15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister able to inform the House whether the National Health and Pensions Insurance scheme will come into operation on the 1st January? As Government members have, I understand, been already informed of Cabinet’s decision, does he not think it reasonable that the same courtesy should be extended to Parliament?
– The Treasurer will introduce a measure this afternoon dealing with the subject.
– As the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act does not provide national insurance, though it will impose a financial drain on the community, as it is an encumbrance to existing benefit organizations, and as it makes no provision whatever for the needy, the unemployed or the mothers and children of Australia, particularly the farm mother and her children, will the Prime Minister consider substituting for it a national subsidy to approved societies providing a comprehensive scheme, based on the operations of existing benefit societies, for all persons with a limited income, and for their wives and children? In view of the increased taxation for national defence, and the uncertainty of the international situation, will he at least give consideration to a proposal of this kind?
– The attitude of the Government will be made clear by the Treasurer in his statement this afternoon.
– Has the Treasurer any information which would justify current statements that some large employers have dismissed sections of their staffs allegedly because of the advent of national insurance ?
Mr.CASEY. - I have no information that would lend the slightest colour to that suggestion, and I think that the honorable member would agree with me that no employees have been dismissed because of national insurance.
– Is it a fact that appointments are being madein connexion with national insurance of superannuated members of the public service? Ifso, to what extent and for what reason is this being done?
– To the best of my knowledge the answer to the first part of the question is in the negative, and accordingly the other question does not arise.
Mir. PERKINS laid on the table of the House reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Brass work, bronze work and gun metal work.
Blades for hand hack saws.
Ordered to be printed.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs, who is chairman of the Recruiting Committee, to which has been deputed the task of raising 35,000 additional volunteers for the militia forces, furnish the House with details ofthe scheme upon which he has embarked? Most people are anxious to co-operate with him in his work, and already many details have appeared in the press.-
– Will the Minister state just exactly what it is proposed to do?
– I shall take an opportunity, to-morrow, I hope, to make a statement which will cover the ground of the honorable member’s question.
– In connexion with the suggestion made by the Canberra Advisory Council for the formation of £ permanent unit of Australian infantry in Canberra, to be known as the Australian Regiment of Guards, will the Minister for the Interior bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Defence?
– I have not yet received a report on the matter from the Advisory Council. When the report comes to hand I shall deal with it.
. by leave - During the course of my remarks to this House on the 2nd November, I intimated that the United Kingdom Government proposed to take the necessary steps to bring into operation the Anglo-Italian Agreement which was signed last April. I also stated that the Commonwealth Government had been in touch with the British Government on this subject, and had expressed the view that the sooner the agreement was implemented the better it would be for both Great Britain and Italy, and probably for the general peace of the world. The British Parliament has since carried a motion welcoming the intention of the Chamberlain Ministry to bring the agreement into force, and this Government has now received advice that the British Ambassador at Rome, Lord Perth, will to-day hand to the Italian Foreign Minister, Count Ciano, new letters of credence accrediting the Ambassador to the King of Italy, Emperor of Ethiopia. A declaration recording the entry into force of the Anglo-Italian Agreement will also be signed by Lord Perth and Count Ciano this evening. So far as the Commonwealth of Australia is concerned, the British Ambassador has been requested to inform the Italian Government that the Commonwealth Government will accord de jure recognition of the incorporation of Abyssinia into the Royal Italian Empire.
Honorable members may recall that when the question of Abyssinia was considered by the League Council last May, no formal resolution was passed, but that the President of the council observed that a large majority of the members of the council were clearly in favour of each individual State deciding for itself, in the light of its own situation, the question of the recognition of the Italian annexation of Abyssinia. From the information in the possession of the Government, it would appear that except in one area, the Italian Government is now in full control of Abyssinia, and there appears to be no likelihood of that control being seriously challenged in the future. The question of the maintenance of amicable relations between Great Britain and Italy is of considerable importance to the people of Australia for, as honorable members will realize, it is to our interests that a peaceful and friendly situation should be preserved in the Mediterranean. In addition, this Government, and the people of Australia generally, will welcome any move that is made to lessen international tension, and bring about more cordial relations between the various countries of the world. Until the last few years, a traditional friendship existed between Great Britain and Italy, and it is my earnest hope that the implementation of the Anglo-Italian Agreement will witness the revival of this friendly relationship.
– Is Australia a party to the Anglo-Italian Agreement? If so, has Australia formally acknowledged the Italian Emperor as Emperor of Abyssinia?
-If the honorable member had followed the statement which I made a few minutes ago, he would see that that is the action which the Government has taken, exactly as Great Britain has done. As to the degree to which we are concerned with the actual agreement between Great Britain and Italy, I am afraid I am not quite clear on the point; but I shall ascertain the information and supply it to the honorable member. The Australian Government has actually recognized the conquest of Abyssinia.
– In view of the reports appearing from day to day in the press regarding the sittings of Par liament for the remainder of the session, can the Prime Minister indicate to the House what business the Government proposes to bring down, and the possible date of the rising of the House?
– I cannot give in exact detail the measures which the House will be asked to dispose of before Parliament adjourns, but, roughly, this is the position: We must conclude the budget debate, and approve of the Estimates. The Treasurer has certain taxation measures which it is expected will not take very long to put through. The Treasurer to-day will deal with certain insurance proposals which it is intended to dispose of before Parliament goes into recess. The Apple and Pear Organization Bill must be disposed of, and it is intended to introduce a banking bill to establish a mortgage bank under the authority of the Commonwealth Bank. The Customs Department has prepared two measures, one dealing with the bounty on newsprint. There is also a bill in the name of the Minister for Defence dealing with visiting forces.
– What about wheat stabilization ?
– Up to the present, it is intended to dispose of those measures which I mentioned, but if other matters of importance and urgency arise they also will be dealt with. It is hoped to dispose of these measures in time to permit the House to rise about the 9th December.
– Does the Minister for Defence believe that the proposed Sandy Hollow to Gulgong railway will have an important defence value? If so, has he asked that the work be accelerated?
– No; the Government has not asked that the work be accelerated, but I shall look into the matter, and furnish the honorable member with a reply.
– Has consideration been given by the Government to the request of Mr. R. R. Sholl, one of the counsel appearing at the Kyeema Inquiry, that the Air Accidents Investigation Committee should be retrospectively constituted because one of its members, Mr. D. Eoss, Superintendent of Flying Operations of the Civil Aviation Board, had been directly concerned in disputes regarding matters which are now being raised at the inquiry ? Does the AttorneyGeneral consider that Mr. Eoss should continue to sit on the inquiry?
- Mr. Sholl’s request was made to the investigation committee, and has not, so far, been made to the Government. When a request is made to the Government regarding the matter, the Government will, no doubt, take it into account.
– Is it a fact that the Department of Civil Aviation has decided to install seventeen direction-finding aids throughout the Commonwealth at a cost of £42,500? Does the Minister for Civil Aviation consider that a decision regarding the best types to install is likely- to be affected by the inquiry into the loss of the air-liner Kyeema now being held in Melbourne? Is it a fact that not one of the seventeen installations is to be made in Victoria, and if so, why?
– The decision to install the apparatus was arrived at last February on the advice of technical officers of the Civil Aviation Department and of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The inquiry in Melbourne will have no bearing on that decision, because I am satisfied, from the advice we have received, that this is the best equipment we can get for the purpose. Certain Melbourne stations are not included because they are being supplied with equipment of another type which will do the same work, and which will have a slightly longer range.
– Can the Prime Minister state when I may expect an answer to my question on the notice-paper with reference to the provision of finance for home building?
– I cannot say. I shall look into the matter.
– It has been reported that the Government of New South Wales has submitted a number of public works of defence value to the Commonwealth for its approval. Can the Minister state whether this is so, and if it is, what it is proposed to do about the matter?
– The Government of New South Wales has made representations to the Commonwealth Government suggesting that certain works would be of value to the Commonwealth in the event of an emergency, and it has -asked that I should confer with representatives of the Government, and with State officers, with a view to working out a scheme for co-operation between the State and Commonwealth authorities in the prosecution of those works.
– Can the Minister for Defence Works say whether any of the works included in the lists “submitted by the Government of New South Wales at the last Premiers Conference have been agreed upon as being of defence value?
– The matter is now under consideration, and I am not in a position to indicate what works -
– I asked, not what: works, but if any works had been agreed upon.
– I am not in a position
– That is absurd.
– It is not absurd. I cannot disclose piecemeal what the decisions of this Government are.
– In view of the great stress that is being placed upon the importance of the States’ works that are considered to be of a defensive character, I ask the Prime Minister to whom do the State governments have to mak& representation, and who has the right to decide. Is it the Minister for Defence Work3, the Minister for Defence, or the Cabinet inner group?
– There is no Cabinet inner group, so we can dispose of that part of the honorable gentleman’s question. I ask him to put the rest of it on the notice-paper.
– Can the Treasurer state whether an assurance has been given to the Government of New South Wales or to any State government that money will be found immediately important defence works, set out in the various lists submitted at the last Premiers Conference, have been agreed upon?
– Will the Prime Minister take steps to see that full time work is provided by the State governments in carrying out any works on moneys provided by the Commonwealth Government or obtained through the Loan Council?
– The works will be carried out by the State governments as the result of their participation in loan moneys or other funds and the conditions of employment will be specified by the States with no interference from the Commonwealth.
– As the result of the increased activity of the Defence Department, will the Minister for Defence Works reconsider any decisions against applications for the construction of rifle ranges and the establishment of rifle clubs?
– Tt will be impossible to state the order of priority in which works are to be carried out unless the honorable member is able to specify the particular works which he has in mind. The policy of the Government is to place defence works on the list of priority in accordance with their value as a defence asset. All of the works will be pushed on with the greatest amount of speed.
– In view of the delay which is occurring by reason of the existence of the contract system in carrying out defence works will the Minister for Defence Works in order to expedite operations take steps to have the work clone by day labour?
– If the honorable gentleman has any particular works in mind and ‘ will bring them under my notice-
– I was talking about general delay.
– I do not know of any general delay. There may be delay on one or two jobs, and if the honorable gentleman has any information he should bring it before me so that I should be able to give him all the information available.
– Have directions been issued to the heads of the various branches of the Postmaster-General’s Department to conduct a survey of their operations with a view to effecting economies? If so, can this be taken as an indication that early retrenchments of staff are contemplated ?
– No such instruction has been issued.
– Has the Government decided whether it will grant to the primary producers of Australia representation on the recently constituted Standing Committee appointed to inquire into locally produced fuel? If the matter has not yet finally been decided, what are the prospects of such representation being granted?
– The Government has to give consideration to a suggestion of this sort, because it is quite different from those that have already been made in this regard. The committee is merely an investigational committee, and it will lose a great deal of its effectiveness if. it becomes unduly large in size. The Government has already received a request, I understand, that Queensland canegrowers be given representation on the committee. There is a question already on the notice-paper relative to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister if he has received a copy of the following lettergram from the Queensland Canegrowers’ Council : -
Council Agriculture and selves regret exceedingly continued refusal request and find it most difficult visualize valid claims from farmer organizations for individual representation should Government appoint Commonwealth representative to ,va tell interests supplies farm product raw material. If Government does fair thing, consider should have no fear unfair criticism from groat tody re. sonableminded primary producers. Council Agriculture asking Australian Primary Producers’ Association as representative all organized farmers of Australia confirm tins request, and to support appointment one producer representative for Commonwealth. Nominee of Australian Primary Producers’ Association would undoubtedly be acceptable to organized primary-producing interests of Australia.
If he has, what action does the Government propose to take in connexion with it?
– I have not actually seen the lettergram, but the Treasurer has pointed out that the matter is under consideration at the present time. I hope that a prompt decision will be made with regard to it.
Land Laws: Protection of Aborigines
– With a view to facilitating the passage of his departmental Estimates through this chamber, will the Minister for the Interior take the earliest opportunity to make a statement regarding any proposed alterations of the land laws of the Northern Territory, and the laws for the protection of aborigines, so that these important matters may be considered by honorable members before the Estimates of the Department of the Interior are under consideration ?
– As I have intimated previously, I propose during the general budget debate to make a statement outlining the intention of the Government with regard to matters of policy generally in the Northern Territory which would include the land administration. It is not intended to make an early alteration of the laws affecting aborigines. When it is proposed to do so, ample notice will be given to honorable members.
– Will the Minister for Works give a full detailed list of old works already authorized that have not been completed, new works that have not been commenced, and new works that are to be carried out as part of this year’s works programme?
– I do not intend to ask the officers of the Works Department to spend weeks in the preparation of a schedule of works referred to by the honorable member unless it can be shown that it is absolutely necessary. If the honorable member is interested in any particular works, I shall obtain the information he requires in regard to them.
– A telephone subscriber connected with an automatic telephone exchange in Sydney, recently complained of being overcharged by the department in respect of local calls for his telephone service, MA 1263. The department investigated the complaint and sent him the following letter - . . The matter has been carefully investigated, and it has been decided to allow a rebate of 1,309 calls.
An amended account is forwarded herewith. ‘ which I trust will be to your satisfaction, and receipts from previous accounts are attached.
Any inconvenience caused is very much regretted.
Will the Postmaster-General institute immediate inquiries, in order to ascertain the cause of the inaccuracy, and secure a full report in regard to the matter ?
– Will the PostmasterGeneral consider the setting up of an independent inquiry into or check upon the mechanism used for recording telephone calls?
– I am quite prepared to take that point into consideration.
– In referring to the legislation that hu.s still to be dealt with during the remainder of the present sittings of the Parliament, the Prime Minister omitted any reference to a homeconsumption price for wheat. Can the right honorable gentleman now give an assurance that that legislation will be dealt with before the recess?
– I certainly hope so. Honorable members know that at this moment the question of making provision for wheat-farmers is under discussion by a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and of the State governments. The intention of the Commonwealth Government was made very clear that, once the States had passed their legislation providing for a homeconsumption price for wheat, the Commonwealth Government would pass the necessary complementary measure to make the State legislation effective. The Commonwealth Government is awaiting the passage of State legislation and, at this moment, a conference is dealing with the general position of the wheat-growers in Australia.
– ‘With reference to thb proposal of the Government to increase the strength of the militia forces to 70,000, is there sufficient instructional staff to proceed with the training of troops, and is it a fact that ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who were formerly instructors will be excluded from enlistment because they are over the age of 40 years? Are we to understand that all ex-service men of over 40 years of age will be debarred from enlistment?
– The age limit for exservice men who join the Australian Instructional Service Corps has been raised to 50 years. With regard to the first part of the question, the organization of the department is quite capable of dealing with the 70,000 recruits we are shortly to have.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Defence been drawn to a statement appearing in the Sydney Sun of the 1.1th November last, that the alliance between the Melbourne squadron of the Citizen Air Force and the City of London Auxiliary Air Force is significant, and that it is the first occasion on which a dominion air force unit has been allied to a branch of the Royal Air Force? If the report is correct, can the Minister make a statement to the House giving details in regard to the arrangement ?
– Yes, I have seen the report. The honorable member may realize that, in other arms of the military service, it is customary to have Australian units linked with units in the British Army. This is merely an extension of that practice. If there is any further information the honorable member requires in regard to this matter I shall be glad to procure it.
– Has the Prime Minister received a request from the unemployed to meet a deputation of their representatives in Melbourne? If so, has the right honorable gentleman consented, or refused, to meet that deputation? If he has refused, will he reconsider his decision, in order to enable the unemployed to put their urgent needs before him?
– All Ministers are always only too pleased to hear representations from bodies in Australia, but it is quite impossible for me to receive deputations from various sections. The question of unemployment is directly and immediately one for the State government concerned, and I suggest that the representations of the unemployed be made to the State government. If there is any point upon which consultation between the Commonwealth Government and the State government is needed, that consultation will take place.
– In the House of Commons recently a White Paper was tabled incorporating all the communications which passed between the respective governments up to the signing of the Munich Pact. Will the Prime Minister table in this Parliament all the communications which passed between the Commonwealth Government and other governments in regard to that agreement ?
– All the communications that passed between the various governments were not contained in the White Paper. It is quite impossible and it never has been the practice to make public all the communications that pass between the Government of Great Britain and, say, the government of a dominion or a foreign government. Certain papers were included in that White Paper and, by agreement with Great Britain, the same documents appeared in the paper which was tabled in this Parliament. If there are any other matters which it is desirable to make public, further consideration will be given to the subject, by the Government.
– Recently I had occasion to make representations to the Postmaster-General for the provision of facilities for the sale of money orders in a small country town. I received to-day from the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane the following reply :-
Referring to your representations under date 28th September in support of a request by Mr. H. Jeffryes, Gundiah, for the establishment of money order facilities at the local post office, the application has been investigated, but I regret it is not practicable to establish the desired facility at present. As you know, the present international situation makes it essential that a very large expenditure be immediately made available for Defence Department requirements. The result is that this and other departments must, for a time, limit expenditure to those things which are absolutely necessary to maintain existing essential services.
At a later date I hope it will be possible to review this proposal.
If what is contained in that letter is to be the policy of the Postal Department, is there to be a cessation of the provision in country districts of postal facilities and extended telephone service hours in towns which normally have small populations, but which, during any holiday season, will have increased populations?
– I have not seen the letter, but I assure the honorable gentleman that while I am PostmasterGeneral there will be only one policy and that will be the policy decided upon by this Government and administered by me.
– “What investigations, if any, are being carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in order to cope with the grasshopper plague?
– I shall obtain information in some detail arid inform the honorable member.
– I have received from the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) an intimation that he desires leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a ‘ definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The Manufacture in Australia of Motor Car Engines and Chassis “.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- I move -
That the House’ do now adjourn.
I move this motion in order to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss u proposed new industry which would give direct employment to approximately 10,000 persons in the manufacture of motor car chassis, including engines, on the basis of production of 35,000 engines out of 88,000 new engines absorbed annually by Australia, a country which, in 1936, according to the latest statistics that I can find, had 670,000 motor cars registered and running.
I submit this motion to-day, because I believe that the present Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to sidetrack this important scheme. It lacks the necessary courage to go on with this or any other constructive proposal that impinges upon the privileges of importing interests which desire to continue to exploit the Australian market. If the present Government fails to bring to fruition the establishment of this great industry, the Labour party, when returned to power, will go straight ahead with it until the industry is well established, giving employment to many thousands of Australians. A study of the history of the development of other secondary industries in Australia shows that similar opposition was raised to their establishment to that now offered to the introduction of this proposed new industry. Many of us recall the opposition to the motor body building industry, but the Government of the day did not yield to that pressure. It gave encouragement to the industry, and, to-day £2,000,000 is invested in plant for the manufacture and repair of motor car bodies, whilst 70,000 bodies are being made annually.
-. - And a profit is also being made of 83 per cent. !
– I do not approve of that. Any overseas company that has its roots in the United States of America, and makes such a profit in Australia, should be forced to invest some of its capital in the establishment of an industry for the manufacture in this country of motor oar engines. It should not be allowed to exploit the Australian market by taking profit to the amount of £1,000,000 annually. The Opposition holds no brief for such companies.
– Will the honorable member urge a reduction of the duty on body panels?
– I do not intend to be drawn away from the main theme of my argument. When it was proposed to establish the motor car body building in Australia, opposition similar to that now raised against the launching of the new industry of engine manufacture was experienced; but, to-day, that industry gives employment to 12,000 persons, whilst an additional 4,000 are engaged in the manufacture of tyres and tubes, and 2,000 in the manufacture of other motor car parts. In freetrade circles, it is pointed out that, once protection is given to an industry, higher prices than formerly are charged for the finished article. However, in New Zealand and South Africa, where there are no large body building works, the retail prices of a standard motor car are higher than in Australia, the prices in the respective countries of a four-door standard Chevrolet sedan being as follows: South Africa, £381; New Zealand, £361; Australia, £352. In addition, the duties on motor cai- chassis and all important car parts entering South Africa and New Zealand are much lower than in Australia, which shows that low duties do not necessarily result in low retail prices for the complete product. This disposes of the contention that if we pulled down the tariff wall we should effect a reduction of retail prices.
I cannot understand why the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should go back on the definite pronouncement made over two years ago by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who then, spoke, with the approval of the Government, and, particularly, of the Prime Minister, who read the speech before it was delivered. The Prime Minister is aware of the opposition to the establishment of many secondary industries, and he definitely made that clear in a statement by him in September, 1936, shortly after the honorable member for Henty outlined the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister then said -
The arguments used against the manufacture in Australia of engines apply with equal force to the manufacture of bodies and many accessories manufactured here.
They also apply with equal force to every other established Australian manufacturing industry which Iws not market as great as that enjoyed by similar industries running in other countries. There is a good reason to believe that the Australian market for cars is as satisfactory for engine production as for body production.
The development of the manufacture of car parts in Australia has been steadily progressive. There is no sort of evidence that the cost of the Australian manufacture of engine or chassis parts now imported will relatively exceed the cost of bodies or of many accessories already being manufactured here.
If that were the considered opinion of the Prime Minister and the Government over two years ago, why has the Government delayed so long in establishing this industry, which the honorable member for Henty said would be manufacturing 5,000 engines in 1938? No doubt,, some influence has been at work to prevent the Government from going on with the proposal. I cast no reflection on the honorable member for Henty, and offer no word of criticism regarding the part which he has played, because, in a masterly speech, he set out in great detail the Government’s proposals. Nor do I intend to criticize the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), who recently resigned from the Lyons-Page Government, as a protest against the action of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), in placing in the hands of an inner Cabinet coterie, or group, the formulation of policy in regard to industries and trade, this group coming to the full Cabinet with, a block vote. Judging by the personnel of the inner group, I am quite satisfied that the ex-Minister, knowing hia colleagues as well as he did, was right in saying that they would dictate the policy in regard to the establishmenof secondary industries of this kind, and would go to the full Cabinet meeting, at which the Minister for Trade and Customs would be sitting, with a block vote.
– And force their decision down his throat.
– Yes, he said that on another occasion. He resigned because of his insight regarding the future of secondary industries, and I feel sure that this is one of the industries which he had in mind.
The proposal to manufacture motor car engines in Australia is not new. The first motor car engine was made here about twenty years ago. This work presents no insuperable engineering difficulty. I remember listening to a speech by the late Honorable H. E. Pratten, who advocated the establishment of this industry many years ago. He even made an offer to a British manufacturer and extended a warning to certain American manufacturers. In 1928 we heard one of those delightful speeches to which we were accustomed to listen by the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce on the subject of the proposed manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, and the British Economic Commission, consisting of Sir Hugo Hurst and Sir Ernest Clark, discussed this proposition, which was frequently advocated by honorable members on the Opposition side of the chamber. Because of the opportunities it would afford for the employment of our own people, it is a proposal of major importance. The following considerations have actuated me in bringing the matter forward to-day : -
Commonweath statistics reveal that during the last twenty years employment of male labour in agricultural industries has contracted, whilst the employment of male labour in secondary industries has substantially increased. Clearly we shall have to look more in the future than in the past to our secondary industries to enable Australia to carry an increased population. The manufacture of motor car engines in Australia would mark one of the greatest steps forward that could be made in the development of our secondary industries. The proposal is of very great importance, because it would result in the provision of up-to-date scientific workshops and additional appointments of skilled artisans and apprentices, which is definitely interesting from the defence point of view. It would mean that we should have to consider the production of alloy steels, as was obvious to the Tariff Board which, on page 16 of its report on motor vehicles, stated -
There is no doubt that the manufacture in Australia of this number of chassis each year would confer many benefits on the Commonwealth. Witnesses in favour of local production contended that such production would -
Increase employment in the Commonwealth;
Provide employment for much skilled labour ;
Consume large quantities of Australian raw materials;
Lead to the development of new industries in the Commonwealth, particularly the production of alloy steel;
Place Australia in a stronger position as regards defence; (f)Involve the installation of large skill repetition precision equipment and experience in its use.
The board could not obtain evidence from the most important witnesses in this industry because they are employed by organizations that have their roots overseas, and will not establish the industry of motor car engine manufacture in Australia as long as they are allowed to send to this country engines made overseas. Drastic action, therefore, will have to be taken. Will anybody say that if an aeroplane can be manufactured at Fisherman’s Bend, including the high precision engine that it requires, an engine for a motor car could not be made in Australia? Just as the manufacture of aeroplane engines is essential to the adequate defence of Australia, so is the manufacture of motor car engines and chassis. Our vast distances make it imperative that we shall engage in this great industry in the interests of both defence and commercial development. In short, this industry would provide that kind of employment which would encourage skill, research and mental application. Furthermore the scheme would provide an outlet for the use of what might be called “ indigenous articles “, or locally produced raw materials, such ais iron and steel. It would also help Australia very considerably to adjust its trade balance, for at least £5,000,000 sterling per annum is paid to other countries for motor chassis.
Although the honorable member for Henty brought this proposal before the House on the 22nd May, 1936, and supported it in a wellconsidered’ speech that had the backing of Cabinet, nearly two and a half years have elapsed and the whole scheme is still in the air. Where is the nigger in the wood pile? I greatly suspect the influence of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) who represents the electorate of Corio, in which is situated the Ford assembly works. I also suspect the influence of the Minister for Commerce who stood for the tearing down of our tariff wall to the 1921-28 level. After his election to the Parliament he crashed his way into the Cabinet and now occupies* a foremost position in the inner group dictatorship, controlling two votes. I have no doubt that the eight persons who are outside the inner group would be fearful of opposing him for fear that inside of 24 hours after doing so they might find themselves pushed out of the Cabinet.
Speaking on this subject on the 8th June, 193S, the honorable member for Henty said: -
One must regard with the utmost suspicion the repeated assurances by the Governmerit that it is wholehearted in this matter, and is waiting for an opportunity to go on with the scheme. The whole of the party hehind the Government is really on trial, with respect to its adherence to the policy of protection. If this Government or this party stands for protection, it should not hesitate to assist immediately any interests offering to engage in the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia.
That was his considered opinion, and it must be borne in mind that he must have been well acquainted with the views of the persons who were his Cabinet colleagues when this scheme was first introduced two and a half years ago. I have no doubt that the Government has been influenced by the attitude of manufacturers of motor cars in other countries. Their desire to stifle the development of this industry in Australia can be well understood. When the scheme was introduced the honorable member for Henty said -
The determination of the Government to give strong, and we intend, decisive encouragement to the establishment of this industry in the Commonwealth is in our mind separate from, and independent of, the general scheme of trade diversion which I have outlined.
He went on to say -
In our view, the time has arrived - indeed it may be overdue - when this great industry should be established locally as a contribution to our existing protected industries. We have the market; we have the raw materials; we have engineering direction and artisans second to none in the world.
He assured us also that the most searching inquiries had been made into the whole subject and that the only increase of the price of motor cars that was likely to occur through the adoption of this policy would he limited to the 20 per cent, expended on operations not already carried out within Australia. * Leave to continue given. ~* He also observed -
We have every reason to believe that the engine and the chassis frame, together with accessories such as radiator cores, gear boxes and petrol tanks, which are now imported as part of the chassis, can be fashioned in the Commonwealth at least as efficiently and as economically as the 80 per cent, which our specialized industrialists are now contributing to the complete .car.
After outlining the bounty scheme which provided for a payment of £30 for each engine made in 1938, and a diminishing bounty for engines manufactured up to and including 1941, he added that the money was to be provided by a duty of 7d. per lb. on imported chassis. He assured us that satisfactory engine production would be commenced within two years and that within five or six years .Australia would be producing SO per cent, of its engine requirements. He estimated that production would commence with, say, 5,000 units in 1938, increasing to 15,000 units in 1939, 30,000 in 1940 and 40,000 in 1941.
The honorable gentleman thought he knew the mind of Cabinet, but many changes have since occurred. In this connexion he said in his speech on this subject on the 8th June last -
Wo now have the anomalous position that the proposal is being subjected to every possible delay.
– The honorable gentleman may not cite passages from the Hansard report of speeches delivered in the current session.
– All I shall say, sir, is that the honorable member charged the Government with having taken advantage of every possible point to delay proceeding with its policy. There can be no doubt that because of underground engineering, and of the pressure that has been brought to bear upon the Government from outside sources, the whole proposal has been sidetracked. I am quite sure that the honorable member for Henty will support the contentions that I am now submitting.
Let us examine for a few moments the activities in which other countries are engaged in connexion with this industry. Of course, all progressive countries realize the great need to manufacture their own motor chassis; but in Australia every effort is being made to mislead the public as to the vital necessities of the position. We are well aware that the experts in charge of the Australian operations of the overseas motor manufacturing companies are not free to speak their mind on this subject. Naturally they are obliged to express the views of the huge organizations which give them employment.
– The honorable member should be ashamed of himself.
– We must look at the plain facts of the situation. If the highly-paid Australian executive officers of the overseas manufacturing companies expressed their mind freely and impartially on this subject, and their .views were against the interests of their employers, they would undoubtedly be paid six months’ salary and -lose their posts.
There has been a notable increased manufacture of motor cars in Japan. In 1935 Japan produced only 3,000 units. The figures increased to 6,200 in 1936, and to approximately 15,000 in 1937. It is estimated that within twelve months Japan will be producing 60,000 units a year. Recently the Japanese Government decided to limit the number of foreign motor vehicles that might be sold in Japan. To-day Russia, Germany and Italy all manufacture practically the whole of their own requirements. In many small countries the manufacture of motor vehicles is alsobeing developed to a surprising degree. The German Government has ordered that all motor vehicles for use in Germany must be manufactured in German factories. The Italian market is virtually closed to foreign motor vehicles by means of the very heavy customs duty applicable to these units. These facts show the drastic steps which overseas countries, arc prepared to take to establish the manufacture of high precision engines within their borders. The amazing use of motor transport during the Great War, and more recently in the Abyssinian war, and, again, at this very moment in the conflicts raging in Spain and China, shows conclusively the value of mechanized transport in wartime. I contend, therefore, that Australia cannot disregard the importance of this great industry.
Undoubtedly, there is room ‘ in this country for at least two big motor manufacturing organizations. Approximately 80,000 new motor car engines were placed on the Australian market in 1937, and our estimated requirements for the next three years are as f follows: -
The total number of motor vehicles registered and in use in Australia in 1936 was 670,000. In the United Kingdom quite a number of motor manufacturing organizations are operating successfully on an output of from 10,000 to 20,000 units per annum. With our developing market, therefore, it can hardly be, denied that there is room for manufacturing organizations here to supply at least 50 per cent, of our requirements.
I regret that time will not permit me to deal with many other important aspects of this subject. In conclusion, I charge the Government with having side-tracked the scheme to manufacture motor car engines in Australia, and also with having failed to appreciate the value of this industry as an agent to rectify our adverse trade balance. I arn not impressed by the promise made on behalf of the Government a few days ago that a bounty would be provided to encourage the manufacture of radiators in Australia. The suggested rate was 10s. for each radiator. To adopt that policy would be merely to trifle with the subject.’ I am not impressed, either, by the assurance that steps would be taken to secure propositions from intending motor car manufacturers. The date suggested by which these should be available was the 31st March next. Presumably, after that date, the Government would begin to consider the proposals. Parliament would then probably be in recess, and that would be an excuse for further delay. We might be told, even then, that the whole proposition must be once more referred to the Tariff Board ! If that course were taken the board would probably meander through the Commonwealth, as it has done already, seeking evidence on the subject, although everybody must realize that very little helpful evidence would be forthcoming. The Minister directing negotiations for Trade Treaties told us in 1936 that the Government did not intend to refer this subject to the Tariff Board, for it would not be able to obtain satisfactory evidence owing to practically all the skilled technicians available being in the employ of overseas manufacturers. The Government has failed to realize that we have the market, the raw materials and the engineering ability to engage in this industry. It has also failed to appreciate the beneficial effect of the industry in respect of employment, for it must not be forgotten that 150,000 of our people are still out of work. The Government has also overlooked the value of the proposed new industry in increasing, to a very large degree, the force of engineering artisans so necessary and essential to defence. Seemingly it has not realized that already one of the most difficult parts of a motor car, that is, the body, is already being manufactured in Australia, that upwards of 80 per cent, of the many types of motor vehicles now on the Austraiian market is made here, and that four-fifths of almost every car on the Australian roads to-day is the product of Australian labour. But what else can we expect from a cabinet which cannot pursue (he same course for 24 hours, and which is drifting along aimlessly to its political doom?
– Despite what has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I assure honorable members that it, is not the intention of the Government to delay the manufacture of motor engines and chassis in Australia. The record of this Government should be sufficient evidence that it desires to assist industries of all kinds, and it is strange to hear the honorable gentleman criticizing the record ‘of the Government in this regard. Week by week, ever since the Government has been in office, more factories have been opening, and more and more persons are obtaining employment. No fewer than 100,000 more employees are engaged in factories to-day than was the case three years ago.
– That is in spite of the Government’s policy.
– No, because of it. We know that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Trade and Customs he frequently stated that, as the result of the imposition of increased duties, thousands of persons would obtain employment; yet we know that each week thousands of persons joined the ranks of the unemployed. The honorable gentleman also stated that £2,000,000 was invested in motor body factories in Australia, and that the number of factories engaged in the manufacture of tyres, tubes, and motor parts generally had increased. I agree with him in that, and point out that it is largely the result of the policy of this Government. He also said that he was not impressed by the fact that the Government proposed to assist the manufacturers of radiators by the payment of a bounty, and also proposed to encourage the manufacture of other parts.
– I supported those proposals, but said that the Government was only trifling with the matter.
– The proposal to manufacture engines and chassis in Australia was submitted to the Tariff Board for consideration and report, and, this has accounted for some of the delay. Even the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) in his initial speech to the House on this subject said that he hoped that cars would be manufactured in Australia in a few years’ time. That was only two years ago. He did not anticipate that cars would be manufactured almost immediately.
Reference has been made to the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and it has been suggested that if _ he were here ho would have something to say on the matter. What could he say except to express himself as satisfied with the progress made? He was in charge of this department, and when he was in England recently he communicated with the Government asking it not to do anything further in the matter because he had important information to communicate. He had been making inquiries overseas, and when he returned he submitted a report to the Government. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs could not do otherwise . than express himself as satisfied with what has been done; otherwise he would be censoring, not the Government, but himself.
This matter was first brought before the House on the 22nd May, 1936, and although it was associated with the trade diversion policy of the Government, it was not entirely bound up with that policy, but was dealt with separately, and formed part of the Government’s scheme for the expansion of our secondary industries. The Government was definite in its statement that it desired to bring about the manufacture in Australia of the complete motor car, and to that end was prepared to pay a bounty on the production of engines for motor vehicles. It was subsequently decided to ask the Tariff Board to ascertain the best means of carrying out the policy of the Government. Honorable members are by now aware of the conclusions arrived at by the Tariff Board. The members of the Tariff Board were divided in their views, but in general agreed that the establishment of the industry would better be achieved by what is termed the “ step by step development “ ; that is, by providing assistance either by duties or bounties to the manufacture of particular sections of the chassis or engine. After full consideration had been given to the views of the Tariff Board, the Minister for Trade and Customs announced on the 27th September last that the Government still adhered to its policy to establish in Australia the manufacture of engines and chassis of motor vehicles.
In order to give those who may be interested in the manufacture of either the complete engine or chassis, or parts thereof, time to complete any plans which may have been held up pending a further declaration of policy by the Government, it was announced that the Government would consider any plans put forward not later than the 31st March, 1939. Those who realize the immense amount of preparatory data which is required before a scheme for the complete manufacture of engines or chassis could be submitted will understand that the time given is not unduly long.
Although the members of the Tariff Board are generally of the opinion that “ step by step development “ is the better method of achieving the Government’s desires, I wish to stress the fact that the Government has not ruled out the possibility of attacking the problem in “ one step “. The invitation to manufacture stands as regards the manufacture of the complete engine and chassis as one scheme, or as to the manufacture of the separate units.
In June last, I replied to a somewhat similar motion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and at that time the Tariff Board’s report had not received the consideration of the Government. Consideration has now been given to that report. Therefore, I am now able to indicate the Government’s plans, and to indicate definitely that the Government will welcome the submission of any scheme which is put forward for the manufacture in Australia of the complete motor vehicle. Particularly is the Government anxious that a practical scheme should be placed before it for the manufacture of motor car engines.
– Will the Government put forward the date of the closing of applications from the 31st March to the 31st January?
– No, because I think some communications have already taken place. The announcement was well circulated both here and abroad. The Government has not been guilty of unreasonable delay. It has proceeded on sound lines, and did the right thing in submitting the proposal to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs did everything possible to further the scheme, and those efforts will be continued.
– I support the motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of drawing attention to the position in regard to the proposal for the manufacture of motor car engines and chassis in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), in his reply, did not break any new ground, but tried to evade the question before the House. It is all very well to talk about the sound lines on which the Government is working. In my opinion, it is all sound and no work. The Government has been engaged on this business since the 22nd May, 1936, when the Minister in charge of negotiations for Trade Treaties, Sir Henry Gullett, proposed a duty of .7d. a lb. on imported motor chassis for the purpose of establishing a fund for the encouragement of the manufacture of engines and chassis in Australia. With the idea underlying the scheme I have no fault to find. I think it is economically and technically sound, if we desire to establish an industry in this country, to levy a duty on imported goods which would come into conflict with it. However, I expressed the opinion by way of interjection, when Sir Henry Gullett was making his proposal, that the policy of the Government in this regard was a colossal bluff, and nothing has been done by the Government since then to indicate that it was anything other than a colossal, political bluff designed to deceive the people.
This matter has been before the House in one way or another on three occasions. The honorable member for Henty who. incidentally, first introduced the scheme on behalf of the Government, moved the adjournment of the House, and complained that the fund of some hundreds of thousands of pounds raised by taxation on imported motor parts had been paid into Consolidated Revenue, while nothing had been done to establish the motor industry in Australia. He maintained that the money should at least have been paid into a separate fund, instead of into Consolidated. Revenue. When introducing the scheme in May, 1936, the honorable member for Henty, as Minister in Charge of negotiations for Trade Treaties, said -
In the opinion of the Government, reached after considerable investigation, there is room in the Commonwealth for the profitable working of at least three separate units of motor manufacture.
Now we are told that the Government does not propose to go on with the scheme, which is already nearly three years old, because it has not been investigated sufficiently. In the meantime, however, while the Government has been trying to make up its mind, no less than £877,000 has been extracted from the pockets of the people who use motor cars, and transferred to general revenue, but not one penny has been expended for the purposes for which the money was originally raised. The Minister continued -
Moreover, the question of the exact bounty required will be submitted at an early date to the Tariff Board.
It will be noticed that the matter of the bounty was the only one which, at that time, it was proposed to submit to the Tariff Board. Afterwards, however, the Tariff Board was allowed, not only to consider that question, but also to survey the whole gamut of motor car manufacture in Australia. The Minister went on -
The additional duties imposed to pay the bounty will serve as a further measure of encouragement of overseas manufacturers of chassis who enter into .production within the Commonwealth.
Thus, in the grandiose scheme as first submitted by that Minister, the additional tax on imported chassis was designed to establish a fund for the encouragement of manufacture in Australia, and also to provide inducement for overseas manufacturers to establish undertakings in this country.
Then, on the 7th December, 1937, over eighteen months after the scheme was launched, and after £700,000 had been raised by the special tax, the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who had by then left the Cabinet, and joined the political wreckage on the back benches, moved the adjournment of the House to consider the position that had arisen as the result of the Government’s misdirection of the revenue raised. On that occasion he said -
The tax was specific in that the proposal was submitted to the House and agreed to for the purpose of creating a fund to be used exclusively for the manufacture of motor engines in Australia. My statement on that occasion was a very definite one, the outcome of a long series of cabinet meetings.
Thus, the ex-Minister emphasized the point that his previous statement was a definite one made as the result of a long series of cabinet meetings. Now we are told by the Minister for Trade and Customs that the Government does not propose to go into this matter with its eyes shut, and that the proposal must be further investigated. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) went on to sa.y -
There was not a detail in my speech in the way of fact that had not been agreed to by the Ministry.
He referred to his speech on the 22nd May, 1936-
Moreover, the whole of it had been submitted to the right honorable the Prime Minister, lt was in no sense a personal submission to the House.
– It appears to the Chair that the honorable member is quoting from a speech made in this House during the present session. If that is so, he is not in order.
– Further evidence that the Government, has no intention, and probably never had any intention, of going on with this scheme, is shown by the fact that, although the matter, was submitted to the Tariff Board in September, 1936, it was not until September, 1937, that the board ultimately presented its report. It is all very well to suggest that the Tariff Board is infallible ; I suggest that only one-sided evidence was placed before it. In my opinion, the only people competent to give evidence as to the economic possibilities of the manufacture of motor cars or motor car parts in Australia, were the experts employed by those firms which do not desire to see complete motor cars manufactured here. If these highly competent officials of the motor car importing interests in Australia had given any evidence which would have resulted in the Tariff Board recommending that motor cars or parts should be manufactured in Australia, they would have prejudiced their positions in these importing firms. It cannot be claimed that both sides of this question were properly placed before the Tariff Board. On the contrary, evidence given before the board was naturally biased in favour of those motor car importing interests which were opposed to the establishment of the motor car industry in Australia. On the 8th June, 1938, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition again raised the question of government policy in respect of the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, and on that occasion the then Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) said that, although the Government was anxious to assist in the establishment of the industry, it did not wish to go on with the matter until it had all the available facts at its disposal. He used exactly the same arguments that have been used to-day, and I venture to say that if, in two years’ time, this matter is raised again by way of adjournment of the House or by some other means, exactly the same arguments will be used by the responsible Minister. [Leave to continue given.] Although the honorable gentleman claimed that the Government could not be held responsible for any unnecessary delay, taking into consideration the statement of government policy when this scheme was first introduced, that definitely only one question would be submitted to the Tariff Board, that relating to the amount of the bounty, and that after exhaustive inquiry and a long series of Cabinet meetings the Government had considered every other aspect of the scheme and adopted it as government policy, I suggest that the Government cannot be absolved from blame for the delay that has taken place. When the matter was submitted by the Government to the Tariff Board, it was obliged to go over the whole gamut of the scheme which the Government had already considered to its own satisfaction. In this way, Ministers used the Tariff Board as a foil for criticism directed against them in connexion with the scheme. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said “The Government still adheres to the policy.” The whole evidence seems to point to the fact that the Government adheres only to the tax levied under the scheme and not to the promises made that it would establish the industry in Australia. After the report of the Tariff Board had been received, the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs said that the scheme generally was “ hopeless economically.” If he, as spokesman of the Government, admitted that, in his view, the scheme was hopeless economically, the Government had no right to proceed with the collection of taxes and misdirect them to general revenue. If a tax is collected, it should be expended in the direction originally intended. I go further, and say that, as the Government has broken faith with the people and apparently has no intention of implementing this scheme, of building motor engines in Australia, the money that has already been collected, amounting to £877,000, should be refunded to the motor car users of Australia. If that is found impossible, the decent thing for the Government to do is to cease collecting the tax until it has come to a definite conclusion in regard to the scheme. The successful establishment of the motor car industry in Aus-* tralia would be of inestimable benefit to this country. Extensive use could be made of Australian motor cars, not only for defence purposes, but also as a means of developing an important industry vital to bur welfare in case of national emergency. It would result in the recruitment of a great army of skilled workers, of which Australia stands in need to-day. The country has everything to gain from the implementation of this scheme. When it was originally introduced by the honorable member for Henty, the people had great hopes, but the Government which was then in office, and which is in office to-day, hopelessly let him down and now it has no intention whatever of putting into effect the scheme which was advocated so enthusiastically in this House in 1936.
.- That the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), should move a motion for the adjournment of the House to consider the development of the motor car industry in Australia is quite consistent with the action and attitude of the Opposition which, prior to the last elections, made an appeal to the great capitalistic manufacturers of Australia for funds to fight the low-tariff Country party. I compliment the Government for being consistent with its pledges to the people of Australia in regard to this matter prior to the last elections. Indeed, its action in submitting this matter to the Tariff Board before proceeding in the dark is consistent with the Ottawa Agreement. The party to which I belong subscribed to the pledges subscribed to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), that before new duties are imposed, matters would be submitted to the Tariff Board. That obligation rests on the Government as the result of the Ottawa Agreement, and had the Government gone on with the promise by the then Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in regard to the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, without reference to the Tariff Board, it would have acted in violation of the Ottawa Agreement and of its pledges to the country and to the party to which I belong. There was no sound ground for endeavouring to foist the scheme on the people of Australia without submission to the Tariff Board. It has, however, been submitted to the Tariff Board, and I invite honorable members and the people generally to read the report presented by the Tariff Board after it had heard evidence on oath from all those who desired to appear before it. The most ludicrous and unusual thing about the report is the letter contained in it, written to the board by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), literally attempting to coerce that independent body to change its mind in order to suit the particular fiscal views of that honorable gentleman. Time does not permit me to quote at length from the findings of the Tariff Board, but it very definitely said, amongst other things, that to enter into “the manufacture of motor car engines’ in Australia was “ economically unsound “. The first proposal submitted was that the industry should be established in Australia under a bounty of £30 for each engine produced. Evidence submitted to the board showed that that would be totally inadequate and a bounty of £45 was suggested by some witnesses. In the summary of conclusions regarding this proposal the board stated -
A bounty of £45 (which some witnesses stated would be sufficient, on 35,000 chassis per annum would amount to a sum in excess of wages earned in the industry both directly and indirectly. It cannot be assumed that the industry, if established, could carry on without high bounty or equivalent assistance for a very considerable time.
The bounty of £1,575,000 would pay the whole of the wages of those engaged in the industry. Can it be considered that it would be in the interests of this country to develop a business on that basis? It was shown during a previous debate on the subject that the Ford car in the United States of America costs £105 to-day, and that the price in Australia, with bodies only made in this country, is £375.With chassis and engines manufactured in this country the cost would go up to at least £500. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the number of employees who would be placed in work if this scheme had been gone oh with. I point out that they could have been employed only by utilizing the special duties imposed on imported motor cars. Is it right that the funds of the Treasury should be so depleted in order to develop an industry which the Tariff Board, after a most exhaustive inquiry, reported as uneconomic? The Tariff Board persisted in its attitude even after receiving a dictatorial letter from the Minister for Trade and Customs. Certain Ministers were confident that the industry could be established in Australia with great advantage, and, in the circumstances, the Government is to be complimented on accepting the board’s recommendation.
There are many things in the Tariff Board’s report which should be read by honorable members, as legislators for this country, before they wildly advocate the establishment of an industry to manufacture complete motor vehicles in this country. In reply to the Minister for Trade and Customs, the Tariff Board reported -
The cost of the bounty would impose a charge upon revenue that would ultimately fall upon other,including export industries.
– A duty is now collected to provide the funds for that bounty, and up to August, about £875,000 had been collected.
– I do not approve of that, and, if the Government would devote that money to defence or to some other worthy purpose, it would be more to its credit. The report proceeds -
A contraction of demand or a checking of potential extension of demand for an export product, such as wool, would, if it affected general value by only a fraction, much more than offset the advantage gained by a reduction in value of imports of chassis.
It is surprising that this Government, with the knowledge that the principal firm engaged in the motor body building in Australia has been able to make a profit of 82 or S3 per cent., has done nothing to reduce the height of the tariff wall behind which the industry was established or to require that company to render a better service to the community of Australia.
– It is a combine.
– No government can be excused that will persistently allow a combine to fleece the public and to retard the expansion and development of this country. Heavy costs of transport must result in that retardment, and if the cost of a transport vehicle is raised from what it is to-day by another £150, there will be further strangulation of this country. By the establishment of the motor chassis industry in Australia, not one extra man would be employed, except to the detriment and disadvantage of other men.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) for one or two parts of his speech drew on his imagination. He said for instance that a car which costs £104 in the United States of America, costs £343 in Australia to-day, and possibly would cost £500 if it were manufactured locally. The experience of not only Australia, but also other countries, proves that the first result of competitive manufacture is reduced prices. Experience shows that if Australia started the manufacture of motor vehicles, the price which is at present paid for motor cars in Australia would be reduced by at least £100.
– If that be the case, why is it that no reduction of prices took place when the manufacture of motor car bodies was initiated here?
– The honorable member knows that the companies which are making car bodies in Australia today are allied to and part of the American motor car manufacturing companies and that, accordingly, they can charge what they like. People of the same political opinions as the honorable member for Forrest raised the same cry as he raised to-day when this country embarked on the manufacture of harvesters and other farm machinery, but as the result of the manufacture of harvesters in this country, the price fell to £90 in comparison with the £180 charged for harvesters in Argentina where none were manufactured.
– Order ! The matter referred to has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– I use that argument in support of my contention that immediately we start to manufacture motor cars in Australia, the cost of cars will fall. Immediately the American companies with their allied motor body building companies in Australia are faced with competition in Australia from locally-manufactured vehicles, they will reduce the price of their own cars. The honorable member for Forrest- apparently is not worried when foreign monopolies exploit Australia; he does not want them to be subjected to Australian competition. I do not like monopolies at all, but we have a chance to deal with an Australian monopoly and to legislate against its exploitation of the people, whereas there is no hope of legislating against monopolies that are domiciled in other parts of the world.
I have no figures at hand, but I believe that much more than 60 per cent, of the motor vehicles that are operating in Australia to-day are of American origin. I remind the honorable member for Forrest that the United States of America does not buy his wheat. As a matter of fact, that country buys virtually nothing from Australia, and, whenever there is an adverse trade balance against Australia, it is due mainly to the imports of motor cars and petrol and oil from the United States of America. That trade causes a constant ‘drain upon our resources which should be stopped.
The honorable member for Forrest mentioned other ways in which the tax on motor chassis which is now being collected could be expended. Those tas. collections were also mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) who, I think, was conservative when he estimated the amount of the collections at about £800,000. I have no accurate figures, but I should be surprised if the money collected in tax from that source does not already exceed £1,000,000. The car-users in Australia have provided and are providing that money for the specific purpose to establish an industry in Australia to manufacture motor vehicles and to protect the people from the exploitation of outside monopolies. Ve were assured that that was so when the tax was imposed. If the Government uses the money for any other purpose without the sanction of Parliament - I do not suggest that it is doing so, although it would be interesting to know what is becoming of the money - the Government is deserving of censure.
I would point out to honorable members that the exchange rate of 25 per cent, is one reason for the great difference between the cost of a car in Australia and the cost of a similar car in the United States of America. It is another “ rake-off “ for the financiers. The facts can be twisted and bent, but nothing can be shown to prove other than that we have to pay the money-changers £25 in every £100 that we expend on the purchase of motor vehicles in Australia. There is no need for me to repeat the figures which I cited the other day because they are in Hansard. What I said then and what I am saying now is that the only way in which to do away with the evil which results in a car, which sells for £104 in America, costing £343 in Australia is by manufacturing cars in Australia.
– Who gets the difference ?
– The moneychangers get £25 in every £100. The manufacturers get the other “rake-off”.-
Another aspect of the manufacture of motor vehicles in this country which should be investigated by the Government is that of the development of dieselpowered vehicles. So intensive have been the tests of these vehicles in other parts of the world that there can be no denying that they provide everything which is at present provided by the internalcombustion engine vehicles powered with petrol. A diesel-engined car was driven round Brooklands at 107 miles an hour the other day. Nobody wants to travel that fast, but the fact goes to show that there can be no objection to dieselengined vehicles on the score of lack of speed. Diesel engines have been adopted extensively in motor omnibuses and the day is approaching when they will be used extensively in ordinary motor cars. Diesel engines use crude oil, and we can produce crude oil in Australia. If we change from petrol-burning vehicles to crude oil burning’ vehicles the millions of gallons of petrol which we import every year will not be needed. There has been a great deal of propaganda by manufacturers of petrol-burning motor cars to the effect that diesel engines need refined oil, but there is the testimony of competent engineers and other experts to the contrary. One engineer, in fact, told me that a diesel engine could be run on butter fat. I do not know whether that is true, but that is what I was told. Whether it be true or not, the fact remains that diesel engines require for their working crude oil - oil that needs no refining.
Every day we hear statements from responsible Ministers concerning the defence of this country and the need for its proper development, but there can be no adequate defence of this country until it is rendered independent of the overseas petroleum fields. If this country became involved in a peril it could be brought to its knees almost before a shot was fired by a cutting off of supplies of petrol.
– ‘Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– I am pointing out that the possibility of establishing an. industry for the manufacture of diesel.propelled vehicles should occupy the attention of the Government. We are told that a mechanized army is the only army that is worth while, but of what use is it to create a mechanized army that is dependent on petrol for its motive power ?
Motor trucks are just as essential as motor cars. I have no figures, but I understand the disparity between the costs of motor trucks in this country and the costs overseas is as great as it is in the case of ordinary motor cars. I should like to see this Government use every power that it has at its command, including the tariff power, to ensure that the needs for Australia’s successful defence are provided. I commend the honorable member for Capricornia for his having again ventilated this matter. From the information that is available we know that there are the engineering establishments and engineers in Australia capable of manufacturing a motor vehicle which would meet Australia’s requirements.
A further consideration is the manufacture of spare parts and accessories. Australia, at the present time, is being exploited in the charges that are being imposed for spare parts. The Government should give attention to that matter.
If the Government does not get on with the job it must cease the collection of the tax on imported vehicles. The honorable member for Capricornia said that about £800,000 had been collected from this tax, but I think that the sum is nearer £1,000,000, and, as the result, the Government has a splendid fund with which to embark on the encouragement of the establishment of the industry to build complete motor vehicles in this country. The money which the Government has collected from the purchasers of motor cars would be sufficient to pay the bounty necessary to establish the industry. As soon as motor cars are completely made in Australia, the retail prices will fall by £100. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) raises his eyebrows; but he realizes that, because of their propensity for exploitation, the American interests will do all they can to continue their exploitation of the Australian market.
– The honorable member) has exhausted his time.
– I am in sympathy with the proposal submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (“Mr. Forde), hut I think that another opportunity might have been taken to ventilate it. Up to the present stage, most of the speakers have been members of the Opposition. I welcome> the declaration by the newly-appointed Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), that the Government favours the building of motor cars in this country. Australia has the brains and the material necessary for the establishment .of this industry. I have carefully perused the report of the Tariff Board, and have carried out an independent investigation in order to discover the message of the board to the Parliament and the people regarding this matter. The inquiry was held in accordance with the Tariff Board Act 1921-1934 for the purpose of ascertaining -
The , best means of giving effect to the Government’s policy of establishing in Australia the manufacture of engines and chassis of motor vehicles, with consideration given to the general national and economic aspect
The report of the board, if read a few times without the letter from the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) would leave nothing to be said in favour of the continuance of any kind of industry in Australia, whether primary or secondary. A great deal of time must have been spent by the board in the collation of material from the offices of the large overseas firms, whose interests lie in preventing any development within our borders of competition which might in any way affect their plans. The whole of the report is practically devoted to the discussion of the operations of the great American organization which now has a stranglehold upon the world’s transport industry, and can practically dictate its own terms and conditions in all countries coming under its irresistible control of the prices of cars, heavy vehicles, and many component parts. The board, in its report, did not show how many of the overseas companies are entwined in the meshes of the great American net that has control of factories in England, Canada, Japan, Germany, Russia, and many other countries, including Australia.
The highlight of the Tariff Board’s report is the statement that the great industrial organization at Newcastle established by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is able to sell its products at prices below those at which the great firms can buy similar goods in America. It is to be hoped that the board’s disclosure will not mean the absorption of the greatest of our secondary industries into the big American financial group. The board evidently concentrated its attention on the establishment in Australia of works to produce 35,000 units per annum, which, in itself, was a wrong basis for its conclusions.
The genesis of the great Ford organization was the personality of a man with no capital. The General Motors corporation can trace its beginning to the grouping of several individually hopelessly small concerns, among which were the makers of the original Chevrolet. In 1921, the manufacturers of the various American cars, which are the basis on which the present huge groups have been built, were producing vehicles assembled, from parts made in various crude factories, and selling them in their own country under the shelter of most rigidly-protected markets. It is interesting to recall the position in Great Britain” immediately prior to that time. The manufacturers of many kinds of British cars, lorries and tractors, impressed with the great growth of some of the American companies which were concentrating on mass-production methods, organized a company, known as the Harper-Bean Corporation, with the huge capital of about £7,500,000. This organization took into its caro for central marketing purposes such firms as it thought desirable, including the makers of the Humber, Swift, Star, Bean, and Vulcan cars and Glasgow tractors, and a great many others, to whom the central organization gave orders on mass-production lines. This led to group buying of materials in large quantities, and heads of British manufacturing industries were invited to visit the United States of America to study mass-production methods first hand. This friendly act resulted in American help in the selection of staff to put into effect the new methods of production, and the visitors returned to England with full knowledge of the various processes. The sequel was the crashing of the British attempt to introduce mass-production methods, and the return of the experts to their jobs in America. England, Scotland and Ireland, at this period, experienced very difficult times. Most of the car manufacturers went into some form of liquidation, receivership or control, and amongst those who were able to weather the storm, or to reconstruct their companies, were some of the greatest of the present firms. In my opinion, the Tariff Board did not not go into the matter submitted to it so fully as the Parliament and the people had a right to expect. The board should have investigated, either personally or by deputy, the manufacture of engines that were brought under its notice during the inquiry.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- As one who endeavours to be a good Australian, I am surprised at the attitude of many honorable members in opposing the implementation of the policy of manufacturing motor car engines, which would give great opportunities for the development in Australia of an industry that would provide careers for many young people. I consider that I have been consistent in my advocacy of the establishment of Australian industries. If this secondary industry were launched, we should witness, as we have in connexion with others, such as the agricultural implement industry, the manufacture in our own country of a better article than any we have imported in the past, and under conditions which we could control in Australia. Reference has been made to exploitation in connexion with the sale of motor cars. I submit that it is within our power to prevent this, and this should be the first step. If we wish to develop our defence plans, we must aim at producing motor car engines and other equipment, required for defence purposes. I take it that engines for agricultural tractors fall within the ambit of the proposal under consideration, and it would be of great advantage to the primary producers if the price of tractors could be reduced. I am entirely in accord with the proposal submitted to the House, and I hope that the Government will take cognizance of the fact that honorable members generally desire the industry to be established.
.- As I have had other opportunities to discuss this subject, I shall not delay honorable members very long to-day. I merely wish to restate the position as I se§ it. Generally speaking, the policy of the Government is to abide by Tariff Board decisions in regard to both proposed and existing industries. The proposal to manufacture motor chassis in Australia came as a dream from the Cabinet room. I say .most emphatically that I believe that in formulating this policy no advice was obtained from any engineering firm in Australia.
– That is not so.
– Certainly no advice was obtained from any firm with experience in motor chassis manufacturing.
– That is not so.
– When the proposal was first introduced, it was debated at considerable length. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) gave an assurance to honorable members, that if, as the result of a Tariff Board inquiry, it was proved that the industry would not be economically sound, it would be the end of the proposal.
– Hear, hear! But the Tariff Board did not prove it so.
– I shall not say personally that I do not want to see the industry established in Australia; but I shall say definitely that I am opposed to the proposition if its establishment will have the result of increasing transport costs to our people, especially some who are not in a position to pay increased costs. We know the effect of the establishment of the motor-body building industry in Australia. In the majority of cases it costs from two to three times more to make a body in Australia than to make it in certain other countries. If that would be the effect of manufacturing motor chassis here the scheme would be economically unsound, and we should not humbug any further with it.
One of the main reasons why I rise to speak on this occasion is to refer to the duty that was imposed two and a half years ago on imported motor chassis in order to provide a fund for the payment of a bounty on the chassis proposed to be built here. That tax was agreed r,o under definite conditions; but although no chassis have yet been manufactured in Australia, the tax remains in force. Almost the last word that the Minister responsible for the introduction of this scheme said to us was that if the Tariff Board report was not satisfactory, the matter would be dropped. The tax on imported motor chassis was for the definite purpose to provide a fund to pay a bounty on chassis manufactured in Australia. I say most emphatically that it lias been one of the greatest ramps ever put over by a government in Australia that this money should have been collected for two and a half years, the total now being in the region of £1,000,000 - it was more than £800,000 last June - although not a single motor chassis has yet been manufactured. The money has been merely poured into the general revenues of the Government. In actual fact, this tax has proved to be an addition to our transport charges. The time has come for the Government to make a definite pronouncement that it intends to proceed with this scheme, or that it will abolish the tax. The tax could, at least, be suspended, for a sufficient sum is already in hand to meet the initial costs of the scheme, particularly as it would take twelve months to produce chassis here. The tax: should be lifted instantly, for under existing conditions it simply amounts to another impost on outback people who are endeavouring to proceed with development along safe and sound lines. Whether it should be reimposed at a later date could be considered subsequently.
Mr. POLLARD (“Ballarat) [5. 20 J. -I view the proposal to manufacture motor chassis in Australia as extremely important to the Commonwealth, especially for defence purposes. My view is that the defence of Australia has to do more with economics than with armaments. There can be no doubt that to-day our economic position in regard to both primary and secondary industries is ill-balanced. A. further consideration is that practically every day honorable members receive letters requesting them to do their utmost to provide employment in government departments or otherwise for the thousands of fine, strapping, able-bodied young men between the ages of eighteen and 25 years who are unable to find work. My letters come almost invariably from the country districts of Victoria, which, 25 or 30 years ago, absorbed all the young men available for employment. In those days, farming lands were not so highly developed as they are to-day. An abundance of work was available in fencing, building, contracting, road-making, and the like; but to-day there are few openings for such work, and, further, the introduction of mechanized practices in agriculture has reduced the quantity of manual labour required in ordinary farming operations. The same thing is true of farming districts in other States.
– The honorable member is now dealing principally with unemployment. I ask him to confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– In my opinion, it is essential that the motor chassis manufacturing industry should be established in Australia, first for defence purposes; secondly, for employment reasons; and thirdly, for expanding the home market for our primary producers. We know very well that the available markets for Australian primary production in countries overseas are being rapidly contracted. Consequently, it is necessary for us to provide a larger market at home, if it can be done. The establishment of the motor chassis manufacturing industry in this country demands the adoption by the Government of a vigorous, if unorthodox, policy. Australia has produced many great men who, when the call came to them, filled with distinction notable positions in many professions and callings. Sir Denison Miller proved his capacity as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank; Sir John Higgins took charge of the vast undertaking of handling Australia’s wool during the war and post-war periods; Dr. Bradfield showed himself capable of coping with all the engineering difficulties associated with the building of the Sydney Harbour bridge; and Sir John Monash became one of the most successful generals of any country in the Great War. I believe that if the Government would take its courage in both hands, and choose a competent Australian engineer to organize the motor chassis manufacturing industry of this country, success would be assured. We have within Australia all the raw material required, including the iron, steel, brass and copper. “We can manufacture such aluminium as we need, and I believe we could also provide all other raw materials essential to this undertaking. If the right man were selected and the Government said to him, “ We charge you with the responsibility, under ministerial direction, of organizing, on an efficient production .basis, within the next twelve months, the production of the motor chassis essential to the economic life of Australia,” the enterprise would very shortly be placed on a sound footing. We should not regard the report of the Tariff Board as the last word on the subject. Surely Parliament must sometimes take the responsibility of acting on its own initiative. The reports of expert authorities are not always correct. Australia, like many other countries of the world, is facing an emergency, and given a satisfactory lead, it will meet the situation effectively. We have many eminent engineers in this country. We also have a large army of competent tradesmen, and many satisfactory buildings and building sites. As a matter of fact, we are producing in this country to-day practically every part of a motor car, including gears, radiators, springs, wheels, pistons, piston rings, crankshafts, and, in fact, all the component parts that are needed. Perhaps one of the big problems that would need to be faced has relation to the number of different types of motor vehicles in use. I suppose that between 30 and 40 different makes of cars are in common use.
– The number is nearer 70 or 80.
– I accept the word of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) who speaks with some authority on (he subject. We have a market for about 88,000 new motor chassis annually. Obviously it would be impossible for us to manufacture 80 different types to supply this market. But if the Government were courageous enough, it could select three heavy types of car, three medium types, three light types, and three truck types, and declare that no types apart from those selected should be placed upon the market in this country. Within five or ten years the situa tion could be resurveyed, when, in consequence of the ingenuity of our engineers, it might be found that the variety could be altered. Possibly, a standardized type of vehicle could be devised. There is no necessity for the great multiplicity of motor vehicles at present in use. The motor chassis manufacturing industry lends itself in a remarkable way to economic decentralization. Plants for the manufacture of various parts could be established in different country districts, and the component parts could be brought together at specified assembling centres. The manufacture of certain component parts has practically nothing to do .with the manufacture of certain other component parts. For example, the manufacture of carburettors has nothing to do with the manufacture of cylinder blocks; the manufacture of pistons has nothing to do with, the manufacture of chassis members; and so on. Under a proper: organized policy, these different components could be manufactured at centres fairly widely apart, and the final assembly could be made at the most economic points. The production of a motor chassis is, from an engineering point of view, ‘ comparatively simple. Petrol engines do not work under very high pressure. We are producing hundreds, and possibly thousands of Diesel engines which work under a compression pressure of anything from 600 to 800 lb. per square inch, whereas the ordinary petrol engine works under a three atmosphere pressure. Ronaldsons and Tippett of Ballarat are turning them out now, as also are Kellys of Melbourne. In the other States there are dozens of manufacturers doing the same work. Instruments of various kinds are being manufactured that require a much higher degree of accuracy than motor car engines. I hope that this Government, which is charged with the defence of the country, with the organization of production so as to find employment for the people, and with the finding of markets for our primary produce, will take this matter in hand, and impose a prohibitive duty on imported motor cars. I hope that it will give manufacturers here an opportunity to select from, say. three different types, the one which they will undertake to make.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am indebted to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) for having advised me on Monday that he intended to move this motion. 1 must apologize to him for not having been present to hear his speech, but at that time I had not yet arrived in Canberra.
I have expressed my opinion on this matter several times, and I have not very much that is new to add to the discussion now. Emphatically I declare that the attitude of the Government towards this industry is a test of its sincerity in respect of the enlargement of secondary industries generally in relation to the defence campaign. If the Government will not establish this industry it will establish no industry. If it will not establish this industry, then there is some sinister and mysterious influence stopping it, and it is well for one to speak plainly on the subject. Nobody expects that any manufacturer in this country will respond to the so-called invitation of the Government to enter into an arrangement, before the 31st March, to manufacture cars. That was a sham offer, and the Government knew it. The Government expected no response to it. It was so when the Government, by a large majority - I was in the minority - decided to depart from the original scheme to go ahead with manufacture without referring the matter to the Tariff Board. Overnight the Government changed its policy, and decided to refer it to the Tariff Board. It was a sham hearing. The Government knew that nothing would come from the Tariff Board but an unsatisfactory report.
– I shall explain why. It was clear from the moment the investigation began that there would be no applicants for any form of protection or bounty. The importers of motor chassis to-day are so satisfied with the present position that they have no wish to disturb it. Their great overseas masters are also satisfied with the position. If they can make profits out of employing Americans in America, instead of employing Australians in Australia and spending the profits here, why should they change their policy ? Why should they change a policy that benefits North America for one that would benefit Australia? That was clearly recognized by the Government, and it was also recognized at that time - because I put it very forcefully to the Government - that it would not be safe for any purely Australian enterprise to embark on this industry. Then, as now, if an independent Australian company, with Australian capital and under Australian industrial leadership, accepted the Government’s invitation and went into production, it would at once be smothered by the incomparably superior competition of one or more of the American organizations. I am not putting that forward as a mere expression of opinion; I say it as a fact. The North American companies are watching one another with the greatest vigilance, and the moment one of them begins manufacture here, two or three others would come in, but they will not come in until pressure is applied. If it is applied they will come in immediately. The Government has the money with which to begin the scheme by the payment of a bounty. It has nearly £1,000,000 raised . by a tax on imported motor chassis. The moment, the Government lifts its hand it can have this industry established in Australia on extraordinarily good terms. It can have the industry established with an undertaking regarding quality and price. That, the Government knows. It has known it for two years, but it does nothing. Why this mysterious inactivity? The Government is always boasting of its desire to assist in the establishment of secondary industries. Here is an opportunity “ to establish an industry of the greatest importance, one which would be an important auxiliary to our defence scheme. Not only would it be a contribution to the transport industry, but it would also be of assistance to the steel industry, and would provide employment for precision workers, who are of the greatest importance to the country in war time.
When this proposal was sent to the Tariff Board by the Government its only purpose was to stifle it. When this invitation was issued to manufacturers it was with the intention of killing the scheme, or of delaying it as long as possible. 1 wish to indicate a scheme of operations which might be adopted. It would not be spread widely over a great variety of car types, such as are imported into Australia to-day. There is room in Australia for three production units. The economic unit is an output of 20,000 engines a year, and that would supply the engines for variations of one type of car, such as the Ford, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, &c, which makes up 70 per cent, of the total imports. Manufacturers in Australia could operate quite economically if they concentrated on those few types. Other types, such as the baby cars, and the big Cadillacs and Rolls Royces, for those who are able to afford them, would not be affected by this policy. I do not advocate a general duty on all cars, but in regard to that 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, to which I have referred, the industry is waiting to come into production in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs said to-day that the Government would not extend its offer beyond the 31st March. I welcome that statement, because it is at last an honest declaration by the Government that it is not going on with the industry.
– What does the honorable member suggest that the Government should do?
– It should immediately open negotiations with three big North American companies trading in this country, and it should make it clear that it is prepared to take further restrictive measures against them in order to encourage the manufacture of engines in Australia. We started out on those lines two years ago. Had we continued we should be close to production now. That is all I ask. Make it clear that the Government is in earnest. Let us go back to the original policy, and this industry could be established here. I am confident that we could get the same efficiency in manufacture, and we should have a cheaper motor car than it is possible to obtain now.
– I desire to quote what the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said on this subject when speaking at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Manufactures in New South Wales.
According to the Australian Manufacturer, of the 5th November, 1938, the ex-Minister said -
I agree with Mr. Sti’vens that there arc times when industries must bc established for our own salvation, even if they ore uneconomic. There is nothing to stop us going on with the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, and thereby encouraging the development of Australia. There is nothing they do abroad that we cannot do here.
He added later - 1 believe if we can make iron and steel efficiently, there is nothing to stop us making motor cars.
It seems to me that the Government has not the courage to tackle any big Australian problem, yet it tries to convey the impression that it is really doing something in the interests of the people. Members of the Government obviously hold different opinions on this subject. It is quite evident that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) thinks differently from the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), while the Tariff Board has a different opinion still. Between all of them, nothing is done. The Tariff Board took a long time to obtain the information upon which to base its report, but it hesitated to bring in a recommendation which would make every one realize the necessity for establishing this industry in Australia. I refuse to believe that we in Australia are incapable of doing what can be done in other countries. Those who speak of the small number of cars required in Australia should remember that Italy produced only 42,000 cars last year, while we have a market here for 80,000. We could not, perhaps, manufacture a great variety of cars, but if the right encouragement were forthcoming, it should be possible to induce two or three different firms to manufacture. The industry could be spread throughout the various States; it need not be confined to one or two. Once it was established it would provide employment for many skilled artisans, and for much unskilled labour also. It would also contribute materially to our defence measures. The Government has embarked upon a big defence programme, but no provision has been made for the conservation of oil supplies, for the manufacture of motor car or aeroplane engines, or for the standardization of railway gauges. In regard to all of these important matters the Government merely finds excuses for delay, so that Ministers, one after another, become disgusted, and leave the Cabinet to make room for fresh faces. Then they criticize the Government for its failure. I welcome the opportunity which this motion has afforded for the expression of opinion on this subject, and I am glad that the Government’s inactivity and procrastination has been exposed.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of parts for motor vehicles.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Perkins and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Perkins, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, which provides for the payment of a bounty on radiator assemblies, is brought forward with the object of establishing on a sound footing the manufacture in Australia of radiator assemblies tobe used for the original equipment of motor vehicles. The Tariff Board, in a report dated the 8th September, 1938, which has already been tabled and circulated, recommended that a bounty of 10s. each be paid on the manufacture in Australia of radiator assemblies for use as original equipment on motor vehicles. The board considered that the bounty should be paid for a period of at least two years, and that it should be discontinued in due course and replaced by other means of protection. Although two minority reports were sub mitted, the board was not divided on the question of principle. One member suggested that the bounty be paid over a period of four years instead of two, and another suggested that manufacture should be undertaken by only one company.
The Government has approved of the payment of bounty as suggested by the board, and has decided that, within two years from the commencement of payment of bounty, the Tariff Board should be again invited to report upon the radiator industry and the best means of securing its continuance in Australia on a sound basis. Protection by duty imposition is not appropriate in this case during the initial manufacturing period. It would be impracticable for any manufacturer to prepare the necessary dies and produce within a reasonable period the diverse types of radiators which are required for the wide range of motor vehicles on the Australian market, which includes practically all types of vehicles produced in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, and, in addition, the main continental vehicles. The immediate imposition of protective duties on radiator assemblies would cause some dislocation of the motor industry, and would probably embarrass the local manufacturer who is not in a position at present to cater for a reasonable proportion of Australian requirements. The provision of a bounty during the initial years will enable motor chassis importers, after the local product has been subjected to com- prehensive tests, to arrange for future l ong-range supplies to be obtained from Australian sources. In the meantime, these importers will be able to import their requirements without additional costs. It is proposed to restrict the payment of bounty to radiator assemblies intended for use as original equipment for road vehicles. Radiators for replacement purposes have been manufactured in Australia for some years, but the process of manufacture of radiators for original equipment differs widely from the methods adopted in the manufacture of radiators for replacement purposes. Mass-production methods are necessary to produce original equipment radiators at a price approximating the present costs to chassis assemblers, which cannot be achieved under the system adopted for the manufacture of replacement radiators. The manufacture of replacement radiators will continue under the existing net duties of 33f per cent. British preferential tariff and 65 per cent, general tariff. The Australian plant which has already been installed is equal in efficiency to overseas standards and is capable of producing radiators on mass production lines.
In its report, the Tariff Board suggested that certain duties should be brought into operation at the expiration of the bounty. As production of radiators for original equipment had not commenced at the time the board submitted its report, the duties recommended by it could have no relation to exact costs of production. The Government considered it would be more desirable to have before it the results of at least the first year’s actual manufacturing operations before determining what amount of protection should subsequently be accorded. The radiator assembly does not represent a major portion of the cost of motor vehicles at present being imported into Australia. Its manufacture, however, can be regarded as an important development towards the manufacture of the complete vehicle in Australia. A problem which confronts Australian manufacturers of radiator assemblies is the practice of overseas suppliers when not supplying radiators with other imported parts, of deducting from the invoice a deletion value only.
– Which is less than the cost of manufacture.
– That is so. It is a practice which other motor accessory manufacturers in Australia had to contend with in the past and which makes some form of assistance to the Australian manufacturer all the more necessary. Supply of radiators for original equipment by Australian manufacturers would not be possible without assistance if they have to quote against a deletion value instead of the overseas cost of production. The bill is drafted so as to provide bounty payments on other motor car parts which may be manufactured in Australia in the future, and in respect of which the Government decided to extend encouragement by means of bounty. This can be achieved by adding to the schedule the motor car part and the rate of bounty to be paid thereon. Parliamentary approval would, of course, be necessary before any parts could be added to the schedule, lt is my sincere hope that this bill represents an initial step towards the .development on a large scale of manufacture of vital and important parts in the motor vehicle chassis. I trust, too, that in the near future proposals will be placed before the Government for the manufacture of the motor vehicle engine.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde), adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to- -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to enable the period intervening between the coining into operation of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act 1938 and the commencement of liability for contributions in respect of insurance under that act to be taken into account for the purposes of qualification for sickness benefit and disablement benefit, and to make other provisions incidental thereto.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Lyons do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will be aware that certain difficulties have arisen in the preparations for the commencement of national insurance medical benefit. These difficulties have caused the Government to reconsider the programme for the introduction of national insurance which involves the proclamation of the three acts passed during the earlier period of the session. It will be remembered that, during the passage of the principal bill, I announced that medical benefit was . expected to commence in April next. I need not now describe the circumstances which have caused delay, but it is now evident that medical benefit cannot commence before May next. It is expected that the royal commission which is investigating certain problems connected with insurance medical service will make its report at the end of this year, but it will be necessary to consider that report, and for the National Insurance Commission to make the detailed arrangements required for the commencement of medical benefit. In view of these circumstances the Government has to consider whether it should proceed* with its original plan which, under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, would require payments to be made by insured persons during the period when medical benefit was not available, or whether it should postpone all contributions until May next, and aim at beginning both contributions and medical benefit simultaneously. The lattercourse has been decided upon. It would not have been necessary to bring down any further proposals had it not been for the Government’s desire to maintain other parts of the intended programme. Delay of four months in commencing a long range plan of this nature’ would itself be of relatively small consequence, but to set back the whole programme would result in embarrassing the organization of approved societies which have been established during the last few weeks, and delay, beyond the time intended, the commencement of cash health benefits, that is, sick pay. This bill is necessary to avoid the postponement of the activities of approved societies, and to enable them to continue as was originally planned. It is also necessary to place those societies in such a financial position as to enable them to commence their cash payments to insured persons who become incapacitated from work, at the time originally intended. This bill sets out to achieve this. This is not an amending bill, but a transitional measure which will have no permanent effect upon the national insurance scheme. The bill is strictly limited to the purposes I have indicated.
In this bill it is proposed to commence » national insurance in the following stages. It is proposed to give statutory authority for all approved societies on assent being given to this bill, and it is proposed that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act shall come into operation as from the 1st January, 1939, except for the effects of the transitional provisions which I shall explain. It is part of the Government’s plan to proclaim the acts relating to contributions to commence on the 1st May next, and there will be no liability for contributions from employers or employees until that date.
In the meantime, the approved societies will be put in the same position as they would be in if the whole of the programme had been adhered to. The Government recognizes that these societies must continue their work, that they must be provided with the necessary funds, and that their enrolling of members must proceed without interruption. By the provisions of this bill they will be put in a position bettor than they occupied previously, but there will not be quite the. same urgency to enrol members before the end of this year.
The bill before the House is largely a financial measure. It proposes to provide additional money from Consolidated Revenue during the present financial year, and the Government has accepted a large additional liability in this regard. The reason for this new expenditure is to enable cash health benefits - sick pay - to commence in July without disturbing the actuarial structure of that scheme. Under the principal act 26 weeks of contributions must be paid as a qualification for the payment of sickness benefit to an insured person. Because of the delay in contributions the proportion of the contributions required for that purpose would not normally be available before May. The Government therefore proposes, in order to avoid delay in qualification for cash health benefits, to make the necessary sums available, in the first place to the National Insurance Commission and through the Commission to the approved societies, which will be responsible for the benefit payments to insured persons. The amount actually required cannot be determined until the numbers of eligible persons are known, and until it is determined actuarially. The bill proposes to pay from Consolidated Revenue on the 30th June next the sum of £800,000 to the National Insurance Commission for this purpose. There will be a saving of £334,000 in the Commonwealth contribution to the National Insurance Pension Fund, the grant for which will not commence until contributions commence. There will therefore be a net increase of the Government’s liability for national insurance during the present year of approximately £466,000. It is’ estimated that this amount should very nearly cover the liability incurred under this bill, and the balance, which cannot be determined during this financial year, will become a charge on the budget for the year immediately following. It will be seen that the Government, having made what amounts to a. very substantial concession in respect of insured persons, proposes to pay the cost of that concession immediately. It will not pass on the liability to the future, and, as I have already said, the financial and actuarial structure of the scheme will remain intact.
I commend this policy to the House as one essential to maintain the principles of national insurance as established in the act passed last session, and as essential to the integrity of the scheme. It is a fundamental principle that the obligations entered into in respect of insured persons shall be provided for as the liabilities accrue, and shall not be passed on indefinitely to some future time. The guarantee of benefits provided under national insurance is accompanied by the necessary funds to maintain and unsure them.
The procedure laid down in the bill for crediting this money follows the procedure of the principal act, with only such variations as are consequential upon the transitional procedure. It is proposed that every insured person, by and in respect of whom six weeks’ contributions have been, paid during the nine weeks from the 1st May to the 30th June, shall have certain additional amounts credited to him in the funds of his approved society. The credits will be made retrospective. Every person so insured after contributions commence will be credited with the share of contributions which would have been credited to the approved societies had contributions > been made, on the assumption that the insured persons were in full employment during the seventeen weeks between the 1st January and the 1st May. They will be made in respect of such insured persons from the 1st January if the insured person was a member of an approved society at that date. They will be credited to other persons from the time of their membership of approved societies after the 1st January, for each complete week from that date until the 1st May.
The bill provides certain other adjustments as between the Treasury and the National Insurance Commission, which are consequential upon these provisions, and which» can and will be explained in committee. None of these adjustments reduce the liability of the Commonwealth, but they are necessary to cover the first few months of the operation of the scheme, because of the other provisions of this bill.
It is provided in this bill that no person shall be deemed to be an insured person until the date of contributions, except for the purposes of this bill. As I have explained, these purposes are, first, membership of approved societies, and, secondly, qualifications for cash health benefits.
The bill is introduced in order to create conditions considerably more favorable to potential insured persons than those existing, and to deal only with the state of affairs in the early months of operation of the scheme. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.6 to 8 p.m.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Ministers of State Art 1935-1938.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry. out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to amend the existing legislation relating to the number of Ministers of State, and to the annual appropriation of Ministers’ salaries. The present act provides that the number of Ministers of State shall not exceed ten, and that the annual appropriation for the payment of their salaries shall not exceed £16,950. Honorable members will recall that, when 1 announced the personnel of the present Government, I pointed out that a division of the duties of the Minister for Defence was intended. Complaints had been received from honorable members, and from people outside, that the amount of work that fell upon the Minister for Defence was too great for one individual to undertake, particularly in these difficult times. So it was decided that relief should be given to the Minister for Defence by separating from the defence portfolio the control of defence works and the administration of the Civil Aviation Department. The present bill provides for an increase of the number of Ministers to eleven, and an increase of their salaries from £.16,950 to £1S,600. The extra sum of £1,650 will provide for the remuneration of the additional Minister. I do not think that it is necessary for me to enlarge upon the necessity for this bill. Much of the criticism recently levelled against the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), if it were justified at all, was justified on the ground that his duties were too heavy, particularly under the conditions which were recently experienced, and which prevail to-day.
– Some Ministers have too much to do, and others have too little.
– I am not altogether sure that there is not some justification for that comment. It is somewhat difficult to allocate the duties evenly among the various Ministers, but I have tried to distribute the work so that each Minister will have real responsibility. In one or two instances, a Minister has become an assistant to a portfolioed Minister, and has taken a subordinate position, having no particular work allotted to him for which he is responsible. Now, however, each Minister is responsible for some particular portion of the administration. Quite apart from defence matters, an increasing responsibility has recently been thrown on the shoulders of Ministers by reason of the developments within their own administrations, and, consequently, the appointment of an additional Minister will not only relieve the Minister for Defence, and enable him to pay close attention to the vital matters that come under his supervision, but also relieve Ministers generally, and enable them to make a better distribution than in the past of the duties and responsibilities attaching to ministerial office.
A new portfolio is being created, and provision is being asked for the annual appropriation of the salary of the additional Minister. Actually there are now ten Ministers, for whom financial provision is made by legislation; yet eleven have been regarded as having full portfolios, and have been remunerated accordingly. Financial provision has been made for the eleven Ministers without an appeal to the Parliament for an additional appropriation ; but to-day the Parliament is asked for one additional ministerial salary, although there will still be one Minister whose salary is not, an extra charge on the Treasury.
– Has the Vice-President of the Executive Council been paid the full ministerial salary?
– Yes. He has been regarded as a full Minister, and he will b*e remunerated to the same amount as other Ministers. The Minister for Works will be Minister for defence works a-d -all other works. In addition, he will be the Minister for Civil Aviation, and in that way relief will he given to the Minister for Defence. The Minister who, in the Senate, represents the Minister for Defence, will also be associated directly with some part of the defence portfolio, and by that means we hope to give that relief to the Minister for Defence that will enable him to do his work adequately and efficiently, from the point of view of the Government and of the country.
-Which Minister will represent the Minister for Defence in the Senate?
– Senator Foll. He will co-operate with the Minister for Defence and the Minister forWorks.
– Does not the right honorable gentleman himself consider that he should be relieved of some of his ministerial duties? It has been recognized for some time that he has been carrying too heavy a burden for one man.
– I am not asking for any relief at all.
Following the decision of the Government to separate the Department of Works from the Department of the Interior, I have arranged that the Department of the Interior shall continue to control the following branches and activities : -
Australian War Memorial.
Co-ordination of Australian Transport Services.
Elections and Franchise.
Emigration of children and aboriginals.
Indentured coloured labour.
Oil investigation and prospecting (encouragement of).
Prospecting for precious metals (assistance for).
Administration of Australian Capital Territory. (The present functions of the Canberra Services Branch and the Civic Administration Branch).
Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
A new Department ofWorks is to be established under the control of the Minister forWorks, and it will have charge of the following matters : -
Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board.
Geodesy (International map of the world, and 129th meridian).
Lands and survey - including all activities at present carried out by the Property and Survey Branch.
Properties (transferred, acquired and rented) .
Public Works, Defence works, and Services - including the installation, maintenance and operation of electric light, water and sewerage services in the Australian Capital Territory.
Rivers, roads and bridges.
River Murray Waters Commission.
It is unnecessary for me further to elaborate the grounds which justify the introduction of this bill. If only for defence purposes, it is essential, and I have no hesitation in commending it to the support of honorable members generally.
.- This is a bill for the appointment of an extra Minister, and to provide an additional £1,650 per annum for the Cabinet fund. I take objection to the measure on two grounds. I consider that an additional Minister is not needed, and that, if further assistance were required, the sum of money available in the ministerial allowance fund would be sufficient to provide for the extra Minister. In plain Australian parlance, the Government is “ over the fence “ in bringing this measure forward. There is no need for it. If all the members of the Cabinet would only pull their weight as a united team no leader would have the audacity to ask the House to pass such a bill. Prior to 1927, thirteen Ministers were sufficient to administer all Commonwealth departments. Since then this Government has increased the number to fourteen, and now it proposes a further increase to fifteen.Whilst I admit that one or two Ministers have been overworked, I do not agree that every Minister has been carrying a full load. I do not wish to be personal nor to mention names, but it is obvious to any intelligent onlooker that the Cabinet is carrying passengers in order to placate political creeds. That is sufficient reason for the Opposition to vote against this measure.
The extra cost to the community of £1,650 involved in this bill cannot be justified in the light of facts and of costs at different periods to which I shall refer later. No ministry has been so generous as this one in distributing largesse amongst its members. Its generosity in this respect is only equalled by its inability to do anything helpful for the benefit of mankind, and for the progress safety and development of this nation. The Ministers of State Act 1935 provided for the elevation of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) from an assistant ministership to full Cabinet rank. No extra Minister or Assistant Minister was then appointed to Cabinet. The Labour party offered no objection to his promotion. It was realized that for some time previously the honorable gentleman had been doing most of the work at the Treasury. The Labour party did object, however, to the Government making provision for an extra £1,320 for the Treasurer’s salary. As the amount necessary to increase the Treasurer’s salary from that of an Assistant Minister to that of a fully-paid Minister was only £400 or £500, it meant that the remaining £900 per annum, or there.abouts, was divided amongst all the Ministers. Therefore, in 1935, the Ministers gave themselves an all-round increase. In 1938, when the Parliamentary Salaries Adjustment Act was passed, the reductions of ministerial salaries made during the depression were fully restored, the Prime Minister was given an extra £1,500 per annum, and all Ministers, including the Prime Minister, received an addition of £200 per annum to their parliamentary salaries. The Parliamentary Allowances Act provided that any senator or member of the House of Representatives who held office as a Minister of State, President of the Senate, Speaker of the- House of Representatives, Chairman of Committees of the Senate, or Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives, should receive an allowance of only £800 a year in addition to the emoluments of his office. The 1938 act repealed this proviso, which meant that Ministers thus added another £200 per annum to their salaries. The Prime Minister received an allowance of £1,500, plus £200 per annum, which was added to his salary.
The proposed additional Minister is not necessary, in my opinion, and the appointment cannot be justified. For some time the people of this country have been dissatisfied with the Government’s activities. The re-arrangement effected is not being made to increase efficiency, but is to bring one honorable gentleman into the Ministry and to save another from being pushed out of it; it is designed to placate certain critics and to give the Government as much freedom as is possible in the circumstances from candid adverse criticism from honorable members on its own side of the chamber. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) referred recently to the need for leadership - leadership, mark you, he said, that would take the people into its confidence! His remarks can only be construed as a criticism of the present leadership which this Government is giving to the people of Australia. In view of the fact that he is Deputy Leader of the United Australia party he cannot be absolved from blame for this lack of leadership. This re-arrangement would be quite unnecessary if all the members of the Government would work unitedly and pull their weight evenly. Owing to strong public pressure and its own failure at the recent Premiers Conference, to put forward anything constructive in regard to defence, the Prime Minister decided to reconstruct the Cabinet, but immediately after the reconstruction the Cabinet again began to crumble. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) resigned from his position as Minister for Trade and Customs, and the House was entertained by a first-class domestic squabble between the Prime Minister and the honorable member. Prior to that Senator A. J. McLachlan resigned his position as Leader of the Government in the Senate and Postmaster-General, and I understand that offers of portfolios were refused by several honorable gentlemen.
– Order 1 I cannot see the relevancy of the honorable member’s remark.
– This re-arrangement and the consequent additional financial provision would not be necessary if there were cohesion in this Government and its members were working unitedly in the interests of the nation, instead of competing with one another for advantageous positions in the Cabinet. Consequently, the Prime Minister has been at a disadvantage. In reconstructing his Cabinet the right honorable gentleman stated that it was intended to appoint an additional Minister. Members of the Country party, knowing that the ranks of the United
Australia party were disintegrating, seized the opportunity to make further demands for office ; thus this extra hurden is to be imposed upon the taxpayers of Australia merely because the Country party wants more than its pound of flesh, lt is crashing through for additional representation; hence the re-adjustment that is being effected. Owing to public clamour, the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) was removed from his position. This in itself put the Prime Minister in a difficulty, for he did notwant to exclude the honorable member from the Cabinet altogether, being fearful of the repercussions in the Country party, and of the possibility of it withdrawing its other representatives. He therefore tried to stifle the dissension and to keep inarticulate the rumblings of indignation among his Ministers and would-be Ministers by promoting certain gentlemen to full Cabinet rank, and appointing others to Parliamentary secretaryships, thus encouraging them to expect some higher preferment at the next Cabinet re-shuffle. The Prime Minister has, in fact, surrendered to the Country party in acceding to the request of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), who has proved so forceful in his representations on behalf of his own coterie: I regret the abject surrender of the Prime Minister.
– By appointing another United Australia party member to the Cabinet ?
– It was the right. honorable gentleman’s surrender to the Country party .representations which led to the re-arrangement that has been explained tonight. What has happened brings to my mind a very eloquent speech made by a certain right honorable gentleman who occupied a high position in the councils of this nation for many years. I refer to Mr. S. M. Bruce, who, in 1924, with a full knowledge of political intrigue, said -
New parties spring up, and do not hesitate to admit frankly that their object is to obtain a position where they hold the balance of power, and to gain their ends by a species of political blackmail.
Mr. Bruce knew not only politics, but also human nature. Some honorable gentlemen had crashed through into his Cabinet, just as some have crashed through into this Cabinet, and so made necessary the introduction of the bill now before us.
The portfolios have not been equitably allocated as between the members of the parties supporting the Government in the re-arrangement now made by the Prime Minister. This being so, it cannot be expected that the Parliament will accept without objection the additional expenditure foreshadowed in this bill. Let us examine the facts. The Country party has fifteen members in the House of Representatives, which represents onefifth of the total membership of the House; yet it has eight members in the Cabinet. More than one-half of its total membership in the Parliament hold positions for which extra payment is made. This re-arrangement would not have been necessary had all the members of the Cabinet been pulling their full weight in the interests of the nation, and had there been a fair allocation of portfolios between the members of the Country party and the United Australia party. One1 party which supports the Government has within its membership four Ministers holding full portfolios, two of whom are in the inner group, one Assistant’ Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the principal Government Whip, and a member of the Public Works Committee.
– Order ! The honorable member is quite clearly not discussing the bill, which has nothing to do with whether Ministers belong to one party or another.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. I shall refer now to the statement made by the Prime Minister concerning the responsibilities of various Ministers, and the additional work allotted to them. The right honorable gentleman told us that he had created a major policy committee, better known as the Inner Council. That action has very greatly surprised every one. No doubt, the work of the Inner Council is expected to occupy a good deal of time, and so is one justification for the introduction of this bill. Suggestions were made by a certain Conservative leader as far back as 1924 that an inner group dictatorship should be established. The Prime Minister seems now to have adopted them.
-Order ! I must ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I shall do so, Mr. Speaker. I wish now to refer to statements made by certain leading newspapers which, though almost invariably supporting the Government, on this occasion criticize the step that it has taken, and point out that the additional financial burden imposed upon the taxpayers is not justified, particularly at a time like this. The Melbourne Age in a leading article stated -
A group of six (it is now seven) will either usurp the functions of Cabinet, and thereby become an autocracy, or prove too unwieldly for its principal purpose - that of quickening action. Altogether the recent Cabinet “ crisis “ ends in an anti-climax which is almost grotesque.
The Opposition does not believe that an additional minister is necessary. Prior to the reconstruction of the Cabinet, the Minister for Commerce had two Assistant Ministers to help him in his department. Probably the only justification for this was the fact that the Minister was away on the other side of the world for most of the time since he was appointed to the last Lyons Government. The cost of the Commerce Department has increased enormously, and probably that was put forward as a reason for the appointment of the two Assistant Ministers. I contend that this department, instead of doing a useful job, has become very largely a propaganda factory for the Country party.
– The honorable member must address his remarks to the bill.
– I contend that one of the Ministers assisting the Minister for Commerce could long ago have been appointed to assist the Minister for Defence. I, myself, made the suggestion some time ago that the Minister for Defence was overworked, and that he should have another Minister to help him. The then Minister for Defence said that the suggestion to divide control of the Defence Department was absurd, but now he has accepted it. I realize that he had too much to do, and that there was some justification for a division of his department.
In the first Lyons-Page Government of 1932, the Attorney-General, Sir John Latham, was also Minister for External Affairs and Minister for Industry. Without turning a hair he discharged those duties in a very capable manner. In the last Ministry the Minister for External Affairs was also in charge of Territories. This branch has now been taken away from him, and he has only the very small Department of External Affairs to administer. Can any one say that he is overworked? The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is in the prime of life, and undoubtedly possesses a good deal of natural ability, cannot claim that he is overworked. Surely he would be able to carry out the duties . that Sir John Latham carried out, besides helping every other member of the Cabinet. There is no reason why the AttorneyGeneral should not also administer the Departments of External Affairs and Industry. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), we are told, has had half his department taken away from him and added to the department of another Minister. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has no administrative duties to perform, and it is hard to see how the Government can, in the circumstances, justify the appointment of an additional Minister. When we realize also that since this Government has been in office the total period that Ministers have been abroad has amounted to approximately eight years for one Minister, the appointment of another Minister is quite unjustifiable.
Let us examine the present cost of Ministers in this Government. This is to the point, because the Prime Minister quoted, certain figures on the same subject. I find that ministerial and parliamentary allowances in the pre-depression year of 1928- 29 amounted to £26,500. In 1932-33, they amounted to £19,500, but for 1938- 39, when the Government’s present proposal is in operation, the cost will be £35,100, an increase of £8,600 compared with 1928-29. Allowances to private members have not increased compared with those of the pre-depression years, and there is no justification for an increase of the allowance to Ministers. I do not make a comparison between the low figure for 1932-33, which was in the depth of the depression, with the figure for the current year. We have all agreed that the cuts in parliamentary and ministerial allowances should be restored, but the Opposition does not agree that Ministers should be receiving more this year than was paid to them during the boom years before the depression. In the past, I have joined with other honorable members in protesting against exaggerated criticism by people outside Parliament every time it was proposed to restore parliamentary allowances, but I warn the Government that it should not, in a measure of this kind, provide grounds for criticism of the parliamentary machine. How can the Government justify its proposal? According to the Treasurer, we are facing a critical period. In his budget statement, he said that the value of the wool clip for 1937-38 was £11,000,000 less than that for 1936-37, and that the wheatgrowers have been heavily hit by falling prices, and by the devastating droughts which prevail in certain States. He also pointed out that our income from exports was reduced by £3,600,000. The budget figures showed that indirect taxation had been increased by £20,000,000 for 1937- 38 compared with 1931-32, and that last year there had been a record return from taxation of all kinds. Ministers are now drawing approximately £2,200 a year each, while private members are still receiving only £1,000 a year, the same as in pre-depression times. I remind honorable members that the Treasurer, in his budget speech, pointed out that enormous sums were to be expended this year on defence. Increased taxation, he said, would have to hp imposed for this purpose, and yet this is the time chosen by the Government to bring in a measure of this kind, not because there is any real need for it, not because there is any dire necessity to man ‘all the ministerial posts, but in order to satisfy the clamouring of sectional interests. The Government has enough Ministers already to do the work if only they could be induced to pull together instead of trying to cut one another’s throats. If further assistance were really required the amount of money available for ministerial allowances is sufficient to provide the remuneration of another Minister. The Opposition contends that the recent re-arrangement of ministerial posts was not made with the idea of achieving efficiency, but was for the purpose of placating certain members so that this Government, which is already crumbling, might be able to carry on a little longer. The reconstruction took place in order to placate some of those who might attack the Government if they were not included in the Ministry. The whole purpose was to secure the support of a group which has asked for more than its pound of flesh. For these reasons, we oppose the measure.
– I regret very much indeed that I have to oppose this measure. I do so because I believe that, in the interests of Australia, we shall have to revise our methods of Cabinet control. At the present time, members of Parliament count for very little in the affairs of State until bills are actually brought before the House. My experience in this Parliament for the last six years has led me to believe that there are too many Ministers with too little work to do individually. During the last twelve months, I have seen Ministers sitting in their places in this House with practically nothing to do all day. During the passage of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill, there was hardly one Minister capable of coming to the help of the Treasurer. One did try to make a speech. It was put in his hands, and he tried to read it, but he did not read it as well as would a boy of fourteen years of age. I could not understand what he was talking about, and I do not think he understood it himself.
The trouble is very largely due to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is not able to select his own Cabinet. During the recent crisis, he should have been able to say to the Leader of the Country party, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), that he was himself going to select the Cabinet. The Leader of the Country party has the right to select the men who shall represent his party in the Cabinet. I do not think that he has power to allocate the portfolios; at any rate, he should not have that power.
– The honorable member is not discussing the measure before the House.
– I do not think that an additional Minister is necessary, because any weakness in the present system is due to existing methods of Cabinet control. A Minister is to be appointed, it is said, to repair certain deficiencies in the Cabinet as previously constituted. I “contend that the Prime Minister should have the sole choice in the selection of his Cabinet Ministers, whether they be members of the Country party or members of the United Australia party. In my opinion, no junior Minister, even if he be the senior member of one of the parties supporting the Government, should be permitted to use his influence in the allocation of portfolios. Under the present method of allocating Cabinet positions, the largest State in industrial importance, and the most prosperous in the Commonwealth, has only three Country party representatives in the Cabinet.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the bill, or I cannot permit him to continue. The number of Ministers from each State is not affected in any way by the bill.
– The situation that has arisen to-day in connexion with the allocation of portfolios has been brought about largely by the inefficiency of Cabinet Ministers. You, Mr. Speaker, have driven me to say that. Under the present arrangements it has become necessary to replace the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) because he was incapable of, and lacked the training necessary for, carrying out the high duties imposed upon him, by another honorable gentleman more suited to undertake the task. To appoint Ministers to take control of departments without regard for their particular ability is like attempting to put a square peg into a round hole. If a Minister lacks the necessary training to administer his department, how can he possibly do it successfully? I have no ill-feelings against any Minister as an individual, but I point out that you, Mr. Speaker, dro.ve me to make these statements
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order in suggest ing that the Chair has driven him to do anything. The Standing Orders are clear ; the honorable member must discuss the bill and matters pertaining to it, and nothing more.
– All I wished to do, Mr. Speaker, was to register my protest against the inadequate representation in the Cabinet of the most industrially important and wealthiest State of the Commonwealth. It is my firm conviction that, owing to its importance in the industrial field, the portfolio of Minister for Industry should be held by a representative from ‘ New South Wales. This is not the first time that I have made this protest. Immediately after the last elections I met the Prime Minister in the corridors of this House, following the Cabinet construction, and I drew his attention to the very serious injustice that had been perpetrated in the re-allocation of portfolios. In the allocation of Cabinet portfolios the Government should be actuated by business methods, and the Prime Minister should be free to make his choice without undue influence by a party which, for the moment, holds the balance of power. In view of the recent crisis through which we have just emerged, it is necessary that, the Prime Minister should exercise complete authority in the selection of the personnel of his Cabinet and that he should not be subjected to any “ squeeze “ by one section of the political friends of the Government. The great democracies of the world to-day have no faith in a government which permits minorities to apply pressure in the selection of Cabinet Ministers. Particularly is this so in this country whose people so much .long for liberty and freedom. I say, without hesitation, that I oppose the proposal to increase the numerical strength of the Cabinet - in my opinion, there are already sufficient Ministers to carry out the duties imposed upon them - and also any attempt to increase the expenditure on ministerial allowances. I regret that the Prime Minister has not the liberty and the privilege of selecting his own Cabinet Ministers, as the result of which the most important State in the Commonwealth is receiving unfair treatment, at the instance of those enjoying ministerial rank who come from the smaller and less prosperous States.
– Order ! The question of small or large States is not affected by this bill. If the honorable member continues to discuss that matter, I shall direct him to resume his seat.
– I say that the necessity for, the appointment of an extra Minister is due very largely to the fact that the Prime Minister has to allocate portfolios, not according to the ability of his Ministers, but according to the dictates of a minority which exercises undue influence in his decisions. I say without fear of contradiction that the Government has already a sufficiency of Ministers, and that if an honorable member, when offered a portfolio, was honest enough to say, “ I cannot do the work ; T shall muddle through, I know ; but if you appoint me, I shall have to be kept here because of certain pressure exerted by my leader “, much good would result. It is up to the leaders of both parties composing the Government to say, “ We shall face this issue squarely, and appoint a national Government that will not be swayed by the pettiness of political life, or the interests of certain classes of the community that are always knocking at the door of the Cabinet room with requests for preference at the expense of others “. Whether the pressure comes from smaller or larger States-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– May I not explain. Mr. Speaker ?
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in asking why I am directed to resume my seat?
– I warned the honorable member on several occasions that if he did not address the bill I would ask him to resume his seat.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, when the Speaker exercises his arbitrary authority and requires an honorable member to resume his seat, is it not within the province of any honorable member to call for a division of the House? Is that not required under the Standing Orders? If I have the right to do so, I call for a division as a protest against your action in directing the honorable member for Barton to resume his seat.
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I hope not.
– Order ! The honorable member is definitely out of order. He may move a motion, but he has not done so; he has merely suggested what that motion is.
– I ask that the question, “ That the honorable member be required to resume his seat”, be put.
– The Standing Orders provide that if the Chair should order an honorable member to discontinue his speech for repeated irrelevance, the honorable member may require that the question whether he be further heard be put.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the honorable member be given leave to continue his speech.
– I regret that I have had to question a ruling of the Chair. During the many years I have been in this Parliament I have always believed that when a new Minister is appointed, I have the right to discuss his appointment, and to draw attention to the manner in which a minority section of the Cabinet may sway the decision of the Prime Minister in regard to it. I repeat that, in this instance, a minority section of the Cabinet, representing some of the smaller States, has interfered unduly with the carrying out of the work of the Government, preventing it from functioning in its proper way. I say again that the State of the greatest importance in the Commonwealth is being unfairly treated in the allocation of Cabinet portfolios, and that this results in inability on the part of the Government to fulfil properly its functions. I register my emphatic protest against what I regard to be a wrong action on the part of the Prime Minister in permitting his judgment to be unduly swayed by a majority section of his supporters from smaller States. That section uses its influence to prevent justice from being given to the most important State of the Commonwealth. That state of affairs must be altered and adjusted; otherwise what has happened in other parts of the world, where democracies, which we thought would stand for ever, have been swept away and replaced by dictatorships, will happen in this country. But the people of this country will not sit idly by, and sec the persons elected to represent the larger sections of the community dominated and ruled by the small sections. Constitutionally, there may be nothing wrong with the small sections having a preponderating influence, but if necessary the Constitution should be altered in order to give freedom and justice to a democratic community which is seeking to live under great difficulties.
.- I am amazed at the audacity of the Government in bringing down a measure of this description. Of course, a recent crisis in its own history clearly indicated the reason why it was decided that it was essential to have an extra Minister. Had that crisis not arisen, in all probability there would have been no claim for an additional amount of money to enable the Government to placate an individual supporter whose claims for ministerial rank were an embarrassment to it. Political expedients of the kind contained in the bill do more to harm the principles of parliamentary government and democratic institutions than anything else that could be devised. Unfortunately, however, men are prepared to use place and position to remedy a difficulty which threatens them at the expense of public revenues. The claim made by the Government for additional funds to pay the salary of an additional Minister is unwarranted, because the amount paid into the ministerial fund to-day is greater than it was even during the peak period of prosperity that was experienced during the Bruce-Page Administration. No claim has ever been made before by a Prime Minister on behalf of his government for the amount of money, exclusive of that which is now sought, that is now paid into the ministerial pool. The special plea by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that some of his Ministers are overworked is all “ eyewash “, and the Prime Minister knows that it is, because within the last six months three Ministers have been away from Australia, and, in their absence, their work -was carried on by other Ministers. No suggestion was made then that the Ministers who were doing, not only their own work, but also that of the absent Ministers, were subject to an over-pressure of work. Not only have we a Cabinet of Ministers, who are alleged to be overworked, but also there are two Parliamentary secretaries.
– Only one now.
– That is true, but I have no doubt that another Parliamentary secretary will be appointed. The vacancy will not long be allowed to remain unfilled. What I have said substantiates my claim that there is no need for another Minister; but, if it be conceded that the Prime Minister has the right to appoint another Minister, if he feels itnecessary, in common decency his salary should be paid out of the existing ministerial fund. Only recently the Government brought down a bill which increased by £1,600 the amount voted by Parliament to be shared by the Ministers. Furthermore, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has rightly said, the Ministers had previously received £S00 a year as their ordinary parliamentary allowance, and that amount was increased to £1,000. There is a limit to the claims that can be made, and at a time like this the Government is not justified in asking Parliament to support a proposition of this character. If the Prime Minister wishes to make peace with members of his party and of the other governmental party, and if he desires to ensure his own political future on a basis of a little more comfort, he must not expect to be permitted to do it at public expense. This sort of thing has brought public life into disrepute in other parts of the world, and we shall not allow it in this country without serious opposition. The people of this country will know why the members of this Opposition refuse to sanction what the Government seeks to do. This bill will be contested at every possible stage, because it is an unwarranted claim on . the Treasury at a time when additional expenditure can be ill afforded. I join with the honorable member for Capricornia and other members of the Opposition in strongly opposing the proposal.
– I rise to congratulate the Government on the action that it has taken. I am amazed a.t the objection taken by the Opposition, and by the honorable ‘ member for Barton (Mr. Lane), who, I think, instead of criticizing; the Government, should go home and learn some- thing of the fitness of things. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons”) chiefly because of his division of the great Department of Defence into two sections, and of his division of the Department of the Interior. I do not propose to list the branches of the Public Service which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) has had under his control, because the Prime Minister has already done so, but they are vast in * number, and cover a wide field of technical subjects, and no person, not even a person with technical training, could satisfactorily to himself or the country, administer them all. The Prime Minister, in choosing two Ministers to undertake what was previously attempted to be done by one has shown wisdom. The right honorable gentleman has also shown wisdom in dividing the Defence Department, and in placing an eminent soldier in charge of one section. The Department of the Interior was running the risk of becoming a “ punk “ department, because, although the officers in charge of the several sections are highly qualified, it was impossible to co-relate the jobs that were undertaken by it in the various parts of Australia, not only in Canberra and elsewhere, but also in the Northern Territory, which possesses many problems of a peculiar local kind. To place the works branch and works expenditure in the hands of the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) is a wise move. The Prime Minister is to be congratulated in choosing as administrators of Defence and Interior matters honorable gentlemen who have had training in civil life, which will stand them in good stead.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in supporting this measure, said that he was anxious to lift the burden from the present members of the Cabinet, but I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is due time that he gave consideration to lifting the burden from the general community. Anybody who makes an analysis of the situation must recognize that this country at the moment is not in a position to afford an extravagant increase of the emoluments of Ministers, because while the Prime Minister and his Ministers are attempting to make this country believe that all is well honorable members know full well that there are thousands of workers who recently have been thrown out of employment and thousands who have been evicted from their homes. Honorable members are anxious that the Government should busy itself not in increasing the salaries of its members, but in immediately relieving the burdens that press on the general community.
Since this Parliament has met, one of its features has been the lack of interest displayed by Ministers in its work and business. On practically every measure the ministerial bench has been empty during discussions, but it is remarkable that to-night, when this House is dealing with a measure which concerns the financial interests of Ministers, it should be filled to capacity. Ministers have displayed an undue interest in this measure which will benefit nobody but themselves. Honorable members must recognize that portents show us that we are on the eve of a probably more severe depression than that which began in 1929. I have a clear recollection of another measure which sought to give the Prime Minister an additional £1500 a year, £30 a week, in addition to his salary, on the ground that he had been paying the money out of his own pocket for entertainment. I do not know how many people believed that, but I did not.
– The honorable member’s Leader supported the proposal.
– If the honorable member will read Hansard he will see that I criticized it. Prior to the depression, the amount of money received by members of the Cabinet collectively was £26,500 a year, and at the lowest ebb of the depression when parliamentary salaries and allowances had been reduced, the amount, of money paid into the ministerial pool from which Ministers receive their emoluments was £19,500. Yet, to-day, we find that in this extraordinary proposal, the Government not merely proposes to go back to the pre-depression level, but also asks for £35,100, a,n amount almost twice as much as the whole of the Ministry received in the depression. There is no justification for it. On every possible pretext, the Ministers close the proceedings of Parliament and trip abroad at public expense. If they could prove that they were engaged on work of national importance and that they had obtained some material benefits for the people, they would probably have some justification for the expenditure; but there is no honorable member who could point to one thing done by this Government’s delegations abroad, particularly in recent years, which has been of benefit to the Australian community. This Parliament cannot even get reports about the activities in which Ministers are engaged whilst abroad. All we read in the press is that they are having a good time, and that one of them is attending all the test matches !
– Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the bill.
– The principal argument advanced by the Prime Minister in justification of the measure is that the Cabinet is overworked. If I can show that Ministers have not attended to their duties to such a degree that they may be considered to have been overworked, I think that I shall be giving reasonable support to the contention of the Opposition that the measure is unwarranted. A certain ex-Minister was given a trip abroad. I refer to this matter to show how ridiculous it is for members of this Parliament to endeavour to induce an intelligent community to believe that the members of the Cabinet are overworked. This ex-Minister was sent overseas to attend a Postal Congress at Cairo. When questions were asked in the House concerning his visit, honorable members were told that he would secure valuable information for his department, hut, on his return to Australia, he was immediately made Minister for Defence, with the result that the information which he was said to have secured, was entirely lost to his department. When another Minister went abroad, the conference which he was to attend was called off before he left Australia; but his trip was not abandoned. The Government found another excuse for his visit overseas. This was the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page). Much talk has been heard lately about this Parliament falling into public disrepute, but it is not surprising that the Parliament and the present Government are spoken of in contemptuous terms by the people when they know that the Government has not. tackled one real problem during the present sittings. Can any honorable member name one measure which has been passed and which- could be said to have been of benefit to the community as a whole ?
– Order ! I again remind the honorable member that he is not discussing the bill.
– The additional ministerial salary is not the only extra expenditure that will be. entailed by the increase of the number of Ministers. In the years before -the depression, works were administered, under a separate department, but in the early years of the depression the Government decided, as part of its economy scheme, to amalgamate the Works Department with the Department of the Interior. Now, however, tlie Minister for Works will have a separate department and a separate staff. He will have separate offices and this will entail considerable public expenditure which is unwarranted. It may be possible for the Government to force this measure through the Parliament, because it has the numbers necessary to do so; but, when the people are made aware of the facts, they will be shocked to find that the Government is receiving twice as much as it drew during the depression years, without any addition to its duties or responsibilities. When it is possible for Ministers to be absent from Australia frequently, it is idle to say that they are overworked. I hope that the House will not accept the bill. I know what judgment the people will pass upon it when they have an opportunity to do so.
.- I have no hesitation whatever in giving full support to this measure. The two main questions which arise for decision are whether the work which must be done by the Cabinet is such that the appointment of an extra Minister is warranted, and, if so, whether the remuneration proposed in this bill is reasonable for the work and responsibilities which the additional Minister must undertake. There is good ground for argument as to the necessity for more Ministers to carry the responsibilities of national government in the Commonwealth at the present time. One of the features of post-war years has been the phenomenal growth of the activities of governments in relation to business, commercial and social life, as well as the life of the community generally. We have seen a steady and apparently inevitable growth of the degree of interference by national governments with the life of the people and with that growth has come an increase of ministerial work and responsibility. Despite this wide expansion of governmental activities, the number of Commonwealth Ministers has not increased to the same degree. When the Commonwealth Parliament was established, the population of Australia was 3,773,000. There were then seven full Ministers and two honorary Ministers. In 1915, during the war period, the number of full portfolios was increased to eight, and, in 1917, the number was further increased to nine. Et was not until 1935, when the present Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was promoted, that the number of full portfolios was increased to ten. Now it is proposed to increase the number of Ministers with portfolios from ten to eleven, at a time when the population has grown from under 4,000,000 to just under 7,000,000, and when the volume of ministerial work has increased enormously.
I do not think that anybody with personal experience of governmental administration in the Commonwealth would be prepared to deny that the majority of men who accept ministerial office pay a heavy toll financially, as well as in regard to their personal health. One has only to glance around this chamber, even in the ranks of the Opposition, at men who have, in their turn, exercised ministerial responsibility, to be reminded of the toll taken of their health through shouldering the heavy responsibilities which ministerial office involves. If I have any criticism to offer, I direct it against the present arrangement under which, whilst those Ministers with full portfolios are, undoubtedly, overworked, they are, perhaps, not prepared to pass on to Assistant Ministers as much responsibility and active participation in the work of their departments as is possible and as would materially lighten the burden they now have to carry. That, however, is a matter for the Cabinet itself to determine, but it does not detract from my argument that there is plenty of work for the present personnel. In fact, even with the present expansion of the Cabinet, some Ministers will carry a burden which is too heavy for them. For instance with the recent growth of social services, there is one department, the Treasury, that cries out for some division of ministerial responsibility. In my opinion, the creation of a ministry of social services would be justified to administer invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions, war service homes and the new department created under the national insurance legislation. Until then, any Minister holding the Treasury portfolio will have too heavy a burden for one man to bear.
As to whether the rate of remuneration is reasonable, I suggest in all seriousness that the Ministry, individually and collectively, are grossly underpaid. Men employed in private business and carrying corresponding responsibilities -would be paid twice or three times as much as is now received by Ministers of the Crown. If we compare Australia with Great Britain we notice the contrast in this respect, for whilst the salaries of private members in Great Britain are very much lower than they are in the Commonwealth, the salary of the Prime Minister of Great Britain is £10,000 sterling, and of the other senior Ministers £5,000 sterling. Some portfolios - I believe those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney-General - carry a very much higher remuneration,
– But the British Ministers never take trips to Australia.
– The very fact that they, are in the centre of industry and finance and of world politics makes such voyages unnecessary for them, and it does not remove the necessity recognized by the Opposition itself for ensuring that responsible Commonwealth Ministers have regular contact with statesmen in other parts of the world. Compared with other democracies, the rate of remuneration of Commonwealth Ministers is not high. The expense involved in connexion with their office is, however, extremely high. Many Ministers have to maintain virtually two establishments - one at Canberra and one in their home city. Even private members find a heavy burden on their allowance in this regard. I cite the case which will be familiar to most honorable members of a member staying with his wife at the Hotel Canberra who had to pay in recent years about thirteen guineas a week. _ That was at a time when the financial emergency legislation was in operation, and the parliamentary allowance was only £775 per annum. The expenses associated with parliamentary duties, as all private members know, are high in proportion to the remuneration received to-day, and, as far as .Ministers are concerned, their expenses are even greater. They have virtually to accept office as a full-time position, and must practically sever their connexion with the business world or whatever private occupations they may have. At the same time, they have no corresponding advantage of any certainty as far as the future goes. Tenure of ministerial office is necessarily limited, but they must submit to interruption of their normal life when they accept that responsibility. For these reasons I feel sure that the House is fully justified in giving its wholehearted support to this proposal.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), with his usual parliamentary finesse, has endeavoured to throw an apple of discord among Government supporters by inferring that the recent troubles in the Cabinet, which led to the reconstruction, were due to the unreasonable attitude of the Country party, in demanding its pound of flesh and so forth. I am pleased that so far the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) is the only Government supporter who has picked up the apple, but I do not propose to take his remarks too seriously. It seems to me to be incumbent upon a private member of the Country party to declare at this stage that no member of the Country party has, either privately or publicly, embarrassed the Government. The Country party has been absolutely loyal, and so far as my knowledge of it goes, it intends to remain loyal to the Government. I make this statement for the edification of honorable members of the Labour party.
The addition of une member to the Cabinet has, as a matter of fact, been advocated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition almost ever since I have been a member of this Parliament. Frequently during this session he has indulged in unrestrained criticism of the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) for his inability to discharge duties of such magnitude as those which have fallen upon him. Now the honorable gentleman sees fit to criticize the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for accepting the advice offered by himself.
– I said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) should make some of the passengers in the Cabinet carry their weight.
– It has been suggested that the additional expenditure of £1,650 contemplated in this bill is such as to justify adverse criticism from every part of Australia. That is a ridiculous attitude to adopt. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to ministerial salaries in pre-depression days but he carefully refrained from directing attention to the manner in which departmental expenditure had increased since that time. When expenditure increases responsibility naturally increases. I find that the budget papers which are accidentally open before me as I speak show that whereas our expenditure on all departments from Consolidated Revenue was £82,000,000 in 1934-35 it will be £96,000,000 this year. Surely an increase of £14,000,000 in expenditure justifies the appointment of an additional Minister. The only real issue before the House is whether this appointment is justified in the interests of efficiency. If the subdivision of Ministerial duties will increase efficiency in government departments, the proposed expenditure is amply justified.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has suggested that a major depression is again approaching Australia, but he offered no evidence in support of his contention except the low prices available for our wool, wheat, and other primary products. I am glad to have that admission from the honorable member of the importance that primary production plays in the national economy.
– 1 notice that the honorable member does not deny that a depression is approaching.
– I shall not speak at length on this bill, for there is little need to do so. As I believe that the new portfolio will lead to greater efficiency, I shall support the bill. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition however, when he says that there should be more unity within the ranks of the Government. The Prime Minister Ls entitled to greater support from the members of the parties behind him in this Parliament. The salary which the right honorable gentleman himself receives is not by any means too generous in view of the great burden which he has to carry, and also of the criticism which he has to suffer from, newspapers from one end of Australia to the other. Surely under that heading alone the right honorable gentleman is entitled to some monetary compensation. There are disadvantages, as well as advantages, in his office. I believe that the passage of this bill will increase efficiency, and speed up the works programme of the Government. I have, therefore, very much pleasure in supporting the measure, and I congratulate the Government upon having introduced it.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) endeavoured to refute the contention that certain Ministers are overworked. Nevertheless, it is undeniably true that they are overworked. The former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) was working for many months at a rate which brought him to the point of almost complete physical and mental exhaustion. He is an able administrator and had proved his capacity in State departments before his election to the Commonwealth Parliament. He also showed his ability as an Assistant Minister prior to being given the Defence portfolio. He is a physically strong man, with great mental endowments; yet I have seen him, more than once, almost at the point of complete breakdown. Undoubtedly, the division of duties in connexion with the Defence Department was absolutely essential and I congratulate the Prime Minister on what he has done in this connexion.
Reference has also been made to the Department of the Interior. I remind honorable members that during -the depression the former Department of Home Affairs and the former Department of Works and Railways were amalgamated. Because of the very few public works in hand during that period, the complete cessation of migration, and the general stagnation, compared with the tremendous activity of recent years, it was possible, during the depression, and for some little time afterwards, to administer these two departments together. Yet such a multiplicity of almost entirely unrelated activities came under the control of the Minister for the Interior, that with the increased activity which followed the depression, it became physically impossible for any one Minister to give adequate attention to them. The Minister for the Interior was required to deal with all works throughout the Commonwealth, including those for the Defence, Customs, and Postmaster-General’s departments. He was also responsible for Commonwealth railways, and for the Northern Territory, which in some respects is like a State Government administration, in that it has to deal with lands, mines, education, aborigines, and half a dozen other matters. He was also charged with the responsibility of supervising all matters associated with the Australian Capital Territory, which, at one time, were under the control of the Federal Capital Commission. In addition to all these matters, he had to deal with immigration and passports. The Minister is also the chairman of the River Murray Waters Commission and of the Canberra War Memorial Commission. He has a dozen and one other responsibilities which I could enumerate. With the arrival of better times and the consequent renewal of many activities which had been in abeyance it became absolutely essential to relieve the Minister of some of these duties. I personally paid the price of a complete breakdown in health after having been in charge of the Department of the Interior for three years.
Who would say that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not very often a much overworked man?
It lias been said that the distribution of portfolios as between the parties supporting the Government is inequitable. 1 do not wish to incur the displeasure of the Chair, but perhaps I may be permitted to observe that during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, the Country party, which was the smaller of the two Government parties, held the portfolios of Treasurer, Works, PostmasterGeneral, and Markets. To-day it holds the portfolios of Commerce, which was formerly Markets, PostmasterGeneral, and Works. In addition it holds the portfolio of the Interior, which is less important than that of Treasurer. It will be seen, therefore, that the position to-day is somewhat similar to that which obtained when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. It is absurdin my opinion, to suggest that Ministers are overpaid. Several honorable gentlemen who hold portfolios in this Government have made great sacrifices in order to discharge their public duties. To my knowledge, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) surrendered a medical practice which was worth at least three times as much per annum as he is receiving as a member of the Government. I suppose the same could be said of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). The increased payment now proposed represents less than one -six teen th of a penny per head of the population per annum, and less than 2d. per annum aggregate contribution from the whole of the Opposition. The antagonism to this measure is entirely unworthy of those who are voicing it. I strongly support the bill.
.- I join with other honorable members on this side of the House in opposing the bill, ff it were necessary. I should give it any support it deserved, but the position is, as was pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), that several members of the present Government have, in fact, very little to do. Excluding, for the moment, the VicePresident of the Executive Council and the Minister for External Affairs, whose duties will be light, I intend to deal particularly with the positions of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. Recently, it has become the practice for the Prime Minister not to take a port folio. It was very different during the life of the Scullin Government, despite the fact that at that time the Commonwealth was passing through the most severe depression of its history. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), in addition to being Prime Minister, was also Minister for External Affairs and Minister for Industry. When, unfortunately, the position of Treasurer became vacant, he also took over that portfolio.
– And he is suffering for it now.
– Thus, although he was Prime Minister, Minister for External Affairs, and Minister for Industry, he took over the Treasury, and had only 48 hours in which to prepare his budget and place it before the House. Surely it would not be too much to expect the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to assist some of his Ministers in the discharge of some of their momentous duties. However, if it is thought that the Prime Minister is too busy keeping his party together - with a marked lack of success- there is the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is continually telling the country that he has not enough to do. He is continually telling his party, and the public generally, that he wants an office of more importance, that he is prepared to take . over the Ministry of Defence, and to carry out the duties now being performed by two Ministers. He may not have put it in those words, but that is his attitude, and the attitude of the newspapers which support the Government. It is clear, therefore, that there is no need for an extra Minister.
The newly-appointed PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) - whom I take this opportunity to congratulate on his promotion - is supporting the bill. If he were not in the Ministry, I can imagine what a. vitriolic attack he would make upon the measure, with what savage bitterness he would flay this proposal ; but because he is in the Cabinet his mouth is closed, and he must support the Government.
Of this chamber of 74 members, fifteen will be in the Ministry when this bill is passed. Thus, more than one member in five will be a Minister. Once the number was only thirteen, then it was raised to fourteen, and now it is fifteen.
– Like the Portuguese army, all generals.
– That is so. The parties supporting the Government in this House number 45, and as all the Ministers are drawn from those parties, actually one in three will be a Minister.
– The honorable member’s figures are all wrong. He is forgetting about the Senate.
– There are only three Ministers in the Seriate, so that my figures are not so far out. However, since the Minister challenges my figures, I take this opportunity to mention that Ministers hold only a few of the paid jobs in this Parliament. Besides yourself, Mr. Speaker, there is the Chairman of Committees, there are four Government members on the Works Committee, and there are Whips and secretaries, so that the majority of members of the Government parties are in positions in which they receive extra emoluments. I am not complaining of that particularly, but that is the position. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is the only member of the Country party in New South Wales who does not hold a paid position of some kind. Apparently; he made his speech just now in the hope that it will purchase for him admission to the charmed circle, so that every member of the Country party in New South Wales will receive extra emoluments over and above his parliamentary allowance of £1,000 a year. No wonder members of the Country party show such unswerving loyalty to the Government. They are more loyal, indeed, than are members of the United Australia party itself.
There is another paradox in connexion with this matter. It is suggested that-the purpose of the measure is to create a position for the honorable member for Corangamite, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street). With the exception of this new Minister, the Cabinet is the same as before, only that Senator McLeay has taken the place of the exPostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan). It has not been sufficiently emphasized that this bill provides an extra £1,650 for the payment of Ministers, who will also receive £1,000 a year each as members of Parliament. Thus, the new Minister to be appointed will, apparently, receive £2,650 a year.
– That is not so.
– Under the Ministers of State Act, fourteen Ministers receive £16,590 between them. When the act is amended by this measure, the amount will be increased to £18,600, which is an increase of £1,650. Therefore, if the extra amount all goes to the new Minister, he will receive £2,650 a year. Of course, I do not believe that it will all go to him. 1 believe that it will be divided among all the Ministers. I understood that the Prime Minister was the highest-paid member of the Cabinet, and that his salary was £2,400 a year. Even with the extra £200 a year for which provision was recently made, his salary would be only £2,600 a year. It is not likely that the new Minister will receive more than the Prime Minister, so that the extra amount for which this bill makes provision will, in all probability, be divided amongst all the Ministers. Judging by the excellent, if unusual, attendance of Ministers this evening, it may be assumed that they are all going to vote for the bill, and I point out that the honorable member .for Corangamite was the only member who, a little time ago, refused to accept the paltry restoration of £50 to the parliamentary allowance. He refused to accept £50, but provision is being made in this bill to give him 33 times that amount.
Recently, the Attorney-General, in a public address, said that the Commonwealth Parliament should be given greater powers. I agree that if this Parliament were given greater powers, if it were not circumscribed by State parliaments, if it controlled education, police, &c, there would be a good reason for appointing, not one extra Minister, but several. Until that position is brought about, however, I can see no reason for increasing the number of Ministers. I believe that the policy of the Labour party should be given effect, and that the Commonwealth Parliament should be vested with unlimited legislative powers, and that it should delegate certain powers to reconstituted State authorities. If that were done, there would be extra work for extra Ministers to do. Now, it is merely proposed to add one more
Minister to the total number of Ministers throughout Australia. If this bill becomes law, there will be 74 Ministers of State in the Commonwealth, just as many Ministers as there are members of this House. Because of the multiplicity of parliaments in Australia, there is conflict of authority. That is why Com.monwealth Ministers spend so much of their time attending conferences which achieve nothing. At the recent defence conference in Canberra, most of the Commonwealth Ministers were present, but out of this mountain there was delivered not even a mouse.
Another reason why I am opposed to this bill is that, coincident with the suggestion that the number of Ministers should be increased, the Government has announced its decision to shear Ministers of most of their powers by the appointment of an inner group fashioned on the lines of a grand Fascist council. It is proposed that seven Ministers shall control the Ministry. This is what our so-called democracy has come to. Out of a chamber of 75 members, including one without a vote, 45 Government members control the Parliament. They, in their turn, are controlled by a Ministry which is to consist of fifteen Ministers. That Ministry will be controlled by an inner coterie of seven Ministers, to use the words of an ex-Minister. Any one who studies the personnel of that inner group will have no doubt that three Ministers will, in fact, control the seven. Out of the inner group of seven, the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Commerce will control decisions, and the Treasurer, I have no doubt, will endeavour to have some notice taken now and again of his arguments. That is the position which has been reached by the National Government of Australia.
– The nation’s destiny will be controlled by four men.
– That is so; and, bearing it in mind, I should not have been surprised if, instead of having brought down a bill to increase the number of Ministers, the Government had introduced a bill to abolish some portfolios. Of fourteen Ministers in the Cabinet, seven are to run the country and override the others. In view of that, whilst there may have been some logical argument in favour of a reduction of the number of portfolios, nothing can be said in support, of increasing it.
The only other point which I wish to make is that, in introducing this bill, the Government has followed the same back-door tactics adopted by it and other governments throughout Australia with regard to the appointment of Ministers. Whereas at the inception of federation there were only seven Ministers, three years ago the number was increased to ten, and now it is proposed to increase the number still further to eleven ; but in reality we know that there are not eleven, but fifteen Ministers. It is useless to compare the British position, because in Great Britain one group of Ministers sits in Cabinet while others are not definitely associated with Cabinet. Even with the establishment of an inner group that innovation is not being brought into operation in the Commonwealth. I see no reason why the Government should not state definitely how many Ministers are required. The Government should be frank and tell the people that there are fourteen members of the Ministry, and that they are entitled to the particular amounts placed upon the statute-book for them. The Government’s attitude in connexion with this bill is similar to that which it adopted when the latest restoration of parliamentary allowances was made a few years ago. At that time a bill was brought down providing an extra £200 for Ministers. In my opinion, they should have been getting it in the first place; but the reason they did not do so was because, when ministerial salaries were under discussion, a member of the Opposition moved that Ministers should not be entitled to receive the extra £200. I suggest that the Ministry should come out into the open and tell us actually what salary each Minister receives, from the Prime Minister to the most junior member of his Cabinet. If that were done we could gauge if the salary is adequate compensation for the work Ministers are supposed to do, -and we would be in a much better position to discuss legislation such as that now before us. There is little doubt that this bill has been brought forward for the sole purpose of endeavouring to hold together a government which is rapidly falling to pieces. Apparently the only way in which it can be held together is by offering a bribe, such as the appointment of a new Minister. By this . means, the Government gets the support not only of the newlyappointed Minister, but also of others who think they have an added chance of securing appointment. In that way the Government is endeavouring to weld together a party regarding which it has had considerable difficulty. Despite the fact that this sop has been offered, according to the speeches delivered here to-night, this bill, far from cementing the party together, will only help to drive it further asunder, just as did the InterState Commission Bill which, instead of welding together certain sections of the parties opposite, brought greater disharmony than had already existed. Sothe Government marches on from failure to failure, and from defeat to defeat! I only hope that this bill will prove to be like many others which the Government has introduced during this period of the session, and that in regard to it the Government will meet defeat.
– The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has made a statement that under this bill, if it becomes law, one member out of five in this Parliament will be a Minister of State. That is not so. If the bill is passed in its present form it will provide for only twelve Ministers of State and three Assistant Ministers, and they will be distributed over two Houses of 111 members, so that the proportion of one in five does not hold good. The honorable member also referred to the position of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the necessity for that right honorable gentleman holding some portfolio other than that of Prime Minister. In support of his contentions he cited the experience of the Scullin Government. In my opinion it would be a mistake to call upon the Prime Minister to administer any government department. The work which the right honorable gentleman has to do is of a particular and peculiar nature, and it is necessary for him to keep in touch with every department administered by his Government.
– The Minister did not say that when he was on the back benches.
– I have not made the speeches which the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) suggests I made when I was on the back benches; but I certainly did make some which the honorable member might very well read to improve his mind. It is my considered conviction, not acquired since I came to the treasury bench, that the duties of the head of the Government are sufficiently onerous and diverse to occupy his time fully. Then there is the question of the distribution of duties. I do not for one moment suggest, and I do not think that the Prime Minister suggested, that we have arrived at an ideal distribution of duties. I further forecast that, if my friends opposite should get into office again shortly, as they seem to hope, the distribution of duties which will occur in their Ministry will be a matter which members of the then Opposition may be able to criticize with perhaps a very great deal of force.
– Would they reduce the allowance for Ministers?
– I do not think so, and if I wanted a few hours’ amusement I would like to be present when members of the party opposite were being picked for the Cabinet positions. I admit that the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is one which might very well be taken into consideration. There are points in regard to extending social services which are falling upon the Commonwealth .Government that make it necessary to consider things of the character advocated by the honorable member; but those are not things that we can go into to-night. Repeated statements have been made by the Opposition that Ministers do not spend enough of their time in this House, and, on the contrary, that Ministers do not spend enough time in their departments. Both statements have been made during the debate to-night. I think it will be agreed that it is physically impossible for Ministers to be on the frontbench in this chamber and in their departments at one and the same time.
– Parliament has sat only 5S days since the last elections.
– It is not a question of the number of days Parliament sits. I do not think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) will suggest that Ministers are disengaged during those portions of the year when Parliament is not sitting. From my own experience as a private member, I found that every private member can be very fully and definitely occupied in the discharge of duties relative to his position as a member even when Parliament is not sitting.
– Some Ministers are fully occupied and some are not.
– Let us go through the list. I think honorable members will admit that the Prime Minister has his .hands full, and that the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has a pretty onerous job at present’ and has only one Assistant Minister to help him. And surely no fair-minded man would suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is underworked. When the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill was being debated he was sadly overworked.
– ‘Could not the AttorneyGeneral do more?
– The duties of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) do not consist merely of sitting on the front bench. It is his duty to examine every piece of legislation which is introduced into this Parliament. He has a difficult and exacting task. Should faulty bills be brought before this House, the Attorney-General would be held responsible. Consequently he is busily occupied in preparing legislation for Parliament.
– Nonsense! There are many bills that tho Attorney-General never sees until they are introduced.
– The legal members of the Opposition know that he has much to do.
The duties which fall to the lot of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) are of such an exacting nature as to require consistent study on his part-
– Order ! Noisy interjections are disorderly.
– The bill as introduced provides for one additional Minister of State. Opposition members have, no doubt, realized that the Cabinet as reconstructed recently contains twelve full Ministers instead of ten as formerly, and that there are now three Assistant Ministers instead of four. In other words, there is one more member in the present Cabinet, than in the Cabinet of eight or nine days ago. An examination of the bill will demonstrate that the amount available for each member of the present Cabinet will not be as great as was available for each member of the previous Cabinet.
– Provision is being made for two Ministers.
– If the honorable member studies the bill carefully, he will find that he will have to revise practically the whole of the statement that he made to-night.
. When the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) proceeded to examine the ministerial offices I had an uneasy feeling that he intended to go through the whole list; but, having dealt with moderate success with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), he proceeded without misadventure as far as the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), when h’e crashed. During the Minister’s speech a Government supporter interjected to an honorable member on this side, that as he had never been AttorneyGeneral ‘ he ought not to interject. For an all-too-brief period I was AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. I say “ all too brief “ for, like the PostmasterGeneral, I am thinking of the interests of the nation rather than of my own. When I hear of the Attorney-General being overworked and call to mind his exertions in this chamber, I am amazed at the temerity of his colleague.
– I did not say that the Attorney-General was overworked, but that he had an onerous task to perform.
– The Minister is now retracting his statement.
– Not at all.
– Although the PostmasterGeneral spoke of the work of the Attorney-General that has to be done, the Attorney-General does not do it. I have had a fairly long parliamentary experience, but I have never known a Minister who, in racing parlance, has been so little extended as the Attorney-General has been. It has always appeared to me that the right honorable gentleman is a little bored at holding an office which gives so little scope for the display of his undoubted talents. If the right honorable gentleman will recall the days when he was working for himself at the bar, and compares his labours then with his labours now in the interests of the nation, he must surely be impressed by the fact that he is enjoying an extended holiday. Ithas been said by the PostmasterGeneral, but not by the Attorney-General, that the latter has to examine every bill tomake sure that it is constitutional and without legal defects. I know that that is not so, although it may be true that the Attorney-General has to examine every bill introduced by the PostmasterGeneral. But special cases of that nature do not establish a universal rule. I admit that when I held the distinguished office of Attorney-General I frequently boasted to my overworked colleagues that I had the best job in the Cabinet. “When we speak of the colossal labours of Ministers, it appears to be forgotten that Ministers, who come and go with disquieting frequency, and at times unexpectedly, have at all times the support of a highlytrained and expert Public Service. Thus it is that honorable gentlemen like the Attorney-General are free to engage in private practice while holding public positions under the Crown. ThoughI do not think that the right honorable gentleman has given much time to private concerns sinceI so roundly berated him for taking a private brief when he was representing the Commonwealth in London, I have no doubt that he is free to do so, and sometimes does.
Mr.Ward. - The right honorable gentleman still has a few directorates.
– It is not for me to make this debate a personal one.
– Why not? The honorable member generally does so.
– I have never done so. I have never criticized the AttorneyGeneral or any other honorable gentleman in this Parliament except on grounds of policy, and in connexion with the discharge of public affairs. I conceive it my right and duty fearlessly to do so, although it is unpleasant, since it involves criticism, perhaps unkindly, of men whom I should prefer to praise. On general principle, I have no objection to handsome salaries, generous salaries, and, certainly, adequate salaries, or to increases of salaries, although I adopt in its entirety the argument of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, Ward), who pointed out that the moneys for the increased salaries come out of the Treasury, and that it is ironical that we should be compelled to compare the conditions of the working class outside this chamber with the lot of those who draw handsome salaries as Ministers, and, if you like, as members of Parliament, within this chamber. Generally, I do not attack salaries; they should be adequate, and this country should be able to provide adequate and even generous wages to its people. My argument, therefore, is not at all directed on penurious lines, or upon pinchpenny lines. My argument against this measure is directed broadly to the view that this bill is really a ministerial device, one of a succession of ministerial devices, intended to cover up embarrassment arising from disunity within the ranks of the Ministry and from competition within the ranks of the supporters of the Ministry, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has pointed out, for place, position, honour, and pay. Therehas been, and continues to be, an inept diffusion of the work which has to be done by Ministers, and I am satisfied that the appointment of an additional Minister arises not from the necessities of the case, but from a desire, amounting to a necessity, indeed, on the part of the Prime Minister to placate his critics on his own side of the House and to keep them as working supporters of his Government. That state of affairs inevitably arises out of what is known as a coalition government. If there were on the Treasury bench a team of men holding similar political and economic views, and subscribing to doctrines which each one was not merely prepared to support, but also driven by conscience to support, there would be a government coherent in itself supported by a coherent and loyal party. But when it becomes necessary, as it has become necessary in this Parliament, for the party, which previously held the reins of government by its own strength, to enlist the support of those who have nothing politically or economically in common with it to maintain the Government, the seeds of disunity are sown. Then, immediately, begins that condition of unrest which is exemplified to-night, that which leads to the appointment of another Minister to placate another member of the party. That is why, especially, I strongly criticize and oppose the passage of this bill. Parliamentary government is on its trial, and, in my view, for parliamentary government to be successful, its executive should be as small as possible, and its parliament as free as possible. As soon as it becomes the practice of a democracy to create an executive - call it what you will - to overawe Parliament, you enter a system of the invasion of the rights of Parliament, and finally an invasion of the democratic rights of the people who create Parliament. Therefore, I view with grave suspicion and disquiet this tendency on the part of the Ministry to gather to itself additional strength by additional numbers. That is a policy of placating supporters ; a policy of creating hopes in the breasts of supporters that they will be admitted some day to tho charmed circle.
Whereas I have sometimes had occasion to criticize the Government for the fact that few, if any, members of the Ministry are to be found upon the front bench when, in some cases, millions of pounds of money are being passed, or, in other cases, when most important measures are being passed, to-night I must, with other honorable gentlemen, congratulate the Ministers, who have presented a united front on the front bench for the purpose of defending the oitadel of their pecuniary interests.
If, for a moment, we examine the offices which Ministers fill, it becomes apparent that, if the educated Public
Service is to be utilized, some of these Ministers, half Ministers, assistant Ministers, and secretaries, and, if I may say, “ hangers-on if not all, could very well be done without. It would be pitiful if, for instance, we were led to suppose that a Minister like the honorable gentleman who now alone decorates the front bench, the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thompson) could do in the Department of Commerce work which could not be well done by a trained officer of the Public Service in that, department. Of course, we all know that he can do nothing of the kind. We could not hope that one would be an efficient public servant in an office who, in the Parliament itself, fulfils a purely decorative, rather than a useful, purpose. Much of the alleged additional work of the Cabinet arises from the half-baked measures introduced by the Government itself. It no sooner introduces a measure than it desires to amend it in response to the public clamour which rises in protest against it. Does any one suggest that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) is overworked? If he is, he is merely overworked in making propositions which are unacceptable to the head of the Government, or in correcting a course which he takes from time to time, which i9 not acceptable to the Prime Minister. It is this radical departure from Cabinet responsibilities - this inept management and failure to hold the Government team together - which makes it, apparently, necessary, when it is not really necessary, to increase the number of Ministers. Why was this departure from past parliamentary practice made in the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries, who, after having been appointed, have not been employed to attend to some of the extra work which, it is claimed, is a justification for the appointment of another Minister? I criticized these appointments in a speech which I made the other day when I pointed out that in the House of Commons. Parliamentary Secretaries are appointed and take responsibility at the table, and also answer questions and generally represent in one chamber a Minister who may be carrying on his work in another chamber of the mother of parliaments, which, by the way, presides over, not 7,000,000 people as does this Parliament, hut 40,000,000. Here Parliamentary Secretaries have been appointed, and that is the last we have heard of them, l t does not appear that they render any service whatever for Ministers; no justification whatever has been advanced for their appointment.
The Postmaster-General has said that the Prime Minister is over-worked. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) made a sufficient answer to that statement when he referred to the work discharged by the right ‘honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when he was Prime Minister. It seems that the present Prime Minister is over-worked, but it is mainly in running from one Minister to another, appointing new Ministers, and reconstructing in order to hold his tottering Cabinet together and not in doing administrative work in the interests of this country. The position is not entirely one of money, but the fact remains that if one makes a comparison between Minis- ferial salaries of to-day and those in the trough of the depression, when it was the misfortune of myself and my acting leader to be members of the Government, one finds the annual appropriation for the payment of salaries of Ministers, inincluding their salaries as members, is approximately £15,000 more. That is a substantial sum, and it has rightly been pointed out by another honorable member that, in any circumstances, it is proposed under this measure to allocate an amount which is greater than the salary proposed to be paid to the new Minister. Apparently that sum “will go into the Ministerial pool. All I can say about the whole matter is that, in a parliamentary sense, this action smacks to me of very grave indecency. The time for such action is peculiarly inappropriate. Prom the Government’s point of view, at least, it is said that we are in grave danger in a national sense, and that we must work harder and make greater sacrifices for the safety of- the country. A lot of that talk is, of course, mere hysteria and make-believe; it is part of a policy of terrorization that should be discountenanced. However. it is the point of view of the Government, which adds to its salary as its part of the sacrifice. It appointed a new Minister for Defence. That, I think, was a change for the better. A new Minister for Defence having been appointed, a very convenient opportunity was afforded his predecessor to take a well-deserved rest on the back benches. Instead, however, the Government has taken advantage of the occasion to create, with a great flourish of trumpets and war-mongering fervour, the idea that it is necessary to give the exMinister for Defence a large number of other activities, all of which are, more or less, associated with the business of warhysteria and war-mongering.
By this time honorable members opposite, I believe, must regret that this measure has been introduced at all. It leaves an unpleasant taste in the palates of the electors. I doubt whether the Treasurer himself could possibly have approved of it, and one does not know to what degree opposition was raised to it individually, because the matter is obviously one for settlement in the party room rather than in the Parliament. At all events the Opposition claims the right to express its views, and for the reasons submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on this side, I intend, with great enthusiasm, to vote against the measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McCall) adjourned.
SHIP-BUILDING Industry - Naval Cadets.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed.
That the House .do now adjourn.
– I draw the attention of the Government to the long delay in arriving at a decision in regard to ship-building in Australia. As this matter has been the subject of discussion for some time it is needless for me to recount the many requests made by the many deputations that have waited upon the Government and urged it to compel commercial and manufacturing undertakings in this coun try, the proprietors of which I consider to be very unpatriotic, to have vessels which they require for use on the Australian coast, built in this country and not purchased, as is mostly the case to-day, from a place 12,000 miles away. I understand that a report was recently submitted by officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, and I have asked a number of questions on the subject urging that that report be made available, or, at least, that the Government indicate its intentions in respect of this matter. My reason for raising the subject to-night is because I ascertained over the week-end that no less than 157 ironworkers and 53 boilermakers were discharged from their employment at Mort’s Dock, Sydney, between the 24th October and the 11th November. These dismissals have been going on in a systematic way for the last six or seven weeks, and the management of this company has been forced, over the whole of that period, to discharge nearly 500 men in all sections of the iron trades which are associated with ship-building. At Cockatoo Dock, between the 31st October and the 15th November, 74 iron workers and engineers were dismissed, and, on the evening when I made inquiries, twelve fitters and ten iron workers were discharged. There was every indication that further dismissals would take place from day to day.
It may be thought that an appeal such as I am now- making is prompted by my personal interest in the matter, and 1 admit that to be the case, because, in common with several other honorable members, I represent a constituency bordering upon the waterfront of Sydney where this class of employment is of great importance to the people. When shipbuilding is at a low ebb, and the yards are discharging men, apart from the hardship experienced by the men who are left without employment, there are also serious repercussions upon business people who depend on the workers for their livelihood.
Tho Government should do something to force those who require new ships to have the vessels built in Australia. Metal Quarries Limited, I understand, is about to obtain an additional vessel to meet its transport requirements. The vessel needed is one of about 500 or 600 tons, and I believe that the company has asked for prices from local ship builders ; but the indications are that it proposes to purchase a vessel, or have one built, overseas. It is true that this might result is a slight reduction of the cost of the vessel.
– Only slight?
– Even if the difference were considerable-
– The price in Australia would be double the overseas price.
– I deny that. The point I make is that Metal Quarries Limited obtains its profits from the people of Australia, and, if it supplies metal to municipalities, the residents on the waterfront who pay municipal rates also pay for the metal supplied. It is time we had a government in Australia big enough to tell those in charge of these undertakings that, since they depend on the people of Australia for their income, they should be forced to secure their requirements in this country. Within the last four months, the Port Jackson and Manly Steamship Company has bought to Australia from overseas a vessel which could have been built here.
– The new Manly ferry?
– Yes. The honorable member has a personal interest in the welfare of the ship-building industry, because his electorate adjoins my own on the waterfront at Sydney, and I hope that he will help me in my efforts to have something done in the matter. This company went overseas to purchase a new steamer for its transport services between Sydney and Manly. It depends largely on the workers for a return upon its outlay) but it is unpatriotic and unjust enough to disregard the interests of its patrons by purchasing a vessel overseas.
– A similar policy was adopted by Burns, Philp and Company.
– Yes. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, too, went abroad for the additional vessel required for its coastal trade. It “walked out” on the Australian ship-building industry. A couple of years ago, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had two ships built overseas, although they might well have been constructed in this country. When I have witnessed the launching of vessels in Sydney, I have listened to the speeches made, and their general tone has indicated that Australian artisans can do work of a high standard and that the metals and other materials necessary for ship construction are obtainable in Australia. The ships built here are equal in every respect to any built in other parts of the world, but those in charge of business undertakings requiring vessels are still allowed to go outside for their requirements. If this country were governed on the lines of the United States of America, action of this kind would not be tolerated for 24 hours. Irrespective of the cost, it is regarded as of national importance in that country that the people should be provided with employment. The youths are given opportunities to learn trades, and the various industrial activities of the country are fully developed in all directions. That is the policy and the guiding spirit of other countries, but in Australia the opposite course is taken. A dozen times, I have drawn attention to the neglect of the interests of the local shipbuilding industry, yet it appears that this Parliament will pass into recess without action being taken by the Government to alter the present position.
Obviously, Metal Quarries Limited proposes to go overseas for its new vessel, and, in order to bring this matter to a climax, the metal trades organization proposes next year to boycott all ships that have not been built in Australia, if they could reasonably have been constructed here. It should not be necessary for any section of the workers to be forced to take this course. Surely, the Government is big enough to look after the interests of Australian workmen without forcing them into such an action. Any person who stands for Australia must support the metal trades organization in this matter. I now urge the Government to take immediate action. In the light of all the talk .heard in recent months of the necessity for making Australia selfcontained in regard to defence requirements and affording employment it is essential that something practical should be done. In the light of various reports made recently in respect of defence, and of the admitted necessity to train artisans in this country, it becomes more and more important that complaints, particularly those in regard to ship-building, shall be rectified. More than 500 men associated with the ship-building industry are out of work on the Sydney waterfront, and although the putting in hand of a ship of 500 or 600 tons would not meet all our requirements, at least it would mean a great deal, and it would be a step in the right direction. I therefore trust that the Government will declare that ships needed in Australia for Australian undertakings must be built in this country.
– I am in sympathy with a great deal that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has said. It is not correct to say that the Government has done nothing to meet the situation. Five or six months ago my predecessor in office detailed an officer of the Customs Department to visit the Australian ports and make inquiries into this very matter. His report was before Cabinet this morning. Even during the last two or three weeks, I have realized the importance of the matter. Two or three firms in Sydney have been in touch with the department in regard to it, and have asked what degree of assistance may be expected. It is the policy of the Government to assist this industry if possible. The fact that assistance has not been forthcoming hitherto has not been the fault of the Government. It takes time to formulate an effective policy of this description. I am hopeful, however, that in the next few days I shall be able to make a statement which will be acceptable to the honorable member for West Sydney, and beneficial to the country.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) ‘to certain apparently unfair circumstances concerning an application made by a young man named Glover to enter the Naval College. The parents of this boy live at Wiluna, in Western Australia. It is a good thing that boys from any part of the Commonwealth may enter the Naval College. In this particular case, however, there seems to be ample room for complaint. The boy’s mother has written to me on the subject, and pointed out that it was necessary for him to pass first, a prescribed educational examination, then a medical examination, and then an exam- ination by an interviewing committee appointed by the Naval Board. The boy attended school at Northam,Western Australia, and passed the required educational examination. Two days later, he was out riding and had the misfortune to break his leg. The Naval Office was informed of the accident, and it requested a medical practitioner at Northam to make an examination, which was done immediately. After receiving the doctor’s report the interviewing committee advised the boy to hold himself in readiness to go to Adelaide to appear before it. Seven weeks after the accident the doctor gave the boy permission to travel to Adelaide, and stated that there was no danger of the break causing any ill effects. Four days after he received word to hold himself in readiness to go to Adelaide a notification came to hand to the effect that, in consequence of his accident, the boy had forfeited his opportunity to appear before the interviewing committee. The boy’s mother felt very hurt over this apparent injustice. She stated in her letter to me -
I consider that he has been very unfairly treated in not being given a chance to appear before the interviewing committee, and I thought that you might assist me to see that he gets a fair deal.
The boy has passed the prescribed examinations and I point out that the booklet dealing with conditions for entry to the Naval College states -
A candidate who is prevented by illness from appearing before the interviewing committee will be dealt with according to the individual merits of the case.
As the interviewing committee knew of his broken leg before it advised the lad to hold himself in readiness to go to Adelaide, it seems hard to understand why it subsequently countermanded the order. The matter is of considerable importance to the boy, as he will lose his chance to enter the Naval College unless he can do so following upon this examination, for he is at present thirteen years of age. I ask the Minister for Defence whether he will be good enough to take the matter up for me without delay.
– I was informed of the circumstances of this case only this evening. On the facts outlined by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr.
Green) it would seem that there is justification for the complaint that has been made. If the honorable member will make the papers available to me I undertake to make a full inquiry into the matter, to ascertain the exact position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Sugar Agreement - Seventh Annual Report of Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1938.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of J. F. Nimmo, Department of the Treasury.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court, dated 27th October, 1938.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Hobart, Tasmania - For Health purposes.
Nationality Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 103.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 107.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1938, No. 106.
House adjourned at 10.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Elizabeth-Street Post office, Melbourne.
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The requirements in regard to the Elizabethstreet Post Office have not been overlooked, but it is regretted that, in existing circumstances, no undertaking can be given to proceed with the rebuild ing scheme in the near future.
Contracts for Commonwealth Services.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Government’s requirements shall be met in the most suitable fashion, and in the most economical manner, consistent with the fullest measure of support being accorded to Australian manufacture and the equitable treatment of all contractors.
Australian Capital Territory, 2; New South Wales,60: Victoria, 30; Queensland. 3: South Australia. 2: Western Australia. 2; Tasmania, 1.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Salary - owing to varied conditions of employment, uniform conditions of salary for announcers have not been determined.
The average hours of duty are 33 a week.
Recreation leave - three weeks per annum.
Sick leave according to circumstances.
No overtime allowance is given, but meal allowance is paid.
The conditions for the clerical staff are -
Salaries are based on the award in the respective States as a minimum salary tobe paid.
Hours of duty are 40½ a week.
Recreation and sick leave are the same as for announcers.
Overtime allowance is given to clerical staff receiving up to £6 a week, but others are paid a meal allowance.
Conditions regarding superannuation are under consideration by the commission.
Salary - in accordance with the scale fixed by the Public Service Board for the position occupied. The lowest salary scale ranges from £96 to £306.
Hours of duty are 36¾ a week, and in some cases 44 hours.
Recreation leave - three weeks yearly.
Sick leave - for each year of service twelve days on full pay, eight days on half pay, and six days on third pay.
Overtime paid at rate of time and a half to officers receiving salary not exceeding £450 per annum.
Furlough - six months on full pay after twenty years’ service, and one and a half months for each additional five years’ service.
Superannuation - in accordance with contributions to Commonwealth Superannuation Fund.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Air. Archie Cameron. - On the 8th November, the honorable -member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) made certain inquiries as to the curtailment of the works programme of the Postal Department and I undertook to investigate the position.
I am now able to inform the honorable member that no arrangements have been made to curtail the telephone and telegraph works included in the approved programme, but it may be necessary to delay the authorization of certain building proposals which had been contemplated.
Post Office at Earlwood.
y .asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :-
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Estimates were not prepared during the depression period because of the difficulty of securing accurate particulars of the value of land and improvements, which accounted in 1929 for about 07 per cent, of the estimated total private wealth. An investigation into this subject was commenced some time ago, but has not yet been completed.
k asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has he any comment to offer on the report in the. Sydney Morning Herald of the 9th November, 1938, that “financial difficulties are . . . making it hard for the individual purchaser of a home to find the money to complete the deal. Interest rates are perceptibly stiffening . . .”.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
I have read the report referred to by the honorable member. The best information available to me indicates that there is no appreciable hardening of interest rates. On the subject of money available for building I would refer the honorable member to a report which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of the 3rd November, 1938, to the effect that a moderately quiet demand was experienced for mortgage money in October, and that there are ample funds available for investment in first-class mortgage securities.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 3. The Minister for Civil Aviation stated that there was nothing wrong with the construction or mechanism of Avro-Ansons.
y. - On Wednesday, the 9th November, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), asked the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows. -
Canberra: Allowance to Residents in Government Hostels.
– On the 20th October, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) asked the following question, without notice : -
Will the Acting Leader of the House State whether it is a fact that female members of the Commonwealth Public Service residing in government-controlled hostels in Canberra, receive an allowance of 5s. a week, whereas others who are unable to obtain accommodation in such establishments and are thus obliged to reside in private establishments, do not receive the additional amount? If this be the case, will the right honorable gentleman approach the Commonwealth Public Service Board and make arrangements with it for the payment of the allowance to all female members of the Commonwealth Public Service who have to reside in Canberra?
I desire to inform the honorable member that female officers of the Commonwealth Public Service receiving not more than £250 per annum who reside at a Commonwealth hotel or boarding house in Canberra receive an allowance at -the rate of £13 per annum in accordance with Public Service Regulation 97b (3). The regulation does not apply to persons residing elsewhere than at Commonwealth establishments, and those persons are. not therefore eligible to receive the allowance mentioned. The Commonwealth boarding establishments in Canberra at the present time are Hotel Kurrajong and Gorman House. At the former place the minimum rate of board is 36s. a week: at the latter 30s. a week, hut guests who pay that rate are required to clean and look after their own rooms. In present circumstances the provision for payment of the allowance is being continued at the two establishments mentioned, hut its extension to cases in which female officers board privately is not contemplated.
Shipbuilding Industry: Departmental Report.’
s. - On the 8th November, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) asked me the following question, without notice : -
Can the Prime Minister make available a report which the Customs Department possesses in regard to the question of shipbuilding in Australia? A report on this subject, I believe, was submitted by an officer of the department a little while ago.
As promised, I have looked into the honorable member’s request. The position is that, following the receipt of a Tariff Board report in connexion with shipbuilding, the Department, of Trade and Customs had inquiries made in order to obtain information additional to that contained in the Tariff Board’s report. This additional information ha.s since been obtained. The Government expects to deal with this question- and to indicate its intentions in regard thereto at an early date, after which the tabling of the Tariff Board’s report may be expected.
Co-ordination of Defence Services.
– On the 10th November, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked me the following question, without notice: -
Will the Prime Minister state what is the attitude of the Commonwealth towards the suggestion made yesterday in the Parliament of New South Wales by Brigadier-General Lloyd, that there should be a State Minister for Co-ordination of Defence Services and Supplies?
T have now had an opportunity of looking into the suggestion of Brigadier-General Lloyd, that there should be a State Minister for Co-ordination of Defence Services and Supplies. Under the Constitution, defence is a Commonwealth responsibility, and it is considered that there is no need for a State Minister for this purpose. In regard to the co-ordination of defence services and supplies, I would point out that, as the fighting services and the Munitions Supply Board are included in the one Defence Ministry, adequate means for the fullest co-operation already exist.
n. - On the 8th November, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) made certain inquiries as to the conditions governing the installation of public telephones.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that applications for additional public telephone facilities are dealt with in accordance With the standard basis outlined below : -
If the estimated revenue is insufficient to justify the facility, the residents should be given the opportunity to make good the deficiency from year to year
Technical Training of Unemployed Youths.
y. - On the 10th November, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mi. Holt) asked the following question, without notice: -
In the last financial year, this Parliament voted the sum of £200,000 for the technical training of unemployed young men, of which £57,000 was apportioned to the State of Victoria, the Government of that State undertaking to .provide a similar amount. From information supplied to me, I find that in that ‘ financial year, only £3,048 was expended by the Government of Victoria on this account, and that since then only £11,952 has been expended on the purpose for which the money was provided. Can the Treasurer indicate whether any attempt is made by his department to supervise the expenditure of thin money, to see that it is devoted to the Purpose for which it is intended 1
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows: -
The Commonwealth lias been in constant touch with the State governments regarding the schemes in connexion with which the Commonwealth grant for the technical training of unemployed youths is being utilized and has received reports in . relation to the progress of the schemes and the expenditure thereon. All amounts expended in this connexion are subject to the usual audit by the State Auditor-General.
In order that the Commonwealth may be in a position to decide upon the amount required from time to time to enable the schemes to proceed, the States have been asked to furnish a statement at the end of each quarter indicating the expenditure up to that date, the amount of the Commonwealth and State grants remaining unexpended, and an estimate of expenditure for the following three months.
In regard to the case of Victoria, I would invite attention to the reply given by me on the 3rd November to a question by the honorable member. It was then explained that, owing to the preliminary work involved, the Victorian Government had been unable to commence the work of training until March, 1938, but that 650 youths were undergoing training, and new classes were being formed as rapidly as accommodation and machinery could be made available.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381116_reps_15_158/>.