14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister make representations to the Postmaster-General with a view to having country telegraph and telephone linemen equipped with some form of fire-fighting apparatus before the ensuingbushfire season?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s representations to the notice of the Postmaster-General.
Mr.CURTIN.- Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Monetary and Banking Commission has yet furnished a report? If so, is the report unanimous? If it is not, are there one or two minority reports? Further, how soon is it proposed that the members of this Parliament may see the report or reports, as the case maybe?
– An interim report by the Monetary and Banking Commission was presented to His Excellency the Governor-General yesterday. It is now in draft form, and will be considered by the Government. It will be possible to furnish answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions in the course of a few days.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister give to the House the cost to date of this commission.
– I believe that that information was furnished in answer to a question asked by the Loader of the Opposition a couple of days ago.
Proposal for Redistributionof Westernaustralia.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to-
That the report by the commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions, laid on the table of the House on the 17th inst., be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Report to Council of League of Nations on Administration of Nauru during1936.
Ordered to be printed.
Department of External Affairs - Report for 1930.
Customs Act and Commerce(Trade Descriptions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937,Nos. 65,66, 67, 68.
Public Service Act - Appointments - W.G. Bamford, R. H. Bowen, Department of the Interior.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No.69.
Seat of Government Acceptance and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1936 - No. 49 - Advisory Council.
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 1 - Rates.
No. 2 - Roman Catholic Church Property Trust.
No. 3 - Administration and Probate.
No. 4 - Seat of Government (Administration ) .
No. 5 - Court of Petty Sessions. Regulations Amended, &c, under -
Industrial Board Ordinances.
Public Baths Ordinance.
PublicHealth Ordinance (2).
– In view of the statement that appeared in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald, to the effect that the Government of Tasmania had refused to allow Clark Island to be used as an area for the conduct of necessary experiments with serum for the destruction of rabbits, will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government will take action to see that a suitable area elsewhere is made available for this purpose at the earliest moment?
– Consideration will be given to the honorable member’s request.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Government has yet received from Mr. G. F. Davis his approval of the proposed agreement between him and the governments of the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, in respect of the development of the Newnes shale oil-field? Does the Government propose to introduce a bill to ratify such an agreement before Parliament again goes into recess? In the event of its not being possible to do so, will the right honorable gentleman state whether it would be strictly necessary to have the agreement ratified before operations at Newnes were actually commenced.
– A draft of. the agreement between the company to be formed by Mr. George F. Davis, andthe Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales, was handed to. Mn Davis’s representatives in Sydney in time for despatch to Mr. Davis by the air mail which left on Friday, the 18th June, 1937. The agreement should reach Mr. Davis in London about the 2nd July next. After examination of the agreement, Mr. Davis will cable his acceptance of the draft, or, alternatively, suggest any desired amendments. If the agreement is not ready in time for presenter tion to the House during the present sittings, it will be submitted to Parliament before it ultimately rises. There are many difficulties in the way of the negotiation of an agreement of this kind. It is an agreement covering the establishment of a new industry in Australia, embodying terms and conditions in respect of which no analogies exist. Thereare three parties to the agreement, and it has to be submitted to two Parliaments for ratification.
– Representationswere lately made to the effect that the importation of bicycles from Japan was threatening to prejudice the Australian trade. Has the Minister’ for Trade and Customs completed his inquiries into the matter? If so, with what result?
– Shortly before the House assembled, I made a statement on this subject in the course of which I explained that the apprehension existing in the minds of Australian manufacturers was, perhaps, unwarranted. Less than £100 worth of bicycles were imported from Japan during last year, whereas 150,000 bicycles are built in Australia” annually. Moreover, such bicycles as are imported from Japan come here in the form of parts, just as do those from Great Britain. They are being assembled in Australia, so that no unemployment will be occasioned among those engaged in the work of assembling, while tyres and other accessories are being manufactured here. However, the Department can require, when the shipments arrive, that a deposit be made so that if subsequently there is a charge of dumping, and if protection is inadequate, application can be made to the Tariff Board for an inquiry.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the report, which was tabled yesterday, of Dr. Rivett regarding the extraction of oil from coal in Australia? If so, how can he reconcile this report with the fact that in Great Britain, Germany and Japan, where there is no well oil, industries have been established for the extraction of oil from coal? The report of Sir David Rivett says that the cost of producing oil from coal in Australia would be1s. 5d. a gallon, whereas-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member may not give information while asking a question.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister reconcile the report of Sir David Rivett with the findings of the committee set up by the Government of New South Wales, presided over by Mr. F. A. Easton, and attended by our own Commonwealth Fuel Adviser, Mr. Rogers? This report states that the low temperature carbonization process-
– The honorable member is not asking a question.
– But I am. I may be taking a long time to get to it.
– The honorable member must not address the Chair in that way. He is obviously debating the merits of the report and is asking the Minister’s opinion of it.
– Then I ask : How can Sir David Rivett’s report be reconciled with the report of the committee set up by the Government of New South Wales, which report states-
– Order !
– that the cost of production would be1s. a gallon-
– I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed. In that way he is comparing two reports; he is not asking a question.
– while the New South Wales committee says that the cost should be only1s. a gallon?
– The honorable member must resume his seat. He is out of order.
– So you are to be the judge. A pretty hostile fellow you are!
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is grossly offensive. He must withdraw that statement, and apologize to the Chair, or I shall take action against him.
– Well, you can take action.
– I name the honorable member for Hunter, Mr. James.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) put -
That the honorable member for Hunter be suspended from the service of the House. (Mr.Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
The House divided.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member forHunter thereupon withdrew.
Mr.Brennan. - I expressed an opinion. If it was considered offensive to the Chair I withdraw it.
– The honorable member must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Has the Government yet received replies from all of the State governments signifying their acquiescence or not in a Commonwealthwide campaign to stimulate the sale of apples and pears in Australia this year; if so, can the Acting Prime Minister make a statement in regard to the matter?
– I have not all of “the details with me at the present time; I shall make a statement in regard to the matter to-morrow.
– Was the Prime Minister outlining the policy and speaking with the authority of the Government when he stated in his opening speech at the Imperial Conference that the British Commonwealth of Nations is prepared to act together in support of international law and order?
– If the honorable member would read the whole of the context of the Prime Minister’s speech he would understand exactly what was intended and what was meant; that is the policy of the Government.
– Has the Government yet come to a decision regarding the request of a delegation of poultry farmers for the remission of the special import duties imposed on maize used for poultry feed ?
– That matter is still under consideration.
– Is there any truth in the rumour circulated in reference to the recent negotiations for an agreement between the overseas shipping companies and the Commonwealth Government that, although a reduction is to take place in respect of outward freights, incoming cargo will be subjected to a freight increase of 10 per cent.?
– The Government has no information whatever in connexion with reported statements that the shipping companies intend to raise freights on certain goods coming to Australia.
– Has any action been taken as requested by myself and other honorable members to endeavour to improve trade communications between Western Australia and India in order to secure a market in India for Australian fruit and vegetables?
– The report of the delegation to India which was sent over a year ago has been very carefully considered and efforts have been made to endeavour to secure the results desired.
– I desire to know if the agreement with the British Government with respect to air mails has yet reached a stage which enables it to be submitted to this House for ratification.
– The agreement has not yet reached that stage.
– Is the Minister aware that many farmers in Victoria are unable to obtain supplies of fertilizers owing particularly to the demand on account of the late rains in the wheat areas and consequently that they will not be able to comply with the conditions laid down for the granting of the fertilizers subsidy? If the honorable gentleman is aware of these conditions, will he make it possible for those farmers to share in the subsidy, at least in respect of those orders which will be placed before the 80th June?
– The Government is, of course, strictly bound by the terms of the legislation passed by this House. If there are any special circumstances whichthe honorable member thinks shouldbe considered, I trust he will bring them before the Government.
– Is the salary formerly received by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), who recently resigned his portfolio, being distributed among the other Ministers?
– Is the Acting Minister for Defence in a position to give the House anyinformation as to the stage which has been reached in respect of the proposal of the two foreign air companies to conduct air services to Australia - I refer to the Dutch service, and the proposed Japanese service by way of the Pellew Islands?
– The Government has no official information in connexion with the proposed Japanese service to Australia. As far as the Dutch line is concerned, the Commonwealth Government has agreed to the principle of the Dutch company extending its service to Australia, but details have not yet been finalized.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister or have any of the Ministers, during their many trips overseas, ever paid a visit to Australia House? Have they seen the parade of sandwich men and women who stand in front of Australia House bearing posters attack ing Australia? One of the posters recently displayed reads -
The Land of Sunshine,
Dud Land Settlement Schemes. and another -
Don’t Buy Australian Goods
My information comes from photographs taken on the scene. I desire to know if the Government has taken any action to prevent the continuance of these insults against Australia?
– Last year I was daily at Australia House for a considerable period, and on no occasion did I see any sandwich men in the position suggested by the honorable member.
– Will the Acting Treasurer state whether the Government, in 1934, allocated £133,000 by way of a grant to Western Australia as its share of a grant which was accompanied by the request that the money be devoted, as far as possible, to the provision of employment, and especially the employment of boys, and whether the State Government appropriated the whole of that amount to the general revenue? In connexion with the proposed grant of £200,000 to promote youth employment, will the Commonwealth Government attach conditions to ensure that these funds will not be diverted from the stated purpose of the grant ?
– The honorable member was good enough to notify me that he proposed to ask these questions. In 1934-35 the Commonwealth Government allocated an amount of £2,000,000, being part of the surplus of 1933-34, to the States. Of that amount £133,000 was paid to Western Australia’. No conditions were attached to the grant, but the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated that if the Commonwealth were to administer the grant it would give consideration to unemployment, and, particularly to unemployed youths. The amount was included as a receipt of the State’s consolidated revenue. The Loan Council, at its meeting in June, 1934, had unanimously approved of the allocation of the larger portion of the proposed grant of £2,000,000 to the reduction of the deficits of the States. The grant .of £200,000 to be made by the Commonwealth to the States in 1937-38 will be devoted to the Youth Employment Scheme by mutual agreement between the Commonwealth and States.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister given consideration to the request made to him last year by Tasmanian members of this House and of the other branch of the legislature, with reference to an increased bounty on apples and pears consigned to the United Kingdom, owing to the great loss which the growers made last year? A promise was given that the matter would be considered. Has the Government reached a decision, or is it still considering the matter?
– The Government gave full and sympathetic consideration to the question but found itself unable to provide an additional bounty. This year, fortunately, it has been able to make arrangements in regard to freight which will save the growers 5d. a case, as compared with the cost of freight three years ago..
Rose Bay Site
– In view of the statement attributed to the survey committee’ that Botany Bay is tpo exposed to permit of the successful establishment of an air mail base there, is the Acting Minister for Defence aware that bases for flying boats . have been established in the open sea, the English Channel and the North Sea, and, if so, how can he agree with the statement that the land-locked area of Botany Bay is too exposed?
– I shall obtain technical details in reply to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister received advice to the effect that the residents of Pinkenba on the Brisbane River, are gratified to know that a seaplane base will be established there, and that they are satisfied that the establishment of the base will result in definite progress and development in that area?
– I have received no protest whatever from any residents in that locality.
– In. view of” the disturbance which the establishment of a seaplane base is expected to cause in the beautiful, but stagnant, back waters of Sydney, will the Acting Minister and his department take into consideration the carrying of the overseas air mail by the simplest, safest and shortest route from Brisbane direct to New Zealand, via Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island?
– The suggestion will receive every consideration.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Defence whether, if the Government ultimately decides to establish an air mail base at Rose Bay, it is intended to permit its use by all air lines that may subsequently operate flying boats? Is it the intention of the Government to give complete control of the waters of Rose Bay to private enterprise as requested by Qantas? I also ask whether, as the survey committee has explored the possibility of Pinkenba, an industrial suburb of Brisbane, being used as an air base, steps will be taken to extend a similar courtesy to Sydney? In other words, will the survey committee be asked to inspect suitable sites in industrial suburbs in preference to the exclusive residential suburb of Rose Bay?
– The honorable member’s representations will receive consideration.
– In view of the restive feeling which has been created among the people of Australia owing to the frequency of aeroplane accidents and disasters, will the Government take steps to see that all inquiries into the causes of aeroplane accidents are open to the public, instead of being held in camera as in the past?
– The Government will give, consideration to the request.
Pearl Shell Industry: Patrol Boats
– Are the mishaps to the patrol boat Larrakia to be accounted for by the fact that, prior to being brought to Australia, this vessel was merely a patrol boat on the Thames, although it is now expected to go 600 miles on the open sea? Is it a fact that theRooganah was previously a private fishing launch? Has the Minister made up his mind to place the whole of the papers relating to this matter on the table of the House?
– I understand that the Larrakia is quite a new vessel. I do not think it did any patrol service in England or elsewhere prior to coming to Australia. The Rooganah was obtained from the lighthouse service, and, as far as I know, was not a fishing boat at any time. It would not be in the public interest to lay the papers regarding this matter on the table,
– In view of the expected world shortage of supplies of iron ore, what has the Government done, or what does it propose to do, to protect Australian interests in ‘ connexion with the Yampi Sound deposits?
– The exploitation of those deposits is a matter which was decided by the Government of Western Australia. No exportation of iron ore from Yampi Sound has yet taken place, and, with regard to the future, I have already said that the Commonwealth Government has undertaken a review of the whole matter of the deposits of iron ore throughout Australia.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say how many hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ore have been shipped from South Australia during the last few years, no protest whatever having been made?
– I cannot say precisely. Iron ore has been exported from other parts of Australia, but none has been exported from Yampi Sound.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister lay on the table, for the information of honorable members, all papers or information available regarding the Yampi Sound iron ore leases, particularly with respect of the granting of mineral leases to a man named Buckley, and the transfer of these leases to Sir James Connolly, an ex-Minister of Western Australia? Will the right honorable gpntleman- ascertain if it is true that Sir James Connolly made a profit of over £48,000 by the transfer of the leases to a J apanese-controlled company ?
– If the honorable member desires that information, I shall request it from the Labour Government of Western Australia which, of course, is the only Ministry responsible for any such transaction.
Presentation to His Excellency the Governor-General.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House at 11.30 a.m. tomorrow. I shall be glad if the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, together with other honorable members who so desire, will accompany me when I present it.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. H. Bandy, J. P. Camm and S. R. H. Roberts, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the seventeenth day of June, 1937, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report be adopted.
Honorable members may remember that, following the census taken on the 30th June, 1933, commissioners were appointed to propose a redistribution of the electoral divisions in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
The authority for this action is cou- t ained in section 25 of the Electoral Act which provides that a redistribution may be undertaken -
Reports were duly received from the respective commissioners submitting proposals for the redistribution of the electoral divisions in each of the States mentioned, and in the case of the States of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia the proposals were adopted and given effect to prior to the general elections held on the 15th September, 1934.
With regard to the States of Victoria and Western Australia, the commissioners’ original proposals were disapproved by this House, and, as time did not permit of fresh proposals being obtained and dealt with before the dissolution, the 1934 elections in the States mentioned necessarily had to be held on the then existing boundaries.
Subsequently, a. direction was issued to the commissioners for these two States to submit fresh redistribution proposals. These were received and while the proposals in respect of the State of Victoria were, in due course, adopted, those in respect of the State of Western Australia were, on the 14th May, 1936, again disapproved by this House, mainly with the object of enabling further proposals to be submitted by the commissioners on the basis of up-to-date figures.
Honorable members may recall that the. previous proposals for the redistribution of the electoral divisions in Western Australia were based on the enrolment figures as at the 30th December, 1933. On these figures the Division of Kalgoorlie was considerably below the allowable minimum and therefore the commissioners were compelled in any scheme of redistribution based on those figures to increase the territory of that already extremely large division. Since 1933, however, the enrolment for Kalgoorlie Division has advanced at a much greater rate than that of any other division in the State, and when the last proposals were disapproved by this House that division was already well within the margin permitted by law
In the circumstances it was considered desirable to jettison the proposals then before the House, so that the way would be cleared for the initiation of entirely fresh action which would enable the commissioners to submit altogether new proposals based upon up-to-date figures.
Accordingly a fresh proclamation directing a redistribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions was issued in October last, and the proposals now before the House, based on the enrolment as at the 31st October. 1936, are the outcome.
These proposals were duly published by the commissioners as required by the Electoral Act before submitting their report, and as no objections or suggestions were lodged in respect of them within the period of 30 days allowed therefor, it would appear that they are wholly acceptable to the electors concerned.
The principal features of the proposals are, first, that provision is made for a reduction of the size of the extremely extensive division of Kalgoorlie by transferring therefrom a considerable portion of the subdivision of Irwin, and, secondly, that the re-arrangement of the boundaries of the divisions of Fremantle, Perth and Swan not only provides a more equitable distribution of representation, but also gives greater effectiveness to the principle of community of interest than obtains at present.
Having due regard to the provisions of the Electoral Act, I commend the proposals now before the House as making for a fair and reasonable distribution of the electoral divisions of Western Australia, and urge their approval accordingly.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [3.17].- As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) has stated, when the proposals of the commissioners now placed before us were published in Western Australia no objections were offered to them, nor was any suggestion made for their variation.
That should be reasonably satisfactory evidence that the community in general believes that on this occasion a redistribution of Western Australia has been effected which satisfies the general conceptions of the community as to the equitable division of the State for electoral purposes. Having regard to the trend of the mining industry in Western Australia, it would have been unfortunate had the previous proposals been agreed to, for that would have involved an enlargement of the already large division of Kalgoorlie. The increase of population in the Kalgoorlie electorate proceeded steadily during the depression period, which coincided with the revival of the mining industry in Western Australia. There is every indication that this industry has not yet reached the full limit of its potentialities, particularly in respect of population. I think the House will welcome, as apparently the commissioners themselves welcomed, the opportunity to reduce the enormous area of the electorate of Kalgoorlie which the honorable member for that division (Mr. A. Green) has to traverse in order to make contact with his constituents. The proposed redistribution now before us also provides for corrections in the size of and number of electors in other elec,torates in Western Australia. Although the present electorates of Fremantle and Perth cover comparatively the greater part of the metropolitan area, we find that the electoral division of Fremantle has approximately 10,000 more electors than has the electorate of Perth. The commissioners have now effected an allocation, as the result of which the two metropolitan electorates will carry approximately the same number of electors. At present, the Swan division has approximately 10,000 more electors than the Forrest division, and both of them can be said to be rural electorates. In this instance, the proposals of the commissioners have the effect of almost equalizing the electoral strengths of those two approximately identical electorates from the viewpoint of their community of interests. Although the electoral strengths of the two metropolitan electorates will be still within the limits prescribed by the act, but yet are larger than the three other electorates the House would do well to bear in mind that that is a feature of the Western Australian State law, in that to some extent Western Australia, in the arrangement of electoral divisions, does take into account not only population, but also the territory. I think that it would be acknowledged in Western Australia that such re-adjustments to the electoral boundaries to Perth, Fremantle and Swan, as the commissioners have effected, arc acceptable because they more definitely create a greater community of interest among all the electors of those respective electorates than previously was the case. Some of the rural portions abutting on the metropolitan area will be transferred to Swan, and urban portions of the Swan electorate, as it is at present constituted, will be distributed between the electorates of Perth and Fremantle. Having regard to all the considerations at stake, and bearing in mind the principles of the act, I think that it can be said that this redistribution complies with the letter of the law, and is indeed more than a substantial compliance with its spirit.
.- I desire to support the report of the electoral commissioners, and I approve of the request which has been submitted by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) that it should be adopted. When the last proposals in connexion with a redistribution in Western Australia were being considered by this chamber, I strongly opposed them, because they would have destroyed, to a very great extent, community of interest. A large proportion of electors in agricultural districts would have been taken from Swan and added to the electorate of Kalgoorlie. I recognized at the time that the great expansion which was taking place in connexion with the gold-mining industry would attract more and more population to the gold-fields, and I am quite satisfied that we should have done an injustice to the Kalgoorlie electorate and to the agricultural constituency alike by adopting the previous electoral proposals. As the Minister has stated, those proposals were taken from the electoral rolls of October, 1933, which were not then up to date so far as the electorate of Kalgoorlie was concerned. As I predicted, there has been a substantial growth of population in the Kalgoorlie electorate, and I should not be at all surprised if, in the near future, and if the price of gold continues to rise, there will be a further increase of population, making it necessary to take away additional agricultural areas now included in the Kalgoorlie electorate in order to give a greater community of interest. I approve of what has been done in this instance, although two large districts which gave me fair majorities at the last federal elections have been taken from Swan; but I consider that the regard that the commissioners have paid to the community of interest makes the new proposal better than the previous one, and I hope that the House will assent to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were brought up, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a first time : -
Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill 1937.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1937.
Patents Bill 1937.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the message be referred to the Committee of Supply forthwith.
.- I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words : - “ This House directs the Government -
To increase the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to £1 per week, and to liberalize the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
To take whatever steps are necessary to ensure progressive reductions in the number of working hours and increases in living standards commensurate with increased powers of production due to the mechanization and speeding-up of industry; and
To give effect to the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise made in 1934 that a great national housing scheme would be undertaken in conjunction with the States and local authorities.”
I do not put forward my amendment to the House in any party spirit, but I do so in the belief that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies), who is also the deputy leader of the United Australia party, will listen to my contentions and will consider the propositions which I shall advance, with quite an open mind. I am more desirous of obtaining something for that section of the community who would benefit if the House were to carry this direction than I am desirous of gaining any political advantage. In regard to the first portion of the amendment, I remind the House that certain defini te promises were made by the leaders of all political parties to those who had suffered a reduction of pensions in the depths of the economic depression. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), speaking in this House on the 9.th July, 1931, said this -
So far as we are concerned, the reduction will not operate longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability.
The right honorable gentleman went on to say that reductions of pensions should be of a temporary nature only, and that they should be restored to their normal level immediately budget equilibrium permitted that to be done. I remind the Acting Treasurer, that since the 1934 elections honorable - members who sit onthis side of the House have onsix different occasions moved motions and amendments with a view to having the rate of invalid and old-age pensions increased to£1 a week, but unfortunately have not had the backing of honorable members who sit on the opposite side of the House. In my advocacy this afternoon of those interests that are mentioned in my amendment, I would not go as far as the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) went, whenhe said that one could not expect anything from the United Australia party in the Federal Parliament, because it was made up of men who gave their allegiance to political enemies of the electors of Darling Downs, namely, the manufacturing, financial and commercial groups and middlemen. That opinion as expressed by the honorable member was published in theWarwick Daily Times of the 5th December, 1936. I am not making those assertions. I leave the honorable member, who has been associated with the United Australia party in the State and Federal spheres, to speak for himself.
No one can deny that the financial position of this country has improved. Higher prices for our exportable products, and improvement of trade generally, have brought about a general betterment of the financial position. At the time when pensions were reduced, the deficit in the finances of the Commonwealth was approximately £10,000,000, and the Commonwealth was faced with a prospective deficit of £20,000,000 in the next financial year. Therefore, certain reductions were made under duress. But at the end of the financial year 1931-32, there was a surplus of £1,314,000, due very largely to the scaling down of the interest rate and the saving of £6,500,000 to the taxpayers of Australia as the result of the giant conversion loan put through by the Scullin Government. But, notwithstanding the surplus of £1,314,000 which was revealed at the end of the financial year 1931-32, further reductions were made in pensions which took an additional £1,100,000 from pensioners. That sum was equal to 75 per cent, of the amount estimated to be required to make up what the Government considered would be the deficit for the financial year 1932-33- £1 467,000. The P.rime Minister, defending his action iii further reducing pensions, said this -
Those who disagree with the policy of the Lyons Government in reducing invalid and oldage pensions, should he prepared to indicate where other reductions of an equivalent amount could be made.
When that budget was submitted to Parliament, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Seullin) pointed out that revenue had been decidedly underestimated. In fact, he said, it looked as though the Government had deliberately budgeted for a deficit in order .to reduce pensions, &c. His contention that there had been an underestimate of revenue was proved correct by the fact that, in the first four months of the financial year 1932-33, there was a surplus of £2,700,000, as well as by the further fact that by the end of that financial year the revenue from cus- toms and excise was £5,392,000, and the receipts from income tax were £878,000, in excess of the estimate.
Giving effect to the promise of a further reduction of pensions, the Government on the 16th September, 1932, passed a bill which reduced them from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week, with the proviso that where a pensioner had no other income and was entirely dependent upon his pension, he should receive 17s. 6d. a week. That measure penalized those pensioners who owned property. Under the edict of the Government, upon the death of a pensioner who owned property the Government took from his estate the amount that had been paid to him by way of pension. In other words, it merely loaned to him the amount that was paid to him by way of pension, on the security of his home. The bill further forced relatives of pensioners - in very many instances persons who were not receiving sufficient income to maintain themselves adequately - to contribute to their support.
The Opposition contends that when the Government had a surplus of £1,314,000 it should have carried out the very definite undertaking given by the Prime Minister when be said in unmistakeable terms: “ As far as we are concerned, the reduction will not operate longer than is necessary for the restoration of financial stability.” Had a Labour government been in office on the 1st July, 1932, there would then have been complete restoration of invalid and old-age pensions. Notwithstanding the surplus, however, a further cut was made which, in the opinion of the Government itself, cost the pensioners an additional £1,3 00,000.
The Acting Treasurer cannot claim that the Government has not had a succession of surpluses. These surpluses have been due, not to anything of a constructive nature that the Government has done, but to the rehabilitation policy put into operation by the Scullin Government. In the years that have succeeded the defeat of that administration, the surpluses have amounted to the following sums : -
For the 11 months of this financial year ended the 31st May, 1937, the surplus stands at £1,800,000.
The Government has remitted taxes which, on its own statement, amount to £18,000,000. These remissions have lightened the burden on the backs of the wealthy section of the community in Australia, while invalid and old-age pensioners, with their very meagre allowance of 19s. a week, have had to watch the expenditure of every penny of their income.
In view of the buoyancy of the revenue, and the fact that there has been general improvement of trading conditions all round., as well as increased prices for our exportable products which have greatly augmented the national income, we confend that the time has arrived for a complete restoration of the pensions cut, and that, furthermore, the Government should liberalize the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. I find that there are many cases in which people on the basic wage, or very little above it, are expected to maintain not only a very large family, but also an invalid who will never be able to work, and who has to be nursed practically night and clay. There are numerous borderline cases which I hope that the Government will more sympathetically review. There are many borderline cases of invalids who, in the opinion of one Commonwealth medical officer, are not totally and permanently incapacitated for work, although probably they are obviously unable to do a day’s work. Because of the very keen competition that .exists to-day among applicants for employment, whether it be in domestic service or in the factory, workshop, or shearing shed, who would employ a partial invalid who obviously is suffering from the after-effects of infantile paralysis? No one would give such a person employment in preference to an able-bodied young person or adult. There are many cases of real hardship, and I sincerely hope that, as it can no longer be claimed that we are in the throes of a depression, the Government will be more generous in its consideration of them.
The second barrel, as it were, of my amendment, has an important bearing upon unemployment. It relates to the number of hours worked each week by employees in industry, and to the standard of living generally of the workers of Australia. .Although the prices of our exportable products have substantially increased, and trading conditions generally in Australia have improved quite a lot, we yet have with us the dreadful spectre of unemployment. Well over 200,000 of our people are reported as unemployed. It can, however, be taken for granted that quite a substantial additional number are out of work who are not registered as unemployed, and are not registered as members of trade unions, but are being maintained in their homes by their relatives. When the last Commonwealth census was taken, that number was shown to be as high as 171,000, in addition to those who were reported as unemployed. Taking the present number of unreported unemployed as approximately one-half of that figure, it will be seen that the total number of unemployed in Australia is nearly 300,000, and this at a time when there is a superabundance of production on farms and in factories. There is no doubt that the introduction of laboursaving machinery has thrown thousands of people out of employment. It has forced artisans to stand outside factory fences, watching machines inside do the work which they formerly did. That applies not only to Australia, but also to every other country in the world. This Government should give a lead to the rest of Australia, and should not be afraid to give a lead, if necessary, to the rest, of the world. Some countries have already adopted a 40-hour week. Italy placed 200,000 persons back in employment by the enactment of a 40-hour week, and the Government of New Zealand made it possible for a substantial number to obtain work by similar means. One shudders when one thinks of the serious unemployment problem that will face the world in the future, with the advance of modern labour-saving machinery, if a shorter working week is not adopted internationally. At the present time, an electric shovel handles 30,000 cubic yards of- earth in 24 hours; it does as much as 15,000 labourers could accomplish in a ten-hour day. When the Cunard line of steamers began to use oil instead of coal fuel, 6SS stokers out of 951 were thrown out of employment. Modern ironworks in the United States of America, employing SO men, can produce four times as much iron in a single turn as was formerly produced by 225 men. An uptodate electric light bulb manufacturing plant in the United States of America can now produce 650,000 lamps fa-om each machine, which represents a multiplication of the previous rate of manufacture by 10,000. I maintain that it is a serious reflection upon our present system of society, and upon those who control governments, that we should be seeking to solve the problem of so-called overproduction by reducing production or by manipulating it in such a way as ultimately to reduce it by means of export quotas. Instead of endeavouring to eliminate what is erroneously referred to as overproduction, we should be turning our attention towards the removal of poverty and unemployment. The present Government, with its majority in both Houses of Parliament, could exercise an’ important influence in the direction of bringing about this desirable result. Unfortunately, it evinces a disposition to shelve this matter, because it is not popular with some of its influential supporters, who constitute that element referred to so aptly by the honorable member for Darling Downs in the course of his election campaign.
Early consideration should be given to an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I realize that there are constitutional limitations, and that Parliament cannot compel the Arbitration Court to do things; but we could indicate to the court our views on this subject of a shorter working week. Any indication the Government has given has been in the opposite direction. I have in mind what happened when the following motion was moved by the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith) at the last, Premier’s Conference in Adelaide: -
That in view of the changing economic life of Australia and the necessity for adjustment to meet these changing conditions, together with the obvious necessity for a practical solution of the social and economic problems arising out of employment, this conference affirms the necessity for the early introduction by the Commonwealth and/or the States of legislation designed to provide for a national 40-hour week.
One would have thought that the representatives of all the governments in Australia would have supported that motion, especially the Commonwealth Government, seeing that it had instructed .its representative at Geneva to vote in favour of the very same principle. Had it been sincere, it must surely have supported Mr. Forgan Smith’s motion. However, to the amazement of Mr. Forgan Smith, and of the other Labour Premiers, no support for the motion was received from any State other than those in which Labour governments are in power. I am told that the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) was one of the representatives of the Commonwealth Government, and that he voted’ against the motion.
– Yes, I was there, and I voted against the motion; and I have never seen a man less surprised than Mr. Forgan Smith.
– The admission of the right honorable gentleman is important. The State parliaments, having residual powers, could lay down general principles for the State arbitration courts to follow, and the courts could provide for special conditions for various industries. This course was followed in Queensland in regard to hours of labour. At the present time, the principle of a 40-hour week is a part of the platform of the Labour party in Queensland, and very properly the Government there is trying to have the principle recognized simultaneously throughout the whole of Australia. The Commonwealth Government could very well take the lead in the matter by bringing it before the next Premiers Conference. In New South Wales, the Lang Government initiated legislation providing for the introduction of a 44-hour week in that State. The people listened to the bogy stories told them by the Opposition, and the Lang Government was defeated at the next elections. The Bavin Government repealed the 44-hours act at the request of the employing interests. However, the electors have a habit of changing’- their minds, as honorable members opposite will realize before long. The Bavin Government was turned out, and Mr. Lang, when returned to power, re-enacted the 44-hours law.
I submit that the present Commonwealth Government has not proved its bona fides in regard to the 40-hour week proposal, and we have reason to believe that its representatives have been speaking with their tongues in their- cheeks. The Government, while apparently giving attention to the representations of its more advanced supporters who favour a 40-hour week is, in fact, yielding to the supplication of the big employing interests which, according, to the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), constitutes the backbone of the United Australia party.
The Government should give a direction to the Arbitration Court in favour of the 40-hour week, and I believe that the court would take cognizance of that direction, especially when it is recognized that the introduction of a 40-hour week would lead to the re-employment of thousands of men. Action of this kind was taken by the Bruce-Page Government, which, in 1927, caused section 25i> to be inserted in the Arbitration Act. This section provides -
The court shall . . . take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
Parliament should stress the point thai increased production, due to the use of modern machinery and speeding-up devices, should be met by the provision of increased consumption of goods, and increased leisure for those who hitherto have been called upon to suffer as the result of the introduction of laboursaving machinery. Such an intimation should be embodied in the act as an expression of the opinion of Parliament, pending the passing of appropriate amendments of the Constitution, which would render possible more effective parliamentary action. I urge the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) to take steps to discuss this matter with the premiers at the next conference.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has had a great deal to say on this subject, and he was representing the Commonwealth at Geneva at the International Labour Conference when he made the following remarks in favour of the 40-hour week principle : -
It is because I can think of no more logical way of arranging this than by an appropriate reduction of working hours, that the proposal now before the conference has my fullest commendation. Much as we may dislike making the confession, I am afraid that we must admit that industry has been” prone to be unprepared to accord to its workers an equitable participation in the benefits resulting from the improved technique which has bren such a feature of latter-day industrialism.
That was an important admission. He came back to Australia, and asked the Government to implement the resolution agreed to at Geneva, but the Government was not prepared to listen to him. Probably, because of his democratic tendencies, he was first relegated from the position of a full Minister to that of tinder Secretary for Employment at the very tail of the Cabinet, while, shortly after his return from Geneva, he ceased to be in the Ministry at all. I suppose- he could not tolerate the callous indifference of the Government in the face of its instructions to him in Geneva.
The representatives of the workers of the United States of America stated at the Geneva conference -
In 1032 there were 3,000,000 workers in the United States of America under the 40-hour week, and since March, 1933, probably 3,000,000 workers have been re-absorbed in industry under the National Recovery Act. Organized labour in the United States of America looks upon 40 hours a week as a half-way station in the progress towards a universal 30-hour week.
We know that any one who in years gone by suggested the introduction of a shorter working week was told that the proposal was absolutely revolutionary and impractical, and could not be put into operation without causing industrial and economic stagnation, and a tremendous increase of unemployment. I come from Queensland, where, for many years, the sugar industry was carried on with black labour. There were in that State 300,000 South Sea islanders employed in the production of sugar. The Labour paTty fought continuously for the White Australia principle, and for the repatriation of the islanders.’ They were told, however, tha.t if that were done it would be the end of the sugar industry; that it would be uneconomic to grow sugar except with black labour. Eventually, the “representatives of other parties came round to the Labour point of view, and the islanders were sent back to their homes. I. now appeal to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who will probably represent the Government at the next Premiers Conference, to consider the merits of the 40-hour week, and to support it when, the matter comes forward again. I am not at all impressed by what I read in the brief handed to the GovernorGeneral by this Government concerning the instructions to the Commonwealth Government delegate ‘ at the International Labour Conference at Geneva to vote for the adoption of the proposed draft convention to apply the principle of a 40-hour working week to certain industries. I submit that these instructions were not those given previously. The Geneva Conference came to certain decisions, but no attempt was made by this Government to implement them. I know that Government spokesmen will say that legislation designed to implement those decisions is a moot legal point and that its constitutionality would have to be very . carefully considered ; but I would like to bring to the notice of the Acting Treasurer the joint supporting judgment in the Aviation case of Mr. Justice Evatt and Mr. -Justice McTiernan, of the High Court, who held that while the Commonwealth Parliament has no general power over civil aviation, it has power to enter into international agreements concerning civil aviation and such matters as the regulation of labour conditions, control of armaments, the suppression of traffic in drugs, and power to enforce these agreements even if State Jaws are nullified in. the process, provided that the consequent legislation and regulations are in exact conformity with the agreements. That judgment, I have no doubt, has been carefully scrutinized by the Acting Treasure]-. As far as I know, the Acting Treasurer, who is also the AttorneyGeneral,, does not question that opinion, but he refuses to legislate for a universal 40-hour working week in Australia, or to take any lead in regard’ to this matter. Instead of being out in the forefront as a representative of the Commonwealth Government, we find that, at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, he has voted against definite motionsdesigned to bring about the adoption of a universal 40-hour working week in Australia.
There are four ways in which the Commonwealth Government can prove its bona fides in regard to the 40-hour working week: first, by Commonwealth action ; secondly, by endeavouring to secure the concurrence of the States to show that the Commonwealth is really desirous of bringing about this important reform - what appeal has been made to the States to come into any scheme to bring about the 40-hour working week; thirdly, by reference to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration; and fourthly, by making .provision for its own employees to work a maximum working week of 40-hours. But what has the Commonwealth done? It cannot point to any constructive steps having been taken by any of its representatives to bring any nearer to fruition the long promised 40-hour working week. So much for that question.
The third matter with which I have to deal is in regard to the very definite promise made by the Prime Minister in August, 1934, when he said -
We propose to procure mirney nml spend it. in co-operation with the States, in a policy of home-building for working men and women. This will serve many purposes. It will improve the health and general well-being of the people by providing modern houses for them ; and it will directly employ hundreds of mcn in actual construction.
As may be expected he got quite a round of applause for that very definite promise. But what has been done? I submit that nothing has been attempted. When asked by the Leader of the Labour party how many persons had been assisted to build homes and what advances had been made in pursuance of the Commonwealth Housing Act of 1927, the right honorable gentleman replied -
No advances, have been made by the Commonwealth Bank under the powers conferred by the Commonwealth Housing Act I027-2S since the financial year 1929-30.
That statement was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 16th September, 1936. In reply to a further question regarding his election promise the Prime Minister, in effect, said that the Government did not intend to do anything in the matter of housing whatever. If the English language means anything, surely the definite promise made by the Prime Minister, when be said that lie proposed to procure the money and spend it’ in co-operation with the States in u programme of home-building for working men and women, showed that, the Nationalist Government of the day tried to make the people believe that it was going to enter upon a great national housing scheme for the people of Australia. And the Prime Minister’s excuse for doing nothing was that any extensive scheme of house and slum clearance would involve the raising of large sums of loan money. He contended that any money raised for such a purpose would result in that amount being deducted from the loan money raised for ordinary State governmental works which are provided for out of loan money. Since 1931-32, the Lyons Government has had surpluses amounting in the aggregate to over £10,000,000, and in addition, it has paid out of revenue for the relief of wheat-growers approximately £14,000,000. The improvement of the budgetary position, as reflected by those figures, was, I submit, due not to any statesmanlike action on the part of the Lyons Government but rather to the work of the preceding administration. The value of taxation remission for the last five years has amounted to over £18,000,000. I contend that the Government should have utilized some of that money for the purpose of putting into operation a great national housing scheme for Australia. What has been done to meet the housing problem in Great Britain? From thu Armistice to the 30th September, 1936, over 3,146,000 houses have been built in England and Wales, of which 898,000 have been erected by local government authorities. Of the balance, approximately 500,000 have been built by private enterprise with varying degrees of State assistance. Under a vast live-year plan launched by the British Government in April, 1933, it is expected that by March, 1938, nearly 1,000,000 people will have been comfortably rehoused, apart from the 200,000 provided for under the lav/ dealing with the abatement of over crowding. I mention these facts to show the difference between what has been achieved by the comparatively Conservative Government of- Great Britain and the diehard Conservative Government of Australia. In New Zealand, where a Labour Government is in office, no less than £5,500,000 has been made available at lj per cent, for the purpose of slum clearance and rehousing. New Zealand has only a little over 1,000,000 people in comparison with Australia’s population of just under 7,000,000. The Dominion has also a comparatively small revenue and its resources are not nearly so great as those of Australia, but its administrators have bigger hearts when it comes to the consideration of the claims of the poorer people of the community. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), in . his report to the Commonwealth Government on slum clearance and rehousing, said that the housing conditions in Australia were so unsatisfactory that “ no constitutional hedge could justify our disconcern, even were we not so definitely committed by pre-election undertakings.” Is he the only honorable member opposite free to express opinions on this question? Where does the honorable member for Macquarie stand in regard to this matter? What is the honorable member for Barton, representing as he does a great city constituency with thousands of working men and women, doing about it? Despite these definite pre-election promises made by the Prime Minister that have been admitted by members of the Nationalist party and afterwards absolutely disregarded by the Government, unfortunately only one voice on the other side of the House has condemned the callous indifference of the Government in this regard. The Sydney Sun of the 7th February, 1937, had this to say with regard to slum conditions in Australia : -
If a slum is a house with the iron rim ( from the roof, holes in the floor, dirty paper shredded from all the walls, a broken backyard lavatory, guttering taken from the roof, rats and dirt . and lice and cockroaches on floors whose boards are so black and grimed no scrubbing could get them clean, then we have slums.
What is being done about it?
– A lot isbeing done now, but the honorable member knows nothing of it.
– According to the Sydney Sun of the 10th January, 1937, the “ unspeakable slums of Sydney “ were mentioned with horror by Professor Winifred Cullis on her return to London from Australia . I mention these facts because Government supporters will say that we have returned to normal times in Australia, that there are no slum conditions, that there is no necessity for the Commonwealth to engage in a great national housing scheme to-day, and that the Stevens Government which is now in office in New South Wales will look after all of these things. State governments generally have to care for the chief social services of Australia, but there will have to be a reorientation of the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and States. Unfortunately, while many State governments - and this I know applies to the Labour Governments of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, which were naturally very elated by the definite promises made by the’ Prime Minister before the last Federal elections - would like to do a great deal more, they cannot get the necessary money with which to carry out these undertakings. To show how house slum areas effect child mortality, the following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Age of the 12th June, 1934-
In the closely inhabited industrial suburban areas of Melbourne, child mortality is high Infantile deaths per thousand over a period of five years were -
In the areas where the people have better houses and higher incomes, where there is no over-crowding or slums, infantile deaths per thousand were -
Although there are various other aspects of government policy with which I should like to deal, owing to the limited time at my disposal I content myself by referring to some of the election propaganda authorized by the Minister for Defence, who displayed placards in Warringah bearing the following appeals -
Reasons why you must vote Nationalist.
Australian womanhood: - Because I will legislate to protect the mothers of our race through motherhood endowment.
You and yours are safe under a Nationalist Government, which provides -
Unemployment insurance. £20,000,000 for homes.
Although the honorable gentleman said that these promises would be kept, I submit that not one of them was honoured by the Nationalist Government. When these promises were made by the Prime Minister and reiterated by the Minister for Defence, their speeches were applauded from one end of the country to the other, but they let the people down and the people will in turn relegate them to obscurity at the forthcoming elections.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr.HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) [4.15]. - I second the amendment. The first part deals with pension payments, and the need for liberalization generally of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. It should be regarded as an appeal to the Government, and not a political manoeuvre; for my part I am making an appeal to have these things done now. The second portion of the amendment relates to an economic problem, and should be considered on its merits. Finally the amendment refers to the housing problem, as a reminder that the Government made a definite promise to take action, but has failed to do so.
No honorable member will contradict the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and other members of the Cabinet have repeatedly, during the last five years, promised the invalid and old-age pensioners that when the economic conditions were sufficiently satisfactory the full pension of £1 a week would be restored to them. The promise was given that, when economic stability made it possible, the restoration would be made. The two outstanding features of the recent Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General were the emphasis he laid upon the remarkable economic recovery of Australia, the highest peak in history being reached, and his recognition of the fact that this satisfactory position could not have been brought about except for the patient endurance and sacrifices of the poorer sections of the people. Surely those statements, inspired, of course, by the Government, who advised the GovernorGeneral, admit of only one course of action. Before this Parliament is dissolved, the Government should make good its promise, because the present industrial conditions warrant it. It cannot be fairly suggested that this appeal to the Government is made merely for the purposes of political propaganda. If the Government redeemed its promise before going to the country, it, rather than the Opposition, would receive the thanks of the people. In the next decade Australia may not be in a better position than it is to-day to restore the pension to fi a week. Were I a member of the ministerial party I should certainly take this line of action, if only for the purpose of appealing to the imagination of the people, apart from the sheer merit and justice of the case.
There is great need for liberalization of certain sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which make matters very difficult for the pensioners. I have raised three points in this chamber on several occasions. I have appealed to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to consider the justice of allowing an invalid pensioner, whose parents are living, to receive a separate pension rather than be dependent, as he is now, even on becoming an adult, on his parents. Many children are born - cripples, or are mentally deficient, and it is natural to expect the parents to maintain them while they are minors; hut the act ought to provide that on becoming adults they should be independent of their parents, as far as the Dension is concerned. The indignity of being dependent upon a struggling father and mother should not be imposed upon them for the rest of their lives. If a person aged 30 years becomes totally and permanently incapacitated, he can obtain the full invalid pension, but if he becomes a cripple before reaching the age of 21 years and has to be maintained partly or wholly by his parents, he still has to be supported by them after reaching adult age.
I ask the Acting Treasurer, as Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), to give consideration to the section of the act which denies the pension to a person in destitute circumstances because he or she ‘ may have a remote reversionary interest in an estate. This person may never live to see the day when the parties between him and the money die, but, because a will provides that he shall receive a small share in an estate, he is denied the pension. There must be hundreds of such cases in Australia. I, personally, have taken dozens of them to the Treasurer, and in each instance he has had to close his ears to the appeal because of the harsh provision of the act. In the depth of the depression, a mortgage was taken over the property of pensioners, so that they might reimburse some of the money drawn by them. This disability was removed, and I suggest that the hardship to which I have directed attention is in many cases just as great a one. I urge the Acting Treasurer to look into this ma.tter, and consider whether the provision is not both unjust and inhuman inasmuch as it means that they must now starve, because some day they may derive a return from a few pounds invested. The act should be liberalized also in regard to partially-blinded pensioners. Those who are totally blind receive a separate pension, and are not badly treated, but the lot of border-line cases is very” hard. I know two or three men in my electorate who have to be assisted across the street, and who are incapable of earning a few shillings a week. When they leave their homes they need a guide, and I suggest that special consideration should be extended to them to the extent of an extra few shillings a week.
For three decades attention has been directed to the need for a plan of national insurance, and in some countries such -schemes have been in partial or complete operation for 50 or 60 years. Recently the absolute necessity for action in this matter has become apparent. In Great Britain, a scheme of national insurance was adopted two or three years ago. The present Commonwealth Government is faced with ‘the problem of working out a practicable scheme for Australia, and I suggest that no method of providing insurance against unemployment can be successful until we plan our whole industrial life so that a minimum number of people will need the benefits of the measure. From the report of the Director of the International Labour Organization at Geneva we are able to ascertain the average views of the experts of the world. Mr. Butler’s report doe3 not contain his personal opinions only, he also cites the average opinion expressed by the experts who met at Geneva during the previous year. Although, for several years, the urgent demand for the adoption of schemes of national insurance has been mentioned at Geneva, the latest report shows that the opinion is stronger than ever that the situation must be faced. This problem has been faced. In several countries of the world a 40-hour working week is practically universal in industry. In other countries the reform is being adopted progressively, industry by industry. The sister dominion of New Zealand has taken effective steps to introduce a 40-hour working week. Yet Australia, which two decades ago was leading the world in social legislation, has failed to do anything. To-day we are lagging behind many of the white nations - to our disgrace, in my opinion. In 3923-24, when I was at Geneva, I had many unofficial conferences with the representatives of other nations. I was asked what we meant by our eight-hour day. The Czechoslovakia!! delegates wanted to know whether we meant a 48- hour week or a 44-hour week. I was reminded that the English-speaking people regard the working week as five and a half days, and it was suggested to me that we were seeking to deprive the workers of their Saturday half-holiday by working extra hours on the other five days. The eight-hour day was described as an industrial hybrid. I say deliberately that this Government has adopted a cowardly attitude in regard to the shorter working week. It is deplorable that it should again this year have made it a. condition of its support of the 40-hour week that all the other white nations should first adopt it. Last year the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) had to go to the conference with a qualified support of the principle. He did the best he could, but his efforts did not get very far. I had hoped, as no doubt he himself did, that the Government would have put the principle into operation before now, at least in respect of its own employees. It is amazing to me that the Government delegate to Geneva this year should still be required to say that Australia would accept the 40-hour week only after all other nations had done so. The adoption of such a policy by all nations would make the holding of international conferences useless, for, obviously, no country would ever step over the line alone. It would be a miracle for all the nations represented at the conference to agree to adopt the reform at a set time. Miracles like that do not happen,’ and never will happen. All Australian people who are interested in economic advancement must be ashamed of .the policy of this Government in this connexion. I hope that a much more generous outlook will be taken.
The second portion of the amendment deals with the important subject of social insurance. We shall have another opportunity to debate this, and I do not desire to discuss it in detail just now. I point out, however, that every economic specialist in the world who has’ given careful and full consideration to this subject, knows that any scientific scheme of insurance must carry with it other reforms. It must be supported, for instance, by a reduction of working hours, the prohibition of overtime work, and the lifting of the living standards, holidays and annual leave with pay, &c. The adoption of these measures would help to spread the amount of work available over the whole community, and so make unemployment the less likely than it is. It is only with such a background that social insurance can possibly be effective. So far, this Government has seemed to be satisfied with the provision of doles and sustenance. It has endeavoured to roll out the economic fabric to the thinnest possible consistency, and has done nothing to increase the aggregate spending power of the people or their capacity to earn money. Any scheme of insurance based on that policy must inevitably fail. The Government of’ Queensland endeavoured to implement an insurance scheme on a State-wide basis, but last year it had to spend millions of pounds in doles, sustenance, and the provision of relief work. This cannot go on side by side with so-called unemployment insurance. A proper scheme pf insurance surely implies the abandonment of the existing dole and sustenance policies, and the adoption of decent living conditions for the whole community.
The third paragraph of the amendment relates to the definite promise of the Prime Minister that the Government would assist State governments and municipalities throughout Australia to abolish slum areas. The right honorable gentle man said that the Government desired That the family of every working man in Australia should be able to live in a home fit for human habitation. That promise has been definitely repudiated. I admit that there has been a gradual recognition of the Government’s promise to pensioners and consequently a slow liberalization of pension condition, but the reply given to a question that I asked the Acting Prime Minister yesterday suggests to me that the Government has decided definitely that the pension will never be restored to £1 a week. I hope that I have misinterpreted the right honorable gentleman’s words, but this seems to me to be the only meaning that could be put upon them, for we were told that the pension rate would be rectified through the ordinary fluctuations in the cost of living.
– The honorable member has not been quite fair to the Acting Prime Minister who said that that was actually what was happening.
– I have said that I hope I have misinterpreted the right honorable gentleman’s words, lt is quite apparent, however, that while the Government has been prepared to do something to improve the conditions of the” pensioners, it has definitely repudiated the promise made by the Prime Minister that steps would be taken to assist State governments and municipalities to abolish slum areas. I base that statement on a reply given by the Prime Minister to a question that was put to him prior to the recess. He was asked whether we could hope that the
Government would make some effort to assist the State governments and municipalities in housing schemes. He replied - and there can be no doubt about the meaning of his reply - that it would be of no use for the Government to hand money over to the State or municipal authorities for housing purposes, for that would simply mean that the amount available from loan for other purposes would be. correspondingly reduced. I believe that when the Prime Minister made his promise that the Government would assist in the improvement of housing conditions he had in mind, or at any rate he sought to convey to the public, that funds would be specially provided for that purpose. That, at any rate, is what the people understood. Now we find that the right honorable gentleman’s intentions were quite different from that. What purpose was there in making the promise if the only funds that would be made available for the fulfilment of- it were those to be provided for orthodox public works? The right honorable gentleman said prior to the adjournment of Parliament six months ago, that it would be of no use to make money available .for housing purposes,’ for it would simply mean taking it from one pocket and putting it in another.
I hope the Government will realize thai the object underlying the moving of this amendment is to secure a complete fulfilment of the promises made to pensioners, the revision of government policy in respect of hours of labour, which is a prerequisite to any scheme of unemployment insurance, and also an effective endeavour to put into operation an adequate housing policy.
While the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) was moving this amendment, an honorable member opposite interjected, “Why did not the Labour Government do it?” I feel quite confident that ali the State governments, including u,e three Labour Governments, would immediately give effect to a 40-hour working week in the government service, if the Commonwealth Government would do it also.
.- I support the amendment, and wish to direct the attention of the Government to two or three aspects of public affairs. A byelection has recently been held in New South “Wales, the result of which indicates clearly that the Government has lost favour with the community. Underlying the result of that by-election is a general and growing distrust of the promises made by members of this Ministry. This is having a tendency to react adversely upon parliamentary institutions. To-day an inclination is manifest to deride any promises made by politicians. It is often said that such promises are like piecrust - easily broken. Unfortunately, this Government has repudiated or disregarded many promises made on its behalf. At the last general election the people returned the Government with a majority because they felt that they could rely upon it to give effect to its programmes;, but their confidence has been sadly misplaced. In these circumstances it is of little use for the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to complain, as he did at Goulburn, of the growing practice of slandering and libelling people who take a prominent part in public life. The Government of which the right honorable gentleman is a member, has, unfortunately, given justification for many of the complaints that have been made about the insincerity of politicians.
Take, for example, the promise made on behalf of the present Government prior to tire last general election, that if it were returned to power it would take steps to provide employment for the youth of this country. That promise, of course, was also made about six years ago. In his last policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
The Government proposes that practical and enlarged efforts to relieve unemployment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, shall take precedence of all other Commonwealth activities.
The Government is now approaching the end of its term of office, and all that it has done to give effect to that promise has been to call a conference of representatives of the States. We are now told that it is proposed to make available £200,000 in the next financial year, and an additional £200,000 in the following financial year, to provide employment for the workless youth of Australia. If we had only 10,000 unemployed -youths in this country, the Government’s promise would be equivalent merely to £20 a year each. What good would that do? As a matter of fact, the actual position is that there are over 100,000 unemployed youths; consequently, the amount of assistance will be only £2 a head. That represents the wonderful, programme which was to take precedence over every other activity of the present Government, if it were returned to power. The Prime Minister went on to say -
We propose to examine, in conjunction with the State governments, any useful .proposals for the training and preparation of youths for work. We must give these youths a chance- to become useful citizens.
To-day, because of the demand for trained men for the manufacture of armaments, there is a scarcity of labour. No youths have been trained in industry for over six years. There have been no apprentices in the building trade, the metal trades, or any other necessary trade. Yet all that this Government can do in its last days of office is to provide £200,000 for the training of youths!
The decisions arrived at by the conference held on the 5,th February were as follows: -
The wonderful response of the Commonwealth is the provision of £200,000 for the training of unemployed youths” during the first year. It was further decided -
The Melbourne Herald expressed pleasure in the following terms at the decision which had been come to: -
Last week’s conference reached agreement upon one important point. It expressed the opinion that many young men, through no fault of their own, find themselves unemployed, because of their inability in earlier years to obtain the necessary training in skilled industry, in commerce, and in rural occupations.
The Minister for labour and Industry in New South Wales, Mr. Dunningham, criticizing the result of the conference, made the following comment: -
There seems to bo a hoodoo on . Federal Ministers who talk unemployment; perhaps that is why so many of them dodge it altogether. After having read the many statements emanating from federal sources as to the Commonwealth’s ardent desire to assist youth training and employment throughout Australia, I am very disappointed at the decision of the Federal Government to make only £200,000 available. In effect, this means that the amount will bc taken from the pool which is divided between the Federal- and State governments and provides employment. We really reduce employment in one direction and utilize the money so withdrawn in an endeavour to deal with the problem in another.
That statement appeared in the Sydney Sun of the 17th April last. The last census showed that over 23,000 youths had not up to that time done a day’s work. The Commonwealth Statistician says that approximately 90,000 juniors enter the wage-earning group every year ; that deaths, retirements, &c, account for 50,000 a year; and that thus the net increase in the number of youth wage-‘ earners is 40,000 a year. The Presbyterian Board of Religious Education recently made the following observation : -
The youth of Australia have some justification for revolting against a world in which they can secure no foothold, and against national and social systems which threaten their destruction.
Usually, “ Reds “ or Communists are blamed for such statements. The board went on to say -
Young people are facing new problems and difficulties, and are becoming painfully conscious of the burdens and limitations the new agc is imposing upon them.
The Reverend C. S. Smith - a friend of mine - who is a chaplain of the Children’s Court, which he attends daily, directing attention to a young man’ who had appeared before the court, made the following remarks concerning him : -
See that chap - the good looking one. No one will give him a home. His mother is dead, and his stepfather never liked him. He was sleeping in the parks, eating what he could. He broke into houses; they were always the houses of his relatives. He is being -kept at the shelter until we can find him a job.
In England, more than 40 per cent, of detected crime was traced to children under twenty years of age. Mr. G. S. Shepherd, who recently retired from . the position of -Chief Stipendiary Magistrate in Sydney, made the statement that 26 years on the bench had shown him that the principal cause of crime, great and small, was poverty. “ Kill poverty “, he said, “ and you kill crime. Give men jobs, and you will not have criminals “. Mr. Shepherd is not a “ Red “. This is what the Sydney Morning Herald hassaid about the conditions in New Zealand since a Labour government came intopower in that dominion -
As a result of Labour rule in New Zealand, the prison population is now the lowest it lias been for 25 years.
That shows that if you improve the conditions of the people of any country, the prison record is improved. The Minister in charge of the House at the present time (Mr. Menzies), according to the Canberra Times, replying to a question regardingthe youth unemployment scheme, said -
Actually, no set plan has been adopted.
Like Micawber, the Government is “ waiting for something to turn up “. The left wing of the Government party demanded that something should be done immediately in connexion “with the problem, of youth unemployment. There was a good deal of shadow-sparring for a while. It not only proved highly diverting, but also frightened the Government into promising to deal with the matter.. Its only action so far has been to make available the sum of £200,000, but even this small sop has been sufficient to induce themalcontents to refrain from attacking it. Their consciences have been stilled, and the revolt has been quelled. The irony of” the whole matter is, that in 1934 the Prime Minister made the definite promisethat the Government would deal with theproblem, and that it would take precedence over all other government activities; yet nothing has been done except tocall a conference of Commonwealth and-. State Ministers, without having any set plan.
The amendment of the Deputy Leader - of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) also refers to housing. During the 1934 elections, the Prime Minister made the further - definite promise that the Government: would assist in the building of more homes with a view to abolishing slumarcas. He then said -
We propose to procure money, and spend it, in co-operation with -the States, in a policy of home building for working men and women.
A wonderful promise! As usual, the Government has done nothing in this direction. The statement of the Tight honorable gentleman was applauded by the Building Industry Congress which sat in Melbourne a few weeks later. The congress communicated its approval to the Prime Minister, who in reply said -
When formulating its building revival scheme, the Government would give consideration to the proposals of the congress for the abolition of slum areas.
The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was asked in this House a question regarding the advances which the Commonwealth Government had made for the building of houses, and his reply was that no advances had been made by the Commonwealth Bank under the powers conferred by the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927-2S since the financial year 1929-30. In reply to another question, the Prime Minister said that the Government did not intend fo do anything in the matter. Before the elections, the right honorable gentleman promised that action would be taken; but after he was returned to power he said, You have bumped me into Parliament. What I promised you is not worth a snap of the fingers. I am in for three years, and at the end of that period I shall repeat the promise that I previously made, resuscitate the Inter-State Commission, of which I. shall become chairman, and say ‘good bye’ to the Government, because I know that it will be wiped out of existence when the next appeal is made to the people. I must, make safe the position of Joseph Lyons”. The right honorable gentleman knows that the time is approaching when he and his supporters will no longer occupy the government benches. The excuse that he offered was that any extensive scheme of housing and slum clearance would involve the raising of a large sum of loan money, and that the raising of money for such a. purpose would result in that amount being withdrawn from ordinary governmental activities for which provision is made out of loan funds.’
Since 1931-32, the Lyons Government has had surpluses aggregating over £10,000,000. In addition, it has paid our. of revenue for the relief of wheat-growers sums aggregating £12,000,000. The value of remissions in the last five years in respect of land, property and company taxes, amounts to £18,000,000. It made a gift of £1S,000,000 to the people who provided the funds to return it to power, but not one sixpence was voted for the abolition of shuns throughout the Commonwealth.
– What are the Labour governments in the States doing to abolish slums?
– They are doing all they can, arid I will admit that even the Stevens Government in New South Wales is trying to assist in this work; yet the Commonwealth Government, which made the promise, is not providing one penny.
– Now tell us about the Labour party in Victoria. What is it doing?
– It, is assisting the Country party to govern. There is a closer alignment between the Labour party and the Country party in Victoria thou there is between the Country party and the United Australia party in the Commonwealth sphere. The honorable member for Darling Downs knows that. He said that the United Australia party depends .for its support upon the moneyed interests, whereas we know that the farmers and the unionists, who, between them, do all the work of the country, have no real conflict of interests. The United Australia party, on the other hand, represents those who get the rake-off from what is produced by the farmers and workers. In Great Britain, despite the many difficulties which have to be overcome, a progressive housing programme is being put into operation, us the following newspaper report shows: -
From the Armistice to the 30th- September, 10311. over 3,14(5,000 houses have been built in England and Wales, of which 81)8,000 have been erected by local-governing’ authorities. Of the balance, approximately 500,000 had been built by private enterprise, with varying degrees of State assistance. Under a vast five-year plan launched by the British Government in April, 1933. it is expected that by March, 1938, nearly 1,000,000 people will have been comfortably rehoused, apart from 200,000 provided for under the law dealing with the abatement of overcrowding. Houses are being completed at the rate of 6,000 a month. - Capital expenditure on subsidized housing since 1919 totals £098,000,000.
It is estimated that £445,000,000 was spent by local authorities on housing in England during the period under review, while £253,000,000 was provided by private enterprise. This information was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, not in the Labor Daily. In New Zealand, the Labour Government, which has been only a short while in office, has provided £5,500,000 at 1-J per cent., for the purpose of slum clearance and re-housing. The Commonwealth Government, however, even when it provides money for the housing of returned soldiers, charges 4 per cent.
– Houses are being built in Sydney with money advanced at less than 2 per cent, at the present time, by the unemployed trust, and the honorable member knows it.
– And what sort of houses are they, may I ask?
– They are quite good enough for the honorable member to live in.
– No doubt the honorable member for Barton is content that the unemployed should live in these tworoomed humpies. It is interesting to have his assurance that they are good enough for the workers whom he represents, but they are not good enough for those whom we represent. Here is what is being done in the United States of America -
In the United States of America, the National Housing Act of 1.984 provided for encouragement of building by insuring mortgages against losses on building loans advanced tv householders through approved financial organizations. For protection purposes of the public funds it was provided that in no case would losses in excess of 20 per cent, of the total advance be reimbursed. In one year -10,000 new buildings and 359.000 modernizations and repairs, aggregating a value of almost £00,000,000 was finalized.
Tt is estimated that the scheme has provided work for over 1,000,000 persons The left wing leader of the United Australia party, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), in a report to the Federal Government on slum clearance, stated -
The housing conditions in Australia were so unsatisfactory that no constitutional hedge could justify our disconcern, even were we not so definitely committed by pre-election undertakings.
I hope that the honorable member for Parramatta will, on the amendment now before the Chair, make a declaration as to just where he stands now on this matter. I hope that he will show that he has not been giving mere lip service to the principle which he advocated in that report, and that he will take action to force the baud of the Government. Instead of delivering addresses in churches he will, if he is honest, use his vote now to compel the Government to take some action in order to provide better houses for the people. For a long time past, he has been spouting up and down the country, stating what he will do if the Government does not act, threatening to storm the citadel and to upset the Government. Now is his opportunity to .show his sincerity.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has a greater claim to honesty than has the honorable member for Cook.
– Then let him prove it by voting- in favour of this amendment. Here is an extract from the Sydney Sun dealing with the subject of slums -
If a slum is a house with the iron gone from the roof, holes in the floor, dirty paper shredded from all the walls, a broken backyard lavatory, guttery taken from the roof, rats and dirt and lice and cockroaches on floors whose boards are so black and grimed no scrubbing could get them clean, then we have slums.
I represent an area in which many of the houses are built on land held on a 99-years’ lease. The leases were granted many years ago. and for a good while now no repairs or renovations of any kind have been made to those homes. They are right in the heart of the metropolitan area, and it is a disgrace that human beings should have to live in them. Nothing can be done, however, until the leases expire. The honorable member for Parramatta says in his report that no constitutional difficulty should be allowed to stand in the way of the Government; that it should step in and clean up the slums. Professor Winifred Cullis, who visited Australia some time ago, referred upon her return to England, to the “ unspeakable slums “ of Sydney. Yet this Government is doing nothing to remedy the position. Is it any wonder that the people are dissatisfied with members of Parliament, and feel that they cannot rely upon what politicians say? It has been shown that when suggested reforms cut across the interests of those who support the Government they have to be abandoned. When the honorable member for Parramatta urged the Government to adopt a programme of social improvement, the Government was told that it must sack him or it would itself be sacked.
Here is one of the advertisements which were placarded all over the country by the present Government party at the last general election -
Reasons why you must vote Nationalist.
Australian womanhood, because I will legislate to protect the mothers of our race through motherhood endowment.
You and yours are safe under a Nationalist government, which provides -
Unemployment Insurance. £20.000,000 for Homes.
That was the promise, but no action has been taken to redeem it. It is no wonder that the Government suffered a defeat in Gwydir, or that the United Australia party candidate was defeated in the Darling Downs election. [Leave to continue given.]
Another question in which I am deeply interested is the adoption in Australia of the shorter working week, which all political parties in Australia have been discussing for many years. Once it was the proud boast of Australia that it led the world in the conditions observed in its industrial undertakings, and also in its social legislation. Forty years before Great Britain adopted the shorter working week the principle of an eighthour day was already determined upon in Australia. That continued until 1913, when the question of still further shortening the working week was actively discussed. In that year the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, under the jurisdiction of the late Mr. Justice Higgins, first granted a 44-hour week in certain industries. That was immediately followed by the adoption of a 44-hour week by the Broken Hill miners. In 1921, the timberworkers were granted a 44-hour working week. Thus, the liberalization of our industrial conditions continued on an upward trend until a Nationalist government came into power in the Commonwealth sphere, and that was the signal for the stoppage of this progressive legislation. It cannot be denied that the policy of that Government had a detrimental effect throughout the Commonwealth. It interfered with the previous practice of the Arbitration Court, and said that one single judge could not give authority for shortening the hours of labour; that such a far-reaching innovation could be made only by a joint judgment of a full court of at least three judges. The practice laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins, one of the most farseeing of those who have adorned the judiciary of this country, was over-ruled. Had it been allowed to continue, we should not have had the evasion, the trickery and the chicanery which have been indulged in by the present Government in connexion with the hours question. Mr. Justice Higgins would have applied the 40-hour working week to all industries throughout the Commonwealth, and as a result of his progressive methods Australian industries generally would have flourished. We are now told that the Government has instructed its representative at Geneva to vote for a draft convention applying the principle of a 40-hour working week. I have read the memorandum which it has been said was addressed to that gentleman. It contains no less than seven “ buts “. It is full of qualifications which restrict the delegate to within very limited bounds. He has been instructed to agree to the principle of the 40-hour working week; “but if the United States of America does not adopt it we cannot “ : “ but if Italy does not adopt it, we cannot.” The Government called a conference to discuss the hours question, but, as there were to be seventeen delegates, fourteen of whom were opposed to Labour, it gave every promise of being a sort of a Donnybrook Fair. We know from our experience that seventeen representatives, all putting forward different views, could achieve no unanimity. Mr. Silk, the representative of the Employers Federation of New South Wales, who was to have attended the conference, said beforehand that under no consideration would he agree to the 40-hour working week. He said, “ I am prepared to go to the conference, hut we will not have the 40-hour working week.” The Government has said that it would agree to the decisions of that conference, but assuredly the delegates at the conference could not have agreed among themselves. I hope that the Government, even in its dying hours, will now have the courage to say, “ The Commonwealth has the power to apply the principle of the 40- hour working week in Australia,” and to instruct its representative at Geneva to vote in favour of it. The Commonwealth might very well follow the lead given by Canada in this respect. The Canadian Government accepted the Hours Convention at Geneva, and regarded its application to Canadian industries as a definite commitment which it had entered into with other countries when its representative at Geneva voted in favour of the convention. Even High Court judges in the Commonwealth have declared that the Commonwealth Government has the necessary power to implement the convention, and that it is only necessary to ratify the convention to make it applicable to this country. Although the ratification would supersede any State jurisdiction in regard to this matter; yet the Commonwealth is reluctant to take the step.
– I have read the amendment by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the only conclusion I can form from it is that it is brought forward as political propaganda. It is quite reasonable from the viewpoint of honorable members opposite, and, having regard to his political views, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was quite justified in moving- it. What has surprised me, however, during this debate, is that in the complaints we have heard to-day, no mention has been made of the ever-increasing cost of living and cost of production, both of which so greatly affect the poorer classes of the community. No demand has been made for a more equitable distribution of the wealth of Australia, and no opposition has been levelled against the operations of greedy monopolies. After listening to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) last night, I should have thought something further would have been said about the growth of monopolies in Australia, and suggestions for their suppression. There has been no recognition at all of the fact that only by the production of wealth can we enjoy that prosperity and good conditions to which the people are entitled. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) spoke at length in regard to a Commonwealth housing scheme. I do not remember what particular promises were made in this respect ; under the Constitution the Commonwealth has no power to erect houses in the various States. With the concurrence and the desire of the States the Commonwealth certainly could provide the money to enable the States to carry out schemes of that sort, but in the last three years I have not heard of any requests made by State governments for financial assistance from the Commonwealth for ‘ the purpose of carrying out housing schemes. As far as my memory goes I have not heard of one request made by a State for financial assistance for housing. The charge made by the honorable member for Cook was really an indictment of the State governments of Australia. Much has been said about the slums in our cities, but we must remember that the policy of the various Australian governments during the last 25 or 30 years has tended to drive people from the country districts into the cities. Consequently, we hear much in regard to the huge numbers of city-dwellers, the want of employment among them, and the awful conditions under which many of them live, wholly caused by a policy which enriches approximately 10 per cent, of the people at the expense of the rest of the community.
I am very pleased indeed that the Governor-General has seen fit to take a keen interest in constitutional matters. I think I can claim some credit for the decision of the Government to prorogue Parliament once each year and have annual sessions in accordance with the Constitution. As I have been most insistent the constitutional practice should be followed in this respect, I am satisfied that it is the insistence- of the GovernorGeneral on a more rigid observance of constitutional methods in Australia that has influenced the present Government, not only to prorogue Parliament, but also to bring forward a bill to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission. The prorogation has certainly brought about a state of affairs which I did not anticipate. I had a very important motion on the noticepaper in regard to the disallowance of a regulation which gives power to the Government, without the consent of Parliament, to restrict the trade of Australia. I contend that far-reaching action of that sort should only be taken with the approval of the Parliament. I hope that the Standing Orders will be so altered that when notice of a motion is given for the disallowance of any regulation it should receive consideration within a few days of the notice being tabled. The Standing Orders should provide that the subject-matter of the regulation to which objection is taken, should be discussed and decided upon by the Parliament without delay. I hope that the newStanding Orders will provide that when a government obtains any power by regulation such as I have mentioned, it should be competent for any honorable member to have that matter discussed immediately.
The establishment of an Inter-State Commission which will supplant the present Commonwealth Grants Commission is provided for in the Constitution. In connexion with the proposed Inter-State Commission, it is not fair to state, as has been stated so often recently, that it is to be reconstituted in order to provide a lucrative position for the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). There is no justification whatsoever for a statement of that sort, and its repetition is grossly unfair. When the bill to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission is under discussion, I hope that the Government will agree to an amendment to provide that the commission shall have power to inquire into and report to this Parliament upon the disabilities suffered by States as the result of Commonwealth laws and policy. If a State is suffering adversely from the effects of Commonwealth policy, the Inter-State Commission should be the proper authority to approach for redress. Commonwealth policy has had such a detrimental effect on Western Australia that separation from the union is looked upon as the only way of obtaining justice.
Another matter that surprises me is the opposition of honorable members of the Labour party to the proposal to institute a scheme of national insurance in Australia. I hope that in the near future we shall have in Australia, not -only an. unemployment insurance scheme, but also the most liberal system of invalid and old-age pensions that can be adopted. What is needed greatly is that such, matters should be withdrawn from political control, so that the question of the amount of the pension payable to invalid and old-age pensioners may not be a subject brought up in Parliament every year. The Auditor-General points out that during the last three or four year3 there has been an increase of invalid and old-age pensions paid in New South . Wales, amounting to over 30 per cent, above that of other States. I question very much whether this increase hasnot been due almost wholly to political interference.
I can well understand the resignation of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) from the Cabinet. There is no member of this House who, when in opposition, spoke more strongly against the policy which he himself brought forward in May of last year. Any one who has followed the career of the honorably member* during the many years in which he has occupied a seat in this Parliament must admit that he has been consistent only in his inconsistency, and many threatened dangers to this country have been removed by his resignation. For the last two years we have been living on the edge of a precipice, never knowing when the world might be again confronted by the horrors of wai’. I cannot understand the Government adopting a tariff policy which made a direct enemy of one country and destroyed our friendship with another, lt placed extraordinary powers in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). It is incomprehensible to me that this Parliament can permit such a policy to continue in operation, particularly without Parliamentary approval. Mr. Hull, the Secretary to the Roosevelt administra- tion, is one of the keenest opponents of economic nationalism, and he is desirous of freer trade with the nations of the world. During the last ten months, the United States of America purchased from us goods to the value of £1,300,000 more than that of the goods we bought from that country. Yet, one can scarcely purchase any article from that country without first obtaining from the Customs Department a permit to do so. When permission was sought to import certain American dairying machinery, the Minister replied, in effect, that, no matter what the price might be, the machinery should be obtained from the local manufacturers, even with the exorbitant duty on imported machinery now imposed. Leading statesmen and economists throughout the world agree that the only way to bring about world peace is to abandon this policy of economic nationalism.
The High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, has done remarkably good work in GreatBritain in the last few years, and has emphasized the need for a trade policy that will bring the nations of the world more closely together. We have not only made enemies of foreign countries, but have also destroyed markets for our own primary products, and States such as Western Australia have had to bear. the full brunt of the tariff restrictions imposed. It is difficult to understand why the proposals for tariff alterations submitted in May of last year were rushed into this chamber in the dying hours of the session. The Tariff Board had made recommendations for the reduction of the duties on agricultural implements, and I again ask why the Government did not give effect to its report and recommendations regarding the altered duties. The Tariff Board Act clearly lays down that the Minister shall not impose any new, increased or reduced, duties without first allowing the board to inquire into and report upon the proposal. Yet, without any report from the board, the Government submitted to the Parliament duties which enabled the local manufacturers to exact enormous profits, ‘thus increasing the farmers’ costs of production and the cost of living. The only persons who gained were the greedy monopolists.
– Who were the monopolists?
– Yesterday the honorable member for Riverina drew attention to the huge profits made by half a dozen large companies. Not one word of objection to increases of duties has been raised by honorable members opposite, who are always content if, as the result of tariff changes, improved conditions are obtained for the comparatively few who are employed in industry, totally disregarding the best interests of the” primary producers who are most vitally concerned.
A statement was published in the press to the effect that the Government proposed to appoint an- advisory committee to assist the Minister for Trade and Customs. Why are the Chambers of Manufactures to give advice to the Minister on tariff matters?
– lt is an arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the Government, of Great Britain.
– This Government is not justified in seeking advice from the Chambers of Manufactures. The Miniser ought to be able to manage his own department, and should not be in a. position to say, after ‘reaching an important decision, that he has acted on the advice of this or any other body. I well remember the speech made -by Mr. Bruce in 1928, pointing out the difficulties under which Australia wa3 then suffering, and the many concessions given to the manufacturers who failed to respond by reducing their prices. Although defeated in 1929, Mr. Bruce was re-elected in 1932 as the representative of the electorate of Flinders by a majority of over 24,000, although he was absent in England at the time of the election. He received a much larger number of votes than had usually been received by a Nationalist candidate in that electorate. Thousands of pounds must have been spent by vested interests to defeat him in 1929.
I shall point, out what certain manufacturers think of the tariff restrictions, and shall quote the following statement by a Victorian company - Radio Corporation Proprietary Limited : -
The control of our factories by the Customs Department, to the extent which the Government’s policy has brought it, imperils their very existence. To our cost we have found that it disorganizes our research and design departments and paralyses our plant in the sense that the customs officials who are in control cif the supplies feeding our plant can, in their quite weil understood want of necessary technical knowledge, be prevailed upon to act-up L any plausible suggestion put to them by the distributors of the Radio Corporation of America. Nobody has a free hand, no individual is responsible - all our economic and technical questions are decided by customs officials upon political evidence and political reasoning. The problems of a technical’ and economic nature that exist’ in our factory are submerged in government interference, the only beneficiary of which ‘ seems to bc the Radio Corporation of America and its subsidiary and allied companies.
– The honorable, member does not believe that. Surely . he can recognize the propaganda of an importer.
– Yes, but there is much, truth behind this statement. I have heard many complaints about the delays which occur when an attempt is made to import certain classes of goods. I make no complaint if this- Parliament, agrees to impose duties on certain goods, but there is something radically wrong when a manufacturer or anybody else has to obtain a permit to import goods. The writer of this letter would have made no complaint against the department if he had been “ in the swim “. The letter further states -
The pressure that is being applied to us by customs officials to purchase valves made in the United States from the Amalgamated Wireless Valve Company and Philips at any price they wish to agree upon necessarily loads the cost of receivers manufactured by us to such an extent that ultimately Amalgamated Wireless and Philips who are competitors with us in the receiver industry must have an “unfair advantage.
How is it that the Government permits the formation by the Amalgamated Wireless Valve Company of a “ pup “ company having as its partners three of the valve manufacturing firms of the United States of America, which, only recently, were brought before the courts in that country for insistence upon monopolistic control.
The policy of the Commonwealth should be such as to recognize our need for increased population and increased primary production, but the policy adopted has had the effect of attracting people from the country to the cities, and it would be scandalous to invite people to migrate to Australia merely to be exploited by city monopolists. The cost of developing a farm in Western Australia was almost 100 per cent, greater in 1931 than in 1913, and in that State alone 2,00 farmers have abandoned their holdings and returned to the cities. We cannot enjoy prosperity without producing wealth, and most of our wealth comes from primary production. Every care should be taken not to destroy the markets of the primary producers. The abrupt fall of the prices overseas of our export commodities in 1930 was largely responsible for the desperate plight of so many of our people; but at the same time, if it is desired to develop the interior of this vast continent, every effort should be made to encourage settlers through the medium of “lower tariff duties. When the Tariff Board was considering its recommendation in connexion with the imposition of duties on agricultural machinery I gave evidence showing that, in no circumstances, should the cost of such implements in Australia be higher than it is in Canada. Although wages in Canada are higher than they are in Australia, the cost of agricultural machinery is from 30 per cent, to 35 .per cent, cheaper in that dominion than it is in this country. For that reason, I fail to understand why the Government has not’ approved of the report of the Tariff Board with a view to enabling a reduction of the Australian price for farming implements to be made.
I hope that the report of the Monetary and Banking Commission will contain a recommendation that the Commonwealth Bank shall be given power to fix the maximum rate of interest to be paid on deposits and to be charged on overdrafts. When various State governments years ago, through their savings banks, began to increase the rate of interest. on deposits, it was found that the trading banks, in order to retain their deposits, were forced to follow suit.
– Was not that rise of interest rates due to competition for money ?
– -Yes; the State banks endeavoured to obtain more money for the use of State governments. In my opinion, the Government would be acting wisely in giving the Commonwealth Bank power to fix the maximum rate of interest on deposits and overdrafts because it would do away with many of the contentions that the banks are exploiting the people.
I congratulate the Government upon its proposal to grant financial assistance to the States for the purpose of promoting the welfare of Australian boys and girls who are victims of the financial depression. Such assistance will enable them to be taught some trade or calling, and thus they will be made useful citizens. I warmly commend the Government for embarking upon such a policy, which should be pursued, because it must be beneficial to Australia generally.
There are many other matters upon which I should like to speak, but I shall reserve my observations upon them until such time as the Estimates are under consideration.
– The purpose of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in moving an amendment to the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1937-38 is to draw attention to items which are deserving of immediate consideration by the Government, because he claims that such matters are based on the promises which the Lyons Government made at the last general elections, and on the alleged buoyancy of federal finances, for which the Government asserts that it is responsible. While these subjects are being discussed, I desire to take the opportunity to make some general references to the policy of this Government. First, I direct attention to the fact that the Government has allowed Parliament to remain in recess for six months despite the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that it would be summoned in March in order that important matters concerning Australia’s internal position and international relations-, might .have the considered opinion of the representatives of our people. Although that assurance was given, it was not honoured, and it appears to me that the Government was not anxious that the subjects which were set down for discussion at the Imperial Conference should be debated in this Parliament. Apparently the Australian delegates desired .a free hand in deciding matters of major importance to everybody in Australia, and furthermore, it is obvious that they were anxious that the Opposition in this Parliament should’ not be permitted to express its views in regard to such proposals. With respect to the deliberations themselves, there has been a hush-hush policy and, although honorable members were summoned to Canberra a number of days ago, they have so far been given no information as to the result of those discussions or even as to the nature of the subjects discussed. We have been able, however, to gather from the press quite a number of references made to the speeches of representatives, mostly of other dominions, at the Imperial Conference, and Ave have given close attention to utterances of the Prime Minister of Canada, because he at least lifted the lid to some extent as to the nature of the subjects brought up at the conference, so much so that he expressed his determination not to permit Canada to be linked to problems which would involve his people in those circumstances which embroiled the British dominions a few years ago. No doubt the Government has a reason for not disclosing its purpose in maintaining a strict silence in regard to the events at the Imperial Conference; but it appears to me that it is desirous of reserving this conference, for whatever value it may be, for the forthcoming election campaign. The Government’s term of office is drawing to a close, and it is consequently watching very closely for an opportunity to use some catch-cry in order to distract the people’s mind from the blunders that it has committed from time to time. More than likely some patriotic catch-cry in regard to the Flag will be raised at the forthcoming elections, and the people will be told: “You stick to us and we shall save you”. The continued silence on the part of the Government in regard to the deliberations of the Imperial Conference strongly suggests to me that some such catch-cry will be raised. The same viewpoint has not altogether been accepted in Great Britain, because one prominent Conservative newspaper expressed the opinion that there was no reason why the deliberations of the conference should not have been open to the public on the basis of an empire parliament. In my opinion, such a view could have been accepted by the Commonwealth delegates, unless they had something to hide. 1 am perfectly satisfied, however, that whatever defence the Government may make and to whatever use it may attempt to apply the discussions or tb alleged decisions of the conference, no hysteria will thereby be created in the minds of the Australian people, and such an issue will not be sufficient to enable it to cover up its inactivities, blunders and failures since taking office. During recent months in particular, these repeated failures and the decisions of the people on issues on which they had been given an opportunity to record their judgment, have established a feeling which, expressed in the sporting parlance of the stadium, would indicate that the Government is just about “punch-drunk” in regard to its position in the political life of Australia. According to the rules of the stadium, there is no compensation whatever for those who suffer from punch- drunkenness, and the general public has no further interest in the victims. Although larger matters which- concern Australia as a whole and its international relations should emanate from this national Parliament, the Government is guilty of twiddling with petty things and has revealed inertia in regard to the outstanding problems of the day. For example, it has gone to great lengths in order to deal with such matters as the banning of the exhibition of newsreels of the recent marriage of the Duke of Windsor and his movements in Europe, and it went to great pains iu what is now known in almost every home as the Freer case, for the handling of which it is deserving of downright ridicule from .all thinking people. Furthermore, it has been responsible for petty actions of restriction which, to a large extent, have placed it on the same plane as that occupied by the Minister for Works in New South Wales, Mr. Spooner, who is famed for having placed a ban on the wearing of shorts on New South Wales, beaches. In my opinion this Government is in much the same category as Mr. Spooner. The minds of the Ministers who compose the Lyons Government travel along the lines of petty things rather than along the channels of major subjects to which previous speakers have forcefully referred, and which after all, should be its major responsibility. The actions of the Government during the last few weeks have convinced me that it has a sad attack of the “jitters”; the atmosphere in which Ministers move appears to me to be similar to that which prevailed just prior to the defeat of the Bruce-Page Government in 1929. When members of a government, shortly before their term of office expires, hasten to endeavour to alter the order of the presen-ta tion of names on the Senate ballot papers, abandoning procedure which had been laid down and accepted for a long period of years, their anxious state of mind can readily be appreciated. Their actions convince me that they are downright panicky; they now apparently desire to jerrymander the ballot-paper in order that the public may be misled to some extent in unwittingly supporting them. They are satisfied in their own minds that political extinction confronts them.
– Does not the honorable member desire the representation of the Labour party in the Senate to be increased?
– The honorable members will need to have a lot of things done if he desires to be returned at the next election.
Years ago a small coterie of Government members led by the present Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) was responsible for the downfall of the Bruce-Page Government, but actually that administration was dragged down by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), who made demands upon his United Australia party colleagues, particularly in respect of industrial arbitration, that could not be satisfied. All the signs suggest that, the same right honorable gentleman and his Country party colleagues are undermining the Lyons Government. The bungling associated with many administrative acts of members of this Ministry makes it quite certain that the day of reckoning is at hand. The by-election in Gwydir undoubtedly proves that this is so.
During our recent meetings in the Gwydir electorate we heard a good deal a bout a noxious weed known as Paterson’s Curse, which the farmers were endeavouring to eradicate. There is a “ Paterson Curse “ inflicting serious damage on this Government, and all the endeavours so far made to eradicate it have failed. It may be remembered that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) was listed to speak in the Gwydir electorate during the by-election campaign, but official duties, which no doubt had been prepared for the occasion, prevented him from fulfilling his programme. It was felt, I suppose, that it would not be wise to transplant this “ Curse “ to the electorate. However, the honorable gentleman intends to visit Darwin shortly after the House rises. I suppose he will investigate various matters concerning the mining industry and particularly the failure of the Government’s patrol-boat scheme. The incidents in which the patrol boat has figured recently have brought the Government into contempt and ridicule not only at home but also overseas. These episodes in the administration of the Government have a humorous vein, though from the point of view of Australia at large the whole business is serious. It is always serious for a government to lose the respect of foreign powers. The vessel involved in the recent happenings in our northern waters was bought from overseas. I understand that no tenders were called on that occasion, and no guarantees were provided for the Government. Notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of shipbuilding artisans in my own electorate and also in the electorate of Martin are unable to obtain regular employment, the Government saw fit to purchase this vessel abroad. It therefore deserves the unhappy results that have followed.
A day or two ago, when replying to certain remarks of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the forthcoming general elections, the AttorneyGeneral made some observations regarding the success of the Labour party at Gwydir and then, with an airy wave of his hand, he remarked : “ But, gentlemen, what sort of a government would we get from among the honorable gentlemen who sit opposite ? “ A far more pertinent question may be asked : “ What sort of a government have we to-day ? “ Without any question, thousands of thinking people throughout Australia have weighed this Government in the balance and found it wanting.
Honorable gentlemen opposite have had a good deal to say at various times about the defence of this country. If the Government is so utterly incapable of dealing adequately with the troubles that are occurring in our northern waters as to have to suffer the spectacle of an enemy vessel actually rescuing the craft that captured it, we are entitled to ask, as all sensible men and women must do: “ What would be likely to happen if this Government were in office at a time when it became necessary to defend our country?” The Government has made itself a laughing stock internationally. Not only has it failed to enunciate any constructive ideas, or to formulate any effective policy, but, by its attitude respecting our iron ore deposits and the sale of scrap iron, to mention only two matters, it has also shown itself to be absolutely inept. Actually it has brought down upon itself the derision and contempt of the community for its repeated failures in such matters as the protection of our pearling industry and the administration of our immigration laws. In these circumstances, the Attorney-General might well ask himself : “ What sort of a government have I behind me?” Probably the best is being made of a lot of bad material, but the people of Australia are not likely to rest content with an administration of this nondescript character. I make these remarks principally to draw pointed attention to views that are very generally expressed outside this House about the Government now in office.
When he visits the Northern Territory the Minister for the Interior will, no doubt, endeavour to take complete charge of the situation that has arisen there. How he will handle it I do not know. I do not wish to be unkind to the honorable gentleman, but if he could find some good reason for remaining in the Northern Territory, may be as a colleague to the present Administrator (Mr.
Abbott), it might ease thesituation for his fellow members of the Cabinet, who are, doubtless, at their wits’ end to know what to do. Never in my experience has there been such a series of blunders in a public department as those which have occurred during the last year or two in the Department of the Interior. The action of the Minister for the Interior in branding. Mrs.Freer, a white woman, as an adventuress, an undesirable person, and a home wrecker, and using this as a reason for prohibiting her entry into Australia, was ridiculous; but when he followed this up, some months later, by allowing her to come into this country, the situation was farcical in the extreme. When the Acting Prime Minister was asked a question on this subject he had no explanation whatever to offer. The Minister for the Interior was then interrogated and he said, “I have no intention of resigning”.
– It was a good reply.
– The honorable member may hold that opinion, but the Minister, by that reply, made it more certain than ever that the Government will be called upon in the near future to resign. I ask the honorable members opposite who represent the electorates of Barton, Macquarie, Calare, Hume and Robertson, whether they are satisfied with the administrative actions of the Minister. In their own interests they should take steps without delay to have the honorable gentleman removed from office. Otherwise, their chances of obtaining a hearing, much less re-election, when they face the people within a few months, will be very remote. In not resigning himself the Minister for the Interior has very definitely assured the resignation of the Government as a whole. I do not make that statement merely for the purposes of propaganda. I have abundant evidence to indicate that that is the view of the people in general. It is one thing for an honorable member to express an opinion on a subject of this kind, and quite’ another thing for him to support the opinion with strong evidence. Recent happenings in the electorate of Gwydir show clearly that the people hold the view that I am enunciating. No doubt, the Attorney-General, with his legal training, will appreciate the strength of the evidence that I have advanced in support of my opinion on this point.
It is significant, also, that the Acting Prime Minister has not had a word to say since the beginning of the session in defence of his administration. In the absence of the Prime Minister it is. his responsibility to uphold the Government, but he has remained silent. Probably he is ashamed of his administration. Naturally, of course, he ‘ would not wish to say so publicly. I have, no doubt, that the result of the Gwydir by-election has damped his ardour and caused him to look to the future with misgiving. The Attorney-General has been called upon to step into the breach, but his attempts to justify the actions of the Government have been lamentably weak. The right honorable gentleman said that he could understand the jubilation of the Labour party over its recent victory, because it had had so few victories lately; but I remind him that the victory in Gwydir was decisive. He should also bear in mind that the Labour party swept the polls in 1929, when the political atmosphere was very similar to that of to-day. There is no question but that Labour will again sweep the polls this year.
– Oh, no !
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) had a majority of only about 700 at the last election. I leave him to imagine what a swing of even 10 per cent. in the electorates would mean to him and manyof his colleagues.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Just before the tea adjournment, I remarked that the Labourparty had swept the polls in 1929, and thatall the indications at the present time clearly show that the trend of public opinion is against the Government. The Labour party has had two victories lately, and it will complete the “hat trick” as soon as the Government provides the necessary opportunity. No amount of window-dressing will save the Government from the wrath of the people. The vote on the referendum proposals was definitely a vote against the Government, and the verdict in the Gwydir by-election was against the Country party and the Ministry. Members of the United Australia party in this composite Government must necessarily have their attention directed to the forthcoming conference of the Country party. It would appear that that party is proposing to overhaul its policy. As Senator Hardy has remarked, it oan no longer win an election on bogies, but must place something more constructive before the people. One decision of a recent conference of the Country party was to demand half the portfolios in any composite Ministry that may be formed should the parties opposite succeed in winning the next general election. I heard, this afternoon areference to the “ ex-Ministers’ alley “ - so described by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). Many more Ministers will have totake a seat in that quarter if the Country party should succeed in imposing its will on the composite Government. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) may experience some difficulty in appeasing the wrath of his constituents, which has been aroused by the decision of the Government in regard to a. base for the overseas flying-boat service. Other metropolitan members also must necessarily be disturbed by the demands of the Country parfy in connexion with tariff policy, as well as by unemployment and other matters. It has been the proud boast of that party that it has secured reductions of duty on no fewer than 453 items of the tariff, thereby having sacrificed many Australian industries. Only last night, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), demanded that protection should be removed from three important secondary industries.
Mr.Nock. - I said reduced, not removed.
– These are matters which must be agitating the minds of those who sit behind the Government. The Country party has more than it can answer for to the wool-growers of Australia in connexion with the attitude that it recently adopted towards Japan. The wool-grower will not take meekly the loss ofover £5,000,000 in his trade, due to the stupid bungling of the Government in this matter. Quite apart fromthe loss of trade, there is the impairment of friendly relations with this neighbouring country which will probably take years to put right; and that is perhapsmore important and serious than any other factor. The blame for it must be laid at the door of the Government. For the ten months ended last April, Japanese exports to Australia declined by only about £1,500,000, compared with the ten , months ended April, 1936, whereas Australian exports to Japan for the same period declined by nearly £7,000,000. This is of even greater importance than the figures reveal, and consequently the matter demands the serious attention of the electors, as soon as the opportunity is presented to them. It is known that certain members of this House profited by this policy; they were able to hold back their wool until the reappearance of Japanese buyers on the Australian market enabled them to secure higher prices. Doubtless they . purchased clips from other growers. This matter was very fully . considered bythe wool-growers in the Gwydir electorate during the recentbyelection campaign. They showed very definitely what they thought of theCountry party and its domination by wealthy graziers and the overseas mortgage and financial trust.
During the debate on the AddressinReply last week, the subject of unemployment was. raised. The AttorneyGeneral ; who was the only speaker on the ministerial side of the House, endeavoured to justify the ‘ actions of the Government. The right hongentleman claimed that, according to the statistics, considerable improvement had been effected. He was certainly able to show by the statistics that the percentage of unemployment is not as high to-day as it was in 1929. I think, however, that we are entitled to adduce further evidence which casts doubt on the reliability of these statistics. In this regard I shall quote a short passage from the gentleman who came to Australia at the invitation of the Government to report on unemployment insurance. In paragraph 9, on page 6, of his report, he said -
Satisfactory statistics as to the volume and extent of unemployment in Australia are not available, but such figures as are available indicate the seriousness of the problem. The trade unions have for many years made quarterly returns showing the number and percentage of members unemployed. The unions represent, however, only a proportion of those employed in industry, and returns arc not supplied from unions whose members are in permanent employment or from unions whose members are casually employed. The figures cannot, therefore, be regarded as furnishing a proper measure of the degree of unemployment.
That is not a statement from the Opposition side of the House, nor is it propaganda. It -is based upon information which the gentleman who made the report was able to collect, and it is worth quoting because it is up-to-date.
It will not be disputed that, at the general elections in 1934, the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister made unemployment the principal feature of the campaign. The Prime Minister made . appeals in all directions for the return of his Government so that it might deal with this grave problem; yet the position to-day is as I have stated it to be. If further evidence is needed toshow that there is something very gravely wrong, it is to be found in the statement of the Premier of New South Wales which was published in a Sydney newspaper last Friday afternoon, that he proposed to introduce a new scale of benefits for the relief of unemployment. He said that his Government had decided that single men should in future be given two and a half weeks’ work instead of two weeks in every ten. He went on to say -
Nearly all classes of married men will receive advantage under the plan to give them work every second week. Married men without children, or with one child, now work two weeks in seven, for which they receive an average of£1 ls. 5d. a week. They should receive, after the 1st July, about £1 17s. a week. [Leave to continue given.]
The graduated scale for rationed work under emergency relief at present is: -
Single men: 15s. a week.
Married without children : £1 5s. a week.
One or two children: £1 10s. a week
Three children, £1 12s. 7d. a week.
Do honorable members consider that that is evidence of a satisfactory condition of affairs? Do they believe that two weeks’ work in every seven weeks is sufficient for a married man, and that two and a half weeks in every ten weeks is sufficient for a single man ?* If that is the evidence upon which they base their contention that the position in regard to unemployment has improved, to put the case rnildry it is the most unsatisfactory evidence that could bo produced before any tribunal appointed to make an impartial review of the matter. These are facts which cannot be denied. Every one knows that the problem has not been tackled in anything like the manner promised by the policy speech of the Prime Minister in 1934. The argument of the Opposition cannot be brushed aside by a mere quoting of figures. We are satisfied that the electors have a true appreciation of the position, and that they will clearly indicate their opinion in due course. All that the Government did was to appoint the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment. In his policy speech, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth could no longer fail to shoulder its proper share of the responsibility for unemployment. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that in order to prove his sincerity in the matter, he proposed to appoint a special Minister to deal solely with the problem. There is no need for me to relate what happened. This Parliament is in its dying days, and we shall soon have an opportunity to remind the people of what was promised in the last policy speech. The people thought at the time that a genuine attempt would be made to do that which had been promised, instead of which there has merely been relief work at starvation wages. Acts of parliament have been passed for the purpose of enabling tribunals to vary the conditions prescribed by industrial awards. It is true that to-day the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has agreed to lift the basic wage on an extended scale. That tribunal realizes that it can no longer withstand the demands which the workers and the people generally are making; it also sees “ the writing on the wall. “.
On the question of hours of labour, I do not wish to say very much. The Government made a very brave show before the International Labour Conference. Its delegate acted according to the instructions he had received. I point out, however, that whenever an attempt has been made in this Parliament to induce lue Government to stand up to the beliefs it has expressed, it has evaded that obligation, lt is useless for the Government to claim that it is necessary to refer this matter to some tribunal for further inquiry; the time for investigation has passed. Despite the constitutional limitations that are alleged to exist, if the Government is sincere it has ample scope to apply the principle of a shorter working week to its own service, and to the industries over which it is able to exercise control. This has not been done.
The next point I want to make is equally important. The general trend of government policy is well illustrated in the figures prepared by the Government Statistician of New South Wales, dealing with railway workers in that State. Surely it was never accepted that the conditions of 1929 were to be regarded as the peak in our history, and that no progress could be evolved beyond that stage. But apparently government members are not accepting this principle because all their talk and statistics are based upon years since 1929 - years in the depth of depression. Let us make a comparison with the 1929 levels. According to the Statistician’s figures, there were, in 1929, 44,000 persons employed on the railways of New South Wales, whereas, in 1936, the number was reduced to 42,000. In 1929, £12,500,000 was paid in salaries and wages each year to railway employees, but by 1936 the amount had been reduced to £8,750,000. In 1929, the average remuneration for each employee was £280, whereas by 1936 it had been reduced to £209. Therefore, the policy pursued by this Government, and others of the same political complexion, has resulted in reducing the average wage of the railway workers of New South Wales by £71 as compared with 1929. *’ This should be of interest to the primary producers who complain that they cannot find a market for their products. The reason that the Australian market for primary production has become restricted is that the purchasing power of the people has been reduced, due to the whittling down of wages. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) quoted figures last night to show that, oven since 1931 the wages of factory employees have been reduced by £4 10s. a head. Perhaps the
Government has not given attention to this aspect of the matter, because it meets with the wishes of the controlling influence of their political organization. Government supporters are too apt to confine their attention to statistics, index numbers, &c, and think that they can get away with it,’ but the workers who have to provide for their families, and the housewives who must meet their commitments and balance their household budgets, are only too familiar with the ‘differences between the wages levels of 1929 and those of 1936. They know that the things which they were able to buy in 1929 they cannot buy now. The people arc ‘weighing these things in their minds. It will be of no avail for the Government parties to disseminate their propaganda over the radio, or to drop literature into the letter-boxes ; they cannot overcome the stubborn facts to which I have called attention. Soon those members of ‘the Government who have been tripping overseas will return to Australia - “ Soon they will be returning “. They may wear their cocked hats, their knee-breeches, and their buckled shoes, but when they return we shall place them in the dock, and charge each one of them with the political crimes for which they have been responsible. We shall arraign the Prime Minister, and accuse him of political opportunism, and with deliberate repudiation of the promises contained in his last electioneering campaign. We shall accuse the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) of having put portfolios before principles, and shall charge the Minister for the Interior with having bungled the Freer case, and his inglorious exploits with the Larrakia. We shall put the Minister in Charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Hunter) in the dock, and ask him to answer the charge of having harshly treated the occupants of war service homes. We shall charge the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) with having tinkered with the film censorship, and with the unjustifiable banning of books, and the ruining of Australian industries by the lowering of the tariff wall, and we shall accuse the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) of having talked about malnutrition while doing nothing although thousands of children have been dying for want of food.. We shall charge the Acting Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) with having made reckless accusations against his political opponents every time he has mounted the platform, and with having permitted the big pastoral and finance companies to rob the primary producers. Lastly, we shall charge the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) with, having known all these things, standing idly by without raising a hand to remedy the position.
The Government does not deserve to be given supply. It’ should not bc allowed to dip its hands deeper into the Treasury. It has already spent £56,000 on trips overseas, when less than half that amount would have sufficed. Of course, .money must be voted for the payment of public servants and others who are doing real work, and consequently we shall have to put the bill through. The Government stands condemned in the eyes of the electors, and the people who will judge it on the- charges upon which it is now arraigned will give the verdict against it. The people will authorize the Labour party to clean up the mess which the Government has made. They will give to the Labour party the job of governing and developing Australia, a country of riches and golden opportunities, in the way which progress and humanity demands. It is to Labour that the people will turn at the forthcoming elections, as they did at the referendum and the Gwydir by-election. They will return this party with a majority sufficient to form a government, and then a new political era will dawn for this country. The doctrines which Labour has advocated on every platform will be put into operation, and the people will be able to share in real prosperity which only good governments arising from Labour, can provide.
– The first observation I should like to make is that I wish to congratulate my friend, whom I should describe as the “ Grown Prosecutor “ upon his appearance in a new ]0le As the honorable member (Mr. Beasley) has so comprehensively charged the
Government with various criminal offences, perhaps I should start by pleading not guilty, and in so pleading I shall do something which is not usually done by the man in the dock - I shall offer a friendly warning to the prosecutor. One cannot sustain criminal charges by merely making them. That is an error into which honorable gentlemen opposite frequently fall. Criminal charges, whether made against governments, or against less distinguished offenders, have to be supported by evidence. The prosecutor must obtain credit with the court; he must be believed. If he does not obtain credit, if he is not believed, and the person in the dock is acquitted - as this Government unquestionably will be acquitted by the people- it will then be open to another authority to determine whether the prosecution is not only illfounded, but also maliciously founded. If that finding is reached, then the prosecutor may himself be in a worse plight than the man whom he put in the dock.
I do noi; desire to oCCupY my time- in dealing categorically with what the honorable member from West Sydney will agree was designed to be a preelection oration, the peroration of which I greatly, admired. I propose to do something which might shock the last, two or three speakers ; I propose to go back to the amendment before the Chair. The amendment was submitted by rh» Deputy Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Forde), who enjoyed listening to a good deal of what the honorable member for West Sydney had to say, but who obviously did not enjoy the bit about the referendum. In fact, he looked quite unhappy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition moved as an amendment a motion directing the Government in regard to three matters, and I wish to say something about each, of them.
The first part of the amendment is a direction to the Government .” to increase the invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week, and to liberalize the provisions of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.” It falls to the lot of every body who is a Treasurer, whether he be firmly settled in the job, or only acting in it, to deal annually with some attack on the Government of the day in relation to pensions. I think, that every government that has been in office in this Parliament, of whatever party, has been attacked at some stage in its life on the matter of pensions. However, the problem of oldage and invalid pensions is like a great many other problems - it is not to be solved by any process of rhetoric, but can be dealt with adequately only by referring to the facts. My answer to the honorable member’s case will be a simple recital of the facts - facts which I hope will become extremely well-known to all the voters of Australia. I wonder whether it is realized by those who so consistently attack this Government in relation to pensions, and the parties which this Government represents, that we are able to claim credit for all the increases of pensions that have taken place since the inauguration of the Commonwealth. Looking back over the list, I observe that, in 1916, pensions were increased ‘by 5s. a fortnight by the Government which was then under the leadership of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Another increase of 5s. a fortnight was made in 1919 by the same government. In 1923, pensions were again increased by 5s. a fortnight, this time by the Bruce-Page Government. My right honorable friend, the Minister for Commerce and Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) introduced the proposal as Treasurer.
– Who introduced the pensions legislation?
– -The same party. In 1925 there was a further increase by 5s. a fortnight brought in once more by the Bruce-Page Government. In 1931, unhappily it became necessary to reduce the pensions. I do not for one moment criticize the Scullin Government for_ having done it,- although that Government was criticized by some people. On the contrary, I admire it.
– Tell us who they were who criticized.
– I do not need to tell the honorable member. It is sufficient to say that they are now in the same matrimonial home, and I have no desire to create turmoil among them. That reduction was made by the Scullin Government, which was forced to it by the circumstances, and I concede at once that nobody could have done it more reluctantly, or have been more upset at doing it than the then Prime Minister. I have no words of criticism against him. The reduction was made. In 1933, there was a further increase.
– What about the reduction of September, 1932 ?
– I regret that I have overlooked that fact in glancing down a column of figures. There was a further reduction in 1932-33 by the Lyons Government, which was compelled to it by exactly the same financial emergency as had compelled its predecessors.
– The Lyons Government in 1932-33 had a surplus of £1,300,000 left to it against a deficit of £10,000,000 left to the Scullin Government. .
– Then we find an increase in 1935 which was maintained in 1936. There was a further increase in September, 1936, by the Lyons Administration, by reason of the legislation passed last year.
– It, is a pretty good record.
– Yes, it is a pretty good record for governments and parties that are accused of being completely blind v> the requirements of the aged and infirm in the community. Our answer to these- allegations of want of sympathy is simply to point to the facts, and to add to these facts this further fact that we have not been dealing throughout this time with a constant number of invalid or old-age pensioners. On the contrary, the finances have had to be so conducted as to provide for a steadily increasing number of pensioners of both classes, and the result of that lias been a steadily, mounting total pensions bill. For example, the total liability for pensions as far back as 1917, which is the first increasing date to which I have referred, was a little over £3,500,000.
– We have heard all that over and over again.
– But you always forget it. I am repeating it now so that even he who runs in the honorable gentleman’s electorate may read. The total to-day has risen to just on £14,000,000. These governments in succession have, therefore, been making this improvement of the position of the pensioners, notwithstanding the fact that the budgetary proMem of handling the total payment, has necessarily been an increasing one year by year.
We are told also very frequently that the pension to-day is 19s. a week, and that at an earlier date - in 1929-30 - it was £3 a week. That is quite true. It was £1 a week at that time; but it is equally true that the purchasing capacity-
– And we have heard that over and over again.
– I am sure I am not Keeping the honorable member in the chamber. There are some truths that. i)i ay beat and beat again on some minds and never find entrance to them. I am prepared to engage in any quantity of repetitions if the honorable member will appreciate the case. In 1930, when pensions were paid at the rate of £1 a week, the cost of living index figure stood at 3 682. It is to-day 3491, and the fact is that a pension of 19s. has a greater purchasing power to-day than £1 had in 3930.
– Who told the Minister that?
– The Commonwealth Statistician.
– He is not on the oldage pension.
– I am foolish enough to believe that the Commonwealth Statistician is as well equipped on these problems as is the honorable member for Denison.
The second thing I want to point out - it has been pointed out many times before - -is that the legislation passed last year provided that as the cost of living figures rose past a certain point there would be a further restoration beyond the 19s. The fact is that on a table which this Parliament adopted last year in its legislation there will be a restoration of the pension to £1 at a lower cost of living figure than that operating in 1930. I am not labouring this matter because I know that honorable members opposite must have their fling on this question of invalid and old-age pensions, but I say with complete confidence that if all the voters of Australia interested in this problem, simply considered the objective facts in relation to this matter they would dismiss the argument of honorable members on the opposite side of the House as being political in the worst sense of the word - political in the sense that they seek to make some electoral capital out of the misfortunes of people rather than to restore them to a state of reasonable wellbeing.
The second direction in the amendment is, “ to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure progressive reductions in the number of working hours and an increase in living standards commensurate with increased powers of production due to the mechanization and speeding-up of industry. “ I do not propose to engage in the almost ages-old argument as to how far the mechanization of industry is the cause of unemployment. I shall content myself by saying that the effect of mechanization is almost invariably exaggerated by those who speak about it. In point of fact the mechanized era throughout which we have been living has seen the cheapening of many products and the development of many new ones that nobody would have thought of a generation ago. It has brought into our lives and standards of living, all sorts of things that our grandfathers had no knowledge of, and the result is that at the present time the employment rate in Australia, in present circumstances, is quite comparable with the employment rate that prevailed at a time when nobody had learned to talk about the mechanized era at all.
I do not propose to engage in a discussion as to the precise accuracy of the particular method used for calculating the employment rate. I accept what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), in his characteristically fair way, said the other day - that, although he challenged the absolute accuracy of. any particular figures, the trend was shown by those figures because they were all compiled on the same basis. That is true, and using that trend it is very difficult indeed to discover the disastrous effect of mechanization of which we occasionally talk so glibly. Let us assume that mechanization has had some effect in creating unemployment, and let us assume that the unemployment rate at any particular time is going to be affected by the standard working week. I will make all those assumptions for the purpose of this discussion. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition challenges the Government in relation to this matter he must be prepared to say, “ There is something- tha t, you, as a government, should have done on this matter that you have not done “. I deny that allegation. I say that this Government’s attitude in relation to the hours problem has -been the only attitude it could have maintained, and for one or two reasons. The first of them is the subject of what I know is a controversy that is beginning to exist in legal circles - that this Government has no power to pass laws with relation to the standard working week.
– How can ‘Canada do it ?
– Canada has a Constitution different from the Australian. It happens that, the Commonwealth of Australia is the only self-governing dominion whose industrial power is related in terms to the settlement of industrial disputes; Australia is the only dominion with that particular industrial power, and I say to the House that, as the law now stands, and as the Constitution now stands, we are not in a position to pass a law saying how many hours of labour the people may work.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral argue that this Parliament has no power to bring in enabling legislation to give effect to external treaties and their obligations?
– The answer is that in some circumstances it has; in others, it has not. One such circumstance has been considered by the High Court in the recent Aviation case and the majority of the High Court in that case took the view that the carrying out of an international convention in relation to aviation was an external affair so as to attract an external affairs power.
– Did not they all take that view?
– I think they all took that view in relation, to aviation, but it is a big step from that to say that all you need to do to legislate on anything is to make a treaty with another country about it. There is a definite view expressed in. some of the judgments of the High Court that external affairs must have some external quality before the Commonwealth Parliament can pass a law about them. Two of the learned judges plainly indicated that they thought that labour conditions possessed a quality that would attract that power. No other member of the court offered any view on that problem. 1 wish to emphasize that there is a difference of opinion among the members of the High Court as to whether matters which possess a primarily internal quality, like hours of labour, wages and industrial conditions, are susceptible to the kind of external application which Wl give to the Parliament of the Commonwealth power to enact laws regarding them.
– Why not test the matter ?
– If we were anxious to test all these points by passing “ tryon “ legislation, we should be fully occupied.
While I am discussing the suggestion that, under the external affairs power, this Parliament can make treaties, and thereby increase its own legislative poWers, let me point out to honorable members and to the people df Australia just what that means. It means that if the Commonwealth Parliament can obtain legislative power over a subject matter bymaking a treaty with another country about it, then it. is within the capacity of the executive Government of Australia, by making a treaty with somebody, completely to alter the distribution of power in the Commonwealth. There is not one power that is to-day being exercised by the States that cannot be taken by the Commonwealth, if the external power is to bo given that interpretation. What is to prevent us from going to Geneva, or anywhere else, and saying to other nations, “ We shall make a convention with you about laud settlement or railways, or any of the other matters now dealt, with by the States “ ? We could then come back saying, for instance, “ These are now ‘ external affairs ‘.- You people in Victoria, in your innocence* thought that railways were internal matters, but they are now external affairs, and the Commonwealth can pass legislation about them”.
– That is a stupid argument.
– lt is an argument that the people will be considering very seriously indeed before they are many years older; but, as the decisions now stand - and it is on the existing decisions that the Government has to advise itself - this Parliament has no power to pass a. law for a 40-hour week. What else is there that we can do? Somebody suggests that we should tell the Arbitration Court what it should do.
– Give a 40-hour week to the Commonwealth’s own employees.
– I shall come to that matter in a moment. Such a thing as giving a direction to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has never been done before.
– It was given a lead in 1922 by the Bruce-Page Government.
– No government in the history of the Commonwealth has ever directed the Federal Arbitration Court as to how it should decide any of its cases. I make that statement on behalf of not only this Government, but also the Labour governments that have occupied the Treasury bench. No Ministry has so violated the decencies of its office as to go to an independent tribunal such as the Federal Arbitration Court, and say, “ You do this because it is what you are ordered to do” by the government of the day”. The position would be intolerable.
The honorable member for West Sydney comforted himself, immediately prior to the dinner adjournment, with the recollection of 1929, and of the glorious victory of that year which he has tried to persuade himself will be repeated at the next election. I hope that it will not have the same unhappy sequel. But let us go back in spirit with the honorable gentleman to 1929. What was that election about? I think that that election, in which honorable gentlemen -opposite fought so gallantly a.nd successfully on the winning side, represented an assertion by them, and by the great majority of the people of Australia, of a belief in the settlement of industrial conditions by compulsory tribunals. If ever there was an election issue which could be isolated, it was the issue of that year in relation to the Arbitration Court. I can still remember 1929. I was a political boy then; but I well recollect seeing the tears of emotion that were shed. We were told how important it was that the Arbitration Court should be preserved from the attacker, because, it was asked, “ What sort of protection is the employee to .have, unless there is the open door of a court which takes orders from nobody, which investigates applications on the merits of the case, which gives him what he is entitled to, and which makes the employer pay the wage prescribed ? “ That was the story, and a very good story it was. It adequately represented the opinion of the people of Australia. But time marches on.
– Is the Minister aware that the Gwydir by-election figures were better for Labour than in 1929?
– I must warn my good friend from Reid (Mr. Gander) that he must not keep on repeating the word “ Gwydir “ ; otherwise it will make him mad. It is not a very euphonious word.
I have referred to 1929, and I now come back to 1937. I desire to propound this question: Have those people who, in 1929, stood for the principle of arbitration and the principle of impartial investigation of matters by an industrial tribunal, now deserted it?
– Hear, hear ! That is the question.
– It is a question they will find “ somewhat difficult to answer. Anybody listening to the arguments put forward by those political propagandists who ask for a 40-hour week - for this is a political and not an industrial matter with them - must agree that their case comes down to this : They say, “ No, you may investigate the basic wage and you may give us an increase “ - which I am interested to hear the court has given to-day - “you may investigate other matters the subject of dispute between us and our employees, but not the question of hours.” This is a matter that apparently will not bear investigation. Honorable members who advocate a 40-hour week ask, “ Why do you not put it into force ; why do you not pass a law about it ; why do you not add £500,000 to your expen- diture by applying it to your own privileged public employees “ - the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has just suggested ii - “But please do not have this matter investigated.” The Government, in a mood of what I now perceive tQ be over-generosity, stated at the beginning of this discussion, “ We will set up a special tribunal to consider the proposal from its economic aspects, and find out something about this thing that the people, of Australia are being invited to buy. We will find out what it will cost and what its effect will be on employment or unemployment, on the rural industries, and on the general economy of this country.” When we propounded our committee, our opponents said, “ Oh, no, there are too many persons on it; it is unwieldly.” Then, recovering from what I have described as a state of overgenerosity, we replied, “Very well. If some committee that is designed to make a special inquiry into this matter does not suit you, let us remind you that the doors of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court are wide open.” There is nothing to prevent any organization of labour in Australia from going into that court on a dispute between it and its employers extending beyond the limits of one State. Goodness knows, it has not proved unduly difficult in the past to bring about a state of dispute that would invoke the jurisdiction of the court.
—The question of hours could not be dealt with that way, and the Minister knows it.
– I deny that. It is the only way to deal with this matter. Let it be investigated on its merits.- If a proposal will not stand investigation on its merits, it is, indeed, a dubious one.
Honorable gentlemen and the public will, perhaps, have noticed with some interest that, during the whole time that this political propaganda about a 40-hour week has been on foot, not one organization has taken a claim for a 40-hour week before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– Because Judge Dethridge has already shown where he stands.
– This matter is not to bo put on one side by this extremely unworthy allegation of bias on the part of a court which has, I gather to-day, sufficiently displayed an absence of bias regarding this matter by making a substantial addition to the basic wage, and to the total wages bill of this country. Every one of us has the profoundest sympathy with’ the men who want more wages, but on the question of hours, I have no sympathy with men who desire a reduction of hours, as part of their industrial conditions, without any inquiry or consideration as to its effect on industries and on the people generally.
There is one other point in connexion with the 40-hoiir week that was made to-day.
– The Minister has made it clear that he is opposed to it.
– I hope that I usually make myself clear. I am now passing on to another matter which will appeal to the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), as it relates to Queensland.
I think my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred this afternoon to the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Adelaide, at which I had the honour of being one of the more, vocal representatives of the Commonwealth. On that occasion there was a discussion about a 40-hour week. It was an extremely picturesque, and, at times, amusing discussion, because three’ of the State Premiers present felt that they ought to put up. a fight about a 40-hour week. They would have been glad to have been relieved of the responsibility; they were all “willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.” But after a certain amount of manoeuvring for position, it was moved that there should be a 40-hour week. That motion was submitted, I think, by my friend the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgar Smith.
– Yes, friend. So ‘is the honorable member my friend. I hope that he will not start backing out of it.
– That will lose me 1,000 votes.
– My friend the Premier of Queensland, in an excellent speech tabled a motion about x a 40-hour week,, which was supported by the two other Labour Premiers. The motion was opposed by the three other State Premiers and by the representatives of the Commonwealth. 1 hear honorable members of the Opposition say “ All Tories “. They are welcome to have it their own way: that the step was taken by the “liberal and the. enlightened”, and was objected to by the “ Tories “. I do not mind. Words are always interesting. [Leave to continue given.] I am much obliged to honorable members for granting to me an extension of time, because I did not intend to occupy the attention of the House at any great length. I was making reference, to the motion which was submitted at the Premiers’ Conference in Adelaide a few months ago. Honorable members generally will have noticed that, although the Premiers of three States, each of which has full legislative power over this matter within its own borders, advocated the introduction of a 40-hour working week, not one of them has taken the opportunity to put the shorter working week into operation.
– No, because they want the shorter working week to be introduced uniformly throughout Australia.
– I do not criticize them for not having done so; I merely point out the fact that Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia have not introduced the shorter working week. Furthermore, not one cf the three Premiers of these States has shown any disposition to introduce it unless, as they said at the time, it is done uniformly throughout Australia.
– A very sensible thing to do.
– It is very interesting to have honorable members of the Opposit’on expressing their agreement that this is a sensible thing to do. Why is it a sensible thing for Queensland to postpone the blessings of a 40-hour -working week until unenlightened Victoria decides to give it to its people? Because it will be said by the people of Queensland : “ If we introduce a 40-hour working week and Victoria still has a 45 or 46-hour working week, we shall be placed at a considerable disadvantage compared with that State “ ? If the attitude of Queensland does not mean that, what does it mean ? But it is an odd attitude for a go vernment to take up-‘ which believes that the results of a 40-hour working week are good and do not occasion any disability, but bring only employment and well-being. If 1 burningly believed all these things, and were the Premier of Queensland, I think that I should “give it a go “ and say : “ What about trying it on my people “ ? But the answer is : “ No, we are competing with other States and we shall not act without them “. And yet, when the Commonwealth Government said to its representative going to the International Labour Conference at Geneva : “ Tell the other nations that we are prepared to introduce the shorter working week with them, but that we must not be put at a competitive disadvantage “, it is criticized and told that its members are the most pusillanimous people in the world. International competition’ apparently can be ignored, but interstate competition is of the most vital importance ! Did anybody ever hear a more foolish doctrine? The very reason that’ lies behind the failure of those much-vaunted Labour Premiers to support their vote at the conference in Adelaide with legislative action is the reason which abundantly justifies the attitude of the Commonwealth in relation to the international significance of this matter.
The third matter referred to in the amendment submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition - and I shall have to deal with it very briefly - is the direction to the Government “ to give effect to the Prime Minister’s pre-election promise, made in 1934, that a great national housing scheme would be undertaken in conjunction with the States and local governing authorities “. Reference has already been made to an answer given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the House to a question which was directed to him on this very matter last year. I need not repeat that. But the whole point of any criticism of the Government in relation to housing is that, by some failure on its part, the rehousing of the people is not going on so well as it should be if the Commonwealth were doing its job. Let us consider, that position. In 1931-32, when this Government came into office, buildings erected for habitation in the six capital cities and suburbs of the Com.monwealth - I desire to quote the precise figures - amounted in value to £1,533,325.
But in 1935-36 - the last completed year for which the records are available - the total had risen to £12,342,910. If, Mr. Speaker, the rejoinder is that the Government did not build these houses, I admit it; but I venture to think that most of the people of Australia would be rauch more satisfied about a revival of private enterprise on that scale in Australia than they would be about any corresponding expansion of government activity.
– What was the total value of building operations in capital cities in 1934, when the Prime Minister made his pre-election promise?
– The figures relate to the financial years; but in 1933-34 - this will satisfy the Leader of the Opposition - the total was £6,105,000. In the two subsequent years it actually doubled itself. Buildings for other purposes, alterations and additions, also ‘showed very marked increases, so that the total value of all building operations in the six capital cities and suburbs for the period which I have mentioned rose from £4,607,000 to £21,972.000. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden), in making what I imagine to be a Harry Lauder-like farewell in the House, referred in terms of unaccustomed praise to the work of the Conservative or National Government of Great Britain.
– A Tory government!
– They would be called Tories by the honorable member for Cook if he were talking about them here; but he praises the Conservative Government of Great Britain for the amount of rehousing which it has achieved. He went on to point out that almost two-thirds of this great” volume of building had been achieved by public or municipal activity, and the remaining one-third had been accomplished by private enterprise. Speaking for myself - and I believe for most honorable members of this House - I much prefer a state of affairs in which the building activity on quite a comparable scale here has been the result of restored business conditions among ordinary people, and not of some special government activity.
I am afraid that my time has expired and I shall have to forgo the satisfaction of saying more than a word or two about one other point which has been made against the Government by honorable members of the Opposition. It was said by the honorable member for Cook that the Government had added to its manifold crimes and to those charges which had been made against it by other honorable members by making tax remissions totalling £18,000,000 per annum - the honorable member was too kind to the Government on that item - to those wealthy interests who keep it in office. I am always hearing about the wealthy interests which keep the Government in office; but I wa3 interested to-night to discover that the tax remissions which this Government has brought about were made for the benefit of those interests. In point of fact, the cumulative tax remissions which have been made by the Government since it first came into office amount to £15,605,000 a year, and if one looks at that amount and divides it into sections, one will find that the total remissions made in the case of income tax amount to £5,205,000. That, honorable members will recall, is not merely a remission to those who have large incomes but also includes many extensions of exemptions to those on lower salaries and, of course, many substantial reductions to those who are the earners of lower incomes.
– The exemptions have also been raised.
– That is so. The figure in this connexion is £5,205,000. Remissions in regard to land tax total £1,200,000. I agree that the remissions in respect of land tax do not go to the small wage-earner because they go in thu first instance to relatively large landowners; but they do go primarily to industries which are vital to the wellbeing of small wage-earners. As I gather from one honorable member who is so pleased about the result of the Gwydir by-election, the graziers voted against the Government on that occasion, so that remissions of land tax can hardly he said to have gone to the friends of the Government. Remissions of entertainment tax amount to £140,000 and these are not remissions which go to the “ fat man “.
The total of direct remissions of taxes in that way is £6,545,000. The other amounts, totalling £9,060,000, are all reductions of indirect taxation, which bears equally . for the most part on the small man and the big man. If there be any land of taxation which bears on the man who is the wageearner, it is not so much the income tax as indirect taxes such as sales tax and customs and excise duties.
– Indirect taxation has increased.
– It will hardly be contended by an observer of these matters so acute as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- that these indirect taxes do not, bear on the people who send him into Parliament because they do so bear on them. In fact, they bear on all the people who, in what is technically known as their wisdom, send all of us into Parliament. Sales tax exemptions now total £6,740,000; remissions of primage duties amount to £1,115,000; and reductions of customs and excise duties aggregate £1,205,000. -It will, therefore, be seen that, of the total remissions of taxes totalling £15,605,000 and made during the regime of this Government, two-thirds of them, are in relation to indirect taxation which bears particularly upon the man of small income, because it bears upon the commodities which he uses in common wilh people on very large incomes.’ In those circumstances, surely it cannot be seriously or fairly contended that the Government, although admittedly it has made remissions of taxes, has taken fine care to make them to those mythical beings who stand behind it and have their tentacles over it and who from time to time say to it : “ You must do this or that, because we pay the way.” I am familiar with these picturesque figures of speech, which are exploited on the street corners. If the only allegation which can be made against the Government in relation to that aspect is the one which was made to-night by the members of the Opposition, all I can say is that their withers must be unwrung
– The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) has treated us to-night to a masterpiece of rhetoric adorned by many amusing interludes. In predicating that the whole case put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and other honorable members in support of the amendment did not rest upon a factual basis, I would have expected that his discourse would have been related to facts and only facts. I take the last point that the right honorable gentleman made as exemplifying what I consider to be . the mathematical astigmatism from which he is suffering. He said that the Government had reduced direct taxation by an amount of approximately £6,000,000. It is true that the aggregate yield from direct taxation has been reduced by that amount, but the aggregate yield from indirect taxation has been raised by approximately twice . that amount. The right honorable gentleman said that sales tax was yielding £6,000,000 less than previously. That is not true. The per capita burden of sales tax on the Australian public is as high now as it has ever been. What the right honorable gentleman, intended to. ‘ say, doubtless, was that if the. Government had maintained the previous range and rate of sales tax the turnover which would have been subject to tax would have yielded £6,000,000 more than it is yielding. Actually, the per capita incidence “of the sales tax has not been reduced. It may be perfectly true that the tax on each transaction has been reduced, but because of the greatly increased turnover every citizen of Australia is still contributing as much per annum in sales tax as he contributed before the reductions of the rate were effected. The same thing is true of all other forms of indirect taxation’. When -this further aspect is taken into account, it transpires that the total proceeds from indirect taxation are now twice as great as the amount by which income tax has been reduced. Actually, while direct taxation may have been, reduced by £6,000,000, indirect .taxation is now yielding about £12,000,000 a year more than when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) came into office. If the Attorney-General will consult the Commonwealth Statistician he will find that during the last financial year the per capita burden of indirect taxation was higher than at any other time in the history of the federation. He will . .also discover that, during the last financial year, all classes of taxation, taken together, have placed a heavier burden per capita on the Australian people for the upkeep of the Commonwealth Government than in any previous fiscal year since the establishment of the federation. To say blithely that the Government has reduced taxation, when, in actual fact, it has collected more than has ever been collected previously, may be the kind of argument that will be satisfactory in certain places, but it is not likely to impress the Australian public.
– It did not impress the Privy Council.
Mr.CURTIN.- We haveno need to impress the Privy Council, for the members of that august body have no votes. What matters to us is that the people are paying more taxation to this Government than they have paid to any of its predecessors. Consequently, the arguments advanced by the Acting Treasurer this evening on this point cannot possibly be substantiated. If the submissions of the right honorable gentleman are reliable how comes it that the Taxpayers Association of Australia is bombarding the Treasury monthly for reductions in the incidence of taxation?
– Has the Leader of the Opposition ever known a time when the Taxpayers Association did not grumble?
– That may be so, but it must be borne in mind that all governments collected £104,000,000 last year in taxation. I am aware that the State governments have had to increase taxation, but the Commonwealth Government has drawn a larger amount of taxation from the people this year than in the preceding year. The amount obtained in the preceding year was greater than that obtained in the year before that. From the time this Government has been in office, the annual yield from taxation has steadily increased. How the Acting Treasurer can reconcile that fact with his statement that taxation has been reduced, I do not know.
Three major points were stated in the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In the first place, the amend ment referred to the failure of the Government to increase the rate of invalid and old-age pensions to £1 a week. The Acting Treasurer gave us reasons why the parties opposite have at different times increased the rate of pension. I concede that increases have been made, but invariably this has been in consequence of political pressure. If a further increase is made shortly to £1 a week it will be because the public conscience of Australia demands it. I ask honorablemembers to look at the subject from another viewpoint. In 1931, when the rate of pension was reduced from £1 a week to 17s. 6d. a week, all the parties in this Parliament agreed that immediately the finances enabled the pension to be restored to £1 a week it would be done. That, I. think, is a fair and an impartial interpretation of the speeches made from every part of the House at that time. We have, therefore, to consider now not whether the purchasing power of the pension is higher at present than it was a year ago, five years ago, or even ten years ago, but whether there was an honorable understanding in this Parliament in 1931, that as soon as the financial position of the country made it possible to restore the pension to £1 a week, it would be done. I remind honorable members that the drastic reduction of the pension at that time applied to people in the community who were entirely dependent upon their income from this source for the means Jo live. These people, therefore, had a special claim, not only upon the generosity of Australia, but also upon the sense of justice of the Parliament which undertook to restore the pension to £1 a week immediately the financial position made such action possible. The pensioners were invited to share in what was described as “ a common sacrifice.” It is true that other sections of the community had to make sacrifices at that time, and that certain onerous taxes were imposed upon those who could afford to pay them. Wages were reduced, for example, in the Public Service. But these have now been restored. I agree with that procedure. It was reasonable.
– Those wages are still subject to cost of living reductions.
– Tb at has nothing whatever to do with the general principle that the. wages of the public servants, which were subject to reduction under the financial emergency legislation, have now been restored. There is now no legislation of a financial emergency character which affects Public Service salaries.
– But the salaries are, in fact, lower.
– I put it to the Acting Treasurer that, although Public Service salaries have been restored, there still remain vestiges of the financial emergency legislation, which adversely affect our invalid and old-age pensioners. This will be so until the pension is restored to £1 a week. I say quite definitely and decidedly that, instead of being the last section of the community to have its income restored, this section should have been in the very first category. Instead of protecting the interests of the pensioners, the Government has seen fit to make substantial reductions of the super tax on income derived from property, the land tax, and the income tax. Parenthetically, I say that the land rax reduction has been of more value to the owners of properties in the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne than to the owners of wheat-growing and woolproducing properties in the country. Owners of large buildings of high capital value on small areas of land in Swanston-street, Melbourne, and Pitt-street, Sydney, have benefited by the contraction in the incidence of federal land tax. It has been notorious for many years that the land tax reflected itself most definitely in the capital value of large buildings on small areas in big cities such as those occupied by commercial firms, banking institutions, insurance companies, newspaper proprietors, and the like. I include in this category, also, the large buildings erected for flat-dwellers in the big cities. In actual fact, the Country party has been used as a stalking horse by these city monied interests. It is not the primary producers who have materially benefited by the reduction of the land tax; it is those who have manipulated the primary producers and so escaped making contributions to the national revenue for which they would otherwise have been liable. This particular category of taxpayers has been relieved of financial responsibility to the Government, while the unfortunate invalid and old-age pensioners have been left to bear the remaining impositions placed upon them bv the financial emergency legislation. It must, be remem’bered that while the Scullin Government, under the duress of necessity, reduced invalid and old-age pensions, this Government, which is supported by both the United Australia party and the Country party, imposed additional burdens upon these unfortunate people. The charge which the Acting Treasurer should have answered was that, although the financial position had unquestionably improved so as to justify a pension rate of £1 a week, the Government had failed to make the restoration. That the financial position has so improved is clearly shown by statements made in the Speech delivered by His Excellency ‘ the Governor-General on Thursday of last week. It was stated in that utterance that the Government had experienced a series of surpluses in the last few years. I venture to say that a surplus will be revealed when the accounts are completed for the financial year ending on the 30th instant. Out of the surplus last year the Government was able to hypothecate £1,000,000 for the reduction of the accumulated deficit. That money, at any rate, could have been used to increase the rate of pension to £1 a week. It is no answer to our charge to say, as the Acting Treasurer did, that the increasing number of pensioners was a problem that had to be faced. The fact is that each year since the inception of our pension system the number of pensioners has naturally increased proportionately with the’ increase of population. Reference was made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, in a note of jubilation, to the prosperity which had returned to the country as indicated by the reduction of recorded unemployment, and in other ways. As the Government claims that prosperity has been restored generally, it must stand utterly condemned for having denied to the pensioners the restoration of the pension to the original rate. This omission shows that it has absolutely abandoned the promises upon which our financial emergency legislation was based. At that time, no attempt was made to relate the rate of pension to its purchasing power. That point of view has only recently come under notice in this Parliament.
I come now to the second paragraph of the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, which has relation to the shorter working week. The Acting Treasurer has said, in effect, that this Parliament has no power whatever to deal with the subject of hours of work. If this is so, how did it come about that the Government authorized its representative to go abroad to the International Labour Conference and declare to the representatives of other countries that Australia was willing to co-operate with all other countries in implementing an international convention for a 40-hour working week? To-night the Acting Treasurer has advanced all his legal cannon, and all his learned sophistry - though I hesitate to use the word - in order to prove that the national Parliament has no power whatever to legalize a40-hour working week in Australia. If the arguments advanced by the right honorable gentleman to excuse the inaction of the Government are examined, they would seem to indicate the utter helplessness of the Administration, not only to establish a 40-hour working week in Australia under an international convention, but even to establish it under such a convention.
Mr.Menzies. - That has all been pointed out at Geneva.
Mr.CURTIN.- Then what sort of candour is there in the statement that the only thing that can he done in Australia is for unions to go to the court?
Mr.Menzies. - Or State parliaments.
Mr.CURTIN.- Do I understand the honorable gentleman to say that this Commonwealth Parliament is bereft of either influence or authority to assist in the establishment of a 40-hour week in Australia?
– I should think so.
– If the answer to that question is “ Yes “, then incontestibly we reach a position in which no working man, or any other citizen who is concerned with the development of our industrial system, can look to this Commonwealth Parliament to take any leadership in respect of what is the basic problem of the nation; for the relationship of industry to government is to-day not only among the most important of the matters that are the concern of governments, but is also, I submit, a problem which must be solved, otherwise the present form of society will perish.
– I agree with that.
– The honorable gentleman was also disposed to say that he doubted very much the unemployment effects of mechanization, by which he meant labour-saving devices generally. I have not very much time to supply him with the whole of the evidence, but I ask him to study the publication What the, Census Reveals, in which there is a paper by Professor L. F. Giblin, examining occupational trends in the light of what the census revealed. In it, theProfessor says -
The first surprise is that workers in factories have not increased as fast as the total working population.
Quite lately, and for several months past, there has been great jubilation on the part of ministerial supporters because the number of workers in factories has increased. The truth is, that that increase has not been in the same ratio as the increase of the population. The figures are set out in this publication, which goes on to say -
We have supposed, and rightly, that factory production was increasing relatively to other production. The explanation of course, lies in the greater efficiency of production. In 1923.. the value of factory production per workerwas 13 per cent. greater than in 1921, and the quantity of production per worker probably at least 25 percent. greater. That was in . 1933, with factories working much below capacity. Now, with factories fully employed, output per worker would be still greater. Similarly in wheat-farming we have a considerable increase in production with an actual decline in the numberengaged in it.
I take wheat-farming as typical of the rural industries, and factory workers as typical of the secondary industries. We have the secondary industriesenmasse, and the primary industriesen masse, employing proportionately less and less of the total available population. In face of that, new avenues of employment are devised. They have been devised, not in industry, but in connexion with the expansion of the Public Service. They have been discovered in connexion with the growth of new services which are not, as it were, engaging themselves in supplying capital equipment for industry. Without the automobile industry, the wireless industry, and the talkie industry in Australia - that is to say, without the employment that is provided as the result of entertainment and recreation - the volume of unemployment would stagger any person who was brought face to face with it.
– But they are here, and they are providing employment.
– That is what I am saying.
– Then what is the honorable gentleman trying to prove?
– I say that that is the history of the world; that industry employs less people with a rising output and that hours of work should be reduced proportionately. The AttorneyGeneral argued that mechanization in industry has not produced unemployment. Of course it has. The right honorable gentleman commented upon my fairness in indicating ‘the trend. Let me ask him to have those figures which the Commonwealth Statistician puts forward analyzed in better detail than has yet been done. If he examines this publication, in which are published certain papers that are based upon census figures, he will discover not only that the number of persons who are employed competently in production in Australia has fallen decisively during the last decade, but also that in any prognosis of the future we shall be faced with an enormous contraction of the number of men required for what we call industry. The right honorable gentleman says that the hours question is one out of which merely political capital is being made by the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the speeches that have been delivered from this side of the House. I would say to him : Is it not true that, at the Convention which Sir Frederick Stewart attended as the Australian delegate, a speech was made which would identify the Australian Government with those advocates who are pleading for a shorter working week as one of the inevitable steps forward in social progress? A reasonable construction of the authority given to Sir Frederick Stewart, and this year to Mr. Scholfield, is that this Government is prepared to join other governments in taking steps forward so that hours in industry - that is to say, in factories - will be reduced. That is a fair construction of the significance of the authority given to these successive delegates. I ask : What steps has the Government taken in order to make it possible for Australia to realize the improvement for which it professes to stand? I could understand the Attorney-General being helpful in pointing out how it could be done. I could understand the Commonwealth Government being insistent that the States shall meet to discuss procedural steps to give effect to the 40- hour week proposal. But the Government has not considered procedural steps. At Geneva, it stands up for the principle ; but, in Australia, it says that the application of this principle is one which must first be the subject of investigation. At Geneva, the problem, it says, is how to do it - over there, only, by international co-operation - but, in Australia, it is a question, not of how to do it, but of investigating the merits of whether we should do it. The question which the Government wishes to have answered is whether it can be done and not how to do it. I submit that there is a fundamental contradiction between those two propositions. I shall make an offer to the Attorney-General. He says that certain steps are required. I say quite definitely that the Opposition and the trade unions of Australia will cooperate with this Government in any form of inquiry that has for its purpose the eliciting of what steps are necessary to be taken in order to establish the 40- hour working week in Australian industries. I speak with authority. That is a frank and conclusive offer to the Government. We are willing to co-operate with it in the fullest, most open and public way, in eliciting as the result of research the means by which the 40-hour working week can be applied to Australian industries. If the AttorneyGeneral will accept that offer, I shall he disposed to say at once that any attack on the Government for not being in favour of the principle of the 40-hour week should fall to the ground. I shall at once acknowledge that, in accepting my invitation, the Government is committing itself to the principle of the 40- hour ‘week, and that all that has to he taken into account is the procedural steps involved in its application.
– That is an inquiry not into the 40-hour week, hut of how to bring it about.
– That is so. I simply say that at Geneva the Government has identified itself with the advocacy of the 40-hour week. Ministerial supporters have said that they are in favour of it. They ought not to favour it if they do not believe it to be practicable. They ought not to say that this principle is one which Australia should espouse unless they have first satisfied themselves that it is indeed a workable economic proposal. The Attorney-General says that the Premiers of the three States in which there are Labour Governments would not adopt it within their States because of interstate competition, and that the argument which they advance - that they would prejudice their industries as against the industries of other States if they were to take the lead - applies to the Commonwealth internationally. I put it to the right honorable gentleman that that argument will not bear investigation. To begin with, section 92 of the Constitution prescribes that trade within the Australian Commonwealth shall be absolutely free. Therefore, no State can give to its industries any compensation because of, or protection against, the competition of industries that are outside the State, but are within the Commonwealth, and are working longer hours. But this Commonwealth, ever, since its institution, has stated definitely that we can have an Australian standard of labour which is superior to that of other countries, and that we can protect Australian industrialists and entrepreneurs up to a reasonable and given point in order that they may give to their workmen a standard superior to that which would be practicable if Australia were exposed to unrestricted world competition. If that is not the justification for our tariff policy, then the Govern- ment must say that the only purpose of that policy is to make provision for employers who can derive profits from indus try. If the workers are not to share in the advantages which the protectionist policy gives to Australia in the way of industrial equipment and capacity, then incontestibly they will not long support such a policy. But I need not argue that. We had a 4S-hour week when the hours in other countries were 50 and 52, and our fiscal policy enabled our industries to progress despite the difference. Only last year, in this very Parliament, the Minister then directing negotiations for Trade Treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) made use of the tariff to protect Australian industries against what he described as the competition of cheap goods from other countries. That being the case, there is a remedy against international competition if this Commonwealth Parliament were to apply a 40-hour week uniformly throughout Australia. But there is no conceivable remedy, practicable or constitutional, which a State within Australia could take against another State because the first took the lead in respect of the 40-hour week.
I come now to the last subject dealt with by the amendment, that of housing. The Attorney-General has said that, although the promise made in 1934 has not been fulfilled by the Government, it has been effected by the growth of economic conditions and prosperity; that £12,000,000 worth of houses has been built in the capital cities in the last financial year. That is true; but what sort of habitable houses are they? None of us need be blind to what is happening. For the most part, they are luxurious flats in the capital cities and npt homes for working people. Not long since the Acting Prime Minister, as Treasurer, passed a Commonwealth Housing Act, under which the Commonwealth Bank was- pre:sumed to make advances so that those who were of poor means could build houses and thereby become possessed of at least the beginnings of a title to their own homes. I have asked him what advances have been made during “the last few years under this act. I now ask him to explain, when presently he rises to reply, how many houses have been built in pursuance of the provisions of the Commonwealth Housing Act. Is’ the act a dead letter? If so, then the whole thing was merely an electioneering placard, typical of many which this Government issues on the eve of an election. “We have had from this Government a Commonwealth Housing Act which has not built, a house, and a scheme for housing advances which does not advance any money to men to enable them to buy their own homes. What the Prime Minister had in mind when ho made his policy speech before the last election was not the construction of blocks of flats in which suites would be let at four, five and six guineas a week. He had in mind a scheme to assist municipalities to eradicate slums. That is what the public of Australia understood him to mean, and they really believed that we were about to make, as a nation, a concerted attack upon the slum evil which is so unfortunate a feature of our metropolitan life. Now the Government says to the slum-dwellers, “Look at the magnificent flats which have been built on the shores of Rose Bay, which may not be polluted even by the establishment of a seaplane base “. The Government is not responsible for even such building as has taken place. A great deal of it has been financed from gold-mining profits which have been retained in Australia because of the adverse exchange ra te. In Perth, a large part of the city - whole arcades in fact - has been rebuilt in this way. Of course, the fact that building costs have been reduced, and that the buildings offer a sound investment, were contributing factors. I ask the Acting Prime Minister how many workers’ homes have been built under the Government housing scheme? How many advances have been made, and what use has been made of the legislation already passed by this Parliament?
We nome, then, to the position that the Government has had ample financial resources to enable it to restore pensions to fi a week, but it has not done so although there is a ‘ moral covenant between this Parliament and the pensioners to give them their full pension when the national finances permit. The Government has been able to do it, and has not done so. In regard to the second point of the amendment, it has been proved that the Government has done nothing to promote the introduction of a 40-hour working week Every speech which the Attorney-General makes adds to the frustration of those seeking to establish this reform. He stands as a. sort of constitutional barricade against which the forces of unionism precipitate themselves in vain. He is able to discover all kinds of constitutional objections and pitfalls as reasons against the introduction of a 40-hour week. As to the third point of the amendment, let the Acting Prime Minister tell the House what houses have been built under the Government’s housing scheme, and what slums have been cleared as a result of the Government’s efforts.
– I can scarcely understand this ebullition of feeling from the Opposition to-night, when last night the greatest harmony and good humour seemed to prevail. Members of the Opposition expressed their approval of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral, allowing it to go through without a vote. However, to-night it has sprung to life again, and the Government has been charged with various offences, and severe attacks have been launched against its policy. There is no need for me to deal with the accusations catechetically, because the Attorney-General has dealt devastatingly with them already. However, I propose to discuss some of the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The first thing that becomes apparent is that the Opposition seems to be living in a condition of illusion. They are trying to persuade themselves, and the people of Australia, that there has been no return of prosperity, or no improvement of the unemployment position. The Leader of the Opposition said that there had been no increase of the number of those unemployed beyond what might be expected from the increase of population. Surely the published figures of the Commonwealth Statistician conclusively disprove that statement. In 1931-32, the number of hands employed in factories in Australia was 336,000, whilst in 1936-37, the number was 507,000, an increase of nearly 50 per ct-nt. Does the Leader of the Opposition dare to say that the population of Australia has, in that time, increased by 50 per cent? As a matter of fact, it lias not increased by 5 per cent.
– Tell ns by bow much wages have increased.
-I shall do that, too. Wage payments have increased in exactly the same ratio. In 1931-32, the total amount of money paid in wages by factories was £55,931,000, but in 1935-36, it had increased to £82,610,000. Those are the figures. That is evidence of the improvement which the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters refuse to admit, because they have blinded themselves with illusions of a possible political victory. The number of factories has grown during the same period from 21,057 to 24,895. _ The Leader of tha Opposition employs the extraordinary argument that factories established in connexion with new industries should nor he taken into consideration when making a comparison, but those factories provide a considerable amount of employment, and pay large sums in wages. The actual improvement is well exemplified by the fact that the Federal Arbitration Court to-day has been able to increase the real wages of the workers by amounts varying from 3s. to 6s. a week, representing an increase of £6.000,000 a year for 600,000 employees. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) owes his election largely to the fact that Mr. Lang, when the Premier of New South Wales, kept on telling the electors that it was the Stevens Government which was responsible for the reduction of the State basic wage, though it was really a matter determined by an independent tribunal, and tried to show that the Federal Government was in some way associated with that action. However, the new Federal Arbitration Award will be known all over Australia to-morrow-, and within a fortnight it will be brought home to every employee in a very practical way when lie receives his pay envelope. That will give the lie to the statement that there ha? been no increase of prosperity.
The Leader of the Opposition denied that increased expenditure on building was a, sign, of normal prosperity. He said that it was due to the retention’ in Australia of gold which had been mined in the various States. The fact is, however, that the present annual gold pro duction in Australia is £7,000,000, while expenditure on new buildings isa. Australia has increased from £4,000,000 in 1931- 32, to £21,000,000 last year, an increase of £17,000,000, or two and a half times as much as the total gold production. Moreover, we must not forget that there was a considerable amount of gold produced even in 1931-32. Yet the Leader of- the Opposition expects the people of Australia to believe his tarradiddles ! I introduced the Government’s housing scheme of 1927 in the only way in which it could be brought in. This Parliament has no constitutional power to deal with housing as such. I made the scheme an adjunct of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I provided that one quarter of the total savings bank deposits should be available as advances to enable men with incomes up to £600 a year to build their own homes on reasonable terms. Various States took advantage of that scheme. When did it cease to operate? When the Scullin Government came into power in 1929. It was actually in operation under the Bruce-Page Government, but it ceased to operate under the Scullin Government. As a matter of fact, many hundreds of thousands of pounds were advanced under the scheme while the Bruce-Page Government remained in office.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the reduction of taxation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Gwydir, said .that there . had been no reduction of taxation; that the idea that taxes had been reduced was simply a myth. In one part of his speech the Leader of the Opposition said the same thing, and then, a moment later, he charged the Government with remitting taxation to wealthy persons. Honorable members will recall that within the last two years the Leader of the Opposition moved a motion censuring the Government for its remission of taxation because, he said, the revenue thus foregone should have been used for other purposes. To-night, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made three proposals in his amendment, each one of which would enormously increase expenditure if put into effect. The Scullin Labour Government and the Labour governments of the States a few years ago were specialists in devising new and unheard-of systems of taxation, and whenever they had the chance, they imposed these oppressive burdens on the people; but most of the burdens were promptly removed when this Government came into office. Some of the impositions laid on the people by the Scullin Government have disappeared entirely from the statute-book. Honorable members will recall the special income tax of 10 per cent. on income derived from property, which was supposed to return to the Treasury about £10,000,000 in the first year. My colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), pointed out, when that measure was introduced, that its effect would be disastrous on the small man who wanted to borrow money because of the higher interest rate that would be demanded. It had just that effect, and I am glad to say that this super tax has been abolished.
Need I remind the House also that this Government has reduced the tariff -on over 1,000 items imported from Great Britain without in any way interfering with our secondary industries, which have expanded to a degree never before known? We paid special attention to those revenue duties which pressed most heavily upon the people generally and gave welcome relief in that direction. The tax on tea, to cite one instance of the many burdens imposed on the people by the Scullin Government, has been reduced by this Government by 2d. per lb. We have also reduced by 50 per cent. the tax on various raw materials, including rubber tyres for lorries which are used by the farmers and working classes throughout the Commonwealth. I could go through the tariff item by item and show that, during its term of office, this Government has removed, or if not, reduced, nearly all of the exorbitant taxes that were imposed by the Scullin Government. The sales tax, as orginally introduced, applied to practically everything on the sea, on the land or in the air. It was, to begin with, a tax on all kinds of foodstuffs. The first act of this Government was to remove the incidence of that tax from the products of the farm, which are the food of the people, and its second act was to’ give much needed relief in respect of sales tax on farm implements which are used for the production of foodstuffs. I could cite hundreds of examples of iniquities and hardships of taxation inflicted upon the people by the preceding Labour Administration, all of which have been removed. by this Government. The result has been a marked improvement of the condition of the working classes. This is reflected in our SavingsBank deposits, which have increased by £30,000,000, simply because, in recent years, the workers have enjoyed reasonably good wages and, for the most part, have decent homes to live in. There has been a remarkable revival of the building industry, thousands of workers’ homes having been erected under the various housing schemes that have been inaugurated during the last five years.
– Not inaugurated by this Government.
– Yes, and also by the Stevens Government, which is the most progressive Government that New South Wales has ever had.
There is no need for me to labour this point. The facts speak for themselves. In this matter, as in everything else, Labour speaks with two voices. With one voice it clamours for no reduction of taxes, the excuse being that existing social services may be affected, and with another it complains that tax reductions have been made in the wrong places. But Labour’s attitude is the same with respect to nearly every subject that is discussed in this House. The referendum proposals that were submitted to the people a few months ago proved beyond all doubt that Labour is hopelessly divided in its counsels. On the eve of the referendum poll, the Queensland Premier, Mr. Forgan Smith, issued an appeal to the people couched in the following terms: -
Upon the result of this referendum depends the future of Australia’s primary industries, industries that are worth £70,000,000 a year, and the future welfare of our population. The issue is one of orderly marketing; or to put it more briefly, of order or chaos.
We had the spectacle of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in season and out of season advocating the acceptance of the marketing referendum. This Government gives the honorable gentleman full credit for the work which he did. in connexion with this matter in Queensland and the other States. He endorsed all that we on this side were saying, and told the people that the carrying of that referendum was vital to the prosperity of our primary industries. Then we had the Leader of the Opposition endeavouring to take a neutral position during the campaign on the marketing referendum, which so vitally affected the welfare of our farming community. Finally, we had the spectacle of the Lang Labour leader in the House, Mr. Beasley, beside whom I now see Mr. Scully, the newly-elected member for Gwydir, travelling the length and breadth of the Commonwealth declaring it was scandalous that an attempt should be made to obtain for Australian dairy-farmers higher prices in Australia for their butter than was being paid for it in England. As a matter of fact all that we asked for in respect of the marketing proposals was that our primary producers should have a fair deal; that working conditions on farms should be improved and provision made for more satisfactory prices in the home market. In short, we asked that the position of our farmers should be analogous to that of workers in our secondary industries. We pleaded for reasonable working conditions and fair prices such as are assured to workers in secondary production under our arbitration laws and system of tariff protection. But the ‘honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and his followers travelled the length and breadth of Australia fighting that proposal at every stage. Later they gloried in the fact that they were able to defeat the only scheme under which it would have been possible to give reasonable protection to the man on the land. Their Labour colleagues in Victoria, I am glad to say, adopted a. different attitude. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. McEwen) has informed me that whilst the honorable member for West Sydney and his followers were going about the country defaming our farmers and doing their utmost to prevent them from getting a fair deal, Victorian Labour members - I assume that, because of their association with the Victorian Country party they have seen the light - were advocating the adoption of the marketing referendum, and telling the people that only in this way was it possible for Australia to be one and indivisible, instead of there being, as at present, economic slaves in the country industries and free men in the cities.
Honorable members opposite have frequently hurled a jibe at ministerial supporters on the ground that in respect of certain features of government policy, their views are not always identical. On that point, I can say without fear of successful contradiction that for ten out of the last fifteen years, I and my. colleagues in the Country party have been able tohold Cabinet portfolios with Ministers representing the United Australia party, and we have been able to agree upon measures having for their purpose the betterment of the people of Australia,, and stability of government.
Contrast our record with that of theOpposition. Several years ago our friends opposite came into power with a majority that was almost unheard” of in the history of the Commonwealth. How long did they last? At the end of” fifteen months, the Labour Administration was torn to pieces by extremists whowere gnawing at the vitals of the more moderate elements. I venture the opinion that the same thing will happen again if, by any strange chance, they ever, return topower.
The honorable member for West. Sydney has suggested that the people of Australia must look to a Labour administration for an effective defence policy. I doubt if I have heard a more laughableor ridiculous statement. Every one knowsLabour’s record. When the Scullin Government came into power in 1929, it. found a defence organization which had been steadily built up on a five-year plan to a certain degree of efficiency, and yet it absolutely cut that organization to pieces. To-day we find ourselves forced to spend so much on defence because that Government destroyed not only the material of” defence which we had at that time, but also the personnel, the young men who were training to lead the defence forces of this country at the proper time. Thepeople will have no doubt about this matter because, fortunately, they havenot merely the protestations of the Opposition to think about; they have still, also,’ to carry the inescapable- burdens of” the administration of the Opposition in. the past.
It lias been suggested that because the referendum was defeated, this whole question of proper protection for the primary industries is over and done with. I say that no subject will come up more frequently in this Parliament during the next ten years than that very question. Even before the referendum was actually taken, Professor Giblin- and Professor Bailey, though they opposed it, in a commentary said -
Whatever be the fate of the proposed constitutional amendment, one thing can be predicted for certain; the Australian people have by no means seen the end of the contest between the primary producing interest and the Constitution.
I am glad indeed to say that, so far as aviation is concerned, even those States which opposed the granting of powers to the Commonwealth now say that they are willing to pass uniform legislation to deal with this particular matter. That, of course, is merely a makeshift. What we need to-day in regard to aviation, which will be one of the coming great forces of mankind during the next fifteen, or twenty years, is the necessary power to deal fully with the problem, and not a power that masbe withdrawn at any moment by legislation introduced into one particular State. We must put the matter on a. satisfactory national basis. Stable constitutional position is just as important in regard to aviation as it is i.u regard to marketing.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that the right thing for the Government to do in connexion with the 40-hour week is for it to find out what is the best way to bring about the uniform adoption of that principle in Australia. I venture to say that the first thing we must decide in this Parliament, and in Australia generally, is whether it is to the interest of Australia and its workers generally that we should or should not have a 40-hour week. As the AttorneyGeneral has very properly said, it is open for any union in Australia to get that particular aspect of the matter investigated by the Arbitration Court simply by making a plaint on those lines. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it is not right that the Commonwealth delegate should be instructed to vote in a. certain way at the International
Labour Conference at Geneva unless the position of Australia was absolutely understood. The actual position is that we have made the position understood a”s far as possible with the utmost frankness. The instructions given to the Commonwealth delegate are set out in the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Mr. Scholfield has been instructed to point out that while the Commonwealth Government is satisfied that the Australian system of independent industrial tribunals should be continued, it agrees that the adoption of an international standard nf working hour:! in respect of particular industries would be most desirable, provided that it was actually given effect to by the majority of competing countries.
The Commonwealth Government will accordingly be prepared to co-operate in any manner within its limited powers - and that is very definite - in any agreement having such an objective, though it desires to point out the differences between the industrial workers and those engaged in country industries, and the need for some solution of those complex problems in any measures for an all-round reduction in the hours of industrial workers. It will be pointed out that the systems of determining hours of work in Australia have been the means of steadily reducing the working week as circumstances justified it, until at present the average working week in Australia was approximately 4s> hours. Nothing could be clearer or more explicit than that. The instructions to our delegate set out our limitations and the constitutional position, and our willingness to co-operate as far as it was in our power to do. When our delegate returns to Australia we shall summon a conference of State representatives to deal with the matter. It is true, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said,- that the Queensland Premier proposed and voted for this question last August; but at the same time I point out that it was only a year before that that the same Premier of Queensland, at the Maryborough Labour conference, moved an amendment against the 40-hour week, and said that the objective should be a 44-hour week with, if possible, a reduction later on.
– What is wrong with that?
– That is what the Commonwealth Government has said all the time. Yet an attempt is made to pillory it as the only government which has not taken any action. That is casting an unjustified slur on this Government, because, whereas the Queensland Government has plenary powers to deal with this matter, the Commonwealth Government has none. The Premier of Queensland, speaking in regard to this matter at Maryborough, said that the effect of a proposal to establish a 40- hour week in Queensland would be to place that State at a disadvantage and put thousands out of work. He is very closely associated with the party to which the honorable member who has just interjected belongs. Consequently, I venture to say that, when the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is taken to a vote, there will be no question as to what the result will be.
On the first count raised by the honorable member regarding the increase of the old-age pensions from 19s. to £1 a week, what is the position? The Leader of the Opposition said that, when an increase of the pension has taken place when a non-Labour government was in power, it has always been as the result of political pressure. I want to give the lie direct to that statement. I myself was responsible for increasing the rate of the old-age pension in 1923 three years before an election, and again in 1925; and on both occasions I gave the same reason for my action, which was that, in my opinion, the people of Australia should be willing to give to the old-a,ge pensioners the same relative increased payment as the workers of Australia were getting by reason of the increased cost of living. I agreed to raise the rate to £1 a week because the old-age pension had been allowed to lag during the first two years of the Avar by the Labour Government when wages were somersaulting. For that reason I gave to the old-age pensioners something rather more than corresponded to the actual increase of the cost of living. That is exactly the position in regard to old-age pensions to-day. The legislation passed by this Parliament provides that, if the cost, of living rises, the pension of 19s. a week will automatically be increased to £1 a week. even if it is at the moment higher than the actual increase of the cost of living. Consequently, I have not the slightest doubt that the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not receive the support of honorable members.
– It is not my purpose to deal at all with the rather warm remarks passed by the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Earle Page) ; they can easily be answered by other honorable members who follow me. The right honorable gentleman, however, made one remark which I cannot permit to go unchallenged. He said that the Labour Government “scuttled the ship of defence “.. That statement is in line with all of his charges. For a responsible Minister he makes too many Wild charges which he is unable to substantiate. With regard to the compulsory decrease of the defence vote by the Labour Government, it is well known that the right honorable gentleman supported that proposal, although the Minister for” Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and many other honorable members found great fault with the methods Labour then adopted to reduce the defence vote. Certainly, Labour put into operation a policy for Which it has always stood; it abolished compulsory military training, and honorable members opposite screeched to high heaven that Australia would be left defenceless. Yet the Government which they support has been in office for six years, and has taken no action to reintroduce compulsory military training. For the last three or four years this Government has been allowing conditions to prevail in the northern waters of Australia, which, if not checked, may threaten our existence as a nation. About two weeks ago, when at Wyndham, I was informed on the most reliable authority that the pearlers operating in that vicinity are greatly concerned over the lack of courage displayed by this Government in dealing with Japanese pearling vessels operating off the Australian coast. I do not know whether the faux pas of the ox-Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullet) has caused the Government to lose courage, but if it had pursued a sound policy practically all the trouble which has arisen could have been avoided. Three years ago, it was most unusual to hear of Japanese sampans operating in Australian waters.
An isolated sampan might at times have been sighted off the Queensland coast or elsewhere, but even then those engaged in the industry realized the danger of allowing the crews of Japanese luggers to obtain water on the mainland or to careen their boats as they are compelled to do periodically. When they land to carry out this work, the members of the crews of these craft compel the defenceless native women to submit to the greatest indignity that could be forced uponthem. In June, 1934, when the present member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins) was Minister for the Interior, I mentioned this matter and the serious situation which would possibly arise if prompt action was not taken. It was then said that the Government was dealing with the whole problem in a thorough manner, and that it proposed to place a patrol boat to be assisted by amphibians in commission. What is the position of those engaged in pearl-shelling in northern waters to-day? Pearl shell can be gathered for only nine days in a lunar month, because, owing to two tides causing turbid waters, fishing is impossible for the other nineteen days. Vessels fishing in. the Arafura Sea particularly seek shelter in tidal creeks where they are beached for cleaning purposes. The bottoms of the trawlers operating in tropical waters are scraped every two months and repainted with antifouling paint. Three years ago, the Government was told that the most effective way to deal with these foreign craft was to act under a sound international law, which prevents them from coming within the territorial limit ; but nothing was done. Pearl shell, which was discovered in the vicinity of Broome in1877 or1878 was responsible for the first settlement in that locality, which was followed later by the establishment of cattle stations. A reference to Hansard will show that over a period of three years I asked numerous questions as to when patrol vessels would be available, but the Government did not realize the seriousness of the situation. Notwithstanding the complaints made by those engaged in the pearl shell industry at Thursday Island and Broome, no action has been taken. It was said that unless the Government acted promptly the
Japanese would secure the bulk of the pearl shell to be found off the northern coast of Australia. Finally, one patrol vessel was provided, and we were informed that later three vessels in all would be made available to protect the interests of the pearlers. I naturally thought that a vessel would be placed in commission at Broome, which is one of the most important centres, but nothing has been done to protect the pearlers in that locality. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) realizes that at present the interests of those engaged in the industry in the vicinity of Broome are not seriously threatened, but ultimately they will be. The pearlers at Broome are continually communicated with by the Government concerning the necessity to protect their industry against foreigners, but they cannot get any satisfaction. The Japanese regard Australia as a cowardly country governed by a cowardly government. The secretary of the Pearlers’ Association at Broome stated in his letter of the 10th June last -
Replies received from Canberra were all the same. Inquiries were being made and the matter would have the department’s attention.
One reply stated, “No Australian port can be closed to vessels of a friendly power, but all customs, immigration, quarantine and port regulations will bo enforced “.
A later reply read, “A strict patrol will be inaugurated to keep the sampans outside territorial waters “, &c.
When we first drew attention to the working of these vessels, their use of creeks and beaches for watering, careening, and depots, and what it meant to the Australian pearling industry, there were about twenty of them operating. To-day there are 100. So much for the patrol and the strict enforcement of all regulations!
– What are the dates of. the letters?
– I have brought this matter under the notice of the Government on numerous occasions.
– Are they recent letters ?
– They date back to 1934 when I first raised the subject. I direct the attention of the Minister to my speech in Hansard on the 28th June, 1934, Vol. 44, page 60. Pearlers at Broome naturally view with alarm the daring and impertinent manner in which a few persons belonging to what has been regarded hitherto as a friendly nation are fighting the present Government with regard to the industry.
As to the miserable fiasco recently enacted in connexion with the patrol boat Larrakia, I have only to say that the captain and crew could not have been expected to do better than they did in the circumstances. The surprising thing is that this Government has been so blind, when it must have been advised by the Defence Department that it was absolutely impossible to police with small vessels the thousands of miles of coastline of the Northern Territory, apart from the thousands of miles of Western. Australian coastline where pearl fishing is carried on, and the large area between Northern Australia and Thursday Island. One or more amphibian aircraft should have been eraployed to help the patrol boats, if the patrol was to be in any way effective. The- action in Manchuria and other countries of the power to which I have referred shows that it is at least very aggressive. According to international law it is within its rights in fishing on the pearl-shell beds outside territorial waters in North Australian waters. The Commonwealth Government had the remedy in its own hands. It should- have provided patrol boats, not eight or nine months ago, but over three years ago, when attention was first drawn to the danger. A government which called the Senate together only nineteen days in the first year of this Parliament, and only 48 days last year, and did not ask this House to assemble this year until the first six months of the year had elapsed, could not be expected to do other than display lazy inertia in matters of this kind. I am reminded of the so-called prize fighter w-ho, when confronted by an opponent of whom he is afraid, falls in order to avoid punishment. This Government has acted traitorously in shutting Parliament up, for 24 months during the last three years, and merely sending out propaganda messages through the press as to what it has been doing at Canberra.
In Australian waters, 172 boats were engaged in the pearl-shell industry in 1934-35. Western Australia had 55 vessels, but 22 were destroyed by a cyclone in May, 1935. There were 2S vessels in the Northern Territory and 89 in Queensland, but the Japanese have 100 boats operating under instructions from one firm, whose representative at Darwin is Mr. Peter Nakashiba. It is said that he is a white Australian who was adopted and educated by a gentleman who is now a Japanese merchant in Darwin. He is familiar with diving and now works as manager and adviser for Japanese interests, and,’ no doubt, is well paid for his services. He says that his company, the South Seas Pearling and Fishing Company, controls at least 100 modern pearling luggers.
The Australian luggers were originally restricted in size, because the federal authorities came to an arrangement with the Governments of Western Australia and Queensland in order that the large number of men employed in the industry might all have a share in the fishing. The Japanese, however, employ vessels several times larger than the biggest of the Australian boats; their vessels are fitted with power compressors to work the pumps, whereas previously the Australian craft used hand pumps, and have motive power for their propulsion. The Japanese are obtaining as much shell on the Australian fishing grounds as is being recovered by Australians. _ Approximately, we are producing £225,000 worth of shell per annum.. The position therefore is that the Japanese are taking £225,000 worth of this commodity from Australian waters, and have not to pay any duty whatever on the equipment used by them. Our pearlers are trying to work in competition with Japanese on the foreign markets, particularly that of the United States of America, which has now become the world-centre for the distribution of pearl shell, but the J apanese do not pay any of the taxes to which our own pearlers are subjected. They can operate their boats more cheaply and they label their product “ Best Australian Shell “.
This Government has adopted a “goslow” policy, and has fallen down on its job. In the last four years, at least half of this industry has been -allowed to go to a foreign power. In another five years the whole industry will be lost to Australia, unless a proper patrol system be adopted. The comparatively slow launches that have been employed as patrols are useless. Amphibian planes are needed to patrol the coast. Two such planes could effectively patrol the 1,000 miles of coast for which we are responsible. If proper wireless equipment were installed it would be possible to’ notify the patrol-boats immediately any foreign boats were discovered inside the threemile limit. Not only has the Government failed to protect our territorial waters, but it has allowed foreign boats to visit Darwin for stores and water. This may, or may not, be in accordance with international law. It is extraordinary, however, that these foreign boats have been supplied with oil from the naval base at Darwin at 4d. a gallon plus 40 per cent., making 5 3-5d. a gallon for crude oil for which Broome pearlers have to pay 8 2-5d. a gallon. It is believed in some quarters that the Government is not bound to supply fuel oil to these foreign boats which are engaged in fishing off our coasts. In any case, the fact is abundantly clear that the Government has entirely failed to fulfil its obligation. I have no complaint to make about the officers of the department - they have always been courteous to me - but apparently the Minister for the interior is not in control. There is, unfortunately, no proper system of control in relation to- the Northern Territory. When the new administrator is asked to do even the simplest things, he has to communicate with Canberra.
– -That is not so.
– When we ask question in this House about matters relating to the territory, we are often told by the Minister that lie knows nothing about the matter. Only the other day, I asked the honorable gentleman what the Government proposed to do in regard to the application made by Mr. Nakashiba for a pearling lease at Darwin. That worthy gentleman desires, of course, to pack the shell which his boats gather under conditions which will allow him to benefit by the 10 per cent, preference allowed on Australian shell in London. The Minister said that that was the first that he had heard about the matter.
– I had seen reports about it in the press.
– Then I had better direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to letters which I have sent, to his department and replies which have come to me. 1 wrote to the department, on the 26th April last on this subject, but I did not receive a reply until the. 3rd May, when I was informed that inquiries were being made, and that I would be advised later in regard to it. I received another letter from the department on the 20th May, which read -
Dear Sir, “The receipt is acknowledged of your letter of the 3rd May, 1937, relative to the proposed, establishment of a base at Darwin for Japanese sampans.
In reply I desire to inform you that asindicated in my letter of the 3rd May, inquiries are being made regarding this matter. A further communication will be addressed to you in this regard ‘as soon as possible.
I have since received no further word and to-day is the 23rd June. There is.. therefore, every reason for my complaint.. The whole subject seems to be shrouded in mystery. The Government and the Minister for the Interior are paralysed by the psychology of fear. Why should these foreign vessels be .allowed to refit and beach as they have been doing within the three-mile limit. The Government has been guilty of gross neglect and shown a. deplorable lack of courage. Apparently, nothing will be done until another government assumes office. When that happens, the neglect and inaction of the last three years will cease.
.- The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has addressed himself in a most intemperate fashion to certain circumstances in connexion with the pearling industry. He dealt first with Broome and Wyndham and later mentioned Thursday Island. The first two ports he mentioned are in Western Australia and Thursday Island is in Queensland. The honorable member must be well aware that the Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction whatever over fishing within the three-mile limit of any of those ports, for the matter is completely within the province of the State governments.
– What about the Northern Territory ?
– I shall come to that in a moment. Outside the three-mile limit the Commonwealth has no real jurisdiction, either, for the simple reason that such waters are under international law and are open to the fishermen of any country. To talk about this Government having been traitorous to Australia because it has not molested vessels belonging to another power which have been fishing in waters many miles from the coast of Australia is sheer nonsense.
The honorable gentleman also referred to the Larrakia and described its recent voyage as a. fiasco. I point out that most of the reports that have appeared in the press recently in regard to the Larrakia have been grossly exaggerated. There has been no foundation of any kind for, some of the statements that have been published. The Larrakia has done its work remarkably well despite the fact, which I admit quite freely, that itwas not large enough to undertake such extended cruises as it has recently been compelled to make. This vessel was obtained on the advice of the Defence Department, and was regarded as most suitable for the purpose for which it was originally purchased, namely to render assistance in the event of a mail plane coming down in the Timor Sea. It was found to be of great practical use for patrolling the coast line of Melville and Bathurst Islands, near which, until comparatively recently, most of the pearling activities took place. Those two islands are close to Darwin [ Quorum formed.] I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That Mr. Fadden be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Library Committee.
Anti-Australian Propaganda in London.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I cannot allow the Acting Prime Minister (Dr. Page) to treat in the cavalier manner he did this afternoon, matters which I bring forward in this House. The right honorable gentleman said that he had visited Australia House on many occasions, but had never seen sandwich men standing there, but I have here a newspaper containing a photograph which shows a number of men and women in front of Australia House, bearing placards containing insulting statements regarding Australia.
– To what newspaper does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to the Sydney Truth, of the 21st March, 1937. If the photograph is a fake, it is a matter for the Attorney-General to take up with the proprietors of Truth. I hold no brief for that newspaper ; the copy which I hold in my hand was handed to me by one of my constituents who asked me to raise this matter in the House. One of the sandwich men shown in the photograph carries a placard which reads - “ Australia; the land of sunshine, drought, bush fires, flies, poverty, rough justice, “dud” land settlement schemes.” “Don’t buy Australian goods.”
The other placards are difficult to read with the naked eye, but they can be read with the aid of a magnifying glass. Accompanying the photograph is an article which begins -
All day and every day they stand lined up against the massive walls of Australia House in the Strand, London - a gang of well-fed, well-dressed men and women - displaying placards which shout against Australia and things Australian.
While these things are going on, Australia sends expensive delegations to England, the members of which on their return, tell the people that much is being done to encourage the sale of Australian goods in the Old Country, and that the British Government and the people of Britain wantto help Australia. But the propaganda carried on by the sandwich men is having a harmful effect. This is a serious matter, and the Acting Prime Minister should not brush it aside lightly as he did this morning. I ask the Attorney-General to make inquiries, in order to ascertain whether the photograph is genuine or a fake; if a fake, the Government should take action to deal with the publishers of it.
– There can be no doubt as to the genuineness of the photograph, for every one who studies the British newspapers knows that a number of men and women who returned to England from Australia some years ago- many of them after having received considerable sums by way of compensation, and others after failing to pay money owing to country storekeepers - began the propaganda to which the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has referred. It has been going on ever since, not only in London, but also in many provincial towns of England. I mentioned the subject to the Prime Minister; who discussed it with Sir Robert Knox, of the Chamber of Commerce, Melbourne. At one time, it was suggested that some Britishers who had settled in Australia should be sent back to England to tell the truth to the people there. I think that the AttorneyGeneral might well look into the matter, and if the propaganda is being continued, endeavour to have it stopped.
– I hope that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) will not invite me to deal with every newspaper that publishes a statement which is not true, for to attempt to deal with them all would be to undertake a super-human task. The subject raised by the honorable member is of sufficient importance to warrant a statement by me, and I propose now to make it. It is true that in 1935, when the Prime Minister was in London, a number of men carrying placards such as those described by the honorable member stood outside Australia House day after day for some weeks. The Ministers then in London discussed with the High Commissioner the nature of the action that could be taken to deal with them. It was clear to those who were in a position to see what was going on that these people were seeking notoriety in relation to their allegations. They were receiving some support from one of the London evening papers, the Star, which had constituted itself the advocate of certain British migrants who had settled in Victoria, and whose cases, after a great deal of investigation, had been ultimately determined by the Victorian Government, which had, in fact, compensated them.
Mr.Holloway. - And very liberally, too.
– I believe that they were treated as fairly as any government could be expected to treat them in the circumstances. The facts as to that were given due publicity in the London press ; we saw to that. But it did not seem very desirable to ask the British Government to take special action against the people who were exhibiting these placards on the footpath in front of Australia House, since that would have given widespread publicity to allegations which were actually confined to a small circle, and which, it is now evident, were unfounded. That was our decision, and I still think it was justified, because after a while these people wearied of their propaganda. I assure the honorable member for Werriwa that when I was in London last year for a period of from three to four months, these people made no appearance; the campaign had been abandoned. Consequently the newspaper which published the statements which the honorable member has read, is practically two years behind the times. The placards shown in the photograph published in it are, in fact, the placards which were carried for a period of a few weeks by these people two years ago in London. I remember seeing all of them. During the last two years no recrudescence of any such conduct has occurred. In those circumstances an entirely wrong conception is conveyed by this article, which, as the honorable member has pointed out, purports to describe the present state of affairs; it describes it wrongly because, in truth, it is describing something which happened two years ago.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Mr.Paterson. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Tradeand Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Consumption (expressed in terms refined sugar) -
Year ended 30th June, 1934, 309,635 tons.
Year ended 30th June, 1935, 316.587 tons.
Year ended 30th June, 1936, 324,208tons.
i asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Northern Territory : Pearl-shell Industry: Arrest of Japanese Sampan.
en asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions’ are as follows : -
Postmaster - General’s Department : Tasmanian Cable Service: Tasm a nian Mail Contracts.
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - : 1.. What was the total revenue received from the telephone cable between Tasmania and the mainland for the first twelve months?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions . are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wireless Broadcasting : Cost of Operating Stations 5CL and 5CK. - Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Finances - World Range Station.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1, What is the cost of running 5CL and 5CK broadcasting stations in South Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 22nd June, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish him with the following information : -
Payment to the commission is made on the basis of1s. per licence at the end of each of the twelve months following the issue of the licence. Portion of the fees collected in any one year is, therefore, carried forward to the succeeding year, so that with constantly increasing licences disbursements, are lower than collections.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it proposed to establish in Austral ia a high-powered broadcasting station of world range ?
s. - It is not the present intention to establish a broadcasting station specifically to transmit to countries beyond Australia. The department’s primary obligation is to improve the broadcasting service within the Commonwealth, and, in doing this, short-wave transmission is employed to reach the interior and northern areas, as this form of transmission is the only economical method of serving a scattered population. Owing to the inherent properties of shortwave transmission, however, the Australian programmes are already being heard in most parts of the world. The department is extending the scope and increasing the power of the short-wave broadcasting service to Australian listeners, and this automatically will improve the reception of Australian programmes in distant countries.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The precautions may be briefly summarized as follows: -
l asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On federation, the Commonwealth took over the obligations of the States in relation to this treaty, which related mainly to commerce and navigation, but contained the usual, provision concerning the reciprocal right of entry of the nationals of the contracting parties. There isa general international understanding, however, that appeal shallnot be made to the terms of a commercial treaty against immigration control, provided that it is applied to aliens of all nationalities alike.
Mr.Price asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol lows : -
Income Tax Appeals.
n asked the Acting
Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the announcement that the proposed bill to replace the Income Tax Board ofReview with a special appellate tribunal will not be introduced this session, is the Government now prepared to enter into an agreement with the Victorian Government to enable that State to make use of the Federal Board, as contemplated in section 152 of the Victorian Income Tax Act 1936?
– The Government will give consideration to this matter at an early date.
Dr.EarlePage. - On the 18th June, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370623_reps_14_153/>.