15th Parliament · 1st Session
The House of Representatives, on the 9th December, 1937, adjourned until a date and hour tobe fixed by Mr. Speaker, and notified by him to each honorable member. The House met pursuant to such notification.
Mr.Speaker (Hon.G.J.Bell)took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. Paterson and Mr. E. J: Harrison made and subscribed theoath of allegiance, as members for the electoral divisions of Gippsland and Wentworth respectively.
- by leave - It is with very great regret that I refer to the death of the Honorable John Barnes, which occurred in Melbourne on the. 31st January last.
John Barnes had a long and honorable parliamentary career. He was’ elected to the Senate for the State of Victoria at the general elections of 1913 and 1914. Defeated at the general elections of 1919, he was again elected to the Senate at the general elections of 1922 and 1928, holding his seat until the 30th June, 1935. He was again successful at the general elections on the 23rd October last, and was due to take his seat in the Senate on the 1st July, 1938. He attained Ministerial office in the Scullin Government, being Assistant Minister for Works and Railways from the 22nd October, 1929, to the 3rd March, 1931, and Vice-President of the Executive Council from that date to the 6th January, 1932.
John Barnes was a close persona! friend of mine. He was a very sincere man, and a lovable personality. To know him well was indeed a privilege. His absolute integrity and personal worth were reflected in his wide circle of friends throughout the Commonwealth, and it is a tribute to the, character of the man that many of his staunchest personal friends were those who did not have his industrial or political outlook. His successes in the industrial and parliamentary spheres were not easily won. His life was one of very hard work, and his occupancy of high executivepositions in the Australian Workers Union over a period of many years was an indication of the value placed upon the work done by him in’ the interests of that organization and its members. His parliamentary and Ministerial career was characterized by earnestness and common sense. He never failed to uphold vigorously the interests he was elected to serve, but due to the tolerance of his outlook his views carried much force in the Senate.
Already the short history of Australia has produced some men whose memory is cherished because of their sterling personal qualities, and amongst those names the future will place that of John Barnes. He was, in every sense, a big Australian - big physically, big in his outlook, big in his tolerance and human understanding. Pettiness had no place in his make-up. Instead, he possessed a warm heart and a generous spirit, which made him tolerant of the weaknesses of character he so often met in others. The bitter word never passed his lips. He seemed to be incapable of hurting others. He was, in short, a Christian gentleman. Yet he was a’ hard fighter for the cause in which he believed, and, what is more, a hard and an uncompromising fighter for Australia. Whether his opponents agreed with bini or not, they never doubted that he was always actuated by motives which were aimed at his country’s advancement. His death removes from Australian public life a. figure which we can ill afford to lose. To the people of this country, particularly the young people, I commend the life of John Barnes as an example of devotion to high ideals of personal and public behaviour.
A particularly sad feature of his death was that, after having successfully contested the last general elections, he was not spared to enjoy the fruits of his victory.
I trust that it will be some consolation to Mrs. Barnes and family to know of the very high esteem in which her husband and their father was held in the public life of this country. We extend to them the sympathy of this House in their bereavement. I move -
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of Senator-elect the Honorable John Humes, u former member of the Senate and Commonwealth Minister, places on record its :i appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders its profound sympathy to ais widow and family in their bereavement.
– The members who sit behind me, and I am sure every member of this Parliament, mid, indeed, thousands of men and women throughout Australia, will, for a long time to come, gather inspiration from the life that the late John Barnes lived. He was a very remarkable man, whose personality not only was striking, but also had in it that quality which won respect for himself, and also gained a great deal of support for the views that he held. The members of .this Parliament will miss him very rauch. Those of them who sit on this side of the House mourn the death, not only of a loyal colleague and a warm personal friend, ‘but also, of one who to the younger members of the Labour party was a guide and, in tunny respects, a philosopher. He knew Australia. He knew not only its metropolises, but also its great open spaces.
Wherever he bad lived in the past ho not only made friends, but also obviously must have learned wisdom, for, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has said, he was a. man of immense common sense who also held very high ideals. Ha linked a practical purpose with a far-off goal. That goal can be well stated a3 “ the advancement of Australia.” His association with the Australian Workers Union was one which gave to him service in that organization from what we may describe as its most bumble offices to the most exalted office that it had to offer to any of its members. He was a shearer, a shearers’ representative, a district secretary, and a delegate to its very important conventions and was always present when important decisions were reached. For many years he had been its general president, and for no office that he contested in that organization was he defeated. The high regard which the workers of Victoria entertained for him can be appreciated when I say that he never suffered defeat in any p re-selection ballot in which he was a candidate. He was a picturesque personality as well. I think we may say that, in every sense of the word, he was a great Australian. I sincerely hope that we who mourn him today may be able to contribute something towards the realization of those purposes for which he worked, and in that way give continuance to his own career.
– I associate myself and my colleagues of the Country party with the expressions of regret that have fallen from other members in regard to the passing of ‘the late John Barnes, and desire to express our sympathy with his widow and family.
Question resolved in the affirmative, hon. members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Mrs. Barnes the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of. the speeches delivered thereon.
– I suggest that, as a mark of respect to the memory of the late Honorable John Barnes, the sitting be suspended until 9 p.m.
Sitting suspended from S.1S to ‘8 p.m.
The Clerk announced that he had received from the Military and Official Secretary to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral the return to the Writ for the Northern Territory, the election for which was held on the 30th October, 1937, in connexion with the general election for the House of Representatives, and by the endorsement thereon it was certified that Adair Macalister Blain had been elected in pursuance of suchWrit.
– I have received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply : -
I desire to acquaint you that the AddressinReply at the Opening of the Fifteenth Parliament was duly laid before His Majesty the King, and I am commanded to convey to you and to Honorable Members His Majesty’s sincere appreciation of the loyal assurances to which Your Address gives expression.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Soldiers’RepatriationBill (No. 3) 1937.
Transport Workers’ Bill 1937.
Maternity Allowance Bill 1937.
Loan Bill 1937.
Appropriation (‘Works and Services) Bill 1937.
Appropriation Bill 1937-38.
– I desire to announce to the House that, consequent upon the departure of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral (Lord Gowrie) for England on leave, His Excellency Lord Huntingfield was on the 29th March, 1938, sworn in as the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to inform the House that during the absence of Ministers overseas the following Ministers have been appointed to act for them: -
Senator the Honorable A. J. McLachlan, Postmaster General, to be Acting Attorney General and Acting Minister for Industry, vice the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies.
The Honorable J. A. Perkins, M.P., to be Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, vice the Honorable T. W. White.
The Honorable A. G. Cameron, M.P., to be Acting Minister for Commerce and Acting Minister for Health, vice the Right Honorable Sir Earle Page. 1 desire also to state that the Honorable V. C. Thompson, M.P., in addition to assisting the Treasurer, and representing the Minister for Repatriation in the House of Representatives, is assisting the Minister for the Interior.
The Right Honorable W. M. Hughes will represent the Acting AttorneyGeneral and the Acting Minister for Industry in this chamber.
Resignation of Mr. Eden, British Foreign Secretary : Conversations with Italy - Germany’s Absorption of Austria - Position of Czechoslovakia - Anglo-Italian Agreement - Sino- Japanese Conflict - Civil War in Spain : Commonwealth’s Contribution for the Relief of Victims - Anglo-Eire Agreement - Pacific Islands asAir Bases - Governor-General’s Visit to Netherlands East Indies - Australia’s Defence Policy.
– I ask leave to make a statement in review of recent international events.
– Is there any objection to the Prime Minister being given leave to make a statement?
Mr.curtin. - Later we shall be very glad to grant leave for this purpose, but we think questions should precede anything else.
– Is there an objection?
Opposition Members. - Yes, until questions are answered.
Leave not granted.
– I can only say that there is no intention to prevent questions being asked. They will come in their due time.
– They are usually asked first.
– And they will come to-night. If honorable members refuse me leave to make this statement, I move -
That the Standing Orders be suspended.
– We do not wish to force the right honorable gentleman’s hand and we grant his request, knowing that questions have been refused.
– Does the Prime Minister wish to pursue his motion?
– I crave indulgence to say that questions will be answered to-night. They will not be refused.
In recent months several important developments in the international situation have focussed public attention to an increasing degree on foreign affairs, and I wish, for the information of honorable members, to review certain of those recent developments.
First, I propose to deal with the circumstances of the resignation from the British Cabinet of Mr. Eden, the late Foreign Secretary in Great Britain. Honorable members will recollect that the immediate cause of Mr. Eden’s resignation was the difference of opinion which had arisen between himself and his Cabinet” colleagues as to whether official conversations should at once be opened by the British Government with the Italian Government. Mr. Eden held the view that these conversations should not be begun unless three conditions precedent were fulfilled, namely, the cessation of Italian propaganda of an antiBritish character in the Near East, the withdrawal of some of the Italian troops in Libya, and the conclusion of a satis factory agreement as to the withdrawal of foreign volunteers from Spain. The view taken by Mr. Chamberlain and other members of his Cabinet was that the seriousnessof the European situation was such, that unless an immediate move was made by Great Britain to alleviate it, the inevitable result might well be serious.
At the time of Mr. Eden’s resignation, there was certain criticism to the effect that there had been a substantial change of British foreign policy, especially in respect of the League of Nations, without the dominions having been consulted. As to the alleged reversal of foreign policy, Mr. Chamberlain said in the House of Commons on the 21st February, that his foreign policy was based on three principles -
It will be remembered that representatives of Empire governments at the 1937 Imperial Conference expressed the desire to base their policies on the aims and ideals of the League of Nations. The Commonwealth Government believes that the principles of British foreign policy outlined by Mr. Chamberlain are in effect an expression of the essential aims and ideals of the League and in no way in conflict with them. Further, the Imperial Conference in 1937 registered the view that differences of political creed should be no obstacle to friendly relations between governments and countries, and that nothing would be more damaging to the hopes of international appeasement than the division, real or apparent, of the world into opposing groups. The recent approach made by Great Britain to Italy with a view to alleviating strained relations in no way represents a departure from the resolutions adopted at the Imperial Conference.
It was alleged at the time that the British Government had departed from its former policy of supporting the League of Nations, based, apparently, on the statement by Mr. Chamberlain that the League as at present constituted was unable to provide collective security for its members. In making that statement, he merely recognized a state of fact which unfortunately cannot be denied. The present weakness of the League in dealing with international questions has been widely recognized by the various States Members in their submission, of proposals for the reform of the Covenant; and Mr. Eden himself said, at the council meeting on the 26th January, that we were compelled regretfully to recognize the fact that by the defection of some of its more important members, the area of league co-operation was restricted, and its ability to fulfil the functions originally contemplated for it thereby seriously reduced.
A perusal of various speeches recently made by Mr. Chamberlain and other members of the Government of the United Kingdom, clearly shows that there is no intention whatever of withdrawing support from the League of Nations. Mr. Chamberlain claims that he has served the best interests of the League by taking a realistic view of its present ability to discharge the tasks originally imposed upon it, and that it is dangerous and misleading to small and weak countries to continue to pretend that the League, with the defection of some of its most powerful members, is to-day an effective instrument for collective security.
T.u order to be in a position to confirm the belief of the Commonwealth Government that the Government of the United Kingdom had not abandoned its support of the League, I communicated with Mr. Chamberlain on the 6th March, - ami obtained his authority to state that the British Government still adhered io the policy which had been adopted by members of the British Commonwealth of Nations at the Imperial Conference in 1937, and that, in particular, there had been no change in principle in the attitude of the British Government towards the League of Nations and collective security.
The Commonwealth Government has, for its part, never deviated from its support of League principles. It stands firmly by the statement of League support arrived at at the 1937 Imperial Conference. It feels that the League still remains the best means of striving to give effect to the principles of international co-operation, and its faith in the aims and ideals which originally inspired the League remains unshaken.
With regard to the question of consultation between the dominion governments and the British Government at the time of Mr. Eden’s resignation, as there had been no change in the fundamental aims and objects of British foreign policy, it was unnecessary formally to consult the dominions on what was purely a domestic matter concerning a difference as to time and method for the conduct of certain negotiations. Had there been a major change of foreign .policy, it would have been necessary, of course, that the Government of the United Kingdom should consult with the dominions. I should like to say that, throughout the whole of this period, the Commonwealth Government was kept fully informed of all the international developments, and on the attitude towards them of the British Government. I should like here to refer to the last words of a telegram I sent to the British Prime Minister early in February: -
We agree that tlie present situation calls for action, and we feel that the re-opening nf conversations with Italy is of the utmost importance. I should he glad if you would continue to keep hie fully advised as to the situation.
The events which culminated in the absorption of Austria by Germany are generally well known to honorable members but there arc certain aspects in connexion with them which I should mention. In view of the agreement reached between Austria and Germany in July 1936, the rapid march of events which led to the elimination of an oldestablished European State came as a shock to world opinion. These occurrences aTe of great interest to all countries - even to those that are not directly concerned - and it was inevitable that Austria’s absorption by Germany should have created alarm and tension, and a fear that similar methods, if adopted elsewhere, might lead to serious consequences. This anxiety applied particularly to the future of Czechoslovakia.
The tension was lessened when Great Britain announced that assurances had been received from Germany that the independence and integrity of Czechoslovakia would be respected. I may add that Great Britain is at the moment using its best efforts -to ensure appeasement. On’ the 24th March, Mr. Chamberlain, in a notable speech in the House of Commons, reviewed in detail’ the foreign policy of the Government of the United Kingdom. He began by stating that recent events in Austria had resulted in a profound disturbance of international confidence. He then outlined the existing commitments of the Government of the United Kingdom which were: First,, the defence of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression, and secondly, the treaty obligations which ‘ had been entered into with Portugal, Iraq and Egypt. In addition to those defence commitments in relation to particular countries, Mr. Chamberlain stated that British armaments might also be used to bring help to a victim of aggression in a case arising under the Covenant of the League of Nations. There was no automatic obligation to take military action in such cases, but it was not to be thought that the British Government would, in no circumstances, intervene as a member of the League of Nations in order to restore peace or to maintain international order.
Mr. Chamberlain stated that the Government of the United Kingdom was not prepared to declare its readiness to guarantee the independence of Czechoslovakia, but he pointed out that the inexorable pressure of facts might well prove more powerful than any formal pronouncement,, and that a dispute in Central Europe might involve countries which were not originally parties to such a dispute. He added that, so far as Czechoslovakia was concerned, now was the time to enlist all the resources of diplomacy in the cause of peace.
Before this speech was delivered the Commonwealth Government was apprised of its contents, and I made a public statement to the effect that I felt that the majority of the people of Australia would approve of the policy outlined by Mr. Chamberlain, and that the Commonwealth Government was, on all vital points, in agreement with the statement.
I turn now to the Anglo-Italian Agreement which was signed on the 16th April. Honorable members will, I am sure, agree with me that any move must be welcome which has for its object the alleviation of international tension. The general aim of the Anglo-Italian Agreement was to re-establish on a firm basis the traditional friendship which, until the last few years, had existed between the British and the Italian peoples. I need hardly remind -the House that Australia will welcome the improvement in the relations between Great Britain and Italy which, it is confidently expected, will result from the Agreement. It will be noted that although the Agreement was signed on the 16th April, it will not come into operation immediately, as the Government of the United Kingdom regards a settlement of the Spanish foreign volunteer question as a pre-requisite of the Agreement taking effect. In addition, the subject of the recognition of Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia remains to be settled. The Government of the United Kingdom, however, has taken the necessary steps to have the position of Ethiopia brought before the League Council when it meets on the 9th May. It regards it as an anomalous situation that many States Members of the League, including no fewer than five of those represented on the Council, should recognize that the Italian Government exercises sovereignty over Abyssinia, while others, including Great Britain, have not done so.
The terms of the Anglo-Italian Agreement were fully reported in the Press, and I need only refer to certain provi-sions of particular interest relating to Spain, Libya and the Suez Canal.
Intervention in Spain has long been regarded as one pf the major causes of European tension, and some uneasiness has been felt as to the objectives of Italian policy in the event of a victory by General Franco. Any permanent occupation of Spanish territory or the acquisition of territorial and other rights by Italy would have seriously disturbed both Great Britain and France by creating a sense of insecurity regarding their
Mediterranean communications. Italy has, however, given an assurance that it has no territorial or political aim, and seeks no privileged economic position, in regard to any Spanish territory, and has no intention of keeping any armed forces in Spain at the termination of the civil war.
Another subject which has given rise to anxiety has been the great increase of the Italian garrison in Libya during the last eighteen months. As Libya adjoins Egypt, it will be appreciated that anxiety arose in the minds of the Egyptian Government as to the reason for such a concentration. Italy has now agreed to reduce the Italian forces there to about half their present strength, and, as a symbolic gesture, is now withdrawing about 1,000 men every week.
An item of importance to Italy was the re-affirmation by the Government of the United Kingdom of the Convention of 1858 by which liberty of transit through the Suez Canal was guaranteed to all nations. “With a large overseas territory to administer, the freedom of the Suez Canal is of great importance to Italy in the maintenance of its communications. There is no need to emphasise the importance to Australia of these guarantees, for they concern an essential artery between Australia and its principal markets.
In the Sino-Japanese conflict, hostilities continue to be concentrated in southern Shantung. Meanwhile the Government of the United Kingdom has continued to seek from the Japanese Government the maximum assurances for the preservation of British interests. Local problems in Shanghai are dealt with largely by negotiations with the Japanese authorities in that area. The long-standing question of the customs administration is still the subject of discussion with the Japanese Government. The British Ambassador in Tokyo has recently had occasion also to draw the attention of that Government to the discrimination still being exercised against British vessels and British trade on the Yang’tse River, as well as to certain regrettable incidents at Shanghai.
My next reference is to the situation in Spain. The latest information is that the operations commenced by the anti-
Government forces in the province of Aragon some six weeks ago have so far resulted in their reaching the Mediterranean coast and severing the province of Catalonia from the remainder of the territory held by the Government. The anti-Government forces have also occupied a large part of the Pyrenean frontier region and many Government supporters have crossed the border into France. The effect of this rapid advance by the anti-Government armies has been to bring about a certain measure of unity among those political parties supporting the Government at Barcelona. The attitude of the Commonwealth Government, which is one of strict neutrality and adherence to the policy of non-intervention in the internal disputes of another country, remains unchanged. The policy of non-intervention, despite repeated infringements, has, it is felt, prevented the development of the Spanish war into a major European conflagration. Honorable members will, L am sure, approve of the recent action of the Government in allocating an amount of £3,000 for the relief of victims of the Spanish war, on the understanding that the action taken for such alleviation is international in character, and that war victims of both sides are to be assisted.
Honorable members will have read with satisfaction of the ratification of an agreement between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of Eire. The Commonwealth Government is confident that this agreement will strengthen considerably the feelings of friendly understanding between the peoples of Great Britain and of Eire, and also that it will be welcomed by all other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Honorable members will have noted recent references in the press to conversations between Great Britain and the United States of America in regard to Canton and Enderbury Islands. These islands, which form part of the Phoenix Group in the mid-Pacific, are of importance as potential air bases in any transPacific air services. Sovereignty has been claimed by both Great Britain and the United States of America. The Commonwealth Government has been kept fully informed of the course of the conversations and has cabled the Government of the United Kingdom to the effect that, apart from the question of sovereignty, it desires to be associated with that Government in negotiations whereby rights to landing grounds and full air facilities shall be safeguarded to the British Empire. It is understood that negotiations for a friendly settlement are well advanced.
The friendly relations existing between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the Netherlands are evidencedby the recent visit of His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, to the Netherlands East Indies during his journey to England on leave of absence. The Commonwealth Government desires to express its deep appreciation of the hospitality extended to Lord Gowrie during his stay in that country. I desire to inform honorable members that the visit of His Excellency to the Netherlands East Indies had no political or military significance whatever, but was merely a neighbourly courtesy call paid by the representative of His Majesty in the Commonwealth of Australia at the invitation of the Dutch Government, through whose territories he was passing en route.
– What a momentous declaration !
– I make that declaration because suggestions have been made that this visit has something of a political or military character about it. Such statements are entirely untrue. That is why I deny them here.
In conclusion, I wish to say that, although a decrease of tension in the international situation is noticeable at the moment, there is still cause for anxiety.
In view of developments which have taken place, the British Government has decided that it is necessary to revise the British defence policy, and to accelerate the various programmes. The Commonwealth Government is in accord with this decision, and also feels it imperative that measures to bring Australian defences to a level commensurate with national security shouldbe proceeded with as rapidly as possible.
In order that, as desired by honorable members, a discussion may occur on the subjects to which I have referred, I lay on the table the following paper : -
Recent Developments in Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
On an early occasion, opportunity will be given to members generally to thoroughly discuss international affairs.
.- Ordinarily, after the making of such a statement as that to which we have just listened, I should move “ that the debate be now adjourned;” but I feel that if I take that action on this occasion it will be the end of the matter, for legislation arising out of this statement will be placed before the House by the Government before honorable members have had an opportunity to consider the data which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has just made available to us. In the speeches which he has recently broadcast, the Prime Minister has said that, in view of developments which have taken place recently in international relationships, it has become necessary for the Commonwealth Government to frame a greatly enlarged policy for national defence. In the statement which the right honorable gentleman has just made, he has repeated those sentiments. He has said -
In view of the developments which have taken place, the British Government has decided that it is necessary to revise the British defence policy and to accelerate the various programmes. The Commonwealth Government is in accord with this decision and also feels it imperative that measures to bring Australian defences to a level commensurate with national security should be proceeded with as rapidly as possible.
In these circumstances, the logical thing for this Parliament to do is to debate the statement of the Prime Minister before proceeding to consider an enlargement of the provision already made for national defence. It may be that Parliament, after discussion, may come to the view that the international situation, from the aspect of Australia, has not deteriorated since it made adequate financial provision, four months ago, on the advice of this Government, to ensure Australia’s safety. As a matter of fact, in the last week that it sat, this Parliament gave the Government the requisite legislative authority to do all the things that it believed to be necessary to ensure Australia’s safety. This being so, the statement that the Prime,, Minister has just made should be examined to enable us to decide whether, during the last four months, developments have occurred throughout the world which render it necessary that this Parliament should say that the state of world relations * which existed at the end of last .November has deteriorated so grievously that the measures taken at that time, in accordance with the policy of the Government, now appear to be inadequate for the safety of Australia. It has to be borne in mind that the financial provision which we did make represented a considerable increase over that of previous years. I ask myself whether recent developments, which include an agreement between Great Britain and Italy, the assurances mentioned in the statement which the German Government has given with respect to Czechoslovakia, and the references to the Sino-Japanese conflict and what has taken place in Spain, justify this Parliament in developing a condition of panic, and giving to the Government subsequently, without examination, power to impose a stupendous burden on the people of Australia to secure our safety.
I am prepared to ask the Parliament to consider the facts, and I think it is important at this juncture that there should be a full consideration of Australia’s foreign relations as a preliminary to the discussion of how much it is necessary for us to add to the provision we have already made for defence. It may be, in the light of a much fuller debate - certainly not in the light of the statement which the right honorable gentleman has just read - that reasons could be advanced which would prove to this Parliament that it is necessary for us to spend more this year upon defence than we have already provided. I quite frankly acknowledge that it may be that this Parliament would be convinced that that is necessary. I do not know the facts, because this Parliament has been silenced for too long a period, and, when it now assembles, this almost journalistic para- phrase of information which has been available in the press for the last four months is all that is given to us. The right honorable gentleman says in his statement, “ I sent a telegram to the British Government,” and he gives the concluding paragraph of that telegram, but he does not give us any of the documents which would enable the House to know the nature of the communications which he himself has received from the British Government, either in respect of the reply that the British Government made to his telegram or in respect of any other aspect of the communications which have been received. It is quite true that the right honorable gentleman says that as the result of the communications, he is in a position to say what the British Government meant; but it is a most extraordinary thing that there are other commentators of no mean judgment who are at least -able to say that they disagree as to whether or not there has been any great change in British foreign policy. In any case, if there has been no change in the outlook of this Government with respect to foreign relations, and its foreign policy remains what it was, we should be told why the present situation makes demands on us which were not made when we met here shortly before Christmas. That has not yet been done. What has happened?
The first part of the statement just made by the Prime Minister refers to the resignation of Mr. Eden from the British Cabinet. I submit’ that that is not a matter to be deliberated upon by this Parliament. It would be impertinent for this Parliament to be given an exposition of the Government’s attitude to « foreign relations in which the resignation of a member of the Government of the United Kingdom was put forward as an important factor about which this Parliament ought to be informed. There have been numerous other resignations from the British Government. I am not able to recall any previous occasion on which the Prime Minister of this Commonwealth has asked the leave of this Parliament to make a statement in order to tell it that the Foreign Secretary of a British Government had resigned, and to narrate to us the contentions, pro and con, which were raised in the debate in the House of
Commons immediately upon that resignation. If any member of the Commonwealth Government were to resign, I question whether the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom would make a statement to the House of Commons informing it regarding the fact.
– It was not the resignation; it was circumstances surrounding it.
– What were the circumstances? There was a declaration on the part of Mr. Eden that the Government had changedits policy. A few months ago, in this House, the Commonwealth Government was not only basing its own foreign policy upon extensive quotations from the speeches of Mr. Eden, but, in fact, was also predicating its own defence policy very largely on the declarations which Mr. Eden was making from time to time in the name of collective security. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in defining the Government’s policy for our defence, said that the security of Australia lay within three ramparts, the first being the Covenant of the League of Nations, the second the strength of the British Commonwealth, and the third our own defence. The ex-Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, confirmed that declaration. He said that our first safeguard was our rights as a member of the League of Nations, the second our membership of the British Empire, and the third the defence we have set up. In the debate in which Mr. Chamberlain contended as to why Mr. Eden found it no longer practicable to serve in. the British Cabinet - and I venture to say that it is extraordinary that this Parliament should even consider the circumstances connected with that res ignati on-
– The honorable gentleman asked that this Parliament should be called together because of the resignation of Mr. Eden.
– Not because of Mr. Eden’s resignation, but because of the declarations which the Prime Minister of Australia was making to the press and not to the Parliament. That is the reason why I asked that this Parliament should be summoned.
It is extraordinary that when we do meet we are treated to a re-hash of what has appeared in the press, without one iota of additional information beyond what one could have gained by a careful reading of the newspapers. The right honorable gentleman should have dealt with the foreign policy and the defence policy of this Government, and not those of the British Government. I submit that it would be grossly impertinent on the part of this Parliament, as the Parliament of a self-governing dominion, to sit in judgment either favorably or unfavorably on policies which have to be put forward by the Prime Minister of Great Britain and for which he is answerable not to the people of Australia, but to the free and enlightened electors of the United Kingdom. I ask the Prime Minister of Australia to be answerable to the people of Australia, not for British foreign policy, but for the foreign policy of the Commonwealth Government. That is the specific indictment I make regarding the statement which the right honorable gentleman has just made. He no more indicates to us now what his foreign policy is than he has done at any previous time. Yet he says that the position with respect to other countries in their relations with Australia is now such as to persuade the Government to embark upon a policy of defence the like of which has never been known in Australian history in peace time.
– And which the honorable member said on Saturday week was his own defence policy.
– Order ! The Acting Minister is disorderly.
Opposition Members. - Put him out.
– No; do not put him out. I shall have great satisfaction in illuminating his darkness immediately. Here is the policy of this ‘ Government as put forward the last time the Defence estimates were submitted to us: -
– And because reliance upon our own defence came last, the Treasurer (Mr.. Casey) found but £6,000,000 from revenue this year for defence.
– That is a distortion of the truth.
– That is all the honorable gentleman found out of revenue this year. The rest he took out of the surpluses of previous years, and he made provision in peace time to raise an external loan. Such was the defence programme of this Government last December. What is it now?
In the statement which the British Prime Minister made, and which is referred to in the statement which the Prime Minister of Australia- has just made - and that is my justification for debating it - the right honorable gentleman put forward four propositions as representing the viewpoint of the British Government regarding defence. The first proposition was protection of Great Britain itself; the second, preservation of trade routes on which Britain depends for food and raw materials; the third, protection of British territories overseas, including military, naval and air bases; and the fourth, co-operation in defence of territories of any allies Britain might have in case of war. I put it to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, who has had some experience in Great Britain with regard to foreign affairs, that the third declaration has no reference to the dominions but applies to the Crown colonies and territories. Furthermore, the Government of Great Britain has at no time asked the dominions to do anything, but has felt that as component parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations it was the dominions’ own responsibility to decide to what extent, and how, they were able to ensure their own,-, defence. I contrast that statement, which to me is clear and illuminating, against that of our Prime Minister. Were I . an Englishman, I should regard it as the kind of foreign policy which ought to be expected from a government responsible for the peace and security of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
The’ Australian Labour party’s foreign policy can be said to be almost identical with those four principles. What does the Labour party say? Its defence policy provides for the protection of the Commonwealth- of Australia as the supreme obligation of the people of Australia. But what did this Government say? It declared that reliance on collective security was the first thing, and, after that, we should rely upon aid from other parts of the British Empire. The last thing it advocated was that we should make provision for the defence of Australia ourselves. As a matter of fact, the whole of the recent electioneering campaign of the Government was an endeavour to prove that we were incapable of defending ourselves. Yet when the right honorable gentleman was unable to construe Mr. Chamberlain’s speech and he sought an explanation of it by cablegram, he subsequently issued it as a statement without giving publicity to the cablegram received from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom or to any portion of it.
– Does the honorable member suggest’ that I misquoted Mr. Chamberlain?
– No. I am saying that the right honorable gentleman construed the reply of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and that it is construed differently by very able men both in London and here. The Australian Press informed us that the House of Commons attached great importance to Mr. Chamberlain’s declaration that the maintenance of naval bases at strategic points in various parts of the world “was not as vital as the defence of our own country, because, so long as we are undefeated at home, even if we sustain losses overseas, we may have an opportunity of making them good afterwards.” That is something which this Parliament might construe in relation to the two concepts of Australia’s duty as expressed by the Prime Minister during the election campaign and as expressed by myself. I said that the greatest contribution that Australia could make to the security of the British Empire was to make the maximum provision within our capacity to ensure our ability to resist aggression, and most certainly I said,’ too, that that would not only add to our own security but also be a positive relief to Great Britain itself, in that we would be defending 7,000,000 British subjects and 3,000,000 square miles of British territory. I also went on to say, and I repeat again now, that if we could at least make the effort to undertake the defence of that immense area and of those millions of subjects and the millions of pounds of British capital invested in the development of the industries of this nation by ourselves without depending on anybody else it would be the best contribution that Australia could make towards the security of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But what did the Government say? The Government said that that was nonsense.
– No. The Government said that it was a policy of isolation.
– .Did the Government say that it was isolation? I quote here again from the commentators engaged in construing the significance of Mr. Chamberlain’s speech.
– Misconstruing !
– No. Common sense can be applied to the four points which I have specified. This construction was placed upon them not by the Australian Labour party in Australia but by men accustomed to interpret in the great newspapers of the world the real significance of phrases and the meaning of declarations. The inference they drew from that portion of the speech of the British Prime Minister was that in the event of war Great Britain might not be able to defend its overseas possessions if a concentration of forces were imperative at home shores.
– Australia is not a British possession.
– That is the very point; Australia is a self-governing part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I submit that the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has made the point even clearer than it was, because the “protection of British possessions overseas including military, naval, and air bases,” does not include the protection of the self-governing dominions. That, I say, is a clear indication that if this Government has not changed its outlook upon foreign affairs completely since the last elections, there is no justification for dealing with defence estimates until it explains what changes have taken place in the world in respect of foreign relations, which are of such a character as to increase the menace against which Australia must make provision to be safeguarded. It is this dominion for which we have primary responsibility just as the Prime Minister of Great Britain acknowledges that he is primarily responsible for Great Britain; his problem is of one kind, ours may be of another, but we have had no information in the statement made by the Prime Minister as to what increased danger now confronts Australia from the viewpoint of its integrity, which was not present when we gave to this Government the whole financial provision for which it asked in order to give Australian defence requisite strength. On the contrary, a first, glance at the statement suggests that the tension is less now than was formerly the case. The Italian agreement unquestionably makes the trade routes for the exports of Australia much safer than would be the case if Italian and British interests were in conflict or if the governments of the two countries were unable to effect mutual arrangements. The recent treaty which has been made, by Great Britain with another dominon in respect of trade is a further indication, I venture to say, that the English-speaking world at any rate is less disposed to quarrel with its component parts than was previously the case. I welcome, therefore, the reference in the statement to the treaty made by Mr. De Valera and the Government of the United Kingdom.
What else is there? Does the position in Central Europe make it necessary that Australian defence should be multiplied to the extent of the staggering increase foreshadowed in the speech which the Prime Minister broadcast recently? The Prime Minister surely makes it necessary that we should be told under what increased foreign danger we labour that was not evident three or four months ago. But the right honorable gentleman has not told us. I venture to 6ay that from the viewpoint of Europe, the position is less inflammable than it was two or three months ago. Are there any prospective developments in Europe to justify n war hysteria in Australia out of which the war profiteers will reap a harvest? It’ not in Europe, where else does the danger lie? What is there that wo have to look at which gives us ground for disquietude which was not the case not so long since? I point out that preliminary negotiations have been proceeding between the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America. I hope that between them the two governments will be able to develop a sense of fraternity, good-will and mutual respect between the. people of that great country and the people of the Commonwealth. To go ahead with those negotiations might be a more valuable contribution towards Australian safety than would be the expenditure of millions of pounds on defence.
– Leaning upon someone else !
– That is not leaning upon someone else; it is a lessening of the degree of ill-will or misunderstanding that exists between neighbouring countries in the Pacific Ocean. With respect to Japan, I -say that this country ought not lightly to engage in provocative acts towards any power in the Pacific Ocean, or indeed in any part of the world. Positive work of the kind to which I have referred makes it plain that we stand for the cultural service of civilization, that we intend to be friendly with other great countries, n.nd that we will not engage in provocative acts.
– What about the position in Austria?
– I have said that I do not propose to go into details, but I am not afraid to do so.
Although the Prime Minister of the Common weal th and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom say that, so far as Central Europe is concerned, the situation is better than it was, and despite the interjection of the honorable member, and despite what has been done in Austria, we have something to look back upon ourselves a? having contributed towards whatever misfortunes the world has experienced during the last few years. E,err country has contributed towards what “l shall call the “ spilt milk “ of the twenty years which have passed since the Armistice. I do not propose to probe where the responsibility lies; I merely regret that the world has reached the stage at which it becomes possible for a dreadful cataclysm to overtake civilization; but I say that all the evidence on the position of Central Europe suggests that the tension is far less grievous than it was.
From the viewpoint of Australia, we have . to consider whether the effectual situation is such on the evidence submitted to this Parliament by the Government that would warrant us embarking upon a stupendous burden for national defence knowing that by doing so we are draining the resources for the development of our country. We are already compelling the States to reduce expenditure on useful works and services, and propose to plunge Australia once again iti time of peace into debt which posterity will have to carry, because we say the situation now makes it imperative to spend a sum far beyond anything that Australia has ever conceived of spending or being capable of spending on defence in time of peace. If that is the kind of provision which the present state of the world makes necessary, what is to be the situation of this nation should war come upon us? Already we are told that we must borrow in time of peace and prosperity to prepare for defence. What would be the position of the nation if war actually happened?
I venture to say to this House, and I say it to the country, that Australia ought to provide adequately for its own defence as an obligatory act arising out of its nationhood. That represents our task. We ought not to rely on Britain for our defence, because in time of emergency of the kind envisaged, after reading Mr. Chamberlain’s speech it is very doubtful if Great Britain could come to our aid in sufficient time to bc of that degree of substantial assistance which would provide us, without preliminary preparation by us, with the strength which we should need. That was the declaration Labour put to the country during the general election campaign. This is where I come to the statement of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron). Last week, I said that this Government was tending towards Labour’s conception of defence, and was abandoning the conception of defence which it had put forward during the election campaign.
– The honorable gentleman is now changing his ground.
– I am not. The Government cannot have a dozen policies. I am afraid that if Great Britain had 20 policies in 20 years the honorable gentleman who has just interjected also would have 20 policies in 20 years.
– The honorable gentleman would lend no support to Great Britain.
– Great Britain does not ask, and never has asked, for the support of the dominions. What Australia does with its forces in times of peace and war is essentially a matter for this Parliament to decide. That is clear and unequivocal.
– The honorable gentleman has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That the debate benow adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker. - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House all communications which, during the last three months, have passed between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia on the subject of international relations?
– So far as I am aware, no government has ever done such a thing. This Government does not propose to do it.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General state what progress has been made ‘in relation to the promised inquiry into the conditions under which non-official postmasters are working?
– The inquiry has been practically completed. I believe that a. report has been drawn up by the committee of departmental heads appointed to make it, and is now under the consideration of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs and the PostmasterGeneral. I hope to be able to make a pronouncement some day next week.
– Is the Minister for Defence in a position to make a statement concerning the number of accidents that have occurred in the Royal Australian Air Force during the last twelve months, and particularly in regard to the death of two pilots during the last week? Has his attention been drawn to the special article published in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning, written by that journal’s aviation correspondent, who therein definitely stated that all Australian defence aircraft are obsolete, and that commercial air liners could have chased out of the sky all the machines of the Royal Australian Air Force? Is the honorable gentleman prepared to make a statement either confirming or denying that accusation ?
– I have already furnished a reply to a question asked by another honorable member, setting out the whole of the fatalities and serious accidents that have occurred to members of the Royal Australian Air Force since 1932. In reply to the specific question asked by the honorable gentleman, I may say that there have been three fatalities during the last twelve months. Two during this year, unfortunately, have happened recently. The third happened in the latter part of last year. I am not concerned about the writings of individuals in newspapers.
The following papers were presented : -
Small Loans - Report, dated15th February, 1038, of the Committee appointed to investigate the facilities available for Small Loans.
Norfolk Island - Report for 1936-37.
Papua. - Report for 1936-37.
Audit Act- Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1937, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Canberra Community Hospital - Report by Mr. W. A. E. Lewis, Member of the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales, dated 29th July, 1937, into the Canberra Community Hospital.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank and Statement of the Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department, at 31st December, 1937; together with Auditor-General’s Reports thereon.
Elections and Referendums - Statistical Returns in relation to the Senate Elections, 1937; the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1937; together with Summaries of Elections and Referendums. 1903-1937.
Elections, 1937 -
StatisticalReturns showing the voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1937, viz.: -
New South Wales.
Return showing the voting within each
Subdivision in relation to the Election for the House of Representatives, 1037, for the Northern Territory.
Nauru - Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 10- Oaths.
No. 1 1- Motor Traffic.
No. 12 - Shipping Fees.
No. 13 - Importation of Dogs.
No. 14 - Wild Birds Preservation.
No. 15 - Importation of Dogs Regulations Proclamation Repeal.
Air Force Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 12, 13, 22.
Apple and Pear Bounty Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 18.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1937 - No. 23 - Line Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth of Australia; Commonwealth Medical Officers’ Association; and Commonwealth Temporary Clerks’ Association.
No. 1 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 2 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 3 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department of Australia.
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1936-37.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 10.
Bankruptcy Act - Rules amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 111.
Census and Statistics Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 114.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act and Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 115. Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 1, 19, 29, 31.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - P. C. Purcell.
Commerce - F. H. Colbey, J. K. Crone, C. B. Smith, E. E. B. Wood.
Interior - A. R. Campbell.
Treasury - J. B. Brigden.
List of Permanent Officers of the Com monwealth Service on 30th June, 1037.
Commonwealth Railways Act - By-laws Nos. 77, 78.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 7.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937. No. 117.
Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1937, No. 113.
Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 8, 11, 15.
Dried Fruits Export Charges Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1938. No. 23.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 3.
Financial Relief Acts - Regulations amended -Statutory Rules 1938, No. 25.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court - dated 7th December, 1937 (Statutory Rules 1937, No. 120).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Adelong, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Archerfield, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Cooktown, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Darwin, Northern Territory (2) - For Defence purposes.
Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia- For
Loxton East, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Mascot, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Maylands, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Meekatharra, Western Australia- For Postal purposes.
Mr Eliza, Victoria For Postal purposes.
Richmond, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Rockdale, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Undercliffe, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
West Maitland, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Meat Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules, 1937, No. 110.
Nationality Act - Return for 1937.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 16, 17, 20, 21.
Navigation Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 9, 32.
Report of cases in which the GovernorGeneral, during 1937, granted dispensations under section 422a.
New Guinea Act -
Ordinance of 1937 - No. 33 - Roman Catholic (Mission of the Divine Word) property.
Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 1 - Appropriation(No. 2) 1937- 1938.
No. 2 - Judiciary.
No. 3 - Service and Execution of Process Ordinance Repeal.
No. 4 - Criminal Code Amendment.
No. 5 - Public Service.
No. 7- Supply 1938-1939.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1938-
No. 1 - Fencing.
No. 2 - Mortgagors’ Relief.
Marriage Ordinance - Regulations.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance of 1938 - No. 1 - Coroners.
Regulations, amended, &c, under -
Darwin Administration Ordinance.
Health Ordinance (2).
Public Service Ordinance.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1937 -
No. 14 - Navigation.
No. 15 - Petroleum (Mining).
Papua and New Guinea Bounties Act - Regulations amended. &c. - Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 5. G.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, Nos. 2, 4.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 116.
Science and Industry Research Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 14.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1937 -
No. . 18 - Dogs Registration.
No. 19 - Tobacco.
No. 20 - Gun Licence (No. 2).
No. 21 - Rabbit Destruction.
No. 22 - Careless Use of Fire.
No. 23 - Insane Persons and Inebriates ( Committal and Detention ) .
No. 24 - Roads and Public Places.
No. 25 - Education.
No. 26 - National Memorials.
No. 27 - Ordinances Revision.
No. 28 - Court of Petty Sessions (No. 2).
No. 29 - Interpretation.
No. 30 - Canberra Community Hospital Board (No. 4).
No. 31 - Police Offences.
No. 32 - Traffic.
No. 33 - Protection of Lands. Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 1 - Plant Diseases.
No. 2- Adoption of Children.
No. 3 - Money Lenders.
No. 4 - Compensation (Fatal Injuries ) .
No. 5 - Matrimonial Causes.
No.6 - Liquor.
Regulations, amended, &c, under - Court of Petty Sessions Ordinance (2)
Maintenance’ Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Ordinance.
Motor Traffic Ordinance.
Plant Diseases Ordinance.
Public Health Ordinance (2).
Real Property Ordinance.
Scat of Government (Administration) Act-
Notice of variation of plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 3rd December, 1937.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 119.
States Grunts (Fertilizer) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 30.
Trade Commissioners Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 28.
Trade Marks Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 33.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - RegulationsamendedStatutory Rules 1937, No. 109.
Wine Grapes Charges Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1938. No. 20.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 27.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1937. No. 112.
Statutory Rules 1938, No. 24.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Development in a position to state: -
What results have been obtained by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in its investigations into the destruction of rabbits by virus ? When will those investigations be completed ?
Will he also ascertain from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research the reason why the European rabbit has never prospered or become a pest in North and South America?
– The experiments that have been conducted on Wardang Island with myxomatosis, with a view to obtaining a material that would exterminate rabbits, have been extremely successful up to the present time. The tests are not yet completed. Further field tests are to be undertaken in different circumstances within the next few weeks. This particular virus has proved itself specific for rabbits only; it has no effect on human beings or on other animals.
– Are the further experiments to be conducted on Wardang Island?
– I believe not. So far as the experiments have gone, it has been definitely established that this virus is poisonous to rabbits, and that, eventually, it will rapidly exterminate them in any given locality or colony. The “ rift within the lute “ up to the present is that affected rabbits apparently keep themselves to themselves. Not a great deal is known about the social habits of the Australian rabbit. It is essential that we should know more about their social habits, because such knowledge has a direct bearing on the efficacy of this particular specific. It appears that affected rabbits keep to their particular colony, and do not move to other colonies, thereby carrying infection abroad ; so that up to the present stage of the investigations it would appear that the efficacy of this particular virus is limited. However, the experiments are continuing, and I hope to be able to make a further ‘ statement to the House at a later date. So far as the last part of the question is concerned, I will refer the matter to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and advise him later something about European rabbits in America.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received from the Yampi Sound Mining Company an application for a licence to work the Koolan Island, iron ore deposits with a view to exporting 1,000,000 tons annually to Japan for a period of 25 years? If so, has the Government refused or granted the application?
– Licences for the development of iron ore deposits on Koolan Island are controlled by the Government of Western Australia. The control of exports is in the hands of the Commonwealth. The matter mentioned by the honorable member is receiving the attention of the Government. I hope shortly to make a statement to the House with reference to it.
Mr. FRANCIS, as chairman, brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, relating to the proposed erection of a terminal building at Kingsford-Smith aerodrome at Mascot, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– In view of the proposals made by women’s organizations in Sydney that the Government should take action in the Commonwealth in connexion with effective domicil in divorce, I ask the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General whether the Ministry has considered the matter?
– I shall bring the subject mentioned by the honorable member before my colleague and furnish him with a reply at the earliest possible moment.
– I ask the Acting Minis,ter for Trade and Customs, whether it is not a fact that importations of galvanized iron permitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs come largely from the parent company of Lysaghts Limited, England, and are used to meet a demand that could have been supplied by Lysaght’s Australian factory at Newcastle, if that company had given decent working conditions and wages to Australian workmen? Also floes the Acting Minister realize that these importations enable the Australian company to defeat Australian workers in the fight which they are making for’ better wages and conditions?
– The Government deplores very much indeed the industrial dispute at Newcastle, but no action in connexion with it has been taken by the Ministry on behalf of either the workers or the employers. It has pursued the policy observed by other governments for many years past. Whenever the Australian company is unable to produce sufficient galvanized iron to supply local requirements, it has been the practice of governments to remove the duty in order to enable importations to be made. That is all this Government has done in this case. As to the source of imports, importers are at liberty to obtain their requirements where they choose - from Baldwins, Lysaghts, or any other firm in England. The Government is not interested in the source of supply from overseas.
– I lay on the table of the House a copy of the report of the New South Wales Hospital Commission on the Canberra Community Hospital, also a report by Mr. Lewis, a member of that commission, with reference to specific matters inquired into.
– In view of the controvery appearing in the Brisbane daily newspapers between the Brisbane City Council and the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Brisbane, with respect to the building of the new general post office in that city, I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the Deputy Director iu Brisbane is authorized to state the policy of the Government in regard to this project ? If so, is it a fact that negotiations between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Works Department have been completed, and will he say whether it is the intention of the Government to carry out its promise to the citizens of Brisbane by proceeding immediately with the erection of the new post office?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether press reports which some time ago attributed to him a statement that the Government had not discussed the subject of universal military training may be taken to be an accurate report of the position at that time, and if so whether a similar report recently may also be considered an accurate statement of the Government’s intentions ?
– The press report referred to by the honorable member was accurate, and the Government has seen no reason to depart from that policy ; but it is always ready to consider the circumstances of the Commonwealth at any time.
– And to change its mind.
– Being not altogether foolish, the Government does change its mind sometimes. At the present stage it considers that there is no need for an alteration of its policy with respect to universal military training.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that the Government has consulted the associated banks in connexion with the proposed banking legislation to be introduced this session. If so, what is the reason for not consulting other sections of the community that might be affected by the proposed legislation?
– The Government has called for no reports from the Commonwealth Bank or from the trading banks. But, on behalf of the Government, I have sought to inform my mind in any and all quarters where I thought information could usefully be obtained.
– Has the attention of the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs been directed to a recent newspaper report to the effect that General Motors-Holdens Limited last year made a profit of £1,005,000, after making provision for depreciation and all contingencies? Also, is he aware that similar profits are being made by all motor car body building and assembly plants in Australia? If so, and because of the obvious overcharging by these firms to Australian car users, particularly the primary and secondary producers, will the Government consider the advisability of instructing the Tariff Board at an early date to inquire into the duties covering this industry?
– My attention has been directed to the report of the profits made by General Motors-Holdens Limited, and I understand other similar companies are also making big profits. I oan assure the honorable member that the question raised by him will have every consideration.
Incident at Port Melbourne.
– I desire to remind the right honorable the Minister for External Affairs of an incident that occurred on the Italian warship Montecuccoli, during its visit to Melbourne a few weeks ago.
– Order ! The honorable member must ask a question.
– I always thought, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member was permitted to preface any question which he desired to address to a Minister with a . few words of explanation. That is now my purpose. I remind the Minister for External Affairs of the incident that occurred on the Italian warship mentioned in Port Phillip six or eight weeks ago, when an assault was committed on a nonnaturalized Italian resident in Australia. The matter was brought before the right honorable gentleman at the time, and he promised to take certain action. I now ask him what action has been taken, and whether he is prepared to make a statement to the House on the subject.
– The honorable member’s question is no doubt urgent, and of great public importance. I can assure him that the incident has not escaped my memory. I have taken some action. I discussed the matter with the ActingConsulGeneral, who thought that it would be proper for him to leave a settlement to his successor. His successor has been appointed, but I have not yet seen him. I shall take an early opportunity to do so.
– I ask the PrimeMinister whether he is prepared to makea statement of the Government’s policy with reference to the proposal of theUnited States of America for the adoption of freer trade policies between thenations of the world, with the object of breaking down, as far as possible, the mischievous tariff barriers which have had such a disastrous effect on the export trade of Australia.
-I regret that I am unable, atthis juncture, to give any information with regard to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– In view of the fact that the pair book has been in use since 1924, and the last page has been filled, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether any arrangement has been made to record pairs in connexion with the division of the House to-night, or may we take it that the arrangement for pairs has been abandoned ?
– The Chair has no knowledge officially of pairs, or of the pair book.
– Is the Minister representingthe Minister for Health aware that the British Government, in furtherance of its national fitness campaign, passed in 1937 the Physical Training and Recreation Act? Has his department examined the scheme outlined in that act, and, if so, does he believe that a similar scheme would be of value in this country for the purpose of improving the general standard of health?
– I shall make inquiries, and furnish the honorable member with a considered reply.
– Will the Prime Minister state what stage the Government has reached in its negotiations with other nations bordering the Pacific Ocean in regard to the formation of a nonaggression pact on the lines proposed by him at the Imperial Conference of 1937?
– Honorable members are aware that the Imperial Conference resolved that any action for the purpose of bringing about such a. pact should be taken by the Imperial Government. Unfortunately, the conflict between Japan and China has since occurred, and it has not been possible for anything further to be done.
– Is the
Treasurer able to give the House any information regarding the development of the Newnes shale oil deposits since the ratification of the agreement between the Government and National Oil Proprietary Limited?
-The Government is keeping in close touch with Mr. G. F. Davis, the Chairman of National Oil Proprietary Limited, and the preparatory work is well in hand. Mr. Davis himself, together with certain oil experts, visited Europe and America in search of plant, and made arrangements for the installation of Esthonian Retorts and the Dubbs Cracking Plant, the one a European device, and the other an American. He has now called tenders in Australia, America and Europe, for the manufacture of the necessary plant, and - it is hoped that a considerable part will be manufactured here. I understand that consideration is being given to a proposal for the erection of the treatment plant at Caper tee Valley instead of at Newnes itself. If that is done, a pipe line will be run from the plant, probably to Richmond or some other suitable centre. Applications have been called, and are now being considered, for the necessary technical assistance. The estimated capacity of the plant is 10,000,000 gallons, but it is hoped that the actual capacity will be considerably in advance of this.
– In view of the great volume of work given by the Defence Department to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and the possibility of congestion in consequence, does not the Minister for Defence consider it advisable to arrange for the construction of some of the smaller vessels by dockyards in Victoria, where the Williamstown Dockyard is, I think, the best, thus giving a share of the work to a State other than New South Wales? ,
– In nearly every case tenders are called for contracts of the kind referred to by the honorable member. I have made a careful investigation of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard facilities, and am convinced that the yard is capable of carrying out all the work for which tenders ‘by the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company have been accepted.
– Seeing that certain companies, such as General Motors-Holdens Limited are unduly exploiting .the people, as is shown by their excessive profits, and failing corrective measures through customs duties, will the Treasurer consider the imposition of a super tax on all company profits in excess of 12 per cent., the proceeds to be devoted towards defraying the cost of the increased defence programme?
– I doubt whether the method suggested by the honorable member would be practicable or fair. However, if he will place his question on the notice-paper, a considered reply will be furnished.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether, when the revenue from nonofficial post offices increases to such an extent as to justify their being made official, the years of service given by the non-official postmasters in such offices will he taken into consideration with a view to their being given permanent appointments ?
– I shall refer the matter to the Postmaster-General.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state what action is being taken to provide a minimum homeconsumption price for wheat?
– That subject will be considered by the Council of Agriculture when it meets on the 12th and 13th May next. The AttorneysGeneral of the various States have been circularized, asking them to inquire into the constitutional position in regard to the inauguration of such a scheme as the honorable member has, in view.
– Is it a fact that considerable delays have occurred in the construction in Melbourne of a vessel for fisheries research? If so, to what may those delays be attributed, and when is it likely that the Victoria Dockyards will be able to complete the vessel?
– Certain delays in the building of the vessel occurred before I took charge of this branch. Those delays have now been overcome, the vessel is already in the water and will be in commission in a few weeks.
– Last year, the Government promised that experiments would be carried out regarding power alcohol, with a view to its utilization by Government Departments. Will the Minister for the Interior state when and where those experiments are to be made?
– I do not know of any assurance of the kind stated by the honorable member, but I shall make inquiries and furnish him with a reply.
– Has the Prune Minister seen the reported statement of the Attorney-General that he hopes to be’ a mascot for the Australian test cricket team this year in England? Has he also seen the statement by the AttorneyGeneral that, by an extraordinary coincidence, the Prime Minister had decided that he, the Attorney-General, must be in England this year “to attend some conference or other”? Is it the practice of the Government to send Ministers to London in this casual manner?
– People overseas, if they ever hear that this question was asked, will, while appreciating the fact that Australia has a champion cricket team, come to the conclusion that we have very little sense of humour.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House for what specific purpose and on what mission the Attorney-General is at present in England ?
– If the honorable gentle^ man does not know that, his ignorance bears out what I said earlier.
– If the Prime Minister is unaware of the mission upon which the Attorney-General is engaged-
– Order ! I remind honorable members that the founding of questions on answers to previous questions is a violation of the Standing Orders.
-There was no previous answer. If the Prime Minister is unaware of the mission upon which the Attorney-General is engaged abroad, will he tell honorable members who is paying the Attorney-General’s fare?
– Obviously the honorable member’s question is founded upon the answer that the Prime Minister gave to the honorable member for Werriwa.
– As thisis the first meeting after a long recess, a great deal of latitude in respect of questions has been allowed, but the question asked by the honorable member for East Sydney does not relate to an urgent matter, and should be placed on the notice-paper.
– In view of the statement by the Attorney-General that the Prime Minister decided that he would visit Great Britain this year to attend “ some conference or other “, will the Prime Minister say whether the Attorney-General left Australia to visit England without any knowledge of the work which he was to undertake, as is suggested in a newspaper statement?
– If the AttorneyGeneral left Australia without knowing where he was going he would be on a par with the honorable member.
– It has been reported in the press that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to seek the co-operation of workers in industry in the carrying out of the Government’s defence proposals. Should not the Prime Minister, before seeking the co-operation of workers for this purpose, make himself conversant with the economic position created by the displacement of labour through the introduction of machinery? Is he willing to investigate the intense mechanization of such an industry as coal-mining for a start, with a view to taking some practical steps to reduce the number of working hours in order to offset the effect of the introduction of machinery?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will put this question on the notice-paper, so that a considered reply may be given. I desire to see to what extent this matter is likely to affect the co-operation which I am sure the Governmentwill receive from industrialists generally in the carrying out of its defenceproposals.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to a statement in to-day’s press by the Premier of Victoria that the development of that State’ had been retarded because of the small amount of loan money made available to it from year to year? Have not similar statements been made by other State Premiers? What action does the Treasurer propose to take to ensure that the carrying out of necessary public works in the States is not retarded by the restriction of supplies of loan money, with consequent restriction of employment ?
– In regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question it would be better, perhaps, for me to reply personally to the Premier of Victoria. In regard to the second part, I ask the honorable member to place his question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Minister for Defence give consideration to the proposal that, when defence works are being put in hand, particularly in country districts, regard should be had to the incidence of seasonal employment in those districts so that, whenever possible, works may be started during periods of seasonal slackness or unemployment?
– The department has already made a very careful analysis of all proposed defence works for the balance of this year, and the whole of next year, with a view to co-ordinating those works with State undertakings. We are keeping in mind the need to carry out as much work as possible during slack periods of employment, and to co-ordinate such undertakings with relief works, &c. That, however, can be done only in regard to the less important undertakings; the urgent works must be carried out immediately.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House what stage the negotiations have reached in connexion with the proposals for a subsidized Pacific shipping service?
– Without going into detail, Imay say that there are difficulties in the way, and at present it does not appear that an early settlement of the matter is likely. The Government is doing all that is possible to complete negotiations; but, from the viewpoint of other parties, there are difficulties in the way. I may state quite frankly that I am not optimistic about an early decision, although I am hoping for one.
– Can the Minister for Defence say if consideration is being given to the removal of the Randwick rifle range to the Liverpool district?
– The rifle range at Randwick is required on its present site, and the department does not intend at present to remove it. Extensions are being made to existing buildings, and the removal of certain structures may be necessary.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform the House when the balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be issued and tabled in Parliament? Will he undertake to expedite its publication?
– I shall ascertain when it will be available, and inform the honorable member.
– Can the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs say if the Tariff Board’s report on the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia has yet been released, or when it is likely to be made available to honorable members?
– The report is at present under consideration; it has not yet been released.
– In view of the policy which, I understand, has been adopted by the Government, not to divulge the terms of the communications passing between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government, and having regard to the fact that the British Prime Minister, at the request of the Prime Minister of Australia, amplified a statement which had already been made by him for publication, will the Prime Minister make known the precise terms of that amended and amplified statement?
– The answer is in the negative. I have already given to the Australian public the information supplied to me by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, but perhaps I may be permitted to remove a certain amount of misapprehension which apparently exists.
– Why not make the cablegrams available to the House?
– The information has already been made public. Mr. Chamberlain knows the terms in which I made the information available to the Australian people. If honorable members are not satisfied with the assurance I have already given, that I interpreted his statement correctly, I am not prepared to table any of the confidential communications which passed between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Government.
– Is it a fact that, in issuing a statement to the press regarding the reply which the Prime Minister of Great Britain gave to the cablegram despatched by the Prime Minister of Australia, the latter found it desirable to withdraw his first statement and substitute an amended one? Is there any truth in that suggestion ?
– There is no truth in the suggestion. I did not make any statement to the press which I subsequently cancelled. Apparently somebody has conveyed some incorrect information to the honorable member on this subject, and I must clarify the position. A mistakewas made in decoding one word in one of the cablegrams received from the British Prime Minister and in order to clear up the matter I referred the message back for checking, when I was promptly informed that the message had been decoded incorrectly, and that the error caused some misunderstanding. I did not make a statement to the press which was subsequently withdrawn.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I am not suggesting that any officer of the department or any journalist conveyed information on this subject to me.
– Then who did?
– No one. I merely asked if there is any truth in the suggestion, and as the right honorable gentleman says that there is not,I unreservedly accept his statement.
– Have arrangements been made, as reported in the London press, for 1,000 migrants, nominated by the. Salvation Army, to settle in Australia within the next few months?
– In accordance with the Government’s policy of assisted migration, certain groups nominated by the Salvation Army have been approved. The figure quoted by the honorable member is substantially inaccurate.
– If the figure I mentioned is incorrect, will the Minister state how many migrants, nominated by the Salvation Army, are to be admitted into Australia under the group system, and what will be the conditions of their admission ?
– I know that group nominations by the Salvation Army, totalling several hundreds, have been approved. I shall ascertain the exact number and let the honorable member have a further reply.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce say whether the decisions of the British Empire Producers Conference have been considered by the Government, and can he indicate what effect those decisions will have on the work of the Australian Overseas Delegation, particularly as to the possibility of restrictions being imposed upon Australian exports?
– The decisions have not yet been considered by the Government. I ask the honorable member to place the second portion of his question upon the notice-paper.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement as to the correctness or otherwise of numerous statements in the press that there is a possibility that the Government will reduce the invalid and old-age pension for female pensioners to 15s. a week?
– Both the Treasurer and I have made very definite contradictions of the suggestion contained in the honorable member’s question. Definitely, there is no intention to reduce the rate of the invalid and old-age pension of men or women.
– In view of the recent accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force and the public concern as to the training of personnel and the inefficiency of aircraft, will the Minister for Defence have a parliamentary committee set up to make a full investigation?
– We all regret the fatalities that have occurred in the Royal Australian Air Force recently. Sufficient time has not elapsed since themore recent accidents for the official reports of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee or the Defence Department to reach me, but I assure the honorable member that there is no intention to appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate these matters. Moreover, there is no inefficiency in the aeroplanes used by the defence organization.
– For the information of honorable members, will the Prime Minister state upon which clays the House will sit next week and, if possible, the following week?
– The House will meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next two weeks and probably on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the following week. It is intended to resume the practice of periodic “ long “ weekends so that members may have greater opportunities to return to their electorates.
. - by leave - Honorable members are aware that since Parliament adjourned in December last, discussions have taken place between the governments of the Commonwealth and New Zealand bearing on the tariff and commercial relation of the two dominions. The arrangements reached as a result of the discussions relate only to the duties and conditions applicable to Australian goods imported into New Zealand and do not necessitate any amendments of Commonwealth legislation. As I am sure that honorable members will wish to be informed concerning the arrangements, I propose briefly to explain them.
Since 1933, the tariff relations between the two dominions have been covered by the agreement negotiated by the Honorable Sir Walter Massy-Greene and approved by the Commonwealth Parliament in November of that year. The agreement provided for the reciprocal accord of special rates of duty on a number of commodities of interest to each dominion. In respect of some commodities, the special rates were lower than the British preferential tariff, and in respect of others, higher. The agreement also provided that any goods not included in the categories to which the special rates were applicable should be dutiable at whatever rate of duty was in force under the British preferential tariff at the time the goods were imported into Australia or New Zealand, as the case might be. A reservation stipulated that any of the special rates would be alterable by mutual agreement between the two governments or by six months’ notice by the government wishing to effect an alteration of rates.
In consideration of the extensive grant of the British preferential rates and the special commitment of New Zealand to place producers in the United Kingdom in the position of a domestic competitor, a supplementary agreement was made in 1933, that in the event of a substantial diversion of New Zealand’s import trade from the United Kingdom to Australia, both governments would endeavour to devise a satisfactory method .of checking such diversion, either by the regulation of trade or by such other means as might be mutually acceptable. As a result of increasing competition from imports from Australia and. because the New Zealand Government desired to safeguard and encourage the development of industries in the dominion it decided that it was urgently necessary that steps be taken to restore and improve the competitive position of its manufacturers in their home markets. To this end, the New Zealand Government gave formal notice to the Commonwealth Government of its desire to enter into immediate discussions for a complete revision of the 1933 agreement.
In the discussions which took place in December in Wellington, between my colleague, Mr. White, and the New Zealand Ministers, it was arranged that the 1933 agreement should continue in force, but that the Commonwealth Government should give its consent, in such respects as was necessary, to a number of alterations of duties which the New Zealand Government wished to put into force forthwith in accordance with the policy to which it was committed.
Other subjects which have been highly controversial in the past were also brought into the discussions and amicably settled. In this category I include the potato question, which for some years presented difficulties because of impediments imposed by Australia on imports from New Zealand. The position of the Commonwealth Avith respect to the industry was placed fully before the New Zealand Government which withdrew its request for relaxation of the conditions of import into Australia.
The decision of the New Zealand Government with respect to citrus fruits should remove this question from the sphere of controversy also. In future the importation of citrus fruits into New Zealand will be subject to government supervision through the organization of the New Zealand Director of Marketing, and no quantitative restrictions will apply. Purchases through the New Zealand governmental organization will be made entirely on commercial lines. The New Zealand Government, however, considered it necessary to continue the maintenance of protective measures against the importation of fruit from fly-infested areas. As Australian producers demanded and were given similar protection against the introduction of plant pests and diseases, the restrictions arising from the enforcement of similar protective measures in New Zealand can hardly be questioned.
The commodities in respect of which the Commonwealth Government gave its consent to a variation of the customs duties may be conveniently divided into four groups.
Group 1 consists of 36 items in respect of which the duties have been raised against all supplying countries except the United Kingdom. The increases range from 5 per cent. to 20 per cent. The principal items affected are -
Items Affected by Increases of 5 Per Cent. - Soap, boots and shoes for adults (an alternative duty of 4s. per pair is also imposed on Australian boots and shoes), slippers, leather belting, and certain types of leather.
Items Affected by Increases of 10 Per Cent. - Knitted piece goods of silk or artificial silk, stationery, showcards, calendars, programmes, lawn mowers, carbons and electrodes, electric irons, hardware, woodware, certain machinery.
Items Affected by Increases of 15 Per Cent. - Hosiery and certain articles of apparel, rough tanned hide leathers, rubber hose and tubing, rubber parts of milking machines, rubber sheet and miscellaneous articles of rubber.
Items Affected by Increases of 20 Per Cent. - Hats, caps, millinery, upholstery leather, storage batteries, wireless sets.
To protect and encourage expansion of the New Zealand wine industry, the duty on Australian non-sparkling wines has been raised from 4s. to 5s. 6d. a gallon. Previously, South African wine paid a duty of 3s. 6d. a gallon, and Australian wine a duty of 4s. The differential rates have been eliminated and the duty of 5s. 6d. will apply to both Australian and South African wines. Treaty commitments with certain foreign countries precluded New Zealand from maintaining the former margin of preference accorded to Australia. Australia’s’ trade in the items in this group amounted to £550,000.
Group 2 consists of six items on which
Australia previously enjoyed lower rates of duty than other dominions supplying similar goods. The duties applicable to Australia have been raised to “the level of the duties previously applicable to the other dominions. They involve an increase of 5 per cent. in the duties applicable to fancy goods and sporting goods, jewellery and platedware, canned peas, dress stands and lay figures, brushes and brooms, and an increase by 10 per cent. of the duty on electric cooking and heating appliances. The trade in the items in this group amounted to £80,000.
Group 3 consists of eleven items on which the increased rates, although applied only to Australia, result in the duties applicable to Australia being very slightly in excess of those applicable to other dominions supplying similar goods. The new rates increase the duty on woollen piece goods and mouldings by 5 per cent., and the duties on toilet preparations and perfumery, paints, varnishes, ink, pickles, and stereotypes by 10 per cent. The trade in the items in this group amounted to £150,000 in 1936, of which toilet preparations and perfumery accounted for £50,000 and paint and varnishes, £78,000. The higher rates have also been applied to Canadian paints and varnishes.
Group 4 consists of 13 items on which the new rates applicable to Australia are higher than those applicable to other dominions. The volume of imports of these goods from other dominions is very small but competition from Australia has, for many years, necessitated the application of special rates against Australia to protect New Zealand producers. The trade in the items in this group amounted to £30,000 in 1936 but rose sharply during 1937 following an increase of the costs of production in New Zealand. The principal items in the group are: Furniture and upholstery, miscellaneous leather manufactures, enamelled baths, tinware, plain textile articles, and electric fittings and lamps.
Although the new duties cover 66 items the bulk of our trade with New Zealand is not affected. It is also unlikely that the new duties will mean a substantial loss of trade in those cases where the increases are designed to restore the former levelof protection. Naturally we would have wished to retain the whole of this trade, but honorable members will agree that the. Commonwealth could not reasonably question measures which the New Zealand Government considered necessary for the protection and encouragement of industry in New Zealand. The agreement with New Zealand has given Australia access to a valuable market, and, measured in terms of exports against imports, has operated in Australia’s favour. The volume of our trade with New Zealand has expanded remarkably in recent years. In the calendar year 1933 New Zealand imported Australian goods to the value of £2,808,000, and exported to Australia goods to the value of £1,393,000. In 1937 its imports of Australian goods had grown to £6,944,000, while exports to Australia reached only £1,824,000.
The New Zealand Government insisted that the measures necessary for the protection of New Zealand industries were urgent and could not be delayed later than the 1st. March last. Consent to the alterations was, therefore, given by the Commonwealth Government and the new duties were put into force in New Zealand on the 1st March.
Pursuant to the desires of the New Zealand Government the Commonwealth Government has also consented to accept three months’ notice in lieu of six months’ for alterations of rates’ of duty or for termination of the agreement. Subject to this understanding the agreement of 1933 will continue until such time as both parties find it convenient to open discussions for a new agreement.
– by leave - In my broadcast statement of the 24th March, I gave an outline of the defence programme adopted by the Government. Following the consultations held in London last year, we have now completed a comprehensive review of the whole of the defence organization throughout Australia, and I take this opportunity to inform honorable members of the main features of our defence programme.
As previously announced, it is the intention of the Government to provide for £24,800,000 additional of new expenditure in the next three years. The allotment of this amount is as follows: -
The amounts for the government munitions factories and civil industry are mainly for army purposes. Including an estimated expenditure of £18,200,000 for the maintenance of the existing defence services, the total defence expenditure during the next three years, apart from civil aviation requirements, will be £43,000,000, distributed as follows:-
On the completion of the programme the amount required annually for the maintenance of the services then in being will be £10,000,000, as compared with the present recurring maintenance vote of £6,000,000. Funds for the early authorization of most urgent proposals will be provided from a loan bill for defence purposes. Certain miscellaneous expenditure, totalling less than £100,000, which can be carried out by the 30th June, is being provided from Treasurer’s Advance, and the balance of the first year’s requirements will be dealt with in the next budget.
The naval programme provides for two additional cruisers of the Sydney type, which were built in 1936, and are at present in commission in the Royal Navy. The first cruiser will arrive in Australia this year, and the second about the middle of next year. The cost will be spread over a period of years, with the value of the Albatross, which is to be transferred to the Royal Navy, as an offset. Arrangements have been made for the building of two sloops of the Yarra type at Cockatoo Island. These will be completed early in 1940. The Adelaide is being converted into an oil-burning cruiser. The Australia is now being fitted with an improved anti-aircraft armament, and given extra armour protection. “When the Australia is completed, the Canberra will undergo similar treatment.
Provision has been made for seaward defences to protect our principal harbours, and an anti-submarine school is being established at Sydney. Three small seaward defence vessels are to be constructed in Australia, the first of which will be completed this year.
Increased facilities for the storage of fuel oil and ammunition are being provided at suitable points. Equipment is on order and personnel are being trained for the strategical wireless stations, which will be in full operation in 1939. These stations will enable communication to be maintained with shipping over an extensive area at all times.
A special defence course forofficers of the Australian Merchant Navy will be instituted at Sydney, Melbourne and Fre- mantle early next month.
Modern fixed coast defence armament and equipment are being installed at Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Port Kembla and Fremantle. The defences at Port Phillip, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin are being improved and an increase of about 500 men of all ranks is being made in the PermanentForces controlling these defences. Anti-aircraft guns are now being manufactured at the Government Ordnance Factory and extensive additions are being built to provide for the production of heavier guns of the latest pattern. In connection with the extension of the anti-aircraft defences the Permanent Forces will be increased by approximately 370 men and additional militia units will be raised in each of the main ports to complete manning of this armament. The Government is continuing the annual increase of £225,000, which was provided to bring the Militia Forces up to the strength of 35,000, and to improve the conditions and standard of training generally, and is increasing the training vote still further to provide for the extension of the annual training from twelve to thirteen days. The Royal Military College is being expanded to ensure an annual output of officers that will remedy in a reasonable period the present shortage in the Australian Staff Corps. A command and staff school is to be established at Sydney to conduct courses of instruction in tactics and staff duties for officers of the permanent and militia forces, and to carry out the practical part of their examinations. Schools of military engineering and signals are to be provided, and the small arms school is to be expanded.
The efficiency of the first line component of the field army will be improved by increasing the permanent staff of militia units by an average of three for each of 73 fighting units. The increases include quartermasters, warrant officers, orderly room sergeants, and sergeant or corporal instructors, and will facilitate mobilization in an emergency.
In view of the importance of Darwin as a naval and air base, a permanent force of mobile troops will be established and maintained at that port. The reserve stocks of all classes of ammunition are being increased considerably. The process of mechanisation is being continued by the local construction of armoured cars and machine gun carriers and the conversion of artillery units to mechanical draft. The new programme includes works for the fixed coast defences, barrack accommodation and storage for armament, equipment and ammunition.
On the 30th June last, Part 1 of the Government’s air defence scheme was completed, providing eight squadrons, with a first-line strength of 96 aircraft, together with one flying training school, two aircraft depots and certain administrative units. Part 2 of the scheme is now to be completed during the next three years, and will provide for -
One flying training school ;
One equipment depot;
Two armament training camps;
Two group head-quarters;
Four station head-quarters, and the extension of existing establishments.
This will raise the number of squadrons to 17, with first-line strength of aircraft of 193S, and reserves in proportion. The increase in permanent personnel will be 2,900, of whom 275 will be pilots. The increase in citizen force personnel will be 116, including 21 pilots. Steps are being taken to accelerate the output of aircraft from the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Proprietary Limited, to increase substantially the number of aircraft on order, and to lay in stocks of essential materials. It will be agreed that we are indeed fortunate that this local factory is in existence. To accommodate the new squadrons and other establishments, arrangements have been made for additional barracks, hangars, workshops, wireless stations and other buildings.-
The Government is fully seized of the importance of the further development of civil aviation. The Government’s civil aviation policy on the proposed reorganization of internal routes consequent upon the commencement of the flying boat service, will have regard to defence considerations.
In 1934, the Government initiated a forward developmental policy in regard to the local production of munitions and this was approved by the last Imperial Conference. Extensive additions are being provided for the manufacture of new types of munitions and explosives and an increased output of all classes of ammunition. Large additions are under construction at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory and the Government is providing £1,000,000 towards the cost of organizing civil industry to meet any emergency. The plant provided under this scheme will, in the main, remain the property of the Government and subject to its control. This will enable a close check to be maintained on the cost of production and will facilitate the control of profits. The Government therefore will not relinquish control of the manufacture of munitions but will, in effect, enlist the aid of private firms for management and operation.
The requirements of the fighting services in general call for the co-operation and assistance of other branches of industry and this is being fully explored. The Defence Department is co-operating with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Advisory Panel of Industrialists. An invitation has been extended to the representatives of the industrial unions concerned with a view to creating the most complete form of Australiawide co-operation. A representative committee has been appointed, to deal with the control of interstate shipping and the maintenance of coastal trade. The co-operation of the railways managements has also been provided for and other committees are dealing with the problems of wireless, telephone and telegraphic communications, whilst another committee has been appointed to coordinate medical services and supplies. A special committee, representative of the Navy, Army, Air Force, Employers’ Federation and Trade Unions for the purpose of marshalling man power will be constituted as soon as the Trade Unions Advisory Panel is appointed. Our der fence plans provide for the linking up of every national activity throughout Australia.
It is noteworthy that no authoritative report has been made on the Army since the Senior Officers’ Conference of A.I.F. war leaders in 1920. The Government has, therefore, decided to obtain the services of a senior officer from the British Army to report to it on the matters normally covered by the InspectorGeneral of the Military Forces when that post was in existence.
In view of the rapid developments’ in air defence, the Government has also asked the Government of the United Kingdom to arrange for an early visit by the Inspector-General of the Royal Air Force, to report on the existing organisation and the lines of the proposed expansion.
In order to provide for expedition and efficiency in the construction of special defence works and the completion of local defence supplies, it has been decided to appoint an Inspector-General of Defence Works and Supplies. Mr. BroadribbController-General of Munitions Supply, who for many years was the engineer supervising the development of the Maribyrnong and Footscray factories, has been appointed to the new position. To enable him to undertake this work, the Government has requested Mr. Leighton, who recently retired from the post of Controller-General of Munitions Supply, and who is at present serving on” a parttime basis in a consultative capacity to the Munitions Supply Board, to resume his former position. Mr. Leighton is one of the most eminent authorities in the British Empire on munitions production and rendered very distinguished service in Britain during the war.
To summarize: The scheme of Australian defence is related to a wider pattern of Empire defence, and its fundamental basis is Empire sea-power and the Singapore Naval Base. Nevertheless, complementary to this conception of Empire collective security, we should do all that we can to defend ourselves, and the new programme is claimed to be a substantial step towards this end. It will provide for the cruisers necessary for trade defence in our local waters; it will greatly strengthen the land, sea and air defences of the main ports and centres o? population; it will strengthen the equipment and munitions reserves of the field army and increase the permanent personnel and the general standard of efficiency; and finally, it will provide greater resources for the local production of munitions, and complete the national planning of all phases of activity associated with the defence forces.
The basis of the Government’s policy has been endorsed by the best advice obtainable at home and abroad, but the deterioration of the world ‘ situation which occurred subsequent to the Imperial Conference of last year has resulted in a programme much greater than the one contemplated at that time. It has already been announced that the new programme is a flexible one, to be increased or decreased according to the trend of the international situation, and the public is assured that .its progress will be under constant review by the Cabinet and the Council of Defence. I’ lay on the table the following paper : -
Defence Proposals of the Government - Ministerial Statement, and move -
That the paper bc printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the message be taken into consideration in committee of the whole House forthwith.
.- I rise, not to reflect on what took place earlier in the day, but to point out that the motion before us, is that the House go into committee forthwith in order to consider a message recommending an appropriation of moneys for defence equipment, involving a considerable’ increase of the provision for defence. I submit to the country, if it is vain to submit it to the Parliament, that we ought to consider the merits of the general defensive capacity of Australia at present, and the circumstances that have arisen since we last made provision of this nature, in order to ascertain to what extent, if at all, it is necessary to increase that provision, before being invited to provide the money for a policy with which we may, or may not agree, and which certainly the House has not yet had an opportunity to consider.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has just given to the House a statement of the general policy on defence which the Government has in contemplation. By an arrangement with him, because of my unreadiness to debate that subject at this juncture, the consideration of that matter has been adjourned; but I submit that it is only logical that this House should deal with the two matters that have been placed before it only since the sitting opened to-day before it authorizes the committee to consider His Excellency’s message. The Government appears to be impatient to get money for a programme, the general character of which has not been deliberated upon by this Parliament.I contend that that is the wrong way to go about the matter. A discussion of the subject of defence generally, which the right honorable gentleman has submitted to us, should properly precede the consideration of the financial provision for that policy. Honorable members know that once we get into committee in order to consider this message, it is certain that all the steps incidental to the Parliament making the requisite financial provision will be completed before the Parliament has considered the general principles of the policy that has just been explained to it. I know that the Prime Minister is of the opinion that I ought not to be allowed to speak as I am now speaking. I admit that the course which I have adopted is unusual. It isthe first time in this Parliament that I have risen to discuss whether a message from His Excellency should be considered by the committee forthwith ; but I do it in order to direct the attention of the country to the manner in which this subject is being dealt with by the Parliament, and because the procedure insisted upon by the Government makes it difficult for the Parliament to make any constructive examination of the problem. Having said that, I am not in a position to do more than protest against the failure of the Government, first, to complete the consideration by this Parliament of the examination of the foreign relations of the Government and its foreign policy, and, secondly, to allow the Parliament to consider the general subject of defence and to protest also against its insistence that we shall put the cart before the horse by voting money for a policy which we have not had an opportunity to discuss.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has protested that the members of his party will not have an adequate opportunity to discuss questions relating to defence before this financial measure is dealt with. My reply is that the bill, which I forecast will result from the message of His Excellency, will give to the honorable gentleman and, indeed, to every honorable member, the very opportunity that he now seeks. I predict that the result of this message will be a defence appropriation bill, to which I expect a schedule will be attached setting out the amounts that it is proposed to appropriate for each arm of the defence services. Such bill will give the fullest opportunity to all members of this Parliament to discuss the very matters that are now so prominent in the honorable gentleman’s mind.
– It did not give to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) an adequate opportunity to make the speech that he has just delivered. He had to ask leave to make it, outside the consideration of the bill.
– The Prime Minister rightly, in my opinion, made first an important statement on international affairs, and then a statement on defence matters. That, I submit, is the proper order. Then followed - again in proper order - an appropriation measure which will give ample opportunities for a full discussion, because all aspects of defence will be referred to in the schedule to the bill. In the circumstances, I fail to see that the honorable gentleman, or any other honorable member, suffers any disabilityin this connexion.
– Are we to understand that the Treasurer will carry this measure only sufficiently far to enable the schedule to be circulated, and that consideration of it will stand over until the Parliament has completed the discussion of the Government’s foreign policy?
– No; the honorable gentleman has misunderstood me. I propose to do what is normally done ; that is, to bring the bill before the House this evening, and to give a second-reading explanation of the contents of the measure. 1 shall there leave the matter for to-day, so that honorable gentlemen will have time to consider the contents of the bill and my second-reading remarks.
Motion agreed to.
In committee (Consideration of the Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising and expending of a certain sum of money.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill bo now read a second time.
In outlining the provisions of this measure, I would remind honorable gentlemen that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), at an earlier stage, forecast that the total defence expenditure, apart from civil aviation expenditure, for the next three years would be about £43,000,000, and that the expenditure in the financial year 1938-39 would be in the vicinity of £15,000,000. Prior to describing the measure itself, I would remind honorable members that the financial provision for defence for the current financial year was £11,500,000, and that this sum was found in the following way: - From the budget itself, about £6,000,000; from the defence equipment trust accounts, £3,000,000 ; and from loan, £2,500,000. It will be seen that, of the total appropriation of £11,500,000 for the current financial year, only £6,000,000 was found from the budget itself. Envisaging the financial provision of £15,000,000 for the next financial year,” it will be observed that £9,000,000 is to be found over and above what was provided from the budget of the current financial year. As to how the Government will finally arrange to finance the total programme of £15,000,000 for the next financial year I am, of course, unable to inform the House at the moment. The budget for 193S-39 cannot be presented for several months, and it is impossible to forecast what its revenue and expenditure contents will be. In the meantime, however, it is necessary to take steps to launch this increased defence programme without delay. Certain orders for additional defence equipment have to be placed as soon as possible, and, of course, they cannot wait until the next budget is brought down.
– What has created the urgency?
– I cannot believe that anybody who reads his newspaper should find it necessary to ask such a question at this” time. The additional orders -for defence equipment must, as I have said, be placed immediately. Expenditure at an increased rate must be authorized, and the authority of Parliament must be obtained for various items of expenditure that have not yet come before it. To thi£ end the Government now seeks the authority to raise loan moneys to the total amount of £10,300,000, and will regard this appropriation as authority for the capital works set out in the schedule to the bill. ‘
– We shall lose all authority over the expenditure of this £10,000,000’ once we pass this measure.
– Quite so, but honorable members will have every opportunity to criticize the items in the schedule. Of course, it is not necessary, and it is not the proposal of the Government, to raise the whole of this £10,000,000 at once, or even in the near future.
– But it is the proposal of the Government that we should approve of the expenditure of £10,000,000 straight away.
-The authority sought is first to borrow £10,300,000, and then to expend it in terms of the schedule attached to the bill. There can be no secret about that.
– The total amount set out in the schedule is £10,000,000.
– At an early date the Government proposes to raise £4,000,000 of the £10,000,000.
– What is the other £300,000 for?
– That is to cope with the possibility of these loans being issued at a discount. The almost invariable experience in recent times has been that it is necessary to raise loans at a discount from a round rate of interest. As an indication of the urgency of the .matter, it is desired to place before the 30th of June next orders for capital works of a total value of £5,250,000. I do not mean that that amount will be expended before the 30th June, but that commitments to that extent will be entered into before that date. The actual expenditure in 1937-38 out of the proceeds of the loan authorized by the bill will be very small indeed, if anything at all. But that is not the point. The Government cannot proceed to place orders and enter into commitments for the provision of defence equipment unless it has the necessary authority provided in the bill.
– Is the cost of the two cruisers set out in the schedule?
– Yes, the details are set out in the schedule, but I do not need at this stage to enter into a discussion of the various items. From a perusal of the schedule the honorable member will see how the amount to be made available under this legislation will be spent upon the various arms of the service and upon munitions. Further and more detailed information in respect of these items will be given at a more appropriate stage.
During the remainder of the current financial year it will be necessary to go ahead with certain proposals incidental to the contents of the measure, that will involve an increase in ordinary maintenance expenditure upon defence in Australia. The additional expenditure under the heading I have just described, amounting to the relatively small sum of about £70,000, it is proposed to meet in the meantime from the Treasurer’s Advance. The Financial Agreement exempts the Commonwealth from the necessity to bring its defence loan requirements before the Loan Council, and, in fact, exempts Commonwealth defence loan proposals and operations generally from the provisions of that agreement. In view, however, of the fact that the £10,000,000 at present required for defence will be obtained from the market which supplies requirements for State loan programmes, the Government brought its immediate loan requirements for defence purposes before the Loan Council. The position was explained to the various State Premiers who were good enough to express themselves as willing to assist the Commonwealth Government in this direction to the best of their ability.
– Does the Treasurer say that not a single penny of this money will be raised outside the Commonwealth ?
– I can honestly say 1 had not thought of that aspect of the matter until this moment. The Govern ment has not considered at any time the question of raising the money elsewhere than in Australia. The honorable member has, however, now put the idea into my head. The Loan Council has decided to place on the Australian market at an early date a public loan of £10,250,000, of which £4,000,000 will, subject to this measure becoming law, be utilized for defence purposes under the terms of the bill, while the balance of £6,250,000 will be provided for public works, &c. undertaken by the various governments throughout Australia. The reason for combining the loan requirements for public works and defence purposes is that the Commonwealth Government and the Loan Council desire to minimize the number of calls made upon the Australian money market. The Commonwealth proportion of £4,000,000 will be used to finance defence expenditure during the balance of the current financial year and the early months of the new financial year. I point out that the Commonwealth proportion of the loan cannot be floated until the Government obtains the necessary authority under this bill, and I therefore ask honorable members to co-operate with the Government in securing its early passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Curtin) adjourned.
Debates on Ministerial Statements - InternaTIONAL Labour Office : Maritime Conventions.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I understand that to-morrow it is the intention of the Government to proceed with consideration of the measure authorizing the raising and expenditure of a certain sum of money. In view of the relationship of that bill to certain other matters, particularly two statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in this chamber to-day, and’ in order that honorable members who may be called upon to debate the measure tomorrow may be in a better position to do so, I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that every honorable member will be supplied to-morrow morning with a copy of the two statements to which I have referred. Unless that is done the deliberative competence of the House will be to some extent reduced. In view also of the nature of the other matters which have been listed for discussion to-morrow, I suggest that the Prime Minister might well consider the advisability of postponing the debate upon those subjects until Friday. At his behest Parliament was assembled to-day and he has placed before the House matters of the greatest importance, involving tremendous obligations upon the country, and I submit that the examination in the public interest of the details of the proposed expenditure demands that the scrutinizing faculties of honorable members should be exercised to the uttermost. Every item of the proposed expenditure should be closely examined before being authorized. Furthermore, while wehave been informed of the total expenditure proposed to be incurred there has been suggested up to the present only one method of raising a large portion of that sum. The manner in which the balance is to be secured has not been outlined, with the result that Parliament is in a sense committed to a certain expenditure without having had time to study the details from the point of view of protection of the taxpayers, or to consider whether it may be wiser to employ methods other than those contemplated in order to raise the desired amount. I protest against the procedure followed by the Government in submitting these tremendous issues to Parliament, I say to the country that the Opposition will endeavour to do its duty faithfully, but that it does consider that the ordinary procedural facilities which the Standing Orders prescribe should be adhered to, and that where the Standing Orders do not prescribe, practice should be adhered to. I notice in connexion with another measure listed in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, that dealing with national insurance, the right honorable gentleman contemplates that an exposition of the bill shall be given to the House and that an interval of time shall elapse before the House is asked to consider the matter. I agree that that is the right procedure for a matter of such importance, but I submit that, being right in that case, the same procedure ought to be followed also in connexion with the matters which we have discussed to-day; for what has been told us this afternoon and what is in prospect for us to-morrow and the days after indicate that, without care, this Parliament may easily hand on to posterity a legacy of veritable disaster. We owe it to the immediate generation of taxpayers, and most certainly to those who will succeed them, to see that the utmost care is taken by every member of this Parliament that not one wasteful item shall appear in the schedules of expenditure which we authorize, and, furthermore, that the forms of defence upon which expenditure is to be incurred are in themselves the most efficient that money can provide. We must neither spend more than is necessary nor must we pay higher prices for anything than patriotism makes necessary.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to debate that matter at this stage.
– I desire to take this early opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government its failure to adopt the very important conventions relating to hours and manning conditions arrived at by the Maritime Conference held at Geneva at the end of 1936 at which Australia was represented. Those conventions have been in the hands of the Government since the end of 1936, but although efforts have been made by myself and others to prevail upon the Government to adopt them, no real progress has been made. In these days when short, sharp and sudden attention is being directed to other matters, it seems extraordinary to me that the Government has shown such dilatoriness in giving attention to the demands of the maritime workers who are looking to better their conditions, in this instance on a world-wide basis. The Government is seeking the co-operation of the workers on the one hand in regard to defence matters, while it is totally ignoring them on the other, when it is a matter of improving their conditions. Though these conventions were agreed upon in 1936, since then the Government has been absolutely dodging the question of their adoption, seeking an excuse by endeavouring to pass the “ buck “ to the States. because certain matters dealt with by the conventions are State responsibilities. J hose portions of the conventions with which the Commonwealth is able to deal should be given early ratification; in fact, they should have been ratified long ago. The New Zealand Government has taken lip a very different attitude and has endeavoured to meet the situation by agreeing at least to some of the conventions. The International Labour Office at Geneva has been delighted to see at least one dominion in the southern hemisphere taking some interest in matters which concern the welfare of workers on an international basis. The point necessary to stress in this question is that the more conventions that can be adopted the better the prospects of the International Labour Office bringing backward countries into line with more advanced ones. We hear a good deal of talk from time to time about the conditions of the workers of this country, and it is frequently said that, because of them, it is difficult for Australia to compete with other countries having a lower standard. Yet, when an international organization strives to raise the level of backward countries, this Government is as dilatory in adopting the conventions as even the most backward countries in the world. When I attended one of these conferences some time ago, I found that the representative of the Australian Government, instead of voting for conventions designed to force backward countries up to the level of more’ advanced countries, did exactly the opposite. I desire to remove some of the hypocrisy which surrounds the Government’s propaganda of its interest in the International Labour Office.. I hope that efforts will be made to force the Government to stand up to the collar in regard to these matters. Mr. J. Tudehope, who represented the workers at the 1936 conference represented them ably, and did everything in his power to bring pressure to bear on the various governments to ratify the conventions. I hope that it will not be necessary for me to raise this matter again-; I have asked numbers of questions,, and have drawn all the attention to. this question that should be required. Perhaps if the officers of the department which deals with these conventions were to give as much time to the consideration of the conditions of the workers as they do to other matters, they would do justice to their jobs. I hope there will be no necessity to prompt the Government further in this matter, and that it will proceed without delay to deal with those portions of the conventions that come within its own sphere.
– The conventions of the International Labour Office, referred to by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), are dealt with by the marine branch of the Department of , Commerce which is controlled at present by Senator Allan MacDonald. I shall see that the honorable member’s comments are placed before the Minister, and I hope to be able to supply an answer to his remarks at the end of this week or early next week.
– In regard to the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that copies of the two statements made by me to-day should be made available to honorable members to-morrow morning, I think it is possible to arrange with Hansard for this to be done. I regret that I am unable to agree to the honorable gentleman’s request in regard to the bill introduced to-day by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey). I ask honorable members to assist the. Government to push on with the consideration of that measure, because of its great urgency. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that it should be treated in the same way as the national insurance proposals. That matter also, to an extent, is urgent, but not so urgent as this. The Government has decided the order of urgency, and in its opinion the matter of defence is the one that needs the earliest attention.
– Can the right honorable gentleman give any indication of the reason for the urgency?
– The honorable member is perfectly well aware of the reason.
– It was urgent last Christmas.
– Then it must be more urgent now. I suggest that this subject has been in the minds of honorable members for months past - during the last election campaign, and particularly since that time. They have not had sprung upon them a matter of which they are not fully aware and that they do not understand. I can quite realize that there may be differences in the matter of outlook and policy between the Opposition and the Government. The main point, however, is that this subject has been under consideration for a considerable time, and that there is nothing novel in regard to it. I am perfectly sure that, as the Leader of the Opposition was to-day, members of the Opposition generally are always ready to make a contribution to the discussion of this matter, because it has been in their minds to such a considerable extent. If it were something entirely new, one might not be justified in pushing on with it. Even though I do not agree with the policy of honorable members of the Opposition in relation to defence, I know that they are as greatly concerned about the matter as we are. I ask them to help the Government to facilitate the discussion and the provision of the moneys necessary to make the defences of Australia adequate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As, according to newspaper reports, England has obtained since 1914, £15,989,354 in interest and dividends from shares and debentures of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, will provision be made in all leases and concessions for mining and exploiting oil in Australia for 51 per cent. of the finds to be reserved to the Commonwealth in order to keep control of Australian oil production?
– In respect of the States of Australia all leases and concessions for mining and exploiting oil are issued by State governments by virtue of the powers which are reposed in them.
Royal Commission on Banking.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– In order to inform my mind adequately on matters arising out of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, I have caused the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks to exchange views, and have kept in touch with the discussions. No reports have been submitted to the Government.
Commonwealth Shipping Board.
Mr. - Barnard asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total value of the debentures issued to the Commonwealth Treasury by the Commonwealth Shipping Board?
What interesthas been paid to the Commonwealth Treasury each year since 1 928 ?
What was the total amount of interest due to the Treasury up to the year ended 1936- 37 ?
What amount of rent for Cockatoo Island has been paid to the Treasury? How much is still owing, up to and including theyear ended 1 936-37?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-This matter has been dis cussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which set up a committee of experts to investigate certain aspects of the case. The report of this committee has been received; and is being considered by the Government.
d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answers: -
n asked the Minister for Defence; upon notice -
– It is not in the public interest to state the numbers of aircraft on order for the Air Force or to give details of the delivery position. I am prepared, however, to convey the information confidentially to the honorable member.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the Government intend to take any action or assist in any way in establishing the whaling industry in Australian and contiguous waters?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
A company known as the Australian Whaling Company Limited which owned the plant and machinery at Point Cloates Whaling
Station, Western Australia, asked the Commonwealth Government during 1936 to provide financial assistance for the purpose of establishing the whaling industry in Australian waters and in the Australian sector of the Antarctic. After full consideration of the proposals made by the company, it was decided that the Commonwealth Government would not be justified in providing financial aid to the industry. According to information furnished by the company whaling offered opportunities for profitable capital investment which were superior to many other industries and, for this reason, it was considered that capital requirements should be obtained through the usual channels.
Further representations have recently been made by the Australian Whaling Company and these will receive consideration.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am communicating to the House the intentions of the Government in this matter in the course of the statement which I shall make to-night on the defence proposals of the Government.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Did he issue any statement to the press of Australia seeking to influence them in any way regarding their publications in connexion with the European situation, or asking them to refrain from making certain comments or statements in regard to same?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
On the 14th March, when the international position was very delicate, I communicated with the press of Australia asking them to avoid making any comment which might have the effect of provoking a critical situation in world affairs. This request, made in the national interest, was, I am pleased to say, universally observed. The Government has never hesitated to take the press into its confidence when it considers the national interests warrant such action, and, confident in a belief that the Australian press possesses a strong sense of responsibility, it will pursue this policy in the future.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he supply a statement showing the accidents that have occurred in the Royal Australian Air Force since the beginning of 1932, and giving - (a) The number of persons killed in such accidents, and (b) the number injured?
– The following are the numbers of persons killed and injured as the result of accidents which occurred in theRoyal Australian Air Force since the beginning of 1932: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Minister for Defence: Conferences with Naval, Military and Air Boards.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
How many times has the Minister conferred with (a) the Naval Board;(b) the Military Board; and (c) the Air Board, sincehe became ministerial head of the department?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I have had innumerable conferences with the Naval. Military and Air Boards, their chairmen, and individual members according to the nature of the subject. Pressure of important ministerial work precludes the keeping of a detailed record of the number of meetings.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What action does the Government propose to take to enablesmall borrowers to obtain loans at reasonable interest rates to tide over temporary financial difficulties?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Government has forwarded copies of the report of the Committe on Small Loans to a number of financial institutions, and has asked to be informed as to their attitude towards this matter, and as to whether each individual institution is prepared to establish, either on its own account, or. in conjunction with other institutions, facilities on the lines recommended by the committee.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380427_reps_15_155/>.