14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave - Since the adjournment on Thursday last, the death has occurred of Sir Murray Anderson, Governor of New SouthWales. Although he had been in Australia only a few months, he already enjoyed a wide measure of popularity, and the news of his sudden death came as a shock to the Australian people.
Sir Murray Anderson rendered distinguished service to the Empire. His naval service extended over a period of 40 years. Since his retirement from the Navy he had. occupied the offices ofHigh Commissioner for the United Kingdom in South Africa, Admiralty representative on the League of Nations Permanent Advisory Commission, and Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Newfoundland. It is particularly sad that he was not spared to carry out the work which His
Majesty the King had entrusted to him as Governor of the State of New South Wales. I move -
That this House expresses its profound regret at the death of His Excellency Admiral Sir David Murray Anderson, K.G.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O.,Governor of the State of New South Wales, and tenders its heartfelt sympathy to his widow in her bereavement.
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Lady Anderson the foregoing resolution, together with a copyof the speeches delivered thereon.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Nutrition - Second Report of the Advisory Council.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Archertield, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Lane Cove, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Sent of Government (Administration) Act - Industrial Board Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Seatof Government . (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Federal Capital Territory for year . 1935-36.
-In view of the fact that Mrs. Freer, although denied admission to the Commonwealth, has been admitted to New Zealand, can the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact that General Jess, on information supplied to him, made representations to the Government on behalf of Mrs. Dewar, stating that Lieutenant Dewar, of the Defence Department, who has been on exchange duty with the IndianArmy, proposed to marry Mrs. Freer if she were permitted to land in Australia? If so, may it be assumed that the powers ofthe Commonwealth have been used in a private and personal squabble, rather than for the furtherance of national policy?
– The Immigration Act empowers the Minister in charge of immigration to exercise his discretion, on certain specified grounds, in the matter of excluding from -Australia persons whose entry lie has reason to believe would not be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Acting’ under that authority, and on information received, I have, excluded the person referred to.
– As publicity has been given to the case of Mrs. Freer, apparently with that lady’s approval, does the honorable gentleman not think it would be better in the public interest if he were to disclose the grounds upon which he exercised his discretion in excluding her from the -Commonwealth ?
– I have nothing to add to the reply that I have made to the honorable member for Martin.
– Will the Minister State whether there is .any precedent for subjecting a British subject to a dictation test in the circumstances adopted in this case, and refusing permission to land in Australia ?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice, of that question.
– In view of the great public interest that is being taken in the Freer case, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether he is prepared to lay the papers in connexion with it on th<; table of the Library?
– 1 do . not regard it as ‘being in the public interest to do so.
– In view of .th.. possibility of injustice being done to persons who desire to land in Australia, will the Minister consider referring all doubtful applications to an independent tribunal?
– I ask the honorable member to give notice of that question.
– Has the Minister for the Interior read a report in the Sydney press to the effect that the administration refused to admit Mrs. Freer to Australia on grounds of immorality? ls that report correct?
– Several question have been asked ‘by honorable members relating to the Freer case, and the Minister for the Interior has said frankly and clearly that he is not prepared to give any further information j therefore honorable members should not persist in the asking of questions on the subject? However, if the Minister wishes to reply to any of the questions asked, I shall not prevent his doing so.
– I ask the- Minister f or the Interior whether Cabinet has endorsed his refusal to make -public tha reasons for prohibiting the landing of Mrs. Freer in Australia? Does not the Minister consider that the privileges of honorable members in such a matter ure such as to warrant him making a statement in order that the grounds for refusal might be made public ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) must have heard the statement made from the Chair a moment ago. The question lie. has asked haR not raised any new i88u e.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the inquiry whether Cabinet has endorsed the Minister’s action is definitely a new point.
– I have already sari that I shall not prevent the Minister from answering any question, but if the honorable member for Barton will study the rules governing the asking of questions, he will realize that the’ Chair is justified in intervening when questions hearing upon the same subject are repeated after the Minister has given an answer.
– As I have your permission to reply, Mr. Speaker, I inform the honorable member for Barton that I have received the endorsement of Cabinet.
– As a matter of principle, and without any specific reference to the Freer case, and, in fact, quite independently of it, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether in the administration of his department, he claims it to bp the privilege of the Minister to exclude British subjects from Australia without disclosing the reasons for doing so, even to Parliament?
– The most jealously guarded privilege we have in this country is the right to exclude from it persons who may be regarded as undesirable.
– In view of the impending change of the design of the½d., id. and 2d. Common wealth postage stamps, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider the adoption of an artistic portraiture design similar to the very fine production adopted by the British Government in its new issues?
– I shall be very glad to bring the honorable member’s suggestion to the notice of the Postmaster-General, and having ascertained what steps have been already taken in regard to the matter, shall inform him of them.
Australian Imperialforce. contingent.
– Has the Minister for Defence yet arrived at a determination in regard to the personnel of the Australian Imperial Force contingent for the coronation celebrations? If not, will he give consideration to the inclusion of 50 per cent. of ex-Australian Imperial Force men now serving in the militia, 25 per cent. of ex- Austral ian Imperial Force men outside the services, and 25 per cent. of the members of the militia who were too young to serve in the GreatWar, the whole contingent to be controlled by a senior Australian Imperial Force officer or officers now serving with the forces?
SirARCHDALE PARKHILL.- The details in connexion with this matter have not yet been settled, because they havebeen subject to alteration upon representations by other dominions. I shall, however, ho very glad to have consideration given to the suggestion which the honorable member has made in the latter portion of his question.
– Isthe Acting Leader of the House yet in a position to state whether the British Government has come to a decision concerning the steps to he taken for the subsidizing of British shipping in the Pacific? Will the right honorable gentleman also indicate what assistance Australia can give in the matter of thesubsidy?
– The Prime Minister intimated last week that the report of the Imperial Shipping Committeewhich is examining certain relevant facts was on the point of completion. As soon as it is completed it will be despatched to the various governments throughout the Empire. Possible action will then be considered.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House in a position to make a statement in regard to the long-range meat agreement with the British Government ?
– The Commonwealth has received no official inform- tion from the British Government in regard to this matter; all its knowledge has been gained from newspaper comment.
Organization of Small Cattlemen - Shipment of Live Cattle to Singapore
– Has the Minister for the Interior received areport from Darwin as to the progress that is being made with the efforts to organize the small cattlemen of the north ? Will the honorable gentleman also state when the first shipment of live cattle from Darwin to Singapore might be expected to be made, and whether it is possible to co-ordinate the activities of the Departments of Commerce and the Interior so that the combined grant of the two departments might be used to ensure the provision of necessary shipping and distributing facilities ?
-I have received certain communications in connexion with this matter, but nothing of a final nature has yet been sent to me. The Department of the Interior has collaborated with the Department of Commerce in the action already taken.
– In view of the fact that a freight concession is allowed on the importation of studstock purchased through the Government for breeding purposes, will the Assistant Minister for Commerce state whether it would he possible to arrange that that concession shall be enjoyed in the case of stud stock up to an approved standard which is sent to Australia for sale?
– Representations similar to the proposal submitted by the honorable member were placed before the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, but the governments of the States were not in agreement in regard to the matter. Subsequently, further proposals were submitted to the States by letter, and the Commonwealth is now awaiting a reply from each State Government to s’ee whether it is possible to ibroaden the conditions under which assistance is granted at the present time.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform honorable members when accommodation is likely to be available for them at Hotel Kurrajong?
– I shall be glad to make inquiries.
– Is the Minister for the Interior yet in a position to say whether Cabinet has made a decision as to the advisability of building a railway line from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek as he was recently requested to do?
– I am not yet able to do so.
– Is the Acting Leader of the House able to furnish honorable members with the unemployment figures for October? The latest figures we have are those for September.
– I shall make inquiries into the subject.
– I move -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The purpose of this motion is to facilitate the passage of the Estimates through both
Houses of the Parliament, so that the works programme dependent thereon may be expedited. It is the desire of the Government to give ample opportunity to private members to move the motions of which they have given notice, and I am prepared to discuss the fixing of a date that will be mutually agreeable to the honorable members concerned, or, alternatively, to fix the 26th November for the business.
.- I must oppose this motion, the intention of which is to deprive private members who have motions on the notice-paper for to-morrow of the opportunity to move them then. The Acting Leader of the House has said that he is willing to consider a mutually agreeable date or to fix the 26th November for the purpose, but that is not making any concession whatever. The sessional orders prescribe that the third Thursday of each month shall be reserved for the consideration of private business. It is one of the jealously guarded privileges, indeed it is an obligation of private members, to’ submit to the consideration of the House matters of business which, in the ordinary nature of things, would not be likely to be introduced by the Government. This Parliament has been in existence for two years, and during the whole of that time private business has been discussed on only four occasions. This is the 128th sitting day of the Parliament, and so far as I can ascertain from a perusal of Votes and Proceedings only on two days - the 10th October and the 21st November - was private business considered last year, although the sessional orders provide that the third Thursday of each month when Parliament is Bitting shall be available for this purpose. Private business has been considered only two days during this calendar year - the 26th March and the 26th September. If the Acting Leader of the House considers that that is a reasonable compliance with the sessional order, I frankly say that I cannot suscribe to that view. The House of Commons apparently gives far more time for the consideration of private business than does this House. Time is given each week in the House of Commons for the considera- tion for bills and motions of private members. This is a regular feature of the programme of the House of Commons. I do not know how far this persistent interference with a date fixed for the consideration of private business in this House may be taken to indicate the complete ascendency of the Government over the Parliament. I agree that Government business is the major consideration, but motions introduced by private members have their allotted place on the notice-paper, and, in the natural order of things, private business would be considered to-morrow. I have no doubt that honorable gentlemen who have given notice of their intention to move the motions which appear on the notice-paper for to-morrow have already thoroughly prepared themselves to do so, and that other honorable gentlemen interested in the various subjects listed have likewise equipped themselves to take part in the debates. The Parliament cannot too long act merely as though the Government were the sole reliable source upon which to interpret public opinion. As a matter of fact, one of the advantages a parliament offers to the community is that private members, coming from various parts of the Commonwealth, and knowing the circumstances of their electors, are afforded opportunity to place substantive motions on the notice-paper, and in subsequently moving them to give to the Parliament the benefit of the views and impressions which otherwise it might not obtain. Good government in Australia depends on preserving the interests of all of the people, and on facility being given for the expression in this chamber of the views of all sections. But that is impossible if only Government business is to be considered in debate. It appears to me that Parliament is gradually losing its authority over the Government and that, on the contrary, the Government is establishing dictatorial authority over the Parliament.
.- 1 agree to a very great extent with th« remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), particularly that Parliament is losing control over the work of the Government. The motion, of which I have given notice, and which I thought would be debated to-morrow, is one which makes very clear indeed how correct the Leader of the Opposition was when hi said that members of Parliament were losing that control over the Government which they have the right to expect. 1 would have strongly opposed the motion before the Chair had I not received the assurance of the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) that an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of my motion on the 26th November, and that the object of the Government in seeking this postponement is a desire to push on with Government business in order that the Senate may be able to deal with the Estimates and. budget papers without delay. I hope that there will be no question of considering a further postponement of the discussion of private business.’ As the Leader of the Opposition has said, it is unjust and unfair to ask honorable members to forgo their rights in this respect.
– I support the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) against the postponement of the discussion of private business. Honorable members generally do not at any time receive fair treatment in respect’ of notices of motion placed on the businesspaper for discussion, because quite frequently, when a private member’s motion comes up for discussion, the Government puts up one of its supporters to move the adjournment of the debate. Government business is then proceeded with, and the Government sees that no further opportunity is afforded to debate the matter that has been adjourned. Private members bring forward many important motions in respect of which honorable members generally desire to express their views. The Government, by submitting this motion on the day preceding that set down for the discussion of private business, is taking away the privileges of honorable members, and robbing them of an opportunity to discuss important matters. Such action is to be condemned, particularly in view of the fact that frequently the sittings of the House are terminated, for various reasons, for long periods. We have just had a recess for about four months. Now, when honorable member* desire to discuss matters of vital importance, not only to their constituents but also to the people as a whole, the opportunity is denied them. I oppose the motion.
– I agree that it is extremely undesirable for private members’ day to be postponed in this way; but, having had a notice of motion on the business-paper for no less than six months, I have come to the conclusion that possibly another little postponement will not do any harm. In any case I have recently had an opportunity to discuss the subject matter in the budget debate. I have received an assurance from the Government, however, that private business will be dealt with on the 26th November. If the Government gives an undertaking that Parliament will be given an opportunity to discuss private members’ business then, it will be acceptable.
.- Honorable members have been extremely tolerant to the Government in facilitating the passage of its business, but the Government seems to be inclined to take advantage of that tolerance by encroaching unduly upon the time and opportunity afforded for the discussion of private business. I say quite definitely that the Government should have afforded private members greater facility for the introduction of important matters, because their opportunities have been so restricted owing to the long periods during which Parliament, has been in recess. This attempt to curtail further the privileges of private members is distinctly unfair and totally unjustified. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) having protested against the motion, is satisfied with the assurance from the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) that an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of private business on the 26th November. I remind him, however, that he had a perfect right to expect this opportunity on the 26th of November, as well as that which should have been given to him to-morrow. The promise given by the Acting Leader of the House is no concession to honorable members. On the contrary, it shows that the Government, in a desire to press on with Government business, is merely seeking to deprive honorable members of certain rights and privileges given to them under the sessional orders. If the Government feels that there is insufficient or inadequate time to deal with Government business, it should have summoned Parliament to meet at an earlier date. Unless honorable members protest at this juncture against this invasion of their rights, they will find that eventually private business will be dispensed with altogether and the future conduct of this Parliament will be dictated by the Government alone. I object to that, because I feel that we have every right to debate many important motions sponsored by private members which to-day appear on the notice-paper.
– I, with others, protest against the wiping off of notices of motion from the notice-paper for this year.
– That is not intended; I have given a specific promise that opportunity will be given for the discussion of private business on the 26th November.
– Nevertheless, it amounts to that. Honorable members believe that, if theyhave reasonable proposals to place upon the business-paper, Parliament should be given an opportunity to carry them into effect. Whatever value private members generally may place upon notices of motion standing in their names, I am sincere in urging that something should be done to develop the north and north-western portions of the Commonwealth, in respect of which I have a motion on the notice-paper. Although the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) has said that he is favorable to that motion, an opportunity to discuss it will not be given until the 26th November, if this motion be carried. As within two weeks of that date Parliament will probably adjourn, itis not likely that during this year that motion will be given the consideration that it deserves. [ should like it to be discussed to-morrow. Not more than an hour or two would be taken up in dealing with it.
– In my opinion, the Government is not entitled to ask the House to agreeto this motion at this stage. Although
Parliament has been sitting since the 10th September, not much progress has been made with some of the measures which have come before it. Some time ago, honorable members listened for two days to a flood of eloquence in connexion with the Orange Bounty Bill, a measure involving an expenditure of about £4,000. Three-fourths of the time occupied in that debate could have been used to better advantage.
Order! The honorable member may not reflect on a previous debate of this House.
– T wo of the motions on thu notice-paper in die name of private members have relation to the administration of the Government; I refer to the motion in the name of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) for the disallowance of certain customs regulations - a subject on which I myself feel strongly - and to that in the name of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that a Northern Territory Ordinance, No. 11 of 3935, be disallowed. Should the House not have an opportunity to discuss those motions, it may be that certain administrative acts of the Government, which have not the approval of this Parliament, will be continued. In my opinion, there should be a limit to the period for which a notice of motion asking for the disallowance of a regulation may remain on the notice-paper before being discussed and voted on. At this stage, the Government is not entitled to ask the House to forgo its right to discuss private members’” business. If some private members are so little. concerned as to the fate of business standing in their names that they accept, without protest, motions such as that now before the House, that is n matter for them to decide; but, personally, I believe that honorable members have a responsibility in these things, and that particularly in respect of regulations the decision should rest with this Parliament.
.- As often as opportunity has offered, I have directed attention to the tendency to make this House les3 a deliberative assembly and more a machine for pushing through the programme of the Government in power. In saying that, I am aware that the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) is straining at the leash to rise in his place and point out that the Labour party, when in office, introduced motions to give to government business priority over that of private members.
– All governments do that.
– Yes, but in different circumstances. Whilst it is true ihat the Government of which I was a member introduced motions to give precedence to government business, it is equally true that during its term of office Parliament sat more frequently, and that therefore more opportunities for the discussion of private business than this Government, is disposed to give were provided. The House is assuming a rigidity in. debate which was absent in thi; earlier years of my experience of it. That statement applies equally to the Chair as an institution a-3 to the House as a whole. An accepted principle in British communities is the right of Parliament to the fullest possible opportunity for free and open debate, and that, in cases of doubt, the Standing Orders should be interpreted in favour of .the speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the limits of the motion before the Chair.
– With great respect, I submit that the call to order illustrates my point. I protest against this proposed invasion of the rights of honorable members - both those supporting the Government and members of the Opposition. It is true that I have no motion on the notice-paper for discussion. That is because I despaired in advance of having any such motion discussed during the life of this Parliament. I realized early that, during the term of office of the presentGovernment, the House would meet towards the end of each year, and by the liberal application of the guillotine .and other devices, the legislative programme of the Government would be rushed through. Such procedure is entirely opposed to the public interests. Acts of Parliament should not be placed on the statute-book without due discussion, and by due discussion I mean a prolonged and thorough debate.
– The honorable member will realize that the carrying of the motion before the House will not in any way affect the length of the discussion on any bill which may come before it. My call to order was made because the honorable member was not discussing the motion before the Chair.
Mr.BRENNAN.- That may be; but, if carried, the motion will affect the opportunity of individual members to discuss questions of public interest. Because it is an invasion of the rights of ordinary members the motion is an invasion of the rights of the citizens of this country who sent them here, and, moreover, because it tends towards a deterioration of the character of the Parliament, I am entirely opposed to it, and will vote against it.
.- In view of the explanation that has been given, I propose to support the Government, although I am of the opinion that the comments that have been made as to the few occasions on which private members are allowed to bring forward proposals are entirely justified. In order to avoid similar difficulties in the future, I suggest that whenever the notice-paper is congested during the week in which private members’ day occurs the House should sit an extra day in order that private business may be discussed.
.- I am opposed to depriving this House of the opportunity to discuss motions standing in the names of the private members. As Parliament will probably adjourn on the 4th December, there is little likelihood of such motions being discussedthis year. If the Government wishes to facilitate the transaction of public business, it should arrange for the House, to meet on Monday of each week. “We could have met yesterday, but because some honorable members wished to attend the Melbourne Cup - which, apparently, the Government considers of more importance than the business of the country - we did not re-assemble until to-day. I protest against the action proposed to be taken.
– If it is the general desire of honorable members that the House should sit on Monday of each’ week the Government will give the matter consideration. Moreover, as the discus sion on the budget and the Estimates is to be proceeded with immediately, honorable members will have every opportunity to bring before the House subjects in which they are interested. In view of the definite assurance I have given that private business can be discussed on the 26th November, I ask the Houseto agree to the motion.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 21st October (vide page1186), 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.
.- The budget for 1936-37, which has been discussed in this House for some time, is the fifth consecutive budget which the Lyons Government has brought forward, each of which has disclosed a surplus. Since the depression no other government has introduced budgets showing five successive surpluses. This budget reveals a series of notable achievements by the Lyons Government, in that relief is provided for every section of the community, including taxpayers, pensioners, public servants, primary producers, and those engaged in our secondary industries. The less prosperous States have also been assisted, and generally we have been told a heartening story of the recovery Australia has experienced since the Lyons Government assumed office in the gloomy days of the depression. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and. the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on the budget for the present financial year, which provides for a continuance of past achievements, and should be the means of bringing about complete financial and economic recovery throughout Australia. The remissions of taxes provided for over a full year amount to £5,275,000, of which remissions of sales tax represent £3,000,000, income tax £2,105,000, and primage duty £170,000. An examination of the budget shows clearly that the Government has given, very careful consideration to the various forms of taxes imposed. I am sure that many honorable members of this House would have liked to see other items reduced or other taxes varied, but. I feel certain that the Government has done its job extraordinarily well in this connexion. There is a limited fund at the disposal of any government, and the present Government having carefully considered suggestions for. reductions of taxes in other fields came to the conclusion that certain taxes were entitled to preference because they were not only more justified, but also of more economic advantage to the people as a whole. In my opinion, the manner in which the Government has reduced taxes and spread the remissions over all sections of th<> community reflects considerable credit on it, and shows that such remissions were made only after the most careful consideration had been given to them. In 1933 the sales tax was reduced from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent., and from year to year the list of exemptions has been extended. Compared with the peak period, the total value of concessions up to last year was equivalent to £3,740,000 per annum. This budget provides for a fur ther reduction of the tax from 5 per cent to 4 per cent., which, took effect on and from the 11th September last, and involves a concession to taxpayers of £2,000,000 a year. Further exemptions, particularly in special aids to. manufacturing industries, are made on goods of prime necessity or raw materials, and are estimated to be worth £1,000,000. The total reduction of sales tax since the peak period amounts to £6,750,000. I am gratified to note that in the list of reductions to which I have referred, every possible remission of sales tax upon goods used by primary producers on their holdings has been made. Income tax has been reduced this year by 10 per cent, to individuals on both persona] exertion and property incomes, and the concessions involve a sum of £435,000 for the year. The super tax on income derived from property has been abolished altogether. In my opinion, no tax which was passed on to the community during the depression was so iniquitous or had such a severe effect on the community as this super tax. Because of its incidence, an extraordinarily large number of elderly people in the electorate of Moreton who had made provision for their old age actually drew lower incomes from this source than did old-age pensioners. The reduction of this tax means a concession to the public of £1,300,000 a year. I am pleased to note that further concessions are being made to taxpayers under the acf which was recently passed to secure uniformity in the basis of Commonwealth and State assessments and collection procedure. A deduction of £50 is allowed for a wife, or, in the case of a widower, a female relative who is caring for his children, where the wife’s or relative’s personal income does not exceed £50 a year. This concession is estimated to return to the taxpayers £320,000 annually. The same satisfactory exemption is given to absentees as to residents, at an estimated cost of £50,000 a year. By this budget invalid and old-age pensions have been increased from 18s. to 19s., the highest since the introduction of the financial emergency legislation in 1931, and this restoration will involve additional expenditure of £760,000 per annum, or for the current year a total of £13,980,000. [Quorum formed.]
It is interesting to note that when the restoration of invalid and old-age pensions is being discussed there are only three members of the Opposition in the House. I regret this show of indifference on the part of the Labour party, particularly because I think that this sub ject, although it has been debated for a considerable time, justifies honorable members devoting their most careful attention to it.
It is a source of special gratification to me that a restoration has been made to invalid and old-age pensioners, localise it represents the granting of further assistance to a. needy class. The increase is from 18s. to 19s. a week, and I hope it will be possible in the next budget to increase the payment to 20s. a week. Furthermore, I um delighted to learn of the extension of benefits to a deserving section through service pensions and other liberalizations under the amended Repatriation Act, and also additional repatriation services, which will absorb an additional £162,000 this year. At the present time the expenditure upon returned soldiers’ pensions amounts to nearly £S,000,000 per annum. That increased expenditure upon various social services has been provided for in this budget is a further source of gratification to me. In this connexion, the scale of maternity allowances which is now £4 for the first child with payments rising by 5s. for each additional child up to the age of fourteen years is increased to £4 10s. for the first’ child and £5 for each additional child. The income limit of eligibility for the allowance, rises by £13 for each, child from £221 to £312 a year, and the cost of this liberalization will be £55,000 per annum.
Considerable assistance has been granted to primary producers in this budget. Apple and pear-growers will benefit by the payment of a bounty of 4d. a case on their products, the estimated expenditure in this regard being £S0,000. The fertilizers subsidy will be renewed at the reduced rate of 10s. a ton and this is estimated to cost -£3.10,000 for the year.
In view of the. general improvement of Commonwealth finances the Government has seen fit to make a complete restoration to the normal rate of the salaries and wages of all Commonwealth employees whose remuneration was reduced under the provisions of the Financial Emergency Act of 1931. This was a serious cut in the income of public servants, and I am gratified that so early it has been possible to make a complete restoration to them.
Honorable members will thus conclude from, my observations that relief has been granted under the budget to every section of the community. Industry and business have been further relieved of taxation which was likely to hamper their development, and aids to manufacture have received special consideration at the hands of the Government. Money cannot remain idle, and relief from taxation must mean industrial expansion, which will give a fillip to employment and better business all round. Increased confidence will buttress our credit and give valuable assurance to further investment in industry. During the five years that the Lyons Government has been in office the cumulative effect of the taxation remissions total approximately £45,000,000, which is made up as follows: -
Having regard to the generally-increased prosperity, remissions of taxes would be of much greater value to-day owing to the increased volume of business.
Reviewing Australia’s recovery in. the industrial and commercial spheres for the last year, I find that in practically every direction, including employment, trade, export prices, savings bank deposits, increased investments and the inflow of money from abroad, the position of the people has still further improved compared with the previous year. The primary producing industries generally have shown evidence of very definite improvement. A great improvement of the price of our wool, wheat and meat has been reported. Wool, and wheat in particular have been steadily soaring in value, and I note that wool values seem to improve steadily the longer that Japan stands out of the market. I hope that Japan will now readily re-consider its position and resume negotiations with, a view to the resumption of trade with Australia on a just basis. If the subject is discussed, as it might be, in a reasonable manner on some mutually convenient ground, I am sure that an agreement will be reached which will be of advantage to both Japan and Australia.
I regret that there has been a decline of dairy produce values on the Loudon market. Advices in regard to the value of choicest butter at the beginning of September showed that this commodity was selling at 119s. per cwt., but that the market was continually weakening, with the result that recently the price fell so lowas 98s. per cwt. The market has slightly recovered since, the values rising to 103s. per cwt., but it is regarded as being lifeless. .’Nevertheless, in spite of the existing position, there has been a remarkable increased sale of Australian dairy produce overseas since 1932.
– The Government cannot claim credit for that.
– Legislation passed by the Government has made that increase possible. (Quorum formed.~ The expansion of the butter industry in Australia is illustrated by the following figures showing the exports during the last five years i -
This increase is mainly due to the system of organized marketing made possible by legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliaments of the States. That legislation was declared invalid by the Privy Council in the James ease, but I hope that, as the result of the referendum to bc taken shortly, the Government’s proposals will be carried by an overwhelming majority, and the validity of this legislation restored. There has been an alarming increase in. recent years of the sale of margarine in Australia. A recent report indicates that, for the year ended April last, butter substitutes manufactured from vegetable oils were sold in New South “Wales at an average rate of 25 tons a week. Assuming that a similar amount of butter was displaced during the period, this would affect the butter industry to the amount of £3,500 a week, or £182,000 a year. Including all types of butter substitutes, no less than 153 tons was manufactured in New South Wales during the period under review. If the whole of this were replaced by butter, the value of the butter market to the producers would be increased by £21,420 a week, or £1,113,840 a year at the present whole sale price of 140s. per cwt. In Canada, the sale of butter substitutes is prohibited, but I do not ask for prohibition here. Measures which would have restricted the sale of butter substitutes, particularly those manufactured from imported products, were recently discussed at a meeting of the Austraiian Agricultural Council. This would involve action by the Federal and State Governments. My complaint is that there has been too much delay, and I urge the Government to take steps immediately to put into effect the suggestions adopted by the Agricultural Council.
The export of butter has so increased in recent years that it is now our second largest exporting industry, being second only to the wool industry. The value of dairy exports is higher than that of wheat, meat or gold. Nevertheless, the outlook for the future is not too promising. Most dairying districts in Australia, particularly in Queensland and Northern New South Wales, are experiencing a very severe drought. The quantities of butter graded in Queensland during the last six weeks. as compared with the quantities during the corresponding period of last year, were as follows : -
It is probable that, as the result of the drought, there will be an even greater decline next month. We cannot prevent droughts, but we should be able to take precautions to minimize their effect. la particular, we should proceed with water conservation schemes, the building of gilos, and experiments with the growing of grasses best able to resist drought. Paspalum, which is the favorite grass in our northern dairying districts, is excellent in favorable seasons, and has done a great deal to help the dairy producers, but it is not drought resisting. I suggest that Commonwealth and State scientific departments should go thoroughly into this matter of grasses with a view .to discovering or evolving more suitable varieties. I am aware that some attention is being given to the matter by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but there is room for further experiment, particularly in co-operation with State authorities.
I take this opportunity to express my pleasure at the action of the Government in restoring some of the reductions effected under the emergency legislation in respect of the pensions of returned soldiers. In common with other honorable members, I have had requests made to me to urge the restoration of such reductions in respect of new wives and new children born since the 2nd October, 1931. Returned soldiers’ organizations have taken this matter up, and I hope that it will be possible to make full restoration in the next budget. Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) listened most sympathetically to a deputation of returned soldier members of this House, who put this matter before him. T appreciate the manner in which the Prime Minister received the deputation, and expect that these matters will receive sympathetic consideration when the next budget is being prepared.
I regret that there is no provision in the budget for the abolition of the reductions made in the allowances of unofficial postmasters and postmistresses, who are, as a class, underpaid and overworked. These people render a valuable public service and they do not mind how long they have to work. Their income is very limited. Those in receipt of an allowance under £250 a year have had the financial emergency reductions fully restored, but those whose allowance exceeds £250 a year have received no restoration of such reductions. I repeat that these people are conscientious and hard-wo-king, and I regret that their claims for full restoration have not yet been granted. I hope that provision will be made in the next budget to remove completely the reductions still operating in respect of these allowances.
I am pleased that the grant by the Commonwealth to the States for main road construction from collections of petrol tax and duties on chassis and other parts of motor, cars will be increased this year to £3,000,000, and next year to £3,600,000. This grant has proved most valuable in facilitating the development of Australia. It has been so effective that to-day good roads serve numerous areas where ten years ago no roads existed at all. Under the new arrangement with the States it is provided that this money may be used for the construction of not only main roads, but also shire roads and by-roads, the maintenance of roads generally, and the construction of bridges and for other purposes incidental to road construction. It is also proposed to authorize the States to use this money in the development of mining, and forestry and on other works. This liberalization of the scheme should be carried further by permitting the States to use this money to assist people who use motor-boats as a means of livelihood; I refer particularly to fishermen and those who ply boats for hire. During the last ten years, these people have paid petrol tax to the amount of millions of pounds. They have not been given any direct assistance from this fund, although many of them have no haven or anchorage to which they can take their craft at the end of their day’s work, whilst sufficient beacons are not provided to light the harbours or the channels which they use. I ask the Treasurer to ensure that provision will be made to enable the States to assist these people from this fund. The justice of such a claim cannot be disputed. It has been suggested in this debate that users of aeroplanes have not been assisted either, but I point out that millions of pounds have been expended by governments in the provision and lighting of aerodromes and on the general improvement of landing grounds. In addition, considerable expenditure has been incurred in providing weather information and wireless services for pilots. No assistance at all, however, has been given to fishermen and others who use motor-boats as a means of livelihood. The States should be allowed to use a portion of this money for the purpose of providing havens, harbours and shelters for these people, deeper channels leading to anchorages, and sufficient beacons for the lighting of harbours in which they operate.
The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) referred indirectly to the sugar industry, as follows: -
Some time ago the British Government gent a trade commissioner to Australia, and be is now located in Canberra. The Labour party is not prepared to have our tariff policy dictated from either London or Tokyo . . . It was disclosed during the last tariff debate that British manufacturers of confectionery bad imported cheap Japanese pottery as containers for their goods, and that samples of this confectionery, packed in Japanese pottery, had been sent to Australia. Such is patriotism ! It is surprising that some Australian industries can exist. Australian sugar is sold in London for £20 a ton, whilst manufacturers in Australia have to pay £32 a ton for the same article.
In making that statement, the honorable member was obviously speaking under a misapprehension. He implied that, because they had to pay £32 a ton for sugar, Australian manufacturers of confectionery were at a disadvantage as compared to British manufacturers, who were able to obtain cheaper sugar, and consequently export confectionery to Australia to the detriment of the local industry. That statement is at variance with the facts. The latest statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician disclose that Australian confectionery manufacturers enjoy practically the whole of the Australian market, and that there is little competition from overseas. The total annual value of confectionery consumed in Australia is from £4,500,000 to £5,000,000, whilst the latest information in regard to imports of chocolate is as follows: 1933-34, 13,534 lb., valued at £1,041 sterling; 1934-35, 12,578 lb. valued at £1,290 sterling. Imports of *’ Confectionery, n.e.i. which covers bon-bons, mixed packets of confectionery containing trinkets, sugar candy, medicated confectionery, cachous and crystallized or candied fruits, were: 1933-34, 208,S73 lb., valued at £10,854 sterling; 1934-35, 523,170 lb., valued at £20,613 sterling. The proportions of imports of chocolate and confectionery to the total consumption in Australia are .027 per cent, and 033 per cent, respectively. Thus it is clear that the Austraiian manufacturer enjoys practically the whole of the Australian confectionery market, and the suggestion made by the honorable member that ‘the local industry is being endangered through importations is entirely unfounded.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the chocolate imported, however small in volume, is imported at a loss?
– I suggest that tha imputation made by the honorable member for Lang, that Australian industries are being seriously affected, and can hardly exist because of overseas competition, is unfounded. If the imports of chocolate and confectionery amount to only .027 per cent, and .033 per cent respectively of the total consumption, the existence of the confectionery industry, at any rate, is not being endangered by importations.
– It is a fact, nevertheless, that the sugar content of Australian chocolates costs the Australian manufacturer more than the sugar content of British chocolates costs the British manufacturer.
– That is undoubted, because the British manufacturers buy black grown sugar in an open market. The honorable member for Lang, however, contended that the Australian chocolate industry could hardly continue, because of overseas competition, and I have shown that contention to be unfounded. Indeed, the reverse is the position; to-day, Australian manufacturers are exporting substantial quantities of chocolates, the volume of these exports in 1933-34 being 558,562 lb., valued at £51,190 Australian, and in 1934-35,. 554,436 lb., valued at £54,362 Australian, f Quorum formed.’] One of the few Australian secondary industries that are able to sell their commodities overseas is the chocolate-producing industry. This is made possible because of the sugar policy of the Government, which enables industries that export good3 containing sugar to obtain their supplies of sugar at world parity price. This means, in effect, that Australian manufacturers who export confectionery and other goods containing sugar, obtain their supplies of this commodity used for export purposes fit £9 10s. 9d. a ton.
I now come to the subject of national insurance. At the outset, I express my appreciation of the action of the Government in increasing the invalid and oldage pension by ls. a week. This has given to the pensioners an aggregate increase each pay day of about £30,000, or £760,000 per annum, bringing the total vote to about £14,000,000 per annum. I lope it will be possible in the next budget to increase the weekly payment to 20s. I believe that our social services should provide for the indigent and needy on as generous a scale as possible; but, upon reflection, it will be realized that if the total cost of pensions continues to increase at the rate at which it has gone up in recent years, the community will be unable to carry the burden. In 1911, when the population of this country was 4,500,000, the sum paid out in pensions was £2,100,000, whilst, to-day, when the population is 6,750,000, the cost of the scheme is almost £14,000,000. During this period, the increase of our population was 60 per cent., whilst the cost of invalid and old-age pensions increased by over 700 per cent. The 1933 census disclosed that the age” distribution of the population is changing rapidly, and that an increasing proportion of the people is approaching the pensionable age. In the next ten years, the annual increase of the number of pen.mons will be double that of the last decade. The following figures show the marked increase of the percentage: -
All the factors seem to be causing a trend in the direction of substantially increasing the cost of the pensions system. The rate of increase of the number of old-age and invalid pensioners, in proportion to the total population, since 1911, is seen from the following table: -
The financing of the pension on the present voluntary basis will present increasing difficulties in future years. If the principle of the payment of adequate oldage and invalid pensions is to be adopted - and, in my opinion, it must be - a contributory system will be the only alternative to an increase of taxation. It is obvious, from the present rate of increase, that future budgets will be crippled by payments for social services, and in the long run nobody will’ be more seriously affected than those whom we desire to assist, namely, the pensioners. I consider that the most effective way to solve this problem would be to institute a scheme of national insurance. I regret that no amount appears to have been included in the Estimates, even as a preliminary expenditure for investigation of a scheme of social insurance. It has been suggested that financial provision for such an examination could be met by a grant from the Treasurer’s advance, and I hope that this course will be adopted; but, in the absence of a definite pronouncement upon the ma tter, I can only conclude that the problem has not received, at the hands of the Minister, the consideration to which it is entitled.
The importance of national insurance is recognized in most of the leading countries of the world, and endeavours have been made by them to mate legislative provision for assisting the incapacitated wage-earner. In 1868, Belgium adopted a compulsory scheme, and similar action was taken by Germany in 1883, Austria in 1888, Hungary in 1891, France in 1894, Luxemberg in 1901, Norway and Iceland in 1909, Italy in 1910, Great Britain in 1911, Rumania and Russia in 1912, Holland and Sweden in 1913, Bulgaria in 1918, Czechoslovakia, Portugal and Spain in 1919, Poland in 1920, Denmark in 1921, Esthonia, Japan, Latvia and Jugoslavia in 1922, the Irish Free State and Argentina in 1923, and the United States of America and Canada in 1935. Most of these schemes have since been considerably extended, and are being continually made more comprehensive.
National insurance, therefore, has long since passed the experimental stage, having become an integral part of the social system of most of the important countries.
I was a member of the Royal Commiss.io.u on National Insurance which recommended the adoption of this reform, which would, I am sure, provide definite security for our aged and infirm citizens. The greatest and most constant anxiety of the wage-earner isthe possibility that he and his dependants may be placed in serious financial difficulties as the result of sickness, accident, invalidity or old age. National insurance would provide the required protection against these evils. The fundamental doctrine underlying the whole fabric of national insurance is that all sections of the community should he protected by the strength of the community as a whole against the incidence of misfortune that befalls a section or an individual. It is now recognized in the Old World that in order to advance the prosperity of a nation, and to conserve its vital forces, it is better that a misfortune befalling an individual should be distributed and borne lightly by the community generally than that the individual should be crushed by the weight of his own trouble. National insurance, as I have shown, is not a new idea : yet Australia is far behind the times inthis regard, notwithstanding the fact that it claims to lead the world in social legislation. Although national insurance has been instituted in 31 countries, in not one instance has the suggestion been made to abandon the system, and to return to the less satisfactory preinsurance methods. Those who were the most bitter critics of the schemes at their inception subsequently became their strongest supporters. I a.m convinced that the need for such a scheme in Australia has been proved beyond all doubt. Many wage-earners are unable, unaided, to provide for circumstances that arise from incapacity to work. The employee is unable to make provision for the whole of his life out of the wages received by him during his effective working years. His greatest and most constant anxiety is that, should he be unable to continue at his employment, he and his dependants will be involved in serious financial difficulties. National insurance would give the necessary relief. Quite 16 per cent. of our native-born citizens are applicants for the old-age pension. The whole community suffers as the result of the wage-earners’ incapacity to work. Wages to the amount of £10,000,000 are lost each year oa account of sickness, and the noncirculation of this moneyis a serious matter for the workers as a whole and for trade. The amount of the resultant loss of production is estimated at four times this sum, whilst the consequent social and economic burden is enormous, and is not equitably distributed.
The effects of the unsettled conditions due to the war of 1914-1918 having more or less disappeared, the British scheme of national insurance, which was adopted in 1911, is now in a very prosperous condition. Thus the scheme has had a very chequered career; after the war, the Government extended the benefits to unemployed persons without requiring them to contribute. In spite of the difficulties which it encountered - in spite of the British Government making it a dumping ground rather than a contributory insurance fund. - the scheme has completely recovered financial stability. Indeed, to-day, the fund shows a surplus of £21,500,000.
Mr.Gander. - Why is there any necessity for asurplus? There must still be many men who are hungry.
– Every scheme in which the contributions exceed requirements shows a surplus. The surplus in the British fund was brought about largely by the fact that each of the three parties concerned in the contributions - the Government, the employers and the employees - had to pay weekly10d. per capita. The Government received a recommendation that the contributions be reduced by £6,500,000 a year by lowering the amount of the contributions from lOd. to 9d. ; yet, in spite of the acceptance by the Government of this recommendation, the fund still shows a substantial surplus. I congratulate the Government on having obtained the valuable services of Sir Walter Kinnear and Mr. G. H. Inch, who came to Australia to advise it regarding the introduction of national insurance in this country.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member has exhausted his time. [Quorum formed.~
.- For some years past the big profits that have resulted from the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department have been transferred to Consolidated Revenue, and in effect this department has become a taxing authority. I am prepared to Admit that the Commonwealth must balance its budget, and I recognize that if an alteration had been made in the administration of the post-office, and the Commonwealth’s income had thereby been diminished, it would have been necessary to make up the loss by imposing taxes in ether directions. Nevertheless, it is not a sound financial method to transfer in two years, as has been done, £5,000,000 from the Postmaster-General’s Department to Consolidated Revenue and then, immediately after those two years have elapsed, compel that department to borrow money for the erection of new buildings and to pay interest on such money. It is neither fair to the department nor a sound financial method for the Commonwealth to employ.
There have been improvements which I appreciate in the department in the current year. For instance we have had a wide extension throughout the country areas of the giving of service in telephone exchanges until 8 p.m. ; in many cases a 24-hour service is now given. A further concession which we appreciate is the refund from rentals of contributions that are paid by individual subscribers towards the construction of private telephone lines. I admit that in some instances the department would not have been justified in laying out money on the construction of these lines, without the subscribers themselves contributing, but it is justified in making refunds by rebate of rentals when contributions towards the erection have been made by subscribers, and I am glad that the department has agreed to do so in future. Regarding the construction of party lines, it has been the policy of the department not to allow more than £50 towards the erection of any line whether for an individual or a party .service. It is not unreasonable to ask that where several parties are concerned in a party line telephone service, the department should contribute iri proportion to the added business which would be derived from the increased number of subscribers. If two subscribers bring in a rental revenue of £4, instead of only £3 from an individual line, the department may reasonably be expected to contribute an additional £16 towards the cost, and so on. That request has been made on more than one occasion and I urge the department to reconsider the matter.
I also desire to refer to the rate of postage. In 1915, we had a penny postage, but the rate was raised during the war to 2d., because of the necessity to raise extra revenue to meet our responsibilities in the scheme of Empire defence. The 2d. postage rate remained in force until 1923, when a reduction of a halfpenny was made. In 1930, when Australia began to feel the effects of the depression and it was necessary to strengthen the national finances, the rate of 2d. was restored. It remains with us despite the improvement of our conditions. To-day, every letter carries the war tax in addition to the depression tax. It would be fair and reasonable to reduce that rate even if it be necessary to raise funds from some other source. The people should not be asked to carry this burden, and the Postal Department should be relieved of the obligation of taxgathering.
I have previously raised the matter of the border telegraph rate. The charge for sending a telegram across a State border, even if the distance be only two miles, is ls. 4d. ; yet in the city areas a telegram can be sent 15 miles for 9d. An adjustment of this anomaly could be made if the department were willing to do so. I referred on a previous occasion to the anomaly on the Queensland border, where half of a town is situated on one side of the border and half on the other. A telegram which has been sent from one side of the town to the other costs ls. 4d., although the distance is only a mile. If the department were prepared to impose a flat rate of ls. for a distance of 50 miles, the border anomalies could bo removed. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give further consideration to this matter.
Mr.PERKINS (Eden-Monaro) [4.39]. - At this late stage of the debate, I do not propose to follow the various items contained in the budget, but I do join with other honorable members who have congratulated the Government on the good work it has done since it assumed office, and particularly during the last year. I was sorry, however, to notice that no credit was given to the Opposition in connexion with this budget. To me it is a pity that in Australia the party gaps have grown so wide that neither the Opposition nor the Government can see any good in the other. I was interested in the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and his predecessor (Mr. Scullin) regarding what the Labour Government had done to make this budget possible. There is no question about that when the Government led by the right honorable member for Yarra took charge, Australia was in a serious condition, and measures, which in times of ordinary progress would not be tolerated, had to be adopted hurriedly. One of the measures adopted was to increase the rate of the petrol tax, whereas when the tax was originally imposed, the Labour party had bitterly opposed it. In Melbourne in 1921, the tax on petrol was 2d. a gallon and it met with almost unanimous opposition from the Labour party. Experience showed, however, that a tax of 2d. a gallon would not cause the price of petrol to be increased. It was asserted in some quarters that as the major oil companies were overcharging the people of Australia, they could stand a tax of 3d. a gallon without increasing their prices. The Government of the day, however, thought it wise to impose a tax of 2d. a gallon, and within a month or two petrol was still selling at the same rate. The tax had a beneficial result for motorists, because the revenue derived from it was handed over to the States on a population and area basis to be expended on main roads. Any one who travels over those roads to-day must recognize what a great improvement has been effected in them.When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr.
Scullin), as Prime Minister and Treasurer, found that his treasury was practically empty, and that there were not many sources left from which he could derive revenue, he naturally thought of the motorist as a person who could make a larger contribution; consequently, the petrol tax was increased to 7d. a gallon. I have no objection to offer to the continuance of that rate of tax up to the present. Whether the action taken was right or wrong, finance had to be obtained from the sources known to be available. But that was one of the principal factors which enabled the present Government to return a surplus last year, and being a class tax, it should not be used to swell the revenues of the Commonwealth. [Quorum formed.] It may not be possible to remove it entirely; indeed, that would not be desirable, because main roads have still to be maintained. But I should like an increased amount of the revenue derived from it to be given to the States, not for expenditure on main roads, but for handing oveT to shire and municipal councils to be utilized on the roads within their areas. It is known that the majority of country municipalities and shires have very little revenue for this purpose after overhead expenses have been met. This petrol tax really belongs to them. In some countries, the whole of the revenue so derived would become the property of shires and municipalities. Although that is not possible in Australia, they have the right to receive £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 of the proceeds of the tax. That would give them a renewed lease of life, and would not be felt very greatly by those who pay the tax, because their running costs would be reduced. I urge the Government to consider this matter when it is framing next year’s budget. If it fails to do so, it will be guilty of highway robbery in a dual sense. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has stated that, good though this budget is, the Government hopes to present a better one next year. I trust that it will be better in this direction. The Government is to be commended for having increased by id. a gallon the proportion of the tax to be handed to the States this year.
Several honorable members have referred to the administration of the Postal Department. In this business undertaking also the Government is drawing too much revenue from the public. The Postal Department was never meant to be a taxing machine, and it should not be made one. In times of financial stringency there may be some excuse for charges which produce more revenue than is needed to enable the department to pay its way. To-day, however, Australia is well on the road to prosperity, and there is no longer any necessity to continue them. The principal reform needed is reversion to penny postage. Never previously in its history has Australia been so well able to afford it. Since it. assumed, office. ‘ the Lyons Government has made profits aggregating £6,000,000 from the operations of- the Postal Department. There was a time when all British communities regarded penny postage as a principle as well established as the eight-hour day or the adult franchise. ! hope that it will be re-instituted when the next budget is brought down.
Australians have reason to be thankful, not only for the extensions that have been made to telephonic services, but also for the cheap rate at which they are provided. But, as some honorable members have pointed out, there is still room for improvement. My predecessor in the representation of EdenMonaro, the late Sir Austin Chapman, toured the electorate year after year urging, among other things, that every house in Australia, and especially those in the back-blocks, should have telephonic facilities. The department is not so sympathetic as it could afford to bc in the extension of lines into sparselypopulated areas, although the service itself is well conducted. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Nock) contended that the Government deserved credit for having extended the closing hour of country offices from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. In the main, I agree with him. In some cases, however, the Government has been unmindful of the number of hours which its officers are required to work. When the number is considerably in excess of 48, the health of the officer must suffer. Surely in such cases the remuneration should be, made adequate to the work that has to be performed, or some assistance should be provided. In one or two cases that I have particularly in mind, the number “of hours worked is unreasonable. A certain amount should be hypothecated for the purpose of increasing the salaries paid to those who are in charge of non-official post offices. It is to be regretted that these officials cannot ascertain the basis on which they are paid. They are told that the payment is made according to a schedule, but applications for a copy of the schedule are invariably refused by the department.
– The revenue of the office is supposed to be the basis.
– The position is most unsatisfactory, and would not be tolerated in any private business concern. Until the Government effects an improvement, it will be out of step with the people of Australia, who do not approve of the business of the department being conducted in this fashion.
The reduction of the unfair petrol tax and of the taxation imposed through the Postal Department may mean additional taxation in other directions, but that should not deter the Government from granting these concessions. The officers of the Treasury should show some originality in the matter, and endeavour to devise means by which revenue may be obtained without resorting to class taxes.
– I join with other honorable members in congratulating the Government on its production of a credit balance of £3,500,000, and particularly on its having taken advantage of the improvement of the. financial position to make substantial tax remissions. There is no doubt that the prosperity which has returned to this country is due partly to sound finance, partly to better prices for our production, and greatly to the psychological effect of better times; this has encouraged greater expenditure upon industry and personal requirements, causing an acceleration of the circulation of money throughout the community, with beneficial results to all. But while congratulating the Government upon tax remissions, I wish to voice a protest against its having neglected to make use of the extraordinarily favorable financial position to abolish the land tax. No tax acts as a greater deterrent to progress than does the land tax. In every direction there are evidences of the extent to which persons have been prevented by this impost from making a proper progressive use of their capital. Many honorable members have urged the urgent and real need for better housing conditions. One of the greatest obstacles to the investment of capital in bricks and mortar, which has always been one of the most favoured avenues for the investment of savings ever since people have had savings to invest, is the cumulative effect of the land tax. I mav be considered biassed because I represent a great country constituency, but I speak also for the payers of land tax in the cities whore the restrictive effects of this tax are probably as bad as in the country. When this Government came into office it displayed commendable courage and statesmanship, for immediately the financial position of the country improved, it reduced the land tax by one-third. Some time later, when further improvement had occurred, it reduced the rate to onehalf. That was an. act of considerable courage, for the direct payers of land tax are only a small section of the community. Not many votes would be directly affected by this action. Though the Government’s concession was not particularly popular, it was courageous and long-sighted. I ask, however, why the Government ha.s suddenly lost its valour and turned aside from this sound policy? Some years ago, a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister and requested the abolition of the land tax. The right honorable gentleman, in the course of his reply, said -
There is no necessity for a deputation to como from all parts of Australia to impress upon me the necessity for sympathetic consideration.
The difficulty that confronts us is the financial position. Practically all that you have said wo, as a government, would accept without any hesitation. If to-morrow we coull see a means by which we could abolish this land tax, we would do it. .
Although the Government is now granting remissions of taxes which, in a full year, will amour* to £5,250,000, nothing further has been done to honour the promise to abolish the land tax. The right honorable gentleman also said -
Tha objective towards which this Government will work will be the abolition oi land tax. Until we cun dispense with the land tax you will receive very sympathetic consideration from the Land Tax Department. 1 am sure that the Prime Minister made that remark in the genuine belief that the Land Tax Department would give sympathetic consideration to land-owners in difficulties, but unhappily such landholders have not, in the last few years, received sympathetic consideration from the department. The right honorable gentleman also said -
While you cannot tax land into production, you can tax it out of production. The country cannot be prosperous, and the people cannot be employed if the land is not profitable. So we must work towards the abolition of the tax. This tax is a burden upon you and the whole community through you.
That porat should be remembered by the Government, and also by the people of Australia. The Prime Minister added -
We cannot continue to be lavish in grants to sections, and then go to the man struggling on the land mid demand that he should pa’1* land tax when he lias not made a profit. Ti we could lift the land tax aud still balance our budget for the year we would do it.
The budget has, of course, been balanced. In fact, the Government has been able to grant remissions of taxes to the amount of about £5,250,000, and to show a surplus of £3,500,000; but no attempt has been made to abolish the land tax. The Prime Minister also said on that occasion -
Relief would encourage production. The Commonwealth Government wants to give relief and it will give it at the first moment it can.
Several opportunities have since been afforded the Government to give this promised relief, but it has not been given. In the same speech, the Prime Minister said -
On any land-owner the land tax imposes a burden which is a handicap to progress and development. I stand exactly where I have stood in regard ‘to land tax. If I could maintain budgetary balance and give relief in land tax, I would cheerfully grant that relief. If we could remove the tax we would do it willingly.
The remissions of land tax to which I have already referred were made before the members of the Country party joined the Government. It might be considered unfair, therefore, if I did not also read the opinions of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) on the land tax. A meeting was held in Sydney on the 30th March, 1932, at which the complete abolition of the land tax was demanded. Dr. Earle Page sent a message to that meeting, in which he commented om its objective, and expressed his sympathy with it. . It would thus be unfair to the right honorable gentleman if I allowed the impression to go abroad that either he or his party objected to the removal of the land tax. In the letter which Dr. Earle Page sent to be read to that meeting he said that - he regarded the tax purely as a revenue producer, and as a bad one at -that. It was especially burdensome to the great land industries, lt was introduced principally to break up large estates during the ‘war. The greatest possible use was made of the tax to raise revenue, and the legacy of the war demanded its continuance. When he had been Treasurer he had introduced a policy for a gradual reduction of the tax. He considered that tli.it policy should be continued as under present financial difficulties it would bo difficult to abolish the tax immediately.
The financial position has improved very greatly since that time. Dr. Earle Page also stated in his letter that - he advocated the abolition of the system of aggregating properties for the assessment of the tax. The absurdity of the tax as a means of subdividing large estates was shown by the fact that more than 50 per cent, of it was collected in respect of unimproved values of city lands.
Surely I need say no more on the subject, for I have shown that the leaders of the two parties represented in the Government favoured the abolition of the tax immediately the budgetary position warranted such action. Seeing that the Government has had such substantial surpluses it can hardly be argued that the financial position does not warrant the entire discontinuance of this tax. I therefore press for the redemption of the promise made by the Prime Minister and sympathetically supported by the Minister for Commerce. I also ask for the redemption of the promise that the Land Tax Department would give sympathetic consideration to land-owners in difficulties. Unhappily that depart- ment has caused the very greatest hardship and damage to Australia’s greatest industry, wool-growing, by the savage attacks it has made upon one of the most extensive merino stud organizations in the Commonwealth. The firm which I have in mind was at one time the strongest and most proficient firm engaged in merino stud breeding in Australia, but recently because of the positively savage action of the Land Tax Department it had to sell one of its most famous stud properties in order to maintain its operations elsewhere. In fact, if the vendors had not been given considerable concessions it would not have been possible for them, without further sacrifices, to have maintained operations. Australia depends for its prosperity principally upon the great wool growing industry which our people have very largely to thank for the reasonably high standard of living they enjoy. The prosperity of the whole country rises or falls with the rise or fall of prosperity in the wool-growing industry, yet the Land Tax Department has been permitted to cause a very serious restriction of the activities of one of the principal merino stud organizations in the Commonwealth. Everybody knows that quite apart from the natural advantages of Australia in wool production our predominant position today, as a wool-growing country, is chiefly due to the great stud masters of the past, certain of whom as I have said, have been savagely attacked by the Land Tax Department. I therefore call upon the Government to redeem, in its next budget, which I understand is to be even better than the one now under consideration, the promise given so long ago that the land tax would be abolished.
.- We shall all be glad when the land tax can be abolished. It is, of course, a question of finance and the claims of those who desire the discontinuance of the land tax must be considered together with the claims of those who desire the discontinuance of, or a measure of relief from, other forms of taxation. I am inclined to think that those who are demanding a substantial reduction of the petrol tax have rather better grounds for immediate consideration than have those who desire the abolition of the land tax. [Quorum formed.] A strong case can be made out for the reduc- tion of the petrol tax. Although this tax was imposed for emergency purposes the rate of it is so high that it approaches the rate of tax on luxury lines. The financial position of the country to-day is such that a reduction of the petrol tax could fairly be made. Motorists have been very moderate in their demands in this regard. There would have been some justification for them combining forces to make this a political issue, but they have not done so. Their moderation in the past has not met with the recognition that it deserved.
I wish to refer also to the Japanese trade dispute and the retaliatory measures adopted at the instance of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett). I do not propose to discuss the general policy of trade diversion adopted by the Government, for in due course we shall have a more appropriate opportunity to do that. I am concerned, however, with the policy of retaliation, which I feel was unnecessary and had very little purpose. It has not achieved any good results, and its effect, if any, has been to bring about a postponement, rather than an acceleration, of the settlement of the dispute. As an example of how these restrictions work out, I refer to the importations of pure silk piece-goods from Japan, which have been very considerable for some years. Factories have been established in Australia manufacturing garments made from silk imported from Japan, but, as the result of the prohibition imposed on the importation of certain Japanese goods, that trade has been dilocated. la the silk trade it is necessary to give orders for requirements some months in advance, and those engaged in the trade are placed in a very difficult position. They are -at liberty to import their requirements from France at a cost considerably higher than that of the Japanese article; but if they do so they run the very real risk that at any time the dispute with Japan may be settled - we ali hope it will be soon - and the importation of Japanese silk resumed. Those manufacturers who had imported their requirements from France would then be forced to sell their output at a substantial loss. I ask the Government either to permit the importation of silk from Japan to be resumed, or to give some assurance that the embargo on Japanese goods will be continued for a fixed period, say five or six months. I do not think it would be damaging to the prestige or interests of Australia if we permitted the resumption of the importation of Japanese silk. *[Quorum formed.] This attitude on the part of the Opposition is a miserable one.
– I contend that the honorable member’s expression is unparliamentary, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask whether, under the Standing Orders, honorable members of the Opposition have not the right to ask that the committee be properly constituted, and, if so, whether an honorable member is in order in reflecting upon the rightful procedure of this committee?
– It is quite in order for the Opposition to see that the committee is properly constituted. An honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the action of members of the Opposition in seeing that a quorum is present.
– You must be aware, Mr. Collins, that, after being absent from the proceedings, a certain honorable member has come into the chamber on three occasions, taken his seat for a minute and a half, and then called for a quorum, and that on each occasion as soon as a quorum has been constituted he has left the chamber. I desire to know whether any obligation rests on honorable members who call for a quorum to see that at least members of their own party remain in the chamber, and whether the conduct of honorable members of the Opposition this afternoon is such as does not merit some adequate penalty under the Standing Orders.
– Does the Chair take cognizance of whether honorable members are in the chamber or within the precincts? The Opposition has its duty, as the Chair has its duty-
– On a point of order, Mr.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair can hear only one point of order at a time.
– I desire your guidance, Mr. Collins, as to whether it is not the duty of honorable members of this House, as well as a duty which devolves upon the Chair-
– The honorable member is not addressing himself to the point of order raised.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is still in order.
– I desire guidance as to whether honorable members of the Opposition in any way infringe the Standing Orders in* drawing attention to the state of the committee, and in insisting that the committee be properly constituted. I should also like you to rule, sir. whether an honorable member, having called attention to the state of the committee, is obliged under the Standing Orders to remain in the chamber after the quorum is formed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN I have already ruled on the first portion of the honorable member’s point of order. In respect of the second portion of it, there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent an honorable member from absenting himself from the chamber if he wishes to do so after having called attention to the state of the committee and a quorum ha3 been formed. That ruling adequately covers all points raised by honorable members.
– I was referring to the retaliatory action of this Government in imposing general restrictions against the importation of Japanese goods in reply to the Japanese boycott in respect of Australian wool. There is a very marked distinction between the original trade diversion policy of the Government, which was directed towards the protection of Australian and British industries, and the subsidiary step taken of restraining or proposing to restrain the importation of Japanese goods. I do not propose at present to deal with the original policy which may have been necessary for the protection of our industries, but verydifferent considerations arise when a policy of retaliation is adopted. On many occasions in the past, retaliatory trade .action has been practised by various countries. The commercial history of Europe records very many instances where countries have quarreled on trading matters in which the breach has been continually widened by the imposition of further prohibitions by the parties to the dispute. The result has inevitably been mutual loss and, almost invariably, after having suffered substantial losses and tiring of the policy of attrition, the parties to the dispute have been forced to adopt a more sane attitude in regard to the matter, and have settled their difficulties on more amicable lines. The trouble with Japan has been going on for some months, and I think that the time has arrived when the offer not to persist in these restrictions would be a very acceptable gesture.
– Is the honorable member on- the side of Japan?
– I object to that question, because it conveys the assumption that if I do not prove adamant in my demands for Australia, I am supporting Japan. It is a provocative attitude to adopt. We should look at both sides of the question. It was only to be expected that Japan should have shown resentment at Australia’s action. What would be the position of Australia if some country with which it had an unfavorable trade balance imposed restrictions on its exports to that country ? Naturally, the people of Australia would resent it very strongly. They have, therefore, no right to feel aggrieved if Japan shows resentment at Australia’s trade policy.
I am one of those who believe that the trade diversion policy of the Government was necessary, and I do not suggest that Australia should be the first to weaken in its attitude. I am behind the Government, and support it on the general question of its trade diversion policy; but at the same time, I say that to go on further with a policy of retaliation can only have a negative result. We cannot bring a nation like J apan to book by -adopting a policy of retaliation, because the Australian trade with Japan constitutes a very small portion of Japan’s total trade. The Australian trade with Japan in rayon and cottons represents a very small portion of Japan’s total trade in those lines, and if Japan were to lose the Australiantrade entirely it wouldbe a very small item to that country, compared with what the loss of the Japanese trade would mean to Australia. Both countries are interested in endeavouring to bring about an amicable settlement of the dispute, if it is possible to do so, and I therefore deprecate these remarks about being on the side of Japan. We are all entitled to do anything we can to bring about an amicable, early and reasonable settlement of the dispute. Ihopethat the Government will not, consider it any sacrifice of its dignity or rights of negotiation to be prepared to give up these restrictions on goods which are outside of the main trade diversion policy ofthe Government. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties made it clear that the Government’s trade diversion policy was not adopted because of any antagonism against Japan, but in order to protect Australian industries. He said further that the Government was desirous that trade with Japan should continue on the most friendly lines. That was a proper attitude to adopt, but the use of reprisals is totally inconsistent with that declaration of peace. Reprisals are not in the nature of protection. Duties on rayon and cotton were imposed for the protection of Australianindustries; but the exclusion of other Japanese goods, such as silk, confers no advantage on Australia, because no Australian industry is affected. That Australia should buy silk from Japan is in the interests of both countries. It is not sufficient to say that Japan brought this trouble upon itself by boycotting Australian wool ; in every fight, each side blames the other. If the two Governments continue to follow a policy of reprisals, the trade war will belong drawn out, and both countries will lose heavily.
During the debate on the granting of financial assistance to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, reference was made to the drought now being experienced in the first-mentioned State. When the Commonwealth Grants Com missionfurnished its report that body was not in a position to know the severity of the drought in Western Australia. At that time there were prospects of a fair wheat crop, but since then conditions have unexpectedly become much worse, and the plight of the farmers in the drought-stricken areas of that State is, unhappily, much more serious than it was even a month ago. I appreciate the view of the Commonwealth Government that drought relief is a matter for the States, and that it would not be wise for the Commonwealth to establish the precedent of coming to the rescue whenever the wheat crop failed in any part of Australia, but I point out that the Government of Western Australia is not in a position to assist these settlers, largely because the unexpected reduction by £300,000 of the grant to that State has placed it in a difficult position financially. Since the State budget was introduced the revenue of Western Australia has fallen below expectations, and its treasury cannot make grants to relieve distressed farmers. If the Commonwealth Government is not prepared to make a direct grant for the relief of drought-stricken farmers in Western Australia, . I ask that it provide finance to enable the State Government to do so.
– Cannot the State borrow money for the purpose?
– The Commonwealth has invaded so many taxation fields that the State security is not so good as it otherwise would be. As the result of this intrusion by the Commonwealth, a State which experiences a period of bad seasons is in a grievous position indeed. Unfortunately, I am convinced that. Western Australia will soon demonstrate only too clearly the sad plight of many of its primary producers. Their situation is such as to call for immediate assistance, otherwise many deserving settlers will be driven to the cities. As it is part of federal policy to assist all sections of the community in need of assistance, I appeal to the Government to come to the rescue of Western Australia in this matter.
Mr.SCHOLFIELD (Wannon) [5.32].- I support the plea of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for greater recognition of Australian writers, and I congratulate him on having raised the debate from a rather low level at times to a higher plane.
In congratulating the Government on its budget, I urge the Treasurer to investigate the taxation methods now employed. In my opinion, taxes should be heaviest when the country is most prosperous, but at present that is not so. In a period of depression, governments, both Federal and State, are forced to increase taxation, because of loss of revenue from various sources. The order should be reversed. Instead of taxes being reduced in times of prosperity, when people are inclined to buy luxury items regardless of their cost, taxation should be increased and the surplus revenue placed in a trust fund, so that in a time of financial need taxes could be reduced. Because of the varied nature of the taxes now imposed, I realize that some difficulty would arise in giving effect to my suggestion, but I ask the Treasurer to give consideration to it.
I also congratulate the Government on having reduced the rate of sales tax. [Quorum . formed.] There are, however, many items now subject to sales tax which should be exempt.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) in regard to land tax. The imposition of this tax was an emergency measure designed to break up large estates. There is no justification for retaining it any longer and the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in this connexion should be honoured. The land tax is definitely a tax on capital, for irrespective of whether or not a profit is made from the land, the tax must be paid. I am in a position to say that when the land tax was reduced some time ago, many land-owners increased the number of their employees. It is foolish to retain a tax the removal of which would add to the prosperity of the country and provide employment.
Whilst rejoicing at the further concessions granted to returned soldiers, I do not think that the debt which the Commonwealth owes to them is being fully dis- charged. It is true that all tubercular cases among returned men are now regarded as being the result of war service, and for that concession I am grateful; but there are many other returned soldiers suffering from the results of war service whose cases are not considered to be within the scope of the act. Many of the most deserving cases are soldiers with good records who had no medical record when on active service; and although there is ample medical evidence that their disabilities are the result of their service overseas, they are unable to obtain any benefit under the act. I ask the Government to consider such cases when framing its next budget.
I support the remarks of those honorable members who have urged a return to Id. postage, for I consider that it is high time that Australia came into line with other British dominions in this respect.
– The reduction would cost £1,000,000 per annum.
– The department is making a big profit from the postal section.
– It all goes into Consolidated Revenue; if a reduction were made it would have to be made up in some other way.
– I understand that . losses have been incurred on telegraphic and telephonic services in some of the States, but last year in one State a profit was made in all branches of the Postal Department. The departmental estimates probably include all possible sources of revenue; but if the postage on. letters were reduced from 2d. to Id., I believe that the volume of business would increase to such an extent that the reduction of revenue would not be great.
I am pleased to notice that the department is proceeding as quickly as possible with the installation of automatic telephones in country centres, but I understand that the result of this work will not be effective for about fifteen years. Meanwhile, I should like the department to pursue its present policy of extending the hours at telephone exchanges, particularly in country districts, where the popu- lation is not large. Considerable assistance has been afforded in this direction, but I trust that the installation of automatic telephones in some country centres will not deter the department in extending the hours during which the service is available at offices not supplied with automatic equipment.
Although wireless broadcasting is under the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I take this opportunity to mention the great dissatisfaction which exists in connexion with the programmes broadcast by national stations. When complaints have been made to me I have taken particular notice of the programmes broadcast. It is only reasonable to assume that most listeners desire to tune in to a station and to be entertained for some time without interference; but it frequently happens that classical music, for instance, is broadcast for a few minutes, when some one intervenes with a long talk on a musical subject. The introduction of items of a different character in the same programme is not attractive to the average listener. It should be practicable to broadcast similar music for a longer period, and thus allow listeners to enjoy a programme they prefer without interruption.
– The listener’s licence fee is too high.
Mr.SCHOLFIELD.- It is too high. Unless programmes more acceptable to the average listener ere broadcast the licence fee should be reduced.
I direct the attention of the Government to the price paid for tobacco by a certain Queensland firm. This subject was brought under its notice from time to time by the late honorable member for Kennedy. I should not have raised it now, but for the fact that I have had complaints from some of my constituents, who have been “ taken down “ by this firm. As a licence has to be obtained for the right to purchase tobacco, the Government should be able to curtail the activities of those buyers who are not giving the growers a fair deal. The price which one firm quotes to the sellers includes excise, which should not be paid by the grower. In view of the complaints made the Government should investigate the matter, and if excise is being included, buyers should be refused a licence to continue their activities.
The general debate being concluded:
Item agreed to.
Declaration of Urgency
Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Minister for Commerce) [5.45]. - I declare -
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative
Allotment of Time
– 1 move -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the Resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
The total time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates is approximately 31 hours and is 7 hours longer than the average time which has been devoted during the last seven years to corresponding discussions. It compares most favorably with the times that were allotted by the Scullin Administration when it was in power. The debate on the Estimates occupied 8 hours 19 minutes in its first year of office; 19 hours 25 minutes in its second year, and 16 hours 28 minutes in its third, year. It will therefore be seen that the present proposal for the consideration of the Estimates is 12 hours longer than the longest period that was devoted to this matter during the Scullin Government’s regime. I may further point out that in the budget debate just concluded there have been no less than 46 speakers from all sides of the House,
and the time occupied has been very much longer than the average in previous yeans. In fact it has been- one of the most protracted debates of its kind in the history of this Parliament. The guillotine is a very much fairer way of apportioning the time for the Estimates than any other method which can be devised, and in my opinion the right time to apply it is at the begining of the consideration of the items ; that is to say, at the present juncture.
.- The Opposition is opposed to the principle of the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates in its entirety. The figures which the Acting Leader of the House (Dr. Earle Page) cited as having covered, the discussion of the budget and the Estimates in previous years are probably without relevance to the present situation. The right honorable gentleman did not say whether ur not the guillotine was applied in those circumstances.
– The gag was applied on the third occasion.
– He says now that the gag was applied, but he does not say at what stage it was applied. All that we have to consider at the present time is whether or not the hours which have been specified in this proposed schedule submitted, by tlie Government can be regarded as a reasonable period for consideration of the Estimates. We are to be given one hour to consider the remainder of the votes for the Parliament. As the Standing Orders permit the honorable member who first catches the eye of the Chairman of Committees to speak for half an hour, and as the Minister in charge will probably take the remainder of the time in replying to his contentions, the consideration of this particular itemso far as the committee itself is concerned, may be limited to two speech”.’;. The Department of External Affairs is allotted one hour for consideration by honorable members. I invite the House to consider whether it is reasonable to expect Parliament to consider such an important department in that short space of time. It is absurd to expect us to do so. I have also a complaint to make in regard to the allotment of time for each of the departments. The Treasurer (Mr.
Casey) was kind enough to intimate to me some time ago that he contemplated putting forward a guillotine arrangement and invited my consideration of a schedule which required a longer consideration than that which the Acting Leader of the House has now proposed.
Mr.Brennan. - A breach of faith!
SirArchdaleParkhill. - It is not a breach of faith, because no agreement on this matter was actually entered into.
Mr.CURTIN - I admit that no agreement was made between myself and the Treasurer, but the original proposal which the honorable gentleman made to me contemplated a period of 33 hours in all for the consideration of the Estimates and, in inviting my consideration of the proposal, he also requested me to offer any suggestions, which I thought necessary. I. did make some suggestions to the honorable gentleman. I proposed that the schedule for the consideration of the Estimates should cover a period of 48 instead of 33 hours. But I find now that,as against the Treasurer’s suggestion of 33 hours for these discussions, and mysugegstion of 48 hours, the Government itself comes forward with a time-table which will give to honorable members less time than the Treasurer offered to me in his original submission.
Mr.Beasley. - The Government has let the Leader of the Opposition down.
SirArchdaleParkhill.. - The schedule submitted to the Leader of the Opposition by the Treasurer, was never actually agreed to.
– Having made my first point, I now invite honorable members to consider the time which has been allotted for the discussion of some of the departments. I originally said to the Treasurer “ You have suggested a period of 4½ hours for the consideration of the Department of the Treasury”. The honorable gentleman replied, “ Yes “. [ then said, “ I think that the minimum time ought to be at least six hours “. But I now discover that the Department of the Treasury is allotted only four hours, although the Treasury administration is probably as important from the viewpoint of Parliament as any other department which it is possible to name. The Treasury deals with the whole of the pensions and the disbursements from the Treasurer’s advance, which each year is £2,000,000, and the only possibility of discussing an itemsuch as the Admiralty House expenditure and the outrageous provision which the Government has made in that direction, is in respect of the Treasury items. If we deal with thisone matter all the time, there will be very little opportunity to consider the subject of the administration of pensions, or other matters of that type. In his original suggestion to me the Treasurer proposed that six hours should be given onthis occasion to the consideration of the Estimates for the Defence Department. Apparently believing that defence was a matter of very great moment, it would take six times longer, according to the original schedule, to deal with the Defence Department than with the Attorney-General’s Department. I pointed out to the honorable gentleman that, as £8,000.000 was to be spent this year for defence purposes, the least time that the Government should allow to Parliament for the consideration of the expenditure of that considerable sum of money shouldbe at the rate of £1,000,000 an hour. I thought that we might reasonably spend an8-hour day in the discussion of the expenditure of £8,000.000 for defence purposes in the present year. The Treasurer, in reply to me, stated that six hours would be allotted for this department, but I find that since the honorable gentleman left Canberra to attend the Loan Council, and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) is in charge of this business, the Estimates of the Department of Defence are to be disposed of in five hours.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The Government’s proposal does not take away from honorable members any privilege that they previously enjoyed. On the contrary, it gives them more time than they have ever had for the consideration of the Estimates. Furthermore, it is designed towards having an orderly debate, instead of a disorderly one.
– Disorderly !
– I am not using the word in the sense in which it would be applied to the honorable member. I am referring merely to the natural arrangement of an orderly debate.. I invite honorable members to study the position. Considerable time is always taken up with the consideration of the departments whose estimates appear in the earlier pages of the schedule, and these are departments which, as a general rule, are not regarded by honorable members as being so important as other departments whose votes appear later in the schedule. Consequently more time has been allotted for those departments in whose activities honorable members generally take greatest interest and on which most of them wish to speak.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) mentioned particularly the time allocated for the Defence Estimates. In this schedule, five hours is provided for consideration of those Estimates. I know perfectly well that on the last occasion - and I regretted it as much as anybody - we did not have two and a half hours at the most to discuss that department, whereas the departments at the beginning of the Estimates were discussed for from five to six hours. It is in order to prevent a recurrence of that position and to allot a reasonable time for the discussion of the Estimates for each department that in this schedule most time is allowed for those departments for which the greatest expenditure is provided.
– Does the honorable member think that five hours is a reasonable time in which to discuss an expenditure of £8,000,000 for defence?
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.In the circumstances it is, because in the 34 hours of general debate on the budget, each honorable member wishing to do so could have utilized the whole of his allotted 45 minutes in dealing with the general subject of defence.
– And what about other subjects ?
– I ay that if honorable members had wished to speak fully on the subject of defence they could have done so in the general debate. I had charge of the discussion on the Estimates for the Postal Department on the last two occasions, and in each case the time was limited to two hours. On this occasion something like four and a half hours is allocated for this department in addition to the time which honorable members have already occupied in the general debate in dealing with postal subjects.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to a discussion which took place between the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and himself. I understand that he told the Treasurer that he could make no arrangement, and, I assumed, therefore, that the matter ended there.
– One would not think that a man who comes to bargain, and makes an offer would later bring forward a proposal far worse than his original offer.
– If the honorable gentleman and members of his party had been agreeable, the additional hours suggested by himself tothe Treasurer might have been worked in, but the honorable gentleman said he could not speak for the Opposition, and, therefore, declined to make any arrangement.
– I did not tell the honorable member that.
– Did not the honorable member tell that to the Treasurer ?
– No, I did not.
– The Treasurer told me that the honorable member did so.
– So far from telling that to the Treasurer, I gave him a time-table which provided for a discussion of 48 hours on the Estimates, and advised him to consider it.
– All I can say is that the Government was quite willing to come to an amicable arrangement with the Opposition on this matter,, but the Treasurer-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Evidently the idea which the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) has of an amicable arrangement is one in which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) should say “Yes” to every proposal made by the Government.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition raised that matter, and the Minister for Defence has referred to it in reply. I now ask honorable members not to make further reference to it.
– Cannot a matter which has been previously mentioned and answered become a subject for general discussion by honorable members?
– Certainly not, unless it is relevant to the question before the Chair.- I allowed the Leader of the Opposition to refer to it, although, strictly, it had nothing .to do with the question before the House, namely, the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates. The Minister for Defence has repled to the honorable member, and I ask honorable members now to confine their remarks strictly to the question before the House.
– The Leader of the Opposition rightly refused to agree to anything suggested by the Government.
– Order !
– I support the protest voiced by my leader. The Minister for Defence said that over 40 members had spoken in the general debate, and had had an opportunity to deal fully with defence or any other subject. I intended to deal with six or seven subjects, but I found that in the 45 minutes at my disposal I had time to deal with only one subject. Honorable members generally spoke at length upon particular subjects, and for the most part these took up the whole of their time. The result was that they looked forward to the discussion on the items for an opportunity to express their views on a number of other important matters which they had not had time to deal with in the general debate. These Estimates provide for a huge expenditure of approximately £84,000,000, and we are asked now to curtail the discussion on this expenditure to a period of 31 hours. That would mean that we should have to approve of approximately £2,750,000 an hour. Such a position is ridiculous, and . the Government is to blame because it did not call Parliament together at an earlier date. Surely it does not desire to burke criticism or stifle dis cussion on such an important matter as the expenditure of £84,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money. The Leader of the Opposition rightly referred to the paucity of time proposed to be allowed for a discussion on an expenditure of £8,000,000 on defence. Have not honorable members opposite some suggestions to offer as to how this money should be spent? Have . they no criticism of the Government’s proposals in this direction? Surely such criticism is not confined to members of the Opposition. I have- no doubt that some honorable members opposite desire to express their views on this matter, because on a number of previous occasions some of them have voiced decided views on defence. We wish to hear them voice those views on this occasion. Some members of the Opposition desire to say something on the important subject of migration. They wish to know what are the intentions of the Government with respect to this matter. Does it. stand for mass migration? What proposals has it in mind? What proposals were put before the British Government by the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Page) and the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) when they were abroad ? What relation has the visit of the British Parliamentary Under Secretary for Dominions, Lord Hanington, who is now in Australia, to this matter? Is he here to mould Australian public opinion? Honorable members generally desire more time for the consideration of this item than it is proposed to allow. There is also the important department of Trade and Customs. Only one and a half hours are to be allowed to honorable members to discuss the Estimates for this department. They involve the favorite subject of the honorable members for Swan (Mr.- Gregory) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) namely, admissions under bylaw. Surely these honorable gentlemen wish to say something on that matter on this occasion. Another important, department is that of Health. Honorable members wish to hear what the Minister has to say with respect to the birth rate, a subject on which he has talked a lot from one end of Australia to the other. We desire to know the result of the consultations he has had with the State governments on this question.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The question before the House is the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates. In view of the fact that in committee 46 honorable members have spoken and have given fairly extensively their views on certain aspects of government administration, we have to concede that some limit must be placed on the time which can be allotted to the discussion of these Estimates if we are to conclude this session this year.
– Has the Government run the roller over the honorable member too?
– It has not run the roller over me; I shall say what I think, Ministry or no Ministry. Personally I disagree with the methods under which we have such a long time devoted to the first line of the Estimates. If an allotment of time were made at the very introduction of the budget, and honorable members got down to a more intensive discussion of each department as it came up in its turn, we should do better work in the consideration of the various departments.
– And the speeches would be shorter.
– Yes.I should like to see a fairly extensive debate on defence. I also think that in that connexion each member could condense his views which must be very largely those of principle into ten or fifteen minutes and thus give others an opportunity to put their case before the committee. I think the Postal Department is one on which quite a lot of time could be usefully expended, not so much in deciding whether some allowance postmaster is getting a fair salary as in dealing with the bigger principles of post office administration such as were raised this afternoon by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins). The case which that honorable gentleman mentioned is one on which the committee could put in three or four hours solid discussion. Then there has to be taken into consideration by the Opposition the fact that quite a lot of time has been consistently used by honorable members opposite, especially in committee, in calling for quorums thus wasting time which the committee could quite usefully employ otherwise. For instance, this afternoon quorums were called for on nine or ten occasions.
-Order! The honorable member may not discuss in the House what occurs in committee.
– Taking the matter generally, the Government has allocated a fair amount of time for the various departments. I should say, although I have not discussed it with the Government, and probably would not be allowed into so deep a secret, that if time were saved on any one department, such time could be re-allocated to other departments, but I would not presume to ask the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) to commit the Government to that arrangement. Something was said in regard to the Department of External Affairs, and the time allocated for consideration of the Estimates of that department. The most important matter arising in that connexion is in regard to the League of Nations, and I point out that the Government has already undertaken to set aside a day for the discussion of subjects germane to our relationship with the League of Nations.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Sitting suspended from 6.18 to 8 p.m.
.- By its introduction of a schedule limiting the time for the debate on the Estimates, the Government is reducing Parliamentary precedure to an absurdity. Earlier to-day the Government took action to deny to private members their rights to bring matters forward for discussion, and now it follows up that action by bringing in a proposal for limiting the time for debating the details of expenditure for the year. Evidently it is determined to do everything possible to destroy the principle of responsible Government. The only way Parliament has of checking the actions of the Government in regard to finance is through the annual debate on the Estimates; yet it is now proposed to limit to 31 hours the discussion on Estimates providing for the expenditure of £88,000,000. I earnestly support the protest of the Leader of the Opposition, and endorse his suggestion that at least 48 hours should be allotted for this discussion. The budget debate this afternoon was monopolized almost wholly by Government supporters, which was most unfair, seeing that many honorable members on this side will probably be denied an opportunity to speak at all. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask the Government to allot 48 hours for the consideration of the Estimates. No attempt has been made by the Opposition to engage in obstructive tactics, and they are entitled now to a reasonable opportunity to discuss the individual items of the Estimates. The Government cannot possibly justify its present attitude, and private members should not be a party to this attempt to stifle free discussion. The Estimates provide for the expenditure of £8,000,000 on defence alone, and yet Parliament is to be allowed only five hours for the discussion ofthis department. This subject is of sufficient importance to justify a debate lasting a full week. It is evident that the Government is taking this step in order to stifle criticism.
– Listening to the debate on this proposal one might be pardoned for imagining that the Government proposed to rob honorable members of some privilege which they had enjoyed in the past.
Mr.Makin. - It is outrageous.
– It is not, but the honorable member’s attitude to the proposal is certainly outrageous, particularly when we remember that in previous years, even when the honorable member’s party was in power, even less time than it is now proposed to allot, was occupied in the consideration of the Estimates. An analysis of the debate reveals that approximately 34 hours have already been devoted to consideration of the budget.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The time allotted for the discussion of this motion has expired.
Question - That the motion (allotment of time) be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
In Committee of Supply:
Remainder of proposed vote, £123,520.
.- Under the heading of “ Parliament “ there is one item dealing with the conveyance of members of Parliament, regarding which I desire some information.
Mr.Scholfield. - Has it anything to do with the conveyance of some members of Parliament to and from Queanbeyan ?
– It has nothing to do with that, but it probably has something to do with the jaunts of the honorable memberand his friends in Government motor cars. When honorable members are elected to this Parliament they receive a booklet setting forth the privileges to which they are entitled, including those in regard to travelling. According to this booklet an honorable member, once in each session, or four times a year, is entitled to bring his wife to Canberra at the public expense. He is allowed one interstate pass for his wife, and one pass within the State in which he resides. During the time I have been a member - and the official files will confirm this - I have not abused any of these privileges, but I believe that I am entitled to equal consideration in this respect along with every other member. As a matter of fact, during the time I have been a member of Parliament, that is, since 1931, my wife has not once visited Canberra at the expense of the country. There seems to be a great deal of secrecy in regard to expenditure under this heading. The Government should tell the public just how the expenditure, amounting to £27,750 for last year, was incurred, and how the estimated cost of £30,500 for the coming year will be made up. A detailed report regarding expenditure for the conveyance, not so much of members of Parliament as for their dependants, would make very interesting reading. It would be interesting to have details of the expenditure incurred in the conveyance, by motor car, of individual members of the Minis-try, and to be informed why this expenditure was considered necessary. We may be told that these facilities are available to honorable members if they desire to take advantage of them.
– What would be tha cost of conveying from Canberra to Queanbeyan the members of the former New South Wales Labour party?
– About one-third of the cost which the Government has to incur in supplying answers to the foolish questions asked by the honorable gentleman.
Another matter which I desire to discuss is that of the methods “employed in filling vacancies on the Parliamentary staffs. Every member of the community who has the necessary qualifications should have an opportunity to apply for positions that become vacant on the parliamentary staffs, but I find upon inquiry, and from answers to questions submitted by me in this chamber, that this practice has not been followed in the past. It appears that these vacancies are filled by a process with which I am not altogether conversant. I understand that recommendations are made to the President and Mr. Speaker, and that they make appointments. In my opinion, all appointments, from the highest to the lowest grades, should be made as the result of competitive examinations, as is the practice in the ordinary departments of the Public Service. The successful applicants should be chosen on their merits, and not because of their associations with persons already on the parliamentary staffs, or any influence which the applicants or their friends can bring to bear upon the Government, or those responsible for the appointments. I hope that for the future every member of the community who is possessed of the necessary qualifications for appointment to vacant positions will be accorded the opportunity to apply for them, and that the applicants will be required to submit to a competitive .examination. It appears that the present practice is to extend patronage to the relatives of those already on the parliamentary staffs.
– Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have had occasion to compare the quality of the stationery made available to honorable members with that supplied to members of the various State Parliaments, and to officials of municipal and other semi-governmental bodies, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that the stationery provided .for members of this Parliament is the poorest of all. Frequently the flaps of the envelopes cannot be made to stick.
– Ninety per cent, of the envelopes are faulty in that respect.
– Yes. The stationery supplied to members of the national Parliament should be at least equal in quality to that used by members of State parliaments. I trust that the responsible authorities will see that envelopes of a better kind are made available.
– The official note-paper supplied to the federal members’ rooms in Brisbane has been headed “ Federal Members’” Rooms, G.P.O., Brisbane “, but the members’ rooms are now located at the Commonwealth offices in Adelaide-street. The writing paper of the small size is headed “ Federal Members’ Rooms, Commonwealth Offices “, but the paper of the foolscap size merely bears the caption “ Federal Members’ Rooms, Brisbane “. I suggest that the heading in each case should be “ Federal Members’ Rooms, Commonwealth Offices, Adelaide-street, Brisbane This would obviate the need for the address to be type written at the top of every letter.
.- Without making any complaint regarding the activities of the Library Committee, I protest against the Parliamentary Library being closed at times when it is distinctly inconvenient to honorable members to be deprived of access to it. I understand that on Thursday or Friday, when this House rises at about 4 p.m., the Library is closed shortly after that hour, and remains so for the rest of the day. It is open on Saturdays from about 9 a.m. till noon, and it is then closed until Monday morning at nine o’clock. The question is frequently asked, “ Why do not honorable members stay in Canberra over the week-ends?” If the Library were made available to them at the week-ends they could undertake more research work. I speak as an individual who for years has been accustomed to having ready to hand at least the nucleus of a library; but, in Canberra, at the very time when I could most convieniently make use of the Parliamentary Library, I am excluded from it. Other honorable members have complained of this disability. I see no reason why the Library should not be opened on Monday evenings. It is perfectly true that it is not a public library, but I think that it should be open from the day when the Parliament meets for the first time in any session, for a greater number of hours than those during which it is now available. Honorable members are usually called together for a short summer session after Christmas, and for a further period from August or September to about December. For the rest of the time the Library is not used a great deal. I was formerly a member of the Board of Commissioners which controls the Perth Public Library. That institution was open all day until 10.30 p.m., and was also available to the public on Saturday and Sunday evenings. I find it impossible, owing to the pressure of work, to use the Parliamentary Library when the House is sitting, and it is inconvenient to do so even in the mornings of sitting days, yet when I am free at other times to visit the Library it is almost invariably closed. I have no desire that the Library staff should be overworked, or called upon to remain on duty for long periods, but whatever financial provision may be necessary to make the Library meet more fully the convenience of honorable members, should be authorized. If necessary, the staff should be augmented so that whenever honorable members have leisure at the week-ends, the Library will be available to them.. I do not see that much objection could be taken to making the resources of this Library more generally available than they appear to be at the present time. Canberra has been spoken of as giving promise of being a city of culture in the years to come. It is intended to have a National Library here, but for the time being the library attached to this building is the more complete and more easily accessible. Personally I should have no objection to the general public, under proper surveillance, being allowed to use the Library during the evenings on which this House is not sitting. In that way the resources of the Library, which has been established as the result of levies imposed on the general taxpayers, could be made available to the people generally as are the public libraries in the capital cities. I hope that the Library Committee will take notice of these remarks. If it is found that the funds now available for Library purposes will not permit of the granting of the increased facilities which I have suggested, I shall be quite prepared to support any application for an increased vote.
.- In perusing the Estimates one finds almost invariably that the proposed votes provide for an increase as compared with the previous year’s expenditure, and although this is not the case in regard to printing, it seems to me that too much printing is done. Many honorable members frequently remark that they receive more copies of bills and of Votes and Proceedings than are necessary, and I feel sure that economy could be exercised in this regard. Sometimes a bill is passed without amendment. Honorable members receive a copy of it before it is discussed ; later they find another copy on their desks, and on the next day they find in their cabinets in the party rooms yet another copy of the bill as passed, although it has not been altered in any way.
– That is service.
– It is excess of service; it is extravagance. There is room for economy in this respect.
.- 1 call the attention of the committee to the proposed additional expenditure to prevent leakage of rain water through the roof of this building. When I first entered this Parliament the roof was covered by about 25 or 30 tons of gravel in an effort to weigh down the tarred fabric, which had been laid over the concrete flat roof in order to prevent leakage, but without success. The john, house committee then embarked on a “ five-year plan “ to prevent the roof from leaking and it has expended, I understand, an average of £800 a year on this work. Up to date the total expenditure amounts to about £4,000. and the job is not yet complete. The treatment adopted has not been effective, and we have no assurance that the leaking roof, which has been a source of worry ever since the building was erected, will not continue to trouble us. I seriously suggest that the one way in which the difficulty could be surmounted is by erecting an extra storey on this building for the twofold purpose of providing additional accommodation for honorable members and of preventing for all time thu leakage trouble. Honorable members have been put to great inconvenience by the transfer of the Commonwealth Parliament to Canberra. We have been shifted from hotel to hotel as the Government has disposed of these establishments to private enterprise. At present ten honorable members, including myself, have to travel between Canberra and Queanbeyan daily in order to attend the sittings of Parliament. We cannot get, accommodation at a Government hotel in this capital city. We resent that fact, and, furthermore, we contend that were accommodation provided for honorable members at Parliament House itself, more efficiency would result as honorable members would be given more time and opportunity to attend to their work. In other parts of the world accommodation is provided within the precints of parliamentary buildings for members of the legislature, and I consider that the Commonwealth Parliament should follow that precedent. I do not make this suggestion with the idea of obtaining free accommodation. Honorable members would be prepared to pay reasonable rates if rooms were provided. Another aspect of this matter is the fad that the present losses on the parliamentary refreshment-rooms could be eliminated or substantially reduced, if honorable members resided in rooms set apart for them in this building. The average annual loss on the refreshment-rooms is £3,000, and in one year it reached £7,000. This loss is due’ to the fact that many members of Parliament pay a weekly board at the hotels at which they stay, and consequently take most of their meals there. Nevertheless, the . refreshmentrooms must cater for more honorable members than regularly use them, because the staff can never be sure how many honorable gentlemen will be partaking of meals on any sitting day. One week some honorable members may be paying full board at hotels and, in consequence, not use the parliamentary refreshment-rooms, whereas in another week they may decide to take the bed and breakfast rate at the hotel and have all other meals at Parliament House. The whole of the loss caused by these circumstances could be eliminated by the erection of an additional storey on this building for the purpose of makir?g available accommodation which would enable honorable members to live at the scene of their labours. When this matter was taken up with the Secretary of the Joint House Department (Mr.. Broinowski) he said that the architect had reported that the foundations would not carry another story. I am not an expert in building matters, but my estimate of the foundations of this building is that they are adequate to carry two more stories, if necessary. I consider that the report is an attempt to sidetrack the suggestion that an additional story be erected.
– We should have the report of an expert on the foundations.
– I am satisfied that what has been said of the architectural objections is open to doubt, and I believe that an independent report should be made, as has been suggested by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Some honorable members may be afraid to express their views on this matter for fear that the press will say that mem- bers of Parliament are seeking free accommodation. In the past, it has been suggested by the press that the proposal J. have made does represent such an attempt, and, by innuendo, newspapers have also stated that honorable members receive free service from the refreshmentrooms. Honorable members who take advantage of the facilities provided by the refreshment-room pay for everything that they get. I have been a member of the Joint House Committee for two parliaments, .and, having a knowledge of the accounts, I can say definitely that no member of Parliament ever owes money to the department or ever receives anything other than that for which he pays. I myself do not view with pleasure the misinterpretation which the press may place on the remarks I have made, but I do not let that interfere with what I consider to be my duty. On the Joint House Committee are representatives of all parties who are favorable to my suggestion; they should have the courage to express their views openly in this Parliament. The provision of accommodation for members in or adjacent to the legislative chambers has many precedents. This course has been followed in the older countries, and I understand, also, that the Parliament of Queensland makes a certain amount of accommodation available for members .representing remote country constituencies and. unable to return to their homes each week. In this national Parliament all honorable members are far from their homes, and should receive the same treatment as i= accorded to members of the Queensland Parliament. One respect in which the efficiency of this Parliament would be improved by the adoption of my suggestion, is that honorable members would always be at hand when their presence was required. For instance, some of the older or less robust members are often compelled before a sitting is terminated to leave for their beds at the hotels, whereas, if they had accommodation here, they could be easily summoned to the chamber by the bells. It can be seen, therefore, that, apart from considerations of economy, the general welfare, not only of honorable members, but of Parliament itself, would be served by giving effect to the. proposal I have made.
.- For the convenience of the honorable, member for Newcastle, I repeat my suggestion that an office should be provided for him in that city. I understand that to do so would not .create a precedent, because the honorable member representing the district around Launceston already has such an office at Launceston. A federal members’ room at Newcastle would be a convenience, not only to the member concerned, but also to all honorable members and Ministers who visit the centre. Over and above that it would be of convenience to his constituents. Accommodation could be provided either in the Customs House or in the post office. At the present time, when my constituents desire to interview me they call at my home, and if I happen to be away, they make appointments and come back. That is unsatisfactory to them and to me, but if I had an office in Newcastle 1 could be in attendance at certain hours, and my constituents could be given the service they deserve. I have previously made representations on this point to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), but without success, and in his absence I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) to refer my remarks to him.
.- I desire information concerning the wages .and salaries to be paid to the staffs of this Parliament in the current year. Reference to the details of salaries reveals a small decrease of all salaries. I assume that this is due to the cost of living adjustment, and. if my assumption is right,’! protest, because I consider, and I think that all honorable members will agree, that the cost of living in this city is very much higher than in other cities of the Commonwealth. No doubt this reduction is in accordance with Public Service practice, but every honorable member and every other person in this town knows that not only is the quality of food generally inferior to what one gets in the other capital cities, but also that the amount allowed by way of living allowance is ridiculously inadequate, having regard to living costs generally in Canberra.
The vote last year for the salaries of cleaners was £2.150, but this year it is only £1,804, and I want an explanation of that reduction. In calling for this information, I assure the committee that I have not been primed by officers of Parliament to raise the matter. I think that the reduction of that vote, if it mean? that some officers are to be put off for a considerable portion of the year without being provided with other employment, is wrong. Members of the cleaning staff often are called upon to do dual service as waiters in the refreshment rooms, and, to do this work satisfactorily, a ma;i must be of sober habits, alert, and intelligent; it would be shameful to force him to hang around Canberra without the remotest chance of getting a job during the parliamentary recesses. I trust that a reason will be given for the reduction in respect of each item.
.- I am not a member of the House Committee, but I recognize the very many important duties that devolve upon it and the desirability of every facility being afforded for it to function. Members of the committee have told me, however, that it seldom meets, and that the responsibility for the discharge of its duties largely rests with the President and Mr. Speaker.
– As a committee it is largely a farce.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens), who is a member of the committee, has confirmed my impression. While I have every confidence in the President and Mr. Speaker as executive officers, I feel that, they should not assume full responsibility for the discharge of functions which the Parliament has entrusted to a committee of its members. I do not accuse the prosent occupants of those offices of the adoption of autocratic methods, but I know that at one time a presiding officer who was an absolute autocrat gave the House Committee little or no opportunity to consider matters affecting the rights and privileges of honorable members. Such a practice is not desirable. The members of that committee should have the determination of what will best pro-, mote the interests of honorable members, but that is not possible without periodical meetings of the committee. While I was Speaker and the late Sir Walter Kings mill was President of, the Senate, the House Committee met regularly. If this is not now the practice, we should insist upon members of the committee being given adequate opportunity to discharge their functions.
.- Referring to the item “ Conveyance of members of Parliament and others, £30,500 “ the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has dealt with the privileges of honorable members and their wives. This item covers principally the cost of the railway passes of the members of this Parliament; the matter of privileges, however, comes within the purview of the Department of the Interior, and doubtless the Minister in charge of that department will deal with it.
The honorable member also referred to appointments that have been made to the parliamentary staffs, and complained that competitive examinations had not been held for the filling of positions which had become vacant. The Public Service Act guides the presiding officers in this matter. Competitive examinations have not been held for appointments, to . the fourth division, covering positions such as that of cleaner, because the act does not provide for examination in such cases. I do not know of any other appointments to which the honorable member could have referred. I find it difficult to decide how it would be practicable to hold competitive examinations for such positions. Certainly applications could be invited, but the response would be tremendous. The method adopted is to make a selection from other branches of the Public Service, in which are available men who are well known and are highly recommended. There are always numerous applicants for these positions when vacancies occur.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has referred to the parliamentary stationery. I was unaware of any dissatisfaction in regard to its quality. This matter was raised during the discussion of the Estimates last year, and as the result of a thorough investigation by the House Committee improvement was effected. I have heard no complaints in recent months; but if any honorable member considers that there is room for further improvement, I should like him to make his suggestions to me. Reference has been made to the coat of arms on the envelopes, which at present is printed. It has been suggested that the envelopes might be embossed, as is the case with the envelopes of certain’ State departments. I have gone into this matter to some extent with the officers of the House and have found that, although additional expense would be involved, it would not be sufficiently great to prohibit the adoption of .the suggestion. Final consideration of the matter has been deferred pending the return to Canberra of the President of the Senate.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has referred to the hours during which the Parliamentary Library is open for the convenience of honorable members. The honorable gentleman also suggested that the public might be allowed to make greater use of it. The Library Committee has gone into the matter of an extension of hours, and at its next meeting will consider a report prepared by the Librarian and his officers. It is anticipated that the convenience of the Library may be made available to honorable members after the adjournment of the House on Thursdays or Fridays, if ‘that be desired, and perhaps also on Saturday afternoon. This provision of additional privileges would, of course, require extra expenditure - all such privileges do - because no one would suggest that the attendants s’hould work additional hours; thus ‘extra staff would have to be employed. ‘One purpose of the Library is to enable honorable members to prosecute their researches, but I can hardly conceive of its being necessary to keep the Library open on Sunday on that acount. In all proba’bil’ity, the Library Committee will agree to extra provision being made with respect to Saturdays and other days when the House is not sitting.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has referred to the supplies of stationery -at the Federal Members’ Rooms., Brisbane. He must have been using old supplies. Fresh supplies have been forwarded.
– The address of the Federal Members’ Rooms in Brisbane has been altered, and the new address should appear on the stationery.
– That can easily be remedied. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has referred to the cost of printing. This matter was raised last year. I do not think that the extra cost incurred in the duplication of bills and the like is sufficiently great to warrant complaint. On more than one occasion some honorable members have complained of insufficiency of supplies, and it has been pointed out that, in addition to being posted to honorable members, copies were available on the table. Because some little time may elapse between the introduction of a bill and the debate on it, additional requirements have had to be met .at times. In regard to papers generally, “honorable members have been invited to state what they wish to have supplied to them. Those for which they ask, they receive. The officers of the House are doi»g everything possible to reduce .the cost without impairing the privileges .of honorable members.
I do not feel that I can deal with the provision of extra accommodation -for honorable members, because, although ‘the President of the Senate and I have full control over the available accommodation in this building, we are not in a position to enlarge it. Inquiry was made of Are architect as to the practicability of adding another storey to this building, but I undetst-an’3 that bis report was unfavorable. The ma’tter is one for the Government to consider.
The honorable member for ‘Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has referred to the reduction of the salaries of ‘certain officers. He probably has in mind a reduction due to a decrease of the cost of living. An .amount of about £6 is in dispute. The President -of the .Senate and I have been considering the matter, but have not yet completed our inquiry. “We shall certainly see that no injustice is done to members ‘of the parliamentary staffs, as compared with .the Public Service. The rise or fall of -salaries in accordance with fluctuations of the ‘cost of living is, of course, governed by an act of Parliament. All that we can insist upon is that the parliamentary officer is treated in precisely the same way as the public servant.
Everything possible is done to retain, when Parliament is not in session, the services of those who ‘ are temporarily employed. During recesses it is notpossible to keep in the parliamentary service all the waiters who are engaged while Parliament is sitting. Quite a number of them find temporary employment in Canberra, and are again available when the sittings are resumed. We are very glad that they are, because we prefer to employ practised waiters and the like.
.- The observations of Mr. Speaker, in regard to the Library, covered fairly effectively the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I take a very special interest in this matter, because I have the honour to be a member of the Library Committee. A study of the volume of work that falls to the lot of the Library staff, and the thoroughness with which it is done, is most informative. I believe I shall have the concurrence of every honorable member when I say that we are admirably served in the Library by a body of experts. I hardly think that honorable members realize the great amount of work performed by the Library staff, or the extent to which that work necessarily goes. It all appears very simple and very easy to those not acquainted with it in detail, but the more an honorable member becomes acquainted with the detail the more he realizes that the service rendered is highly skilled. I entirely agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that the Library, with all its excellences, should be made more available for a longer period than at present. It is a question, of course, of extra hours of employment. It is obvious that, if the Library is to be open for extended hours, extra staff will be required. Although I am not able to anticipate the decision of the Library Committee on this subject, I may say that the Librarian has had before the committee for some time a scheme by which., with the employment of an additional officer for hours a week, the Library could be made available to honorable members for a considerably longer period than at present. The Library should, of course, be open for some hours apart from the sitting hours of Parliament. Parliament rises about 4 o’clock on alternate Thursdays and Fridays, and no time is more suitable for a little quiet study .than the hours which follow the early rising of the House on those days. Nearly every week ‘some honorable members desire to use the Library between the time the House rises and the evening trains depart from Canberra to take honorable gentlemen back to their constituencies.
That is a subject on which I may make a passing reference. It has been charged against the integrity of some honorable members that they usually take the first available train to leave the capital. Such critics should remember that an honorable member’s duty perforce takes him back to his electorate, for members of Parliament have duties, not only in Parliament House, but also in their constituencies. Some honorable gentlemen, however, who represent distant electorates, spend a considerable amount of time in Canberra. In fact, they live here almost continuously during parliamentary sessions. It is of the first importance that such, honorable gentlemen should have access to the Library to prepare their work, and also, it may be said without hesitation or shame, to enjoy the legitimate relaxation which the Library gives when their work of the week in the House is over.
The National Library is now open, and its work is being expanded. Many of the books formerly housed in the Parliamentary Library have been removed to the National Library, and this has involved a great deal of additional work, as books need to be brought from the National Library to Parliament House, and to be taken from Parliament House to the National Library.
Honorable gentlemen interested in the work of world libraries would be well advised to peruse the admirable report prepared by our Librarian as the result of a visit he paid some time ago to the United States of America and other countries, where world-renowned libraries are established. This report is both illuminating and informative, and I have no doubt that it would be made available to honorable members who express a desire to read it.
We all hope that one of the important features of Canberra in the clays to come will be its historical records and its libraries. Our libraries are rapidly becoming of national importance. If honorable members interested in historical research care to refer to the many valuable documents and records available here - very inadequately housed, it must be admitted - they will find a wide field of interesting research open to them.
Without unfairly anticipating the decision of the Library Committee,, I shall be safe in informing the Leader of the Opposition that the hours during which the Library will be open are likely to bc extended. A.t all events, I shall support such a proposal. A little extra cost will be involved, as I have said, but it will be entirely justified by the additional convenience afforded to honorable members.
– I asked, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) for some information in connexion with meetings of the House Committee, but I think he overlooked my inquiry in the course of his remarks a few moments ago.
– I am sorry that T overlooked the honorable gentleman’s inquiry. He referred to the relatively few meetings that the House Committee has hold, and also said, something about autocratic methods.
Mi-. Makin. - I made no accusation against the honorable member for Darwin in that regard.
– I wondered which presiding officer of other days he had in mind, but probably it .would not be proper for me to ask him to identify the gentleman to whom he referred.
– At any rate I did not accuse the honorable member.
– I know that is so. I did not hear the interjection of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) while the honorable member for Hindmarsh was speaking, but I know of no occasion when a. meeting of the House Committee has not been held to discus.? any matter that fell within its jurisdiction. I am not the chairman of the committee, but I am in close touch with it and I can assure the honorable member for Hindmarsh that, whenever it, is necessary for the committee to meet, it is called together. I am really at a loss to know what the honorable member has in his mind. He is apparently dissatisfied with something that has been done, or omitted to be done. Otherwise he would not have referred to the subject-
– I am dissatisfied because the House Committee does not meet at regular intervals, as it should do.
– .Does the honorable member for Hindmarsh know of any matter that should have been remitted to the House Committee? I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will tell me the burden of his complaint.
– How often does the House Committee meet?
– It meets whenever a meeting is necessary.
– How long is it since its last meeting?
– It has met at least once sine* Parliament was called together in September. I can assure the honorable member that, if it is necessary for the committee to meet, it will be called together, but no regular times for meetings have been fixed, because there has not been regular business to transact.
.- -I am not sure that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) understood what information I required. I wish to know whether he approves of the practice of filling vacancies on the parliamentarystaffs without proper examination. I did not specifically refer to cleaners - in fact, I referred to positions from the highest to the lowest. Does not the honorable member think it is fair and just to hold competitive examinations for vacancies that occur on any of the staffs?
– That is not always practicable.
– Many vacancies have been filled before the general public has realized that a vacancy existed. The information has been available to certain persons associated with Parliament, and these have notified their friends, with the result that nominations have ‘been made and appointments approved before very many people knew of the vacancies.
.- I wish to make it very clear that I interjected while the honorable member for
Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) was speaking with a very definite object. As a member of the House Committee I make the deliberate statement that the meetings of the committee have developed into a farce. Resolutions are reached which even members of the committee do not respect. A certain resolution was reached, for instance, regarding the use of the billiards room, and when I directed attention to the failure to adhere to it on a certain occasion, I was told that nothing could be done. If members of the House Committee themselves take no notice when attention is directed to the failure to adhere to a resolution of the committee, and when those who direct attention to the breach are laughed at for their pains by an honorable gentleman who was once a Minister of the present Government, proper control is impossible.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of this proposed vote has expired.
Remainder of proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £403,150.
.- I wish to make reference to a certain phase of the work of the Development Branch of the Prime Minister’s Department, which has specific relation to the search for oil. By recent legislation this Parliament has authorized and, indeed, has directly encouraged the practice which is developing of allowing certain companies very large leases of land in parts of the territories held: by the Commonwealth under mandate, and in certain otherareas over which it has authority. “We are living in what may be termed a petrol age. Nations are absolutely dependent upon oil. To-day oil is the very lifeblood of industry and, for defence purposes, it is the life-blood of the nation. Certain factors in defence which are to be considered by the committee recently set up for the purpose cannot prove very satisfactory or of any great value to the Commonwealth unless there is an assurance of motive power. Complete dependence upon oil is intensified in Australia on account of the geographical position, the isolation, and the vast coast-line of the country. Every mechanical means of transport used in connexion with defence to-day is driven by oil. Our ships, aeroplanes, tanks, lorries, and the like, are all dependent upon oil, and in Australia we have no developed oil resources, although we have the means to produce oil and, according to reports, have every reason to believe that indigenous oil will be found. The Commonwealth Government has, in the past, expended £578,000 on the search for oil, and quite recently the Petroleum Oil Search Act was passed by Parliament under which an additional £250,000 was made available as ‘ a subsidy for drilling purposes on a £1 for £1 basis. Tinder the Oil Agreement Act of 1920, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was to send out a fully-equipped geological expedition to search for oil, to take full direction and control of such expeditions, to select sites for test drilling, and to supervise boring operations. During the operations a good deal of doubt existed as to the bona fides of the work being carried out. I make the statement definitely that there is. a good deal of suspicion associated with the legitimacy of the efforts to discover oil in Australia. Mr. A. Blakeley, who, as Minister for the Interior in the Scullin Government, made a close study of the oil question, in the course of a speech in this
Parliament said -
Briefly my charge is that there is undoubted evidence that oil was discovered in Papua and German New Guinea, and that the Commonwealth Government has been wilfully and maliciously misled by officials of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in the pay of the Government to prevent oil being discovered.
In other words-, although the Commonwealth Government provided money for the purpose of encouraging the search for oil, persons engaged in the search were more concerned with not discovering than with discovering oil. In view of the application of the guillotine I do not propose to survey this matter at any great length. What I am concerned about, what the people of Australia are concerned about, and what the Government ought to be concerned about, is that there shall be a thorough, reliable, and honest search for oil by those to whom permits are granted, and if there is the faintest suspicion of lack of purposein their efforts, the permits should be immediately withdrawn. Large concessions have been granted to certain powerful companies by this Government in connexion with the search for oil. It would, appear that British New Guinea presents, perhaps, the largest reported virgin area with oil possibilities anywhere in the world. It is only necessary to look at the geological reports of the work carried out by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company to see how very small an area was covered in detail by geological surveys. According to Mr. B. K.. N. Wyllie, senior geologist of the Anglo’-Persian Oil Company, less than 10,000 square miles was surveyed and of that total less than 1,000 square miles was surveyed in detail. In this regard, Mr. Blakeley, referring to a party of geologists who visited Papua, said that Mr. Lister James, a geologist of repute, soon condemned the work that Dr. Wade had done. He pointed out that eight wells had been sunk at enormous cost in an area of a little over a square mile, and that not anything like that number of bores should have been sunk. According to a question which I asked the Prime Minister, permits to search for oil over given areas have been granted to four companies. Papua Oil Development Company Limited, with a capital of £50,000, was, I understand, formed by Mr. Ahern, of Moir and Ahern, solicitors to the Shell Company. Mr. Ahern arrived at Port Moresby two days before the permits were gazetted. It appears that this company will in reality be, a subsidiary branch of the Shell Company, although two-thirds of the capital will be Australian.
– Was this company formed since the act was passed?
– Yes. Another company, Islands Exploration Company Proprietary Limited, was formed in Victoria by Sir Arthur Robinson, solicitor to the Vacuum Oil Company. It would appear that this company is really a subsidiary branch of the Vacuum Oil Company. Four companies have been granted permits to exploit large areas in Papua and New Guinea under legislation passed by this Parliament, and two of these, I say definitely, are subsidiaries of the Shell Company, and the Vacuum Oil Company which have predominant interests in the exploitation of existing oil resources under their control, and by reason of the fact that Australia has no oil available commercially, they are able to extract from the people a higher price for oil than is charged in any other country. I say further that the first directors and shareholders of those companies included senior officers of the Vacuum Oil Company as well as a partner of Sir Arthur Robinson. Oil Search Limited, a company made up of Australian shareholders, which is not associated with any major oil company is, I understand, conducting extensive operations in its search for oil.
– It is doing excellent work.
– I agree, and it has no connexion with either the Shell Company or the Vacuum Oil Company. I have been advised that Mr. E. Lawrence, formerly chairman of Roma Oil Corporation Limited, gave the following information which throws light on the methods adopted by major oil companies in the search for oil : -
During the premature oil boom about eight years ago in the Roma district of Queensland, opinion grew that oil was likely to be discovered there in commercial quantities. ‘ The Queensland Oil Ordinance precluded foreigners; individuals or corporations, from holding titles. Mr. Cornforth, the then General Manager in Australia for the Vacuum Oil Company, negotiated with Roma Oil Corporation Limited, an agreement whereby the former company would find the capital and organize the work in Queensland, all proceeds being divided on an agreed basis. Terms were finalized, negotiations taking place in the presence of Sir Sydney Snow, then a director of Roma Oil Corporation Limited. The draft of the terms for an agreement approved by Messrs Cornforth and Lawrence, was handed to the solicitors of both companies for finalization Extended delays took place, caused b3’ the solicitors of the Vacuum Oil Company, no doubt prompted by the then pending State election in Queensland.
That election resulted in the defeat of the Labour Government and the election of the Nationalist Government with Mr. Moore, as Premier.
Shortly thereafter Mr. Moore announced that a major oil company had undertaken to spend £200,000 in Queensland in the search for oil if the ordinance was amended to admit foreigners.
The amendment was made.
Mr. Cornforth then told Mr. Lawrence that the tentative arrangement with Roma Oil Corporation Ltd. would not be ratified. Needless to say neither the Vacuum Oil Company r.or a’ny other foreign oil company has fulfilled the promise referred to by Mr. Moore.
I was astonished at the elaborate arguments advanced by the Prime Minister in reply to a question which I placed on the notice-paper concerning the operations of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries and I express my utmost dissatisfaction with their general purport. It appears strange that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited lias not been able to sell petrol at a much lower price. That appears to be a reasonable statement to make, having regard to the amount of Commonwealth money invested in the company and the purpose for which it was formed. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was inaugurated for a national purpose. In a pamphlet issued by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, I find the following paragraph : -
The latest Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited service to the nation is an extensive search for oil now being conducted by leading geologists in co-operation with a committee of eminent scientists.
It says that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is engaged in tha search for oil. That is very vague and should be followed by a detailed explanation to this Parliament particularly in view of the reply given by the Prime Minister to-day in answer to my question, “ What has the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited done to secure permanent supplies of petroleum products for Australia?” The right honorable gentleman said, “ Such action forms no part of the obligations imposed on the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited under the Oil Agreement. Act of 1920 “. Yet the pamphlet issued states specifically that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is engaged in the extensive search for oil and that its operations are being conducted by leading geologists in cooperation with eminent scientists. Naturally having considerable responsibility to the people for the safeguarding of public money and public policy, I asked the Prime Minister in face of that declaration what the company was doing. The right honorable gentleman, however, was content to reply that it was not bound by its obligations under the Oil Agree- ment Act of 1920, but had of its own volition undertaken certain responsibilities in this connexion, and that since Dr. Gray, whose services had been mad*.1 available by the Anglo-Persian Oil Cornpay, had arrived, a great deal of valuable work had been carried out. In another portion of the pamphlet to which I have referred this statement appears: -
A full measure of public and industrial support will enable the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to extend its usefulness nml wide range of services to the nation, and to prove its value as a national investment in consolidating a huge oil industry that will bo a safeguard of our economic independence.
I also asked what the geologists have clone so far, and the Prime Minister informed me that “ for obvious reasons it would not be in the public interests to disclose this information “. The public- interest is the first consideration, and in that interest we should know what is going on and what the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is actually doing. We should also exercise a close and proper supervision over the activities of companies formed to exploit the -£250,000 provided by way of bounty by this Parliament to encourage the search for oil. We must see that that money, in addition to the amount of £578,000 which has already been expended in the search for oil in Australia, is not wasted. I look at this matter as one of great gravity, for the defence of this country depends upon securing for ourselves the requisite supplies of oil for use in the event of emergency. If we cannot discover oil the obligation it on the Government, to build up such substantial reserves of this essential commodity as will make us independent of outside sources for at least one or two years. I urge the Acting Prime Minister to give this matter close consideration.
I turn now to the activities of the High Commissioner’s office. The committee will remember that in the budget speech reference was made to. the substantial conversions of overseas loans and the benefit which has resulted to Australia. During the general debute I analysed that, and I now come to the fact that at the present time Australian loans totalling nearly £190,000,000, domiciled in Great Britain, are bearing interest rates
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1936/19361104_reps_14_152/>.