15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J.Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister state what is the present position in regard to the proposed Anglo-American trade agreement? Will he give the assurance that Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to discuss the matter before Australia is irrevocably committed to any proposal ?
– The Government of Great Britain has advised the Commonwealth Government that it is about to undertake formal negotiations for a trade treaty with the Government of the United States of America. The Commonwealth Government is at present considering certain aspects of the proposals which concern Australia. The matter has not yet reached the stage when an indication can be given of any likely outcome of the negotiations as far as Australia is concerned. No agreement affecting Australia can become operative until it has been ratified by this Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether there has been any communication, initiated by either the Government of Japan or the Commonwealth Government, on the subject of the likelihood of the wool and textile agreement between the two countries being fulfilled during the current year? If there has been no such communication, has the Department of Commerce formed any opinion as to whether the agreement is likely to be observed during the unexpired portion of this year?
– There has been no direct communication between the Government of Japan and the Commonwealth Government, it being understood that the existing arrangements would be carried out, but Japanese buyers have indicated that when the military and financial exigencies of the present situation have passed they will again enter the Australian market for their quota of wool. The Commonwealth Government is keeping in the closest possible contact with the wool-brokers and wool-growers in connexion with the matter.
– I desire to inform the House that copies of the report of the directors, and of the balance-sheet as at the 30th June, 1937, of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Report for year 1936-37, together with Summary of Recommendations.
Ordered to be printed.
Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways for year 1936-37.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1936-37.
Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet and Liquidation Account as at 28th February, 1937, with AuditorGeneral’s Certificates.
– In view of the alarming position which confronts other parts of the continent in addition to those already unfortunately affected by infantile paralysis, because of the threat of contagion, will the Minister for Health state whether the Commonwealth Government has in mind the summoning, either in Australia or abroad, of such medical aid as will give full effect to the latest developments of medical science for the purpose of preventing the further spread of the disease, and also of restoring to health those who have contracted it?
– Infantile paralysis is due entirely to infection. To safeguard the future as far as possible, the Commonwealth Government has made available to the Government of Victoria the sum of £10,000, to assist in the establishment of clinics which will ensure the best results after the disease has had its dire effects. The subject of undernourishment is being considered by the Department of Health at the present time. My colleague, the ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes), has given very careful consideration to that matter. The Government hopes to bring down, before long, concrete proposals that will achieve the best results.
– Is it not desirable to summon medical aid from abroad to deal with the matter?
– The medical knowledge of the matter which is available in Australia is as good as is available anywhere in the world.
– As the infantile paralysis epidemic has spread to Tasmania, will the Minister for Health give immediate financial assistance to enable the Director of Health in Tasmania, Dr. Carruthers,to arrest the spread of the disease, and to carry out the necessary work of treating patients who have been infected ?
– That matter, I take it, will be raised by the Tasmanian Government with the Commonwealth Government.
– The Director in Tasmania has asked me to bring this matter under notice.
– There is a proper method of dealing with this matter. If the Tasmanian Government applies to the Commonwealth Government, an answer will be furnished to it.
– As a representative of Tasmania I desire to ask the Minister for Health whether, in view of the fact that the infantile paralysis epidemic has spread to Tasmania, the same financial assistance will be rendered by the Commonwealth Government to that State as was given to Victoria, so that the Director of Health may be provided with the means to check the spread of the disease, and to give the victims of the epidemic the necessary after care ?
– As health is one of the matters which the Constitution has allocated for control by the State governments, the only method whereby the Commonwealth Government can take action in this matter is for the Government of
Tasmania to put its case before the Federal Government for consideration. This was the procedure followed by the Government of Victoria, and I suggest that the Government of Tasmania do the same.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the purpose of the licensing system which the Government adapted in connexion with its trade diversion policy, when applied, was that trade should be diverted first to Australian industry, secondly to the United Kingdom, and then to best-customer countries? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that the result of the diversion of trade to Australian industries has been a very considerable expansion of manufacturing establishments in many directions in this country, that a number of new industries have been established, and that others of considerable dimensions are now in course of being established ? In view of the contemplated Anglo-American trade agreement, will the Government have a complete survey made of the new industries that have been established in Australia, and of those that are in immediate contemplation, to ascertain the extent of the developments and. their effect upon employment, and then as early as possible submit the matter to the Tariff Board for a pronouncement concerning the protection which would be necessary in the event of the suspension of the licensing system?
– If the honorable member will place his question on the noticepaper, a full reply will be given to his request, which is a very reasonable one.
– Owing to the nearness of Christmas, it is urgent that the unemployed should receive a special grant as soon as possible. In what way does the Government propose to distribute the money? Will this be done through the State governments, or through the Commonwealth Public Works Department, and will unemployment be a sufficient qualification for participation in the grant?
– The matter will have to come before Parliament for approval. When the necessary measure is brought down, full information on the point raised by the honorable member wi]] be given to the House.
– Will .the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to the possibility of exempting from tax all petrol used in other thai road transport?
– That matter has been investigated from time to time. In a country such as Australia with seven governments, it would be very difficult to put such a proposal into effect, although it has been adopted in New Zealand, where there is unitary government. The honorable member will realize that there are obvious difficulties in the way of exempting any classes of the community from the petrol tax, which is used partly for road-making and partly for general revenue purposes. Concessions have been made to the users of petrol in every other way the Government has been able to give them. If the honorable member can submit a workable plan which will be of assistance to any section of the people, I shall be glad to consider it.
– I have just received a letter from a Hobart firm stating that it has received a large order from Palestine for apples next year, but shipping space for the carriage of the fruit has been refused. Will the Minister for Commerce arrange with the shipping companies for the necessary space, so that this firm may not lose the order, as it has done for the last two years?
– I. understand that arrangements made with regard to the shipment of apples are usually carried out by the Apple and Pear Council with the shipping companies. If the honorable member will give me details of his request, I shall get into touch with the Apple and Pear Council and the shipping companies, and see what ca.n he done in the matter.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether the Government has yet received the report of the Paine Commission, whether it has considered tlie report, and what it proposes to do with regard to it?
– The committee, consisting of Messrs. Paine and Fletcher, submitted their report to the GovernorGeneral last week. It will be considered by the Government at an early date, and, in due course, will be tabled in the House
– I have received a letter from the Deputy Commissioner for War Service Homes in New South Wales stating that no further applications for bornes will be entertained other than those received by the 1st May, 1936. Was that the policy of the last Government, and is it still the policy of the new Government? ‘
– I understand that that was the policy of the last Government, and I believe that it is also that of the present Ministry. I shall ascertain the position and let the honorable member know the result.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it will be possible, for the convenience of private members on both sides of the House, so that they may be able to plan their year’s work to the best advantage, for the Government to give, at an early date, an approximate programme of sittings for J93S?
– Yes, I hope we shall be able to do that. In due course I shall make the information available. “
– Repeat ing a question which I addressed to the AttorneyGeneral in another Parliament, now that his Government has received a qualified endorsement from the electors, is he in a position to announce the appointment of another judge, or does the Government intend to appoint another judge to any branch of the Commonwealth judiciary, notably the Arbitration Court?
– I am not yet in a position to make any pronouncement on that matter.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Health, may I be permitted to congratulate him, as a medical man, on his appointment to his present position. I desire to ask him whether the Government intends to make available an adequate supply of milk for the undernourished children and toddlers of Australia? If so, will the Government act in conjunction with the State governments, in order to ensure the success of the proposal?
– In reply to the honorable member, whose congratulations I especially appreciate as one medical man to another, I have already commenced consideration of this very important question of ascertaining the best means of conserving the health of undernourished children. A more definite statement of the action to be taken will be made at a later stage. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, the Commonwealth Government will act in co-operation with the States.
– Has the Minister for Health noticed a report from Darwin to the effect that grave danger exists of foot and mouth disease being introduced into the Territory by aeroplane? Will he institute inquiries with a view to finding out whether such a report is reliable?
– The question of the transmission of diseases from other countries to Australia by means of aerial transport is being very carefully considered. Every endeavour will be made to obviate any danger.
– Is it true, as stated in the Press, that certain business of the Loan Council was conducted by telegram? Is this policy being followed at the instigation of the banking institutions?
– Answering the latter part of the honorable member’s question first, the banking institutions had nothing to do with the matter; it was arranged between the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurers of the States who form the Loan Council. Secondly it is not the policy of the Government, but when adopted in order to meet the convenience of the Treasurers of the States, is quite a satisfactory process. Meetings of the Loan Council are held from time to time, but recently, because of the particular nature of the business to be transacted and the unanimity of the States and the Commonwealth in regard to the proposal which was to be discussed, this method was adopted as it was thought unwise to incur the expense of bringing Treasurers from all parts of Australia together to do something that they could do more promptly by correspondence.
– Why not conduct the parliamentary business by correspondence ?
– I should be much happier if the honorable member were at Newcastle instead of here.
M r. LANE. - In view of a rumour that the Government proposes to put. a further excise duty on margarine in order to meet the convenience of the butter producers of the Commonwealth, will the Prime Minister, in the interests of the poorer people, use his influence to prevent the primary producers raising the price of butter ?
– I know of no such proposal, and I am afraid it must just remain a rumour.
– Is the Treasurer aware that abbreviated extracts of the report of the officers of the Commonwealth and State Governments who inquired into certain administrative and financial aspects of unemployment insurance have appeared in the press and, in the circumstances, can the honorable gentleman inform the House when honorable members may expect to receive a copy of the information contained in the report for their perusal?
– I have seen forecasts in the press as to the contents of the report, but I have no reason to believe that they are other than forecasts. The report itself has been made available to the Commonwealth Government and to the governments of the States. I am in contact with the States with- a view to securing agreement as to a date on which the report can be made public in the near future. When that has been decided upon it will be laid upon the table of the House. I anticipate that it will he within the next ten days.
– Is the Minister for the Interior still in favour of proportional representation for the Senate? If so, does he intend to ma.ke a recommendation to that end to the Cabinet?
– The Prime Minister lias given notice to-day of a motion to deal with that matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs any statement to make to the House with reference to the recent conference held at Brussels in connexion with the position in the East?
– A statement in regard to that matter, and other matters affecting world conditions, will be made by the Minister for External Affairs, probably to-morrow.
– In view of the fact that the following Commonwealth Statisticians, Mr. Knibbs, in 1915, and Mr. Wickens, in 1921, 1927 and 1929, gave estimates in those various years of the private wealth of Australia, will the Treasurer kindly inform the House what the estimated wealth of Australia is for 1937? I should also like to know if he could have an estimate made of the public wealth of Australia for the same date.
– The matter raised by the honorable member is now receiving the consideration of the Commonwealth Statistician. To furnish a reply to the honorable member’s question will take some considerable time, probably, I should say, at least six months. I can, however, inform the honorable member that the Statistician’s Department has the matter in hand at the present time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
Photographs taken in Parliament House.
– Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that during the election campaign there appeared in the press fullpage advertisements authorized by the party supporting the Government in which pictures were printed showing the doors of the rooms in this building occupied by the Leader of the Opposition and myself? Do you know whether permission was granted for the taking of those pictures? Will steps be taken to find out who took the pictures, and who authorized the taking of them ? Are honorable members of this Parliament entitled to any protection in regard to their private affairs, or are we to feel that we can no longer leave this building confident that our private affairs and the rooms we occupy will not be used for political purposes in the course of an election campaign?
– I had not previously heard any reference to the matter mentioned by the honorable member. I am not aware of permission having been given to any one for the taking of pictures within the building, but E shall have inquiries made. As for the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I shall have to discuss the matter with him because I do not know what he means when he speaks about private matters and political associations being used for political purposes.
– Some months ago, the ex-Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) gave an undertaking that he would, have a report prepared by the officers of his department regarding the effect of wheat dust on the health of workers handling bulk wheat. Can the present Minister suite whether the investigations were made, and whether the report is ready for perusal by honorable members?
– The honorable member will understand that during the two days thatI have been in the Health Department I have not been able to familiarize myself with what has been going on. I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know the result of them.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state when we may expect that the writ will be returned for the election of a member for the Northern Territory ? By way of explanation I may state that a member has been returned for the larger area of Kalgoorlie - and a very good member too. How is it that the writ for the Northern Territory election has not been returned, and that the people of that area are deprived of their just representation in this Parliament for so long a time? Incidentally, we are greatly concerned regarding the late honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– I shall make in- quiries regarding the position, and will let the honorable member know when it is expected that the writ will be returned.
– Will the Minister for Defence reconsider the decision of his department regarding the application of the Walgett Shire Council for a grant for the construction of an aerodrome in that district?
-I shall have inquiries made regarding the matter and will furnish the honorable member with the information he desires.
Messages reported transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1938, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
Ordered to be printed, and referred to Committee of Supply.
Mr. JOLLY, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech (vide page 6), brought up the proposed Address, which was read by the Clerk.
.- I move-
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech, be agreed to -
May itplease Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
It gives me great pleasure at the opening of the first session of the 15th Parliament to move a motion expressing loyalty to our most Gracious Sovereign. I believe that all who have had the privilege of coming into close contact with Their Majesties the King and Queen are convinced that they are well qualified to occupy their exalted position. I hope that during their reign the British Empire will be able to live in peace and harmony with the other nations of the world. Those sentiments, I feel sure, are shared, not only by the members of this House, but also by the people of Australia as a whole. I think that the King is exceedingly fortunate in his representative in the Commonwealth. Lord Gowrie has rendered distinguished service to the Empire, and in his high office of GovernorGeneral of Australia, is taking an interest in the welfare of every section of the community.
The Speech delivered yesterday by His Excellency the Governor-General discloses the principal subjects upon which the Parliament willbe called upon to legislate during this session, and follows broadly the policy outlined to the people of Australia by the Prime Minister during the recent election campaign. The Government has been entrusted with the control of the destinies of the Commonwealth for the next three years. Fortunately, conditions generally are much better, and the outlook much brighter, than three years ago. I point out, however, that the country is still at the convalescent stage, following upon the effects of the serious depression, and wise and sound administration will be required to enable industry generally to consolidate its position.
The main task confronting the Government is tho continuation of the organizing of a sound system of defence for the Commonwealth. AVe all deplore the necessity foi” this action, but in view of the unsettled conditions in other parts of the world we have no other course to follow than that of providing adequately for our . own defence. It is advisable that we should continue to co-operate fully with other parts of the British Empire in connexion with our defence programme. This is necessary, not only for the protection of our own shores, but also for that of our trade routes. It would he disastrous for Australia if we were prevented from shipping our products overseas. I am glad that it is proposed to continue the wise policy of manufacturing our munitions, as far as possible, within the Commonwealth. To a certain extent this will minimize the heavy expenditure for defence purposes.
The negotiations proceeding between the British Empire and the United States of America, with the object of improving the cordial relations between these two great English-speaking peoples, should do a great deal more than stimulate world trade. In my opinion the successful application of this policy will do much to maintain the peace of the world.
The problems of marketing will continue to engage the attention of this Parliament, and this is as it should be. We have already proved the benefits to be gained by the making of satisfactory trade arrangements between different parts of the Empire, such as those which followed the making of the Ottawa agreement. I trust that it will be possible for the Government to continue these arrangements in the best interests of Australia.
The Government’s intention, as stated in the Governor-General’s Speech, to introduce a scheme of national health and pensions insurance, is humane, and will commend itself to every section of the community, lt should not be forgotten that many of our people who are eligibl by age to receive a pension are not able to obtain it in consequence of certain limitations in our present legislation. I wish to say a word in recognition of the splendid service being rendered to the community at large by various friendly societies. I am pleased that the Government intends to take into conference the representatives of the friendly societies when it is preparing its scheme of national insurance. In bringing forward any proposals for unemploymentinsurance I. trust that care will be taken to avoid overlapping between the Commonwealth and the States. Some State governments have very good unemployment insurance schemes in operation at present.
– Only one of them.
– The proposal to reconstitute the Interstate Commission, and to equip it with power to remove certain disabilities under which some of the States are at present labouring, should do much to create a better feeling between such States and the Commonwealth. It is not in the best interests of the proper development oi Australia that one section of the community should be hampered in its development by disabilities which are not suffered by other sections. I trust that the Interstate Commission, if appointed, will be clothed with full power to deal with this aspect of our national life.
I wish to discuss briefly the overlapping and duplication of effort in our public services. I do not know whether anything can be done to enable the Interstate Commission to remedy this complaint, but if not the subject should he seriously considered at an early conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Since the inauguration of federation, the public services controlled by the national, State and civic authorities have considerably expanded, and certain overlapping and duplication of effort, which has become apparent in many directions, should, if possible, be eliminated. I shall refer to only one instance of this kind. To-day we have Commonwealth, State, and civic authorities dealing with the important subject of public health.. Honorable members are well aware that in all our larger cities, at least, civic health authorities are operating. . The interests of efficiency would be well served if the administration of health matters were in the hands of only one authority. It should be possible, after a review of certain aspects of public administration in Australia, to secure a greater degree of coordination and efficiency, and additional economy and simplicity in certain directions. If it is not possible for the Interstate Commission to deal with this subject it should be taken in hand by the various governments concerned.
I now come to what I regard as a matter of such outstanding importance as to overshadow all others. I refer to the great need of Australia for more population. A marked decline has occurred in our birth-rate in recent years. Twentyfive years ago, the birth-rate was 27 per thousand of our population. To-day, it is down to 17 per thousand, and the decrease is still continuing. This problem is not peculiar to Australia; it confronts the whole civilized world. Unless the problem of the falling birth-rate is grappled with I think that, not only the British Empire, but also every civilized country, will be in jeopardy. For that reason, I urge the Government to extend the good work that it has been carrying on in recent years in connexion with maternal and infant welfare, with the object of reducing as far as possible the death-rate of infants. In connexion with the increase of Australia’s population by migration, the Governor-General’s Speech indicates that it is intended to grant assistance to British migrants nominated by friends and relatives in Australia; but, from the marked decline of the population in the British Isles, it will be impossible for Australia to expect to receive large numbers of migrants from that part of the world in the future.
In recent years very fine service in advertising Australia abroad has been performed on behalf of the Government by the Australian National Travel Association. Any money judiciously spent on advertising Australia abroad is a sound investment, because it helps to develop a tourist traffic, which in some countries is now regarded as a major industry. It also draws attention in other parts of the world to the great advantages of Australia as a country to reside in as well as visit.
At a Premiers conference it is proposed to deal with problems affecting the welfare of aborigines. Serious consideration should be also given to the position of half-castes. Having had opportunity to visit some of the aboriginal stations in Australia, I know that the position of the Australian half-caste is a sad one, indeed.
I do not propose to weary the House in moving the adoption of this AddressinReply. I asked a number of honorable members what I should say. Not one really advised me what I should say, except that I should say very little. Before concluding, however, I express the hope that, notwithstanding the heavy expenditure which we shall incur on defence, it will be possible for the Government to continue the good work it has done in previous years by way of reduction of taxes. I thank the House for the very courteous and patient hearing it has given me, and trust that’ the deliberations of the Fifteenth Commonwealth Parliament will be in the interests and welfare of the community as a whole.
.- I have the honour to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply so capably proposed by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), and I wish to associate myself with the loyal sentiments to the Royal Family and its representatives in Australia that the honorable gentleman expressed.
I trust that the Government will succeed in its efforts for the promotion of friendly relations with other countries in the interests of peace. With regard, however, to the proposed trade treaty with the United States of America, while I feel that the British Empire, and the English-speaking American people, are the greatest hope in the world for collective security to-day, and for protection against tyrannical dictatorships, I am of opinion that this Government should not, without serious consideration, surrender those advantages Australia holds under the Ottawa agreement. I trust that, before it entertains any proposals to terminate that agreement, it will weigh the interests of the dried and canned fruit-growers of the Murray and Murrum bridgee valleys, the cattlemen of North Australia, lamb-raisers, poultry men, pig-raisers, and such other primary producers, and will ensure that they get very substantial benefits. If we are to hold this country, we must populate it, and it is those industries that I have specified that will produce the great population that we need for our national security. To me, it is unthinkable that any government would allow the interests of that great section to be damaged. I feel personally so very strongly on the question that I would not support any government that would at the behest of certain sectional interests in Australia, or in the interests of our competitors in Argentina and in the United States of America, permit the Ottawa agreement either to be revoked or to be emasculated.
I am pleased that the Government’ intends to press on with its defence programme. In view of the international situation, we must be prepared to make sacrifices to defend our country and take our share in the defence of the Empire. I.” urge the Government to support those industries which could be’ readily converted into munition factories with carefully drawn-up plans for their utilization immediately emergency arose. In my opinion, a most important factor in the defence system would be the ensuring of ample supplies of oil. Unremitting search for this vital commodity should be maintained, and if flowoil cannot be discovered, intense research should be applied to evolving substitutes from coal and shale or by the manufacture’ of power alcohol. It is essential that ample supplies of war material should be accumulated to enable us in the event of emergency to put our young men in the field with every assistance that science can give them to enable them to resist the mechanized and highlyscientific forces that would be brought against them. It is also necessary to protect our civilian population. I shudder to think of what would happen in our capital cities in the event of a gas attack to-day. As the first step, I urge that our railway gauges should be standardized. I have had a personal experience of the great disaster that can be caused by breaks of gauge. The British forces in Palestine under General Allenby defeated the Turkish force of 130,000, but it was th«break of gauge at Damascus that destroyed them. If it had not been for that break of gauge, some 70,000 would have escaped into Turkey, but, as it was, only about 4,000 got through the passes of the Taurus Mountains to safety. The Australian railway systems, from the defence viewpoint, are the worst and most antiquated in the world.
I am pleased to see that the Government proposes to proceed with a form of national insurance. In my opinion, this is long overdue.
I feel that .there should be close cooperation between the Federal and State Governments for the furthering of water conservation schemes . for purposes of _ irrigation, stock and domestic uses, and for the provision of water power schemes to enable the establishment, in provincial cities and country towns, of secondary industries to compete with the capital cities.
As the Commonwealth is responsible for the control of invalid pensions I trust that at some early date the Government will bring forward a scheme to deal’ with occupational diseases such as miners’ phthisis. I consider that those men who have given their lives to what is a great national industry should be entitled to compensation, and feel sure that I shall have the support of honorable members of this House in an endeavour to obtain it for them. All of the State governments have already approved of the principle, but, on account of financial stringency, have hesitated to implement it.
The sales tax, in my opinion, is the most cumbersome and vexatious method of taxation that finds a place on our statute-book, and I hope that the Government will take the first opportunity that presents itself to abolish, it.
I trust that the Government will see fit to make available sufficient money to enable the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to undertake in the interests of the great primary industries of Australia, long-range experiment? which at present this body is not in a position to undertake.
.- I otter my hearty compliments and congratulations to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) for the manner in which they have emerged from what we all know to be a very trying ordeal. The first speech of a newlyelected member of this Blouse is made with very great diffidence and considerable anxiety. I assure the honorable members whom I have named not only that they have won the sympathy of .the House, but also that the friendship we already felt for them has been strengthened by the manner in which they have discharged this, their first difficult task.
To those gentlemen who have been admitted to the Ministry I offer my congratulations on their elevation to so distinguished and responsible an office. We sincerely hope that they will enjoy good health, and that their anxieties will not be increased by any personal considerations. To the extent that we have to do battle with them, we shall do it valiantly, and, I hope, gloriously. We realize how great an honour it is for any honorable member to be accorded ministerial distinction. We therefore congratulate the newly-appointed ministers on the promotion that they have won, and wish them good luck in the days that lie ahead of thom. I regret the cause which has been responsible for the retirement of the previous Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). On account of ill-health, thi’ gentleman is not with us to-day. I voice the sincere hope of all honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber, that be will speedily be restored to health so that he may again take his place among us.
The umpires have given their verdict, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) meets the present Parliament as’ the head of his third government. The right honorable gentleman fought a resolute struggle. The work of winning votes he did as manfully and as ruthlessly as he knew how.
Insofar as it was a personal battle between him and me, I am the loser, i. say to the people of Australia, and to this Parliament, that I accept the verdict without demur or any feeling of illwill. I hope, however, that on the occasion of the next match the wind will blow in my direction and that I shall be able to do so much better as to completely reverse the last result. We on this side of the chamber derive a certain measure of consolation from the nature of the contest itself. This Parliament is much better balanced than was the previous Parliament. We have gained in the representation of the Australian people. Honorable gentlemen who sit behind the Prime Minister would do well to realize that the Government party won 45 seats, the Opposition party won 45 seats, and three were won by gentlemen who presented themselves to the -electors as opponents of Government candidates without being supporters of the Opposition. Thus, whatever construction each individual member may place upon the verdict of the people, it is the belief of the Opposition that its star is in the ascendant. This, in the opinion of honorable members who sit on this side of the House, places upon them the obligation to prepare themselves for more important responsibilities. We gladly and quite willingly face the task of making the Opposition one which, when the call comes’ to it, will be able to give to the people of Australia the assurance that it can govern not only strongly and wisely but also in accordance with their best interests and desires.
The Prime Minister confirmed to-day a passage that appears in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, announcing the intention of the Government to appoint a select committee to review the system of election for the Senate. Because notice of a motion to give effect to this proposal appears on the business paper 1 am in somewhat of a difficulty in discussing the matter, but I say to the right honorable gentleman that that select committee should not be constituted until those gentlemen whom the people, last ejected to the Senate are eligible to be nominated as members of it; at, any rate, the select committee ought not to be composed of defeated senators.
At the last elections, eleven senators were elected who have a mandate from the people of the States which they represent to serve in the other chamber, and before the 1st July next, they will have no opportunity to participate in whatever investigation is to be made into this very important matter, which concerns them more decisively, perhaps, than it may concern honorable members of this House.
– They do not yet represent the people.
– I say to the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) that whatever changes are in contemplation in respect of the manner in which another place shall be constituted should in no way be entered upon until those gentlemen who were elected to that place by the most recent decision of the people are eligible to take part in the investigation, lt would be a gross violation of all decency if men who have been given a. mandate by the people to sit in the second chamber were to be shut out of any select committee that is to .he constituted for the purpose of inquiring as to the manner in which election, to the Senate shall be determined in the future.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. 6. J. Bell).Order! I think the House will appreciate that, although the debate is on the Address-in-reply to His Excellency’s Speech, and it should, therefore, be permissible to discuss the matter to which the Leader of the Opposition is alluding, there is upon the notice-paper notice to move that a joint select committee be appointed to investigate the matter. Therefore it will not be in order at this stage to discuss the time when that proposal should be brought down.
– Your ruling, sir, does not surprise rae. I am very glad to have been able to say as much as I have been permitted to say.
This country faces problems of very great importance. We have most certainly to consider the peace and the safety of Australia, as well as the relevant matter of the economic well-being of the people as a. whole. The High Commissioner for Australia, Mr. Bruce, speaking quite recently at the assembly of the League of Nations, said that economic questions were at the root of the whole of the malaise of thc-world. He went on to refer to the abundant production of the ,vor:d as well as to the poverty that exists oven in the richest countries, and said that unless the causes of unrest were removed there would be social upheaval, and appalling disaster which would destroy civilization. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech says that it is the policy of the Government that there must be respect for international agreements, and that there should he resort to conciliation in order that all countries might obviate the probability of war. In my view, the mechanics of international law are at. present inherently weak. Furthermore, they are gravely prejudiced by what I shall describe as economic rivalries. We have to acknowledge that every country is entitled to access to such -raw materials as it considers are essential to its existence and its progress. W e have also to acknowledge that under the existing economic order it is necessary that, they shall have, moi; only access to raw materials, but also a market for the absorption of those commodity or products which nature enables thom to produce effectively or which their manufacturing development enables them to have in abundance, in exchange for the surpluses of other countries. Here we have the very essentials of what may be called the capitalistic system. That system has been founded upon struggle. Tt has developed out of the success which has attended the efforts of groups of people in the world in the pursuit of profit and, when all is said and done, represents the general condition. The world relations of nations is but a wider and more complicated reflection of the economic competition within nations. If one reads fairly and reasonably the Covenant of the League of Nations, one must admit that basically it depends for its success upon the acceptance of the concept of social justice as the dominant consideration in national policy. Before nations can deal justly with one another they must learn to practice the rule of notice in their own internal economic and political structure. Of what use is it for us to expect the world to remain at peace unless we agree that the factors which they must take into account enable them to remain at peace 1 Similarly, of what use is it for Australia to expect to make a contribution to world peace based upon justice as between nations, unless within our own jurisdiction we are able to show to the world that we can produce an economic and social order under which it is reasonably possible for men to live in just relationship to one another. In this era the spectacle of the rich on the one hand and the poor on the other hand, the haves and the have-nots, represents not a mere continuance of the age-old struggle between the rich and the poor, but the basic problem which confronts statesmanship the world over. In this national Parliament we should show that it is possible to provide the means by which industries can be developed, wealth produced, and the technique supplied with which to use our resources to the utmost advantage, whilst at the’ same time making certain that the masses of the people are given, not merely a reasonable standard of living, hut the highest possible standard of comfort. Certainly our social conditions should be of such a character that even the poorest a,nd humblest may be assured of the essentials for their physical well-being, and such amenities as we are able to make available to them. That is the purpose and spirit of the Australian Labour movement, and it is, I venture to say, thu very kernel of the problem that presents itself to any government, if we arc to avert the dangers which loom so darkly on the horizon.
Not only is the road to peace beset by political banditry and the foes of economic progress, but, also, by resisting reforms, the reactionaries become the foster parents of internal revolution and world war. Denying their own people the hopes of a better life and improved social conditions, they induce abroad confusion, distrust, and the fear of war. That is my challenge to those in Australia who would like things to remain as they are because they are deemed to be safe. I think that the wiser conception animating statesmanship in this Parliament is that we should move steadily forward, and * tha.t, as between the interests of progress and the conservation of vested interests, wc should not hesitate to say that any section of the community which finds the present orientation of things most lucra- tive should not be permitted to achieve their purpose at the expense of the wellbeing of the Commonwealth as a whole. Hence all governments are faced with the facts that emerge from the failure of civilization, particularly since the Great War, to redeem the general expectation that, in making the world safe for demo,cracy, a new era would open to the common people.
I need not traverse what has taken place in the last twenty years, other than to say that now we are faced with the reality that all countries are resorting to arms. Whilst they are not -actually using them, they are providing themselves with so much of armaments and defensive equipment that they will have these available to them, not only for defence, but also for aggression, if they so choose. Therefore, we in Australia must consider the situation as it confronts us. The Opposition believes that Australia should be increasingly self-reliant in its own defence. It is true that His Excellency’s Speech states that this is also the view of the Government, and to the extent that it shares that view the Opposition will, in the most constructive way, do its utmost to promote such proposals as will contribute to the safety and security of this country. Not only must we develop self-reliance in defence against aggression, but we must also develop self-reliance in order to reduce the exposure of our people to the economic and social dangers to which they are subjected as the result of the disorderlines’s in the world economic position.
AH is not well with Australia at the moment. As a matter of fact we are faced with falling prices for raw materials, particularly wheat and WOOl. The economist’s “ E “ index shows a recession of 5 per cent, in one month in values of primary products as a whole. There is stock exchange uncertainty, and a degree of financial instability which are no doubt responsible for this situation. But that is not true entirely with regard to Australia. Our wheat market is suffering at the present time because of the absence of Italian competition. It is of no use to attribute this to panic on Wallstreet, and its effect on world conditions. We have to bear in mind that Italy is out of the Australian market as a buyer of wheat, and we have to recognize that Japan and the United States of America are not buying our wool. These two considerations, apart from what may be the psychological effect of the uncertainty of the world exchange, are things which this Government has to take definitely into account. The recent wool sales are not encouraging. Orders in London for purchases of wool are not keeping pace with production. I mention this because the reduction of wool prices was the chief local factor which led in Australia to the realization of depression conditions. That marked the point at which it became clear that there was to be a collapse of Australian values in the world market. 1 put it to the Eight Honorable the Prime Minister, without going into the matter in a disquieting manner, that the indications now are that Australia must proceed to put into preparation such steps as we may consider proper in order to prepare ourselves for a tapering down of the national income, and for the probable impact of the reduced expenditure upon re-armament in the world at least for a period - for how long or how short a time I cannot say - lessening the improvement of world prices which rearmament has made. Reviewing the matter quite recently, an important authority drew attention to what it described as a precipitous decline of shipping construction contracts for new tonnage. There
Ave have another indication that the present situation is one in which’ the portents are not for continued improvement, but for at least a period of what I shall describe as difficulty - to use a term which I hope will not be misunderstood. In Great Britain, if I correctly judge the policy of the British Government, the policy used will he one of cheap money and public works, and I recommend to the governments of Australia, Federal and State, the importance of now getting ready in their respective engineering departments and among treasury officials by preparing a programme of public works which will be available in the event of unemployment rising in the next two or three years. Assume we are faced at the end of 1938, or say, in the winter of 1939, with a considerable increase of unemployment. I think that the indications are that caution would suggest the wisdom of assuming that this problem should be faced. Therefore, now is the time when governments in Australia should be preparing specifications of works which they would then undertake. We ought not again to have the unprepared entry into depression and emergency works which marked Australian policy, I would say inevitably, but yet unfortunately, when the depression overtook us in 1929.
I draw attention to the fact that a good deal of improvement in Australia in the last few years, apart from the improvement of export prices, has been due to expenditure by State governments on public works and enterprises generally. I have before me a return showing what has been done. In 1931-32 the net expenditure by the States from loans was £6,S00,000, as compared with £3,400,000 by the Commonwealth. In 1932-33, the net loan expenditure by the States amounted to £10,400,000, and in 1933-34 the expenditure was increased to £15,800,000. In 1934-35, the net expenditure further rose to £18,900,000, and in 1935- 36 it was £19,500,000. Thus the steady decline of unemployment, which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have been eager to point to as evidence of the wisdom of the policy of their Government, has been marked by an increased loan expenditure by the States upon public works. I contend that that policy, rather than any special perspicacity on the part of this Government, made an important contribution to the recovery from the depression. The amount of loan money spent by the States on public works in 1935-36 was the highest net expenditure during the period which I am reviewing. Of course the loan fund had to carry the revenue deficits of the States, but as the deficits were reduced, more money became available for works, and as the result, acceleration of the improvement became possible. The loan provision for 1936- 37 shows a falling off from £19,500,000 to £16,000,000, and this year the estimate is £14,400,000. From the recent loan of £16,000,000, the Commonwealth Government proposes to take £2,500,000, not for public works, but for the purpose -of making a contribution towards farmers’ debt adjustment. Thus the loan expenditure of the Government this year will not be available for the improvement of the assets of the nation, but will merely liquidate certain liabilities which secured creditors have in respect of the farming industry. I dealt with this matter on a former occasion. I merely remark that the necessary provision should be made from revenue. Similarly, the cost of the defence equipment purchased overseas which the Government again persists in providing for from loan, should be met from revenue. It i3 intended this year to raise £2,500,000 for farmers’ debt adjustment, and £2,000,000 sterling for the purchase of defence equipment overseas. Both these financial transactions are inherently bad, and Australia, at this juncture, ought to make provision for these two requirements in some other way. The other matters to which I feel disposed to make reference will come up in the course of discussion.
I asked the Treasurer by interjection to-day if the reports in connexion with unemployment insurance were to be tabled. In reply to the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), the honorable gentleman said that when the States agreed the most recent report would be made available. I hope and I believe now that that report will contain in addition the opinions which these experts have been supplying to this “ Government for a long while. I know that ten years ago the Australian experts, Messrs’. Innis and Bennett, were called into consultation, and that they furnished a certain memorandum to the government of the day. Since then, more particularly in recent years, these two gentlemen in particular, and, I understand, an officer of the Treasury, have been engaged in further research work. So far this Parliament has had made available to it only the reports of the overseas experts. It has not been given the help of the Australian ‘authorities who are more familiar with Australian conditions than are the gentlemen who visited us and whose sense of our practical difficulties would enable them to give us better advice than we have had from Mr. Lice and Sir Walter Kinnear. In any event, the Government is obliged to give effect very early to its policy in connexion with unemployment insurance.
The same remark applies to national insurance. These subjects could well take precedence over any re-arrangement of the method of election of members to either House of this Parliament.
I regret that the provision for unemployment relief, as indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Address, has been reduced by £50,000 this year compared with last year. Having regard to the buoyancy of Commonwealth revenue, there does not appear to me to be any justification for the Commonwealth to be more niggardly on this occasion than was the case a year ago. It may be said that conditions generally are very much better now. There is reason to doubt that, because there is a great deal of distress, notably in the cities, which should be met, particularly at Christmas time.
I hope that we shall have a ‘better arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and governments of the States in respect of the programme of works which this nation has in contemplation. I would suggest - and it is my final thought to-day, in what I hope has not been a hypercritical speech - that there should be set up some national employment authority, some body that can co-relate the works programmes of the Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States so that when these works .are started the fullest value is obtained for the money spent.
I shall not ask this Government to do other than pursue what it describes as its own policy in regard to financing public expenditure - that is its own business - but I wish to direct attention to many of the conclusions to be found in the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. I remind the Prime Minister that he will find in the report justification for the view that the Government has to accept the ultimate responsibility for monetary policy. It appears to me that the Government has a very poor understanding of the major recommendations of that commission to have indicated nothing outside the provision for the establishment of a mortgage bank. That shows a perfunctory and very poor reading of many of the significant recommendations which the royal commission made. We shall, however, have further opportunity to deal with these matters.
I merely express to the country the intimation that the Opposition will, during the life of this Parliament, endeavour to serve the people ably and effectively. We shall comport ourselves with dignity and -we hope that, while sitting on this side of the chamber, we shall by reason of the view we take in regard to government policy enable the people to realize what is the best thing to do, and when the time comes we shall, as good democrats, await whatever decision the people like to give.
in offering my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-reply to His Excellency’s Speech. Honorable members on both sides of the House who have listened to the speeches of those two gentlemen, have a feeling that they are a real acquisition to the strength, personnel and debating power of this Parliament. They have set an example to all of us, and, in particular, an example of brevity which I myself hope to bo able to follow. They have spoken clearly, concisely and constructively, and I am very glad to say they made suggestions helpful, not only to the Government, but also to all members of the party. I, therefore, join with the Leader of the Opposition who so graciously and generously offered his congratulations to political opponents, and following his own example I offer him my congratulations. To lead a party, whether it be a government party or an opposition party, is an honour ; to possess the confidence of one’s fellows in one’s own political party is also an honour, and to possess the confidence and the support of a large number of people who have recorded their votes for the party one leads is, indeed, a great distinction. I appreciate the spirit in which the Leader of the Opposition approached the issues of to-day. As one who has participated in some of Australia’s national games he accepts the verdict of the umpire - the verdict that has been given by the electors. It is easy for Ministers to do so, having been returned once more to office, but we can readily appreciate the spirit in which the honorable gentleman has approached the matter to-day. It is true that he says he has a feeling that his star is in the ascendant. That may be so, but there will be justification in hoping that his star will be in the ascendant only if the Government fails in its responsibilities to the people of this country. I agree with him that things cannot be left as they are in Australia, but the Governor-General’s Speech is an indication that this Government has no intention of leaving things as they are. The policy which the Government submitted to the people was one of construction and development ; particularly did we have in mind that our policy should have its humanitarian aspect. Unless we are now prepared to go ahead with a progressive developmental programme, not only would the Leader of the Opposition be justified in believing that his star was in the ascendant; I should also add that it ought to be in the ascendant. The responsibility lies upon Ministers and also upon the. Opposition to look after the interests of every section of the community. At any rate, that is the end which Ministers have tried to keep before them, and it certainly is the policy indicated in the Governor-General’s Speech.
I do not propose to follow all the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. Unhesitatingly I say that I am in agreement with many of them. As for the remainder of them, I agree to this extent that what he litis said deserves the full consideration of the Government. I have no fault to find with what he has said in regard to the present, circumstances of this country and throughout the world generally; “but I hope we shall not go beyond what he has said in dealing with this question; because I trust that we shall not take too pessimistic a view of what is happening in Australia or in the rest of the world to-day. I sincerely believe that while some of the causes to which he has referred were the real causes of the depression in Australia, one of the primary causes of the depression in this country was the pessimism which developed here.
– Due to the fall of export prices.
– Yes ; that, added to the pessimism which prevailed, had a psychological effect. Once the people began to develop a feeling of panic and fear about the future-
– They shut up their pockets.
– Yes; they closed their pockets, and the result was increased unemployment of the people. “When that happens we are on the wrong road. Therefore, while I realize the “ difficulty “ of the world to-day - and that is the word the honorable member used - I am optimistic about the future. I believe it is essential that we should maintain a policy of peace with our friends throughout the world, thus making the whole world our friends. We ought to be pleased to see the progress taking place and the improved standards of peoples throughout the world. Quite apart from any humanitarian view, even from a selfish viewpoint the reaction of higher standards of living and higher purchasing power of people of other countries, would .benefit our primary producers. But tariff barriers that are too high for us and other people to get over should not be raised; and we should adopt a friendly attitude that will lead to the exchange of our products with the products of other countries. By bringing about economic appeasement we shall do away with the necessity for political appeasement and stave off many things that to-day worry us. The fact that we are approaching discussions between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, in regard to trade, is an indication that we appreciate these things and are willing to make our contribution, first, towards economic appeasement and, secondly, towards political improvement in the relations that exist . between the different countries of the world. I should not. be enthusiastic about the agreement between the United States of America and the United Kingdom if I did not think that it was a movement that was likely to spread throughout the world. In other words, I hope that in the starting of these negotiations we shall be making some contribution towards the improvement of the conditions of the people in all countries, thereby creating feelings of friendship towards ourselves and towards the Empire itself.
There are many things on which we agree with honorable members opposite, but all I can say at this stage is that this is not the time to go into details. Nevertheless, I want to make it clear to the Leader of the Opposition that, while the immediate proposition in regard to the recommendations ‘of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems is one dealing with the establishment of a mortgage hank, that is not the end of the Government’s proposals. As a matter of fact, in the Governor-General’s Speech, the honorable member will see an indication that at a later stage the Government will have other proposals arising from the recommendations from that royal commission.
I repeat my appreciation of the spirit in which the Leader of the Opposition has spoken, and from it I take it that members of the Opposition are prepared to co-operate with the Government in discussions that will be difficult, but which will be very important to the welfare of the people of this country. We shall look for that co-operation and shall always be prepared to give consideration to constructive suggestions that come from the Opposition side as well as from our own side. We want to make an immediate start with the work outlined in the programme that has been placed before the people of Australia, but there are some things more urgent than others. Before the House adjourns for the Christmas vacation, we shall have to dispose of the Estimates of expenditure for the year. Then again, an amendment of the maternity allowance legislation will have to be dealt with. We shall also have to deal before the House adjourns with the pensions payable to new wives and children of ex-soldiers. These things we undertook to do if we were returned, and if Parliament approved, and the undertaking was that they were to be made effective from the beginning of next calendar year. Therefore, I appeal to honorable members on both sides of the House to shorten as much as .possible the discussion of the matter now before us, a matter which, in the light of the verdict of the people, is almost a formality.
I was -asked by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) to-day, if I could give any indication regarding the sittings of the House next year. I can only say at this stage that if we dispose of these more urgent matters before Christmas we shall ask honorable members to be back in their places towards the end of February, and then we shall sit continuously until we have disposed of a substantial part of the programme outlined in His Excellency’s Speech. At a later stage, but as soon as possible in order to meet the convenience of honorable members, I shall make a pronouncement regarding the definite intentions of the Government in this regard. For the time being it is sufficient to say that Ave intend to push on as quickly as possible with the programme before us. It may be that in the past governments, upon their return to office, have desired to rest after the election campaign, and after their previous administrative endeavours, but on this occasion Ave feel it incumbent upon us, having had our policy endorsed by the people, to go ahead with our legislative programme as quickly as possible in order that our promises may be redeemed. While’ a little time must elapse in order to carry out the preliminary arrangements regarding national insurance, these will be accelerated as much as possible so that everything may be in readiness before the session commences next year.
.- I join with my Leader in stating that honorable members on this side are prepared to cooperate with the Government in endeavouring to rehabilitate Australia economically, and to develop its resources in order to obtain economic security for the great masses of the people. In the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General, the Government’s foreign policy was stated to be the preservation of peace, and the promotion and maintenance of friendly relations with all countries, and further it was stated that it was for these reasons that the Government associated Australia with the action taken by other state members of the League of Nations in the present Sino-Japanese dispute. The activities of the League of Nations in the Sino-Japanese clash have been very tardy indeed, and this Government, by associating Australia with the collective security proposals of the League, has cut right across the path of peace which the Australian people should follow. It is a policy that will eventually embroil the Australian people in Avar. The League of Nations, as it is constituted to-day, cannot fulfil its peaceful mission. Heading newspaper reports of the League’s activities one might imagine that the nations themselves were speaking at Geneva. One reads that England suggests this, and that France demands that, while Belgium proposes something else. It all sounds tremendously impressive, and it would appear as though those countries, and others in the League, were actually present at Geneva discussing the problems of peace and war with one another; but the real state of affairs is profoundly and dangerously different, for calamitous results are inherent in it. The nations are represented at Geneva by rival groups of capitalists voicing their views through the mouths of governments, and their main concern is for their own interests. No doubt they would have a preference for peace if their interests could be promoted by peaceful means, and they may be influenced to some extent by the pacifist temperament of a world crippled, by Avar and mortally sick of it; but the capitalists engaged in the Geneva masquerade can hold out no hope for the peace of the world because they have abandoned justice. Conceived in a spirit of liberty and born in an era of hope, the League of Nations was scarred and marred in its early infancy by the legacy of hatred, distrust, corruption and suspicion left by the Great War and a century of industrial capitalism. The League has disregarded the ideals of international and inter-<racial justice; it has abandoned the standards by which it might determine the morality of a given situation, or the ethics of an impending war. It is because the League abandoned justic.e that it failed to prevent the RussoPolish war, the war between Turkey and Greece, the first war between China and Japan, the Gran-Chaco war in South America, the Abyssinian war, the Spanish Avar, and the present Sino-Japanese clash. That is a truly formidable indictment. At all costs Australia, must reserve for itself the right to decide what action it shall take against any nation which the Australian people adjudge an aggressor. The people of Australia, and not Geneva, should determine our attitude in the event of war. Australia alone must decide its future. At the recent Federal elections one half of the Australian people rejected the doctrine of collective security, while the people with a unanimous voice returned a Parliament every member of it pledged to oppose conscription. The Government, while ensuring the fullest measure of co-operation with the other units of the British Commonwealth of Nations, should reject the infamous doctrine of collective security, and by methods determined by Australians should seek to guide Australia and the world towards an enduring peace based onjustice.
Further on in the Governor-General’s Speech the following paragraph appears: -
My advisers propose to press on with the further strengthening of the defence of Australia along lines already laid down. Their plans provide for full co-operation with other parts of the Empire in measures of common defence against aggression, and for the full development of Australia’s resources to provide for its own security.
The Government having decided on a programme of re-armament, is about to place its first orders with private firms Tenders for the manufacture of £100,000 worth of arms have been called, and applications will close on the 10th December. Australia is to have its own merchants of death.When the tendency in every civilized country is progressively towards the nationalization of the armaments industry; when book after book and pamphlet after pamphlet have revealed with striking insistence the unscrupulous practices to which private firms will descend to obtain rich armaments contracts; when it has been proved conclusively that to obtain those contracts the armament manufacturers will raise false war scares and even foment wars costing the lives of hundreds of thousands, it has now become the policy of this Government to encourage the system of private manufacture of armaments which the majority of the nations are abandoning. If Australia is to re-arm that re-armament must be carried out by the nation itself. Rearmament is a matter of national con cern. It would be criminal to make it the sport of profiteers.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), announcing the Government’s proposal to place the firstexperimental order with private firms, said that, from the point of view of manufacture, the two most difficult items were the eighteenpounder shell bodies and the percussion primers. Both had been manufactured at Maribyrnong, and in order to assist prospective tenderers, complete records of manufacture showing all the necessary operations had been prepared. These would be available to interested persons upon the lodgment of a deposit to ensure the safe return of the documents. Also, provision had been made for prospective tenderers to indicate the assistance they required in the way of additional plant if the Government accepted their tender. Thus, not only is the Government about to make available to private firms information which should be its own exclusive property, but evidently it proposes also to extend the plant of those private firms should they obtain government contracts. The Minister declared that the Government was hopeful that the step now being taken would prove tobe a satisfactory commencement of its policy of enlisting the aid of private manufacturers to extend the munitions manufacturing capacity of the Commonwealth. I maintain that Australia does not want such a policy. If we are to re-arm the necessary manufacturing should be done in government factories. There should he no war profiteers in Australia.
In policy and in practice the Australian Labour movement is opposed to war, and opposed to the wastage of continuous expenditure on armaments. It constantly strives for peace, and claims that the achievements of science should be applied for the betterment of the people rather than to the purposes of death and destruction in the interests of exploiting capitalists. . It is a damning indictment of the existing social system that only twenty years after the last war we are being asked to prepare for another war. Lessons of the world war written in the blood and tears of millions are still fresh in the minds of Australians. We have learned in national suffering and national loss the bitter meaning of war, its sordid realities and calamitous results. “When capitalism embroiled Australia in the last war no artifice was spared to convince the people that the war was a war in defence of all that was noblest in man ; that the war was a war in defence of civilization itself. .Yet, to-day, it is cynically admitted even by the very persons who urged young men to participate in the last war that it was an economic conflict fought for trade advantages. Australia lost in flesh and blood during the last war 62.000 killed,
S 1,000 wounded, and S7,000 sick and injured. The human wreckage from that war still fills our hospitals awaiting the final sacrifice. Each year brings a decrease of the number of shell-torn, gastortured men whose epic heroism on Gallipoli and in Flanders inspired the world over twenty years ago, but who to-day are left in destitution and to die in poverty by callous governments. If we involve Australia in another war it is almost certain that this terrible slaughter of gallant Australians will be doubled or trebled. If another war should occur the battle front will not bn localized. The whole world will he the front. Men, women, and children will be involved in any future war. I ask the Government to consider seriously the situation of Australia and not to involve itself in any European entanglements which will embroil the people of Australia in war.
The Prime Minister has stated that steps will be taken to revise the Ottawa agreement. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman .will step gingerly in this connexion, for, during the last five or six years, he has been stumping the country and telling the people of the marvellous results that have followed to the primary producers in consequence of the Ottawa agreement. How does he now propose to secure a revision of that agreement which will retain these socalled advantages for the primary producers? He has, of course, definitely abandoned the secondary industries of Australia by permitting reductions of duties in respect of more than 1600 tariff items, with the result that imports from overseas countries have flooded the Australian market to the detriment of our Australian manufacturing industries. I say, definitely, that in my electorate there is ample room for the expansion of our secondary industries. If any revision is to be made of the Ottawa agreement, it should be in the interests, of the secondary industries of Australia, which should be assured of more adequate protection so that they may develop and expand to the benefit of the Commonwealth;
The proposal of the Government to provide £100,000 for Christmas cheer is surely a disclaimer that prosperity has been restored. That amount of money could be expended in my electorate alone without providing anything like sufficient Christmas cheer for the 7,000 or 8,000 unemployed people who live in it. It is pitiful to see the little children in the streets in the Cook electorate. The former Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) stated that 40 per cent, of the children of Australia were suffering from malnutrition. It seems to me that a big percentage of these children must live in the Cook electorate. The Government should provide at least £150,000 - the sura expended in this way last year - for Christmas cheer.
Before the Government embarks upon the policy of child migration foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech, adequate steps should be taken to feed the children already in Australia. Any children brought to this country from overseas will be practically enslaved for they will be taken away from their own kith and kin at an age when they are unable to say yea or nay. Such children may not desire to come to Australia; they may not be suited to our climate; they may perish and waste away within twelve months or two years of their arrival. The proper place to rear children is in their country of origin, among their own people, and not in a strange land and among a strange community which can provide no suitable occupation for many young people who already reside in it. The first duty of the Government, is to the children of Australia, who should be assured of a fair start in life.
Any steps to extend our telephonic and telegraphic communications should be preceded by a reduction of the existing telephone charges in respect of both public and private installations. Some reduction Las been made in the charge foi” installations in certain directions, but as the Postmaster-General’s Department has been making a good profit from the telephone service during recent years, a reduction of charges should at once be granted.
While the Prime Minister says, in one breath, that Australia needs more immigrants, he complains, in the next, that people are leaving this country. Here is a paradox which indicates clearly that things are not as the right honorable gentleman says they are. On the one hand, the Government desires to induce the people to come to Australia, while, on the other, it ‘deplores that they are leaving here. Something has-been said about the increase of our national wealth. An increase pf national wealth is of no benefit to the country unless it improves the lot of the great masses of the people. An increase of national wealth is neither desirable nor beneficial unless that increase is utilized to raise the standard of life of those who have hitherto been deprived of a sufficiency of necessaries and of reasonable comfort. If an increase of national wealth results in widening the gulf between the different social classes, discontent among the poor is increased and the foundations of society are rendered less stable. It is neither desirable nor beneficial to increase our national wealth unless we, at the same time, raise the standard of living and make reasonable comfort for people who have hitherto been deprived of even the necessaries of life. The soil of Australia is stored with inexhaustible wealth; our people are energetic and intelligent, we have many public works waiting to be carried out, and we have control of credit facilities absolutely sound and honest. Why, then, should there be any poverty in our midst? I leave that question for the Government to answer.
.- It was not my intention to participate in this debate until the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) stated this afternoon that the health of the people was not the concern of the Commonwealth. I should like to ask whose- responsibility it is? 1 cannot allow to pass without protest any suggestion that this Parliament should be permitted to avoid taking its share of * responsibility for the public health. Surely it will not be denied that the Commonwealth Government should do everything possible to ensure the wellbeing of the mothers of Australia, in whose care are the boys and girls who in due course will be its electors.
As the Commonwealth Government has already provided £10,000 to assist the Government of Victoria to deal with the after effects of the epidemic of infantile paralysis in that State, I felt that I was entitled to ask for similar assistance for Tasmania, to which State the epidemic has now extended. I was astonished at the reply given to my request. Everything is being done by the Government of Tasmania to restrict the area affected by infantile paralysis. I merely asked that the people of Tasmania should be treated like the people of Victoria by the Commonwealth Government in this regard. Apparently all that the Government has in mind is the maintenance of its majority in this Parliament so that it may continue to bungle the affairs of this country as it has done for so many years. One of the first considerations of the Government, however, should be the general health of the community.
I congratulate the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) upon the sentiments he expressed this afternoon respecting public health. I am glad that he holds the view that the Commonwealth Government should take a larger share, if not the whole, of the responsibility for public health. If the attitude adopted by the Minister for Health is that of the Government, then God help the people of Australia, and- particularly the children who are suffering to-day from infantile paralysis. Many mothers in Victoria and Tasmania dread to see their children returning from school infected by infantile paralysis. The Government is alarmed, so we are told, about our declining birthrate;, but it is not doing very much to give the mothers of our children a guarantee of safety. The medical profession has undoubtedly fallen down on its job. I have been told by medical practitioners that the profession can do nothing more than it is doing to combat infantile paralysis. Doctors have said to me “ It is a case of the survival of the fittest, and nature must take its own course “. What an admission of incompetence by members of the greatest profession in the world!
I again urge the Government to do something to assist the Government of Tasmania to delimit the spread of this dreadful disease. I have already asked for the co-operation of the Minister for Health and he has refused it. The Prime Minister is in a very favorable position. Not many fathers in the infected area of Devonport in Tasmania are able, as be is, to take his children away and place them in security in Canberra.” The great majority of parents have to remain where they are, and face the common enemy as best they may. They cannot go away to some cosy corner, such as Canberra, where the barricades are high and the prospects of infection slight. I wish, however, to do everything possible to ensure that the little children of Victoria and Tasmania may have every possible protection, and I want the Minister” for Health to stand up to his job. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to give immediate financial assistance to Tasmania to achieve this end.
The Labour Government in Tasmania is doing everything possible, with its limited financial resources, to cope with the situation. Are we to understand that because it is a Labour Government, led by a Labour Premier, the Commonwealth Government, which is not a Labour Government, intends to put the brakes on? Naturally, the Minister for Health is a bit prejudiced against me because I “blew out their light” in Denison. It was said that I would not be re-elected to this Parliament, but here I am. I shall continue to torment the new Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) who is sitting at the table in all his glory, having wangled a position in the new Ministry. But, at the same time, I expect reasonable treatment for Tasmania from him and his colleagues.
We have been informed in the Governor-General’s Speech that an amount of £100,000 is to be provided for Christmas cheer for the unemployed of Australia. About twelve months ago when the Government proposed to provide £150,000 for that purpose, I said that it would not provide the unemployed with a Christmas pudding with one currant apiece. The Government now proposes to give the unemployed a doughboy without even one currant. This proposed grant will be of very little assistance. There are over 600 men on the unemployment register in Hobart, alone. I ask the Government to do something more adequate to assist these and other unemployed persons throughout the Commonwealth. Neither Mr. Ogilvie nor any other State Premier can permanently wipe out unemployment, and it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to give relief to the unemployed. I do not take the attitude, as some honorable members opposite attempt to make out, that, because Tasmania has a Labour administration unemployment has been abolished. On the contrary, I say that it is for the Commonwealth Government to assist the State governments to abolish it. But, far from doing so, the Commonwealth Government is trying to create the impression that unemployment is so limited that a grant of £100,000 is sufficient to cope with it. The amount should be at least £500,000, and it should be expended by providing full time work at award rates to enable married men who have families to rear to keep them in a state of decency. The people who are responsible for the great majority of the future men and women of this country, people who have big families, are of the working class, and are not those who live in luxurious suburbs like Potts Point in Sydney and Toorak in Melbourne. No government, federal or State, should ask married men with families to work at anything less than full time on the basic wage. Malnutrition is sucking the life blood out of this community, yet this Government has seen fit to apportion only £100,000 for the betterment of the conditions of the workless. The Government will not “ get away “ with the sharp political practice of creating the psychology that the degree of prosperity in Australia to-day is so great that there is no unemployment and, consequently, no need for a larger sum of money to be voted for the assistance of unemployed at Christinas time. I appeal to the Government to do something better than it has done in this direction. Before .[ left Tasmania for Canberra to be swornin in this new Parliament, I saw the representatives of the unemployed and promised them that I would do my utmost on the floor of the House to induce this Government to grant greater assistance towards the relief of the unemployed. The Government has no plan for the relief of the unemployed.
– It had a plan during the election campaign.
– Yes, but it was never intended to lay down a proposal on firm foundations.
– This Government is not concerned with the unemployed.
– No, but during the election campaign, honorable members opposite went on to the high-ways and by-ways and said : “ We represent all sections of the community.” Honorable members opposite also said that the members of the Labour party were the Communists of Australia. There is no doubt that, up to a certain point, they “ got away “ with it, but it is the duty of the Government to grapple immediately and effectively with this great evil in society, and it is my duty as a member of this Parliament to indicate a way in which it can be done. I tender my advice gratis. The position to-day is unsatisfactory. We can never develop a strong, virile nation on the lines wo are following. -We can never say that we are 100 per cent, efficient to defend this country unless we set up conditions under which children can be reared in circumstances which will enable them to grow up strong men and women. As a means of reducing unemployment, the Government should introduce immediately a 40-hour week, abolish overtime, and undertake an extensive public works policy which will absorb the unemployed, increase their purchasing power, and enable them to buy goods to rear their families and to enjoy the rights of good citizens. Unless that is done, it will be impossible - no more in Australia, than in any other country - for the great mass of the people who depend on the wage system for a living to develop as a strong, virile race.
I am sorry that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is not in the chamber, because the matter of the employment of youths to which I propose to refer is one in which be has shown great interest. In the last parliament, I made frequent references to the tragedy of our unemployed youths and asked the Prime Minister what was to be done about it. I can find nothing in the Governor-General’s Speech to indicate that the Government proposes to do anything. Of course, the reply will be that it is the responsibility of the States. I counter that by saying that, without assistance from the central government, it is impossible for the States to carry out a plan for the relief of the unemployed youths, which will enable them to be trained to become effective units in the economic system. The Commonwealth Government lias financial resources at its disposal which the States do not possess. It has the monetary and banking systems to control if it cares and it has avenues of taxation , which the States cannot touch. On the Commonwealth Government’s shoulders, therefore, rests a great responsibility for the preservation of youths of this country. Parents are not going to bring children into this world, sacrifice all the pleasures of life and do without sufficient clothes, as they have done, to educate them, if their only future is to be a life of idleness and marriage on the dole. The youths of this country, with the education they receive to-day, will be the determining factor in our future government. On them will rest the responsibility for our defence, because I, like the majority of honorable members of this Parliament, am too old to go to war. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron) shakes his head. But he knows that what I have said is true. The honorable gentleman is not the man he was twenty years ago, when we walked through the mud of Flanders and France. He knows that if he puts on the boots that soldiers wear and goes for a walk those boots soon get heavy. But when he had the adventurous blood of youth coursing through his veins and was a member of the Australian Imperial
Force, be no doubt thought nothing of walking miles through mud in the service of his country. This Government is doing, nothing which will enable the present day youth to carry out the responsibilities th a,t the Assistant Minister himself carried more than twenty years ago. They cannot be blamed if they turn around and say “What have we to fight for ? Only poverty and the dole. “ The dole system is here to-day. The State governments are spending more and more on social services to the poorer sections of this great Commonwealth. It is useless for the Government to shelter behind an assertion that youth welfare is the responsibility of the States. I ask it to take a greater interest in this urgent matter and to give greater co-operation to the States in laying down a plan for youths’ training so that they will become a greater asset to the country. The Government would be better occupied in appointing a committee of this” House to co-operate with the States for the formulation of a plan for youth welfare than in trying to manipulate the electoral system to enable it to get a majority in the Senate. The present Senate electoral system went against the Government at the last election. There is no doubt that all this Government is concerned about is how it is going to dodge around the obstacle. The mothers of Australians and the unemployed youths, however, are not interested in finding ways and means to obtain a better Senate electoral system. A3 a matter of fact, the Government has not a possible chance. It is too late. At the elections, Labour got a run through on the rails and came home with sixteen members in the Senate.
The points I have raised this afternoon, I have raised in all seriousness with a view to offering the Government my advice and co-operation. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is an enthusiastic Minister, will, I am sure, use his influence in the Ministry to have it take adequate steps to cope with the dangers of infantile paralysis. The honorable gentleman occupies the same position as myself in that he has a son of tender years who, according to the figures, is more susceptible to the disease than those who are older. I urge the
Government to take action in any State where infantile paralysis breaks out, to retard its progress amongst the children. There is nothing too good for the children.
I urge the Government to give further consideration to the matter of Christmas cheer for the unemployed. Doubtless, all honorable members will enjoy excellent Christmas cheer when they return to their homes, the electors of the Commonwealth having made it possible -for them to do so. The Government is in a position to give greater financial assistance than has been indicated. The unemployed are entitled to expect that they shall be placed in a position to make reasonable provision for their families. No government, either State or Commonwealth, has laid down a definite plan, such as has been laid down in other parts of the world, to deal with the problem of the unemployed youths of this country.
I felt the keenest sympathy for the Governor-General while listening to the reading of his Speech. There is nothing in it but camouflaged hypocrisy. The responsibility for that rests with men who claim to be statesmen, and who led the people to believe that they would make this ‘the greatest nation in the world. I can imagine the GovernorGeneral wishing that the task of reading this Speech had devolved upon the Prime Minister. His Excellency is a distinguished soldier and a gentleman of outstanding ability, who knows what the nation requires. One cannot wonder that he has decided to leave Australia on extended leave. I trust that he will enjoy the period during which he will be absent from such incompetent Ministers. * Quorum formed.’]*
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency to receive the AddressinReply. Honorable members will be notified accordingly.
Motion (by Mk. ARCHIE Cameron) agreed to -
That the House will, at 11 later hour this clay, resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mk. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
– I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under division 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £7.920 “. be agreed to.
The Estimates and the budget for the financial year 1937-38, were presented to the committee towards the end of August of this year, but, as this is a new Parliament, it is necessary to reintroduce the Estimates on message from the GovernorGeneral.
As the budget papers and the Estimates are in exactly the same form as when introduced at the end of August, there is no need for me to make a lengthy speech on this occasion. I should, however, if I may, like to attempt to bring up to date for honorable members the information on which the budget was presented.
– Can the honorable gentleman state when the Government intends to repeal all the financial emergency legislation ?
– I am afraid that I should not be in order in making a reference to that matter, as the budget which is being re-presented to the committee is exactly the same as was presented on the 27th August last. Some months of the financial year having elapsed, however, it may be wise to give to honorable members some figures which show the progress of the national accounts up to date. Generally speaking, there is not a great deal to say, because the estimates on which the budget itself was framed have in the main been met by the four or five months’ experience of the incomings and outgoings of this financial year. In respect of sales tax. income tax, land tax and death duties, the estimates previously presented have largely been borne out. Only in one respect is there any substantial deviation ; that is, in respect of duties of customs and excise, in which regard the revenue has been quite appreciably in excess of the budget estimate. I believe that the figures will* be made available to the public generally to-morrow morning. They will show that, for the first five months of this financial year, something like £1,000,000 has been received in excess of the budget’s estimates. I have had made such an analysis as is possible of the customs and excise figures. The increase of revenue is very largely explainable by the imports in excess of the estimates of motor car chassis and petrol, together with increased receipts from the duties on beer and spirits. Those items, added to increased primage, account for very nearly £1,000,000 out of about £1,100,000 by which the revenue from customs and excise is in excess of the estimate. It is, however, too early in the financial year to make any forecast as to the eventual state of the budget as at the 30th June, 1938, because quite frequently in the past, the Government lias had the experience that a budget has apparently been in considerable surplus at this period, and the first four months’ experience of the accounts has not been borne out at the completion of the year. At the present time the world’s markets are in a disturbed state. In the last three months there has been a rather serious decline of prices for most of our commodities. It would, therefore, be unwise to suggest that the figures for the full financial year will fulfil the promise of those that relate to the first four or five months. I do not need to remind honorable members of the decline of the prices of metals and wheat, and lately of wool. That decline began from a fairly high price index. It is not, therefore, possible to forecast the future. We all know that the national accounts are very much influenced by the prices which our principal commodities are able to command in the world’s markets. I mention this matter merely in order to warn honorable gentlemen that they cannot with any degree of safety forecast the result of the year’s accounts on the basis of the figures for the first four or five months.
– That is in marked contrast to the Prime Minister’s reply to what I said earlier in the day. He urged us to sound a note of optimism.
– I am not sounding a note of pessimism. Justification for optimism lies in the fact that the budget was presented only a few months ago, and in the first four or five months the estimate has been exceeded by well over £1,000,000. I merely suggest that that figure cannot be multiplied by three in order to forecast the result for the full year.
It is not necessary to deal in detail with the estimates of revenue and expenditure, in order to see how we stand. I merely point out that practically all the estimates of revenue and expenditure are strictly in line with the budget, the only exception being the estimate of receipts from customs and excise.
I would point out that the Government proposes to legislate in three different directions in such a way as to increase the expenditure for the financial year. The three new proposals are in respect of the liberalization of the maternity allowance, in the amount which the Government proposes to ask the Parliament to appropriate for special works to assist the unemployed at Christmas time, and in connexion with the restoration of war pensions to widows and children. These amounts will make necessary appropriations of about £250,000, in addition to the expenditure envisaged inthe budget. Increased benefits in respect of maternity allowances will mean a further expenditure of about £50,000, and the cost of war pensions for the half-year will be increased by an amount approximating from £80,000 to £90,000.
As to the financial and economic progress of Australia generally, there is no sign of any recession, for the figures are continually improving. The tone of optimism adopted by theRight Honorable the Prime Minister was fully justified by the figures for the first half of the financial year. I draw attention to increased speed of the turnover of money as indicated by cheque clearances. For the first four months of last financial year, the average weekly clearings amounted to £38,300,000, and for the first four months of this financial year, the corresponding figure was £42,900,000. The banking figures at the close of last financial year and since have reflected progress in the last twelve or eighteen months. I refer to both deposits and advances. At a later stage, I shall be glad to give further details with regard to this matter. I have already given the committee an assurance that the Estimates now being considered are those which. were presented on the 27th August last.
.- I agree that, having regard to the general debate that took place on the budget submitted in the previous Parliament, little further need be said at this stage. I recall that, although we had a full discussion, in genera] terms, of the financial position of the Commonwealth some time ago, circumstances, unfortunately, made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to scrutinize the details of the expenditure of the various departments. I am hopeful that, on this occasion, time will not be spent unduly on the first item on which general debate is permitted, so that we may have an opportunity to deal with the departmental Estimates much more adequately than was possible on the occasion to which I have referred. Once again, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) announces that the budget estimate of customs and excise revenue greatly understates the sum actually realized. This has become a regular feature of the Commonwealth budget.
– Last financial year the estimate was almost exactly realized.
– But in the previous year the estimate was greatly exceeded. The Treasurer has now told us that the revenue for the last five months was £1,000,000 more than the estimate, and that he contemplates an expenditure of £250,000 not provided for in the budget. As regards the relief of the unemployed, I agree that we should provide money for that purpose, and I also support the increased expenditure of £80,000 on war pensions. Whilst I agree to the payment of an additional £50,000 with respect to maternity allowances, I shall reserve certain criticism which I have to offer until the bill dealing with the matter is before us.
The suggestion made to-day by honorable members newly elected to this chamber that taxation should be reduced is one which requires a great deal of consideration. I ask the Treasurer to have a comprehensive survey made of the incidence of taxation in Australia. Having regard to the fact that we are one people, let him consider the amount of direct taxes paid to the State governments and to the Commonwealth Government, and then, take into consideration the incidence of customs and excise duties and sales tax on the same community. He will find that the yield of tax from the community is steadily rising. Although the Government declares that it has reduced taxation, the par capita yield of customs and excise duties this year will probably be the highest for a decade, and, possibly, the highest on record. The effect of that taxation on people with low incomes ought to be taken into account. I cannot say definitely to what extent the total yield of indirect taxes is not passed on in commodity prices, or compensated for by wage adjustments with regard to the cost of living. I am not able to say how much of the indirect taxation presses unfairly upon those in receipt of low incomes, yet it imposes a per capita rate of tax far higher than would be agreed upon as fair, if we were fixing the tax on such incomes. There are certain commodities which arc affected by indirect taxation, and which are largely consumed by the working people, who, as far as possible, should be relieved of such imposts. In principle, it is far better to tax directly than indirectly, as it is less easy for a direct tax than for an indirect one to be passed on.
– A direct tax is more honest.
– It is certainly more equitable. At the present time the amount of tax paid hy those on the lower incomes is disproportionate to that imposed on persons on the higher incomes. It is said that those in receipt of substantial incomes ought not to be taxed heavily, because their savings are available for the provision of capital for new industries, as these persons subscribe to Commonwealth loans, public companies and the like, thus enabling the nation to have improved equipment for industries. To an extent that may be true, but it is no justification for enabling the obligations which the nation has to meet to involve disregard for the fundamental principle of ability to pay.. Ability to pay is measured by the amount of money a citizen has after he has met his obligations to provide at least the essentials for the subsistence of himself, his wife, and his children. The Treasurer may point to the increase of deposits in the savings banks, and claim that there we have an indication that even the poorest in the community are able to save, but savings banks transactions in Australia now cover a much wider field than the old conception of the frugal savings of the poor. Many public bodies and all the trade unions are included among the eligible depositors in the savings bank.*
I point to the f act - and the Treasurer’s speech has confirmed it - that we should have regard to what appears to be the probable trend in the next three or four years - a period of increased economic difficulty. I notice that the loan of £8,000,000 now being raised is offered at a slightly lower rate of interest than that of the previous loan. This is probably duo to the fact that there is less demand for capital for industrial expansion. The Treasurer said that there was a considerable increase of London funds, but I question whether the amount of money available for investment in Australia at the present time is such as would warrant reduced interest rates, were it not for the fact that the market for industrial investment appears to give all the portents of a declining yield. Because of that, it would inevitably follow that the safer and more reliable form of investment, namely Government securities, would become increasingly attractive. That would appear to me to be a commonsense reading of the situation. While I say it is satisfactory to note that interest rates have gone back a little - that hardening trend about which we complain for government requirements has apparently been arrested - it is, unfortunately, I think, due in part to a realization that we have reached the limit in demands for capital for industrial expansion. I direct the Treasurer’s attention to the speech of the Chairman of Directors of the Bank of New South Wales the other day in that connexion, in which he said that the banks themselves, as a matter of wisdom, should discourage the provision of advances for increased capital equipment in industry. He made that point himself showing that capacity to produce seemed so great that it would probably very rapidly outstrip consumers’ demands. All that seems to be more or less faulted by the fact that employment in factories tends to increase. I am glad to see that that is the case. I am not in any way formulating what I should describe as pessimistic ideas; just as the Treasurer himself five minutes ago acknowledged that the present rate ‘of income to the Treasury from one source is not an indication of what can be regarded as the average for the year, so, similarly, I am endeavouring to show in regard to all these features of our economics at the present time that it, appears to me that we are about to enter upon an era in which economic difficulty is to become greater for governments than’ has been the case in the last three or four years. We are, in fact, about to experience, if not a retardation of the upward trend, probably an actual reversal of it. Everybody will regret it, but because that appears to be a reasonable deduction from the present situation, 1 ask the Government, in the formulation of its general financial policy, to have regard for the fact that the States an now less able than they ever were to carry out the very large social and domestic responsibilities which under the Constitution devolve upon them. The Treasurer will know that the budget he recently presented showed the most satisfactory state of the State budgets for some years, but I pointed out earlier to-day that the States were spending a considerable amount of money from loan account and that this year, the Treasurer - or the Loan Council, for whose decision I take it the Commonwealth has some responsibility - has reduced the loan provision from £16,000,000 to £14,400,000 which means, in fact, that it is to be £5,000,000 less than it was in 1935-36. So that the Treasurer will not misunderstand me, I am using net loan expenditure without regard to the provision for revenue deficits or repayments. Repayments are approximately £5,000,000 in the last year, otherwise the loan, provision would have been £21,-000,000. All of that indicates, to myself at any rate, the need for the Commonwealth Government regarding itself as an integral part of the governmental system of Australia when dealing with problems of taxation and also when dealing with the problem of the joint responsibility of Australian Governments for the employment of the people. If things should go backwards, the States will be called upon once again to provide employment. The Treasurer must face the fact that they will be less capable of doing’ it in the next period than they were in 1930-31, because the proportion of their taxation which will be absorbed in interest and debt charges generally, will be higher than previously, even allowing for the benefits of conversion loans. It appears to me a reasonable prediction that this year the Commonwealth will have a surplus of approximately £1,000,000; because, while it is true that there may be a falling off in the proceeds of indirect taxation in the last months of the financial year, there will at the same time be a corresponding increased proportion of revenue from income and land taxation. Therefore, it is a reasonable presumption at this juncture that the Treasurer should show on the data submitted to the committee an approximate surplus of at least £1,000,000. That being the case, I urge him to reconsider the whole question of the proposed overseas loan of £2,000,000 sterling for defence. I think that he could do better than that. He has more than one alternative. He could draw less from the loan pool for farmers’ debt adjustment.
– The Commonwealth is in the hands of the States in the matter.
– It is not. The farmers’ debt adjustment legislation is legislation of the devising of this Parliament. It is true that the Commonwealth legislated for a loan appropriation, hut at that time, the Treasurer pointed out that lie had. no recourse but to go to the loan market for that money. I am now indicating that there is no need to go on the market for that £2,500,000, because there are reasonable prospects of a surplus of £1,000,000 on this year’s Commonwealth transactions. ‘ The unfortunate fact is that if £2,500,000 is earmarked from loan funds foi* farmers’ debt adjustment, , it is £2,500,000 which the States cannot get out of the pool for works programmes. The Commonwealth Government and the governments of the States are faced with very many problems, such as the abolition of slums and the provision of housing for the people, which the States are unable to grapple with because of the lack of capital. The Commonwealth could at least let the States have £1,000,000 for that purpose. All Australian governments are to raise £16,900,000 this year by loan, of which the Commonwealth is to take £2,500,000, which amount is hypothecated for farmers’ debt adjustment. New South Wales is to get £5,200,000 ; it has a slum problem about which there is no question. Victoria is to get £2,500,000. The Victorian representatives in this chamber know that the Victorian Government has recently had submitted to it the report of an investigating committee into slum conditions in Melbourne. I do not propose to draw upon that report here other than to state what I believe to be the general impression, that it revealed a state of affairs which came as a great shock to most of us. I say with great respect that, while I regret that situation, at the same time I am unable to accept the statement that the State Government of Victoria should be able to- overcome that difficulty. As things stand, having regard to the ordinary obligations of the States and to the limitation upon their borrowing powers by market conditions and the decisions of the Loan Council, it must be clear that that state of affairs is going to continue indefinitely unless the Commonwealth will take less from the loan pool or unless it is able to make more money available. Earlier in the day I said that the British policy of dealing with the depression was cheap money and public works. I draw attention to the fact that, apart from its re-armament provision and the expansion of a number of other important, undertakings, the British Government found £150,000,000 a year for a series of years for housing alone. That £150,000,000 in Great Britain represents probably about £4 a head of the population. Australia is not finding out of the loan provision £4 a head for housing or anything like it. I suggest to the Treasurer that, while he has given us additional information in respect of the budget which he submitted some little time ago, and says he proposes to take approximately one-quarter of the present excess of revenue over the estimate, he ought to be able to show that he will end up with a surplus of more than £1,000,000, and that he ought, therefore, be able to indicate to us that it is not necessary to borrow the whole of the provision for farmers’ debt adjustment. He could provide £1,000,000 from revenue, or avert the necessity for a sterling loan abroad.
The honorable gentleman will recall that I urged the unwisdom of Australia resuming in principle the borrowing of money overseas for any purpose. I submit that the purpose for which this overseas loan is being raised is essentially national; is essentially associated with the defence of this country. I do submit that, rather than borrow for the defence of this nation, we ought to impose some sort of graduated direct tax, so that those who, in recent years, have been and are still getting large incomes out of the Australian people, ought to be made to make a special contribution as an insurance protection for the preservation of their incomes. I see no earthly reason why the wealthy classes of Australia should not be called upon, when we are unfortunately obliged to make the largest contribution we have ever made in our own defence, to make at least a direct contribution out of the increased incomes which improved conditions in recent years have secured to them. I would undertake to support a direct tax on the higher ranges of incomes which would yield whatever is required to place the defensive capacity of this country on such a basis as the Government’s defence policy considers to be desirable. Borrowing overseas in order to provide ourselves with means to defend ourselves, appears to me to be a particularly false financial policy, and I think that it fails to take cognisance of the patriotic spirit of the Australian people. I say that frankly, and I hope that in doing so I correctly interpret the general opinion of the people of Australia. I believe, if it were put up to them that we had to make this contribution in order to safeguard ourselves against what appears to be a danger that besets us and we had the alternative of plunging Australia into debt overseas, with all the dangers involved when economic and financial collapse again comes to the world, they would prefer to make a direct subvention now rather than mortgage Australia in order to make the necessary provision. There is great danger in borrowing overseas. The honorable gentleman has pointed with pride - and no doubt justifiable pride - to the successful conversion of Australian securities abroad at low rates of interest, but one of the important factors in that success was the fact that we had ceased to borrow new money overseas. We were not raising £1 of new money for any purpose; we were, simply maintaining our debt abroad without increasing it, and we were obtaining the advantage of a more favorable money market. This latest conversion left 70 per cent, of the total amount in the hands of the underwriters. There may be an explanation for that, but it is evident that the British public will not take up our securities. The Treasurer has made an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank, but, ultimately, the bank will have to have the debt transferred. The present is definitely a temporary provision preceding the flotation of a public loan.
This item also deals with the allowances of members of Parliament. I say to the people of Australia that an allowance of £1,000 a year to members of the Commonwealth Parliament, having regard’ to all the circumstances, is not excessive. I point to the fact that we have removed all the percentage reductions from the salaries of public servants. Many public servants receive much higher salaries than do members of this Parliament. It may be true that some of them are much more able men, and that they are better citizens than we are, but whatever be the truth about that, the fact remains that during the financial emergency their salaries were reduced by a given percentage in the same way as were the allowances of members of Parliament. During subsequent years, the -Commonwealth Government reduced the percentage reduction from time to time until finally it was wiped out altogether in the case of public servants. We are the public servants of the nation, and I know that there is a feeling that the people do not like to see members of Parliament restoring their own salaries. I felt that, rather than leave this matter to some other honorable member to bring forward, I, as Leader of the Opposition, with a full realization of my responsibilities to Parliament and the people, and regarding the matter quite independently of my own position, should say to the people of Australia that the percentage reduction imposed upon the allowances of members of Parliament ought now to be abolished. The provision necessary to restore the allowances ought now to be made.
.- During question time this afternoon, I raised the subject of the infantile paralysis epidemic in Victoria and Tasmania, and I desire to refer to it now more extensively than was possible at that time. I have no desire to trespass upon the rights of honorable members who represent constituencies in Victoria or Tasmania, but I feel that I must urge upon the Government the urgent need for taking action to combat this disease, and to assist to restore the health of those who have become its victims. The situation in Victoria and Tasmania is so alarming, and the disease has become so widespread, that the Commonwealth Government should recognize its obligation to ensure that the very best medical treatment is made available to sufferers from the disease. I fear that there is a tendency to try to pass the responsibility on to some one else. The Government may say that health is essentially a matter for the State governments, but we have already shown, by the creation of a Commonwealth Ministry of Health, that it is a matter of national as well as State concern. I cannot feel satisfied that we are doing everything possible within the resources of the nation to deal effectively with this epidemic. I honour those persons who are seeking to give relief to sufferers, and I appreciate the efforts of doctors and nurses in their behalf ; hut I am compelled to wonder, even in spite of the statement of the Minister for Health (.Dr. Earle Page) this afternoon that mcm hers of the medical profession iri Australia are .just as capable as those in any other part of the world, whether
Wu have fully explored the possibility of obtaining from abroad information regarding improved methods of treatment, lt seems to me that the disease of infantile paralysis has baffled the medical profession in Australia. Doctors appear to know nothing of its origin, and are at a great disadvantage in knowing how to treat it. During the weekend, a case came under my notice in which a little girl developed a fever, and was under observation by a doctor for some time without his being able to determine what was the nature of her complaint. Eventually he called in a reputed expert nil the disease of infantile paralysis, and just before his arrival the patient gave definite indications of being affected by paralysis. I understand, however, that even if those indications had become evident at an earlier stage, nothing more could have been done to. help her than had been done, because of the sparse knowledge possessed. It is evident that some further knowledge is required by members of the medical profession in Australia regarding this matter, and I am not convinced that the Government has made every effort to find out whether more is known of the disease in other parts of the world. During the last week-end, the Victorian Government sought the cooperation of one of the principal hospitals in: Melbourne in connexion with the aftercare of paralysis victims, and though the board in control of the hospital at first gave its consent, and promised to make so many beds available, it later indicated its inability to keep to that promise, and refused to give any explanation. It seems to me that, in circumstances such as these, there is a responsibility upon the Commonwealth Government to do what it can to provide for .after care as well as aiding treatment.
– Millions of pounds can always be found for war.
– Yes, unlimited provision can always be made for that, but the Government regards itself as having been rather magnanimous when it made £10,000 available to the State Government of Victoria to deal with this most serious matter. It does not seem to me that the Government is treating this matter with sufficient seriousness. We should play a more active part in preserving the health and well-being of the community, particularly the children of the community. Even for purely financial reasons - and they should be the last consideration - we should remember that if paralysis victims become totally incapable of supporting themselves they will eventually become a charge on the community. But it would be far better for us to give to the younger people of our community the opportunity to enjoy a higher standard of living, so that they may develop into normal citizens, who will be able to take their place in the life of this country and discharge the full responsibilities of normal citizenship. In order to do this they must, in my opinion, be enabled to develop their physique under conditions which will make possible the best of health standards. If that desirable end is to be achieved, this Parliament must awaken to its responsibilities. The last Parliament failed to do so. The Lyons Government has fallen lamentably short in this regard. I hope that, through my having raised the issue at this juncture, it will be possible to summon to the aid of Mie child life of Australia every service which a sympathetic government is capable of rendering to it. In this way we may be able to assist in restoring to good health many children who have become the unfortunate victims of one of the most serious scourges that has befallen the country for very many years.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– I should not have taken part in this debate had it not been for the attack made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) on the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) and the medical profession generally in connexion with the present outbreak of infantile paralysis. The honorable member displayed an ignorance which he could easily have rectified had he taken the trouble during the recent recess to read the Hansard report of the debates during the last session. He should know that there is no known cure for infantile paralysis, lu the course of my philanthropic work 30 years ago 1 took under my care a girl, aged two and a half years, suffering from the complaint, and she lived until she was only fourteen and a half years” old. Judging by his remarks it is clear that the honorable member does not work among the poo:er classes in the electorate which he represents. Bie may get into Parliament by shouting about the Labour party’s policy, but it is evident that he knows nothing about the complaints which afflict
Hie poorer people resident in his constituency. If he did he would have had brought under his notice many cases of infantile paralysis. Furthermore, if he approached members of the medical profession practising in his own electorate they would tell him, as members of the medical profession the world over would tell him, that there is no known cure for i nf an tj 1 c p ar alys i s .
– What about Sister Kenny’s treatment?
– Sister Kenny’s method of treatment concerns the after care of patients; it is not a cure for the disease. T point out that in Australia to-day two members of the medical profession - Dr. Burnett, whose services have been made available by the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust, and Dr. Keogh - are engaged in research work in an endeavour to discover a cure. When he declares that tho Minister for Health is not doing his utmost to counteract the present epidemic the honorable member for Hindmarsh overlooks the work of these two doctors. Not only are they themselves endeavouring to discover a cure for the disease, but they are also in contact with every known authority on the disease throughout the world. In many of the richer countries to-day hundreds of thousands of pounds are being spent in an endeavour to discover a cure for infantile paralysis, and as soon as any such discovery is made the two doctors, whose names I have mentioned, will secure for Australia the benefits of such a development. As a rule the honorable member makes very few worthwhile contributions to debates in this chamber. I remind him that honorable members on this side do not depend upon tho roar of a party crowd to return them to Parliament.
– Do not be insulting.
– I am not insulting. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh had common decency he would withdraw his remarks immediately. During the last 30 years 1 have had more to do, probably, wi th incurables than any other member of this committee. It is an accepted fact among the medical profession that there are over 200 diseases for which no cure is known. The best the medical profession can do in respect of these diseases is only to relieve sufferers. There are only seven diseases for which a cure, either by surgical or medical treatment, is known. I have no doubt that the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, to the effect that he has thrashed the Minister for Health for his failure to deal properly with the outbreak of infantile paralysis, will be given full publicity in the Adelaide Advertiser. If he understood the mere A B C of the matter the honorable member would admit that his statements are pure hypocrisy, and that no intelligent man would make them.
– Mr. Chairman, I take strong exception to the insulting remarks of the honorable member for Barton, and I ask that he withdraw them.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The honorable member will withdraw the remarks complained of.
– I shall withdraw them, and say that the honorable member’s lack of understanding of the matter does not enable him to comprehend the fundamentals of human nature.
– I ask that the honorable member bc called on to make an unqualified withdrawal of his remarks.
The, CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member for Barton has ‘withdrawn the remarks complained of, and he now says what he intended to say originally, and that, in itself, is not unparliamentary.
– I have spent a lifetime in trying to discover ways and means to relieve and cure infantile paralysis. I was a member of a board which, placed 30 cases of infantile paralysis before the Reverend Mr. Hickson when that gentleman visited Australia some years ago as a faith healer. Whilst I admit, however, that there ‘ may be something in curing disease by the principle of mind over matter, I know of no cure effected by such treatment. Infantile paralysis is caused by a virus which is not discernible under a microscope. About a year ago a serum was produced, but it did not prove satisfactory in the treatment of this disease. To-day, a solution is used to spray the nasal passages, but this also is not considered to be effective. It has been found that the solution destroys the olfactory nerve, and, consequently, the medical profession does not recommend its use. I repeat that medical science has not discovered a cure for the disease. 1 object to an honorable member endeavouring to cast blame on any member of the Government, or any departmental officer, by alleging neglect of their duty towards suffering humanity. Such honorable members profess that they are anxious to do something to relieve suffering humanity, but in reality they seek to climb into Parliament on the backs of cripples. So soon, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh understands the subject he has Been talking about, he will not repeat the statements he has made, and which no intelligent man would make. Infantile paralysis is misunderstood even in the department charged with the administration of the invalid and old-age pension legislation. Recently I brought under the notice of the Commissioner the case of a girl, aged sixteen years, who was suffering from this disease. Dr. Ludowici declared that this girl was not totally and permanently incapacitated,’ yet Dr. Hoets, a specialist at the Sydney Hospital, certified that she was totally and permanently incapacitated. When I produced that certificate to the Commissioner, he still refused to give the girl a pension.
– The Government of which the honorable member is a member approves of that treatment of pensioners.
– This Government does not approve of such treatment of pensioners. The honorable member is aware that the Government acts upon the- advice of certain officers and members of the medical profession in matters of this character. I am glad to be able to say, however, that, after a period of five months, I persuaded the Commissioner that this child was totally and permanently incapacitated.
– What a man !
– Yes, you are only a thing.
Opposition MEMBERS, - Withdraw !
– Order ! The honorable member has made a remark which he must withdraw.
– I object to honorable members-
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat? The honorable member for Fawkner.
– I beg to move dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman.
– Order ! I have not given any ruling.
.- As we are considering the Estimates for this year, it is perhaps appropriate that we should deal with that matter for a few moments. I do not propose to take up much of the time of the committee, but it has been claimed frequently that we have returned to a condition of affairs equivalent to that existing in 1929, we might profitably inquire into the present state of the Commonwealth finances as contrasted with the state of the Commonwealth finances in respect of 1928-29. If we do so, we shall find a very remarkable, and, in fact, almost terrifying position. Apparently, the Government finds it necessary in 1937-38 to expend nearly £23,000,000 more, and to collect nearly £24,000,000 more, than was the case in 1928-29. In respect of that year, receipts amounted to £61,419,770, and expenditure to £63,778,745, whilst in respect of 1937-38 receipts are estimated to amount to £85,190,000 and expenditure to £S6,466,558, or an estimated increase of approximately 35 per cent, in respect of both receipts and expenditure over the corresponding pre-depression year, 1928-29. The first explanation which would suggest itself to honorable members is that the phenomenal increase is due to the fact that there have been substantial increases of the amounts payable by the Commonwealth in respect of pensions, defence and payments to the States, and I concede that that is the case. But there have been equally striking decreases of the amounts of payments made under the heading of War and Repatriation Services. In the year 1928-29, payments under that heading amounted to £30,000,000, but this financial year they amount to something less than £19,000,000; so it can be said that the increased payments in respect of pensions, payments to the States and defence are almost offset by the decreased amount of interest payable annually by the Commonwealth in respect of war and repatriation services. The suggestion which I make for the consideration of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is that, in view of the fact that honorable members of this committee cannot be expected to go through the budgetpapers in that detail which would give them a complete and accurate picture of why and how this increase has taken place, and in view of the fact that these are the first two normal, or allegedlynormal periods capable of comparison, he will attempt to analyse the receipts and expenditure for these two years and present to the committee the result showing how and why this increase has been occasioned. I cannot see any result to indicate why the increase of 35 per cent, in bur annual budget should have become necessary. As a matter of fact, if we go through the years subsequent to 1928-29 we find that there have been decreases. For instance, in the depression year of 1930-31, in which a deficit of £10,000,000 odd was shown, receipts were in the neighbourhood of £56,000,000, and .the expenditure exceeded £66,000,000, while in the depression year of 1931-32, the receipts were £58,648,52S and the expenditure £57,334,437, representing a reduction of expenditure by something like £6,000,000 from the boom year of 1928-29. I know it is difficult for honorable members to follow the figures as they are presented in the budget-papers. Their difficulty is symptomatic of the difficulty all experience in attempting to analyse public accounts, but the fact remains that since the depression years, and even since the prc-depression years, there has been a phenomenal increase of both receipts and expenditure. If the Treasurer does not find it convenient to make this analysis, I suggest that he draw the attention of the Auditor-General to the matter and that the Auditor-General make some special reference to it in his report for this year. The time is appropriate to give consideration to such an analysis of government accounts because we now have had these two normal financial years for comparison. One could perhaps account for the increase if there had been any considerable growth in the scale or scope of Commonwealth social services, hut in the programme outlined in the Prime- Minister’s policy speech we are -promised further expansion in respect of social services, particularly under the heading of national insurance. It must be anticipated that a scheme of national insurance will place even heavier burdens on government finances than is the case at present. We have also this consideration, that, if we, in a normal or even prosperous period, collect nearly £24,000,000 more than we did in a pre-depression era, then if we should strike another economic calamity, we may find that the Australian people have not any longer that financial resilience to meet any further payments such as they were required to make in depression years. I do suggest some analysis on the lines I have indicated, and that an explanation should be given to the committee. In the absence of such an explanation, honorable members on all sides cannot fail to be disturbed by the steadily increasing scale of Government receipts and expenditure.
.- I support the remarks made by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) about infantile paralysis. Unlike the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), I do not profess to know anything about the causes or the medical side of the disease, but I do know that at present it is very prevalent in my electorate. It has spread fairly rapidly. In the first place, it was confined to the slum area of Launceston - unfortunately, Launceston, as well as other cities of the Commonwealth, has- slum, areas - but. from the slums it has spread to other parts of the city and beyond to the country areas. Comparing the population of Launceston with that of Melbourne, I think that the .disease has spread more rapidly in Launceston than on the mainland. When infantile paralysis broke out in Melbourne sonic months ago, the question of Commonwealth assistance was raised, if my memory serves me right, there was no question of waiting for the State government to ask for aid before the Commonwealth Government gave it. It may be true that the State government did approach the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance, but that is not the particular point I wish to make. The fact remains that the Commonwealth Government made money available to Victoria to deal with the scourge, and 1 join with the honorable member for .Denison in his request that financial assistance be made available to the State of Tasmania for the same purpose. I know something of what has taken place during the last month since infantile paralysis has been prevalent in Tasmania, and I know too what the State Health Department has endeavoured to do in respect of treatment of patients in the early stages of the disease and after care, lt will bo readily understood that in a city the size of Launceston’ there is no overabundance of accommodation for the reception of victims of the. disease, lt lias meant a good deal of re-organization in the hospitals, and has placed a tremendous burden on the Health Department of the State. This Government has a definite responsibility in regard to the matter. We have, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, a Commonwealth Health Department which deals with health on a national basis. 1 suggest that if there is one matter which is of national importance it, is this very question of infantile paralysis, and I join with my colleague in suggesting that consideration should- be given at some early date by the Minister for Health (Dr. Earle Page) to the provision of practical assistance to the State of Tasmania in the battle against the disease in the same way that it, was given in Victoria.
Item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded, -
Remainder of proposed vote - TheParliament, £12S,000- -(on motion by Mr. CURTIN) postponed.
Proposed votes - Prime Minister’s Department. £452,000; Department of External Aif airs, £14,700; Department of the Treasury, £825,000; AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £202,500; and Department of the Interior, £499,200- agreed to.
DEPARTMENT or Defence.
Proposed vote, £5,992,000.
Mr. CUMIN (Fremantle) [8.26 J.- The Defence Estimates in the form in which they are submitted to the committee provide for the same categories of expenditure as we considered before Parliament was dissolved, and 1 ask that the Government give to the committee some explanation as to why it persists in its intention to provide for the payment for an essential part of the defence equipment in the present year by an overseas loan. The only opportunity I have to have these Estimates re-cast is now. I frankly acknowledge that insofar as the expenditure and the details of it are specified in the Estimates, ‘ I have no criticism to offer, but the Minister this afternoon heard some criticism regarding this aspect of the Government’s financial policy, and I am rather astonished that, despite the two references this afternoon, and the submission of the Defence Estimates this evening, neither the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) nor the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is here to give to the committee a statement indicating the reasons why the Government feels unable to ‘ change its intentions in this important connexion. I have said to the committee that the surplus available, or apparently available this year, ought to enable us to provide for defence expenditure without recourse to raising a public loan overseas. I should be very glad, having regard to the fact that the financial year is half over, and to the fact that the situation has changed profoundly overseas, if the Ministry would give to us reasons why it persists in this policy which I really do believe the country condemned notwithstanding the majority that Was given the Government at the general elections.
Mr. BARNARD (Bass) 18.30].- I support what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) about this matter, but, in addition, X want to bring under the notice of the Government the need for an inquiry in respect of the seaplane bases for defence purposes. I do not know just what it is proposed to do in regard to the State of Tasmania in this respect. Tasmania is an important part of the Commonwealth, and if Australia is to be adequately defended that State is entitled to some consideration in this respect. The Tamar is a wonderful river, and as it provides an excellent runway for seaplanes a careful investigation should be made as to its suitability as a base. I trust that my suggestion will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), and that the suitability of the Tamar will bc investigated.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) referred to the loan of £2,000,000 which the Government proposes to raise in Great Britain in respect of naval construction; but if the Government were to adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition it would soon find itself in difficulties. Labour governments have en.deavoured unsuccessfully to govern Australia, and the defence policy which the Labour party now advocates is quite ineffective for the protection of this country. During the recent election campaign the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Reasley) and other members of the Labour party, in a desperate attempt to secure votes, told the people that if an anti-Labour Government were returned it would conscript the manhood of this country for service overseas. This misleading statement caused considerable consternation in the minds of certain persons in Australia, and men and women in my electorate whose sons are members of the volunteer forces, asked me if that was the policy of the party I supported. 1 told them that if an anti-Labour Government were returned it would not conscript any one, and that such statements had been made by our political opponents merely to secure votes. Instead of making such utterances the members of the Opposition should have devoted their time to many of the vital issues confronting Australia to-day. Those who have joined the volunteer forces have been assured that they will not be asked to serve overseas, and such untruths are likely to interfere with enlistments. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) repeated the complaint of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) concerning the manufacture of munitions. Because certain manufacturers in Australia have been asked to supply particulars of the machinery which they can make available for the production of munitions in the event of war, it is contended by some honorable members opposite that if private enterprise is allowed to engage in the production of munitions, manufacturers will endeavour to engineer an international dispute to enable them to make huge profits. Provision is being made for the private manufacture of arms and munitions in Australia so that in the event of war Australia may be able to protect itself and also assist in the defence of her sister dominion of New Zealand, where a Labour Government is in power. Mr. Lang, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, and the honorable member for West Sydney have stated that in the event of Australia being invaded the British Navy would be unable to come to our assistance, and that Australia can be adequately defended by aeroplanes. Having studied the defence policy, of the Australian Labour party, I believe that thatparty is as anti-British as is Russia. There has been a great deal of misrepresentation, concerning the Government’s policy in respect of the manufacture of munitions. The international situation at present is so serious that every effort must be made to defend this country. Honorable members opposite told the eW.ors that Great Britain would not be’ able to assist other parts of the Empire, that the manufacture of munitions at Lithgow was a mistake, that we ought to stand peacefully by while an enemy invaded Australia, and that we should merely ask where and when we were to bc attacked. The expenditure of this money nt the present time is essential for the protection of the lives of our people and of Australia’s great industries. I submit that, if Australia were suddenly attacked. every piece of machinery in the country would be needed to provide sufficient munitions to enable us to meet the enemy outside our shores. An honorable member said this afternoon that the manufacture of munitions ought to be a national undertaking. Let us supposethat there should bc no war in which we were involved for the next ten years. Why should we establish a State undertaking that could be used only for the manufacture of munitions, when, in every industrial area, there are industries which, in peace time, can be used for the production of what is needed by primary and secondary industry, and can immediately be converted to war-time needs whenever danger might threaten in that direction? Honorable members opposite are saturated with the peculiar idea that the Government should do everything. I believe that the Government should establish the nucleus of almost every industrial undertaking that would be needed to check the avarice and greed of men who make undue profits out of the people. On the other hand, however, private enterprise must be encouraged to develop in order that it may be capable of playing its part in the protection of Australia. I ask this Parliament, and the people of Australia, to turn a deaf ear to the voices of those sirens who would entice us on to the rocks of disaster, and destroy the best that wc have in this country. The people should stand behind the United Australia party, which has led them for the last six years, and will continue to lead them for the next six ~ years.
Mr. HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) 1 8.48]. - I had not intended to discuss this particular item at any length to-night, because, in doing so, I should have to reiterate the speech that I made some weeks ago; but I have been struck very seriously and forcibly by two things, the first of which is that an almost complete understanding seemed to exist this afternoon between the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), particularly in relation to this national question of the defence of Australia. Both of those honorable gentlemen agreed that, if there i3 one question on which there should be hearty co-operation, it is that of national defence. This afternoon, the Prime Minister had made to him, by the Leader of the Opposition, the very pleasing gesture that that gentleman was prepared, on big fundamental issues, such as defence, to co-operate with the Government. Having listened to the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane), I suggest, sir, that you ask yourself what hope there would be of anything in the nature of co-operation between the Government forces and those of the Opposition if there were many more honorable members on the Government side like the honorable member for Barton. Before this programme was made public, I voiced what I thought was a serious appeal to the Government, not to enter into negotiations which would mean the manufacture in this country of arms or ammunition for private profit. I was never more serious “in my life than when J. made that appeal to the then Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill), and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and was never more pleased than when the Treasurer, by way of interjection, said that he did not believe in private enterprise embarking upon profit-making * activities in the manufacture of arms and ammunition. I naturally thought that, as a senior member of the Cabinet, the honorable gentleman was speaking for the Government. Many ministerial party members said to me afterwards, that they thought that I had seriously exaggerated the situation, and that I was imbued with fears which had no foundation, when I said that I knew that private manufacturers had been canvassed, that the offer had been made to supply them with blue prints, which cost money to bring from England to Australia, and that experts would be made available to them from our government workshops, or from England, if they cared to tender for the manufacture’ of munitions and some portion of our arms. I protested against that proposal. I expressed the hope that the Government would not, for the first time in our history, lay Australia open to the evils that have always been associated with the private manufacture of arms and ammunition. I pointed out that leading men and women of all nationalities in the world, men whom representatives of the Government, I am sure, hold in the highest respect, have throughout the post-war period of the last twenty years, devoted all their time and energy to attempts to put an end to the private manufacture of arms and ammunition. Evidence given on oath before royal commissions and other governmental investigations has proved that all sorts of bribery and corruption are associated with the private manufacture of arms and ammunition.
– That was not disclosed by the inquiry conducted by the British commission.
– It was disclosed by the commission appointed by the Government of the United States of America. Many great men, such as Lord Ponsford, have gone as witnesses to Geneva, and have endeavoured to persuade the delegates to take steps for the discontinuance of this vile practice, to try to outlaw it. Every reasonable person in the world to-day believes that the greatest provocateur, the greatest urger for war, the strongest inspiring force, is associated with the immense profits that are made by the few people who control the manufacture of arms and ammunition, who pay princely incomes to men who lobby Ministers to get higher defence expenditure. T belong to an international organization which is sworn to oppose war. That does not mean that I’ stand for the vile things suggested by the honorable member for Barton. No man who sits on this side of the chamber would be so cowardly as to refuse to defend his own country against an invader. I resent the suggestion that any man on this side would take up that attitude. All would rush to the shore and take whatever weapon came to his hands for the purpose of using his best endeavours to defend our people and our country. But when it is a matter of this Government countenancing the making of profits out of this industry, rather than make what is necessary in our national workshops, altogether different considerations arise. I am opposed to the private manufacture of arms and ammunition, because of all the evils that are associated with it, because of the historical truths and facts that have been learned, concerning it, and because of what has been disclosed regarding the activities of the man who was regarded as the leader of the armament trusts of the world. 1 have seen hardly one statement in a newspaper published either in our own or any other language which did not refer in terms of horror, dread and hatred, to that titled gentleman whose death occurred recently, because of the money that he made and the power and the titles he acquired by reason of the profits he derived from the manufacture of arms and ammunition. When the Treasurer replied by way of interjection to my last protest, I thought that there was no real danger of the private manufacture of arms and ammunition in this country. I believed that the Government intended to extend1 its own operations, and also help our brothers and sisters in New Zealand with supplies, and that it would not allow profiteers to engage in this business. It has been said at important conferences that have been presided over by representatives of the Government of Great Britain, that there is hardly one Cabinet in the whole world which has not upon it an agent of the armament trusts of the world. Because I know that that must occur in this country if we begin what is suggested, I am opposed to the expenditure of any portion of the defence vote in helping private concerns to manufacture arms and ammunition. I believe that these can be better and more cheaply made in our own workshops. In my opinion, their manufacture in those establishments would make for greater suitability, and there would not be so much chance of fault being found with them. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) said this afternoon that he was glad that the Government had at last adopted the policy of doing this work in our own workshops. Although he was not speaking definitely, as I arn now, .of the manufacture of arms and ammunition, he welcomed the recognition by the Government of the fact that a saving could be effected by having work done in our own workshops. For five or six years I have preached that doctrine in this Parliament. I recall the late honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) questioning me on this matter. I said then as I say now, that I favour estimates of expenditure which are designed to do what is necessary to equip ourselves to defend our country, provided the work is carried out in our national workshops. The late honorable gentleman said, and Ministers also have said, that we have to import certain of our requirements because we cannot manufacture them at a reasonable price. That has always been the answer to men on this side of the chamber who have urged that all the guns and ammunition needed for our defence should be manufactured in our own country. This afternoon, for the first time, I heard a ministerial member say that a saving would be effected by having these things made in our own workshops. L believe that, under the control and supervision of government representatives, the materials would be better, there would not be so much wastage, and the expense would be no greater. I am protesting to-night, not against the talcing of adequate measures for the defence of Australia, but against the Government identifying itself with what has been the greatest curse in the world, and what thousands of leading men and women of the world are endeavouring to eradicate. I am voting and speaking for the total prohibition of private manufacturing of arms or ammunition for war purposes.
Mr. NAIRN (Perth) j 9.0’j. - I am pure that the people of Australia will welcome the friendly offer that has been made by members of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government on the subject of national defence. This offer revives, and, indeed, rnakes practicable, the suggestion, not altogether new, that there should be established in Australia something in the nature of a national council of defence upon which the Opposition would have permanent representation. There is apprehension on the subject of letting private contracts for the manufacture of munitions, but the other aspect, should be taken into consideration, at ail events, when we are initiating flip wider scheme of munitions making, it is, I think, desirable that we should have the co-opera i ion, limited co-operation if that Lt thought preferable, of the principal Australian companies engaged in the heavy industries. A munitions factory is not quite the same as an ordinary commercial undertaking. In the case of the latter, the product goes at once into consumption, whereas the product of a munitions factory is stored, and, it is hoped, may not be required. There is also a limit to the quantity of munitions which may be kept in store. The necessity exists at all times for large and efficient manufacturing plants, so that when an emergency arises, commercial concerns of a suitable cha’racter may be available for the service of the nation. This may involve the establishment of large plants with very high overhead costs. From a practical point of view, it. is desirable also that we should have the co-operation of those commercial concerns which are engaged particularly in the iron and steal industry, notably such big companies as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, motor manufacturing companies, and other concerns, capable of a rapid change over to war purposes, and under efficient control. Thus we should have something like a nucleus of plant and machinery. With a national factory as a central organization, and the effective co-operation of commercial concerns as auxiliary units, the business of manufacturing munitions would be on a satisfactory basis. However, I do agree that there is need for exercising the greatest care in letting contracts to private companies. 1 say this on- the evidence >f what has happened in European countries. Abuses have been- exposed, and there is no doubt that unless the -greatest precautions were taken here, there would he the risk of similar abuses in Australia. Therefore, while I believe that the principle of inviting co-operation from private manufacturers in the making of munitions, is sound; I consider that the extent of this work should be limited, mid that there should be strict supervision with regard to profits ‘earned.
The decentralization of munitions factories was discussed at the recent Imperial Conference, and the hope was then expressed that Australia might become the principal manufacturing and distributing centre for British possessions in the Pacific, a rr* 1 to friendly nations bordering on the Pacific. The conference adopted a definite recommendation that Empire munitions manufacturing establishments should npt be concentrated in vulnerable localities; that in the interests of national safety they should be spread throughout the Empire. This suggestion applies particularly to Australia, which suffers from isolation from other parts of the Empire, and Western Australia suffers similarly in relation to the eastern States, especially as regards defence measures. Under existing conditions all the munitions factories in Australia are situated in either Victoria or New South Wales. Western Australia has a great ength of coastline, quite unprotected. It is the most vulnerable part of Australia, and, unfortunately, is the part closest to those countries from which we may expect trouble, possibly, to come. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and, I think, the former Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) gave an assurance that when proposals to extend munitions factories were under consideration, the claims of the other States would have attention. Indeed, I think the Minister went so far as to indicate the possibility of establishing munitions factories in all of the capital cities. I was pleased with that assurance, but I should like a more definite pronouncement that the Government will, when dealing with its defence measures, consider favorably the establishment in Western Australia of a factory for the manufacture of munitions.
. -I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and endorse all that he had to say with reference to the serious menace arising from the private manufacture of munitions of war. The profit element is one of the most potential causes of conflict between nations. Countless inquiries and investigations made since the Great War have proved conclusively the truth of this statement. It has also ‘been established that Government manufacture of munition? of war means, in the long run, the production of a better article at a lower cost. Mr. Lloyd George, the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, in the House of Commons, after the war, mentioned the continual friction that had been experienced between the British Government and the armament rings, with regard to i lie prices charged for 1 111111:10 ns, and the quality of the outpUt lie stated that the position had become so serious that eventually the Government had to establish a Ministry of Munitions to take over the control of ail companies engaged in the manufacturing of munitions and essential war materials, to devise a costing system, and to have all work carried out under government supervision. The results to the nation were most satisfactory. Mr. Lloyd George declared that the Lewis gun, for which the armament rings had been charging the Government £165, had been turned out, under government supervision, for £25, and that £500,000,000 had been saved to the nation in the manufacture of munitions in less than two years. I warn the Government, and also honorable members who support its policy, of the extreme danger of handing over the manufacture of munitions in Australia, to private concerns. I fear that such a course will make possible the entry into Australia of a branch of the international armament ring with dire consequences to this country in time of war. In practically every legislative enactment passed by this Parliament, we have to include provisions for penalities and punishments against fraud for the purpose of higher profit. These safeguards have been necessary from the time when governments were obliged to enact laws relating to weights and measures to prevent cheating by private traders; and human nature being what it is, this state of affairs is likely to continue. The manufacture of munitions by private companies will really mean a betrayal of the interests of the people of Australia; because, as I have explained, the profit element will lead to fraud and be essentially a grave menace. To add force to my contention, I remind the committee that in the war between the United States of America and Spain more American soldiers lost their lives from eating the rotten food supplied by profiteers, than were killed by Spanish, bullets. This food had. been lying in the basements of various American packing houses for years and, when the war came and there was imperative demand for supplies, these profit hungry concerns sold it to the Government of the United State-; of America as food for soldiers. The n’y sound scheme for Australian defence must include the manufacture of munitions of war under strict Government supervision by capable men who have nothing to gain from the manufacture of shoddy material. With an efficient costing system and the elimination of the profit element, will disappear the clanger of getting an inferior product. The initial cost for the manufacture of munitions under this system might be slightly higher than under private contract, but the removal of the menace due to the profit factor would be well worth it. The manufacture of munitions by private companies may not be a serious menace in peace time, but if and when war comes, there will be a scramble for munitions and war materials of every kind, and that will be the time when the worst features of the private manufacture of munitions and war supplies will be disclosed. No vote of mine will ever be given in this Parliament to enable even one shell or one gun to be manufactured by private firms, whose sole object is the making of huge profits. I am speaking not of such defence equipment as it may be necessary to import from overseas, but of those things which can be made in our own country. On a visit to the Lithgow factory, which was established by a Labour government, I was informed that tools of trade of all descriptions could be made there.
– They are being manufactured at the present time at the Lithgow works.
– But at the time of my visit this was not permitted, as it was said to be against the policy of the Government to compete with private enterprise, and the works were eventually closed.
It was remarked by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that munition factories could not be kept in constant operation, because, in times of peace, the product was not used, but had to be stored. I trust with him that we shall never have occasion to use the munitions which are being accumulated, but I contend that a small arms factory, such as that established at Lithgow, should be permitted to manufacture the implements of peace as well as of war. It could produce better picks, shovels and other tools of trade than aremade by private firms, because private enterprise always puts profit before quality.
– Has the honorable member considered the constitutional aspect of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory engaging in trade?
– That difficulty has been overcome in respect of the manufacture of wireless equipment.
– But not with regard to picks.
– The honorable member who interjects will always stand behind private enterprise, and I entertain no hope of converting him to my own views concerning this matter, but I point out to the honorable member for Perth that there is no good reason why the wheels of industry in munition factories should not be kept in constant motion by the manufacture of ordinary tools of trade.
I again urge the Government to consider the experience of all countries between 1914 and 1918. There is no such thing as competition among the armament rings of the world, each of which is allotted its sphere for exploitation. We are told that the Government of the United States of America submitted requests to every large armament firm for contracts ranging from 1,000,000 dollars to 60,000,000 dollars, and that the prices quoted did not vary more than half a dollar, proving conclusively that there was a definite understanding among the various firms not to compete with one another. We should guard against the establishment in Australia of another branch of this world combine. It would be rank treachery to the nation to allow the ramifications of this sinister organization to be extended to Australia. I repeat that I shall never give my vote in support of any defence policy under which it is proposed to give contracts to private firms for defence equipment which could be manufactured in government factories in Australia. Huge savings were made in Great Britain by factories under government control undertaking this work, and a similar policy should be adhered to in this country. It has been said that already the Government has put out a feeler with the object of inducing private enterprise to manufacture certain defence equipment. The burden of the Australian taxpayers is -heavy enough without allowing war-mongering profiteers to rake off huge profits.
– I was pleased to hear the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and I commend him and his party for their offer of collaboration with the Government with regard to the defence of this country. I also compliment the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) upon his remarks in the last Parliament regarding the manufacture of munitions and essential war materials in governmentcontrolled factories. T am not afraid of being accused of a desire to bring about the- nationalisation of industry when I state that I believe in the defence of this country and in the manufacture of defence material in time of peace by government instrumentalities. I wish that all nations could be induced to fall into line in this regard. I have never been a conscriptionist, but I believe that if it be right to conscript the manhood of the nation we should also conscript the wealth of the country for defence purposes and, in a time of war, utilize some of the great engineering establishments for the manufacture of munitions. It has been said that .the metal manufacturers of Australia are prepared to establish a committee to advise the Government as to what factories could be employed in time of war for the manufacture of munitions and other equipment. In peace time, however, only government establishments should be engaged in the making of defence equipment. Munitions are just as necessary as the. air force and the militia. Private manufacturers naturally desire to make profits. After the Great War, Australia had a large body of skilled workmen who had been efficiently trained in the manufacture of defence equipment. A considerable number of our workmen were sent overseas for this purpose. Most of those trained in Great Britain returned to Australia, but, unfortunately, we did not avail ourselves further of their services. We sent <away men from Cockatoo Island and other docks to be trained in the docks of the world. Most of them came back and were appointed to very high positions, which they well deserved, because by their efficiency and diligence they proved their worth. If it is important to get men of that description in the engineering world, it is just as important that we should keep track of men who went overseas to serve this country in the manufacture of arms and munitions, and others who served in the battle areas as engineers and artisans and specialists of various kinds, and retain their services for our defence forces. The name of every one of them should be tabbed, so that if ever the demand came for their services they could be invited to rejoin the colours and help the Empire as they did before. We have, however, allowed all these experts, trained at such cost in the Great War, to be dispersed and lost sight of. I claim that at this moment there is a scarcity of pilots in this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and his party claimed to have evolved a sufficient defence of Australia by means of aeroplanes. I go a long way with them in that direction, but I believe that other services are just as essential. If we are all desirous, as I believe all members on both sides of the House are, of building up an effective force, including an air force, for the protection of our country, then we must have pilots, but I am certain that we cannot get pilots in this country to-day, whilst the means at the disposal of any man here to secure training as a pilot are infinitesimal. I know that governments have subsidized aero clubs, but the fact remains that, if a man desires to gain his A and B licences, his training will cost him a minimum of £300 out of his own pocket. We ought to offer facilities and inducements to industries, and particularly to companies interested in aviation, to train men, and we should have every one of those men tabbed. There is a voluntary organization in New South Wales consisting of airmen who served in the war. They have joined this body and have paid money out of their own pockets to hire planes in the endeavour to keep themselves efficient, but they have not received the slightest encouragement from this Government or from past governments. Their names should .be put down on our books and their places of residence recorded. They should be given the opportunity month by month to maintain them selves in a state of efficiency, and to encourage other young men to come along to be trained likewise. I am not blaming any government for this state of things.
– The honorable mem- ber helped to turn them on to the unemploymen tmarket .
– I have admitted that I was a member of a Government which allowed many of those men to be lost to the defence forces. I am trying to outline a policy for the good of Australia, a policy that all here should co-operate to evolve. We ought to keep together the men who have been, at great expense to the country, efficiently trained. The Department of Defence has expended huge sums of money in the training of officers, but it has always amazedme that young officers, from Duntroon College in particular, are placed in positions where their salaries can hardly maintain them.Is it any wonder that we lose them? I am not blaming the present Minister for Defence or his immediate predecessors. Our whole policy for years past has been wrong and that is why I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that, on the subject of national defence, which is of great importance to all of us, we should sink our party differences . and discuss our problems in a non-party way, so helping to build up an efficient defence for use by Australia if the emergency should ever arise. As regards the manufacture of aeroplanes, I was disappointed that the Government, of which I was a supporter, had to get an American plane built here. I believed then, and still believe, that the British plane is the best plane, and that it would have been better to evolve a policy which would keepthe manufacture of aeroplanes within the Empire. That is of as much importance as the policy for which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) has fought so tenaciously ever sincehe has beenhere -the standardization of the railway gauges-for which I greatly commend him. That is a most important item in the defence of Australia. I shall support any motion brought forward to standardize our railway gauges, because that is a subject well worthy of the immediate attention of the National Parliament. It would be much better for us as Australians and members of the British Empire if we had evolved a manufacturing concern or a government instrumentality that could have adopted a British aeroplane design so that our planes would have been more or less standardized and interchangeable throughout the Empire. One of the most important considerations in war is the interchangeability of materials. We discovered that fact in the last great war, even with things manufactured in Australia, including guns and small arms. The Mark VII. gun produced at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory equalled anything produced in the world and any gun that served in the war. A finer piece of gun mechanism was never produced. It was a credit to our factory and to the Australian workmen who turned it out. It is a pity that we have to manufacture implements of war and ammunition at all. I, like others, have been accused as a returned soldier of being a militarist and in favour of war. but my vote will always be cast for the adoption of peaceful methods between nations. I believe we can evolve between the peoples of the world a policy of peace which will eventually abolish war.
– Yet the honorable member is supporting a Government that is a war-making Government.
– That is a malicious statement for any honorable member to make.
– I am not supporting a war-making Government. I am only supporting the Government in its desire to defend Australia and the Empire if that becomes necessary. I hope with every honorable member that the time will never come when we or our children shall have to raise a gun again. War is abhorrent to anybody that has participated in it. I saw too many awful sights in the late war to favour the ma king of war again. Many of my colleagues made the supreme sacrifice. My vote will always be cast to prevent war from coming to this country or the Empire if it is possible to prevent it. I believe we can agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.
Holloway) that in peace time at least, we should not subsidize private enterprise in the manufacture of munitions or the building of implements of war, but that if this work has to be done it should be done in government factories by men for whose training Australia has already paid thousands of pounds.
– That is the policy that is being followed.
– Then I hope the Government will not depart from it. Whether our policy is right or wrong, J supported it before the election and during the election ami I support it at the present time. So long as the Government does not depart from the programme laid down, and does not give private enterprise the opportunity to make profits out of defence materials, it will command my whole-hearted support. 1 think the Government has a great policy, and I give the members of the Opposition credit for desiring to do their best for the country in which they live. They are members of this National Parliament, and represent constituencies just as I represent mine.
– The honorable member never said that at the election.
– I said then just what I say now. Honorable members have never known me to adopt a slighting attitude towards any political opponent. I have always agreed that every man in politics has the right to his own opinion. T have listened to the honorable member’s opinions just as I expect him to listen to mine.- Some quite good opinions have come from the Opposition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports gave us a very thoughtful address in the last Parliament, and I commend him for his remarks to-night. I go a long way towards supporting his views, particularly in relation to the manufacture of implements of war and munitions. If we can keep our policy steadfast in that direction, we shall be following the right path. I commend the Government for its policy, so long as it does not depart from the proposals it has laid down. Industry should be organized so that the great factories of Australia could be used if war did come, hut even in these times I should say that the Government should take them over and use them as government concerns. The unit I commanded in the war paid the penally many times for munitions supplied by rotten American firms. I sa w the British navy go into action on many occasions firing dud American shells, none of which exploded; they had been produced in private factories. I saw meat supplied by Armours, the meat packers in America, which was not fit for human consumption. In the meat tins manufactured by the canning factories i saw little steel things which had been put in the meat, and which, up to the time they were discovered, caused more deaths in the British army than did even the shells or munitions of the enemy. These arc matters which ought to be under proper control. We in this Parliament can sink our political differences, and discuss the ideal defence policy which ought to be evolved here for the good of the people as a whole, in the general belief that, by being prepared in peace time, we can best defend ourselves if war comes.
.- It is a remarkable and regrettable fact that we should be discussing at this stage the expenditure on defence of the sum of £5,S51,408, most of which has been expended, for the year 1936- 37, and that we should have in contemplation the expenditure of just on £6,000,000 for the year 1937-38. Whilst that expenditure has been before this committee for its endorsement, not one Minister belonging to the newlyformed and enthusiastic government which has just been given to this country was present in the chamber for some hours to say a word in support of the Government’s defence policy. Much later on, when several speeches had been delivered on the subject, no representative of the Ministry was present, save the newlyfledged Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), whom I do not overlook for a single moment, although be seems shocked at that prospect. At. a still later hour, however, the honorable, and also newly-fledged Minister for Defence (Mi’. Thorby), entered the chamber and took occasion to accuse me, in the few minutes that he was here, of having made by interjection a malicious statement when I declared that the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) was the supporter of a war-making government.
– That is quite true.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to require the newly-fledged Minister for Defence to withdraw the statement which he has now deliberately repeated, that I made a malicious statement against the Government; the statement which I made I intend to prove.
– Order ! I did not hear the words of which the honorable member complains. If the Minister made the statement he must withdraw it.
– I certainly said that the accusation that the Government is a war maker was a malicious statement.
Opposition Members. - Withdraw !
– I made the statement deliberately in reply to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). If, however, the Chairman considers that the statement is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– That incident has satisfactorily closed. I venture to pursue a cognate line of argument by reference to the fact that the Minister comes late when the debate is far advanced, perfectly new to his subject, unsupported by any senior Minister, but bringing all the knowledge which he acquired as, I understand, an efficient policeman, to the high office of Minister for Defence. I have not the slightest doubt that he was more efficient in that humble office than he is likely to be in the office which he has now assumed.
– I challenge the honorable member to support that statement.
– If the honorable gentleman says it is incorrect, I shall immediately withdraw it.
– It is incorrect.
– Very well, I withdraw it. I thought to pay the honorable gentleman a compliment, but as he declines it I withdraw it.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– That is the only compliment I had in mind to pay him.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I would not have spoken upon these Estimates, these things which are dead and gone, this money which has been already expended, these questions which have been dealt with by two parliaments at length, but for the fact that I might be misunderstood and misrepresented as having altered or modified in any way my reprobation of the policy of defence pursued by this Government which, I say, is a warmaking policy - not a malicious warmaking policy, to use the word used by another speaker, but a policy which consequentially and inevitably is war making. That is my charge against the Government.
– I would point out that the honorable member’s leader promised to co-operate with the Government on that policy.
– The Assistant Minister having been muzzled must seek to wear his new adornment in as dignified a manner as possible. This is the first time he has found his voice since he got his unexpected new appointment. I do not join in the policy of militarizing this country in order to drive it into a war, or in order to drive our people out of this country to engage in a capitalist war overseas to fill the pockets of the profiteers who in every age in our history have made wars but abstained from fighting in them. Yesterday, at the very moment when the representative of the Sovereign was concluding his Speech in the Senate, our ears were offended and our commonsense affronted by a salvo of guns from an adjacent paddock, and even the gentleman in a worthy but not senior office of this Parliament, who came from over the way to convey a message summoning members of this chamber to another place, came in knee breeches with a sword dangling from his belt.
– It was a bottle-opener.
– And so with all the distinguished members of the military who supported His Excellency in another place. May I remind the committee that the ceremonies which were being performed in this Parliament in connexion with its opening were supposed to be those incidental to the working of a democratic institution, reflective of the will of a peace-loving democratic people. It was not a military display, and if it was anything in regard to militarism it was a declaration of the predominance of the people over the militarists of this country rather than a declaration of the predominance of the militarists over the common people. There is a very grave danger of this country becoming militarized. I think we might well consider the propriety - or the electors might, because I have no intention to offer any interference with their free choice - of the admission into Parliament of any military person over the rank of sergeantmajor.
-. - That is all right. I am qualified.
– That is a matter for the electors themselves. The reason why I maintain that much money is being wasted on defence is the very simple and sound one that no enemy is threatening Australia, and that, if we maintain the peace and integrity of Australia, we discharge the highest function from the point of view of defence that can justly be expected of us. I have repeatedly asked, “ Whore is the enemy, actual or potential, to meet which the people of this country are being scarified and penalized with oppressive taxation?” I am not unmindful of the fact that I am wholeheartedly committed to a policy of defence for Australia within Australia; but, if a substantial part of- those millions which are every year being wasted on defence were applied to the health conditions of our people, to their employment, to the uplifting of their social conditions in every way, there would be attracted to this country, both from abroad and through its natural birth-rate, a population so rapidly increasing that, in the course of a few years, we would have here, in an enthusiastic number of patriotic Australians, the greatest defence force that one could conceivably imagine. But such is not the policy of this Government, which is a war-making government. My friend the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has spoken eloquently and trenchantly on the private manufacture of arms for profit. Profit in death! It is against such a policy that the British people, and, to some extent, continental peoples, have risen in their righteous indignation, because they believe .that it is this profiteering in arms which has made wars and kept them going for indefinite terms, which has made war scares, creating wars in the minds of people where none previously existed, which has made arms in one country to be used against the citizens of that country by foemen in another country, just as happened on Gallipoli. There is shame and disgrace in the fact that arms used by the Turks on Gallipoli against Australasian soldiers were manufactured and sold by British firms to mow down our fellow Australians on foreign battlefields! But I am under no illusion in regard to this matter. The finance which controls these gentlemen in these ventures is not so easily baulked that it can be readily influenced by the voices of politicians, or the indignation of the helpless public. If we imagine that private enterprise is not at work in the manufacture of munitions in Australia to-day, we are deluding ourselves. Who is supplying the millions of pounds worth of raw material or partly-processed material now being used at Lithgow, at Maribyrnong, and throughout Australia? Who are drawing the profits from this trade? The money is going to the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited. The inspiration to war-making is the capitalist who -makes profits out of war; and they are the same capitalists who control this Government, who sent it here and keep it here, even tolerating in his place such a person as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). “ Money in death ! “, as has been well said- and quoted by Professor Noel Baker in that excellent recent work of his, in which he amassed the whole tremendous case against profit out of arms-making. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Mari ). in his p’easant conciliatory way, is delighted to pretend to himself that we are in agreement with him, and that we would co-operate with him in his defence policy.
– The Leader of the Opposition said so.
– If, when the honorable member for Parkes speaks of co-operation with our friends in Great
Britain,he means co-operation in good-will, in consultation, and in supplying of information, I reply that that co-operation will be granted; but if he means co-operation in a war policy as laid down by the British Government, and also by the Commonwealth Government, and attempts to compare it with the policy of Labour, I tell him that he is attempting to compare things which are fundamentally different and leagues apart.
– They are indeed leagues apart.
– Yes, for the reason that the Labour party repudiates with loathing any policy which will make it incumbent on the Australian people to take up arms in foreign countries for the settlement of differences arising between foreign States, either European or Asiatic, or in any civil war in countries other than our own. The Government is committed to that policy. Over the whole wide range of Europe, over the whole surface of Asia, wherever the smoke of trouble bursts into flame, indeed, wherever there are British interests, or, rather, the interests of British capitalists to be defended, there, according to that policy, Australian citizens and soldiers are to be. required to go, and fight, and die.
– That is absolutely untrue, and the honorable member knows it.
– I require that statement to be expeditiously withdrawn.
– I request the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to withdraw that statement.
– I said that the statement of the honorable member was absolutely untrue, and that he knew it to be untrue; but as the Temporary Chairman has asked that it be withdrawn because it is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– The Minister for Defence has been a long time making his withdrawal.When an unfounded accusation, to which I must make no further reference, was made against me, I was saying that, according to the policy of the Government, and notwithstanding any contrary views which may be held by the newly-fledged Minister for Defence, it is a fact that Australia may become actively involved in war in any part of the world for any or for no cause. Moreover, that may happen, not only with the concurrence of a majority of members of this Parliament, hut even without seeking to ascertain the views of the Australian people at all. There is not the slightest room for doubt that if word were to come from a conservative Foreign Minister in London that Australia was in danger by reason of the policy of co-operation for which honorable gentlemen opposite stand, and Great, Britain was unsheathing the sword immediately, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) and the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) would be looking around among their old rags for the most suitable uniform for the occasion.
– Surely not the Minister for Defence ; he did not put the uniform on during the Great War.
– I do not know what the Minister would do with the uniform when he got it, if it fitted him. The new slogan is “ collective security”. If the policy of collective security had been carried to its logical conclusion, Australia would have been engaged inat least three wars during the last five years. This country would have been involved in wars in Abyssinia and Manchukuo and would now be engaged in a war inJ apan or China. Almost certainly we could have worked up a war in Spain also. By making a farce of sanctions we avoided the tragedy of war. I admit that the farce was better than the tragedy.
– Yet the honorable member accuses a government which has avoided four conflicts of being a warmaking government.
– The present Minister for Defence had nothing to do with the avoidance of those conflicts. He was awaiting orders. He was pursuing the policy of the conservative British Foreign Minister, who publicly declared that he stood for a policy which meant logically and ultimately war with Italy. And he still stands for that policy which, if it means anything, means war with Japan. I am aware of what happens when one mentions these things. In mind I go back to the good old days of the conscription issue -days when conscriptionists were, in fact, conscriptionists, and not “ runaways “ as they turned out to be during the recent election campaign, when they repudiated the policy of conscription for which previously they were willing to bleed and even die. They were conscriptionists when it meant “ shanghaiing “ young Australians overseas, but not conscriptionists when it meant risking the loss of an election. Who is there so vulgar on the other side as to confess that he is a conscriptionist to-day? In the years that have passed since the days of the conscription issue, I have .been, made well aware of the fact that it is never possible to discuss this subject on its merits without having sinister charges of totally unworthy and almost unbelievable motives levelled against one. As one who is paid certain emoluments to represent the people in this Parliament, and has been repeatedly returned to do so, my only motive is to give to the Parliament the message which the people have instructed me to give ; and I deliver it with greater heart and more force because it is a belief which I most strongly hold myself. My message to the people of Australia now, as it was before the election and will be twenty years hence if I am spared in health and strength till then, is that we should bend our best efforts and use all our skill and diplomacy in an honest endeavour to conciliate our neighbours in the first place, and the whole human family in the second place, but that all the time we should, like a patriarch in his own home, stand prepared to protect our country, our families and our kindred against every aggressor. Australia is thousands of miles from any other country, so that if an enemy comes to our shores and forces his shells or his poison gas upon us, he will easily bc recognized as an aggressor. I invite my Australian friends and compatriots to stand ready to defend themselves against such an enemy.
– I did hot intend to engage’ in this debate, but the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), in the course of his speech, cast so many foul aspersions on members on this side of the House that I feel that I cannot allow them to pass Unchallenged. We are old personal friends, and have never before clashed seriously in this House, but I say “to him, although I dislike doing so, that, in his . policy of isolation for this country, and in all the venom that he has just put into his speech, he is animated, as he has been all his parliamentary life,, by a passionate hatred of Britain and everything British.
– I ask that that foul statement be withdrawn. It is utterly untrue.
– If the honorable member for Batman regards the remark as offensive, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member regards the statement as offensive, and I withdraw it, but that makes it none the less true.
– There must be a withdrawal without qualifications. The statement is untrue, and is most offensive to me.
– I ask that the honorable member withdraw his statement that what I said was untrue. The honorable member himself sought and obtained a withdrawal from an honorable member on this side on the same ground.
– I rise to a point of order. I asked for a withdrawal of the statement on the ground that it was foully untrue. That was my charge. You, Mr. Chairman, upheld me, and asked that the statement be withdrawn. How can the honorable member now ask for the withdrawal of the very objection which I raised, and which you upheld?
– The honorable member for Henty must withdraw without qualification.
– Very well, 1. shall let it go. We have listened to more nonsense on the subject of defence from the honorable member for Batman than has been heard in this House from any other source since federation. The honorable member takes the view that war is being fomented at the present time by some secret understanding between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and members on this side of the House. That, of course, is grotesque. He takes great unction to himself, and to other honorable members on his side of the House, as being the only ones who loathe war, and work for peace. I say to him that honorable members on this side of the House are just as sincere in their loathing of war, and in their endeavours to avoid it, as are members of the Labour party. What gives to honorable members opposite a monopoly of all the finer instincts of humanity? They have just been to the people at a general election, and have, gained one seat in this chamber, although they based their case on some of the biggest lies ever uttered in a political campaign. They played down to the feelings of women, to the mothers of sons, with a dastardly lie, and I am glad to know that the women of Australia knew a lie when they heard it.
The attitude of the honorable member for Batman on this subject of defence is the old one that if Australia gets into danger we should take to the bush. There is nothing more constructive in the policy of the Labour party than that. This horror of any co-operation with the other parts of the British Empire, and especially with Great Britain, surpasses my understanding. What. is the simple fact in regard to this country and the rest of the world to-day? We stand in graver danger than ever before. There is in existence a newly formed three-power pact, the members of which are ail highly armed and efficient. Two of them are the most over-crowded and land-hungry of all the forward nations of the world. Australia is the greatest of all the young countries, and the most under-populated. It is the most coveted prize in the world to-day, and it is idle to shut our eyes to the fact, or to believe that we shall be allowed to remain in unchallenged possession of this great and fertile country. It is idle to think that the years will go by without being troubled by foreign aggression. If aggression comes, it is a simple question whether it is better for us to sit down and depend on our own defences, or take all the aid that is available in the world. We speak of spending £11,500,000 this year on our defence. The British Government is expending many millions of pounds in reality on the defence of this country. Take the Singapore base, one of the
Sir Henry Gullett. greatest naval bases in the world, as well as one of the greatest aircraft bases in a military sense. The millions expended there have not been spent in defence of London or Liverpool, but in defence of the outer British Empire, and in the main, in defence of the people of Australia. At the present time, further millions are being expended at Hong
Kong. I shall not name a particular’ country, but those two great bases lie across the track of any aggression which can menace this country for many years, and such aggression is not an unlikely contingency. It would he backed by a powerful fleet, but right in the path of that fleet lie the British naval bases with a very considerable and increasing air force. It must be an elementary matter for us in this country, no matter to what party we belong, to realize that it is to our advantage to co-operate with Great Britain in our defence, to allow our navy to co-operate with Britain’s Eastern navy, and for our air force to co-operate with the air force of Great Britain in the East, an air force which could move freely over the intervening islands and seas in the event of danger. Surely it is better that we should act in this way than that we should merely wait in this particularly vulnerable land for the arrival of our enemy. The honorable member for Batman has said that if we hear shooting off Sydney Heads we shall be able to identify an enemy. Of course we shall.
In view of the circumstances that prevail in the world to-day 1 rejoice that our defence vote is so high as it is. I congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) upon his accession to this important office, and I appeal to him to take every step within his power to see that all the money voted for defence purposes is expended in this financial year. In the state of the world to-day, we cannot spend our defence money too quickly in order to make ourselves as fully prepared as possible. We are very close to danger in this country, just as the whole world is close to danger.
I wish to say a few words respecting the participation of private enterprise in the provision of our defence requirements, in which I include weapons and anna ments of every kind, munitions and equipment, foodstuffs, and the hundred and one other things necessary for defence purposes if war should occur. I mention foodstuffs and such equipment as uniforms, boots, all transport service, road making machinery, and the like, because they are as much a part of a soldier’s efficiency and his ability to strike defensively as are rifles or guns. I am prepared to go a long way with honorable members opposite, as, I believe, are other honorable members on this side of i he chamber, to ensure that as far as practicable, the manufacture of rifles, machine guns, and other weapons, is kept in the hands of the Government; but we must be prepared to harness all our manufacturing resources of every kind if we want to ensure the protection of this country. “What honorable members opposite are really proposing is straight-out socialism. If the manufacture of all the essentials of warfare of every kind, including every pair of boot3 and every uniform - and these are just as essential to soldiers as are rifles - is to be kept within the hands of the Government, then we must, be prepared for a completely socialized country. I do not say that honorable members opposite foresee at this stage that that is the logical outcome of their argument. That they fail to realize this, however, is the result of their somewhat muddled thinking on this important subject.
I wish now to make an appeal to the Minister for Defence to take action to popularize the volunteer infantry and light horse forces of Australia. I do not believe that, up to the present, encouragement of the right kind has been given to either of these branches. I suggest that drill halls throughout Australia should be made far more attractive than they are. They should become grea t athletic centres. They should be provided with good floors, and abundant sporting equipment of every kind should be available for use in them at government expense. I urge, also, that the allowances of officers responsible for the training of our volunteer forces should be substantially increased. This service is half starved at present and,, consequently, is desperately unattractive, [ believe, contrary to general ideas, that in the last resort the’ safety of this country depends on our mounted and dismounted men. I do not believe that Australia can be adequately defended by excessive mechanization. We shall, of course, need all the mechanization we can get; but, in the final analysis, it will be upon the infantry and light horse that we shall depend. It is for this reason that I urge strongly that steps should be taken to make these branches of the defence forces sufficiently attractive to cause young men of the right type to offer their services. I know of many youngsters in the infantry to-day who are jeered at by their friends because of their patriotism; yet this service should be highly popular.
Our drill halls should be popular social centres, and our officers should be paid a proper allowance for their work. Many of the active young men in our defence forces to-day are positively heroic. They spend quite a lot of their own money on their defence work and stick to their job with fine spirit.
I have no desire at all to cast any reflection on the permanent officers of our forces - particularly the officers at headquarters - but I suggest that, as an additional means of encouraging enlistment, the Minister for Defence should keep more in touch with the work at local centres than his predecessors in office have done. He should confer with officers at local centres, especially with respect to the recruiting, maintenance and popularizing of all the volunteer services. In the past the tendency has been for the Minister to confer only with the professional heads of the services, and in those circumstances I do not think he could be quite so well informed of the conditions prevailing throughout the services as he might be. I. again commend this suggestion to the Minister.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1936, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Mr. Collins, Mr. Francis, Mr.Frost, Mr. Holloway, Mr. Nairn, and Mr. Price.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leave - agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, under the provisions of Standi ng Order No. 241, the question is put “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.”. On such Thursday General Business shall have precedence of Government Business until nine o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - by leaveagreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business, on each Tuesday at three o’clock p.m., on each Wednesday and Thursday at half-past two o’clock p.m., and on each Friday at half-past ten o’clock a.m.
Mr. Speaker laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. Collins, Mr. Fadden, Mr. John Lawson, Mr. Makin, Mr. Martens, Mr. Nairn, Mr. Price and Mr. Rosevear, to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
The following answers bo questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1.What is the nature of the assistance rendered by the Government to the various sections of the Australian Aero Club?
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - 1. (a) How many houses built by or under the auspices of the Department of the Interior at Canberra were vacant on Monday, 29th November? (b) How many departmental houses were occupied on Monday, 29th November, 1937, by persons not in the employ of the Commonwealth?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as early as possible.
k asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 December 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1937/19371201_reps_15_155/>.