. bushel at the expense of farmers who were forced to sell their stocks. The taxpayers have been asked to provide £4,500,000 in order that the farmers may be given a bounty of 7£d. a bushel for their wheat; but, as the big wheat-buyers have taken 8d. or 9d. a bushel from the farmers, the actual growers of the wheat have sustained a loss of about 1-Jd. a bushel on the advanced price. One well-known wheat-grower in South Australia arranged to sell a quantity of wheat in the Old Country at 3s. 3d. a bushel through one of the wheat organizations with which he is allied. Later he received news that the wheat had to be handed over to a certain wholesale buyer in South Australia at that price. He retained about 1,000 bags of wheat, and, later, when he tried to sell it, he was able to get only 3s. a bushel for it from the same wholesale buyer. That was because he was in the hands of a buyer who was out to fleece the farmers. The farmers will continue to lose in this way until there is in existence a pool controlled by themselves.
– Everybody, I think, sympathizes with the old-age pensioners, but we must admit that, in view of the present purchasing power of money as compared with what it was when the pensions were reduced, old-age and invalid pensioners are not in nearly so bad a position as are the thousands of retired railway workers, police, teachers and others, who draw pensions from the various superannuation funds established by the State governments. These persons paid money into superannuation funds in expectation of receiving certain stipulated pensions upon their retirement. Then in pursuance of the Premiers plan, their pensions were reduced by 20 per cent., whereas those of old-age and invalid pensioners were reduced by only 12^ per cent. So far as I know no effort has yet been made in any State to restore the amounts by which superannuation pensions were reduced. The reason, of course, is that the State governments are not in a position to make the restoration; and the Acting Leader of the Opposition knew when he put forward his proposal, that, even if he had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament, he would not be able to put it into effect. Any attempt to do so would merely tend further to emphasize the existing disparity between the positions of those who look to the Commonwealth Government for bounty, and those who must look to the State governments.
In 1930, the year before Commonwealth pensions were reduced, the weighted average of the cost of living index, according to the returns of the Commonwealth Statistician, was 978. In the year when the reduction was made the average was 852, taking the four quarters of the year into consideration. This year, the figure is’ higher than it has been at any time since 1931, having risen from a low level of 792 to 810. If those figures are considered in conjunction with the old-age and invalid pensions, honorable members must admit that the pensioners are better off than some would have us believe.
– Has the honorable member ever tried to live on 18s. a week?
– Perhaps I know more about it than the honorable member thinks. My experiences have been fairly varied, butthis is notthe time to discuss such matters. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) referred with much eloquence and some heat to the amount of unemployment existing in Australia, and compared it with the unemployment in Germany, Japan and Russia. I am surprised that any honorable member of his age and experience should quote those countries as examples for Australia to follow. If the Commonwealth were to spend relatively as much money in keeping men under arms as is being spent by the governments in Germany, Russia and Japan, we should have no unemployment in this country at all. I doubt whether there are any other three countries in the world in which such large percentages of the manhood of the community are taken off the labour market and placed under arms. The honorable -member quotedGreat Britain also as a country in which the percentage of employment was less than in Australia. It stands to reason that the size of the “British army both at home and in India must have some bearing upon the number of unemployed. Honorable members should be careful when making comparisons that all the relevant factors are taken into consideration.
The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) made a comparison in his budget speech betweenthe interest burden per head today, and that in 1920. His manner of dealing with the matter may go down well with the public, but he must realize that the dead weight of the interest burden to-day per head of population is very much greater than it was in 1920.
– A little bit.
– Reckoning in terms of export commodities upon which, in the last analysis, Australia depends for its financial stability, it is immediately seen that, with our present interest burden of over £7 a head, we are in a much worse position than we were in 1920.
– The same argument must be applied to pensions.
– I have already admittedthat,
– What has the honorable member to say of the proposal to make a partial restoration of the parliamentary allowances ?
– I realize that something will be said in the near future about parliamentary allowances, and my attitude is this : While we are levying under emergency legislation sales tax to the amount of £8,500,000, and while we still continue to collect, as the budget forecasts, more than £800,000 of emergency income taxes, there is no justification for making any restoration of salaries in the Commonwealth Service. Not one State government can afford to make such restoration without further increasing its already alarming deficit. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) spoke effectively on this subject yesterday, and his words should be borne in mind by the members of all parties when the matter comes up for consideration.
.- I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) -
That the amount be reduced by £1.
If this amendment is carried, it is to be taken as an instruction to the Government -
Old-age and invalid pensioners have a particular claim for the restoration of their pensions, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition have both promised that pensions would be restored as soon as the finances of the country permitted. Already a considerable amount of taxation has been remitted, and in this year’s budget we are told that the tax on income from property, which has already been reduced from 10 per cent., to 6 per cent., is to be reduced a further 1 per cent. Such income is not the result of personal exertion, and the tax upon it is one of the last that should he removed. If it is necessary to find more money for pensions, one method of doing so would be to leave the tax on property undisturbed. In regard to defence, we have been told that special expenditure is to be incurred this year out of the excess revenue of previous years, no less than £4,160,000 being provided from this source. I maintain that this money should be expended, not for the purpose of preparing for destruction, but in paying pensioners what they are entitled to. No less than £8,500,000 will be set aside this year for defence purposes. I am sure a considerable reduction of that amount can be made, and what is saved could be paid into the pensions fund. Certain restorations of salary are to be made to public servants, including those receiving £2,000 a year and more; yet money cannot be found to restore to the old-age pensioners the 2s. a week which was taken from them. Such a situation is a disgrace to the Government, and those members who support this policy are not even honest, because I believe that, in most cases, their private convictions are that the pensions should be restored. They must recognize that the pensioners represent, for the most part, the pioneers who opened up the country, who made sacrifices, and who, throughout their active lives, contributed their fair share in taxes to the revenues of the country. The pension is not a charity or a dole, but something to which the aged are justly entitled. The basic wage paid’ to single female workers in New South “Wales is £1 17s. per week, in Queensland £1 19s., in South Australia £1 Ils. 6d., and in “Western Australia £1 18s. Id. This is little enough, but if even the authorities believe that these sums represent the minimum upon which a single woman can feed and clothe herself and provide shelter, then the claim of the pensioners for £1 a week cannot be denied. Before the Government makes any restitution of salaries to highly-paid officers in the Public Service, or makes any further reduction of taxation to the wealthy sections of the community, .pensions should be restoredto the old ‘ level of £1 a week. Probably, if the pensioners had a greater voice in the affairs of the community, the Government would take more notice of their claims, but evidently they are regarded as a small and uninfluential section, which Ministers can afford to ignore. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) claims that Australia to-day is enjoying an era of prosperity. It seems to me, however, that the greatest prosperity isin the joy-riding and sight-seeing department. Recently, the Prime Minister, accompanied by a large contingent of Ministers and officials, tripped overseas, and the results obtained by Australia have not been commensurate with the cost. .The honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) has endeavoured to explain the achievements of that delegation insofar as it obtained Empire preferences for Australian meat; but, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) pointed out last night, this matter had already been dealt with by the Ottawa Conference. Consequently, it cannot be justly claimed that the delegation which went overseas recently can show results commensurate with its cost to this country. Before concessions were made in the budget to any other section, restorations of former payments to those least able to fend for themselves, such as the pensioners, should have been provided for. In this respect the Government has acted in a brazen and heartless manner, and I hope that even at this late stage it will consider the claims of the pensioners, which have been voiced by their various organizations throughout Australia. [Quorum formed.] As the Government has been able to show a surplus, and proposes to spend much of its available money upon defence, in remissions of taxation to wealthy sections of the community, and in increasing the salaries of the “ brass hats “ and largesalaried employees of the Crown, it should, at least, give to the pensioners the consideration which was promised when the pensions were first reduced. The Prime Minister has stated that, in view of the present prosperous conditions in Australia, the people should cease to talk about the depression. The right honorable gentleman may feel that this Government can overlook the misrepresentations which its representatives made to the people at the last election,, and probably because of hi3 own salary he may not feel any effects of the depression; but that is no reason why the people suffering from the depression should suffer their grievances in silence. On the contrary, they should take every opportunity to air their grievances in an endeavour to impress upon the Government the loss of advantages which have been filched from them under the Premiers plan, and they should continue agitation until the full pension has been restored to them.
One of the main arguments advanced against the shortening of the present working week is that it would be too costly to employers. In this matter the welfare of the workers should be given primary consideration; they should be guaranteed a decent standard of living. In the course of this debate, many figures dealing with unemployment have been quoted. We have been told that, according to the monthly statistical returns, there were unemployed at the 30th June, 1933, 106,652 trade unionists, representing 25.7 per cent, of the members of those unions which submit returns. The census of 1933 showed the to’tal number of unemployed to be 481,044. At the 30th June last the number of unemployed trade unionists had dropped to 77,177, or 17.8 per cent., and, -on that basis, the total number of unemployed at that date may be calculated to have been 349,000. The Government should be ashamed of the further fact revealed by the census, that 2,524,434 persons - or 80 per cent, of the bread-winners of Australia - were not receiving £4 a week, although the basic wage was £4 0s. 6d. The figures in this respect have not altered materially. Honorable members opposite may quote figures which purport to show that the bulk of the people are much better off to-day than they were some time ago, but figures cannot measure the poverty that exists in a community. . Dr. Nott, in a speech which he delivered in Canberra last night, pointed out that many children living in the Federal Capital Territory were under-nourished, whilst I, myself, last evening addressed a meeting of Canberra unemployed, who assembled in front of this building to demand full-time work from this Government. When such conditions obtain even at the Seat of Govern ment, the matter of instituting a shorter working week should be one of the first concerns of this Government. The Commonwealth Government cannot evade its responsibilities by making paltry donations to the State governments, and saying, Micawber like, “ Thank God, that is settled”!
The percentage of unemployed in the mining industry as at the 30th June, 1934, was 28.3, and at the 30th June, 1935, it had increased to 29.9 per cent. Despite these facts, honorable members opposite tell us that economic conditions are improving in this country. In the electorate which I represent, and in other mining constituencies large numbers of men are to be found living in a state of economic insecurity, not knowing what the morrow holds in store for them; in these electorates there are thousands of unemployed, who do not know whence their next meal will come. Many young men have not been able to secure employment since leaving school.
Reporting to the League of Nations on the unemployment position throughout the world in 1935, the Director of the International Labour Office, Mr. H. Butler, states -
The fifth year of the depression has now run out without bringing the hope of general recovery to fruition.
Despite such statements by such an authority we are told by representatives of this Government that the people of Australia should be satisfied with present economic conditions.. Mr. Butler’s report further states -
There is still widespread distress and frustration of hope. The world- as a whole is still groping its way painfully and’ fearfully.
One of the chief points made in this report is that a policy of economic planning must be adopted by the governments of the various countries in order to overcome the problem of unemployment. It will be admitted readily that as a permanent secretary at the International Office Mr. Butler’s views can be accepted as politically unbiased. Further, we can readily accept any information supplied by the International Labour Office on this problem- as the most reliable that, can be obtained, because its reports are- compiled on information received from all parts of the globe. Mr. Butler’s report continues -
The fatalistic faith in the benevolent operation of economic law was everywhere giving way to the demand for systematic collective action.. In response to the vehement insistence pf public opinion, ohe country after another had abandoned the laisser-faire outlook in an endeavour to arrest the inroads of depression which, by destroying its standards of life was undermining its social stability.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to take my second period now. ‘ This report continues - “
Hence the initiation of controlled monetary policies of ambitious schemes of public works, Of new industrial structures, of which the ((tate was the architect and often the builder, pi State-controlled and directed agricultural production and marketing, of managed international trade, of wholesale relief . of unemployment at the expense of the community.
From these extracts it is clear that governments are being forced to deal with this problem ‘ of unemployment, mainly because of the pressure of public opinion being brought to bear upon them, and not, as many honorable gentlemen opposite claim, as a matter of the Government’s own choice.’ The people to-day realize that governments should take greater interest in the social welfare of the community as a whole, and that it is the chief duty of any government to look after .the well-being of the people Mr. Butler’s report- proceeds -
This- means ‘a definite break with the practices and philosophies pf the past.
In view of present economic conditions in Australia to-day, one is justified in emphasizing that’ the: people are claiming that.the basic wake standard of living decided by our industrial tribunals is not a standard to . be. enjoyed merely in times of prosperity and denied in times of depression, but must be maintained at all times.. Mr.” Butler’s report states further -
Unemployment, privation and distress were looked upon as visitations of some blind providence which could > not be avoided. Now the breaking point of resistance is reached much quicker in these matters, because certain standards of health, .comfort and well-being are involved. They are’ inherent rights which the community, not only should, but must guarantee by organized collective effort. This demand for government action has been reinforced by the - patent fact that the present scarcity is not due to any failure of nature, but to a human failure to make the products of nature available to those who need them. It therefore now seems reasonable to expect governments to devote the same energy, ingenuity and attention to the provision of the elementary needs of feeding, clothing and shelter on a civilized scale, as to the provision of air communications, wireless systems and elaborate systems of national defence.
The arguments advanced in this report should be in the forefront of any policy pursued by a national government to deal with the problem of unemployment, and the institution of a shorter working week should be a primary consideration.
Economic planning is no longer looked upon merely as a means to greater efficiency, greater production or a larger share of the world’s markets. Its primary object is now social, not only to guarantee greater wealth and its better distribution, but also to eliminate waste of material and effort, and even of human lives. As the Leader of my party (Mr. Beasley) remarked yesterday, it is a matter of the first importance to fit into employment the vast army of young people who have been seeking work ever since leaving school. The question of. a shorter working week must also be dealt with at the earliest opportunity.
.- I support the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in his protest against the failure of the Government to increase the invalid and old-age pension to fi per week, and to inaugurate a shorter working week. The unemployed sons of oldage pensioners are rationed in accordance with the income of their parents, and this places an extra burden on the recipients of the pension in every State. The time has come when the Commonwealth Government should increase the pension in order to reduce the financial strain imposed upon the State authorities. Are the thousands of men and women now in receipt of the dole to be supported by that means until they receive the old-age pension? Such a policy. must inevitably fail. Once and for all the Government should formulate a plan to remove from the taxpayers the burden of providing sustenance for this large section of the community. But this Government proceeds in a slipshod manner, and, by dillydallying, tries to hoodwink the electors.
Naturally the only way to eliminate unemployment is to provide work for those who need it. The economic conditions of the workers of Australia should not be regulated in accordance with the conditions prevailing overseas. If there is to be any alteration of standards of living, the standards now observed in older countries should be raised to the Australian level. Quite recently, the International Labour Conference recommended that the nations represented should not purchase the goods of those countries which refused to improve the economic conditions of their workers. All must contribute to the economic wealth of the community; otherwise the social structure must collapse.
It is suicidal to have a dole system in operation side by side with an enormous pensions bill. While the unemployed in the cities are being supported by. the dole, the Government is also handing out money to farmers; but the day of reckoning must come. Every man and woman must be given ah opportunity to work and live under decent conditions. The crisis through which we are passing is not a financial one; it is due to the loss of markets. Australia could produce in one year enough wool and wheat to clothe and feed its people for twenty years, yet millions of people throughout the world are starving, millions of bushels of wheat are being eaten by mice and rats! Australia has the necessary machinery to carry out an extensive programme of reproductive public works that are essential to the welfare of the nation. The Commonwealth Bank, the Loan Council, and the Arbitration Court should operate in conjunction for the revival and expansion of industry; but the party in power i3 controlled by the financial interests of this country, which are content to see city workers and primary producers sorely suffering.
Reference was recently made in this chamber to the unemployment position in Canberra. There is no prospect of steady work being provided in this city, and the army of unemployed increases. As there are no factories, and no farms on which the idle men can be absorbed, the only work that appears to be offering is the hoeing of weeds in the parks and gardens. The. Government has brought about economic chaos, and it is in a state of fear. Ministers must realize that their present policy is a hopeless one. This wretched position has been brought about by the war debt of £400,000,000, which posterity will have to stagger under for 100 years. The Government has reduced the taxes of wealthy ‘ land-owners, of whom from 40 to 60 per cent, are to be found in the cities, while refusing to grant an extra 2s. a week to the invalid and old-age pensioners, who, by reason of their lives of toil, have made it possible for the wealthy to enjoy their present affluence.
I remind the Minister for Defence that it is time he put the defences of this country in a position to protect its citizens against the attacks of invaders. But I am against sending young men out of this country to fight in other lands. If there is any fighting to be done for the preservation of the lives of the women and children of this country I shall do it here in Australia, but not in other parts of the world. I would take no part in any war outside of Australia nor would I vote a shilling for its prosecution.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). In the discussion of a measure such as this I realize that the debate is not restricted to any particular subject, and like other honorable members I desire to bring before the House a number of complaints. I desire first to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a complaint regarding the mail delivery to Quorrobolong. It seems most remarkable that the mail route now being followed has remained the same since pre-federation days, when postal facilities were provided by the State governments. The Cessnock mail contractcovers deliveries to Kitchener, which is within five miles of Quorrobolong. The whole of the mail route for the South Maitland district goes through West Maitland, East Greta and then through Kurri Kurri to Cessnock and various other towns. Requests have been made that the Quorrobolong mail should go through the Cessnock route, and that the present method of delivery should be discontinued. If this were done, instead of having to travel nineteen miles from
East Maitland, the mail could be delivered at Quorrobolong, via Cessnock, much more expeditiously. The present procedure is very uneconomic, and I feel sure that the postal authorities are not cognisant of the development that is taking place in the great mining areas in the South Maitland district, otherwise they would be prepared to accede to this request and give the people of that district better mail facilities. Some time ago I wrote to the department suggesting that . a postal inspector should be detailed to inquire into this matter. This was done and I accompanied him over the route in question. He was amazed, and remarked that I was actually showing the department its job. I feel sure that that officer would recommend the adoption of the suggestion of those people. It is true that there are other towns covered on that nineteen miles journey from East Maitland to Quorrobolong, ‘but they also could be catered for through Kurri Kurri. I refer to such towns as Mount Vincent, Mulbring, Brunkerville, and Buchanan. From Kurri Kurri to Buchanan, through Standford Merthyr is only about three miles; to Mulbring through Pelaw Main, five miles; Mount Vincent about seven miles, and Brunkerville about ten miles.
I desire now to refer to the amendment dealing with invalid and old-age pensions. It has been said by those who oppose this amendment that we have been actuated largely by our desire for propaganda and that, though they are sympathetic towards the proposal, the present state of finances will not permit of its adoption. [Quorum formed.] Let us review what has been done by this Government. Since it has been in office a large number of people, who made no contribution whatsoever towards the Premiers’ plan, which was put into operation when the country was going through the worst period of the depression, have benefited by remissions of taxation totalling approximately £9,000,000. But now that the Government is able to balance its budget and make such large concessions to its wealthy friends, why does not it honour the promise’ with which its members and supporters were associated when the Premiers’ plan was adopted, that pensioners would have restored to them the cuts made in’ their pensions as soon as the finances permitted? We all remember that eighteen members of the Labour party refused to support the Premiers’ plan, and that it was only with the aid of honorable members now sitting behind the Government the financial emergency legislation was passed by Parliament. As a result of the passing of that legislation the pensioners suffered a reduction of 2s. 6d. per week in their pension. The first Lyons Government brought about a further reduction of 2s. 6d. per week, and enacted the property clauses which resulted in the taking away of properties from the relatives of pensioners after their death. The last cut of 2s. 6d. a week has been given back, but, apart from that, the most helpless section of the community - the old pioneers of this country, who have borne the heat and the burden of the day in the development of this country - has received no benefit in proportion to that received by others who are less deserving. When the first Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was introduced in 1908, it was said that the pension was being given to the people as a right and not as a charity. But what is the position to-day? Every one knows that the pension has been placed on the basis of a charity. I ask the Government to reconsider the budget with the view to giving the pensioners a more equitable share of the money which is available. Some of those who are receiving huge concessions from this Government should be prepared to sacrifice a portion of them, and the Government should be compelled to honour the promise made to the pensioners in 1931. I did my best to secure ah amendment of section 17 / b and section 22 h of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act, which inflicted great hardship upon invalid pensioners and their parents. I pointed out that section 52m of the act exacted contributions from relatives of pensioners, some of whom were in affluent circumstances and were well able to afford to contribute towards the cost of the pensions. This section was repealed, because so many were affected that their voting strength appealed to the Government. But not so many people were affected by the other provisions -which I have mentioned. Very few invalid children living with their parents apply for pensions. I have already mentioned the case of a man of 44 years of age, living with his father, who was aged 68 years. Because the old man had a few pounds in the bank and a property apart from the home in which he resides, not only was he denied the pension, but the son also. Under section 52m regulations were framed providing that, before a child was asked to make a contribution towards the pension of his parent, he could be in receipt of an income of £6 a- week as a married man, with provision for a further allowance of £50 for each child, plus a liberal education allowance, and an allowance for unemployed children. I brought forward concrete cases in which invalids living in the homes of their parents, whose income has been only £4 5s. a week, have been refused the pension, despite the fact that there have been other children in the family apart from the applicant. At that time I was endeavouring to have deleted from the act the two paragraphs of the sections to which I have referred. If the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who opposed the suggestion I submitted, will not delete those paragraphs, will he allow the same concession to parents housing an invalid son or daughter as he allowed to single or married men under section 52m? This section was repealed because the Government realized that thousands of persons who were being asked to contribute were affected, but comparatively few were affected by sections 22h and 17/6. It appears that section 52m was repealed solely because thousands of votes were involved.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– “With the permission of committee, I shall take my second period now.
– The honorable member supported the repeal of that section.
– I know that. If I were a pensioner with a son in affluent circumstances who would not assist me voluntarily I would tell him to go to hell rather than receive money which he was forced to contribute for my maintenance.
I now wish to refer to the probable appointment of Sir John Greig Latham as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. I am opposed to political appointments to the judiciary, and particularly to the elevation of this gentleman, who has been instrumental in framing many of the harsh laws which have been invoked against the working class. I. refer more particularly to the Crimes Act, which is one of the worst measures on the statute-book. Although actually there may not be one law for the rich and another for the poor, because the law is the same for both, too much discrimination is shown in its administration. Reference has already been made to the Government’s action in connexion with the Abrahams brothers case, and the Kidman and Mayoh ship-building contract. Honorable members will recall the illegal lockout which occurred on the Newcastle coal-fields in 1929-30, when, following a long debate in this chamber, a prosecution was launched against Mr. John Brown. Hansard records that a debate on this subject, which commenced just before midnight on the 22nd March, 1929, was continued until 2.30 a.m. the next morning. During the debate I had the support of the honorable member for Angas, Mr. Parsons, the honorable member for Wannon. Mr. Rodgers, and the honorable member for Fawkner, the late Mr. Maxwell, all of whom were anti-Labour men. Later that morning, when the House resumed, an inspired question was asked by the honorable member for Bendigo, Mr. Hurry, as to the action the Government proposed to take against the coalowners. The Attorney-General, then Mr. Latham, stated definitely that the Government had completed investigations, and that a prosecution would be launched against Mr. John Brown. That decision was satisfactory to the miners, but during the Easter recess the prosecution was withdrawn and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Theodore, in moving a motion of censure, asked why the Government had changed its tactics. The House was informed that the prosecution had been withdrawn to clear the way for a free and open discussion at a conference to be held in the Sydney Town Hall, to be presided over by Sir Wallace Bruce. The Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce. addressed that conference, and in concluding said that the Federal Government had withdrawn the prosecution against Brown and later inferred that, the miners were agreeable. According to a statement by Mr. Rees; general president, and Mr. Davies, the general secretary of the miners’ organization, which statement was read in this chamber, the miners denied emphatically that any such agreement had been reached by the members of their organization, or by any of the affiliated unions concerned in the dispute. They may have been under the impression that the withdrawal was only of a temporary nature. But even had the miners agreed the Government was not justified in withdrawing the prosecution when a breach of both the Crimes Act and the Industrial Peace Act had been committed. The Attorney-General at that time, Sir John Latham, on the other hand, did not hesitate to prosecute the timber-workers, the waterside- workers and the seamen. When these organizations were involved Sir John Latham became like a ferocious tiger, but when John Brown was concerned the prosecution which had been launched was withdrawn because the Government realized that he was one of its supporters.
– Did not the honorable member charge the Scullin Government, of which he was a supporter, immediately after the elections, with having failed to prosecute John Brown, and with having thereby received £1,000 from the miners under false pretences ?
– I did. Throughout my political career I have never departed in any way from the policy upon which I was elected, irrespective of whether the Government lias been one that I was returned to support, or one that I was pledged to oppose. I have always rung true, and the honorable gentleman knows it.
– I do not deny that.
– I urge the Government to exercise the greatest care in its choice of the gentleman to be appointed to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. That high, important, and honorable position should be filled by a man who cannot be said to have exhibited bias at any time. There is conclusive proof that Sir John Latham, when Attorney-General, showed bias against the working class. The intellectual qualities of the present justices of the High Court are undoubtedly superior to those of that gentleman. They have given years of unblemished service, and naturally aspire to the highest position offering. Are not their claims greater than those of a political hireling? The position has been surrounded by a veil of mystery. Upon his return to Australia, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) was interviewed by the press concerning the rumoured appointment of Sir John Latham. He then claimed to have no knowledge of the projected retirement of Sir Frank Gavan Duffy. That gentleman apparently had announced his intention to retire; but when he was asked to comment on the statement of the Attorney-General, all that he would say was that he supposed that Mr. Menzies was right. I urge the Government to give due consideration to the matter. We want even-handed justice to be meted out to the people of this country. The Chief Justice has not only a deliberative, but also a casting vote. A man who has shown such bias as Sir John Latham is not a fit and proper person to hold that high office.
.- The amendment which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has moved puts forward two propositions for the consideration of the committee. The first is, that the time has arrived when the original rates of pension payable to those whose applications under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act were granted shall be restored to them; that is to say, the reductions that have been effected in their rates shall be cancelled. I consider that the budget statement which the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) read the other night furnishes adequate grounds upon which to justify, so far as that section of the community is concerned, the removal of the last of the impositions which they had to suffer because of the financial crisis.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) once again treated us to an exposition of the manner in which the purchasing power of money affects this very small amount of £1 a week, and went on to say that the States had not yet restored the pensions payable under their various superannuation acts. I put it to him that that does not completely present the position. Some of the States have made a partial restoration. In any case, I put this to him and to the committee: A 20 per cent, deduction from a pension which ranges from about £4 to £5 or £6 a week is definitely a less hardship upon the recipient than a 12£ per cent, deduction from a pension of £1 a week.
– In the one case the man has paid for his pension.
– It was quite obvious to the Parliament at the time when the reduction of the rate of old-age pension from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week was agreed upon, that only onerous circumstances of governmental finance justified the course which Parliament was then taking. It was, I think, definitely understood, both in the Parliament and in the country, that immediately the finances recovered, not completely, but sufficiently adequately to permit of the restoration to this section of the community, the Parliament was under a solemn and indeed a powerful moral obligation to restore what had been taken under the pressure of a grave national emergency.
The budget statement shows that in 1930-31 the direct taxation imposed by this Parliament upon the Australian community produced £18,660,000. It must be confessed that the payment of that amount in that year imposed a very serious strain upon the payers of direct taxation. In the fiscal year that has just closed the amount realized from direct taxation was £11,500,000, a reduction of £7,000,000 compared with the year in which the cut in old-age pensions was made. I put it to the committee most definitely that it would he far easier to obtain £18,000,000 through the. medium of direct taxation this year than it was in 1.930-31. Yet, as a matter of fact, this Parliament is asking the payers of direct taxation to contribute to the revenues of the Commonwealth, not £18,600,000, but only about £11,500,000. That is a definite improvement of the position of that section of the community. Direct taxation is fair taxation. It bears only on those who have incomes subject to the rates imposed upon them. Invalid and old-age pensioners are not subject to this class of taxation, so they have not benefited from the reduction in rates. Rut Parliament has, in the meantime, greatly increased indirect taxation, which invalid and old-age pensioners do pay. For example, they pay the sales tax on flour and all other forms of indirect taxation which have risen from £31,750,000 in the year in which pensions were reduced, to £47,250,000 in the year which has just closed. Thus the payers of direct taxation, who to-day are in a much better position to meet their obligations, are being relieved of a great amount of the taxes imposed upon them, while those who are least able to bear the burden, namely, the great mass of the people, are being forced to pay the greatly increased indirect taxes. While there has been surplus after surplus in the accounts of the Commonwealth, the restitution of this 2s. 6d. a week to invalid and old-age pensioners has been delayed, not because the country cannot afford it, but because the Government proposes to use money which was formerly paid to the pensioners for other forms of expenditure. This is the truth of the matter.
The Government this year intends to increase enormously the provision for national defence. I do not offer any objection to that at this stage; I am, however, reminded that the demands in respect of federal land tax have been enormously reduced, and I submit that, in the event of a great national conflict, it is the land of Australia that ,is most at stake. Land is capital. The owners of properties affected by this class of taxation are to be found, not in our farming areas, but in the capital cities of the Commonwealth. They are the owners of the great newspaper offices, the great banking institutions, and the palatial flats erected on land valued at from £100 to £1000 a foot. I submit that as these great city properties are insured against fire and other commercial risks, they should also be insured against war, by the only reasonable and justifiable way, namely, the levying of a fair land tax, the revenue from which will be a definite contribution towards the expenditure necessary for the preservation of security.
This Government has reduced that class of taxation while at the same time it professes its inability to finance the amount required for the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions to fi a week. I submit that the total involved is not sufficient for the Government to withhold this act of common justice from our pensioners, having regard to the romantic story of national recovery which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) relied upon the day before yesterday in their rejoinder to the motion of want of confidence moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. Either the defence which those Ministers made to our attack on that occasion was unjustified by the facts, or the refusal of the Government to pay this additional 2s. 6d. a week is motivated not by the financial position of the country, but by considerations which I hardly like to mention. I do not accuse the Prime Minister or members of his Ministry with a lack of humanity; but I submit that the full restoration of pensions would, in itself, be a definite contribution to an improvement of the unemployed problem. If this additional 2s. 6d. a week were paid to our pensioners they would buy with it more consumable goods; they would be able to live in better rooms, and would enjoy a slightly increased measure of the ordinary frugal requirements of subsistence. The attitude of the Government would suggest that it believes it is unnecessary and undesirable to increase the ability of our pensioners to purchase more of the requirements of life.
The argument of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the purchasing power of pensioners is greater to-day than it was some years ago may be true, but it does not conform to the history of the system of pensions. In other years when the purchasing power of money was declining there was a distinct reluctance on the part of the Government of the day to increase the rates to pensioners. I know that eventually they were increased; but I know also that, as in the case of wages, increased pension payments always lagged behind the rising tide of prices and it was not until commodity prices became so high that it was impossible to maintain pensions at their then declining purchasing power, that Parliament agreed to increase the rates.
– What hypocrisy! The honorable member consistently supported the Government . that reduced pensions and imposed high tariffs.
– I am astonished that the Minister for Defence should become so excited. I can only attribute his mental perturbation to the fact that my indictment is unassailable.
Linked with the attitude of the Government towards the pensions is its attitude to the second part of the motion, which deals with the important question of unemployment in its technical aspect, due to the displacement of labour owing to the mechanization of industry, and the need for an adjustment of the hours of labour. We have reason to believe that the Government contemplates action in this direction and I should not have risen at this late hour to speak in this debate but for the fact that, so far, we have had no indication of the Government’s intentions. The House should be taken into the confidence of Ministers in respect of this important matter. Does the Government intend to institute an inquiry? If so, what will be its nature, what interests will be represented, and under what circumstances is it to be conducted? I have in my hand the summarized report of the International Labour Office dealing with this important subject. It is quite clear, from a perusal of this document, that most countries, other than Australia, have made a searching examination of this problem which so vitally affects civilization. It would appear that no matter what is done the changes that take place so rapidly in industrial structures throw men out of work weekly in large numbers, with the result that established industries become obsolescent long before new industries can be evolved to take up the displaced labour. Meanwhile mass purchasing power suffers. Thus the sporadic and anarchical characters of our civilization becomes not only increasingly pronounced but indeed intolerable. This position should not be borne by the statesmen of this or, indeed, any other country.
I hope that before this debate closes the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who is now in the chamber, will be good enough to tell us what the Government intends to do in respect of this perplexing and very difficult problem of the adjustment of working hours. I will do the Government the credit of assuming that at least it has not been idle in respect of this matter; but the time has arrived and, in fact, is overdue when Parliament should be furnished with a clear statement on the subject from the head of the Government.
.- I support the amendment of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), and emphasize his request that the rate of the invalid and old-age pension shall be increased at once to£1 per week, and that legislation should be introduced forthwith to provide for a 40-hour working week. When the pension rate was reduced four years ago, we were told that it was a financial emergency measure and we were promised that immediately the finances improved, the Government would restore the pension to the full £1 a week. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has said that the pensioners are much better off than many other sections of the community. This reminds me that I read many years ago in a little volume the following verse: -
No matter how bad your case is
There are thousands that are worse:
If you are riding in the ambulance
Be glad its not the hearse.
And if you go to prison,
You must swallow your manly pride,
For there you’ll get a little to eat
While thousands starve outside.
Apparently that is the philosophy of the honorable member for Barker. Prior to Easter, when it was intimated that in consequence of a variation in the cost of living the rate of the pension would be increased from 17s. 6d. to 18s. a week, I asked the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who may be Treasurer next week, whether the extra 6d. would be paid to the inmates of government institutions, asylums and hospitals. He said that he could not at the moment say what would be done, but would make inquiries into the matter. I waited for some time for information on the point. As a matter of fact I thought the 6d. was being paid to these inmates.
As I did not get any definite word from the Treasury I inquired from the UnderSecretary of the Treasury in New South Wales (Mr. Kelly) whether the Government of New South Wales was receiving 13s or 12s. 6d. a week in respect of the pensioners in its institutions. That was three days before the date fixed for the payment of the increase. Mr. Kelly told me that he had received no advice on the subject. I then communicated with the Treasury officials in Canberra, and asked them for information. I believed that the Government would carry out the near-promise made by the Assistant Treasurer. At the same time, I assure the Government that it will get no bouquets from me. The Government can do no good in my eyes. I believed that the Assistant Treasurer had made arrangements to pay to the inmates of the Old Women’s Home at Newington, the Old Men’s Home at Lidcombe and the Old Men’s Home at Liverpool the extra 6d. a week. But the Treasury officials informed me that that had not been done. I then went to the permanent head of the Pensions Department and asked for information on the point. I was informed that the Government would adhere to the provisions of the act and pay 5s. a week to each pensioner inmate of these institutions. I understand that the State governments have not asked for the extra 6d. a week. Apparently the added cost of living is not so noticeable that they need it to meet their expenses. If the State governments do not want the 6d. why does not the Commonwealth Government pay it to the needy inmates of the institutions? Why does it not pay it to Mrs. Tierney, of Auburn, for that matter? Mrs. Tierney has eleven pensioner boarders who pay her11s. 6d. a week board. I endeavoured to obtain an increase of this lady’s pension from 8s. 6d. per week, but was told that she was making so much profit out of her pensioner boarders at11s. 6d. a week each that her own pension of 8s. 6d. a week could not be increased. In that case I ask the Assistant Treasurer why the managers of the State institutions should be paid 13s. a week for their pensioner boarders ?
Yesterday, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the reported intention of the Government to appoint Sir John Latham as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. I regret that I was not a member of this Parliament when Sir John Latham began his political career; but I accept the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney that the right honorable gentleman is class-conscious and classbiased, and totally unfitted for the judicial position to which he aspires.
Honorable members may remember the trial in Sydney in 1916 of twelve men belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World. They were first charged with sedition, but later the charge was altered to one of conspiring, by illegal means, to get Tom Barker out of goal. They were convicted, but subsequently the Government of New South Wales appointed an independent judge - Judge Ewing - to try them. He found them not guilty, and said that the case was a “ frame-up,” and that they had been convicted on perjured evidence. In an inquiry into the conduct of the police by Mr. Justice Street, His Honour spoke scathingly of some members of the police force, particularly Inspector Mitchell, a person named Scully, the Goldsteins, and “Poddy” MacAlister. It was disclosed in. evidence that “Poddy” MacAlister, who gave evidence against the accused men, was at a place in Moss Vale when Sir George Fuller, the then leader of the Liberal party in New South Wales, said, “If we can get these twelve men convicted we will win conscription, and then we will win the State election.” The whole thing was a conspiracy.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– If no other honorable member wishes to intervene, I shall take my second period now. The secretary of the Liberal party in New South Wales at that time was the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill). Referring to the evidence of the police, Mr. Justice Street said that he could not understand why Inspector Mitchell should tell such ugly lies. The police had denied receiving suits of clothes from the Goldsteins. The police who gave evidence against the twelve, members of the Industrial Workers of the World were given suits of clothes and Stetson hats by the Goldsteins, while a number of pigswere also distributed among them. The police denied the receipt of these gifts;, but railway porters swore to the delivery of the pigs, and a tailor gave evidence that clothes which he had supplied tocertain policemen had been paid for by the Goldsteins. Mr. Justice Street, in. his summing up, said, “ I hesitate to say definitely that the police conspired together to commit perjury, but I am of the opinion that they did.” It was upon evidence of that kind that the twelve men were convicted. One of them, Donald Grant, has been a friend of mine for twenty years. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 45 years by Mr. Justice Pring, who, when delivering sentence, said that he would temper justice with mercy ! In a speech in Parliament on the 28th January, 1926, Sir John Latham, then. Mr. Latham, said -
In Sydney the position became very serious; lives were lost, and many buildings were burnt down, rendering strong action necessary.
One man named Tom Barker was sentenced to six months imprisonment, because he wrote “ Parsons and politicians, go to the trenches; workers, follow your master.” Those remarks were supposed to be prejudicial to recruiting. I cannot see how that would be prejudicial to recruiting. Why should not the workers follow their masters? If the workers .wait to follow the politicians to the trenches there will be no war. I advise the workers, when the war breaks out, to link themselves with the politicians, and they will never approach the firing line. Mr. Donald Grant said, after Barker was sentenced to six months imprisonment -
For every day that Tom Barker is in gaol it will cost the capitalists £50,000.
The war hysteria was running at the time, and this statement was taken up by interests opposed to him. The then Attorney-General and Prime Minister in charge of the Crimes Act (Mr. Hughes) visited all parts of Australia stating that the men were guilty before they had come up for trial. The AttorneyGeneral in the Government of New South Wales, Mr. Hall, did precisely the same thing during the conscription campaign. Those men were not tried until after the conscription referendum, although they were arrested on the eve of it. The then Prime Minister declared that all those who voted against conscription were either members of the I.W.W., or had pro-German sympathies, and were receivers of German gold. But the people realized the horrors of conscription, and New South Wales, combining with Queensland, compassed the defeat of the conscription issue. When the forthcoming war breaks out, no doubt the Government will again endeavour to force conscription on Australians, and members of this House will take the platform as in the old days when they used to refer to the Huns as despicable men who carried babies on their bayonets through the streets of Belgium, or broke into the Louvain Convent and committed unspeakable atrocities. Any one who declares that statements of that kind are not true will doubtless be haled before the court, and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. If he appeals, he will appear in the High Court presided over by Sir John Latham. I ask members to picture the spectacle of Mr. Donald Grant, or the member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), being taken before Sir John Latham. Would Sir John Latham give a decision in favour of Mr. Ward if he had advised people not to go to war?
– Order !
– I shall have more to say when the various items of expenditure come before the House, and 1 trust that the Government will see that inmates of charitable institutions receive that additional 6d. a week granted to other pensioners and that all pensions are restored to £1 a week.
– Now that the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has so amply discussed the Supply Bill, perhaps I can assure the committee that the rate of expenditure envisaged in this measure is not greater than that for the last financial year, except that provision is made for the payment to public servants of an additional2½ per cent, as forecast in the budget speech. The Financial Relief Bill that will shortly come before honorable members must be passed before there will exist the necessary authority to pay public servants this extra sum. Until then they will be paid at the existing rate. No provision is made in this bill for any new policy expenditure, or any expenditure other than at the average rate for the last financial year. The Estimates of the current year have already been circulated among honorable members, and the committee will be afforded every opportunity to consider them item by item.
Question - “ That the amount proposed to be reduced be so reduced (Mr. Forde’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported andadopted.
Ordered- that Mr. Casey and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first and second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Part I. - Departments and Services Other Than Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote, £1,718,550.
.- Some time ago I expressed the opinion that too high a price was being paid for the coal used in the boilers at Parliament House, and that it was of an inferior quality. I now desire to know from what source this coal and that used by the Department of the Interior is purchased, and what price is paid for it.
– Members on this side wish to be informed whether adequate provision has been made for their hotel accommodation in Canberra, in view of the fact that the Hotel Canberra is to be privately leased, and the Hotel Kurrajong is closed to us. I submit that the other hotels are inconveniently situated for our use. Of course wo are perpared to pay for our accommodation, as we have done in the past.
– The lessee of the Hotel Canberra has undertaken to provide accommodation for all honorable members.
– At what rates? I pay 7s. 6d. for a bed at the Hotel Canberra, and consider that quite enough for anybody to be charged. Members will be very dissatisfied if the lessee is to be free to increase the present rates.
– I desire to remove any apprehension from the mind of the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat with respect to the results that may flow from the leasing of the Hotel Canberra. I assure him that the lessee has given an undertaking that preferencewillbe extended to members of Parliament, so far as the provision of accommodation is concerned. With regard to the tariff to be charged, I feel sure the honorable member will not have any cause for dissatisfaction. In a very short time there will be considerably more hotel accommodation offering than there is today. There will also be more competition. The construction of two large hotels will shortly be begun, and when they are completed, honorable members will be able to get accommodation at hotels other than the one in which they are at present residing.
– Will the lessee of the Hotel Canberra charge the present tariff to honorable members ?
– I cannot give a specific answer to that, but honorable members will be able to get accommodation at reasonable rates, and they may even be agreeably surprised.
– I do not think we need worry very much about the cost of accommodation in view of the fact that Parliament has met only 39 days out of 365. I desire, however, to refer to the long periods which elapse between the adjournment and the meeting of Parliament. During the last two or three years, Parliament has not met as frequently as it should. There is a tendency to rely upon a form of Cabinet government, a form of dictatorship by a minority.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the item dealing with the salaries in the division of the Parliament.
– I am endeavouring to show that if these salaries are to be warranted, Parliament should remain open. If Parliament is to remain closed, as in the past, there will be no necessity for these salaries to be provided. In this conntry to-day there is a tendency to get away from parliamentary discussions of important matters that should be considered by the representatives of the people, and for a small minority forming the Cabinet to operatea form of dictatorship. Honorable members generally have no opportunity to ventilate grievances which they desire to bring under the notice of this House, and reforms which they believe to be urgently necessary. Not only was this Parliament closed for several months to allow Ministers to tour overseas at the expense of the people, but on occasions it has adjourned to allow members to attend the Melbourne Cup or the Sydney Show. There are many matters which should be discussed but for which notime is allowed. As an illustration of the attitude of the Government, only this week, although Parliament just resumed its sittings after an adjournment of several months, Government members were anxious to rush away to their homes. They asked the members of the Opposition to agree to complete the consideration of this bill by 6 o’clock this afternoon in order that they might catch the evening train to their homes. The only reason why the House is now sitting is because the Opposition rejected the Government’s proposals. Ministers know that if they were to get away from Canberra to-night they would have to gag this legislation through and they feared press criticism of such tactics in view of the fact that they had closed the House for so many months. As a member of Parliament I take my position seriously. I represent an important constituency. Unlike some other members, I do not say that I represent all sections of the community; I represent the workers - in my opinion, the most important section in the community. There are many matters we wish to discuss in this Parliament concerning their welfare, and the Government should give us an assurance that the elected representatives of the people will be given opportunities to express their views, and that Parliament will remain open so long as members desire to ventilate grievances on the floor of this House.
In regard to hotel accommodation for honorable members, the Minister has given to us his personal guarantee. He may have given it in good faith, but if he is so sure that honorable members will be well catered for and that accommodation will be available at reasonable rates, why should not that condition be embodied in the lease contract?
– The contract has not yet been signed.
– Will the Minister give an undertaking that such a clause will be inserted in the contract? Many people believe that members of Parliament are provided with free accommodation when they come to Canberra, and some of them are amazed when they are told that we have to pay such a high tariff for accommodation. They say “ Why not go elsewhere?” not realizing the conditions in this city. I do not know what the intentions of the lessees may be in this instance, but there have been cases when the lessees of particular hotels, providing they are getting sufficient patronage, have limited their accommodation to certain classes of people. In a desire to keep their hotels “ exclusive “, they encourage the patronage only of members of aristocratic clubs. Labour members want a guarantee that some provision will be inserted in the lease, to assure to them good accommodation on reasonable terms.
– Included in the latest list of additions to the Parliamentary Library are numerous books which I believe should not have been added to the collection. Amongst them I find - The Emperor Gains; Green Fields and Fantasy: an open-air book; Skipper My Chum: and other true dog stories; Sea Birds Simplified; Thirty Years with the Philippine Head-Hunters; Psyche and Eros: Romeo and Juliet: twopoems; The Modem Rake’s Progress; Reminiscences of an Octogenarian; Robert Bruce, King of Scots; A Modern Sinbad; “ Tommy “ : “Bill of No-Man’s Land”; A Parson’s Daughter. There are also several publications relating to psychology, which may or may not be interesting. A recent addition is a book on etiquette which, I fear, has not been read by many honorable members.
The Library Committee should provide books useful to us in our deliberations, particularly those dealing with international affairs, and in that “way assist us to understand many of the problems with which Australia is confronted.
.- If the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison) desires to act as an amateur censor of what should be on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, he should confer with the representatives of bis party on the Library Committee, or seek a scaton the committee. He contended that unsuitable books are on the shelves, but as we already have censorship through the Customs Department, a film censorship, and a book censorship, there is no need for the honorable member to set himself up as a private censor of what others should read. Books which may assist us in our deliberations in this chamber are provided, but certain classes of light literature are also made available for our use when travelling or during our leisure moments in Canberra. It is the responsibility of the Library Committee to cater for all tastes. The honorable member suggested that there should be more books on international affairs, but I have a very shrewd suspicion that if additional works of that nature were provided he would wish to censor them.
.- Provision is made in the schedule for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries and general expenses in connexion with the Parliament. It is a scandal that the attendants at the Federal Members’ Rooms in the capital cities are paid such low wages in comparison with the rates received by men performing similar work in Canberra and elsewhere. The men in charge of these rooms have to exercise a great deal of tact in interviewing callers, handle correspondence, transmit telephone and other messages, and generally carry out important duties. I know that this matter can be discussed more appropriately when the Estimates are before the committee, but as restoration is being made to public servants in receipt of high salaries, it is the duty of the Government to give more consideration to these lowly-paid officers. The amount provided in this schedule for the maintenance of members’ rooms in capital cities, including furniture, and salaries of attendants is only £1,150 which I know is for only a portion of the year. We have a very efficient staff in Sydney attending to the requirements of honorable members, and I trust the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will inform the committee that the Government intends to increase the remuneration of these officers who at present are shockingly underpaid. If they are at a dead-end with small prospect of promotion, their status should be Improved, and their salaries increased.
.-! support the plea of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on behalf of the attendants at Federal Members’ Rooms who are receiving very little in excess of the basic wage. As these men have to exercise considerable care in interviewing callers, handle valuable correspondence, and generally to undertake work of an important character, they are entitled to a higher remuneration than they now receive. 1 trust that the Government will give immediate consideration to this reasonable request.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable members for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and Darling (Mr. Clark), on behalf of the attendants at Federal Members’ Rooms. The work undertaken by the officers in Sydney is of a responsible nature, and should be more adequately remunerated. On visiting Brisbane this year I was astonished to find the facilities there so unsatisfactory. The accommodation provided is a disgrace, and should be improved immediately.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests or amendment : -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1935. Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment)
Validation Bill (No. 2) 1935. Special Annuity Bin 1935.
Italo-Abyssinian Dispute : Correspondence between Great Britain and Australia - Imperial Defence Committee.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether he does not consider that he should make available to honorable members information that he no doubt possesses in regard to what is taking place overseas? Every honorable member is interested in the very grave international situation which at present exists. I understand that for a number of years it has been the practice of the British authorities to communicate at weekly intervals particulars of the latest developments in foreign affairs. It is but natural that honorable members should watch these matters very closely, and wish to have supplied to them the most authentic information.
Either the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) or the Minister for External Affairs should also furnish information concerning the Imperial Defence Committee. I have read in the press, but have not been advised officially by the Minister for External Affairs, that a body termed the Imperial Defence Committee has been set up overseas, and that Australia is to-day represented upon it. No one has yet been informed as to what its particular functions or powers may be, or as to how far the Government has committed Australia in regard to its decisions. The people are entitled to a knowledge of these matters, and Labour representatives in this House desire to be placed in a position to advise their constituents of what is occurring. I know that governments adopt the policy of not telling the people too much. In the present case, however, very grave issues are involved. Australia may have been committed to participation in war, should that occur, and it is necessary that the general public should be re-assured on the point. The withholding of information from the elected representatives of the people, who have to rely upon press reports of events overseas, is nothing short of scandalous. I hope that the Government will treat this matter as it should be treated; that at the earliest possible moment it will make available for the perusal of honorable members the information it has received or will make frequent statements in this House in regard to what is happening. The Prime Minister should also state definitely and exactly to what he has committed this country. We have heard a good deal about conferences overseas in regard to meat, beef, wool, and wheat; but so far nothing has been disclosed of the secret conferences in connexion with war preparations, and the foreign policy of the Government. We are entitled to know exactly how far this country is expected to co-operate with Great Britain in the event of war with some foreign nation. We are not asking for special considera tion, but merely for information which is in the hands of the Government. Parliament is the place where these things should be made known.
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hour. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr.Curtin asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
What is the total of the amount collected for the jubilee appeal for maternal welfare, &c. ?
How much of the amount has been subscribed in each State (a) by the State Government, and (b) by the public?
Is it proposed to allocate the money available to (a) obstetric research; (b) maternity hospitals; and (c) infant health centres?
In what proportions, if any, will (a), (b) and (c) of paragraph 3 share in the allocation ?
Canberra : Leasing of Hotels.
Mr.Mulcahy asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will he inform the House as to the terms under which the Hotel Canberra has been leased, giving (a) period of tenure, (b) rental, and (c) tariff charges to the public and to members of Parliament?
Was any commission received by any member of the Comnlissariat branch of his department for the leasing of this hotel and other establishments ?
In view of the handing over of several government establishments to private enterprise, can he say when it is proposed to transfer members of the staff of the Commissariat branch to other employment?
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Has he yet discussed with Cabinet the request made to him by the deputation from the Australian Aboriginals Society which he met in Melbourne for a special representative in the Commonwealth Parliament?
– Yes, the Government cannot accede to the request.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the expenses incurred by individual members of the recent Ministerial Delegation to London?
– The expenditure incurred by the recent Ministerial Delegation to London and brought to account in Australia up to 26th September, 1935, amounts to £12,146. Vouchers giving details of the greater portion of this expenditure have not yet been received from London and New York, and a statement of the expenditure in respect of individual members of the delegation cannot be prepared until these details have been received.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give an undertaking that before the proposed royal commission to inquire into the shorter working week and the root causes of unemployment is set up and the terms of reference decided, this House will have an opportunity to debate the question?
– No decision to appoint a royal commission for the purpose indicated by the honorable member has yet been made by the Government.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government is actively engaged in an endeavour to secure a satisfactory solution of the situation in the Pacific resulting from the competition of foreign susidized shipping, but in the position at present existing it is not possible to furnish more precise information.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give an undertaking that, before the personnel and terms of reference of the proposed royal commission on the banking and monetary systems are announced, this House will have an opportunityto consider order of the day No. 4, General Business?
– The Government must accept responsibility for the terms of reference and the personnel of the royal commission which it is proposed to appoint. I hope to be in a position at an early date to make an announcement to the House on this subject. .
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Under the circumstances now existing, it is not proposed to give any information as to the movements of any naval vessel.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 September 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19350926_reps_14_147/>.