15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at & p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minuter inform mo whether he has received the resignation of a member of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and, if so, when will the vacancy be filled ? Is it his intention to consult with the governments of the smaller States before making any appointment to nil the vacancy? Is there any truth in the report that exSenator Sir George Pearce may be asked to take a seat on the commission?
– Mr. George L. Creasey has tendered his resignation as a member of the commission on the ground of illhealth. The vacancy will be filled as early as possible - I hope before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas recess. lt has never been the practice of the Commonwealth. Government to consult with State governments in regard to such appointments. ‘ The Government has made them as it has seen fit from time to time, selecting the most suitable men available. That will be done in this case. The personnel of the commission has not been discussed by Cabinet since the resignation of Mr. Creasey and no decision has been reached in regard to the matter. If the honorable member had asked me whether Sir George Pearce will be appointed to the commission, it would have been a hard question. All I can say is that so far Cabinet has not discussed the subject. If Sir George Pearce is available for appointment his name will be considered with others that will come to the minds of the members of the Governnent.
– In view of the very long ministerial services of Sir George Pearce, and the ample opportunity he has had to provide a competence for himself in his old age, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that, in making an appointment to the Commonwealth
Grants Commission, a younger man will be selected of ability equal to that possessed by Sir George Pearce, and with a future infront of him?
– The appointment is one for the Cabinet as a whole. The qualifications of all applicants will be examined very carefully. The Governmentis not committed to the appointment of any individual.
– Has the Tariff Board been requested to inquire into the duty on British beer? If so, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me when its report is expected to be available?
– That subject has not been referred to the Tariff Board.
Mr.FROST. - I direct the attention of the Minister for Works to the following report, which appeared in the press last Saturday : -
The Minister for Works. Mr. Thorby, announced to-day that a Federal works programme to be carried out at a total cost of ?7,929,485 had been adopted for the current year. In addition ?553,210 would be spent on repairs and maintenance.
A dissection of the new works programme showed that the money would be spent in each State as follows: -
New South Wales: Metropolitan, ?1,530,680; Newcastle, ?168,853; rural, ?705,069; total, ?2,404,601.
Victoria: Metropolitan, ?1,241,339; rural. ?106,239; total, ?1,347,578.
Queensland: Metropolitan, ?357,095; rural, ?238,642; total, ?595,737.
South Australia: Metropolitan, ?103,874; rural, ?76,043; total, ?179,917.
Western Australia: Metropolitan, ?59,094; rural. ?12.583: total, ?71,677.
I wish to know why no amount has been allocated to Tasmania? Why has the Government overlooked this State?
– If the honorable member will let me have the newspaper extract to which he has referred, Ishall make inquiry to see whether Tasmania has been omitted by clerical error.
– Then I suppose Tasmania is to get something?
– Since the AngloAmerican Trade Agreement provides for a reduced rate of duty on American apples and pears landed in the United Kingdom by the 1st and 15th April respectively, by which dates Australian apples and pears are arriving there, I ask the Minister for Commerce to state what steps are proposed to prevent the subsequent marketing, in conflict with Australian arrivals, of excessive quantities of American fruit landed earlier, at the reduced rates of duty and stored in the United Kingdom?
– When I made my statement on this subject last Friday I said that under the agreement the Government of the United States of America had undertaken to consult various commodity boards in regard to the matters involved, and to take care that there would not be an excess of American apples and pears landed on the London market at the end of the American season.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether any communications have passed between the Air Accidents Investigation Committee and the Government during the past week? Has the Government directed that a change be made in the personnel of the committee? Is Mr. D. Ross to continue as a member of the committee? Can the Minister say whether the Minister for Civil Aviation and/or Captain E. C. Johnston will give evidence before the committee concerning the Kyeema disaster?
– The questions should be directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– The Government has no intention to alter the personnel of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee. As the Attorney-General explained a few’ days ago, the Government took actionto increase the number of members of the board and exercised care to select men who had a very wide experience of various matters associated with accidents investigations, andalso a wide technical knowledge of aviation. The investigation committee will itself decide which witnesses it shall call.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is correctly stated in the press that many changes are to be made in the control of civil aviation? In particular, is it the intention of the Government to disband the present Civil Aviation Board, and revert to the old method of control by a Comptroller of Civil Aviation? If this is so, why was not Parliament informed first? Is it advisable to make this change while the inquiry into the Kyeema disaster is in progress?
– I remind the honorable member that the Prime Minister himself announced the decision of the Government to separate civil aviation from defence aviation, and to establish a separate department to control civil aviation.
– I wish to know whether civil aviation is, in the future, to be placed under the supervision of a controller of civil aviation instead of the Civil Aviation Board?
– Civil aviation will be a department with a departmental head, similar to other departments.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation, or the Government, decided to alter the control of the Civil Aviation Department before the report of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee into the Kyeema disaster is presented ?
– There is to he no change whatever in connexion with the officers of the department. As I said before, in accordance with the decision of the Government the present civil aviation branch will be separated from the Department of Defence and will be constituted a separate department under the control of the Minister for Civil Aviation. The Civil Aviation Board will be abolished, and the officers of the board will be placed in charge of respective sections of the Civil Aviation Department and will be directly responsible to the Comptroller-General of Civil Aviation who will be permanent head of the new department.
– In view of the fact that the Air Board has been controlling the activities of the Air Force, and the Civil Aviation Board the activities of civil aviation, I ask the Prime Minister if the Civil Aviation Board has been abolished as reported in the press yesterday?
– The facts are as pointed out by the Minister for Civil Aviation himself. The board is being abolished and a new department is being set up to control civil aviation. May I say that in the statement made in regard to this matter there was no intention to disregard Parliament. Any fault in connexion with it may be laid at the door of the Leader of the Government.
– Is it a fact that Captain E. C. Johnston is to be appointed permanent head of the Civil Aviation Department? If so, does not the Minister think it proper that the appointment should be delayed until the committee now inquiring into the Kyeema disaster has presented its finding?
– No person was mentioned in the official statement, which was to the effect that the ControllerGeneral, whoever that person might be, would become head of the Civil Aviation Department. It was the newspapers that mentioned the name of Captain E. C. Johnston.
– Does the Minister think it proper that the re-organization of the commercial air routes of Australia should be carried out before the report of the Air Accidents Investigation Committee, which is inquiring into the Kyeema disaster, is presented ?
– The committee inquiring into the Kyeema disaster is inquiring into a specific matter, and not into the general administration of the department.
– Has the inquiry into the cost of living in Canberra yet been completed ? If not, when is it likely to be completed, and when will a report be presented?
– The inquiry has been practically completed, and would have been completed but for the illness of the Commissioner, Sir William Clemens. The Government is awaiting the final report of the Commissioner. When it has been considered by the Government it will be made public.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that Sir William Clemens, a retired Commonwealth public servant, who is in receipt of £312 per annum superannuation, is still conducting an inquiry into the cost of living in Canberra, and in view of the possibility of the appointment of Sir George Pearce to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, it is the policy of the Commonwealth Government to provide employment for all out-of-work knights ?
– I am informed by the Minister for the Interior that the inquiry which is being conducted by Sir William Clemens ia almost completed.
– Is the Prime Minister now in a position to give full particulars regarding contracts entered into between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Japan for the export of pig iron? Will the fact that these big contracts have been entered into induce him to remove the embargo on the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound?
– If it is possible to do so, I shall endeavour to get particulars of whatever contracts have been entered into and make them available to the honorable member.
– In view of the injustice which is now being done to invalid and old-age pensioners because of the limitation of payments of back pay to one month’s pension when pensions are cancelled, reviewed, and subsequently restored, will the Treasurer examine the regulations with a view to ascertaining if it is not possible for the whole of the pension lost during these proceedings to be made up?
– I shall certainly look into the matter.
Appointment of Director op Publicity.
– Is it a fact, as stated in the Melbourne press yesterday, that Mr. J. McCahon has been appointed by the Government to the position of director of publicity for the recruiting campaign for the militia forces? If so, for what period, and at what rate of salary and expenses has he been appointed? Was there not a returned soldier applicant for the position, and if so, why was he not appointed?
- Mr. McCahon has been appointed to the position and will be associated, of course, with the subcommittee of Ministers dealing with this matter. He was appointed because of his capacity to undertake the work, and because he offered his services in an honorary capacity without any reward at all.
– In view of the widespread dissatisfaction expressed by all sections of the community against the provisions of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, will the Government take a referendum of the people in order to ascertain their views in respect of it before it becomes operative in May next?
– The honorable member is just assuming, without any basis for his assumption, that there is widespread opposition to the act. His laughter does not add to any evidence of dissatisfaction which he has produced up to the present which is nil. The Government has no intention of taking a referendum of the people with regard to this matter.
– A fortnight ago, I asked the Treasurer for information regarding the number of appointments to the staff of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Commission, and the. departments from which the appointees had been drawn. Can the Treasurer inform me when this information will be available ?
– I was under the impression that the question had been answered, but if . it has not, I shall obtain the information as quickly as possible. The members of the commission are working extremely hard, and without cease, in order to get the main lines of the scheme into operation, lt is difficult for them at the same time to keep pace with a multifarious correspondence, and also to answer a large number of questions asked in this House.
– Is it not a fact that many appointees were drawn from branches of the Commonwealth Public Service that will not be affected by the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, while very few have been drawn from the Pensions Department which will be affected ?
– The method of recruiting individual officers for the national insurance staff is by the calling of applications through the Public Service Board, the advertisements appearing in the Gazette. From the applicants the most suitable persons are appointed to the various posts. If they happen to come from certain departments rather than from others, that is pure chance.
– Have any agreements yet been reached with any of the State governments in regard to the carrying out of works pf a defence character, including those submitted to the Premiers Conference a month ago?
– No specific agreements have been entered into -with the States in connexion with defence works. Negotiations are proceeding with State authorities, particularly in the eastern States, with a view to the carrying out of certain works by the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with them.
– Have any works in any State been endorsed by the Com-, mon wealth Government as works of a defence character?
– A long list of works associated with the Defence Department has already been published, and these are to be carried out by the Commonwealth. So far, no specific works have been defined as of a defence nature among those being carried out by the State governments.
– Will the Minister for Works assure honorable members that he will, before the House rises, submit in general terms a report of the results of his negotiations with the State governments ?
– I cannot give any undertaking of that kind. No one can forecast what will be the outcome of the negotiations that are taking place. I am endeavouring to give these matters the widest publicity possible.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the text of the statement made to the House of Commons by the British Prime Minister concerning Jewish refugees? Has any undertaking been given by the Commonwealth Government concerning these refugees, or has a request been received that any commitment be made by the Commonwealth Government
– No definite request has been made by the British Government to the Australian Government in regard to thi3 matter. I hope to have an early opportunity to make a general statement in regard to Jewish refugees.
– Will the provision of £25,000 for the payment of bounties to residents of Papua and New Guinea be made after the Papua and New Guinea Bounty Act expires at the end of December next?
– I regret that I am not in a position offhand to state what is the exact position. I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member have a reply later.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs state when the report of the Tariff Board on tractor wheels will be ready?
– I do not know, but I shall make inquiries.
– Is it a fact, as stated by Sir Henry Gullett in to-day’s press that during the recent crisis, “ Australia was in imminent danger of molestation from the sea “? Has it come to the knowledge of the Government that there were any foreign warships within close range of Australia during that period?
– During that period certain rumours were current, as tney always are in similar circumstances. However, when they were investigated by the Defence Department, it was found that there was no justification for them.
– Some time ago, I placed a question on the notice-paper regarding immigrants arriving from foreign countries, and I was told that the information was being obtained. Can the Minister for the Interior inform me when it will be made available?
– I cannot give a definite reply offhand, but I shall obtain the information, and make it available to the honorable memberlater in the afternoon.
– What action has been taken by the Department of the Interior to provide a check on immigrants to ensure that they do not obtain employment at the expense of Australian citizens ?
– Before any migrant, either an assisted British migrant or an alien, comes to this country, it is necessary for him to give full particulars of the employment in which he proposes to engage, or of the vocation which he proposes to follow. On being satisfied that the information given is founded upon fact, the department issues a permit to an alien, or assistance for his passage to a Britisher. It is not possible for the Commonwealth Government, without legislative authority, to compel the registration of aliens in order that a close check can be kept on their movements, but it has been intimated that legislation will be introduced into this Parliament to provide for the registration of aliens.
– Upon what principles does the Department of the Interior work in determining whether applications to come to Australia from refugee or other countries shall be granted or rejected?
– The policy applied by the department has been stated many times. First, evidence must be forthcoming that a migrant is of desirable character; secondly, he must be sound in health; and, thirdly, he must on landing be possessed of either £200 or £50. In the second case, there must be a guarantee by some person in Australia that he will be given employment, and will not become a charge upon the State within five years. Furthermore, as I have already intimated, intending migrants to Australia must intimate what jobs they propose to take. Investigations are made by the Investigations Branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department with a view to ensure that no Australian citizen will lose his job or be prejudiced in securing the work by the arrival of an immigrant.
– In view of the fact that Canada has exact information as to the manner in which the Nordic races are being pushed off the land, by the Southern European, will the Minister for the Interior have investigations made to ascertain to what degree the Nordic population of Australia is being pushed out of primary production by aliens ?
– The Commonwealth Government has never had any reason to believe that aliens are affecting the employment of Australians in primary industries, other than in certain obvious and definite cases, namely, in the sugar industry in Queensland, and in two irrigation areas, one in New South Wales, and one in Victoria. Investigations were made in Queensland, with the result that it was announced some months ago that no further permits would be issued to aliens to migrate to Australia for the purpose of taking employment in the sugargrowing areas. More recently, inquiries have been made as to the position in the Leeton irrigation area in New South Wales. The result of that investigation did not disclose necessity for action. I have decided, as the result of an investigation into the positions at Shepparton and Werribee, in Victoria, to grant no further permits, for the time being, to aliens, other than to dependent relatives of aliens already in Australia, who propose to take up land or to take employment in those districts.
– How does the Minister intend to stop aliens who come to Australia from going to those places?
– That matter will be covered in the registration of aliens legislation which will bp introduced in this House this session.
– Has the Minister for the Interior any information as to the average number of migrants who come to Australia for the one £50?
– The honorable member implies that the £50 landing money, which is required of aliens who are guaranteed, circulates?
– So it does.
– That charge has been made and investigated many times, but we have never been able to substantiate it. If the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has in mind any particular case, which he can support with evidence, I shall be glad to have it investigated.
Facilities at Darwin.
– Is it a fact that the area upon which flying boats alight at Darwin during the wet season is infested with sea-snakes, and is within 200 yards of mangrove swamps which are infested with mosquitoes and sandflies? Is it a fact that in stormy weather, flying-boat passengers will have the choice of riding the storm in a motor launch - which has not yet arrived at Darwin from Sydney - or of remaining overnight in the flying boat at the mercy of the mosquitoes and sandflies? Is this the best arrangement that the department can make for a wetseason landing place at Darwin?
– At the present time, passengers arriving by flying boat at Darwin have to land at the only place available, namely that which is used by all passengers, whether they arrive by air or sea. The department is improving the landing facilities, however, and additional steps are being constructed and a wooden shelter erected so that passengers’ may land in comfort even when the sea is choppy.
– Will the Minister for Defence make inquiries regarding the number of highly-skilled tradesmen lost to the service of the Commonwealth from the Lithgow SmallArms Factory when the Government decided a few years ago not to allow that factory to compete for the manufacture of material other than defence equipment? If he learns, as the result of his investigations, that a large number of men were lost in this way, will he undertake to reconsider this policy, so that the factory may again undertake outside orders?
– I shall make investigations of the kind suggested by the hon- oi able member. Regarding the second part of his question, action will depend upon the result of the investigations.
– Has the attention of the Minister foi1” Civil Aviation been directed to the defects in the landing grounds on the north-west route, particularly in the Kimberleys during wet weather? Is it proposed to take any steps to improve these landing places?
– An extensive programme of developmental works has been approved. The money has been allocated, and in some cases tenders have been accepted for new works associated with aerodromes from Perth to Adelaide, and Perth to Darwin. I am having a list of works drawn up showing the amount of money expended, the class of improvements to be undertaken, and the dates upon which it is expected that the work will be completed.
Mi’. BLAIN. - When his department is re-Organized, will the Minister for Works give favorable consideration to the appointment of, say, four draughtsmen, presided over by a senior draughtsman, as a committee to co-ordinate section maps of Australia, in order that main Australian flying routes may be completely chartered for the assistance of pilots?
– I made inquiries into that matter last week, and found that several maps have been completed, particularly those associated with certain important air routes. Certain officers of the Works Branch are co-operating with the Department of Civil Aviation with a view to the production of additional maps, which will cover a wider area than the strip maps which are now available to pilots.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That Standing Order No. 70 (eleven o’clock rule) be suspended until the 0th December next.
Consideration- resumed from the 18th November (vide page 1745), on motion by Mr. Casey-
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and Allowances, £8,210” be agreed to.
.- At the outset I desire to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) for the wonderful work which he has performed during the last seven years. Most of us are prone to wait until a Minister is dead or until he leaves the political sphere before we express our thanks for the work he has performed, but I do not propose to do so. We are indebted to the right honorable gentleman for the way in which he has steered the ship of state through troubled waters. When he assumed control seven years ago Australia was in a chaotic condition. All of the election promises which the right honorable gentleman has made have been honoured. Four years ago when it became necessary to form a composite government the- Prime Minister was faced with the unenviable position of accepting the resignation of some of his Ministers to permit members of the Country party to enter the Cabinet. I do not agree with the action then taken by some Ministers who had to resign; because they should have realized the difficulties of the situation and cooperated with their leader. Unfortunately some men were- not big enough to do so ; but f am pleased to learn .that they are now supporting their leader wholeheartedly.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled against the Government’s defence policy. When the Prime Minister became head of the Government seven years ago’ he said that ‘he was, as he is to-day, opposed to ‘conscription and to compulsory military training. I, too, am opposed to conscription. The Prime Minister has asked the members of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government in its endeavour to increase the strength of the militia from 35,000 to 70,000, and it is hoped that they will give their support. The present policy of the Government in this respect should appeal to honorable members on both- sides of the chamber, and I believe that at the end of six months the strength of the militia will have increased to the extent desired. As trainees are expected to give up some of their Saturday afternoons when other young nien are engaged in recreation, some more satisfactory arrangement should be made. If some employers object to pay their employees while absent on military duty, an effort should be made to get them to adopt a more- patriotic attitude. Moreover, the remuneration paid to members of the militia forces should be increased, and those who attend drills, which at present occupy only a few days a year, should not lose financially. I believe that a number of returned soldiers, including officers, would be willing to drill recruits if the work were made sufficiently attractive, to them. I appeal to honorable members opposite to assist, the Government in its recruiting campaign, because I believe that if they do so at the end of sixmonths, a sufficient number will have been enlisted. Should the number be insufficient the Prime Minister will leave the matter in the hands of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) who may be compelled to advocate compulsory military training.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) who moved a motion of want of confidence in the Government a few days ago found it impossible to make any definite charge against the Govern* ment. I listened very attentively to the speech delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) on the budget a few days ago. The honorable gentleman undoubtedly twisted the figures to suit his own purposes. Consequently I felt obliged to make a personal investigation of the Commonwealth finances over the last seven years in order to give specific information in reply to his wrong assumptions. I found’ that during the time the Lyons Government has been in office, it has reduced taxation by more than £16,000,000 a year on the average. Our unemployment figures are far more satisfactory now than when the Government assumed office. In 1932, one-third of the working population of this country was out of employment. The last available figures show that only 8 per cent, of our people are now out of work. Seeing that in the very best circumstances, we have about 6 per cent, of the people out of employment, it will be appreciated that our position to-day is reasonably satisfactory. The production of our various industries in 1931-32 was valued at £305,000,000. That figure had risen last year to £456,000,000. I expect an even better return for this financial year. Activity in the building trade is always a good index to prosperity. In 1931-32 only £9,000,000 was spent throughout the Commonwealth on building construction. The corresponding figure for 1937-38 was £50,000,000. I do not say that this Government should be given all the credit for this improvement; but it cannot be denied that the people of this country, including the working people, have confidence in the Government.
The Government has added £15,000,000 to tha Loan Reserve Fund, from which our overseas commitments are met. During last year a loan of £11,000,000 was successfully converted, and the Government is now engaged on the conversion of loans aggregating £60,000,000. Since 1923, £80,000,000 has been provided for Commonwealth Debt Redemption Fund purposes. This year £10,000.000 will be added to our sinking fund, £4,900,000 of which is in respect of Commonwealth debts, and £5,100,000 in respect of State debts. In 1931, Commonwealth and State public debts totalled £1,182,000.000. This figure had increased to £1.275.000,000 at the end of the last financial year, an advance of £92,000,000 in the seven years. During that period the Commonwealth Government reduced its debt by £7.084,000. The in ere.; se of the aggregate. debt, therefore, is duc to State operations. An amount of £7,000.000 more is being provided this year than was found last year in respect of certain defence commitments, invalid and 0!a-flee pensions, and national insur- ance. A considerable part of the money will, of course, be devoted to national insurance purposes.
The National Health and Pensions Act has been criticized in many quarters, but I consider the measure a step in the right direction. It provides a foundation on which we can build subsequently. Obviously, it was impossible for us to continue in the old way to provide social services for our people. It is estimated that this year £16,500,000 will be required for invalid and old-age pensions. We have been told that 11,500 extra pensioners will have to be provided for. Seeing that only about 500,000 of our people have joined friendly societies in order to make some provision for sickness and accident benefits, it must be appreciated that a national health and pensions insurance scheme covering all workers in receipt of £7 a week or less, and involving 1,850,000 people, must be of immense general benefit. As only 500,000 of these people had appreciated the wisdom of providing for themselves in this way, the action of the Government in respect of the remaining 1,350,000 must be applauded. The actprovides that insured persons shall PdF ls. 6d. a week, and that their employers shall pay a similar amount, into the general fund. The money is to be expended in providing medical treatment, medicines and pensions. Clearly this fund must in time relieve the Consolidated Revenue of heavy imposts. It has been said by some people that the health and pensions scheme of New Zealand is superior to that of Australia. My reply is that as the workers of New Zealand are required to pay ls. a week in respect of each £1 they earn and that, therefore, a man earning £7 a week WOUld have to pay 7s. a week, the New Zealand scheme ought to be able to provide more liberal benefits than ours. On the basis of contributions, the Australian scheme is much to he preferred. The New Zealand people have also to pay £1 a year registration fee.
An amount of £885.000 extra is being provided this year for public works for defence purposes, while the expenditure on rh” Postal Department is expected to be £3.938,000 more than in the preceding year. I am g!ad to notice that £198,000 is being provided for water conservation, and hospital and gaol buildings at Darwin. Probably this money should have been expended years ago. The amount provided for expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory is £540,000, which is £68,000 in excess of the amount voted last year. We have been told that 220 new houses are to be built in Canberra this year. These dwellings are sadly needed. I am somewhat disappointed, however, that the cost of the houses is to be so high. Some weeks ago, on a motion for the adjournment of the House, I discussed building costs in Canberra, and I made available to honorable members some photos and plans and specifications of four-roomed dwelling houses - brick houses with conveniences - which were being made available for £450 including the cost of land. I intimated that I intended to move the adjournment of the House to discuss this urgent matter; but the Chief Architect in Canberra, the valuer under the housing scheme, and several other officers, asked me to visit North Ainslie where dwelling houses were being erected. They assured me that they would take a copy of my plans and specifications and that they would be able to build such houses in Canberra at a price not exceeding £600 each, and probably substantially less. In spite of this, I read in the press last week that tenders fOr 62 houses had just been accepted, the total amount of the contract being £64,000. What has become of the assurance that houses could be built here according to the South Australia plans and specifications for not more than £600 each? Seeing that bricks and tiles are made in Canberra, and that the cost of the land does not enter into consideration because of the leasehold system that is in vogue here, I cannot see why building costs should be very much in excess of those of Adelaide. Honorable members are probably aware that some weeks ago a shelter-shed was built adjacent to the parliamentary bowling green. It is a weather-board structure 20 ft. long and 8 ft. wide, on a concrete base. The fittings are very simple, consisting of two small benches, eight lockers, a shower, a handbasin, and a lavatory. I was horrified to learn that the cost of the shed was £620. It should not have been a penny more than £300. I have had some experience of building construction and know what I am speaking about.
– The cost should not have exceeded £200.
– It is time steps were taken to prevent this extravagant expenditure of public money.
– Why does not the honorable member call for a return showing the landed cost of the timber and other materials used in the construction of the shelter-shed ?
– I know that timber suitable for this purpose can be obtained in forests not 30 miles from here. ‘ At Mount Franklin there is any amount of suitable timber. In fact, it could be obtained from forests not half that distance from Canberra.
An amount of £250,000 is being provided for the purposes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research this year. I warmly approve of this expenditure. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done and is doing, exceptionally fine work in the interests of our secondary and primary industries, and as the years go by it wil’do even more than it is now doing.
I congratulate the Government upon making available £200,000 for youth employment schemes. South Australia has taken full advantage of the money made available to it by the Commonwealth for this purpose. The State Government has subsidized the grant £ for £, and has built very fine workshops in which between 30 and 35 young men are being regularly employed in learning useful trades.
I am satisfied with the various amounts apportioned to the States this year by way of grants from the Commonwealth. Although I think that South Australia should have received more, I am quite prepared to accept the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the present year. The only criticism I should like to offer in this regard is that grants to the claimant States should be stabilized for a period of five years. This would do away with the necessity for continuing the annual expenditure on the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which might well be saved.
The Government is to be complimented on having granted a fertilizers subsidy, which will do much to assist needy producers. I think I was the first, if not in this chamber at least in the party room, to advocate the. provision from Commonwealth funds of a fertilizers subsidy some years ago. Fertilizers are of great value in increasing the yield of agricultural and pastoral lands and are of great benefit to small market gardeners.
This is the first year in which the Lyons Government has been forced to increase taxation since it assumed office. That, of course, as honorable members and the country know, has been made necessary by reason of our huge commitments for defence purposes. I do not think any honorable member in this House, or any genuine Australian, would for a moment question the necessity for the provision of ample funds for the defence of this country. The increases, under the various heads of revenue, are as follows: -
The fact that, during its tenure of office, the Lyons Government has been able, until this year, to reduce taxation by £16,000,000 annually, reflects great credit upon it. These large remissions of taxation, which have been made possible by the wise administration of this Government in the past, have been of inestimable benefit to both primary and secondary industries, and have been largely responsible for the diminution of the unemployment figures.
I was very disappointed at the pronouncement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), after his return from New Guinea recently, that the new administrative site for the territory was to be situated at Salamaua. T have stayed at Salamaua for a lengthy period, and, therefore, I am able to criticize its selection with a full knowledge of its many defects. The town of Salamaua is built on flat ground on an isthmus which a tidal rise of about 10 feet would submerge. Therefore, I am somewhat at a loss to understand what led the right honorable gentleman to suggest Salamaua as the new administrative capital site. In my opinion, and in the opinion of others who know it well, Salamaua is probably the worst site for an administrative capital that could be selected in the whole of the territory. Lae, which is situated on high ground, and is a much more healthy town, has much more to recommend it. Its only disadvantage is that, although there is deep water there, it is exposed to the weather; but arrangements could probably be made to overcome that disability. Either Lae or Madang would be much better as an administrative capital. I question very much, however, whether the provision of a new capital for the Mandated Territory is needed at all. I suggest that the contiguous territories of New Guinea and Papua could well be brought under one administration, and be administered from Port Moresby. The distance from the gold-fields to Rabaul is no greater than the distance from the gold-fields to Port Moresby, so that no disability could be said to arise in that direction. I commend this suggestion to the very serious consideration of the Government. The
Sast practice of utilizing the great wealtherived from Bulolo and Wau at Rabaul, so many hundred miles away, is wrong. Money should be spent where the bulk of the revenue is derived. In order to develop their leases in the Bulolo Valley the miners have been forced to construct roads and maintain them not only for their own use but also for the use of the general public. This Parliament has recently authorized the borrowing of £150,000 for the completion of a new road from Salamaua to Wau. That road will traverse country rising to a height of 6,000 feet above sea level. Having a knowledge of the country, I say without fear of contradiction, that that sum will not be sufficient to construct the road for one-half of the distance between those two towns. One route of the construction of a road of a little over 40 miles in length has already been mapped out; another, going up the Markham Valley, would necessitate the construction of ‘a road nearly 140 miles in length, but would traverse perhaps less difficult country. In my opinion the sum to be borrowed for the construction of the road between Salamaua and Wau would not be sufficient to provide for the construction of a road on either of these suggested routes. This view is shared by the responsible officer in the Department of the Interior, who has said that, in his opinion, a road linking Salamaua to Wau could not be constructed even for £300,000. “I want it to be understood that I am in no way opposed to the construction of tha road. I offer these comments because I think that the matter should be given very careful consideration before a decision is arrived at. Not only are difficulties associated with mountainous country to be overcome but also it must be remembered that the new road will traverse territory in which the rainfall amounts to no less than 200 inches a year, lt is obvious, therefore, that the surface will have to be concreted or bitumenized and that, in any case, maintenance costs will be high owing to the prevalence of landslides in wet weather. An instance of the dangerous character of the country is supplied by the road from Wau to Edie Creek, a distance of only 12 miles. The road has been constructed to a width of 12 ft. on a gradient of one in twelve. When I was in New Guinea, I travelled along that road in a motor car and found tha*, while very often the car was jammed against the cliff on one side, it was running on the extreme edge of the constructed road on the other side, with a drop of 2,000 feet into the valley below. That, of course, will occur when the new road between ‘Salamaua to Wau is constructed.
– Scores of motor trucks traverse the road from Wau to Edie Creek every day.
– That is so. The road is at present being widened, and the difficulties are being somewhat minimized. All I suggest in this criticism of the proposal is that the Government should be advised of the full facts relating to the difficulties of road construction in New Guinea before a. decision is arrived at.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) spoke at some length about the huge quantities of timber that exist on the Bulolo flats. I think he estimated the timber resources of that area at 50,000,000 feet.
– That was a departmental estimate.
– In my opinion thu quantity would not exceed 30,000,000 feet. The honorable member suggested that contracts for the exploitation of the timber resources of that area be let to a number of persons. In my opinion that would be unwise because the quantity of timber to be cut does not justify the erection of more than one mill. All machinery for the establishment of a mill in that area has to be transported by aeroplane, and although the cost of aerial transport has been reduced from ls. 7d. per lb. to 2d. per lb., air freight is still an expensive item. In addition, it must be remembered that as one mill is capable of cutting from five to eight million feet a year, the whole of the timber resources of the area could be exploited in about five years.
– Has the honorable member in mind any particular person or firm who should get the contract ?
– No. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie also suggested that the timber should be taken to the coast by the use of overhead wires. That could be done, but the necessary machinery could be installed only at great expense. In order to justify the installation of such expensive machinery in that area the contract should also be for sufficiently long term to enable, the successful tenderer to have a fair chance to make the venture profitable.
It was interesting to view the developments that have taken place in the mining industry at the Bulolo flats. At Bulolo, five huge dredges are working. It was estimated that with the dredges operating to a depth of 25ft., gold valued at £1,000,000 per annum could be extracted, and that the life of the field would be 25 years. Now, however, dredges are working to a depth of 170 ft. and it appears that the life of the field has been extended to 100 years. In view of that we should do everything possible to assist tae mining industry in New Guinea.
I was pleased to observe that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) saw fit, during the last Parliamentary recess, to visit the Northern Territory. I was there in company with him. I had previously accompanied the ex-Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) three year3 ago. On that occasion, we travelled over the southern part of the territory only, but this time the new Minister made a more comprehensive tour. I know that what he has recommended, and what he will recommend, for the development of the territory, will benefit that area and Australia generally. Foi one thing, greater power is to be given to the Administrator, and much work is to be undertaken in and around Darwin itself, work which has been urgently needed for years. The Minister has been impressed with the capacity of the country in the Northern Territory to carry cattle and sheep, and he agrees with me that a greater population could be supported. At the present time, the population of the territory is only the same as it was 27 years ago, when it was taken over by the Commonwealth from South Australia. Much gold has been found at Tennant Creek, and it is still being won there. The Government, on the recommendation of some of us, installed a battery on the Tennant Creek field for the. benefit of the miners. As a general rule, I am strongly opposed to the intrusion of governments into business, but in this instance it was necessary that the Government should take action. The miners were paying £3 a ton to have their ore put over the plates. One battery was owned by an Afghan. The ore was put over the plates, the miners got some gold, but whether they got it all, or whether some of it was kept by the owner of the battery, there was no way of knowing, though I would not like to make such a charge against anyone. The charge at the Government battery is now 12s. 6d. a ton, and for a further 12s. 6d. a ton the miners can have the tailings treated by the cyanide process. When I was in the district, the people on the field were paying* 10s. for 40 gallons of water. Since then, bores have been put down, and water is available for the trouble of raising it to the surface. Some of it is unfit for human consumption, but it is quite suitable for mining purposes, and even drinking water is OnlY one-fifth of the price charged for it when we were there.
For the last seven years, I have advocated the completion of the railway between Alice Springs and Darwin. I now urge the Minister for the Interior, if the railway cannot be pushed on as far as the southern terminus of the Darwin line, at least to have it constructed as far as .Tennant Creek, a distance of 300 miles. That would open up a great deal of country, and enable five times the present population to be supported in central Australia and the Northern Territory. A definite agreement was entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia, at the time the Commonwealth took over this area, that the railway would be completed from Port Augusta to Darwin. If the work is not done soon, a railway will be put through to Darwin from Queensland, and the railway from South Australia will never be built. I have endeavoured to make my comments upon the budget constructive, and I have thrown out several suggestions which, if accepted by the Government, will be for the general good of Australia.
. -In my opinion, the budget was not received throughout Australia with any great enthusiasm. It provides nothing of a progressive or constructive character for the great mass of the people. The high level of prosperity so often spoken of by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), and other Government supporters, is not shared by the people. It is true that the Treasurer has been able to collect more revenue. That is due not to any greater prosperity among the people, but to a higher measure of prosperity among those on larger incomes, and to the imposition of excessive taxation, mainly indirect.
The Treasurer has occupied his present position for some years. Like many treasurers of his party who preceded him, he has followed rule-of-thumb methods of finance. He has disregarded the changing times, and paid no regard to such great social factors as the meehan- ization of industry, which has resulted in the displacement of man-power in all phases of manufacture.
Indirect taxation has reached record heights. Over a period of years, the Treasurer has reduced taxation on those enjoying high incomes, while the burden of indirect taxation has been maintained and increased. For instance, the reductions of sales tax over the last few years were of a kind that could not be passed on to the people. They benefited only from actual exemptions. The following table shows how the burden of indirect taxation has increased: -
Indirect taxation bears most heavily on the masses of the people, yet this is the kind of budgeting for which the Government stands. The actual amounts collected in indirect taxation for those years were as follows : -
Indirect taxation falls with equal severity on the employed and the unemployed. No one escapes, whether he be on sustenance, on relief work, or in regular employment in receipt of a regular income. The returns from customs and excise’ duties on tobacco have steadily mounted. In 1934-35, these duties yielded £4,960,000, while in 1937-38 they yielded £5,153,000, an increase of practically £1,000,000. This year it is expected that the sales tax will yield an extra £1,000,000. The Treasurer has certainly created some records, but the extra revenue has been, for the most part, collected from the less fortunate sections of the community. It has been truly said that he has shifted the load from the top to the bottom.
What does the Government propose to do for the unemployed? I have searched the budget, and the Treasurer’s comments thereon, but have found in them no reference to provision for the unemployed, except in so far as their lot may be alleviated by expenditure on defence. In general, the Government persists in its attitude that the care of the unemployed is a matter for the States; yet, in 1934, the Prime Minister, in his policy speech to the electors, is reported in the press to have made the following statement : -
The Government is concerned with the question of taking further steps to help in the solution of the tragic problem of unemployment. A continuance of the conditions to which I have referred will menace the morale and future usefulness of a great part of our population. Hitherto the responsibility for the relief of unemployment has- been allowed to rest with the States. After months of careful study of the problem, the Government hai decided that in the national interests the Commonwealth should take a larger share of this responsibility. The States have already exhausted their financial possibilities in an wholehearted effort to overcome it but the task is almost beyond their resources. The Commonwealth Government proposes to increase its efforts to deal with this problem. The Federal Government makes this announcement in the direct interests of those who are so unfortunate to be unemployed and also is the indirect interests of every section of the community. The Government proposes that practical and enlarged efforts to relieve unemployment, with particular reference to the needs of youth, will take precedence over other Commonwealth activities. This will be supplemented by a swift and detailed survey of all that has been done. Comprehensive cooperative planning between the Commonwealth and the State Governments will follow.
Despite the fact that the Prime Minister said in 1934 that the States have. become exhausted - I suppose that the right honorable gentleman meant financially exhausted as well as otherwise - the solution of the problem is still being left to them. Not only is that the case, but also, at the end of last month, the Commonwealth Government asked the State governments to forgo, in the interests of defence, their loan programmes by which many of the people mainly are kept in employment.
In introducing the budget, the Treasurer said that the national debt had increased by £S0,000,000 in the last six years mainly as the result of borrowing by the States. In common fairness he should have set out parallel to that the statement that the States borrow to provide employment for the people. It is paradoxical that, on the one hand, the Treasurer should accuse the States of increasing the public debt by borrowing, and, on the other, take credit for the increased amount of employment that has been given as the result of that borrowing. If the Commonwealth has the right to claim some credit for the improved employment position, it must accept some of the responsibility for the increased debt.
I recently asked the Treasurer what had been done to liquidate the accumulated deficit for the four years up to 1930-31 of £17,216,000, and was informed that £7,000,000 had been liquidated and that £10,000,000 was still debited against temporary advances from the loan funds. According to the figures, which have been supplied to me, no effort has been made to liquidate this outstanding debt. Since 1930-31 the CommonwealthGovernment has utilized its surpluses towards the reduction of the accumulated deficit as follows: -
The accumulated deficit on 30th June,1931, was £17.216,340.
The accumulated deficit was reduced as follows: -
The accumulated deficit at 30th June, 1938, is £13,658,588.
The following table sets out the surpluses that the Commonwealth Government has enjoyed since 1931-32: -
The excess receipts were dealt with as follows : -
During the years when this Government had surpluses only about £1,500,000 was paid off the accumulated deficit and the amount still outstanding remains as a debit against the Loan Account.
An extraordinarily large sum of money is due in taxes, despite the efforts of the Taxation Department to collect it. The following table sets out the position in the last five years: -
The point I wish to make is that if we are living in days of greater prosperity the people whose incomes are higher must be relatively better’ off than they were, in spite of which fact about onethird of the income tax and one-fifth of the land tax remain to be collected. The Treasurer told me in answer to a question that -
Recovery of the overdue tax,either by institution of legal proceedings against the defaulter, or in appropriate cases by garnishee, is a constant and continuing activity of the Taxation Branch. Collection of these arrears of tax issubject to the regular scrutiny of the Auditor-General.
That sounds all right, but the facts speak for themselves. The amounts of taxes outstanding are far too great, and some greater attention to the matter seems necessary.
Four outstanding matters which merit greater consideration by this Government are decentralization, markets, population, and monetary reform. There is no need for me to do more than mention the fact that 47 per cent, of the Australian population is situated in the capital cities. Thirty-three per cent, of the population is situated in Sydney and Melbourne. To say the least, that is disquieting. I was one of those honorable members who took advantage of the opportunity to visit the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow at the week-end. At Lithgow, we saw the results of the centralization of the steel works. Some time ago Hoskins’ steel works moved from Lithgow nearer to the sea, but it is a great pity that it was allowed to do so.
– The honorable member would like to see the works in Tasmania.
– Honorable members from the industrialized States are not ready to take a national view of things. When decentralization is mentioned by representatives of one of the less populous States, it is immediately assumed by honorable members opposite that they wish certain industries to be transferred to Tasmania. ‘ When there appears to be a feeling, particularly amongst Government supporters, that the enemy is at our doors, action should be taken to decentralize many of our defence activities. With the bulk of our population living in the capital cities and important key industries established on the coast, the risk is much greater than it would otherwise be. The removal of Hoskins’ works from Lithgow to the coast resulted in 2,000 men being forced on to the unemployment market. Hoskins contended that it was uneconomic to retain their works at Lithgow, and probably it was, from their point of view. Such problems should be tackled by the Government, which should realize that defence establishments should be decentralized so far as is possible. The Government should realize the danger which confronts Australia in having so many people living’ in the cities while the country districts are inadequately populated.
As we have almost reached saturation point in the matter of markets, greater attention must be paid to an expansion of our home market. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to explain in detail the way I feel that can be done, except to say that consumption in Australia must be increased by seeing that the people are more adequately housed, clothed and fed, and generally have a much higher standard of living than prevails to-day. If the Treasurer would depart from his restricted financial outlook, the standard of living could be improved and our home market extended. For instance, the introduction of a 40-hour week throughout the Commonwealth service would provide additional employment, and, consequently, the purchasing power of the people would be increased. On a number of occasions, I have mentioned the subject of housing, and I make no apology for bringing it forward again.. All that the Government has done in the matter of housing has been to erect a residence for a resident Minister in Canberra.
– It is a nice little house.
– Yes. I have inspected it from a fairly close range. When the Prime Minister was on the hustings in 1934, he is reported to have said-
– That was a day of great promise.
– It was not a day of great promise for the country, but it was a day of great promises. On the 14th August, 1934, the Prime Minister, speaking at Randwick, said -
We propose to secure money and expend it iu co-operation with the States on a policy of home-building for working men and women.
This will serve many purposes. It will improve the health and general well-being of the people by providing modern houses for them, and it will directly employ hundreds of mcn in actual construction.
– The only house the Government has built is that which is to be occupied by the Treasurer.
– If the Government makes as good a job of the houses which it should erect for the masses as it has made of the fourteen-roomed residence for the Treasurer, we shall have nothing to complain of. Despite the promises given on the hustings we still have disgraceful slums at Molonglo in Canberra. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) referred at length to constitutional difficulties with which the Government is confronted, and we shall doubtless hear the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) discussing the same subject; but the Government cannot say that constitutional difficulties prevent it from engaging in a vigorous housing policy in Canberra. As the Government has complete control of this Territory, there is no reason why buildings which were erected for workmen’s camps should now be used to house the people. In June last, 310 people were waiting for houses. During the recent European crisis it was reported in the press that the Government considered it essential to transfer the Defence Department from Melbourne to Canberra and that,should it doso,accommodation would have to be provided for 1,000 officers. Although this Government has been in powerfora number of years, it is still in a holy mess in the matter of housing. Even if 500 officers - not 1,000 as mentioned in the press - were transferred, there would still be a waiting list of 339, or a total waiting list of 839. The natural increase absorbs about 50 houses annually, and, therefore, at the present rate of construction it will be about 25 years before the demand has been met. The responsibility rests upon the Government, and it cannot be said that private enterprise should share some of that responsibility. A return prepared discloses that in October last, 339 persons were waiting for houses. This number includes 27 permanent Commonwealth officers, 95 other than government employees, 89 relief workers, and 12S in private employment. Fully 146 persons were waiting for four-roomed cottages, 1S1 for fiveroomed cottages, and twelve required sixroomed houses.
– What of the number required by the staff of the Defence Department?
– They are not included in the figures which I have given.
When I asked the number of persons who will be unprovided for under the Government’s proposals for 1938-39, the Minister said -
It is estimated that all permanent and temporary government employees will be accommodated in houses by the 30th June, 1939. The number of persons other than government employees without housing accommodation at this date will be affected by the accommodation provided by privatebuilders.
The Government knows that very few, if any, will be accommodated in houses built by private builders. While I share to some extent the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) in regard to the cost of building in Canberra, I still contend that the cost of constructing houses in Canberra is somewhat disquieting.
– It is due to the price of bricks.
– It may be to some extent; but there are other reasons.
– There is a gentleman’s agreement amongst the builders.
– If such an agreement exists the Attorney-General should see if it is not practicable to induce other contractors to tender for the work that is offering here and test the actual cost by building a few houses by day labour under departmental supervision. The Government is not doing all that it should to meet the shortage. I have already stated that on the 14th August, 1934, the Prime Minister said that the Government proposed to secure the money and to expend it in co-operation with the States on a policy of home-building for working men and women. But, in contrast to the “ broad national view” expressed by the Prime Minister on the hustings, we find that in 1938 the Government has no view at all. It has built no houses outside of Canberra. In fact, all that it has done in respect of housing beyond Canberra has been to alter certain residences to suit the Governor-General. Not one house has been built under the Commonwealth Housing Act since 1927. The State governments are fully alive to the necessity to do something to provide houses for the people, but the Commonwealth
Government has no policy whatever on the subject. Its attitude is in direct contrast to the attitude of the Government of New Zealand.
– Oh ! Leave New Zealand out of it.
– I quite appreciate that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) does not wish to hear anything about New Zealand. The’ record of the Labour Government of that dominion is not pleasing to him. I point out, however, that in two and a half years the Government of New Zealand has done a great deal to improve the housing conditions of the people. The Lyons Government is not willing to deviate one iota from orthodox methods of finance, and so it has not been able to do anything to meet the needs of the people.
– It has made available £15,000,000 to State governments for various purposes. -
– And the hulk of the money has gone to New South Wales! The Minister for Finance in New Zealand, Mr. Nash, was asked a question in Parliament by Mr. Sexton on this subject, and, according to the Parliamentary Debates, his reply was as follows : -
Under existing legislation, the State Advances Corporation is empowered to lend money to farmers on the security of lands for building cottages and for other purposes. As the honorable member is doubtless aware, legislation has been passed which will extend the facilities for loans by the corporation. The question of priority of charges for the cottages referred to would have to be the subject of negotiation with those who are already holding the land as security, but, subject to a reasonable arrangement, the question could be further considered.
The Government of New Zealand has not only actually built houses and provided money for private citizens to do so in city and town areas, but it has also provided money for persons on small farms to build houses for themselves. It is hardly necessary for me to .refer to the effective action taken by the Government of Great Britain to deal with the housing problem, but I may remind honorable members that, from the Armistice to the 30th Sep tember, 1936, over 3,146,000 houses have been built in England and Wales, of which. 89S,000 have ‘been erected by local governing authorities. Of the balance, approximately 500,000 have been built by private enterprise with varying degrees of State assistance. The governments of other countries overseas have also embarked upon housing programmes to meet the needs of their people. In this connexion, I direct attention to a chapter on housing in a book entitled, Denmark - The Co-operative Way, by Fred. C. Howe. The writer says that there are no slums in Copenhagen. I regret that time does not permit me to deal further with this matter, but hope that the Government will take some action.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Last week the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) addressed the committee on the subject of the Constitution. That is my excuse for intervening in this debate. The right honorable gentleman is, of course, admirably qualified to address himself to problems of this kind, not only because he has been Prime Minister of Australia, but also because, after a relatively long political career, he is now in the almost unique position of enjoying the respect of honorable members on ‘ both sides of the chamber. For myself, any views to which he directs attention on the subject of the Constitution will not only be listened to by me, but will also, as in the p resent case, be capable of provoking my own mind and stirring within it certain thoughts of my own. For that reason I shall make some observations about our constitutional problems.
In the first place, may I say that it is not of much use for us to read the Constitution to-day so that we may “detect the errors in it and then inveigh against those who drafted it. I am not suggesting, of course, that the right honorable member for Yarra did this; hut it is a practice that has been resorted to by more than one person. The fact is that the Commonwealth Constitution represents a compromise. It was not brought into existence, ‘ as some constitutions have been, by some outside danger. It does not represent the fusing of the minds of the people of Australia by some great emotion. In reality, it represents, after years of discussion by very distinguished men, a compromise, a bargain proceeeding from reason rather than from emotion. Because of that fact, it is possible to find all over the Constitution the marks of compromise, and of hesitancy in the giving of power. I therefore remind the committee that it is useless to complain of these hesitancies or compromises, for without them we should not have a Constitution at all. They were the price we had to pay, in 1900, for some form of federal union in Australia. Under that process it was inevitable that we should find in the Constitution itself, and in the preamble and sections of the Constitution Act, all sorts of indications of a tenderness about the rights of individual colonies that would probably be thought to be quite unnecessary to-day - 38 years later. One very graphic instance of this concerns honorable members who are here to-day. Section 125 of the Constitution provides for the establishment of an Australian capital. Honorable members must recall that this section was hammered out after some years of controversy, and the expression of some extraordinarily parochial opinions. However, it was finally agreed that Australia should have a national capital and that it should be established in New South Wales, but not less than 100 miles from Sydney. If that provision were read to-day in the absence of any historical background it would strike the reader as very curious indeed; but it was merely the expression of the spirit of compromise and balancing between the rights of individual colonies which had to be resorted to, and which in fact, was resorted to by the great mcn who drafted the Constitution and engaged in the arguments at the various pre- federation conferences.
Since the framing of the Constitution we have had a great deal of experience, in the course of which we have discovered many” grievous anomalies. Some of these, no doubt, existed in 1900, but were not detected. Some have come into existence since, because of the onward march of time and the radical change of circumstances in 1938 as compared with those of what w« are pleased to term the relatively leisurely days of 1900. I wish to discuss very briefly some of these anomalies in order that I may, as it . were, sketch in against the general background provided for us by the right honorable member for Yarra, some particular and important matters in respect of which it is quite clear that greater power is required from the nation for this National Parliament. 1 shall discuss eight of these anomalies. I do not suggest that this is an exhaustive list, but it is a list that is, at least, of contemporary interest.
Take, first, trade and commerce. It was thought in 1900, either in absolute terms or as an essential to effective compromise, that trade and commerce could be divided in respect of its international, interstate ‘ and local aspects, and that power over the first two of these could be given to the National Parliament, while power over the remaining could be given to a second set of parliaments. So the Commonwealth was given power to make laws, subject to the great and still relatively unknown qualification of section 92, with respect to international and interstate trade and commerce, and the State parliaments retained power to deal with commerce of a domestic and local character. As the result of the experience we have had of a rapidly growing, and of a very much more complex, commerce we know to-day that trade and commerce cannot be. effectively divided in this way. No man alive is sufficiently wise to say that at this point of time, and at that point of space, interstate commerce finishes and local commerce begins. Yet, in this halting and limping fashion, the Parliament of Australia has had to endeavour to deal with what is an essentially unitary problem, by entirely unrelated means proceeding from entirely unrelated sources.
– The Government of the United States of America has got on for a long while under such conditions.
– r hope that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is not suggesting to me, by interjection, that the United States of America offers a satisfactory example of the division: of constitutional power; for if there is one other place in the world in which the speech that 1 am now delivering could appropriately be made it is in Congress nt Washington.
The second anomaly to which I direct attention has relation to power concerning health. There has been an enormous . growth in the la3t 40 years in our sense of public responsibility, not only for public health, but also for private health. This great problem is now seen by us as presenting essentially national characteristics. The result is that people who do not read the Constitution and are not acquainted with its terms instinctively turn to the Commonwealth Government whenever any great problem relating to public health requires attention, Yet the fact is, as I now remind, not honorable members who know it, but the public, that the only power possessed by this Parliament to deal with health is the quarantine power, and a good deal of the expense that the Commonwealth has had to engage in on health matters in the past is of no constitutional validity. That is an almost humiliating reflection, not for this Parliament, because this is not a problem in which we have individual interests, but for the people of Australia, that they should not have reserved for us that national power to deal with what is essentially a national problem.
The third anomaly is one which exists in relation to the control of companies. The fabric of modern commercial life has closely woven into it the incorporation and activities of joint ‘stock companies. Yet, the Commonwealth Constitution has provided, in relation to that all-pervading subject, the most curiously limited authority. It has given to this Parliament, as the decision of the High Court stands, power to deal with the conduct of trading corporations, ‘but has not given to this Parliament the power to deal with the terms and conditions upon, which those corporations should come into existence. In other words, no general company law can be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. Whether that was ever designed or not, that is the position as the decision of the court now leaves it, and, therefore, I put it forward, and confidently, as one of my serious anomalies, one which I am sure will com- mend itself as such to anybody who considers this subject.
The fourth anomaly I wish to mention is, perhaps, one of “our oldest friends, or enemies - according to the point of view - that is, the problem of the industrial power. It seems curious, looking .back on the matter at this stage, that the Constitution should have conferred upon this Parliament power to control the problems of customs and excise, power to control the whole fiscal policy of the continent, and made it an exclusive power, and yet, at the same time, should have refrained from granting to this Parliament power, the ancillary power, as I would have thought, to deal with the wages that should be paid and the conditions that should be observed in the great industries which were bound to be established and fostered under the fiscal policy of the country. The only industrial power given to this Parliament is power to deal, through the agency of arbitration and conciliation, with industrial disputes of an interstate kind. Unless some dispute can be created, and unless that dispute can ibc made of an interstate character, there is no Commonwealth jurisdiction and no Commonwealth instrumentality to deal with it. The result has been that, for rel.Y many years in the history of Australia, men in organized labour, who have no desire to become involved in disputes, have been compelled to make them in order to invoke the jurisdiction of a federal court. That anomaly is one which will, continue to exist until more effective treatment of it is made possible by giving complete industrial power to the Commonwealth of Australia.
My fifth anomaly deals with transport. I suppose that the increased fluidity of transport is one of the most outstanding phenomena of our day. Of course, with its increasing fluidity, it has assumed more and more a national character, and less and less a local one. As I had occasion to say during the discussion of the ill-fated aviation referendum, it might have been possible to talk of transport in terms of local control in the past, when transport was carried on by means of buggies, carts, drays and wagons, but to talk about local control of transport when its latest instrument may be in one State now and in another State 200 miles away in a little more than an hour, is completely absurd.
– It may .bc in four States in one day.
– That is so. I do not believe, and I do not suppose honorable members believe, that the problem of transport and all of its allied problems can be dealt- with effectively unless they can be dealt with as a whole, yet, curiously, our position as a Commonwealth is that, while we can deal with interstate transport in so far as it is carried by sea to a considerable degree, and by the consent of the States and on reference by them we can deal with aviation, our powers to deal with rail and road transport are so shadowy, once they have been subjected to the operation of section 92 of the Constitution, that they are hardly worth discussing. So that, whereas, in respect of the first, we have only relatively limited powers, in respect of the second we have partial and heavily conditioned powers, we have completely shadowy powers in respect of each of the other two.
The sixth anomaly is one which came into my mind when I was thinking of some points raised by my friend, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green). It relates to the question of the fishing industry of Australia. “What is the position in regard to that industry? The fishing industry is dealt with in the Constitution, and the Commonwealth Parliament is given power to make laws with respect to fisheries and the control of fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits; but inside territorial limits, the problem remains one for the State to which the territorial waters are adjacent.
– And the States want the Commonwealth trawler to go into State waters.
– The honorable member can picture to himself the extraordinary circumstances which would arise. Here is a trawler sailing along with a stainless conscience four miles out from land ; but inadvertently the drift of current brings it within two and a half miles of the shore. It is then completely outside its jurisdiction. Here ‘ is a boundary line, which is literally written in water, between the power of the Commonwealth and the power of the States, and the result is that there is a meaningless division of authority. Wherever you have division of a single power energy is dissipated and great industries are handicapped in their establishment and development.
The seventh anomaly I wish to mention is one that we have had cause to think about once more in the last few weeks, namely, the anomaly that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with agriculture. The problem of agriculture is one of those that, by implication, has been reserved for the control of the States. The State parliaments alone Li Australia can determine in the last resort agricultural policy; the State governments alone in Australia can determine whether they are going to attack the problem of marginal production and whether they are to attempt to secure a more accurate balance of their agricultural development. Yet every time tin problem in relation to agriculture arises, the aid of the Commonwealth is invoked. Why is this so? It is because the Commonwealth is the only Parliament that has power to impose indirect taxes. One of the recognized means of establishing a home-consumption price or a bounty in relation to wheat, as we shall shortly sec, is by the imposition of an indirect ta..<, an excise, a -flour tax, or a sales tax of some kind, and the distribution of the proceeds of that tax in a certain way.
– Tasmania does riot object to being left out then.
– I do not want to become involved in that ‘ argument at present. I am addressing myself now to what suggests itself as an absurdity, th.it is, that on this problem, which is essentially a unitary problem, of what you are to do about agriculture and how yon can plan the development of agriculture or control its development, the answer is that the only government -which has power to come in in a real financial way is also the only government that has no direct power to deal with agriculture at all.
My eighth anomaly is the one which presents itself in relation to unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance, which is a matter on which we have had a little discussion, is a subject on which the Government secured a most valuable report, and on which this Government initiated a conference with the States. It is a subject which I have thought about a great deal myself, and the more I think about it, the moil astonishing it seems to me to be that there should bo a topic embraced in a phrase consisting of two words, “ Unemployment insurance,” in which unemployment is primarily a State problem, and insurance is primarily a Commonwealth problem. What happens when the Commonwealth Parliament comes along to a consideration of that problem ? We all know that it is important socially and industrially, and we know that it is essentially a unitary problem and is not the sort of problem that can be broken up and dealt with by sectional authorities. Yet wc all know that the position is that the problem of unemployment, dealt with over a period of years by the States, has resulted in very proper and desirable State laws, of which I offer no criticism, providing for the collection of unemployment relief tax and for various other schemes and methods of relief: but when the Commonwealth says “ We should like to attack this problem because we wish to exercise the insurance power in relation to it “, it is at once confronted with the difficulty that if it superimposes an insurance scheme on State laws, it brings about duplication of effort and cost. Consequently if it is to bo fair to all parties in industry anything done must form part of a real whole, and must fit properly into the general schemes that are being carried out by the States-. That, at once, as in the case of the other matters mentioned, brings lft to the point that, instead of being able to say “What is the problem? What is the solution? “ and “ This is what we are going to do about it “, we are forced to deal with a problem of that magnitude by means of consultations and conferences and to extort modern bargains in 1.038 because of old bargains made in 1900. So the attack on this great social problem is made conditional upon the possibility of arriving at unanimity at a conference between seven governments all of whom for this purpose are treated as having equal rights. I do not think that many honorable members of this House will quarrel with the eight examples I have given; I feel that they will all, at this very moment, be thinking of other, and possibly more important, examples. I am anxious to illustrate in a plain fashion, I hope, the anomalies that do exist, and the handicaps that arise from their existence.
I remember that, on the first occasion on which I had the honour to address this House, I said something which I should like to repeat. It was to the effect that, because of the limitations placed on the power of this Parliament, we always have to go through two processes in dealing with a problem. The first is the process of discovering what ought to be done about the matter as we see it. On that the parties in the House can afford to disagree. Frequently, though both parties have a similar objective, they favour different methods. However, the first problem is: “What ought we to do?” Then we invariably have to turn to a second problem. We have to say to ourselves. “ Now that we have made up our minds what we ought to do, can we do it? Let us bring the lawyers in, lest we find ourselves in the High Court, or other appropriate tribunals. Let us determine whether we have the power to do what we believe ought to be done.” That, of course, is an inescapable result of all federal systems. I realize that, hut it is a result from which we could readily escape in Australia if the people were prepared to look at these problems on their merits, and to recognize that the only thing that matters is how we can best attack them.
That brings me to the concluding phase of my speech: This Government is convinced that the people of Australia must move towards greater national powers, and it proposes that the Parliament shall, in the early part of next year, be given, as suggested by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), a substantial opportunity to discuss both the objectives at which we ought to aim, and the means we ought to adopt to achieve them.
In the meantime, however, it may be of some assistance to honorable members, and to others, if I propound a question to myself, and endeavour to answer it.
The question is : Why has there been, in the past, such reluctance on the part of the Australian people to amend the Constitution? Unless we can understand the reason for past failures to amend the Constitution, it may be idle to expect that, at some time in the future, with no change of method on our part, success will be achieved where there was only failure before. Certain reasons present themselves to me.
In the first place - and I say this as one who has had experience of these problems both in a State parliament and government and in the Common wealth Parliament and Government - there is a common fallacy that the States arc sovereign bodies, and that any proposal to increase the power of the Commonwealth is, therefore, almost a sacrilegious attack on State sovereignty. Let me be frank, and say that I have, no doubt, in tha course of my life, used the expression “ sovereign States “. I think many of us have, but I say quite deliberately to-day that, on an examination of the matter, I can imagine no greater fallacy than this theory of sovereign States. Sovereignty in this country belongs to the people of Australia.. As we pointed out just before the recent referendum, even that sovereignty is not, perhaps, technically complete, because there are one or two silent places still in the Constitution. But, speaking broadly, sovereignty belongs to the people, because this is a democratic community which carries out its desires through various agencies. Wherever there is popular federal government and there are two governing agencies, no one of them exercises sovereignty, but sovereignty is divided between them. Therefore, it is not to the point to say that here Ave have sovereign States, and that it is almost treason to attack a sovereign. The truth is, here is a sovereign people; they desire to’ govern themselves, in their various affairs and relationships, through the instrumentality of parliaments. They have decided that they will have State and Commonwealth parliaments. The problem of power is whether it shall be exercised with this hand or with that. How absurd it would be for me, as an individual, to say that I was exercising my authority through the sovereign right hand, or through the sovereign left hand. I use them both, and each is necessary to me. Therefore, we must get away from the somewhat rhetorical atmosphere in which there ib talk of sovereignty, and realize that thu problem of the distribution of power is a direct, common-sense problem of which authority Ave are to entrust with a particular task.
The second answer I suggest to the question is this: In the past, Ave have, I think, underrated the real difficulty of explaining constitutional changes to the people. We have, on far too many occasions, had relatively hurried campaigns. It is not a criticism of the people of Australia to say that, after most of these campaigns, most of the people have had to go to the poll with no clear idea of what the issues were. The people of Australia are of an intelligence second to no other people in the world, but they are entitled - indeed, they are bound - to be given ample opportunity to understand the changes suggested. Therefore, if we believe that in certain respects, or in all respects, additional powers should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament, Ave should make up our minds that there is a price to be paid, namely, a sustained attempt by us to make everybody in Australia, as far as possible, understand what the issue is.’ We must have longer periods of preparation; other.wise. Ave shall find that the people; as always, will say, when in doubt, “I vote No.” That is not an unhealthy attitude -of mind; it is a perfectly reasonable and natural state of mind.
The third answer is that, far too frequently in the past, Constitution alteration proposals have been regarded as party political mat ters to be determined, not by one’s opinion regarding the Constitution, but by one’s opinion of persons sitting, for the time being, on the Government benches. There was a striking illustration of that, I thought - though I do not desire to revive the ashes of dying fires - in the aviation vote which was taken not long ago. I cannot believe that a huge majority of the people of New South -Wales really believed that aviation ought to be controlled by the States, and not by the Commonwealth. I was told, as were all honorable members, of many interesting and intriguing reasons for that vote, but I am quite sure that one of them was a purely factitious party opposition to proposals put forward by a Government of another colour. As the right honorable member for Yarra said the other clay, if we are to deal with these problems of national power, we must shut our eyes and minds completely to all idea of which party is putting them forward, or of what such and such a party will do if such and such powers are granted. From my point of view, there is only one question : Should the people of Australia take power through our Commonwealth Parliament to carry out certain functions? If they do, the people will have their own rights, in their own way, to decide which party sh.ill sit on the Government benches. That is a matter which they will determine every three years, or perhaps more frequently, but the result of constitutional changes will endure for generations, and will affect Parliament for generations. We must forget party if we would deal with these organic questions.
The fourth answer is this: I have detected many times, as have other honorable members, an instinct in the average voter in Australia to feel that, in this welter of governing authorities, his primary loyalty is to his State. We have all encountered this. I have met men in the States who, in addressing themselves to a problem of constitutional change, have not said, “ Is this the kind of power better exercised by a local governing authority, or a national one?” - which is the real question - but instead have said, “Why should we in the States give any more power to the Commonwealth,” with the finger pointing in a rather condemnatory fashion in tho general direction of Canberra. If that instinct is analysed, it will be seen to be an instinct of primary loyalty to the States, and, in effect, it treats the Commonwealth as an outside body, if not a foreign body. And so, year after year, and referendum after referendum, we hear well-meaning people, otherwise intelligent, saying that the real question is, “ Why should the States give more power to the Commonwealth?” whereas the real question is, “ Should we, the people, who are superior both to Commonwealth and States authorities, entrust this power to this parliament or to that?” If that were properly understood, a great deal of the difficulty that attaches to this feeling among the people would disappear. Nothing is so calculated, I believe, to thwart a real attack on great problems as the necessity for determining, with the assistance of lawyers, not only what the remedy is, hut also ‘ which is the right doctor to apply the remedy, the Commonwealth doctor or the State doctor. Our most vital problems and most imminent dangers affect us- as a nation, and I believe, as, I think, other honorable members believe, that only a national spirit, a new and vigorous national spirit, can meet them with success.
– I express my pleasure that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) was able, in presenting the budget, to announce another surplus of £3,494,000, in succession to the surpluses announced in the six previous budgets. It is gratifying to note also that the national debt has been reduced during the regime of the Lyons Government by more than £7,000,000. I think, however, that every honorable member is just as sorry as the Treasurer is that it is compulsory this year to increase tho rates of taxation. If there be one thing which the people view with alarm it is the over-increasing amount which is taken from their pockets to meet governmental expenditure. In 1930-31, the total of Commonwealth taxation amounted to £50,421,000; in 1932-33, £56,151,000 ; 1934-35, £58,773,000 ; 1930-37, £62,773,000; and the estimate for 193S-39 is £71,560,000. Although the rates of tax have been progressively reduced since the Lyons Government took office, it must be recognized that an ever-increasing amount of -taxes is being taken from the people and from industry. The effect is detrimental to those who conduct industry. It must also be remembered that, in addition to the taxes that will be collected this year, contributions in respect of national insurance by employers will mean a further £5,000,000 into the Government coffers. It matters not that .we regard the contributions by employees as a premium for insurance, the money which will be taken from the employers cannot be regarded as anything other than an additional tax. The amount of £5,000,000, in respect of national insurance collections will bring the total amount collected by the Commonwealth Government from the people in the current year to about £76,000,000. In addition, the State governments will take a further £40,000,000 from the people, making a total contribution to the governments of nearly £120,000,000, all of which must como out of the total wealth produced. The more that is taken away from private industries, the less there is left for expansion and the provision of work. More than £1 out of every £4 - 27 per cent, of the wealth produced - will, this year, be taken by the governments of Australia. It is dangerously near to the 31 per cent, in the depth of the depression.
It is fortunate for the Treasurer that the war clouds on the horizon have put the people into a stoical frame of mind to accept the increase of taxation which ha3 been made necessary by the expansion of defence. The people recognize that it is the obligation qf the Government to ensure their safety, and all recognize the need for heavy expenditure on defence as the result of increased needs and the rapid obsolescence of ships, aeroplanes. guns and other munitions. But we must also recognize that there is no justification for the Government to heap up a mountain of debt for posterity, and I think that the Government has taken the right line of action in spreading the burden on the community, the greatest proportion falling on the shoulders of the present generation. The people want safety and must pay for it. The Treasurer is fortu- nate in being. able to transfer £2,500,000 of the surplus last year for the purpose of defence measures and to be able to look forward next year to a further £1,000,000 from that surplus for expenditure in the same direction. I submit, however, that there is an obligation on the Government to take action to reduce the accumulated deficit of £17,000,000. There is no justification for the Government to apply a different policy for government finance from what would be applied in private business.
I should like to share the optimism voiced by the Treasurer in making his Estimates for 1938-39, but I cannot.- The Treasurer has admitted that the” value of exports last year decreased by £4,500,000. He knows that wheat and wool prices are almost down to the levels reached in the depth of the depression in 1931-32. “Without being a pessimist, I would remind the honorable gentleman that, in spite of satisfactory building and factory activities and employment, there are other facts which it is impossible to .overlook. The first is that the value of the unshipped wool and wheat on the 30th June last was £4,500,000 less than in the previous year. Reserves of fodder were depleted by at least £8,000,000, and 20,000,000 head of stock perished during the recent drought. In addition the season’s lamb drop is poor. The Treasurer should note the fact that within the last year internal commodity prices have increased by 6 per cent., while the value of export commodities has decreased by over 20 per cent. The value of the wool clip decreased from £62,000,000 two years ago to £46,000,000 last year, and, although approximately the same quantity of wool has been sold this year as. in the corresponding part of last year, the proceeds from the auctions amount to £3,500,000 less. On the present rates, with 300,000 bales less from the clip, there will be a further reduction of £3,000,000 in the proceeds of the remainder of the clip. Thus, in the .aggregate, the return for our wool this year will be about £6,500,000 less- than for 1937-38.
The wheat position is much worse. In the coming season, the crop will bo about 60,000,000 .bushels less than last year, and, accordingly, there will be 60,000,000 bushels less available for export, which means, with the reduced prices that are operating, that the value of the wheat exports this year will bc £17,000,000 less than they were a year ago. We can safely assume from those two items that the total value of our exports this year will be £25,000,000 less than it was last “ year. Concomitant with a reduction of the value of production, there must be reduced prosperity. I submit that the velocity of that £25,000,000 decrease of the value of our exports for this year must have its repercussions on business and employment, from one end of Australia to the other.
I agree that the Treasurer’s proposals for “ bridging the gap “ are wise. It is wise to spread the burden over the community with the heaviest portion placed on the shoulders of those best able to carry it. I do think, however, that the Government, which has expressed opposition to the land tax and .described it as an uneconomic tax on capital, should have avoided an increase of the rate of that tax. There is no more justification to tax a grazier’s property than there is to tax a factory or the plant in a factory.
– The factories do not escape the land tax.
– But the plant and equipment do. Tho land tax is an unjustifiable, discriminatory tax on capital. Banks, insurance companies, big warehouses and factories have properties which bring them within the range of the land tax, but none of their equipment comes within that range.
– There is an exemption on £5,000 of unimproved capital value.
– Yes. But the tax is still a tax on capital used in the production of income. Most landholders have mortgages which often represent ‘ the value of their properties. They are required to pay tax on the unimproved capital value of their land over a limit of £5,000 and the Commissioner of Taxation pays no heed to the mortgage. In view of the fact that the Government has expressed its opinion that the land tax is uneconomic, that it is a tax which some can pass on and others cannot, it is unfortunate that the Government found it. necessary to increase the tax.
The Treasurer anticipates less income from customs, but an increase of £1,400,000 in receipts from income tax; I fear that he is a super-optimist. I admit that, on the profits shown by certain companies last year, the Treasurer can thi3 year expect a greater collection of income tax from this source; but, at the same time, I fear that the Treasurer may be £1,000,000 short at the end of the year, because of reduced incomes in other fields.
One of the greatest anomalies in our income tax laws is the fact that many companies, some of which are making very big profits, pay only ls. in the £1 tax, which is the flat rate for companies. If the dividends go to Australian shareholders, the Commissioner of Taxation follows them, and, if the recipients are in the taxable field, the amounts they receive in dividends may be further taxed. There are other companies, however, which have made profits running into millions of pounds whose profits pass to holding companies and thence overseas No additional tax can be levied on them. A definite effort should be made by the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation to remove this anomaly. Those who make big profits out of the Australian people under tariff protection which is given to them by these same people should contribute more to the revenues of the country. I have a list showing the profits made by some Australian companies. I find that during last year General Motors-Holden’s Limited made a net profit of over £1,000,000, which would allow the payment of a dividend of 81 per cent. We know that ls. in the pound will be paid in the form of a company tax, but doubtless a large proportion of this profit was re-invested, or it was transferred to holding companies overseas and escaped any further tax. During, the same year, Dunlop Perdriau made a net profit of over £400,000. It would be interesting to know if more than the ls. rate of tax Avas paid on that amount. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the
Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited are also in the million-profit class. The Australian Glass Manufacturing Company made a profit of 28 per cent, on ids subscribed capital, while Australian Paper Manufacturers made a net profit of £33S,587. Other profits were: Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, £176,672; Amalgamated Wireloss (Australasia) Limited, £124,794; and Taubmans Limited, the paint manufacturers, £S4,214, the last-mentioned amount providing a dividend of 15 per cent. These profits have been made under the shelter of our protective tariff. Surely there would be no injustice if companies with profits of over 10 per cent, had to pay an extra ls. in the pound as a defence tax towards the cost of protecting their valuable factories and assets. There is also a definite obligation upon the Government to keep a watchful eye on a tariff which permits such, huge profits to be made. The Country party appreciates very much the work which has been done in this way during the past seven years. The rapid expansion of Australian industry has increased the number of factory employees from 337,000 - that was the number six years ago - to 554,000. This increase has occurred despite the fact that there have been 1,400 reductions of customs duties on British imports and 6S0 reductions on foreign imports. This is a tribute to a very careful review of customs duties. When the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) resigned so dramatically the week before last, he said that he had done so because he was not satisfied to leave Australian industries at the mercy of a party of six senior Ministers. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) however, reminded the House that a Minister for Trade and Customs is not responsible for the Government’s tariff policy, and that the Government itself is responsible.
– That is news to me.
– There should be a limit to any increase ,of duties, say beyond 20 per cent.., unless submitted to the Tariff Board. Complaints were made by members of the Country party and others concerning the policy that was in operation seven or eight years ago when duties were increased without reference to the Tariff Board. The supporters of the Government condemned the action then taken as strongly as did the members of the Country party; but recently this Government adopted the policy which it previously condemned. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), when Assistant Minister for Commerce, said to a gathering of fruit-growers at Batlow, “ You cannot have one-way trade. If you want to sell, you must buy “. He further said that continental countries would be glad to buy Australian fruit if we would purchase more Europ?an goods. A fortnight ago, the Minister for Trade and Customs tabled a report of the Australian Wool Board in which there was a further suggestion that the Government should try to encourage the extension and expansion of our trade with Germany and other continental countries. Here again is the difficulty of one-way trade. The German people cannot buy unless they can also sell. The German Government has arranged to trade with South Africa on the barter system. I do not suggest that we can operate on that basis, but the Government should investigate the possibilities.
– It has done so.
– It was reported quite recently that the representations made to the Minister for Trade and Customs by the German Consul were held up in the office for six months, and that he eventually received a curt reply that the matter could not be further considered. There should not have been such a long delay before a reply was sent, and when a reply was sent it was signed not by the Minister or by the Comptroller of Customs but by a junior official.
For years we have had an unsatisfactory position between New Zealand and Australia because of a quarantine embargo against New Zealand potatoes. The hypocritical quarantine exclusion has been removed, but instead of a reasonable tariff, an embargo still remains. For some months the result has been that thousands of persons in Australia have been unable to buy potatoes because of famine prices, while our cherry-growers and producers of other fruits were unable to do business with New Zealand owing to its retaliatory policy. The Government should not allow itself to be charged with being sectional in its policy.
I now wish to refer to the trade diversion policy. Honorable members will recall that this policy became operative on the 22nd May, 1936, and that the United States of America was particularly affected. Even permits to import parts needed for American machinery already in use in Australia were refused by the Minister, and traders were told to try England and the Continent. Within certain limited possibilities this was done until the 5th May, 1938, when the Government’s policy was again changed. The embargo was removed and we were informed that the Government had decided to substitute a policy that would provide adequate protection for Australian industries and that licences - with a few exceptions, including motor chassis - were to be dispensed with and a new schedule was to be adopted. There was no Tariff Board investigation, and some rates were increased to an exorbitant level. . Wo were told that it was a matter of temporary expediency, and that the rates would be referred to the board. It is six months since the schedule was tabled in Parliament, and 1 suppose that it will be another six months before the report of the Tariff Board is made available to Parliament. I cite two specific instances to show the haphazard way in which this matter has been handled, and how essential it is that the Government should study carefully all the details. These cases relate specifically to goods shipped from Germany, but the same general tariff rate would apply had they been shipped from France, Italy or Japan, and, since the 5th May last, it has also applied to the United States of America. It is futile to criticize economic nationalism in Europe if we adopt the same practice ourselves. The first example is four cases of singleaction spring hinges. Before the change of policy the rates were -
The rates on the same goods after the change of policy were -
Government imposts amounted to almost 300 per cent. of the value of these goods, and the tariff was nearly four times the original rate. The exchange rate of 25 per cent., and the shipping costs increased even this extreme protection.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– My second illustration, which is even more telling, deals with six cases of double-action spring hinges, a common necessity for doors, gates,&c., particularly on farm buildings. Comparative details in connexion with this consignment are as follows: -
The protection at present on these goods is therefore 365 per cent. This is more than four times the original rate. To this must be added exchange at the rate of 25 per cent., the cost of packing, and overseas transport.
The Country party takes exception to these heavy charges, particularly in view of the Government’s frequent declaration that it stands for an inquiry by the Tariff Board before introducing increases of duties. It is extraordinary that, in the face of this policy, conditions such as I have related can still exist. When the embargo was imposedthore was a semblance of fairness to importers in that shipments on the water were allowed entry at the prescribed rates, but even this disappeared when the embargo was removed and thenew rates, described by the Minister as “ adequate to protect Australian industry”, were imposed.
Buyers of goods from continental countries found that they were obliged to pay the new imposts on goods then within fourteen days of Australia or else let the goods rot in a bond store. I have bills for the charges in respect of this particular shipment of goods now in bond. The goods and freight have been paid for by the importers, but cannot be cleared because, if the importers took delivery, they would not even get back the tariff duty on them. This is most unfair, seeing that the goods were bought in pursuance of what was then Government policy. Surely the Government’s retrograde action in this connexion should be reviewed without delay.
I could refer to other cases, but at the moment I shall merely mention the position in regard to cement and galvanized iron.
It is not long since the situation in respect to cement was hotly debated in this chamber. The Government was condemned roundly for its attitude in adopting the Tariff Board report and moving that British cement should be allowed in free. The dispute was settled by compromise, postponing the time at which free entry should commence. The works, did not close as prophesied; the local companies go sweetly on their way, still paying regular 10 per cent, dividends.
To-day the position in regard to galvanized iron is unsatisfactory. For some years the Government paid a bounty of £4 10s. on production, although this figure at times exceeded the total wages bill of the manufacturing works. To-day the duty is £4 10s. a ton, British and £6 10s. a ton foreign. Yet we found that during 1937-38, when periodically British shipments were admitted duty free to supplement our inadequate supplies, the import cost of the British galvanized iron was pounds a ton above the cost of the Australian article. On two or three recent occasions, it was shown definitely that galvanized iron could not be imported from Great Britain and sold in Australia at less than £3 a ton above the price of the locally manufactured article. It is a tribute to the efficiency of the local manufacturers that they can put their article on the market at a lower rate than- that asked for the British product. But does not this very fact show that there is no necessity for us to retain the duty of £4 10s. a ton against British galvanized iron? I submit that to let it remain is an invitation to the local manufacturers to maintain high prices and exploit the Australian people. To-day we ought to be able to compete, merely with the natural protection of transport and exchange, with the British manufacturers, for we have the spelter in Australia whereas the British manufacturers have to import their spelter from this country. The steel bars from which galvanized iron is made are actually 26s. a ton sterling less in Australia than in England, and the ratio of the position to-day compared with that existing when the last Tariff Board inquiry was held shows an advantage of £A7 13s. lOd. in favour of Australia in the cost of the bar steel. This industry is long since out of its swadling clothes and, as we now have cheap raw material in this country, we should be able to dispense with this duty. These facts should te given most careful attention by the Government, and it should call upon the Tariff Board to make another investigation into the galvanized iron manufacturing industry. The efficiency of our factories and the prices of their raw materials are such as to justify the hope that the British duty may be completely lifted.
I wish now to deal for a few moments with our debt redemption. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has told us. that since the National Debt Sinking Fund was established by the then Treasurer (Sir Earle Page) in 1923 nearly £80,000,000 has been provided for debt redemption. We are glad to hear this, but that statement does not fairly or fully represent the position to our people, who are entitled to know that, although the Commonwealth debt is £7,000,000 less than when this Government took office, it now aggregates £390,845,000, or £41,000,000 more now than in 1923; of course there are millions of pounds worth of extra assets. The ordinary citizen feels reassured to know that overseas borrowing was discontinued for a considerable period, and is to-day only being renewed in a small degree for defence purposes. But it could not be said that any credit should be given to, say, a farmer for discharging a mortgage on his farm by increasing his bank overdraft for a greater amount than the mortgage. We appreciate what the Government is doing in regard to debt redemption and the. provision of an adequate sinking fund, but I suggest to the Treasurer that he should take the public more fully into his confidence. I hope that next year he will furnish us with a simple national capital account showing the assets and liabilities of the Commonwealth. This, I believe, would be reassuring and the public would have a clearer understanding of the real situation.
In connexion with overseas funds there is abundant justification for a request for a clearer statement of the situation. Foy instance, the public should be informed of such details as the following: -
Those figures show a nominal reduction of £12,800,000 on a normal year’s operations against which governments and other public bodies have borrowed £5,500,000, leaving an actual decrease of London funds for the year of £7,300,000. Whatever may be the situation this year, I ask what is likely to be our position next year when it is estimated we shall receive £25,000,000 less in respect of our exports of wool and wheat in consequence of the reductions of their volume and value? It is necessary to exercise every possible economy in respect of our overseas funds in order that our position may be kept secure. The people of Australia are vitally interested in these matters and they are entitled to be assured, first, that the Government is doing all that is necessary for national safety; secondly, that the country is not being rushed headlong into debt; and thirdly, that our London funds are in a satisfactory condition.
I wish now to touch on the Ottawa Agreement. Considerable satisfaction was expressed among our primary producers whenthey were informed that our overseas delegation had secured a renewal of “ all the preferences ofthe Ottawa Agreement”, but a good deal of alarm was caused by subsequent rumours that all was not well. Details recently given in the press show how the advantages of the Ottawa Agreement have been whittled down. In fact, the worst fears ofthe primary producers were confirmed. I direct particular attention to the removal of the duty of 2s. a quarter on foreign wheat. It has been stated that that duty is of no use whatever to the Australian wheat-growers. I say very definitely that there are times when it is, and times when it is not. In 1932, when it was introduced, it gave the Australian wheatgrowers a preference in the British market. It was then no longer necessary for them to chase round the world finding buyers for their wheat. It was taken by the British buyers. But, subsequently, the stocks of wheat in Canada and other dominion countries were so great that the advantage of price was not obtainable. There may be no monetary advantage obtainable to-day because of the big Canadian crop, but there certainly was until recently, as shown by the cabled reaction in the Winnipeg Exchange and the Chicago Pit. The following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 1st October last: -
Reports that United States wheat will probably be admitted into Britain duty free as a result of the Anglo-American and Canadian treaties, is understood to have caused recent selling of futures in Winnipeg, and buying in Chicago. Canada at present enjoys a preference of6 cents a bushel over the United States in the British market. Despite this fact, wheat for November delivery was at a discount of 3 cents a bushel in Winnipeg to-day, compared with December options in Chicago.
The figures relating to the Winnipeg and Chicago markets for the last four months show very definitely that right up to the end of August there was an advantage in price in Winnipeg over Chicago varying from 8 cents to 6 cents, and for December deliveries to 3 cents, and show that that advantage has gradually dwindled away until to-day the price in Chicago is higher than the price in Winnipeg.
– At times it is, and at times it is not. For the last two and a half years it has been an advantage. When the preference was granted the stocks of wheat in the dominions available to supply the British market were so great that it did not give a cash advantage. On many occasions since the huge stocks in Canada were used, Dominion growers have had the full 2s. a quarter advantage price paid to Rumania, Russia, America and Argentina. The follow ing table shows the market figures for Winnipeg and Ottawa during the months from May to October, 1938, and reveals the effect of the August rumours, since confirmed, that the preference was to be cancelled : -
Liverpool options quoted the 18th November, 1938, are further convincing evidence of the loss, that day’s quotations being March delivery for contracts made before the announcement 4s. 57/8d. May 4s. 6¾d. compared with contracts since the announcement of cancellation of preference. March 4s. 33/8d., May 4s. 4½d., a per cental loss of2½d. and2¼d. to Australian farmers.
The final point I wish to touch upon is in respect of the border telegraph rate of1s. 4d. I have brought this matter forward on several occasions, and the departmental officers have admitted that there is no justification for the continuance of the’ higher charge. Surely 38 years after the inception of federation it should be wiped away. It is only a matter of 4d., but its removal would increase business, while its continuance is a pinprick which turns border people against the Federal Government. I also urge the Postmastor-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) not to be satisfied merely to extend the 15 miles principle where telegrams may be sent across the borders for 9d., but to meet the requests of residents of towns contiguous to the borders by making the charge1s. for 50 miles, or remove the 4d. altogether and have1s. for 16 words established throughout Australia.
Debate resumed from the 10th November, 1938 (vide page 1462), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I take it that the bill now before the House is to give effect to a statement made in the budget by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that he intended to increase the rates of land tax by approximately 11.1 per cent. The land owners of Australia to-day enjoy an exemption for unimproved land up to a value of £5,000. Absentee owners pay on the full unimproved value of their holdings. In view of the heavy commitments for defence, the Opposition intends to support the measure, though it believes that a larger increase of the federal land tax would have been preferable to the proposed increase of the sales tax provided for in the budget. Considerable comment ca.me from certain quarters regarding the proposal by the Commonwealth Government to increase the federal land tax by 11 per cent., which is expected to yield approximately £140,000 per annum, as against an increased yield of £1,300,000 from the proceeds of the increased sales tax for the present financial year. As the budget is known as a defence budget, making provision for £16,796,000 for defence for the current year, I do not think there can be much opposition to this comparatively small increase of the federal land tax, particularly in view of the fact that the large land-holders of Australia have much more to lose than the average working man if Australia were inadequately defended and could be successfully invaded. Surely, then, it is not unreasonable to ask the wealthy land-owners to pay a higher rate of taxation. Comparing 1931-32 with 1937-38, I find that indirect taxation has been increased by £19,600,000 and the total taxation by £15,000,000. I shall, however, confine myself specifically to land taxation, and the assertion that, as the federal land tax weighs heavily upon the struggling primary producers of Australia, it should he wiped out altogether. From a survey of the figures and a perusal of the reports of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, I find that city landowners pay approximately twotbirds of the federal land tax. That proves that the land tax is paid very largely by the wealthy classes of Australia, wealthy institutions and wealthy trading companion. The enormous buildings being erected in the capital cities to-day indicate the profits that these rich financiers, corporations, banks and newspaper magnates are making. I think it can be fairly claimed that they are in a very good position to meet this small increase of taxation. As the result of the increase of the sale3 tax from 4 per cent, to 5 per cent., the Government proposes to collect in a full year £1,900,000, yet it sets out to collect only the small sum of £140,000 by way of increased land tax from the rich city and country land-owners.
– Income tax falls upon those same people.
– That is true; it falls upon them as it falls upon everybody, but the increase of sales tax weighs -more heavily upon the poorer classses of the people with large families than on the wealthier class. As the rich land-owners are quite able to pay a greater share of the money necessary for the defence of this country, the Government should insist” that they should be asked to subscribe a much more substantial sura than ii demanded from them at” present. If that were done, much needed relief could be given to the poorer sections of the people. The accumulated value of land tax remissions since 1932-33 amounts to no less than £7,560,000. If this is, as the Government claims, a time of emergency, when every effort should be made to place our defences on a sound basis, and when every sacrifice should be made by those who can afford to do so, those best able to pay should be asked to contribute the greater portion of the cost incidental to adequate defence for Australia. It is true that the Government has increased the rate of income tax this year, but here again, this falls uniformly on those on lower salaries as well as those on higher salaries.
– Yes. The man with a huge income certainly contributes a greater sum than the man on a small income, but otherwise the impost falls uniformly on all classes of the community. In my opinion the increase of the land tax imposes no additional burden upon the smaller section of primary producers in Australia.
– The real producers.
– That is so;” it imposes no additional burden on the men who arc struggling to produce wheat under adverse conditions, such as prevail to-day in Victoria. This is obvious from the very fact that while there is a general exemption up to £5,000 there is in addition an exemption in respect of unimproved land up to that amount. For example, the owner of a property valued at £8,000 with improvements valued at £3,000 would pay no federal land tax at all. Consequently I cannot see even the honorable member for Forrest (Mr.
Prowse) objecting to this small increase. I am sure that he will agree with me that the Government would have been justified in further increasing the federal land tax and reducing a tax that was so abhorrent to him for many years, namely, the sales tax. The aggregate remissions of land tax made by this Government, as I have said, amounted to £5,760,000.
– The honorable gentleman does not say much about General Motors-Holden’s Limited.
– At a time when the Country party has half the number of posts in the Federal Ministry, General Motors-Holden’s Limited has made a profit of £1,000,000; yet the honorable member’s party has done nothing to bring about a reduction of the price of motor bodies. The following are some of the large firms which benefited from the reductions of federal land tax made by this Government: -
It is no wonder the Government had unlimited funds with which to fight the Labour party at the last general elections, seeing that it had remitted millions of pounds of taxation to the big landholders in the cities.
– And not a farmer among them.
– That is so. Yet Government supporters, when they went out into the farming districts, told the farmers that their hearts bled for those on the land who had to pay this iniquitous federal land tax, which had been imposed by a Labour government on the pretext of breaking up the big estates, and which had remained in force until reduced by the Lyons-Page Government. When we examine the facts, we find that those who made the strongest representations for the reduction of the land tax by 50 per cent. were, not the small graziers, the wheatgrowers, the cane-growers, or the cottongrowers, but the huge financial corporations in the big cities which own valuable blocks of land at street corners where great eight and ten-storey buildings rear their heads. One ofthese firms has benefited to an amount of £64,000 by the remission. So much for the mistaken idea that the federal land tax is borne by the struggling producers. I support the bill because, in the circumstances, I believe that the proposal to increase the federal land tax is justified. 1 deeply regret that the Treasurer did not increase it still more, so that he might have given some relief to those who pay sales tax which, like most other taxes, is borne by those people who are least able to bear them.
Mr.PROWSE (Forrest) [8.35].- This is a measure in regard to which some discrimination should be shown. Assets should be valued on their capacity to earn. . A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) pointed out very clearly that even the great squatters of Australia will suffer this year a loss of over £6,000,000 income from wool, and the country as a whole will suffer as the result. It was a decrease of the productive value of land and reduction of commodity prices, which brought about the depression we have gone through, and will bring about the depression we are entering upon. I do not think that it is good policy to tax those who have so little income that the taxation authorities have been able to inform the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that they pay practically no tax at all. When we compare the returns from the land with the returns from some of the great sheltered industries from which the Government has no means of deriving a proper return in revenue, we realize that there is something very wrong. When a sheltered industry makes a profit of as much as83 per cent., we should tax it more heavily, rather than tax the pastoralists who are producing goods with which to establish the credit of the country. In Western Australia, there are men who, a little while ago, thought they were worth £50,000, but during the last two or three years they have got into debt to the banks. They have lost nearly all their stock. At any rate their wool return has declined by as much as 70 per cent. This is not the time to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. The Government, as administrator, should recognize, that it is not helping the country by handicapping still further the primary producers.
– This measure has been introduced because of the need to find money for defence purposes. I have, on previous occasions, said that taxation for this purpose should be levied on the principle of ability to pay, while at the same time seeing that no one escapes his responsibility. I regret, however, that the Government has seen fit to increase this tax, when the money could have been raised in a different way. It is true that the great bulk of the tax is paid by city land-holders, but it is also true that, apart from certain institutions, most of the city firms are able to pass the tax on to the public in the price of the goods they sell. Thus, at a time when costs should be reduced rather than increased, the Government is, by this increase of taxation, tending to force costs still higher. Taxation is always passed on, if possible, to those who buy the’ goods. At this time, when a business recession is setting in, when export values have fallen and when unemployment is tending to increase, we are not helping the position by imposing extra taxation of this kind. Since the depression, the only year during which the price of wool has been at a payable level was the year 1936-37. The Royal Commission on the Wool Industry declared, and this I can bear out from my own experience as a grower, that woolraising was not a payable proposition when the price of wool was less than 14d. per lb. Last year, in many parts of New South Wales and Victoria, there was a drought which, unfortunately, still continues. The price of wool since the commencement of the sales this season has averaged just under lOd. per lb. Even the price of lid., which has ruled at late sales, is well below the cost of production. Unless the grower has other sources of income, such as fat lambs, wool-raising does not pay at the present time. The position in regard to wheat is worse, and yet the Government is imposing additional taxation on the two industries upon which, more than on any others, depends the prosperity of Australia. Another objection to this tax is that the man who improves his property, and makes it more productive, has to pay the greatest amount of tax, while the man who neglects his property often escapes the tax altogether. Thus it is a penalty on those who most improve their land.
I realize that those who pay land tax are among the wealthier people of Australia, but there is an alternative method of raising this money which I suggested to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) some time ago, but which, I regret, he did not sufficiently study. I suggested that a super tax on dividends over a certain amount should be imposed on all companies which are making exorbitant profits. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) pointed out that certain firms have been making profits of as much as 80 per cent., and, in one case, 100 per cent., while dividends of 10 per cent., and up to 15 per cent., have been quite common during the last twelve months. Those wealthy companies, which are deliberately exploiting the Australian people, and, in some instances, sending the profits abroad, should be compelled to pay a super tax which, I suggested, should be based on dividends over 12£ per cent. If such a tax were imposed, it would result in a substantial return to the Treasury, or the price of goods would be reduced. Probably it would have both results. I admit that there are certain difficulties in the way of collecting such a tax from those companies that have watered their capital, but there are ways to overcome them. If it is necessary to raise still greater amounts for defence purposes, or if another crisis should arise similar to that of September last, it will be imperative to resort to a taxation measure of this kind. Had the Government examined my suggestion, it would probably not have been necessary to increase the land tax.
.- This is a measure which the Opposition can well allow to pass. Every time one of its description comes before this Parliament certain honorable members talk about the poor men who have mortgages. 1 have every sympathy with them, but I point out that there is an exemption of £5,000 on the unimproved capital value of land and if a man has a property to the value of £20,000 and has a mortgage on £15,000 worth of it, he pays no tax at all.
– Yes, he does. He gets an exemption of £5,000, but there is no exemption for mortgages.
– No, but the tax is on a graduated scale.
– That is so. Whether the property be situated in the city or the country, it is free of taxation up to an unimproved capital value of £5,000. Thereafter the tax is graduated so that on a property worth £10,000 the tax would be only about £13 a year, a very small tax indeed. Every time the land tax is reduced encouragement is given to the worst types of investors, those who speculate in land and increase rentals. I do not think that the present land tax is of much value in preventing the operations of land monopolists, and I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) that the rate of tax should be increased. An increase of 1,000 per cent, of the rate of the tax to check the depredations of land speculators would not be too small. If there were any case of hardship, the Government could investigate it and, if necessary, make a refund of tax.
I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) in all that he says in respect of companies which make a profit of 83 per cent. I assure the honorable gentleman that if he is ready to father a resolution or a bill in this House to limit the rate of profit of companies, he will have the support not only of myself, but also of all Other honorable members on this side of the House.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN (Flinders) [8.48 J.T do not rise to oppose this measure, although the Treasurer ‘ (Mr. Casey) knows that I am opposed to the whole principle of land tax, because I regard it us a capital tax. I realize that the present is not the time to urge the abolition of a tax, because the Treasurer will need to look to every source to obtain finance to put our defences in order. I shall, therefore, not reiterate the arguments I have raised time after time against the principle *of the land tax. I du urge, however, that the Treasurer obtain a more liberal interpretation of the “hardship” clause than has been given to it in the past. Although we have had repeated promises that the “ hardship “ clause would be administered in a liberal way, there has been very little liberalizing of it.
This year there will be a great number of men who will pay a substantial amount of land tax, but who will not only have failed to make a profit, but also will have made great losses. It . should not be necessary for taxpayers in such circumstances to go as mendicants to prove that their cases are particularly lamentable. The law should be amended so that it would be a hard and fast rule that any land-owner who is using his land efficiently shall, unless, at a minimum, he receives an income of 4£ per cent, on his capital, be automatically exempted from the obligation to pay land tax. I do not suggest that a person who buys a city block and leaves on it a poor type of house from which he receives a low rental should have that benefit, but I do believe that land-owners, whether they be in the city or in the country, who use their land to the best advantage, but are prevented by circumstances from obtaining a sufficient return on their capital, should be exempted from the tax.
.- The enthusiasm with which certain classes of people applaud a proposal for pouring out unlimited millions for the purpose of defence against an imaginary foe is equalled only in a kind of inverse ratio - I do not know whether you could have equality on that basis-
– It would be a mathematical difficulty.
– Yes, as the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) says, it would be a mathematical difficulty, but, at all events, it is only equalled, speaking in a purely metaphorical sense, by the frigidity with which they regard any proposal for raising the necessary moneys. Consequently, we naturally expect that, when the Treasurer comes down with a proposal for a very moderate increase of the rate of land tax, it will be received coolly and in a deprecating spirit by those -who stand for the interest of the large land-owners in Australia.. Actually, the tax upon the unearned increment of land applies only to the larger land-owners, and it excludes from consideration altogether the farmers and the owners of freehold of the working class, on which they may live, and from which, in some cases, they may reap moderate rentals. When we realize that the first £5,000 of unimproved capital value of land is exempt and if we make a moderate estimate of £3,000 for improvements, we realize that the majority of the landowners are not called upon to pay any tax. Under this bill, or under the existing land tax legislation, a person would have to be in possession of land of a capital value of £8,000 before he would be called upon to pay land tax.
– Less a mortgage of £4,000, probably.
– The degree to which any person is in debt is another matter altogether about which we have no figures. Suffice it to say that what applies to the land-owner applies also to the business man, to the professional man, and to others, but we have no exact information at the moment as to that indebtedness.
The allegation made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) that he objected on principle to this tax because it is a capital tax leaves me entirely unmoved. It invites me rather to do what I fear Mr. Speaker would not allow me to do, namely, to enter into an elaborate disquisition of the evils of land monopoly. That is a subject on which I could speak feelingly, and, indeed, enthusiastically, and I could quote figures, and, having done so, I should be able to submit a set of facts which would temper the feelings of those who are inclined to sympa thize with persons who begin to pay a moderate land tax on a property £8,000 or £9,000 in value.
I do not think it matters very much, although it is interesting, that this tax is paid more by the land-owners of the city than by the land-owners among primary producers. I think it is possible, and even probable, that, if a list of taxpayers were made out, it would be found that the taxpayers of the cities, insurance com panies, commercial houses, and companies of that sort which own the valuable properties in the cities, do include a larger number of unscrupulous “go-getters” than one finds - among the rich landowners in the country districts. I think that that can be conceded; but what strikes me about this increase of the land tax, this moderate increase, which was hesitantly made by the Treasurer, and reluctantly supported by his supporters, is that it really gives back to the Treasurer only portion of what he restored to the rich land-owners on various occasions which have now passed into history. I trust that the Treasurer will not do as he did on a previous occasion, that is, challenge my figures and then hurriedly leave the chamber while I was substantiating them.
– I challenged them on the first possible subsequent occasion.
– The money which the Treasurer proposes to raise could be very usefully employed in the interests of people who need it. I would have been delighted to hear that the increased land tax to be paid by those who can easily bear it foreshadowed a reduction of the sales tax which is borne by people who cannot afford to pay it, and even a reduction of the income tax. But, unfortunately, it foreshadows nothing better than a piquant illustration of the lines upon which the Government proposes to act in its hysterical war propaganda.
– lt is the first dose.
– Yes ; this is merely a first dose of the , taxes to be imposed upon a long-suffering people. This is a part of a general orgy of expenditure for defence .purposes. It is suggested that there is an indication - the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) mentioned it - of something in the nature of a recession in progress. It is not a depression, hut a recession. Because the honorable member for Deakin, that promising young apostle of United Australia partyism, knows perfectly well that to keep on speaking of depression is incidentally a bad advertisement for capitalism, the system which he supports, he uses the word “ recession “ which is softer and more gentle. He wishes to persuade the people that a recession is the natural order of things, and that it is merely an undulatory movement for the good of our souls. There is a possibility of a recession which is hardly better in its worst phases than a depression.
– There is a difference.
– If so it is a matter of degree, but granted that it is a recession it means that times are again becoming bad. They have never been particularly good since the last recession for the people whom I represent, and are not likely to be. In these circumstances we have to be content with a land tax, bad as it is, because whatever we do we must find money for defence to prepare for an imaginary foe. The Government proposes to spend £50,000,000 and perhaps more over a period of years. The Treasurer has told us that while it is economically unsound to indulge in a policy of inflation to succour the poor, it is morally and economically right to indulge in inflation to meet the expense incurred to combat an imaginary foe. At any rate this is one of those occasions which enable us to see the underlying policy of the Government and those who support it in the matter of taxation and defence, because the two are inextricably inter-related. Who are these defence enthusiasts who declare that money must be found under a policy of inflation for defence purposes, yet say that such a policy cannot be adopted to succour the miserable and the outcast?
– Who suggested a policy of inflation?
– The Treasurer.
– I have never mentioned it.
– The defence enthusiasts in this chamber, and out of it, are those who have much to defend. They should make the sacrifices. Their terror over attacks upon their unearned increment is not justified. Those who have property to defend should be compelled to pay in order to protect the unfortunate persons who have been despoiled by this Government and who have nothing to defend.
– in reply - The mere mention of defence - it has been mentioned in this debate only by the honorable member for
Batman (Mr. Brennan) - arouses the honorable member, who speaks of an imaginary foe, into a cold fury. The honorable member has attributed to me words which I have never used. No government, and I am sure no Treasurer, likes increasing taxes, and particularly a land tax. 1 am in considerable agreement with the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), but in times such as these the Government has to obtain revenue from all available sources, and may yet have to explore other avenues which have not yeo been explored. The Government has been obliged to increase, not by an extravagant amount, the rate of land tax. I should like to inform the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson^, who has again suggested the imposition of a higher tax upon the profits made by some companies, that his suggestion has not been brushed lightly aside. 1 have attempted to cope with the problem which he has ventilated on previous occasion], but the taxing of profits of large concerns which have no constituent shareholders in Australia is not by any means easy. I am not permitted at this juncture to go into the basic fabric of our taxation system or to compare it with that in force in other countries. There are countries in which the profits of large corporations are taxed under a relatively easy system, but it is not easy where the whole basis of taxation is founded on a relatively small rate. It is difficult to superimpose on our Australian system a method whim will gather in a proper rate of tax from companies such as those mentioned.
– The Australian system is not unalterable.
– That is quite true. For some months the taxation officers have, been studying this problem but have not yet found a solution that will work with reasonable fairness on the whole group of Australian companies. If the right honorable member who, 1 know, is well acquainted with the Australian system of taxation, submits any suggestions in this respect, they will receive careful attention. As the honorable member t 0. Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was corrected by interjection, mortgages are not taken into account. The honorable member for
Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) referred again to section 66, which is known as the “ hardship “ section. Many attempts have been made to iron out numerous difficulties inherent in that section. Several suggestions have been made, but none is acceptable to the Government. Lf any new proposal that will work fairly all round is submitted, I shall be glad to hear of it. The Hardships Board has already given an appleciable measure of relief in instances where people are unable to pay the tax.
– Does that apply in tha cities?
– Its work is not confined to any particular class of taxpayers, but its work applies mainly to rural areas. In the darkest days of the depression, relief . amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds was afforded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from page 1829) :
.- I realize that owing to the magnitude of the task which faces the Auditor-General it is not possible for him to have his report ready early in the financial year, but as the Auditor-General is in a sense the guardian of the public purse it is the duty of the Parliament to give some serious consideration to any recommendations that he may make in regard to the public accounts. Therefore, I regret that it is not possible for his report to be made available in time for consideration in connexion with this budget. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, no opportunity has been provided to discuss any report of the Auditor-General, or to give consideration to his recommendations; nor have we been furnished with any explanation why recommendations that he has made from time to time have not been put into effect. Although his report cannot be made available in time for consideration with the budget, I suggest that a special opportunity should be afforded honorable members to consider it on some other occasion. It is paradoxical that, whilst the law com pels public companies to present an auditor’s report in connexion with their annual accounts, no such compulsion rests upon the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to submit the Auditor-General’s report in connexion with the accounts that he presents to Parliament from time to time.
Parliament should exercise a much more elective control over public expenditure and a much closer supervision of public accounts than it does at present. Unfortunately it is not possible, .in the course of the budget debate, for honorable members to scrutinize public expenditure closely. For one thing, time does not permit it to be done, and, for another, essential information is not available. As a matter of fact honorable members have to take a great deal for granted when they discuss the estimates of expenditure.
I am somewhat concerned about the steady mounting of expenditure on public departments in the last ten years. I refer only to the ordinary departments, and specifically exclude the Defence Department and the business undertakings. I find that in 1928-29 departmental expenditure totalled £2,987,000 whereas in 1938-39 it is estimated to amount to £3,784,000. This is an increase of approximately 25 per cent. The ten-year period that I have in mind includes the depression years. For that reason I have made my comparison from 1928-29, which was before the depression occurred. It is somewhat startling to discover that departmental expenditure is estimated to be 10 per cent, greater this year than last year. This is extraordinary seeing that we have such heavy defence expenditure to face iri this financial year. Honorable members are entitled to be given some reasons for this substantial increase. I shall direct attention to particular items of increase which justify a request for a detailed explanation. The estimated expenditure in respect of the Department of the Interior shows an increase of £162,800 over that of last year, and the Estimates include an amount of £180,000 to provide for temporary casual employees. In connexion with the Government Printing Office, an amount of £26,400 is provided for salaries of permanent employees, and an amount of £46,850 is set down for temporary casual employees. I trust that before the discussion concludes the Treasurer will explain the reason for this remarkable state of affairs.
Reference has been made by some honorable members to our accumulated deficit. 1 consider that in our prosperous years a much more serious effort should have been made than seems to have been made to liquidate this deficit. It may be that reductions of taxation were made, without due consideration. It would be in the best interests of the nation, and of public finance, if during prosperous years strenuous efforts were made to conserve our resources so that times of emergency, such as we now face, could be covered without undue strain.
I am strongly of the opinion that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts should be reconstituted, for it would be in a position to make a complete examination of all phases of public finance, including expenditure, and to recommend means of raising the necessary revenue so as to ensure that the incidence of taxation would bear equitably on all sections of the community. The Public Accounts Committee of the British House of Commons is representative of all parties, and has been in existence for many years. It is generally admitted that it has rendered very valuable service in keeping Parliament advised on public accounts. Our act, which is now in suspense, provides for the appointment of a Public Accounts Committee. It should be amended to give the committee similar powers to those exercised by the Public Accounts Committee of Great Britain.
The time has come for a re-adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and’ the States. I hold the view that the Commonwealth Government should retire from the field of direct taxation and leave this source of revenue entirely to the State governments. If that policy were adopted, tho Commonwealth Government should be relieved of the obligation to make heavy payments in respect of grants to and for the States, with the exception of special grants made to the smaller and necessitous States. According to this year’s Estimates, the Commonwealth Government will receive from direct taxation £13,800,000 from the following sources: Income tax, £10,700,000; land tax, £1,300,000; estate duty, £1,S00,000. Payments made to and for the State governments, apart from the special grants to the three smaller States, will amount to £13,500,000, which is approximately equal to the estimated revenue from the direct taxation levied by the Commonwealth Government. . I fully realize that this proposal would not result in any material reduction of the total amount of taxation, but the system would avoid duplication of returns, and permit a reduction of administration expenses. The chief objection to the practice of the Commonwealth Government of raising a considerable amount of revenue by direct taxation for the purpose of making grants to the State governments is that it .is opposed to a fundamental principle of public finance, which is that the public body which expends money should be charged with the responsibility of raising the necessary revenue by way of taxation. This provides a healthy check on the extravagant expenditure of public funds.
I was deeply interested in the proposal made last Friday by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for the holding of a special session of the Parliament to consider constitutional reform, and also in the able summing up of the position by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to-day. I am convinced that some reform of our present unwieldy system of government is urgently necessary. As has been pointed out during this discussion, there is overlapping and conflict of authority, involving not only the Commonwealth and State Governments, but also local governing bodies, particularly in such important matters as health, arbitration, transport, migration and company law. This was emphasized by the Attorney-General to-day. It is the duty of the national Parliament to place the position fully before the people of Australia at an early date. It must be quite clear to every student of national economy that if no action is taken now, the financial burdens placed upon the people will force the issue before many years have elapsed.
The Treasurer stated in his budget speech that the 10;n indebtedness of the Commonwealth and the-
States had increased in seven years by £92,000,000. It is impossible, however, to obtain a true statement of the public debt of Australia without taking into consideration the loan liabilities of local government and semi-government bodies. Recently I drew attention to the ma>rked increase in recent years of the borrowings of semi-governmental bodies. The amount of such borrowings has doubled in four years and is now about equal annually to ‘the amounts raised by the Loan Council for the State governments. As in the final analysis most of the local government loans are guaranteed by the State governments, they become the responsibility of the Commonwealth. This being the case, the Commonwealth Government should know the extent of these liabilities. I realize that this is a very delicate matter, but if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue it will defeat the object for which the Loan Council was established.
I trust that in any proposals for constitutional reform, provision will be made for an effective system of local government, which is essential to the sound development of the country. Under a new order, the powers and functions of these bodies could be extended, and the field of direct taxation on land could be reserved entirely for the local government bodies. Existing conditions are making the position of local government bodies increasingly difficult. They have been called upon to provide the improved ^ facilities which modern civilization demands, although their source of revenue is limited owing to the heavy impost made by the Commonwealth and State Governments in the way of land tax. I know something of the responsibilities and limitations of local government bodies; and I emphasize that in making provision for a new form of government for Australia, serious consideration be given to the organization of a sound system of local government.
I shall not further delay the committee. I wished chiefly to draw attention to the fact that Parliament is not afforded a proper opportunity to review and investigate public accounts. I trust, first of all, that some special opportunity will be given to honorable members to consider the Attorney-General’s report, and, secondly, that early action will be taken to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee, whose reports would be of great assistance, not only to honorable members, but also to the people generally.
.- At the outset of my remarks, I wish to say how very much I appreciated that part of this debate dealing with, an enlargement of the powers of the Federal Parliament. I am one who can say quite truthfully that I have never at any time opposed the extension of the powers of the Federal Parliament, though in this view I have differed somewhat from others of my political faith. Consequently, I trust that, as the result of the suggestion made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and endorsed by the Attorney-General. (Mr. Menzies), honorable members will, in the near future, be given an opportunity to debate this very vital question, and that if necessary a conference with the State governments will be convened in order to endeavour to arrive at an understanding to present a united front to the people on this important matter. I believe that the people are anxious to increase the powers of the Federal Parliament. The difficulty in the past has been, if my memory serves me aright, that no universal attempt has been made to alter the Constitution in that respect. On the contrary, this matter has been made a question of party politics, and the issues which the people have been asked to decide have been confused. That is not in the best interests of the country as a whole.
The honorable member for. Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) made the oft-repeated statement that the present Government has done wonderful work and has a splendid record. That story, however, is half falsehood. When the present Government assumed office, the unfortunate condition of affairs which existed during the regime of the Scullin Government had disappeared. This Government has merely carried on the good ‘work already put in hand by the Scullin Government. As a matter of fact, the former right honorable member for Flinders, Air. Bruce, now High Commissioner for Australia in London, informed the British commercial world, that had it not been for the drastic action taken by the Government led by my respected leader, the right honorable member for Yarra, this country would have been on the verge of insolvency.
During the debate on the Works Estimates, I brought under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Perkins) the question of the erection of a new post office at Proserpine. I have since received a letter from the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), dated the 21st November, in which he states that it is the intention of the department to revert back to its original idea of erecting a wooden building at Proserpine. The new post office is to be provided in what is regarded as a first-class section of the town, in which the erection of wooden buildings by private enterprise is prohibited. It has been pointed out by the Postal Department that the extra cost of erecting a brick or reinforced concrete building would be double the amount of the original tender for a wooden building. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will see his way clear to ensure that the Commonwealth does not defy the local governing authority by erecting a wooden building in an area in which the erection of such buildings by private individuals is not permitted.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the making available of land owned by the Postal Department to the Commonwealth Bank for the purpose of erecting bank premises at Ayr. In connexion with this matter, I received the usual stereotyped reply sent out by’ the department that, because nf some future possibility of the land at Ayr being required for postal purposes, it is not proposed to make it available to the Commonwealth Bank. If ever the day arrives when the land is required for postal purposes, Martin-p’ace will not be big enough to hold the Sydney General Post Office. I have placed a question on the notice-paper asking the PostmasterGeneral to ascertain the total area of land held by his department at Ayr. It appears that there is sufficient land on which to erect another post office and residence equal in size to that which has been provided in recent years. The Com monwealth Bank conducts a branch of Commonwealth activities, and any interchange of land owned by a Commonwealth instrumentality is to be encouraged rather than prevented. Tho officers of the Postal Department seem to fear that if the Commonwealth Bank leased the land for a long period, and it was subsequently found that it was required for postal purposes, the lease could not be terminated. In my opinion, the termination of the lease in these circumstances would be a matter for the Government itself to decide. I ask the Postmaster-General to make full inquiries.
– I undertake to do so.
– The present Commonwealth Bank premises at Ayr are situated in a wooden building, which is leased. The lease has recently been, renewed for a period of two years, and it is hoped that before it expires an understanding will be arrived at with the Postal Department to utilize its vacant land for the purpose of erecting more suitable banking premises.
Quite a number of questions have recently been asked in regard to migration, particularly alien migration, to this country. This is a very sore point with the residents of northern Queensland. The Government, in all good faith I have no doubt, has accepted the nomination of alien migrants and has permitted their entry into Australia on the understanding that when they arrive here they will be looked after by their nominees arid will not interfere with the employment .of Australian citizens. That, however, cuts no ice with me. Alien migrants come here and quite naturally seek employment wherever they can find it. I do not blame them for that; that is a natural desire to which none of us could take any exception. In this connexion, I quote the following letter addressed by Mr. J. Murphy, organizer of the Australian Workers Union at Gordonvale, and addressed to Mr. C. Fallon, branch secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Brisbane -
Hambledon area. F. Bacich nominated Y. Bacich. K. Zenetich nominated K. B. Bacich. F. Bacich and K. Zenetich are members of the firm of Petkovich and Company. This jinn has assigned land in both Babinda and Mulgrave Mill areas, and supply about 500 tons to Mulgrave and about 700 tons to Babinda Mill. Last year the firm employed a gang of seven cutters for about four weeks. This year, members of the linn are cutting the cane and recent arrivals mentioned arc doing the field work and assisting at harvesting. None of the members of the firm arc naturalized.
These people arc making arrangements for the purchase of farms immediately they are naturalized. For many of these properties they are paying much higher prices than would be paid by Britishers. The letter continues -
Recently B. Wake (Inspector Commonwealth Investigation Branch), together with Detective M. O’Shea, who speaks Italian, who acted as interpreter, visited this district and interviewed the persons mentioned in the depositions, also V. Ruggeri and A. Conti, and since his visit it is very difficult to get any particulars of recent arrivals. It is apparent that these people have been advised not to talk, and without an interpreter with some authority one is up against a brick wall, so to. speak.
I am in receipt of advice from Inspector Wake that no more southern European aliens nominated by people from north Queensland will bc permitted to land in Australia as the outcome of his inquiry into the position in the north. However, quite a number of these arrivals arrive at Fremantle, Melbourne, and other Australian ports. In view of the existing regulations (or lack of them), it is quite easy for these arrivals to move about the Commonwealth, apparently once arrived in the country no record is kept of their movements and no attempt is made by the responsible authorities to see that the nominators, who gave certain undertakings, are observing their obligations. It consequently follows that the signing of Form 40 by the nominators of these people is just so much eye-wash to delude the Australian people.
Any further definite cases of a similar nature that come to my knowledge, I will advise you.
The seriousness of the position is seen in the fact that, although some of these men were admitted to this country after making representations to the department that they would work in the cotton industry, immediately they landed in Australia they went along to the Babinda and Hambledon areas where sugar is grown, and while they do not actually engage in cane-cutting, they do the field work. The people who allegedly own the farms do the cane-cutting. The following letter was written by Mr. Bukowski, from
Ayr, to Mr. Fallon on the 12th August,
Hughes has three Bulgarians (three Chickendoffs ) cutting his cane. . . . Hughes gives the contract to Chickendoff, senr. to harvest the whole of his cane.
Chickendoff puts his two sons, who have just been* imported into the country, to cut, not signed on and unfinancial. O’Connor was doing the carting, cutting a bit, and helping to load, on wages of 22s. Cd. a day. Chickendoff, senr. would work his own farm and do a bit of cutting on Hughes’s farm.
This man alleged that he intended to put these boys on land in the Mareeba district growing tobacco. They did not go there, but in defiance of the undertaking given to the department the boys were put on cane-cutting, thereby displacing other men in employment. The letter continues -
I have insisted on the preference clause and three financial members employed, and put Chickendoff out of cut.
Chickendoff, senr. gave an undertaking to the Federal Government that these sons, who are 21 and 23 years of age, would be kept in employment by himself, and this is what he is doing.
That was acknowledged on the 23rd August this year, and the Minister for the Interior replied in the following terms : -
I refer to your letter of the 23rd August, forwarding one received by you from Mr. C. G. Fallon, branch secretary, Queensland branch executive, Australian Workers’ Union, Bos 83b, G.P.O., Brisbane, drawing attention to conditions which it is stated exist in the cane-fields as a result of the admission of aliens to this country.
All aliens are required to obtain landing permits from this department before being admitted into Australia for permanent residence. Dependent relatives, such as wives and minor children of persons already settled in Australia, arc admitted subject te satisfactory guarantees for maintenance being furnished.
In the case of aliens outside the category of dependent relatives, care is exercised to see that approval is given only in cases whore the intending migrants are not likely to take up employment to the detriment of Australian workers. If the migrant has no guarantor in Australia, he is usually required to be in possession of £200 .landing money. In the case of guaranteed migrants, the amount is £50. The. guarantee provides that, for a period of five years after the nominee’s arrival in Australia, the guarantor will see that he is not allowed to become a charge upon public funds.
The department is largely guided by police reports in regard to the question whether a guarantor is in a position to furnish employment for his nominee without displacing a local worker.
It may be mentioned that, as a result of an investigation by departmental officers in regard to the employment of aliens in the sugar-caM industry towards the end oi last year, tho issue of landing permits in favour of aliens who propose, or were considered likely, to take up such employment has virtually been suspended during the past twelve months.
It is observed that Mr. Fallon furnishes particulars regarding the Chickendoff family (Bulgarians). The father in this case has been resident in Australia for twenty years. Authority waa given in March, 1937, for his wife and one son to enter Australia, and as a result of special representations, permission was subsequently granted for another son. It was reported that the sons would be employed principally’ in developing the father’s property for tobacco-growing and that he would also commence dairying. Further inquiries will be made in connexion with this case.
I say definitely that the alien migrants do not own the money which the law requires them to put up. It is sent to them, and they pay it back to their guarantors after they enter. Admittedly, the persons who guarantee them are well off, but they insist upon getting the money back, sometimes with interest.
The State Government has encountered another difficulty in connexion with aliens. During the last twelve months, and particularly during the last eight or nine months, there “have been hundreds of prosecutions in north Queensland in connexion with claims for sustenance by men who have been working full time. In such cases, not only the employee, Abut the employer also, is involved, because he must connive at the offence in that he gives the employee time off to go and collect sustenance. When extra inspectors were put on, hundreds of prosecutions were launched, and thousands of pounds have been collected in fines.
The Minister tells us. that alien migrants are not admitted if they propose to go to the sugar fields, but my point is that, once they are admitted to Australia, no one can stop them from going where they please. It has been suggested that -when aliens are compelled to register a check can be kept on their movements, hut even then I do not think it will be possible to prevent them from going to whatever part of the country they think they can best earn a living in. There remains only the power of deportation, but legal men have informed me that, in their opinion, there is no power to deport unless a criminal offence has been committed.
Recently, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated in this chamber that difficulty was being experienced by the dairy factories in obtaining supplies of suitable timber for the manufacture of butter boxes. That statement will not stand investigation. There is plenty of timber in Australia with which to make all the butter boxes that will be needed for a long time. In order to ascertain the true position, I wrote to the Minister for . Lands in Queensland, and was informed that supplies of pine foi the making of butter boxes were adequate, and I have not heard any authoritative condemnation of this timber for the purpose. In this connexion, the following statement of the Minister for Lands, as reported in the press, is informative -
The Minister for Lands (Mr. P. Pease) inspected to-day a number of butter boxes, which had been made from hoop pine timber cut from logs harvested from an 84 year old Forestry Department plantation in the Mary Valley. These logs had been felled and brought down to Hancock and Gore’s sawmill at Ipswich Road, where they were sawn and tho timber kiln dried, jointed by the Lindeman process and made into butter boxes satisfying the most rigorous export specifications.
The quality of the timber in the box, said the Minister, was very attractive and had received high praise from all those butter factory interests who had seen it.
Tho Minister said that tho production of these boxes was an answer to those interests who, seeking to introduce hemlock as a butter box timber in Australia, had claimed that hoop pine supplies available in Queensland were too limited to satisfy Australia’s requirements for more than a short period.
The fact that boxes of this quality could be produced from plantation timber at such an early age was particularly reassuring, said the Minister, and he had been assured by the Director of Forests that whilst the particular plantation in question had shown somewhat rapid growth, it could be confidently expected that trees of these dimensions could be produced in quantity from 12-year-old plantations.
That is a very effective answer to the suggestion that there is a shortage of suitable timber in Australia for the making of butter boxes. I do not believe that there is a shortage of timber for this purpose or for any other. If the right encouragement is given there will be no difficulty in obtaining supplies. I challenge the statement of the honorable member for Richmond that he knew that the dairy factories were unable to obtain supplies of pine, and that the dairymen were experiencing difficulty because of this. Statements of that kind are too common. They are on a par with the assertion that the jam manufacturers complain that the price of sugar is too high, yet; when investigations are made, we find that the manufacturers themselves have no complaint to make in this regard.
For some time I have been trying to induce the .Government to allocate money for the construction or improvement of aerodromes in north Queensland. Always, however, I have received the reply that the aerodromes are hot needed for defence purposes. I suggest to the Minister that, if trouble occurs, and we are attacked by a foreign power, the attack is most likely to be made on the north coast of Queensland. There are openings in the Barrier Reef known to other powers, but not known to the Commonwealth authorities. Recently, I brought before the House an instance of a Japanese sampan being sighted off the Great Barrier Reef by Mr. Charles Hales. The Minister said that, if the matter were reported, action would be taken, but, of course, Mr. Hales had not reported it to the Commonwealth authorities in Canberra. However, he had reported it to the customs authorities in Cairns, but when the customs launch approached, the sampan made off at such a pace that it was impossible to intercept it. These sampans do not visit the Barrier for trochus shell, or to get supplies of wood and water. They are investigating and mapping the northeastern coast of Australia, and they have been doing it for years. Recently, the Minister informed me that the Government was prepared to grant £2,000 towards the cost of constructing an aerodrome at Townsville. The City Council is prepared to go on with the work, hut the total cost will be £10,000. We know that if an aerodrome were constructed at Townsville, and was eventually required for defence purposes, the department would take it over in the national interests, and no one would really object. At the present time, however, there is not one aerodrome in north Queensland where the large service aeroplanes can land during eight months of the year. One of the directors of Australian National Airways informed me recently that, in no circumstances, would they take the big aeroplanes north of Mackay, except to Cooktown. The Commonwealth has spent thousands of pounds constructing an aerodrome on a mud flat at Cairns, but the general opinion amongst experts is that the site is quite unsuitable. Probably, if an accident should happen in north Queensland similar to the unfortunate occurrence in Victoria recently, the Government would be forced to realize the need for constructing aerodromes in the north. Pilots who operate in that district state that, because of the high mountains, and the frequently wet and misty weather, it is one of the most dangerous flying areas in Australia. Services are being maintained, but the need for proper landing grounds is becoming urgent. So far, the Commonwealth Government has not contributed towards the cost of any of the aerodromes except that at Cooktown. The Minister should further investigate the matter with a view to making money available for this purpose. We have been assured that the best means of defence against possible attack is by air. The Government is acquiring large numbers of defence aeroplanes, but where are they to land, and how are they to be housed? Sir Edward Ellington, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, in his report, said -
The Civil Aviation routes now being established and equipped, the organization necessary for their efficient- working, together with the proposed and existing Royal Australian Air Force stations, will ensure that the Air Force can reach all parts of the Australian continent rapidly. Thus the strategic needs of Australia will be met.
I do not know how on earth he could come to that conclusion. I do not pit myself against him as an expert, but he, apparently, was advised by departmental officers who have no conception of the requirements of the north of Queensland. They seem to be tarred with the same brush as the officials of the Postal Department. Between Brisbane and Cooktown, is a distance of more than 1,100 miles and. there is not one suitable lauding ground between the two cities. In paragraph six of his report, Sir Edward Ellington says -
In the course of my inspections I have seen all stations on ceremonial parades, where the appearance of the officers and men, their turn out and drill, were excellent. The cadets and men now entering the Royal Australian Air Force appear ‘to me to be of the right class and the maintenance of aircraft is efficient. The accommodation, especially the new buildings, is very good, even lavish in the caste of the officers mess at Richmond, New South Wales, but I consider the hospital accommodation inadequate at present at all stations, and definitely bad at Point Cook. The arrangements made foi the messing of both officers and airmen are good and the food is of a high quality.
Apart from the hospital difficulty, the position seems to be very satisfactory. I hope that the hospital accommodation will be provided.
– A new hospital is being built at Point Cook.
– 1 am glad to hear that.
Dealing with flying accidents, Sir Edward Ellington reports: -
I have examined the reports of flying accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force during the last three years and compared them with the records of the Royal Air Force over approximately the same period. The rate for the Royal Australian Air Force is definitely worse than in the United Kingdom, but in a small air force such as the Royal Australian Air Force fluctuations must be expected, and the rate before 1935 was considerably better than at present. Of twelve accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force three appear to be due to disobedience of orders or bud flying discipline, and possibly a fourth is duc to the same cause. This is a high proportion, and points to a need of a strict enforcement of the regulations.
We do not know why the other eight accidents occurred. The report goes on -
I have visited the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory at Fishermen’s Bend and I have seen the Wirraway. I understand that it is intended to use it in replacement of the Demon as a lighter bomber. I consider that the Wirraway should be regarded as a temporary expedient, since its maximum speed is not sufficient for a modern fighter.
I mention this because the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Thorby) has told honorable member’s that the Department has ordered the construction of more than 50 Wirraways.
– -Their construction is being proceeded with now.
- Sir Edward Ellington condemns them. The report continues -
In my opinion it can only be regarded as an advanced training aircraft, and it would not be economical for orders to be given in excess of the number required for interim use in service squadrons or as advanced training aircraft. It is difficult to give advice at the moment regarding the type which should be put in hand at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory at Fishermen’s Bend when the present orders are completed. If a new type is put into production without waiting for prototypes or experimental aircraft to be tested, there will be the risk of waste and delay in re-equipping the service, should the type selected fail. I think it unwise, therefore, for a type to be put into production at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Factory which has not been tried out, and I can- only suggest that a decision is delayed until suitable aircraft has been tested in the United Kingdom.
The Minister says that it is necessary for these planes to be constructed, but this man who was brought at great expense to this country to advise the Government is of the opinion that they are not of a suitable type.
– I do not accept him as the last word.
– Neither do I, but he was brought here to advise the Government and I should say that his advice should be taken, whereas the Minister for Civil Aviation has told us, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has confirmed it, that more than 50 Wirraways are to be constructed.
In conclusion, I again press the need for the Postal Department not to flout the building regulations of the municipal authorities at Proserpine, which specify that buildings should be of brick or reinforced concrete, by constructing a new post office at that centre in wood. I have had a fair deal from the? department in respect of new post offices in my electorate, and I hope that its record will not be spoiled by its insistence on the construction of a wooden building. Any increase of cost as the result of erecting the new post office in brick or reinforced concrete would be amp y repaid by the increased length of life which such a building would have in comparison with a wooden building. [Quorum formed.]
.- Annihilation of distance and the spectacular advance of science in recent years have brought Australia face to face with world problems, and invariably actions by other nations have repercussions in Australia. 1 wish to refer particularly to a question which to-day is of great importance to the Australian people and, indeed, to the Empire - the mandate and the future of New Guinea. Although statements have been made outside, I suggest that the Government should make a definite pronouncement in the House of its policy in connexion with New Guinea. Reports that other nations are discussing the future of this area and how it should be controlled, have agitated the minds of the people of New Guinea to such an extent that on the 1st November, at Rabaul, the capital, a largely attended public meeting was held of all interests in the territory, at which a resolution was unanimously carried to the effect that New Guinea should remain for ever under the control of the Commonwealth. A similar meeting was held on the gold-fields at Wau, which, if it does not become the political capital, will possibly be the commercial capital when the road from the coast is constructed; and similar meetings are at present being held in other centres. In view of the development of this territory by Australia, a development unrivalled in modern colonization, Australia should not sit idly by while other countries are talking about the future of, and, perhaps, contemplating dividing the spoils of, a country which undoubtedly should he under Australian control.
I had occasion previously to address a question in the House to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes), relative to a statement which Mr. Chisholm, an Australian journalist, made in London to the Australian High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce. He intimated that German scientists were showing a marked interest in the resources of New Guinea and, further, that Germans suggested that Australia was failing in its duty in not advising the world of these resources, and was leaving the work largely to Americans. Recent articles and public statements in Australia and Great
Britain show that there is an opinion, apparently badly informed, that Australia should return New Guinea to Germany. Those who have been in Germany in recent years will have evidence of German desires for the return of its former colonies. When I was in Berlin last year there was no mistaking its desire tor their return. A Nazi official spoke to me in strong terms about Germany’s demand for the restoration of its territories, notwithstanding the fact that Germany failed to exploit New Guinea when it held it. German trade figures for before the war show that the exports and imports of New Guinea were a fraction of one per cent, of its total trade to-day.
There is no doubt that public opinion in Australia is strongly opposed to the return of New Guinea to Germany. The opinion of the right honorable member for North Sydney, who formerly administered external territories of the Commonwealth, is “ What we have we hold “. But it is not sufficient for honorable members merely to know these things. A definite considered statement of policy on’ behalf of the Government should be made on the floor of the House.
I certainly agree that not sufficient publicity is given to Australia’s record in colonizing and developing New Guinea. A nation like America, in similar circumstances, would tell the story in a hundred different ways. We have been, perhaps, too modest about it. Since the Australian troops took’ over New Guinea at the outbreak of war, Australian enterprise has been responsible for increasing the exports by 800 per cent., and for a revenue increase of 600 per cent. Any one who visits the territory must be impressed by its activities. Australian enterprise was responsible for discovering the greatest alluvial goldfield in recent years, with a gold production of £2,000,000 per annum. The Germans may have known the gold was there, just as the Dutch know there is gold in Dutch New Guinea, but it took Australian gold diggers to develop it. Their efforts created an epic of the air. It was Australian resource, initiative and enterprise that introduced the greatest air transport system in the world, one that carries mining machinery, cattle and cargo over mountains 10,000 feet nigh. The service is manned by Australian pilots, who would form a. great nucleus in a national emergency.
In the process of colonization the white population has increased by 400 per cent. - 75 per cent, of the white population sire Australians. South Africa, in urging . its claims to retain the former German colonies in South West Africa, states that these colonies are now populated mainly by South African white people. Australia can also rightly urge that the white population of New Guinea is overwhelmingly Australian. In addition, Australian patrols have at great personal risk penetrated the heart of New Guinea and discovered tribes of natives hitherto unknown to the world. These tribes belong to the stone age. What is most important, by a system of medical patrols and treatment of native and tropical diseases and by humane colonization methods, Australians have established a friendly relationship with the New Guinea natives.
In Papua and New Guinea approximately 5,000 whites, mainly Australians, control probably nearly 1,000,000 natives, many of whom are still in a primitive state. A great amount of public money and energy has been expended by the Commonwealth in New Guinea.
Australia is in the vanguard of the nations in the matter of colonization. New Guinea stands as the furthest outpost of Australia and is of paramount strategic value to the Commonwealth. Et is half way to the east, and control is imperative. I quite understand the difficulties associated with the mandate, but in view of the world position to-day the time has arrived when a definite declaration should .be made in” this House by the Government in regard to the control of the Territory of New Guinea. Otherwise the world may misinterpret our silence. En these uncertain days other nations may mistake our silence for weakness, indecision or apathy.
In opening his budget speech for 193S- 39, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) referred to the fact that, in spite of considerable difficulties caused by overseas developments., the last year had been one of appreciable economic advance in Aus tralia. I agree with the Treasurer that we should congratulate ourselves upon our resistance to adverse overseas conditions. He also mentioned that the investment of overseas capital in Australia had continued at a satisfactory rate. We need the investment of overseas capital if we are to make real progress, and surely there is no country in the world to-day that offers better prospects for such investment than Australia does. A significant fact is that most of this money is being used in the development of our secondary industries. That is a sign of the new era that has begun in this country. I am glad that the three gentlemen who represented the Commonwealth at the recent trade conference in London have returned fully convinced that we must look, more and more, to the development of Australia’s secondary industries if we are to support a larger population. Especially am I impressed by the views expressed by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) in this connexion. It is surely significant when the Leader of the Country party joins in telling us that, we must reduce our imports and manufacture more of our own requirements. The reason, of course, is plain. It is clue to the growth of “ economic nationalism “, and to the cry of “ national self-sufficiency “, on the part of so many countries. This means that Australia no longer has the markets to warrant any large increase of primary production. If we can hold the foreign markets we have we shall be fortunate. Countries which formerly imported our wheat in large quantities are now growing more wheat for themselves, with a consequent reduction of imports from Australia. The rapid growth of artificial wool is another factor that .has to be taken into account, despite the statement that we hear so often that the world must have Australian wool and that we can sell all that we produce. Such a position may not always obtain. Moreover, the question is not so much one of whether we can sell all we are at present growing, but whether there is room for an expansion of the wool industry. It is doubtful, to say the least of it. It will continue doubtful unless we have a big increase of population. If the population should increase appreciably we should have more consumers and should be able to sell more wool at home.
It is therefore necessary to plan for an increased population and for a larger home market. After all, the home market is the best market, just as the Australianborn baby is the best immigrant. If it i3 necessary to bring immigrants to Australia, provided they are the right stamp, because of our slow population growth by natural increase, let us remember that in doing so we are increasing the home market for our primary and secondary products.
Our Labour friends in opposition, who have never been very enthusiastic over immigration, should consider that fact. Their enthusiasm for the expansion of our secondary industries is pronounced. Do they not realize that our manufactures cannot expand unless our population increases? They can expand to some extent, I admit. If we import fewer goods we can manufacture more, although we cannot expect to manufacture everything we require. Surely it is selfevident that by increasing our population we can do a good deal more to increase our manufactures. In passing, I would point out that a very large proportion of our imports consists of machinery and raw materials used in manufacturing in this country.
Not so long ago, Great Britain did not view our manufacturing progress with too kindly an eye. It felt that, as it was the principal market for our primary products, we should in return buy as much as possible from British manufacturers. That view, which I understand is still held in Manchester, is no longer the official view. The Government of the United Kingdom recognizes that if Australia and the other dominions are to make real progress and become more powerful links in the Empire chain than they are to-day they must foster their secondary as well as their primary industries. It is not so much a case of selfsufficiency as self-help, and Empire help. The more powerful we become, in point of population, which, as I have said, must follow on industrial expansion, the more likely are we to be able to contribute to the defence and general well-being of the Empire. Great Britain favours the in- vestment of British capital in suitable Australian manufacturing industries, regarding it necessary for our development, for the growth of our population and for our national security. Even if Australia did not take a hand in the defence of the Empire and its interests, increased population is needed for our own defence. Look at it whatever way we will, it is necessary. I have spoken of the increase of imports, as shown in the budget-papers, and I hope that the Government will watch the position carefully. I am aware that it is exceedingly difficult to estimate the customs revenue especially in abnormal times. It is generally conceded in trading circles that during this financial year imports will be less that last year, and the Treasurer has advisedly assumed that there will he a decrease. This is in contrast to the position in recent years where there has been an increase on the estimated revenue from customs duties, which, of course, has a very important influence on the budget. This has an important bearing on the budget.
The best index of a nation’s prosperity is that provided by building activities. One’ of the bright spots in the budget is the remarkable increase of building activity in all classes of construction, during the twelve months ended the 30th June last, disclosing as it does an expenditure of approximately £66,000,000. This represents an increase of nearly 20 per cent, over the previous year, and more than 600 per cent, over the depression year of 1931-32. When a key industry is functioning in such a satisfactory way it clearly indicates that the prosperity of the people is increasing. The operations connected with building activities extend to all classes of other* industries, resulting in progress and an increase of employment generally.
Nevertheless, it would be foolish to pretend that we have solved the problem of unemployment. There is still a good deal of unemployment, and we should not be content until every man who is willing and able to work is given the opportunity to do so. Especially tragic is the plight of many of our Australian youths, numbers of whom have found it impossible to secure employment. It is satisfactory to know that this problem is being taken in hand by the State governments, and that employers are co-operating in the effort to give these young people a chance. It seems to me almost hypocritical to be talking about the decrease of the birthrate when we have this problem before us. * It is natural that a man should wish to marry and establish a home, but he cannot do so without money. When the youth unemployment problem is solved, there should be an immediate increase of the marriage and the birth rates. It is satisfactory to find from recent statistics that the number of marriages in Australia is increasing, and this can be taken as an indication of what occurs when employment is increasing. We know that employment is increasing, but that does not solve the problem of providing suitable employment for youths. I note with much satisfaction that the Government proposes to set aside the fame amount as it did last year, viz., £200,000, in grants to the States to assist thom to provide technical training and to secure skilful employment for youths. Assistance in this direction is money well spent. It will stimulate the interest of these young fellows in their country, inspire their patriotism and make them feel that their country is worth while.
An expenditure of £16,796,000 for defence purposes, as is proposed this year, is an enormous but necessary burden. The Prime Minister was right when he said that the people will not complain at additional taxes to be imposed if it is to finance a necessary defence programme. Whilst some of the money will come out of loan and the defence trust fund, a large sum must be provided out of ordinary revenue, thus making new taxation inescapable. Anything we can do to ensure the safety of this country and its people in these momentous times is national insurance of the ‘ highest order. According to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and those who followed him, one would imagine that because the sales tax has been slightly increased, the burden is falling mostly on the masses; but that is a tax which, like customs duties, is paid by everybody. Those who are in a position to pay income and land taxes face an increase of 15 per cent, and 11.1 per cent., respectively, whilst the sales tax increase amounts to about one farthing a day .’ I would remind the members of the Labour party that a Labour government initiated that unfortunate tax. True, it was an emergency measure, as members opposite have stressed, but .was the emergency any greater then than it is to-day? Surely they will not contend that it was.
Before leaving this subject of defence, which is of paramount importance to us, I emphasize once again the necessity for- giving more sympathetic treatment to the rifle club movement of Australia. I have referred to this matter on more than one occasion in this chamber, but to-day it assumes an added importance. There are some 50,000 members of rifle clubs in the Commonwealth, and it costs them approximately £12 each annually to keep themselves efficient in their shooting. This is a self-supporting and voluntary movement. It receives no spoon-feeding from the Defence Department. Indeed, instead of being encouraged, it might almost be said that it has been- discouraged by the department. That is not as it should be. The rifle club members buy their rifles and a quantity of their ammunition, and have cleared or hewn out of the forests over 800 rifle ranges throughout Australia. Is not that a great thing for Australia? Is this Parliament to alienate the support of these patriotic men ? Surely not !
Bequests have been received from several parts of the Commonwealth for permission to form rifle clubs. In this critical time, when we are adopting all kinds of defence measures, why should we hold up this patriotic movement? The matter of finance is so small from a defence point of view that it cannot be used as an argument for placing obstacles in the way of this movement. Could there, I ask, be a firmer or better basis for national defence than a great number of Australians giving up their time and leisure, quite voluntarily, in order to make themselves proficient in the use of the service rifle? Here is one way to develop a national defence conscience. Let us foster, and not discourage, it.
I regret that the Government has not seen fit to amend the Repatriation Act in order that “ burnt out “ South African war veterans may become eligible for a service pension. These South African veterans are, in truth, a “lost legion”. They have been forgotten. Even the sum of £27,000, the balance of funds subscribed during the South African war for soldiers incapacitated in that campaign, was passed into other revenue by the New South Wa.es Government some years ago! Funds publicly subscribed in other States have also been diverted to other uses. There are throughout the Commonwealth, perhaps, only 200 or 300 of these soldiers in need of assistance, and they are getting fewer in numbers each year. Many of them are in charitable homes. We might well give some consideration to these men who have given service to the nation and to the Empire. The South African Soldiers’ Association appreciates the decision of the Government to grant £10 towards funeral expenses of those men who die in indigent circumstances. But why wait till they are dead? We could materially help them and brighten the remaining years of their lives, by giving them the benefits of the Repatriation Act. I earnestly urge the Government to reconsider this matter. In view of the ages of these men, the cost would be very small. Action such as I have suggested would, I am sure, have the support not only of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, but also of the public generally.
There are other big claims upon the Treasury besides those of defence. I shall refer to only one or two of them. Take invalid and old-age pensions, the rate of which was increased a year ago to the former level of £1 per week. The total expenditure under this head in the last year was £15,800,000; but, in the current year, owing to an increase of the number of pensioners, it is estimated that a sum of £16,150.000 will be required. Then there are the war pensions. The additional concessions granted in this connexion in recent years have involved considerably increased expenditure, and this year it is estimated that the sum required for war pensions and repatriation benefits generally will be £9,400,000, an increase of nearly £350,000 over last year, and an increase of £1,700,000 over the expenditure five years ago.
We have also to remember that we have just passed one of the most extensive social service measures this country has seen. I refer to the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. We learn from “the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that we shall have to find £1,000,000 under this heading during this financial year. This is preliminary to a much larger expenditure that will have to be faced in the years to come. As the nation grows in wealth and population we must expect to see our expenditure increasing along with the revenue.
At this point it is fitting that I should remind honorable members and the country of one very important item in Commonwealth finances. Since 1923 the Commonwealth debt has been redeemed to the extent of £80,000,000. That is a matter for congratulation, and sufficient importance has not, in my opinion, been directed to the fact.
There is another matter I should like to touch upon. Inasmuch as approximately half of the federal revenue comes from customs and excise duties, a heavy decline of imports must seriously affect the budgetary position, and as development work must go on, I suggest that, in order to adapt the country to the changing conditions which face it, a reasonable resort to treasury-bills might be found desirable. In this connexion, 1 direct attention to the circular issued by the Bank of New South Wales in August, 1937. In reviewing the report of the Royal Commission on Banking, the circular stated -
Short-term bills, particularly to-day those issued with the credit of governments behind them, are of very great importance to the trading banks .because they enable them to build up a second line of defence. A bank can never tell in advance exactly what demands for cash it may have to meet, and therefore it must hold a certain amount of short-dated securities which can readily be turned into cash. Properly managed, treasury-hills can become a quite indispensable banking asset, helping the trading banker to economize in the amount of cash which he has to keep, and in this way enabling him to provide banking services for the community more cheaply.
The bankers in London and others who use the London market are able to plan ahead and to buy those bills which mature upon the exact day upon which they anticipate that they will have to meet big demands for cash. . . The Commonwealth Bank does not appear to have suggested to the Commonwealth Treasury, whose business adviser it is, that it should adopt this essential technique in managing the Australian treasury-bills.
The British Treasury, with the utmost’ skill is studying tho needs of the banks and has been able to induce them to lend to it at i per cent, per annum. In Australia, the best rate upon treasury-bills that the Commonwealth Bank has been able to secure has been lj per cent. It is so nervous about the whole position that it described the existence of treasury-bills in its evidence before the royal commission as a source of weakness in the Australian monetary system. The weakness lies not in the existence of the treasury-bills, but in the management of this part of the borrowing of Australian governments. . . . Efficiently managed, treasury-bills are, as the British Government knows so well, the cheapest possible way in which it can borrow to meet the requirements of government. The efficiency of the banking system and tho interests of the taxpayer who has to meet the cost of government borrowing both require an improvement in the technique of managing treasury-bills in Australia.
I submit that those are challenging statements, to which the Treasurer might very well give careful consideration. I am sure it would interest a great many of us if the honorable gentleman would take an early opportunity to take us into his confidence and tell us exactly where, in his opinion, and in the opinion of the Commonwealth Bank Board, the weakness lies in the issue of treasury-bills in Australia. It would be both interesting and enlightening.
Mention of London and its business affairs reminds me of the Government’s decision to grant the sum of £20,000 to the Australian National Travel Association this year as it did last year. In addition, it has decided to grant £21,000 to the association for the purpose of a comprehensive tourist and travel display at the San Francisco exposition in 1939. That is not all. A sum of £40,000 is being set aside to cover the cost of the Australian exhibit at the World’s Fair, which will open in New York in April next. The Government is also making the sum of £30,000 sterling available to the Australian Overseas Trade Publicity Committee for publicity and trade promotion purposes in the United Kingdom, and £7,500 for the general exhibition of Australian products in that country. A sum of £2,500 has also been earmarked for advertising Australian products in the East and other special markets.
I do not think that any one will grumble at the wise expenditure of public money in advertising Australia abroad, both for trade and tourist purposes; but, from what we constantly read in the newspapers, we cannot help wondering sometimes whether’ the money is being spent to the best advantage. Why are we constantly reading that New Zealand and its products are so much better advertised in the United Kingdom than Australia and its products? There seems to be something wrong somewhere.
I suggest that the Government would do well to select a few of the brightest young journalists of Australia to take a hand in this advertising business. I am aware that one or two of them are abroad already. I mention Mr. Arthur O’Connor, who has his office, I believe, in San Francisco. But we could do with a dozen or more such men. It is not necessary for them all to go abroad. Some of them could be employed in Australia to write about the country and its products, and also about its attractions as a tourist resort. This would help to “feed” our trade and other agencies in the United Kingdom, America and elsewhere. It is time that we realized the value of our “writing brains” in this country. I am hopeful that the deputation which recently waited on the Prime Minister and urged that some encouragement should be given to literary and dramatic workers in this country will bear some fruit. Surely, the products of the mind are worth cultivating as well as material things! I commend the action of the Treasurer in making provision on the Estimates for a contribution towards the preparation of a bibliography of Australian literature.
We are doing a good deal in a scientific direction. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is engaged in a great work, and provision for its entry into the field of secondary industries is a departure which should prove of inestimable , benefit to Australia and its manufacturing development. It is time that we, as a National Parliament, gave some thought to art and literature, as well as to science.
There is another matter that I wish to refer to which relates to the Postal Department. That this department is splendidly organized and efficient is, 1 think, admitted by all; but there is considerable public discontent in regard to its charges for certain services it provides. The department should investigate the charge on letters and see if it cannot make the same arrangements in regard to them as it makes in regard to telegraphic charges - that is, a reduction within a State as compared with interstate letters. Much irritation is caused over telephone charges. There is no means by which subscribers may check their accounts, and it seems to me that they should be provided with some means to do so. This has been ventilated in the House. A fair trial should be given to the devices available in the interest of subscribers.
The Government’s promise to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee is to be highly commended. This committee, representing all parties, should have a proper insight into ali details of public expenditure. It could pass judgment on many phases of public finance, and the financing of many public utilities. This would ensure the confidence, not only of Parliament, but also of the people of the country, in the public expenditure of Commonwealth revenues.
Bill received from the Senate and Con motion by Mr. Thorby) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have been moved by a large number of electors to raise a question in the House to-night which is becoming more and more important to the people of
Australia. I refer to the ruthless manner in which some of the anti-democratic countries have been hounding native Jews out of their respective countries. Recently I have been worried by individual heartrending appeals of people asking for help to get their relatives in some of those central European countries admitted to Australia. I imagine that to deal with these individual appeals must be becoming a nightmare to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). I suggest that the Government, in the interests of all of us, should consider what Australia’s attitude shall be towards this international appeal to the humanitarian instincts of the people of democratic countries. Australians have always been regarded as democratic people, but if we do not play our part in some small way to meet the circumstances that have arisen in this connexion, we shall soon lose our reputation. Whilst I know from my own experiences - others have probably had similar experiences - that many Jewish citizens in this country have not always played the game, the same thing may be said of people of other races. If the Jewish people in manufacturing industries to whom I refer are inclined to be sweaters their sweating propensities can be kept in check if those responsible for the enforcing of our laws show more courage; but in some instances some of our administrators are equally as culpable as are the people blamed. However, the present circumstances are very unique and extraordinary. The unfortunate refugees have to live somewhere, and I think that the Australian Government should consider whether or not it is justified in taking some small quota of Jewish refugees of a type suitable for absorption in this country.
– We are taking a number at present.
– The reason I raise this matter is that to deal with these individual cases is becoming a nightmare. Probably my own experience in this respect is shared by the honorable member who has interjected as well as by the Minister for the Interior. Men and women from the St. Kilda district come to me night and day and plead with me to urge the Minister to endeavour to get landing permits for their relatives in order to save them from the concentration camps. I think it would be better for everybody if the Minister would discuss this matter with the Cabinet, and eventually decide whether or not Australia will cake its quota of refugees. Knowing the attitude of the Government in regard to this matter, after hearing all the evidence placed before it, we should then be able to answer these appeals.
– Would it be part of Labour’s policy to permit these people to come here?
– I make this submission purely on my own account on behalf of many people in my own electorate. 1 unhesitatingly say that I would support the Government in any reasonable attitude it might adopt in order to relieve the sufferings of these unfortunate people who have no place in which to lay their heads.
– I was interested to listen to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) on this very important, very disturbing and very difficult matter. It falls to my lot to administer the immigration laws of this country, and I assure the honorable member that, as the policy of the Government stands to-day, and as it is administered, regard is definitely paid to the needs of these particular people to whom he has referred this evening. I am glad to be able to assure him that, acting directly within the limits of the Government’s immigration policy as it affects white aliens, it is possible for us to admit to this country annually some few thousands of the class of people on behalf of whom he has made his plea.
– They will grab your farm if you let them in.
– Permits are being issued at the rate of several thousands per annum to refugees seeking permission to enter Australia from Central European countries, where to-day there is political discrimination against those of the Jewish race. We are able to select from these applicants persons who, as individuals, comply with the requirements of our immigration laws, and to admit several thousands of them each year. I find it difficult, in the exercise of my office, to withstand the requests made day after day on behalf of persons of this refugee class who are not able to comply with the standards we set for white aliens. I have the very sad duty almost every day of having to interview people in my office, who, with tears in their eyes, plead for the admittance of relatives at present, perhaps, confined in concentration camps where, my interviewers explained to me, they are enduring a living death. One would wish that it were possible, while upholding the standard which we have set for ourselves, to admit many more of these people. I assure the honorable member that the Government isfully aware of their needs, and is doing everything it can. While the Government has to maintain the prescribed standards, while it must be careful not to admit aliens in such numbers as to create alien blocs or troublesome minorities, while it cannot admit persons of undesirable character, or those not in good health, while it cannot admit persons able to engage only in such occupations as would tend to depress Australian living standards, and while it is necessary, in some instances, to discriminate against aged persons, we still find it possible to grant permits to some thousands of persons who will, I am sure, prove, in the great majority of cases, valuable citizens. It is in accordance with these considerationsthat the policy of this country in regard to immigration has been framed and is being administered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator. &c. -1938 -
No. 25 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’Association.
No.26 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Darwin. Northern Territory - For Administrative purposes.
House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The aims and objectives of the Australian Air League are well known to the Departments of Defence and Civil Aviation which appreciate that the league is doing good work in promoting air-mindedness amongst the youth of Australia. It is regretted that there are no funds available to subsidize the league either from the Air Force or Civil Aviation votes for 193S-39.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In accordance with a promise made to the late honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), is it the intention of the Government to introduce thissession the necessary legislation to restore to dependants of deceased returned soldiers the same basis of pension as prevailed prior to the application of the Financial Emergency Act?
– No such promise was made to the late honorable member for Wakefield. The Treasurer gave an undertaking that the matter would receive further and sympathetic consideration. After reviewing the incidence of the financial emergency legislation, and taking cognizance of the general financial relief measures and other amendments liberalizing repatriation legislation, and taking into account also existing and potential financial commitments, the Government regretfully came to the conclusion that it cannot, at present, approve an extension of existing benefits to ex-soldiers or their dependants.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the decision of the Defence Department to raise the maximum age at which former petty officers and men who were naval telegraphists may re-enter the service from 00 years to 56 years, will he give consideration to amending the Commonwealth Public Service Act to enable superannuated employees who were retired through ill-health to re-enter the service when restored to normal health after reaching the age of 50 years ?
– The maximum age at which former members of the naval forces who were naval telegraphists may re-enter the naval service has not been raised beyond 50 years. The maximum age of re-entry has been fixed at 49 years, and the age for retirement at 55 years. No naval rating who has been invalided is eligible for re-entry.
So far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned, it is not proposed to vary the present maximum age - 50 years - for re-appointment of former officers.
n asked the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– Dr. Harold Thompson, Officer-in-charge of the Fisheries Section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has already given some preliminary consideration to the processing of shark skins, shark meat and shark fins, but he is not impressed with the possibilities of developing an industry in this regard. Dr. Thompson will, however, be furnishing a report on the matter in due course and a copy will be made available to the honorable member.
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he furnish the House with the total value of imports of arms and munitions and all materials associated with the defence of Australia, excluding cruisers, for the years 1931-32 to 1937-33, showing each year separately 1
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the weight of iron in each bomb used in warfare?
– Steel is mainly used in the construction of bombs. The weight of the bomb casing varies with the size and type of bomb. In ordinary types, the proportion of the case weight to the total bomb weight averages 70 per cent., whilst in special types it varies from 40 to SO per cent. For example, in an ordinary bomb of 500 pounds the case would weigh about 300 pounds.
y. - On the 16th November, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked me the following question, without notice: -
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 promised the honorable member that I would furnish him with detailed information in. this regard. The position is that swarms of grasshoppers have occurred intermittently for many years in Australia, but by 1934 they became so serious that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was asked to appoint a research worker to give the problem his undivided attention. Up to that time, although a good deal of miscellaneous information had been obtained, there had been no precise definition of the problem,, and this was consequently the first work to be undertaken.
The species concerned in outbreaks were examined, and it was found that nearly all the damage was caused by two species, Ch.ortoicetes terminifera in eastern Australia, and Austroicetes cruciata in South Australia and Western Australia. Both these species swarm, and show characteristic swarming phase changes in form and colour, just as do the plague locusts and grasshoppers of the old world; but otherwise their behaviour is quite dissimilar, and actually they present two entirely distinct scientific and practical problems.
Chortoicetes terminifera proved to be a true locust, in that, when the swarms are formed in particular areas, mass migration occurs. over a wide stretch of country. The main work on this species has been to define the “ outbreak centres “, where the swarms originate. This has been done, both geographically and climatically, and some knowledge has also been obtained of the conditions influencing swarming, the lines of migration of swarms, and the barriers to migration that exist in eastern Australia. These observations have practical significance in two directions. They make it possible to concentrate control measures more efficiently than could be done in the past, and they open up the possibility that at least some of the areas may be rendered unsuitable as outbreak centres by altering the vegetation growing on them.
As part of the investigation, an infor- mation service has been developed in collaboration with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. Observations made all over New South Wales are sent regularly to Canberra, so that the development and spread of swarms can be traced throughout the season. This service has not only been valuable from the investigational point of view, but it has provided useful early information about incipient outbreaks.
Austrioiceles cruciata was found to differ from Chortoicetes terminifera in having only one generation a year instead of three, and in the fact that its swarms do not migrate any great distance- from their breeding grounds, which, however, may cover considerable tracts of country.
Additional work carried out has included a study of the enemies of grasshoppers, chief of which are certain parasitic wasps and flies. It appears probable that some of these may multiply sufficiently rapidly to help in- bringing an outbreak to an end. No evidence has been obtained to suggest that birds or other large natural enemies play any significant part in influencing the course of an outbreak.
Once the problem had been clarified, it was possible to divide the work efficiently between the various organizations concerned, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research concentrating its attention on a study of Chortoicetes terminifera, the Waite Institute, South Australia, concentrating on Austrioicetes cruciata, and the State Departments of Agriculture being responsible for the study and application- of direct control measures. These arrangements were confirmed at the Australian Grasshopper Conference, held in Melbourne in July last. All States and the Commonwealth were represented, and the following are the chief recommendations of the conference, which directly concern the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and which have been adopted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as a plan of future work: -
y. - On Thursday, the 17th November, I promised the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) a considered reply to the following question : -
If a person is employed on domestic or other work for one day a week, or part of a day each week, regularly every week, will that person be liable to contribute to the insurance scheme?
The National Insurance Commission proposes to exempt as subsidiary those classes of employment which ordinarily do not constitute a principal means of livelihood. A person employed on domestic work one day each week, or part of a day each week, regularly every week, will be exempt unless this work is one of a number of employments, in which case it will be insurable and contributions will be payable. If the work is done for different employers from time to time and without regularity for any particular one of them, it will be exempt as casual employment.
My. Casey. - On Thursday, the 17th November, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) asked me the following question: -
I have received a letter from a constituent who cleans a doctor’s plate every morning in the week, and for this service, which she has been performing for five years, she receives ls.6d. a week. Will this person come under the provisions of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act?
On the information given, the National Insurance Commission advises me that unless the work is one of a number of employments occupying more than six hours a week or unless it constitutes a principal means of livelihood, as is unlikely in this case, it will be exempt as subsidiary employment.
– On Thursday, the 17th November, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to a question he had previously asked me concerning share-farmers and farmers’ sons and daughters under national insurance, and I now refer the honorable member to my reply to his previous question on page 994 of Hansard. At the moment the decision hinges upon the question as to whether or not these people are employed under a contract of service. A sharefarmer himself, as a rule, is not an employee. He may be a contractor and therefore not insurable. So far as sons and daughters of farmers are concerned, the position may be stated, shortly, that no sons or daughters will be insurable, and no contributions will be payable by and in respect of them, unless they are in fact working for wages or salary as employees.
s. - On the 18th November, the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked me, without notice, whether there was any truth in the rumour that the Government had received representations for the subsidizing of friendly societies as an alternative to the national health and pensions insurance scheme.
From inquiries I have made I can only surmise that what the honorable gentleman heard refers to is the proposal of the Government to subsidize certain associa tions in respect of medical benefit to be provided for the wives and children of insured persons.
Export of Pig Iron.
s. - On the 18 th November, the honorable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked me a question, without notice, as to what representations had been made for permission to export pig iron from Australia.
I now desire to inform the honorable gentleman that no representations of this kind have been made to the Government. There is at present no restriction upon the export of pig iron, but the whole position is, however, being kept constantly under review, and if it appears at any time that the exportation of this commodity is likely to increase to such an extent as detrimentally to affect Australian industry and development, the question of restriction of export will receive immediate consideration.
Iron Ore Resources.
s. - On the 18th November, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me a question, without notice, as to whether the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited had at any time within the last two years pointed out to the Government the advisability of making inquiries regarding a possible shortage of iron ore in Australia.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that this company has not, at any time, asked the Government to make inquiries regarding a possible shortage of iron ore in Australia.
n. - On the 9th November, 1938, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
By what authority have they been provided ?
What is the cost of each of these houses?
The information desired by the honorable member is as follows : -
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, under the provisions of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1930. A large number of the houses, however, were erected by the South Australian Government, prior to the transfer of the Oodnadatta Railway under the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. Many other houses have been acquired by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner under statutory provisions.
(«.) ISO; (6) 80.
3 and 4 -
Port Pirie - Six “Solemit” construction - live rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water, electric light, septic tank. Cost £81 fi each. Rental £1 a week, including water and sanitation.
Port Germein - Four weatherboard, five rooms, with conveniences similar to Port Pirie, excluding electric light and septic tank. Cost £709 each. Rental 13s. 10d. a week, plus ls. a week water charge.
Winninowie - Four weatherboard, particulars similar to Port Germein.
Mambray Creek - Four weatherboard, particulars similar to Port Germein.
Stirling North - Two, one “ Solemit “ and one stone and iron, each live rooms with bathrooms, laundry, reticulated water. Cost “ Solemit “ £S9S, other not available. Rentals £1 and 14s. a week respectively, plus Cd. a week water charge.
Port Augusta - Ninety-four dwellings of stone, stone and weatherboard, weatherboard, and galvanized iron. Bathrooms, laundries, reticulated water, electric light. Total capital cost £60,255. Rentals under 10s. a week, twelve; 10s. to 15s. a week, 31; over 16s. to 20s. a week, 43; over 20s. a week, 7. Sanitation ls. 3d. a week, water charges, 3jd. a week where connected with State supply for minimum of 0,000 gallons, and 2s. Cd. a 1,000 in excess of 0,000 gallons. For connexions with departmental supply, (is. Od. a half-year up to 2,500 gallons, and 2s. Od. a 1,000 in excess of 2.500 gallons. (Stationmaster occupies residence rent free).
Tarecola - Twenty-two; twenty weatherboard of uniform type, four rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £640 each. Rental 12s. 4d. a week; plus water (id., and sanitation ls. 3d. a week. One weatherboard five rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £957, occupied by roadmaster rent free. One concrete, four rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £1,177. Rental* 14s. Cd. r week, plus water 6d.. and ls. 3d. a week sanitation.
Cook - Twenty -one; twenty weatherboard of uniform type, four rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £671 each. Rental Us. lOd. a week, plus water 0d., and ls. 3d. n week sanitation. One weatherboard, four rooms, bathroom,, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £902, occupied by roadmaster rent free.
Rawlinna - Nineteen weatherboard of uniform type, four rooms, reticulated water. Cost £532. ‘Rental 10s. 10id. a week, water Gd., and sanitation ls. a week.
Parkeston - Four weatherboard and wood and iron, four, five and six rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water, septic tank. Total capital cost £1,S07. Rentals Cs. 2£d. and Us. a week. Two occupied by stationmaster and roadmaster rent free, no water or sanitation charges.
Woolshed Flat - Four stone, three and five rooms, laundry two, reticulated water. Cost not available. Rentals two at 4s. Od. and two at 10s. a week, plus water 6d. a week.
Quorn - Thirteen weatherboard and stone, four and six rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water, electric light two. Cost not available. Rentals ten at 12s. a week and one at 21s. 7d. a week, plus Cd. water and ls. a week sanitation. Remaining two occupied by roadmaster rent free and stationmaster at £10 per annum.
Wilochra - Six stone, three and four rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rentals four at 5s. 3d. a week and two at lis. 9d. a week. No water or sanitation charges.
Wilson - One stone, five rooms, laundry, reticulated water. Cost not available. Occupied by caretaker rent free.
Hawker - Six; five stone, four rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rental 6s. 9d. a week. No water or sanitation charges. One stone, five rooms, bathroom, laundry. Cost not available. Occupied by stationmaster at £10 per annum.
Merna Morna - Five stone, three and four rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rentals 3s. to (is. a week, water charge (one only) Od. a week. No sanitation charge.
Three hundred and thirty-five and a half Miles, Central Australia Railway - Five stone, four with three rooms, one with two rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rentals four at 3s. a week, one at 2s. a week. No water or sanitation charge.
Parachilna - One stone, five rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost not available. Occupied by stationmaster at £10 per annum.
Beltana - One, particulars similar to Parachilna.
Copley - One stone, six rooms, other particulars similar to Parachilna.
Three hundred and eighty Miles, Central Australia Railway - Five stone, three with three rooms, two with two rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rentals three at 3s. a week, two at 2s. No water or sanitation charges.
Lyndhurst - One stone, five rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rental 5s. a week. No water or sanitation charges.
Three hundred and eighty-three and a half Miles, Central Australia Railway-Five stone, two with three rooms, three with two rooms, laundry. Cost not available. Rentals two at 3s. a week, three at 2s. a week. No water or sanitation charges.
Farina- Seven stone, two to five rooms, laundry. Cost not available.’ Rentals three at 2s., two at 4s., one at 10s one occupied by stationmaster at £10 per annum. No water or sanitation charges.
Marree - Eight stone and weatherboard, two to live rooms, bathroom (three), laundry (five), reticulated water. Cost not available. Rentals three at 3s. a week, one at 4s. lid. a week, one at 3s. a week, one at 8s. lid. a week, one at 10s. a week, one at £10 per annum (stationmaster). Water charge 6d. a week, no sanitation charge.
Edwards Creek - One stone, five Tooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost £999. Occupied by stationmaster at £10 per annum.
Oodnadatta - Six stone and weatherboard, three to seven rooms, bathroom (four), laundry, reticulated water. Two occupied by stationmaster (£10 per annum) and roadmaster rent free. One let to non-employee at 10s. (id. a week, plus 2s. Od. water charge. Remainder vacant. Cost not available.
Rumbalara - One weatherboard, four rooms, bathroom, laundry, reticulated water. Cost not available. Occupied by stationmaster at £10 per annum.
Alice Springs - Three concrete and brick, five rooms, laundry, bathroom, electric light, reticulated water. Cost £2,015 (stationmaster. £10 per annum), two £1,91.0 each. Rental 14s. (id. a week, plus (id. water and 2s. 5id. a week sanitation.
Note. - I. Residences on Central Australia Railway in respect of which construction costs are not available, were provided by South Australia prior to the- Northern Territory Acceptance Act.
Residences are provided to roadmasters, and many of the stationmasters, at free or nominal rentals in conformity, so far as practicable, with tenni and conditions generally applying in Australian railway services.
G, 7 and 8., (a) Rent, (b) water, (c) sanitation, (d) other charges - see Nos. 3 and 4. 9. (a) The general principle is to fix the rentals, as far as practicable, on a basis of a return of 0 per cent, to cover maintenance; (6) water and sanitation charges are fixed, as far as practicable, on the basis of the cost of such services.
Postmaster-General’s Department : Verdict Against Investigating Officer.
n. - On the 8th November, 1938, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked me whether, in view of the fact that a memSer of the public recently obtained a verdict for £100 damages ag.,inst a member of the investigating branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I would institute an investigation into that branch with a view to the adoption by its officers of more satisfactory methods in future. At the time I had not he..rd of the case but I have since perused the. papers relating to this claim for damages. The facts are as follows : -
Thieving from the coin attachments to public telephones was rife in Sydney and officers of the investigating branch were detailed to stop the practice. Usually all officers of the branch are sworn in as special constables, but in this case one of the officers, a new appointee, had not been sworn in. A man who had been acting suspiciously in a telephone box was taken to the police station by a special constable, accompanied by another officer,, who was not a special constable, and charged with interrupting the transmission of a telegraph line. The charge against the alleged offender was dismissed and the defendant brought an action for £1,000 damages against the Commonwealth and the two officers for assault,, assault and false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Judgment was entered for the Commonwealth and the officer whowas a special constable on all counts, but judgment was given against the officer who was not a special constable, for assault, and assault and false imprisonment. The powers of an officer who is not a special constable to effect an arrest aTe no greater than those of a. private person. The officer against. whom damages were awarded denies’- that he took any part in the arrest and his denial is corroborated by the officer who is a special constable; but the jury took a different view.. It seems clear that if he had been appointed1 a special constable the result of the case would have been different.
After full consideration of the facts of the case,. I am of opinion that thereare no grounds justifying the institution of an investigation as asked for by the honorable member. In future cases carewill be taken to see that the officers engaged in this class of work are. sworn in as special constables. telephone Accounts.
– On the 16th instant, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) referred to a case in Sydney where a telephone subscriber had been overcharged and subsequently allowed a rebate.
I have since ascertained that the case referred to by the honorable member related to a telephone account for the half-year ended June, 1937, and the overregistration occurred during the month of March, 1937. It was detected during the regular departmental checks instituted at the time, but unfortunately the. officer responsible for seeing that the necessary adjustment was made prior to the .rendering of tho account failed in his duty.
Flight op Bombing Aircraft.
t. - On the 18th November, the honorable member for “Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
t. - On the 18th November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381122_reps_15_158/>.