15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took tlie chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to assure the House that the proposed mortgage hank legislation will be brought down at an early date after the re-assembling of Parliament*
– It is the intention of the Government, to introduce the mortgage bank legislation as soon as practicable after the commencement of the next sittings of Parliament.
– Seeing that there is a degree of fear in the public mind that tho contemplated banking legislation may lead to some restriction, of. credit, can tha Treasurer give the assurance that it will not of itself have that effect?
– No proposal that th« Government has in contemplation could, upon objective examination, be sufficient to cause any contraction of credit within Australia.
– ‘by leuw While not attempting to traverse all the points raised by questions in Parliament and in statements made in tho press, it is, nevertheless, proper that I should inform the House of the main reasons which have determined the Government to adhere to its policy to prohibit the exportation of iron ore from Australia as from the ]st July, 1938.
The criticism of the Government’s action can be grouped under two heads. It has been urged that, until a complete survey of Australia’s iron ore resources has been made, the prohibition of the export of ore cannot be justified. It has been contended also that no fresh evidence has appeared since August, 1937, to warrantthe change of policy on the part of the Commonwealth.
It is true that a detailed survey of Australia’s iron ore resources has not yet been made, but, nevertheless, facts supplied by its geological advisers have convinced the Government that the deposits of iron ore economically accessible are so limited as to cause very great concern as to the future of the iron and steel industry. This most disturbing information has come to the knowledge of the Government only within the last few months.
Subsequentto August of last year, a general review of iron ore deposits was made by the Commonwealth Geological Adviser, and it was the serious position revealed in his report which compelled the Government to prohibit the export of iron ore. From his report, the Government learned with alarm that there are only two groups of ore deposits in Australia which can be economically developed. These are the Iron Knoh group in South Australia and the Yampi Sound group inWestern Australia. Moreover, it hasbeen suggested that the estimated available tonnage of both these groups bad been greatly exaggerated.
Dr. Woolnough has stated quite definitely that it is certain that, if the known supplies of high-grade ore are not conserved, Australia will, in little more than a generation, becomean importer rather than a producer of iron ore.
Taking the estimated tonnage of ore available in the groups mentioned and assuming that the whole of this ore will respond to economical methods of mining, and that the quality of the ore will be maintained, we would have something more than 200,000,000 tons to meet the requirements of Australia’s industries in the future. We are at present using more than 2,000,000 tons of ore per annum and expert opinion is that within the next few years this quantity will be greatly increased. If the expansion of the steel industry is to proceed at the rate at which it has moved during the last quarter of a century, the present consumption of iron ore will be doubled or trebled before many years have passed. Obviously, therefore, our resources viewed in relation to our requirements are dangerously limited.
Attent ionhas been drawn to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is taking into consideration only the quantities of iron ore that can be economically developed. This is admitted. The Government’s advisers have stated that there are quantities of ore in Australia which by reason of their inaccessibility cannot be economically developed. For the purpose of placing Australian industry in a position to meet the competition of other countries which have access to cheap raw materials these deposits are valueless. Moreover, improvements in methods of treatment, &c.,; are not likely to alter this state of affairs within any foreseeable period.
Reference has been made to the fact that no embargo has been imposed upon the exportation of pig iron and steel. The position in regard to those commodities differs from that of iron ore for the reason that up to the present the quantity of pig iron and steel products exported is very small. The situation is, however, being closely watched by the Government.
The Government has had before ita proposal that a quota system be applied to Yampi. A total of 25,000,000 tons was first mentioned. Later the Yampi Sound Mining Company suggested 15,000,000 tons and this proposal has been accorded the support of certain members of this House. The representations of the sponsors of this scheme have been fully considered in all aspects. It has been decided, however, that it cannot be adopted. If a quota were applied to Yampi, it would be necessary both on constitutional grounds and on the grounds of equity to apply it equally to all other localities of the Commonwealth. The adoption of this course would result in a substantial depletion of the accessible resources of iron ore in Australia.
As will readily be understood, at the time of the Government’s pronouncement arrangements were in existence for the export of quantities of iron ore from Australia to Japan and elsewhere. If the prohibition were rigidly enforced as from the 1st July, shipping companies and consumers who may not in the short time available be able to make any alternative arrangements may suffer hardship. Some boats are already on the water to lift ore, whilst others are under charter, and certain of these boats are expected to carry other commodities from Australia. In these circumstances and with a genuine desire to maintain good faith with the people of Japan and other countries interested in these shipments, the Commonwealth Government has decided to permit the export under licence of the following quantities of ore which were arranged for prior to the pronouncement on the 19th May, and which will not have been shipped before the 1st July, provided that these shipments are made on or before the 31st December next: -
Contracts between Messrs. Brown and Dureau and Japanese interests - 89,094 tons.
Contracts between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and United States interests - 55,000 to 60,000 tons.
In conclusion I desire to make some general observations concerning the whole matter.
The right of a government to decide what are a country’s requirements of raw materials and by what means these can best bo mot is inherent and cannot be disputed. The decision to prohibit exports of iron ore was made in pursuance of this universally recognized right.
The Japanese Government and other governments affected will recognize that it is not only the right but also the duty of a sovereign state to secure its natural resources for its national industries. This applies particularly to an irreplaceable commodity like iron ore, which is vital to industrial life.
Large quantities of iron and steel will be required for the development of Australia, which is, after only 150 years of occupation, still quite definitely in the developmental stage. During the last five years local consumption of iron ore has increased very considerably, and indications are that the momentum will be greatly increased, involving the consumption of greater quantities of ore within the next fewyears.
I desire to state again most emphatically that the prohibition of the export of ore is to be general in its application. This means that not only foreign countries will be denied access to our resources of ore, but also that Great Britain and the rest of the British Empire will be similarly affected; it is quite definitely in no way intended by the Commonwealth Government that the prohibition should be discriminatory against any country.
Rights of Australian Aborigines
– Some weeks ago I asked whether the Government would give consideration to an amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, to extend to Australian aborigines rights similar to those enjoyed by other members of the community, and the Prime Minister assured me that the Government would give consideration to the request. Has the matter yet been considered? If so, what is the decision of the Government?
– There has been no decision, but the matter is now under the consideration of the Treasury Department, which has the administration of pensions legislation.
– Yesterday, the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me for information regarding ratification in respect of the Commonwealth of certain Maritime Conventions adopted at the twenty-first and twenty-second sessions of the International. Labour Conference 1936. The present position is as follows : -
For the information of the honorable member, however, I supply the following brief summary of the present position in regard to these conventions:-
In practice no boys under this age had been employed on Australian ships, but it was not found possible ‘to make the necessary legislative provision until 1935. TheCommonwealth’s ratification was registered in Geneva on the 28th June, 1935. At the 1936 conference it was agreed to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen years. The Government is prepared to consider amending the Commonwealth Navigation Act to alter the age prescribed, but advice is awaited from the State governments as to whether they also are prepared to legislate. (e)Convention concerning Sickness Insurance for Seamen. Consideration was given to tie question of sickness insurance for seamen when the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill 1938 was being drafted, and the bill contains certain provisions dealing with this question.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs take the necessary steps to expedite the ratification of the Maritime Convention of 1936? I point out that the convention in some instances affects both the States and the Commonwealth. The Minister has communicated with the States, but two of them have failed to reply. Three months ago, further communications were sent to them, but, they still failed to reply.
– I shall get into touch once more with those States that have not replied, and endeavour to expedite the matter as much as possible.
– On the 9th June, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) asked me for information which would compare the retail prices of certain commodities some years ago with those of to-day. The following statement compares the Melbourne prices in 1914 with those of 1938:-
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce inform me whether the information he has bad prepared shows that butter has increased less in price since the pre-war period than any other household commodity?
– That is a fact.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce whether the Government still proposesto hold an inquiry into the dairying industry to ascertain whether the price which consumers pay for dairy products is commensurate with the cost of production ? If so, when will the inquiry be held and what form is it likely to take?
– T his matter will be considered bythe Government in due course. A determination will have to bereached first as to whether an inquiry shall be held. Many interests, representative of both producers and consumers, have asked for an investigation. The nature of the tribunal will also have to be considered. As soon as a decision is made by the Government it will be publicly announced.
– On the 9th June, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) asked me a question in relation to the wages paid, the hours worked, and the housing conditions ofworkers on the dairy farms of the Commonwealth. I have not been able to procure satisfactory authentic statistical information for the honorable member, but . 1. assure him that the conditions generally on the dairy farms compare unfavorably with the conditions in the secondary industries of Australia.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce state whether it is proposed to introduce during this session a bill for the establishment of an apple and pear export marketing board?
– Some hitch has occurred in obtaining the consent of the growers’ representatives in Tasmania, but I hope to be able to overcome the difficulty during my visit to that State next month.
The following papers were presented : -
Aircraft Personnel - Documents of Identity for - Exchange of Notes between Governments of United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India and -
Denmark (Copenhagen. 21st July, 1937).
Norway (Oslo, 11th October, 1937).
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Statement relating to the ratification by the Commonwealth of certain Maritime Conventions adopted at the Twenty-first and the Twenty-second Sessions, 1936.
Nauru - Report to Council of League of Nations on Administration of Nauru during 1937.
New Guinea - Report to Council of League of Nations on Administration of Territory of New Guinea for year 1936-37.
New Guinea - Report of Committee appointed to investigate new site for Administrative Head-quarters of New Guinea.
Customs Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No.61.
Norfolk Island Act - Regulations amended, under -
Advisory Council Ordinances-
Exportation of Fruit Ordinance.
– If, in the event of its not being possible for the Government to allow time for the discussion on foreign affairs, will the Prime Minister nevertheless, before the House rises, make a statement in relation to the position, or have one made by the Minister for External Affairs, dealing not only with the general world situation but also with the Government’s conception of the effect’ of certain matters upon Australia’s attitude towards external affairs, such as limiting the size of battleships, or the representations made by Great Britain, and possibly other powers, concerning the possible occupation of territory not far removed from Australia.
– I shall consult with the Minister for External Affairs with a view to having such a statement made.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to make a statement regarding the proposal to subsidize shipping in the Pacific? If the deliberations are not yet complete, will the right honorable gentleman be able to submit an interim statement on the matter before Parliament adjourns?
– As the agreement has not yet been completed, it would be inadvisable to make any statement in regard to its terms. The finalizing of the matter should not be delayed for very long.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether it is the intention of the Government to erect a new building for the Patents Department atCanberra at a cost of approximately £100,000 ? Has this proposal been submitted to the Public Works Committee? Is it proposed to erect the building outside the area set apart for government offices in Canberra?
– It is intended to erect such a building, and it is not intended to refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee, for the reason that the decision to do the work was made before the Public Works Committee was reconstituted.
– That is not right.
– I shall obtain information for the honorable member as to the third part of his question, and forward it to him later.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me on what authority the Government proposes to proceed with the erection of the new patents office? What parliamentary authority has been obtained ?
– It would he more pertinent for me to ask the honorable member in what respect the Government would need authority to proceed with this work, provided that funds are made available for it in conformity with the budget proposals for the coming financial year. Probably the honorable member’s question was prompted by the belief thata statutory provision exists which obliges the Government to refer such works to the Public Works Committee; but that is not the case. The Government does not intend to proceed with the work until the expenditure is endorsed by Parliament when the Estimates for the coming year are under consideration.
– In view of statements that have been made to the effect that the primary producers do not contribute towards the cost of research work in which they are interested, I ask the Treasurer whether it is not a fact that the Pastoral Research Trust and the Wool Board have contributed some thousands of pounds towards the cost of such work, and that the Pastoral Research Trust has for many years acted in. co-operation with the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in this direction?
– I am not aware of any suggestion that the primary producers do not contribute towards the cost of nativities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in which they are interested. What the honorable member has said in regard to the Pastoral Research. Trust and the Wool Board is correct. They have contributed liberally towards the cost of relevant work by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Perhaps other branches of the primary industries could have contributed more than they have done in this way. This subject, as it involves both primary and secondary industries, is now engaging my attention, and I am endeavouring to ascertain whether additional fluids for work of this description may not be obtained from other than government sources.
– Is the Acting
Minister for Trade and Customs able to inform me whether the Government has yet reached any decision respecting the report of the Tariff Board on the cut-glass industry?
– I am afraid it will not be possible for Cabinet to decide this matter in time for action to be taken before the close of this period of the session.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether any permits for the export of native birds from Australia for commercial purposes are in operation at present?
– I am unable to say offhand what the exact position is. Speaking generally, this subject is dealt with by State authorities. If they consent to propositions submitted to them, the Trade and Customs Department acts in accordance with the regulations. Only a very limited number of native birds can be exported. I am not able to say at the moment what is being done in this regard for commercial purposes. I shall make some inquiries into the subject, and communicate the result to the honorable member.
– Will the Acting Minister consider reverting to the former practice of his department, and prohibit absolutely the export of native birds from this country for commercial purposes?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s request.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs give me an assurance that the Tariff Board’s report on the manufacture of motor-car engines in Australia will be made available to honorable members before the end of this period of the session? Where is the report at present?
– The report is at present being considered by members of the Cabinet. It will not be practicable to lay it upon the table of the House within the time mentioned by the honorable member.
– by leave - On the 17th June, a pronouncement was made concerning the Government’s intention to appoint a committee for the purpose of considering questions involved in the development of Canberra in accordance with the approved plan. I am now in a position to give further details with regard to the personnel of the committee which will consist of seven members, namely -
Kingsley A. Henderson, Esquire, C. M.G., F.R.I.B.A.
Sir Donald Cameron, K.C.M.G., D. S.O., V.D.
The Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Lieutenant-Colonel J. T. H. Goodwin, M.V.O., V.D., and
Mr. Waterhouse is one of Sydney’s leading architects, and has had many associations with the national capital. He was deputy chairman of an expert advisory committee which acted for some years in touch with the Federal Capital Commission, and considered schemes for major projects associated with the building of the national capital. He is chairman of the Architects Registration Board of New South Wales, and is also associated with committees concerned with the replanning of Sydney. His connexion with Canberra also extends to adjudication in relation to architectural competitions for government buildings, and he has more recently been one of the committee of advisers to the Government on the question of the King George V. memorial.
Mr. Kingsley A. Henderson is a prominent architect of Melbourne, and a past president of the Federal Council of the Australian Institute of Architects. He was associated for many years with Canberra development as an adjudicator, and as a representative of the Institute of Architects in important conferences on architectural questions. Mr. Henderson was also a member of the Expert Committee appointed by the Federal Capital Commission, and he is, therefore, specially qualified to advise on the plan of Canberra and its development.
Mr. R. Keith Harris is lecturer in town planning at the University of Sydney, and, like Messrs. Waterhouse and Henderson, has had wide experience, both overseas and in Australia, in relation to his professional work. His services were obtained to advise in a technical capacity on certain planning matters in Canberra in 1926, and he is, therefore, fully conversant with the national capital and the progress that has been made in its development.
Sir Donald Cameron is well known for his long and distinguished parliamentary service, and also his wide interest in Australian problems. He will be in a position to assist the committee, particularly from the point of view of a general national outlook on Canberra, in the building of which he has always taken a special personal interest.
The Government considers it appropriate that the chairman, for the time being, of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works should be a member of the committee to ensure coordination of the functions of the two committees in the erection of public buildings in Canberra.
Lieutenant-Colonel J. T. H. Goodwin, M.V.O., V.D., is chairman of the Advisory Council for the Territory for the Seat of Government. For a number of years he was Commonwealth SurveyorGeneral. He was in charge of the Lands and Surveys Administration in Canberra for twelve years prior to the appointment of the Federal Capital Commission.
Mr. C. S. Daley is Assistant Secretary, Civic Branch, Department of the Interior, and is the officer responsible for advising the Minister on the development of Canberra according to the approved plan. He was Secretary to the Federal Capital Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Sir John Sulman, and was, subsequently, secretary to the Federal Capital Commission.
The gentlemen who are acting on this committee will do so in an honorary capacity, subject to payment of their expenses, and in this way the committee will resemble a similar body which undertakes responsibilities in relation to the development of the city of Washington, the experience of which affords a valuable guide for Canberra. The functions of the committee will include advice on all proposals involving the variation of the plan, recommendations in regard to developmental projects, and consideration of any matters which may be referred to it by the Minister.
It is proposed to provide for the appointment of the committee by an ordinance, with the object of ensuring that its advice and assistance will be definitely available in relation to all important matters affecting the building of the national capital.
The Government appreciates very much the fact that the non-official members of the committee are prepared to give their time and valuable experience to an object which they feel is of great national importance, and it has every confidence that their work’ will be of immediate and lasting benefit to the Commonwealth by ensuring that the future building of its capital is carried out under the best possible advice.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation been drawn to a statement made by the Reverend C. E. Riley, relative to the fact that a Mrs. Dubout agreed to a post-mortem examination, in the interests of medical science, on the body of her returned soldier husband, and that this examination was later responsible for her failure to obtain a full pension? Will the Minister make a statement covering the facts of this case?
– I have seen the statement referred to. I shall bring it under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation as soon as possible and inform the honorable member as to what view the Minister takes of the matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General able to tell me what the Postmaster-General has decided in reference to the matter that I raised some weeks ago concerning the dismissal of temporary linesmen, with war records, from the Postal Department before they have served two years, in order to disqualify them from permanent employment? These men have in many cases been employed by the department for many years, but they are dismissed every now and again and then re-engaged.
– I shall refer the matter to the Postmaster-General.
– Will the Acting Minister for Commerce, in the interests of stock and poultry breeders, have inquiries made into the factors responsible for the high price of wheat offals in spite of the decline of the price of wheat grain?
– As a first step I shall be prepared to discuss that question with the honorable member.
– In view of the definite promise made by the Prime Minister and leading Ministers before the last Federal elections, that small loans would be made to persons in employment to tide them over difficulties, does the Treasurer think that his suggestion, in reply to communication’s on this subject, that the letters should be addressed to the Bank of Australasia in Melbourne, is a reasonable reply ?
Mr.CASEY.-In the light of what the Prime Minister said before the last general elections, I believe that the Government has gone a long way - indeed as far as it is possible for it to go up to the present - in encouraging the development of a scheme of loans to men in work. The Commonwealth Government has announced what the Bank of Australasia has agreed to do. The scheme of that bank is already in operation. The Government did not ever intend, nor was it stated to be its intention, to set up a Government instrumentality for the purpose of making these loans available. The Government believes that the start made by the Bank of Australasia, which has many branches, is an extremely good start.
– Is it intended by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to make available the reports on the recent investigation into certain phases of the timber industry? Has Cabinet considered the report?
– The report is a departmental report, and I am doubtful whether it will be distributed to honorable members. The investigation was made by Mr. A. R. Townsend, of the Trade and Customs Department, who is now preparing his report. When the report is received it will be considered by Cabinet, whose decision will be made public.
– With reference to the report that the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who is abroad, is sounding the possibility of obtaining migrants from Sweden and other desirable countries, is the Prime Minister aware that a certain volume of migration is taking place from Eire? In view of the outstanding services of the Irish to Australia, is the Prime Minister taking the necessary steps to attract as many as possible of these migrants to Australia?
– The Commonwealth Government would not hesitate to welcome migrants from Eire, as it demonstrated recently, when on the suggestion of the British Government it decided to apply the same principles to child migrants from Eire as are applied to child migrants from England.
– Can the Acting Minister for Commerce state what are the factors responsible for the difference in the f.o.b. prices for wheat at the various capital cities in Australia? When the information is available will he make a statement on the matter to the House?
– I shall do my best to obtain the information which the honorable member seeks. I remind him, however, that this was one of the matters inquired into by the Royal Commission on Wheat, but I do not think it was able to give a satisfactory explanation.
– Will the Treasurer, when preparing the budget, give consideration to exempting from the provisions of the sales tax assessment acts such charitable organizations as the Easter Fair Society, whose profits, amounting to over £100,000 in 25 years, have all been devoted to the support of the Bendigo Base Hospital and Benevolent Home?
– The most I can say by way of committing the Government is that, if the honorable member will submit his proposal in writing, I shall see that it is considered at the proper time if, and when, the Government is able to make reductions of taxation.
– I desire to make a personal explanation concerning the recording of pairs in a division during the committee stage of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. The division was on the amendment to clause 137, moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). Through an inadvertency on my part the record of pairs in regard to the honorable member for Hunter, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), was supplied to Hansard too late for insertion in the current edition, but they will be recorded in a later special edition of Hansard, which will contain the full debate on the bill.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation.. I support the explanation given by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) in regard to the recording of pairs. It is true, as he has stated, that the pairs were agreed upon on behalf of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr.Collins), but a record of this fact was inadvertently omitted from the pairs book. I trust that the names will be duly included in Hansard as though the pairs had been recorded in the usual way.
Formal Motion for Adjournment
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received from the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The erection of the high school buildings on the university site at Canberra, the flouting of Parliament by the Department of the Interior through accepting a tender for the erection of such buildings prior to the statutory alteration of the Griffin plan being approved or rejected by Parliament, and the lack of policy with regard to the building of Australia’s national capital “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to protest against the erection of the high school buildings on the university site at Canberra, the flouting of Parliament by the Department of the Interior, through accepting a tender for the erection of such buildings prior to the statutory alteration of the Griffin plan being approved or rejected by Parliament, and the lack of policy with regard to the building of Australia’s national capital. I take this course with extreme regret. Recently, I have asked a number of questions in regard to the erection of a high school in ‘Canberra, on what I claim to be the site designated on the Griffin plan as the site for a university. In reply to my question, 1 was informed that the erection of a high school on .’this site did not involve a departure from the Griffin plan, and that the school was not, in fact, being erected on the university site. I have a copy of the Griffin plan here, and if honorable members will examine it for themselves they will see that what is being done is undoubtedly a departure from the plan. This plan shows the lay-out of the city as designed by Mr. Griffin himself,- and the sites are clearly indicated on a second plan submitted by Mr. Griffin, and approved by an advisory committee whose report is in the bound volumes of parliamentary proceedings. If it is proposed to depart from that plan, it is the duty of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to submit the proposed variation to Parliament for approval. In this instance, the variation from the plan regarding the university site entails the elimination of a road, and the enlargement of a circuit. The act provides that any such alteration must be submitted to Parliament, and the Minister complied with the act to the extent of submitting the proposals, but only after they had been approved by Cabinet, and the work had been commenced. The erection of a building on a site other than that set aside for it could not be proceeded with without statutory altera tion of the Griffin plan. The statutoryalteration: is not complete until tho instrument modifying or varying the plan has remained on the table of both Houses of Parliament for fifteen sitting days. Section 4 (4) of the Seat of Government Administration Act, provides -
If either House of the Parliament passes a resolution, of which notice has been given at any time within fifteen sitting days after the instrument has been laid before it’, disallowing the modification or variation made by thu instrument, the modification or variation shall cease to have effect.
Notwithstanding that statutory provision, tenders for the high school building were called in December, 1937 ; in March, 1938, a tender for £75,000 was accepted, and in the meantime, the department carried out the necessary work in connexion with kerbing and guttering the site. The instrument of modification of the Griffin plan was laid on the table of both Houses on 27th April last after the tender had been accepted and work on the new building had already begun. Unfortunately, so far as this House is concerned, the statutory period of fifteen days was allowed to pass without honorable members being aware of the position. The fifteen sitting days in the Senate will be completed today, and I am sure members of that chamber are unaware of the position. Mr. Bruce, in turning the first sod in connexion with the erection of the administrative building in Canberra some years ago said that no more temporary buildings would be erected; that, in future, only permanent buildings would be constructed, and, further, that they would be placed on the appropriate sites provided in the Griffin plan. I notice in the press this morning a statement that the Minister for the Interior (Mr McEwen) proposes to lay the foundation stone of the new high school building which “is being erected on the area set aside for the university.
– Can the honorable member say how much land is in that area?
– I should say 20 or 30 acres. My main objection to this interference with the Griffin plan is that the high school building will be erected on the best position in the university site. I invite honorable members to view the land and ascertain for themselves where the new building is being erected. The back of the school, building will face the road leading to Melbourne and Sydney. Steam, shovels are already at work levelling the top of a hill for a. cricket oval and tennis courts. Nature has provided on the western side of Northbourne avenue, a natural amphitheatre of sufficient dimensions to cater for all sports in which the high school students may be interested. Instead of taking advantage of a beautiful site provided by nature, however, it has been decided that the high school building is to be erected in a position where it has no right to be. A site on the western side of Northbourne avenue would be in close proximity to the dwellings of many of the children who will attend the school. It ha? been said that there has been no departure from the Griffin plan in connexion with the erection of this building. I have here a copy of that plan which was submitted by the Department of the Interior to the Public Works Committee in connexion with its inquiry into the erection of a new community hospital. On that plan is set out clearly the area reserved for a university site, and it is upon that very site that the new school building is now being erected.
To-day I asked a certain question* with respect to the erection of the new patents office in. Canberra, and I was informed that., although it is proposed to erect it on a site between Parliament House and Hotel Kurrajong, at a cost of £100,000 the proposal has not been referred to the Public Works Committee. That, I contend, is another instance of the violation of the rights of this Parliament. Parliament appointed the Public Works Committee to inquire into all public works projects costing more than £25,000.
– That is not the position to-day; the Public Works Committee Act has been altered.
– If that, be so, why was the proposal to erect the new community hospital in Canberra referred to that body?
– It was referred to the committee by the choice of the House.
– This House should insist upon its rights in these matters. The patents office, which is to stand for many years should, in my opinion, be erected within the area reserved for administrative buildings. The proposal should also be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report, in order that we may be sure that the new building is thoroughly up-to-date and strictly in accordance with modern conceptions of the requirements of such a structure. The lack of a far-sighted policy in connexion with the erection of buildings in the Territory has been evident for too long now. As an ex-Minister I may, perhaps, be accused of being responsible, with others, for departures from the Griffin plan, but when I occupied a position in the Ministry; I &ave 110 authority for any such departures. When Mr. Bruce turned the first sod for the erection of the administrative building to the east of Parliament House he said, “To-day we are starting a new era in Canberra building operations. No more temporary buildings will be erected in this capital; we shall go ahead with the erection of permanent buildings to house the permanent administrative staffs.” All of the expenditure incidental to the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, even the travelling expenses incurred by members of former Parliaments in endeavouring to decide upon a suitable capital for the Commonwealth, has been capitalized and charged against the Federal Capital Territory. The capital cost of the establishment of Jervis Bay has also been charged against the Federal Capital Territory. Notwithstanding all .the loading that has taken place, the total investment for the development of the national capital is now yielding a return of 3^ per cent. The sooner we evolve a satisfactory policy in connexion with the development of this city the sooner it will be possible to transfer to Canberra those staffs which still remain in Melbourne and to house them in an administrative building erected within the area, set aside in the Griffin plan for that purpose. When “that is done, it will be much better for the people as a whole, and particularly for those whose business requires them to deal Avith the various
Commonwealth departments. That can be seen on the official documents. It appears to me, however, that no notice is taken of official documents. This Parliament has a right to see that the plan of Australia’s national capital, which kas been approved by the people’s representatives, is given effect. This Capital belongs to Australia, not to any section of the people or to any party. It does not belong to the residents of Canberra, to the public servants who are employed here, or even to this Parliament. [Quorum formed.’] I had intended to refer to this matter when the Estimates were being considered, but regarded it as of such vital importance as to demand that I should move the adjournment of the House to bring such an outstanding departure from the plan under the notice of the Parliament. This high school, which is very essential in Canberra, with its sports ground and lavatory accommodation for children, will stand, for all time, at the main entrance to the city, as a monstrosity and an example of an impingment upon the liberties of this House. No government, no department, had the right to proceed with the work without first referring it to a properly-constituted committee of this Parliament -which would safeguard the rights of the people of Australia. The matter is not one for this Government or this Parliament alone; it concerns Australia as a whole. I give way to no one in Canberra in my endeavour to see that the capital city of this nation is built according to the plan originally laid down. It is with great regret that I bring the matter to public notice, and hope that in future we shall make ourselves aware of what is happening in this capital city. I do not blame the present Minister for the Interior, because he is only a newcomer to office. Recently I had occasion to refer to the attempt by the’ Department of Health to snatch for its head -quarters a portion of the area, set aside for the Institute of Anatomy. Thanks to the decency of the Acting Minister for Health (Mr. Archie Cameron), that was prevented. He was unaware of what was proposed, having assumed that office only a few weeks earlier, and he afterwards thanked mc for having drawn his atten tion to it. He agreed, that the Health Department should occupy the administrative quarters provided for it and other departments. The patents office exists, not for the glorification of its officers but for the useful purpose that it serves in the interests of the public. Those who wish to interview its officers want to be in close proximity to all other departments in the administrative centre of the city.
The land policy of the Department of the Interior is entirely wrong. I could mention at least half-a-dozen cases of persons who desired to come to Canberra to live. Two cases have been brought to ray notice within the last few weeks. In -one case the proposal was to spend thousands of pounds on a house covering two blocks, each pf about’ half-an-acre, but the department said that if two blocks were leased two houses would have to be built on them. What a foolish policy that is! One would imagine that there is a scarcity of land in Canberra. Some time ago I endeavoured to take up an orchard block of ten acres, but was told that the maximum amount which could be expended on the construction of a house on an orchard block was £450. With the present high cost of building, what sort of a place could be erected for that figure? The reason advanced was that my equity in the land would be too great. I should not care if it were. If I am prepared to lease a piece of ground for 20 years and spend £10,000 in the erection of a house upon it,, surely it is my “pigeon”, not the “ pigeon “ of the Government or the department, if I lose my equity upon the expiry of the lease ! What foolish officer of a department has the right to say “You shall not spend your own money; you shall not be a fool ; we shall prevent you from being one”? A committee ought to be set up which would supervise not only building operations and the development of the capital city in other ways but also the administration generally. The present policy is entirely wrong. The door should be open so that people may come in freely, particularly those who have capital to invest and who, if encouraged, would make this Capital the great city it is destined to become. It should not be kept as a home merely for some members of the Public Service.
I know of three families who had to buy land at Bowral because the ordinance was opposed to their taking up blocks and building houses on them at their own expense.
I could mention many other matters that have come to my knowledge. Even before the ordinance was promulgated or agreed to, the high school site was ker bed and guttered. The ordinance was laid on the table of Parliament on the 27th April last, yet in December last tenders for the building were called and the site was kerbed and guttered! If this House had approved of the alteration of, the plan I should offer no objection. When alteration of the plan was made by me as Minister, I deliberately called Parliament’s attention to the fact when I tabled the amended ordinance, and invited criticism of it. This has been sneaked into the House and laid on the table. No one was aware of it before the expiration of the fifteen days within which its disallowance could have been moved. We are prepared to help the Minister, to whatever party ‘he may belong, in carrying out the administration along satisfactory lines, but he should inform us when he tables an amended ordinance, and invite our criticism of it. If honorable members, having examined the alteration, agreed to it, he would deserve commendation for having brought it forward.
– The honorable memner has exhausted his time.
– I submit that the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has based his contentions not only upon wrong premises, but also, and more particularly, upon an inaccurate knowledge of the statute concerned, as well as of the procedure involved. The honorable gentleman, for instance, has complained that members of Parliament were ‘not aware that a proposed alteration df the plan had been tabled. The tabling of the proposed alteration, as I stated when the question was raised on the adjournment of the House last week, was made. in accordance with the statute.
– That was after the time for objection to it had expired.
– By that the honorable gentleman can only mean that I explained what had been done ‘to an honorable member who raised the question after the statutory period had expired. ‘ As I have already informed the House, the alteration of which the honorable member now complains was made entirely in accordance with the statute and with normal procedure. The statute demands, first, that the Minister shall approve of the proposed alteration ; secondly, that a plan showing clearly the proposed alteration shall be published in the Commonwealth Gazette; and, thirdly, that at the first opportunity a copy of Chat Gazette shall be tabled in Parliament. It is then at the option of any member of either House, within fifteen sitting days, to move for the disallowance of the proposed alteration.
– In the meantime, the work is proceeding.
– The statute does not specifically provide whether Or not the work may proceed in the meantime. I think it is a reasonable assumption that no work of any magnitude should be proceeded with until Parliament has had an opportunity to exercise its right to disallow any proposed alteration of the plan. The alterations of which the honorable member for Parkes now complains were of a very minor nature, and the only work . proceeded with prior to the expiry of the statutory period was that of kerbing and guttering. I am prepared to admit that it would have been advisable had ‘that work not been proceeded with until members of Parliament had had an opportunity to move for the disallowance of the proposed alterations ; and I give the assurance that, should similar circumstances arise in the future, no work will be proceeded with until the statutory period for disallowance by Parliament has expired. In the present instance, however, the intention of the Government to erect a high . school on this area would not have been affected by whether or not Parliament agreed to the alteration of the plan. The alteration involved only the extension of a circular road for a distance of 200 feet, with a consequent small increase of the area set aside for the construction of a high school and the provision of playing fields and suitable surroundings. Whether or not the addition of this 200 feet was permitted, the Government intended that the erection of the high school should be proceeded with. Disallowance of the proposed alteration would merely have meant an insignificant restriction of the area surrounding the school. The honorable gentleman’s contention, that the area upon which the high school building is now being constructed and playing fields and surroundings are to be laid out, was specifically set aside under statutory authority for university purposes, and is now being improperly used, is entirely wrong, and without foundation. To support his contention the honorable member referred to the Griffin plan. But so many variations were made to the original Griffin plan in the second decade of this century - many of them by Mr. Griffin himself - that it proved to be almost impossible to keep up with them. Not one of those early plans was endorsed by Parliament. In actual fact the final plan for Canberra, which was approved by Parliament in 1925, was not published in the Commonwealth Gazette until the 1.9th November, 1.925. The honorable member for Parkes interjects that he has that plan in his hand. My reply is that I have the original Gazette and plan in my hand.
– Does it differ in respect to this area from the plan which the honorable member for Parkes has?
– I have not seen that plan. I should be glad to examine it. But on the official plan published in the Gazette there is ‘shown an area, which, apparently, was set aside for university purposes, although no reference is made to it as such. An area for this purpose was marked on many of the earlier plans which Mr. Griffin handled, and I think it may be properly assumed that the area to which I have referred on the plan which I hold in my hand, was intended for university purposes. But another semi-circular area, adjacent to the probable university area, is clearly shown on this plan, though without any indication whatever that it was intended to be considered as part of the university area. I have not been able to find a record in any statute, publication-, Commonwealth Gazette, or departmental file, which indicate.” that the area upon which the new high school is being erected was ever intended for university purposes. On the contrary, ample evidence is available to show that it was not intended for this purpose. In November, 1927, which I think was within the period during which the honorable member for Parkes was Minister for Home and Territories, a committee, consisting of Sir Robert Garran, Sir David Rivett, and Sir John McLaren, who was then Secretary to the Department of Home and Territories, was appointed to report upon the establishment of a university at Canberra, and included in its report a plan which showed the area of land set aside for, or recommended as, the site for the university. The land upon which the high school is now being erected was definitely excluded from that area.
– What is the date of that report?
– The 30th November, 1927. About the same time a substantial alteration of the statutory plan for Canberra was submitted to Parliament by the honorable member for Parkes in his capacity as Minister for Home and Territories. -This proposed that the university area should be reduced, not by a mere 200 feet, but by 30 or 40 acres. That variation of the Griffin plan was the most extensive that has yet been submitted to the Parliament. It was also during the term that the honorable member for Parkes held the portfolio of Minister for Home and Territories that, for the first time, the proposal was advanced by the department that the area upon which the high school is now being erected should be included in the university area’.
– Who made the decision that the new high school should be erected in this locality?
– The lands of Canberra available for the erection of buildings of an educational character are, I presume, to he used at the discretion of the government of the day provided that its decisions do not conflict in any way with existing statutes. I believe that the decision to erect the high school on its present site was made by the government of which the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) was a member. In support of my statement tha t the proposal to include this site within the proposed university area was made while the honorable member for Parkes was Minister for Home and Territories, I submit to the House a plan showing, by a red dotted line, the area reserved by statute for university purposes and, by a yellow line, the area proposed to be included in the university area but now being used for high school purposes. That plan was never proceeded with.
– Does the Minister say that the area upon which the high school is now being built was not included in the area originally set aside for the university ?
– I most definitely say so. It is beyond argument. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) may examine the endorsed Griffin plan to satisfy himself on the point.
What I have said must surely dispose of the contention of the honorable member for Parkes that the Government has acted improperly in building the high school on its present site. His charges that it had illegally altered the Canberra plan and had gone behind the backs of members of this House to do this work are also definitely disproved. The honorable gentleman also inaccurately stated that the rear view of the new high school building would be presented to visitors arriving in Canberra. The design .of the building is such as to make it impossible to describe one aspect as the front and another as the rear of the building. The elevation which perhaps would most likely be described as the front elevationwill actually face the city area.
The honorable member for Parkes seems to be under the impression that the Public Works Committee Act places an obligation upon the Government to submit to the Public Works Committee the proposal to build a patents office in Canberra. That also is incorrect. The original Public Works Committee Act obliged governments to refer to the Public Works Committee all proposals to erect buildings, except those related to defence works, which were estimated to cost more than £25,000 ; but as recently as 193(5, when the Public Works Committee was -reconstituted, the act was amended so as to relieve the Government of that obligation, a provision being inserted that Ministers might at their discretion refer proposed buildings to the committee.
– Members of Parliament were also empowered to move for that to be done.
– That is so. The honorable member for Parkes seems to be unaware of that important amendment.
In view of the statement I made this afternoon that a representative committee had been appointed t<> advise the Government in connexion with the development of Canberra, honorable members may rest assured that any fear that serious and improper departures will be made from the endorsed plan are groundless.
.- The House and the country are indebted to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) for having brought this subject under notice. I have been very interested in the development of Canberra and have said on many occasions that I do not hold the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) responsible for the numerous departures from the endorsed Griffin plan. In my opinion, the Minister is getting the “ backwash “ from the actions of previous Ministers in charge of this work. Nevertheless, a. feeling is abroad that the endorsed Canberra plan is being departed from without justification in certain material directions . and without the authority of Parliament. Technically, it is true, as the Minister has said, that the alterations have been laid on the table of Parliament as prescribed by the act, but the difficulty is, as the honorable member for Parkes has pointed out, that they have been tabled after the alterations have been made in anticipation of the approval of Parliament. - To cite the truth of this, there is no need to go beyond the illustration given by the honorable member for Parkes, namely, the kerbing and channelling. It is clear that departures have been made from the plan. The multiplicity of tasks that confront honorable members makes it difficult for them to pick out these alterations when they are made. Ordinances are laid on the table with other papers and, unless one- is particularly interested, they escape notice
Some specific reference by the responsible Minister should be made to them in Parliament. This is the national capital and it is not the product of any particular government, unless it be the Labour government of 1912. Reference to the part played by that government in the foundation of Canberra is carefully overlooked in publications of to-day. I am amazed that the Canberra Planning and Development Committee will contain no Labour representation. Members of the committee either are associated definitely with the political opponents of Labour or have never declared their politics. In the main, however, they are associated with the United Australia party. It is grossly unfair that the Labour party, which has played such an important part in the establishment of this city in the past, should not be represented on the committee.
– Even King O’Malley has been ignored.
– That is perfectly true. Mr. King O’Malley, a former Minister for Home and Territories, did more than any one else to establish the national capital on a sound basis. Naturally he is concerned about the alterations that have taken place in the design of Canberra. I concede that the alteration of the plan under consideration was tabled in this House and notified in the Commonwealth Government Gazette, but it is difficult to understand the notification. Indeed, I do not think it was intended for members of Parliament to understand it.
Honorablexx Members. - Shame !
– I am forced to that conclusion. I asked some of my colleagues if they could see from the document that was tabled what was intended, but they could not. I agree with the statement by the honorable member for Parkes that over a number of years there have been several departures from the original plan. I do not think that the Minister for the Interior is fully informed in respect of the plan. I have in my possession a book which was published long before the actual building of Canberra was started. It contains a photograph of
Mr. King O’Malley, who was one of the staunchest supporters of the establishment of this city, and the early records of the plan, design, and layout of Canberra. I do not think that any one would recognize Canberra to-day as being the city that was intended in that design. The national capital to-day has “ growed “ like Topsy. I hope that with the appointment of the committee announced by the Minister to-day, despite its shortcomings. Canberra will be developed along the lines originally laid down, or that Parliament will be clearly informed of any departures that are found necessary. One would need to be a draftsman or an engineer to understand the purpose of theproposed alterations as they are now set out. I appreciate the efforts that have been made by the Minister to answer inquiries about the development of Canberra, but what he has said has forced me to the belief that all is not well with the city. I think that the honorable member for Parkes has rendered a valuable service to Parliament in bringing this matter prominently to the notice of the Government, andI hope that in consequence there will be no repetition of what has happened in the past and that Canberra will be developed on the lines originally intended.
– The House is indebted to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) for having brought this matter before it. Because honorable members, generally, live in the capital cities of the States, they do not become aware of the departures that are made from the statutory plan of the city which must eventually become the first city of the Commonwealth. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) said that the alteration complained of by the honorable member for Parkes was not the only departure that had been made from the plan. Whether or not the present Minister was the first Minister to be responsible for altering , the plan does not concern me. Nor does it concern me that the present Minister has authorized a departure of only 200 or 300 yards, whereas the honorable member for Parkes, when he was Minister, was responsible for a departure involving a number of acres. What does concern me is the fact that successive Ministers have altered the statutory plan to a great degree. On whose recommendation did those Ministers induce the Government to depart from the Griffin plan? The danger involved in making these departures is that Canberra may become a victim of the lack of ordered townplanning that has characterized our State capitals. Any one who knows anything at all about town planning, must look with horror upon the various capital cities of Australia. Sydney is a case in point. As a matter of fact I have read recently a criticism of the design of the garden city of Adelaide. Melbourne has also been criticized. The criticism of Adelaide was that the military man who laid out Adelaide marshalled his streets in ranks and dressed them by the right in the approved military fashion. The critic facetiously added that the only thing that the designer had forgotten was the circular outline of the drum. Otherwise he would have had a perfect city. The history of the development of our cities is a sorry one and it is likely to be repeated in Canberra if certain public servants start to insert their inexperienced fingers into townplanning. The facts that have emerged from the discussion to-day are: first, that the Griffin plan has been departed from by successive Ministers, and, secondly, that tenders have been called and work has been started contrary to the statute before the necessary papers have been tabled in this House and before the consent of this House has been obtained. The Minister chided the honorable member for Parkes with not understanding the position and said that he did not know the procedure. The Minister has violated the procedure in permitting work to be done without the approval of Parliament. Hehas been most culpable in this matter.
– Not the present Minister.
– He is in charge of the Department. He said to-day that what had occurred would not occur again while he was Minister. If he is not responsible, who is ?
– The Minister is in charge of the department, but he is not responsible for what previous Ministers did.
– I understood that the contract for the work at the high school was let after the honorable member took charge of the Department of the Interior. If that is not so, we must blame his predecessor, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). We must, as a matter of fact, link the three of them, the honorable member for Indi, the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Parkes, all of whom have in recent times administered the Department of the Interior. Whoever was the particular Minister responsible is not the point ; the fact remains that the work on the high school was started before the consent of Parliament was obtained. All thatwe have received from the Minister is an assurance that what has been complained of willnot occur again. He further has said that, in order to prevent a possible recurrence of such incidents, a committee has been appointed to advise the Minister on matters appertaining to the development of the city. The Minister had previously announced the personnel of the proposed committee. I suggest, with all due deference, that the appointment of this committee, while it is undoubtedly necessary, is somewhat belated, and possibly no appointment would ever have been considered but for the activities of the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who directed attention to the departure from the city plan in respect of the high school and the Institute of Anatomy. This action, no doubt, awakened in the minds of members of the Cabinet a desire to forestall any violent public reaction with regard to these departures from the city plan. I do not know whether it is proposed to give this committee any security of tenure. If it is not, the committee may be allowed to carry on for a short while only, and then,when all the noise has died down, it will gracefully retire, while the officials, who took upon their shoulders theresponsibility of varying thecity plan without due authority, will carry on as before.
– I assure the honorable member that the committee will be appointed under an ordinance, and will have security of tenure.
– The Minister for the Interior, who is virtually a lord mayor of Canberra, might consider it advisable to take up his residence in the city, the better to make himself au fait with the problems associated with its administration and development. He would find it easier to do this if he were in the city duringhis leisure time, as well as during official hours. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), as we know, proposes to do this very thing, and if it is desirable in his case, it is, I suggest, even more desirable in the ease of the Minister for the Interior.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) has directed criticism of a serious character against the Government in regard to the development of the Territory for the Seat of Government. The basis of this criticism is “ the erection of the high school buildings on the university site at Canberra, the flouting of Parliament by the Department of the Interior through accepting a tender for the erection of those buildings prior to the statutory alteration of the Griffin plan being approved or rejected by Parliament, and the lack of policy with regard to the building of Australia’s national capital “. Some honorable members have suggested that the honorable member for Parkes has, in moving this motion, earned the thanks of Parliament. Whether or not the thanks of honorable members are due to the mover of the motion depends on whether the charges he has made are substantiated. If they are mere, ill-informed criticism, and turn out upon examination to be unsupported allegations and innuendoes involving reflections upon the responsible Minister, and on departmental officials, then he docs no service in moving his motion, and is not deserving of thanks. If, however, the charges can be substantiated, the honorable member deserves the gratitude of honorable members, and his statements merit the serious attention of this House.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), in replying to the charges of the honorable member for Parkes, did not rise to the occasion as well as he might have done. His reply amounted to a bald denial of the allegations, and there followed a somewhat childish competition between him and the honorable member for Parkes in regard to the contents of certain plans, which honorable members have not before them, and in regard to which they have no opportunity to form a judgment. The Minister said : “ This is the plan,” while the honorable member for Parkes replied : “ No, this is the plan,” and between the two there was no way of knowing who was right. I have no desire to criticize the Minister unfairly, but I believe that he might very well have taken this opportunity to unfold the history of the changes which have admittedly taken place in respect of the plan of Canberra city. Owing to the wide vision of the responsible Minister at the time, Mr. King O’Malley, the Commonwealth obtained the services of a very eminent architect in the person of Mr. Burley Griffin, and an elaborate and ambitious plan - in my opinion, a wise and magnificent one, on the whole - was designed. Later, it was found that modifications were necessary, and they were effected by the designer himself at the request, and under the direction, of the Government. The allegation of the honorable member for Parkes is that the local governing authority at Canberra has trespassed on the site allocated for a university, and proposes to build a high school on that site. That is denied by the Minister, who mentioned that all changes had been made under statutory authority. Would it have been too much for the Minister to tell us to what statute he was referring? What section of the act had he in mind, and what is the date of it? Had he given this information, we should have had before us a coherent and understandable story of what has really occurred. I confess that I am not impressed by mere generalities as to the impressions gathered by critical people in this city. Very often, people gather impressions, and form pontifical judgments, on the flimsiest of material, and it is for that reason that the Minister does himself less than justice in not setting out his reply in catechetical form, so that honorable members would be able to refer to the statutes, and to the dates and times of the occurrences which he mentioned. As the honorable member for
Bass (Mr. Barnard) pointed out, the plans themselves, in the form in which they are presented, depict the alterations in such minute form that it is almost impossible for honorable members to understand them. I suggest that a chart should be supplied, setting out the position clearly, so that honorable members would have no difficulty in understanding just what has been done, and what it is proposed to do. This Territory has no political representative in Parliament, and we should, for that reason, be all the more careful regarding these matters. Personally, I am jealous of the reputation of this, our Australian capital. I set my face most strongly against those who would deride it and bring it into contempt. I do not expect to live to see it happen, but I look forward hopefully to the time when Canberra will be a Mecca for world tourists; when it will be a centre of art and literature, and an attraction, not only to Australian visitors, but also to visitors from other countries. We should keep in mind, above all things, the essential permanency of everything that is to be done here. We should, as the a rchitect himself did, remember that we are building for future generations. There is a strong tendency on the part of some people to take the short and narrow view, to talk, as did the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), of the lunacy of spending money on this federal city. Ill-considered criticism of that kind by persons who do not appreciate the design of the city in its entirety, and who lack the vision of those who founded it, is most deplorable.
I think the Minister might have an- swered a question which I asked by way of interjection, namely, whether the university site was still intact. Is the Minister of opinion that there still remains in a suitable locality a site adequate for the purpose of a national university? We should be doing a great wrong to the people of the Territory, and of Australia as a whole, if we were to encroach on the university ground for the purpose of a high school, without regard to the fact that, in later years, a national university must unquestionably be established here. I should like a more detailed explanation from the Minister in regard, to these matters.
– The House should be grateful to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) for providing an opportunity to discuss this important subject. Like most honorable members, I am attached to Canberra ; I wish to see this city develop along the best and most beautiful lines possible. The discussion to-day appears to have resolved itself into an interesting dispute as to whether the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) or the honorable member for Parkes holds the really authentic plan of the capital city. The contention of the Minister that, according to the plan in his possession, the high school is to be built on vacant land, is unanswerable; but just as clearly does the plan in the possession of the honorable member for Parkes show that the area is reserved for university purposes. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs and it is for that reason that I am glad that the matterhas been brought before Parliament. It should not be difficult to clear this matter up; the real facts must be ascertainable somewhere. I did not know until to-day that there were almost as many Griffin plans as cards in a pack, but we have the assurance of the Minister that that is the present position. The whole thing is extremely disconcerting. Whatever the facts are, I do not think that it is right, even presuming that the land is vacant, that the department should be able to say, “ We shall erect on this block a high school or some other building “. I go further, and saythat no Minister should have that authority. I have great, respect for the taste of the present Minister for the Interior, but I do not think that in a matter of this kind the decision should be left to the taste of any Minister, or of any group of officials. If it does not go beyond that, we shall have buildings dumped here and there at the whim of any Minister, or set of officials who may be in office. That state of affairs cannot be described as town-planning of the kind contemplated in the original plan for Canberra. Within a few hundred yards of Parliament House itself, there is an awful example of what should not be possible in a well-planned city. I regard it as one of the most hideous buildings erected in Australia since settlement began. I do not blame the present Minister for its erection, but it must have been built under the authority of some occupant of the office which he now holds. Moreover, it must have had the approval of the officials of the department. That building is an example of what may happen under the present extraordinarily loose system of control of the building plan of this capital city.
– Does the honorable member refer to a government building?
-No; but I submit that all buildings erected in Canberra must first receive official approval. It is clear from the example which I have given that that approval can be obtained for any hideous design that is submitted to the department. I do not say that that is always the case, for I admit that accidents may occur. A mistake was certainly made in connexion with the building referred to. I hope that, as the result of this discussion, there will be strict adherence to the original plan, or, if variations are contemplated, that they will be made only after they have been considered by people capable of making sound recommendations. I shall be perfectly frank in this matter. I am not satisfied with the committee that has been appointed. I am sorry that the Government has sprung its announcement upon the House without first giving to honorable members an opportunity to discuss the kind of committee that should have been placed in control of this most important work. I imagine that it is only an advisory committee, and I take no exception to any of its individual members, but to me it is not in any sense a satisfactory body. What is wanted is greater control over the government and the officials of the day. The committee will have no real authority. I should like to have from the Minister an assurancethat, in future, work which involves a departure from the approved plan will not be commenced nor will any building be erected upon vacant land before the proposal has been tabled in this House.I suggest also that attention to what is proposed should be drawn by other means than a notification in the Commonwealth Gazette. The erection of a building in this territory is not an ordinary undertaking. Honorable members have a special interest in this city; they desire to make it as beautiful and as notable as possible. I should appreciate the opportunity to express my views upon its development from time to time.
.- The House is indebted to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who for some time has endeavoured to get the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to adhere to the Griffin plan for Canberra. The debate to-day has shown clearly that that plan has been departed from in two directions. In the first place, the work of providing kerbing and guttering around the area on which it is proposed to erect a high school was commenced long before the proposal was placed before Parliament. Secondly, the Minister himself has admitted that the plan has been departed from to some extent.
– Action has been taken in accordance with section 4 of the Seat of Government Act, under which the plan of Canberra was originally approved.
– I ask the Minister to carry out that section ofthe act and to take Parliament into his confidence in the future in these matters, as was done by the honorable member for Parkes when Minister in charge of this territory.
I consider it to be my duty, Mr. Speaker, to point out that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) who drew attention to the state of the House, has been absent from the chamber for most of the last one and a half hours, whereas I have been here all the afternoon. Moreover, only two members of the Opposition were in the chamber when the bells were set ringing.
– Order !
– There have been numerous complaints of a lack of regard for the Griffin plan by officers of the Department of the Interior. The proposal to erect a high school is not the only instance of departmental disregard for that plan. I should like to know whether the Minister for the Interior is convinced that the proposal to erect a new building in the vicinity of Hotel Kurrajong to house the patents staff, conforms to the Griffin plan. I understand that, with the exception of the Civic
Administration, all administrative offices are to be located in Parkes-place, or, as otherwise described, the administrative triangle.. I hope .that’ the Minister will give this matter his -careful attention.
Clearly, the construction- of a high school on the site selected is a departure from the approved plan for Canberra. The Department of the Interior itself is housed in buildings which do not conform to that plan. Moreover, from time to time additions to these buildings, which, in my opinion, are most unwise, are made. Such extensions have taken place, not only in respect of the temporary building which houses the Department of the Interior, but also at the two Secretariats. It would be interesting to know where the organization to control national insurance is to be housed. It is high’ time that administrative offices were erected on the foundations which were constructed many years ago for the purpose. That is a matter to which the Minister should also give his careful attention.
This territory is not developing as it should, largely because - of the fairly general feeling among people outside Canberra that they are not wanted here. Many who have attempted to settle in Canberra report a lack of sympathy and good-will on the part of officials of the department. So evident has been that spirit that numbers of persons have preferred to set up homes elsewhere.
– I do not think the honorable member should charge the department with lack of good-will without substantiating his charge.
– The honorable member for Parkes has told the House of persons who had decided to settle elsewhere because of the treatment they received here. Similar statements have been made in evidence before the Public Works Committee.
– The remark of the honorable member for Parkes in respect of orchard blocks was inaccurate.
– I remind the Minister that evidence submitted to the Public Works Committee is given on oath and, until other evidence in rebuttal is presented, I must accept it. I hope that the Minister will endeavo’ur to bring about a better spirit in the department.
Canberra should be entering upon a new era of expansion and development. I hope that the Minister will apply his undoubted ability to the good of this city.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) is to be congratulated on having brought before Parliament the importance of a proper policy foi- the development of Canberra. Too little time i? devoted by the Parliament to the discussion of matters affecting the Federal Capital Territory. As to the alteration of the plan I have no great knowledge, and the matter has been confused by the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) producing one plan which he claims to be the correct one, and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) producing another. In my opinion, however, no major alteration of the plan should be made without due consideration. Apart from that, no plan should eve] be considered as sacrosanct, particularly one evolved 30 years ago.
– And drawn in Chicago.
– That is so. Any plan of that description should be reviewed from time to time in the light of modern conditions, modern traffic and modern requirements. I regard the statement made by the Minister, to-day, that a qualified body has been set up to review the plan generally as an indication of the first statesmanlike action in regard to Canberra we have had for some considerable time. When reviewing the plan and considering the extension of buildings in the Federal Capital, I suggest that the Minister should also review certain lines of Government policy in relation to Canberra. It is common knowledge to most honorable members that, for some time past, there has been a shortage of houses in this city; it is also common knowledge that private enterprise has not played the part expected of it, in its development. If this be the ease, and it must oe admitted that it is, the Government should review its policy and endeavour to ascertain what is preventing private enterprise from investing money in the territory, and so helping to develop this city. We know that a great deal of moneyhas been expended in the Federal Capital Territory for the provision of what may be called its basic requirements, such as sewerage, water supply, and so on. If more houses are built a greater number of people will be induced to settle here, and thus the per capita share of the overhead costs of the provision of these services to which I have referred will be reduced, and, furthermore, an increased population will provide a better return for the investment of government money. I understand that under the Government’s housing policy in Canberra, rentals are based on an annual charge equivalent to 5 per cent. of the capital cost.
– That is for brick houses.
– That is so. I understand, however that that return of 5 per cent. is diminished by maintenance costs.
– Maintenance costs amount to1½ per cent.
– The return, then, is reduced to 3½ per cent. If that be so, I do not believe the Government is playing fair with those people of Australia who have to subscribe, by way of taxation, to the establishment of the national capital. Another point is, that while this policy is in operation one cannot expect private investors to build houses in competition with the Government. In this way the Government is definitely impeding the development of the Federal Capital Territory. The argument may be advanced that this basis of rent has been fixed in order to provide cheap accommodation for public servants, but, in my opinion, rents of cottages in the capital city should be taken into consideration by the Public Service Board when assessing salaries, and should not be fixed on a basis that discourages private enterprise from conducting building operations. I suggest to the Minister for the Interior that this item of policy, along with others mentioned by honorable members - the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) mentioned specifically the land policy - should be carefully reviewed by him. The honorable gentleman may even consider it advisable to appoint a small parliamentary committee consist ing of members of all parties, to endeavour to see if it is possible to evolve a wiser policy that would lead to the more rapid advancement of the territory. If such a committee were set up I feel sure that it would assist the Minister to implement a policy that would lead to the advancement of the territory and to a reduction of the charges made on Australian taxpayers for its establishment and development.
Question resolved in the negative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That it isexpedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes ofa bill for an act to ratify and authorize certain agreements relating to the Empire air service between England and Australia, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Thorby and Mr. McEwen do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Thorby, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the billbe now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to ratify and authorize agreements which have been drawn up between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, together with a draft agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Qantas Empire Airways Limited, relating to the Empire air service between England and Australia.
A few years ago, the Government of the United Kingdom originated a scheme for an imperial network of air services radiating from London to Africa, India and Australia. The British Government invited the dominions concerned to participate in the scheme and negotiations between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia were commenced about two years ago, and an agreement has now been reached under which, subject to the approval of this Parliament, Australia will take part in what is now known as the Empire airmail scheme. Part of the scheme was brought into operation under an agreement entered into in 1937 between the Government of the United Kingdom and Imperial Airways Limited.
The terms of the agreement between the two governments are set out in the despatch to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, forwarded by the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth acting under instructions from the Commonwealth Government, and the Prime Minister of Australia has received from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs a cablegram in which he states that the Government of the United King- dom accepts the terms of that despatch as recording the agreement between the two Governments. I shall refer to this agreement as the inter-governmental agreement. It deals with the establishment of an air service between Southampton and Sydney, to take nine and one-half days at the early stages, to be progressively reduced to seven and one-half days. The Government of the United Kingdom will control the section between England and Singapore, and the Commonwealth Government will control the section between Singapore and Sydney. The service on the section between Southampton and Singapore is provided for in an agreement between the Secretary of State for Air in the United Kingdom and Imperial Airways Limited. This bill submits an agreement between the Commonwealth and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, to provide for the service between Singapore and Sydney, which will be staffed by Australian personnel. The bill also provides for the ratification of the agreement between the two governments, and the authorization of the agreement between the Commonwealth and Qantas Empire Airways Limited. It is expressly provided in each agreement that it is not to come into force until approved by Parliament. The scheme contemplates a further agreement between Imperial Airways Limited and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, with a view to making arrangements for the aircraft of each company to fly over the whole route. 1 want that to be clearly understood by honorable members because, although that section of the route between Southampton and Singapore is to be under direct control of Imperial Airways and the section between Singapore and Sydney is to be under the control of the Commonwealth Government through the agency of Qantas Empire Airways, aircraft used on the service will be interchangeable so that it will be practicable for flying boats leaving Sydney to fly right through to Southampton and vice versa.
– Is it proposed that each boat shall fly the whole route?
– Not necessarily, but provision is made so that can be done if it be found desirable. The intergovernmental agreement sets out the conditions on which the Commonwealth Government will participate in the scheme, the principal conditions of which are briefly as follow: -
The Commonwealth Government will be entitled to have all first-class mail matter originating within Australia and its territories addressed to countries participating in the Empire air-mail scheme carried over all the services included in the scheme, and it will provide reciprocal treatment for first-class air mail originating in those countries to be carried over the Sydney-Singapore section. The Commonwealth Government will pay a subsidy and certain postal contributions, which I shall explain later, to Qantas Empire Airways, and will exercise control over that company in respect of the timetable, stopping places, fares and freights on the Australian section. Any variation of these matters is to be made by agreement between the two governments. The service will be carried out with flying boats. Aircraft operating the scheme will not, be charged housing or landing fees in Australian territory, and customs and other duties and taxes collected on fuel, oil and certain equipment imported into Australia and used in connexion with the service will be refunded by the Commonwealth Government to the company. It is provided that the Commonwealth Government may arrange with the company to carry out in Australia major repair work to the aircraft, and for the construction .of new aircraft in Australia if such work is found to be within the capacity of the Australian aircraft industry, but if such arrangement increases the cost of repairs incurred by the company, the ‘Commonwealth Government will pay the amount of such increased costs calculated on a basis to be agreed upon.
The Commonwealth Government will pay to the company an annual minimum subsidy of £40,000 sterling on the .basis of £1 sterling for each. 1 lb. of mail matter carried, and, in addition, in respect of mail originating in Australia;, or its territories, in excess of 40,000 lb. carried in any year, a subsidy at the rate of 8s. sterling for each 1 lb., the total subsidy not to exceed £50,000 sterling, irrespective of what weight of mail is carried.
The Commonwealth will also pay to the company as a mail payment, 16s. sterling for each “1 lb. of mail originating in Australia, or its territories, which is carried by the company in any year, and the annual amount under this head shall not be less than £32,000 sterling, and shall not exceed £52,000. sterling. Thus the maximum .amount that can be received by the company in the form of subsidy and mail payment will he £50,000, plus £52,000, or a total of £102,000.
– That is in any one year.
– Yes. The total liability of the Commonwealth in respect of maintenance of ground organization on the Singapore-Sydney section will not exceed £30,000 sterling a year. Any amount expended in excess of that sum will be repaid to the Commonwealth by the United Kingdom Government. This sum will include amounts to cover amortization of capital expenditure and amounts paid by the Commonwealth to the operating company as a refund of customs duty paid by the company in the Netherlands East Indies, on fuel, oil and other goods. If this provision had not been made the subsidy payable to the company would have been so much greater.
The Commonwealth agrees to protect Qantas Empire Airways against loss of unamortized capital clue to the premature termination of the existing contract for an air service between Brisbane and Singapore. This company has conducted the air-mail service from .Singapore, via Darwin, to Brisbane for some years past, and it has done this work practically without accident and with great credit to itself, and, but for this agreement, its existing contract would iiia ve been continued. For that reason, special provision is made in this agreement to safeguard the interests of .that company which is foregoing its existing contract in order to participate with Imperial Airways in this new contract.
– At what points does the existing Qantas service commence and finish ?’
– It commences at Singapore and ends at Brisbane. That service will be discontinued as part of the overseas mail service, although not necessarily .as an internal .service, and the Qantas section of new air-mail service will be from -Singapore to Sydney.
The agreement sets out in detail the responsibilities of the two governments in respect of ground organization in Australia, the Netherlands East Indies and Singapore. The working operations will be supervised by an advisory hoard in London composed of representatives of the governments of the dominions and colonies participating in the scheme, including India and the Sudan: The agreement between the Commonwealth Government and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, provides for an air service between Singapore and Sydney of not less than three trips each way a - week. Should an increased frequency be necessary to carry the mails the additional service will be provided without extra cost to the Government. Flying boats of the Short “ C “ class type will be used, provision being made for the substitution of other types if necessary. The route decided upon is the shortest practicable route between Singapore and Sydney, the intermediate stopping places being
Batavia, Sourabaya, Bima, Koepang, Darwin, Groote Eylandt, Karumba, Townsville, Gladstone and Brisbane. The agreement will be for a period of fifteen years as from the 3rd August, 1938. The company agrees to own, and have available on the route, not less than six aircraft of the approved type. Exchange of aircraft between the company and Imperial Airways Limited is provided for in order to enable the aircraft of both companies to fly over the whole route from Southampton to Sydney.
– Where are those machines made?
– In. England. Incoming overseas air mails will be delivered from Darwin to Sydney and intermediate stopping places, viz., Groote Eylandt, Karumba, Townsville, Gladstone and Brisbane, by the flying boat service direct. Mails addressed to Western Australia will be delivered by a subsidiary air service from Darwin to Perth and intermediate stopping places. South Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian mails will be carried by air from Darwin to Adelaide direct, the Victorian mails proceeding from Adelaide to Melbourne, and. the Tasmanian mails to Launceston and Hobart. This will enable the whole of the incoming air mail to be delivered in each of the capital cities during the second afternoon after arrival in Darwin, for which service, of course, no extra charge will be made. This arrangement overcomes those difficulties which would have arisen had all the incoming mail been taken to the one terminus in Australia, and then distributed to the various States. If that had been clone overseas mail would” have arrived in one State capital days ahead of the time of distribution of mail addressed to other capitals. Under this agreement all of the State capitals will be placed on an equal footing so far as the time of arrival of incoming air mail is concerned.
– Will the rate of postage be the same in respect of all capital cities?
– Yes. Furthermore, we undertake to deliver’ incoming mail, and pick up outgoing mail at the intermediate stopping places. The aspect of night flying has been very carefully investigated, and I am pleased to be able to say that no night flying whatever will be necessary in connexion with this service. This will be of great advantage in two respects : it will enable us first, to avoid heavy additional expenditure, and, secondly, the risks involved in night flying to the lives of pilots, .members of crews and passengers. We have, therefore, been more than justified in overcoming any necessity for night flying.
Outgoing air mail will be collected in each of the capital cities and will follow the reverse route, the Tasmanian, Victorian, South Australian and Western Australian services, linking up with the flying boat service at Darwin. All mail posted inside Australia to be carried by air internally, or overseas, will carry, a surcharge of 3d. for each half-ounce.. This is a reduction of ls. Id. a half-ounce compared with the present overseas airmail rates which have been in operation since the overseas air-mail service was inaugurated. In addition, air-mail letters will bear the ordinary postage rate of 2d. making a total rate of 5d. as against the existing rate of ls. 6d., the new rate to come into operation as from the 1st August next. All complication will be avoided by providing a 5d. stamp in respect of air mail, and a 2d. stamp in respect of ordinary mail.
– That is 5d. for each half ounce ?
– Yes, compared with the present charge of ls. 6d. This substantial reduction has been made for various reasons. It will encourage greater use of air-mail services and thus help to provide Australia with one of the most complete and up-to-date air services that we have yet had, or, perhaps, most of us, a few years ago, contemplated would be possible in so short a time.
To those who have been rather impatient over the fact that this agreement has not been completed earlier, I point out that the whole scheme was evolvedonly a couple of years ago when the British authorities invited the cooperation of the Commonwealth in the establishment of an air-mail service in conjunction with other parts of the Empire. Such a proposal inevitably involved lengthy negotiation. It would be difficult to get complete agreement so soon in respect of practically any matter- between the governments of two countries so widely separated as Great Britain and Australia. As the result of prolonged negotiations involving innumerable exchanges by cable and despatches and many conferences we ultimately reached agreement;, but. until the principles of that agreement were arrived at, it would have been futile for this Government to have endeavoured to bring about an agreement between itself and the operating companies, or between the operating companies themselves. We had first to secure agreement between this Government and that of the United Kingdom, then between the two governments and the operating companies, and lastly between the operating companies themselves. The last-mentioned aspect involved the formation of a new company, the securing of the necessary capital for that purpose, the placing of orders for planes of a special type> and the creation of the necessary organization to enable the main service to be carried on efficiently and safely between ‘Southampton and Sydney. [Chat has. been accomplished, and T give credit to all who have been associated with it. The technical officers and those connected with the formation of the company and the completion of the whole organization, instead of being subjected to criticism should be complimented on the manner in which they have performed their difficult task so expeditiously. Two years ago white men had hardly set foot on places like Groote Eylandt, whereas to-day there is established, there a highly efficient air hase, with meteorological and wireless equipment and all the necessary stores to meet the requirements of the flying boat service north and south three times a week each way, together with accommodation for the staff. This has been accomplished, not only at Groote Eylandt, but also at Darwin, Karumba - at the mouth of the Roper River, in the Gulf of Carpentaria - and other centres, with, the exception of some of the larger buildings associated with the base at Rose Bay, where it was necessary first to overcome many difficulties in connexion with the securing of the site. We also had to await a complete survey of the route by aviators. Many routes were traversed before the conclusion was reached that the route decided upon’ was the most direct and suitable, and that bases fulfilling the requirements were available at different points. In addition to an air survey, a meteorological survey along the route and at the various bases was also necessary. Then, too, a survey had to be made of the water area available. For this purpose, the Moresby was sent into the Gulf of Carpentaria and also visited other portions of the Australian coast. Many months were occupied in connexion with these detailed surveys, in order to furnish the necessary data before any further step could be taken. It would have been futile to attempt to construct a base at Townsville until we were satisfied that satisfactory bases which would meet the requirements of the flying boat service could be built at Groote Eylandt and Karumba.
Very lengthy and difficult negotiations had to bo conducted with the Dutch authorities. They wore difficult because of the requirements of the flying boats differing from those of amphibians or of the flying boats attached to the Dutch organization. We had to make arrangements, through the Dutch authorities, to have the ground organization available throughout Java, in which there will be landing places at Batavia, Koepang, Bima, and several other points. Provision for that organization had to be made in foreign territory, which meant very lengthy negotiations with a foreign government, through the agency of the British Government.
I have mentioned some of the things which have been accomplished, each of which took a considerable time and had to be carried out in sequence, because it was impossible to take certain steps until other steps had previously been taken. That is why approximately two years have been occupied in finalizing the negotiations which have enabled us to bring in a bill embodying the draft agreements drawn up between the Governments of the United. Kingdom and the Commonwealth on the one hand and the Government of the Commonwealth and Qantas Empire Airways on the other hand, designed to give to Australia a fast, efficient flying boat service second to none, and one which will complete an air organization throughout the Commonwealth, effectively linking up Australia with the various parts of the Empire, the shortest space of time being occupied between the posting of a letter in Australia and its delivery in the United Kingdom.
– Will landing fees have to be paid in Java.
– Yes. Under the International Air Convention, provision is made for payment of a landing fee for the use of an aerodrome or a landing area in foreign territory. The agreement embodied in the schedule to this bill provides that where the Qantas Empire Airways pays landing fees in Netherlands East Indies, any amount exceeding 30s. shall be refunded to the company by the Commonwealth Government.
– What is the position in respect of a foreign company’s machine landing in Australian territory?
– Under the International Air Convention, a foreign company would have to pay to the Commonwealth the landing fees payable by Commonwealth aeroplanes. That, however, is a matter of adjustment. What I emphasize is that Qantas Empire Airways will not bear the cost; it will be borne by the Commonwealth as part of the expenditure involved in arrangements for the ground organization in connexion with the administration of the air-mail service. The Government will incur no cost at Singapore, which is the junction of the two services, and not a terminal. In one sense two services are being merged into one, Singapore being the dividing point. South of Singapore the service will be under Australian jurisdiction, and north of Singapore under British jurisdiction. No charges will be made for the use of the base at Singapore; that base will be made available by the authorities to Qantas Empire Airways as one of the facilities which will enable the service to be conducted successfully.
– In other words, the authorities at the British end will pay the charges.
– Yes. In conclusion I would say that, having completed all the surveys associated with meteorological investigations and the necessary soundings at the bases, the Government had to take up with several of the manufacturing firms the subject of the manu facture of special equipment needed to meet the requirements of the meteorologists and wireless authorities for the installations at various bases, and so give us the wireless results we wish to obtain. These include direction-finding equipment, air beacons, meteorological stations, and stores of the type which will enable the flying boat service to maintain food supplies in a wholesome condition. Considerable expenditure, investigation and delay were involved. We can now say with a good deal of satisfaction that these stations are completely equipped with everything that modern science can devise for the conducting of an air service with the greatest degree of safety, at the same time providing reasonable comfort and all other facilities for the staff stationed at isolated bases. That necessitated a substantial expenditure on the installation of refrigerating apparatus and so forth, because it meant the erection of electrical supply plants at the different bases, each of which has to be a self-contained unit.
-There are beacons along the Queensland coast at all the important towns. Had the Commonwealth Government anything to do with their installation?
– All the beacons have been established by the Commonwealth Government, although not necessarily in conjunction with this organization; they are part and parcel of other branches of civil aviation.
I should like to add, although it is not actually related to the agreements under this bill, that , the Commonwealth has also conducted negotiations with the British Government and the Government of New Zealand for the purpose of inaugurating a flying boat service between Sydney and Auckland which will eventually co-ordinate with this flying boat service. That will be organized under a separate company and a separate agreement. There will be three operating companies merged into one, with representation on a commission of some sort of the British Government, the Government of New Zealand, and the Commonwealth Government.
– Is it likely that tenders will be called for the New Zealand service ?
– Not necessarilyThere are difficulties associated with the calling of tenders for work of this description.
– Will the overseas flying boats continue the journey to New Zealand ?
– No. A flying boat of a new and larger type, with a longer range, will be used, because the flying boat to be used from Singapore or Southampton to Sydney will not have a range which would enable it to carry the necessary fuel, plus a pay load, from Sydney to Auckland, which is a rather long hop to be negotiated in one operation.
– Longer than the last hop to Darwin?
– Oh, yes. Karumba and Groote Eylandt come in between Townsville and Darwin.
– Would it not be shorter to go from Hobart to New Zealand?
– I do not think so. The route suggested by the New Zealand authorities is from Auckland to Sydney. I understand that Auckland has very suitable water facilities for flying boats.
The point I was about to emphasize was that, in addition, as late as the 30th May last, the Commonwealth completed the organization and the signing of an agreement with another company for the New Guinea air service which is now operating from Sydney along the Queenslaud coast, giving us a most efficient service linking New Guinea, with Queensland and New South Wales in particular. That is a further indication of the tremendous development which has taken place in connexion with civil aviation during the last couple of years. I say advisedly to honorable members that the Government has been confronted with the difficulty of keeping pace with the tremendous development of aviation in different parts of Australia within the last couple of years. It is of no use to be critical of the fact that it has not been possible to keep up with the demands of outlying centres and many small country places in which aero clubs have been formed. Besides co-operating with overseas companies the Government has been faced with the provision of technical apparatus in respect of air beacons and the meteorological equipment necessary, to safeguard men in the air, so as to give to Australia a complete chain of highly technical organizations along the main air routes, linking up the capital cities. That chain has been almost completed, and the Government is very proud of the fact that within the next few months Lorenz beacons and other beacons, together with the wireless equipment, will have been installed along the whole of the main air routes, thus providing in respect of air navigation the same security and safety as have been provided for generations by lighthouses in respect of navigation on the high seas.
– What will be the passenger capacity of the flying boats?
– The Short “ C “ type of flying boat will have a capacity of twenty passengers, or a little over 3 tons of mails, and the necessary food and other supplies to meet the requirements of tin* passengers. They are four-engined, and are equipped with all the most modern instruments and safeguards necessary to meet the demands of aviation.
I may add that before any plane can operate on any of these services it will have to be licensed by the Commonwealth authorities and will have to comply with our regulations and other requirements. 1 assure honorable members that by the agreements embodied in the schedule to the bill, which have been most carefully examined and have been revised over and over again in order, first,- to meet the requirements of the respective governments, and secondly, to fit in with the necessities of the operating companies, every precaution will be taken to ensure that the service is established on a sound business basis as well as on a safe basis for those who we hope will use it.
– The Commonwealth will not be responsible in respect of any accident?
– No; but everything, possible has been done to prevent accidents.
– The Commonwealth will not have to pay workmen’s compensation.
– The company, and not the Commonwealth, will be the employer. These matters have been provided for, so that- the employees will still be protected under workmen’s compensation legislation. That, however, is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Similar conditions apply to the operations of the service generally.
– Will the planes pick up at Singapore mails from the East?
– The agreement covers the carriage of mails between the points I have mentioned, at the rates specified, and any other mail matter will be carried and charged for at the rates imposed in the country of despatch. The agreement can not, of course, control the conditions under which air mails are handled in foreign countries; that is provided for in international agreements, adopted at the Postal Convention, governing foreign mail matter, and those agreements have been respected under this agreement.
– In the event of the service expanding, is there any provision to enable planes used in the service being manufactured in Australia?
– I explained earlier that the Commonwealth Government, by agreemen t with the companies, may enter into negotiations for the manufacture, repair or replacement of aircraft in Australia, and if the doing of the work here should involve the companies in increased cost as compared with the cost of manufacture elsewhere, the Government is to make up the difference in actual cost. The absence of such an undertaking would have been a bar to manufacture, repair and replacement being undertaken in. Australia. The principle is similar to that adopted in paying bounties on the manufacture in the Commonwealth of goods which Australia actually needs.
– Is that provision optional ?
– Yes; it will depend upon agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the companies concerned.
– What additional cost is involved under the proposed new scheme ?
– The maximum cost of the mail subsidy is £102,000 sterling, plus a maximum amount of £30,000 which the Commonwealth can be called to pay for maintenance, running costs and ground organization, making a total maximum cost of £132,000 in any one year.
– That does not take into consideration any offset in the matter of revenue derived from the carriage of mails?
– No; I have given merely the expenditure. It is difficult, if not almost impossible, to estimate accurately, the quantity of mail matter that will be carried. Two factors have to be considered : Under the new service, the travelling time betweenSouthampton and Sydney will be reduced, and the postage rate will also be reduced from1s. 6d. to 5d. a half-ounce. These two factors will undoubtedly be responsible for a very substantial increase of the quantity of mail matter carried by air.
– Ninety per cent. of the first-class mail matter will be carried by air.
– The revenue from the 3d.surcharge will amountto from £50,000 to £80,000 a year, but it is difficult to obtain an accurate estimate until wo have some indication of the volume of mail matter that will be carried. In time, the public will fully appreciate the cheaper rate of postage, and the rapidity with which replies can be received to overseas communications. If, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said, 90 per cent. of the first-class mail matter will be carried by air, the revenue derived from the surcharge will be greater than is at present anticipated and the offset against the probable expenditure will be correspondingly larger.
– Will the operating companies receive a refund of customs duty on petrol and oil consumed in these services ?
– I have already dealt with that.
– I thought that the Minister referred only to a refund of sales tax.
– The companies will be entitled to a refund of the customs duties on the items specified in the schedule, such as engine parts, wireless fittings, replacements of instruments and special equipment necessary in the handling of aircraft. The companies will also be entitled to a refund of the customs duties collected in Australia on petrol and oil used between Darwin and Sydney. Had that concession not been granted the subsidy would have been greater.
– What subsidy is paid under the present system?
– I cannot say exactly at the moment.
– What authority will determine the relative costs of manufacture in Australia and overseas?
– There will be an over-riding commission, acting in an advisory capacity, and representing the governments, to deal withmatters referred to it by the operating companies or by any one of the governments which is a party to this agreement. Questions which arise between the Commonwealth Government and the companies concerned will be decided by agreement. There is also a provision that if a company is dissatisfied in respect of any particular matter, it can refer such matter to the British Government or to the Commonwealth Government for consideration; but neither government can alter any vital provisions of the agreement without the concurrence of the other government. Every precaution has been taken to prevent one government from doing anything to the detriment of the organization. It really becomes an agreement by consent between the British Government, the CommonwealthGovernment and the two operating companies. In view of the fact that there are at present four interests involved, and that when an extension of the service is made there will be other interests, it would be difficult to vary the agreement without discussing such a variation with all the interests concerned.
– We must accept it enbloc.
– It is very difficult to alter the agreement, and if any vital alteration were required, it would mean holding up the whole service. I am not suggesting that this Parliament is not entitled to amend or reject the proposal, but the agreement now submitted to Parliament has been carefully prepared and examined from every angle in the light of advice received from experts in Australia and overseas associated with the respective governments and the companies concerned. I cannot see how any alteration could be made to improve the conditions already provided in the agreement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-37.
Bill brought up and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now reada second time.
The present act provides that one member of the Australian Dairy- Produce Board shall be elected by the Federal Council ofthe Australian Dairy Factory Managers and. Secretaries Association. For many years, factory managers have been banded together in voluntary State associations for mutual improvement in status and technique. After a time, these associations formed a federal council which provided a certain amount of cohesion between various State organizations. This federal link has been so strengthened during the past few years that it is now a Commonwealth organization with State branches. The new organization has been registered under the Companies Act of Victoria with the title of The Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, but it carries on with the same personnel of membership and officials as the organization which preceded it. This bill amends the act by substituting the name of the new organization for that of The Federal Council of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries Association. It is further proposed to make a slight alteration of the method of appointing the member representing the institute. Under the present act, members of the Federal Council elect their representative under regulations which provide that a ballot shall be conducted by the Commonwealth Chief Electoral Officer. Under this arrangement, the secretary to the council will furnish the Commonwealth Electoral Officer with a certified list of the members of the council, and each of the persons included on such list will be eligible to a vote in accordance with the prescribed procedure. The Government proposes that the procedure of selecting the person to represent the institute shall be left to the Australian council of the institute, and that the appointment shall be made on nomination in writing by that council. This will simplify the routine of the appointment, and leave the selection of its representative entirely in the hands of the governing body of the institute. The other matter covered by the bill embraces an alteration similar to that being made in the acts relating to control of canned and dried fruits and meat.
The Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1937 contains a provision similar to that in the other export control acts, whereby the Australian Dairy Produce Board is required to submit an annual report in the month of July, and this board, like the other boards, finds it difficult to complete the voluminous details of its report within the specified time. Under this measure, the Government proposes to grant the board three months in which to do this work. It is also considered that the value of the report will be enhanced by early distribution and the bill provides that the report shall be furnished at any time prior to the 30th September in each year.
.- I have already discussed the subject-matter of this bill with the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), and if he will give the House an assurance that it meets with the approval of those engaged in the dairying industry, I shall offer no objection to its passage.
– They have asked for it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Census and Statistics Act 1905-1930.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the billbe now reada second time.
The chief object of this bill is to obviate a good deal of trouble, time and expense which the Government is at present put to, in the collection of statistics for “factories, mines and productive industries “, on certain forms which have to be prescribed by regulation. Section 16 of the principal act reads -
The Statistician shall, subject to the regulations and the directions of the Minister, collect, annually, statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters:-
Among the matters specified is -
The purpose of clause 3 of the bill is to omit the word “ annually “ in so far as it relates to that paragraph. Section 17 of the principal act reads -
For the purpose of enabling the statistics referred to in this Part of this act to be collected, all prescribed persons shall, to the best of their knowledge, when required by the Statistician so to do, fill up and supply, in accordance with the instruction contained in or accompanying the prescribed form, the particulars specified in that form.
The Government is seeking to insert after the word “ form “, first occurring, the following words : - or in the case of statistics in relation to any matter specified in paragraph (g) of the last preceding section, in accordance with the” instructions contained in or accompanying a form approved by the Minister.
Honorable members are doubtless aware that until a year or two ago the statistics to which I am referring were collected by the State Statisticians. TheCommonwealth Statistician has, however, been making commendable efforts within recent years to improve our statistical knowledge of our secondary industries, particularly as to their variety, and the value and quantity of their products, and I have given him every possible support.
Until quite recently, our information of the actual production flowing from our secondary industries was sketchy. - The Commonwealth Statistician has held many conferences with the State Statisticians in his endeavours to standardize and improve the procedure required to provide uniform information from every State. About 40 different forms have been prepared to facilitate the furnishing of the information desired from those engaged in various industries. These obviously have to suit the diverse circumstances of the industries concerned. Even now, the forms have not been- fixed with any finality. It is necessary, from time to time, to make minor alterations to forms in order to provide for greater clarity, and particularly in order to meet the convenience of the persons who have to supply the information. As the law now stands, it is necessary to make regulations in connexion with the matter and then to publish them in the Statutory Rules. The form in which the Statutory Rules are published, however, is different from that desired for these particular returns ; consequently, a good deal of unnecessary expense occurs if the alteration of even a comma is necessary. The purpose of the amendment provided for in clause 4 of the bill is to give the Treasurer power to approve the forms. I do not think it will be necessary for the Treasurer to exercise this power for more than a few years, for by that time the forms will have reached their final shape.
To recapitulate, clause 3 of the bill provides for the elimination of the word “ annually “ from section 16 in order that the Commonwealth Statistician may eoi,lect, at more frequent intervals than twelve months, the information he desires to obtain; and clause 4 provides that the Treasurer shall have power to approve the forms to he used in furnishing information in connexion with “ factories, mines and productive industries generally.”
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred, by interjection, to the methods of collecting this information. Under an arrangement with the State governments, relevant forms are issued to the appropriate persons by mem bers of the Police force in the various States. The police take the appropriate form to each manufacturer, who then fills it up and returns it to the Statistician. No difficulty is being experienced in thai connexion, but the machinery which provides for the preparation of the forms in the desired way is somewhat cumbrous, and the object of this bill is to authorize a more direct method*.
– Is anything being done to prevent overlapping of Commonwealth and State authorities in this connexion?
– We are seeking, by fre.quent conferences of Commonwealth and State Statisticians, to deal with the difficulty that the right honorable member has mentioned, and I am glad to say that, largely as the result of the exertions of the Commonwealth Statistician over the last few years, the overlapping has been almost eliminated.
– Is it compulsory for the person concerned to supply the desired information?
– Yes; the penalty for non-compliance is £10.
– Will one effect of the passing of this bill be that the public will get a clearer economic picture more f frequently?
– Yes. I suggest that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports should visit the office of the Commonwealth Statistician, where he will find a battery of machines working at high pressure in order to provide statistical information at frequent periods in regard to customs, excise and production generally. The work of that office is very different to-day from that of a few years ago. Although the Commonwealth Statistician is an officer of my department, I feel that I should give him a word of praise for the improvement he has effected in the compilation of our statistical information in the few years that he has been in this office. I make that remark without disparagement of the gentlemen who preceded him in this office. I commend the bill to the House.
– I do not intend to oppose the bill, although I think the interests of propriety would be served if at least a day were allowed to elapse between the introduction of a bill by the Minister and the resumption of the debate. I fear that the exclusion of the word “ annually “ from section 16is going a little too far, for it may permit a Commonwealth Statistician to refrain from collecting statistical information in regard to “factories, mines and productive industries generally “ even annually, if he so desired. That, of course, is not the intention ofthe Treasurer (Mr. Casey).
– The Commonwealth Statistician desires to collect information more frequently, at not more than quarterly intervals.
– I appreciate that fact. The amendment should be of such a nature as to make it clear that the information is to be collected at least annually.
– That would be quite satisfactory.
– Considerable reluctance is shown by certain interests to the supplying of the data which the Statistician requires. Under certain circumstances, some banking institutions may withhold information for, say, three years, unless an obligation rests upon them to provide it at least annually. I offer no objection whatever to the proposed amendment of section 17. I concur entirely in the Treasurer’s commendation of the work of the Commonwealth Statistician and his officers. All the officers in the department from the highest to the lowest have always been eager to assist me, and I am sure that they have shown the same courtesy to other honorable members.
.- Will the Treasurer say whether it is intended to ask for the preparation of these returns quarterly?
– No; only those that are absolutely necessary, for example, those in respect of retail prices.
– I hope that only those returns that are necessary and which will serve some good purpose will be required, because the preparation of detailed information involves a good deal of work, and very often is most inconvenient to the people concerned. I know that much difficulty is experienced in complying with the law, not only by the banks and other institutions mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), but also by other persons in the community.
: -inreply - The Government is well aware of the inconvenience, and in some cases, the difficulty, caused by requiring returns to be made; but I assure thehonorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) that the Commonwealth Statistician does not ask for them unless they are absolutely necessary. I appreciate the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and when the bill is in committee I shall have no objection to altering clause 3 as he suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section sixteen ofthe principal act is amended by omitting the word “annually”.
Section proposed to be amended -
The Statistician shall, subject to the regulations and the directions of the Minister. collect, annually, statistics in relation to all or any of the following matters.
Amendment (by Mr. Casey) agreed to-
That the words “ omitting the word ‘ annually ‘ “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “inserting after the word ‘ collect ‘ the words ‘ at least ‘ “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Collection Act 1923-1934.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Financial Emergency Act 1931, enacted, in section 19 (4) -
The Governor-General may arrange with the Governor in Council of any State that the taxation, under thelaw of that State, of the salaries and allowances of any .persons whose salaries and allowances are reduced under this part, to the extent to which such taxation is permitted by or under this section, shall bc deducted from the .periodical .payments of the salary and allowances of those persons and shall bc paid .to the State in such man in r and nf such times as are provided by the arrangement.
The provision applied to persons whose salaries had been reduced under that act. The sub-section ceased to have effect when restoration was made under the Financial Relief Act (No. 2) of 1936. But an arrangement had been entered into between the Commonwealth and four State Governments under which the Commonwealth deducted from salaries of Commonwealth public . servants, at the source, unemployment-relief taxes or equivalent taxes imposed by those State governments. The total amount so collected was paid in a lump sum to the State governments. This arrangement was made for the convenience of State governments and also of Commonwealth public servants who were liable to State taxes of the nature described. Since October, 1.936, the salaries of Commonwealth officers and employees have not been subject to any reduction under the Financial Emergency Act, and the authority to make deductions of State taxes from salaries of Commonwealth officers and employees therefore ceased to have effect from that date. This measure will authorize the Government to continue the procedure in respect of unemployment relief taxes.
– It will mean £1,500 a week to the Stevens’ Government in New South Wales.
– It will make no difference to the Stevens’ Government or airy other State government. It simply means that instead of Commonwealth public servants being required to pay a lump sum in respect of State taxes of this nature at the end of the financial year, the tax will bc deducted in relatively small amounts from their weekly or fortnightly pay and will be paid to the State governments in a lump sum.
– Tho Government proposes to continue the practice adopted under the Financial Emergency Act.
– Yes ; we believe that arrangement to be convenient to the State governments and the Commonwealth pub lic servants concerned. The bill is noncontentious.
.- As the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has explained, the bill authorizes the Commonwealth Government to deduct from the periodical payments due to Commonwealth public servants, State taxes of the nature described. At present, the Commonwealth has no authority to make these deductions, which are a convenience to Commonwealth public servants and the State governments. Unless we agree to the insertion of the proposed new section in the Income Tax Collection Act, Commonwealth public servants will be called upon to pay these State taxes in a lump sum at the end of the financial year, instead of having them deducted from their weekly, fortnightly, or monthly pay. It would be a positive hardship to hundreds of people, particularly those in the smaller range of incomes, to be required, to pay in this manner instead of by instalments. It is a good thing for the worker to keep out of debt. I think the arrangement is a wise one.
.- I have not heard any complaints about the arrangement of which the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has spoken, and I realize that, in the great majority of cases, it is very much better, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said, to have these deductions made from the salaries or wages of Commonwealth public servants instead of requiring them to pay State taxes in a lump sum at the end of the financial year. However, I think that in normal times the Government should not be empowered to enter into an arrangement with State governments to deduct any portion of wages or salaries of Commonwealth employees at the source, unless it is so authorized by the persons concerned. I regret that the bill is being proceeded with at such short notice, because it is not possible for honorable members to say whether all Commonwealth public servants regard the arrangement as convenient, of as one that should be applied to them. My disposition is to ask the Treasurer to postpone further consideration of the bill until Parliament reassembles after the winter recess. I say this because legislation’ of a more urgent nature is being postponed. 1 also consider that it should contain a provision requiring authority to be given by the Commonwealth employee to sanction this deduction from his salary at the source.
.- I understand that it is proposed that the deductions shall be made from the beginning of the financial year which is almost upon us. If this is so, and if the bill be left over until Parliament reassembles, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) has suggested, some part of the financial year will have expired; in the meantime the Commonwealth Government will not have the authority to make the deductions.
– in reply - I have not heard any complaints from Commonwealth public servants with reference to the arrangement to make deductions from their salaries ; on the . contrary, I have been advised that the arrangement is regarded as a convenient one. At the present time we ha.ve no authority to continue making these deductions. I suggest, therefore, that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) should withdraw his objection to the measure because we have to get some authority to continue what we have been doing. I have no reason to believe that Commonwealth public servants are not in agreement with this procedure. If the honorable gentleman will withdraw his objection I shall undertake to have the matter investigated and shall inform Parliament if any injustice is being done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Deduction of tax from salaries of officers).
.- After the warning which I gave during the second-reading debate, I should, in the ordinary course of events, have moved an amendment to this clause to require authority from the public servants, as well as an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments, before deductions could be compulsorily made by this Government for a State government from the salaries of officers. However, I - accept the Treasurer’s (Mr. Casey) assurance that he has made inquiries regarding the attitude of the Commonwealth officers and is convinced that they regard this proposal as being in their interests. The Treasurer has demonstrated his thoroughness and his frankness to honorable members on previous occasions, and I am quite prepared to accept the assurance which he has given, although I would not be so ready to accept an assurance from some of his colleagues in the Ministry.
.- In Victoria and, I believe, other States, there are two classes of income tax. One is the income tax which is collected from persons for general purposes, and the other is the income tax collected from them for the relief of unemployment. By means of the second tax, money is collected from persons receiving very small wages. In fact,, it is a wages tax. This bill looks like a means to extend that wages tax to Commonwealth employees. I am opposed to the wages tax being collected from persons who earn only a pound or two a week. If this measure is agreed to, the Government of Victoria will be able to collect a tax not only from its own employees, but also from Commonwealth employees, from whom it is not practicable at present to collect that tax.
Mr. Casey. Why not?
– Because there is no authority to deduct the tax from the wages of Commonwealth employees. The tax imposed in Victoria can be collected from the wages of employees of the State as well as from the employees of private persons. As I understand it, there is no authority for the State to deduct this tax. from the wages of Commonwealth employees.
– There is no authority to collect the tax at the source, but that does not lessen the liability of Commonwealth public servants to pay the tax.
– Unless the tax be deducted at the source, it will not be deducted at all.
– That would imply evasion. The wages tax is already applicable to Commonwealth public servants in the
State of Victoria. It cannot be applied to Commonwealth public servants in Canberra. This bill applies only to persons who are liable to pay the tax to State governments.
. - I do not intend to oppose the passage of the clause, but I should have liked more opportunity to ascertain the views of a. very important class which might well be described as the third party to this agreement. This clause presupposes an agreement between two governmental authorities, namely, the Commonwealth and the. States. There is a third party which may be described as the victim of these agreements, namely, the taxpayer, who appears not to have been consulted at all. I do not greatly like the idea of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States for an arbitrary method of collecting a tax due from individuals.
– Hear, hear!
– There is a specially good ground for further consideration of that aspect of the bill. I do not believe that the purport of the measure has been sufficiently widely circulated to be thoroughly understood by the persons concerned. The Treasurer has not shown that there has been any general demand or request by the public servants for this bill.
– The collections which this bill authorizes have been made for seven years.
– The practice was initiated by the Scullin Government. It is a convenience to the taxpayers.
– I concede that it would be generally acceptable. Most people find it embarrassing to be confronted with a large account, which one might have dealt with comfortably by comparatively small instalments. At all events, with the comment that I do not think that the Treasurer is doing full justice to the committee in forcing this bill through at the moment, I shall leave the matter. My leader, whose judgment is usually sound, accepts the bill, and so do I, although I should have preferred longer time to enable those people who are principally concerned as taxpayers to express their approval or disapproval of the measure.
.- This is a simple matter. The Commonwealth public servants in the States are liable to pay the unemployment relief tax and this bill will make no difference to that liability. It is merely a continuation of the method of collection that has been in operation for the last seven years. The option was given to members of the Commonwealth Parliament to have the tax deducted from their pay or included in their income tax assessment. Some honorable members chose to have the deductions made at the source, and others preferred to pay it in a lump sum at the end of the year. This bill does not penalize or prejudice the public servants. It merely provides machinery for the collection of the tax in the simplest way.
– Does the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) seriously want the bill to be delayed?
– I should like to have an opportunity to look at the Victorian law. The bill should be postponed until after dinner.
– This procedure has been in operation since 1931, with, I think, benefit to the State governments and the Commonwealth public servants concerned. The act which provided machinery for the collections to be made at the source originated with the Scullin Government, and it has worked without hardship to anybody. The bill before the committee is not an innovation; it is simply a continuation of a procedure which has been found to be acceptable to all the parties concerned. I have given an undertaking to look into the matter between now and the end of the next session of Parliament, to see if any hardship does occur. If any should be found, I shall report it to the Parliament. I appeal to honorable members to allow this very small measure to go through without delay.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I ask leave to move the third reading.
– Leave is refused. The Treasurer was asked to delay the bill until after dinner.
– I appealed to honorable gentlemen to pass this bill without delay, and there was no dissent. In view of the objection, however, I shall allow the third reading to stand over until to-morrow.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 p.m. to8 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Bill 1938.
Seat of Government Acceptance Bill 1938.
Science and Industry Research Appropriation Bill l938.
Invalidand Old-age Pensions Appropriations Bill 1938.
Representation Bill 1938.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Message reported recommending appropriation for the purposes of any amendment to be made upon request by the Senate in this bill.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of any amendment to be made upon request by the Senate in a bill for an act to provide for insurance against certain contingencies affecting employees, and the wives, children, widows, and orphans of employees, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported, and - by leave - adopted.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Clause 61 -
Sickness benefit shall, subject to this act, consist of periodical payments to an insured person in respect of the period commencing on the seventh day of incapacity for work arising from sickness and terminating on the date when the incapacity ceases, or at the expiration of twenty-six weeks from that day, whichever is the earlier.
Senate’s request-Leave out “ seventh “, insert” fifth “.
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This amendment, and another to clause 66, which is consequential upon it, have to do with an undertaking that I gave when the bill was before this chamber regarding the period that must elapse before payment of sickness benefit will begin. If the amendment be made, sub-clause 1 of clause 61 will read as follows : -
Sickness benefit shall, subject to this act, consist of periodical payments to an insured person in respect of the period commencing on the fifth day of incapacity for work arising from sickness and terminating on the date when the incapacity ceases, or at the expiration of twenty-six weeks from that day, whichever is the earlier.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide for the payment of sickness benefit on the fifth day of sickness, instead of on the seventh, as the bill previously provided. There was no opportunity to make the amendment when the bill was before this chamber, and I promsied that it would be submitted in the Senate. That was done, and it has now come before us again in the form of a request from the Senate.
– I very much regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has not been more generous in this matter. When this clause was under consideration in this chamber, strong representations were made by several honorable members on both sides of the House that sickness benefit should commence on the first day of sickness instead of on the seventh, and the Treasurer sought to justify the intention of the Government to alter the date from the seventh day to the fifth. I moved an amendment, the effect of which was to make the benefit available on the first day. I pointed out that this was the practice amongst friendly societies, and that the Treasurer should have made the national insurance scheme at least as generous as those of the friendly societies. I understand that section 32 of the British National Insurance Act provides that sickness benefit shall commence on the fourth day of incapacity. We know that, in practice, a great many persons are incapacitated by such illnesses as in- fluenza, dengue fever or severe colds for periods of three or four days, and such persons will not obtain any benefit under the insurance scheme at all. They will be required to pay their contributions, but, for the most part, they will obtain very little return for them. No doubt the Treasurer will try to make us believe that the Government is making a generous concession which will cost the fund a great deal of money.
– That only proves how much the workers will lose.
– It is probable that the workers will lose £300,000 a year by the refusal of the Government to make sickness benefit payable on the first day of disablement. The Government is anxious to augment the insurance fund as much as possible, and for this purpose is prepared to deprive the workers of the benefit for which they will have paid. I ask the Treasurer, even at this stage, to consult with his experts with a view to acceding to the request that sickness benefit be made available immediately, instead of after a lapse of five days. It is evident that the Senate did not give this matter due deliberation. Unfortunately, it was acting on the instructions of the Treasurer, who said that he could not concede anything more. If the Treasurer will give an assurance that the matter will be reconsidered, it will not be necessary for us to say anything further.
.- The Senate has requested that sick pay shall begin on the fifth day of incapacity, instead of the seventh as previously provided in the bill. That is an improvement; admittedly, but it does not go far enough. We must remember that all the subscribers to the scheme will be in receipt of less than £7 a week, and one need not know a great deal of the conditions under which those people live to realize that when pay day comes round the money is spent almost as soon as it is obtained.
– What is the reason for deferring the payment of sickness benefit?
– I can only suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and those who advise him, know that, in the vast majority of cases, the average sick ness will be for only a brief period, and their purpose is to conserve the insurance fund as much as possible. It will not be much consolation to the unfortunate workers to know that, instead of having to be fourteen days off work before collecting £1, it will, under the amendment, be necessary to be off for only twelve days. The payment of contributions under the scheme will represent a considerable sacrifice to most insured persons, and it is not right that they should have to wait for twelve days before receiving £1 in sick pay. The committee should reject the Senate’s request, and substitute the word “ first “ for the word “ seventh “, thus providing that sick benefit shall commence from the time when the employee ceases work on account of illness. The vast majority of those who will need benefits under this scheme will be workers who are temporarily ill. One of the strongest arguments advanced in favour of the measure is that under present conditions the great majority of the workers who become sick continue in their employment, and, ultimately, many of them become so seriously ill that their health suffers irreparable damage. It is of no use to provide a sick employee with medicine unless he is also given means of sustenance. If the object of the health scheme is to enable the worker who is indisposed to leave his employment for a few days in order to recover his health, that purpose will not be achieved if five days must elapse before the commencement of the payment of sickness benefit.
– Reference has been made to the British scheme under which sickness benefit is payable from the fourth day of illness, but it is unfair to,pick out a small detail of a scheme in another country and compare it with a detail of a different scheme in this country. To obtain a fair comparison, each scheme should be considered as a whole. Under the British act, Sunday is not counted as a day of illness, whereas under the present bill it is. In Great Britain there are five days of waiting, as there are to be under this measure. If the suggestion advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) were adopted, no more money would go into the approved societies than will be the case under the Government’s proposal.
– More would go into the pockets of the workers.
– That is not so. The approved societies would have no more funds from which to pay the various benefits; exactly the same amount of money would flow in. The amount which the approved societies would pay out would be less, but the money would be left in the hands of the societies and would be available after the quinquennial valuation for distribution in any other form of benefit desired by the societies. Nothing more would be taken away from the insured person under the Government’s proposal than would be the case if it were provided that sick benefits should commence on the third or fourth day. If the fifth day is accepted, the. same amount of money will be in the hands of the approved societies, and will remain there for the benefit of all the insured persons at a. later date.
– Only one half of it.
– The whole of the money remains there.
– Not the society of which the sick person is a member.
– We have to consider the position of the societies as a whole. Taking the scheme as a whole, the Government submits that it provides the maximum amount of benefit possible; in fact, the insured person will receive three times as much benefit as he pays for. Any further benefit, such as that suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, must be provided at the expense of the insured persons themselves. Having gone into the matter thoroughly, the Government considers that the best interests of the insured persons will bo served by beginning the payment of sick benefits on the fifth day of illness.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) claims that we should not select particular features of other health insurance schemes and attempt to compare them with certain provisions of this bill. The Opposition admits that, but it suggests that it has every right to draw attention to the present practice of the friendly societies in Australia, which is to commence the payment of sick benefit from the first day of sickness.
– What about invalidity?
– The Opposition is talking of sickness.
– That is a small point.
– I am surprised that the Treasurer does not view this matter in its true perspective. Sickness is a much more prevalent trouble than invalidity, and causes much greater interruption of the continuity of employment. We are now dealing with the sickness, not of the wife or the children, but of the breadwinner. When the income of the breadwinner ceases, because sickness prevents him from working, the Treasurer suggests that it is asking too much to say that sick pay should commence on the day when the employee ceases work. Under the Government’s proposal, a worker who is off for a week through sickness will receive only two days’ sick pay, and,if absent for five days, he will get nothing. At the outset the Opposition claimed that sick pay should commence on the first day, but the Treasurer was adamant and would not accept that proposal. We then suggested as a compromise that sick pay should begin on the fourth day, and when that was refused we asked that the word “ fifth “ be inserted. We are now in the unfortunate predicament that we cannot move for a reduction of the period which must elapse before sick pay commences, because such an amendment would be ruled out of order on the ground that it would increase the appropriation; and we cannot reject the Senate’s request without restoring the word “ seventh “, to the insertion of which we are opposed. The procedure adopted by the Government has placed the Opposition in a cleft stick. Even if the insured person gets sick pay from the fifth day after the commencement, of his sickness, he will not receive hospital or dental treatment. If he is a casual worker, it is doubtful whether he will be covered by the scheme at all, and, if he is unemployed, he will be definitely beyond the scope of the scheme.
The Treasurer remarked that in Great Britain Sunday is not counted as a day in calculating the time for the commencement of sickness benefit, but I remind him that the British scheme provides for unemployment insurance, and that fact should be taken into account in measuring up the benefits received under the British scheme. Yet the Treasurer claims that this bill is one of the most beneficent pieces of legislation in the world. The practice of the friendly societies, which will, no doubt, become approved societies under this measure, with respect to the payment of sick benefit to insured persons, will be very different from its present practice in that regard. The Treasurer tells us, when he considers this bill as a whole, that, if an insured person works one day a week, it is fair that he should make a full week’s contribution of1s. 6d. to the insurance fund, but that unless he is off for five days he cannot receive any sickness benefit at all. If he is off for seven days through sickness, his sick pay will amount to only two-sevenths of £1, therefore, he will never receive sick benefit at the average rate of £1 a week during the period when, on account of illness, he is unable to earn his usual wages. I challenge the Treasurer to be at least logical in this matter. I say to him that if it is a fair thing that a man who works only one or two days a week should have to pay a full week’s contribution to the insurance fund, then it is equally fair that if he is sick for one or two days he should be given sickness benefit for those days. The honorable gentleman wants it all the way. He says that, after the quinquennial investigation, approved societies will be able to extend their benefits. No doubt the term “ quinquennial investigation “ is supposed to have a charm about it, like the term “ abracadabra,” and the insured person is to regard the quinquennial valuation as the equivalent for sick pay in the first five years. The larger the word, the less the reality of the benefit. The honorable gentleman contemplates that, after the quinquennial investigation, approved societies will be accumulating reserves, and he proposes that these reserves shall be re-allocated a nd that one-half of them shall be pooled among the whole of the approved societies, with the result that they will then be able to extend their benefits. If it be true that they will be able to extend their benefits, I do not believe that the statute will allow thorn to pay sickness benefit to any person even under that computation until he has been incapacitated for more than five days, because an approved society cannot vary legislation passed by this Parliament. If this Parliament says that sickness benefit shall not be paid until an insured person has been incapacitated for five days or longer, not even an approved society can pay an insured person at any earlier day.
-i invite the honorable gentleman to look at the fourth schedule.
Mr.CURTIN.- My point is that if the approved societies can do it after the quinquennial investigation, they should be able to do it now.
– The fourth schedule provides as an additional benefit “ the payment of sickness benefit from an earlier day than that upon which it would otherwise commence.”
– That is, after the first revaluation. If an insured person can keep alive for five years, ho may enter into his heritage and he entitled to sickpay benefit for the first few days of illness. I put it to the Treasurer that, if he had a sense of what is appropriate, he would make this bill as acceptable as he could to the immediate generation, because, after all, the immediate generation will have to contribute for two years before it willbe entitled to any benefits of a material kind under this bill. Failing to be impressed with what the Opposition has said upon this matter, the honorable gentleman makes it clear that this is a governmentbill. He has been inflexible in his bearing towards the suggestions of honorable members on all sides of the chamber, and the rigidity of his attitude towards this bill is out of proportion to what is a reasonable way to launch a measure of this kind.
.- When the bill was before this chamber previously I had some comments to offer in regard to this clause. I am still of the opinion that, as friendly societies to-day arrange for payment of sick pay from the first day of illness, we should make provision in this bill to continue that practice by making the sickness benefit payable on the first day of incapacity.
– Then the honorable member should vote for it.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out, if we vote against this request then the clause as it originally stood, which provided for payment of sickness benefit after seven days of illness, will be incorporated in the bill. I am not in favour of a waiting period at all, but, in the circumstances, I propose to vote for the requested amendment, believing that it approaches more closely my conception of what is the fair and right thing. I see no reason whatsoever why a man, after having contributed to the national insurance fund, should not be placed in the position he was in under the friendly societies’ schemes, and receive the sickness benefit from the first day of illness. I understand that one of the objections to that is that it would cost a good deal of money, but, in my opinion, a national health scheme should provide such a benefit. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has referred to the fact that, under the English act, Sunday is not taken into account in connexion with the waiting period. I do not know what that has to do with the matter.
– I said that merely in answer to a question by the Leader of the Opposition. .
– Although I am not entirely in agreement with the justice of the requested amendment, I shall support it as the lesser of two evils.
Mr.Ward. - Did not the honorable member vote for the bill when itwas last before this chamber?
– I did, and I maintain that my attitude in regard to it has been consistent.
.- I had thought to endeavour to prevail upon the Treasurer (Mr.. Casey) to relent somewhat his inflexible attitude towards the views of honorable members on this side of the chamber in regard to this clause. I was not at all impressed with the statement of the honorable gentleman that because under the English act Sundays are riot counted, the five days provided for in this bill are equal to the four days provided for in the English act. I point out that a man who becomes ill on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday may continue to be ill for four days without a Sunday intervening, and unless he became ill at the end of the week, the exclusion of the Sunday would not come into the picture. The honorable gentleman is a contortionist of the first order.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order !
– Purely in the political sense, Mr. Chairman. In my opinion the honorable gentleman is hard pressed for argument when he is forced to descend to tactics of that kind. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) sounded the right note when he urged the Treasurer to follow an Australian practice, rather than one adopted in some other country. Not only is sick pay paid by friendly societies from the first day of illness, but also in all workmen’s compensation legislation enacted by the State Parliaments compensation is paid from the date of injury. Immediately an employee has to leave his work because of an accident sustained in the course of his employment, he is entitled to compensation. I point out also that two-thirds of the workers of Australia receive their week’s wages for five days’ labour, and although a man may be ill on a Saturday or Sunday he is not entitled to sick pay in respect of those days. Under this bill, however, a man who is sick for the whole of the five days during which hewould normally be working will lose the whole of his week’s wages and be entitled to no sickness benefit. The Treasurer has said that if provision were made for the payment of sickness benefit from the first day of incapacity, a heavy charge would be imposed on the fund, which would mean that other benefits would have to be curtailed. If that be so, the honorable gentleman cannot get away from the charge that the sick people of this country are to be called upon to provide funds for a large proportion of the oldage pensions. Many people throughout Australia lose two or three days’ employment through sickness every month, due. in some cases, to occupational disease, and in others to the effect of seasonal conditions, which may, for instance, cause hay fever. In a year those people maylose from twenty to fifty days’ employment, but they will not be entitled to sickness benefit, because their illnesses have been of short duration. Ineffect, the honorable gentleman tells us now that he intends to exploit the sick in order to accumulate funds which should be subscribed in taxes by the wealthy classes in the community. When I suggested, by way of interjection, that sick insured persons were to be penalized to pay old-age pensions, the honorable gentleman was quite huffed about it. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) spoke about the millions of pounds which would be accumulated in the insurance fund. Why cannot the fund bear the cost of the very desirable alteration which we seek to make in this clause? Is it just that the Government should seek to accumulate huge reserves in the fund while at the same time it will deny to sick people to-day and during the next five years sickness benefits in respect of illnesses of short duration? This is against elementary justice and that fair play of which we boast so much in Australia to-day.I feel sure that after the scheme has been in operation for a couple of years the people will realizethat they have been sold a pup. There is no justification for demanding contributions from workers who are employed only two or three days in a week, particularly when the Treasurer is anxious to give as little as he possibly can by way of sickness benefit. As I have said on numerous occasions, this bill typifies and crystallizes-
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the committee is not discussing the bill itself. Discussion must be confined to the amendment requested by the Senate.
– The Government and its supporters cannot view matters of this kind with any human feeling; they see thorn only through the eyes of cold-blooded commercialism. Their sole desire is to get as much as possible and to give as little as possible. I should like to hoar what honorable members opposite, who, on an earlier occasion, were favorable to the proposal to provide sickness benefit from the first clay of incapacity, have to say now in regard to the matter. The Treasurer has not been fair in dealing with this amendment. I hope that the discussion on it will continue until he is convinced that it is the desire of this committee that sickness benefit shall commence on the first day of incapacity.
.- I was very much impressed by the argument of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the effect that a certain amount of money will be paid to approved societies for disbursement of this particular benefit and that any surplus remaining over at the end of each five-year period will be available to the approved societies for expenditure on additional benefits, including more sickness benefits. AlthoughI was impressed by that argument, I point out that in this particular regard he may be effecting false economy. I base that statement on the experience of various provident societies conducted by business firms. Quite apart from the humanitarian aspect, they regard it as economically sound to pay sickness benefits from the commencement of the sickness. Their experience is that unless sickness benefits are available from the beginning of illness a conscientious employee will continue at work when he should not do so, in order not to lose any of his wages, with the result that his sickness often develops and becomesmore serious. If he knew that sickness benefits would be payable to him from the commencement of his sickness, he would take the precaution tostay home for a day or two, and the trouble would very probably not develop.
– That employee willget the medical benefit.
– There have been fartoo many instances of men with a slight attack of influenza contracting pneumonia through remaining at work. Other employees may not be so conscientious. A man sufficiently ill to be absent from his work for two or three days may remain home longer in order to claim sickness benefits.
– Malingering will be checked by the doctors.
– A great deal more control than will be possible under the panel system will be necessary to check malingering, should it be indulged in. It may be found under this scheme, as it has already been found in connexion with other schemes, that, in the long run, it will be false economy to withhold sickness benefits until a certain number of days have elapsed. As the friendly societies have had a great deal of experience in the administration of sickness benefits, and as the sickness benefit under the national insurance scheme is to be administered by approved societies set up by them, I suggest that, during the period which will elapse between the passing of this bill and its coming into operation, the Treasurer should consult with them in order to ascertain whether or not it would be wise. to pay sickness benefits from the commencement of the illness.
– During the discussion of this measure, members of all parties have been made aware of the careful calculations that have been made, and the data obtained, in order to guide the experts and the Government in determining the cost of the benefits to be provided under this scheme. No phase of this legislation has been given more careful consideration than its cost. I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) already has the information which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) suggested might be obtained by consultation with the friendly societies. Indeed, it was because the Government knew the cost of paying sickness benefits to employed people that this hill provided for a period of seven days from the commencement of the illness.. If the experience of the friendly societies shows that sick pay is necessary from the commencement of the sickness, it should be paid. According to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) the average period for which sick pay is paid to members of friendly societies is less than fourteen days a year. That shows that many workers are on sick leave for a few days at a time. The bill should be amended to meet the needs of the great majority of workers who lose pay because of sickness. I ask honorable members to imagine the position of a man on the basic wage who loses three or four days’ pay. 1 remind them that the average basic wageworker does not receive the basic wage for more than six or seven months each year.. The loss of a few days’ pay means a great deal to him. Benefits which will not cost much have been provided for in the bill, but others which would confer some real benefit on the workers have not been included. The outstanding feature of this bill is the careful actuarial calculations underlying it, the studied omission of benefits of real value, and the inclusion of others which will not cost much. Throughout Australia there are many voluntary provident schemes which, for a payment of a few pence each week, provide sick pay at the rate of £1 a week from the commencement of the sickness. I have been associated with some of these schemes, and I know that sick pay dates from the signing of the doctor’s certificate. I cannot understand how the Treasurer can think that this scheme will appeal to the workers of this country, who are accustomed to receiving sick pay from the benefit societies immediately they cease work through sickness. I predict that many employees who will be forced to join this scheme will cease their membership of the other societies and lodges to which they now contribute. They will find ls. 6d. a week demanded of them under this legislation all that they can pay for sickness and pension benefits. They will be disappointed to find that, whereas they now obtain sickness benefits immediately they become ill, they will have to wait several days before obtaining any benefit under a national health insurance scheme. The Treasurer claims that -the sick pay under this bill will be £1 a week, but I submit that a. man who will lose his pay for five days will not really get £1 a week sick pay. I go so far as to say that 90 per cent, of the workers will not draw £1 a week sick pay, no matter how long they are ill, because they will receive no sick pay unless their sickness extends over seven days. It is not. truly a national health scheme which will give to employees benefits below those which they now derive from societies which they join voluntarily. It is useless to say that these persons will be storing up a benefit for themselves in the future. Men and women who return to work too soon in order that they may not lose wages, which they cannot do without, will not draw much from the fund 20 or 30 years hence.
.- Members of the Opposition need express no amazement that their pleas to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) are not having the desired result. The honorable gentleman represents in this Parliament only the wealthier sections of ‘the community.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the request of the Senate.
– The arguments of the Opposition must necessarily fall on deaf ears, because the Treasurer is carrying out instructions given to him. Even if he desired to do so, he could not accede to the request of the Opposition. Despite what the honorable gentleman might say regarding the generosity of the Government’s proposals, the position of the workers will be infinitely worse under this scheme than under the existing voluntary system. This so-called national insurance scheme will compel every worker to insure, but as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) pointed out, a worker who is compelled to contribute ls. 6d. a week to it will have to withdraw from other voluntary schemes to which he may now contribute, and he will find that the alleged benefits under national insurance will be less than those provided by the friendly societies. The amounts now paid as contributions to friendly societies by workers who will be forced to join this scheme, are less than they will be called upon to pay in the future. The Treasurer has not an atom of sympathy for the workers of this country. He referred to the payment to approved societies of certain moneys, out of which sickness payments will be made. He endeavoured to show that a. hardship would be inflicted on the approved societies if the period of sickness for which no payment is made, were reduced. He said that any moneys that are not actually paid out as benefits by the approved societies, will eventually go back to the insured person. There is good reason for the Treasurer’s anxiety to ensure that the moneys which are paid to approved societies shall be conserved; they will be required for other purposes. Tinder this scheme the invalid pension will he reduced to 15s. a week.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the general principles of the bill now.
– The Treasurer tried to prove that any moneys saved by the approved societies would eventually return to the insured persons. I am endeavouring to show that the honorable gentleman is not stating facts. The Government is anxious -that provisions shall be emembodied in this legislation in order that the funds collected by approved societies shall be conserved, not for the purpose indicated by the honorable gentleman but for an entirely different purpose. Under the provisions of the bill, approved societies will have to meet, to an amount of 15s. in the £1, the payment of invalid pensions, the Government providing out of Consolidated Revenue only 5s. in the £1. The disablement benefit being 15s., the Government will have to provide only 5s. In order that the responsibility for the payment of invalid pensions may be transferred to approved societies, the Treasurer is anxious to have this particular provision incorporated in the measure so that sufficient funds will be available for the purpose. That is its whole purpose. When introducing the hill, the Treasurer sought to convince honorable .members that it contained more generous provisions than, any other existing scheme in the Commonwealth. By way of interjection when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was speaking, the honorable gentleman said that insured persons would receive the medical benefit during the five days when no payment was made to them. I ask him: What will they have with which to purchase the necessaries of life ? Probably he will recommend that, whenever a sick worker or his dependants become hungry, they should take a dose of castor oil and be satisfied. That is all the consideration which he and his party have for the workers of this country. I have heard ministerial members to-night express the belief that the payment should be made from the first day of sickness. Why did they not bring pressure to bear on the Treasurer in the party room, when they had the opportunity to. influence the course which this legislation should take? Why did they not vote for amendments moved in committee, which were designed to ensure that of which they now say they approve? The Treasurer was prepared to wrangle and argue in order to keep the period at five clays, when the proposal was made to reduce it to four clays, proving conclusively that the sole purpose of the Government is, not to provide for the health of the people, but simply to dip into the pockets of the workers and make them pay for their social benefits, relieving the wealthy sections of the community whom the Treasurer and his party represent, from the payment of taxation now levied to provide funds for this purpose. I advise honorable members of the Opposition not to waste time in making futile appeals to the Treasurer or the Government, who are merely carrying out to the letter the instructions of the class which they represent in this Parliament. The Opposition might as well make an appeal to a flock of vultures.
– I have twice requested the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before theChair.
– For the present I have said as much as I desire to say in this Parliament on the question. Out in the open air, where there is greater freedom to express oneself, I shall make further observations in the electorates of some honorable members opposite who now smirk and grin.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I expected that from you, Mr.Ch airman. You are a very impartial chairman !
– Order! I name the honorable member for East Sydney.
– I am obliged to move -
That the honorable member for East Sydney he suspended from the service of the committee.
– On a point of order, may I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member for East Sydney will not have to be reported to the House before a motion for his suspension may be moved ?
– The question is, “ That the honorable member for East Sydney be suspended from the service of the committee “.
– On a point of order, I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if you have given the honorable member an opportunity to withdraw the remarks to which exception was taken?
– I have not; and it is not within the province of the Chair to do so.
Mr.CURTIN. - You do not intend to do so?
– I do not.
– Am I to understand that there is one law for the honorable member for East Sydney and another for the Acting Minister for Commerce?
– The honorable member has been named because of his deliberate insolence to the Chair.
– This is how the Government secures its majority: but it will lose it.
– The honorable gentleman ought to have been in the chamber to hear what was said.
Question put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney bo suspended from the service of the committee.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority.. . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative. in the House :
– I beg to report, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for East Sydney has been suspended from the service of the committee.
Question put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for East Sydney thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
In committee (Consideration resumed) :
– I have attempted to ascertain the reasons why the Government insists upon this period of five days. At first, I expected to be told that any shortening of this period might affect the solvency of the scheme, because, whenever it was suggested previously that the benefits under the scheme should be liberalized in any direction, the reply offered was generally along those lines. I expected we would be told that if this period were shortened, the whole basis of the actuarial calculation would be upset and the solvency of the scheme threatened, but thatargument has not been advanced in this instance. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) really states that, after all, whatever funds are accumulated through the postponement of payment for a period of five days will go back to the approved societies, and through the pooling arrangement provided under this measure, those societies whose members are more liable to disablement, or sickness, as against other classes of contributors, will be enabled to pay special, or extra, benefits after a period of five years. In the first place, I point out that we have no guarantee whatever that any extra benefits will be paid at all, and it is mere assumption on the part of the Treasurer to suggest that this course might be followed. Furthermore, very few honorable members are prepared to accept the possibility that the position assumed by the Treasurer will even eventuate within five years. One of the most prevalent forms of sickness of brief duration is influenza, with which many of us have been affected during the last few weeks. If influenza is attended to promptly, and the patient goes to bed at once, he will probably overcome his illness within three or four days. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.Holt) touched upon this aspect and stressed its importance. He argued that men who were really sick, and running a temperature with influenza, under the present conditions in the bill would be prone to hold on as long as possible in the belief that they can shake off the attack, although in doing so, they run the extreme danger of developing pneumonia. The Government should seriously consider cases of this kind. It must be remembered that workers generally, including for the most part manual workers, fall victims to complaints which are usually of short duration, and that in many cases failure to deal properly with the complaint in its first stage leads to move serious consequences, if the Government desires to adhere to what it alleges is the primary principle of the scheme, namely, the care of national health, it should be generous enough to conserve the health of the workers right from the commencement of any complaint to which they may fall victims, however slight such a complaint may at first appear. For these reasons, I cannot understand why it insists on retaining this period of five days. The only argument advanced on its behalf in this respect, is that the workers will, later on, be given increased benefits. But when will that time arrive? I have yet to be satisfied that contributors of this class will not have to pay something in addition to their contributions under this scheme in order to qualify for the full benefits offered by approved societies. The Government, I repeat, should be generous enough to enable insured persons to attend properly to their complaints immediately they fall ill. If it insists upon this provision of five days hardships must necessarily be created in the homes of those who are compelled to insure under this scheme. The point of view of the worker on the basic wage in this respect has been argued very fully, and I feel it should be again considered in this matter. I suggest that we who happen to be fortunate enough to enjoy continuity of remuneration, or income,, should try to visualize the actual circumstances of workers of this class and. not allow our ideas on the subject to be fashioned according to our own circumstances. Many honorable members., fail to approach matters of this kind from that viewpoint, and are inclined very often to view them only from their own experience. We are not confronted with the difficulties which arise in the homes of basic wage workers when the wages of the breadwinner are suddenly stopped.
Our salary is continuous and, consequently, should we fall ill for three or four days the circumstances in our homes from a financial point of view are not affected. But I urge honorable members to view this matter as it really applies to the thousands of workers on the basic wage, and to remember, all the time, that to’ the last penny the wages of the workers are parcelled out for the payment of rent and the necessaries of their homes. Every penny they earn is required for some necessary expenditure; they have very little to spare at any time. They have no opportunity these, days to save any of their earnings, and consequently, when they fall sick they are hard put to it to find the wherewithal to meet any increased expenditure resulting from their illness. The burden in that respect falls heavily upon the workers’ families which, in many cases, consists of boys and girls of tender age. For these reasons, the Government should allow the payment of benefits to commence immediately the breadwinner falls sick. He will then have some consolation in knowing that his income will not be totally cut off immediately misfortune befalls him. I repeat that the solvency of the scheme as a whole is not involved, and, therefore, it cannot be said that a reduction of this period of five days will upset actuarial calculations. The only argument advanced on behalf of the Government is that this arrangement will enable extra benefits to be paid on the expiration of some unspecified period in the future. Perhaps the worker will not need them then ; he may have passed, into the Great Beyond. I appeal to the Government to picture the circumstances of the worker as they really exist; if it does that it will agree, I feel sure, to -reduce this period of five days.
.- I regret the attitude which the Government has adopted in respect of this matter. If there is one phase of life’s vicissitudes in respect of which it should take a liberal view, it is certainly that of ill health. So many additional claims are made upon the family purse when sickness befalls the worker that that is the very period when more liberal consideration should be given to him. The Government is not acting fairly in this matter, and its attitude will undoubtedly prejudice workers generally against this scheme as a whole. In fact, the scheme provides more for disqualifications than for qualifications. The Government has taken every opportunity to prune down the benefits to be made available under the scheme, whilst, at the same time, it lias not hesitated to impose extra hardships and obligations on contributors. It was thought that the contribution of the insured person would provide benefits for not only himself but also his family in time of sickness, but this is not the case. The insured person is obliged to pay extra in respect of benefits for his wife and family.
The clause to which the Senate has submitted its request runs contrary to the practice adopted by friendly societies, in that it not only precludes the payment of benefits immediately an insured person falls ill, but also obliges the insured person to pay twenty-six contributions before he can become eligible to receive any sickness benefit at all. The sickness benefit under this scheme is definitely less valuable to those insured persons who are not members of friendly societies because contributors who are members of friendly societies will receive payment of benefits on the day they fall ill, and will not be obliged, like other classes of contributors, to wait for such payment until the fifth day. Furthermore, the latter will not be entitled to receive payment of benefit even on the fifth day if they have not contributed for twenty-six weeks. Such an anomaly, I suggest, is outrageous, and renders the sickness benefit under this scheme quite inequitable. The Treasurer may seek to persuade Government supporters and the country at large that this is a fair amendment, but are they likely to believe him? This bill contains so many anomalous provisions that it is impossible to improve it in any really effective way. It is deplorable that a man must be on the sick list for five days before he can obtain any sickness benefit from the fund. I very much regret that the Government will not liberalize t)r provision.
– In view of the fact that this national insurance scheme has been moulded on the British national insurance legislation by experts experienced in the British scheme, and that under that scheme sickness benefits are payable upon four days’ incapacity, it is extraordinary that this bill, as originally drafted, provided that seven days must elapse before sick benefits become payable, and that, under the amendment now proposed by the Treasurer, five days must still elapse before insured persons become entitled to such payments. Although medical health insurance has been in operation in England for more than 25 years, this scheme is less generous than the British scheme in one of its most important aspects. I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the Government’s proposals will not be accepted by the people of this country as even fair, let alone generous. People who are now entitled to friendly society benefits will not be affected by this clause to the same degree as those who are not covered during the five days which must elapse before they become eligible for sickness benefits under the national insurance scheme, as such payments would be made to them by the friendly societies. After the five days had expired, they would also receive the national insurance benefits. It is true, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) said, that, the people on the lower income scales will feel the adverse effects of this provision most. Similarly, should the provisions be liberalized, such people would be the first to benefit. The salaried man whose income will not cease immediately he becomes sick, will not be vitally affected, but the very people whom the Treasurer claims that this proposal is designed to benefit, will suffer because they will not receive any sickness benefit until the expiry of the qualifying period. While, disagreeing with many provisions of the bill, I submit that this particular clause is absolutely inhuman. The Treasurer may calmly sit back and feel satisfied that he has done an excellent job by reducing the period by two days, but. as one who knows what hard times arc and who has had experience of rearing a family on low wages, I know something of the distressing effects of sickness when the breadwinner is laid aside and his salary ceases. It, is totally unfair to provide that a period of fivedaysmust elapse before sickness benefits become payable under this scheme.
– The payments may be made on the fifth clay of sickness.
– Why attempt to beggar the question? We all know perfectly well that the benefits are provided on the fifth day. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) is only trying to side-track the issue. We must face the facts. The proposal to pay sickness benefits only after a man has been sick for five days is inhuman, but it is the kind of gesture we might reasonably expect the Treasurer to make to people on low wages. As persuasion and reasoning are of no avail, I shall content myself with registering an emphatic protest against meting out to our people treatment which compares very unfavorably with that given by the scheme on which our legislation is modelled.
.- I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) remains adamant and will not agree to a reduction of the qualifying period to four days. It will be generally conceded that the average Australian is not a malingerer, but I can conceive of no provision of any act or of any friendly society tending to encourage people to become malingerers more than will this provision of this very stupid national insurance bill. I am quite satisfied that this provision will tend to make sick people exaggerate the seriousness of their illness, as, in fact, they will have every justification for doing. It will encourage people to act dishonestly. Nobody knows better than the Treasurer that there are such people as malingerers.He is himself a political malingerer. He is malingering on the people of Australia in regard to this national insurance bill. He is attempting to take something away from people who cannot afford to lose it, in order to lighten the burden on a more favored section of the community. In the circumstances I should feel justified in advising people who have been sick for three or four days to assume sickness for another day in order to recover some of the money that they have paid into the national insurance fund. This is not a nice thing to say, but I contend that people who are unjustly treated under this scheme will undoubtedly retaliate and this is one of the means by which they will do it. The Government will not gain anything by refusing to give way on this question. During the earlier discussions of the bill the Treasurer said -
The patient will be encouraged to go early to the doctor. This cannot fail to have a substantial preventive effect in respect to disease.
Will a patient be encouraged to go to a doctor when he knows that his illness may last for three or four days during which he will receive no sickness benefit at all? Rather will he avoid going to a doctor for fear that he may not qualify for sickness benefit, but yet may lose several days’ pay. Logically, the Treasurer has no justification for persisting in his stubborn attitude. I hope that honorable members will voice their protests against this provision, not only in this House, but also in their electorates. It seems useless for members of the Opposition to make pious appeals to the Treasurer. They might as well talk to a brick wall, for almost invariably when they are addressing the Treasurer he is indifferent to them and is talking to his colleagues or other Government supporters. That may also be said of other Ministers. The members of the Opposition have not the same opportunity to influence the Government as have its supporters, who in party meetings and through their party organizations can bring pressure to bear upon it. It is entirely futile for supporters of the Government to make appeals to the Treasurer in this chamber and expect members of the Opposition to believe that they are sincere and desire seriously that their requests shall be granted. The refusal of the Treasurer to concede to the demands of members for a further liberalizing of this provision is an insult alike to this committee and to democracy. I hope that the electors, particularly those adversely affected by this provision will show in no uncertain manner at the first available opportunity their disapproval of the Government’s attitude, and their resentment at the manner in which they have been treated.
. Honorable members opposite who, when the bill was first before the committee, championed the cause of the friendly societies, have been discreetly silent to-night. Apparently, the Government steam-roller has been at work again. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) doesnot realize the trouble and anxiety that this clause is causing among friendly societies and other organizations that have a far better health benefit scheme - far better by a long shot - than is provided in this bill. The friendly societies and other organizations, particularly the Miners Federation, immediately the member becomes ill, make twice as much money available in sick pay, in addition to medical and hospital benefits, as to be made available under this bill. How does the Treasurer expect these societies to fit in their rules with the half-baked measure which is before the committee, The Treasurer smiles, but it is no smiling matter.I shall have to explain this measure in the coal-fields, and I am not looking forward to doing so. How would I be able to tell the people about what Parliament has done when they know that a far better measure could have been introduced. That it would have been possible for the Government to bring clown a better bill is evidenced by the fact that its scheme will cover hundreds of thousandsof people, whereas the Miners Federation with a membership of only about 14,000. is able to carry out a scheme of voluntary insurance which is far more generous to its subscribers than will be the compul- sory insurance of the Commonwealth Government. I have invited the experts from Great Britain who have advised the Government on national insurance to give in the coal-fields districts one of the explanatory lectures that they are to give in Canberra. I thought that they might he able to explain to the people why it was that, a compulsory scheme involving millions of pounds could not provide benefits equal to the benefits provided by organizations which cater for only a few hundred subscribers. I also thought that they might be able to tell those persons who conduct the voluntary insurance schemes just how they will be able to fit in their schemes with the Government scheme. How will they be able to make their extra benefits fit in with the fewer benefits of national insurance? Perhaps the Treasurer will be able to answer that question, but I do not think so. As a matter of fact, it will be impossible for him to do so. The passage of this legislation will mean that the whole of the organization of friendly societies and other mutual benefit organizations will have tobe re-cast.
– Certainly, one will have to be fitted in to the other.
– One will run foul of the other. They will take some straightening out. The benefits of this bill are a mere bagatelle compared with the benefits of voluntary insurance. This bill provides for a quinquennial review of the funds of approved societies, and surpluses will have to be distributed. I assure the Treasurer that those societies are not seeking to swell their funds at the expense of the contributors so that they will be able to make a distribution of profits every five years. They do not desire to force people who are ill to wait for five days before they can qualify to draw the sickness benefit; they desire to make these payments immediately a man falls ill, because that is what they arc used to doing. The Treasurer, if he ever belonged toa friendly society and had occasion to draw such a benefit, would know that that is so. Those societies are humane, and they recognize that side by side with medical treatment it is necessary for people who are ill to have nourishing food. People who are in poor circumstances and who, therefore, have no credit at stores, cannot buy food if they have no income. This bill wall prevent them from having any money for five days after the breadwinner has been stricken with illness. Honorable members opposite know nothing of the circumstances in which the poor people of Australia live. They never go to the coal-fields, and, accordingly, they can never know the conditions under which thousands of Australians have to subsist. They are content to deceive themselves by travelling among the better-circumstanced people of Australia and telling them that the problem of unemployment has been solved, which they well know is a lie. In those places where them is actual distress, the greatest sacrifice is made by the poor to help the poor. Honorable members opposite never try to help the poor. They never even give them an encouraging word or offer them a helping hand.
– Order! The honorable member must address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to impress upon the Treasurer the fact that when a man is ill he needs nourishment. This clause denies him nourishment for five days. It says, in effect, that he must content himself with medicine. Some of the people in my electorate are so poor that they cannot get credit. Without money and without credit they cannot get food. In many instances, the hospitals have to turn away the sick because they are given insufficient assistance by the Government. If it were not for the organizations to which I have referred, there would be no hospitals in existence in the coal-fields districts of New South Wales. It is to their credit that the fine hospitals in the district exist.
When this bill left the House of Representatives the waiting period in respect of sickness benefit was seven days. The Senate reduced it to five days. I now appeal to the Government to eliminate the waiting period altogether. The benefit should be available from the day on which a man falls ill. I know that the Government is in a hurryto pass this bill. If it agreed to what the Opposition wants in this matter it could have the bill in a few moments. I remind the Treasurer, however, that there is no guillotine how as there was when the bill was first in this chamber. If it had not been for the fact that the honorable member for EastSydney (Mr. Ward) was kicked out-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! If the honorable gentleman will not speak to the question, I shall order him to resume his seat.
– I think I should draw attention to the state of the committee.
– Ring the bells.
– As I was saying before I asked for an audience, when a man is ill and is unable to get sustenance for five days, he is more than likely to become dangerously ill. Storekeepers will not give credit if they know that there is no money to come into the household, but, if they know that money will be paid by the national insurance fund from the day on which the illness starts, they will readily give the needed credit. If the Treasurer is so hard-hearted, as he appears to be, as to be unconvinced by the arguments that I have advanced on behalf of the ill persons themselves, regarding the need to eliminate the waiting period,I directhis attention to the needs of the families of people who become ill. If the breadwinner falls ill his children will not be able to have anything to eat for five days. That fact must awaken the sympathies of the Treasurer. The fiveday waiting period means that all the members of the family of the sick breadwinner will have to tighten their belts until the insurance money arrives. Australians are not used to tightening their belts and we do not welcome people coming to Australia from abroad and telling us that, we must tighten them. In 1931, we were told by one man from overseas that we should tighten our belts, but some of us refused to do so. The then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, refused to ask the people of thatState to tighten their belts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member will not introduce Mr. Lang into this discussion.
– What about Scullin?
– We shall leave Mr. Scullin out of it, too. The people of Australia want advice from nobody to tighten their belts. The Senate is to be congratulated on its attempt to reduce the waiting time, but I think that this House should go further and eliminate all reference to a waiting time. Reference has been made to members of theSenate drowsing in their beards, but, at least, the Senate showed more sense than did the Government when it forced this bill through this chamber by means of the guillotine.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) sitehas risen to oppose the request of the Senate, it would appear that all supporters of the Government believe that contributors to the national insurance scheme who become sick should wait at least five days before being entitled to sickness benefit. I suppose that honorable members opposite have already expressed their views at, caucus meetings and know that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will not accede to the wishes of honorable members on this side of the chamber. I regret that the Minister declines to allow humanitarian instincts to override financial considerations.For years I have been associated with men receiving low rates of pay, many of whom are members of friendly societies or benefit funds formed by themselves which provide sickness benefit immediately their members are compelled to cease work through ill health. One . can readily realize that if sickness benefits are not available to the lower-paid workers it will be exceedingly difficult for them to maintain themselves or their families. Immediately men in receipt of low wages are compelled to be absent from their employment they begin to get into debt; and as they may be absent from work, owing to sickness, several times during the year, it is not long before they are verging on insolvency. Sonic time ago the Government appointeda nutrition committee with the object of ascertaining the quantity and quality of food necessary to improve the health of the community, but under this national health and pensions insurance scheme, which is supposed to improve the conditions of the people, the Government proposes to deprive contributors of any sickness payment for five days. I am wondering whether that committee will be asked to determine how long men can live without any food at all. Apparently they have to live five days without any sustenance whatever. I cannot understand why honorable members opposite have not expressed their views on the proposal, because, when the bill was under consideration in this chamber, they endeavoured to convince the Treasurer that, a period of less than the five days now proposed is desirable. The Treasurer promised to compromise between seven days and the first day, which we sug gested, and if this proposal embodies the best that the Government can do it is clear that it is not anxious to assist the lower-paid contributors to the scheme. It is a waste of time to. endeavour to persuade a hard-hearted Treasurer to do that which ought to be done. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that the period before which a contributor is entitled to payment is too long, and that the Government’s proposal is unnecessarily harsh.I suppose it will be said that the actuarial basis of the scheme will be affected if the period be further reduced.
– The Minister has not made that suggestion.
– We have been told from time to time that any increase of benefits will upset, the actuarial basis of the scheme, and it is surprising that that has not been the excuse in this instance. The Government and its supporters would have us believe that workers in receipt of low wages, who have no possibility of saving money, can live for a period of five days without any income at all. I regret that the Treasurer has adopted such an unsympathetic attitude towards our request, especially as some honorable members opposite stated when the bill was before this chamber, that they believed that a shorter period should be provided. Every opportunity will be taken by the members of the Opposition to tell the people exactly what the Government has done. As it refuses to accede to our request, all I cando is to utter my protest and to repeat that the Government places financial considerations before the real needs of a very deserving section of the people.
.- When the measure was previously under consideration, I understood the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to say that under a seven-day period the daily allowance would be one-seventh, that sickness benefits would be only 2s.10d. a day, and that for the two days it was intended to include it would amount to 5s. 8d. I regret that the Treasurer has not considered it desirable to follow the British act, and to provide that sickness benefits shall commence on the fourth clay. Originally the Government provided that such benefits should commence on the seventh day, but the Senate has now reduced the period to five days. The Treasurer has endeavoured to make the request appear reasonable by saying that under this scheme a week consists of seven days, whereas under the British act Sundays are excluded. The statistics compiled by the friendly societies disclose that the average sickness extends from 10 to 12 days, and it is therefore clearly demonstrated that insured persons will be receiving sickness benefits for only onehalf of the period during which they are sick. A person will have to be ill for 14 days before he receives one and a quarter weeks of sick pay. A person who is absent from work on several different occasions will lose a certain amount of sickness benefit on each occasion. Moreover, no definite provision has been made for the manner in which claimants will be declared to be off the sick fund. The doctors will have to work overtime in declaring persons off the fund on Sundays, because if a sick person goes off the fund on Saturday he will lose 2s.10d. Men do not work on Sundays, and a majority of those who have been in receipt of sickness benefits will endeavour to be declared off the fund on Sundays. This is merely a scheme to provide rent for the landlord, because all the money which insured persons receive must be used to liquidate tenants’ liabilities in that respect. Some employers who are sufficiently humane to pay their employees while temporarily absent from duty will now decline to do so because they will say that the employees are drawing sick benefit. I protest against the action of the Government in refusing to grant sickness benefit from the first day on which an employee isunable to work.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential request in clause 66 also made.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill amended accordingly, and returned to the Senate.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to give effect to a decision of the Government to guarantee a loan to be raised by the Administrator of the Territory of New Guinea to construct a road between Wau and Salamaua on the mainland of the Territory of New Guinea, over which a mandate was given to the Commonwealth by the League of Nations in 1920. At that time the territory had a white population of 3,000 and an estimated native population of about 750,000. In 1926, gold was discovered in the Morobe district, and the prospectors made their way through the dense forests of New Guinea towards that place which is now known as Wau. The track through this country is extremely rough. The mountains tower more than 6,000 feet high, and the track winds its way through precipitous gorges and dense tangled undergrowth. The hazardous journey took ten days, and prospectors suffered great hardships. Many of them died. From the very earliest days there was naturally a demand for better means of access. I, myself, introduced deputations, representative of the companies and individuals interested in the leases in the Morobe district, to Ministers in various governments, including that led by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). It was suggested by some that a railway should be constructed, and by others that a road should be built. Neither railway nor road has been built from that day to this, but it has been found possible to adapt the aeroplane to the purposes of transport, and the achievements of the aerial services in New Guinea have been little short of miraculous. They have done, and are doing, wonderful things; but though this form of transport is speedy, it. is also costly. Originally, the cost of freight from Salamaua to Wau was £100 a ton. It was gradually reduced until it stood for some time at £27 a ton, and at the present time is £21 a ton, or 2¼d. per lb. Everything that is brought up from the coast to Wau, and everything that is taken back from the gold-fields to the coast is carried by aeroplane. Prodigious loads are carried by air. Only a few days before I arrived at Wau, five cows were taken by air to Wau in one load. This conveys some idea of what aeroplanes can do. Some of the largest dredges in the world, immense dynamos, material for bridges, and huge pieces of machinery which, for their size, would attract attention even in our great cities, have all been carried,- in sections of course, by aeroplane. Honorable members will realize, however, as do the people of Wau, that high freight rates are hampering, and, indeed, altogether preventing, the development of the lower grade gold propositions. A road to the coast is essential to the economic development of the country. When I was in Wau recently, several deputations waited on me, one presenting a petition signed by more than 1,000 white residents, urging the immediate construction of a road from Wau to Salamaua. It was pointed out to me that Wau has the largest white population of any town in New Guinea, and it. is severely handicapped by its isolation.
The amount of wealth produced from the Morobe gold-field is astonishing. Just before I arrived there, £40,000 worth of gold was sent out from one mine alone for one week’s work. No less than £10,000,000 has been won since the field was first discovered, and, on the average, £160,000 worth of gold is sent down to the coast every month. Some mines, notably that at Edie Creek, which is at an elevation of 7,500 feet, are being worked at great disadvantage because of their inaccessibility. Some of the leases cannot be worked at all. It is a wonderful tribute to the energy of people of our race that they have succeeded in doing what lias been done at Edie Creek. The people of Wau want a road to be constructed. They suggest that the money for this road should be raised in the territory by way of loan guaranteed by the Commonwealth, interest and redemption charges to be met by a toll. I was informed that a. road could bc constructed at a cost of £150,000, and, that it could be finished in from two to three years. It is anticipated that when tho road is completed, the freight rate will bc reduced to £5 a. ton, plus toll charges. Only this morning I was waited upon by ft deputation representing interests at Wau and they re-affirmed what had been said to me when I was at Wau some little while ago. The members of the deputation were quite definite regarding tho practicability of constructing a road. They pointed out what I had, indeed, learned from my own observation, thar although the country is almost incredibly rough, roads can, in fact, be built. I have seen a great many roads in this and other countries, but the road’ from Wau to Edie Creek is worthy to “be classed as the eighth wonder of the world. It .has been constructed ,by native labour, and the grade is one in nine. From Wau, which is 3,500 feet high, it rises in a distance of 12 miles to an elevation of 7,500 feet at Edie Creek. It winds around the top of seemingly bottomless abysses that sicken one to look down upon. It is a triumph of engineering. Improved access to the sea is essential if this country is to be developed. Several alternative routes for the road have been suggested. Some are more or less direct, while others are more circuitous, and it is for the engineering experts to decide which shall be chosen. One of tho longer routes has the advantage that it would serve better to open up the agricultural country which stretches along the Markham Valley for 150 miles to the Ramu Plateau. It is- not for me to indicate which route shall be chosen. It is enough to say that the road should be, and must be, constructed.
– How can an estimate of the cost be made if tho -route has not been chosen ?
– Those who are qualified to give an opinion estimate that a road could .be constructed for £150,000. Some say that it could be done for as little as £S0,000.
– Who will pay the toll?
– Those who use the road, of course.
– Will the niggers have fo pay toll, too?
– I do not know whom the .honorable member means by “niggers “. There are no niggers in New Guinea. I am assured that the tonnage to be carried over the road will .return sufficient revenue to pay interest on the loan, and provide a. sinking fund. The residents of the Morobe district have done tremendously valuable pioneering work under conditions of almost incredible difficulty; surely they deserve something in return. Many of them are returned soldiers, and nearly all are Australians. They have shown themselves in that country, as their fellow-Australians- have done here, to be men of resource and energy, and they are now asking that this most populous centre in New Guinea shall be connected with the seaport, which the Government has decided shall he the future administrative capital of the Territory.
I am convinced that the proposition is a sound one, and that it is supported by all the people of Wau. 1. was waited on by deputations representative of every section of the community, including the Labour party. With one accord they urged most strongly that a road should be constructed. The promise of this road has been dangled before them for years, but nothing has been done. It is not for me or for any other honorable member to criticize past administrations. It is only fair to point out that the administration of the territory is called upon to develop a huge country with very slender revenues. The importance of gold in the economic life of the territoryneeds emphasizing. The value of the exports from the Territory of New Guinea for the year 1936-37 was £3,389,000, of which £2,020,000 represented the exports from the Morobe gold-fields. The revenues of the territory are more than half made up of royalties received from those goldfields. It is clear, therefore, that, because the administration of the territory is an agency of this Parliament, an obligation rests on the Commonwealth to do something for the people of New Guinea. I ask the House to support this measure, because it is a practical proposition that imposes no monetary obligation on the Commonwealth. The loan will be amply secured by the toll. Those who pay the toll will provide the freight on the road, and will be paying themselves back, as the toll receipts will be used to provide those who subscribe to the loan with interest and redemption payments, so that the loan will be repaid in the period for which the money is to be advanced. I arn satisfied that this is a sound proposition, and I recommend the House to accept it.
.- Over a considerable period, representations have been made to me by the president and other officers of the Labour party of New Guinea that steps should be taken by the Commonwealth Government to provide a toad from Salamaua to Wau. The substance of the case presented in support of the road is that the people at Wau are now dependent entirely upon aerial transportation, which costs on the average, about £21 a ton. The resultant concentration upon the richer ground shortens the life of mining propositions, and reduces the opportunities of the average man to take up a prospect with any hope of working it economically. The capital outlay is greater than it would be if transportation costs could be reduced. It has been represented to me that, if the desired road were constructed, the cost of freight could be reduced to approximately £6 a ton, as the result of the use of diesel-engined road vehicles. It is said that this charge, together with a toll of £1 a ton, would mean a very great saving on the present cost of freight, and at the same time would defray the cost of the loan and provide a sinking fund for its redemption. My informants are quite satisfied that go important economically is the construction of this road that there would be little doubt that the white population of New Guinea would be prepared to subscribe the loan, but, as the territory is administered under mandate by the Commonwealth, this Parliament would have to take the responsibility of guaranteeing the loan. They further state that, as far back as 1926, the Commonwealth Government decided to increase the royalty on gold from. 1 per cent, to 5 per cent., to provide revenue for the administration, and also to ensure the construction of roads and services in the Morobe district. I have ascertained that from the 1st July, 1926, to the 30th June. 1937, approximately £430,000 was collected as the result of the increase of the royalty.
– Not as the result of the increase. The figure mentioned by the honorable member is, I think, the total sum’ collected.
– That may be so. If so, the royalty would have amounted, without the increase, to only about £S0,0O0. In any case, the increase of the percentage has resulted in a very large sura being made available which would not otherwise have been forthcoining, and the imposition of these increased charges on the mining industry was intended to provide the money required for local services such as roads and the like. L am rather surprised that the Minister is not able to indicate the route of the proposed road, because”, obviously, the length of it will to a great extent determine its cost. It has been represented to me that the road will be 55 miles in length.
– By air line the distance is 30 miles. 33y one route, which has been surveyed ahead, it is 56 miles, and by others 42 miles and 70 miles. The road involving the longest route might, after all, be the cheapest to construct by reason of having the easiest grades.
– The Minister said that the cost had been estimated to be about £150,000, but the information furnished to me is that the cost would be about £180,000. I should not be astonished to find that the latter sum proved to be nearer the truth, because I understand that when tenders were called about three years ago, for the construction of the road from Wau to Edie Creek, the lowest tender was £14,000. That tender was not accepted, but a contract was let at £16,000. My information is that that price enabled the contractor to make a considerable amount of profit.
– The man who built that road is here in this House. It cost £24,000 for twelve miles. The grade is one in nine, and there arc hairpin bends every 100 yards.
– I do not doubt the assertions made to the Minister, but New Guinea is a long way from Australia, and other statements have been made regarding the cost of road construction there. The right honorable gentleman will be able to ‘refer to the files in the department. I submit that, before telling us that statements made in Canberra are impeccable, he should have fortified himself by a scrutiny of the documents.
– I have done my best in the matter.
– Are the documents here or in New Guinea?
– They are here, certainly. Those who recommended this road said it could be built for £150,000.
– I can appreciate their desire to keep the price low. If the estimated (jost were high, however much the right honorable gentleman might desire to gratify their wishes, his friend the Treasurer would cast a somewhat icy eye upon the project, and ask how far it was reasonable to expect the Commonwealth Government to guarantee a loan for such a considerable sum. I am convinced that the Minister would have been more justified than he is in submitting this proposition to the House if he had been able to describe the route, and say definitely what would be the cost of the road.
– How wide would it be?
– That I take it is a matter on which the engineers will satisfy themselves, and I am not disposed to quarrel with them in that regard.
– The Edie Creek road is only 12 ft. wide, and it cost £2,000 a mile.
– I am more concerned about knowing the extent of the obligation which the Commonwealth is asked to accept in guaranteeing the loan. I should like some assurance from the Minister that, in the construction of this road; duc regard will be paid to the protection, of’ native labour against unfair conditions, if not exploitation. I take. it. that natives will be employed under the supervision of whites. The greater part of the labour in the territory must obviously be provided by those who get their living there, but we should take care that in the engagement of labour with the imprimatur, ultimately, of this Parliament, adequate guarantees are given that the native labour will be fairly and properly treated.
– I can give a definite assurance on that point.
– Will the Minister see that the contract made, presumably, by the Administrator of New Guinea, will include the requisite specifications to guard native labour against improper treatment?
– No contract is let in New Guinea unless the conditions covering the employment of labour, as provided by ordinance, are embodied in the agreement.
Mr.CURTIN- If representations are made to the Minister for the tightening up of the ordinance, will he give the matter fair consideration?
– I shall see that the representations are placed directly before the Administrator, and I shall do what I can in the matter, as far as my influence goes, although I am assured, and believe, that the treatment of native labour in New Guinea will compare very favorably with that of white labour in many countries, I shall see that no room is left for criticism.
– It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that he will make representations that certain things should be done. I point out that the construction of the road is to be made possible by this Parliament guaranteeing the loan. Therefore, as the Minister has invoked the authority of this Parliament for the guaranteeing of the loan, he should also guarantee that the native labour will not be unfairly treated.
– I shall do that.
– I intend to support this bill. As the Minister, Mr. Hughes, has pointed out, the conquest of the gold-fields of New Guinea may be described as one of the world’s greatest victories. No story in fiction is more fascinating than the record of the achievements of the pioneers of this territory. The construction of a road between Salamaua and Wau has beenunder discussion for many years. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the gold royalty had been raised from 1 per cent. to 5 per cent. One of the reasons for that increase was to raise the money necessary for the construction of the road to Wau. I was the Minister for Home Affairs when the gold royalty was increased, and the five gold-mining companies operating in that area represented to me that they did not object to the increase provided a road was made to give access to the gold-fields. That was agreed to. I later sent a cablegram to the Ad ministrator in New Guinea asking, amongst other things, whether it was intended to build the road; if so, whether the road would carry wheeled traffic, and whether it would be opened within a period of two years. The Administrator gave me an affirmative assurance. I know that engineers and surveyors have been engaged for years in endeavouring to get a road from Salamaua to Wau. The big companies, particularly the Bulolo Company which had to transport its machinery into the Bulolo valley, was most anxious that the road should be constructed, because the machinery which had to be transported was too heavy to be transported by air at that time. Lengths of shafting for its dredges, weighing 3½ tons, could not be reduced in size, and the big fly-wheels were estimated to weigh up to 7 tons. Later, it was possible to manufacture the fly-wheels in three sections. The companies had waited for the road until they could wait no longer, and they were compelled to secure aeroplanes of the Junkers type capable of lifting 3½ tons dead weight. The Minister (Mr. Hughes) has said that past administrations may have been to blame for not having constructed the road, but one has to have some knowledge of the country to appreciate the difficulties of road construction there. I do not regard the road from Wau to Edie Creek as comparable with that to be constructed from Salamaua to Wau. Between Wau and Edie Creek the road rises 4,000 feet in a. distance of twelve miles. The Minister said that the gradient was 1 in 9 ; actually, there are certain parts in which the gradient is 1 in 9, but the average over the whole twelve miles is 1 in 15. That road is constructed in solid rock country where no landslides are likely such as occur further down towards the coast in the alluvial country and rich volcanic soil. As the result of efforts, particularly under the administration of General Wisdom, surveys were made and the construction of the road was actually commenced. Almost twenty miles of the road was constructed, but as fast as construction proceeded, the heavy rains experienced in that part of the territory brought down slices of the mountainside, and the road was obliterated.
– Maintenance costs were heavy ?
– I shall not pit my opinion against that of expert engineers, but if I were asked to express my view, I should say that the construction of the road will cost nearer £200,000 than £150,000, and that maintenance will cost £100,000 a year.
– What is the length of the road?
– About 60 miles.
– Just about the same distance as separates Canberra from Goulburn, and the honorable member anticipates £100,000 a year for maintenance!
– Yes, but that road bears no resemblance to the road from Canberra to Goulburn. One of the pioneers in this part of New Guinea made a track from Wau to Edie Creek before the administration attempted to make the road that is there now. This man proved himself a great pioneer. He built a motor truck out of odd motor parts taken to the gold-fields by native carriers, and on his primitive track he transported supplies for the miners from Wau to Edie Creek. But the road was so dangerous that he could not get passengers to go with him on his truck. To him is due a. tremendous amount of credit for the transport of stores to Edie Creek. The administration converted that track to a trafficable road at a cost of £24,000, but it is so narrow that only one vehicle can traverse it except where passing places have been cut. I agree with what the Minister has said in regard to the difficulties confronting miners travelling from Wau to Edie Creek in the early days. At that time they had to be hauled up the steep mountain sides by ropes. When I visited the territory, in 1927, I hauled myself up in places on ropes fixed by the early pioneers which were still dangling down the precipitous slopes. What has been accomplished in that area is a tribute to the courage and hardihood of the miners, both prospectors and employees of the companies. Whilst I shall not oppose this bill, which guarantees a loan tobe raised by the Administration for the purpose of road construction,
I agree with the Minister that it is rather a pity that the road was not constructed years ago, before it was necessary to purchase expensive aeroplanes for the transport of mining machinery to the goldfields. A gold mine is a wasting asset and the settlement at the gold-fields will not last after the gold has petered out. During six years, the Bulolo Company, with five Junkers’planes, transported to the Bulolo Valley 130,000 tons of steel and iron work alone. Under a system of amortization adopted by that company, the capital cost of its aeroplanes has now been completely written off. Freight rates from the seaboard to the gold-fields were originally1s. 6d. per lb.; later, they dropped to1s. 3d., and then to1s. per lb. Those rates made the cost of living in the gold-fields very high. Owing to increased competition between the various companies operating aerial services in New Guinea, the freight rate to-day in respect of government contracts is as low as 2¼d. per lb. But even those high rates were not nearly so high as those to central Australia, a territory under the direct control of this Parliament, where freight rates run as high as 3s. 6d. per lb. To the flying services of New Guinea, whether operated by companies or by individuals, is due a tremendous amount of the credit for their mastery of the air. I believe that the big company had only one accident, which was ascribed to the foolhardiness of the pilot in taking unnecessary risks. No accidents have occurred in connexion with the services of the other companies.
Whilst I am disappointed at the decision to establish the new administrative capital of New Guinea at Salamaua. againI say I have no right to criticize the advice of experts who have examined and reported on the proposed sites. I venture the opinion, however, that, in a tropical country, as many public servants as possible should be located in hill stations. In this respect, we might very well have followed the lead of India, which has a summer capital at Simla, and established the administrative capital of New Guinea in the interior. I should have preferred that the Government had accepted the committee’s recommendations that the administrative capital be established on the plateau in the Markham Valley inland from Lae. It has been suggested that the administrative capital should have port facilities, and that Lae can never become as good a port as Salamaua. I agree that that is so, but one has to recognize that all the heavy freights carried in New Guinea have been transported from Lae, and for nearly twelve years all the boats have gone to Lae, unloaded their cargoes into barges, which in turn unloaded at the wharf into the trucks of the 4-f t. 6-in. gauge railway line constructed by the Bulolo Company. It was from Lae that the 130,000 tons of mining machinery was flown to the goldfields. I agree that a suitable port is required, not so much for administrative purposes, as for the future development of New Guinea. I have stated that a gold mine is a wasting asset and the Minister himself mentioned that in connexion with the Ballarat gold-fields. We know, however, that when gold production at Ballarat and Bendigo waned, agricultural and pastoral development took place in the surrounding districts. In New Guinea, however, particularly in the Wau district, no agricultural and pastoral development will follow after gold mining has ceased.
– The route taken by the road will be very important from that aspect.
– My contention is that the road to Wau must eventually go up the Markham Valley and have one branch to the Bulolo Valley and another branch to the Ramu Plateau in the hinterland. It is on the Ramu Plateau that the greatest development in New Guinea will take place in the years to come. That is the only part of New Guinea in which the native population is engaged in any sort of agriculture.
– Would it be suitable for sheep grazing?
– Yes, it is wonderful country for that purpose. Some years ago, a pioneer crossed the Bismarck Ranges with 50 head of bullocks and built for himself a home on the banks of the Ramu River. His home was burnt down by the natives, but he built another, and to-day he is very firmly established there and has wonderful cattle which are transported to Wau to supply meat for the miners. I mention that case to shew the great pioneering spirit possessed- by the men who have exploited that area. I do not think that the Wau district, situated 3,500 feet above sea level, will ever be suitable for agriculture. When the dredging is finished there will be no soil to replace that which has been washed away. New Guinea possesses some of the finest forest country in the world.
– What kinds of timber grow there?
– Both softwoods and hardwoods. I understand that the Administration intends to appoint a number of forestry officers to survey the timber resources of the country. That is a wise policy. A timber getter has no right to take timber from the country without ensuring supplies for posterity. A policy of conservation and reafforestation is essential. Since the first aeroplane visited New Guinea, about twelve years ago, aeroplanes have carried many hundreds of tons of machinery and goods to various destinations, in the territory. I do not think that as much material will be carried over the proposed new road as was carried by aeroplanes ten years ago.
– The toll may not reach the estimate?
– I do not say that the Administrationhas made an error, but in my opinion, based on the experience of last year, only about 10,000 tons of material will be carried each year. Had a site on the tableland been chosen for the capital, the road could have gone up the Markham river and the Bulolo Basin, where the grade would not have been greater than one in twelve.
– Would that not necessitate crossing the river?
– Only at one spot, where there is already a flying fox. It is estimated that no great difficulty would be experienced in placing a pontoon bridge there.
– Over what river has a bridge already been constructed?
– There are several bridges over the Bulolo River. I have seen a surveyor’s sketch of a road to serve Edie Creek which would cross the river near the junction of the Watut and Bulolo Rivers, the grade of which would not be more than one in twelve. I do not ridicule the proposal of the right honorable gentleman, although I repeat that by the construction of a road up the Markham Valley, with a branch to the Bulolo field and another branch to the hinterland of Ramu, posterity would be better served than by the road now proposed.
-Can the honorable member give any information about royalties?
– I cannot do so beyond saying that the companies agreed to the royalties being raised to 5 per cent. on condition that moat of the money was expended on road construction. I do not decry past administrations, because during my six years’ experience as a Minister in two administrations I encountered many difficulties.
– Why was not the road built during the honorable member’s term of office ?
– The Administration carried out a number of surveys in an endeavour to give effect to the request of the miners and others for the construction of a road. I commend the Minister for making a personal inspection of New Guinea before bringing his proposals before Parliament, and I hope that the construction of the road will make the goldfield more successful than in the past.
– This bill guarantees a loan to build a road in New Guinea. Unlike the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), I have not been to New Guinea, and consequently, I have no first-hand knowledge of the route to be traversed. I am concerned that the Commonwealth Government is to guarantee money to enable contractors to carry out certain work in New Guinea. The Minister in Charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) says that the road will cost £150,000, but judging by his description of the country through which it will pass, and the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes, that estimate appears to be low. As, no doubt, native labour will be used, the contractor will most likely receive a considerable rake-off. I have no objection to native labour being used in New Guinea, because the inhabitants of the country are entitled to participate in any developmental work that may be undertaken. They are more entitled to do so than are white men who are not natives of the country. I am not objecting to the employment of native labour, butI am concerned that the natives should not be exploited. Wherever the white man has gone, slavery, misery and desolation have followed. That is the history of the treatment of native races by the white race. It is true of all white men, irrespective of nationality. The Minister says that the natives will be paid the ruling rates of wages. Does he mean that each man will be paid about 10s. a month, as is paid by the big mining companies to natives employed in the mines? The Minister does not answer, but I hope that he will do so when he replies to the second-reading debate, and not attempt to sidetrack the question by saying, as he did earlier in reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that the wages paid will be greater than some white men receive in other countries. I know that even in Australia, white men are paid wages insufficient to support them decently, but that does not dispose of my question. I wish to know definitely whether the ruling rate payable to natives will be 10s. a month.
– I do not know the rates, but I do know that the payment will include food and medical attendance. Regard must be had to all the circum-
– This National Parliament should not guarantee money to enable contractors to make big profits by exploiting native labour. Judging by the description of the country through which the road will pass, it would appear that only by the exploitation of native labour can It be built for £150,000. I have not a great knowledge of road construction, but I know sufficient to realize that roads are not easily constructed in difficult country such as that along the proposed route.
– Where will the contractor get labour if not native labour?
– Had the honorable gentleman been in the chamber listening to my remarks, he would know that I have already said that I do not object to the employment of native labour in New Guinea. I repeat that the natives are entitled to participate in the development of their own country. I do object, however, to their being exploited.
– How does the honorable member know that they will be exploited?
– I ask for an assurance that they will not be exploited. Even in Australia native labour is scandalously exploited by the “squattocracy.” As I have said, native labour is exploited in every country where the white man rules. I am concerned that the Commonwealth Government proposes to guarantee a loan for the building of a road by contractors whomay exploit native labour in order to make profits. The Minister in charge of the bill says that the natives will receive medical attention and food as part of their payment. I desire to know what kind of food they will receive.
– Probably their clothing will consist of loincloths.
– We have not been told what the ruling rate of wages in New Guinea is. Until we have that information, we cannot say whether or not there will be exploitation.
– I object to the honorable member’s statement if it means that I am in favour of exploiting the natives.
– I do not say that the right honorable gentleman is in favour of exploiting them. I merely want to ensure that the expenditure of Commonwealth money will not be associated with exploitation.
– I am as strongly opposed to the exploitation of native races as is the honorable gentleman.
-When the right honorable gentleman rises to reply, I hope that he will be able to say what the conditions of employment will be. I want some guarantee that contractors who undertake work, payment for which will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth, shall not be able to make profits by exploiting the native population of New Guinea. I urge the Minister to watch that phase of the subject carefully. As the work proceeds we shall have means of ascertaining the conditions under which the natives are employed. Should it be found that they are not amply protected, more will be heard on the subject in this House.
.- It is regrettable that the House is likely to adjourn this week without the Minister in charge of Territories (Mr. Hughes) giving to members the opportunity to study the report of the committee appointed to investigate sites for the capital of New Guinea, and to learn the reasons which led the Minister to override a recommendation of the committee, and to favour a proposal which it rejected only after careful examination.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that the site of the capital should be decided before a proposal to guarantee money for the construction of a road in its vicinity is authorized ?
– Yes. If we knew the route which the road will take, we should be in a better position to form a sound judgment as to its cost. In the report of the committee three different routes are proposed. They vary very considerably in length and traverse much different country - from a road which merely serves the gold-fields to one which would assist in the settlement and development of country likely to be permanently productive. I have a very high opinion of the Minister’s judgment in these matters, and think it unlikely that I would differ from the conclusion he has reached, but I feel sure that he would rather have the conclusion of Parliament based on a confirmatory investigation than on blind acceptance of his opinion. There has very definitely been a difference of opinion in regard to some of these matters. For example, on page 26 of the report of the committee, of which General Griffiths was chairman, the following statement is made : -
The Administrator personally favours Salamaua as port and capital, or Salamaua as the port and the capital at an inland site in one of the high river valleys.
The Administrator there referred to is General McNicoll. The opinion of any person who has had very much contact with the residents of New Guinea is that the opinion of General Griffiths would be much safer to follow than would that of any other man who has been in charge of the administration of New Guinea. The committee of which he was the chairman weighed up the different proposals and reached a conclusion that was at variance with that of the Administrator. I should very much like to hear the reason why the opinion of General Griffiths is being set on one side and that of the present Administrator adopted. The opinion of both men is entitled to respect, but by tho appointment of General Griffiths as chairman of the committee the Minister adopted him, to some extent at any rate, as the best authority it was possible to engage on the subject; yet, when his finding differs from that of the present Administrator, that of . the latter prevails. There is another reason for the comparative unsuitability of Salamaua ; it is discussed in the report at some length. The town of Salamaua, and the part which would have to be developed as a port, is subject to a certain degree of earthquake disturbance and tidal waves. In the year 1888 a tidal wave 30 feet high swept over that part of the coast of New Guinea. It would therefore be necessary to develop the new headquarters at some distance from the seaffront. The report further points out that there is not. much high ground at the back of Salamaua. It says -
There is elevated land at Parsee Point and also at Kila Point, but we doubt that there are sufficient areas at these points for the needs of the seat of Administration as it now stands, let alone the future growth which must be anticipated.
The committee further points out that there are considerable areas of malarial swamps between the port and those sites, and says that, in spite of a good deal of work which has been done in an attempt to check the fever the place has always been heavily infected with malaria of a particularly malignant type. It is regrettable that, in order to obtain quicker development of the centre near the commercial port, tho more remote desirabilities are given second place to the immediate convenience of having the administrative buildings near the port. General Griffiths has expressed doubt as to whether there is sufficient high land near the coast to accommodate a capital of the size required for the existing ad- ministration. It would be a pity if there should be the slightest doubt concerning the temporary requirements, and that the future development of a country which has such great possibilities as New Guinea should be entirely overlooked and a second move of the administrative centre should have to be made, say, 25 or 30 years hence. Each move would involve the taxpayers of the territory and possibly of this country also in a good deal of expense. Further, loss would be occasioned to the smaller business people. The big firms which have branches in a large number of centres would not be under much expense in transferring the centre of management from one branch to another, but it might mean almost ruin in the case of the smaller business people. The best interests of the territory would not be served if, in order that the Government might reach the cover of recess within a few hours, this very important matter were not given full consideration by this House, and the different interests affected by the change from the recommendation of General Griffiths’ committee to the decision of the Government were not given sufficient time to express their views concerning it. I agree most definitely with the Minister that the interests of the people on the gold-fields should be one of the major considerations. That is where most of the Australian citizens are located ; they are living in comparatively healthy surroundings. If it were a matter of their interests being disregarded by the establishment of the Capital at a more advantageous site for the eventual administration of the territory, I should certainly agree that it was more important to establish it at the most suitable point, at any rate until the gold-fields were worked out. But there appears to be no doubt that a good .road from the coast can be built to serve the gold-fields, passing somewhere near Lae, and meeting the requirements of the Markham Valley, with its possibilities of permanent development, almost as well as a road over the mountains from the gold-fields near Wau direct to Salamaua. The report of the committee which investigated the matter states that the mining community is quite favorable to Lae as the capital, provided a road is built to the coast at either Lae or
Salamaua. Therefore, it does not seem necessary to put the long-range considerations on one side in order to meet the present requirements of the very important community on the gold-fields. Still, circumstances being as they are, I do not propose either to vote against the bill or to make any other effort to delay its passage. I merely express the hope that every opportunity will be afforded to the various interests affected to express their views. In thus refraining from pressing for delay in the passage of the bill through this House, I have very great confidence in the Minister’s personal judgment in the matter, and also believe that, should further evidence be adduced, adjustments will be made before it is too late.
– I wish to make a few observations, in view of the conditions which I am led to believe prevail in New Guinea in connexion with native labour. I understand that this road is to be constructed under contract. The Minister has said that it will cost £150,000, and that the grade is to be 1 in 9. Others place the cost at approximately £200,000. That the cost of maintenance will be heavy, will be appreciated. But I am not concerned about the maintenance cost so much as I am about the exploitation of native labour.
– The cost of maintenance will, of course, be an ordinary charge on the administration.
– I understand that native labour will be employed in the construction of the road. The Minister has not so far indicated to the House the average payment made to native labour engaged by plantation owners. I have been informed that the custom is to recruit this labour in the native villages, and that it is utilized not only in connexion with gold-mining but also on plantations, the owners of which make contracts with the natives, who speak of “ making paper with the white man “. Although they do not understand the conditions of the contract, they are bound by its terms. I believe that some plantation owners pay as little as 5s. a month. The Minister should be able to say what is the prevailing rate paid by white men who utilize native labour. I could not consent to these unfortunate people being exploited as they have been in the past. I have mentioned in this House the illtreatment meted out to these natives. Some of them have actually been beaten to death by white men. On such a charge in New Guinea one white man was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years in New South Wales.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
Mr.JAMES. - I wish to know what rate of wages will be paid to natives engaged in the construction of this road, for which purpose this measure seeks to appropriate by way of loan to New Guinea, a sum of £150,000. This money is to be recouped by a toll, but the Minister has not informed us as to the period of repayment. We are entitled to object to the employment of natives in this work under conditions similar to . those prevailing on the plantations. In reply to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who asked by way of interjection, whether we knew they were going to be exploited, I point out that native labour is being exploited to-day in New Guinea. We should not be a party to similar exploitation when it is a matter of employing natives in the more arduous work of road construction. I agree that natives should be given preference in this work, but I am opposed to any form of exploitation of them. The Minister, I suggest, should give the House more definite information concerning this road which it is proposed to construct from Salamaua to Wau. Men who have spent many years in New Guinea are incensed at the cruel treatment of native labourers by the White man. I have always admired the efforts of British peoples in the past to abolish slavery, but in New Guinea to-day under the administration of this Government, wage slavery of the worst possible kind is being re-introduced.
-Order ! The honorable member is going far beyond the limit of legitimate debate on this measure.
– I urge that slavery in any form should not be tolerated by this Government in any territory under its control. To-day, in New Guinea, native labour is being exploited by the white man on plantations. This is certainly a tragedy, and so long as we permit such a form of slavery, we shall be failing in our responsibility.
– Order!I shall not allow the honorable member to proceed if be intends to discuss generally the administration of New Guinea. He may make reference to the employment of labour in the construction of the road proposed under the measure.
– If we cannot have information with regard to the rate of wages to be paid to native labour-
– The honorable member is not seeking information; he is simply hurling abuse.
– I am sorry if the Minister interprets my remarks in that way. He should at least inf orm honorable members of the rate of wages which will be paid by the contractors to natives who will be engaged in the construction of this road, but so far he has failed to do so. Because I ask for such information he says that I am hurling abuse. If we cannot administer the Territory of New Guinea better than we are doing at present, so far as exploitation of native labour is concerned, then the sooner we return that territory to Germany the better.
.- This proposal is made in consequence of the Government’s decision to transfer the capital of New Guinea from Rabaul to Salamaua, which, I suggest, is of as much importance to the people of Australia as it is to the people of New Guinea itself, because New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, stands as a buffer to Australia in case of emergency. Salamaua is situated on a small peninsula, the country being low-lying similar to that about the Spit, Sydney, with the exception that Salamaua faces the ocean. When the proposed road is constructed, Wau will probably become the largest and most important centre in New Guinea, whilst Salamaua will be merely the nominal capital. Wau is situated on a plateau 3,500 feet above sea level, and its inhabitants are a vigorous people who are anxious to develop the district as quickly and effectively as possible. Its airport, situated in the centre of the town, is one of the finest in the southern hemisphere. There are about 35 aerodromes in New Guinea, and its air transport system is one of the most efficient in the world. When I visited Wau three years ago I met many of the prominent townspeople, and was impressed with their desire to help in the progress of the district. Even at that time they expressed a desire that the capital of New Guinea should be established there. Considerable building construction was in progress, this industry being facilitated by the fact that the district abounds with good timber. I feel sure that Wau will develop into one of the most progressive centres in New Guinea.
The proposal to construct a road from Salamaua to Wau is not by any means new, but previously the project was abandoned, I understand, owing to the great difficulties involved. The absence of road communication, however, has been largely instrumental in the development of New Guinea’s fine airways system. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes.) referred to the road from Wau to Edie Creek, which was constructed at a cost of £2,000 a mile, the road being twelve feet wide and negotiating many hairpin bends, with, in some place, only inches to spare from the edge of abysses 1,000 feet deep.From our experience, three years ago, we know that aeroplane flights in New Guinea offered no greater thrills than were experienced on a motor trip up this road. The cost of road maintenance in mountainous country of this nature is tremendous; owing to the torrential rainfall landslides are frequent. For these reasons the proposal under this measure should be very carefully investigated. I am very sorry that the Minister has not been able to give more details with regard to it. The average cost of constructing roads, eighteen feet wide, in the Federal Capital Territory in heavy country involving considerable rock excavation is £6,000 a mile. This road, which is to be constructed in similar country, is estimated, I understand, to cost £2,000 a mile. All I can say is that I hope that this estimate proves to be correct, because it seems a remarkably low cost.
– The honorable member must remember that native labour will be employed in this work.
– I am not opposing the bill, but merely suggesting, in view of the cost I have cited of road construction in similar country in the Federal Capital Territory, that the estimate of £2,000 a mile in respect of this road is a very low figure indeed.
– I believe it will be found that the cost will be nearer- £180,000 to £200,000 than the figure mentioned by the Minister.
– I would not be surprised if the actual cost will be much higher than the estimate, and that the cost crf maintenance of this road also will be considerable. I hope, however, that the estimate will prove to be correct.
– I am not personally acquainted with conditions in New Guinea but I have been sufficiently interested in its problems to inquire from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) at question time what action was being taken to move the capital of New Guinea from Rabaul, and also to investigate different aspects of the matter. I regret that the Minister has not placed at the disposal of honorable members facilities to enable them to acquaint themselves with various reports submitted to the Government on this subject. I have just received from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) the report of the committee which was laid on the table only this morning. If honorable members are expected to cast an intelligent vote on this measure they are entitled to full access to such reports.
– The report of the committee mentioned by the honorable member does not deal with the construction of a road from Salamaua to Wau. That committee was appointed to advise the Commonwealth only in relation to a newsite for the administrative head-quarters of New Guinea.
– It amounts to much the same thing. The terms of reference to that committee required it fully to inquire into all aspects of the removal of the head-quarters of the New Guinea administration from Rabaul, and to report as to the most appropriate location in the territory for such head-quarters. I take it that the administrative headquarters are now to be shifted to Salamaua.
– Certainly, but this measure deals solely with a proposal to construct a road from Salamaua to Wau.
– My point is that the contents of this committee’s report are a mystery to honorable members because we have not been given an opportunity ~to peruse it. We may agree, or disagree, with the committee’s findings, but we have not been given an opportunity to study them. From a cursory glance at its report I find. that the committee recommended that Lae should be the administrative head-quarters. I have every confidence in the ability of the Minister to deal with this matter, but I should like a full explanation from him as to the reasons which actuated the Government in departing from the committee’s recommendation. This matter is very important, because it involves the establishment of a new capital of what promises to become a very great country some day.
– This bill does not deal in any way with the administrative head-quarters of New Guinea.
– That subject is involved in the discussion. I trust that the Minister will make a fuller explanation than, he has so far made of the reasons why the Government disregarded the report of the special committee.
– At the moment I am not concerned so much about the Government’s decision in regard to the new capital of the Mandated Territory as I am about the proposal to allocate £150,000 for a road into tlie interior without furnishing honorable members with any indication of the route that it will take. It seems to me that the proper course would have been to determine the route, and then estimate the cost of making the road. How can the Government say that £150,000 will meet the cost of making a road which, for engineering or other reasons, may take a roundabout route to link the two ter- minal points. It may be that the road will cost £180,000 or even £200,000.
– On the other hand, it may cost only £120,000.
– The Minister’s remark shows clearly that this is a blind stab. It is possible that in regard to this road influences may be brought to bear upon the Government to do something which is not in the best interests of the territory. We all know very well that in the early days of railway building in this country powerful interests were able to influence the routes of proposed railways for their own benefit and very much against the best interests of the country generally. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who has had considerable experience in the Mandated Territory urged the Government to keep in mind, not only the possibilities of gold production, but also those of agricultural development. The gold areas of New Guinea will undoubtedly be exhausted some day, so we should not confineour attention to the mining aspect of the subject alone. If, by the expenditure of an additional £20,000, rich areas sui table for agricultural purposes could be tapped, it would be common sense to spend the extra money. I admit that I have had no personal experience in regard to the Mandated Territory, but in 1930 I met, on behalf of the Prime Minister, a deputation representative of New Guinea interests which directed attention to this very subject. It will be appreciated, therefore, that we are not dealing with a new problem. The Administration has hadmore than a month or so to consider the whole situation. Though in 1930 our attention was forcibly confined to affairs within Australia, the situation has since altered. It seems to me that surveys could have been made and full details placed before the House in connexion with this whole project. I hope that the Minister in his reply will give us some additional information.
.- I know something of the conditions that apply to the employment of native labour by pearlers in North Australia. Very stringent regulations are in operation there to protect the coloured workers. I sincerely trust that the Government will take all possible care to ensure that the native workers engaged in the construction of this road will be fully protected. I understand that their rate of pay is approximately 10s. amonth, plus the provision of certain clothes and health services, including medical supervision. Contractors are all too ready to squeeze the last ounce of energy out of the workers, whether they be white or black. There is need, therefore, that the workers’ interests shall be fully protected. The purpose of this bill is to guarantee a loan on behalf of the administration of New Guinea. That seems to me to be a proper course to take. The Labour party in the Mandated Territory is anxious that this road should be built and we should afford the project every assistance. I trust, however, that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) will give us an assurance that all practicable steps will be taken to protect the interests of the men who will be engaged on this arduous undertaking.
– in reply - It was inevitable that in introducing this bill I should leave a great deal unsaid. My long parliamentary experience has taught me not to provoke discussion. I had hoped that the lateness of the hour and the placidity of my demeanour would encourage honorable members to confine their attention strictly to the provisions of the bill, as I did myself; but it is possible to expect too much. I apologize to honorable members for not divulging the reasons which caused the Government to select Salamaua as the new administrative headquarters instead of Lae as recommended by the committee of experts. I can give the reason in a sentence or two. The committee appointed by the Government insisted that even though Lae became the new capital a seaport would be necessary at Salamaua. That being so, the Government could see no good and sufficient reason why the new capital should be located at Lae. I do not pretend that Salamaua is ideally situated. But I remind honorable members that although Babaul is a veritable Garden of Eden we had to flit from it because of the fear of volcanoes. We did so with the utmost regret. It is possible to provide some protection against earthquakes but nothing can be done to cope with volcanoes. It was therefore essential to move from the thin crust of earth which covers the northern side of the mainland and the islands of New Britain and New Ireland Volcanic areas of that kind were not suitable for the establishment of towns. As a port was essential, the Government considered it advisable that the administrative capital and the port should be centred at Salamaua. It is not denied that Lae has certain advantages over Salamaua, but it also has serious disadvantages.
The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said that the Government should construct a road to the Ramu plateau. That will probably be done some day; but. the Government could not possibly neglect the insistent and persistent requests that have been made during the last twelve years for the construction of a road from the gold-fields area to thesea. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has reminded us that gold valued at £10,000,000 has already been extracted from the Bulolo Valley which is one of the richest gold areas in the world. We owe something to the people who have won this wealth from the earth. They want a road to the coast, and it should be provided for them. It has been said that this gold country will one day be exhausted. That is so. It is nothing new to exhaust gold-fields. Much gold was mined at Ballarat, and at Bendigo, and those fields are not what they once were ; but the adjacent country has proved of considerable agricultural value. It is estimated that the life of the rich Bulolo Valley, for mining purposes, is fifteen years; but it is also estimated that the provision of a road to serve the very large area of 8 dwt. land in that region would extend the life of the field for eight years. A road from Salamaua is not only necessary in the interests of Wau, but it is a sound economic proposal.
Obviously I cannot give honorable members any information as to the exact route which the road will take. That is a matter for decision by the engineers, and I shall be advised by them. All I say is that I shall make a road. If I were Peter the Great, I would take a ruler and rule a straightline across the map, but I am not Peter the Great. I shall take the route recommended by the engineers.
– They ought to recommend the route before the right honorable gentleman gets his bill.
– Come, come. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) should not make interjections of that kind. They are not helpful. The route is to be determined by the engineers. The honorable member made a point which he elaborated a great deal that the amount of money set out in the bill is £150,000. That is true. The amount is so fixed because that was the amount that those who want the road estimated that it would cost. We cannot guarantee an unlimited amount. Supposing that the road does cost £180,000, that will not stop it from being built. The guarantee is for £150,000 and no more. The resources of the Administration or other resources can be called upon to make up any deficiency. The Commonwealth will not be called upon to pay a penny. The period of the loan is to be determined by the Treasurer. The toll will be at such rate as will cover interest and sinking fund.
I very much regret the tone of criticism of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). I am sure that he did not mean what he said, but his remarks could be construed in a way that would do this country infinite harm. I venture to say that no country in the world has ensured better conditions for the natives over whom it has control than has Australia for the people of New Guinea. To talk about exploitation in relation to those people is absurd. There is exploitation in Australia, but there is none in New Guinea. Our policy is New Guinea for the New Guinea natives. I have been one of the strongest supporters of the White Australia policy but I am no less a supporter of New Guinea for the New Guineans.
– “ New Guinea for military purposes and hang the native ! “ That was the right honorable gentleman’s policy. I have not forgotten it. I was a member of the same Parliament.
– The honorable member for Batman must refrain from interjecting.
– I never dreamt that the honorable member for Batman would break out like that. He is really wonderful ! There is no exploitation of the New Guinea natives. No one is compelled to work in New Guinea. That cannot be said of Australia where the people have to work or die - unless they go on the dole. There is no scarcity of food in New Guinea. There is an abundance of everything. The natives have theirhunting grounds and their gardens. If they work it is because they want to work. Whatever their wages are in money is not to the point - it is what their wages will get them.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) made some very pertinent and useful observations. He said that safeguards should be provided in any contract or any provision that is made for the construction of this road. I agree with him. I shall seethat the provisions which he seeks arc made to ensure the payment of a fixed wage, medical attention, housing and food, and, in short, to ensure that care which is essential for the well-being of the natives. I give an assurance that those provisions will be inserted, so that care will be taken as far as possible to make ideal the conditions under which the natives labour.
I hope that if I have overlooked any point that has been taken, honorable members will bear with me. I recommend the bill to the House as a tardy recognition of the needs of Wau and of the people who have done so much to develop this great territory of New Guinea.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Thursday30, June 1938.
Sitting suspended from 12.7 to 12.40 a.m.
– Honorable members are aware that the Legislative Council of New Guinea consists of a certain number of Government officials who are ex officio members of the council, and a number of non-official members who represent the planters, gold miners and members of the commercial community. Will the council, which has to approve the expenditure of large sums of money, that may seriously affect the taxes imposed on the people; have to approve of this loan?
– In order to give effect to this proposal it will require an ordinance which must be passed by the Legislative Council.
– An important point in connexion with this proposal is the conditions under which native labour is employed. I have had quite a long experience in this chamber, and know the circumstances under which responsibility for the control of New Guinea was assumed by the Commonwealth under mandate. I would remind honorable members that we have to satisfy not only our consciences in respect of the treatment of native labour, but we are also responsible to the League of Nations. This proposal is entirely bound up in the principles underlying the mandate system, and too much care cannot be directed to the treatment of the natives, because one of the terms upon which we hold the mandate is that we shall be able to justify ourselves before the bar of the League when that body is considering the way in which the mandate is being carried out. When the Commonwealth assumed the control of this territory under mandate no consideration was given to the conditions or rights of the natives. They were utterly disregarded. All that was considered by the then Prime Minister was the advantages which the Commonwealth would enjoy for military purposes. The rights of the natives wore entirely disregarded by the Government of that time. Having a clear memory, I recall the bitter debates which ensued, and I trust that under this measure some reparation will be made for the neglect of the Government, which at that time was led by the Right Hon. W. M. Hughes.
Bill agreed to and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 2770), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The inveterate principle of the redress of grievances before Supply is granted cannot be ignored, and although it is ten minutes to one in the morning I have many grievances, but I do not expect them to be redressed, and, indeed, that is my first grievance. Parliament has been sitting for only a few weeks, and, in accordance with the practice of this Government, in order to get business through, we have to sit late at night. If it is a fact that this Government wishes to preserve democratic institutions in Australia, why does it manifest so large a measure of contempt for this Parliament, and the parliamentary system? It may be a matter personal to Ministers themselves. It may be that they find the summer heat of Canberra too severe for their delicate complexions. It may be that they find the frosts of Canberra in mid-winter so trying that they are not able to acquire sufficient supplies of bed-socks, warm pyjamas, and hotwater bottles, to induct them to risk their health by a longer residence in the national capital than a fortnight now and again in periods widely separated. Therefore, we are required to discuss the really serious problems of the day in the early hours of the morning, in order that Ministers may be convenienced, and in order that they, and those honorable members who support the Government, may return to their homes, and have nothing further to do with the duties appertaining to their positions as representatives of the people than to draw their allowances, and to exercise their talents in the direction of finding jobs for their friends. That is an incidental task belonging to members of this Parliament, but in which, I confess, I have never been too successful.
Of course, as I am well aware, it is not the policy of a fascist government to consult Parliament more than it must. Parliament is, for that kind of government, an embarrassment, and not an aid; but I warn honorable gentlemen of the Ministry that, if they persist in this policy of disregarding the claims of Parliament as a democratic institution, they will fall between two stools. They will earn the respect neither of the true Fascists nor of the proletariat, and in due course - I hope at an early date - they will occupy between those two stools the ignominious position which they will have earned.
I have another grievance which I want to ventilate this morning at this extremely inopportune hour. At least, I can have what I say, provided it is in parliamentary terms, placed in the records of the Parliament, and conveyed at the proper time to those outside this chamber who will be interested in it. I am, in fact, much concerned with the application in Victoria of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act, in its effect, not only upon the farmers, but also upon business people, and even on those members of the working class who are dependent on the business people. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) recently dealt in a very trenchant manner with this subject, but, unfortunately, he seems to be the only honorable member in this House, outside the Labour party, with a clear conception of the rights and obligations of the farming community. The Labour party, being interested in the working class, has always maintained its interests also in the working farmer. It finds itself under the pressing duty, of coming to the aid of the only real representative in this Parliament of the farmers, so as to make sure that their rights’ are protected; to make sure that they are not filched away by those associates of the United Australia party who trade under the name of the Country party for the purpose of seeking election, and then desert the farmers at the very first moment that a prize of office is offered to them.
When this matter was raised by the honorable member for Wimmera, the Treasurer said in reply that there seemed to be some misconception in the minds of the people generally as to the purpose and scope of the act.
– I did not say that, as a matter of fact.
-Does the Treasurer deny that he said in my presence, and in the presence of other honorable members, that there was a grave misconception regarding the purpose of the act?
– I did not say that there was a misconception regarding either the purpose or the scope of the act.
– Normally, I should, of course, be only too happy to accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance on a question of fact if it were within his special knowledge, but as I was here, and heard him speak, and took particular note of what he said, I must account my memory just as good as that of the honorable gentleman, and most unquestionably he said that there was much misconception as to the purpose of the act. I say that the purpose and scope of the act emerge from the terms of the act itself. The act provides in clear terms for the raising of a loan of £12,000,000 for a specific purpose, and the Government, disregarding the specific purpose, has not kept faith with the States, and, particularly, the State of Victoria. On the contrary, it has left Victoria and the farmers of that State in the lurch in regard to farmers’ debt adjustment. The explanation would appear to be that the Loan Council has met, and that some of the States - a majority of the States, it may be suggested - have urged the Treasurer to make additional money available for works. To the extent that money has been required for works, the Treasurer has reduced the amount which was to be available to the farming community for debt adjustment.
– The Loan Council, which includes the Premier of Victoria, reduced it.
– I am not addressing myself to this question as an advocate for the Premier of Victoria or for the Country party, but I am regarding it from the point of view of a member of this Parliament, and urging that the Commonwealth Government should maintain agreements made with the farmers or any other section of the community in the letter and spirit of the bond. Section 3 of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt Adjustment) Act 1935 provides -
The Treasurer may, from time to time, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1933, or under the provision of any act authorising the issue of
Treasury Bills, borrow moneys not exceeding in the whole the amount of twelve million one hundred thousand pounds.
Section 4 is the important provision. It states -
The amount borrowed shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of expenditure in accordance with this act to provide for the grant to the several States, by way of financial assistance, of moneys to be used for the payment to or for the benefit of farmers to enable them to make compositions or schemes of arrangement with their creditors in respect of their debts.
The money was to be used for that purpose and no other; the section is mandatory. That is the authority which this Parliament gave. Section 6 is also mandatory, and it indicates the proportions in which this money was to be granted. Very elaborate precautions were taken. The Commonwealth Statistician was called into consultation in order to ascertain precisely the proportions in which the money should be made available, and the following distribution was provided for-
The money was to be handed to the State authorities under very strict conditions. The first condition was that the States should set up machinery for the purpose of discharging in whole or in part the debts of farmers by means of compositions or schemes of arrangement between farmers and any or all of their creditors. The States, acting on that understanding, provided the necessary machinery, and it was accepted by the Commonwealth Government as entirely satisfactory. Another condition was that the States should make the money available only to those farmers who had a reasonable prospect of successfully carrying on farming operations, and who would continue to conduct them. Several other strict conditions were imposed, and, above all, it was understood that this was to be something different from a moratorium which connotes long delay and procrastination.
The Acting Prime Minister at the time (Sir Earle Page) said that this was a matter of giving speedy cash assistance to farmers for a specific purpose. The essence of the bill was that the assistance should be prompt and immediate in its nature, to make cash available to the farmers who needed it. In the right honorable gentleman’s speech on the second reading of the bill, there occur many passages in which stress was laid upon the object for which the money was to be loaned. If honorable members refer to page 235 of Hansard of the 21st March, 1935, volume 146, they will see that the right honorable gentleman said -
Any advance made will be, not for the purchase of plant, the effecting of improvements, or the conduct of operations during the period of debt adjustment, but solely for the purpose of dealing with debt composition. We wish to make it quite clear that the general purpose of rural rehabilitation is not being covered bythis measure; that problem concerns, not merely that section of the farmers which is to be assisted under this measure, but the whole body of farmers as well.
Later, he stated -
The Commonwealth has strongly resisted that suggestion- that the money might he used for a general scheme of rehabilitation of the farmers - because it feels that the money available is barely sufficient to deal with the aspect here covered.
Throughout his speech the right honorable gentleman insisted, as is set out with the utmost clarity in the act itself, that the money to be made available was for a specific purpose. When the States accepted the money on those terms, and set up the machinery which was necessary to give effect to the loan and its allocation amongst the States, there was a definite contract. I do not claim that it was certainly a contract enforcible as a legal instrument, but I say with confidence that there was set up a strong moral agreement at the very least, with ample consideration to perfect that agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and binding the Commonwealth in the way, and for the purpose, which I have indicated. Victoria was amongst the first of the States to set up the necessary machinery and to proceed with the adjustment of the farmers’ debts. The Treasurer now makes the audacious complaint that. Victoria has proceeded too fast!
– When did he say that?
– Last week. I hope he will not deny that, too. Why has Victoria gone too fast? And in what respecthas it gone too fast? It has gone ahead rapidly in carrying out the adjustment of the farmers’ debts in the letter and in the spirit of the agreement made with the Commonwealth. This matter affects, not only the farmers, but also the credit and vitality of our economic system as a whole. It affects notably trustees and those who carry on business, particularly those who invest funds for beneficiaries. When this Parliament enters the wide field of trade and business, it is necessary that whatever is arranged to be done shall be done promptly and decisively, so that those affected by a measure of this kind will know to what degree they will be affected, when the statute will cease to operate, and, generally, what is the ambit of its operations. The unfortunate farmer - who is looking to this measure as a way out of his oppressive difficulties which were advertised and enunciated in this chamber not so long ago by the only honorable member, outside of the members of the Labour party, representative of the farming community in Victoria, namely, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) - should know how he will be affected by it. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has intimated, that, the Premier of Victoria might, have made a very simple calculation in order to ascertain how much money he was entitled to from the Loan Council for the purpose of debt adjustment. My comment upon that is that the simple calculation, whatever other features it may have, would be based first upon the terms of that statute and secondly, upon the agreement made between the States and the Commonwealth, the one being disregarded and the other broken by the Commonwealth Government. That is the position as I see it. In these circumstances, the Treasurer, I think, very impertinently, says that the State of Victoria finds itself in difficulties. That State finds itself in no difficulties except those brought about by a breach of faith on the part of the
Commonwealth Government. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Pater- son) stood in his place and, by that process of interrogation which we have come to know by the homely and euphonious title of Dorothy Dix, put certain questions to the Treasurer. First, he stated that he was much interested in the representations made by the honorable member forWimmera, but as he continued to speak it was obvious that his interest in those representations was limited to his anxiety to extract from the Treasurer something which would operate as a complete answer to the honorable member for Wimmera and cause his discomfiture. He addressed to the Treasurer a number of rhetorical questions as to whether it was not a fact that the States had preferred that some of their loan moneys should be diverted to works instead of to debt adjustment, and whether that was not the reason for the very great shortage in the advances made by the Treasurer in respect of debt adjustment. In the latter question lies the very gravamen of our complaint. It was perfectly clear that the honorable member for Gippsland, who has so recently passed off, if I may say so with respect, the pay-roll of the United Australia party, was concerned not with the interests of the farmers but with his reputation as one associated irrevocably with the United Australia party to the great detriment of the farming community in the State of Victoria. That was the position of my respected friend, the honorable member for Gippsland. The Treasurer, taking his cue from the honorable member for Gippsland, made a succession of very polite bows as the speaker continued, in that excellent shop-assistant’s manner so characteristic of him, and expressed his entire approval of those rhetorical questions, and said that it was quite true that the States required more money for works and, therefore, there was less money for debt adjustment. The simple fact is that this bond between the Commonwealth and States in respect of debt adjustment had nothing to do with works; the statute simply provided £12,000,000 for debt adjustment and, in my view, in so far as the Commonwealth has gone outside the purposes of the statute and has employed the money for purposes other than those for which it was earmarked by the statute, it has acted illegally.
– I invite the honorable gentleman to look at section 3 of the act, which states that the Commonwealth shall provide the money “ from time to time.”
– I have quoted it. I ask the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) if he will take upon himself the responsibility of saying that, from time to time, the Commonwealth Government has made advances which could be raid to honour in substance the promise made by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) when he introduced the bill into this House.
– I should like the honorable member to quote those promises.
– As regards the precise amount promised,I might be able to supply the figure later on; at the moment, however, I am able to say that there is no dispute about the fact that the money has not been supplied within millions of that promise. The Treasurer does not deny that, and he gives as his reason that the money was diverted to other purposes. Because of that admission I have not made a feature of the precise amount promised and the amounts paid; but I know that the discrepancy is very great, and that the Treasurer does not argue that point. The Treasurer and the honorable member for Gippsland say, “ We have acknowledged that the States have not had the money promised for debt adjustment because it was diverted to other purposes at their request”. To that, my answer is that that was the very moment at which the honorable member for Gippsland should have been heard in this chamber. If he had been a critic and not a member of this Government he would have said that money which should have been applied to debt adjustment in all States of the Commonwealth was diverted to public works in Victoria, one State of the Commonwealth.
– Is the honorable member quarrelling with that?
– I am not quarrelling with any money raised for the purpose of public works, and I am not arguing whether the amount applied for the purpose of public works was adequate or inadequate ; but I am saying and maintaining that whatever was applied for the purpose of public works, £12,000,000 of that money was appropriated by this Parliament for the specific purpose of debt adjustment.
– To be expended “from time to time.”
Mr.BRENNAN.- I have dealt with that. Where, may I ask, have been the champions of country interests in this Parliament? They have been silent. Over in the ministerial ranks we have the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), who, before he became a member of this Ministry, declared, in effect, that members of Parliament had to be disciplined and that the first act of discipline to be applied to them was to see that they did not sell themselves to any United Australia party government. From the day the honorable gentleman joined this Government, however, we have never heard his voice raised in any effective manner on behalf of the farming community of the State from which he comes. The same may be said of the Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, before he joined the Government, was loudest in his criticism of it. As a matter of fact, the honorable gentleman crashed into the ranks of ministerialists by his caustic criticism of the Government. The honorable gentleman made himself so obnoxious from the outside that the Government found it better to bring him inside; having done so, it discovered that, like the apple with the codlin moth, he is much worse inside than he was outside. The provision of this money was not to be dependent upon the decision of the Loan Council; it had nothing to do with the Loan Council. When the bill was introduced into this House the then Acting Prime Minister did not tell the people of Australia, and certainly not the people of Victoria, after he made his eloquent speech stating how much he had resisted the efforts on the part of others to make any part of this money available in any general scheme of rehabilitation, that the provision of the money was to be dependent on the Loan Council. At that time the question of making it available for works never arose for a single moment. The right honorable gentleman said firmly that it was not to be applied for general rehabilitation purposes. The position now is that Victoria finds itself in serious difficulties. It has arranged compositions; it has a very efficient scheme of arrangements prescribed by the Commonwealth and set up by a statute approved by the Commonwealth for the purpose of dealing with these debts; it has entertained applications of debtors, and through its officers it has made compositions in respect of those debts. It is ready to proceed to completion with the adjustment ofthese debts. All sections of the people - workers in industry, business men, especially the working farmers - are most anxious that this machinery should continue to work smoothly, efficiently and rapidly until the work has been accomplished. The Treasurer says that Victoria is in difficulties because it has proceeded too rapidly. The money has gone somewhere else. That is no excuse for the Treasurer departing from both the letter and the spirit of this statute, from the promises made by the Acting Prime Minister at the time, and also from the agreement which was entered into with representatives of the farmers, as is shown in a parliamentary paper of 1934, entitled, “Report of a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers with regard to Agricultural Matters”. At the conference, he dealt with the subject of debt adjustment, and it was there that the loan of £12,000,000 was foreshadowed by him. Even at that early stage, the agreement set out that “advances and/or payments will only be made available to effect composition payments in respect of liabilities which it is necessary to compound to ensure the farmer remaining in production and to give him a reasonable prospect of carrying on successfully”. That was the beginning. First, there was the agreement; then followed the statute, the speech, the breach, and finally, the insult about Victoria proceeding too rapidly. Victoria was only doing what it was bound to do. One of these gentlemen who claim to be members of the Country Liberal party is the present Acting Minister for Commerce.
– I come from South Australia.
– That is so. The honorable gentleman must answer for himself in that State. But the Minister for the Interior comes from Victoria. He has a lot to account for. I want him to account for this matter of debt adjustment, and to explain to the working farmers of Victoria how it is that he is sitting beside a Treasurer who, figuratively, apologizes and endeavours to explain the fact that money that was set aside for the relief of the present needs of the farming community has been hypothecated for other purposes, with the result that the money is not now available within the bond. Millions of pounds can be found for hysterical war-like operations, as well as for “wild cat” national insurance purposes, but no money can be found for the protection of small working farmers. Nothing could be done for them by honorable gentlemen who are supposed to represent farming interests!
- (Mr. John Lawson). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
.I was extremely interested in the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who said that two matters were of paramount importance at the present time. I agree with him that defence - one of the subjects mentioned - is most important, and that in expenditure on defence money is likely to be squandered. Beyond saying that it is necessary to exercise strict supervision over defence expenditure in order to ensure that the country will get value for the money expended, I shall not discuss defence matters.
Immigration and the effective occupation of this country are, as the honorable member for Henty said, of great importance to Australia. Had I not known the honorable member for Henty and were I unacquainted with his administrative actions, and also his actions in this chamber, I should have said that the honorable gentleman’s statement was the most statesmanlike of any that I have heard in this chamber. I agree with every word that he said, but, coming from him,I recognize a tremendous inconsistency.
– I thought that his speech was almost treasonable.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Henty is not here. On the hustings several years ago he said that if the governments of Australia had given to the development of primary industries half the attention that they had given to secondary industries, the wealth of this country would be double, if not treble what it is to-day. A review of the actions of the honorable member for Henty will show that he has not given to the development of primary industries the attention that he has given to secondary industries in this country. I am reminded that, “He that knowethto do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin “. According to the honorable member for Henty, if the parliaments of this country had devoted more attention to the great primary industries, instead of strangling them by another policy, the wealth and prosperity of Australia would be double, if not treble, what it is to-day. Although the honorable member for Henty knows that to be true, he has adopted a different attitude, and therefore “ to him it is sin “. Australia has had plenty of advice on this subject. It will be admitted that during the 19 years that I have been a member of this House I have warned the Parliament against overdoing the protectionist policy whereby secondary industries develop at the cost of the great exporting primary industries. That policy has placed Australia in an insular position. The honorable member declared recently that Australia had almost reached a dead end as regard’s its population. When our population reaches 8,000,000 in a year or two, according to recent vital statistics, we shall have reached the limit of population and must expect torecede. It was contended that, without a greater population, we could not effectively occupy this country and hold it in the present spirit of the world. I agree with the honorable member. The “Big Four”, who visited Australia some years ago, offered some advice to the Australian Government. Later, further advice was offered to it by Sir Otto Niemeyer, who was invited here by the Scullin Labour Government. Both the “ Big Four “ and Sir Otto Niemeyer warned Australia of the consequences of its fiscal policy. Surely this Parliament will give heed to such advice. The “ Big Four “ made the following statement in their report: -
The amount covered by taxation rose by68 per cent. (from £5,786,676 to £9,711,749), while the total interest charge rose by a little over 50 per cent. (from £20,807,026 to £31 , 373,271 ). The inference, which is confirmed by such observations as we have been able to make, is that this position results from heavy expenditure of loan capital by the States on developmental undertakings which have not proved to be self-supporting and have imposed a heavy burden on the general community and consequently on the cost of living and production.
It is interesting to note the time devoted to this issue by those four eminent economists. Their report also stated -
No act of Parliament can alter this basic truth. That a new country is justified in borrowing money for reproductive workshas always been recognized, but results must be achieved and production must advance in proportion to the public debt incurred.
That is an important statement. I can remember hearing members of Parliament say in my youthful days that they approved of the borrowing of money for reproductive works. That principle has not been observed in our borrowings during recent years. In paragraph 44 of their report, the “ Big Four “ stated -
But all measures designed for the increase of Australia’s wealth production and power of absorbing new population tend to be defeated if there are strong forces within her which operate so to raise her costs of production that she cannot sell her products in the markets of the world, and is restricted within the limitations of her own home market. Here we approach the most vexed, and the most important of all Australian questions, that of the combined effects of the protective Customs Tariff and of the legislative enactments, both of the Commonwealth and of the States, for the fixing of wages and conditions of labour, which we will call, for brevity, the arbitration acts.
There is much more in that strain, but I shall quote only two further passages.
– It is the same old story.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) must recognize facts. The population of this country is not increasing at a rate which will enable it to be effectively occupied. Let us examine the cause.
– The population of the cities is increasing.
– By reason of the policies that I have been endeavouring to describe, and which the “ Big Four “ have described. They said further: -
We have felt much force in the oft-repeated complaint that successive increases in the tariff which affect prices and the coat of living, following upon, or being followed by, successive advances in the cost of labour as the result of decisions under the arbitration acts have involved Australia in a vicious circle of ever ascending costs and prices, and that this condition of affairs is crippling Australia’s progress and her power of supporting increased population. There lies no task before the Australian people more urgent than that of in some way breaking the vicious circle and of bringing down costs of production, as is being done in the other industrial countries of the world, without lowering the standard of living of the workers as measured not by money, but by real wages, which are the reward of labour in the form of goods and services.
I can recall the honorable member for Melbourne Ports reminding honorable members of this House that it was not necessary to quote the wages paid in any country; what was needed was to ascertain the purchasing power of those wages. These four economists speak of real wages. If £1 will purchase under certain conditions as much as £2 will purchase under other conditions, surely the £1 is worth as much as the £2.But if, by increasing wages, tariffs, and the cost of living, a vicious circle is established, naturally Australia is placed in an insular position. As those four men have said, our market is limited to Australia’s requirements, costs being so high that we cannot sell our products in other countries, and therefore our people cannot be given employment. That is the position in a nutshell. One of the most serious difficulties which Australia has to face at the moment is the high cost of production of our goods. For many years, costs of production generally have been increasing, and unfortunately these increases appear to have been maintained. If Australia were entirely isolated from and independent of overseas sources of supply, and if it were also independent of overseas markets for the disposal of some of itsproducts, high costs of production would matter less; but seeing that Australia is not isolated but is dependent to a large extent upon overseas markets, the seriousness of the position lies in the fact that the cost of production in competing countries has declined, while in Australia it has risen, thus increasing the already wide margin between this country and others. Australia has been brought into this insular position, and almost to a dead stand-still in regard to population, largely by those causes to which the “Big Four” and Sir Otto Niemeyer directed our attention - the tariff, the Arbitration Court, and the Navigation Act. I take it that the advocates of those agencies thought that they would bring great benefits to the working people and effect the solidarity and selfcontainment of Australia. Actually, however, they have placed this country in an insular and stagnant position, and brought it to the end of its tether. There was a time when there was either no tariff or a low tariff, and we had valuable markets for our secondary products in New Zealand, Fiji, and other parts of the world. To-day, 97 i per cent, of our exports arc of primary commodities. Despite all the efforts that have been made for the development of secondary industries, they are unable to export and Sell any of their products in order to bring new money into this country cr to establish its credit abroad by production for export to other countries. As the “ Big Four “ said, production costs are too high to enable that to be done. The working man thinks that he is better off, but he is not.. By reason of the limitation of the market to Australia, costs are increased and the effective occupation of this country is prevented. If that state of affairs bc continued, we. cannot continue to bold Australia. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has urged that, more people be brought here, and he has referred to what happened in other eras. The cry after the war was, “Go on the land, my boy”. The sum of £30,000.000 was provided for the settlement of mcn on the land. The slogan was - Three M’s : Men, money and markets. T tell this House that we need only one of those - markets. If we have those, wc shall get tho men and the money. The five economists, who volunteered their services to the BrucePage Government, were asked to assess the handicap imposed upon our export industries by the development of secondary industries, and reported that the handicap at that time, under a much lower tariff than we have to-day, was 9 per cent. I warn this House, not threateningly, that if the 40-hour week be added to the tariff, the Navigation Act, the Arbitration Court, and strikes, this country will suffer a further reverse so long as other countries are working under different conditions. Honorable members -probably read in the Argun, of the 10th instant, the following comment from Geneva. : -
Italy had a 60-hour week, a delegate said at tin- International Labour Conference yesterday., when the question of a 40-hour week was discussed, Mr. Goldie., representing Canadian employers, said tiwi, it would be suicidal to introduce a 40-hour week at, tue moment when Italy had a (10-hour week with out, counting overtime. A _ similar situation existed in Germany, he said. The representative of Danish employes said that the 40-hour week in France had decreased production and increased the mat of living.
That is quite natural. I am sure that no honorable member is so unthinking as to fail to realize that the loss of 2,000,000 working hours caused by the adoption of a 40-hour week must have the effect of increasing the cost of living and of everything produced in this country, thus placing it in a more isolated position and making more impossible the production of goods for sale, outside Australia. Although the working nian and his advocates think that it would be greatly to his benefit, I arn bold enough to say that it would injure him. I confidently assert that f do the working man the greatest favour and kindness when I warn him and this House against the adoption of a 40-hour week whilst his competitors in other countries are working longer hours. Y7e have had an experience of the effect of such a policy. Mr. ‘Lang, doubtless with the best of intentions, decreased the working hours and improved the pay conditions of the workmen of New South “Wales. There was a movement to secure the co-operation of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, but that body was too sensible to fall in with the idea, because the workmen of Victoria were in excellent employment and the manufacturers were beating their rivals in New South Wales “ to a frazzle “. If that be the effect as between one State and another, surely the effect must be the same internationally.
– Anybody would think that Australia was to be the first country to adopt the 40-hour week, instead of which, unless we are careful, it will be the last.
– I have given reasons for the views that I am expounding. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), perhaps out of the greatness of their hearts, contend that good would be done. The honorable member for Henty is largely responsible for the position in which Australia finds itself to-day, and of which he complains. One set of people opposes immigration to this country, on the ground that there is no labour for immigrants. Others say that we have no right to try to hold Australia if we do not increase its population. According to the honorable member for Henty, our population is likely to come to a standstill at a total of 8,000,000 ; it may even recede. If that be so, there is something wrong. After all, what has been the result of all this inordinate help which has been given to the secondary industries of Australia? Honorable members have seen in the Sydney Sunday Sun of the 26th June a list of profits made and dividends paid by certain companies last year and this year. The dividends are enormous when compared with those of our great exporting industries. Those industries are being strangled by the load of costs placed on them. Only last week a measure was passed which willincrease the load; I refer to the National Health and Pensions InsuranceBill. Every honorable member has, been circularized during the last few days by the Australian Glass Company, pleading for greater protection. This poverty-stricken concern last year made a profit of £231,199, and paid a dividend of 15 per cent. This year its profits amounted to £287,628, and it again paid a dividend of 15 per cent., yet it is circularizing honorable members to secure their support for further protection!
– The honorable member knows that the company which made those profits is not the company which issued the circular.
– Is it not reasonable to expect the company to expend its profits in every branch of its undertaking before asking for greater help from the exporting industries of this country, which have established the national credit. I am not antagonistic to secondary industries in this country; I believe that we should encourage them. But, as Sir Otto Neimeyer pointed out, we are attempting too much in an endeavour to make Australia self-contained, and to establish a position in this respect that has never existed in any other country and never will. Such a policy places too great a burden on our primary industries. It has forced other countries to close their doors to our exports, and to make reprisals generally, by instituting higher tariff duties against our goods. Our trade diversion policy, sponsored by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) when he was Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, forced other countries to close their markets to Australian primary products. Previously, Australia had an annual favorable trade balance of £40,000,000 with Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and Japan, but, to-day, each of those countries discriminates against our goods. Belgium, ‘ for instance, used to buy £9,000,000 worth of Australian products, whilst we bought only £900,000. worth of Belgian goods. Like 30 or 40 otherboodling companies, a glass manufacturing concern set up in business in Australia simply in order to make profits for a few shareholders, but under the smoke-screen that it was giving employment to large numbers of Australians, it secured tariff protection against Belgian glass. That protection was gained solely at the expense of our exporting industries. No one could expect Belgium to accept such treatment complacently, and, consequently, it refused to take barley from South Australia and meat from Western Australia until it received fairer treatment at our hands. A similar position arose in respect of Japanese purchases of wool, and the sale of Australian apples in Germany, whilst France, because we refuse to buy perfumes and other commodities from it, placed a duty of 4s. 6d. a bushel on Australian wheat. We also offended Italy in respect of our trade. To-day, we cannot claim one nation, outside the British Empire, as our friend. Seventeen years ago I was bold enough to suggest that the best step this country could take in order to rehabilitate itself economically would be for all our people to accept a reduction of 33£ per cent, of their incomes and of prices generally. I held that if that were done, Australia would go ahead by leaps and hounds, the working man would be better off, the purchasing power of the people would be increased, and we would be enabled to recover export markets in other countries in return for purchasing their goods. I have no desire to deprive the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) of any praise which he may receive from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but I feel that this Government is acting too tardily in malting available the money to the farmers appropriated by Parliament in respect of rural debt adjustment. From the remarks of the honorable member for Batman, one would be led to believe that members of the Country party are not the least concerned in this matter. I point out that on the 28th April, I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) the following question: -
Will the Treasurer say why the allocation lor rural debt adjustment for the ensuing year has been reduced by £500,000?
And the Treasurer replied -
The money found by the Commonwealth Government for rural debt adjustment comes out of loan fund. The Loan Council from time to time, but particularly at its April-May meeting, considers the total amount of loan money that is available in Australia for all purposes, because all of it comes out of the one pool. Tlie Loan Council at its recent meeting considered the matter of tho amount available in the ensuing year, covering the public works of all tlie governments, defence requirements, and rural debt adjustment. What appeared to all the members present to be a reasonable allocation of the loan money available for those three different purposes was. arrived at. It included -an amount of f2,0d0.000 for farmers’ debt adjustment. That went against the Commonwealth account. That was the only loan money that the Commonwealth drew from the common pool, the balance having been made available for State works. I may say, without divulging what happened at the loan council meeting, that this amount was allocated without dissent from any one premier.
– That statement justifies the remarks made by the honorable member for Batman.
– I am not trying to shield the Government in this respect. However, I do not condemn it, because it at least appointed a royal commission to investigate the wheat industry and its proposal in respect of rural debt adjustment was based on a recommendation of that commission. Thus it has accomplished much in helping the wheat farmer. My commendation of its efforts, however, is qualified to the extent that it is not disbursing expeditiously the money for rural debt adjustment. Many farmers have had their debts adjusted, and it is in the interests of this country as a whole that such action ha3 been taken. I have no desire to indulge in carping criticism of the Government, but merely stress the absolute necessity for keeping our farmers on the land. This fact was recognized by the royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry. During the depression 6,000 farmers in Western Australia went off the land to seek employment in the cities, or, as happened in many cases, to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Such a trend is not good for any country. The royal commission which inquired into the wheat industry pointed out that many farmers were on the verge of bankruptcy, and that if they had only their own interests to consult they would immediately abandon their holdings. Every honorable member realizes how disastrous it would be for this nation if any substantial proportion of our primary producers deserted the land. This country would not have been confronted with the depression had it not been for the fall of prices of our exportable commodities. It is only when prices of those commodities rise that politicians are able to say with any certainty that we have prospects of better times. We depend absolutely on our primary industries.
This Parliament recently passed three measures in respect of the marketing of dried fruits, dairy products and wheat, and these measures were supplemented by State legislation. The validity of the
Commonwealth legislation, however, was upset by the .Privy Council in the James case, and in an endeavour to remedy the position which then developed, the people were asked by referendum to invest the Commonwealth with greater powers in respect of marketing. Those proposals were rejected, and I regret to say that many honorable members who supported them, on the floor of this House, went on the hustings, and advised the people to vote against them. This is indicativeof the degree of sympathy which the rural interests receive from -many honorable members. Our ‘primary producers aru subjected to world competition, and are forced to sell wheat, for instance, on overseas markets at prices barely in excess of the cost of production. However, honorable members opposite voted against the imposition of a law to provide’ a home-consumption price for wheat on the plea that they could not a-gree to any tax being placed on the bread of the poor. That, is the sort of cry that is raised against the farmer by those honorable members who, nevertheless, are such enthusiastic supporters of secondary industry that they are prepared to allow a concern like General Motors-Holden’s to make, in one year, a profit of 66 per cent., or over £1,000,000, on an investment of £1,500,000. The honorable member for West Sydney (Air. Beasley) opposed the referendum proposals on the grounds that they meant the conscription of the people’s food. What is the difference between conscription in that respect, conscription of labour, and conscription of manufactured goods’ through the tariff? If a man happens to be a wheatfarmer, he is nevertheless, entitled to a standard of living equal to tha-t enjoyed by any other section of the people. Consequently, we should have thought that the honorable member for West Sydney would have told his supporters that the referendum proposals represented only a fair deal for the farmers. T admit that the then honor.orable member for Capricornia said that if our secondary industries were to be enabled, through high tariff protection, to enjoy an Australian market for their goods, and we were to set up arbitration courts, in order to ensure a reasonable standard of living and fair conditions of employment for the worker, then it was only right that the primary producer should be enabled to enjoy a standard of living equal to that of other sections of the community.
That was a fair statement. The Labour Government of Western Australia, after having introduced legislation into the State Parliament to implement the Commonwealth Government’s marketing scheme, turned round and said that our primary industries should be assisted by means of bounties from the general revenue, and by the imposition of excise duties. The loader of the United Australia party in Western Australia adopted the same attitude. It is true that the Commonwealth has power to deal with the situation in that way, but it is not a satisfactory method. The working men of this country would not like to have their wages fixed for only twelve months, nor would the manufacturers like to have customs duties determined for only twelve months. Workers and manufacturers alike would object to an annual revision of wages and customs duties, respectively. Such a procedure would convert their interests into a kind of political football. lt is unreasonable, therefore, that primary producers should he asked to submit to an annual review of their industries. Tho sooner this Parliament and ‘ the country as a whole recognize the necessity r.o give the primary-producing community a fair deal, and to permit trade to flow freely between Australia and other countries, the better it will be for our people. 1 listened with great interest to the speech delivered on Tuesday by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) on immigration. If that honorable gentleman would practise the doc.trine that he preaches we should think better of him. Australia is one of the finest countries of the world. It offers unique opportunities to newcomers, and immigration, as the honorable member for Henty said, is one of the most important subjects that wo could discuss.
– My views on immigration are very different from those of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry
Gullett). 1 have a very vivid recollection of the financial debacle that occurred in Australia in connexion with what is known as the £32,000,000 immigration agreement. One State government had to pay heavy compensation to a number of well-treated immigrants, who came to Australia under the aegis of governments such as the honorable member for Forrest has always supported. I shall not deal at any length with this subject, for an honorable member on this side of the chamber who is ait fait with all the facts intends to make them known. When he does so the public will be given something to think about. Immigration does not appeal to me as a possible solution of our troubles. The honorable member- for Forrest described the virtues of the honorable member for Henty in such a way as might lead us to think that he is a heavensent saviour of Australia. Yet his real desire is to bring to this country young children who should not . be taken from their parents. The place of children of twelve years of age is in their homes, and not in a strange land. The only purpose for which they could be brought here would be to provide . cheap labour for people who want it. The first duty of the Government, is to provide employment for people already here. We shall not solve our troubles by adopting the measures suggested by the honorable member for Forrest. His freetrade policy and his crocodile tears will get us nowhere. The reason why more immigrants from Great Britain do not come to Australia is not difficult to discover. It is a fact that more English people are leaving this country in these days than are coming to it and every one who returns to Great Britain is a bad advertisement for the Commonwealth. These people inform their acquaintances at home that they have been paid compensation by the Government because promises made to them prior to their arrival in this country were not kept. The honorable member for Henty at one time spent a considerable time in England advocating the immigration of British people to Australia. He told some wonderful stories about the marvellous opportuni- ties that awaited newcomers to the Commonwealth; but many of those who came here were bitterly disappointed. If proper employment were provided for the people already here, the producers for whom the honorable member for Forrest expresses such concern would find a greatly enlarged home market for their products ; but, unfortunately, the necessary work is not being provided. I leave it at that.
I regret that I am finding very great difficulty in regard to the naturalization matters that I have to bring before the officers of the Department of the Interior from time to time. Many people in my electorate have been refused naturalization because the department asserts that they have an insufficient knowledge of the English language. That is the effect of the official replies they receive to their applications for naturalization. I have had many interviews with people of other races who live in my electorate and I am well aware of the great difficulty they experience in obtaining naturalization. Again and again, they are told that their knowledge of the English language is inadequate, yet they find no difficulty whatever in making themselves understood to me. As they are capable of engaging in ordinary dealings with British people in the districts where they live, they must possess a. working knowledge of the language. Moreover, many foreigners have been naturalized who have no better knowledge of English than many who have been refused naturalization. Some of the people whose applications have been rejected have told me that they could obtain their naturalization papers if they would adopt a certain course; but this they are not prepared to do. The individuals that I have in mind are good citizens who have never been in any trouble with the authorities, and they are entitled to more considerate treatment. Unfortunately, some of them have been cajoled by agents not in any way connected with the Labour party, to buy farms and small businesses that can be held for them by trustees until the purchasers can assume complete control of them upon obtaining naturalization. They are, therefore, placed in an invidious position when naturalization is refused. Seeing that they have no difficulty in .making themselves understood to members of this and other parliaments, and that they are able to to take an effective part, in the business life of the communities in which they live, they should not be refused naturalization, particularly as many of their compatriots whose knowledge of English is also limited have been naturalized.
I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the case of a Mrs. Ninnis, of Ingham, who has applied for but been refused an old-age pension. This lady was born in Samoa. She has been married for 46 year3 to an Englishman and has lived in the Ingham district for 35 years. She is the mother of eight or nine Australianborn children and is also a grandmother. Yet, because she was born in Samoa, she lias been unable to obtain a pension though she is qualified by age to receive one. Unfortunately, she will also be denied any benefit in this respect under the national insurance scheme, even though her husband ‘were to pay the required contribution of ls. 6d. a week to qualify her for this consideration. I have made application to the Commissioner of Pensions, Mr. Metford, on her behalf, and he has informed me that lie has no power to grant a pension. Some weeks ago I submitted the case to the Treasurer, but I have not yet had his reply to my representations. I do not criticize him on this account, for I know that he has been’ very busy; but I ask him to give the case consideration at the earliest possible moment. Any legislation which denies a pension to the mother of a large family of Australian children is, in my opinion, totally inequitable. The mere fact that Mrs. Ninnis was born in Samoa should not disqualify her. If the existing law makes it impossible for a pension to be granted to her, I hope that early steps will be taken to amend it. “When the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was making a plea on Tuesday for the more favorable treatment of the rifle clubs in Australia, I interjected that the Defence Department did not regard the clubs as of much value for defence purposes. My statement was based > on a reply that the former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, gave to a question I asked on the subject. He said definitely that the department did not regard rifle clubs as of any real value for defence pur- poses. That is the reason why the Government is not prepared to increase the vote for their maintenance. I make this statement so that the honorable member for Moreton will appreciate tho reason for my interjection. Personally, I consider the rifle clubs to be a very valuable asset to this country, and I support the request that they be given greater encouragement.
Reference has been made iu the course of this debate to the attitude of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department towards applications for increased postal facilities in outlying country districts. As this department has shown a surplus of millions of pounds in recent years, I must express my dissatisfaction with its policy in relation to country districts. My electorate is almost entirely rural, as it contains no manufacturing industries except the few small saw-mills, one or two small butter factories, and some sugar-mills. On various occasions when applications have been made for increased postal facilities for people in the more remote parts of it, the department has replied that the difference between the probable income and the estimated cost of providing a service is too great to justify a favorable answer. Admittedly, the profits of the department are made chiefly from services provided for people in large centres of population; but surely it is reasonable to ask that a portion of the surplus should be devoted to the provision of proper facilities for people living in country districts, even though the services may not be financially profitable. “We should look upon the postal service as a national utility. The Government should be prepared to provide better facilities for country people than are at present available in many centres.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hollaway) referred to the frequency of accidents in connexion with Defence Force aeroplanes, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fair. bairn) intimated that he would furnish figures to show that the number of such accidents in Australia is not greater in proportion to personnel than in Great Britain and other countries. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say on the subject. I have not been able to obtain specific figures in relation to the Commonwealth, but the following table indicates the position in connexion with the Royal Air Force: -
I submit those figures, not for the purpose of contradicting any one, but in order to give information to the public. It will be seen that the proportion of accidents to personnel is not so serious as is popularly imagined. An open inquiry, or a statement of facts such as I have just related to the committee, would relieve the perturbed mind of the public. I deplore the accidents that have occurred recently, and, even more, the Minister’s refusal to order a public inquiry into them.
– Can the honorable member suggest a more thorough investigation of the Royal Australian Air Force than is to be made by Air-Marshal Sir Edward Ellington and his officers?
– I do not care whether that inquiry be thorough or otherwise. It is not an open inquiry of the nature that I have suggested. The interests of all concerned would be better served if inquiries into Air Force accidents were held in public under the chairmanship of a man with judicial training. I am not qualified to say whether the machines used by the Royal Australian Air Force are all that they should be, and I am not so much interested in that aspect as I am interested in the setting up of a tribunal whose open inquiries would tend to ease the mind of the public. Everything else of public interest is decided in open court. I impress upon the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) that men with judicial training are able to assess the value of evidence; they can tell from the demeanour of a witness the worth of his testimony. The cloak of secrecy which has been wrapped around inquiries into fatalities in the Air Force has resulted in exaggerated notions as to the danger of flying, but the statistics I cited show that in England the number of accidents in proportion to personnel is not sufficiently great to cause public concern. Millions of miles are flown yearly, but, in proportion, more people are killed in road accidents than are killed in air accidents. Public fear as to the safety of flying has been increased of late in Australia, but I suggest that a great deal of that fear would be dissipated if Air Force accidents were investigated by a tribunal pre sided over by a judge or by a senior magistrate. The Qantas company’s aeroplanes have flown millions of miles over a long period of yearswithout serious accident. It appears that the flying record of the Air Force is not so good as that of civil aviation companies.
– It is better.
– The Minister says that the Air Force record is better than that of civil aviation but, unless there is an open inquiry, the public has no means of checking the accuracy of his statement.
– Sir Edward Ellington is conducting the most thorough inquiry possible.
– It is an inquiry by interested persons. It is not a public inquiry, and it is not what the public wants. I hope that the agitation by the people for an open inquiry into the Air Force accidents will be continued. I do not believe that there is great danger in flying. I should prefer to fly to my electorate in a few hours than to take almost a week to get there by a rough passage either by train or boat. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) and some of his friends have been flying to Canberra for a long time, and they have had no trouble. To use the words of the honorable member for Flinders, he “strolled out from England by aeroplane.” The Minister for Defence claims that the accident figures of the Defence Department are better than those of the Qantas Company. It would be interesting to see them. If what the honorable gentleman says is true, the facts should be published to ease the minds of the people.
– The honorable member is now picking out one company.
– That company has flown millions of miles over a long period of years. I give it credit for its fine record.
– The honorable member does not make allowance for the fact that the Air Force is a training organization.
-In the last few months, there have been some serious accidents in the Air Force. No matter how many inquiries are made by experts, Australian or imported, the people will not be satisfied that everything is right with the Air Force machines until a public inquiryis held. I should be glad to be able to refute charges of inefficiency that have been levelled against the Royal Australian Air Force, but, until a public inquiry has elicited the facts, I cannot do so.
The Sydney press attributed to the Minister for Defence the other day the statement that he was not in favour of, and would not encourage, women aviators. That is his concern, but in the course of his remarks the Minister mentioned two women who have made a name for themselves in the air, Mrs. Amy Mollison and Miss Jean Batten.
– I mentioned many women aviators.
– But the Minister did not mention Miss Nancy Bird, who is equal to any of them. She has flown thousands of miles in Australia, and is able to look after her own machine efficiently.
– It was I who gave publicity to Miss Nancy Bird’s record.
– That may bo so, but the only two women mentioned in the report in the Sydney press were the two that I have named.
The sectarian issue was raised during the last elections in Queensland and the day after the elections - not before the elections - the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Maher, repudiated all responsibility for or sympathy with sectarianism, which, he said, he regretted. I shall read extracts from the official minutes of the conference of the Country Progressive
National party held in Brisbane in August, 1935-
– In New South Wales, the Country party commenced organizing by starting in three different centres, and in that way local sentiments were capitalized. Hume was a seat that was held by Parker Moloney, and we attempted to win it because we held that Hume was a seat that should be held by a producer. We tried running a Country party man - we tried running aprotestant, we tried a catholic and a protestant running together (laughter). We had six or seven tries during the last thirteen or fourteen years, and we could not displace him. We might get within two or 3,000.
But, in 1931, we won by about6,000 votes, and it looks as if our man will hold that seat for the rest of his life. Our man has preached “New State” all the time. He is essentially aRiverina man, quite apart from anything else, and if you are going to get back into office inQueensland,I believe that you will have to follow somewhat similar lines - endeavour to capitalize all the forces at your disposal. There is no question that the name “Country party” in the country has an appeal, somewhat similar to “Labour party” to the Labour voter. They always feel that they are “scabbing” on their mates if they vote against it. In the country, the “ Country party “ has a definite appeal in the same way. I do not think you can possibly scrap the name “ Country “ if you want to win.
The name “ Country “ was to be used only for the purpose of winning the election.
– In order to do any good for the people whom it represents, a party must win the elections.
– I appreciate that, but elections should be won fairly. The name “ Country “, according to the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), was to be used only for the purpose of catching country votes. Sir Earle Page continued -
WhatI would suggest is that you should here in Queensland have four autonomous organizations - one for the north, one for the centre and one for the south and the other for the city for your National and United Australia party nominations. Each of those districts should be autonomous in regard to the organization of its area, and to the drafting of its policy. It will be found that in actual practice, suppose there are ten items of policy - you will find that on six of them there is general agreement through the whole of the area, but in the case of the four others they will not bring you any votes. Why should you try and have on “umbrella” policy for the whole State. The result must be that you lose votes in both places.
I found that out. in New South Wales when we had preferential voting.I have got certain definite ideals that I want to carry into effect. To get control of government, you have got to oust the Labour nominee. One of the electorates reached from the Hunter right up to the Richmond. They gave us three men, and when we worked out the position we found at the first election that we got two and the Labour party got one. That was on the preferential system of voting. I induced the king of every river to come forward asa candidate.I pointed out that they all had something like an even chance, and the result was thatwe got three men in simply because we capitalized the local sentiment, and that is what you have got to do to get results, in my opinion.
I believe if you do that and then had an arrangement whereby you synchronized your policy - and made sure that they did not get too divergent - you wouldhave a rattling good chance of getting six, eight or ten men from the northorcentre. If you could get those men in the north and centre,I venture to say that, Mr. Moore wouldbe in the saddle again. You cannot win it with the south. You have won in the south quite a number of times, but you have been overwhelmed by the north and centre.
A vote of thanks was carried and the official minutes continued -
Dr.Earlepage. - Thank you very much for the vote of thanks. There is one matter that I would like to clear up. - as to how much I should give to the press. Would I say that
I just suggested that there shouldbe four autonomous centres in the matter of organization? Do you think that would be a wise thing?
– I hope you won’t give your reasons, because I think that they are not based on sound premises. If you are, I would like to have an opportunity of going into them now.
– Oh, I think it wouldbe a good thing if Mr.Francis did that now.
– I don’t wantto go into this matter, but as Dr.Page has thrown down the gauntlet - when you are out of office you ask for unity, but when you are in office you don’t want unity-
-Where does the honorable member get that information?
– From the official minutes of the Country Progressive National party conference of August, 1935.
– How did the honorable member get the official minutes?
– That does not matter,I have them. The minutes continue -
Dr.Earle Page. - Thatis an absolute lie - because I am always seeking unity; I have been flogged all over Australia.
-i hope Dr. Page won’t resort to threats such as “ That is a lie.”I have suffered enough of that already. (The discussion got more heated and was not reported. )
You have referred to Mr. Collins’ success in the Hume electorate. His success is largely accounted for by the fact that the Murray River Waterworks had been closed down. In New South Wales we have Mr. Lang, and if wehad aMr. Lang in this State tilings would be quite different, but here we have a canny Scot who side-steps all problems. I disagree with Dr.Earle Page as to the causes which have brought about success in New South Wales.
Then we have some interesting information from the otherdelegates as follows : -
Mr.J. Craven (Maree). - All other things come after finance is achieved. The shipping, insurance, banking and other interests should be mobilized to prov ide finance in the different districts.
Mr. V. Tozer (Gympie). It is said by some “ Why don’t you organize the same as the Labour party?” but they have compulsory unionism, and many of their voters are dependent on awards and the unions promise to look after their interests. We. cannot do that.
The Douglas Credit party seem to be able to get money from somewhere and we will haveto put up with them at the next election.
The following resolution was carried -
That the National party organize trade unions independent of the Labour party controlled unions, and thus divert the compulsory union fees from the Labour party and cause these fees to be paid into funds contro led entirely by the several group workers concerned.
The minutes continued -
Mr. K. Jenyns. Speaking on this resolution “ If we want to succeed we must study thestrong points of our opponents. We must find out their strong points and tackle them. When Delilah wanted to conquer Samson she watched until she found what his strong point was “.
A Voice. - And she got it (loud laughter and interruption ) .
Mr. J. A. Walsh. TheFinance Committee was outside the organization altogether. The organization did not control them in any way whatever. This body got funds and they handed them over to the. Management Committee to spend.
Those extracts give a clear indication of the extent to which the members of the Country party represent country interests, particularly when we recall that Sir Earle Page said that the party proposed to retain the word “ country “ in order to win votes. According to the report, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was not then in very happy company, hut at a later period he was a member of a government of which Sir Earle Page was one of the leaders. I do not propose to disclose the source of my information; that is my business. I am, however, satisfied of its authenticity, and I have some similar information which I shall quote when I consider the time opportune.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who spoke earlier in this debate, dealt with three main points. His first, which he discussed with morbid melancholy, was that he had a number of grievances which he proposed to bring before the Government, but that he had not the slightest hope of any of them being redressed. I, too, have a number which I wish to ventilate, but, unlike the honorable but somewhat dismal member for Batman, I believe that there is some chance of their being redressed. The second point raised by the honorable member, and I agree- with it, was in connexion with the sittings of this Parliament. I have consistently complained of the haphazard manner in which this Parliament meets. We assemble for short periods, rush through a huge volume of business and are then hurried into recess. We meet again at the whim of the Government and there is generally, ‘ in the end, a complete dislocation of parliamentary business. The members of this House do not get a proper opportunity to arrange their own business affairs, and I believe the time is opportune for the Government to make a determined effort to arrange for the House to sit at regular periods, and in that way facilitate not only the business with which Ministers have to deal, but also convenience honorable members, many of whom have to travel long distances in order to carry on their parliamentary work. The Victorian Parliament sits for the second six months in each year, and although a July to December session would be unsuitable in this climate, we could, for instance, meet in the autumn, sit for three months, and meet again in the spring, and continue in session until the business submitted by the Government has been disposed of. The third point which the honorable member for Batman discussed was farmers’ debt adjustment. There was a certain amount of justification for the honorable member’s complaint, but I remind him of the facts surrounding the raising of the money to be used for that purpose. If I remember aright, the original idea was that £12,000,000 was to be made available “ over a period of years “ for the composition of farmers’ debts, and the point at issue seems to be the rate at which that amount is being made available. Naturally, the more rapidly it is distributed the better the States will be pleased. The complaint of the honorable member is that in Victoria the authorities set up to deal with money from this source are functioning more quickly than those in other States. This fund consists of loan money and the amount to be provided for the purpose is discussed fully at meetings of the Loan Council. At such meetings the representatives of the States had an opportunity to state the amounts they required for public works and for farmers’ debt adjustment. On the money made available for the latter purpose, the Commonwealth pays interest and also provides a sinking fund. One would imagine that the States would be more eager than they appear to be to take advantage of the money available for debt adjustment purposes. Although it has been realized that the public works programmes of the States may be curtailed, the Commonwealth Government has kept out of the loan market for the specific purpose of enabling State Governments to have more money for debt adjustment purposes. With the general contention of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), that the money is not being made available with sufficient expedition, I am inclined to agree; but I do not support his contention that there has been a breach of the agreement. The act uses the words “ from time to time “, but the manner in which the honorable . member interprets those words I am unable to say. To me, those words do not mean within any specific period. They may mean within three or four years or over any period.
– My complaint is that the money has been devoted to other purposes.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) referred to the position of the wheat industry as it is affected by the recent referendum. The only way in which this Parliament can assist the wheat industry is by the imposition of an excise duty and the payment of a bounty, but that method does not provide a real solution of the problem. To act in either way would be equivalent to the Government saying to those who wished to establish an industry that Parliament would give them tariff assistance to the extent of, say, 20 per cent, for twelve months, but that at the end of that time it would have to reconsider the position.
A Supply bill gives honorable members an opportunity to discuss the policy adopted during this financial year, and also to suggest the taxes which should be levied during the coming financial year. In fact, it allows honorable members “with extensive view, to survey mankind from China to Peru”: it is, indeed, a valuable right. When Parliament rises, Cabinet will be devoting its attention to the preparation of the budget, and we now have an opportunity to make suggestions to the Government concerning matters for which provision should be made in the budget. If honorable members believe that there should be a remission of taxes, I could make out a good case in favour of the abolition of the land tax, or the reduction of the sales tax.
– That would be a popular move.
– Yes, but our essential and social services have to be maintained, and only a super optimist would expect the Government to budget for a reduction of taxes, whilst if is embarking upon a programme of social legislation to cost the country a large sum, and also upon a programme of defence which is the greatest in the history of the Commonwealth.
It is upon the Government’s defence programme that I wish to say a word or two, particularly on the industrial side. During 1914-18 all the nations of the world found themselves seriously handicapped by reason of the fact that there was a great shortage of basic materials for use by the armies in the field, inas much as they were dependent upon outside sources for supplies, and also found themselves short of foodstuffs. The result has been that the nations have been forced to study this problem, and from it really came the growth of what is now known as economic nationalism, under which each country started to develop its own resources and to create artificial barriers under which there has been a prohibition of imports of materials and goods, including foodstuffs, from other parts of the world. To-day an armed force in the field is far more dependent than formerly upon intricate machinery, weapons- and chemicals that only industry can supply, and if there is one lesson more than another to be learned from the Great War, it is that every country should be prepared industrially as it has to be prepared militarily. If such preparations are not made, there must be great confusion and delay when mobilization is ordered. It must be remembered that, when mobilization is ordered, industry has to perform a dual function. It has to supply tho requirements of the army in the field, and it has also to continue to supply the requirements of the civil population. In planning industrial mobilization or co-operation, industry must bear those two factors in mind. A balance must be struck between the requirements of the army in the field, the industrial requirements, and the manpower necessary to supply and maintain the needs of both. Time is one of the most important factors in mobilization, and particularly in ‘respect of industrial mobilization. When industry receives instructions to begin production, time has to be reduced to the absolute minimum. In this connexion, I quote the remarks made by Major-General Coxen, a former Chief of the General Staff, who said -
The preparation of plans for the mobilization of industrial organizations that would ensure tho highest degree of co-ordination in the time of a national emergency would cmbrace the following three main problems: -
Firstly. - The preparation of plans of the system to be employed in procuring from industry the munitions required for the fighting forces estimated by the military authorities to be essentially necessary.
Secondly. - The formulating of plans by which governmental action can bc taken to ensure that labour, power, money and raw materials needed for the production of commodities needed by the fighting forces us well as that of the civil population may be assured to industrial establishments.
Thirdly, - The creation of an organization that would have the power to put into effect the adopted plant in the event of a national emergency arising.
He goes on to develop that rather interesting point in this way -
hi most countries mobilization schemes ure kept very secret, but the question arises in one’s mind in regard to plans concerning “ industrial preparedness.” as to whether it would not he better that they should be known and understood by every one, so that every citizen should realize that he has obligations to his country. This knowledge would foster an interest in the defence of his country or empire in case of emergency, and encourage the spirit of patriotism, at little cost to the government. For, after all, the entire project of “ industrial preparedness” or “ mobilization of industry,” rests upon the patriotic willingness and help of civilians in the industrial world.
Fortunately, we have our own munition factories. Some time ago I visited the munitions factory at Maribyrnong and 1 was greatly impressed with the efficiency shown, particularly when 1 learned that the first gun ever turned out by the operatives at that establishment was 100 per cent, efficient, although the majority of the men had never previously seen such guns made. Of course, munition factories differ from ordinary factories in that their output does not go into consumption, but must be stored, and this rnakes it necessary that extensive storage space should be provided. That brings me to the subject of private manufacture of munitions, and I wish to say, emphatically, that I am entirely opposed to the manufacture of arms for private profit. 1 believe that, if it is necessary to co-opt private firms for the making of munitions, it is the duty of the Government to assume control, and I hope that it will do so should such an emergency ever arise. Whilst I was very impressed with the efficiency of individual munition factories, I cannot say that I was altogether satisfied with the possible rate of production, inasmuch as the factories are not big enough to meet probable requirements in time of need. The Government has spent a consider- able sum of money in sending persons to England to be trained in the making of munitions, and I hope that the Defence Department has kept in touch with them so that their services may be availed of if they are needed.
Consideration should also be given to the mobilization of transport. All the various militia units would require transport in the event of mobilization. A census of available transport should be taken in conjunction with the State governments, and there should be allotted to individual militia units the particular transport that would be theirs in the event of mobilization. In this way much valuable time would bo saved.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), in the course of a constructive speech, dealt at length with the subject of rifle clubs. He said that more use might be made of rifle clubs for defence purposes, and pointed out that their services could be availed of under three headings. First, he said there were those rifle club members of military age who were physically fit. In the event of war they should go into the fighting forces. There were other men of military age, but not so fit, who could be used as coast guards, and for the guarding of wireless and cable stations. There was a third class consisting of men who were still older, and less physically fit, who could be used to guard essential services. I believe that much could be clone in. that direction. He also said, and I agree with him, that riflemen should be taught the use of light automatic weapons such as the Lewis gun, the Hotchkiss gun, and the Bren gun, when it is available. It is also desirable that members, of rifle clubs should do more, shooting on the range under service conditions. It has been said that the Government has restricted the operations of rifle clubs too much, but the fact is that expenditure on clubs has increased from £26,000 in 1932 to nearly £66,000 for the last financial year. Some striking facts emerge when we examine the conditions “which apply to rifle clubs. In the first place, in order to be classed as efficient, a member must fire “ such practices as mav be approved by the Military Board “. He must keep his rifle in good order and condition, and produce it on demand. Such practices as are approved at the moment are the firing of 24 rounds a year, eight rounds on three different days. The remarkable thing .is that no standard of scoring ia required. There is no departmental inspection to see if the conditions are complied with, nor is any standard of physical fitness prescribed. Members may be’ of any age from sixteen ito 60, and a member is classed as efficient if he fires only 24 rounds in the year, and misses the target with every shot. For each efficient member the club is entitled to 200 free rounds of ammunition and 5s., though if the firing be done on a militia range the amount is reduced to 2s. 6d., and if the club consists of members of the militia the amount is ls. fid. I think the Government should institute a. system of physical examination for members of rifle clubs whom they hope to be a potential reserve in time of danger. I have no desire to underestimate their value as a reserve, and 1 appreciate the services they rendered 25 years ago, but much more might be done to develop their actual, rather than their potential, value.
When the Minister is framing the Defence Estimates, I hope that he will keep in mind the point I have frequently raised, namely, the need for a. standing army in Australia. The more I examine the matter, the more convinced I am that such a force is necessary to take the first shock should Australia be invaded, and to give time for the militia force to mobilize.
I have on previous occasions referred to rates of pay for members of the staff corps. It is not right that junior officers should be carrying out senior work for junior pay, yet that is what is happening at the present time. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) has said that the position is being remedied as quickly as possible, but it ls not being done quickly enough for my liking. This sort of thing would not be tolerated in any branch of the Public Service. In reply to a question in the Senate recently, it was stated that there were several vacancies in the staff corps for the filling of which approval had been given, and money placed on the Estimates, but they have not been filled. Now we are within a few hours of the end of the present financial year, and promotion is being denied to officers who should have it. .
Once more I ask that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) should be invited to become a permanent member of the council for defence. If we have not the co-operation of the Opposition to the extent that it can be given, and if the Leader of the Opposition is not a member of the council for defence, we cannot have any continuity in our defence policy, and without some measure of continuity there is a danger that the policy will be changed every time there is a change of Government.
– I think we have agreement now on major matters of policy. We all agree on the need for defending Australia; it is for the experts to work out the details. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be consulted in regard to this matter, and nothing but good can come from the adoption of my suggestion.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) mentioned the need for storing petrol against an emergency. There is no doubt that if supplies of petrol from overseas were cut off. we should in a short time find ourselves in a serious position. The honorable member suggested that the Government should compel the major oil companies to store a prescribed quantity of petrol, or, at any rate, that it should seek their co-operation for this purpose. I remind him that in Japan, the Government tried to force the oil companies to maintain six months’ supply, but, up to the present, it has not been successful, and I imagine that the Japanese Government would be somewhat more harsh in its methods than any government in Australia would be. We have certain alternatives, such as the production of power alcohol from sugar or grain. We may also use producer gas, and we may manufacture petrol from coal or shale. All. these methods, however, would take time to develop, and if supplies from outside were suddenly cut off, the Government would be faced with the problem of rationing available supplies of petrol, and of deciding how much should be made available to primary industries, how much for military purposes, and how much for other essential services. Those details should be worked out carefully. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that we should seek the co-operation of technical staffs, but I believe that that is being done now. The Government has co-opted a panel of leading business men, and there is every possibility that the trade union council will afford full co-operation.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) expressed the opinion that the portfolio of defence entailed too much work for one Minister. He suggested that two Ministers should be appointed, one to control the navy, the air force and civil aviation, and the other to control land forces. He said that there should be two secretariats, one under the control of each Minister. However, if that were done, we should then need a third secretariat, and a third Minister, to coordinate the activities of the other two, and before we were finished it would be necessary for the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to elevate to ministerial rank almost every honorable member on this side of the House. I am sure that the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) would quickly notify the Prime Minister if he felt that he was unable to cope with the work of his department. Admittedly, the work is heavy, but I have detected no signs that the Minister is falling down on the job.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) urged that more rapid progress should be made with the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges. I know that the PostmasterGeneral,Senator A. J. McLachlan, is pushing on with this work fairly quickly, as it seems to him, but, in the opinion of the people in the country, progress is very slow, indeed. A portion of the large surplus accumulated annually by the Postal Department might well be devoted to the provision of this great boon in outlying districts. One reason advanced against such installations is that they are asked for in localities which have no supply of electricity, but, when Senator Gibson was PostmasterGeneral, an automatic exchange was supplied to a town situated several miles distant from an electric supply main, the current being conveyed to the exchange by means of a pair of ordinary telephone wires.
Some time ago we were informed that a committee would be set up to investigate the conditions obtaining in nonofficial post offices. Repeated questions asked in this chamber have drawn from the Postmaster-General the admission that the report has been presented, but has not been fully considered by the Cabinet. We understand that certain recommendations made with a viewto effecting improvements are to become operative from the 1st July next, and it is time that this Parliament was informed regarding the contents of the report. I hope that the Postmaster-General will release the report before the Parliament rises for the recess.
– I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to give some attention to the practice adopted since the introduction of the financial emergency legislation of taking into consideration the miners’ phthisis pension in calculating the permissible income of an old-age pensioner. Prior to the financial emergency legislation, no notice was taken of the fact that an old-age pensioner was in receipt of the State pension granted to a person suffering from miner’s phthisis, but, to-day the old-age pension of such a person is fixed at a lower rate than would otherwise be paid. This practice inflicts a grave hardship on these sufferers, because the full pension is little enough to enable them to secure necessary medical attention. I mentioned this matter on the motion for adjournment some time ago, and asked the Minister in charge of the House at the time to convey my request to the Treasurer (Mr.Casey), but, up to the present time, I have had no reply. I trust that the Prime Minister will take definite action with a view to having justice done to these unfortunate old-age pensioners. There are many of them in Ballarat, and, no doubt, there are others in a similar plight in Bendigo, and, possibly, in the Prime Minister’s own electorate in Tasmania.
I direct attention also to the harsh manner in which that portion of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act which deals with the invalid pension is administered. The medical men who examine applicants are not devoid of the milk of human kindness, but the regulations under which they work make it practically impossible for them to recommend applicants for the invalid pension. Some months ago a man called on me, and said that his claim for -the invalid pension had been rejected. Both of his hands were crippled by arthritis. He is 62 years of age, and has a family of eight children. He is a carpenter by occupation. Possibly he could act as a “spruiker” outside a picture theatre, or could operate a lift. To that extent he is not permanently and totally incapacitated, and therefore a doctor cannot, under me present harsh regulations, certify that he is entitled to the invalid pension. But we should have regard to the fact that the economic conditions of this country ‘are very different from those obtaining when these harsh regulations were drafted. With the object of assisting this applicant, I inserted an advertisement in the Ballarat Mail, the Ballarat Courier, and the Melbourne Age to this effect - “ Man, carpenter, both hands partially crippled, desires work of a light character; wages to be arranged.” I received only one reply to that advertisement, and it came from a man in the Ballarat district who said that he was prepared to give the applicant the work of pulling down a house and reconstructing it! The sufferer was quite unable to undertake such a task, because, owing to his hands being crippled, he could not use tools. Steps should be taken to ensure the provision of more humane regulations than those now in force in connexion with applications for the invalid pension. Ten years ago the carpenter to whom I have referred might have been able to secure light employment, but to-day nearly all the positions which were formerly filled by partially incapacitated men are taken by those who are physically fit. The provision in Commonwealth and State legislation that preference shall be given to returned soldiers shuts out from light employment many who are partially incapacitated. Most of the lifts in the large cities are operated by returned men, and they also occupy most of the positions of a light character in the Commonwealth Public Service. Often those who are regarded as ineligible for the pension are forced to take the dole. The directions issued to medical officers in dealing with applicants for the invalid pension state -
Attention is directed to the specific requirements of the net in all cases coming within its provisions, namely, that the accident or invalid state of health must be - (1) permanent, and (2) such as to incapacitate the claimant for work. (Note. - Cases of a transient nature, only temporarily incapacitating the claimant foi’ work, or of a permanent nature, but only partially incapacitating him for work, do not come within tho act.)
Therefore, the unfortunate applicant is deprived of the pension in almost every instance. The medical officers are placed in a difficult position under the regulations. Dozens of applicants who come to me are inclined to put the blame on the doctors, but the latter are quite unable to certify them as eligible for the invalid pension, despite the fact that in most cases they should certainly receive it. Although I cast no reflection on the officers who administer the act, I think that a new instruction should be issued to prevent injustice from being done to these applicants. Periodically the pensions branch instructs those in receipt of the invalid pension to report to the doctors for re-examination. It is considered, of course, that a doctor may have erred on the side of leniency in certifying that an applicant was totally and permanently incapacitated, or that the pensioner’s general condition may have improved in the meantime. When the pensioners are re-examined they are often informed that they are no longer eligible for the pension because they have recovered sufficiently to prevent them from ‘being classed as permanently and totally incapacitated. Some are sent along to another medical referee for further examination., and others are stood down for three months before being sent to another medical referee. Often, as the result of the second examination, they are successful in having their pensions restored. I appeal to the humane instincts of the Prime Minister, and urge that an investigation be made into this problem to ascertain if something can be done to interpret the act in a more humane way, taking into consideration the fact that the economic position facing these people to-day is very different from that which confronted them in the. past.
Within the last few days I asked the Prime Minister if anything was being done to investigate the reported find of iron oro deposits at ‘Gordons, near Ballarat. The right honorable gentleman informed me that the department had no knowledge of the existence of those deposits. Not very long ago, people interested in ‘ tlie Gordons deposits, shipped 5 tons of iron ore to Japan, and I received to-day by air mail a copy of a report submitted by a Japanese firm, which I shall be glad to make available to the Prime Minister, indicating that the iron ore is of excellent quality, and that a market definitely exists for it in Japan. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and his department are entirely ignorant of the fact that these deposits exist, I ask him if he will take the necessary steps to have an exhaustive examination conducted by Dr. Woolnough into the iron ore deposits, not only at Gordons, but also at Lal Lal. In justification for this request, I may say that when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) first raised the question of the iron ore deposits in this country, it was thought that the supplies were practically illimitable. As that has been found to be a fallacy, the reports as to the small size of the deposits that exist at Lal Lal and Gordons may be equally fallacious. A thorough examination of the deposits by Dr. Woolnough will definitely determine their extent and value.
In common with country people generally, I am dissatisfied with the postal facilities afforded in country districts. I know that every government has to face complaints of this type, but none the less, they are very real. I have, without Qualification, always opposed any suggestion for the reduction ‘of the postage rate from 2d. to Id., justifying my attitude in that regard by the statement that I believe that if the postage rate were so reduced all hope of securing an extension of postal and telephonic facilities in country districts would vanish. I say, frankly, now, however, that I shall have to review my attitude in regard to this matter,” be- cause the huge postal revenue now being collected is devoted mainly towards the improvement of buildings and services in capital cities, while insufficient attention is given to the needs of rural communities. This applies, not only to telegraphic and telephonic facilities, but also to postal deliveries. In 1931, deliveries of mail were made to the residents of Campbell’s Creek, a fair-sized village near Castlemaine in my electorate, but at the onset of the depression on the ground of economy, and also because with the dwindling of the mining industry in that area the population had decreased, the Postal Department discontinued the delivery of mail. From time to time I have made representations to the Postal Department and to the Postmaster.General himself that this service should be restored in view of the fact that the financial depression had passed and particularly because, as the result of the growth of mining activities in the Campbell’s Creek district, the population had actually increased beyond what it was before the service was discontinued. Some time ago I asked to be supplied with figures covering the revenue derived from the Campbell’s Creek post office in the years 1931 and 1937. The reply was that it was not the practice of the department to divulge the revenue received from individual post offices. That reply indicates that, possibly, conditions were so favorable to the restoration, of the service that the department did not wish to supply me with figures which would assist me in urging that the restoration be made. I appeal to the Prime Minister to consult with his colleague the PostmasterGeneral to see if it is not possible to grant the request of the residents of this village that their mail service be restored.
I wish to deal now with the subject of immigration. I did not intend to touch upon this question but I was so astounded at the fervour displayed by the honorable member for Henty (.Sir Henry Gullett) last night in urging the resumption of immigration that I thought a duty devolved upon me to say something in the opposite direction. The honorable member spoke with pride of the British blood that flows in our veins. We are all proud of it, but I think it would have been more relevant if the honorable member had confined himself to hard facts, with a view to ascertaining first of all whether the economic position of this country at the present time justifies the resumption of immigration. He lives in a suburb of Melbourne in which the residents are out of touch with workingclass conditions and the position of primary producers generally. If the economic position of this country were sound, I should not be opposed to the resumption of immigration, but from my own experience among primary producers generally and from my personal experience as a primary producer, I am satisfied that the time is far from ripe for the re-introduction of such a policy. I undertake to make available to the Prime Minister a list of the names of 20 young men in my electorate between the ages of 20 and 23 years, all virile, strong, and able-bodied Australians, who are prepared to take labouring work at any time at the basic wage provided they can be guaranteed reasonable continuity of employment. These young men have asked me if it is possible to secure employment in the munition factories reconditioning ammunition, little knowing that within the last six months many men have actually been dismissed at Maribyrnong, and also that, pursuant to the policy of the Government, preference is given to returned soldiers in connexion with work of this sort. These lads have not the ghost of a chance of securing employment in vocations such as this; private enterprise cannot absorb them, and there is little chance of their finding employment in rural industries. Farmers are able to offer a certain amount of employment to lads between the ages of sixteen and 20 years, but primary producers generally cannot afford to pay adult wages. In view of these circumstances, it is outrageous that anyone should urge that immigrants should be brought from overseas. The immigration policy of the Government is directed towards bringing to this country young migrants to work on farms, but even our own Australian boys cannot obtain work on farms at decent wages. Those fortunate enough to obtain work of this sort receive only from 10s. to £1 a week, and when they reach the age of 21 years the primary producer has either to con tinue to pay them a low wage or to say I cannot pay you the basic wage; as far as I am concerned you are now on the scrap heap “. I have always advocated the protection of rural workers by bringing them under tribunals such as are provided for workers engaged in secondary industries. It is in my opinion the first duty of the Labour movement to see that the wage earners on farms are protected. If that is done, it may be the means whereby the primary producers will be brought to a realization that) they should get behind the Labour movement and, associated with their natural allies, by cohesion, cooperation and solidarity of organization, demand that they receive a price for their products which will enable them to pay a standard of wages comparable to that paid in the secondary industries of this country. What happens to the young Australian men on the farms to-day will also happen to the boy migrants brought to Australia under the scheme announced in this House by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) on the 12th May last. I have known of fine English lads being paid 10s. or £1 a week, until they reached the age of 21 years, when they were practically forced to leave the farms and go to the industrial cities. Many of them failed to secure regular employment, with the result that the few pounds that they had saved disappeared, and finally they became recipients of the dole or were employed as sustenance workers. Associated with the various schemes of assisted immigration are many excellent Australian citizens as well as charitable and church organizations. In the nature of things, these people have little or no knowledge of the facts which these young fellows have to face. Most of them are residents of cities and larger towns and know nothing of the conditions in rural industries. The Minister said that some of the States were co-operating with the Commonwealth Government in connexion with these schemes, and pointed out that in February, 1938, South Australia lodged a requisition for household workers, whilst New South Wales decided to resume assisted immigration, covering individual nominations involving re-union of families, juveniles, youths for farm work and household workers nominated by approved associations. What do these approved societies know about this subject? In March of this year, the Commonwealth Government’ decided, with the co-operation of the Government of the United Kingdom, to grant assisted passages to certain people nominated by such organizations as the Fairbridge Farm schools, the Big Brother movement, the Salvation Army, Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, the Young Women’s Christian Association, the Boy Scouts’ Association and the churches. What do members of the Young Womens’ Christian Association know of the conditions in rural industries ?
The arrangement also covered immigrants specially requisitioned for by any State, and persons of British stock resident in the United Kingdom who, if married, were in possession of not less than £300 on arrival in Australia, or, alternatively, a pension or other income of not less than £100 per annum or, if single, had not less than £50 on arrival.
What happened to these people in the past? Some years ago a number of Indian army officers settled in the Western district of Victoria. They were excellent men as individuals, but they had been accustomed, as army officers, to having batmen to clean theft boots. In the very nature of things, they were doomed to failure. The only man left there today is one who married a squatter’s daughter.
– There are still about half a dozen of them left.
– I do not blame the men, but I blame those who thought that such unsuitable types could succeed. They were so unaccustomed to Australian conditions that when they came in from their farms at night they dressed for dinner. They had been known to sit on the seed drill all day with no grain in the drill. We can only blame those misguided people who thought that such men could make a success of farming in Australia. It is now suggested that inducements should be offered to retired English army officers to come out to Australia under a scheme of assisted immigration. Should they do so, they will be equally unsuccessful as were the Indian army officers to whom I have referred. Indeed, their position would be worse, because the other men were all possessed of considerable capital. Let me outline the experience of the Victorian Government. Between 1922 and 1928 the governments of Victoria, the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom entered into an arrangement to bring migrants to Australia, particularly Victoria. Hundreds of men settled in that State. All of them possessed substantial capital; indeed, every one of them had more than the £300 capital suggested by the Minister for the Interior. I shall not do more than cite a few cases. Settler No. 1 brought with him capital amounting to £1,115. He worked for nine years in Victoria. Settler No. 2 possessed £3,750 on arrival in Australia. Settler No. 3 brought with him £4,030. He paid the Closer Settlement Board £31, and walked off the farm leaving debts amounting to £5,478. That sort of thing will be repeated under the Minister’s scheme. Victoria paid £300,000 as compensation to these settlers and sent them back to the United Kingdom where they constituted a bad advertisement for Australia. A royal commission was appointed to investigate their cases. It was found that upwards of 120 men had been settled on dairying land and provided with substantial advances from the State. Finally, they had to be paid sums ranging from £50 to £500 as compensation. Since that time the economic conditions of primary producers have not improved, but rather have become worse, so that the fate of those who may come here under the Minister’s proposal is not likely to be any better. It may be said that they will be young persons, but that really makes the tragedy the greater. Should they ask for more than £1 a week, they will be given the sack; and if they drift to the cities they will meet with fierce competition and probably be forced to accept sustenance. Young fellows too young to be returned soldiers, are unwanted, and their position is desperate indeed. The latest figures available for Victoria show that in that State 22,000 persons are registered for employment, 5,400 are on sustenance work and ‘ 450 are in receipt of benevolent assistance.
In Ballarat, a country centre, with some secondary industries, 600 men are registered for work. They get only a few days’ work at a time, and are in receipt of sustenance. I shall quote from the report of the debates in the Victorian Parliament to show what some unsuccessful migrants said on their return to England. The following article appeared in the Star, an English paper, on the 15th July, 1933:-
EMIGRANTS’ AWFUL LIFE IN AUSTRALIA.
1,500 Settlers -Most of Them Dead or Insane - “ StruckHell “ : London Man’s Story.
Stories of their terrible sufferings in the Australian bush arc told by English emigrants who have returned to this country, ruined financially, and many of them broken in health.
An Australian Royal Commission has recently published the results of its inquiry into their hardships, and claims for compensation are being made, estimated to total £750,000.
A typical case is that of Mr. Charles Clarke, an ex-service man, of Central-road, Morden.
No Farming Experience.
In 1925, he sold a prosperous business, and in the following year sailed for Australia with his wife and four children. “ Though I had’ no previous farming experience, I was promised a year’s training, and was told that there were good prospects of being independent within fifteen years,” he told a Star reporter to-day. “ When I reached Australia, I went to a training farm near Melbourne, and was passed out as a wheat farmer in exactly six weeks. I was then dumped on my 800 acres of land in Victoria. It was a wilderness of eucalyptus scrub, even without a wooden shack on it. The nearest water supply was a putrid water-hole6 miles away. The water, when we got it, had to be boiled, and then cleaned with the aid of salts. The nearest medical station was 47 miles away, and the nearest railhead, where we could get food supplies, was 15 miles, through almost impassable forest.”
They Reaped Nothing. “ The land was not fit for blacks to live in, let alone whites. For four years I pitted my strength against the bush, battered by sand storms and wind storms, plagued by 14-ft. snakes, dingoes, and blinding flies.”
I mention these things in order that similar happenings may be avoided in the future.
– A good deal depends on getting suitable candidates.
– Compensation was paid to about 300 men. Surely the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) would not say that they were all unsuitable. When they arrived in Aus tralia they possessed considerable capital and, in addition, they were given liberal assistance.
– How many of them made good?
– Some of them are still here, and are doing well. The chief causes of the failure of the others were that the land was over-valued, that they themselves were insufficiently trained, that they had no knowledge of Australian farming conditions, and that many of them were middle-aged business men, or retired army officers, incapable of standing up to the arduous work required of them. Notwithstanding these experiences, the Minister suggests that the same policy be again followed. His proposal has the further disadvantage that boys will be brought here, only to be dumped on the labour market when they become 21 years of age. There is no hope of their remaining in primary production after that age. I speak strongly because I have seen these things happen. I am engaged in the dairying industry and I know the position of dairy farmers. The younger generation of Australian farmers say that it is not fair that men engaged in dairying should notbe paid the same as men: in other walks of life, but they realize that under prevailing conditions they cannot do more. The Melbourne Age of the 9th May, 1938, contained the following paragraph -
SWEATING ON DAIRY FARMS.
Request for Inquiry.
In The Age to-day appears a statement by Judge Drake-Brockman that conditions in the clothing trade were deplorable,” said Cr. H. H. Hilbert at the meeting of Keilor shire council on Saturday. Cr. Hilbert, who said he was a dairy farmer, stated that if His Honour knew conditions in the dairying industry he would just as strongly condemn them. Representing a riding in which half the ratepayers were engaged in the dairying industry, he felt it incumbent upon him to bring sweating in that branch of primary production before the council so that the public could be informed of scandalous conditions prevailing on dairy farms. He moved: - “ That the responsible Minister be requested to arrange for an inquiry to be held to consider the question of sweating in the dairying industry.”
Cr. N. W. Gooch seconded the motion.
The motion was carried, and it was also decided to invite councils of adjoining municipalities to support the request for an inquiry.
Recently I attended an inquiry by the Victorian Milk Board at which I, with other producers, presented the case of milk producers supplying the metropolitan market for an increased price. The representative of the retailers threw the jibe at a witness, that as the Labour party was supporting the Dunstan Country party in office it ought to obtain a wages board for the workers in the dairying industry. Without exception, every farmer witness said, “Hear, hear! We are prepared to support it “. That is a marked change of attitude compared with that which was held in the days when the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) was a boy, and I am glad to see it. But until conditions on the land have been improved, and the primary producer has the protection of the courts in respect of the labour he employs, it will be outrageous for a government to assist migrants to come to this country and encourage them to believe that they can make a competence when they arrive.
There are several matters upon which I should like some information. I notice that the agreement provides that the Government shall pay one-half of the tourist steamer fare to Australia. Men who are out. of work in my electorate would like to get one-half of that fare, or to be employed even for a fortnight. The agreement also provides that nominations received direct by the Department of the Interior will be carefully investigated, in order to ensure that nominators are in a position to honour their obligations towards migrants introduced on their nominations. I should like to know what steps are proposed legally to bind nominators to honour their obligation to see that the boy, girl, or adult migrant nominated by them is kept indefinitely in remunerative employment. Honorable members have not been told that there is to be a legal agreement between the nominator and the Commonwealth Government or any State Government to determine that the boy, girl or adult migrant brought to this country shall be guaranteed employment for one, two, three or five years. It is so much “hooey “ to say that the position will be kept under review and that steps will be taken to ensure that the nominators are in a position to honour their obligations,
That is merely “flim flam “ and “ humbug “. There will be no legal undertaking, or if there is, means will be found to escape from it.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I confess at the outset that my remarks would be more appropriately made in committee; but as they concern the department of the PostmasterGeneral, and as there is an Acting Minister in this House who is looking after the interests of that gentleman, I feel that if any consideration is to be given to the matters I intend to raise, obviously some time must elapse before they are dealt with. Further, as this House will not meet again before the budget has to be examined, the present is quite a fitting occasion for me to make certain observations to which consideration may be given by Cabinet when the budget proposals are being framed.
I should like to analyse the various departments of the postal administration, and compare them with similar departments in the sister dominions of New Zealand and South Africa. I think that I shall be able to convince even the PostmasterGeneral of the necessity to give some consideration to the provision of additional services, both postal and telephonic. Although the Prime Minister, when Postmaster-General, probably heard this story over and over again, I do not think any of its force will be lost in the re-telling of it. For example, I find on picking up the report of the PostmasterGeneral for 1936-37 that the huge surpluses which have been a feature of his department during the last six years at least have been maintained. In the year 1936-37 the surplus in all departments totalled nearly £3,500,000, representing approximately 20.88 per cent. net profit on turnover. A profit of that nature in any business enterprise would cause considerable satisfaction amongst the shareholders of the enterprise. The accumulated profits over a period of six years aggregate the colossal sum of £12,750,000. That should cause concern to every person who is taking advantage of these essential services. The general public feels that these surplusesshould be devoted to the provision of additional facilities, and that the department should not become merely a monopolistic revenueproducing concern. Either the facilities available to the subscriber should be enlarged, or necessary reductions of charges should be made so as to spread the profit as widely as possible over those services which provide benefits for the public. When the department becomes a rapacious medium for the collection of revenue, the public generally is quite justified in feeling that all is not as it should be.
Let us see what happens to the accumulated profits of this department. As I have previously pointed out, they are not used exclusively for the provision of additional services but are transferred to Consolidated Revenue. Yet when the department wishes to erect new buildings it has to obtain a loan from Consolidated Revenue and pay interest upon it. Actually, therefor, the subscriber is paying interest on his own profits. This matter is worthy of the attention of the Auditor-General, who in his next report should indicate to the House and to the public generally his opinion as to whether the accounts of the Postal Department are being legitimately compiled and are not being used merely as a cloak to cover the department’s operations. The report for 1936-37 points out that during the year there was a capital investment of £2,500,000. That must have been repaid over and over again out of the accumulated profits. It could have been repaid even out of the profit of £3,500,000 which was returned for that year. Interest has been paid on the £2,436,000 drawn from revenue account, and invested as capital. I suggest that that is not the correct way in which to deal with the profits of the department. Certainly such a method would not be permitted in any business ofrepute.
I direct the attention of the House to the details of the various departments. I shall make certain observations upon them, with a view to seeing whether it is possible for the Postmaster-General to give some relief to the subscribers. Let us consider first the profits of the postal section for the year 1936-37. That section made a net profit on turnover of 29.78 per cent., the amount being over £2,000,000. The department and Cabi net should give some consideration to the reduction of the postal charge from the 2d. an ounce which is being paid at the moment to1d. or l½d. an ounce. On the figures given in the report, a reduction to l½d. an ounce would mean a loss of revenue amounting to £1,500,000.
Even if that amount were taken from the surplus for the year the department would still break more than even in the event of no additional demand being made on this section of its operations. The results associated with the adoption of sucha proposal prove that a greater use is made of the service and the loss of revenue is recouped.
– The honorable member does not seriously believe that.
– I do. It is a well known business axiom which applies even to the Postal Department. Business houses, instead of delivering correspondence by hand and issuing second and third class mail matter, would take advantage of the reduced first class mail rates. That is exemplified in New Zealand, not only in the telephone service, in connexion with which a flat rate has been adopted, resulting in New Zealand occupying fourth place in the world in the matter of telephone subscribers, but also in regard to parcels post, in connexion with which the Government of the dominion of New Zealand experimented by reducing the inland rates. I shall quote from the report of the New Zealand Post and Telegraph Department for 1936-37 in support of my contention. On page 18 that report says -
A review of the first year’s working of the inland parcels post under cheaper rates introduced in 1036 confirms the expectation that the reduced rates would attract a larger amount of additional business.
Obviously that expectation was engendered by experience of the result of the reduction of the postage rate to1d. and of the charge for the telephone service to a flat rate. It was conclusively proved that the reduction of the charges resulted in an increased demand for both services. I suggest that our department might give consideration to that matter.
– Does not the honorable member think that the surplus of tho department ought to be utilized in increasing country facilities, and the remuneration of sweated country post office employees?
– I prefaced my remarks by saying that either additional facilities should be given to subscribers, or the charges should be reduced.* I should like to be able to concede the honorable member his point, but cannot admit that his contention, is justified, because practically every request which I have made to the department to decrease rates for this service has been met by the reply that the department is giving such service to residents in outlying areas that users in metropolitan areas must be prepared to pay for these services. If the honorable member has a case to advance on behalf of residents of country areas it is quite obviously his duty to do so.
– I should like to take the honorable member on a trip around the electorate which I represent.
– I am more interested in seeing that those who subscribe to the general revenue of the department in a way which may enable advantages to be given to residents of country areas should receive more equitable treatment, and not be obliged all the time to provide bounties and general facilities for country residents. I do not wish, however, to enter into a discussion of city interests as opposed to country interests.
In order to place before the department indisputable evidence that similar services are being rendered elsewhere at much less cost, I propose to compare the existing postage charges in Australia, with those prevailing in New Zealand and South Africa. In respect of first-class’ mail matter, the rates are: In Australia 2d. an ounce for letters, and 1-Jd. for lettercards; in South Africa, Id. an ounce and 1-Jd. for letter-cards, and in New Zealand Id. an ounce, and ½d. for letter-cards. The respective charges for second-class mail matter, consisting of commercial papers, which show a corresponding discrepancy, are: Australia, Id. for 2 ounces, South Africa and New Zealand ½d. for two ounces. In respect of printed matter, catalogues and newspapers not registered for transmission by post, the
Australian charge is Id. for 4 ounces, and in both New Zealand and South Africa the charge is $d. for 2 ounces. For third-class mail’ matter, consisting of periodicals and newspapers registered for transmission by post, the Australian charge is Id. for 6 ounces, the South African charge is -d. for 4 ounces, and the New Zealand charge is ½d. for 3 ounces, and Id. for weight up to 16 ounces. Furthermore, the New Zealand charge for transmission of third-class matter to Australia is Id. up to 16 ounces, whereas the Australian charge for transmission of’ similar matter to New Zealand is Id. up to 6 ounces. This comparison is definitely against Australia, particularly when we remember that we have a greater population to take advantage of our postal services. If greater advantage were taken of our greater demand for these services the department’s overhead charges would be reduced considerably. I know definitely that many Australian firms are sending matter by bulk postage over to New Zealand to be reposted to Australia in order to take advantage of the reduced New Zealand rates applying to third-class mail matter. We can readily understand the reason for this practice when we realize that the number of circulars involved would run into hundreds of thousands. Our postal department is losing considerable revenue by not taking advantage of. its huge annual profits to reduce these charges. Furthermore, as these profits represent unfair taxation on them, those firms which use the postal services most cannot reconcile themselves to a position under which the revenue they provide for the department in this way is simply paid into Consolidated Revenue and loaned on interest to the department. Thus they are driven to take advantage in the way I have mentioned of the lower rates prevailing in New Zealand.
I also draw attention to a practice which has crept into the department in regard to the sale of postage stamps. Honorable members will recall that at one time it was the custom of the department to pay a commission on the sale of stamps over the counter by many firms and newsagents, but in recent years that practice was abolished after the commission bad been reduced for some years. The Postmaster-General’s annual report, however, reveals that the department collects certain commission on the sale of duty stamps on behalf of other departments. For the year 1936-37 it earned £210 as commission oh the sale of beer duty stamps, £11,019 on the sale of duty stamps on promissory notes, and £29,604 on the sale of taxation stamps. As the department itself accepts commission on the sale of stamps on behalf of other departments, it should not be averse to granting a commission to vendors of postage stamps. On this point I have received the following letter from W. C. Penfold & Company Limited, printers, stationers and systematists, of Sydney: -
For many years tho Postmaster-General’s Department paid to registered vendors of postage stamps, a commission of li per cent., if memory serves us right, on all stamps sold. This was a cheap enough rate of commission for the trouble and responsibility taken by the vendors. Later this department reduced the commission to 10s. per week for -the sale of £100 worth of stamps or over. Later again this commission was cut out altogether.
Unfortunately, the standard bookseller, &c, cannot afford to cut out the sale of stamps, and in many cases (we ourselves sell approximately £500 worth per week), it is necessary to keep one person practically continually employed selling stamps.
If the sale of stamps by registered vendors was cut out altogether it would necessitate the employment of more civil servants, and we think you must agree this increase in the civil servants should be stopped if possible.
Might wo respectfully suggest that you take up with the Postmaster-General the possibility of giving some of the profit of last year’s sales, which have been filched from the people who arc helping the department, back to those people.
The department does not hesitate itself to collect commission on the sale of stamps on behalf of other departments, but denies to a private vendor commission on tho sale of its own stamps. I submit that it should give careful consideration to my suggestion,, particularly in view of the present buoyant state of its finances.
The telegraph section of the department showed a net profit last year of 5.50 per cent, on turnover, or a total profit of £79,790, and claimed to have established a world’s record for the distribution of telegrams at the rate of 2.3 a head of the population. Despite that record, I suggest that revenue from this source could be increased if the department fully exploited its opportunities. Certain firms take advantage of the service made# available by the department for the reading of telegrams over telephones, which, by the way, they have installed for this purpose at their own expense. Desiring to confirm the contents of messages received in this way, some of these firms have asked the department to deliver the telegram when a messenger happens to be passing their way; but the department, whilst replying that it is only too pleased to deliver the telegram, insists that such additional service must be paid for. I suggest that that is grossly unfair. Furthermore, it discourages a greater use of telegraphic facilities by many firms, with consequent loss of business to the department because, if it gave this additional facility free to such subscribers, they would most likely increase their use of the ordinary telegraphic services. I venture to say that no manager of a company would decline to give a corresponding service free to a client if by so doing he could attract a greater share of business’.
Last year the telephone section of the department made a net profit of 15.44 per cent, on turnover, or a total profit of £1,117,458, and stated that telephones installed in Australia were in the ratio of one to every twelve of the population, this country occupying seventh position on the list of world’s users pf telephones. I have already pointed out that complaints with respect to this section of the department are legion. The department, for instance, could profitably adopt a flat rate as is the practice in New Zealand. The report of the PostmasterGeneral on the Post and Telegraph Department of New Zealand for the year 1936-37 states-
The latest available world statistics, showing the position as at the 3 1st March, 1936, indicate that, with a telephone density of 10.59 per hundred of population, New Zealand occupies a high place in comparison with other parts of the world. The only, countries with a higher density are the United States of America (13.C9 per cent.), Canada (11 per cent.), and Denmark (10.64 per cent.). A further interesting fact in connexion with the New Zealand telephone system is that 70 per cent, of the connexions are of a residential status, which indicates that the service is provided upon a basis which makes it available to the average resident of the Dominion.
New Zealand occupies fourth place among world countries as a user of telephones. It is highly desirable that a flat rate for the use of telephones should be adopted in Australia. The department would see the wisdom of this suggestion if it would consider the advantage of encouraging the use of telephones in private residences. If it adopted a flat rate instead of the present rental or toll system, Australia would very soon rival New Zealand as a user of telephones. The reduction of charges in New Zealand has attracted increased business and the initiative of the administration has been fully justified.
– Is the telephone system of New Zealand paying its way?
– I cannot give the honorable member exact figures at the moment, but obviously it is a profitable service.
Numerous complaints are made from time to time about the unsatisfactory nature of the service rendered by our telephone department. One of the commonest relates to the inflation of telephone accounts. Very many telephone subscribers contend that they are charged for more calls than they make. Honorable members of this chamber have frequently urged the Postmaster-General to install recording meters in the homes of subscribers. I understand that the objection to this proposal by the departmental authorities is that it may lead to a curtailment of calls; but I do not think that that is likely to occur. In any case, the installation of meters would tend to develop a spirit of contentment with the service. Meters are supplied in connexion with water, electrical, ga,s and other services and I can see no reason why they should not be supplied in connexion with the telephone service.
Frequent complaints are made against the exorbitant charges for removing and replacing telephones. I have known of cases in which telephones have been shifted for only about three feet, involving the use of an additional three or four feet of flex, and charges of 7s. 6d. and more have been made for the job. Fixed charges are levied for removals and replacements irrespective of the length of flex or the amount of labour required. This, in my opinion, is inequitable.
A complaint particularly’ prevalent at the moment is that many of our automatic exchanges are seriously overloaded so that satisfactory service is possible only at certain hours of the day. The reply of the department to a complaint of this kind made in connexion with the Waverley exchange was that the Defence Department had taken over the cables, an engagement which prevented them from giving satisfactory service. Promises that additional installations would be provided as soon as the necessary equipment could be obtained from overseas have not been fulfilled although some are of long standing. The circumstances are such that subscribers would be justified in taking drastic action to have their grievances remedied.
Considerable dissatisfaction has been expressed also because the department is so reluctant to install telephone cabinets where they are desired in city and suburban areas, and also in some country districts. The department asserts that it has been unable to obtain a sufficient number of cabinets from the contractors, but surely this situation could be rectified with a little foresight. The stocks of cabinets should not be allowed to become so depleted. The department must be well aware of its normal requirements and it should be able to provide for them, just as other big business concerns have to provide for normal replacements and additions to their equipment. I cannot understand why any difficulty should be experienced in providing all the telephone cabinets desired, and I urge closer attention to this matter.
The unwillingness of the department to grant applications for new services in certain districts i3 hard to understand in’ view of the huge surpluses which it is accumulating year by year. The invariable practice of the department when such applications are received, is to make a careful, but conservative estimate of the probable revenue from the service. If the figures do not show an immediate return on the expenditure involved, the services requested are not provided. Surely the department should display some confidence in future developments and not demand unduly heavy guarantees from applicants who desire to avail themselves of this public utility.
The position in relation to radiograms is also most unsatisfactory. Exorbitant charges are made in respect of calls to Australia compared with calls to New Zealand and South Africa. The following extract from The Wireless News relating to the charges on board the steamer Awatea is astonishing: -
Passengers are reminded that the radiophone on board the Awalea is open to the public throughout the voyage. Calls may be booked at the Purser’s Bureau on “A” deck. The charge toNew Zealand is 10s. for three minutes’ conversation and 3s. 4d. for each additional minute. The rate to Australia is £2 5s. for three minutes and 15s. for each additional minute.
Those charges show such a serious disparity that an immediate adjustment should be made. The traveller who desires to speak to Australia when nearing our shores should not be obliged to pay such a heavy fee compared with that required from the passenger who wishes to speak to New Zealand when the vessel is nearing that dominion. Our people should enjoy facilities at least equal to those offered to the people of New Zealand. This is one of the most glaring instances of the disproportionate fees imposed by a department which has gained an unenviable notoriety for its high charges.
The charges imposed for internal airmail matter in Australia are also most unsatisfactory. A fee of 3d. above the ordinary rate is made for each half ounce of air-mail matter, making the charge 5d. a half-ounce in this country. I believe that this rate will still apply when the new Empire service is in operation. Why should our people have to pay so heavily for air-mail matter when the corresponding charge in South Africa is only1d. a half-ounce? I understand that from the 1st July all the charge for air-mail matter for South Africa from Great Britain and other countries will be only l½d. a halfounce, as against 5d. for internal airmail matter in Australia. The charge for internal air-mail matter in New Zealand is 2d. an ounce which is equal to 1d. a half-ounce. Air-mail matter is not being sent overseas from New. Zealand at present so I have not been able to obtain comparative charges in that connexion in relation to that dominion. Unquestionably the Australian people are being imposed upon in this respect.
The charge made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for the technical services it renders to the Australian Broadcasting Commission is also far too high. Listeners do not object to paying the proportion of the listener’s fee, which goes to the broadcasting commission as it is used for the purpose of providing programmes, but bitter complaint is made about the proportion of the fee which goes to the Postmaster-General’s Department. Last year £409,241 was charged by the Postmaster-General’s Department for its technical services in relation to the broadcasting service, and the department showed a profit of £87,781 on the transaction. If the department’s income from this source were devoted to the improvement of the equipment of the A class stations, the position would not he so unsatisfactory; but I am informed that the equipment of these stations is far inferior to that of many B class stations.
The fines on unstamped or insufficiently stamped letters are also too heavy. I have never been able to understand why the receivers of such letters have to pay the fines. That procedure seems to me like fining an innocent man after the guilty party has been convicted. The department should adopt the practice of returning unstamped or insufficiently stamped letters to the senders.
– That would involve opening the letters.
– The department very frequently opens letters. A fine of 4d. is imposed on thousands of unstamped letters that pass through the post every year, and although the receivers are not the guilty parties they have to pay. That is inequitable.
The feeling with which I am in accord is growing in the community that the Postal Department should be taken completely out of its present control and placed under a commission. A commission would see that the funds were collected and that the extraordinary pro fits were used to give additional services tothe people. The profits would no doubt be absorbed in capital investments and would not be paid into Consolidated Revenue and then lent back at a rate of interest as happens at present. Public opinion will demand at a very near date that some action be taken to give to subscribers additional facilities or a reduction of the charges, or to place the whole enterprise under a commission. The Postal Department at present levies what amounts to an over-charge for every service that it renders in comparison with the charges levied in the sister dominions. It is high time that the Government paid heed to the demands of the subscribers for a better return for their money than is at present given to them. Some honorable members feel that the control of the essential services of the Postal Department in which the public’s money is invested should be retained by the Government, but we are unanimous that the Government should not exploit the people through this department.
.I support what was said by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Before granting requests for the installation of public telephones the Postal Department makes a searching examination which takes a good deal of time ; and after approval for the installation has been given, it takes five or six months for the installation to be made. I had a case of such delay last week. The delay in installing public telephone cabinets is common throughout Sydney and I daresay that the same disability occurs in Melbourne. The efforts I have made in the last three years tohave the important centre of Earlwood provided with a post office culminated last week in an announcement by the Postmaster-General that my request was to be granted; but if it takes six months to place a public telephone in position, I fear that it will be some years before Earlwood gets its post office. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth that the charges for telephones are too high. I suggest that, if the department were to forgo the telephone rentals, the service would become more popular and the money that would be lost would be more than offset by the additional number of subscribers and calls.
During the depression a large number of returned soldiers who had invested their gratuity bonds and life savings in war service homes lost their employment and consequently fell into arrears in their payments for those homes, some of them to the extent of £300 and £400. Eventually many of them had to leave their homes, some under eviction orders. Today many of them are back in employment at the basic wage and the War Service Homes Department is pressing them for the arrears. In view of the services that these people rendered to this country during the war, it is not asking too much that their arrears to the War Service Homes Commission be written off so that they will be able to make a fresh start without having to carry the burden of a heavy debt. I attach no blame to the War Service Homes Commissioner who has to do his duty, but the Government should be able to instruct him not to pursue these men for their arrears.
The tragedies of the last war become more apparent day by day. Twenty years after the cessation of hostilities men who are at the Rand wick hospital suffering from tuberculosis, are experiencing almost insuperable difficulties in proving that their disability is due to war service so that they may qualify for a pension. The ordinary service pension is not enough for these sufferers; it is only sufficient to provide the bare necessaries of life. They deserve better treatment from the Commonwealth Government thanthey are receiving to-day. I ask the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Thompson) to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation the need to do something for these men-. I have every confidence in repatriation commissioners, who are doing wonderful work, but in the cases I have in mind it is difficult for them, under the procedure laid down, to grant pensions, because with the effluxion of time the claimants find it impossible to present convincing evidence. Either their friends have died or the doctors who could have probably swayed the commission are no longer available to do so.
– I had not intended to speak on this question but after the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and having made some investigation of the accounts of the post office, I think that in fairness I should say that, whilst a good deal of the capital expenditure of the department is met out of the surplus in the Consolidated Revenue, no interest is charged on that expenditure. I support the suggestion by the honorable member for Wentworth that the AuditorGeneral should thoroughly investigate the finances of the Postal Department.
It is difficult for members to ascertain what happens to the profits of the Postal Department. The Treasury shows the accounts on a cash basis, showing the surplus income over expenditure, but the Postal Department keeps its accounts on the profit and loss account basis. The balance sheet for the end of June, 1937, shows the capital account as £55,312,722 whereas the previous balance-sheetshowed the capital account as £50,934,769. It is impossible to ascertain from the accounts how this difference is made up. It is the practice in balance sheets to show the capital account at the amount it stood at the end of the previous year and by adding or deducting the profit or loss it is possible to follow the growth of the capital account.In the last balance sheet an amount of £2,827,832 is deducted from the capital account under the heading “less net liability of Treasury on working account for the year 1936-37 “, but no particulars are given as to how this amount is made up.
I was informed in reply to a question that the loan indebtedness of the Postal Department to the Treasury on the 30th June last was £31,283,000 and that the interest payment, apart from exchange, for the year 1936-37 was £1,498,000. It would appear that this liability should be specially set out in the balance-sheet, the balance of the amount now shown to capital account would then represent the accumulated profits of the Postal Department up to date. It is very difficult for honorable members to follow these figures intelligently because the Treasury prepares its figures on the basis of income and expenditure, whilst the Postal Department prepares a profit and loss account. I took the trouble to endeavour to reconcile the Treasury’s figures with those of the Postal Department, and found it exceedingly difficult to do so. The excess of revenue over expenditure in the Postal Department for three years ended the 30th June, excluding capital expenditure, was £9,815,183. After allowing for depreciation and sinking fund payments, which appear in one account and not in the other, the total net profit for three years was £8,732,887, whilst the excess of revenue over expenditure for the same period, excluding capital expenditure, was £8,892,594. It will interest honorable members to learn that during the last three years £3,395,386 has been expended out of revenue on capital accounts, whilst during the same period £1,780,632 has been expended out of loan money. There is good reason for the honorable member for Wentworth to raise some doubt in the matter, becausewhile the Postal Department has met certain capital expenditure out of revenue it has at the same time employed a large amount of loan money for carrying out postal works.
– The Postal Department does not use its revenue; it pays it into Consolidated Revenue.
– I was about to say that. I repeat that during the three years it has expended practically £4,000,000 of its surplus revenue on capital expenditure and during the same time has expended £1,780,632 out of loan moneys. I again emphasize that the balance-sheet should set out the definite liability of £31,000,000 to the Treasury so that it would be possible to ascertain the exact financial position of the department. The interest paid on the loan liability to the Government is £1,400,000, which would represent about 4 per cent. on £31,000,000. I should like to make some reference to the profits of the various branches of the Post and Telegraph Department. The honorable member for Wentworth referred only to the post office, but I direct the attention of the committee to the figures of the Telegraph Department. The total profits of that department for 1936-37 were £79,791, whilst the net profits of the Postal Department were over £2,000,000 and of the Telephone Department, £1,117,457. According to the balance-sheet the assets of the Telegraph Department represent £10,554,000. The assets of the postal service represent a similar amount and it showed a profit of £2,000,000. It would be of interest, not only to honorable members, but also to the public, if the Auditor-General investigated this aspect and also the Postal Department’s finances generally, particularly in the matter of its loan liability, as there is some fear that the Postal Department is paying interest on loan money which has been paid off.
In the matter of wireless broadcasting I find that whilst the revenue from licencefoes for the year ended the 30th June, 1937, increased by 35 per cent., thu artists’ fees and programme expenses increased by 70 per cent. I appreciate the object of the commission in endeavouring to secure the best programmes for the public, and .1 can well understand that difficulty exists in meeting a variety of tastes. Before any further marked expenditure on programmes is incurred,” improved facilities should be provided particularly in those parts of the country where at certain periods of the year, owing to atmospheric conditions, the reception of A class programmes is impracticable. For instance, at Longreach in Central Queensland for sonic months of the year it is impossible for listeners to get the news and market reports because they cannot hear A class programmes. The first consideration of the commission in the next financial year should be to see that this facility is provided to listeners in the more remote parts of the country.
– There are several matters with which I should like to deal. The first is the surprise of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) at finding himself in agreement, with the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett). The honorable member said that the honorable member for -Henty now considers that too much’ attention has been paid to our secondary industries, and the inference to be drawn is that sufficient attention has not been directed to our primary industries. On the other hand he contends that we have acted detrimentally to Australia because we have afforded a great deal of protection through the tariff and in other ways to our secondary industries. In support of that contention he quoted from the report of the Economic Commission which visited Australia to investigate the conditions prevailing in. this country, and he drew the conclusion that if that commission’s recommendations were adopted Australia should proceed to develop its primary industries rather than endeavour to become a manufacturing nation. The honorable member also blamed the. Navigation Act, the tariff, and our arbitration legislation for the present condition which he says has resulted in our population becoming almost stationary. Every one will admit that our population should increase at a greater rate, but; the fact that it has not done so is duo to reasons other than those mentioned by the honorable member for Forrest who contends that high wages and high cost of production have prevented Australia from progressing. It can reasonably be said that in recent years Australia has ceased to attract migrants, due largely to the policy of restricting wages and refusing to adopt the advanced social legislation, including shorter hours and more favorable working conditions similar to that which is in operation in other countries. The honorable member also said it is necessary to pay some regard to the purchasing power of money. I realize that it is not so much a matter of how many pounds a man may earn as it is of how much a man can buy with the wages he receives. If the position were examined closely and a comparison were made with Great Britain it would be found that men following certain callings in England have a greater purchasing power than have similar workers in Australia. Statements have appeared in the press to the effect that workers find that they are better off in Great Britain than they are in Australia. I know of men in the engineering trade who have returned to England where they find the conditions better than they are here. The honorable member for Forrest, who said that he agreed with the views of the honorable member for Henty, should look for reasons other than those which he gave. During the depression, arbitration courts and other industrial tribunals reduced wages, which have not since been restored to their former level. The courts have refused to reduce the hours of labour when the opportunity offered. I realize that some State tribunals have granted, somewhat reluctantly, a reduction of hours. Is it to be wondered that the workers are reluctant to approach tribunals opposed to a reduction of hours? I remind the honorable member who stressed the effect of the Navigation Act upon the development of Australia’s industries that the party to which he belongs assisted the government of the day to dispose of the Commonwealth Government line of steamers and so deprive the exporting industries of the protection they enjoyed by having that independent service. When that line was in operation primary producers and others wereable to send their produce overseas at reasonably low freights, and that fact restrained the vessels of the combine from charging unnecessarily high freights. Although the vessels of the Commonwealth line were sold at a low price their full cost has not yet been collected. This Government has failed to take advantage of the opportunity to make this country fully productive. On numerous occasions the Prime Minister stated that works such as the standardization of railway gauges would be undertaken in order to provide employment, but that promise has not been honoured although over £200,000,000 has been expended upon unemployment relief. Some part of that huge sum could have been expended on national works, such as the standardization of railway gauges and the provision of a dock at Williamstown. The Government is deserving of criticism in regard to these matters. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) quoted figures published in the Sydney Sun of the 26th June, showing the high profits made by certain manufacturers, and he argued from this that they were receiving more than sufficient protection; but if such profits have been made it merely indicates that we need legislative machinery for the control of prices. I suggest, however, that the honorable member would not support a referendum to give the Commonwealth power to control trusts and combines. That would be against all his political instincts. He is content to allow huge profits to be made by companies that are, in effect, combines, and have complete control over prices, and while that sort of thing continues, we shall always have the spectacle of unemployment, existing side by side with huge profit-making.
Recently, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and I waited on the PostmasterGeneral with a request that the threatened dismissal of a number of linesmen in the Postal Department should not take place. Most of them are returned soldiers, and all are engaged on necessary work. Many honorable members have urged the provision of improved telephone facilities, more especially as the department has shown large profits for several years. I agree that improved facilities should be provided rather than that charges should be reduced. Despite our representations, 60 men were dismissed last Friday, and another 60 or 70 will be dismissed within the next week unless something is done by the Government to prevent it. In Victoria, at the present time, there are 7,000 condemned telegraph and telephone poles in use, and they are a danger to the men who must climb them in the course of their work. From time to time accidents - some of them fatal - take place because of the continued use of these defective poles. The men are being dismissed at a time when it is most difficult to obtain other employment, but in the postal department the work is there for them to do in the replacement of condemned poles. I ask honorable members to put themselves in the place of these men who have been engaged on temporary work of a dangerous character. This is a matter of urgency, and it should receive the immediate attention of the Government. I do not accuse Ministers of being hardhearted; the fault is in the system under which temporary employees are dismissed towards the end of the financial year. They are told that the money has run out sooner than was expected, but that is small consolation to men who find themselves out of work at this time of the year. I suggest that the Government should endeavour to find work during the winter, rather than in the summer. Work in the winter months may be more difficult, and somewhat more expensive, but it is only reasonable that the Government should, if possible, provide more employment for men at a time when no other work is offering.
The idea has been encouraged in the press that much employment would be provided in the carrying out of the Government’s expanded defence programme on which so much money is being spent, and it is possible that some honorable members supported the programme in the belief that additional employment would be created. In some respects, unfortunately, the reverse has been the case. At the Maribyrnong munitions factory, 40 men were dismissed in January and February. Representations, in which I joined, were made to the Minister for Defence on this subject, and he said that preference would be given to them if and when it was found possible to employ more men. I am convinced that that has been done as far as possible, but it is known that many more men will be dismissed before the end of the year. The Government has adopted a policy of handing over to private enterprise work that was formerly done at the munition factories, and men who believed that they had regular employment are, as a result, being dismissed. Many of these men, believing their positions to be permanent, assumed obligations which they cannot now meet. The Government, in handing over the making of munitions to private enterprise, is going against the feeling of the people of this country. It may be that the big commercial interests which dominate the Government have demanded that this should be done, but it is unjust to the public, and particularly to the munition workers, who are engaged on useful work, which private enterprise would not undertake until it was demonstrated to be profitable. In the area which I represent there are no other firms doing the class of work which many of the munition workers have been trained to do. About 150 men were employed as the result of the Scullin Government arranging that the munition factory in Victoria should undertake the rolling of sheet and strip brass, and nickel plates. This decision made it possible for the industry to be established in Australia, because it was demonstrated that the plates could be rolled here for less than the price at which they could be imported. This Government has closed down on the production of this material, and the private firm which has taken over the work does not propose to continue the manufacture of nickel plates. Thus a material will be imported which could be made quite satisfactorily here.
The following paragraph appeared in the Canberra Times of the 16th June : -
Women’s lipstick may play a devastating part in the next war.
So complete are the Commonwealth Government’s plans under the new defence programme that there are factories in Australia that can change over from the manufacture of cosmetics to cartridge shells.
One lipstick factory has special machinery installed so that by a minor adjustment it can change from the production of lipstick tubes to rifle cartridges.
This was revealed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) last night. He said that under the emergency industry conversion scheme, many factories had special machinery installed in reserve, enabling them to switch at a moment’s notice to wartime production.
As a mater of fact, this is only another example of the work which the Scullin Government arranged that the munition factories should undertake. That Government also was responsible for the manufacture of shock absorbers in Australia before any of the big’ manufacturing firms were prepared to do the work. I stress this point because the present Government is evincing a disposition to claim credit for the establishment of new industries which were really established by the Scullin Government for the definite purpose of providing employment. Now this Government is reversing the Scullin Government’s policy, and is handing over to private enterprise the manufacture of goods that could quite well be produced in the Government’s own factories. One of our political weaknesses is the tendency of governments to reverse the policy of their predecessors. Of course, the people are responsible for that, because it is they who elect the governments. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that, a national policy in regard to arms manufacture having been decided upon, the present Government should now abandon that policy under pressure from financial interests. I hope that, even at this stage, the Government will reconsider its determination in this connexion. I agree that there should bo something in the nature of shadow factories for the manufacture of munitions in the event of war, though I do not think there is much danger of our being involved in war for many years to come. This Government, however, is going too far in the direction of presenting to private enterprise the opportunity to make profits out of the manufacture of arms and munitions, a principle to which a democratic community such as ours should be strongly opposed.
Country party representatives have complained that the policy of protection for secondary industries has made life on the land unattractive and unprofitable. They seem to overlook the fact that, while it is true that secondary industries have received protection, the primary industries also have had their share. Recently, I asked a question in the Senate regarding the amount of money paid out in bounties since 1932, because I desired to bring a previous set of figures up to date. The figures supplied to me were -
This is the amount which has been paid out to primary producers by way of bounties during the last six years, so it must me admitted that the primary producers have had their fair share of protection. I do not complain of that, and I merely raise the matter now in answer to those who assert that secondary industries have received too much protection under the tariff, the Navigation Act and the Arbitration Act. Like the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) I consider that the farmers are entitled to an adequate income, but their employees should be protected against sweating.
– I would not support any impost that would increase the price of bread, which is the main article of diet of most workers. The position of both the primary producers and those employed in the secondary industries should be safeguarded. If the figures were analysed it would be found that the total sum paid in wages has been steadily decreasing over a long period. During the eleven years from 1924-25 to 1934-35 the proportion which wages bears to the total cost of production has been reduced from 55.3 per cent. to 50.9 per cent., whilst costs other than wages have increased from 44.7 per cent. to 49.3 per cent. This shows that the rentier class is now getting a larger share than previously of the fruits of industry. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that some companies are making huge profits, and that the people of Australia should be given an early opportunity to declare at a referendum, whether they are prepared to entrust this Parliament with power over trusts and combines. Would the honorable member for Forrest vote in favour of the granting of that power?
– It is most pleasing to have that assurancefrom a member of the Country party.
– Lower the tariff .
– If proper encouragement be given to both secondary and primary industries, there will be some hope for Australia.It is essential that the employees shall have good wages and working conditions, if Australia is to attract people of the typerequired for its development. Progress will not be made if our social legislation and the purchasing power of wages are inferior to the conditions obtaining in other countries.
– Suitable markets also are essential.
– It is of the utmost importance that the employees in secondary industries be well paid, in which case a good home marketwill be provided for the primary producers. Our hope lies in developing our natural re- sources, extending existing markets, and finding new ones. By further encouraging secondary industries and providing facilities not now available, more workers could be given employment at good wages, thus providing an improved home market and restoring to Australia its power to attract and absorb people from overseas.
This Government has failed in its obligations in regard to the standardization of railway gauges. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), from the election platform and elsewhere, has promised that this work will be proceeded with, but those who have been eagerly waiting for a start to be made have been disappointed. On the Prime Minister’s return from Great Britain he made an excellent speech at Port Augusta, and on that occasion I visualized the commencement of this scheme. The then Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) also spoke enthusiastically about the scheme, and the reports in the newspapers suggested that at last this great national work would be undertaken. On several occasions I have asked the Government in the House to express its intentions in this regard. Some weeks ago the Prime Minister informed me that the Government was giving consideration to the matter. Three weeks later I asked whether he would summon the conference which had been agreed upon, and, if so, when. All the satisfaction that I got was that I was requested to place the question on the notice-paper. Here is a project that would provide means of training a large section of the youth of this country in work which would make of them skilled artisans instead of their being thrown on the unemployed market. Standardization of railway gauges is essential for the purposes of defence. Tho military experts throughout Australia are agreed on this matter. Provided the work was recognized as a defence measure as well as a developmental one, about £6,000,000 would be expended in Western Australia, and only a comparatively small expenditure would be required by the Western Australian authorities. I shall continue to urge the importance of this work until, as the result of the combined efforts of all parties, the Government is compelled to undertake it. I should prefer to congratulate the Government on pUtting this work in “hand rather than have to condemn it for neglecting to do so. Although £200,000,000 was expended in- Australia on unemployment relief works in seven years, there is very little to show for it. I hope that in the future the Government will give effect to its undertakings, instead of merely making promises to the people and failing to carry them out.
– Of the 50,000 members of Australian rifle clubs, each pays from £10 to £12 a year to become proficient in the use of the service rifle, but there is an impression among riflemen generally that the Defence Department gives little encouragement to the movement. Whilst difficulty is experienced in bringing the Citizen -Forces up to their full establishment, many men are anxious to join the rifle clubs. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has said that applications have been received for authorization of about 30 new clubs in Queensland. In New South Wales 47 similar applications have been received, and there would be many more if funds could be provided, but an instruction recently issued indicates that only five new clubs can be formed in that State during this financial year. Rifle clubs are a valuable arm of the defence forces. They could be made an even more important arm. Their members might well be given instruction in the use of the Lewis, Hotchkiss and Bren guns. Complaints have been made recently about the treatment received by various clubs; for instance there was a complaint concerning buildings erected on the Anz’ac Rifle Range. Some years ago the Randwick range was declared to be unsuitable for rifle practice, and the Anzac range was provided for the purpose. Certain buildings were transferred from the Victoria Barracks to the Anzac Range, and a few years later they fell into disrepair, largely owing to the ravages of white ants. It was also found that nearly all of them had been erected in such an unsuitable position that 25 per cent, of the targets could not be used. When these facts were pointed out, the department later gave authority to remove and re-erect the buildings. The National Rifle Association of New South Wales was requested to do this work, and now it is expected to pay a balance of approximately £2,000 qf the cost. The department has apparently paid about £1,000, and now suggests that the balance should be provided out of the funds of the National Rifle Association. In the last 77 years the accumulated fund of the association, apart from the money disbursed in shooting prizes, has reached £3,900, which has been accumulated from charges to riflemen, and is a. reserve fund for them against contingencies. This sum is, of course, the property of the association. It is suggested that the department has acted wrongly in this direction and that the Minister should look into the matter. Another very serious complaint is in connexion with the supply of ammunition for the Empire rifle meeting held at Liverpool in connexion with the New South Wales sesqui-centenary celebrations. I understand that for this meeting, about 350,000 rounds of ammunition were required. It has been the custom of the department to charge the association £2 10s. a thousand for ammunition used by .its members. On this occasion this charge was made in respect of 250,000 rounds, but without notice, I am informed, a charge was made of £10 5s. a thousand for the extra rounds. Actually 87,150 extra rounds were used and the association was involved in a loss of £893 5s. 9d. To add to the irony of this situation, the ammunition was discovered to Iia ve been manufactured in 1922, and was therefore fifteen or sixteen years old. The chairman of the National Rifle Association suggests that cordite ammunition depreciates to such an extent, that after fifteen years it is no longer useful for expert shooting. Apparently the naval authorities say that this ammunition depreciates after five years. These are very serious matters which I suggest should be looked into by the Minister with a view to their rectification and to the removal of the unfortunate ‘ impression created in the rifle clubs that, they are’ not wanted by the department. I feel sure it is the wish of this Parliament that every possible encouragement should be given to the rifle club movement.
– The immigration policy indicated by the ‘Government is directed towards attracting, to this country yoting people, mainly through the agencies of churches and . other religious bodies. In my opinion successful migration and settlement in Australia is dependent upon effective settlement on the land. In support of that, I make the following quotation from the report of the Development and Migration Commission -
Of all schemes which can bc devised for increasing Uie country’s power to absorb and support now population, the most effective is one that will augment the productivity of lands already occupied.
That of course, is consonant with the necessity for stabilizing factors in all our primary industries. The agricultural labourer is, perhaps, the type of migrant most suitable to attract to Australia. The absorption of agricultural labourers trained iti farm work in the Old Country has been entirely successful in the past; but migrants of that type are not available at the present time. The British Government, owing to its re-armament programme, has already had to make special appeals to secure suitable labour to carry on primary production in Great Britain. The manufacture of armaments is attracting many young people from the rural areas of Great Britain to the big cities. Therefore, it is plain that we cannot expect to induce young migrants of that, type to come to this country. I realize too that while there might be some demand for skilled artisans in certain trades in this country, here again the armament programme of Great. Britain makes it impossible for us to attract men of that type. In my opinion it is very dangerous to resume assisted migration, in view’ of our experiences in the past. I do not propose to enlarge upon that aspect of the matter as it has already been fully “dealt with by other speakers during this debate; I content myself by saying that if the conditions and standards of life in this country, particularly of the workers and the primary producers, are improved, I feel confident that without any added inducement of cheap fares we shall be able’ to attract to-day,as we have done in the past, the best type of migrants to this country.
During the short period I have been in this House the great bulk of my correspondence has dealt with requests for various reforms in the postal department. There has been a considerable demand for the installation of better telephonic services in rural areas and for the erection of much needed automatic exchanges. Some country post office buildings are very antiquated and country members are being constantly approached to have them replaced by more modern buildings with uptodate equipment. Country people cannot understand why a department enjoying such huge revenues as the postal department cannot afford to provide better postal and telephonic facilities, more modern equipment and new buildings. An inspection of many of the rural areas of Australia will show just how much needed are these reforms.
I now wish to touch upon the matter of rural debt adjustment referred to at some length by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I brought this matter up on the motion for the adjournment of the House last week, and I should like briefly to supplement those remarks by saying that a person who reads the second-reading speech delivered on the introduction of the Loan (Farmers’ Debt) Adjustment Bill in this House can come to no other conclusion than that a definite amount of money was promised to the States for rural debt adjustment. So far as I can ascertain no indication was then given that the provision of funds would be made conditional upon the approval of the Loan Council.
– The money was to be made available over a period of years.
– That is so. In in troducing the bill in this House the then Acting. Prime Minister (Sir Earle Page) said -
The total sum to be made available by the Commonwealth is £12,000,000….. it is anticipated that the total amount of £12,000,000 will be disbursed within three or four years …. It is estimated that disbursements will amount to from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 in the first year, and probably £4,000,000 in the second year, when the machinery has been more or less perfected.
That implied very plainly that after the States had set up the necessary ma chinery the money would be made available to them. On that understanding the States went ahead with their plans of debt adjustment.
– And the States have decided among themselves the apportionment of the money each year.
– It was plainly stated in the Minister’s second-reading speech that the money would be made available to the States over three or four years.
– The honorable member will see that the provision of funds for this purpose was authorized in a loan act; all loans are governed by the financial agreement which gives to the States more votes at the Loan Council meetings than the Commonwealth.
– No process of reason ing can overcome the fact that the Commonwealth Government definitely promised the States that it would provide £12,000,000 for the purposes of debt adjustment. The Victorian Government is now placed in an extremely difficult position, because its organization has been speeded up and funds are not being made available by the Commonwealth quickly enough. The Acting Prime Minister continued -
By the time the total disbursement has been made a certain amount of money may be returning for further use. The Commonwealth has no doubt that the States are the proper authorities to handle this matter.
Any reasonably minded person reading these remarks would have been convinced that if the States set up the necessary authorities to carry out debt adjustment schemes the money would be made available by the Commonwealth over a period of three or four years. The whole of the machinery has been set in motion. I speak with some knowledge of Victoria. In that State the Debt Adjustment Board has held meetings with creditors, and, in the expectation that the money would be available when required, has arranged for compositions in accordance with the legislation placed on the statute-book. Nothing was said about the money being dependent on the decisions of the Loan Council. It is true that it was expected that the money would be raised by loan, but not necessarily or exclusively so.
– It was supposed to be raised by loan.
– The creditors of the farmers expect the promises of the Government to be kept. Unless they are kept, the people will have reason to believe that a confidence trick has been played on them. As a representative of a Victorian constituency, I expect the Government to live up to its promise to make the money available when required. The fanners and settlers have been misled.
– They have not.
– Only by living up to its promises can the Government do the fair thing by the farmers and the creditors who have agreed to these compositions.
I hope that tho Government will also take into consideration the representations made on behalf of the wheat industry. In this connexion, the figures presented by the Royal Commission on Wheat should not be lost sight of. Honorable members may recollect that that inquiry elicited the fact that 40 per cent, of the wheat-growers of Australia had no credit at the banks at all; that five per cent, had credit balances of under £10; 20 per cent.- had credit balances between £10 and £50; 11 per cent, had credit balances between £50 and £100 and that the remainder had credit balances of over £100. Obviously, the position of the wheat-growers calls for the sympathetic attention of the Government and prompt action.
– Has not the position improved since wheat rose to 5s. a bushel?
– That price obtained for only one year. It was not sufficient to recompense wheat-growers for losses made during the previous five years. I hope that these facts will be taken into consideration by the Government and that no time will be lost in setting into motion plans for stabilizing the industry.
.- In my opinion, the time has arrived when the Postmaster-General should be a member of this chamber. The Postal Department is the biggest business undertaking of the Commonwealth, and the Minister responsible for its activities should be in that branch of the legislature which is more directly concerned with finance than is the other chamber. The Minister himself should be available to answer questions and supply information to honorable members. I am not satisfied with the replies given to questions relating to the Postal Department. Many of them are evasive. In this house there are members well qualified to hold the portfolio of Postmaster-General.
On a number of occasions I have brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the advantages that would accrue from a reduction of telephone charges to private subscribers. It may be contended that reduced charges would mean a loss of revenue, but I submit that that loss would be more than compensated for by the greater number of subscribers which would result and the increased volume of business that would.be transacted. A better service could be provided at a cheaper .rate. I am aware that the Postmaster-General thinks that the charges are now low, but I cannot agree with him. This department is supposed to render service to the people, but it seems to be more intent on making huge profits.
For some time, I have advocated a reduction of the fee for a wireless listener’s licence. Generally, the fee is 21s. per annum, but in certain zones, it is 15s. It is interesting to note that the sum of £228,168, representing ls. in respect of each licence, is held in reserve by the commission. The funds at the disposal of the commission are sufficiently great to justify a reduction of the fee.
Recently the Australian Broadcasting Commission appointed State advisory committees in South Australia and Western Australia. I placed on the noticepaper a number of questions in relation to the South Australian committee with the object of ascertaining the nature of the service rendered by it. The Minister, in reply, said that the recommendations made by the advisory committee are regarded as confidential. If that be so, how is it possible to judge whether or not the committee is rendering service of value?
– We cannot do so.
– The representatives of the people should be in a position to know whether a committee that is set up under the authority of the Parliament is rendering service of sufficient value to. make its existence worth while. Advisory committees have been set up in only two States. I should like to know the reason for not setting up similar committees in the other States also.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Proposed vote - Parliament, £49,150 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Dep artment.
Proposed vote, £131,980.
. -I direct attention to the fact that on the 10th May last I dealt with certain aspects of the establishment of the alkali industry in Australia. I now simply say to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that I have prepared a memorandum setting out my views, whichI invite him to read and consider in conjunction with the observations that I made on the 10th May. I feel quite positive, notwithstanding the rejoinders to my previous submission, that upon a reconsideration of the matter he will see that there is some weight behind the contention thatan investigation should be made of the claims of Mr. McPhail.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of External Affairs, £3,690, and Department of the Treasury, £206,880- agreed to.
Proposed vote, £50,990.
. -Some time ago the Attorney-General(Mr. Menzies) promised thathe would consider the appointment of an Industrial Commissioner to take the place of the gentleman who had resigned that position. Half the trouble whichis experienced is caused by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration being unable to deal quickly enough with the cases that come before it.
The honorable gentleman also promised that, if the experiment of the first appointment of an inspector to deal with clerical awards, such as those of bank clerks, insurance clerks, and the like, proved successful he would consider the appointment of an additional inspector. Every one is satisfied with the work of the gentleman who was appointed. It is impossible for him, however, to cover the whole of Australia, and a further appointment should be made.
I trust that, upon his return to Australia, the Attorney-General will give consideration to these two matters.
– On account of the absence of the Attorney-General, any action in respect of the matters raised by the honorable member has been impossible. I am not quite sure of the nature of the undertaking given by the Attorney-General, but he will have returned to Australia before the House next meets and I shall immediately bring to his notice the representations of the honorable member.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £124,890.
– Extensive references have been made to the subject of naturalization, the wish being to increase the number ofAustralian citizens. I have been approached by hundreds of men and women - mostly men - who desire to become naturalized. They have postponed for many years the making of an application, the real stumbling block in many cases being the fee of £5 which has to be paid. I desire to make every person who lives in Australia a full-blown Australian citizen as quickly as possible. We should hold those whom we have, in addition to inducing others to come to this country. Many persons who wish to become naturalized approach honorable members and differentorganizations for financial assistance to enable them to do so. Those who ore of an approved type and whose character is good should be permitted to become naturalized, and assistance should be given where difficulty is experienced in finding the necessary £5. I know that the officials in Melbourne would gladly cooperate with the Government in meeting persons whohappen to be in this position. I suggest that the Minister should allow the officers in Melbourne and other capital cities to accept payment of the fee at the rate of 10s. or £1 a month. I am certain that these officers are good judges of character and of human nature, and would not make many, if any, mistakes. I trust that the Minister will bring the matter before Cabinet as soon as possible.
, - I am pleased to give the assurance that the matter raised by the honorable member will receive further and serious consideration.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £1,689,300.
– I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to give serious consideration to the very many applications that have been made for the formation of rifle clubs in different parts of Australia.
.The naval authorities at Edgecliff are refusing to admit into the navy boys of 18 or 19 years of age. I know of two brothers who applied on the same day. One of them, aged 16, was accepted, while the other, aged 18, was rejected. The Minister for Defence , (Mr. Thorby) has written informing me that he had issued instructions that boys from the coal-mining districts should be given preference. Boys of 19, 20 and 21 years of age are children of the depression. The navy is closed against them.
– That is not so. I have made special arrangements to avoid it.
– I can show the Minister replies that have been received from Commander Spurgeon. I cannot secure the admission to the navy of a boy who is over 16 years of age. Hitherto, I experienced very little trouble in advancing the claims of boys who had a good character.Some of these lads are discharging family responsibilities. They have never had a chance to enter industry. I am sure that if the Minister had a talk with Commander Spurgeon he would learn the nature of the letters which that officer is sending to applicants for admission to the navy. Boys of 16 years of age are able to obtain employment in civil life, but those who are 19 or 20 years of age find it impossible to secure a place in industry. The Government of New South Wales has appointed a special board to deal with these boys psychologically, and has made an arrangement with employers in that State to pay a certain portion of the wages of those who are apprenticed.The instruction ought to be issued that no boy under18 years of age may be admitted to the navy. I sincerely trust that an improvement of the position will be effected at Edgecliff.
– I wish to refer to the subject of furlough inrespect of men who are working in defence establishments. This matter was under consideration a year, or perhaps a little more, ago, but I understand that no definite decision was made in regard to it. Those who are working in these establishments are just as much government employees as are men in the Postal Department. This is the only large department in which provisions in relation to furlough do not operate. The services of these men will be required over a long period of years. Although many of us would like to see the defence vote decreased rather than increased, we should not, on that account, overlook the claims of these men, many of whom must be regarded as permanent employees. Through their respective organizations, they have made representations in respect of this matter to the Minister, and I urge himto reconsider their request which some time ago appeared likely to be granted. Unfortunately, however, no decision has yet been reached. From investigations which I have made relating to men of this class, not only in government but also in other establishments, it is definitely held that they are as much entitled to furlough as any other section of employees. I do not suggest that an endeavour is being made to prevent them from getting something to which they are entitled, but the Minister will readily understand that if one class of employees is deprived of a right of this kind whilst others enjoy that right, much dissatisfaction will arise. Such an anomaly cannot be justified. A reasonable hearing of themen’s request would be greatly appreciated not only by the men themselves but also by the leaders of their organizations who are being constantly criticized for their alleged failure to stir up agitation on the matter. Of course, these men have access to arbitration tribunals, but the granting of furlough rests entirely with the Government itself. I again urge the Minister to look into this matter; A favorable decision would certainly make the men more eager in- their work. I am not. suggesting that at present they are not doing their job properly, but it is obvious that if they were placed on the same footing as their colleagues they would be more contented.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) to the suggestions made by the honorable members for Watson (Mr. Jennings) and Corangamite (Mr. Street), and myself, on the motion for the second reading, in respect of the encouragement of rifle clubs and urge him to give such suggestions careful consideration before the Estimates for the next financial year are finalized.
– The position in respect of rifle clubs is being reviewed in connexion with the preparation of the Estimates, the object of the Governmentbeing to make these bodies even more effective than they are at present. . I appreciate the work which they have done in the past, and the manner in which they have co-operated with military organizations, but, at the same time, I say, candidly, that they can be improved. For instance, they can work more closely in co-operation with the military authorities throughout the Commonwealth. If it is shown in connexion with the proposals now under consideration that additional clubs can be inaugurated and the total enrolment of the clubs increased, I assure honorable members that any extra money required in this respect will readily bo made available by the Government. I ask these clubs to co-operate with the Government, as I feel sure they will, in its plans to make them more effective than they are to-day.
The statement of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) that boys of sixteen years of age are being enlisted in the navy whilst boys from nineteen years to twenty years are being rejected is not correct. Although the honorable member may -be able to quote an individual case in support of his contention, it does not apply generally in respect of the practice which has been adopted by the naval authorities through out Australia in the enrolment of youths for the Navy. In accordance with a similar request made by the Government to private enterprise, I have taken this matter up personally with the Naval Board, and .have asked it to provide openings as much as possible for older youths between the ages of 20 and 25, and I am assured that that is being done to a much greater degree than formerly. This observation, of course, does not apply to enrolments at the Naval College, in respect of which there is a hard and fast rule that hoys must be enrolled before reaching the age of fourteen years in order that their training at the college may be better attended to. In respect of the Navy generally, however, everything possible is being done to engage older lads, and I could cite many instances of this ; but it must be remembered that the ages of those enrolled must cover a certain range.
– Does that mean that the age of enlistment has been extended?
– Yes. In reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) I poind; out that during the last six months quite a number of concessions, including substantial increases of wages, have been granted to workers in different sections of the Governments munition works. The matter of furlough, however, has not yet been finalized; but it has not been rejected. Up. to the present we have not been able to come to a satisfactory arrangement because the large majority of these men are employed in a temporary capacity. The honorable member is aware that the meaning of temporary employment in this respect has been rather distorted by reason of the fact that hundreds of these men have been kept on over a period of many years.
– Many similar cases are to be found right throughout the Commonwealth Public Service.
– I am aware of the difficulties which confront us in that respect/ I assure the honorable member that I shall sympathetically consider the applications of various sections of the employees he has mentioned and shall endeavour to grant their request if not in ‘ toto, at least in” substantial part. We are doing our utmost to place the munition workers on the most satisfactory footing because we realize that, unless they are contented, we cannot hope to get the best results from them. In this connexion I point out that the employees at Garden Island and also at Cockatoo Island, where they are indirectly attached to the Defence Department because of the nature of their work, are satisfied with the way in which we recently met their requests, many of which, I say candidly, were not unjustified.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Departmentof Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £164,160.
.I notice that the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) is not present.
– I am representing the Acting Minister.
– Recently the Acting Minister gave an undertaking to a number of honorable members that he would make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether the existing duty on Douglas fir was too high and I am anxious to know the result of that investigation, in connexion with which, I understand, a departmental officer visited Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Has his report yet been presented to the Minister? I should be very pleased to hear at an early date that the Government has decided to reduce the import duty onoregon logs.
– Rates of duty may not be discussed on this vote.
.Like the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price), but for a different reason, I also am anxious to hear the result of the departmental investigations into timber. I urge the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs to proceed very carefully in this respect. I hope that recent representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on behalf of the Tasmanian timber industry will be taken fully into consideration, and that proper protection will be assured to the timber industry in the future.
– Order !
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Health; £31,910; Department of Commerce, £113,040 ; Miscellaneous Services, £114,580; War Services, £292,720; Commonwealth Railways, £133,180 - agreed to.
Postm aster-Gen er al’s Depart men t.
Proposed vote, £3,048,160.
.- I direct attention to the unsatisfactory state of affairs existing at the Kogarah telephone exchange which has been in a veritable muddle for the last twelve months. Possibly the trouble may be due to the laying of fresh cables, but in view of the inconvenience caused to subscribers to this exchange, the Postmaster-General, I suggest, should agree to reduce the charges to them by 25 per cent. One morning I got as many as five wrong numbers in succession. Several subscribers to this exchange have assured me that they have discontinued using their telephone, because they had found the service so unsatisfactory that it paid them better to employ messengers. It is useless to continue to tell the people that automatic and manual exchanges can work satisfactorily in conjunction. Experience has definitely proved that they cannot do so. Unfortunately, even medical practitioneres are not being given a satisfactory telephone service. I know of doctors who have specially asked the exchange to put through to them without delay certain expected calls, but the calls have not come and the persons desiring the services of the particular doctors have had to go to their surgeries at all hours of the night in order to obtain their services. The situation is entirely unsatisfactory.
I have frequently been told that some of the difficulty is due to inability to secure supplies of cable. From one source in the department I have been told that the rearmament policy has made it impossible to obtain cables, but “ understrappers “ have told me quite a different story. I am beginning to think that the Postmaster-General is merely a figurehead. If he has too much work to do in consequence of having to act as Attorney-General and Leader of the Government in the Senate, means should be found to relieve him of some of his duties. This great profit-making department should be called upon to give satisfactory service to the public which provides its revenue.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the. following paragraph which appears in the June issue of the Monthly Circular issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Victoria : -
Employmentof Exempt Junior Telephonists.
The amended conditions governing the employment of exempt junior telephonists provide for the retention of the services of such officers until they reach the age of twenty years, provided they agree in writing to continue without increased remuneration beyond the wagescale appropriate to exempt junior telephonists over eighteen years of age.
Postmasters in charge of exchanges where exempt junior telephonists are employed should note and take the necessary action to otbain the written agreements referred to, and forward them to the Superintendent, Telephone Branch, General Post Office, Melbourne, or the District Telephone Officers, approximately two (2) months before the exempt junior telephonist concerned reaches her nineteenth birthday.
This provision seems to me to take a very mean advantage of these girls. They are told, in effect, that if, upon reaching the age of eighteen years, they are prepared to work until they reach the age of twenty years, without any further increase of salary, their services will be retained; otherwise they will be dismissed. Surely this matter only needs to be referred to in order to be rectified.
I direct attention also to the unsatisfactory state of affairs in relation to boys who are invited to compete for certain junior positions in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, These lads pay a registration fee for the necessary examination and are led to expect that if they pass they will be appointed to positions. Unfortunately, many boys pass for whom positions are never found, for the number of vacancies is far short of the number of qualified applicants, and when the boys reach the age of sixteen years they are told that they are too old to be appointed. The whole system is unfair as it causes a great deal of anxiety to parents, and leaves many of the boys stranded. Surely some other method could be adopted which would not have such undesirable results.
– I direct attention to the growing tendency in the Postmaster-General’s Department to engage temporary labour instead of making permanent appointments to the Service. By adopting this policy the department avoids incurring certain obligations which it must carry in connexion with permanent officers. I have in mind particularly the unhappy situation of certain temporary linesmen in South Australia. Many of these men were promised that if they were returned soldiers who have passed the requisite examination and had two years’ service they would be permanently appointed.I have been informed by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union that of 130 men eligible for permanent appointment at the beginning of this year only twelve were appointed. Instead of fulfilling its promise to the men the department is encouraging young men to train with the object of obtaining permanent appointments as they become available. This policy must inevitably rob the men I have mentioned of any prospect of permanent appointment, although some of them have been living in expectation of such appointments for a long time. The young men begin their training when they are about eighteen years of age and look for permanent appointments upon reaching 21 years of age. The policy of the department is unfair to the older men who should be permanently appointed in pursuance of the definite promise given to them.
– The same policy is adopted in New South Wales.
– Honorable members should indicate in an emphatic way that the Government must honour its undertaking to the men who have given it good service in a temporary capacity and are eligible for permanent appointment. I ask that the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs be requested to recognize the rights of these men.
– Once again I bring under the notice of the Government the very unsatisfactory condition of the post office building at Lake Bolac. I have informed the Government on different occasions during the lastt wo or three years that this building which has been in use for more than 50 years is quite inadequate to the needs of the town. Since I made my last representations on the subject the building has been condemned by the shire health authorities as unfit for human habitation. I even wont to the length of forwarding to the Postmaster-General a copy of the report of the local medical officer on the subject. A department which shows such a large surplus as this department does should provide proper buildings for its officers. I understand that the lease of this building expires in about twelve months’ time. The Government should therefore give immediate attention to the matter. The Cobden post office should also be condemned as unfit for habitation. When I brought the need for its replacement before the PostmasterGeneral he told me that nothing could he done. I appealed to him again and was given the same answer. I examined the living quarters attached to the post office and was informed that when the postmaster went away on leave for three weeks, he left some clothes hanging in the premises. On his return he found that they were mouldy. The living quarters are damp. It would require a great deal of repair to put the building into a decent condition. It contrasts shockingly with the new buildings of value that have been erected beside it.
– If it were privately owned, it would be condemned ?
– Yes. The Lake Bolac post office has already been condemned, and in my opinion so should the post office at Cobden.
– I bring up a matter which warrants the consideration of this Parliament. There were in 1934 in Perth three main commercial broadcasting stations, 6PR, 6IX and 6ML. Station 6PR was operated on a power of 500 watts and stations 6IX and 6ML were on 300 watts. Stations 6IX and 6ML are associated with a newspaper organization and I ask the Minister in Charge of the House (Mr. Thorby) to refer to the reply which the Attorney-General gave to me regarding hiswillingness to see that a return was again furnished to this Parliament to bring up to date the information which was tabled some time ago showing the ownership and interlocked control of all B class stations in Australia; also who own them and what are the associations which are able to have definite linksso that they constitute, at any rate, a nascent monopoly in commercial broadcasting. Station 6PR, by reason of its greater power, had a decided commercial advantage over stations 6IX and 6ML, which are either directly or indirectly associated with a great newspaper. Those stations were able to persuade the PostmasterGeneral’s Department that this competitive disadvantage should be removed, and the two stations were given a 500-watt power. That seems to be fair and square, although they had quite gladly accepted a licence for less power. Finding that they were at a disadvantage in transmitting service, they sought to be placed on an equality with the other stations and they were successful in their efforts. I agree that the department did the right thing. After the lapse of time the department decided that it would allow a licence to be given to another station 6PM, at Fremantle, but it would not give this station the same power that it had given to the other three B class broadcasting stations which are licensed and which operate from Perth. The distance between the two cities is twelve miles. I have a great deal of documentation which shows that the department regards Perth and Fre- mantle as being one area as far as broadcasting services are concerned. That being the case, having agreed to license a station at Fremantle, I submit that the Postmaster-General’s Department should have granted that licence on the same basis as the licences which had been granted to the three stations at Perth.
– Would that interferewith the wave-lengths?
– No ; there is no technical difficulty. The departmental attitude is that in proportion to population Perth already had sufficient B class stations. It is not the business of the Postmaster-General’s Department to be concerned with whether stations can operate successfully from a commercial point of view. It is its business to give to Perth and Fremantle the same range of selectivity in programmes as it has given to Melbourne and Sydney, because each, wireless listener in Perth or Fremantle pays exactly the same licence-fee as is. paid by the listeners in those cities. Technically, the problem of wave-lengths is not greater in the metropolitan area of Perth than it is in the metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne, which cities possess many more wireless broadcasting stations than there are in Perth. I repeat that the attitude of the department is that Perth is adequately served. That is said by a department which up to the present has provided only one national broadcasting station in Perth, although in every other capital city, even including Hobart, there are two national stations. Perth has been promised two for a long while, but there has been no fulfilment of that promise. The people of Western Australia are entitled to have a choice of programmes and to have alternative national stations as well as a reasonable number of commercial stations. The commercial stations 6IX and 6ML are controlled by the one organization which has succeeded in obtaining a licence for a new. station 6WB at Katanning on a power of 2,000 watts. The two stations which have had their power increased from 300 to 500 watts have issued brochures to the advertising community pointing out how unsatisfactory it is to advertise on a station which operates on less than 500 watts. They are going out of their way to take commercial advantage of a licence granted them by an instrumentality of this nation. No person in. the Commonwealth should be given such advantages in respect to privileges which this Parliament gives. Commercial stations should be on a basis of commercial equality. Each station has to obtain business by way of advertisements to defray its expenses and is entitled to the same resources as are available to others. The cost of conducting a station with a power of 100 watts may be as great as in the case of those with a power of 300 or 500 watts except, of course, in the matter of the cost of equipment. The expenditure in respect of artists, announcers and running costs would be almost the same. It appears to me to be monstrous that listeners who pay the same licence-fee should be induced to disregard the programme of a certain station merely because that station has a poor signal which is attributable to the fact that the department will not provide it with a signal equal to other licensed stations. Only a few commercial stations can be licensed, and in the very nature of things, this service .lends itself to monopolization. Because of that inherent quality of this service it is of the utmost importance that the department shall, so far as is possible, see that those stations which are licensed are at least placed on the same commercial footing, and that no station, having obtained a licence for itself, shall proceed to issue publicity to the detriment of another station which has, admittedly, a licence for a power less than it now seeks. I can quite understand the department saying that station 6PM was glad to get a licence for a station of 100 watts. The Postmaster-General signed a letter - I do not suggest that he was responsible for its contents- saying that if the station was dissatisfied with the powe’r granted to it the department would gladly accept the surrender of the licence. But the licensees had been put to the expense of installing plant. The answer given to 6PM was that it was glad to start on the low power, but that is not the answer given to the stations controlled by the great newspapers. They started on 300 watts, but are now operating on 500 watts and the increase of power was granted, not to one station only but to both of them. I ask for an inquiry into this subject. I admit that I have written repeatedly to the department and have not received any satisfaction. The Minister’s final reply contains a phrase which I regard as bordering on impertinence. In dealing with the application of 6PM the PostmasterGeneral said -
Although in the circumstances tho power of stations 6IX, CML and 6 PR has no bearing on the matter we are considering, I am glad to supply tlie information 3*011 seek concerning those stations. In regard to 6IX and CML the increase to .500 watts was made to bring them into line with other metropolitan stations, and in conformity with increases it has been found possible to make throughout the Commonwealth as a result of improvements which had been effected in transmitting and receiving equipments.
Obviously that which was done in other States” is used to justify what has been done in Perth. What were the conditions upon which these stations were granted an increase of power? The information has not been given, although it has been said that one of the reasons why the department was unable to increase the power of 6 PM was because other applicants had been refused licences. A number of persons and organizations in Western Australia had been seeking licences, including the Western Australian Worker, and great difficulty has been experienced on account of the technical objections which have been raised. Labour newspapers that are definite entities cannot obtain licences with the ease that the Melbourne Herald, the Sim, or other newspapers which support the Government can do so. The Advertiser, published in Adelaide, also has broadcasting stations, and I contend that the newspaper control over broadcasting transmission in Australia borders upon a public scandal, because I know that other legitimate organizations have been prevented from obtaining licences. I asls the Government to undertake a complete review of the whole of the broadcasting operations in Australia, so that there shall be some co-ordination of programmes between the “ P> “ class stations who carry on under licence from the Crown, and national stations. I do not suggest that there should be only national stations. It -would be wrong for the Australian public to have to depend solely upon government-owned broadcasting stations; just as it would be dangerous for public opinion to be dependent upon government-owned newspapers. I believe in the free expression - of. opinion. At this stage I do not advocate a complete governmental monopoly over those things which are instrumental in forming public opinion. It appears to me that the newspapers are becoming more powerful than governments and that these two agencies - broadcasting services and’ newspapers - are exercising too much power in forming public opinion. I ask for a definite reply stating why the power of a certain broadcasting station in Perth has been increased and why a similar request in respect of another station at Fremantle has been refused.’-
.- I understand that it is the practice of the department, not to proceed with new works until the Works Estimates have been passed, and that it frequently happens that more than one half of the’ financial year has elapsed before authority isgiven for work to be proceeded with. The Postal Department meets the cost of a considerable amount of work “ out of revenue, and I know that the present practice of rushing work late in the financial year is unsatisfactory and uneconomic. Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General see if arrangements can be made for public works to be commenced earlier in the financial year ?
.I have been in communication with the Postal Department for some considerable time in connexion with the provision of telephonic communication to Flinders Island. The department has been investigating the practicability of installing a radio telephone between the island and Tasmania, and between the island and the mainland. I recognize the difficulty confronting the department in that this form of communication is still in the experimental stage, but I urge the Minister to take steps to have the matter hurried forward as much as possible. There is a more or less satisfactory internal telephone system on Flinders Island, but residents have to pay an additional fee to Amalgamated Wireless Limited on all telegrams’ despatched.
– Complaints are frequently made that the Postal Department has adopted a niggardly attitude in regard to the provision of public telephone, facilities in suburban areas, and ‘ this probably applies to country districts as well. It has been the practice of the department to require residents to guarantee a minimum revenue before a public telephone will be provided. Until recently it was generally assumed that the department expected to be reimbursed for the cost of installation and to be guaranteed against loss in the operation of the telephone. However, in response to a question by myself as to particulars regarding how the amount of the guarantee was arrived at, I was informed that the department did not require merely to be reimbursed for outlay and for cost of operation, but that it expected a return equal to that from the average private subscriber’s telephone, and the amountwas fixed at £28 a year. In many places in my electorate where public telephones are needed, it would obviously be impossible for this much revenue to be obtained. Private business enterprises, particularly those that are as profitable as is the post office, are generally prepared to provide services even at a loss at the beginning, in the hope that eventually they will become payable, and I suggest that the Postal Department might well follow this example so that the convenience of a public telephone may be afforded to people who are not in a position to subscribe for a telephone for themselves.
I have received many complaints regarding the delivery of telegrams received at allowance post offices. In many instances brought under my notice telegrams of serious import, such as those relating to deaths or the time of funerals, have been delivered the next day. In other cases their delivery has depended upon whether or not some one passing the post office was going in the direction of the residence of the addressee. A statement was made some little while ago that the persons lodging telegrams for offices where there was no delivery would be informed of this fact, but I am afraid that in practice this is not being done, because I am still receiving complaints that the non-delivery of telegrams has caused a grave concern to addressees. I hope that steps will be taken to remedy this situation.
. -Post offices are used for the payment of old-age and invalid pensions. I have had complaints recently that on pension days in my electorate, and, no doubt, this would apply to other electorates, queues of aged and ailing people have to wait sometimes for long periods exposed to the inclement weather before receiving their pension. I suggest that an endeavour should be made to pay pensions on different days so that this congestion may be avoided.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Territories of the Commonwealth, £170,070; Refunds of Revenue, £500,000; and Advance to the Treasurer, £2,000,000- agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 11 a.m. this day.
House adjourned at 7.32 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information : -
Telegrams from Candidate to E lectors.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I regret that the Post- master-General is unable to furnish the information asked by the honorable member,as the divulgence of such particulars would be an infringement of the Post and Telegraph Act.
Overseas Air-mail Service:internal Distribution.
e asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice - 1.Whatare thenames of the membersof the AustralianBroadcasting Commission,and for what periodare they appointed?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 June 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19380629_reps_15_156/>.