14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Ministerwhether it is a fact, as the Wagga Advertiser recently reported, that the Federal Government is considering the assumption of control of all Australian external and internal means of communication, including the railways? .
– This is a matter of policy, which it is not the practice to indicate in reply to questions. If and when there is any such intention, the Government will make it known to the House.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation been drawn to a press statement in relation to investigations made by the Melbourne Legacy Club into the huge wastage, by death, of returned soldiers, the figure being 1.3 daily, and the consequent disability suffered by the widows and families of these prematurely burntout men ? Will the right’ honorable gentleman consider the advisableness of making such provision as will enable the widows to rear and educate their families as they would have been reared and educated had the fathers lived?
– The adoption of the honorable member’s suggestion would involve a radical alteration of the existing law. This point was raised when the legislation was passing through this chamber. There is, of coarse, an excellent case to he made out in the direction indicated. It is very difficult to see, however, at what point one could draw the line. In consequence of this factor, it was considered that . the pension should he paid to soldiers as from the date of the passing of the act. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that very careful and sympathetic consideration will be given to his representations. ‘
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Film Censor has banned the film Ten Days that Shook the World? Has this film been publicly exhibited in the United States of America and in the United Kingdom? Will the honorable gentleman say why it has been banned, and whether it contains any obscenities?
– This matter has been fully explained to-day in an answer to’ a question asked upon notice in the Senate.
I am not aware as to whether or not this film has been exhibited in other countries. The importer of it has the right of appeal against the action of the Commonwealth Film Censor.
Non-fortifiCATION OF PACIFIC ISLANDS.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs “whether the Govern or ment has been consulted in regard to the renewal of Article 10 of the Washington Naval Agreement, which is designed to maintain the status quo in relation to the non-fortification of the Pacific Islands. Is the honorable gentleman able to give to the House the assurance that the Government approves of that renewal?
– The Government of the Commonwealth, in common with the governments of all the dominions, has been consulted in this matter, and has been in communication with the Government of the United Kingdom in regard to the preservation of the s/.a/,ux quo. At the moment, conversations of a diplomatic nature are taking place in regard to it.
– By reason of a vacancy on the. Industrial Board for the Federal Capital Territory, that tribunal is unable to function. Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether steps are being taken lo have the hoard re-constituted?
– These steps are now being taken, and, as the result of them, the tribunal will be re-constituted very shortly.
Damage bt FRosT
– Will the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether a communication has been received from the Government of South Australia in connexion with the position that has arisen as the result of the very extensive damage caused by frost in the vineyards of that State, and whether the Commonwealth has decided to take steps to meet the situation?
– The Commonwealth Government has received communications from the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia in relation to the serious losses suffered by wheatgrowers on account of drought conditions, and by certain sections of the dried fruits growers as the result of frosts.
– I referred to the wine grape-growers.
– The matter has been placed before the Government for its consideration.
– Will the Prime Minister state what proportion of the £250,000 allocated for the search for flow oil in Australia has been applied for, give the names of the companies whose applications have been granted, and indicate what success has been achieved up to date?
– .1. shall obtain the information, and make it available to the honorable member.
Mi-. HUGHES. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) directed to me a question relating to an advertisement concerning the use of bicarbonate of soda. 1 have since seen that advertisement. The Commonwealth has no power to control advertisements of the kind, but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the State Minister for Health, who has certain powers in that direction. Perhaps the press will give wide publicity to the fact that bicarbonate of soda is not, as the advertisement states, a dangerous drug but, on the contrary, is frequently prescribed by physicians and, when used with discretion, is a useful household remedy.
– In connexion with the question of the treatment of cancer with X-rays, has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the denial of the President of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Radiology of the, statement that X-ray dissipates cancer cells to other parts of the body?
Can that statement be contradicted by the right honorable gentleman’s medical informant?
– Evidently a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I shall, however, endeavour to the best of my ability to assuage the thirst of the honorable memberfor information.I hope that he will acquit me of any desire to mislead in the statements that I have made concerning the use of X-rays in the treatment of cancer and my references to ensol. No one will suppose that I could fail to realize the importance of accurate statements on so serious a subject. It appears, however, that I have not correctly, stated the position. When I spoke of cancer cells which might be dissipated through the body, I had in mind, not that this dissipation was the effect of the use of X-rays - there is no evidence that that is ever the case - but that the cancer cells dissipated through the body by metastasis would not be reached by X-rays applied only to the original tumor.
– Order ! It appears to me that the Minister is explaining and giving reasons for an answer that he made to a previous question. If that is so, he is not in order.
– It may be that, strictly interpreted, what I am saying is not in order. Because it is of the utmost importance to the people of this country that the position should be correctly stated, I ask leave to makea statement.
– I may now continue with what I was saying.
– Order ! For the information of the House I may say that my reason for calling the Minister to order was that the habit has developed ofusing questions on others previously asked or answered, and that is not in order. The rules governing the asking of questions distinctly lay it down that reference shall not be made to a question which has been answered previously in the session.
– At this early hour, I am unable to pursue to its lair that train of reasoning.
– Order ! I . cannot allow the Minister to argue with the Chair as he is doing. The Chair has to interpret the Standing Orders, and the practice of disregarding them must not continue.
– I agree that that would be disastrous.
– Order! The Minister has been given leave to make a statement. If he wishes to make it, he must proceed to do so, and not refer to any other matter.
– by leave.- WhenI spoke of cancer ceils which might be dissipated through the body, I had in mind, not that this dissipation was the effect of the use of X-rays - there is no evidence that that is ever the case - but that the cancer cells dissipated through the body by metastasis would not be reached by X-rays applied only to the original tumor.
If any new preparation is discovered which will circulate freely through the body and affect all cancer cells wherever situated - as is claimed for the new preparation “ Ensol “ - then we shall be able to record a distinct advance in the treatment of cancer.
During the week-end I hope to be able to discuss this matter with the medical man who has been carrying on clinical investigations into this new preparation at Kingston, Ontario, and at Philadelphia.
-Can the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether the State authorities controlling the farmers’ debt adjustment scheme are keeping the Commonwealth Government advised regarding the success or otherwise of the operations? If they are, can he furnish honorable members with a report showing what has been done up to the present ? If no advice has been received from the State authorities, will he take steps to procure a report from them as soon as possible showing the number of farmers in each State who have availed themselves of the scheme, the total amount of Commonwealth money made available, and the total number of persons who have been refused assistance?
– No report of the kind mentioned by the honorable member has been prepared. Commonwealth expenditure under this head is investigated by the Commonwealth Auditor-General in the course of his duties. If the honorable member will put the latter part of his question on the notice-paper, 1 shall obtain the information for him.
– Has the Assistant Minister for Commerce received any further communication from the Queensland Government in reply to his letter regarding the compliance by Queensland with the farmers’ debt adjustment legislation of the Commonwealth ?
– A communication dealing with this matter has been received from the Government of Queensland, advising the Commonwealth of the nature of legislation proposed to be introduced in the Queensland Parliament. The legislation proposed is satisfactory to the Commonwealth.
– -Does the Government concur in the opinion expressed by the High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. S. M. Bruce, when, acting as the representative of Australia at the meeting of the Economic Committee of the League of Nations, he stated -
It was the supreme duty of statesmen to see that the masses shared in the benefits of scientific achievement.
If so, what action does the Government propose to take to apply this principle within the ambit of its authority ?
– I think that the sentiments expressed by Mr. Bruce will be accepted by every honorable member of this House. Anything which the Government can do to give effect to the principles enunciated will be done as readily by the Government as even the honorable member could wish.
– Has the Government reached any decision as to how it proposes to bring about a 40-hour working week throughout the Commonwealth?
– I have nothing whatever to add to the statements already made in regard to the Government’s policy on this matter.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs yet ‘had time to make inquiries regarding the effect of importations of matches on local employment?
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports brought this matter up on the adjournment recently in reference to certain imported safety matches which bore the advertisements of Australian firms. I have pointed out that such advertisements might not be beneficial, but rather prejudicial, if these firms departed from the principle of buying Australian-made goods themselves. As a matter of fact, the importation of matches into Australia is infinitesimal. A conservative estimate of the value of matches manufactured in Australia is about £800,000 a year, while imports c’uring 1935-36 were’ valued at only £8,300, of which £1,500 worth were reexported. Therefore, the Australian industry is supplying about 99^ per cent, of local requirements. The management of Bryant and May disclaim any responsibility for the press paragraph regarding the importation of matches, and for the allegation of Mr. Holloway that this had been -responsible for employees being dismissed. They state that the variation in employment is due to internal competition. Matches pay a duty of lOd. a gross of boxes, British, and ls. 9d.. foreign, and, in some instances, a dumping duty has also been imposed.
– Has the Minister for Defence any plans- in view for retaining continuously the services of the large, expert shipbuilding staff at present at the Cockatoo dockyard ?
– The plans of the Defence Department in regard to this matter have not been sufficiently developed to justify the making of a statement at this stage. However, I understand that the Customs Department has in contemplation the building of a launch for which quotations are being obtained, and the Cockatoo Island dockyard will be interested.
– In view of the extensive preliminary arrangements necessary for any shipbuilding programme, and the general effect upon employment, will the Minister for Defence take steps to. expedite a decision in regard to this matter, and will he make a statement during the discussion of the Estimates, if not before?
– I realize the importance of this matter, having regard to employment, and also to the development of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. I am investigating the subject closely, and hope to be able to make a more definite statement during the discussion of the Estimates.
– As this is the last sitting day of the week, will the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties state what progress has been made during the week with regard to the settlement of the trade dispute with Japan?
– I have no statement to make, and I suggest that a repetition of this question is not helpful to the progress of negotiations.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked whether it would not be possible to relax the regulations in order to permit the landing of a consignment of nightingales which had arrived at an Australian port unaccompanied by the necessary certificate of health. Under the quarantine regulations birds cannot be imparted unless they are accompanied by certificates issued in the country of origin stating that the birds have been examined and found free from disease, and that fowl pest does not exist in the country of origin. The birds to which the honorable member refers were not accompanied by the necessary certificate. It will be recognized that, unless close control is maintained over the importation of all animals, the introduction of diseases, sooner or later, is inevitable.
New Stations at Minding and Cleveland.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General able to state when the wireless station at Minding in Western Australia will be opened ?
– I shall obtain information, and advise the honorable member.
– Can the Minister state when the wireless station at Cleveland will be available for service?
– I was under the impression that the station was undergoing tests, and that it would be put into operation immediately those tests had. been concluded. I shall make further inquiries, and advise the honorable member when the station is to be opened.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is intended to print and circulate the report of the proceedings of the Premiers Conference held at Adelaide in August?
-I understand that the report, is now being printed, and it will be made available as soon as possible.
– by leave- On the 29th September, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked whether early consideration would be given to a proposal for conducting annual medical examinations of all the citizens of the Commonwealth with a view to arresting the development of diseases by early treatment when the symptoms were just discovered.
This question of periodical medical examinations has been under the attention of this department from time to time for some years. In June, 1934, a deputation from the Victorian board of directors of the Australian Natives’ Association submitted the following resolution to the Right Honorable Senator Sir George Pearce, acting on behalf of the Prime Minister: -
This, conference urges upon the Commonwealth Government the desirability of a careful periodic review of the medical fitness of the youth of Australia including the inauguration of a system of regular medical examination.
It was decided that this proposal merited deliberate consideration, and the Prime Minister approached the Premiers of all . States asking for the views of their Governments in regard to this proposal. In the letter from the Prime Minister to each Premier, certain material considerations submitted by the Director-General of Health “were included, in particular his comment that -
In my opinion such annual examination, while it would provide .a great deal ©f useful information, would offer in the end little practical result, unless full machinery were established requiring subsequential action in any case in which treatment was necessary to remove detected defects. It may, of course, be assumed that, in some cases, removal of defects would be voluntary, but from experience of school children it “may also be assumed that the percentage of such voluntary rectification would nol be large.
Therefore, if the proposal is adopted and logically pursued, it involves a full scheme of examination and treatment of an extended kind, associated with very heavy expense.
The Minister for Defence has rawed the issue that this is not a Commonwealth matter. This, of course, is self-evident, and if the Commonwealth were, in any circumstances other than the threat of war, to embark on so large a scheme, it would need the most careful deliberation so that all existing resources might be fully utilized or specially developed, for this purpose, and so that such rigid control as is necessary to ensure that all detected defects are remedied, might bc instituted. Otherwise, a great deal of money would bc uselessly spent.
Replies received from the Governments of each State agreed generally with the opinion advanced by the Director-general of Health. For instance, the Premier of New South Wales forwarded a report by the Under-Secretary, Department of Public Health, in which the opinion was expressed that: -
Experience in the medical examination of school children has shown that it is often difficult to persuade parents to have physical defects remedied, and this difficulty would probably be enormously amplified should such a nation-wide medical review be undertaken. Any attempt at compulsion would probably be vigorously resisted by certain sections of the community, which would add tremendously to the cost.
Finally, it may be stated that existing State resources would be inadequate to cope with an undertaking of such magnitude without preliminary costly organization, which, even if otherwise feasible, would be of prohibitive cost in a time of economic stress.
The proposal in 1934 dealt with the examination of Australian youth, and involved the medical examination of males and females up to the age of 25. In principle, the same considerations apply with added force to the proposal now submitted for the medical examination of all citizens of the Commonwealth. I submit that the paragraphs quoted adequately summarize the position with regard to the present proposal.
– Has the Minister for Health anything further to communicate regarding the proposed erection of a laboratory at Broome?
– I have received n» further information, but I shall get in touch with the Director-General for Health during the morning, and advise the honorable member later.
– A statement has been made that a contingent of 150 men drawn from the Australian Imperial Force and the militia will be sent to attend the Coronation ceremonies next year. What percentage of returned men will be included in this contingent, how will that percentage be nominated, and from whom?
– The method of selection has not yet been decided upon, but my own view is that the selection will be made by the Defence Committee consisting of the heads of the various services, after consultation with returned soldiers’ organizations. The tentative arrangement is that the Australian Imperial Force representation will be at least 50 per cent. Members of the Australian Imperial Force serving in the militia at the present time will receive every consideration, and the men will be selected from the various States in accordance with these principles.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation say when the handbook relating to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act will be printed?
– The handbook has been compiled by the commission and submitted to me. It would have been issued long ago but for the- fact that amending legislation which is now contemplated and which will shortly be submitted to this House will necessarily effect such changes as to make textual alteration of the handbook necessary. J regret the delay that has occurred, but the honorable gentleman will realize that when the handbook is distributed, it must be accurate in all details. The issue will not be delayed longer than is necessary.
– It has come under my notice that patrol officers in Papua wear- no distinguishing badge as a mark of their authority and often this absence of identification causes them inconvenience in the execution of their duties. Will the Minister representing the Min.isterinCharge of Territories make inquiries as to whether this statement is. accurate and, if so, will he take steps to ensure that officers on patrol are provided with suitable badges, to indicate their authority ?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the MinisterinCharge of Territories.
– Can the Minister for Customs inform the House when the Tariff Board’s report on the pearl-shell industry will be made available?
– The report will be tabled next week.
– In view of the approach of the Christmas season and the provision which has been made in the budget for remissions to the wealthier sections of the community will the Prime Minister take into consideration the position of the unemployed throughout the Commonwealth with a view to making available a special grant for their children as a gesture of goodwill?
– The honorable gentleman might have added, when he referred. te concessions to the wealthier sections of the community, that the Government had made concessions to the old-age pensioners and’ others. In regard to the question which he has asked, the unemployment position is improving every quarter and is substantially better than it was last Christmas.
– In the electorate of Hunter?
– I am aware that the honorable member’s electorate is unfortunately situated in this regard, and is in fact one of the worst spots in Australia for unemployment, but this is due to circumstances over which neither the hon orable gentleman nor this Government has any control. But, thank goodness, the unemployment position throughout Australia, with the exception of some particular parts, is substantially better than it was; and with the State Governments pushing on with the expenditure of loan funds for the purpose of providing for unemployment and the Commonwealth Government providing substantial sums of money for this purpose, I see no reason why an additional sum should be made available for any particular season.
– Yesterday I asked the right honorable the Minister for Repatriation whether he approves of the methods adopted by the Repatriation Department in sending police to the homes of neighbours of permanently and totally incapacitated returned soldiers to ascertain whether they do any work. Ha evidently misheard my question. I repeat it to-day.
– I shall ascertain what is the practice of the commission in regard to this matter and shall inform the honorable gentleman and the House of the result of. my inquiries.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment..’ -
Special- Annuity Bill 1936;
Apple and Pear Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1936.
The following paper was presented-1 -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at South Perth, Western Australia - For postal purposes.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 9S5), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be nowt read a second time.
.- The- Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has informed the House that this is a bill to appropriate £12,000,000 for the purpose of invalid and old-age pensions for. a period of approximately twelve months, whereas the estimated expenditure for the complete financial year 1936-37, will be £13,980,000. The Treasurer stated that this’ appropriation should cover expenditure from the end of October, 1936, to the end of August, 1937. As a party, we regret, that the Government did’ not accede to our request to increase the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, which would have necessitated an appropriation, not of £12,000,000 but of £12,446,850, for a period of ten months, estimating the total number of pensioners at 287,235 persons. The honorable gentleman quoted what appeared to be formidable figures when he showed the total amount which has been paid in pensions since the passing of the act by the Deakin Government in 1909 at the request of, and by. arrangement with the Federal Labour party of that date, as a condition of its support. Although the figures showing the appropriated amount as £183,250,000 and the actual expenditure as £180,000,000, appear at first glance to be large, one must, remember that they cover a period of 27 years. The average per annum for that period is not more than £6,660,000. For the financial year ended the 30th June, 1910, there were only 150 old-age pensioners to every 10,000 of the population, and. the annual liability for pensioners on the last day of the financial year ended the 30th June, 1910, was £1,624,000. Although there were only 65,492 old-age pensioners.
The invalid pension, which was introduced by a Labour government, became payable on the 15th December, 1910, and on’ the 30th June, 1911, there were. 7,451 invalid pensioners, and 75,502 old-age pensioners, making a total of 82,953 persons who received, in the aggregate, a sum of £1,884,000, which had to be provided for in the annual appropriation for that year. Those figures represented 171 old-age pensioners, and 17 invalid pensioners in every 10,000 of the population. At the 30th June, 1936, 287,000 persons were receiving pensions, and an analysis of the position discloses that there were 305 old-age pensioners and 119 invalid pensioners in every 10,000 of’ the population. The expenditure on pensions had increased to £13,000,000. In my opinion we should not cavil at this appropriation, although it has assumed substantial proportions, and the Opposition has always considered that the invalid and old-age pensions should be paid not as a charity, but as. a right. If the Scullin Government had remained in office, a complete restoration of pensions would have been provided in the budget of 1932, and the appropriation for this purpose would have been more than it is to-day. The fact that the annual liability for pensions has increased from £1,624,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1910, to £13,000,000 for the year ended the 30th June, 1936, shows that the standard of living of the workers of Australia is not sufficient to allow the average worker out of his earnings to rear a family and at the same time make provision for old’ age. This can readily be seen from the fact that in Australia to-day more than 200,000 persons are still without employment, and another 100,000 are working part time; while 50 per cent, of the dependent children under the age of sixteen years belong to parents who are in receipt of less than £3 a week, and 80 per cent, of them belong to parents who are receiving less than £5 a week. The Commonwealth census figures disclosed that 432,000 persons in Australia who received less than £3 a week, were keeping a total of 963,000 children. In other words, over 400,000 breadwinners in receipt of less than £3 a week are keeping more than 900,000 children. Honorable members will admit that it is absolutely impossible for breadwinners earning £3 a week or less to rear children, which are an asset to the country, and at the same time save out of their meagre earnings sufficient to keep themselves in their old age. It is therefore the duty of persons in more favorable circumstances to pay the necessary taxation in order to enable the poorer classes to be removed from Ava.nt and poverty in their old age. However, I would not be in order in proceeding at any length along these lines, and I do not desire to do so. But I emphasize that the Labour party regrets that the Government did not increase the pension rate to 20s. a week in accordance with the promises which were made by the Prime Minister and other leaders of political parties in Australia that, as soon as budget equilibrium was reached, invalid and old-age pensions would be completely restored.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The honorable member must not digress from the purpose of this bill.
– The appropriation for the ten months’ period, instead of being £12,000,000, would have been £12,446,000 at least if that complete restoration had been made, and I venture to say that it would havebeen made if the Scullin Government had been in office on the 1st July, 1932. I shall not oppose this measure, because it makes provision for the appropriation of £12,000,000 for a period of ten months, but I regret that the amount is not greater.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to grant financial assistance amounting to £500,000 to the States. This grant will be made from the excess revenue receipts of 1935-36, as forecast in my budget speech. The grant is a non-recurring one, and is to be distributed among the States on the basis of population. The amounts allocated to each State are as follow: -
The grant is being made under somewhat different circumstances from those of the non-recurring grants made in 1934-35 and 1935-36. The grants then made, £2,000,000 and £500,000 respectively, were to relieve the budget deficits of the States. Relief in this direction is now not so urgently required. It is interesting to note that the State deficits which were at a peak of £20,800,000 in 1931-32 were reduced to £3,810,000 in 1934-35, and to approximately £2,430,000 in 1935-36. It is expected that in 1936-37 even this figure will be very greatly reduced.
Compared with two or three years ago increasing difficulty is being experienced in borrowing money to finance programmes of necessary Government works, although in the current financial year the programme is less extensive than that of 1935-36. The Commonwealth Government is therefore making this grant as a measure of relief to the States for difficulties associated at present with their loan programmes. The Commonwealth Government makes no stipulation as to whether the money shall be taken into revenue account or loan account, but it requests that it be used as an offset to borrowing, either for works or revenue deficits. No condition to this effect has, however, been inserted in the bill, and no other condition of any sort is imposed in connexion with the grant.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 1st October, (vide page 771), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - the Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £7,900 “ be agreed to.
.- Before making my general remarks on the budget and the financial administration of the Government, I wish to discuss the situation that has arisen in connexion with the trade dispute with Japan. I have been provoked to do this by the lack of courtesy of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) to-day. When an honorable member asks a question on a subject of such grave national importance that is causing serious anxiety to people from one end of Australia to the other, his inquiry merits at least courteous considerationby the Minister. I asked a question to-day as to the present state of the negotiations. The Minister replied that he regretted that such questions should continue to be asked. Are honorable members to be deprived of the right to seek information regarding these negotiations, of such cardinal concern to our people? We all deeply
regret the serious trade dispute that exists to-day between Japan and Australia, which is resulting in a serious loss of national income estimated at £7,500,000 per annum.
– Does the honorable member think he is playing the game?
– Yes, very definitely I am playing the game to the people of Australia, those who have the right to be considered. To the extent that the Government’s tariffs and prohibitions in the recent schedule will protect Australia’s industries, I am heartily in accord with them, and to the extent that the duties and prohibitions attract industries from other countries to Australia, I also support them; but the Opposition questions the wisdom of antagonizing good customers of our produce in order to give the protection to any country other than Australia, particularly when it is not accompanied by an undertaking that would ensure for Australian produce increased markets in any country so favoured to the disadvantage of Japan. When the Scullin Government “ imposed prohibitions and restrictive duties in 1931, to rectify our adverse trade balance, Japan was treated like every other nation, and no murmur of protest was heard; but the steps taken by the present Government have definitely discriminated against Japan and the United States of America.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I do not intend to be drawn off my subject by the interjections of honorable members opposite. No one can question the sincerity of my desire to support Australian industries. I believe in giving protection to the Australian people and Australian industries all the time, and my actions in that respect will bear the closest examination. 1 do not, therefore, intend to be gulled into silence when I ‘ ask a question of the Government regarding our trade negotiations with Japan. Any deserved jibe that I offer, or criticism that I make, of the Government’s bungling in this regard, is not likely to be misconstrued into an anti-Australian sentiment by people who are aware of the facts of the case. My past actions will bear the closest investigation, for I have always done my utmost, whether in ministerial office or as a private member, to support and protect Australia and Australian workmen. I may, therefore, speak plainly without incurring the danger of any suggestion that I favour cheaplabour countries, or wish to encourage the importation of the products made by coolie workers abroad. When I wa9 Minister for Trade and Customs I had to take the unfair criticism of the present Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties.
On the 19th May, 1931, when the Scullin Government imposed certain prohibitions and increased numerous duties to rectify Australia’s adverse trade balance, the present Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, said -
No foreign country lias yet retaliated against Australia by increasing its tariff on our wool; but if this stupid tariff-making is persevered in, it will only be a matter of time when other countries will retaliate against us by increasing the duties on certain grades of wool. We have not a monopoly of thu world’s wool; we have a partial monopoly of the world’s superfine wool, but the coarser grades are obtainable in other countries. The provocation involved must eventually bring retaliation in its train. Unfortunately, that retaliation, when it comes, will affect the big primary industries - the mainstay of this country - upon which we, as a people, depend. What is so depressing about this schedule is that the increases in duty on item after item . . . make us enemies overseas.
– Those remarks have been justified.
– Not while I was Minister. The honorable gentleman was, in fact, at that time practically inviting other countries to retaliate against Australia; but no retaliation resulted then, because it was realized that Australia had to rectify an adverse trade balance, and was treating all countries alike. However, no thanks were due to the Minister, who, for political reasons, seemed to desire retaliation. No discrimination was exercised by the Scullin Government against the products of any particular country, and therefore no murmur of protest was heard.
Other honorable gentlemen who are now members of the Lyons Ministry, particularly the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), also used the strongest language at their command to castigate the Scullin Government for what was termed at that time its audacity and effrontery in shutting out imports. This action, however, was taken purely in the interests of Australian industries. We were even told that its conduct was antiAustralian. I could cite remarks by a number of other honorable gentlemen opposite to that effect. We all know that the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties can deal most caustically with those who disagree with him, but he often speaks with his tongue in his cheek, and his words have a very hollow sound.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn. The statement that I speak with my tongue in my cheek implies definite dishonesty.
– I did not wish to infer dishonesty, and, if the remark is regarded as offensive, I withdraw it.
– The Minister will get a lot more than that before he is done with this kind of thing.
– I am glad to hear the interjection by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), for I have been absolutely amazed at the, silence of the Country party on this subject, and have wondered whether it is because half the portfolios of the Ministry are held by members of the Country party. No doubt we shall hear later from the honorable member for Swan on this subject, for I believe that he holds the opinion that the Government’s policy cuts right across the policy which the Country party has enunciated since its inception. Surely the Country party does not intend smugly to accept this stupendous loss to the Australian wool-grower and wheat-grower!
– If it does, will it be called disloyal?
– Will the honorable member for Swan be called disloyal if he criticizes the bungling of this composite Government, half the members of which belong to the Country party? We should not be worth our salt if we remained silent in the face of the politically dishonest efforts of this discredited Government to arrange trade treaties. Its bungling deserves the severest condemnation. Even conservative newspapers have strongly criticized the Go vernment’s short-sighted policy. Referring to the Government’s discrimination against the United States of America, the Melbourne Herald, of the 7th April, 1936, said -
The Federal Government, without taking the public wholly into its confidence, has suddenly decided that imports from America must be restricted Th.it course it. being determined by the Government in the face of a stiffening public opinion that marked discrimination in trade is undesirable, particularly discrimination against any important friendly neighbour in the Pacific. The tariff should not single out one customer, but should apply to all countries. If Australia has a foreign policy it should be directed towards trade friendships with both Japan and the United States of America.
Will it be said that the Melbourne Herald is anti-Australian or anti-British because it dares to criticize this bungling of trade negotiations by the present Government? Will that newspaper be told that if it says one word on the matter it will be antiBritish? Will this Parliament allow the Minister to evade well-deserved criticism under the pretence of patriotism?
In this connexion I am reminded of a quotation from Dr. J ohnson - “ Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel “. Desiring that its bungling tactics should be overlooked, this Government shirks any criticism of its policy by saying that such criticism is anti-British and pro- Japanese.
When he was a member of the Opposition, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties criticized the tariff policy of the Scullin Government by describing it as the policy of the office boy in the Trade and Customs Department, adding that those schedules, which were drawn up by senior officers of the department, must have been prepared by its office” boy. He was not sparing in his criticism on that occasion, but to-day he wants the Opposition to adopt a hush-hush policy., and endeavours to throttle any criticism by saying that such criticism is anti-British.
This Parliament ha8 been kept in the dark too long in respect of- the negotiations with Japan, which have already cost Australia a large sum of money ; because, if Japan had been an active bidder at the recent wool sales, it is reasonable to assume that, having bought 600,000 bales of our ‘wool in the previous year, it would have been responsible for pushing up the price at the sales by another 15 per cent. It is estimated that Japanese buying would have, meant an increase of £7,500,000 on an annual basis to the income of the wool-growers of Australia.
– That is purely an assumption.
– If the honorable member were not a member of the composite Ministry to-day, would he not be stalking Australia from end to end with his leader the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), condemning the Government for its bungling policy? Will he deny that there is now a good deal of unrest in his own party owing to this dispute ?
– The honorable gentleman has been tamed.
– He has been tamed by the offer of a portfolio which he has accepted. I recall that when the dispute in connexion with the cotton industry was in progress and the Lyons Government gave the Australian industry certain protection which operated adversely against Lancashire interests, members of the Country party went from one end of the country to the other condemning its action; they took the sides of the Lancashire interests in their fight against the growers in this industry.
– That is ridiculous!
– The honorable gentleman is aware that his leader at that time made a speech at Wangaratta in which he roundly condemned the decision of the Lyons Government in that matter, and urged it to surrender to Lancashire interests. Members of the Country party seized that opportunity to condemn the cotton tariff which they described as antiBritish, and along with other members -of the present Government they are using similar “ dope” to-day. On that occasion they said that the protection given to the cotton industry was anti-British and antiAustralian, and that such protection must be torn down, but to-day they are party to the bungling policy which has been pursued by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. Recently that honorable gentleman peregrinated the world at huge expense to the Commonwealth, but the only result of his trip has been the provocation of good customer -countries of Australia. What else did he achieve? He has merely brought to light, after a lapse of some eighteen months, a minor trade treaty with Belgium and has antagonized two powerful and otherwise friendly nations.
I am fully justified in criticizing the Minister’s lack of courtesy to this House in respect of the negotiations with Japan. Prices are not being maintained for lines of wool that were formerly bought by Japan, and represented a substantial part of Australia’s production. Meanwhile wool sales have been proceeding in London, South Africa and Brisbane. Certain newspapers, which support the Government, rejoice because the London wool sales opened “firmly”, but I point out that brokers offered 33,000 fewer bales at those sales, a reduction of 25 per cent, compared with offerings at the corresponding opening sales last year ; and there was a 12 per cent, carry-over despite the fact that New Zealand wool, which is not affected by the Japanese embargo, was included in the auctions. The distinction between the Japanese attitude towards Australia and its attitude towards New Zealand was emphasized when New Zealand coarse cross-breds went up in price by from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent. At Australian sales the price of wool of even medium coarseness remains low, or this wool has to be withdrawn.
A new policy was inaugurated by the agents at the Brisbane sales. Customers were told through the press the number of bales, offered, and that there had been withdrawals. The Courier Mail estimated that more than 10,000 of 14,000 bales catalogued were sold. It added that the lines passed in were largely of the average types which, in the past, were bought freely by Japan. The important point to bear in mind is that wool not sold in recent Australian auctions was mainly of those classes which, as a rule, Japan formerly bought in large quantities, and for which it had been a keen bidder. Experts inform me that the fact that Japan is buying at the South African sales cannot . improve the position for growers of average, or below average, classes, because the South. African wool contains such a proportion of fine blending lines, and the quantities of Australian wool of medium classes are relatively so small that the Japanese buy all average, or below average, wool that South Africa has to sell. Hut this has bad the effect of raising South African prices 15 per cent, above Australian prices. If the negotiations with Japan are allowed to drag on the Federal Government will be asked by the Australian wool-growers to provide financial assistance in order to enable them to withhold wool from a falling market.
– What about prices at the last Melbourne wool sales?
– In reply to that interjection, I ask what would have been the price if no dispute with Japan had arisen and Japanese buyers had been bidding at those sales? It is estimated by experts that Japan’s presence in the market would have meant an increase of £7,500,000 on. a yearly basis to the woolgrowers of Australia. That fact cannot be overlooked. Meanwhile, the negotiations drag on, and it is no wonder that the people of Australia are asking why the Government sent special trade missions to Japa.ii to ask it to buy Australian goods. One of these missions was headed by a senior Minister, who made goodwill speeches in that country asking the Japanese to buy Australian goods, and told them that Australians wanted to trade with them. Did the Lyons Government expect trade to be from Australia to Japan only, or is it that it acceded to the requests of Manchester interests without considering the position thoroughly and without anticipating the repercussions likely to follow such action?
This Government has always hidden behind the Tariff Board, claiming that the whole matter of the tariff depends on recommendations of the Tariff Board. Did it consider the Tariff Board in any respect whatsoever in this instance? I contend that if thi3 matter had been referred to the Tariff Board, that body could have brought to bear upon it a good deal of research. As this dispute has now been proceeding since May last, would it not have been better to have called in the Tariff Board, instead of shirking the problem by saying that all criticism of the Government’s policy is anti-British? I stand first for Australian interests, and. secondly, for British interests, but I do not. support, the bungling policy evident in this dis pute, which has cost Australian woolgrowers £7,500,000 on a yearly basis.
According to official information compiled by the Brisbane Woolbrokers Association, the average realizations at the wool sales held in Brisbane from the 14th to the 17th September showed a return equal to 13d. per lb., or £17 Ils. Id. a bale for greasy wool. This, it is admitted, compares favorably with average prices obtained at sales during the last month, and equals the approximate figures ruling in Australia a year ago. The Minister ha3 expressed considerable gratification that wool values have been maintained despite the absence of Japanese competition. Looking at the matter from another view-point, however, a different result is obtained, because the average price ruling in Brisbane in April, prior to the withdrawal’ of Japanese buyers, was 14.72d. per lb., or £20 0s. 3d. a bale. Thus their absence has meant, so far, a loss of exactly 1.72d. per lb., or £2 9s. 2d. a bale, in actual hard cash to the growers. The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, which invariably supports the present Federal Government, commenting on this loss to Australian growers, says -
To each grower the loss of £2 9s. 2d. a bale is often the difference between progress and retrogression, and to Australia, with its wool clip of about 3,000,000 bales each year, it signifies a loss of some £7,500,000. If other Australian industries could make up that deficiency to the wool-grower, their attitude to these political muddlers could at least be understood.
– This is the “ Case for Japan “ !
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed of himself for making that interjection. It is the “ Case for Australia “, and the cheap jibe that any one who criticizes the Government speaks on behalf of Japan is not worthy of any honorable member in this House. We are told by the Minister that the industry which will benefit mainly from Australia’s dispute with Japan and our consequent friendship with consumers in the United Kingdom will be that of chilled beef, but if we examine the position we find that there is no justification for any optimism that there will be an immediate expansion of the market for that commodity. It was unnecessary to penalize Japan in order to obtain an increased share of the British market. We were already giving Great Britain a generous measure of preference. My contention is strengthened by the report submitted a few weeks ago by the Australian veterinary officer in London, Mr. R. H. C. Tinney, who said that a factor in the fluctuating prices obtained for Australian meat has been the difference in the quality and condition of various Australian shipments, indicating that our beef is not yet equal to the product of Argentina. English investors have £500,000,000 of capital invested in the beef industry in Argentina, and they get first preference on the British market. I draw attention, further, to the following extract from a leading article, which recently appeared in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin: -
Wool producers individually have each lost in. varying degree, while the Commonwealth is losing at the rate of several million pounds per annum; but so far it has not been possible to locate any section of the community deriving any material benefit. Truly, the situation would be humorous if it were not so serious.
That statement . was made by a Nationalist newspaper.
The Prime Minister himself is not happy over the situation. He realizes, I think, that the Government has made a grave blunder. This was exemplified in his speech at the Melbourne Show luncheon on the 21st September last, when he said-
The sooner Japan was back on a satisfactory trading basis with, Australia the better it would be for the Australian wool industry and for Japan.
It seems to me that the Government was foolish in giving away as much as it did to British manufacturers without obtaining some guarantee of a definite quid pro quo, particularly when by bo doing Australia stands to lose so much. We were told by the Prime Minister and the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties that Great Britain was not responsible for what had occurred, and that no definite arrangement had been entered into with Britain for a quid pro quo. Those Ministers said that Australia was getting a substantial measure of preference at the present time, and hoped for more. If that were so, there was no need for the discriminatory tariff against Japan, which had for its object not the protection of an Australian industry, but the diversion of trade from one overseas country to another. What, I ask, will he left for negotiation, when the Ottawa agreement again comes under review? Why give much away prematurely, even to the extent of making a trade enemy of a previously friendly country? It is more than passing strange that a government which, for years, was reducing tariffs, placed a prohibition on certain goods immediately a deputation arrived from Manchester. Unfortunately, this reversal of form was not executed for the protection of Australian industries - it only partly does that - but it was specifically aimed at a diversion of trade from one country to another outside Australia.
– What did the Minister directing negotiations . for trade treaties say when the Scullin Government imposed high duties?
– He said that if the stupid policy of tariff-making was persisted in, other countries would refuse to buy our wool. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) stated on the 6th May, 1931 -
There is no need for this excessive imposition of tariffs, an insane policy that has done Australia so much harm and positively no good, and has antagonized many of our best customers. . . . The policy of the Scullin Government will not bring trade. It merely antagonizes other countries. Unfortunately, the Labour party has become a prohibition party, and, if we resort to prohibition, all sorts of trade anomalies will be created.
What does he say now regarding the prohibitions imposed against Japan? On the 14th June, 1931, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) said -
If wo are not to have the advantage of the views of the Tariff Board, of what value is that board?
He asserted then that, as a member of this Parliament, he demanded the advantage of the opinion of the board, but did he demand it when a member of this Government? Did the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) or the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties demand it? No. The Prime Minister’s cheap jibe that, when having to decide between Great Britain and Japan, the Leader of the Opposition chose the latter country, is as unconvincing as it is incorrect and absurd. The Labour party supports Australia and Australian industries first. I yield to nobody in my advocacy of a policy or high protection for Australian industries. I stand for those industries, and for Australian workmen, in preference to the industries and workmen of other countries. After that, I support preference* to British countries. We already give a preference to Great Britain worth £10,000,000 a year, and for years we have been getting preferences in return worth £1,500,000 per annum. Nobody can truthfully level at me the charge that I lean to Japan. I have always placed the interests of Australia first. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, when on the Opposition side, uttered, dreadful forebodings as to. retaliation by Japan if we restricted our imports in order to develop Australian industries. The Minister for Commerce wa3 supported in that contention by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and other honorable members opposite. The Labour party has always stood for a reasonable measure of preference to Great Britain. During 1935-36, Great Britain imported from Australia merchandize to the value of £57,000,000, which represents 7.2 per cent, of the total imports of Britain; but, during 1934-35, Australia purchased from Great Britain 42.6 per cent, of its total imports. Discarding all the goods which Australia had to, buy from tropical countries, and things that Great Britain could not supply, out of every- £10 worth imported into Australia £7 worth came from Great Britain-. The inconsistency of the Government on this matter is amazing. Ministers talk with half-a-dozen voices. We are told hy the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties that we can look to Great Britain for our market for wool, and need think very little of other countries. According to the Hobart Mercury of the 22nd June, 1934, the -Prime Minister stated -
It is futile for us to expect Great Britain ro alter her poliCy or to place our hopes in “rearer inter-Empire trade.
The utterances of British leaders within recent months show how futile it is for us to expect Great Britain to alter her policy or p.ace our hopes in greater inter-Empire trade
That is the considered opinion of the Leader of thib Government, but, within a year or so, after the Government had sent trade emissaries to Japan and had invited an envoy from Japan to visit Australia - the visitors were shown that Japan could not outdo Australia in hospitality - Japan received a smack in the eye. This was done primarily in the interests of countries other than Australia; but, whatever was done in that regard by the Scullin Government, was aimed at protecting the industries of Australia against those of all other countries, whilst giving a fair measure of preference to Great Britain.
Having stood the taunts and jibes of honorable members opposite that I am a whole-hog protectionist, and stand for prohibition, and that the Labour policy of high duties would be ruinous to Australia and its trade, I now say that, by its latest act, this Government has committed a blunder of the gravest magnitude. Its discriminatory policy has been misguided, and. the methods employed have been extremely crude. Surveying the immediate past, it does not seem long since honorable members were called together in the parliamentary lounge to say farewell, not to. a junior member of the Cabinet, but to one who was considered to have sufficiently high qualifications to adorn the position of Chief Justice of the High Court. We were, told that his., trip to Japan had. a twofold purpose- to establish friendly relations; and to increase trade between two neighbouring nations. Apparently taking alarm, the Manchester traders sent their representatives in hot haste to Australia to seek protection against Japanese competition. This- was certainly a new role in which to find British manufacturers. Hitherto, they had attacked Australia’s policy of. protection. Yielding to their importunities, the Commonwealth Government began to negotiate with Janan, not with nice diplomacy,- but like a “ bull in a china shop “. The Government did ‘ not display a knowledge of the first rudiments of diplomacy. When Japanrefused to agree to cut down its exports - to Australia, the prohibitions against that country came like- a bolt from the blue..
No judgment was displayed in the negotiations, and the effect has been the boycott of Australia’s staple product. Not only have exports of wool been affected to the value of £8,675,000, but also those of wheat to the extent of £2,273,000, tallow £174,000, scrap iron and steel £137,000, hides and skins £115,000, and meats £28,500. Protectionists have for years been accused of antagonizing foreign nations; but no government, to my knowledge, has antagonized a foreign nation to the extent that Japan has been embittered by this Government’s recent action, and the nation that has been antagonized is the second largest buyer in the world of Australian wool! I do not suggest that Australia should be deterred from pursuing its own national policy because of criticism or annoyance expressed by another nation - we must exercise our right to govern our own country in the way we deem best - but I do not see that we are called upon to go out of our way, in a provocative manner, to lose part of our export trade at the request of any other country. I know, of course, that the Minister will do his best to make out a case; he will say that Japan wishes to interfere with our local autonomy. Anticipating that, I read the following statement by the Consul-General for Japan : -
I declare with all emphasis that Japan has never, nor has she any intention of challenging the right of the Australian Government to decide their trade or tariff policy in whatever way they may choose.
– What influence does the honorable gentleman consider the British High Commissioner exerted ?
– Some sinister influence has undoubtedly been brought to bear, because the Government boasted of having reduced the duties on one thousand items and sub-items of the tariff since it came into office. It sent trade missions abroad, and talked goodwill and the necessity to develop trade with the East; and then, in hot haste, came a delegation from Manchester and a representative of the British Government, and this sudden discriminatory tariff which is a betrayal of Australia’s best interests.
– Outside, the gentleman referred to by the honorable member, is described as the fifth wheel of the coach.
– No doubt a good deal of influence has been wielded on behalf of the manufacturers, not of Australia but of some other country. So long as Australia has the right to legislate in relation to its domestic affairs, it should do so in the manner best calculated to promote its own interests. The most ardent friend of the Government cannot say that in the present dispute it has promoted Australia’s best interests. I believe that there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I realize what difficulty confronts the Government at the present stage of its negotiations, and on that account am restraining my criticism and confining myself to the statement of facts. The Opposition does not intend to adopt a party political attitude in this matter. We have been very temperate in the statements that we have made. My leader has on a number of occasions very ably stated his party’s case, and yet has had to suffer the cheap sneering jibe that he is against Great Britain. That is mere balderdash, which should not be spoken by men who occupy a place in an assembly such as this. My leader rightly retorted that he stands for Australia. It is our desire that Australia, through its Government, should escape from the present trade tangle with honour and profit. I believe that the whole of the story has not yet been told, and earnestly suggest that the time has arrived when all the cards should be laid on the table. I deeply regret the whole incident, because the people are apt to lay at the door of protection the ills that have resulted from the Government’s bungling and mishandling of the situation, mishandling which on a yearly basis will lose Australia something in the neighbourhood of £7,500.000 per annum. The party that sits on this side of the chamber stands for the effective and adequate protection of Australian industries, and would treat the whole of the outside world as a separate entity, while giving a fair measure of preference to British industries. For the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties to go out of his way in such a misguided fashion to provoke one of our best customer countries, is tragic. The honorable gentleman should vacate his position, and thus make way for one who is better qualified to fill’ it.
– In my view, the committee ha3 listened to a speech which represents the deepest betrayal of Australian interests, and especially the interests of the Australian worker, that has been witnessed in this Parliament. I do not propose to follow the honorable gentleman who made it through the wide range of violent personalities in which he has indulged. I come to the immediate issue, namely, what the Government has done, and the motive underlying its action. I consider that the Government can claim that no more disinterested action, no action more free from party considerations, has ever been taken in this Parliament. Whatever it may be charged with, the allegation cannot be made that it has endeavoured to promote the interests of its party. As I view the matter, and as every member of the Government views it, this action was imperative in the national interest if Australia was to achieve those ideals which have always animated all parties. If our standards, particularly our working standards, were to be preserved and improved, and even if their decline was to be guarded against, action such as the Government took was imperative. I am amazed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) should make a representative speech of the character of that to which we have just listened, on behalf of a party which claims that it alone represents the workers in the parliaments of the nation. The honorable gentleman got right down, to his charge when he said that the action, taken by the Government was dictated primarily by the interests of the industries of other countries. That is a complete mis-statement of both the desire and the purpose of the Government, as well as of the result which will surely accrue, despite his ravings. The action was taken first in the interest of our primary producers who are engaged in the export trade. Australia trades with Great Britain, under the terms of the Ottawa agreement, on a reciprocal, and more or less measured, basis. The aim of the Government, to maintain on. the Australian market the existing level of British imports, was prompted, not by a desire to benefit British interests, as my honorable friend has repeatedly claimed, but by the necessity to hold and endeavour to expand the market in the United Kingdom that we now have for exportable products - representing substantially more than one-half of our exports - of which we can sell very little in any other country. Without that market, there would be an end to farming settlement and a good deal of pastoral settlement in this country. I am sure that honorable members opposite are interested in and, indeed, are dependent upon the votes of, the primary producers of this country. It is among the primary producers that they have to make headway if they are to have any chance of again occupying the Treasury bench. The relative importance to Australia of the two markets, of Japan and the United Kingdom, is approximately in the ratio of one to five; we sell about five times as much to the United Kingdom as we do to Japan. A few years back, the disproportion was very much greater than that. In 1934-35, £50,200,000 worth of Australia’s exports went to the United Kingdom, anr] £11,600,000 worth to Japan.
– What is the proportion in relation to our purchases from those two countries?
– With all due respect to the right honorable gentleman. I do not think that that consideration has any weight in this matter. I am giving the relative importance of these two markets,, because I want to make quite clear the reason for the action of the Government in that connexion. In the year which has just closed, the disproportion ‘was not quite so great, because of Japan’s very heavy, purchases of wool.
– Was not the goodwill mission sent to Japan to make that possible ?
– The honorable gentleman is trying to sidetrack me, and to sidestep the whole argument. This has nothing whatever to do with the goodwill mission to Japan; it has to do with the hard facts of the present. 1 take, again, the nature of the’ exports to the United Kingdom, because I wish to impress upon the committee the importance of the nature of the goods that we sell to the United Kingdom compared with those that we sell to Japan. “Wool comprises practically. 100 per cent, of our exports to Japan. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has fairly stated, that commodity can always bc sold at world parity. Although I do not deny for a moment the value of Japan’s custom, I point to the fact that in Sydney last week the price of wool averaged £17 3s. without Japanese competition. The honorable gentleman himself quoted a still higher price which was obtained at the Brisbane wool sales last week. I believe that this week’s sales have been somewhat firmer. I come now to the other classes of produce which we export. In regard to those, it will be found that there is a sheer dependence on the British market. For example, that market absorbs 99 per cent, of our exports of lamb, an. average of 91 per cent, of our exports of butter, and over 90 per cent, of our exports of meat. I have had prepared some figures -showing the dependence of the various States upon the United Kingdom market as an outlet for their surplus products. Queensland, for instance, exported butter to the value of £3.400,000 in 1935-36, and of this £3,320,000 or 95 per cent, went to the United Kingdom, and none to Japan. Of its cheese exports, 94 per cent, to the value of £76,000 went to the United Kingdom, and none to Japan, while exports of eggs were valued at £105,000, of which 98 per cent, were sent to the United Kingdom, and none to Japan. Of the total beef and veal exports, 86 per cent., having a value of £1,704,000, were sent to the United Kingdom, and only 2 per cent., to the value of £27,420 to Japan, while of frozen mutton and lamb, 99 per cent, of the total exports of £69,000 were taken by the United Kingdom, and only 0.21 per cent., to the value of £149 by Japan. The same thing obtains in regard to practically all primary product’s exported from Queensland, with the exception of wool and cotton. Japan bought all the cotton exported from Queensland ; but I do not suggest for a moment that that has anything to do with the attitude of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this subject. The dependence of South Australia on the British market is absolute. If that market were lost to them, the farmers in South Australia would be completely ruined. The value of the British market is not represented merely by the value of the produce we sell there. Its great value is that it clears the Australian market of surplus production. If the local market could not be cleared in this way, it would be almost impossible to give away in Australia the butter, beef, mutton, lamb, fruits, &c, which we produce. The market would be hopelessly glutted, and prices would not be sufficient to pay freights, selling commission, &c. The farmers would be . completely prostrated, and the whole country, industrially and economically, would be thrown into chaos. Yet we are charged with pandering to the United Kingdom, because we try to preserve for that country a market for its textile products in Australia. We are trying to uphold the interests of the United Kingdom” in this market against the competition of shoddy, the product of the cheapest labour available in any industrial country.
– Does that mean that the Government proposes to ignore Japan altogether ?
– No, it does not. The Government is prepared, as it has always been, to give to the industrialists of Japan a fair relative share of foreign imports into Australia, and, indeed, of the total imports into Australia. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition sobbed in heart-broken fashion over the alleged injury being inflicted upon Japanese industries, because the Government has tried to cut down the imports of these shoddy goods. I have had a careful comparison of prices made, and I find that, during February last, artificial silk was imported from Japan at 4.3d. a square yard, while the average price of artificial silk imported from the United Kingdom was 14d. a square yard, and that was lower than the price of similar goods imported from any other foreign country, except Japan. Those are the interests for which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition pleads in this chamber against the interests of the primary producers.
– The Minister knows that that is absolute nonsense.
– This plea by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in aid of excessively cheap foreign labour against the interests of the primary producers of Australia, including the interests of the beef producers of Queensland, who grow practically all the beef exported from Australia. He is pleading against the interests of the butter producers of Queensland, and of the sugar producers, who sell every pound of their surplus production in the United Kingdom. He places this cheap Japanese shoddy, at 4d. a yard, before the value to th e primary producers of Australia of the whole British market. . “What is the use of baulking at this issue? The Opposition hesitated on the brink of this question for months, afraid to touch it. afraid to take the side of Japan. Now let the Opposition stand up and take the consequences of their action.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement of the Minister that the Opposition hesitated on the brink, and then took the side of Japan, is untrue and offensive to me. I resent it, and ask that it be withdrawn.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Chair does not recognize that the remark was unparliamentary, or that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is justified in taking offence at it.
– I move -
That the Chairman’s ruling be dissented from.
Question put - the committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Ayes . . . . 23
Noes . . . . 32
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I return to what I regard as the principal point in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His main charge was that this step had been taken by the Government primarily in the interests of the industries of other countries. I have already referred to the relative prices of these textiles and demonstrated that the British textile exports of Australia represent the mother country’s greatest single export to the Commonwealth. This fact is of vital significance to our reciprocal balance of trade under the Ottawa agreement. The British textiles on the Australian market were being not only seriously challenged, but also threatened with complete destruction by the flood of imports from Japan, the prices of which ranged in regard to artificial silk to only one-third of the value of the British article. The tremendous difference of price represented the margin between the labour and other costs which prevailed in the United Kingdom and other western countries and those of J apan. I desire to make it clear that the flood of cheap products from Japan, which is championed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-
– That is not correct.
– Order !
– At the present time these textiles-
– The Minister stated that I championed a flood of cheap imports from Japan into Australia. I contend that his statement is untrue and that it is offensive to me and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already unsuccessfully challenged my ruling on a similar point.
– That is not so.
– Order! The Chair listened attentively to the speech of the Minister and considers that it did not contain any unparliamentary expressions or reflect personally upon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– It was intended to reflect upon me and my attitude to protection.
– There is no point of order.
– I move -
That the Chairman’s ruling bo dissented from.
– This is the “gag”. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is afraid to allow me to speak on this subject.
– When I stated that the Minister was speaking with his tongue in his cheek, I was compelled to withdraw the expression. Why then has the Minister not been asked to withdraw? I have moved dissent from the ruling of the Chair
– This impasse can be avoided. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved, “ That the Chair* man’s ruling be dissented from “.
– The motion is out of order, as a motion of dissent from a similar ruling has just been voted upon by the committee.
– I was compelled to withdraw a statement that the Minister was speaking with his tongue in his cheek.
– I rise to order. The Chairman’s ruling that the statement which the Minister was asked to withdraw is identical with the one just decided a few moments ago, is quite inaccurate. The two statements are not the same and I, therefore, submit that the Chairman’s ruling is unjustified, and ask him to reconsider it.
– Your ruling, Mr. Chairman, that no point of order is involved when an honorable member claims that a statement made by a speaker is incorrect, has been upheld by many Speakers and Chairmen of Committees. If an honorable member who is aggrieved desires to explain his posi tion, he can reply to the statement in debate or, if he has already spoken, may rise to a personal explanation. If remarks are made of an offensive nature an honorable member may rise to a point of order, but in this, instance the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) is not entitled to do so, because no unparliamentary expression was used by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties. The fact that the Minister made statements this morning, which disprove altogether some of the assertions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, does not give the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the right to move further dissent from the Chairman’s decision, supported as it has been by a vote of the committee. In any event that vote would invalidate the point of order raised by the Leader of the Opposition, because the remarks to which objection is taken now are synonymous with those already voted upon.
– The honorable member for Richmond has stated precisely the attitude which the Chair has taken up. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition feels that he has been misrepresented by the speech of another honorable member, as in the present circumstances, his redress is by way of personal explanation, or he may seize the first opportunity to explain his attitude on the matter. In this instance the Chair has no knowledge of any unparliamentary remark having been made by the Minister. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is entitled to make a personal explanation, but there is no point of order.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition clearly said that the action taken by the Government in regard to trade with Japan was done so for the benefit of overseas workers and interests. I emphasize that the Government is endeavouring to restrict the great flood of excessively cheap goods which are produced by cheap labour in the interests of the primary producers of this country. That is the policy to which the Deptuy Leader of the Opposition is opposed.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable gentleman would apply a customs tariff to operate in the interests of the workers, but he would do nothing to assist the primary producers.
– The Minister knows that that statement is quite inaccurate, and, furthermore, it is offensive to me.
– Order ! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, must refrain from interjecting.
– The lowpaid worker of Japan can have the Australian market, so far as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is concerned..
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– At the luncheon adjournment I was pointing out that the Opposition through its Deputy Leader was showing a complete indifference to the welfare of the primary producers of Australia in connexion with the importation of cheap goods from Japan. I now ask honorable gentlemen opposite to think, not only of the primary producers, but also of the great secondary industries of this country which provide employment for 500,000 people. Is any honorable gentleman in this chamber so blind as to what is taking place, and so indifferent as to what is likely to occur in the near future as to be more or less careless about the products of cheap labour countries flowing into this country at a price with which no western product can compete? Is any honorable member other than convinced to-day that a great encroachment of goods from these cheap labour countries has already occurred to the great disadvantage of Australian standards, and the output of Australian factories? Is even one honorable gentleman so blind and dull as not to see and realize that to-morrow this growing competition will he intensified against our own industries? Of course, the competition will be intensified ! The Government has two profound motives behind its present policy. The first is to protect the primary producers of Australia. The second is the conviction that we must establish more strongly the principle that the markets of this country are not open, and will not be laid open, to the competition of excessively cheap goods made in countries where labour costs are also excessively cheap. Through the wisdom and vision of the founders of the Commonwealth in placing an obstacle in the way of the importation ofcheap labour into Australia we have so far been able to develop and maintain an Australian race, but the inevitable and indispensable corollary to that policy is that we, in our time, shall maintain an embargo against the importation of the products of cheap labour. Without such a policy, and without the courage to adopt and adhere to measures which will implement it, this country, in my view, has no future as a home for the British race. I put it to all honorable members, and particularly to honorable gentlemen opposite, whom I defy to deny my statement, that we must follow such a course. They may make a little cheap political capital out of what is going on, though I pray that they will not do so. I trust rather, that they will join us in a completely disinterested effort to protect the welfare of our people, and to insure the safety of our children after us. It is that objective which lies directly behind the steps which the Government is asking the Parliament to endorse.
This Government has no quarrel with the Government of Japan. We have a strong admiration and respect for the great Japanese people. We look to live in the near future, as we have done in the past, in the friendliest relationship with the Japanese in every sense - trading as well as diplomatic - but we have been compelled to say certain things to Japan.[ Leave to continue given.] We have asked Japan certain things. We have not asked, necessarily, that it shall reduce the value of its exports to Australia, but we have asked it to ‘lift the quality of the goods it exports to us. We have also asked it to withhold from doing anything to dislocate our economy by flooding Australia with a class and quality of goods which certainly would be disruptive of our economy, and which must sooner or later be fatal to our standard of living and our idealism. That is all. Had Japan not persistently reduced its prices for textiles in recent years the trouble we are now experiencing would not have occurred. If Japan will tomorrow a.agree to send to us a different quality of textiles of relatively the same total value the difficulties which face us will vanish over-night.
In my concluding words I wish to express my amazement at the sympathy which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is displaying for the interests of Japan. To-day Japan has an incomparably better trade balance with this country than any other wool-buying foreign country.
The Government, as I have said, has in this matter acted from no party motive. It is pursuing a policy fraught with much trouble and difficulty. However it is the opinion of the Government, first, that this policy is essential to the welfare of the primary producers of Australia, particularly the farmers and those pastoralists who look to the export market for their very existence; and next that it is an essential safeguard to secondary industries and their employees. Certain interests in this country, notably the great wool-growing interest, might have offered objections to this policy, and in some measure have done so, but it is amazing to me that honorable gentlemen opposite should display such bitter opposition to it.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) grossly misrepresented what I said in my speech when he used the words, “ The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken the side of Japan in this fight,” and later when he said “ The Deputy Leader of the Opposition supports a flood of cheap coloured labour imports into Australia.” I asked that those statements be withdrawn on the ground that they were untrue and offensive to me, remembering that you, Mr. Chairman, had previously asked me, at the request of the Minister, to withdraw the assertion that he had spoken with his tongue in his cheek. I wish to correct the misrepresentation for which the Minister has been responsible. I reiterate that to the extent that the Government’s tariffs and prohibitions in thu recently tabled schedule will protect Australia’s industries, I am heartily in accord with them, and that to the extent that duties and prohibitions attract industries from other countries to Australia I also support, them. But I question the wisdom of antagonizing good customers for our produce in order to give protection to any country other than Australia particularly when it is not accompanied by an undertaking that would ensure increased markets in nations we are now favouring. That is the statement I made in my speech. I repeat it now lest there be any misunderstanding. With regard to the statement of the Minister that I support the importation of a flood of cheap labour imports into Australia. I assert that my record as Minister for# Trade and Customs is the answer. Furthermore, the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties himself, in the course of a statement, on the 19th May, 1931, in criticizing my high protectionist policy, said -
What is alarming at thu present time about these schedules is that the increases of duty on item after item make us enemies overseas.
In conclusion I wish to say that I regret that after careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that the Government has blundered badly, that the whole question could have been tactfully handled without any trade dispute and that no Government has antagonized a foreign nation to the extent that the present Federal Government has done. I wish to emphasize that we, as a party, resent the’ cheap jibe that because we exercise our rights in criticizing the bungling of the Government, an effort should be made to misconstrue our attitude by saying that we favour Japan. Most definitely and primarily we stand for Australia and Australian industries and secondly we stand for reasonable preference for goods from Great Britain, but in carrying out that policy we believe in treating the whole world as one entity and not in introducing discriminatory tariffs and antagonizing otherwise friendly nations.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that an honorable member, in making a personal explanation, must confine his remarks to the points on which he has been misrepresented and is not entitled to adduce further arguments in an endeavour to counteract statements used by a previous speaker. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has done that since he began to make his personal explanation.
– I have listened carefully to the Deputy
Leader of the Opposition and was endeavouring to ascertain how far he intended to go.
– I have finished what I wished to say.
– I wish to make a personal explanation on the ground of misrepresentation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been guilty of misrepresenting the whole of my challenge to his speech. The honorable gentleman has admitted that he strongly questioned the wisdom of the steps we have taken against Japan-
– I was talking about the bungling way in which it was done.
– The honorable gentleman challenged the wisdom of the action the Government had taken to prevent the flood of a great volume of cheap exports into the country.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I shall not carry the matter any further.
.- I have listened carefully to the speech of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in defence of the Government’s policy, and also to his remarks in regard to the embargo against imports from Japan. It will amuse the people of this country to find a member of this Government saying that he stands for the protection of shoddy goods. I recall that when the trade union movement put forward a policy against the importation of shoddy goods into Australia and against the manufacture of shoddy goods within this country, ihe Tory government of the day said that such a step would violate direct trade with the countries manufacturing such goods, and our internal trade as well, yet, to-day, a Minister declares that the policy of this Government is one of protection of shoddy goods.
– He did not say that.
– His whole speech was in defence of the protection of shoddy goods. That was the first of two points he made, his other point dealing with the cheapness of these goods. The policy he enunciated in this respect would be a laudable one if it were really the policy of this Government. On the contrary, however, this ‘Government has so beggared the workers of this country that they cannot buy even the cheap, shoddy goods imported from Japan. How could they do so when so many of them receive only 6s. 6d. a week? If the goods at present imported from Japan were only a quarter of their present price the workers of this country could not afford to buy them. Yet, to-day, a member of this Government says that it wants to keep the price of commodities in this country at a fair level in order that Australians may be enabled to buy British goods. The whole explanation of such tactics is that some honorable members opposite are concerned only with their prospects of getting titles. A few of them have succeeded in doing so, but members of this Government, as a whole, are more concerned with what they can get for themselves than with what they can do for the workers of this country. They say that they wish to protect the country’s interests. I recall that when Australian wheat Could not be sold, mainly because Britain preferred to buy Russian wheat, the Lyons Government sent a goodwill mission, under the leadership of the present Chief Justice of Australia, to Japan and China to secure those markets, and, at that time, Japan and China saved Australia. I challenge any member of the Country party to refute that fact. If China and Japan had not come to the aid of the primary producers of Australia on that occasion, there would have been not only havoc, but ruin as well throughout the Commonwealth.
– The honorable gentleman is the champion of black, brown, or brindle.
– The honorable member will be neither black, brown, nor brindle after the next election. The Government says that it is desirous of improving the ‘wage standards of Australian workmen. I recall that when the BrucePage Government was in office and the workers of Australia proposed that n delegation should be sent to Japan and China with a view to urging the workers of those countries to fight for a shorter working week and higher wages because the system cf production there tended to lower the standard of living of workmen in Australia, that government had me arrested and would not allow me to leave this country on such a mission.
– After the next election the honorable gentleman will have plenty of time to go to Japan.
– The “Plain Speaking Gentleman “ might upset the election apple-cart in Warringah. We have been told on behalf of the Government that Germany will buy the share of our wool that was previously bought by Japan.
– ‘Who said that?
– The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties said it. What a trick time has played on this country ! Not very long ago, the then Prime Minister of Australia appealed to Japan to defend Australia from the Huns of Germany.
– At any rate, that statement is not correct.
– I accept the word of an ex-Prime Minister rather than yours.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– It is strange, Mr. Chairman, that you overlook all interjections, whilst I am pulled up on each occasion I offend.
– Order !
– If an honorable member interjects and the Chair does not call him to order, I am going to see that I get my rights. It is not going to be a one-sided procedure as far as I am concerned.
– Order ! The honorable members for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) and Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) are disorderly. I shall not warn honorable members further.
– I believe that if the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties were honest in this matter, but he is not honest-
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– In deference to the Chairman, I withdraw it. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties said that this Government desired to protect Australian people against lowwage countries. I would support such a policy in every way, but that is not the policy of this Government. I challenge this Government to declare that it will not allow to come into thi3 country not only Japanese goods but also cheap goods from Czechoslovakia or Belgium, which compete unfairly with those made by Australian workmen. I feel sure, however, that it will not make such a declaration. The Government has camouflaged the issue in this matter in an endeavour to cover up its mistakes. The whole of its policy has been directed by the appointee of the British Government in this country, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard. That gentleman gives all the directions, and this Government simply carries them out; it has no voice of its own in the matter whatever.
– It is not nonsense. Since Sir Geoffrey Whiskard arrived here, this Government has adopted a policy which is detrimental to the interests of the people of this country.
– Nonsense !
– As the result of the Japanese embargo against Australian goods we shall not be able to continue our exports of flour to Japan or Manchukuo, and so far as its effect on the wool trade is concerned, I should like the honorable members for Calare (Mr. Thorby), Riverina (Mr. Nock), and Gwydir (Mr. Abbott), to say whether they believe that there should be a blocking of Japanese trade in order to enable Germany to buy our wool.
– What is wrong with the wool position to-day?
– It is not bad, but it would be infinitely better if another competitor - Japan - were in the market, and by provoking Japanese buyers in this way, the honorable member, together with his colleagues from Gwydir and Riverina, have robbed wool-growers in their electorates of millions of pounds.
– That is incorrect; yesterday wool brought the record price of 20Jd. per lb.
– I have no doubt that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) agrees with me that those people who say that another competitor on the wool market would not be advantageous to the wool trade have not considered the position thoroughly. The trade would be benefited in such circumstances for the reason that, because of war preparations to-day, European countries are bidding keenly for Australian wool. 1 pay a tribute to the ex-Prime Minister of this country, who in the face of war conditions established Bawra, under the control of Sir John Higgins. This organization did good work on behalf of the wool-growers of Australia. The present Government is selling out to Great Britain, and giving it everything it desires. Japanese goods are shipped to Great Britain, and sent back to Australia as British goods. This Government does not object to that, because British “boodlers” are making money out of it. I recall the time when the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) objected to embargoes. He said that their imposition was the most tragic thing that could happen to Australia. He seems to have changed his views since he has tasted the sweets of ministerial office. History is merely repeating iself. “When the plums of office are being enjoyed, Ministers frequently forget the views expressed by them when in Opposition. In April, 1930, the Minister for the Interior condemned the embargoes imposed by the Scullin Government, and declared that retaliation would come from the countries against whom the embargoes were directed. He said -
Ido not think that the Minister realizes that embargoes generally are the most drastic and dangerous weapon that can be employed. They are more likely to provoke retaliation than anything else that could be done.
When the Minister for Health was Prime Minister, a line of steamers was purchased by the Commonwealth Government. This action was taken in the interests of the primary producers, but the Bruce-Page Government sold those vessels at a bargain price, and the money has never been collected. Talk about cheap Japanese goods! The whole fleet was sold for a song to that criminal, Lord Kylsant, a friend of earls and dukes on the other side of the world. The primary producers desired lower freight charges for the carriage of the goods which they exported, but a government that was supposed to be well qualified to display business acumen let the primary producers down.
The expenditure on defence is to be increased by £1,336,000, but what is being done in the interests of the great army of unemployed in this country? Among all the States of the Commonwealth, this Government proposes to vote only £100,000 for the relief of unemployment. To-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was asked what he proposed to do at Christmas time to improve the lot of this unfortunate section, and he merely replied that the States would do all that was necessary. From an unemployed man at Lithgow, I have received the following letter: -
I have been advised to write to you to see if you can do anything for me. 1 migrated from Scotland with wife andson about seven years ago, and have been living on the dole ever since. The Government is going to bring more people into the country while there are thousands of unemployed here. I put my case before Mr. J. N. Lawson, the member for Macquarie, and you have my permission to bring my case before the House. If they can’t find me “work, why bring more people into the country to starve 1 If nothing can be done, I am writing to the House of Commons and putting my case before the Labour members there, letting them know the real facts. I am a general labourer, and my son is now fifteen years of age. He also cannot find work, so you will see what I think of this wonderful country. I arrived here on the 10th April, 1930, and have not had one day’s work.
This man asks that the Government should not bring out more migrants, but should pay for passages for himself, his wife and his son back to Scotland.
The Government has remitted property income tax to the tune of £1,300,000. It did not merely reduce the tax; it ‘ remitted every penny of it. The present cost-of-living reductions of the salaries of public servants up to £485 per annum, as compared with the 1930 standard, show a saving to the Government of about £1,300,000. The Government has displayed little concern for the low-paid public servants.
– There are no low-paid public servants.
– Some of the employees in the Postal Department receive a very low wage.
– Some men over the age of 21 are notreceiving the basic wage.
– Many more outside the Public Service are not getting even the basic wage.
– Of course not. Thousands upon thousands are not getting enough to keep body and soul together.
The Government claims to have done a great deal to help the invalid and oldage pensioners by increasing the pension to 19s. a week; but, to compensate for the increase of the cost of living, as shown by the official figures for the third quarter, the pension should have been raised to 19s. 9d. a week. The effective increase amounted to only 3d. a week.
A good deal has been said about malnutrition. A report has been received by the Government to the effect that the average family’s weekly expenditure on food amounts to from (is. to 7s. a head. No proposal has been made by the Government to provide milk for young children. Ministers are more concerned about benefits for their own political supporters.
Yesterday the Prime Minister stated that the Government would do everything in its power to reduce the period of labour to 40 hours a week. When I asked him if he would submit the matter to the people at a referendum, he replied in the negative, claiming that the change could be brought about by legislation, or by the Arbitration Court.
– Of course, this Parliament has no power to legislate in that direction.
– Then why not invite the people to confer that power upon this Parliament? Why should the Government avoid the issue, and fool the people by promising that, if returned to power, it would give effect to a 40-hour working week, when it knew full well that it had not the constitutional power to do so? I am pleased that a lead in the institution of a 40-hour working week has been given by the County Council of Sydney, and by many other municipalities in New South Wales, and that the Local Authorities Conference held recently at Lismore expressed -itself in favour of the adoption of the principle throughout that State.
– If it is accepted so generally, why insist on federal action?
– Because this Government promised that, if returned to power, it would legislate for a 40-hour week, and it has done everything possible to prevent the adoption of the principle. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was “ sacked “ from the position which he held in the Cabinet because he was a little too progressive in regard to this social reform among others.
– I have never been sacked in my life.
– The honorable member withdrew from the Cabinet in disgust.
– There is something in that.
– The honorable member for Parramatta wished to fulfil the pledges he had made to the people, and because he was hindered in that laudable intention lie is now outside the Cabinet. The Prime Minister has received communications from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the Labour Council of New South Wales, asking for the submission of this question to a referendum of the people if the legislative authority to give effect to the principle does not now exist, but the right honorable gentleman will not give the people the opportunity to say whether they agree with or disapprove of it.
– The Commonwealth could not force it on the States even if it were carried at a referendum.
– It could be applied by the Federal Arbitration Court. If that court had the authority to determine the issue, within a week every union, in Australia would apply to be heard by it. The Government has no intention to assist in any way towards the adoption of a 40- hour week; but immediately prior to the next general elections it will seek a further lease of power by promising to take action in that direction. The workers of this country, however, have awakened to the fact that reliance cannot be placed on promises made by the Prime Minister. The trade union movement has availed itself of every constitutional means. It has appealed to every government and every court, and now has decided to take other action. Preparations are forward in Victoria and New South Wales for the establishment of a 40-hour week. I shall assist the movement in every way to harass either this or any other government which will not observe its pledges.
The workers say that the governments will not come to their aid, and will do nothing to absorb the thousands of unemployed, or make provisions for youths who have been without an occupation since leaving school and have little chance of obtaining employment unless the existing avenues are widened. The Government has been warned, and upon it will rest the responsibility if the workers take the matter into their own hands.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Honorable members will recall that on the 16th July, a broadcast appeal was made by me to the citizens of the Commonwealth to raise the strength of the Militia Forces to the peace establishment of 35,000. On the 11th September, it was reported to the House that an extra provision of £288,600 was being made in this year’s Estimates to provide for the improvement of the conditions of voluntary service in the Militia Forces recommended by the Military Board, endorsed by the Council of Defence, and adopted by the Government. I now desire to report, for the information of Parliament, the result that has so far been achieved; and it is with pleasure that I say that it is very satisfactory indeed. That the improvement of the conditions of service in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth was warranted, is well borne out by the results of the recruiting campaign to the 23rd September. On the 30th June, the strength of the Militia Forces was 26,295. As the result of the recruiting campaign and the co-operation of all sections of the community, the strength on the 23rd September had been raised to 32,370, showing an enlistment since the announcement on the 16th July of 6,075, of whom approximately 4,000 are infantry. Of this increase, 2,426 are in existing units, whilst 3,649 are from new centres. To secure the desired total of 35,000, only 2,630 more are required to be enlisted, and from the reports received from the several districts this number will be secured prior to the 31st December, which is in accordance with the programme submitted by the Military Board and approved by Cabinet.
The outline of the policy adopted was to maintain and develop the existing military organization, and increase the strength of existing units, rather than to establish a number of new units. Therefore, the expansion to new centres has been somewhat limited to those adjacent to areas where training was already in existence. The list of those localities which have been approved to date as centres where units of the Citizen Forces can be formed is given in the statement with which I shall conclude my remarks. The object of the expansion being to train as many citizens as possible in the science of defence, a study of the map will show that the action of the Government in opening these centres has been to place the opportunity of learning the art of defence in the way of a much larger section of the male citizens than was possible previously.
In addition, ‘there have been inquiries from a number of country centres at which training could be carried out. These have been reserved for decision until such time as further inquiry will elucidate whether the number of those offering and medically fit would warrant expenditure in providing drill halls, rifle ranges, &c, and be sufficient to maintain the required strength during future years when members who now enlist, having finished their period of training, pass out as reserves.
Notwithstanding the very satisfactory results which have so far been achieved, the greatest co-operation and assistance of all sections of the community will still be required to maintain the force at the required strength, as many of the 26,000 serving prior to the 30th June, who have loyally remained in the force during the lean” years, have now completed many years of service and rightly have the privilege of taking their discharge and becoming reservists. These vacancies in the ranks must be -filled to maintain the force at a strength of 35,000.
I should be ungrateful did I not ask the Cabinet of the Government of the Commonwealth to express its appreciation to all individuals and members of organizations who, throughout Australia, have co-operated to secure the result so far obtained. I feel sure that such cooperation will continue to assist and encourage those young Australians who have accepted service in the Australian Militia Forces for home defence. In this, I feel sure, honorable members of the Opposition will heartily join. I am confident also that they will co-operate in every way by utilizing the strength of their organization to maintain an efficient voluntary army for the defence of our homes and our liberty, should they ever be threatened by aggression.
The new recruiting centres being opened are as follows: -
Second Division - New South Wales. - Mudgee, Dubbo, Katoomba, Richmond, Kiama, Nowra, Moss Vale, Mittagong, Bowral, Cootamundra, Junee, Leeton, Temora, Griffith, Wyalong, Canberra and Queanbeyan (subject to numbers becoming available).
Thi r d Division - Viictoria - Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Korumburra, Mordialloc, Dromana, Belgrave, Bairnsdale, Sale, Warragul, Traralgon, Diamond Creek, Eltham, Hurstbridge, Rutherglen, Beechworth, Numurkah.
.- On the 29th September last, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) the following question: -
Does any member of his Cabinet hold a directorship in any company or corporation? If so, as to each member so holding, what is the company or corporation?
The right honorable gentleman made the following reply: -
No reason can be seen why information of this personal character should be supplied to the honorable member.
I cannot object if the Government refuses to answer a question. My only reason for referring to the matter is to express the opinion that the information which I sought is not of a personal character. It has never been so regarded in England. Many honorable members will recall that on several occasions the late Mr. Gladstone declared that no director of a public company ought to be a member of a cabinet. That rule was strictly enforced by the CampbellBannerman Ministry in 1906. A reference to the matter will be found at pages 234 and 639 of volume 154 of the Fourth Series of the Parliamentary Debates. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman made it perfectly clear that he was carrying out the policy of excluding from the Cabinet men who held directorships, except on philanthropic bodies or in cases in which their own private businesses had been converted into what we in Australia would call proprietary companies. I notice that in a section of the press reference has been made to directorships held by a Minister who sits in the Senate. I should like it to be understood that, in asking my question, I did not intend to make any reflection on that Minister, or on any other Minister. But the people of this country have a vital interest in knowing what are the business interests of .members of the Cabinet. We live in an age in which government and business are closely associated, and the public is entitled to know the business interests of members of the Cabinet.
– I shall bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the remarks of the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.10 run.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member later.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The cost of remitting by money order from the Commonwealth to London is as follows: -
The rate of exchange is equivalent to the current bank rate of 25 per cent. The commission shown is calculated at the department’s regulation rates of 4d. for each fi or fraction of £1 for the first £0, and 3d. for each additional £1 or fraction of £1, with a minimum of 9d.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that, at a meeting of the Labour party, attended by a high official in that organization, and by Mr. Slater, M.L.A. (Victoria), funds were raised for the assistance of the Spanish Government, will the Commonwealth Government take steps to prevent the sending of funds to either the Spanish Government or the rebels in Spain, thereby keeping Australia as free as possible from participation in European wars?
– I have already declared that the policy of the Commonwealth Government in regard to the Spanish conflict is one of strict neutrality, and have appealed to the Australian public to refrain directly or indirectly from taking any partisan measures. The Commonwealth Government has no reason to believe that this appeal will not be respected. In view of recent developments it is most desirable that no measures should be taken to compromise Australia in this dispute.
Export of Chilled Beef to Britain.
Dr.Earle Page. - Yesterday the honorable member for . Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the Minister for Commerce the following question, upon notice: -
Ishe in a position to make a statement in regard to the quota fixed for Australian chilled beef for the British market for the last quarter of1936?
I am now in a position to supply the following information: -
During the fourth quarter of 1936 Australia will supply to the United Kingdom ‘ market 450,000 cwt. of beef and veal, of which 82,900 cwt. will be chilled beef.
Revenue from Petrol Tax.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon, notice -
What revenue was received from petrol tax for the year ended the 30th June last, from (a) customs; and (b) excise?
– The total customs and excise duties collected on petrol during the. year ended the 30th June, 1936, were as follows : -
d asked the Minister repre senting the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Exchange on Interest Payments.
y. - On the 30th September, 1936, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following question, upon notice: -
What has been the cost to Australia of exchange on government interest payments overseas for the year 1935-36?
I am now in a- position to supply the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
The net cost to Australia of exchange on ‘ Commonwealth and State government interest payments overseas during 1935-30 was £5,336,000.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361009_reps_14_151/>.