14th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Did the Treasurer see in yesterday’s Melbourne Age, figures giving costs of federal departments? Did he notice that in the majority of cases the costs to-day are less than they were in 1929-30, but that those of the Treasury increased in the period from approximately £1,000,000 to over £4,000,000? Oan the honorable gentleman give a reason for that increase?
– I have not seen the figures to -which the honorable member has referred, but I shall certainly study them and give him the information he desires. I may say that practically all the expenditure debited to the Treasury in the accounts constitutes statutory obligation’s,
Battery - Subsidy to Miners
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House as to what progress has been made with the installation of a government treatment battery at Tennant Creek? If comploted, is it satisfactory, and by what amount will the cost of the treatment of ore be reduced?
– The battery has been completed, and a trial run has already been made. I am informed that it will commence regular crushing operations about the 23rd of this month. The charges have been very substantially reduced, to 12s. 6d. a ton for crushing and Amalgamating, and 12s. 6d. a ton for cyaniding, a total of 25s. for the two operations.
– Will the Minister for the Interior supply the names, if any, of miners at’ Tennant Creek who have received the advantage of a direct subsidy to enable them to open up their shows on that field ?
– If it be possible to obtain the information for the honorable gentleman, I shall endeavour to procure it.
– The Ministry of Health in Great Britain, as a part of its public health campaign, has made arrangements with the British postal authorities, under which necessary information in relation to ante-natal clinics, child welfare centres, hospitals, local medical officers, and other health matters, may be obtained by the general public at post offices. Does the Minister for Health consider that similar information could be made available at post offices throughout Australia? If he regards that as a desirable course to pursue, will he confer with the PostmasterGeneral to see if arrangements to that end can be made ?
– I have not seen the newspaper paragraph to which the honorable gentleman has referred, but the idea is one that deserves sympathetic consideration and I shall submit it to my colleague at an early date.
evidence before royalcommission on Monetary and Banking Systems.
– Last night, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) made certain statements concerning an incident that occurred in this House some time ago, when a letter intended for the Treasurer was received and opened by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward).
– It was addressed, not to the Treasurer, but to “ Mr. Ward.”
– Surely it is about time thatwe had heard the last of this matter.
– As this is a matter of very considerable public importance, and as it is highly desirable that no injustice be done to any member of this House, will the Treasurer make the facts quite clear to all honorable members ?
– The letter in question was addressed to me personally, and not to my private secretary. It was marked “ Personal “, and was addressed to “ The
Hon. The Treasurer”, at the Treasury. It came over by the hand of a messenger, and, in error, was delivered into the hands of the honorable member forReid (Mr. Gander) who, on the following day, made in this House a personal explanation, in which he admitted that the letter had been handed to him, and that facetiously he had written on it in ink “ Mr. E. J. Ward, the next Federal Treasurer.” According to the evidence of the house attendant concerned, as well as the honorable member for Reid, the letter was handed.to the honorable member for Reid, and not to the honorable member for Cook.
– I did not say that it was handed to me.
Mr.CASEY. - The honorable member for Cook, in his statement last evening, said that the letter had been handed to him. That is in direct conflict with the personal explanation of the honorable member forReid.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, because I have been misrepresented. I did not say yesterday that I had received this letter. My statement was, that the messenger said to me “ I have a letter here, and I have received definite instructions that I must hand it to Mr. “Ward.” I said to him “ Give me the letter, and I shall find him.” He replied “No, I have received instructions to give it to Mr. Ward.” I went to the library, found the honorable member for East Sydney, and brought him here. That is the statement which I made last night. It is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to state that I propose to lay on the table of the Library the whole of the papers connected with this matter, for the information of honorable members generally.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
– Will the
Minister for Defence state whether it is correct, as has been announced by Mr.
Fergus McMaster, Chairman of Directors of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, that it is a condition of the agreement between that company and the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the proposed overseas air mail service, that all pilots of Qantas Empire Airways Limited will become members of the Royal Australian Air Force reserve in any emergency? Also, will the Minister, at the earliest possible moment, convey to Parliament the conditions of that agreement?
– The statement attributed to Mr. Fergus McMaster is somewhat premature, as the agreement between the Government and Qantas Empire Airways Limited has not yet been completed. In view, however, of the fact that the matter has been published, and there is no secrecy about it, I am able to inform the House that the condition outlined by the honorable member as having been stated by Mr. Fergus McMaster will be inserted in the contract.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the statement to the effect that under the Imperial Air Mail agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government an endeavour is being made to keep the control of the Australian flying boats in Australian hands means that the Australian flying boats will operate only on the Australian section of the service between Singapore and Sydney, and that the servicing of these boats will be a matter solely for the Australian service organization.
Sir ARCHDALE PARKHILL.Some details of the agreement have not yet been completed, although the essentials of it, have been satisfactorily arranged. The agreement is being discussed on the basis that our flying boats will not be confined in their service to that part of the route between Singapore and Darwin. The intention is that all the boats shall make the round trip.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain for the information of this House whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission paid £15 a minute for the use of a land line from New York to the east coast of America for the purpose of broadcasting the Louis-Farr fight, thereby incurring a cost of approximately £1,050?
– As this matter concerns the internal arrangements of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it will be necessary for me to submit the inquiry to the commission.
Sales for State Governments - Pay of Non-Official Postmasters
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General ascertain if any payment is made by the various State governments to the Commonwealth Postal Department for the sale of promissory notes, State duty stamps, and the like?
– I shall be glad to obtain for the honorable member the information that he is seeking.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that certain postmasters and postmistresses in charge of post offices and telephone exchanges in Australia work from 9 a.m.. to 8 p.m. daily for £131 per annum? Will he bring this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General so that steps may be taken to stop sweating of this type?
– The honorable member has not stated all the facts of the case. The amount that he mentioned is paid to certain postmasters and postmistresses who, to a very great extent, perform their postal duties in association with some other business of their own. They seek this additional activity because of the payment for it, and also because the transaction of postal business on their premises induces people to come there and often to become customers. The course followed in Australia in this connexion is similar to that followed by every other postal administration in the world, and the amounts paid for work of this kind by the Commonwealth Government compare more than favorably with payments for similar work in other countries.
– In view of the great interest which is being shown throughout Victoria in the efforts of the Commonwealth Government to assist in the development of the Gippsland oilfield, can the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Development state how soon the drilling; plant, which has been ordered by the Government for this work, will bc available for use on that field?
– I shall bring the honorablemember’s question under the notice of the Minister-in-Charge of Development.
– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House of the amount of money that hag been raised by the tax on wool for publicity purposes, and how the money has been expended? Furthermore, have the woollen manufacturers of Great Britain, as promised by Mr. Wilson, contributed anything to that fund?
– The amount of money raised in Australia from this tax is approximately £75,000. If the honorable member will place the other portion of his question on the noticepaper, I shall endeavour to obtain the information for him.
-I ask the Minister for Health if he is in a position to make an up-to-date statement in respect of the spread of the outbreak of infantile paralysis in Victoria, and whether, after fully reconsidering the whole situation, he is of opinion that everything is being done to prevent the spread of this disease to other States?
– As far as I am aware, the Commonwealth Health Department is doing all that lies in its power to prevent the spread of infantile paralysis to other States. The health authorities of Victoria, of course, are engaged, as far as possible, in preventing the spread of the disease within that State, and New South Wales has taken most unusual steps in order to prevent the disease from being conveyed to that State. The federal health authorities have done all that they can in the campaign by the dissemination of information which will guide people individually to prevent . the spread of the disease. It must be very obvious to honorable members that, to a great extent, the prevention of the spread of infantile paralysis depends upon the exercise of reasonable precautions by the people themselves. One of these precautions is keeping away from infected persons. Children should be prevented, so far as is humanly possible, from attending theatres, cinemas, or crowded assemblies of any kind. Other precautions are, of course, the building up of the health of children and the banishment of fear. There is no need for alarm. I know of nothing more thatthe Commonwealth can do that it has not already done. In regard to the prevention of the disease, nothing, other than the disinfection of the nasal passages, is known to and recognized by the medical profession. A week or two ago, I made a suggestion, which I am bound to say was not very favorably received by members of the profession, that the method of prevention which had been tried in the United States of America - coating the olfactory nerve rinds with a suitable chemical solution - should be applied here. For reasons that were quite conclusive to the profession, it was decided to be inadvisable to resort to this method of treatment in Australia. However, the profession does believe in a thorough cleansing of the nose and throat, and that this method of treatment, together with the exercise of reasonable care, nourishing diet, and as much sunlight as possible, are the most effective forms of combating infantile paralysis. I repeat that the Commonwealth has done everything possible. As I have already stated, New South Wales has taken most unusual steps in regard to this matter. To what extent those precautions will be successful I do not know; but, if there is any suggestion in respect of other precautions that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), or any other honorable member, would care to make, I shall be very glad if he will inform me of them.
– In view of the danger of the spread of infantile paralysis through people being brought together in crowds, I ask the Minister for Health whether anything can be done to prevent the holding of political meetings in Victoria during the coming election campaign ?
– If the honorable member feels like suggesting heroic measures of that sort, I can only regret that he is not a member of the Government.
– Will the Minister for Defence reconsider his decision respecting the application for assistance in the establishment of an aerodrome at Walgett? As Walgett is on the direct route from the southern capital cities to Charleville, will the Minister consider, for defence purposes, the immediate construction of a landing ground at this important strategic point?
– The honorable member’s suggestion will be considered.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that at the annual conference of the Master Butchers’, Meat and Allied Trades Association in Sydney yesterday Mr. C. L. Davies, of Sydney, said that in the last ten years there had been a reduction of 30 per cent. per capita in meat consumption? He also said that the export trade received every preference while reject meat was forced upon the local market. Other speakers made similar statements. Will the Prime Minister undertake to rectify this complaint so that the Australian people may be assured that some good quality meat is made available for the Australian market, and that all of it is not cornered by the Meat Board for export?
– Without some further demonstration of the truth of the allegations, I am not prepared to accept the simple statement referred to by the honorable member as so entirely correct as to call for rectification, but I shall inquire into the matter.
Mr.WARD. - When the Prime Minister is making inquiries into the quality of the meat made available for consumpton in Australia, will he also confer with the State authorities with the object of preventing cattle condemned as suffering from tuberculosis from being driven to the meat works and sold for canning purposes?
– If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I shall see what justification there is for the statements he has made.
– In respect of exports and the sale of meat in the capital cities, I ask the Minister for Commerce if, in view of the fact that so much meat just under chiller standard, but which is not fit to be exported, is more or less thrown on the markets of the States, thus allowing butchers to collaborate with a view to depressing the price, thereby depriving growers of a fair return from their really choice meat, he will endeavour to see: First, that all meat sold in metropolitan shops is branded according to three grades of quality so that the public will know just what class of meat they are buying; and, secondly, that the greatest menace which growers of chiller beef have to contend with, to-day, namely, the crowding of meat culled from dairy herds on to the markets of the capital cities, is eliminated?
– The marketing and exhibition for sale of meat in the State capitals is entirely within the purview of State law. The Commonwealth has nothing whatever to do with those phases; it deals only with exports. However, the agreement made with the British Government in this connexion provides excellent markets not only for beef that can be chilled, but also for beef suitable to be sold as frozen. With regard to the suggestion that only inferior meat is sold in Australia, I point out that practically the whole of the beef grown in Victoria is sold in that State, and 95 per cent. of the beef grown in New South Wales is sold in that State, whilst over 85 per cent. of the total exports of Australian meat comes from Queensland and Western Australia, showing, of course, that in the two first-named States, all good meat available is sold locally.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) asked me -
In view of the doubt in the minds of certain honorable members of the existence of charge registers for telephone calls, will he ask the Postmaster-General to arrange for an inspection of these alleged infallible instruments in order that honorable members may themselves judge theirefficiency?
I am now able to say that it can be arranged for honorable members who so desire to make an inspection of the meters at the Canberra Telephone Exchange. It would be preferable for the inspection to be made by appointment to be arranged by the Postmaster-General, who would be pleased to make available an officer of the department to explain the operation of the meters.’ In regard to the question of accuracy, it may be mentioned that the department uses meters of standard type, similar to those in use by the British Post Office and, other leading telephone administrations. These meters have a high order of accuracy, and are supplied in accordance with a strict electrical and mechanical specification. Besides being subjected to regular routine tests whilst in service, meters are purchased under contracts which provide for life tests to ensure that a meter shall operate 75,000 times without a single registration failure, and 300,000 times with registration failures not exceeding five.
– As I understand that the Public Works Committee visited the Kingsford Smith Aerodrome at Mascot last week-end, I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will make arrangements for that committee to inspect the airport siteat Fishermen’s Bend during its visit to Melbourne this week-end?
– I do not know whether it will be practicable to do so. The Works Committee is asked to report not upon the advisability or suitability of sites, but upon the cost of proposed buildings. Its present reference relates only to the Mascot aerodrome.
– by leave - I propose for tie information of honorable members briefly to review recent important developments of the Sino-Japanese crisis.
On the 17th August, the British Government made a proposal to the Chinese and Japanese Governments to the effect that if both the Japanese and Chinese would agree to withdraw their naval and military forces from the Shanghai area and would also agree that Great Britain, the United States of America and France should be responsible for the protection of Japanese nationals in the International Settlement, the British Government would undertake this responsibilityprovided that it could secure the co-operation of the United States of America and France. The British Government also made it clear that its sole object in making this proposal was to keep the International Settlement free from hostilities, and the commitments contemplated would be of a temporary nature to hold good only during the continuance of the crisis.
The Commonwealth Government has reason to suppose that the Chinese Government would have favorably considered this proposal if it had proved acceptable to the Japanese Government.
The Japanese Government has now replied to the British proposals in a note which contends that British interests in Shanghai are being endangered not by the Japanese army but by illegal Chinese attacks on the Settlement and that Japanese troops were landed to protect 30,000 Japanese residents from attack by Chinese forces. The note concludes by stating that the protection of British lives and property in Shanghai is always a matter of concern to the Japanese Government, whose forces are constantly devoting themselves to this end.
A pact of mutual non-aggression between” China and Soviet Russia was signed on the 21st August. This consisted of three clauses: -
The Chinese Government has informed the British Government that this pact is purely negative in character. It merely indicates China’s fixed purpose of living at peace with its neighbours and doe3 not signify any abandonment on the part of China of its fixed policy of anticommunism.
Honorable members will recollect that the British Government recently addressed a note to the Japanese Government protesting against the attack on the British Ambassador in China, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, by Japanese aeroplanes as the result of which he was severely injured. The full text of this note has appeared in the press, and it is sufficient for mc to remind honorable members of the three requests made to the Japanese Government by the British Government. These were: First, a formal apology to be conveyed by the Japanese Government to the British Government; secondly, suitable punishment of those responsible for the attack ; thirdly, an assurance by the Japanese Government that the necessary measures would be taken to prevent a recurrence of incidents of such a character. No replyto this note has yet been received, but the text of a statement issued by the Japanese Foreign Office on the 27th August is as follows:-
It was with profound regret that we heard the news that Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, the British Ambassador to China, was seriously wounded by machine-gunfire from an aeroplane, whilst he was on his way from Nanking to Shanghai. The Japanese Foreign Minister immediately instructed the Japanese Ambassador to China to convey to the British Ambassador his (the Foreign Minister’s) sympathy, while the Japanese Consul-General in Shanghai called upon the Acting British ConsulGeneral and expressed his regret.
The Japanese Government is now conducting an investigation into the matter at Shanghai. However, it is absolutely unthinkable that a Japanese aeroplane would intentionally attack the automobile in which the British Ambassador was driving.
The Japanese Consul-General in Australia has personally expressed to the Commonwealth Government his sincere sympathy at the wounding of the British Ambassador.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral, as representing the Minister for External Affairs, whether he has noticed any record of the numbers of quite ordinary people, below the rank of ambassador, that is, non-combatants, including women and children, who have been bombed to death, or otherwise destroyed, in the conflict at Shanghai?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) - by leave - agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend sections forty-five ad, fortyfive ae, forty-fiveag, forty-five an and fortylive ao of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1936.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under this measure it is sought to adjust war service pensions in relation to the increased invalid and old-age pensions, by increasing the rate of pension by1s. a week from 19s. to 20s. Clause 6 of. the bill seeks to give statutory authority to the payment of pensions to the children of a pensioner’s widow who remarries. Anticipating the approval of Parliament in this matter, the department has been paying these pensions in respect of the children concerned, and validity is now sought for such action. It will be noted that the date from which the increase of pensions to soldiers will operate is the 16th of September but in sub-clause 2 of clause 2 the operation of clause 6, which relates to the time for the payment of the pension to the children of a pensioner’s widow who remarries is made to date back to the 10th March.
– Is the 16th September the next pension pay day?
– War pensions are paid on that day, and invalid and old-age pensions are paid a week earlier. It would bo extremely difficult to alter that arrangement.
.- I do not propose to move for the adjournment of the debate on this bill, although, as a matter of general practice, it would be wrong for the second reading of a bill to be agreed to before honorable members had an opportunity to consider its contents. The Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), however, was good enough to let me have, in confidence, a copy of this bill earlier to-day, and I am able to confirm his statement that it merely provides for the increase of the pension to £1 a week, and validates the action of the department in paying pensions to the children of widows who marry again. If the bill were not passed now, pensions would have to continue at the rate of 19s. a week. In regard to the payment of pensions to the children of widows who remarry, this action was taken by the Government, at the request of honorable members so that the rights of those children under the Repatriation Act might be preserved. It is true that there are many provisions in the principal act which honorable members might like to discuss, but the terms of this bill restrict us to the consideration of the two points contained in it. The Opposition agrees that the course taken by the Minister is a proper one, and offers no opposition to the passage of the bill.
.-This bill lacks one provision which I should have liked to see it contain. A few soldier pensioners are inmates of public institutions, and, while there, receive 6s. a week. I should like to see the remainder of the pension paid to the institution as is done in the case of invalid and old-age pensioners. Under the present system, when a returned soldier goes into an institution, he becomes a total charge upon it. He is thus placed in an invidious position, and sooner or later, if he remains, becomes an unwelcome guest. I am sure that that is not the wish of Parliament. If the matter had been properly considered, a provision on the lines I have indicated would have been inserted in this bill or in some other measure.
– I should like to know whether this measure provides for the children of returned soldiers who were married after 1931?
– I am sorry that it does not, particularly as the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes), promised me some time ago that a bill would be brought down to amend the Repatriation Act in this direction.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is discussing a matter which is not relevant to the bill.
– Seeing that the Minister promised to amend the Repatriation Act to give effect to the suggestion I have made, and has failed to do so, would it not be possible to insert an amendment in this measure?
-The honorable member may not proceed on those lines.
– I want to know why the Minister has not amended the Repatriation Act for the protection of the children of those returned soldiers who married after 1931?
– Order !
– I consider that the Government should fulfil its obligations.
– Order ! The honorable member is defying the Chair.
.- I think it would he advisable if the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) were to give the House details in regard to the practice and procedure followed in connexion with the payment of pensions to ex-servicemen who ate members of institutions. There seems to be considerable misconception over the matter at. present. This bill deserves the commendation of the House, and is in the terms of the promises made to soldiers during the war.
.- In my opinion, service pensions should be granted on the same ground as invalid pensions, namely, that the applicant is totally and permanently incapacitated, instead of, as at present, that he is unemployable. To me it seems to be absolutely stupid that a. returned soldier can, on the grounds of total and per manent incapacity, get an invalid pension whereas the Repatriation doctors say that he can still work and refuse him a service pension. Dozens of returned soldiers are being deprived of a service pension because of the wording of the act.
.- Throughout the northern coal-mining districts of New South Wales and, 1 think, also in Lithgow, there exists an industrial contributory system under which’ employees make weekly contributions to the hospitals in return for which they receive hospital treatment at no further cost. Some provision should be made whereby the pensions would be payable direct to returned soldiers and not to the hospitals in which they happen to be inmates. Why should the hospitals be paid double? They have already been paid by the contributors and they should not also be entitled todraw patients’ pensions. Invalid and old-age pensioners, who are contributors, should also receive the full pension direct when in hospital.
Section 45 of the principal act says-
Provided that the pension shall not be payable under this section to any person who is not a bona fide resident in Australia.
Does that mean that the pension is not payable to an English reservist who, since the war, had adopted this country as his home ?
– The service pension applies to those persons who come within the category set out in the act. To qualify for a service pension a person must have served with the Australian Imperial Forces in a defined theatre of war with the exception that, if he is tubercular, he need not have been in a theatre of war.
– I consider that that section operates very harshly on persons who were imperial soldiers and who have adopted this country and reared families here and contribute towards the revenue out of which soldiers’ pensions are paid. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) should accept an amendment which would extend the benefit of the service pension to those persons whom I have mentioned.
– -This bill does not deal with that aspect.
– These men fought for what the right honorable gentleman is proud to call the British Empire, and when all is said and done they were in the same army as the Australian soldiers.
– Order! Leave was given to amend certain sections of the act in a certain way, and the honorable member is entitled to discuss those sections as proposed to be amended but he is now entering into a discussion as to what should be in the principal act.
– As I have been ruled out of order on that point, I again request the Minister to give serious consideration to the position of those persons who are in the hospital and pay under the contributory system to the hospitals.
. -What is the effect of the proposal contained in clause 7 ? Does it mean that the returned soldier is to get the whole of the increase? I contrast this with the proposal in the bill discussed yesterday’ under which the pensioner was to get only half of the shilling increase.
– The whole of it will go to him, and to him only.
– I approve of that. Honorable members on this side of the House yesterday expressed the view that the whole of the proposed increase should be given to old-age and invalid pensioners. That principle has now been adopted in the case of returned soldiers. We should have liked also to be able to express approval of its adoption in the case of the other pensioners with whom the bill introduced yesterday dealt.
– As I have already pointed out, this measure proposes to do two things : It raises the pension from 19s. to 20s., except in the case of returned soldiers who are inmates of mental hospitals or institutions other than repatriation hospitals, who will receive 14s. instead of 12s. a fortnight. It also proposes to give statutory authority to a practice that has been in force in the department since March of this year, by which the children of a widowed mother who has re-married receive a pension. There are very many matters that I should like to discuss, but they are not covered by this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section forty-five an of the principal act is amended, by omitting the words “ all such pensions “ and inserting in their stead the words “ her pension “.
Section pro-posed to bc amended - 45an. Upon the death of a member of the forces the service pension previously payable, or granted subsequent to his death, to the wife and children of the member, may, subject to this act, be continued at such rates, not exceeding the maximum rale payable under this act to the wife or children as the case may bc, us the commissioner or a board determines, but. if the wife re-marries, all such pensions shall be cancelled as from the date of the remarriage.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “The provisions of section 45an shall apply to all children born of returned soldiers after 1931.”
If this amendment be agreed to, many of the grievances which returned soldiers now feel will be removed. I have been approached by returned soldiers who have suffered under this disability for many years, and I have promised that when the opportunity was presented I would do my best to have the anomaly rectified. It is my duty to look after the interests of these men. I cannot see any reason for allowing the present discrimination to continue. A principle should be adopted which would have general application to those who left Australia to fight for its preservation.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).To the extent that the Chair has been able to understand the purport of the amend ment, it is not relevant to the bill, because it would have application to section 22 and not to section 45 of the act.
– I tinderstand perfectly the intention of the honorable member. If he will look at the bill, however, he will see that it has reference to a widow’s pension. Therefore, when she was eligible for the pension, obviously she was not a person who was excluded, by the operation of the legislation which debarred those who married after 1931. Evidently the honorable gentleman does not see that we are dealing with widows who are eligible for a pension, and not with those who are excluded. The widow loses the pension only in the event of her ceasing to be a widow. If honorable members will pardon me for saying so, although the scope of the measure is narrow, it at all events does something very definite, in that it increases the benefits of those who are eligible for the pension.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Sectionforty-fiveao of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the word “ twelve “ and inserting inits stead the word “ fourteen “.
Section proposed to be amended - 45ao. - (1.)If an applicant for service pension is an inmate, or a service pensioner becomes an inmate, of an asylum for the insane, a hospital, sanatorium, benevolent home or similar institution, the rate of service pension payable to the applicant or pensioner so long as he remains an inmate, shall not, subject to this section., in any ease exceed twelve shillings per fortnight.
.- The Minister has explained that returned soldiers in institutions will have the pension increased from 12s. to 14s. a fortnight, hut he has not touched the other point raised, namely, that no part of the pension in such cases is to go to the institution. In the case of old-age pensioners, the balance of the pension goes to the institution, but returned soldier pensioners have to be maintained by the institution without their receiving any contribution from the pension. I think the committee would like an explanation as to why there is this discrimination between returned soldiers and invalid and old-age pensioners.
.- I should like the Minister to provide that where a pensioner is an industrial contributor to an institution, an industrial contributor being one who pays a weekly fee toensure that if he falls sick he shall receive necessary attention without further charge, no further payment shall be made to the institution. Why should the Government want to double the amount paid to the institution?
– The institution gets nothing from the Government.
– The bill fixes a limit to the pension that shall be payable to a pensioner who is an inmate of a. public institution. I am asking that payment be not made to an institution to which a pensioner is an industrial contributor. Nothing could be fairer than that. No Government policy is involved. In the district from which I come, the Government of New South Wales has been saved considerable expenditure in the erection of hospitals. The miners built the KurriKurri, Cessnock, Wallsend, Lithgow and other hospitals out of their industrial contributions. The Government has been in the habit of paying to institutions, in districts where the same pride is not shown by those who have to make use of them, the difference between the amount paid to the pensioner and the total pension. Many accidents occur in a mining community, and it is not infrequent for a man to be taken to hospital broken in limb. The miners wish to make sure that in the event of sickness or accident they will receive hospital attention without having to meet exorbitant charges. Although many of the returned soldiers had their health broken by the war, they still continue their industrial contributions to these institutions, or the contributions are continued by their sons. I have contributed on behalf of my aged father. I suggest that the following proviso be added to the clause: -
Provided that, where the pensioner is an annual contributor to a public institution, this section shall not apply.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is obviously labouring under a misapprehension in regard to this section. A careful reading of section 45ao, together with the suggested amendment, shows that the worn-out soldier who has been receiving a pension of 19s. a week will benefit by the increase of the pension to £1 a week. Under clause 7, the inmate of an institution who has been receiving, as pocket money, 6s. a week, will now be paid 7s. No part of his pension is paid to the institution.
– What becomes of the other money?
– It is retained by the Government. This proposal does not interfere with any contribution which might have been paid by him to an institution. It affects only the pocket money of the soldier. I am well aware of the excellent work that miners and others have done in regard to the contributory scheme outlined by the honorable member for Hunter.
– The department saves 13s. a week when the soldier becomes an inmate of an institution?
– The only alternative would be for the Government to pay £1 a week to worn-out soldiers ; but if they were to enter an institution, they would be- paid nothing. Honorable members generally will agree that the Government has been generous to this degree. Up to date, it has been paying a soldier 6s. n week pocket money, but now it proposes to increase that sum to 7s. a week.
– I cannot accept the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). If I wore .to do so, the men whom ihe honorable gentleman seeks to benefit would be placed in a worse position.
– Is it correct, as the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) stated, that no money whatever is paid by the Repatriation Department to the institution?
– The honorable member misunderstands the position. The honorable member for Parkes explained the matter quite clearly. At the present time the Government pays 6s. a week to certain persons in certain classes of institutions. It is now proposed to pay to them 7s. a week, and that is the beginning and the end of the matter. They will be that much better off and no one will be » penny worse off as the result oif this amending legislation.
.- The present section provides that if an applicant for a service pension becomes an inmate of one of the institutions named, the service. pension payable to him shall not exceed 12s. a fortnight. According to this measure, that maximum will bc increased to 14s. a fortnight, but the bill does not say that the maximum shall be paid. It appears to me that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would not accomplish the object that he is desirous of achieving.
– I realize that.
.- In the interests of the soldiers concerned, 1 ask the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) not to press his amendment. To-day, the soldier receives as pocket money 6s. a week or 12s. a fortnight. Before the introduction of the amending legislation by the Minister for Health and Repatriation (Mr. Hughes) he received nothing when he was an inmate of the institution unless he was a soldier in receipt of a war pension. This amending legislation represents an enlargement of the assistance granted to burnt-out soldiers who are suffering or unemployable; in other words those who are in receipt of service pensions. If a soldier were suffering from a war disability and were drawing a war pension, some of that money was paid to him and the remainder went to his dependants. Under the recent amendment of the repatriation legislation, a worn-out soldier received 6s. a week, but the present proposal outlined by the Minister increases -that sum to 7s. a week. As I understand the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hunter, the soldier would receive nothing at all unless he were a contributor to a general hospital. In any case the honorable member i3 desirous of doing something which is beyond the scope of the original intention of the bill.
., - A discussion of this nature always enlightens honorable members. After the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) had addressed the committee, I realized that the aggravation to the soldier is increased by more than I had previously anticipated. According to the honorable member for Parkes, while a soldier is an inmate of an institution, he will receive 7s. a week, but the balance of the full pension is not paid to the hospital. Where, then, does it go? The Repatriation Department must retain it.
– It does.
– In such circumstances, I contend that the whole of the pension should bc paid to the soldier inmate who is an industrial subscriber to the institution. Why should the Repatriation Department stop any portion of the pension if it does not pay the money to the institution? That is the part which puzzles me. I fail to understand why the department should benefit by reason of the sickness of the soldier. If he should become ill and enter an institution, that is the time when he needs more money to meet the additional expense. I speak on behalf of a number of returned soldiers who provide for the contingency of having to enter a hospital by contributing to an institution under an industrial insurance scheme. I, myself, am a contributor to such a scheme. By a system of the exchange of contributions, if I were to be injured - and I recently sustained injuries in a motor car accident - and were taken to the Cessnock Hospital or the Newcastle Hospital, I should be granted free treatment, which would be made good by the Kurri Kurri Hospital, to which I contribute. In view of the light thro wn on this matter by the speech of the honorable member for Parkes, I claim that the Minister should accept my amendment. It would not operate detrimentally to the interests of the soldier, and on that score the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) need have no fear.
– The honorable member does not appreciate that pensions are paid in respect of a definite disability. When that disability is being cared for in a hospital, naturally to that extent the disability is modified.
– Our industrial contributions specify no disability. We realize that the soldier is a sick man and as such we provide him with treatment. In view of the facts that I have outlined, I move that the following be added to the clause : - “ and ( b ) by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: -
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr James) could achieve his objective by means of a more simple amendment. I fear that his proposal would deprive the soldiers of the benefits of the increase of their pension from 12s. to lis. a fortnight.
– That is not so.
– At all events that is the effect of the language of the honorable member’s amendment. He could accomplish his eud by proposing to add to sub-section 3 of section 45ao the following words : “or to any member of the forces who is an annual contributor to any such institution”. The object of sub-section 45ao is that pensioners who are suffering from tuberculosisshall not incur any deduction at all from their’ pension.
– I realize the objective of the honorable member for Hunter, and if he will leave it to me, I shall endeavour 4o meet his wishes, but I am unable to do so in this bill.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Hunter should adopt the Minister’s suggestion. It seems to me that sub-section 1, as it stands, reduces the pensionand states that the service pensioner who is an inmate of an institution shall not get more than 12s. a fortnight?
– The bill proposes to increase the amount to 14s. a fortnight, or 7s. a week. Sub-section 3 of section 45ao as it stands, provides that that reduction of the pension to 6s. a week shall not apply to a member of the forces who is suffering from tuberculosis. What I am not clear about is the position of the tuberculosis service pensioner.
– If he suffers from tuberculosis, he gets the full pension.
– That is what I thought, and it was for that reason thatI. made my suggestion to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). However, I now advise the honorable gentleman to take advantage of the Minister’s offer to endeavour to meet, his wishes.
– I am prepared to do so, and ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 31st August (vide page 337) on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the hill he now read a second time.
.- Following upon the remarks I made last evening about taxation, I wish now to deal briefly with the land tax. I shall submit figures to honorable members to demonstrate that the remissions of land tax made by this Government have undoubtedly benefited chiefly the wealthier sections of the community. The rate of tax was reduced by. this Government by one-third in 1931, and the reduced rate applied to the 1932 assessments. The Government, however, was apparently anxious to make stall further remissions of land tax and from 1933 to 1936 it reduced the rate of tax to one-half the rate that applied in 1931. As honorable members are aware, land tax is only payable in respect of properties the unimproved capital of which exceeds £5,000, except in regard to certain absentees. The flat rate reductions for which this Government has been responsible have invariably favoured thebanks, insurance companies, big financial organizations, browing companies, individual taxpayers who hold large properties, and large retail store organizations. The Royal ‘Commission on Taxation disclosed in its report the interesting and important fact that 67 per cent, of the land tax is paid in respect of city properties, and only 33 per cent. of it in respect of country lands. Very often-, when this subject is discussed in this House and elsewhere, an effort is made by supporters of the Government to lead the public to believe that the land rax falls most, heavily upon the owners of country lands, such as small struggling farmers who are involved on many occasions in considerable hardship in maintaining their operations. The find-, ing of the royal commission to which I have just referred completely shatters any such assertion.
I propose to refer to the effect of the land tax on owners of property falling into several different ranges of value. I shall take, first, a group owning property valued at, say, £6,000. Within this group would fall all the farmers whom I regard as the small taxpayers. In respect of all such properties, the exemption is £5,000, so that the tax payable applies only to £1,000. The amount that such land-holders would have had to pay in 1931 was £3 10s. a year. When the first reduction was made in 1931, the amount of their tax was reduced to £2 12s. 8d., which showed the individual taxpayers concerned a saving of £1 6s. 4d. a year. When the further reductions effected during the 1933-36 period became fully operative, the amount of tax payable by these individuals showed them a saving on the 1931 rates of £1 19s. 6d.
I come now to a group of taxpayers owning property the unimproved capital value of which was £10,000. I shall call them the middle class taxpayers. Taking into consideration the £5,000 exemption, these would be required to pay a tax on £5,000. In 1931, they were required to pay £23 15s. a year. When the first reduction was made, their payments fell to £15 16s. 8d., which showed them a saving of £7 18s. 4d. After the reductions made from 1933 to 1936 became effective, their savings amounted to £11 17s. 6d. each. Even this comparison supports the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that the remissions favoured the wealthier taxpayers. In fact, the wealthier they were, the greater was the degree of favour they received. Coming now to a group owning property, the unimproved capital value of which was £20,000, which I shall term large land-owners, and taking into consideration the £5,000 exemption, such taxpayers were assessed on £15,000. In 1931, they paid £101 15s. each in land tax. When the first reduction was made their tax fell to £67 16s. 8d. each, which showed them a saving of £33 18s. 4d. After reductions made from 1933 to 1936 became effective, they showed a saving of £50 17s. 6d. a year.
Examining the effect of the reductions on a group of taxpayers owning property the unimproved capital value of which was £50,000, we find still more startling figures. City properties now begin to come into the picture, and the benefits of the remissions to the banking institutions, insurance companies, financial corporations, and large retail store organizations become apparent. Taking into consideration the £5,000 exemption, owners of properties valued at £50,000 would be taxed on £45,000. In 1931, theywere required to pay £573 15s. each. When the first reduction was made their assessment fell to £3S2 10s., which showed them a saving of £191 5s. After the reductions made from 1933 to 1936 became effective, they showed a saving of £286 17s. 6d. In other words, while the owners of large city properties showed a saving of nearly £300 a year, farmers with properties valued at £6,000 showed a saving of only £1 19s. 6d.
It is interesting, also, to learn that the reductions, in the aggregate, benefited the owners of city lands to a far greater degree than the owners of country lands. Information contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Taxation, and also in reports of the Commissioner of Taxation, shows that from 1932 to 1936, land tax on city properties yielded £3,814,649, and that on country properties yielded only £1,878,858. City land-holders, therefore, benefited to the extent of about £2,000,000 more than country land-holders, in consequence of the remissions of land tax granted by this Government. What, then, becomes of the statements we have so often heard about the benefit of this policy to the struggling farmers? The leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has certainly let these farmers down. With the Government handing out liberal prizes to its supporters, the. Minister forgot the small farmer, who could have been entirely relieved of this land tax at the expense of the banks and breweries. While such taxpayers benefited to an amount of about £2 a year on properties of an average value of £6,000, large city land-holders benefited to the extent of hundreds of pounds, arid, in the aggregate, of £2,000,000 more than country land-holders. About 4,400 farmers pay £30,000 in land tax each year, or an average of about £7 each, and they benefited under the reduction scheme by an amount of £2 a year each on the average, whereas reductions of no less an amount than £120,000 were enjoyed by banks and financial institutions, and £130,000 by large city retail organizations annually, as well as £60,000 a year to the breweries. Moreover, 22 financial institutions gained £100,000 a year each from these remissions, whilst 4,400 farmers shared only £30,000 between them. These facts entirely support the contention frequently made by honorable members on this side of the chamber that the Government’s policy has benefited the wealthier classes of the community at the expense of those not so fortunate. Furthermore, they entirely support the statements made yesterday by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), concerning the effect of the changed policy of the Government. In the light of these considerations, honorable members, and the public at large, should carefully consider the consequences of the Government’s policy of reverting to overseas borrowing, into which it has doubtless been forced by its supporters in big financial institutions. Is it any wonder banks, financial companies and retail stores are able to build elaborate premises. All these came out of taxation rebates. The Australian people have been led to believe that that policy of borrowing overseas had been left behind for all time. This point could be elaborated with considerable enlightenment to the general community.
I wish now to refer to the taxation of Crown leaseholds. Under the provisions of the Land Tax Act, a person who leases land from the Crown becomes liable to land tax, provided that the unimproved value of the leasehold exceeds £5,000. The appropriate section of the act dealing with this matter reads as follows : -
For the purposes of this section -
the unimproved value of a leasehold estate the present value of the annual value of the land calculated for the unexpired period of the lease at4½ per cent. according to calculations based on the prescribed tables for the calculation of values;
the annual value of the land means 4½ per cent. of the unimproved value of the land;
I admit that the language of the section is very involved, but I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer one point, which, if I am advised correctly, calls for prompt attention should it be found that taxation is being evaded. In order to calculate the value of the leasehold, the land tax regulations contain a table of calculation covering leases with a tenure of from 1 to 100 years. So, up to 100 years, the department can calculate the value of the lease for land tax purposes. My information is that an interesting position arises regarding the largest Crown leases in the Commonwealth which are principally held by overseas pastoralist companies. These are perpetual leases, and the holders escape land tax because the land tax regulations made no provision whereby the value of the leases can be ascertained.
– Are the leases to which the honorable member is referring in Queensland?
– The matter almost entirely concerns New South Wales. There are a few in South Australia.
– I checked up the point as to whether it might be held generally that perpetuity is to be reckoned on a basis of 100 years ; that is, in respect of perpetual leases, the department would work on the scale or schedule for 100 years. I am informed that owing to an omission in the regulations, or the memorandum, large areas of land held under perpetual lease cannot be brought under taxation, the loss of revenue to the Government resulting therefrom amounting approximately to at least £200,000 per annum. In most cases, it is argued f hat these properties are heldby overseas interests - by absentee landlords. I draw the attention of the Treasurer to this point in good faith, because it may bc found upon investigation that a set of circumstances exists under which those properties have been overlooked, creating an anomaly as frequently arises after amendments of legislation are put into operation. I am mindful of the fact that very often the law has first to be set in motion before gaps in it can be discovered, and gentlemen of the type with which I arm now dealing are not slow to seize an opportunity to evade tax. * Leave to continue given.]* I take it that the Treasurer will investigate the points which I have raised with a view to seeingwhether they can be borne out. In respect of land tax and the policy pursued by this Government in making the remissions it has already made, the view generally advanced to-day is that the Government has destroyed the principles for which the federal land tax was established. The first was that it would be a means of breaking up large estates in order to make land available to those in need of it.
– As the honorable member has just shown that twothirds of this tax is paid in respect of city areas, it cannot be of much help in breaking up big estates.
– Yes, it can.
– The honorable member is not intent upon breaking up city estates?
– Yes, that is a practical proposition of whichI can give an instance. The Hordern Estate held fairly extensive properties in Sydney, ‘ and, largely because of land tax, some of them became a drain upon the estate. Consequently, portions of the estate were sold, and I could give exact figures showing that such sales resulted in the properties being distributed among a number of different buyers. Thus, this tax has an application in respect of both country and city estates. It could be argued, of course, that my reference would largely apply to the manner of making land available for agricultural purposes. On that point I should say that a survey would show that most of the 33 per ceni. of the tax received from country holdings is paid by fairly large pastoral interests.
– A few years ago, we were sorry we had so much agricultural country and let much of it revert to pastoral occupation.
– That is another point. During the Gwydir by-election campaign, the matter of closer settlement figured more prominently than any other subject. I am not raising this matter in any controversial way, but in the contentions which I am now putting forward, I am naturally guided by general principles. I have discussed this matter with quite a number of men in country towns throughout New South Wales. They told me that they were looking for land on which to settle their sons. Invariably the argument they advanced was that no land was available on their own properties and there was not hope of their sons securing adjacent land. Consequently, the sons were forced to leave home and seek employment in shearing sheds and at all sorts of occupations. I have no doubt that those opinions were the honest opinions of those men. The point I am making is that most of the 33 per cent, of the tax received from country land, comes from people holding large areas, and further that owing to the unimproved exemption of £5,000 many of the people relieved from paying the tax are those who can be classified as struggling or working farmers. The reductions in the scale to which I have referred have given a decided impetus to land monopolists, instead of tending to make the holders of large areas disgorge some of the land they possess, this legislation is having an opposite effect. During the last few years, the properties of a number of people who have failed because of mortgage liabilities and the like, have fallen into the hands of big companies. I.’n the Parliament of New South Wales, particularly, I have heard of many instances of this kind. The reductions of tax applicable to the more wealthy section, is giving an impetus to. that tendency. . Instead of having the effect of breaking up large estates and making land available as a practical aid to closer settlement, the policy of this Government is tending to have an opposite effect. That circumstance is of great importance to the States if not to the Commonwealth.
– The larger companies are extending their areas almost monthly.
– Yes, and they are being helped by the policy pf this Government in remitting portion of this tax on large estates. Consequently, I submit that such a policy is wrong and inimical to the best interests of this country. Prior to the reduction of these rates, sales of land amounted on an average to £8,000,000 a year, whereas during the last four years, the average yearly sales have amounted to less than £1,000,000. This fact shows that circumstances have changed.” Furthermore?, dummying operations are going on in this particular field with the object of evading the incidence of land tax, and it is the expressed opinion of those who have had the opportunity to take a close view of this matter, even people in the depart ment itself, that dummying is rampant, it is being said repeatedly that we did not obtain any advice from the Commissioner of Taxation in respect of this matter. It is not mentioned in any of his annual reports. There seems to be a sort of deathly silence in respect of this matter with the result that, rightly or wrongly, one is forced to draw the conclusion that the people operating in these fields are capable of evading taxation or have a strong influence in preventing their position from being disclosed. The department itself seems to be taking no steps to make the actual position known either to the Parliament or the public. In this particular sphere a good deal of revenue is being lost to the Commonwealth and thus a burden is not being placed upon the shoulders of those best able to carry it. It cannot be denied that the groups of people to which I have referred are capable of meeting all of their commitments. There is abundant evidence available in respect of that fact. Therefore, nothing should be left undone on the part of the Commonwealth to investigate this matter as fully as possible in order to see that all the revenue available -from, these sources is collected. I hope that the Treasurer will give attention, to this matter to the end that if, by a change of circumstances, he shall not have the opportunity to see the work through, his successor will be able to probe this problem to such an extent that there will be. no need for us to go outside this country for the financial assistance necessary to defend Australia and te provide our people with all those social services of which they stand so much in need.
.- Yesterday, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) delivered an interesting speech in this House. Honorable members on this side welcomed his contribution to the debate and were particularly pleased to see that he had recovered sufficiently in health to enter, what is definitely a tense party debate. The honorable member told a parable of the settler who created an orchard, clearing and tilling the land, and planting the trees, but, it happened that before, that orchard was in production, another person took over the control of it and reaped the benefit of the settler’s early work. The orchard blossomed and came into production and much good came therefrom. On that parable^ the honorable member constructed a story of events from the pre-depression period up to the present in an attempt to show that th© prosperity being enjoyed by this country to-day is in no small measure due to the ground work that was done by his Government some years ago. He dealt with this story very skilfully and, from his point of view, very satisfactorily; but I suggest there were many omissions in the story ; and as it is a kind of story that has been related in this House on different occasions it would be well to examine the details omitted by the right honorable gentleman. What were the conditions preceding the depression in Australia ?
– Who tilled the ground before the orchardist arrived?
– That is a point which I am coming to. If the right honorable member for Yarra is able to claim some credit for doing the groundwork, he must in fairness admit that the method was suggested to him by honorable members on this side of the House before ever he took action. It is only necessary to cast our minds back to 1929 to remember that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, repeatedly told the publicthat forces were in operation overseas which would, before long, compel Australia to reconstruct its methods of finance. During the election campaign which occurred that year, I can well remember that the party now in Opposition, led by the right honorable member for Yarra, refused to accept the advice of Mr. Bruce. They placed before the people a glowing account of what they would do if they were returned to office. Such grandiose promises were made that the people, unfortunately, were hoodwinked, and the Labour party was swept into office so that they might carey out their promise to usher in a period of unparalleled prosperity. There was in New South Wales at that time another government known as the Bavin Government, which took early steps to reconstruct the States’ finances in a manner suitable to the time. [Quorum formed.’] There was another gentleman in New South Wales, Mr. Lang, who went before the people with glowing promises of what he would do for the State, with the result that, at the subsequent election, he, too, was returned to office.
We now come to the time when the depression began to develop rapidly. The bottom dropped out of our export markets, and unemployment was becoming an increasing problem. The Scullin Government was in office, and from the Opposition side of the House it was being constantly exhorted to face the situation, and to reconstruct the finances of the country according to the reduced national income. Eventually, we reached the time mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, when the credit resources of Australia were exhausted through the inability of his Government to face the situation. This led to the introduction of the Premiers plan, and the conversion loan, which have been referred to in the course of this debate. When the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) the other night stated that the Premiers plan and the conversion loan represented the work of this Parliament, rather than of any party, he was speaking tha exact truth. When a conversion loan was first mooted, the idea was to make it com,pulsory, and had the matter been left to the Labour caucus, I have no doubt that that is what would have happened. This conversion, which is to-day one of the bright spots in our history, in that over £500,000,000 of government securities were converted at an average interest reduction by 22£ per cent., would have been carried through on the principle of compulsion, instead of with the willing co-operation of the investing public. Fortunately, the honorable member for Kooyong, now Sir John Latham, who was then Leader of the Opposition, was called into consultation with the Premiers, and he strenuously resisted the idea of compulsion, and urged that the conversion be carried out voluntarily. The Premiers plan was given legislative effect in the Financial Emergency Act, but that act would never have passed the House had it not been for the assistance and co-operation of the Opposition led by Sir John Latham. If praise is to be bestowed for the inauguration of the Premiers plan and the conversion of our internal indebtedness it must go, not to any party or any government, but to this Parliament as a whole. Never, on tha public platform or in this House, have I sought to detract from the merit of the part played by the right honorable member for Tarra at that time, but I maintain that, had it been left to his Government and his party, such measures as were necessary to save the country would never have been given effect. It is certain that the successful conversion of Australia’s internal loans was not due to the fact that the Scullin .Government had strengthened our national credit, because only a little while before it had to pay 6 per cent, for money. That conversion was carried through successfully only because the people realized that a sacrifice on their part was necessary in order to reduce the burden of the national debt.
The right honorable -gentleman also said that unemployment was no greater in Australia than elsewhere during the depression. The present Government has demonstrated beyond doubt that there were, in fact, two depressions in Australia, one caused by outside influences such as the collapse of export markets, and another superimposed on that, a psychological depression engendered by the failure of the Scullin Government to take immediately such steps as were necessary to meet the situation. This is borne out by the fact that in 1932, under the Lyons Government, although export prices were even lower than before, economic recovery began. A new atmosphere was created, and Australia began once more to go ahead.
The claim has also been made that the Scullin tariff has been responsible for increased factory activity throughout Australia. As a matter of fact, there was never a more preposterous claim than that. The fact is that to-day the Scullin tariff has practically ceased to exist. No fewer than 2,000 alterations of it have been made, the embargoes and surcharges have been removed, and the tariff in operation to-day bears very little resemblance to the original. It was noticeable during the life of the Scullin Government that in no case were the claims made by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) on behalf of the ‘ tariff ever borne out by subsequent events. When he tabled a new schedule still further increasing duties, he promised that there would be an immediate increase of employment, but almost invariably the exact reverse occurred. In contrast to that I point out that every prediction of the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has been more than fulfilled by the course of events. There can be no doubt that the secondary industries of Australia are flourishing under the present tariff, because factory employment has never been greater.
The Government has been vigorously attacked by the Opposition because of its policy in regard to overseas borrowing. The right honorable member for Tarra condemned it for, as he put it, going back to the dope that nearly killed Australia in previous years. The idea of securing outside money is not new to many of us in the’ course of our private undertakings. Honorable members opposite, of course, maintain that any borrowing from outside Australia is bad, but with that view I cannot agree. We have to realize that without capital from outside it would have been impossible for Australia to develop as it has done. Even the telephone standing on the table in front of me reminds me that the many thousands of miles of telephone lines, and the thousands upon thousands of telephones throughout the country, would not be there to give service to the people of Australia had it not been for the help of outside capital. It is held by leading economists all over the world that it is the duty of creditor countries to lend to the younger and more vigorous communities so that they may develop economically. Many economists have asserted that the cessation of long-term lending definitely contributed to the depression by the disorganization of the exchanges, and the destruction of international trading. It is true that money raised overseas should be placed in such a maimer as to increase exports and that, in view of the already large external debt of Australia, care should be taken -not to increase it unduly. But the right honorable member for Yarra himself supplied the reason for the Treasurer’s decision to raise a. loan of £2,000,000 in Great Britain when he stated that the position of the London funds should be -watched very carefully, so that nothing would be done that would mean that our overseas position would become less secure. The right honorable gentleman spoke about the dangers of a reduction of the London funds and said that Australia should be in a position to stand up to a drought or other internal or external influences that would cause a reduction of the income from exports. With that I agree. Why the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has anticipated the borrowing overseas of only £2,000,000 sterling is because of the Government’s desire to be able to build up the overseas position into a sound state.
– Will it be built up by borrowing ?
– Defence equipment is needed to the extent of about £2,000,000, which, if .paid for out of the London funds, would bring about an undesired diminution of those funds which will be obviated by the raising of the money on the London loan market. Another reason for the decision to borrow the money abroad is the fact that the Commonwealth Government will not approach the Australian loan market this year for one penny except that required for farmers’ debt adjustment. The total amount of borrowing for this financial year, Commonwealth and States, has been fixed at £16,000,000, and next year Australia will have to convert over £73,000,000 of internal debt. Australia is thus faced with the necessity to raise nearly £90,000,000 by December, 1938. It is absolutely essential to the Australian taxpayer that this enormous conversion should be made at as low a rate of interest as is possible. Even i per cent, would make an immense difference to the taxpayers. Advised probably by the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Government has decided that it must safeguard the Australian credit position in order to make that conversion and to raise the required £16,000,000 on as satisfactory a basis as possible. Those are the reasons for this proposed issue of treasury bills that will later be converted into a loan in London. There is no intention to embark upon any wild borrowing abroad. The lessons of the past have, been learned and, whilst T. say that the wisdom of borrowing abroad can be substantiated to a degree, I agree that an excess of such borrowing would not be desirable. Nevertheless, in view of the need to conserve the London funds and for other reasons I have set out, the Government cannot be condemned in pursuing its present policy.
Another point upon which the Government has been criticized is the high rate of expenditure. It has been held, quite correctly, that we are spending more money now than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. Critics outside rather than inside this parliament have asked, “ Why not reduce the departmental votes and thereby save considerable sums of money which could be expended in the directions which the Government desires?” An examination of the departmental votes since 1929 will show that with the exception of a few departments the Commonwealth departments are being run at a much cheaper rate than they were previously. No person, therefore, could point out any great saving that could be made in that direction, and it is necessary to look in other directions for the cause of the increase of the cost of running this Commonwealth. The first cause is increased liability in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. I notic*ed when the budget was being introduced that honorable members opposite were strangely quiet when the extra ls. a week to invalid and old-age pensioners was mentioned. As a matter of fact, their faces seemed to say “ I am sorry you have done that.” Pensions once cost this country somewhere between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000 a year. Today they cost about £16,000,000 a year, which is a rise of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Do honorable members opposite question this expenditure? Then we have defence. When I first came into this House the annual defence vote was about £3,000,000 ; this year it is to be £11,500,000, of which £6,000,000 will be found from revenue and £3,000,000 from the trust funds created from surpluses earned a few years ago. One important point in the budget is the fact that this year the Government will spend on public works about £7,750,000 from revenue, whereas previously expenditure on public works came from loan moneys. I think that fact is a definite indication that the Government is pursuing a strong line of policy in regard to its finances. Then there are some departments upon which additional money is being spent. The Health Department is one. The health of Australia to-day has assumed importance probably greater than in any other period. Money for health is being voted in everincreasing amounts. We find also additional expenditure in respect of repatriation amounting to £1,400,000 more than four years ago. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will cost £170,000 this year, which is a substantial increase on votes in former years. Measures designed to produce oil in commercial quantities in Australia will absorb a further £334,000. All of the items which I have mentioned will bear criticism. These are the causes of the increased Commonwealth expenditure; it is not due to any negligent handling of the finances.
The defence vote of £11,500,000 is the highest peace-time defence vote in the history of Australia. In 1935 I travelled through many European countries and found, without exception - honorable members will agree with me in this - a feeling in those countries that the British Empire was becoming decadent. The pacifist policy adopted by Great Britain was leading to the belief abroad that it had lost its vigour, and there waa a feeling among foreign nations that they would build on the . ruins of Mighty Albion. They believed that the British Lion was becoming old and mangy. Towards the end of 1935 Mussolini sent troops to Libya with a view to sweeping through Egypt to the Indian Ocean, but when the British Lion roared disapproval the dictators of Europe became embarrassed and fearful, and thereafter the world became less uneasy. Whatever we say about the position elsewhere, to-day, in Europe, it is easier, I believe, than it was in 1935. Undoubtedly, that is due in no small measure to the rearming of Great Britain and the British Empire. Nothing will contribute more tq world peace than a strong cooperating British Empire. In those few words there is the basis of the defence policy of this Government, which is a policy of co-operation.
– Tell us more about the Kangaroo and less about the Lion.
– The security of the Kangaroo is largely bound up with the strength of the Lion. That is where the parties on this side of the House differ from the Labour party, some members of which take the stand that Australia is a match in warfare for any firstclass power.
Mr.Frost. - Rot!
– It is a statement that has been made by honorable members opposite. Whether it represents the majority view I do not know, because we cannot learn the majority view. Labour’s policy on defence was formed in Adelaide and scuttled in Melbourne; indeed, it has been scuttled here a dozen times since. The country is interested to know just where the Labour party stands. There is no doubt about where we stand. We do not accept the view that we are a match for any first-class power. We believe that our security is bound up in the security of the Empire, and, that being so, we have a responsibility to perform in regard to Imperial defence. Moneys have been provided in the budget in almost equal amounts for the navy, army and air force. In other words, every branch of Australian defence, from the view-point of Empire co-operation, is to be attended to by this Government. On the other side, we have the Labour party policy, the only point of which is that Labour will not fight to prevent war from coming to this country; it will fight only when war comes to this country; and even before that it intends to bring out the ballot-boxes - rather a favorite pastime of the Labour party - to determine what shall be done. That is the policy so far announced by the Labour party. The policy of declining to fight to save a neighbouring dominion, like New Zealand, will he branded as a most selfish one, and the policy of not fighting without a declaration from the ballotbox will be branded as one of arrant cowardice.
The opening statements in the budget speech definitely prove the correctness of the Treasurer’s contention that prosperity has been restored in this country to an almost unparalleled degree. That this prosperity is not confined to a few is proved by the State savings bank deposits, which are higher to-day than they have been at any other period in the history of Australia. As honorable members know, the wealthy man does not make deposits in the State savings banks. The funds in those institutions are deposited by the workers, and the mere fact that they are higher to-day than they have been previously in the history of Australia is irrefutable evidence of the fact that prosperity has been evenly spread over all sections of the community. I have no misgivings about what Will happen when the elections are held this year. The verdict of the people will be expressed in these terms : “ Go ye back, ye good and faithful servants, to the place whence ye came, and continue to advance the prosperity and welfare of the Australian people “.
.- The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), who harked back to the experiences of the years 1929 to 1931, evidently failed to remember that what then occurred was not in the nature of a “ bolt from the blue “, but was rather the accumulated results of the stupidities and contradictions of a system which is, and has been for many years, rotten at the core. Tho horrors of the years 1914 to 1918 were perpetrated purely and simply in the interests of the capitalistic profitmongers of the world, a gang which knows no nationality, colour, class or creed, but exploits all. Proof of that is to be found to-day in every publication, and in all the inquiries that have been made into what happened when, as the result of the operation of the capitalistic system, Christianity reverted to paganism, and the different races tore one another to pieces. The heritage of that holocaust of slaughter and expense was not reaped immediately. Any one who has the slightest knowledge of the economic history of the world knows that the aftermath of any war is felt many years after the war itself has ended; and, as the last war was unexampled in the intensity of the slaughter and hatred which characterized it, the aftermath was more intense than that ‘of any other struggle in the history of the world. Those who took some account of the historical significance of events perhaps anticipated the aftermath earlier than it was experienced. I was one of them. I marvelled that the world could stagger under the load which had been piled on it up to that period. What has been experienced is the responsibility of a system which cares for nothing but profit. Anything that will make profit is good, whether that profit be derived from the manufacture of implements or the prostitution of science for the production of deadly gases to destroy human life. One of the latest boasted inventions of science is an airtight container in which the mothers of England can put their babies, and into which air can be pumped to keep them alive, when the next war occurs. Another of the boasted achievements of science is a gas-proof perambulator. The future citizens of Great Britain, and, I suppose, of the world, will be propelled in these when the “ Mad Mullahs “ again run rampant, and stamp out human life on a scale never previously reached. Honorable members talk of war as though it is inescapable. So long as there is talk of war, there will be war. If this Government and the governments of the world are prepared to spend on the propagation of peace and goodwill one quarter of the amount that they extract from the people for the piling up of armaments to keep alive hatreds, antagonisms and jealousies, war would soon be stamped out. It is the financier who first arouses the war scare, so that he may make loans to governments on which he may draw interest. The financial interests are interlocked and allied with all the armament rings of the world, and they encounter no opposition in their nefarious activities. That was proved long ago in the United States of America. It was then shown that when tenders were received from every armament firm in the world for over 100,000,000 dollars worth of contracts, there was not one cent difference between any of them. Having aroused a war scare and loaned money to governments, these interests then sell armaments to every country in the world, and derive profits from both transactions. The mystery man of Europe - Zarahoff - who received a title from practically every nation in the world, was described as a great patriot shortly before the war began because he gave a submarine to bis native country. As soon as he had done so, however, his. “ heelers “ and salesmen approached the Turks and said, “ Greece has a submarine and you have none. If you do not have a couple of submarines, you will not be able to stand up against Greece “. So Zarahoff sold two submarines to Turkey. His “ heelers “ and salesmen then approached the Government of Greece and said, “ You have only one submarine and Turkey has two submarines; you must have more “. Thus the mad dance’ went on. and the people were bled by means, of taxation. The heritage of 1929 onwards was the result of the horrors of the years 1914 to 191S. Neither the principles, the policy, nor the philosophy of the party to which I belong, in this or any other country, can be held responsible, because that party could exercise no control over any administration. The heritage that we reaped was the heritage of the system of capitalism under which* we live, and so long as that system continues, the events that have always . been associated with its operation will recur. The experiences of the years 1929 and onwards were the result of the mismanagement, not only of this country, but alao of every country in the world, and followed the operation of a policy that has its roots deep down in old paganism - a policy which regards wealth as sacrosanct, and human life and well-being as of no account. The basic principle of paganism permeates every feature of this Government’s economic policy. No charge can be laid against those who espouse the principles of Labour, except by lunatics, ignorant people, or liars, who deliberately distort events. Labour principles, policy or philosophy cannot be blamed, because they have not been in operation long enough to make their imprint on the economic life of any country. All of those things of which honorable gentlemen opposite can boast, all of those things which have a healthy influence in the national economy of this country, have been propagated and made popular by the party to which I belong. That is my answer to those honorable members who talk so much about the years 1929 to 1931.
But what I want to refer to particularly, is the astounding statement of the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Park hill), supported by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), concerning the unexampled prosperity of Australia to-day. I ask the Treasurer: Is he, as an Australian, satisfied with the conditions under which our people are living? If he is, he is a poor ‘statesman and a poorer Christian. His vision of nationhood is dimmed almost to blindness. Let the honorable gentleman forget London for a moment. Let him put out of his mind the cocktail parties and the feasts that he shared with the wealthy classes overseas.
– And forget about 1931.
– I have told the honorable gentleman about 1931. He and his class are responsible for what then happened. He knows that, and cannot deny it. He still stands for what made possible the happenings of that period. In a few more years, the perpetuation of the existing system will lead to another war with all the misery and desolation that are inseparable from war. In the name of the Australian people, I ask the honorable gentleman: Does he say that the conditions in Australia to-day are satisfactory? I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) who is seldom in this chamber nowadays : When he spoke in Queensland, to whom wa3 he speaking when he said that the lot of the Australian worker to-day was a. happy one? I ask these honorable gentlemen to forget their trips overseas and the banquets that they attended. Let them accompany me for a couple of days through my electorate and the outskirts of Sydney. I shall show them conditions that are little better than those that existed in the days of slavery. If any man says that they are good enough, I could wish that he would have to experience them himself. In some places, , there are as many as 500 or 600 men working , in slush, slime and filth, the odour from which is so offensive as almost to make them fit subjects for a hospital. They should not be asked to work in such conditions for five minutes, because there is machinery that is capable of doing the work. But simply because relief works have come to an end in their own districts, these men are compelled to leave their homes at four o’clock in the morning and. travel long distances to commence work at 8 o’clock, and then continue without a break until midday under the conditions that I have described. I do not believe that the slave labour which built the pyramids in far distant times had to work under comparable conditions. The Treasurer talks of “ marching through the valley of despair, into the sunlight of prosperity “. He misrepresents the position and knows it. I ask him to read the Church Standard, which in one of its issues used a phrase that I quoted in this House a few weeks ago. Referring to certain men who are working under a government similar to the present Commonwealth Government, this publication used the descriptive phrase “ a valley of lost and forgotten men “. The sanitary conditions of their environment would arouse a feeling of horror in the breast of even an Indian coolie. The Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) stated in this House that 40 per cent, of Australian children are suffering from malnutrition, and apparently the right honorable gentleman regards that state of affairs as being satisfactory. Surely he does not believe that when this vain boa3t echoes in the electorates, it will assist in the return to office of himself and the Government of which he is a member. I recall that government supporters unsuccessfully enunciated their policy to the voters of the Gwydir electorate who turned a deaf and offended ear to their proposals. Referring to infantile paralysis this afternoon, the right honorable gentleman mentioned that, in his opinion, the spraying of the nasal passages was a satisfactory method of treatment. If the homes of the majority of the workers were of a better class, the children better nourished, and their mothers given improved pre-natal treatment, I am confident that such epidemics as infantile paralysis would not stalk through our midst so often as they do. If the Government be content to allow the present system of the housing of the workers to continue, the heritage of older civilizations will be the outcome of this callous -disregard to the welfare of the masses. I invite the Treasurer to read the speeches and reports of those heroic people who are exposing the conditions which now exist in the slum areas of Sydney. Does the Treasurer read only those documents which do not irritate a cultured gentleman, as no doubt he considers himself to be, because he is accustomed to the good things of life, and has had an easy passage so far as economic and social conditions are concerned? Does the recital of these human problems offend him, or is he endeavouring to hypnotize himself in order that he may always be able to regard life from a pleasant viewpoint? I remind the honorable gentleman that, in some of the slum areas in Sydney, four families are living in one house, and share the same sanitary convenience. Centuries ago such sanitary conditions caused epidemics and deadly plagues in Europe. _ The intense overcrowding in Australian cities will transplant to Australia those social evils which have wisely been abolished in older countries. In the sunlight and amid the beautiful shrubs of Canberra, my statements in respect of slum conditions may appear to be exaggerated, and that is one reason why some honorable members fail to realize that such conditions exist in this fair land. I therefore remind honorable members that I am in constant association with unfortunate persons who are living in slum areas, and who are subject to the insanitary conditions which I have described. I visited a relief workers’ encampment, where the homes consisted of bags and iron nailed to four upright posts sunk in the ground. For a few weeks these poor huts are inhabited by one set of workers, whose places will then be taken by other relief workers. When the job is completed the huts are dismantled, and the nails are ripped from the iron so that when it is used later in the erection of further huts, rain pours through the nail holes. I emphasize these statements, because honorable gentlemen who support the Government claim that the workers are happy under their present conditions, and that we are now passing through a period of unexampled prosperity. I realize that the Treasurer has known no social conditions other than those of prosperity. He has referred with pride to the increased employment in factories. According to the census figures, 1,300,000 factory hands in Australia earn less than £2 a week, but no doubt that form of employment and remuneration suits this Federal Government. For years it has been contemplating the introduction of an unemployment insurance scheme of which it has been said for the last twenty years in Germany that, “ its benefits yield not enough on which to live, but just too much on which to starve.” The fact that 130,000 factory hands are receiving les3 than £2 a week is a return to the bad old days of 50 years ago. In Sydney, girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years are being employed in factories, but as soon as they become entitled to the payment of a little more money, they are dismissed and new hands are engaged. That is employment of the type that the Treasurer would persuade this Commonwealth Parliament to encourage.- What will be the social condition of Australia in another 30 years, when two-thirds of, the younger generation of the present day will be the fathers and mothers of children ? The Treasurer referred to the increased investments in the building trade. In respect of New South Wales the .principal building activities have been confined to the renovation of shop fronts, and the erection of great palatial business houses, because the capitalistic interests are taking advantage of the opportunity to pay lower wages to the workers and of a reduced cost of building materials. A few new hotels are also being erected by breweries, but the majority of buildings for the dwellings of workers has been limited to the poor huts constructed by the Stevens Government, doubtless with Commonwealth money. The Anglican newspaper, the Church Standard, has severely castigated those responsible for these structures. With the approach of the federal elections, the Government will certainly make lavish promises in the hope of being returned for another term of office. Before the last elections, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would spend £20,000,000 on the erection of homes. At the present time he can .point to the proposed expenditure of £11,000,000, presumably for the destruction of homes. The right honorable gentleman is impressing upon Australians that we have to defend this country, and he has hinted that a great power in the Pacific is the one from which we have most to fear. While I was participating in the Gwydir byelection campaign, I saw persons who were offering to purchase any supplies of old rusted iron which they proposed to rush on trucks to the seaboard for shipment to Japan. From Yampi Sound, in Western Australia, iron is pouring in .shiploads into that country. I remind honorable members that Japan is destitute of this mineral and unless it imported iron, it could not make a battleship or a gun. Although we are told to prepare for war, we are selling to a potentially hostile nation the materials with which to create guns and battleships which may belch shells and poison gas on our shores. It will be nice indeed for the parents of Australian soldiers and for the troops themselves who are being slaughtered, to know that the engines of war opposed to them, were made from iron in the same way as British guns sold to the Turks mowed down Australian sons on Gallipoli. After a period of six years of office all that the Government can tell the electors is that it proposes to spend £11,000,000 on the destruction of their homes. The whole position is ludicrous in the extreme; it is a screaming farce. While we propose to build battleships and aeroplanes for the defence of Australia, we pay not the slightest heed to the physical condition of our people, which will be one of the principal factors in the salvation of Australia against an aggressor. I invite the Treasurer, instead of speaking in a well-lighted hall or from a padded chair in a comfortable studio upon the unexampled prosperity of Australia, to accompany me through the electorate of Werriwa, and through various parts adjacent to Sydney, involving a distance of 100 miles, in order to study at first-hand the conditions of the workers there. If, after that survey, the honorable gentleman has the audacity to repeat his claim that the country has emerged into unexampled prosperity, I shall be satisfied that he has more “ hide “ that any other man whom I have met.
As on previous occasions, the Administration has bolstered up its case with the same hoary, stupid references to improved employment as revealed, in the trade union figures. I personally consider that this source of information has been drawn on more than enough, but I contend emphatically that for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to assert that unemployment has been reduced to the extent that the figures indicate, is a misrepresentation of the true position. It is high time that the trade unions woke up to the fact and refused to issue to the Commonwealth Statistician figures which, they are well aware, are misleading, in order to enable the Government to boast about using trade union data with which to bolster up its case. Such figures do not convey anything like the true state of affairs. Tens of thousands of Australians never had an opportunity to become members of a union and many trade unionists who were registered on union books between 1929 and 1931 have drifted into relief work.
– Many trade unions do not submit the returns to the Commonwealth Statistician.
– Yes ; and many others have large numbers written off their books. In a number of instances, ex-unionists are endeavouring to .scratch a living as poultry farmers in the Sutherland Shire. When the anti-Labour government abolished rural awards in Nev,’ South Wales–
– .And also in Queensland.
– Yes, but a Labour government restored the awards in Queensland. The abolition of rural awards in New South Wales affected many bush workers who ceased to belong to unions. Thousands of men throughout Australia are involved in similar circumstances, and they have been put on relief work. Both the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales, who have put them on to this abomination at Cook’s River, near Campsie, claim that they have thereby relieved unemployment, but the relief worker will know what to do at the forthcoming elections. When the Treasurer is speaking in his electorate and elsewhere on behalf of the United Australia party, I wonder whether he will say, as he has stated in this House, that relief work is relieving unemployment and is giving a standard of unexampled prosperity to the workers. No other impression can be gained from the honorable gentleman’s statement in the budget speech.
The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred to the policy of “ borrow and bust “. I regret that the Government proposes again to go on the overseas market for loan requirements. The honorable member for Henty. (Sir Henry Gullett), who probably has not studied our problems for any length of time, referred to the procuring of new money as though we obtained from overseas a roll of sovereigns when we borrowed money. As the result of the borrowing policy in the past, Australia has been bled white. When I listened to the Treasurer explaining what Australia owes to the rest of the world, I wondered whether any red blood remained in our veins.
In the ‘fifties, Disraeli said in the House of Commons, crystallizing the opinion of the British capitalists at that time: “These cursed colonies are millstones around our neck.” Great Britain, at that time, took every British soldier in Australia back to Great Britain and, in effect, told Australia to do the best it could for itself. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne Argus at that time wailed about the manner in which Australia had been left undefended, .but a Scotchman in the country, the Rev. Dunmore Lang, proved himself to be a better Australian than many people who had been born here. He wrote a series of articles “ which was afterwards published in a pamphlet entitled “ The Future History of the United Provinces of the Republic of Australia,” in which he said that Australia could look after itself. Two or three years later, gold was discovered here and tens of thousands of people came to the country to join in the gold rush. The mountains were crossed and the wonderful resources of the continent were revealed. British capitalists then once more became the champions of Australia. They took our gold overseas and we heard a great deal about the necessity to have gold as the basis for our currency. About £500,000,000 of gold was taken from Australia and we were given printed notes for it. The currency was inflated again and again as our gold was shipped away. In place of owe gold, we had given to us cheques on London banks. When, say, £10,000,000 worth of these cheques came back through the underwriters, the London and West- minster Bank or some other British bank, operating through its agencies in Australia, made credit available, but not till then. All that Australia actually received for its gold was a few figures sent by cable from Great Britain. The country has been pawned over and over again to pay interest on these phantom loans, in order to feed, not the British people at large, for 95 per cent, of them suffer as we ourselves do, but to feed a few polyglot financiers who are merely money changers and money mongers without country, class, colour, or creed. One of these gentlemen has said “ My country is where I work, and I work everywhere.” This gentleman has had a title conferred on him by almost every country in the world, including Japan, China, and Russia prior to the revolution. What does such an individual know about loyalty? The Attorney-General told us the other day that it was stupid to say that the King of England could go to war although the King of Australia, who, of course, is the same individual, could remain at peace. The King’s person never goes to war; but some honorable gentlemen opposite use the King to serve their own unmoral and unethical ends’. The King can neither start nor stop a war. He might be the most peaceful man in the world, and his heart might bleed because of the slaughter of his subjects; but if the financial ring, or the armaments ring, said there must be war, war would occur in spite of what the King might say. I suppose honorable members opposite will say on the hustings in a few weeks’ time that we are disloyal, and they will drag the King’s name into their addresses; but it will be they who are disloyal in so using the King’s person, No decent people would do so. That is my answer to honorable gentlemen opposite who accuse the Labour party of disloyalty. “We are loyal to the workers of every country and particularly to those of our own national outlook and attitude of mind. When we attack the great financial institutions of the world we are not attacking the people of any particular nation. We all know that it was the international financiers who made possible the holocaust of 1914. The same international group reaped vast financial benefits from the unholy activities of those years, and they are still taking to themselves economic advantages through the degradation of the people.? of the world. These same people are to-day preparing for a new Armageddon and are doing it in the name of loyalty and patriotism. They are cornered, and once again they will demonstrate the truth of Dr. Johnson’s famous saying: “ The Plea of Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
– I do not propose to make any comment upon the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). I wish to give my attention principally to the parabolical orchard described for us yesterday by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who pictured in a most plausible manner the beauty and potential profit of this metaphorical property which once belonged to him. The right honorable gentleman appeared to be greatly hurt because the Government had not given any credit to the Scullin Government for the success which had attended its conduct of the orchard which he himself had planted. Personally I would not deprive the right honorable gentleman of any of the credit due to him for the action he took on that occasion, but one thing is certain ; he did not do what was done at that time with the support of his own party. It was done with the support of the Opposition of the day. Therefore, whatever credit attaches to the preparation of the ground and the planting of the orchard should be shared by both parties. The right honorable gentleman told us that he cleared the ground and planted the trees. What I should like to know is what would have happened had he continued to be the husbandman. How would he have treated the orchard? Would he have pursued the policy adopted by him. The right honorable gentleman said that he was pleased and proud of the position disclosed in the budget. This Government, therefore,, must have managed the orchard as the right honorable gentleman himself would have done; otherwise he would scarcely have expressed his pride at the results achieved. But would he have pursued a similar policy ?
– He would have sold the orchard.
– Would the right honorable gentleman have removed the embargoes on imports and reduced to p re-depression levels the high tariffs introduced by his Government in a time of emergency? Would he or his Government have accepted the provisions of the Ottawa Agreement ? We know, of course, that honorable gentlemen opposite have consistently condemned that agreement. It seems to me that a better husbandman has taken charge of the orchard, for a lot of pruning and grafting has been clone and many unprofitable trees have been uprooted. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman is not in the House at the moment.
– If he were here the honorable member for Forrest would not be attacking him.
– That remark is not worthy of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens). I have done nothing to keep the right honorable member for Tarra out of the House. [Quorum formed’]. The Opposition winces under argument. It winces whenever the splendid position revealed by the budget is referred to by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It winces when invalid and old-age pensions are increased. It realizes that its thunder is being stolen. The righthonorable member for Yarra has admitted that the Government has. developed the orchard in a splendid way. What I fear is that if he had been left in charge of it a very different result would have followed. Honorable gentlemen opposite have frequently said that the Ottawa Agreement was against the interests of Australia and beneficial to the interests of the British manufacturers. They have argued again and again that the reduction of the Scullin duties would prove ruinous to our secondary industries; yet statistical information at our hand indicates that the number of employees in the factories in this country is greater than ever before. What really happened when the Scullin Government introduced its policy of embargoes and high duties? Over £20,000,000 in tariff revenue alone was lost and that had to be replaced by revenue raised by sales tax, primage duties and increased direct taxes. Because of that increased taxation during a period of depression, the people were iosing faith in this country, and if further increases had been made Australia would have gone from bad to worse. I could criticize this Government, as I could criticize any human agency, in respect of quite a number of its actions, ibut speaking by and large it has taken up the work of tilling the orchard to which the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred in his parable yesterday, and it is doing that work in a statesmanlike way with beneficial results to the people of Australia.
I now wish to direct a few remarks to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I feel that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in recent years has been adopting somewhat of a cheeseparing policy in respect of the extension of postal and telephonic services. It has made considerable profits. I have never held the belief that the department should bc a taxing machine, but we are too often reminded of. the expenditure involved when, requests are made for postal and telephonic facilities for thoso people who are blazing the track in sparsely settled areas.Those people certainly need modern means of communication in order that they may keep in touch with the rest of civilization and may be able to communicate with their tradespeople and their friends, and, in an emergency, with their medical advisers. The department can be a penny wise and a pound foolish in neglecting to extend these facilities to the areas I have indicated. I hope that the Government will recognize the importance to these people of such communications. In connexion with old-age pensioners, we heard much concerning those pioneers who blazed the track, but I assure honorable members opposite that there are many who are still blazing the track in Western Australia under the most difficult of living conditions. It is on their behalf that I make this appeal, and I hope that in the coming year greater consideration will be given to them. The department should not hesitate to extend postal and telephonic facilities to people living in the outback not only in Western Australia but also in all parts of Australia.
.- I should like to direct the attention of the House to the provisions of two ordinances recently promulgated, and applying to the Federal Capital Territory, each of which is known as an Unlawful Assemblies Ordinance. The two ordinances were made within less than one month of each other. The first, known as Ordinance No. 9 of 1937, has been considerably modified, and all I should like to say about it is that a more oppressive piece of legislation could not be conceived. It has been modified by another ordinance made on the 18th August, 1937, known as No. 14 of 1937, which follows very closely the provisions of the Victorian Unlawful Assemblies Act. It provides that a meeting of a certain number of persons cannot ho held within 100 yards of this Parliament House building, with the object of achieving an unlawful purpose, or of achieving what the regulation describes as an unlawful purpose. It prescribes a regulation dealing with persons who have no representation in this legislature and no vote at all, and whose only means of protecting their interests is in making representations to this Parliament and to its members. These are the unlawful purposes made by this regulation for which more than 20 persons are forbidden to meet within 100 yards of this Parliament House -
For the purpose of making known their grievances.
For the purpose of discussing public affairs or matters of public interest. (If that is done by the voteless residents of Canberra it is unlawful.)
For the purpose of considering, preparing, or presenting any petition, memorial, complaint, remonstrance, declaration or other address to His Majesty or to the Governor-General, or to both Houses or either House of the Parliament, or to any Minister or officer of the Commonwealth, for the repeal or enactment of any law, or for the alteration of matters of State.
If more than 20 persons assemble within 100 yards of Parliament House for the carrying on of such discussions, or making such representations, they are engaged in an unlawful purpose and are participants in an unlawful assembly, and are liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of £100 or imprisonment for six months.
This regulation has only one Australian precedent, and only two in the world. The one Australian precedent is in the State of Victoria. This Parliament sat in Victoria for over a quarter of a century and never at any time did it find it necessary to place upon the statutebook any legislation like this. It never passed any act prohibiting any person from meeting within a certain distance of Parliament House. There was an act passed in 1865 by the Victorian Parliament, and that act applied to the site occupied by the present Victorian House of Parliament, which was formerly the Federal House of Parliament. But when the Federal Parliament sat in Melbourne the Victorian legislature amended its own act excluding the site of the Federal Parliament House and applying that prohibition to the Exhibition site, where the Victorian Parliament wa.s then housed. The Federal Parliament did not find it necessary to pass any enactment providing that no meeting could be held withina certain distance of Parliament House. There is no similar legislation in any other State but Victoria, nor is there any similar legislation in the dominion of New Zealand. I doubt whether I could find similar legislation anywhere except in Victoria, as I have already stated, and Great Britain. The British legislation was adopted in 1817. Honorable members will be familiar with the class of legislation passed by that Parliament at that time. If they have forgotten it, I should like to quote a survey of the legislation passed contemporaneously with legislation of this kind by the British Parliament. Sir Erskine May, in his Constitutional History of England 1760-1911, describing the act of 1817 and the circumstance’s in which it was passed, says as follows : -
It was proposed to extend thu acts of 1795 and 1700, against corresponding societies, to other political clubs and associations, whether affiliated or not; to suppress the Spencean clubs, to regulate meetings of more than 50 persons, to licence debating societies; and, lastly, -to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act.
The act of 1817 provided that a public meeting of more than 50 persons could not be held to discuss anything unless notice of it had been advertised in a daily newspaper, with the signatures of seven householders. That notice had to be sent to a clerk of the peace, who sent it to three justices in order that the meeting be subject to supervision. The quotation I have given indicates the class of legislation which was being enacted in Great Britain when a law similar to the Unlawful Assemblies Ordinance of the Federal Capital Territory was passed. When the Victorian Parliament amended its legislation in 1903, so as to apply its provisions to the Exhibition site, and not to the site of the Parliament House occupied by the Federal Parliament, Mr. Donald Mackinnon, afterwards AttorneyGeneral in Victoria, said -
I think it is extremely doubtful whether it is. desirable that this legislation, which originated in tho reign of George III. in a time of panic, should be adopted. I do not think it is necessary. In 1865 we adopted the act of George III. I should have thought it would be better to allow legislation passed at the instance of Lord Castlereagh, in a time of panic, to sink into oblivion.
This legislation was enacted in Britain at a time when all sorts of oppressive acts were being passed directed at every popular movement under the act of 1817. Even friendly societies found that they could not recover funds unless they were registered, or protect themselves against defaulting members, because their societies were illegal. In fact, when the formation of the Australian Natives Association was proposed, advice was given that such a body would bring itself under the provisions of the act, if it attempted to extend its activities. Yet that kind of legislation has been adopted by the democratic Parliament of Australia, and applied to persons who have no vote, who can look only -to this legislature for protection, and who cannot make their influence felt by their vote, but must rely on representations to members. This legislation would prevent a deputation of more than twenty persons coming together within the forbidden radius with the object of making know their grievances. If they did they would constitute an unlawful assembly. They would constitute an unlawful assembly if they came to this House to interview members and lay their grievances before them, and would be guilty of an unlawful purpose in trying to get consideration for their grievances by this Parliament or this Government.
It seems to me that this legislation was conceived in the same spirit which has dictated the arbitrary acts this Government has taken in recent years. The original ordinance could not be tolerated for. one minute; I do not think that the Government would dare to face this House with the first ordinance; but the present ordinance is bad enough; it is a disgrace to this House and to members of this House who are willing to abide by it. Unfortunately, the Acts Interpretation Act 1937 not being yet in force, we have no opportunity to move for the disallowance of this ordinance. I should have been happy to move in that direction, because I regard it as a piece of arbitrary impudence on the part of any legislature to say to the people that they shall not approach it. I believe that the people have the right to approach it. Electors have the right to approach this Parliament and lay their grievances before members or the Government. In Victoria, where legislation of this kind exists, no attempt, to my knowledge, has been made to enforce it. Large numbers of people approach members of the Victorian Parliament to lay before them their grievances, and large numbers visit the Victorian Treasury Buildings, which are within the forbidden area, for a similar purpose. But here, in the Federal Capital Territory, where the people are voteless, they are told that, if more than twenty of them assemble within 100 yards of Parliament House, for any political purpose, or to discuss their grievances, or to make representations to any member of Parliament, or to the Executive^ they are concerned in an unlawful assembly and are guilty of an unlawful purpose, for which severe penalties are provided. I hope that this ordinance will be withdrawn by the Government. There is no need for it. The legislatures of the States do not need to hide from their electors in this way. When this Parliament sat in Melbourne a it did not need to do that either, and” I suggest that, if the people affected ‘by this ordinance had a vote, this Government would not pass it. It is. only for the reason that these people have no vote, and, to that extent, no control over this Parliament, or the
Government, that this ordinance has been made.
The Labour machine is a peculiar machine. So strange is it that although one might think that the parliamentary members of the party should control it, as no doubt they should, the machine really controls them. It is conceivable under the system by which the Labour party operates and the machine operates that a Labour government might be obliged to give effect to a policy which not one of its members could morally support. That has happened in the past as I propose to show. When the right honorable member for Yarra was Prime Minister of this Commonwealth, and was leading the Labour party in this House, an interstate conference of the Federal Australian Labour party met at Canberra in May, 1930, and appointed a committee of six, of which the present Leader of the Opposition was one. Of the six, only three were members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Among the decisions reached by this committee was one that the Federal Parliament should “ find “ £20,000,000. If this was not a domination of the Government by an outside body, I do not know the meaning of the phrase, especially as tha Labor Daily, commenting on the committee’s report, said -
It amounts to an instruction to the Government.
A number of similar instructions followed. One was from the Australasian Council of Trades Unions. Various so-, called “key” unions passed similar resolutions. For example, in January of 1931 the Geelong Trades Hall carried a resolution demanding that the currency be inflated to an amount of £20,000,000. About this time another outside body began to assert its domination over the Federal Parliamentary Labour party. This was the New South Wales State Executive of the Australian Labour party, which served on the Scullin Government what was described at the time as an ultimatum demanding inflation.
– I did not get a copy.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was overseas enjoying in the company of dukes and duchesses some of those banquets, for attending which he has criticized members of this Government. The then Prime Minister was also abroad and his Government was served with an ultimatum that it should inflate the currency to an amount of £20,000,000. Yet the right honorable member for Yarra was never consulted or asked what his views were. It is well to remember that members of that party are to-day strongly criticizing the Government for its financial policy. Yet the outside interests, including trade unions, could determine the policy of the Labour Government without asking the Prime Minister for his views. This example reveals how literally any Labour leader is fortuitously obliged to follow the injunction contained in the old French proverb -
I am the leader, therefore I follow.
A couple of days later, a conference convened by the South Australian Labour party executive - note that, the South Australian executive - and attended by members of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party, the Federal Australian Labour party executive, and the New South Wales Australian Labour party executive, was held in Sydney. The conference lost no time in dictating to the Commonwealth Government. Mr. J. J. Graves, of Sydney, who presided, announced at the outset that it was essential that Mr. Scullin should give a clear declaration of policy. Then he proceeded to attack the Government. He was followed by Mr. Chifley, the then Minister for Defence, who was my predecessor in this House. That gentleman dramatically announced that, notwithstanding his personal views, he would be guided by the majority decisions of the conference. The Melbourne Argus in a report of the meeting, said -
Whatever views of national importance Mr. Scullin might have had to place before the electors of Parkes may have tobe subordinated to the definite orders emanating from the New South Wales Labour machine. It i.s possible, however, that Mr. Scullin may decide to uphold the dignity of the Prime Ministership and refuse to accept dictation from a section of the party whose activities are the result of secret organizing which has extended over nearly the whole period of Mr. Scullin’s absence from Australia. A supporter of Mr. Scullin’s pointed out that the question of inflation wasnever included in the policy speech delivered by Mr. Scullin, and if he acted in strict accord with Labour principles he could refuse to take any notice of the New South Wales section.
The right honorable member for Yarra, of course, as are all leaders of the Labour party, was a hapleBS victim of the machine which operates from outside Parliament. Subsequent events showed how impossible it was for the right honorable gentleman to disobey tho dictates of these outside bodies. The Labor Daily, reporting the Sydney conference, said -
On the motion of Mr. Lazzarini it was agreed that the decision of tho Australasian Council of Trade Unions be the financial policy of the party in the federal sphere. There were very few dissentients. Accordingly, this means that the Government extends credit to the extent of£20,000,000.
Of course, the right honorable member protested - as any self-respecting leader would protest. But his protests were of no avail, although he stoutly affirmed that he would not accept dictation. He delivered a speech in Melbourne, in which he pleaded with all the emotion which bo displayed here yesterday for the right to exercise the responsibility of leadership. Could there bo imagined a more humiliating spectacle of a Prime Minister, even though it be a Labour Prime Minister, publicly pleading for the right which should bc accorded any . Prime Minister without question.
Sitting suspended from6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The story of the Scullin Government’s gradual surrenderto the outside forces of extremism reached its final chapter on the 5th March, 1931, when the Fiduciary Notes Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. Honorable members should note very carefully that the Prime Minister of the day did. not agree with the principles embodied in that bill. He had opposed its introduction. Very probably a majority of his Cabinet was also opposed to it as was, possibly, a majority of the party.
– The honorable member is doing a lot of guessing.
– It is a reasonable surmise. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister himself was opposed to the bill when he introduced it. It was a measure that was to have a vital bearing on the lives and happiness of every member of the community. Nevertheless, although the Prime Minister and his Cabinet had no faith in the measure, believing that it would wreck the lives of many hundreds of thousands of people, they were prepared to stifle their consciences and abandon the responsibility of leadership at the behest of the outside forces of extremism. Yet the man who made that abject surrender had the impudence yesterday to criticize the financial policy of the present Government, and to plead for mercy from the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) with all the exaggerated emotional fervour of a commercial crooner, because- the Minister bad dared to criticize the Scullin Government, particularly the Fiduciary Notes Bill. I believe that the history of the Scullin Government and of that measure should be written in letters of fire in every home in the Commonwealth.
There were numerous other instances of domination by outside forces during the unhappy regime of the Scullin Government. For instance, in September, 1930, the secretary of the Sydney Labour Council, Mr. J. S. Garden, who was not then a member of this Parliament, but who enjoyed vastly greater power as secretary of the Sydney Labour Council than he has ever possessed as a member of this House, announced that members of the Federal Government who attempted to give effect to the Niemeyer decisions would bc automatically placed outside the Labour movement. “ There is no bluff about it,” said Mr. Garden, “ the Federal Government must break with Niemeyer, entirely and finally.” In obedience to those instructions the Labour party did as they were told. Earlier in the same year, the New South “Wales Labour party executive had discussed methods of enforcing their demands on the- federal executive for drastic action in the coal dispute, and one member of the executive tabled notice of a motion calling upon the Federal Treasurer to show cause why he should not be dealt with for having failed to attend a certain coal conference. There was also a move to summon all Federal Ministers and members from New South Wales to a special meeting of the Australian Labour party executive to discuss methods for giving effect to the decisions of the conference. A report published at the time stated -
Of course, honorable members opposite will say that I am now reciting the un happy history of by-gone days, and the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) would have us believe that things are now quite different. In answer to that suggestion I quote the following from the preface of a booklet recently published by the Leader of the Opposition himself -
Is’o State executive may direct members of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party in regard to mutters affecting the federal platform and/or propose legislation which the Federal Parliamentary Labour party has to deal with in the legislature.
That decision was reached at a meeting of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party in Sydney on the 27th April. As a matter of- fact, it is so much balderdash. It is merely camouflage. What it really means is that the Federal Parliamentary Labour party will be controlled by the federal executive, and the federal executive, as honorable members are well aware, is a body composed entirely of persons who are not members of the Federal Parliament. In other words, the elected representatives of the people would have little or no say in what a Federal Labour government would do. Its actions would be dictated by the. gentlemen who meet behind closed doors in the Trades Hall and other offices throughout the States. Every member of the Labour party knows well that when the Leader of the Opposition makes his policy speech in the forthcoming federal election campaign he will be making it with his tongue in his cheek, and with the knowledge that he may be compelled at any moment to vary or completely reverse that declared policy. He will know that his ability to implement his policy will depend on the decision sf the union bosses in the various parts of the Commonwealth. Therefore, when we see persons like the right honorable member for Yarra and the Deputy Leader ‘ of the Opposition strutting like heroes in this House as they did yesterday, and calling for recognition of the services which they .rendered, to the country in the years 1930 and 1931, we are forced to the melancholy conclusion that heroes would not have yielded to the union bosses of the day as they did. The real heroes of those times were the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and those of his colleagues who decided to defy the union bosses, and discharge their responsibilities to the people of the Commonwealth. They vindicated the widely held tenet that courage is the greatest of all the virtues, and the most important thing in life because it was their courageous action which saved this country. It was they who prevented the economic edifice of Australia from becoming a shambles. It was they who saved hundreds of thousands of people from becoming a bankrupt and ruined rabble. Paradoxically enough, however, they have never sought recognition for what they did, nor asked for appreciation, and probably they will never receive more than a fraction of the recognition which is their due for the services they rendered to the Commonwealth in those days.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) was evidently at a loss for a convincing argument why the Government should continue to hold the confidence of the people. He occupied the whole of his time with a recital of what happened in the years gone by, but had nothing to say about the Supply Bill which we are ostensibly discussing. According to the speeches of Government supporters we are to believe that present conditions in Australia are normal, and that the people have no reason to expect any improvement under existing conditions. Then let us examine the conditions as they are. Government supporters have quoted figures in an endeavour to show that the economic position of Australia is much better now than it was, and that the era of prosperity has returned. They have said, among other things, that the depression began in 1929. That was not the beginning of the depression for me. I had gone through many depressions before then, and there are thousands in Australia to-day who are still in the depths of depression. Do Government supporters believe that the depression is passed for married men with five or six children who are receiving £2 5s. 3d. a week from anti-Labour governments? Those men have been sent to work 30 or 40 miles away from home in the snow belt, and are provided with transport home only once a fortnight. They are supplied with tents, but the rest of their equipment they must provide for themselves. Are we to conclude that theirs is the normal condition, and that they have no right to expect anything better? Recently a report was presented to the Melbourne City Council showing that in certain areas 40 per cent. of the children under fiveyears of age were suffering from malnutrition. Are we to regard that as a normal condition?
The honorable member for Macquarie had a great deal to say about the domination of the Labour party by outside influences, but let us consider for a moment the influences which dominate the Government at the present time.For my part, I should much prefer to take instructions from workers’ organizations which exist for the purpose of raising living standards than from those interests from which the Government must take its instructions. Only recently the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden) said that the Government was being supported by the blood-sucking interests of the city, but I pass over that for the moment because he is only a junior member of his party. I shall quote the opinion of no less a person than the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby), who is reported in the Northern, Daily Leader, a newspaper controlled by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), as follows -
Atdead End - FederalMinistry - Lost Control- Mr. Thobry’s Bitter Attack.
Dubbo, Friday. “ I think the man realizes in his own heart, that he is up against a dead-end as Prime Minister of Australia. He finds that the rank and file of the United Australia party are at odds and ends because the Ministryhas lost control,” declared Mr. H. V. Thorby, Member of the House of Representatives, and former New South Wales State Minister, speaking at to-day’s meeting of the Western division of the Country party, when he made a bitter attack upon the Prime Minister and members of the Federal Ministry. “Members have absolutely lost control of their departments. They cannot interpret acts they passed themselves. There is chaos in the taxation andevery other department,” said Mr. Thorby.
Mr. Thorby said it was a momentous occasion for the Country party when Mr.Lyons refused to consider therequest of a deputation representing country interests for the redres- sing of anomalies. Reasonable requests hail been characterized by Mr. Lyons as an insult. “Mr. Lyons says that while he is Prime Minister he will maintain the policy on which lie attained power, and will not deviate from it. Mr. Lyons has no policy, and never had one. -His policy is laid down by the Chamber of Manufactures in Melbourne and he cannot deny it,” said Mr. Thorby. 1 must explain to honorable members that that was before the honorable member was admitted to the Cabinet. Evidently those members of the Country party who say that they place principles before portfolios have been practising this policy for many years. The following remarks in regard to the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) were made in this House by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) : -
In the New South Wales Parliament about twelve years ago, two farmers were admitted to the Fuller Government in return for the Country party’s support. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) barged his way into a ministry on the promise of the Country party’s support.
The honorable member for Darling Downs also made certain references to the present Government when he was trying to tickle the ears of the electors in his constituency. He then said -
The United Australia party gave its allegiance to the big financial and manufacturing interests of the cities and to the middlemen and monopolists, because it received its support and power from those people. How, then, could the United Australia party serve the countryside as well as .those in the city who sucked the life blood from the countryside? If you put a United Australia party man into the Federal House to represent the Darling Downs, you are going to give your allegiance to your political enemies - the manufacturing and commercial groups and the middlemen. No man associated with the United Australia party - a party backed and influenced by city interests - could conscientiously serve city interests and ambitions, and at the same time adequately realize what the countryside required in the way of legislation.
The Minister for Health -(Mr. Hughes), when running as an independent candidate for the North Sydney seat a few years ago, made some very slashing attacks on the present Government and. the interests outside this Parliament which control it.
T heard the honorable member for Macquarie refer to meetings held by trade union representatives, at which the future policy of the Labour party was discussed. As a matter of fact, they acted perfectly within their rights, because the trade union movement constitutes the backbone of the Labour movement. But those who compose the Government forces are not . prepared to tell us from whom they take their instructions. They go to such fashionable clubs as the ‘Savage Club in Melbourne, of which the Attorney-General is a member,’ the Melbourne Club, and the Millions Club and Australian Club in Sydney, which consist of the anti-Labour exploiters of the community.
Let us consider for a moment one or two incidents which show how faithfully the Government has served those interests. During the life of this Parliament, the present Federal Treasurer (Mr. Casey) introduced a measure which, I believe, was entitled an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Some years ago, a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the operation of Commonwealth and State taxation laws, and as a result of its findings and the pressure of the Labour opposition the Government was forced because of fear of exposure to take certain action. On the 5th July, 1934, the particular bill to which I have referred was introduced into this House. The royal commissioners had drawn the attention of the Government to the fact that there, had been large-scale tax evasions by its supporters. Large companies had made distributions from their profits, not only by way of dividends, but also by the issue of bonus shares. Previously, profits distributed by way of bonus shares were not taxable, and consequently these wealthy concerns had escaped the payment of a considerable amount of tax to the Commonwealth. The royal commission, recommended that certain action should be taken not later than the 31st December, 1933. When the Treasurer introduced the measure into this House on the 5th July, 1934, he was questioned as to why the Government had delayed its introduction beyond the time recommended by the royal commission, and his reply was that the Government had many more important matters to deal with before it reached that particular measure.
– That is untrue.
– Hansard will prove the accuracy of what I say. The honorable gentleman was questioned from this aide of the House as to what had occasioned the delay in introducing legislation to prevent large-scale tax evasions by the friends of the Government and those who provide its political funds. These interests dominate the Government, and give directions as to what particular policy shall be pursued. If the Treasurer wishes to make an explanation, let him explain to honorable members what he has so far failed to explain, namely, why on the 22nd July - seventeen days after he had introduced the bill - he brought down an amendment of it? The bill provided that profits distributed by way of bonus shares should be taxable in the same wayas were profits distributed by way of dividends. The amendment proposed by the honorable gentleman provided that that particular provision should not operate until the 31st December, 1934.
– That is quite true.
– “What was the effect of that amendment? It meant that the Government gave six mouths’ notice to its political friends and supporters of what it intended to do, so that those wealthy concerns, might be able to get rid of the loot which they had taken from the people of this country before they were compelled by this legislation to pay tax on it. The members of the Labour party at the time wanted to know who were the influential people who had been able to induce the Treasurer to make this alteration of a measure that he himself had introduced. The honorable gentleman admitted that representations had been made, and said that the Government considered that the request for an extension of the period was a reasonable one.
– I challenge the honorable member to read Hansard on the point.
– Everybody knows what happened. The Treasurer suggested that only Labour members would consider that there was anything wrong in the transaction.
– Order! I ask the Treasurer not to continue interjecting.
– Within a few weeks, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the directors of which are supporters of the Government - the Fairfaxes, Sir Norman
Kater, and the Knox family - made the largest distribution of undistributed profits, by way of bonus shares, that had ever been made in the history of this country. Let the Treasurer deny that. By issuing 292,500 shares, this wealthy concern doubled its share issue. For every share already held, a bonus share was issued. The nominal value of its shares was £20, but they were quoted on the market at the time at a figure in the vicinity of £58. But even taking them a t their face value, the effect was that this company, by the mere stroke of a pen, doubled its capital ; and upon this watered capital the consumers of sugar, those who grow the cane in Queensland, and the workers who are exploited in the industry, have to provide the large dividends which are paid in season and out of season. This Government allowed that large concern to escape without the payment of one penny by way of tax on profits that had been earned in previous years.
The protest of the honorable member for Macquarie against the proposal of theScullin Administration to issue fiduciary notes to an amount of £20,000,000, was rather laughable. That proposal simply meant an increase of the national debt of this country by the amount stated. For what purpose? To assist the primary producers,whom, he says, he is interested in assisting, and to enable unemployed workers to obtain work. What is the difference when the national debt is increased by the process decided upon by the Labour Government or the process of floating loans supported by members of this Government? The only difference is that no interest is payable upon that portion of the national debt which is represented by the note issue, and that is why the Government does not want such a process to be adopted in the carrying out of national undertakings in thiscountry. It does not care to what extent capital is increased by a private company under the protection of the Government, nor does it mind what national works are undertaken so long as the “ moneybags “ can invest their capital in them, and obtain a rake-off from the labour’ of others.
Let us examine the wonderful improvement which the Government alleges has taken place in this country. During the discussion of another bill, the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures in regard to the actual position of employment were challenged. The Treasurer set this gentleman up as an authority, and argued that his figures were reliable. Yet Mr. J nee, the ‘appointee, not of the Labour party, but of the present Government, had the following to say about his figures, in the report that he submitted to the Government upon unemployment i insurance-
The absence of satisfactory statistics throughout Australia as to the rate of unemployment makes it a matter of much difficulty to determine on what rate to base the finances of a scheme.
– He was referring to State statistics.
– I shall repeat that ([notation in order that the Treasurer, dense though he is, may be able to assimilate it. Mr. Ince said -
The absence of satisfactory statistics throughout Australia- not in the States - as to the rate of unemployment makes it a matter of much difficulty to determine on what rate to base the finances of a scheme.
Evidently, therefore, we cannot accept the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician in relation to unemployment. The position can be accurately gauged only by taking a census of the people. “When the census was taken in 1933, we found that slightly under 1,000,000 breadwinners were receiving less than £1 a week, and 481,000 breadwinners were fully unemployed, while this so-called “ prosperity “ Government was in office. The latest figures available, which constitute a record, disclose that there are 305 oldage pensioners and 119 invalid pensioners to every 10,000 of the population. Those figures conclusively prove that conditions in this country have become worse, because it is only when times are bad that the number of applicants for a pension is abnormally increased. By quoting figures in relation to factory employment, the Treasurer and ministerial supporters have attempted to make it appear that because a little more employment has been provided, the people generally are much better off. As a matter of fact the latest figures disclose that in 1930-31 the percentage of child labour employed in Australia was 4.06, but in 1934-35 statistics show that the percentage had increased to 5.84 per cent. The proportion of female adult labour to male adult labour employed in Australia in 1931 was 100 to 265, whereas in 1934-35 the proportion was 100 to 254, proving conclusively that this increase of employment had not been given to adult Australians receiving adult wages but was due largely to an increase pf female and child labour. If the Government desires to consider the sweating of female and child labour an accomplishment, let it tell the public so. To show that there is justification for my statement, I point out that the average wage in Australia in 1930-31 was £193.88 but in 1934-35 it had been reduced to £169.34, showing conclusively that this large increase of employmentthat had taken place was actually of very little benefit to the people who were performing that work. In respect qf the position in New South Wales in 1929, I find that 185,000 employees of factories earned an average wage of £208 a year, or £4. a week: yet in 1936, the number of these employees had risen to 197,000 - an increase of 12,000 - but the average wage dropped to £170 a year, or £3 5s. a week. The total wages paid in 1929 amounted to £38,545,000, but in 1936 the figures had decreased to £33,298,000, despite the fact that there were 12,000 more employed. That should be sufficient proof to show that the workers of Australia have not derived the benefits from this increase of employment which members .of the Government suggest has taken place in Australia.
Before I pass to other matters in which the Government has been active during recent years. I desire to ask it a question. If conditions generally have become so prosperous in Australia, why did the Government introduce in the Federal Capital Territory, only a few months ago, an ordinance for the purpose of preventing the unemployed in Canberra from coming to ParliamentHouse in order to submit their grievances to honorable members ? The Government has attempted to defend the introduction of this ordinance, which is an interference with the liberty of the subject, by saying that it is necessary. I hope that the
Government will prove to my satisfaction in what respect this ordinance is essentia!. The unemployed in this Territory have held several meetings on the steps of Parliament House, and I challenge any honorable member to say that such gatherings were not conducted in a proper orderly manner. I hope that any member of the Government forces will indicate to me, if he is able to do so, any instance at all when he or any other honorable member was interfered with in regard to the carrying out of his work in this House.
– The unemployed on those occasions were led by the son of the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes).
– That is so. The unemployed were anxious only to bring under the notice of the Government certain grievances. To show that their complaints were justified, I point out that on several occasions when they sent their representatives to interview the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) their conditions were improved. In making that statement I do not wish to imply that conditions in the Territory are by any means wholly satisfactory at the moment. The Government evidently is afraid to face up to the position. It is afraid to admit the truth to the general public because it knows that while it is talking this prosperity “ bunk “ in this House, and the unemployed outside are crying out for some practical action, it cannot get away with the propaganda issued for the purpose of deluding the general public. I can recall other occasions on which disloyal organizations - certain organizations which were prepared to advocate the overthrow of constitutional government in Australia - were not proceeded against by the antiLabour parties. The Sydney Morning Herald, the official organ of the United Australia party, published on Thursday, the 19th February, 1932, a flaming editorial which incited the people to open revolution and called them to arms against the government of a State, which, of course, is part of the Commonwealth, as follows -
It is a matter in which repudiation, secession, and possibly civil war itself are involved.
There is no other way than by violence.
Secession is in danger of becoming not only a watchword but a call to arms.
Yetthis Government desires to impress upon honorable members that hungry and starving workers in the Federal Capital Territory should not be permitted to come to Parliament House in order to interview the parliamentary representatives of the people. I understood that under a democratic form of government the members of parliament were supposed to be the servants of the people; yet this Government when the workers are crying out for some bread and shelter for their dependants, can only suggest that the police should be let loose upon them, to flay them with their batons, so that after the unfortunate unemployed have run to their hovels and hidden their heads, the Government will be able to resume its “bunk” about the return of prosperity.
During the Government’s term of office there has undoubtedly been a certain improvement in respect of the budgetary position. I should not be so foolish as to say for one moment that as the result of the advent to office of the Lyons Government certain sections of the community have not become more prosperous. Honorable members have only to pick up the financial journals to see that the dividends of various wealthy companies are increasing and that they are able to make distributions of bonus shares to their subscribers.
– That is the Government’s prosperity.
– The profits of the wealthy companies have increased, but how are those profits made? They are made by exploiting the workers and robbing them at the source of production where the wealth is actually created by the workers in industry. While the Government has been distributing, by way of remissions of taxes, large benefits to its direct wealthy supporters, what has it been doing in other directions with the support of the alleged Country party representatives in order to assist another section of the community? In 1931 the Scullin Government introduced a measure for the purpose of granting assistance to wheat-growers because in that period a large section of farmers was in dire need. The Scullin Government proposed to pay to them a bounty on their production, and in that year it placed no conditions upon the distribution of this money. In 1932, after the general elections, the Lyons Government was returned with sufficient numbers to be able to form a government without the support of the Country party. The Lyons Government then introduced a measure for the purpose of assisting wheat-growers by the payment of a bounty, and I remember that the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Frederick Stewart), when introducing the bill, said that there was a vital alteration in this legislation compared with the original measure passed by the Scullin Government. He stated that the proceeds of the wheat bounty had in many cases gone into the pockets of those persons who were not deserving or in need of it, and he quoted many figures to show that such was the case. He said that one gentleman wheat-grower received in one year nearly £4,000 from this source. In the same year a slightly smaller sum was paid, not to an Australian wheat-grower at all, but to an overseas British company which was interested in the wheatgrowing industry. Because of this state of affairs, the Government decided, in the words of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), that henceforth it would “ assist only the needy and not the greedy.” The Country party strongly opposed this provision in the new legislation. It contended that such an amendment discriminated between certain sections of wheat-growers and should not be allowed to become law. The Government, however, stuck to its guns because it had the numbers, and passed the legislation, which contained the provision that only those wheat-growers who in the preceding year had had a non-taxable income should receive the bounty. After the general elections in 1934, the numbers of the supporters of the Lyons Government were reduced and the Country party was then able to influence it, with the result that the tail began to wag the dog and this particular amending legislation was altered. When the Lyons-Page Government was dealing, in 1935, with a measure to grant assistance to wheatgrowers, honorable members found, on perusing the bill, that no mention was made therein of this _ particular provision which had discriminated between the needy and the greedy. Evidently the greedy wheat-grower, who had strong representatives in this Parliament, was able so to influence the Government that it was compelled to drop out of its legislation the provision which in 1932 it contended was so necessary in order to ensure that the maximum benefit was given to the needy wheat-growers. Any reasonable man will comprehend that where a limited amount of money is available for the assistance of wheat-growers, the more that goes to the wealthy grower, the less there will be to distribute to the needy grower. Why did the Government drop that particular provision from the legislation of 1935? References to Hansard disclose that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) and other supporters of the Country party declared that the Government should not discriminate between wheatgrowers because it would cause delay in the payment of the bounty. They said that if it was necessary for a man to prove that he was in necessitous circumstances before he could obtain the bounty the help would in many cases come too late. It might appear, on the surface of things, that there was some justification for such a contention by the members of the Country party; but I knew that they were not sincere in the opinions that they expressed, in this House and I decided to test their sincerity. When the hill was at the committee stage, I moved for the inclusion of a provision that the definition of “ wheat-grower “ should not include any member of the Commonwealth or State Parliaments. No delay would have been occasioned by the adoption of that amendment, for everybody knew who were members of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. As every member of the Country party voted against the amendment, that, to my mind, completely disposed of their contention that they wanted this particular provision of the previous act eliminated simply in the interests of needy wheat-growers.
The honorable member must not reflect upon a vote of the House.
– I have simply stated what occurred. This indicates clearly that the Government not only wished directly to reward its friends and supporters who dominated it outside of Parliament, but also desired to benefit its personal supporters inside the House. The result was that the bounty was paid not only to needy wheat-growers, but also to some honorable members of this Parliament, who, consequently, received bounty payments while they were also in receiptof their parliamentary salary.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Perkins) had something to say on- this subject in 1934, when the Flour Tax Bill was under consideration. It was alleged by the Government that the flour tax was necessary to obtain the money to pay the bounty to the needy wheat-growers, but this tax was taken directly from the pockets of the poor people of Australia, for it was a tax on the staple article of food on their table. According to a report which appears on page 1014 of Hansard of the 11th December, 1934, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro said -
A member of this House told me recently that last year he had bought out two of his neighbours, and paid a fairly high price for the land. That gentleman is expecting to benefit by the passage of this legislation. . . I feel that there should have been no departure in these bills from certain principles that governed the granting of assistance last year. . . . When the sales tax on flour was being discussed here about twelve months ago … we were informed that the flour tax would be discontinued as soon as possible. Of course, it was discontinued without undue delay, because an election was to take place. … I am not against the granting of assistance to the farmers, but I am definitely opposed to the view of the Minister-in-Charge of War Service Homes (Mr. Thorby), who declared a few minutes ago that there was no harm in taxing the poor and no harm in giving the proceeds of the tax to the rich. . . . Thousands of people, including some honorable members of this chamber, now growing wheat, are not wholly dependent upon that part of their activities, yet they will benefit by the passage of these bills unless amendments are made in committee. These people are better able to do without the proceeds of such taxation than the poor people are to pay it.
– That is what the honorable member himself said at Quirindi!
Mr.WARD. - It was because the truth of such statements could not be denied that the Labour candidate won the Gwydir by-election. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro also observed on that occasion -
We were a comparatively happy family in dealing with our wheat industry relief legislation last year, because we knew that none of the money we were providing would go to rich people; but since then the members of the Country party have undoubtedly brought pressure to bear in certain quarters . . .
– Did not that honorable gentleman at one time hold a portfolio in this Government?
– -He did.
Let us now examine the record of the Government in connexion with another great primary industry. I am not concerned about the big graziers whose association is the dominant force directing the Country party, but I am concerned about the small producer. What I am about to say affects the wool industry. Some time ago this Government sent what was called a good-will mission to the East headed by no less a person than the present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham. This costly delegation visited China and Japan on the plea that it was necessary to develop good relations with those countries and also to find fresh markets for our primary produce.
Mr.paterson. - It was not a trade mission in any sense.
– The Minister for the Interior should read the report of the mission, if he has not already done so. One of its recommendations to the Government was that markets could be developed in the East for the primary produce of Australia. Shortly after the return of that mission to Australia, a delegation from British interests, representative of theManchester Chamber of Manufacturers and other bodies, visited Australia. It met the members of this Government in camera. No public discussions occurred and there was none of the alleged domination of the Trades Hall that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) is so ready to talk about. On this occasion it was domination by the British capitalistic interests.
– It was nothing of the sort.
– No report was ever published of the discussions between the Government and this delegation, for all the meetings between them were secret. After the return of that delegation to Great Britain, the leader of it said that ho was highly satisfied with the results that had been achieved. Soon afterwards, the Government announced its trade diversion policy. Although we have heard a lot from members of the Cabinet about the need to develop friendly relations with our Pacific neighbours, and the Prime Minister, when he was abroad, talked a lot of balderdash about a Pacific pact, the Government seriously offended both Japan and the United States of America by adopting a trade policy which discriminated against those countries with which it is increasingly important that Australia should remain on friendly terms. The Japanese at once retaliated and declined to compete in the Australian wool sales. Consequently the price of Australian wool was depressed. Many of the alleged supporters of this Government, and particularly the small wool-growers, protested against the adoption of the trade diversion policy; but the big wool-growers were not particularly interested for they were able to sit back and hold their wool until the trade dispute was settled. The small men had to sell at the lower price, but the big men held their wool until the price recovered, as they knew it would when the dispute was settled. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) did not sell his wool while the dispute was proceeding. He was able to get inside information about when a settlement was likely so he held it until Japan was again in the market. After the settlement of the dispute, the price of wool rose by £3 a bale. Honorable members opposite who were in such a favorable position, were fortunate, but their neighbours, principally the small woolgrowers, had their backs to the wall and were forced to sell at the lower prices offering during the trade war.
– Thehonorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Jameslawson) put -
That the honorable member have leave to continue his speech.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority… . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I shall take this opportunity to make one or two observations concerning matters which have cropped up not only in this debate but also in speeches made by honorable members opposite at meetings outside this House. After hearing certain remarks made in this chamber one is reminded of the old story of the political candidate who, when giving an address, was asked, at question time, if he would answer a simple question in a straightforward way - yes or no. He replied that he would, and the question put to him was, “ Are you as silly as you look?” That was a poser, and I apply it in respect of a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) at Toowoomba on the 4th Augustlast, in the course of which he asked, in effect, how could the people of Australia be asked to believe that the Lyons-Page Government had reduced taxes when, at the same time, it had collected more revenue in taxes in 1936 than had been collected in 1932. He stated that from 1932 to 1936 this Government had progressively increased taxes by £9,000,000. That is a fact. I do not challenge the honorable gentleman’s statement, but I question his implication. This composite Government, which is enabled to hold office through the co-operation of the Country party, has increased its revenue from taxes by £9,000,000, but it would bo just as fair, or unfair, for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) to ask his famous namesake, Henry Ford, how it would be possible for him to reduce the price of Ford cars and, at the same time, increase his turnover and profit, as it is for the Leader of the Opposition to draw the inference which I have mentioned, from the statement he made. Mr. Henry Ford has increased his revenue and profits from the sale of his cars by reducing his price and, at the same time, giving better value to purchasers of Ford cars. That is exactly what this Government has done in respect of the remissions and adjustments of taxes which it has made. By altering its taxation rates and schedules it has left millions of pounds in the pockets of the people for investment in industry. Furthermore, in doing so, it has not reduced the standard of its social services ; indeed, it cannot be denied that it has raised those standards. No amount of haranguing or abuse can refute the fact that by its wise and sound system of financial adjustment this Government has left in the pockets of the people millions of pounds, previously collected in the form of taxes, thereby increasing the purchasing power and the taxable capacity of the community.
This Government has been adversely criticized because it has reduced taxes and, by its financial policy, has generally increased the taxable capacity of the community. If that is a censure every member of the Government should be proud to accept it. Revenue from taxes received by the Commonwealth Government rose from £53,959,042 in 1932 to £63,617,306 in 1936. Of course, honorable members opposite, as they have already stated in public, will contend that that demonstrates beyond any doubt that the Goment has extracted an additional £9,000,000 a year in the form of taxes from the people. Supporters of this Government will welcome such criticism because it is undeniable that reductions of taxes have been brought about by its wise and scientific financial administration. Since it came into office it has reduced taxes by various mean3, all of which have been calculated to ena’ble every section of the community to benefit, because it must always be remembered that in the final analysis the worker and the producer pay all taxes. From the time I commenced .to take an interest in politics I can remember leaders of Labour thought expressing, in no uncertain manner, the axiom that the worker pays all taxes whether it be in the form of customs and excise duty or in the form of land, income or sales tax. If we axe to accept that as a truism - and I accept it as such - is it not reasonable to say that all reductions of taxes benefit the workers and producers? In this respect I will deal first of all with the incidence of the sales tax. As every honorable member is aware that tax was levied as an emergency measure. I shall not be so unfair as to say that it was not indispensable, or could have been avoided, or to suggest that when it introduced that tax the Scullin Government was not faced with a set of special circumstances in which it firmly believed it had to act according to the certain ways and means available to it at that time. I must add, however, that it is ironical that the same people who always find excuses for the Scullin Government invariably condemn, iri no uncertain manner, the actions of the Moore Government when it was faced in Queensland with a set of circumstances similar to those which confronted the Scullin Government. The difference between the positions in respect of the Moore Government and the .Scullin Government was that the Soullin Government was followed by an administration which took full advantage of the rise of world prices and moulded its fiscal policy in such a way as to enable it to take immediate advantage of the position by reducing all forms of taxes and improving the standards of our social services, whereas the Moore Government was succeeded by an administration which increased taxation to such an extent that Queensland to-day is the heaviest taxed State in the Commonwealth. Those facts cannot be denied, yet those people who are loudest in making excuses for the Scullin Government are loudest in their abuse of the Moore Government. I raise this point primarily to show the inconsistencies of certain advocates in certain circumstances.
The Bales tax is paid by every consumer in the community. It was originally levied by a government affiliated with the political party of honorable members opposite, during a time of emergency, but it was applied to all foodstuffs and wearing apparel required by .the workers. For instance, as the result of the sales tax of 6 per cent, on building materials the cost of the average worker’s home increased by £30. When this Government assumed, office it immediately reviewed the sales tax schedules and exempted those commodities which the primary producer and the worker could not escape purchasing. In addition, it reduced the rate of sales tax from 6 per cent, to 4 per cent. This has undoubtedly been to the advantage of the consuming public. Can any honorable member reasonably contend that the benefits of these reductions and exemptions have not been passed on to the consumers and the producers? Has not such relief increased the purchasing power of the people? If it is contended that the worker pays all tax then reductions of taxes must benefit him. It cannot be disputed that if this Government had declined to alter the sales tax schedules as they were left to it by its predecessors, and had f ailed to reduce the rate of tax, it would have collected not £8,000,000 a year, but £16,000,000 from this source. To meet the argument?, however, that the volume of sales may not have been maintained, can it not be assumed that the workers and producers of Australia have been saved at least some millions of pounds through the reductions of sales tax made by this Government? Has not that boun of advantage to the workers?
Let us now consider the position in regard to income tax, which this Government has reduced at various times. We must remember that income tax is assessed on scientific principles according to the capacity of the taxpayer to pay. Naturally, a person with an income of £600 a year pays more than twice as much as one who receives £300 a year. A person receiving £301 a year pays 16s. lOd. tax, whereas a person receiving £601 a year pays £10 10s. lOd. The Leader of the Opposition, in his recently published blue book which tells us why the Lyons Government should be put out of office, states that a man with a net income of £317 has had his tax reduced by 15s. 8d., while the man receiving £2,000 a year obtained a reduction amounting to £15 7s. 10d., or about twenty times as much. He did not point out, however, that the person receiving £317 a year previously paid £1 5s. 8d. in tax, whereas one receiving £2,000 a year previously paid £109 15s. 10d., or approximately 90 times as much. The science of taxation is to assess the ability of the taxpayer to pay, and the important consideration is the amount that remains to the taxpayer to live on after he has paid his tax. It must be remembered that ii is the total of national production which not only pays all the taxes collected, but also provides the means of livelihood for the community. The value of production in Australia from 1932 to 1936 averaged £372.000,000 a year, whereas for the year 1931-32 it was only £305,000,000. The average annual improvement was £67,000,000, which works out at nearly £1,500,000 a week. That was the amount that the Lyons Government placed to the credit of the taxpaying community of Australia. By its scientific tariff policy, and its proper system of taxation, it increased the national income of the country by £67,000,000 a year. I do not say that the Government is entirely responsible for that increase; I admit that world conditions generally improved during the period under review, but I maintain that the Government should be given credit for pursuing a financial policy that enabled Australia to take full advantage of improved world conditions when they arrived. This improvement has been reflected in the general economic life of the community, and has resulted in the rehabilitation of industry and the restoration of public confidence. We have a lot to be thankful for For the five years to 1936-37 the improvement was still more marked, and the additional benefit to the public by way of national income amounted to no less an annual average than £118,000,000, which represents an improvement of approximately £2,270,000 a week. The position is set out fully in the following table: -
Let us now consider where the extra revenue came from. Most of it came through the customs, and included primage duties. The Country party is charged with being a low tariff party; in fact, we are called a freetrade party, among other things. When we investigate the figures, we find that, during the fiveyears under review, import duties increased by £10,100,000, or 56 per cent., while imports increased by £46,400,000, or 105 per cent. When this Government took office the volume of imports had fallen away practically to nothing. The previous Government had so mismanaged the situation by the imposition of skyhightariffs that there was an unprecedented shortage of capital goods. Imports for 1931-32 were the lowest for twenty years, despite the increase of population. The first work of the Lyons-Page Government when it took office was to revise the tariff in a scientific way in order to bring about a better balance between imports and general production, and results have justified its action. The value of imports increased from £44,042,000 to £90,485,000, and whereas duties collected in 1932 mounted to only £18,444,678, they rose under the Lyons-Page Government to more than £28,500,000. The figures show that, whereas in 1932 duties represented 42 per cent. of the value of imports, in 1937 they represented not more than31½ per cent., a reduction of10½ per cent. Nobody will deny that the workers have benefited by this reduction because, whatever may be true of direct taxation, it is certainly a fact that the workers pay indirect taxation. The importer is merely the agent who passes on the tax to the consumer. Therefore, any reduction of indirect taxation must benefit the consumers, who consist very largely of the workers. Far from injuring the secondary industries, the tariff policy of this Government has revitalized them to such an extent that, despite anything that may be said to the contrary, they are more prosperous to-day than they have ever been in the history of Australia. Under the LyonsPage Tariff,thenumber of employees in factories increased by 156,000 in four years, and 188,000 in five years, after 1931-32. It is estimated that in 1936-37 the number of employees was 525,000, compared with 338,843 in 1930-31 and 336,658 in 1931-32. The number of Australians employed in factories in 1936-37 was 74,518 greater than in 1928-29, the last year of the pre-depression period.
– What about the wages?
– The wage fund is the most important aspect. It would be useless to give the number of employees if the wage fund were affected by cheap or child labour. Wage statistics reveal, however, that the wages that were paid in 1936-37 amounted to £93,000,000, which is the highest amount in the history of the country. The average wage of each of the 525,000 persons employed in factories in 1936-37 was £177 per annum, compared with £169 per annum in 1931-32.
-Where did the honorable member get his figures?
– Those are the figures supplied from the most reliable source and I say to the honorable member who interjects that I am impressed with his inconsistency in respect of the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. He refused to accept the figures used by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), but was prepared to cite figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician himself this afternoon.
– What I said was said by Mr. Ince.
– Mr. Ince was referring to individual States. The figures which I have used, even if they be not correct, arc relevant, because they are based annually on the same sources of information and, therefore, provide a comparative basis! Previous to last year, the highest level ever achieved in factory wages was in 1927-28, when £91,365,319 was paid, whereas, in 1936-37, it, is estimated that £93,000,000 was paid, which is an increase of about £2,000,000. The figures remove any doubt as to whether the employees in secondary industries have suffered fromchild labour, sweated conditions, or reduced wages. The fact remains that the average wage paid in 1936-37 was £177 per annum, compared with £169 per annum in 1931-32, when this Government took office. I give the figures for what they are worth; they are comparative and therefore support the facts which I have presented.
On page 27 of the “ Blue Book,” prepared by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), the following passage appears -
Primary and secondary industries arc interdependent. The benefit of the home market to the primary producer is of paramount importance. In the period from 1929-30 to 1935-36 the number of persons employed in factories increased by 73,570, but the wages paid to them aggregated in hard cash £2,100,000 less. The lessened purchasing power brought about by unemployment and low wages necessarily curtails internal sales and strikes a serious blow at primary producers.
If those were the facts and the figures were correct, the position would be as stated, namely, that the wage fund had declined and that this Government’s policy was detrimental to the home market, which, of course, is the primary producers’ best market. But they are not correct, inasmuch as the honorable gentleman, in order to arrive at the reduction of the wage fund, has seen fit to go back to 1929-30. Let me give the position when this Government took office and introduced its tariff policy. The wage fund was then £55,931,818, compared with the £93,000,000 that was paid in the year ended the 30th June last. That comparison is conclusive proof that the tariff policy of this Government has increased the consumptive power of the home market by more than £37,000,000. If, as the honorable member has written, the home market suffered as the result of a fall of about £2,000,000 in factory wages, how much must it have benefited from the fact that since 1931-32 the wage fund has increased by £37,000,000 for last year.
– The name of that book is Why Australia should Vote out the Lyons Government.
– The reasons which the honorable member for Fremantle has advanced as to why the people should vote Labour into power is based on wrong premises and the honorable member will have to advance better reasons than that before the primary producers will put this Government out of office.
– Why not take comparable years?
– The honorable member for Fremantle is endeavouring to charge this Government with maladministration and with the execution of a policy which has not been in the best interests of the primary producers. Is it not logical, and fair and reasonable to cite the figures relating to the period for which this Government has been on the treasury bench. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) should be fair. Why go back to the Stone Age, and why charge this Government with something for which it was not responsible? This Government has been in power from 1932 until now and within that period factory wages increased by £37,000,000 a year, and that additional purchasing power is reflected in the improved home market of the primary producers.
On page 14 of the Leader of the Opposition’s book the following appears : -
Significance of the Boasted Remissions.
Although Mr. Lyons boasts of having made large remissions of taxation he does not mention -
The high quantum of taxes received by this Government is due entirely to the fact that the taxable income of the people has been increased, which, in turn, is due entirely to the sound policy of taxation reductions and remissions pursued by the Government, resulting in the primary producers being left with more of the wherewithal to continue and to rehabilitate themselves. It shows that the more with which the people are left - the less that is taken in taxation - the better it is for the nation as a whole. I recognize, however, that just as there is an economic maximum of tax extraction beyond which no government should go, there is also an economic minimum below which no government should proceed. A government naturally has to obtain the wherewithal to carry on social services and fulfil other statutory obligations. I urge the continuation of the policy of progressive reductions of taxation. The results achieved during the administration of this Government have amply demonstrated the wisdom of that policy and I regret that, because it is necessary to spend an additional amount on defence and other matters, the Treasury has not been able to budget for a further reduction this year. I am confident, however, that the “expenditure of £11,500,000 on defence will increase the earning capacity of the community and consequently the total taxable income, thus making possible further reductions in the future.
The Leader of the Opposition has also published in his blue book the statement that “ the amount per head of taxation is the highest in the history of the Commonwealth.” I am surprised that a man of his experience should use such an erroneous and misleading basis as the per capita amount of taxation. Naturally, the amount per capita must increase if the taxable income of the community increases.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with great interest to the debate that has taken place to-night. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has delved into history in order to quote certain statements made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I shall therefore read what the present Prime Minister (Mr.
Lyons) said in 1921. The Hobart Mercury reported that, speaking at the Launceston Labour conference, the right honorable gentleman declared that the capitalist system must go; that it was rotten. He also said that he stood forall the principles in the preamble of the Melbourne congress of unions, and that he wanted to go to parliament and to conference as a delegate with definite instructions as to how he was to vote. I quote these remarks of the right honorable gentleman in order to show that when one quotes history one needs to be careful that history cannot be quoted against oneself.
I have been interested in the window dressing for the forthcoming elections that has been indulged in by Government members. I have been very much struck with the publicity given to this year’3 “ war budget.” The Labour party has definitely declared that it stands solidly for the defence of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has come out into the open and stated that, if returned to power at the next federal elections, his policy will be to take effective measures for the protection of Australia against foreign invasion. His idea is to have a properly equipped and efficient air force acting in co-operation with the navy and such land forces as are required for adequate defence. The Labour party has been criticized on the ground that it has not gone far enough. I do not know how far Government supporters would like to go. I consider that the first duty of a nation is to take adequate measures for its defence. I understand that at the Imperial Conference the Prime Minister committed Australia to something that hehas not yet disclosed. I believe that Australia has been committed to participation in the terrible conflict that is about to take place in China. Doubtless plans have already been laid for the conscription of the manhood of this country and their despatch overseas. According to the military authorities, a successful issue to the conflict would not be possible without the adoption of the policy to which Australiawas committed at the Imperial Conference. I have no doubt that the Government will attempt to send men out of this country without first consulting the people. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has admitted, in reply to an interjection, that he believes in conscription. I shall not consent to any mother’s son or any woman’s husband being sent out of this country against his will. I adopted that attitude from 1914 to 1918. Many of my friends who went overseas were also of the opinion that no Government had the right to compel men to leave Australia. In the last war, 60,000 Australians laid down their lives in the belief that that horrible and deadly conflict was a war to end war ; yet preparations are now being made for a gigantic struggle in China.
– ‘Where did the honorable member get that idea ?
– Prom my military advisers. I understand that the Prime Minister is not in favour in London because he “ let the cat out of the bag “ and disturbed the minds of the people while the authorities were secretly endeavouring to give effect to their policy, lt is not considered wise to arouse suspicion in the minds of the people during the progress of military preparations. I am well aware of what is intended. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), who accused the Labour party of disloyalty because its members would not admit that they were Imperialists, will have an opportunity before long to give an exhibition of bis patriotism at Shanghai. I would do what I could to send him over to that theatre of war. In the last war, Australia suffered tremendously in the loss of manhood as well as in the enormous expenditure in which it was involved. Homes were wrecked, and many parents died from worry and anxiety. Yet the Prime Minister, who, as a member of the Labour party, said that he would not ask men to leave Australia to fight in Flanders, France or Gallipoli, is . prepared to-day, after returning from the Imperial Conference, to commit this country to a war in the East, and to force its citizens to participate in it.
– The honorable member is allowing his imagination to run away with him.
– I have not forgotten what I went through during the last war. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), aided by his satellites and parasites, persecuted mo with the object of compelling me to enlist. I was dismissed from my employment and left to starve. I was told that the right place for me was in a military camp. ‘It was said that all Australians ought to take up arms against the Germans because they were cutting off the hands of little children in Belgium. That was a deliberate lie. Although those in authority said that we should never again trade with the enemy, trading relations were resumed before the men whose lives were sacrificed were cold in their graves. Is the only reward for ihe sacrifice of 60,000 Australian lives, participation in another war? Thank God I am too old, and my son is too young, to go.
– And you are both too wise.
– Both of us are too wise. Let us analyse the position, to see what the outcome is likely to be. The budget makes provision for the expenditure of £11:500,000 on preparations for another war. The attempt is being made to convince the people that an enemy is close at hand, but who the enemy is has not been disclosed by the Government. We should deal with, our neighbours in a proper manner. Some years ago a goodwill mission led by the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, was sent to Japan, yet to-day the idea is being disseminated that that nation has hostile intentions towards Australia. We have been told that it will bomb the bornes of our people. I fail to understand how the Government has arrived at that conclusion, because everything points to the fact that the next war will be fought in Asia. Millions of pounds of British capital are invested in that continent, and they are sacrosanct. In modern times, the investments of the wealthy classes are the principal causes of war, but the Government proposes to call upon the young manhood of Australia to defend that money in foreign lands. I warn the Government that the Australian public will resent any effort to conscript men for active service overseas. For my own part, I am prepared to defend Australia to the last, and if I were Minister for Defence at a time when the Commonwealth stood in danger of invasion, I should conscript both the wealth and the manhood of the country for the defence of our women and chilli rell. If I were in control, there would l)e no wartime profiteers and exploitation by the banks of the misery and poverty of the masses which are brought about by war. In my opinion, the honorable member for East Sydney (M’r. Ward) was correct when he said that he would like to put in the front line all the politicians who advocate war. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) would be among the number sent to the front line, and he would be given an opportunity to display his courage in the defence of this great Empire. I do not take exception to the remarks of ministerial supporters who fought in the Great War, because they speak with some authority, but I contend that other Government members, who did not strike a blow for their country, have no right at this juncture to adopt a critical ottitu.de.
– Who were they?
– I believe that, like myself, the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thorby) has no decoration other than the Coronation Medal. I paid close attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) in reference to unemployment and the restoration of prosperity in Australia. The Government should be ashamed of its inactivity, extending over three years, in respect of granting assistance to unemployed youths. At the last federal elections, the Government promised that this unfortunate section would receive its first consideration, and ihe Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announced that £400,000 would be made available for vocational training and associated matters. ‘Up to date, the necessary legislation for this purpose has not been introduced. Instead of giving effect to its promise, the Government granted the sum of £200,000 to the States with the instruction to spend the money upon unemployed youths. I suggested that the Government should give considerable financial assistance to the States to enable them to carry out a larger and more comprehensive scheme for the training of our boys and girls.
– The Commonwealth assistance would amount to about 3d. a week !
– Yes; but the only action that the Commonwealth Government is taking in respect of our unemployed youths is to prepare them to be gun-fodder in the next blood bath in the East. The Government is fully aware that these youths cannot be trained for vocations, because tradesmen cannot be made out of men who have reached their 25th year. As the result of the inertia of the Government, thousands of youths have been deprived, of an equal opportunity with their more fortunate fellows to earn a decent living. The State governments have been saddled with increased indebtedness amounting to £S0,000,000, while the Commonwealth debt has been reduced by £11,000,000. I deduce from those figures that the Commonwealth Government has permitted the State governments to shoulder its responsibility. If this Government has available £11,500,000 for expenditure on war materials, it should be in a position to find millions for widows, orphans and the unemployed, and to assist the poorer classes to rear their children under better conditions than exist at the present time. From the national viewpoint, it is of greater advantage to the country to feed and clothe Australian mothers than to spend millions upon preparations for war. As the Minister foi’ Health (Mr. Hughes) has stated, the mothers of this country are the reservoirs from which the nation draws its manhood, but I ask honorable members to consider how the Government is assisting the mothers. During the last twelve months 900 mothers died in childbirth, and, in addition to this maternal mortality, 2,000 babies died at birth. The Minister for Health said, “ I am alarmed at the figures in respect of infant and maternal mortality”; but honorable members will see the photograph of the right honorable gentleman in the capitalistic press in the act of kissing the babies of wealthy people. To this section, babies are born so infrequently that they become a novelty. I venture to assert, however, that the right honorable gentle- man never visits the poorer sections of the community where the mothers are having large families, and are struggling to rear them to be good Australian citizens.
The Labour Government of Tasmania is devoting considerable attention to the encouragement of young men to learn to operate aeroplanes, and it has granted a bursary for aviation. Some time ago, application was made to the Assistant Minister for Defence to place an aeroplane at the disposal of the Tasmanian authorities for the purpose of developing this scheme, but the honorable gentleman stated that, on the grounds of expense, the request could not be granted. I fail to understand how the Government expects to carry out the training of youths if it is not prepared to accede to practical propositions. The Labour party advocates the adequate defence of Australia, and after listening to the statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who is probably the greatest pacifist in the country, that he was prepared to die for the defence of Australia in Australia, I do not consider that the people of England demand anygreater sacrifice than that. The party to which I belong believes in the defence of this country, but itis opposed to the policy of the present Government, which would send men overseas to participate in capitalist wars.
It has been claimed on behalf of the Government “that the increased number of motor cars imported into Australia from Great Britain is due to the Government’s trade diversion policy. I cannot accept that statement, because I have before me figures which show clearly that the importation of British motor cars has increased in every British dominion. The following table shows the increases during 1937, compared with 1936: -
The Government and its supporters deny that their trade policy has driven away from this country Japanese trade to the value of millions of pounds. I understand that Australia could find a big market in Japan for butter.
– But Japan is exporting butter to Great Britain.
– The Australian Dairy Review of the 24th July last published the following article relating tothis matter: -
Reason aism: Chancefor Australian suppliers
The Japanese Department of Agriculture and Forestry has become concerned at the large sales of margarine as butter, and is contemplating devising means to combat the growth of this practice which, at the present time, is impossible toprevent because of the absence of qualified inspectors.
This statement appears in the Monthly Trade Bulletin of the Department of Commerce, which also speaks of a setback to the Japanese butter industry, reported on by the Australian Trade Commissioner in Japan. Climatic conditions in Japan are not favorable to the dairying industry, and cattle have to be stall-fed for several months in the year. A shortage of fodder this year in Hokkaido, the principal dairying province, has been attended with grave consequences. Another inimical factor has been the inflationary boom through which the country has been passing. There has been a demand by city dwellers for milk and for ice cream, and this has led to a movement of dairy cows from country districts to within city limits, and a consequent still further reduction in butter production. The twofold influence of natural scarcity andrisingcosts soon caused an increase in the price of Japanese butter, and within six weeks the difference of 32 sen between the retail prices of Hokkaido butter and imported Australian and New Zealandbutter disappeared. This was brought about by an increase in the Hokkaido price from Y 1.08 (1/7 A.C.) to Y 1.30 (1/11. A.C.) per lb., and a reduction of importedbutter from Y 1.40 (2/0½ A.C.) per lb., to Y 1.25-1.28 (1/10 A.C.) per lb.
Manufacturers arc said to be carrying on at a loss under present conditions, and it is feared that their difficulties are likely to be even greater in the future. It has been estimated that present production in Japan is at least 10 per cent. below the annual requirements of the market. On this basis, imports will have to approximate 600,000 lb. annually if the present demand is to be met. Moreover, local demand, which has been steadily increasing during the last three years, has of late been stimulated still further, and will possibly require even larger imports. The present shortage of supplies is reflected in the import figures’ for the first three months of 1937, which total 79,188 lb. of a valueof £4,216 in Australian currency. The 79,188 lb. imported in the three months may be compared with 3,888 lb. for the whole of 1830 and 8,70U lb. tor 1935.
Australia has succeeded in securing a substantial share of the small market available. Examination of imports to Japan discloses that 810 boxes of butter were landed at Yokohama and Kobe during March, of which 800 were shipped from Sydney or Melbourne and 10 from Auckland. During April, 750 boxes were imported, 590 being from Australia and 160 from Hongkong. The progress of th”. future import trade, it is stated in the Bulletin, will depend on Government action under the Exchange Control Law. Seeking to reduce the large excess of imports, the Government proposes to classify them into four classes according to their “ need,” or : urgency,” and to issue exchange permits accordingly. Under the tentative classification proposed butter would be one of the “ unnecessary articles “ on which fairly rigid restrictions would be placed. Until this conies into effect, a reasonable chance is offered to Australian suppliers.
The policy of the present Government with regard to wireless broadcasting is disappointing. A reduction should he made of the “wireless licence-fee. I do not suggest that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should accept a smaller proportion of the receipts from these licences, hut the Postmaster-General’s Department should be satisfied with 2s. 6d. less than the share it now takes. Analysis of the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department, particularly as regards the wireless branch, seems desirable. The surplus shown by that branch is published as £86,000 for 1935-36; but in table 1, appendix A, the surplus of revenue over expenditure is given as £99,000, in round figures. Then follows a deduction of £13,000 on account of “interest on capital, including exchange thereon.” This item represents the pro rata share of costs debited against the wireless branch for interest on loan money raised in London for all new works for all departments, together with the exchange on such loans. Although not specifically stated, the assumption is that such pro rata share is fixed on the total income, or the total expenditure, without reference to the actual amount expended on new works, for wireless in particular. Thus, the real surplus of income over genuine costs is £99,000. From 1930-31 to 1935-36, £75,000 has been deducted from the true surpluses, totalling £499,000, leaving a balance of £424,000 as the actual accumulated surplus in that period. A certain quantity of machinery may be required in establishing a new station, but as nearly all stations erected in the period under review are relay stations, the cost is not very serious, and would mostly be included in ordinary working expenses. The charges for interest and exchange on London loan money intended for new works in other postal branches do not appear to have any justification other than that this is an ordinary practice of the department, and has not been challenged. The total accumulated surplus of the wireless branch, even after deduction of palpably unfair charges, still remains at £424,000, and with the surplus of 1936-37 will be greatly increased. In addition, it may be pointed out that the department charged the sum of £9,900 to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for rental of telephone lines and outside pick-ups, although this is merely part of the technical side of broadcasting, for which the post office department receives its share of the licence-fee.
The demand for a reduced wireless fee is justified by the revelation of the large and unnecessary surplus made each year, which merely finds its way into consolidated revenue, constituting a direct tax on all listeners. A reduced fee could be granted by making it 17s. 6d. a year, or even less. I understand that since the introduction of the wireless licence the surplus on the side of the Postmaster-General’s Department has amounted to £1,000,000, yet the department has failed to erect the broadcasting studio which it promised to build in Hobart five years ago. I believe that studios are to be erected in Melbourne and Sydney this year. Whilst I have no objection to these works being proceeded with, I strongly urge that a beginning should be made immediately with the studio in Hobart, since a site has already been acquired for the purpose. Some time ago I was informed by the Minister representing the Postmaster-General that plans and specifications had been prepared, but as far as I am aware no further steps have been taken to proceed with the work. One must expect things like this to happen in a Parliament in which the majority of the members-have such a pull that they can get works carried out in the larger States before they are done in the smaller States. The Government should reduce the broadcast listener’s licence-fee to 17s. 6d. by forgoing 2s. 6d. of the proportion of the fee that at present goes to the Postmaster-General.
A few days ago, I referred to the anomaly which obliges hire-car drivers to pay an extra licence-fee if they have a wireless receiving set on a car. I wrote to the Postmaster-General on this subject and have now received the following reply from him: -
Referring to the letter of the Tasmanian Motor Tours Proprietary Limited of 19th August, 1937, which you recently presented to me, the departmental ruling concerning the use of wireless receivers in motor cars is that ‘ a broadcast listener’s licence authorizes the use of a wireless receiver on a motor vehicle as well as at the licensed address if the motor vehicle is garaged at the licensed address and is not used for the carrying of passengers or luggage under conditions of payment and if the wireless receiver on the motor ‘vehicle is not used for advertising or for gain.”
The matter was carefully considered before this ruling was made, and I anl sorry that I cannot see my way clear to arrange a departure from it in the case of the motor hirecar drivers of Hobart.
I am sorry that the Government, cannot see its way clear to give to the hire-car drivers the relief that they seek. It is no answer to say that drivers of motor vehicles used for private purposes do not employ the wireless receiving sets on them for business purposes, for we well know that any driver of a private motor car can tune into the broadcast of Stock Exchange information and, if he wishes, pull up at the next, post office and purchase stocks or shares by telephone, in consequence of information so received. I make another appeal to the Government to grant the request of the hire-car drivers for relief from this additional impost.
I congratulate the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) on his brilliant defence of the financial policy of his Government. Everybody must realize that the Scullin Government saved Australia from disaster. “We can well understand that th*» honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), who is in such grave danger of losing his seat, must feel the need to call to his assistance all the forces of the Government and to rake up all the political mud possible. Doubtless, I could delve into the history of the honorable member and find something in his political record to criticize, but I do not wish to do so. That procedure gets us nowhere. The honorable member said something about Labour renegades. The Labour party is well rid of those who desert it. What those deserters are, they always were. The leopard cannot change his spots. The honorable member was wide of the facts, however, when he said that the Labour party was dominated by a clique or a machine. I have been connected with the Labour party for many years and I have never seen anything of this machine we hear so much about. If any injustice has been done by the Labour party in days past, certain gentlemen now sitting on the other side of the House were responsible for it. The Labour party is not dominated by any section or any executive.
The honorable member then went on to say that the Labour party intended to inflate the currency of this country with a fiduciary note issue. That story has whiskers on it, and the people are not likely to be misled by it. The monetary policy of the Labour party has stood the test of time. The Commonwealth Bank is a great monument to it. I was glad that the Prime Minister, in delivering an address some weeks ago on the occasion of the opening of the Port Augusta to Port Pirie railway paid a tribute to that grand old man of the Labour party, Mr. King O’Malley, who was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank and also for the financial arrangements which made the building of the East- West railway possible without loading the taxpayers with a burden of interest. The method of financing that work through the Commonwealth note issue was sound in every respect.
The Government, of course, sees the writing on the wall and despairs of its political prospects. It is so fearful, in fact, that it is afraid ‘to fix the date for the election. Honorable gentlemen opposite realize that the people of Australia do not want a war government. They want a government which will protect the interests of Australia in the best sense. They do not want conscription to be fastened on to Australia, nor do they desire that the young men of this country should be sent abroad to fight on foreign shores. The Labour party is prepared to do everything possible to defend Australia against foreign invasion,and also topreserve the peace of the world, but the war budget of this Government is not likely to commend itself to the general community. Of course we can understand that the young patriots among honorable members opposite who have recently been in contact with imperialists on the other side of the world are very eager to lay down their lives for British imperialism on foreign soil. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) no doubt wants to go abroad to fight.
– I think he would go overseas to fight. But I would not be agreeable to the spending of Is. of Australian money on a foreign war.
Mr.Hutchinson. - The honorable member would come with me if a war occurred.
– I would not. I would do everything possible to defend Australia, but some honorable gentlemen opposite would undoubtedly belong to the “ B “ brigade. They would “ be hero “ at the beginnning and they would “ be here at the end of a. war. The honorable member for Macquarie would probably be one of them. However, we all love Australia. Many of us were born here, our loved ones live here, and all we possess is here. It is our duty to protect Australia against foreign invasion, and the Labour party would be willing to do so by every means in its power.
.- Since the commencement of this debate, I have listened attentively to a number of speeches and have noticed that nearly every Opposition member who has spoken has tried to convince himself and the country that Labour will win the next flections. [Quorum formed.] I am confident, however, that their hopes will not be realized, for the electors will not place Labour on the treasury bench. It is well sometimes to recall what has happened in the past. I have a clear recollection of the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) delivering his statement of accounts in 1931. He showed that the Commonwealth was nearly £11,000,000 to the bad, that the combined deficits of the Commonwealth and States amounted to over £36,000,000, and that the pace down hill was so fast that there was every prospect of the amount increasing to over £40,000,000. As the result of the position which was then reached, the Premiers plan which necessitated some drastic emergency cuts in governmental expenditure was evolved. Fortunately for Australia, the Lyons Government came into office, and immediately set about getting the ship of state into safe waters. Itwas then getting close to the rocks. Australia was, indeed, fortunate in having at the helm men of the calibre of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and those associated with him. I am proud to have been associated with men who stood by their country at that time, and whose actions have been fully justified by the results.
– What is the honorable member crying about?
– I am relating facts, and pointing out that Australia is in a much better position to-day than in 1931. By June, 1932, the Commonwealth Government was able to show a surplus of £1,750,000.
– What did it do with the surplus ?
– It spent the money wisely, and that is why Australia’s finances are in so sound a condition to-day. I do not think that any other country in the world is in a better position. By the end of the following year the accumulated surplus had grown to £3,500,000, and during the next three years it increased to £10,500,000, with a further increase of £1,275,000 at the30th June, 1937. In the interim the State deficits with Commonwealth co-operation were reduced almost to vanishing point, and the Commonwealth debt was reduced by over £8,500,000. Moreover, the burden of taxation was lightened by £15,500,000 a year, and salaries and pensions which had been cut during the de- pression were restored. In addition, the Commonwealth paid to the’ States special grants totalling several million pounds for roads, unemployment relief, mining, forestry, health and assistance to primary producers. This expenditure amounted to the colossal sum of £55,000,000, of which £21,000,000 was expended in respect of primary production. Australia, therefore, is enjoying unexampled prosperity, and I challenge any honorable member to name any other country which is better situated economically to-day. I believe that this prosperity will continue if this Government is returned to office. Much useful work remains to be done, and I have no doubt that at the next elections the people of Australia will again give this Government a mandate to carry on.
Much has been said in this debate in respect of defence, and various predictions have been made as to what may happen in the international sphere in the near future. I listened very carefully to the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence in respect of deliberations at the Imperial Conference. It is most important to Australia that we should deal effectively with the problem of defence. Some honorable members contend that we should be concerned only with Australia’s position, irrespective of our affiliations with other dominions. I contend, however, that the safety of our trade routes at all times is of vital importance to this conntry. To-day, unfortunately, the problem of defence practically overshadows everything else. In our case it is not only a matter of the defence of our own shores, but also the extent to which we can assist in the defence of the Empire as a whole. Because Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we arc proud of the example set by Great Britain in respect of disarmament. Undoubtedly, it has been sincere in its efforts in this respect, and has done everything in its power to bring about disarmament throughout the world. Unfortunately, circumstances have militated against those efforts with the result that Great Britain’s example has not been followed by certain powers. On the contrary, international hostilities have become intensified, and the expenditure of many countries on armaments has reached colossal proportions. I believe that it is the policy of the Empire as a whole to strive for the maintenance of peace and to do all it can in this direction by the fullest co-operation with the rest of the countries of the world. That, indeed, is a worthy objective. However, the Empire to-day is face to face with stern realities. We find that many countries are anning to the teeth, whilst others are actually engaged in warfare. We are obliged, therefore, to take stock of the world position in this respect. Undoubtedly, all sincere Australians hope that the world will enjoy a long and uninterrupted period of peace and prosperity. At any rate, the people in the electorate which I represent cherish that hope. We might well ask how this ideal can best be accomplished. To Australia as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations the security of the Empire is of primary importance. The Empire stands for individual freedom and peaceful living, and that ideal is dear to most people; it is a vital element of our nationhood. Australia, however, must face stern realities. It may be many years before we are called upon to defend our shores, but in any event our safest policy is to prepare for such an eventuality. Having regard to the present international position, I am satisfied that the best policy for Australia and Great Britain is that Great Britain at least should bc prepared at all times to meet whatever development may arise. I believe that this Government and the Government of Great Britain, in respect of their defence policies, are proceeding along the right lines, pending the restoration of normal conditions throughout the world. It is of the utmost importance to Australia that we should co-operate in this matter with the other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and this Government is working with that object in view. I realize that we need money for the development of our latent resources. This development must, of necessity, take place if Ave ure to occupy our rightful position as an important self-governing dominion of the British Empire. We all know that war means misery and desolation and that money made available for war purposes appears to be a dead loss. But Australia must be prepared to take its place in world affairs and to do this we must formulate an adequate defence scheme. I am aware that this will involve the expenditure of a large sum of money. Already there has been considerable expenditure on the three-year defence programme, and the provision for this year amounts to £11,500,000.
– And the Government proposes to raise portion of it in England.
– That is a point on which I am in disagreement with the Government.
– Do not forget that £9,000,000 of the defence expenditure will be provided from revenue.
– That is one satisfactory feature of the Government’s defence proposals, but I repeat that I regret its decision to raise portion of the amount required by loan in London. This is a matter which I shall discuss at a later stage.
The policy which Australia should adopt is the aim and the ideal of the League of Nations, to secure as wide a. measure of disarmament among the nations as possible. It is regrettable that the Government has found it necessary to incur heavy expenditure on defence, but we should look upon this matter as an insurance premium. Since every prudent citizen takes out an insurance policy against possible risks and contingencies, how much greater is the need for nations, by the adoption of adequate defence measures, to ensure the safety of their citizens? How best may this be accomplished? For adequate defence the first requirement is a contented people living under the best conditions which the country can afford. An essential feature of- our defence programme should be the development of our air force and the encouragement of civil aviation for the training of reserve pilots. Another important arm of defence is the navy, which should be strengthened to ensure the protection of our trade routes. During recent years there has been a gratifying development of Empire trade, in consequence of which it is important that, in time of trouble, our trade routes should be efficiently guarded to prevent any interference with the transport of foodstuffs or raw materials. Then there is the question of co-operation of supplies and the development of the Empire’s resources for the manufacture of munitions, as well as the supply of raw materials, the objective being to make each component of the Empire as selfcontained as possible. The manufacture of munitions is associated with the development of our secondary industries, and is of major importance in any defence scheme. On this subject my views are, I think, well know to honorable members.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion of the proposed Pacific pact ?
– I shall have something to say on the subject at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, I suggest to the honorable member that he and his colleagues have enough troubles of their own over pacts - especially the Curtin-Lang pact and its probable effect on their chances at the forthcoming elections. I read the other day in the press that the Leader of the Opposition had said that if his party won the elections he would thank the people; if it lost, he would thank God.
– I am not responsible for statements appearing in the press, and I assure the honorable member that I did not say that.
– Then I withdraw the statement. The honorable gentleman will have to blame his Labour friends ; they will do anything.
It is not my intention to discuss the Government’s defence policy in all its ramifications. My immediate purpose is to bring -under the notice of the Ministry the necessity for the development and coordination of key secondary industries which could be utilized, at short notice, for war purposes. This policy involves national economics. Under existing conditions the great majority of what may be regarded as key industries are located in New South Wales and Victoria. This development may be considered a good thing financially . for the two larger States, but it is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. No one can say that the present situation is all that could be desired. We have to look to the Commonwealth as a whole and ask ourselves if it is in the best interests of Australia, from the defence point of view, for the great majority of these key industries to be in the eastern States. The remedy is to adopt a long-range policy and endeavour to spread these important secondary key industries in other States. I hope that this course will be followed. The Prime Minister has already given some indication that he favours a policy of decentralization. There is an old saying that one should not have all one’s eggs in one basket, and that principle might very well be applied to our secondary industries. The better distribution of those industries would have a beneficial effect in many directions, particularly in regard to our defences. The time has arrived when the Government should assist, by means of legislation, in bringing about a better distribution of our secondary industries. Great Britain is deliberately applying a policy of decentralization of industry with the object of relieving the distressed areas, and of reducing its vulnerability in the event of war. We in Australia may not be in the same danger from foreign attack as is Great Britain, but we, like England, have our unemployment problem.
– I though that prosperity had returned.
– The position has undoubtedly improved, and I am very glad that so much progress has been made. Our key industries, which must be carried on at all times, are situated chiefly in a narrow coastal strip extending from Geelong to Newcastle. Most of our secondary industries are located in Victoria and New South Wales, and I maintain that it would be better for Australia as a whole if they were distributed more widely throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member have the Government shift them?.
– The Government could do much to help. We are now considering defence, and in that connexion the Government could give a lead on the matter of decentralization. The Government of Great Britain has given us an example which I hope will be followed. The action taken by Great Britain to bring about decentralization is described in the following article: -
In England in December, 1934, a special act was passed establishing commissioners charged with the initiation, organization, prosecution, and assistance of measures designed to facilitate the economic development and social improvement of certain depressed areas in England, Wales and Scotland.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).There is a running fire of interjection. The interjections are not helpful, but are intended merely to annoy. They must cease at once.
– The article continues-
Several millions of pounds were voted to the commissioners, who were specially precluded from giving direct assistance to private enterprise. Part of their work was, however, to endeavour to create conditions which would facilitate the revival of industry in the areas. One of their first efforts was site clearance and drainage, and improvements in transport.
– I ask you, Mr.Speaker, to direct the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) to speak up. I cannot hear him.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is distinctly out of order. I do not expect that he can hear.
– I beg your pardon.
– The honorable member for Boothby is not required to make every one hear him.
– Well, that is a new ruling to me.
– The article goes on-
To test the possibility of attracting light industries to the distressed areas, it was decided to establish a form of non-profit making companies, known as “ trading estates “, which were financed by loans from the special areas fund. The Government not only financed these concerns, but placed large orders with them.
The honorable member for East. Sydney interjecting,
– I name the honorable member for East Sydney for re peatedly interjecting in defiance of the Chair.
– I suggest that the honorable member be allowed to express his regret.
-The honorable member for East Sydney has been most provocative.
– In view of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, I hare no other course open tome than to move -
That the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be suspended from the service of the House.
– I thought the Speaker was supposed to be impartial. He is the most biased chairman I have ever sat under in my life.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
The honorable member for East Sydney hereupon withdrew from the chamber.
In 1936 it was decided to encourage the establishment of small private industries, and a special act was passed which resulted in the establishmentof a “ Special Areas Recon struction Association -Incorporated “ with a capital of £1,000,000 privately subscribed. This association has made steady progress. In addition to the special measures mentioned the Government has given preference to the special area in placing orders for requirements, the volume of orders being influenced by the percentage of unemployment in any particular place.
The British Government now proposes to extend its activities by providing finance directly to private concerns, and to introduce into areas industrial undertakings of the “ light “ type to provide more stable and more diversified employment. In recent months, the authorities have also kept in view the desirability of locating new munition works in less vulnerable places, and this is associated with relief measures for special areas wherever possible.’ Already a number of permanent works, including an aircraft plant, have been built in the area. The British lead could well be followed in Australia. Action is necessary, and the Commonwealth Government is the proper a uthority to act. Under the Federal Constitution, the State governments are precluded from protecting local industries from the competition of industries established in the larger States, which, owing to greater local markets, are able to compete advantageously, and, in many cases, destroy industrial activityin the smaller States.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I was not at all impressedby the arguments of some honorable members opposite in attempting to justify the defence policy of the Government, or by their endeavour to make it appear that they are intensely loyal, while honorable members on this side of the chamber are disloyal. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson), who dealt with the subject for defence from a viewpoint entirely different from mine, adduced fair argument; but the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), while ridiculing the convincing speech delivered by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), as usual, indulged in personalities, and made statements so transparently political that they will not convince intelligent electors. The Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale
Parkhill) repeated the story we have heard so frequently that the Labour party has not a defence policy, and that its members are not loyal to Australia or to Great Britain. Honorable members opposite found it impossible to answer effectively the statements of the right honorable member for Yarra that the action of the Scullin Government in arranging for a huge conversion loan has in six years saved the governments of Australia approximately £46,000,000 in interest. The point I desire to stress is that the Federal Government has saved £3,200,000 a year as a result of that conversion. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fordo) gave the number of days on which Parliament has sat since the Government was elected three years ago, and the Minister for Defence said that it is the quality of the legislation, and not the volume which has to be considered. If a workman in the Federal Capital Territory, which is controlled by the Commonwealth Government, worked for only ten days a year - that is the number of days on which the Senate sat the year before last - and wanted to claim a full year’s salary, he would be sacked on the eleventh day of his service.
It is not my intention to deal at length with the general bungling of this Government in trying to control the operations of certain foreign intruders on the northern coast of this continent. The Government speaks of its courageous defence policy, but it has shown that it is afraid to act in an emergency. When it. docs act. the action takes the form of an attack on defenceless women; and then it finds that it is in the wrong, and has to reverse its decision.
I desire to deal’ with the defence policy of the Labour party. What is the record of this “ dyed in the wool “ patriot from Macquarie? How is it that, merely because he months patriotism, and despite the fact that he did not enlist for active service in the last war, he can be considered more patriotic than the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), who went to the war?
– He is only about 30 years of age now; he was too young to go to the war.
– I should not like to have been hanging by the neck since he was 30 years of age. I suppose that if there were trouble again he would be found trying to get the other fellow to go to the front.
– That is a boomerang argument which might be applied with equal force against the Opposition.
– I am . not saying anything against the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) .
– How many Labour members went to the Avar?
– Nine-tenths of those who enlist are drawn from the ranks of the working class. The honorable member who has just been suspended from the service of the House did not interrupt the proceedings half as much as the Treasurer is now interrupting them, but that honorable gentleman will not be dealt with. The Minister for Defence, who interjects repeatedly, has never .been named. The honorable member for Macquarie and the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) are always a nuisance, but they have never been ejected. Only honorable members who sit on this side of the House have such drastic treatment meted out to them.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I could not help saying that, because it is a fair statement of the position.
– It is not fair; it. is a reflection on the Chair.
– I did not reflect on you, sir, in any way. We are told that it is the policy of the Government to co-operate with Great Britain. What does that really mean? I regard it as a meaningless statement. If Australians were to fight in this country they would be co-operating with Great Britain. It is absolute nonsense to talk about keeping trade routes open, considering the few cruisers that we have. In a great war of the future, if there should be one, Great Britain might not have the powerful allies that it had before. Communication with Australia might be cut off, and in that event we should have to defend our own country. There is no doubt that the workers of Australia would defend their country to the last man. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has plainly shown, Australia can be defended with much less expenditure than the £11,500,000 which the Government proposes to spend on defence preparations. One would think that we are threatened with immediate invasion. From which direction is it likely to come? I should like the Minister for Defence to answer that question. He knows as well as I do, and so does the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison), that there is no likelihood of an attack on Australia in the immediate future.
– I do not.
– Then the honorable gentleman ought to know. He probably does,” but i3 not at liberty to say so. Any country we had in mind as thinking of attacking Australia, would be engaged for six months in preparations for the attack, and our intelligence service is so well informed that we would have knowledge of the project a fortnight after the preparations had begun. The establishment of a naval base at Singapore is a sound proposition. It would protect Australia should this country be threatened with invasion. The country which is said to have hostile intentions towards Australia will be kept fully occupied for many a year. Shortly after the termination of the last war the present Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) almost plunged this country into another war with Turkey because Great Britain was having some little trouble in -that quarter. We must take the stand that Canada is taking. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made no mention of the attitude of that dominion when he made hi3 statement of what had taken place at the Imperial Conference. If a serious war threatened, there would be plenty of time to consult the people by means of a referendum. We have it on the authority of geographers that Australia is capable of carrying a population of at least 45,000,000 persons. Why should it be drained of its small number of manhood, when any little trouble arises in Europe? To encourage that would be the action of a traitor to his country. The Labour party proposes to devote itself to measures that will safeguard this country. According to the last reports, Australia is spending 21s. lOd. a head annually, compared with 12s. 7d. by New Zealand - 60 per cent, less - 5s. 7d. by Canada - four times less - and 3s. 5d. by South Africa - six times less. We must be careful not to be plunged into a war. If Great Britain knew .that Australia was adopting the stand taken by Canada, and was not prepared to participate in a conflict abroad, except in case of dire emergency, but would do all that was necessary in this country, those who cause wars would stay their hand. It must be apparent to every one that colonial possessions are the basis of most of the trouble that occurs. Do we really believe that because the British Empire holds so much territory in the world it can stand with folded arms and expect other countries - for example, Germany - which have been deprived of possessions, not to make an effort to regain them? Do we think that by shaking the mailed fist and saying that the British dominions will stand together, we can continue to divide countries, as was done under the Versailles Treaty, when the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was cut up, reducing the population of Austria from 55,000,000 to 6,000,000, of whom nearly 3,000,000 are congregated in the swollen capital of Vienna ? Do we think that we can easily convince the German people of our ability to continue to do that? We want to make friends with the German’ people. Although I have no sympathy with the system of government which prevails in Germany, I have a great dea.l of sympathy for German aspirations. Germany was forced into its present position under the Treaty of Versailles, which, largely owing to the insistence of France, provided that Germany was to be stripped to the skin and that it was to be completely disarmed while Great Britain and France would gradually disarm. I do not blame Great Britain for one moment, but France refused to disarm. In these circumstances, we had the social democrats and others in Germany fighting to preserve their democratic form of government, but it was impossible for democracy to triumph in Germany because of the difficulties of the time. In consequence, it was very easy there for men to pose as superpatriots, the same as men do here, and to point out to the German people that while they were trying .to find markets they were prevented from doing so. It can be readily understood that the democratic forces were either driven underground or forced out of the country or killed on account of their opinions. The intense fervour of the jingoists in Germany was brought about by the policy of the allies. It is very difficult for a country like Great Britain to make arrangements with a country whose political structure is so entirely different as is that of Germany, but I believe that an understanding with the German people can be reached. I realize that the hate manifested towards Great Britain in Italy was because when Italy came into the Great War on the side of the allies, a promise was made that it would be granted territories in the event of the successful termination of the war. Italy, however, was fooled in regard to this matter. The Italians understood that they were to get a slice of Albania and other large tracts of country, but they received nothing. In these circumstances, it is quite understandable that Italy should attempt to seize an undeveloped country which England, France and Italy had previously agreed to divide up among themselves. These things are going on in secret diplomacy constantly. After all, we cannot take great credit for our past actions in this regard. Even Great Britain cannot sit down with folded arms and say: “We have a tremendous Empire; any country that is worthwhile we have got to ourselves .” The saying is commonly current - “What we have got we will hold, and what we have not got we are after. “ That is a dangerous policy to adopt to-day. Both Great Britain and France are holding colonies that are not being properly developed, while at the same time the scientists of Germany, which is hungry for colonies, are making rapid strides in the eradication of tropical diseases, which have prevented Great Britain and France from developing fully their overseas possessions. That will not be tolerated for long. In this connexion, I commend to honorable members the remarks of that great individualist, Herbert Spencer, on national bias. The British Empire has done a great deal; our people were early in the field and obtained much of what they wanted, but Britain cannot be the only land-holding nation. Even the backward races are demanding selfgovernment and the control of their own countries. To-day the great national aspirations of the Indian people are being voiced and fought for. A similar movement has succeeded in Egypt and in Palestine which Great Britain has tried to hold under mandate. But meddlesome activities of this kind, and endeavours to hold other countries for the benefit of Great Britain and not for the benefit of the native peoples, must come to an end. If -there are countries that can be better administered by white men, we have to allow the people of Europe such as the Germans and other nations to share in the government of them. We must be prepared to allow other nations to have a place in the sun.
To-day we hear rumours and threats of war. I have heard them ever since I can remember. At one time Russia was the enemy we feared. I remember when I served as a militiaman in Victoria, Major-General Hutton would address the troops on. the 24th May and similar occasions, warning us to “Look out for the Russians.” When about that time two submarine cables, forming the only connexion with Australia and GreatBritain, snapped, it was immediately thought that the Russians had cut the cables and that Australia would be invaded. The militiamen were then called out to their drill rooms to protect the homeland. In providing for the defence of this country, I would see that there were no slackers- and that every able-bodied man, - particularly those honorable members opposite who have been telling us what patriots they are - took his place at the front.
Let us consider the Government’s defence proposals. It is proposed that we shall have eight squadrons, comprising 96 fighting plane3, to meet a possible invader equipped with 300 planes. The Labour party suggests that we should have at least 300 planes, which would be the same number as could be brought against us by the only country that is likely to attempt an invasion ; that is to say, 300 is the carrying capacity of their plane-carrying vessels.
According to recent figures supplied by the Defence Department, this air force would cost £7,500,000. It has been said that the cost of providing new aeroplanes would be almost as great as purchasing new battleships, but that is not so. The Defence Department tells us that 300 planes could be maintained and replaced for £2,500,000 a year.
– Does that include personnel ?
– Yes. This would be more economical than expending £3,000,000 on a battleship or less oh a cruiser. The opinion of several admirals and vice-admirals of Great Britain, the United States of America and Germany is that in modern warfare capital ships and cruisers are no longer effective. It is well-known that those connected with the military arm of the defence forces claim that nine-tenths of the work of defence can be done by infantrymen, whilst naval men assert that most reliance should be placed on warships, and some representatives of the air force say that if we provide a sufficient number of fighting planes we shall be equal to any emergency. I believe that it is necessary to have as many cruisers as we possess today, but it seems to me that the proposals of the Labour party, if adopted, would meet all the defence requirements of Australia at one-third of the cost of the scheme that is proposed by the Minister for Defence.
Australia should first declare that it stands for defence and not for aggression. We ought to make that quite clear. If Great Britain were attacked, we should be prepared to submit the matter to a referendum of the people. That would be far safer than joining in. any brawl which might take place to determine whether Germany’s former possessions in East Africa should be returned. I would not advocate that Australia should send men overseas to participate in a fight to settle that question. Honorable members opposite would shout for war, not because they want it, but purely for political purposes.
– There is nothing in the Defence Act as to that.
– There is no greater hypocrite in this Parliament than the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Order ! The honorable member is distinctly out of order in referring to the Minister or any other honorable member as a hypocrite.
– I do not mind what he says. Any criticism from that quarter is a compliment.
– It will be remembered that when the Scullin Government abolished compulsory military training, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) continually harassed that Government by asserting that its policy was ineffective. The Minister for Trade and Customs said that in 1920, when the voluntary system was in operation, the militia forces were a mere rabble.
– That is untrue.
– I can prove my statement by referring to Hansard. The present Government has been in office for six years, and during that time neither the present Miniser for Trade and Customs nor the Minister for Defence, has advocated a return to the compulsory training system.
There is a remarkable consensus of opinion amongst naval authorities that the day of capital ships and cruisers is past. Among those who consider that we should rely for our defence mainly on aeroplanes, mines, submarines, and torpedoes, arc Rear- Admiral W. F. Fulham, who was in charge of the American Pacific squadron during the Great war; Rear-Admiral Bradley H. Fiske, another member of the navy of the United States of America; Admiral Sims, who was commander-in-chief of the American Fleet during the Great war; Admiral Sir Percy Scott, Lord Fisher, and RearAdmirals S. S. Hall and Mark Kerr, of the Royal Navy, and Admiral Von Scheer, who commanded the German Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. RearAdmiral Fulham, in an article written by him some years ago on the passing of sea power, made the following remarkable statement : -
The wings of “ sea power “ have been clipped. New naval weapons have vastly strengthened the defence and greatly weakened the offence in overseas- warfare. Great armadas and armies cannot again cross the seas. Force cannot, as in the past, he carried over the oceans.
With the seas as a buffer, weak nations can defy the strong. A puny power, without a navy, can challenge the strongest battle fleet. It can, with intelligent energy, make tho coast impregnable against a hundred dreadnoughts. With an impenetrable barrage of mines, air forces, torpedoes and submarines, it can easily hold a maritime enemy 100 miles from its shores.
Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, of the Navy of the United States of America, said -
A strong force of air planes supported by mines and submarines would alone suffice to defend the Phillipines from invasion. Fortifications were not needed. A defending fleet of battleships was quite unnecessary.
I do not say that that is exactly my own opinion in regard to fortifications, for example, but, that gentleman is a greater authority on the subject than is any honorable member in this chamber. Admiral Sir Percy Scott, of the British Navy, in a letter to the London Times, said -
First, that modern weapons have entirely revolutionized naval warfare. Second, that if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in great danger. Third, that if we went to war, wo should probably lock up our ships in a safe harbour, and the enemy would do the same. Fourth, that no flout could be hidden from the airmen’s eyes. Fifth, that submarines could deliver a deadly attack in broad daylight. Sixth, that battleships could not bombard an enemy’s port if it is protected by submarines. Seventh, that the enemy submarines would come to our coast and destroy everything they could. Eighth, that the submarine had driven the battleship from the ocean.
Bear Admiral Fulham pointed out that those opinions by Admiral Sir Percy Scott were advanced some time ago, and before air forces were fully developed. He also stated: -
Admiral Sir John Fisher supported Admiral Scott. He declared that the dreadnought was doomed. “ Scrap the lot; tho future fighting is in the air “ he claimed. And, these two admirals, Fisher and Scott, had done more than any men iu the world to develop the dreadnought.
Another authority of the British Navy, Rear-Admiral S. S. Hall, said: -
We had a grand fleet, with a preponderance of nearly two to one over Germany alone, and an auxiliary navy of about live thousand vessels. We had the assistance of the American, French, Italian, and Japanese navies. We held the most favorable geographic position, for a naval war, that the atlas can furnish. And yet our main naval purpose - the protection of our trade - could not be carried out. -These are the plain sad facts of our naval experience in the last wai-. In view of the failure of the navy - under the most favorable conditions, with many allies - to protect our trade in the last war, has it any hope of doing so oh its .existing basis under less favorable conditions? Can it even protect the lines of communication of our battle fleet, if the latter is required to fight out of home waters? Will the advent of aircraft make the position easier?
Admiral Sims, of the Navy of the United States of America, said when he visited London -
There will never again be in naval history one of the Simon-pure naval expeditions carried across the sea to an enemy’s port, the defeat of an enemy’s fleet, the establishment of an advanced base on his coast, and thu pouring iti of soldiers and supplies. This has been for ever rendered impossible, against any country that has adequate air and submarine forces.
Surely it is impossible to find plainer language. The honorable member for Indi, the present Minister for Defence, and the honorable member for Lilley may discount those opinions, but I assure them that the problem with which we are dealing is much more difficult than they seem to realize. Let me now cite the view of Vice-Admiral Kerr -
No nation would dare send a capital fleet 3,000 miles across open water to fight an enemy. It is tcn chances to one that it would be wiped out to the last bottom. Without a base, it would bo whittled away by thu air and submarine forces of the enemy, without ever meeting the enemy’s grand fleet. As blockading by big ships has been shown to be impossible in the face of modern flotillas, it would appear that there is no use for the battleship where the bases arc far apart. Rattle-fleets are only of use in certain geographic divisions, where the bases are not far apart. They are of no use for wars in which tho combatant countries are separated by thousands of miles of ocean.
I do not desire to delay the House by dealing at much greater length with this subject, but shall content myself with calling their attention to the opinion of RearAdmiral von Scheer, who offered such stout resistance to the British Navy off the coast of Germany during the Great War. He said -
Only recently experiments made in America have made it clear that a battleship may be sunk by air planes. Even though the chance of such successes would bc lessened in the case of ships under way, and though the factor of defence did not enter into the£e experiments, it cannot be denied that the prospects are favorable to the air plane - since an attacking fleet cannot remain in motion permanently. It requires rest for the engines, time for the taking on hoard of munitions, fuel and supplies. It must dock for repairs, lie at anchor, and it is then that the opportunity for air attack presents itself. The danger involved in being struck by a 2,000 lb. bomb from the sky also exists in the mines and torpedoes which threaten the battleship.
Surely these citations of opinions by naval authorities of Great Britain, the United States of America and Germany are sufficient to support my contention that the aeroplane is an efficient means of defence.
The Labour party is of the opinion that our first duty is to defend Australia. If I had my way I would put some of the jingoistic members of this Parliament to a sort of military drill. I should like to spread the Australian flag on the floor of this House and make honorable gentlemen who exhibit the kind of patriotism that has been voiced here to-night, go down on their knees and kiss it. They might call to their aid the British flag to protect them from such an indignity as the kissing of the Australian flag! Such honorable gentlemen apparently cannot see anything laudable in any kind of defence, except that which involves fighting overseas. They can see something laudable in accepting a title. Some people would sell their souls in order to get a position on the directorate of some company. But that is the outlook of base and little minds. To the intelligent Australian it means nothing whatever, and does not command his respect.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Casey) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Casey) read a first time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Invalid and Old-age PensionsBill 1937.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1937.
House adjourned at 12.1 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
k asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: - 1. (a) Contracts have been let for the supply, delivery and erection of radio communication and radio beacon stations at Brisbane, Kempsey, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Nhill, Adelaide, Launceston and Hobart, and for a radio beacon at Holbrook, and one spare set of equipment. ( The provision of radio facilities for the route to New Guinea and between Adelaide and Perth is also now receiving consideration). As regards maintenance and operation of the above stations, see 4. below. (b) In view of the time required to complete the supply and erection of the permanent radio communication and beacon, systems, it was deemed necessary to arrange urgently for the installation of temporary aids at certain key centres. A contract was therefore let for the supply, delivery, maintenance and operation on a rental basis of temporary radio communication and direction-finding stations at Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Albury, Adelaide,Forrest and Perth. These stations, with the exception of that at Albury, will bo replaced by permanent stations at an early date.
December of this year. Certain delays in the acquisition of the necessary sites have prevented the contracts being carried out as expeditiously as otherwise would have been the case. In regard to operation and maintenance of these stations, only one tender was. received and, as a result, a contract has been entered into with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) at a cost of £19,139 for a full twelve months’ period. The term of thia contract will be twelve months certain with option of renewal by the Government, subject to three months’ notice.
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: -
Reports of Royal Commission on Oil.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - ‘
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l and 2. The matters dealt with in the reports which come within the administrative activities of the Commonwealth, have been considered, and the recommendations are being kept under administrative survey. Some, however, of the most important of the findings are within the jurisdiction of the State governments. The Commonwealth Government has been in communication with the State governments in regard thereto, but no advice has been received of any proposed action.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wireless Broadcasting : Duty on Valves : Broadcasting Commission Officers.
y asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Mr.Jennings asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon, notice -
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission has been asked to furnish the information desired by the honorable member.
s. - On the 26th August, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) inquired as to the present position in regard to the ratification of the maritime conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference in October, 1936. These conventions were referred to the State governments in March last, and so far replies have been received from New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. A further comnmnication has recently been addressed to the other States with a view to expediting their replies in the matter. In my statement in this House on the 18th June last, when presenting the reports of the Australian delegates, I mentioned that the provisions of certain of these conventions were already covered by the Navigation Act or by various industrial awards, but that some minor amendments would be necessary to bring Australian legislation strictly into conformity with the conventions. An examination of the Navigation Act in relation to the conventions is proceeding, but it is considered that it would be advisable to know the views of the States in regard to these conventions before taking definite steps towards ratification.
Survey of Australian Iron Ore Deposits.
s. - On the 31st August, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked me whether I would make available to the House the information obtained to date in connexion with the survey of iron ore deposits in Australia. On looking into the matter I find that the information at present available is so inconclusive that a wrong impression would be given to the general public if it were released at this stage. It is felt that it would be much better to wait until the general survey has been completed before publication is made.
Report of Munitions Supply Board.
– On the 31st August, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the delay in presenting to Parliament the report of the Munitions Supply Board for the period 1st July, 1933, to 30th June, 1935, and suggested that the Munitions
Supply Board furnish an interim report in order that the latest information regarding these defence activities may bc available to honorable members. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that there is no statutory obliga- tion upon the Munitions Supply Board to furnish an annual report, but it has been customary to do so for the information of Parliament. The recently published report was delayedthrough inability of the very limited administrative staff of the Munitions Supply Board to prepare it for printing. During recent years, for reasons of economy, biennial reports have been printed, but it is intended to revert to annual reports. A certain amount of delay is inevitable owing to the necessity for audit of the accounts after the close of the financial year, but arrangements ure being made to publish the report st an earlier date in future.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Jn connexion withthe £11,531,000 provided for defence expenditure for the year 1937-38 -
what amount will be expended in administrative expenses; and
what amount will be expended over seas?
– This information is being prepared, and will be given in the discussion on the “Works Estimates.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19370901_reps_14_154/>.