15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. S. M. BRUCE.
Visit to Australia.
Mr. CURTIN.- Will the Prime Minister state whether the High Commissioner for Australia in London, ‘the Right Honorable S. M. Bruce; has been appointed British Ambassador to the United States of America? Has the Prime Minister any knowledge on that matter?
Mr. LYONS. - I can say most emphatically that Mr. Bruce has not been appointed to that position, nor is it in- tended to appoint him to it. He is paying a visit to Australia which he has been anxious to make for a considerable period, but which he has been prevented from undertaking by the disturbed conditions in Europe.
Mr. BRENNAN.- Is it a fact, as stated by the Minister for External Affairs, that, in .the opinion of the Government, a grave national emergency exists, and is it also a fact that the High Commissioner for Australia in London is about to enter upon an extended world tour to America and Australia? How does the Prime Minister square the allegation that there is a grave national emergency with the extended tour of Mr. Bruce?
Mr. LYONS. - I suggest that the honorable member might be asked how he justifies his inference that a visit to America and Australia would be a world tour. The Minister for External Affairs, if he made the statement referred to, was not very wide of the mark, because, in the light of recent experience, the .possibility of a national emergency arising is ever present. The right honorable gentleman now suggests that the country should be ready to meet such an emergency, should it arise.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. - Will the Minister for Commerce state whether the visit of Mr. Bruce to the United States of America, which, according to the press, is contemplated to enable him to discuss trade matters, means that the Government is making every endeavour to conclude the Anglo-American trade agreement as early as possible, or that a stalemate has been reached?
Sir EARLE PAGE.- As I stated previously, the informal discussions between officials of the two countries are still proceeding. There is no indication of a stalemate, but it is thought that Mr. Bruce’s visit may assist progress.
Mr. FORDE. - Is the projected visit by Mr Bruce to Australia being made at the suggestion of the Government, -or ‘is it a fact that Mr. Bruce informed the Government that he was making the trip, and that the Government then agreed? Is it not a fact that the High Commisioner is responsible to the Government, and is not an independent agent?
Mr. LYONS.- The High Commissioner would not dream of visiting Australia without the approval of the Commonwealth Government.
Mr. FORDE. - .but was it his suggestion?
Mr. LYONS.- The question of his being able to visit Australia was discussed long ago, and he would have come some months ago but for the situation in Europe. When it was found that circumstances permitted him to come, he referred the matter to me, and the Government, through me, agreed that it was an opportune time for the visit.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to the complaint of the Perth Chamber of Commerce that the telephone service between Adelaide and Perth is unsatisfactory, and that the line is overtaxed? Will the Minister obtain a report on the matter, and have regard to the suggestion that the line should be duplicated?
– I have not received any complaint in that regard, but I shall have the matter investigated. The honorable member will be furnished with a reply later.
– Why has not the Minister for .Civil Aviation given evidence before the inquriy into the Kyeema disaster? In order to satisfy the public, will arrangements be made for the Minister to appear before the tribunal?
– In the temporary absence of the Minister for Civil Aviation, I may say that an application was made to the’ tribunal that the Minister should be called to give evidence, but the tribunal ruled that the matters upon which it was proposed to question him were irrelevant, and that it was not necessary for him to be a witness.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government intends to introduce any further bills dealing with the activities of the Defence Department, and, if so, will he indicate their nature ?
– At a later stage, and prior to the approaching recess, the Minister for Defence will- make a further statement regarding the policy of the Government in connexion with defence.
Establishment of Secretariat
– Does the Government intend to establish a secretariat to deal with recruiting matters. If so, what will be the rate of pay of the director, and where is it proposed to establish the secretariat?
– In accordance with information published in the press and supplied by myself, it is intended to establish a recruiting secretariat in Melbourne. The controller-general will be Sir Thomas Blarney, who will be assisted by two members of the Military Staff Corps, the general secretary of the Federal Executive of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia and an organizing secretary who must be a serving militia-man and a returned soldier. Sir Thomas Blarney will act in an honorary capacity, and the only paid official will be the organizing secretary.
– Is Sir Thomas Blarney, who has been appointed to take charge of the recruiting secretariat, the individual who was in charge of the Victorian police when shots were fired on waterfront workers-
– Order ! I cannot allow a question to be couched in those terms. A question must not contain an imputation.
– Am I not in order, Mr. Speaker, in asking if Sir Thomas Blamey is the same individual-
– Questions must be genuinely asked for the purpose of eliciting information, not for the purpose of directing attention to an incident.
– The purpose of my question is not to direct attention to an incident. I am anxious to know whether Sir Thomas Blarney is the person who wa3 in charge of the Victorian police when shots were fired on waterfront-
– Order ! I cannot allow a question of that nature. The honorable member knows perfectly well who the individual is, and the purpose of his question is quite apparent.
– In view of the fact that the people take strong exception to the ultimatum issued by the PostmasterGeneral in regard to allowing silent telephone numbers to be passed on to the Police Department in New South Wales, will the Minister, after due consideration, withdraw the permission given?
– Has the Minister for Commerce yet been able to ascertain whether the Government of Prance intends to regulate the imports of Australian wool into Prance ?
– The Government has received no official advice from its trade representative in Paris.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House why he vetoed the broadcasting by a Sydney station recently of answers given by pupils at an intermediate examination ?
– I did so on the recommendation of the Minister for Education in New South Wales, backed by the school teachers’ association.
– An application was made some months ago for permission to import from Germany a large quantity of semi-manufactured cement known as clinker. The application was held over until my return from overseas, when Cabinet disapproved of the free entry of that material. I understand that the matter has not yet been finally dealt with, and that the interested parties on both sides are anxious to know their position in regard to it. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the decision of the Cabinet has been reversed, or whether the matter is being reconsidered? Have the representations which have been made come from a section of the Cabinet or from outside persons?
– The position is exactly the same as it was when the honorable member was Minister in charge of the department. No departure whatever has been made from the Cabinet decision, although it is true that the department has been approached by representatives of both sides. The matterwill come before the House this session.
– It is not a parliamentary matter.
– Yes, it is.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the extraordinary tariff imposts, to which the honorable member for Riverina drew attention during the budget debate, levied upon a consignment of hinges upon which special duties were imposed at the instance of the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) without reference first to the Tariff Board? If so, what action, if any, does he propose to take?
– I am aware of the remarks made by the honorable member. The circumstances were of a most exceptional kind, and are not likely again to be experienced. In like circumstances, similar action would have to be taken.
Appointment of Duke of Kent.
– Will the Prime Minis- ter make available all the communications which passed between the Commonwealth Government and His Majesty the King with reference to the appointment of the Duke of Kent as the next GovernorGeneral? Will he inform honorable members why the Government took action to have the successor to the present Governor-General nominated twelve months before the expiry of his term of office?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, no. Regarding the second part of the question, the Government felt that, when such an important appointment was to be made, it was well that the Australian people should be informed as early as possible, because we felt sure that they would welcome the announcement very heartily, as, indeed, they have done.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce been drawn to a recent press statement to the effect that Britain has promised that there will be no increase of imports of Australian canned fruits, including pears, peaches and apricots? Does this mean that quota provisions are to be imposed against imports into Great Britain of Australian canned fruits?
– My attention has not been drawn to the statement, but I know that the existing preference of 15 per cent. is to be maintained on allAustralian canned fruits entering Great Britain.
– And there will be no quota ?
– I ask honorable members to give notice of any further questions that they desire to ask.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) agreed to -
Thathe have leave to bring in a bill for an act to approve a commercial agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Swiss Federal Council and certain undertakings given in relation to that agreement.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
.- I ask leave to more the second reading of the bill forthwith.
– No; because we have not been allowed to ask questions.
Leave not granted.
Mr.McEWEN laid on the table the annual report of theCommonwealth Railways Commissioner for the year ended 30th June, 1938.
– Orders of the day have not yet been called upon, and the Standing Orders provide that papers may be laid on the table at any time when no other business is before the House.
– I declare -
Question put - The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the estimates of expenditure, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
Perhaps, for the information of honorable members, I might be permitted just briefly to describe the necessity for this motion. As I think honorable members will remember, the Government has Supply until Friday, the 2nd December, and by that day there has to be allowed adequate time for the discussion of the Estimates in another place. That makes it necessary to complete the debate on the
Estimates in this chamber before tomorrow’s’ sitting of another place. The Government has endeavoured, by the proper arrangement of this schedule, to allow as much time as is humanly possible for the discussion of the Estimates in this chamber. I remind honorable members that in these sittings of the Parliament the House has sat for 160 hours and 45 minutes.
– And much of it has been wasted.
– At any rate it has sat for 160 hours out of which the time spent on adjournment motions and on the no confidence motion brought forward by honorable members opposite occupied 26£ hours.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the Treasurer’s remarks have no relevance to the motion before the House. The House has already agreed to the declaration of urgency.
– The motion now before the House is the outcome of the declaration of urgency.
– I submit that the Treasurer’s remarks are not relevant to the specific motion now before the House. The House has already determined that the consideration of the Estimates is an urgent matter; the only question now before us is the appropriateness or otherwise of the allotment of time set out in the Treasurer’s motion.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The House has already agreed to declare that the Estimates are an urgent matter. Discussion on this motion must be limited to the amount of time allocated to each stage of the Estimates. I presume that the Treasurer was proceeding to point out that the time occupied by the discussion of other matters gave rise to the necessity for the introduction of the motion providing for the allotment of time, but he must not discuss matters outside the ambit of the motion now before the House.
– My point, in remindina* honorable members of what has taken place, was a clear inference that if so much time had not been wasted by honorable members opposite -
Opposition Members. - Oh!
– Perhaps I may be permitted to substitute the word “ spent “ for the word “ wasted “ and to say that if so much time had not been spent on these matters more time would have been available for the discussion of what 1 think members on’ both sides of the House recognize to be one of the utmost importance, that is, the Estimates. The budget debate has already lasted for 32 hours, of which members of the Opposition have taken up eighteen hours. The Government regrets the necessity for having to restrict the debate on the Estimates, but in the circumstances it says that it is providing the maximum amount of time available for the further consideration of this important subject.
.- Whatever has happened in this Parliament prior to the submission of this motion has happened with the acquiescence and entire agreement of the Government, which at all times has been in a position to control the deliberations of this House, equally as it is in a position to control the amount of time which should be allocated for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, lt appears to me that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has tacitly acquiesced in the general debate on the first item of the Estimates being prolonged with the sole desire so to use the time as to leave inadequate time for any detailed consideration by the committee of the actual departmental expenditure. Although the honorable gentleman was warned that this would be the case, he repeatedly allowed the debate to be interrupted in such a way-
– Warned, by whom?
– By myself.
– I repeat that the honorable gentleman was warned of the inevitable consequences of repeated interruptions of the general debate. . These interruptions were permitted to take place so frequently as to preclude any opportunity for proper examination of the details of the Estimates. I objected to the bringing down of legislation consequential to the budget in advance of the conclusion of the general budget debate; but the Treasurer regards the budget as so much chicken feed-
– He regards Parliament purely as a registration bureau for his own department and his own wishes.
– The honorable gentleman knows that that is nonsense.
– This schedule is conclusive testimony of the unwillingness of the Treasurer to allow the committee any time at all to examine the details of the largest budget ever submitted to this Parliament since federation was established. We are to have an hour-and-a-quarter to deal with the Prime Minister’s Department, which has grown out of all proportion to what it used to be, and with the Department of External Affairs whose Minister is not here to explain items contained in his departmental estimates. We are to be given 30 minutes to deal with the Department of the Treasury in respect of which there is also the largest administrative expenditure since the inception of federation - in spite of the fact that a new sub-department has been added to the Treasury, which is already in a state of absolute chaos.
M r. Casey. - Nonsense !
– I understand that the Treasurer has found it necessary already to defer the application of one piece of legislation associated with his department.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been away too long; he has losttouch with affairs.
– I know that this time table can only be described as indicative of the utter contempt of the Government for the Parliament and for the rights of the committee to deal with the details of governmental expenditure. Whatever has happened before, it means that now we have come to actual grips with the details we are not to be permitted to deal with them. He likes to deal with broad generalities in which he covers up what I venture to say is a waste, not of time, which may be a venial offence, but of public money which, I suggest, is a major calamity, having regard to the fact that this country is indulging in the greatest expenditure on record since this Commonwealth has been a. Commonwealth. We are asked to sit here until 1 o’clock tomorrow morning to deal with department after department.
– It is scandalous.
– That is so. With the limitation df time only three or four members of the committee will have an opportunity to discuss the Estimates of any one department. That is a complete stultification of the rights of honorable members who have been elected to this House as representatives of large electorates. To think that the discussion of any one of these departments is to be limited to such a degree as to permit of only a few members to speak for a quarter of an hour each - the Treasurer is to be given 30 minutes - is nothing short of scandalous.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) did not employ his usual diplomacy in approaching this question this morning. Evidently the honorable gentleman has had a very exacting time in Cabinet and in the party meetings; because he set out to say that the honorable members who had taken advantage of the forms of the House to move motions for the adjournment of the House in order to provide an opportunity for the discussion of important questions of definite urgency were wasting the time of the House. I remind the honorable gentleman that those motions were to deal with the urgent and important questions of the manufacture of motor car engines in Australia, standardization of railway gauges and unemployment.
– Order ! The Chair has already ruled that there can be no discussion outside the motion now before the House.
– The Treasurer criticized the Opposition for having moved adjournment motions which I repeat were completely justified.
– Now the honorable gentleman asks us to rush through in a comparatively few hours Estimates’ which cover an expenditure of over £93,000,000. On Friday last honorable members were told they would have to forgo the right of having the usual luncheon and tea adjournments to-day. We are asked to pass the huge vote of approximately £16,000,000 for the Defence Department in three hours, and the votes for the important departments of the Postmaster-General and the Commonwealth railways in another three hours. Only last week the Prime Minister and the Treasurer suggested that, before the 10th December, we would have to pass no less than 27 bills in addition to the budget and Estimates. Now the Treasurer says that it is extremely urgent that the Estimates, the resolutions, and all stages of the Appropriation Bill should be rushed through to-day. What is the reason for this extreme urgency to-day? What would happen if a business house managed its affairs in this way? If everything were left until the eleventh hour and then the directors and shareholders were asked to approve of the expenditure of huge sums of money without careful examination, any business house would quickly find itself in the insolvency court. Only a Government noted for its hesitation and procrastination would have the effrontery to ask honorable members to rush these Estimates through without providing appropriate time for the discussion of the huge expenditure involved. This House has sat only on 65 days out of the 361 days that have passed since the last elections. Is that the fault of private members or of the Government? Why was not Parliament called together earlier to consider bills which we are now asked to rush through and to discuss the budget and the Estimates? I shall not be silenced by the Treasurer’s statement that, ‘ of the 32 hours devoted to the budget discussion, 18 hours were occupied by Opposition members. That is not a sufficient reason for the introduction of the guillotine. We know that the Government has the power to discipline its members, and to prevent them from speaking, but it has no right to attempt to subject members of the Opposition to similar treatment. As representatives of the electors, Opposition members have their rights. In occupying 18 of the 32 hours of the budget discussion Opposition members acted within their rights. Indeed, more of them would have spoken had time permitted, and doubtless other Government supporters would have spoken had the Government not prevented them. The action of the Government in prolonging one sitting last week until nearly 7.30 a.m. and continuing for a further twelve hours with only a short interval was outrageous. Honorable members were not physically fit to discuss the important matters which were before them. We cannot condemn too strongly the attempts of the Government to stifle discussion on such important matters as the Estimates. Opposition members are justified in using the forms of the House to bring before Parliament urgent matters of public importance. The opportunity to discuss the important subject of unemployment, has already been denied to Opposition members, and under the guillotine provision no further opportunity will be available to them. Because the Government has fallen down on its job the representatives of the people are to be denied their right to discuss the financial proposals of the Government. Such action is deplorable and cannot be too strongly condemned.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The ques.tion before the House is the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates. Opposition members will concede that two Supply bills have already been passed to enable supply to be granted to His Majesty until the 30th November, and they know that the only alternative to passing the Estimates is the introduction of another Supply bill. I venture the opinion that were the Government either to-day or tomorrow to introduce another Supply bill, its action would be condemned by the Opposition on the ground that the Estimates should be dealt with.
– Why was not Parliament called together earlier?
– Parliament sat fairly early in the financial year. Members opposite either have short memories, or they are taking; advantage of this opportunity to launch an attack on the Government. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) must concede that the Government was no more responsible for the European crisis which delayed the proceedings of Parliament in September and October than was the Opposition itself.
– The Opposition was not responsible for the fighting that took place among Ministers and supporters of the Government.
– During the crisis in Europe members of the Opposition were in no better mood, condition or temper to proceed with the discussion of ordinary business than were members on this side of the chamber.
– The words “ mood “ and “temper” may be appropriate, but certainly not the word “condition”.
– Another unfortunate matter which occurred last month delayed proceedings quite a week.
– Cabinet re-construction also caused trouble.
– In view of all the circumstances, the Government has no need to apologize for its action. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) showed how the time occupied in discussing the budget has been divided between Government supporters and Opposition members.
– Would the PostmasterGeneral agree to the present motion if he were still a private member?
– The King’s government must be carried on. Honorable members know that much of the debate on the first item of the Estimates is only remotely connected with the financial and constructional programme of the Government. In my opinion, altogether too much time has been devoted to matters which could be discussed better when the votes for the several departments are before us.
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to have the acquiescence of the Leader of the Opposition in my statement, for, naturally, the greatest sinners in this connexion are to be found among his supporters.
– The guillotine will not allow sufficient time for discussion when the departmental votes come before us.
– It has been urged that not sufficient time will be allowed for the discussion of the Defence Estimates. I remind the House that recently there has been one of the longest and most thorough debates on the subject of defence that has ever taken place in this Parliament. I do not think that there was a nook or cranny in the Defence Estimates that was overlooked. The Government cannot be charged with having attempted to stifle debate on that subject.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
– I enter an emphatic protest against the introduction of the guillotine at this stage. The statement that ample time has been allowed to discuss the various matters is not justified. The action of the Government in stifling discussion will tend to bring the parliamentary institution into contempt. This motion has been moved because the Government knows that the Opposition is justified in its criticism of the Administration. Although the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has moved that certain time be allotted to the discussion of various parts of the Estimates, honorable members hare no schedule before them and are not aware of the times proposed to be allotted. I gather that only two hours will be devoted to a discussion of the Commonwealth railways. There are many other items of importance on which honorable members on both sides will be prevented from speaking. They will have to wait until the early hours of the morning to bring forward such matters on the motion for the adjournment of the House. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has been more assiduous in attending to his duties as a Minister in the chamber than have most other Ministers, said that ample opportunity has already been given to discuss the proposed expenditure on defence. I remind him that honorable members on both sides will probably desire a good deal more information of a detailed nature than has yet been vouchsafed to them. They are entitled to the fullest information. Because of private differences among themselves, Ministers have neglected their duty to the House by absenting themselves from the chamber. They have treated the Parliament with contempt! Some of the time occupied iri debate has been due to the fact that members who are particularly interested in certain subjects have felt impelled to repeat in the presence of the Minister most concerned, statements already made. I resent any attempt on the part of the Government to deprive me of my rights as a representative of the people. The imposition of time limits for the discussion of the Government’s financial proposals tends to make a laughing stock of Parliament. I regret anything which tends to lower Parliament in the esteem of the people, for I believe in democratic government. The Treasurer has informed the House of theamount of time occupied by Government supporters and Opposition members in discussing his budget proposals. Naturally a greater proportion of the time was taken up by members of the Opposition, because Government- supporters were told to remain silent. The Treasurer also complained that motions for the adjournment of the House had interfered with the progress of Government business.
– Order ! I have already ruled that that subject may not be discussed.
– I remind the Treasurer that, with the consent of the Opposition, four or five additional hours were made available for the discussion of Government business as the result of a motion moved by myself for the adjournment of the House. Apparently there is to be no recognition of that concession on the part of the Opposition. Last week, for the first time since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have moved the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public importance.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whilst I am anxious to see the business of Parliament proceeded with, the schedule submitted by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is so unreasonable that I shall not support his motion. The House has been informed that the Estimates must be passed promptly in order that Supply may be granted to His Majesty. A similar reason has been advanced on other occasions when action of this kind has been taken. Such motions are due to business not being brought before Parliament sufficiently early, and to the discussion not being proceeded with in a proper manner. During this session the difficulties which we have experienced on other occasions have been more marked. I shall not attempt to allocate the blame as between political parties, as that would only cause party bitterness. I point out, however, that although the Parliament has been in session for over nine weeks, very little work of value has been accomplished. For the greater part of that time we have been idling. A great deal of delay took place in connexion with the debate on the first item of the Estimates. As honorable members know, that debate is used largely for publicity purposes, and not for a close examination of the budget itself. In view of the greatly increased expenditure contemplated this year, a more complete examination of the Estimates than usual is called for. The proposed expenditure recalls the days of the Bruce-Page Ministry. As we are faced with a record expenditure on defence, I expected that there would have been a curtailment of expenditure in other directions. That is not so, however, for in every department increased expenditure is proposed. I complain that no proper opportunity is to be given for a thorough examination of the Estimates. Concerning many items honorable members are entitled to more information than is supplied in the papers submitted to us. No details are given as to the actual works to be undertaken at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Parliament does not know what is going on. I have had considerable experience in connexion with public works. I am a member of the Public Works Committee which recommended savings on public works amounting to over £100,000. The savings thus effected clearly indicate what may occur if departments are permitted to carry out work regardless of any check as to the manner in which the money is to be expended.
– The time allowed for the debate on the motion has expired.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 25th November ( vide page 2156).
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £515,000.
Department of External Affairs
Proposed vote, £18,100.
Ordered to be considered together.
.- I dislike having to raise some of the subjects with which I propose to deal because in doing so I shall place other honorable members at a disadvantage in that they may not have an opportunity to bring forward matters in which they are particularly interested. I direct the attention of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) to the fact that £1,952 is to be paid in lieu of furlough and accrued recreation leave to Mr. H. C. Brown, exAuditorGeneral, on his retirement. I venture to say that that gentleman appears to have been amazingly well treated. He was appointed to the position of Auditor-General only a short time before the age at which he would have retired, and I question very much the propriety of his appointment in such circumstances. Having been appointed he became entitled to higher allowances, and was permitted to take a trip around the worldProvision was made last year for the payment of £1,750 for that purpose but, as his term was extended, that amount was not paid. Mr. Brown is now to be given furlough and recreation leave greater than that contemplated in the previous year. Having had an extra year’s service he is now to receive an equivalent of nearly £2,000 in lieu of furlough and accrued recreation leave. I venture to say that any one conversant with the circumstances must feel dissatisfied with the appointment of Mr. Brown to the position of Auditor-General for such a short period. The appointment was utterly unwarranted, particularly as it enabled him to go abroad on the eve of his retirement, which prevented any information which he may have obtained being of value to the Government. It appears to be an entire misuse of authority by whoever was responsible. The public of this country is opposed to such actions, and numerous items of that kind cause an expansion of departmental expenditure.
I also direct attention to the proposed expenditure at Australia House in London. The vote last year was £53,060 and the actual expenditure £54,945. This year the committee is asked to vote £74,240 or an increase of £19,295. There must be some explanation of this staggering increase in the cost of conducting Australia House. In endeavouring to dissect the figures, I find that whilst the upkeep of Australia House last year cost £10,500, this year the cost is to be £14,000. Alterations this year are to cost £4,000; but as Australia House has been functioning for a number of years, I should like to know what alterations are contemplated. Is this additional expenditure to cover the cost of certain rearrangements, and, if so, why are such rearrangements necessary? Last year the upkeep of the High Commissioner’s official residence cost £741, and this year the cost is to be £1,130. Last year £1,999 was provided for “Allowance to High Commissioner for expenses of official residence “, and this year the amount has been increased to £2,510. Last year the upkeep of Australia House and the official residence of the High Commissioner cost £13,200, and this year the estimated cost Ls £21,600. There is also a new item “ Exchange on salaries paid abroad, £5,410 “.
– That is a book-keeping entry.
– It may be, but some explanation should be given, particularly as it appears as a new item. The amount provided in this connexion is £5,410, although no such provision was made last year. The manner in which the Estimates are prepared emphasizes the need for the adption of the resommendation made by the Public Accounts Committee some time ago that the figures should be submitted in such a way that they can be readily understood instead of honorable members having to refer to numerous papers before they can ascertain what is actually proposed. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) to justify the action taken in connexion with Mr. Brown, the former Auditor-General, and also to explain the staggering increase in the cost of maintaining Australia House.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has brought under the notice of the committee an item which I intended to mention. The additional expenditure should be explained. There is a general increase of £60,000 in the cost of the Prime Minister’s Department. Apart from the additional cost of the High Commissioner’s office, the expenditure of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is to be increased by about £33,000. That, by the way, is indicative of an expansion of the expenditure of this department that has been observable for some years. I notice that, under division 16, “ Shipping and mail services to Pacific Islands,” an increase of expenditure of about £12,000 is proposed. It is somewhat surprising also to find that the proposed vote for the Public Service Board shows an increase of about £2,600. Surely the work of this board should be static by this time. These items require some explanation. Apparently, the Government desires the committee to pass the Estimates almost enbloc. [Quorum formed.]
.- I desire some information in respect of several items. I endorse the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) upon the expense incurred by the Audit Office. Some time ago, I questioned the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) concerning a visit abroad by the then Auditor-General. I was informed that it was for the purpose of enabling that officer to obtain experience of the accounting methods of public departments overseas. I was also informed, in reply to a question, that that officer was approaching the retiring age. The most important information that I elicited, however, was that he was going abroad on his own recommendation. That seems to me to be an extraordinary situation. Honorable members are well aware that the Auditor-General has, on frequent occasions, made caustic references concerning what he considered to be lavish expenditure in certain directions. I consider that the Government must bo held answerable, to a considerable degree, for this absolute waste of public money on a visit overseas by an officer who, admittedly, was reaching the retiring age. Of what use could be any experience he might gain concerning accounting methods abroad, seeing that his term of office would expire soon after his return?
Under division 14, “ High Commissioner’s Office,” we are entitled to more detailed information than has yet been furnished to us, particularly in view of the necessity for the most careful supervision of public expenditure at this time. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that an amount of £1,130 Ls to be provided for “ Upkeep of Official Residence.” The actual expenditure under this heading last year was £741. [Quorum formed.] In view of the lavish scale on which the Government has always made provision for the “ dead-beat “ politicians it has appointed to various positions, we are entitled to an explanation of this item. It is also notable that an amount of £2,510 is proposed to be voted as “ Allowance to High Commissioner for expenses of Official Residence,” although the actual expenditure under this heading in 1937-38 was only £1,999. Evidently, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the Government hopes that, by spreading certain payments over a number of items, and by curtailing discussion by the application of the guillotine, it will prevent the Opposition, and also the general public, from ascertaining exactly how much certain appointees of the Government obtain in remuneration in respect of the offices that they hold. It is also proposed to vote £1,250 under the heading “Advertising and Publicity,” although no money was voted for this purpose last year. I wish to know the nature of the publicity campaign to be conducted. A further amount of £4,000 is proposed to be voted for “ Alterations to Australia House.” That item calls for explanation.
I now turn to division 16, “ Shipping and Mail Services to Pacific Islands.” The amount expended under this heading last year was £40,346 and the amount proposed to be voted this year is £53,000. I do not know how many honorable members have travelled to various island ports on the ships of Burns Philp and Company Limited. Those who have done so will know that the accommodation provided on some of the ships, at any rate, could not, by any stretch of imagination, be considered first-class. I have in mind especially the small steamer, Morinda, which serves Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and some other island ports, and is far from satisfactory for the purpose. Burns Philp and Company Limited receive considerable assistance from the Government for providing a. regular shipping service to certain island ports, but in my opinion the company doe? not deserve the consideration it gets. Tourists, and also business people in Aus- tralia and in the islands, who travel to and from the islands, should be provided with far better accommodation than is available at present. I ask the Government to inform us how it supervises the expenditure of this money. I should also like to know whether the shipping company is required to furnish any guarantees that it will maintain a service of a certain standard. In my opinion, the service between the mainland and the Pacific Islands is totally inadequate. The Government should require from the company which provides it some assurance that at an early dato it intends to put more up-to-date steamers on the run, or to improve the service in some way. Unless such guarantees are forthcoming, I do not think the Government should continue to grant assistance at the present rate.
Referring, now, for a few moments to the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs, I complain that honorable members are not kept as fully informed as they should be of overseas events. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) makes general statements on overseas affairs at very infrequent intervals, but these are quite unsatisfactory in that they almost invariably consist of a re-hash of reports which honorable members will have read weeks before in the daily newspapers. Some far better provision should be made to give honorable members up-to-the-minute information respecting overseas events, particularly in view of the world situation which we now face. This department issues a fortnightly bulletin entitled Current Notes on International Affairs, which consists of a summary of Parliamentary statements, newspaper reports, and extracts from publications; but it never contains any statement of the policy of the Australian Government on the matters discussed. The world situation surely demands that the Government should, at regular intervals, make informative statements to honorable members on overseas occurrences. If that were done, a deepening of interest in external affairs on the part of honorable members would undoubtedly be noticed. Statements of the kind now made so infrequently to the House are of no value whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the only information we can get is that which is furnished in reply to probing questions put to Ministers from time to time. I urge the Government to make provision to inform Parliament at regular intervals of its foreign policy, if it has any. If the Government feels that certain information in its possession should not be made public, ait least it should take steps to convey it, in some form, to honorable members.
– I rise to order. I am at a loss to understand the method by which the business of the committee is being conducted.
– I ask the honorable member to state his point of order.
– I trust that the Chair will give me an opportunity to do so. If you, sir, imagine that I have risen for the purpose of obstructing the business of the committee, I assure you that you are quite in error. Do I gather that the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs is to be discussed in conjunction with that for the Prime Minister’s Department?
– That is so.
– So far as I know, that is an unprecedented proceeding. We have always considered the Estimates department by department.
– This matter was raised at the commencement of the discussion by the Leader of the Opposition, and the Chair stated that it was entirely in the hands of the Committee to discuss the departments separately or as we are now doing. The Leader of the Opposition offered no objection to the course now being taken as he said that it would give honorable members an opportunity, within the limits provided for the discussion, to deal with items affecting both departments.
– If my leader is satisfied. I have nothing more to say, except to add that it places us at a disadvantage.
.- Mr. Chairman. [Quorum formed.] As Australia House has been mentioned, I rise to make one or two observations in respect of that item which, I hope, may be helpful. Australia House is not the credit, . or the asset, which it should be to Australia. There are immense possibilities for proper publicity at Australia House if it were really organized on a business-like basis, and due regard were given to the matter of trade. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has mentioned the item “ Alterations, Australia House, £4,000.” Although I spent some time there when I was abroad recently as a member of the ministerial delegation, I do not know in what part of the building these alterations were made. If this money was expended on alterations to the secretary’s office, it was wasted. It could very we’ll he spent on renovating the basement, now occupied by a cafe which has no relation to Australia and advertises no Australian products, but, on the contrary, is suggestive of the East End. The building itself, with its marble slabs, resembles a morgue. No indication is given that at this centre Australia awaits, intending migrants. Officials have more or less to be dug out if one wants to find them. I do not criticize the High Commissioner in any sense whatever. His time is fully occupied with such matters as loan conversion operations and work associated with the League of Nations. Nevertheless, despite the criticism which has been voiced for years in this Parliament, Australia House never seems to function as effectively as it should. Despite the example set by other dominions, Australia House always seems to lag behind. I take this opportunity to make the following suggestion to the Government, and I hope that it will be seriously considered, namely, that the Agents-General of the States, whose offices are now dispersed about London like rival shopkeepers, should be induced to establish a common head-quarters at Australia House. At present Tasmania is the only one of the States which has followed this course and it has established a good exhibit there. Ceylon also has established its London head-quarters there. That may be useful from the rental point of view, but we should first of all induce all of the other States to establish their London agencies at Australia House where the Agents-General could act in closer co-operation in order to present a more effective picture, in keeping with the national outlook of this country. The question of rentals should not be an obstacle to the Commonwealth extending an invitation to the various Agents-General to co-operate in this way. Certainly, so small an item as rentals should not be stressed when, within a few minutes, we are obliged to deal with the expenditure of thousands of pounds. We could afford to accommodate them rent free.
– Was it not because of the unfavorable location of Australia House that the States refused to establish their head-quarters there?
– That may be so, but T point out that Tasmania has taken the plunge in this respect. The building is not ideally located, but if all the States established their head-quarters there the London public, and the many people interested in Australia, would know that that was Australia’s headquarters, and existing disadvantages in this respect would disappear.
– A shipping com- . pany occupies the best window at Australia House.
– That is so.
– We should abolish the Agents-General altogether.
– I would not go so far as to suggest that, as the AgentsGeneral have definite functions which could not perhaps be performed by the High Commissioner to the complete satisfaction of the various States. I suggest, however, that the AgentsGeneral should be invited to establish their head-quarters at Australia House. They are excellent and earnest men, who are trying to do their best for their respective States. I emphasize that in London we are known not as Victorians or New South Welshmen, but as Australians, and so long as the offices of the various Agents-General are scattered around London, Australia House generally will remain a white elephant. The building itself is a valuable property.
– It is not much of a building to advertise Australia.
– No; but it occupies a very important and costly site which could be sold at a great profit. We could, per- haps, establish our head-quarters elsewhere with advantage. I do not, however, suggest such a change, but while our head-quarters are at Australia House why not make it look as though it represented Australia ? We should induce the States to establish their head-quarters there. Let the whole building be made typical of Australia, and let us improve the service there by bringing more Australian public servants into the building. Some of the employees have been engaged at Australia House for as long as 25 years and have never seen Australia. We could with advantage give them a trip to this country with a view to re-organizing the service generally at Australia House, or better, send more of our public servants there for experience. The new secretary to the High Commissioner has only occupied his position for some six months, but since Australia House was established many men have filled that position. Yet our headquarters in London seem still to invite criticism from well-wishers of Australia. I do not refer merely to the criticism from people who seek information there preparatory to coming to Australia, or from Australians who on going overseas wish to feel that a rendezvous is available to them at Australia House. Major Fuhrraan, who has just returned here from Australia House, is one of the most efficient public servants this country has ever had, as any one who has visited London and has sought his assistance knows. He has now been transferred to Canberra, and, I suggest, the Government should take advantage of his presence here with a view to re-organizing the service at Australia House. It might also bear this point in mind when the High Commissioner returns here on leave in the near future. Thus it will have an excellent opportunity to enlist the advice of the High Commissioner and an officer of experience with a view to re-organizing the service there so that our head-quarters in London will not continue, as it has for years, to be a. blot onthe escutcheon of this country. Rather should we determine to make that service more attractive, and so enable Australia House to shed some lustre on Australia.
.- When one examines the items embraced in the Prime Minister’s Department, one realizes the difficulty under which he labours in endeavouring either to discuss them adequately or to obtain information upon the various matters covered by this department. On page 17 of the Estimates, such items as “ Horticulture, including soil survey and irrigation “ are mentioned. One would have supposed that horticulture was a matter which would enlist, in a very special manner, the sympathy and attention, of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), “Mining and Metallurgy “, and “ Fisheries Investigations “ are also mentioned. Those three matters are of considerable importance, affecting the economic welfare of Australia, upon which information might well be supplied to the committee, and upon which honorable members might well wish to express opinions. Horticulture, for instance, is of immense importance to Australia, and particularly to Tasmania. It is amazing, therefore, that the Prime Minister has had nothing to say in the discussion of these Estimates and bills relating particularly to fruit-growing. His mind apparently is always in the clouds of international suspicion, defence, finance and armaments, but we hear nothing from him about the practical questions of moment that affect the life, happiness and economic welfare of this country. The mining industry is of vast importance to the people of Australia, yet were it not for the honorable members for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) and Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), and a few other honorable members, we should never know that such an industry existed in this country. Furthermore, in the discussion of these Estimates not a single suggestion is made, or a single invitation offered, to honorable members to address their minds to this industry. Investigations into our fisheries are also merely mentioned. I recall a very informative address given in this chamber by Mr. Theodore, when he was Treasurer, on Australian fisheries, the potentialities and importance of that industry and the possibilities of supplying fish cheaply and in abundance to the people of this country. But what do we find on this occasion? A sum of £15,720, representing an increase of some £5,000, is allocated for this purpose, but not a word is said about the importance of our great fisheries and the possibilities of developing the fishing industry in order to enable people resident in the metropolises to obtain fish at reasonable prices, although it is one of the most important items of diet and should be readily made available to the poor who need it so badly. Fish plays an important part in public nutrition, but no suggestion is made on this occasion as to the possibilities of developing that industry.
Mr.Collins. - And the famous Murray cod are fast dying out.
– Yes. Honorable members are placed at the disadvantage of having to discuss matters affecting Externa] Affairs in conjunction with those coming within the Prime Minister’s Department. “What hope have we of considering such matters as fully as we should in an hour or so? I do not entirely agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) when he condemns the fortnightly publication now issued by the Department of , External Affairs. I have said before that that publication gives an interesting resume of what has occurred in external affairs of general interest, and I congratulate the officer who compiles it for what it is. My criticism of it - and I think this is really the point involved in the criticism voiced by the honorable member for East Sydney - is that it never gives an expression of Australian opinion in relation to the matters with which it deals. It gives a mere bald statement of historical facts in a convenient form, but is never allowed to give any indication of what the Commonwealth Government is thinking or doing about international affairs.
– Because it has no opinions of its own.
– Yes, because of the fact, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) says, that the Commonwealth Ministers have no opinion on international affairs except the opinion of “ Yes men “, who always are prepared to deliver an emphatic affirmative to the policy of the British Government, for the time, on any international matter. I have always advocated close co-operation and friendship with Great Britain on matters of mutual interest, but I have also pointed out that the point of view of Australia on external affairs is, and must necessarily be, in many vital particulars essentially different from that of the British Government. That Government exercises responsibilities over a vast area of crown colonies, dependencies and mandated territories, in respect of which the Australian people know nothing and have no responsibility. Moreover, the people of Great Britain have in foreign countries tremendous investments which do not interest Australia, and any government of Australia, with a sense of what is due to the people of Australia, with tt sense of responsibility to them and to them only, and with knowledge of Australian affairs, which it is presumed to have even if it does not possess it, should and would know that the Australian point of view is entirely different in many vital particulars from the British point of view. So it would be well if the Government would issue a bulletin every fortnight which would stress these points of difference between the outlook of Australia and of what is sometimes called the Mother Country, and give us some useful information as to how Australia oan conceivably co-operate with Great Britain in the troubles which are occurring in the’ various parts of its farflung Empire. It is just as well to remember, in passing, the simple historic fact that Australia is no longer part of the Empire as such, but is a selfgoverning dominion, having officially and in express terms dropped the imperial- connexion. It is an independent nation in close friendly association, and nothing more, with its fellow-members of what is known as the British Commonwealth of Nations, and, indeed, I do not know what is meant by the phrase, Membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations “, because it seems a somewhat meaningless phrase. Beyond the fact that these nations are associated in a spirit of friendship, and are for the most part English-speaking nations, there is no association of any legal or constitutional character binding them together.. The constitutional position has become such that the King of England is the King of Australia, and that in any matters affecting a dominion the Sovereign acts upon the advice of the Ministers in the particular dominion. Inasmuch as in all matters - the declaration of war or proclamation of peace or any other aspect - the Sovereign acts upon the advice, and only upon the advice, of Australian Ministers, it cannot be said that the fact that the Sovereign exercises similar functions in respect of other dominions makes any bond of a legal and constitutional character between Australia and the other dominions; and there is, therefore, no such thing, strictly speaking, as “ Membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations “. I only snatch these few minutes to make these observations because, when the rights of_ the Commonwealth Parliament are invaded in the way that they are and the opportunities of members to express themselves upon important public questions are so extremely limited, one can only have odd moments to say a word or two upon matters which are passing by as upon a cinema screen. At any rate, that is how they are presented to us. We are graciously allowed a minute here and a minute there to say something about questions of tremendous interest. What would be the effect, the disastrous effect from the point of view of the Government, if it were otherwise? If we were allowed to discuss these questions, for instance, I could develop the arguments that I have been advancing in regard to external affairs, or if I were permitted to make an exhaustive analysis of the interesting international situation, it is possible that a bubble would be pricked and the Government would be confounded. Ministers are living on the theory., which they are inculcating everywhere, that there is a great emergency existing, and that we must speak with bated breath and act hastily or move by forced marches in everything we do. If we were given time, that hallucination might be dispelled, and if members soberly could give a mind to serious questions, this committee would be discussing, not only external affairs, but also forest products, mining, horticulture, fisheries, secondary industries, research, training of students, and a great many other matters of- technical detail which are contained in these Estimates. What opportunity does Parliament get to discuss these various matters ? “Who tells us anything about these things from the ministerial table, these matters upon -which we are expending thousands and, indeed, millions of pounds? Where is, the responsible Minister on the treasury bench who has tendered one scrap of evidence or information as to what is intended in all of these matters covered by this departmental vote? There is the AttorneyGeneral, who could have told us something about external affairs in relation, for example, to that pamphlet which is published fortnightly, and could have told us where Australia stands in regard to mandated territories, or protectorates. He could have told us if there is to be complete co-operation, and of the position with regard to the constitutional changes of vital importance which are taking place in other dominions such as South Africa, Ireland and Canada. But we have not a word of information on these points. On the contrary, the time is cut into pieces, and we are asked to vote this money to a scheduled programme. I tell the people of Australia, as far as my single voice will carry, that we are passing through the principle of bureaucracy to the principle of fascism.
– I take this opportunity to urge upon the Government, and particularly upon the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) the desirability of attaching more importance than has been given in the past to our representation at international labour conferences. [Quorum formed.] I urge this because I am one of those who have not yet lost faith in the possibility of international co-operation and because I believe that, in the discussions which take place at international labour conferences, there is really greater hope of regimenting international harmony than there is in the League of Nations Assembly itself. The international labour conferences are free of some of those trappings of diplomacy, which mark the meetings of the league, and it meets in a much more human atmosphere than do other instrumentalities of the league. Under the constitution which governs the conferences, every State Member is entitled to two official representatives, one representative of the workers and one of the employers, making four in all. I do not know that Australia has ever been represented by two official representatives. Rather is it the practice in selecting the Government representative not to ask who is the best representative available, but to choose a person who is likely to be in the vicinity at the time the conference is being held. In this respect, the method of selection differs from that which obtains in the selection of the workers’ representative. He is chosen from a panel submitted by the workers’ organizations, and he is recompensed from the time ho leaves Australia until he returns.
– The Government did not recompense me.
– But the honorable member was the official representative.
– No, I was the representative of the workers.
– At any rate, that is the practice in respect of the employees, whereas the practice in respect of the employers and of the official representatives is to select some one who adventitiously happens to be on the other side of the world. As an indication of the importance placed on the conference by other countries, in the year when I was privileged to attend the conference, there were no less than 29 representatives from the United Kingdom, 24 from the United States of America, 20 from Japan, and 26 from Italy. This suggests that the other countries do recognize in the conference a gathering which is of real importance, and I urge that, instead of depending upon some one who happens to be in Europe at the time, the Government of Australia should, in the selection of its official representative, adopt the principle of selecting a representative, perhaps from among the younger members of this House, who will derive experience from being the official representative.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) criticized somewhat severely the action of the former Auditor-General in making a trip overseas shortly after being appointed to that position, and just prior to his retirement from the Service. I do not think for a moment that the honorable gentleman intended to indulge in personalities, but I point out that the former AuditorGeneral has rendered signal services to the Commonwealth, and the fact that he journeyed overseas is not debatable under this item. The Audit Act appropriates the salary of the AuditorGeneral, but contains no provision governing payments upon retirement. It has therefore been necessary to include an amount of £1,952, payment in lieu of furlough and accrued recreation leave due to Mr. Brown upon his retirement.
– That explanation will, I suppose, pass the Auditor-General.
– I have no doubt that it will.
– I direct attention to the state of the committee.
– The Chair has, within the last few minutes, taken cognizance of the state of the committee, and does not intend again to count the members present.
– I should like to know what standing order prevents any honorable member from calling attention to the state of the committee at any time?
– I am following the practice laid down for proceedings in committee and applying common sense to the situation. Three or four times during the last half hour attention has been directed to the state of the committee. I had scarcely ceased counting the members after the last call when the honorable member for East Sydney again directed attention to the state of the committee.
– Let the Government maintain the requisite numbers in committee ; that is the answer to the Chair.
– I move - ;
That the ruling be dissented from.
The reason given by the Chairman for declining to count the committee at my request was that the precedent had been laid down that an honorable member could not call attention to the state of the House or committee unless a specified time had elapsed since a quorum had been previously formed. When first I came into this House the practice was to allow fifteen minutes to elapse between the calls for quorums. Later that practice was challenged and the then Speaker, Mr. G. H. Mackay, ruled that the attention of the Speaker or of the Chairman of Committees could be called to the state of the House or committee at any time when there was not a quorum present.
– This motion for dissent follows, a series of incidents which have occurred during the deliberations in committee this morning, and I consider that the Chair has been scrupulously fair, if not generous, to honorable members opposite. Earlier in this discussion we listened to a protest by the Leader of the Opposition against the fixing of a time limit for the consideration of the Estimates.
– The Assistant Minister will not be in order in discussing that matter on this motion.
– Whilst the Leader of the Opposition was asking for certain information, this morning, his supporters were conspicuous by their absence.
– Nonsense! There were more members present on this side than there were on the Government side.
– On one occasion attention was called to the state of the committee by the only member of the Opposition who was in the chamber.
– Nonsense! There was only one Minister in the chamber at the time.
– Honorable members on this side have been maintaining the required number during the discussion on the Estimates, in which the Opposition professes to have a great deal of interest.
– Order 1 The Assistant Minister must confine his remarks to the question before the chamber.
– I feel sure that, in the circumstances the Chairman’s ruling will be uphold by the committee.
– When first I entered this Parliament I understood it to be laid down that a quorum could not be called unless fifteen minutes had elapsed since attention had previously been directed to the state of the House or committee. On one occasion I directed attention to the state of a committee and the ruling then given by the Chairman was that a quorum could not be called unless a quarter of an hour had elapsed since the last counting of the committee. When the bill then under discussion was before the House for its third reading, I informed the then Speaker, Mr. G. H. Mackay, that during the committee stages there had not been a. quorum of 25 members present. I also pointed out that there was not even a quorum present for the third reading of the bill. The Speaker said that the Chair had no knowledge of what happened in committee, but he immediately ordered the bells to be rung so that a quorum should be present when the bill was read a third time. Subsequently the then Attorney-General and now the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, Sir John Latham, informed me that if it could be proved that there was not a quorum present during the committee stages, the validity of the bill in question could be challenged before the High Court. If the Chairman’s ruling on this motion is upheld, the Estimates will have been passed through committee without the presence of the requisite 25 members, and the legislation, if challenged, would be in danger of being declared ultra vires.
– I havenot ruled that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is not in order in calling my attention to the state of the committee. I merely refused to take cognizance of the honorable member’s call, because I regarded it as an obstruction of the business before the committee. Less than two minutes had elapsed since the forming of a quorum, when the honorable member for East Sydney again rose to draw my attention to the state of the committee. I was satisfied, without wasting further time in counting, that there was a quorum present. It is therefore not correct to state that I ruled the honorable member for East Sydney out of order.
– I feel that in this discussion the committee is losing sight of the important matter of principle underlying the calling for a quorum by the honorable member for East Sydney. We have been given to understand that calling for a quorum indicates a spirit of obstruction by the Opposition, whereas it merely means that an honorable member is drawing attention to the fact that, if business is to be validly dealt with, a certain number of members is necessary in this chamber.
– Of both parties?
– Obviously the Opposition takes no interest in the Estimates.
– The question of parties is not in issue at all. The point is, that if business is to be conducted legally, a certain number of members must attend the proceedings in this chamber. Responsibility for maintaining a quorum rests upon the Government. Individual members, of course, are under an obligation to attend, but that is a matter between their consciences and their constituents. It is a public scandal that members supporting the Ministry, and in fact, the Ministry itself, will not attend in this committee.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Prime Minister’s Department and the Department of External Affairs has expired.
– But not themotion of dissent from the Chairman’s ruling.
– There can be no further debate on it.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.51 to 2 p.m.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £862,000.
Mr.MAHONEY (Denison) [2.0].- I wish to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to an anomaly in connexion with the payment of old-age pensions. It has to do with the position of pensioners’ wives, and the effect of their earnings on their husbands’ pensions. To cite a typical example: A man, on reaching the age of 65, becomes eligible for a pension, but, because of some physical disability, is unable to earn anything extra for himself. His wife is not yet old enough to draw a pension, and so, in order to augment the family income, she engages in seasonal work for three or four months in the year. If, as the result of her efforts, the total income of the couple exceeds £3 a week, the Pensions Department will reduce the husband’s pension to 12s. 6d. or 15s. a week. This is most unfair. Before making any such reduction, the department should at least take into consideration the income of the family over a period of twelve months, and not over only a few months of the year. It sometimes happens that other members of the family have to live in the home of the pensioner. Some of the children may not be strong enough physically to earn for themselves, though they are not sufficiently incapacitated to qualify for an invalid pension. In the circumstances, three, or perhaps four, persons may be living in the house, all dependent on the earnings of the mother, plus the father’s pension. It is sufficiently tragic that the mother, after rearing a family, should, in her declining years, have to go out and earn money with which to keep her children, without having her meagre earnings taken into account for the purpose of reducing her husband’s pension. It is not right that mothers of families, who are getting up in years, should have to compete for employment in shops and factories. I suggest that the services of such women to the nation should be taken into consideration and, when a husband receives a pension at 65 years of age, his wife also should become eligible for a pension, even though she be two years or so under the statutory age. I do not really expect that the Government, which represents the big financial interests, will give favorable consideration to the claims of the poor, because its actions in the past have shown that it is not interested in them, or in the welfare of the mothers who have reared families. For income tax purposes the income of a taxpayer over a period of twelve months is taken into account. The same consideration, at least, should be extended to pensioners, so that a man’s pension would not be reduced just because the total income of himself and his wife, over a period of a few months, exceeded £3 a week.
– It is done, and I resent the Minister’s contradiction. I do not come here to tell lies, and the Treasurer should accept my statement unless he can disprove it. I am trying to obtain a measure of justice for pensioners and their families, and I appeal to the Treasurer to take my suggestion seriously.
.-I desire to draw the attention of the Minister to what appears to be an anomaly in connexion with the income tax deduction allowed to widowers in respect of their housekeepers. A married man is allowed an exemption of £50 in respect of his wife, and a widower is granted a similar allowance in respect of a female relative who keeps house for him. No allowance, however, is made to the widower employing a housekeeper who is not a relative. I have had a case brought under my notice in which this provision imposes a definite hardship. The taxpayer is a widower who has no relative in Australia whom he could employ to keep house for him. He is compelled to employ a stranger, and is not allowed any exemption on her account. Probably it would not affect the revenue to any appreciable degree if the provisions were extended to cover cases of that kind. The present provision is certainly inequitable, and should be altered if possible.
I have on several occasions written to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) regarding the claim of the Taxation Department for sales tax ‘against Mr. Morris, of Charles Street, Launceston, but no satisfactory decision has been reached. Mr. Morris is a business man who supplies provisions to hospitals at wholesale rates. He quoted special prices on the assumption that he did not have to pay sales tax. Eventually, an investigation was made into the circumstances, and it was decided that he would have to pay tax not only on future transactions, but also on all past transactions. On the assumption that he was placed in exactly the same position as other wholesalers, he sold at concession prices only to find when he was called upon to pay the tax that his profit was turned into a loss: I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to look into this case and others of a like character with a view to affording some relief. It seems to me that, as a mere matter of equity, anomalies of this description should be removed.
Another matter which I propose to touch on very briefly is the amounts of income tax and land tax which are outstanding. For years, large amounts have been outstanding in respect of each annual assessment. I agree that there has been some reduction of these arrears since 1934, but in proportion to the aggregate amount of tax collected, the amount outstanding is much too high. In reply to a question which I addressed to the Treasurer on this subject, the honorable gentleman informed me that efforts are being made in various ways to collect the arrears. When it is realized that approximately one-third of the income tax and one-fifth of the land tax imposed last year is still outstanding, the gravity of the situation can be appreciated. Whilst I understand the difficulty of recovering such dues, I am not at all satisfied that the department is acting as vigorously as it should. If it is true, as the Government claims, that we are now enjoying a period of prosperity, the department should be the more able to recover the arrears.
– I wish very briefly to refer to two matters, which, although they may seem of minor importance, are of great moment to the people primarily concerned. I refer first ito the position which exists when the payment of a pension has been suspended pending review. Sometimes a review takes place at regular intervals, and at other times it is done at irregular intervals, perhaps as the result of the receipt by the department of an anonymous letter which has to be investigated. When, after inquiry, the pension is restored, the pensioner cannot be paid more’ than two retrospective fortnightly payments, even though the pension had been stopped during investigations which had extended over many weeks. I do not blame the pensions officers for this, because they are merely administering the law as it now stands; but it is obvious that when pensions have been withdrawn as the result of inaccurate information supplied by a neighbour or others, pensioners should be entitled to receive retrospective payment for the whole period of the stoppage. I ask the Treasurer to investigate whether it is not possible to amend the law in order to provide for complete retrospective payments in all such cases. .
The other matter relates to the payment of maternity allowance. In some of the poorer districts, in my own electorate especially, a married man may make arrangements with a hospital for his wife’s confinement, only to find, when the time arrives, that, owing to unemployment, he is unable to meet the hospital bill; but because of the arrangement with the hospital he finds that his wife cannot draw the maternity allowance.
– The honorable member refers to cases in which the assignment form has been signed by the prospective mother before she goes into hospital?
– There is no necessity for the form to be signed before she goes into hospital.
– That is so, but many do so voluntarily.
– They do so under a misapprehension of their rights.
– The department endeavoured to put that right by withdrawing one of the two forms.
– I admit that, in some cases, the hospital secretaries have met the difficulties of people so circumstanced in the proper spirit, but in other cases they have demanded their pound of flesh, with the result that a great deal of hardship has been inflicted on unfortunate people. I have asked the officers of the Pensions Department why anybody other than the mother should be entitled to draw the maternity allowance. The officers of the Pensions Department would like the Treasurer to make a rule that nobody but the mother shall receive the allowance. I suggest that this be done and that the recipients should be permitted to do what they like with the money. The important thing is that a prospective mother should not be penalized by some foolish arrangement inadvisedly made with a hospital, at a time when she could not foresee the unemployment of her husband or other domestic troubles.
– She should not be permitted to assign her right to the money.
– The allowance can be assigned only by the mother.
– I would appreciate some information from the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in respect of Division 27 - National Insurance Branch. “Under that division provision is made for £80,000 for salaries and allowances in accordance with the schedule on page 174. I notice in the schedule that a total provision of £104,930 is made for new staff. In the details provision is made for a skeleton staff to be set up in each State, but in addition a considerable amount is allocated for new staff which is apparently not a skeleton administrative staff. Will the Treasurer give some in dication of the kinds of positions to be filled by the new staff, whether appointments will be made from the Public Service, or whether the positions will be open to the general public 1
.- I propose to deal with some anomalies that exist in connexion with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. Section 16(1) provides that Asiatics other than those born in Australia and Indians born in British India shall not be qualified to receive an old-age pension. Everybody will admit how unfairly this provision operates at times, particularly against people who are just as whiteskinned as are Europeans. Many Asiatics have been in this country for periods up to 50 years, are naturalized British subjects, and pay taxes regularly; but when they reach old age they are precluded from receiving an old-age pension. This section, which was directed against certain coloured races, is being applied even to people born in Constantinople, Europe. I know of one such case at Weston, New South Wales. I urge upon the Treasurer the desirability of amending the act in order to provide foT the payment of the old-age pension to Asiatics who after many years’ residence in this country have become naturalized British subjects.
Hardship is also inflicted on certain people by the operation of section 17 of the act which provides that no person shall receive an old-age pension unless he is of good character. A pensioner, after having been “ treated “ by a few of his friends in an hotel, may bo hailed before a magistrate for drunkenness and suffer what the court regards as adequate punishment. Later the Pensions Department imposes a further penalty on him by withdrawing his pension, which means starvation. If a magistrate were aware of the harshness of the Pensions Department, which would follow his infliction of a penalty, he would probably dismiss all cases against these old pioneers. Many such cases have occurred. I daresay even the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has “ shouted “ for some poor old-age pensioner as we all have done at times. I feel sure that every honorable member has received appeals from old people who have had their pensions cancelled in these circumstances. I appeal to the Treasurer to give more generous consideration to these cases.
Paragraph h of section 22(1) provides that uo person shall receive an invalid pension unless his relatives, namely, his father, mother, husband, wife or children, do not either severally or collectively, adequately maintain him. I recently brought under the notice of the department the case of a permanently and totally incapacitated constituent of mine at Weston. He is aged 51 years, and resides with his father, aged 78 years. Because he lives with his father who, being of a thrifty type, saved a few shillings and invested it in property, the son cannot get a pension. In . some instances, pensions have been granted during the period that the person concerned has left home to receive treatment in a hospital or other institution, but payment has again been withheld immediately on his return home. I am prepared to give to the Treasurer a list of the persons concerned, but I do not wish their names to appear in Hansard. I have in mind the case of a man living at Greta who has five children, including an invalid who is 26 years of age. Because the father is in receipt of £4 10s. a week, which is slightly in excess of the basis wage, he is supposed to be able to maintain his family adequately.’ I have also placed before the Pensions Department the case of an applicant living at Paxton, whose pension has been refused. I bring these cases forward here only after having failed to receive favorable replies from the department. They show the injustice of the section of the act to which I have referred. Another case which is deserving of greater consideration is that of a man living in Abermain-street, Pelaw Main, whose wife is bed-ridden. He has one daughter who has dedicated her life to nursing her mother. There are two other unemployed children. Because the husband received compensation of £7 10s., covering a period of thirteen days, he was informed a fortnight ago that his wife’s pension had been cancelled. That is grossly unfair. The section of the act under which that action was taken was part of the financial emergency legislation. During the term of- office of a previous Lyons Administration I had on the notice-paper a motion to repeal the provision of the act to which I have referred. A number of honorable members opposite promised to support it, but because of the way in which the businesspaper is treated by the Government, I did hot re-instate my motion on it. Honorable members who think that a motion standing in their name on the noticepaper is certain to be considered are deluding themselves. Should the Government not desire the matter to be dealt with, it makes certain that the motion relating to it is placed on the bottom of the business-sheet. As practically every provision that operated harshly against old-age pensioners has been repealed, I plead with the Treasurer to introduce legislation to repeal paragraph h of section 22 relating to invalid pensions.
Numbers of old-age pensioners who were born in England desire to end their earthly days in the district where other members of the family have been laid to rest. Some of them have asked that their pension be commuted in a lump sufficient to enable them to pay their fare to England, and although they have promised never to return to Australia, the department has refused their requests. It would be an economy to grant their requests rather than continue to pay pensions to them. I have placed before the Treasurer a request from an old-age pensioner living at Spion Kop, Pelaw Main, asking for this concession. It was refused once, but I told the officers of the department at Sydney that it was a matter for the Treasurer’s decision, and that they had better send the request on to him. I repeat that I do not bring these cases before the House until I have failed to obtain satisfaction from the department. In these matters, I believe that there should be reciprocity between Australia and England. If a person who is in receipt of an imperial old-age pension chooses to come to Australia, why should not his imperial pension come with him? Similarly, a person who has qualified for an Australian pension should not lose it should he go back to the land of his birth. Many persons who come to Australia, leaving behind them their parents, try to save sufficient money to enable them to return home to see their own folk again.
This custom entails money going out of the country in the form of boat fares to overseas shipping companies - money that would otherwise be expended in home building and in other ways in Australia. In such cases, representations should be made to the Imperial Government with a view to some measure of reciprocity being arrived at. Already there is reciprocity in regard to war pensions, and under the national insurance legislation reciprocity is provided for, but there is no reciprocal arrangement in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. I hope that the Treasurer will give sympathetic consideration to my suggestions.
.- Applicants for invalid pensions are required to obtain certificates of total and permanent incapacitation from medical practitioners approved by the Pensions Department. That in some instances certificates are refused is no reflection on the doctors, because they have no alternative if they are to give their honest opinions. But doctors, like lawyers and other professional men, frequently differ; one medical practitioner may certify that a person is totally and permanently incapacitated, another may say that he is fit for work. A city applicant who is rejected by one doctor may go to the head-quarters of the department and ask to be examined by a medical referee. In his case, his only expenditure may he the cost of tram fares, but should the application of a country resident be rejected by the local departmental doctor, he would have to pay his fare to and from the city to be examined by the medical referee. In the case of a visit from Ballarat to Melbourne, the cost may be £1, or more. That appears to me to be an unjust discrimination against country applicants. I have suggested to the Commissioner of Pensions that a medical referee should visit country centres from time to time to examine such cases, but he, probably for good reasons, regarded the suggestion as impracticable. It should not be outside the scope of the Treasurer’s power to consent to the payment of expenses in such instances. Only in that way will it be possible to avoid discrimination between country applicants and city applicants. I know of one applicant who, being dissatisfied with the report of the local medical practitioner, was persuaded by his friends to visit the medical referee in Melbourne, with the result that his pension was restored. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will give favorable consideration to this reasonable request.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) referred to a minority of old-age pensioners who are deprived of their pensions because, at times, they indulge too freely in intoxicating drinks. These men have reached an age at which all hope of reform has passed. I have in mind a man who periodically becomes intoxicated. I have warned him that on such occasions he should keep out of sight of the police, but sometimes he fails to do so, with the result that he is taken to court. Subsequently the department deprives him of his pension. Such punishment achieves nothing. I ask that more sympathetic treatment be meted out to these offenders.
Under the legislation providing for national health and pensions insurance, approved societies will have branches in many country towns. At present, much of the business of friendly societies is conducted at the homes of the secretaries of thelocal lodges. With the introduction of the national insurance scheme, the business to be transacted by the secretaries of approved societies will be increased, and the position will be somewhat unusual if employers and employees have to meet at such places.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this portion of the Estimates has expired.
– I shall endeavour to reply by correspondence to the various points raised by honorable members.
Proposed vote put and agreed to. attorney-general’sdepartment.
Pro-posed vote, £218,000.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £662,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
– I appeal to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) not to hurry his decision in connexion with the present dispute at
Port Kembla, particularly in view of the complicated nature of the trouble which prevails. It is well known that numerous persons, including representatives of religious groups, are urging the waterside workers at Port Kembla to persist in their humanitarian refusal to load pig iron, and it is, therefore, very difficult to get the men to consider the position calmly. In these circumstances, I trust that the AttorneyGeneral will delay reaching a decision for as long as is possible in the hope that a satisfactory settlement may be effected.
– That is why eight days are being allowed before any steps will be taken. I appreciate the force of what the honorable member is saying.
– I also urge the Attorney-General to appoint an additional industrial inspector to police clerical workers’ awards. It is generally admitted that the experiment made some years ago of appointing an inspector has proved very successful, but one officer cannot police all awards. Will the Attorney-General consider the desirability of appointing another inspector?
On previous occasions, I have mentioned the need to effect improvements to the building in Melbourne in which the Arbitration Court meets. If improvements be not soon carried out, a tragedy will occur. Elderly persons, including judges, find it particularly difficult, especially in summer, to climb the long flight of stairs to the court room.
– It is a terrible building, and I am always doing my best to get one more suitable.
– I am not very short-winded, . but, after climbing the stairs, I have to sit down to regain my breath before entering the court room. I often wonder how some persons, who are older and heavier, are able to reach the court room at all.
.- Will the Attorney-General state why there has been so much delay in introducing an amending bankruptcy bill ? For two or three years, this matter has been before the Government and the Attorney-General’s Department, and I do not know what circumstances could have arisen to prevent its introduction. Commercial men and others are asking for such legislation, and I trust that the Government will be able to introduce an amending bill at an early date.
There has been a substantial increase in the cost of the Patents Office. This year, the proposed expenditure is £8,000 more than the vote for last year. I am unaware that there has been an extraordinary increase of work, and I should like to know whether the additional expenditure this year is due to the transfer of the department toCanberra, and, if so, whether further increases may be anticipated ?
– The transfer took place some years ago, before I was a Minister.
– I understand that the increase this year is due solely to salaries.
– Owing to pressure of business, a great deal of overtime has been worked.
– I understand that the erection of a new patents office at Canberra is contemplated.
The substantial progressive increase of expenditure in this department should be investigated in order to determine whether it is justifiable.
.- The Industrial Board, established in the Australian Capital Territory, has very important functions to perform. If the board were allowed to function as anticipated, there would be no reason to complain, but, from information supplied to me, it appears that a certain amount of departmental interference, amounting, in my opinion, to a form of intimidation, has been taking place. I understand that, while the board was taking evidence to determine certain important matters concerning the wages and working conditions in the Territory, the chairman of the board and at least one other member of the board was sent for and interviewed by Mr. Knowles, the SolicitorGeneral. At these interviews it was suggested that, from a departmental point of view, certain works being carried out in the Territory were costing too much.
– Is it suggested that Mr. Knowles said so?
– My information is that Mr. Knowles interviewed the chairman and one other member of the board.
– On the question of costs?
– I am -informed that he sent for them, and that it was suggested that certain decisions of the hoard had resulted in works costing more than the department desired. If that is so it is a very serious state of affairs from the standpoint of the workers. We have always been informed that this tribunal is entirely removed from political and departmental influence. I understand’ that the chairman has been interviewed on many occasions by the SolicitorGeneral. I have been informed that in one instance the departmental head was so anxious to interview him that a motor car was sent for him when the board was in session. This is causing a good deal of dissatisfaction in the minds of the workers. Will the Attorney-General make some inquiries as to the necessity for these frequent interviews between departmental heads and the members of the board in order to ascertain whether any undue influence or pressure is brought to bear upon members of the board in connexion with their deliberations and decisions ? The workers in this Territory want to be satisfied that the board is entirely free from political or departmental influence.
.- I understand that a short bill has been drafted and is now before the Cabinet in which provision is made to grant payment in lieu of furlough to several temporary employees in the Defence Department. Some years ago it was decided that should these employees leave the department they should be entitled to draw a small sum in lieu of furlough. I know several of these employees, some of whom propose to leave the department, and to marry. If the bill be not passed this session the payment of these small sums which was promised some time ago will be further delayed. If such a measure has been prepared I trust that the Attorney-General will introduce it, because it could be passed through Parliament in a very short time.
– I support the views expressed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) concerning the necessity to introduce amending bankruptcy legislation. During the Bruce-Page regime the bankruptcy law was consolidated in a measure which was passed through Parliament at the end of a session practically without discussion, because Mr. Bruce promised that a committee would deal with the whole subject immediately. A committee, of which I was a member, was appointed and made numerous recommendations, which, it was understood, were accepted. These recommendations were referred back to the committee, which made further recommendations, but so far nothing has been done, apart from amending certain sections in the act passed somewhat hurriedly several years ago. A few months ago the members of the committee who still remain - two are now deceased - were requested to act again on the committee. I promised the then Acting Attorney - General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that I would be willing to act, but I have heard nothing further on the subject. Will the Attorney-General give the matter his attention?
Under the Acts Interpretation Act, as amended in 1937, regulations must be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of the regulations, and notice of motion to disallow must be given within fifteen days of the tabling of a resolution. The object of the amendment was to ensure that new regulations should not remain in force indefinitely without parliamentary sanction. Unfortunately no such provision was made in respect of ordinances. When the amending bill was before the House last year, I directed attention to this fact, and I understood the Attorney-General to say that “the law would be amended to make some similar provision in respect of ordinances. It is, in my opinion, even more important that ordinances should be subject to parliamentary review within a specified period, than that regulations should be so considered, for Commonwealth territories, notably the Australian Capital Territory, are governed by ordinances and the people resident within such areas have no parliamentary representation. I, therefore, ask the Attorney-General to give immediate attention to this important matter.
.- I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) respecting the need for amendments to the Bankruptcy Act. 1 have received many letters from my constituents and others urging that this legislation should be reviewed in certain respects as early as possible.
I wish now to direct attention to a report in the Labor Daily which attributed to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. John Lawson) during his recent visit to Port Kembla, certain remarks which I do not believe that he made. The honorable gentleman was reported to have made some observations concerning trade with Japan and to have hinted that an amendment of the Waterside Workers’ Act might be expected. We have had peace on the waterfront for many years, and I hope that under no circumstances whatever will the Government alter its policy and risk a reversion to the old days of strikes.
.- The matter to which I shall refer relates to the Department of the Interior. I earnestly suggest to the Government that steps be taken to commemorate in our National Capital some of the great names in the literary and cultural history of Australia. I have in mind, in particular, that great Australian, Henry Lawson. I well recollect that when he died the Government of New South Wales accorded him a State funeral. It is surely not too much to expect the Commonwealth Government to commemorate his memory in the National Capital. Nearly twelve years have elapsed since the Seat of Government was transferred to Canberra. In that time many thousands of people from other parts of Australia, and also from countries overseas, have visited this city. For all we know, they may have left it, and in the case of the overseas visitors, they may have left Australia, with the impression that the Commonwealth has produced no great writers, no great thinkers and no great artists, or with the equally objectionable impression that Australia is not in the least interested in the great men of its past. I say this because the Government has done nothing to perpetuate the memory of such men in the National
Capital. It would be a national tragedy if this indifference were allowed to continue, and I strongly urge the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to give consideration to the subject. Henry Lawson was most gloriously identified with the birth and growth of the true Australian spirit. I notice that an amount of £250,000 can be spared for a
Avar memorial to remind us, for all time, of the tragedy and horror of war; but, apparently, not even a tiny fraction of that amount can be provided to enshrine in our National Capital the memory of one of the men who delineated in his writings all the best things for which this Capital City stands. I urge the Minister to give attention during the coming financial year to the erection of a memorial to Henry Lawson, for he- typifies, to my mind, the men whom we should remember in this way in the National Capital. Many men whose’ lives and writings are entwined in the history and spirit of Australia were men without privilege, wealth or power, but they loved this country and traced for it a destiny which time is realizing, however tardily. I am not particularly concerned about the nature of the memorial, but I think it important that people who come to Canberra from the remotest outposts of our continent should find here a visual reminder that we cherish the precious names of those who, in their several ways, have for all time illuminated the history of Australia’s pioneering days. Those who walk around Canberra notice that the only tangible memorial of this kind is dedicated to the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. It was erected through the private efforts of Australian Scots. Because of that statue, Canberra itself has a new meaning for the Scots who visit it. I have always been a great admirer of “ Rabbie “ Burns, and it is very pleasing to see on Burns’s national day in Sydney, the number of people who make a pilgrimage to the poet’s monument in order to pay -homage to his memory. I am afraid, however, that could Burns have visited the . homes of many of the Scotsmen who to-day pay tribute to him, they would have slammed the door in his face. I do not believe that it would be so with the Australian people in respect of their national heroes. We revere the names of those who in past days did great things for this country, and among these that of Henry Lawson is held particularly dear. These people suffered as well as worked for the development of this country. Henry Lawson, in particular, actually lived among the shearers and drovers of the outback. He knew the circumstances of their daily lives and recorded them with a faithfulness that must always be admired. Many of the visitors to our outback in days gone by lived in the homesteads of the squatting aristocracy. As he himself wrote -
They sought the greeny patches,
And travelled like a gent.
But Lawson lived among the shearers, and he wrote from a full heart which beat in sympathy with the workers of this country. He had a love for the trees of the bush, and for the wildflowers and birds of the outback, which he expressed in words that will never be forgotten. I hope therefore that the Minister for the Interior, who is a good Australian, and also the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), who is sitting beside him at the table at the moment, will give sympathetic attention to the appeal that I am making for a statue to be erected in Canberra to Lawson’s memory.
– They are only “Nats”; they won’t do anything.
– Even “Nats” may do something useful occasionally. I hope that this will be such an occasion. If the Government gives favorable consideration to my suggestion, I shall request the Printing Committee, an important body of which I am a member, to consider printing leaflets containing extracts from Henry Lawson’s works for distribution to tourists who visit the proposed memorial. In this way a deservedly increased publicity would be given to his writings.
– I wish to make two or three inquiries of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen). The administrative vote for his department shows an increase of approximately £110,000. I do not, for a moment, believe that the present Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen), or his predecessor in office (Mr. Paterson), would tolerate extravagant expenditure, but the figures call for explanation.
An amount of £15,600 is proposed to be provided in connexion with establishments for the Governor-General. Last year £15,000 was voted for this purpose. If this were the only vote in connexion with establishments for the GovernorGeneral I should not cavil at it, but provision is made elsewhere for additional expenditure under this heading. I do not want to find that next year additional heavy expenditure of this nature is also proposed. Earlier in the session I asked the Prime Minister to submit to Parliament any proposals of the Government in connexion with accommodation for the Governor-General. I repeat that request now, and also invite the Minister for the Interior to make a frank statement in connexion with the whole matter.
– I direct the attention of the Attorney-General to a matter relating to the waterside workers in Brisbane. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has referred to this subject on several occasions during the last twelve months. I am informed that waterside workers in Brisbane who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation are not receiving fair treatment at the picking-up sheds which are under the control of the shipping companies. Only to-day I have received a long letter on the subject. I believe the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) has received a similar communication. It points out that men who do not hold waterside workers’ discs but are members of the Waterside Workers Federation are not receiving fair play from the shipping companies, and that, in fact, marked discrimination is being shown against them. This is quite against the spirit of the Waterside Workers’ Award made some time ago by Judge Beeby who, during the hearing of the case practically advised the employers to issue discs to members of the Waterside Workers Federation and to give them preference in employment. Unfortunately that is not being done. A disc is necessary to obtain admission to the picking-up shed, but quite recently, of twenty men who received discs, only three were members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Many members of this organization who lost their employment through the unfortunate strike of 1927, have remained financial ever since in the hope that in time they ‘would be able to obtain discs and again earn their living on the waterfront ; but the discrimination being shown against them by the employers is causing a most undesirable situation to develop. I hope that the Attorney-General will go into this matter in order to see whether something cannot be done to alleviate the conditions in Brisbane. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) visited that shed in company with the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) and myself. I believe - although I am not sure on this point - that arrangements have now been made for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Lawson) to visit Brisbane and the other capital cities as early as possible. If that be so, I sincerely hope that he will give me, as the representative of the electorate in which the head-quarters of the Queensland branch of the Waterside Workers Federation is domiciled, an opportunity to make arrangements for him to meet the waterside workers in order that he may become fully acquainted with what is happening. I am satisfied that, should he do so, he would endeavour to persuade the Government to do something to improve the lot of these men. They are not now getting a fair spin. Seeing that no dispute has taken place on the Queensland waterfront since 1927, and that work has proceeded peacefully and continuously at all Queensland ports, the Government should have no hesitation in withdrawing the penalty provisions of the Transport Workers Act from the workers in that State.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to a report in the Labor Daily, which purported to reproduce a statement made by me during an interview which I had with the waterside workers at Port Kembla on Friday last. I rise to assure the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and honorable members generally that that report is a grotesque and fantastic invention. The mere fact that it appeared in the Labor Daily should be sufficient in any circumstances to cast grave doubt upon its authenticity. I add my assurance that the report is wholly without foundation. As to the comments of the honorable member for Swan concerning the proposed basis for the settlement of the dispute at Port Kembla, I merely wish to say that I did not commit the Government to the acceptance of any proposed terms for the settlement of that dispute. I did not commit the Government for the very good reason that I had no authority to do so. I no more committed the Government in that respect than the representatives of the waterside workers committed the men themselves.
.- I wish to address a specific question to the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). In doing so, I realize how futile this debate becomes when the guillotine is applied. Generally, questions are raised on the Estimates only after members have failed to secure redress through the departments, but, in the limited time allotted for the discussion of the Estimates for particular departments, the respective Ministers usually get no opportunity to reply. On this occasion, I am very desirous qf getting a reply from the Attorney-General as to why this Government refused to take action under the Industrial Peace Act in the recent dispute in the coal-mining industry. Why did it refuse to call a conference when it was requested to intervene in this dispute? Recently, the Attorney-General made a magnificent speech on constitutional reform, in which he stressed the point that the Commonwealth could only intervene in industrial disputes which were interstate in character. As the recent dispute in the coal-mining industry was of such a character, the refusal of this Government to call a conference, as it was requested to do, was not in conformity with that part of the AttorneyGeneral’s speech. It has been said that the Industrial Peace Act is wholly, or partly, ultra vires the Constitution. I do not know whether that is so. What I desire to know is whether the Government has any intention of amending the Arbitration Act in order to make it a little more acceptable to the workers in industry, particularly in the direction of giving them more confidence in judges appointed to preside over arbitration tribunals. Workers have no confidence in a judge who has no practical knowledge of the conditions in industry. We saw what happened in the recent dispute as the result of this Government’s refusal to intervene. The leaders of the miners in New South Wales were obliged to fly to Queensland and Victoria in order to get the support of the Governments of those States for a conference, whereas, had this Government acted as requested by the Miners’ Federation, the long period of suffering which the miners, business people, and the community in general suffered would, in all probability, have been obviated. The dispute is now before a conference - I should not say a court - presided over by a federal judge. The question would, in all probability, have been settled had this Government acted under the Industrial Peace Act, because at least that act is still on the statutebook, whereas the conference dealing with the dispute is convened by agreement of the States; if its decisions are not acceptable to the coal-owners, they may be more successful in an appeal to the High Court than they would against the result of discussions under the Industrial Peace Act. I again ask the AttorneyGeneral why the Government refused to act as requested by the Miners’ Federation and whether, if any provision of the Industrial Peace Act bc ultra vires the Constitution, it proposes to amend the law in order that industrial arbitration may function more harmoniously than it has in the past.
– I have already indicated to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), by interjection, that his suggestion that, an additional inspector should be appointed to police awards relating to clerical industries is under consideration. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the reason for the delay in introducing amending banking legislation. It is realized that there has been delay, and delay which must be rather disappointing to honorable members who served on the committee relating to that legislation, and whose work is fully appreciated by the
Government, but the facts are these: After the report had been received from that committee various additional proposals were received from accountancy bodies, and the like, which were, in their turn, referred to the committee, and, subsequent to that, further amendments were suggested. 1 have no doubt that, but for my absence in England earlier this year, it would have been possible to conclude the matter and to have a bill before the House by this time, but, unhappily, the matter was necessarily delayed pending my return, and, during this shore .session, there ha3 been no opportunity to bring down that bill, just as there has been no opportunity to bring down a bill relating to the consolidation of the law of patents; but, as is the honorable member for Perth, also the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker), I am intensely interested in both those bills, and hope that they will both occupy an early place on the businesspaper during the next .period of the session.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the Industrial Board at Canberra, and exhibited some curiosity as to conferences that had occurred between the chairman, in particular, and the Solicitor-General and myself. I have not had an opportunity to talk to the Solicitor-General about the specific matter raised by the honorable member, but I do know that the Solicitor-General of this Commonwealth is a public servant not only of very great distinction, but also of the highest honour, and he would be the last man to interview the chairman of the tribunal with a view to giving him instructions. The fact is that it is frequently necessary for the chairman of the board to have a discussion with the permanent head of my department, because the administration of matters relating to the board is in my department, and all sorts of details as to staff, reporting, times occupied, and various other matters, must be discussed as a matter of procedure between the chairman and the Solicitor-General.
– What about the other member of the board ?
– I do not know about the other member of the board to whom the honorable member referred, but I shall have inquiries made about him. In my own case, I have been interviewed, not only by the chairman, but also by the representatives of the employers and the employees, and I assure the honorable gentleman that none of those interviews was at all improper. At any rate, I did not appreciate the impropriety, if there was any. It is perfectly reasonable that the chairman of the tribunal should speak to me concerning his responsibilities .with respect to such matters as remuneration, the tenure of office of the board, and so on, because I am the appropriate Minister to whom to make representations of that kind. The honorable member himself has had occasion to interview me in company with union officials - I am not sure whether they were members of the board or not - relating to industrial matters in the Territory. I regard all such interviews as being entirely to the good, provided only that I give no ‘ sort of direction to the tribunal as to what decision it is to make, and provided that no other departmental officer gives any such direction. I assure the honorable gentleman that no such direction proceeds from my department. I am, as it happens, responsible for the constitution of this tribunal, and I am interested in making that tribunal work in order to ensure fair play in this Territory. My attitude all through has bee>n that whatever this tribunal says in relation to the Territory must be accepted, because if you believe in tribunals what they say must he authoritative.
The matter raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) concerning the waterside workers will be gone into by my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Industry (Mr. John Lawson). The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked why the Government had not operated the Industrial Peace Act in relation to the dispute in the coal-mining industry. That act has been a dead-letter for many years. There are very real objections to exercising powers under that law while the Conciliation and Arbitration Act stands as it does, but if I were to go into them at this stage I should prevent the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) from dealing with the matters raised concerning his department. However, I shall be prepared to discuss this matter fully with the honorable member for Hunter at some other time.
– Matters affecting my department have been raised by two honorable members. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) has drawn attention to what he regards as the desirability of providing memorials in the Australian Capital Territory to Australians prominent in art and letters. No doubt he touched a sympathetic cord in the hearts of all honorable members, and I assure him that I shall convey f1 the Government the sentiments which he expressed. I am sure the Government will consider his representations sympathetically. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) directed attention to the increase by £110,000 of the administrative vote for the Department of the Interior. This extra cost is the measure of the expansion that has taken place in the work of this department, resulting, principally, from -two causes. The first is the very great expansion on the works side of the department, which resulted in the creation recently of the new works department. We are now entering upon the greatest public works programme in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of the Interior has expired.
Proposed votes put and agreed to.
Proposed vote, £6,874,000.
.- 1 desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence a proposal for the establishment of a motor cycle corps, which I understand has the support of a highly-placed military officer in South Australia. No such suggestion was made to me while I was Minister for Defence, and I do not know what duties such a corps would undertake, but I have seen on the films pictures of military motor cycle corps in Germany. There are thousands of young fellows who own motor cycles, and they would be keen to offer the services of themselves and their machines if some allowance were made for operating costs. The adoption of the suggestion might help the Minister for Defence in the campaign to increase the strength of the militia. I put it before him for what it is worth.
.- As a practical soldier, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will have full knowledge of the value of rifle clubs as an adjunct to defence, and I urge upon him more sympathetic consideration of them than they have hitherto received. The complaint generally is that, instead of being encouraged, rifle clubs are discouraged. That is a wrong policy to-day when we are endeavouring to . increase the strength of the militia to 70,000 men. It is well to point out that the men in “the rifle clubs provide a defence reserve of 50,000 men, who give their services, not only voluntarily, but also at a cost to themselves of about £12 per annum, in order that they may perfect themselves in the use of the service rifle. Requests for assistance in the formation of rifle clubs in various parts of Australia have so far fallen on deaf ears, but I feel sure that the Minister, who has just taken over the Defence Department, will be more sympathetic than his predecessors, and I trust that the many requests for the formation of rifle clubs will evoke a favorable response from him.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has been good enough to furnish a reply to representations that I have made for the granting of furlough for employees in munitions establishments, but his reply is disappointing. It will, I feel sure, be found if the records are perused, that a former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, was sympathetically inclined towards a proposal that men employed at the Lithgow and Maribyrnong munition works some of whom have at least fourteen or fifteenyears of service should be granted furlough rights, but, because they are not yet considered to be permanent, they have no right of furlough, whereas men who occupy positions in the Commonwealth railways and other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service, under similar conditions, have that right. The Minister’s reply states -
With reference to your representations on 10th November, 1938, in the House of Representatives, relative to the question of furlough for employees in the munitions establishments, 1 have to inform you that it is considered furlough is a concession which, so far as persons employed in the Commonwealth service are concerned, should only be granted to officers employed in a permanent capacity, and that its extension to persons employed on the temporary staff would be unwarranted.
The principle of excluding temporary service from consideration in the granting of furlough is embodied in Section 73 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which provides, inter alia, that, in the case of any person becoming an officer after the commencement of the Act, the service which shall be taken into account for the purpose of granting furlough shall not include any service in a’ temporary capacity.
I am enclosing copy of the relevant part of the judgment of the Public Service Arbitrator in Determination No. 6 of 1922, dealing with this matter, and, so far as Defence employees are concerned, it is not considered that there is any warrant for departing from the principle then approved.
A rank injustice has been done to men employed in the Defence Department who are in reality permanent employees of the Government, and I trust that the Minister for Defence, who has been in charge of the department for only a short space of time, will give this matter further consideration. I do not suggest that men who are merely on the fringe, men with service of a year or so and may be described as casual employees, should be granted furlough rights, although I think that they should be entitled to qualify for them; but men who have served for five, ten or fifteen years should be classed as permanent employees. The Minister, the Government, and the Defence Department cannot justify the exclusion of these men from the rights that are enjoyed by men in other branches of the Public Service. I shall be interested to hear the Minister on this subject, although I realize that he has not been in command of the department sufficientlylong to have been able to ascertain the full facts.
Recently, I accompanied other honorable gentlemen on an inspection of the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory at
Lithgow. I saw there idle machines which could well be used. They lie idle because it is the policy of the Government to transfer to private enterprise work which ordinarily would be done by the Defence Department in the Commonwealth munitions factories. I strongly resent the attitude of the Government, because, as the result of that policy, about 100 men were dismissed from the munitions factory at, Maribyrnong, and no doubt that applies to the men at Lithgow also. I give credit to the Minister for Defence, and to his predecessor (Mr. Thorby), for the fact that those men dismissed at Maribyrnong have at last been reemployed; but as the result of the Government’s policy to hand to private enterprises certain work which was formerly done by the Commonwealth munitions establishments, men who have given up to twelve years of service have, for considerable periods, been put off work. A company known as Austral Bronze, which I believe is a “ pup “ company of Imperial Chemical Industries, is now doing the work which the Maribyrnong munitions establishments used to do.
– That company is in Adelaide.
– Imperial Chemical Industries Limited - .has subsidiary companies all over Australia, but these works are in Sydney. The Scullin Government encouraged and developed at Maribyrnong the production of sheet brass, strip brass, strip nickel and sheet nickel - the basis of the silver plate industry. No one else at that time would undertake the work, although the product was essential for shell cases. After the industry had been established on a profitable basis it was handed over to a private firm. The Government handed to its friends the right to make a profit out of an industry which is essential to the defence of Australia, and should therefore be a national undertaking.
– How long ago was that?
– Within the last couple of yeaTs. In consequence, 100 men lost their employment. They could not be absorbed in the private firm because the work was transferred to Sydney. They have been gradually given other jobs in the Maribyrnong works but, had that work been retained at Maribyrnong, those men would have retained their positions, and 100 more men would have had to be employed. We are frequently told that all governmental undertakings are unprofitable. Yet, when there is one profitable undertaking, the Government deliberately hands it over to a private company. The same thing happened to the Commonwealth woollen mills and the Commonwealth Government line of steamers. I deplore and protest against that policy. My impression of my visit to Lithgow was that at the Small Arms Factory there was m-chinery lying idle which could be used for the manufacture of articles required for private consumption, when it was not required for the manufacture of armaments. In a time of war the Government would need the services of men who were dismissed because of the discontinuance of the manufacture of certain articles at that factory. It is to the detriment of a country town that those machines should be left idle. Lithgow was once a prosperous town, but it is not so prosperous now because of the reduced quantity of work done by the Small Arms Factory. The Minister for Defence should re-establish at the Lithgow factory such enterprises as it formerly engaged in; they could be developed without loss and would probably show a little profit. Then, in a time of emergency, the machinery and the men trained in its use could be utilized for the manufacture of munitions of war.
– A monument should be erected to any governmental undertaking which was profitable.
– If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) wants an example of an industry which was conducted profitably by the Government, he should investigate the brass and nick?1 industry that was conducted at the Maribyrnong munitions works. It was a highly profitable industry that had never previously existed in Australia. As soon as it was shown to be profitable, it was handed over to the friends of the Government to enable them to make profits. I strongly believe that there should be no profit in the manufacture of armaments but where profits are possible, they should be made by the Government. We have heard recently from the Government frequent references to a period of emergency. If we are to judge by the attitude of the Government, war will be threatening for a long time. If that be so, the services of employees of the Government munitions establishments will be needed over a long period. Men who have been employed for ten or fifteen years at the munitions establishments should be retained in their service, because they provide a strong nucleus upon which to build if war should occur. We were told at Lithgow that at one time hundreds of men were employed at the Small Arms Factory. In parenthesis, I must say that the evening newspaper man who reported our visit to Lithgow exaggerated conditions there in a way that was ridiculous and a discredit to him. He suggested, for instance, that hundreds of men were engaged in an expanded industry, which is the reverse of the truth. The Lithgow people have the right to take strong objection to the false impression that was created by that report.
The Minister for Defence and the Government know that the machines at Lithgow could be used for the training of men to become experts in the manufacture of armaments. To let the machines lie idle when they could be utilized in the manufacture of armaments or articles that could have private sale when armaments are not required is to do wrong, not only to the industry itself, but also to the employees. I hope that what I have said will be helpful in assisting the Minister to take steps to re-establish the industries that have been relinquished. It may mean that work undertaken at Maribyrnong would be taken away from men who are my constituents, nevertheless, I feel that some decentralization is needed. If any centre is entitled to encouragement in this connexion it is Lithgow, because plant is already installed there and the necessary workers are living in the district.
– A few minutes ago the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) had circulated to honorable members an explanatory statement containing 35 pages of closely printed information on the Defence Estimates.
– We are supposed to have knowledge of all the details in it by half-past three o’clock.
– Apparently that is the intention, and the committee has only until 6.30 p.m. to discuss the whole of the defence expenditure for the current financial year. It is grossly unfair that such a short time should be allotted for the consideration of the Government’s defence programme, involving expenditure amounting to many millions of pounds. I enter my strong protest against this procedure.
I associate myself with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) in his plea for the encouragement of rifle clubs. I notice a small increase of the amount to be provided for expenditure on these clubs this year. The proposed vote is not nearly large enough. Rifle clubs are an important adjunct to our defence preparations. Members of these clubs devote much of their time to rifle shooting with a view to becoming efficient in marksmanship. They deserve every encouragement. Recently, in company with some members of the Seriate, I made representations to the Minister to have improvements made at the White Mark rifle range on Flinders Island. I understand that some money has been expended on this rifle range during the last year or two, but the entrance to it is still in a very unsatisfactory state. Expenditure of a small sum would make the road passable and the approaches to the range more pleasant for the members of this club, who have spent a considerable amount of their own money on it in recent years.
– Did not the captain of the rifle club say that he was satisfied with the present conditions?
– When I met the captain of the club a few weeks ago he and some other members expressed the hope that the Government could be induced to spend a little more money on the range.
I support strongly the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford). I was one of those who visited the Lithgow Small Arms Factory last week-end and received very courteous treatment from the municipal authorities, responsible citizens of Lithgow, and officials at the factory. We had explained to us the nature and extent of work fi one in the past, and were informed of future proposals. We were given to understand that some of the machines which we saw in operation had been turned on for our especial benefit; normally they would not have been working, a fact which I regret very much. The party inspecting the factory should have seen it functioning normally. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong that our munition factories are capable of manufacturing a much larger quantity of defence equipment than is being produced at present. There is no doubt about the suitability of Lithgow.
There has been some controversy over the manufacture, at Lithgow, of the Bren gun. I do not pose as an authority on this subject, hut I contend that every effort should be made to manufacture in Australia all armaments and munitions required for our defence. If it is possible also to manufacture all the tools essential for the production of armaments and munitions, that should be done. I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong that there has been a considerable slackening off in departmental manufacturing activities. Much of the work formerly done by the Defence Department is now performed by private enterprise. This is most regrettable. With the great expansion of our defence programme, skilled munition workers will be require for many years. More men should be encouraged to engage in this class of work so that there will he no shortage of technicians in the years to come when their services may be urgently needed. I hope that the newly-appointed Minister for Defence, who is so enthusiastically facing his heavy responsibilities, will examine this aspect of defence. It is admitted that some of the machinery at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory has been idle for some years. It is also probable that since our visit to that establishment some of the machines which we saw in operation have reverted to idleness.
It is rumoured that £15,000 is to be expended on the erection of temporary accommodation in Canberra for the Civil Aviation Branch of the Defence Department. This large expenditure on a temporary building must mean that work of a permanent nature is to be postponed. More than ten years ago many thousands of pounds were expended upon foundations for a new administrative block at Canberra. More recently these foundations were strengthened, but the Government has apparently changed its policy, and instead of proceeding with the erection of a new permanent administrative block, it intends to spend a large sum on the .construction of a temporary building to house the Civil Aviation Branch. I hope that the reported intention of the Government is not true, because a temporary wooden building would be unsuitable and an eyesore for many years to come. A statement on the Government’s building policy in Canberra has been promised frequently, . but so far nothing definite has been said. All that honorable members know is the meagre information which they are able to glean from the daily press. The time 13 long overdue for a complete statement to the House of the Government’s intention with regard to the provision of homes and office accommodation in Canberra. The remaining Commonwealth departments should be transferred to the Seat of Government as soon a3 possible, and to this end the Government should undertake a comprehensive building programme for homes and office accommodation.
– Several matters affecting the Northern Territory should be brought before the committee. Once again I emphasize that Australia is the worstmapped country in the world. The map makers of Australia, particularly the institutes associated with the civil engineering and surveying profession throughout the Commonwealth, are anxious to co-operate with the Government. [Quorum formed.] During the recent international crisis, the Institutes of Surveyors in Perth and Melbourne offered their services in this direction, but the Government seems to be ill-informed as to the necessity for more complete maps than are now available. In Victoria, the State authorities have announced their intention to submit legislation for the coordination of the maps of the various governmental instrumentalities in that State. This should prove to the Commonwealth Parliament the necessity for a complete map of the continent. No continent can be adequately defended without proper maps. 1 hope that at no distant date a separate staff will be provided for the production of aerial charts of the main flying routes. Recently, I asked a question on the subject in this chamber, and the Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) appeared to consider that the production of strip maps of a greater width than those used in the past would meet present needs. 1 shall endeavour to invoke the aid of the authorities in one of the States with a view to the production of a map that would portray the continent in relief, and which would supply pilots with the information that they need when in the air.
A great disparity is noticeable between the accommodation provided at Darwin for the officers’ and sergeants’ mess and the quarters of the men in the ranks. It is necessary in the tropics for houses to be built 8 or 10 feet above the ground. The quarters of the officers are raised in this way, but it is highly regrettable that the accommodation for the men is built at ground level. The men’s quarters are a disgrace to the architect who designed them, because, between two long rows of barracks and only 27 feet from them, are the latrines, the site of which is most undesirable. In the Northern Territory, only aborigines sleep on the ground. The quarters for the men should have been raised in the usual way. The beds on which they sleep might have been taken from the gaol at Bathurst. The members of the military garrison should be housed in a manner similar to that in which it is proposed to accommodate those members of the Royal Australian Air Force who will be stationed at Darwin. These quarters, which do credit to the designers, are quite suitable for the tropics.
So many flying accidents have occurred in connexion with the Royal Australian Air Force that we should seek the reason for them. I have good ground for believing that the Anson is a good machine, and I am convinced that the accidents are largely due to the decree that only members of the force between the ages of eighteen and 24 years may become pilots. In my opinion, a man does not acquire com- plete balance until he reaches the age of 25 years, but at that age he is considered by the Air Force authorities to be too old for the work of a pilot. Engineers, riggers, observers and others of many years’ standing in the force, who are fit in every way to qualify as pilots, are compelled to risk their lives in the plane* with younger men as pilots. I maintain that dual control should be provided for, until the young pilots are of sufficient age to fly solo without risking the lives of men eleven or twelve years older than themselves. I seriously suggest that many of the accidents have been due to the youth of the pilots.
– Only one Minister and about half a dozen ministerial supporters are listening to the honorable member.
– Such apathy has been observed in the past. Each member is allowed to speak for only fifteen minutes, and I was unable to secure an opportunity to discuss the vote of the Department of the Interior, although I was present in the chamber.
Members of the military forces stationed at Darwin have not an opportunity to visit the hinterland in order to make themselves familiar with the country over which they may be called upon to operate or which they may have to defend. Although I cannot see any hope of a satisfactory policy of development being adopted as a result of the recent ministerial visit to the territory, I think that the Minister for Defence should devise a plan by which members of the force would have an opportunity to become acquainted with the back country, even if they only went there with survey parties in motor lorries. It seems futile to be spending about £1,500,000 in Darwin, an isolated outpost, if no action be taken to develop the hinterland. On the Katherine River, for instance, a valuable water conservation scheme could be adopted to provide water for irrigation purposes. The hinterland of Darwin is sufficiently fertile to produce a great deal of the foodstuffs which the Darwin garrison will require. Moreover, the Northern Territory is crying out for development by means of irrigation.
– I regret that I find it imperative to say a few words at this stage. At the outset,
I emphasize the significance of the observation of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), in directing attention to die belated circulation of the document described as an “ Explanatory statement in relation to the Estimates of Defence Expenditure “. As one who has had some experience in examining type, I calculate that the document contains about 25,000 words. It was circulated amongst us at 3.30 p.m. when the committee was expected to proceed to the consideration of the estimates of expenditure of the Department of Defence. The vote in this section is £6,874,000 to cover the maintenance expenditure in connexion with the activities of the department, the total expenditure of which in the present financial year is to be £16,796,641. This money is to be obtained partly from revenue, partly from the defence equipment trust account, and partly from the civil aviation trust account, whilst £4,400,000 is to come from the loan fund. There is to be a capital expenditure of nearly £10,000,000, to £1,800,000 of which the country has already been committed as the result of previous decisions by the committee. In the present financial year there is to be new expenditure of £8,113,000, in addition to the maintenance expenditure which I have already mentioned as £6,874,000. On page 36 of the explanatory statement is a dissection of the distribution of maintenance expenditure under the various heads of the defence services, and also a statement showing the proposed capital expenditure in the current year for each group of the services. At this stage .1 am not in a position to say how much of that is an additional allotment under the new programme, and how much of it represents maintenance in completing the three-year programme which the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) explained some time ago, and I submit that no other member of the committee is in a position to do so. Having regard to the colossal expenditure proposed, and to the way in which this committee deliberates, it is evident that the committee of the whole House is not the most competent body that could be devised to examine in detail estimates of expenditure. I am not satisfied that this proposed vote represents the minimum amount required to ensure the economic carrying out of the Government’s policy in respect to defence. I am convinced that there is a great deal of haphazard preparation of the Estimates. The Treasurer has been asked to find as much as he can, wherever he can find it, and, having regard to the hurried way in which plan after plan has been developed, the examination of proposed expenditure has been inadequate for the purpose of ensuring the best return for the money. A finance committee of the whole committee should be deputed to examine in detail estimates of expenditure which represent so great an increase on what has been voted for this purpose over a number of years. I frankly recognize that the world position has rendered it more or less unavoidable that Australia should make increased provision for its own security. The Labour party stands for the adequate defence of Australia, and this places upon it the responsibility of saying how much. in its opinion, ought to be expended on defence. We desire to expend all that is necessary, but not one penny more, because every penny expended on defence represents a diminution of the amount available for essential social services, for the development of the nation in a reproductive sense, for housing, for assistance to primary producers, and for unemployed relief. No one can justify a lack of vigilance on the part of Parliament, or a failure to scrutinize carefully all expenditure on defence or on war. Those two activities have been notorious for profiteering by private firms and individuals, and for an unjustifiable failure by governments to guard against unnecessary expenditure. There is an obligation on the Parliament to guard against invasion and attack, and there is an equal obligation upon it to protect the country from exploitation under cover of the hysteria created by international unrest and danger. We know that there exist certain interests that are not above profiteering from the needs of the nation at the expense of the welfare of the nation as a whole. Recent disclosures of what took place in London during the weeks preceding the signing of the Munich Pact should be a salutary warning against the risks of profiteering which appear to be inherently incidental to defence preparations. The rapid growth of expenditure by the Defence Department is only what I should expect, having regard to the manner in which the international situation has deteriorated, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility of ensuring that we do not unduly burden Australia by expenditure which, if we took time to examine it carefully, we might see was excessive and avoidable. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) is not to Warne for the way in which the Estimates were submitted. He has just accepted the portfolio, but [ ask him to ascertain whether all this expenditure is really necessary. This year, £3,800,000 is to be expended on the Army, practically half of which is for maintenance, and half for capital expenditure. On the Air Force, capital expenditure is to be £2,200,000, with an additional £1,300,000 for maintenance. This Parliament has never been in a position to determine whether, as a matter of policy, more or less should be expended on these various arms of the service. For my own part, I should expend on capital equipment more than is proposed for the Air Force, and not so much for the Navy. I put that forward, however, merely as an expression of opinion, because I have not been in a position authoritatively to inform myself regarding the best allocation of the £16,000,000 which it is proposed to expend this year for defence purposes. I may be told that the Government has had the advice of experts on the subject, and that I, therefore, should accept the allocation without question. But I doubt whether that is an adequate answer to give either to me or to the country. The replies which have been given by Ministers to questions have not led me to have complete confidence, either in their frankness, or in the correctness of the information imparted. [ cite one instance. Not long ago, the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), in reply to a question, said that the high salary paid to the Inspector-General of the Australian Forces, Lieutenant-General E. K. Squires, a salary almost twice that paid to any Australian officer, was in keeping with his rank in the British Army. Then, in answer to a question
Mr. Curtin. on notice on the 5th October, 1 learned that Lieutenant-General Squires had been promoted from the rank of majorgeneral in the British Army to that of lieutenant-general simultaneously with his appointment as Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Forces. I now ask the .present Minister for Defence whether it is not a fact that Lieutenant-General Squires received the rank of lieutenantgeneral after hi3 appointment as Inspector-General of the Commonwealth Forces and, as a matter of fact, only two days before he sailed from England to take up his position in Australia? The previous Minister for Defence announced Lieutenant-General Squires’ appointment on the 18th May of this year. The British Army list, as at the 30th June, 1938, shows that, on that date, his rank was still that of major-general. I readily acknowledge that, in the search for a competent inspectorgeneral, the Defence Department might have made up its mind that the best man in England for the position was Major-General Squires, who, when approached, may have said : “I am willing to go to Australia, but I do not think that I should accept there the salary of a major-general, the same as I am getting here. I feel that, if I am to accept so important a position, I should be promoted “. I could understand the Australian Minister for Defence saying, in the circumstances, “It is Squires whom we want. Squires is the man we oughto pay for. He is worth twice as much as any Australian officer, and, therefore, we are going to arrange with the British authorities to promote him to the rank of lieutenant-general, and then he will be entitled to the salary that goes with that rank “.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition know the date upon which the appointment was gazetted?
– No, but the appointment was announced as from the 18th May. The first answer to my inquiries was that he was promoted simultaneously with his appointment as InspectorGeneral. I now ask if his promotion took place only two days before he sailed for Australia.
– The announcement may have appeared in the Gazette then, but the promotion and the appointment COU10 have been simultaneous.
– I have access only to the Gazettes which are published from time to time, and I do not know whether I have been frankly dealt with or not, Such documents as are available make it appear that, instead of a reasonable statement having been made, there was a desire to be not quite as frank as the circumstances warranted. If I had been Minister for Defence I should have said, “ We have appointed Major-General Squires of the British Army to be InspectorGeneral of the Australian Forces. We believe that, in order to get him out here, we ought to pay him a higher salary than that of a major-general, and, therefore, we will take steps to have him promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general “. That would have been honest and straightforward, but there has, instead, been a lack of candour. This lack of candour characterizes, not only the appointment of this man, but also the greater part of these Estimates, involving the expenditure of £16,000,000 this year. I suggest to the Minister - who I believe is a sincere and capable man, anxious to render high service to the country, as I believe he will - that this committee owes a duty to the public to examine all proposed expenditure very carefully. It is not enough for members of Parliament merely to accept the Estimates as put- before them. There ought to be a special finance committee rather than a committee of the whole House.
– ‘Would the Leader of the Opposition accept membership of such a committee?
– The committee should be appointed by the House, and its personnel determined by the House.
– Would the honorable member confine the activities of the committee to defence expenditure? Other honorable members have put forward suggestions in regard to public accounts generally.
– I mention defence because, apart from expenditure under special acts, defence expenditure is greater than that of any other department. It is, in a social sense, the expenditure -which the country can least afford.
That applies to all war and defence expenditure in every country. I do not say that it is expenditure that we can avoid, but we could certainly put the money to better use if we were free from the menaces which make it necessary for us to devote it to defence.
The next thing - and this is an additional reason for my submission - is that, in respect of the expenditure on defence, there appears to be what I have described as an inherent capacity on the part of certain interests in the community to charge excessive prices for the services which they render. The record of profiteering in regard to war and defence is more abominable and more scandalous and, I venture to say now, more documented, than it is in regard to any other aspect of our national life or governmental activities. You cannot call for tenders with that precision in respect of the requirements for the Defence Department that is possible in connexion with the requirements of the Postal Department because, if the latter department is satisfied that the price is too high, it need not go on with the work. The Defence Department, having regard to the general atmosphere in which it labours, is always working under pressure, in that its expenditure is usually reduced when the world appears to be un a fairly even keel, and there is a terrific acceleration of speed when danger threatens. Whatever costs are incurred are costs which cannot be examined with that carefulness which can be exercised in respect of the requirements of other departments. As I have said, the Defence Department must get the material. I feel sure that that is so with regard to the supply of aeroplanes. We must buy them from the United States of America, and we have to pay the price charged for them. We are in competition with other countries for equipment which we urgently need. It is idle for the Minister for Defence to say that he can police carefully the prices charged for these things. He cannot. He will do his very best, I have no doubt, but his best will not safeguard the country against excessive burdens in this connexion. I rose merely to say that the number of honorable members present in the committee, the expenditure in these Estimates, and the general circumstances associated with the limitation of the debate when we come to the consideration of specific items of expenditure, all suggest to me that in the future the examination of the defence estimates ought to be the work of a special committee instead of the work of the whole committee.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has once again directed the attention of the Government to the necessity for having some closer supervision by a committee of the House over the items involved in the greatly increased expenditure by the Commonwealth Government not only this year, but also in the years that have led up to it; and I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will once again convey to the Government that strong expression of opinion, not only from the Opposition side of the chamber, but also from this side, as to the necessity for having some smaller body of the House which can function either as a finance committee or as a public accounts committee. [Quorum formed.] There is every reason to believe that committees of this kind which have been appointed by the House of Commons do exercise a very strong and healthy influence over governmental accounts and estimates of expenditure. While asking the Minister for Defence to convey to the Government that feeling of this committee, I think it would also be of value to the committee as a whole, and to the country, if he would indicate the degree of supervision which is now exercised by the Defence Department over estimates of expenditure which are prepared for him. There has been a steadilygrowing feeling in the community that the Government is embarking upon a greatly increased expenditure sometimes in a rather haphazard manner - without any apparent settled plan, as far as the man in the street can see it - and there is a definite feeling that the defence expenditure is not given the same close supervision as estimates of expenditure submitted by other government departments. That feeling may have been promoted, to some degree, by the statement nf the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that the Defence Department is one de partment which can count upon an open cheque as far as the recommendations of defence experts require implementation. I think it would be of great value to this committee, and again, I say, to the country, if the Minister would give us some indication of what supervision is exercised over the estimates submitted to him by his officers.
The only other specific inquiry I wish to make, as far as the Estimates themselves are concerned, is in reference to the question .of the Army. I do not consider that the changed plans of the Government in reference to the expansion of the militia forces have been reflected in the Estimates of expenditure for the current financial year now before us. These Estimates were submitted to us with the budget papers at a time when the paper strength of the Militia Forces was in the neighbourhood of 35,000. Subsequently, a pronouncement was made that the strength would be increased to 42,000, and, later, we were told that the number would be raised to 70,000. Despite this doubling of the Militia Forces, I have not been able to discover any stated increased estimate of expenditure. Therefore, I would greatly appreciate, as I am sure would other honorable members, some indication from the Minister, as to where the estimated increase of expenditure as the result of this changed plan is shown in the Estimates now before us. There does not seem to be anything to indicate ‘ what proposal the Government has in mind, for example, to make the present militia system more attractive, or what additional expenditure is contemplated on extended camp periods, which some people have suggested are likely to be a feature of the new militia training proposals. Consequently, I hope that when he is replying to those honorable members of the committee who have spoken in connexion with his department, the Minister will at least take advantage of the opportunity first, to indicate the supervision which is now exercised, and, secondly, what is the estimated additional expenditure, if it does not already appear in the Estimates, which may be expected as a result of the proposed expansion of the militia forces to 70,000 men.
.- There are just one or two things in connexion with defence expenditure to which I should like to direct attention. Although the first is not a very big matter, nevertheless it is important from the point of view of the areas concerned. At the present time we are seeking to double the strength of the militia, and it is of great importance that, when we have the men, they should have proper facilities for training. Man-power itself is not of very great avail unless it is utilized to the best possible advantage, and in this respect I would draw the attention of the Minister, as I did last year, to the lack of rifle ranges, where young men can attain that proficiency in the use of the rifle, so necessary if they are to be of real service should an emergency arise. Lastyear I directed attention to the fact that there are several districts, particularly in the country areas, where young men have little opportunity to fit themselves for the defence of their country, other than to form fours, and do the usual troop formations, and that the important work of becoming accustomed to the use of a rifle and developing a proficiency, in marksmanship is denied to them because of thefailure of the Government to spend the relatively small amount of money necessary for the provision of rifle ranges in those centres. I ask the Minister to give some attention to this matter, in view of the fact that there are, in a number of country districts, very enthusiastic bands of boys and young men anxious to attain proficiency in marksmanship, whose enthusiasm cannot be kept alive if they are denied the opportunity to do so.
I should like to add a word or two to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in respect of the budget papers and the adequate defence of Australia. All honorable members have a great deal of respect for the views advanced by the honorable gentleman, but we also look for a measure of sincerity behind his remarks and his actions in support of his plea that he stands for the adequate defence of Australia. Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have listened very patiently for some clue as to what the Leader of the Opposition means by the words “ adequate defence “ ; but I have failed yet to find anything which would justify me in thinking that, he had any real concrete plan, other than the provision of aeroplanes. Any reference as to how the man-power is to be provided is carefully avoided. I suggest that the statements of the Leader of the Opposition would carry more weight among members on this side of the chamber - his arguments are listened to very respectfully - if he would indicate just where he stands, instead of employing words the meaning of which we cannot fathom.
– He is not concerned about influencing the honorable member.
– The honorable member is not concerned about the adequate defence of Australia. The question of the monetary requirements for the adequate defence of Australia is, of course, largely a matter for the experts to determine; but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this committee should have, well in advance of such a paper as has now been presented to it, definite information as to what is . proposed and contemplated. The expenditure of almost £17,000,000 this year is a staggering burden to be suddenly thrust upon the people of Australia. I am of the opinion that probably most, if not all, of the items of defence expenditure can be justified; but no evidence has been placed before us as to why they should be justified, other than the figures compiled by the Defence Department. In this respect we are requested to accept with blind confidence whatever is put in front of us. I welcome the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a committee of this House be created to investigate the Estimates of expenditure to be submitted to Parliament. Should such a committee be appointed, I sincerely hope that the Leader of the Opposition will see fit to discard party political considerations and decide to co-operate with the Government in obtaining an effective control of defence policy. There may be much in the honorable gentleman’s contention that the Air Force is the most important arm of Australia’s defence. I have an open mind on the subject. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition would be in a better position to decide on the relative importance of the Navy. Army and Air Force if he were in closer touch with the department, and knew the reasons which underlie the recommendations of its experts.
.- The memorandum which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has supplied contains some interesting data regarding rifle clubs. In Queensland there is a waiting list of men who desire to join rifle clubs, and a number of prospective clubs only await authority for their formation. As the Minister’s statement indicates a decline of the number of rifle clubs and their membership, I should like to -know why new clubs cannot be formed in Queensland, and why extra men are not allowed to join existing clubs. In paragraph 39 of the Minister’s memorandum it is stated that whereas the number of rifle clubs last year was 1,178 there are now only 1,152 - a decrease of 26 clubs - whilst their strength had diminished from 50,241 men last year to 46,911 on the 30th June last - a decrease of 3,330.
– During the year sixteen new clubs were formed, and 37 were disbanded.
– Then why cannot existing clubs add to their membership? There is financial provision for a membership of 50,000. I hope that when he replies the Minister will give this information. Although I have read the memorandum carefully, I have not noticed any indication of a change of policy in regard to the system of training, or any provision for the extra payment of the additional 35,000 men whom it is hoped will join the militia. Is it proposed to grant efficiency pay and deferred pay to those trainees who complete three years’ training?
– They are not covered by these Estimates.
– Does the Minister intend to make a statement on this suggestion at an early date?
– Then I shall say no more at this stage.
.- I do not wish .to embarrass the new Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) for I believe that he will expedite the works necessary to provide for the defence of Australia.
– The honorable member may have to eat his words before long.
– I hope not. I urge the Minister to provide an aeroplane at Hobart for the training of air pilots, for I believe that if that were done it would mean a great deal to the defence of Australia.
There is too much red-tape in connexion with the recruiting of air pilots. Only yesterday I was informed that a number of young men who are unable to get into the Royal Australian Air Force contemplate leaving Australia in order to join the Royal Air Force in England. If that be so there is something wrong with the administration of the Royal Australian Air Force. I regard the Air Force as the most important arm of Australia’s defence. [Quorum formed-] I hope that the Minister will give to every young man who has an inclination to become an air pilot an opportunity to show whether or not he possesses the necessary qualifications. Good navigators and pilots are as likely to come from the working class sections of the community as from those sections from which most of the air pilots are now chosen.
In considering schemes for the decentralization . of munition making, I hope that the Minister will not overlook the enormous possibilities of Tasmania’s hydro-electric power supplies. The memorandum of the Minister indicates that electric power will be used largely in making anti-aircraft guns and, therefore, I urge the claims of Tasmania for consideration. As is well known, hydroelectric units are the cheapest source of power. I understand that the only argument that has been advanced against the making of munitions in Tasmania is its geographical position. If that be true it would appear that Tasmania’s chances of sharing in this work are slight indeed. In the expenditure of defence moneys, the claims of every State should be carefully considered. Some honorable members do not know the possibilities of States other than those which they directly represent. I believe that the now Minister for Defence will stand up to his responsibilities, and will not overlook the claims of Tasmania as a producer of munitions. If Australia is to become as efficient in the manufacture of armaments as are other countries, the Minister should commandeer the whole of the output of the osmiridium mines of Tasmania. This metal, which is found in fairly large quantities in that State, was used in the Krupp factories long before the commencement of the Great “War. Osmiridium must bo used in the production of metal used in the manufacture of guns to enable it to withstand the great strain to which it is subjected. I have been informed by the Minister for Works (Mr. “ Thorby) that tenders are to be called on the 10th December next for the construction of certain defence works on the river Derwent, in Tasmania. I ask the Minister for Defence to expedite that work as much as possible, so that Tasmania may receive even some slight benefit from the huge defence expenditure which the Government proposes to incur, and so relieve the unemployed position, which is very acute. A good deal can be said in favour of the efficient munition works at Maribyrnong, but I should like the Minister to explain why, when men are needed, a highly efficient Tasmanian tradesman could not obtain work at that establishment. It would appear that Victorian and other tradesmen can be provided with work at Maribyrnong, but qualified Tasmanian tradesmen are denied the opportunity. I do not know why there should be such discrimination, because Tasmanians are as much entitled to the work as are tradesmen from any other part of Australia. Should war occur, the Government would be anxious to enlist men in Tasmania, and it should give consideration to Tasmanians seeking employment on defence undertakings. Of the £16,000,000 to be expended on defence this year, only £74,000 is to be expended in Tasmania. I again urge the Minister to provide an aeroplane in that State so that many of its air-minded young men, some of whom have had experience in flying, may train as pilots.
Sir CHARLES MARR (Parkes) o.i]. - As. in my opinion, the Empire must be defended on the water and in the air, I should like additional money to be provided for these two services. I appreciate fully what has already been done by the Government to develop our Air
Force, and the fact that the Government or the Minister cannot establish a complete organization in one fell swoop. For the Air Force, an excellent ground organization is necessary, and we must also have mechanics capable of maintaining the planes that we have at present; but Australia, as well as Great Britain, cannot obtain a sufficient number of mechanics to construct aeroplanes in order to develop the Air Force to the degree that we desire. There are several aspects of this problem which should be considered. We have in Australia what we might term amateur organizations, one of which is in New South Wales, and consists of flying men who served in the Great War. These men should be given an opportunity to fly at least once a month to enable them to control modern planes.
– Are they over 25?
– They may be, but I am not suggesting that they should be permanent officers. The experience they gained overseas would help this country materially if war should unfortunately occur. There is also an Australian Air League, the members of which are youths who are so keen to engage ir. flying that they are paying for their training and equipment out of their own pockets. I asked the ex-Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) whether that organization could not receive some definite assistance from the Government, or whether it could not get some recognition of the work it has been doing in training these lads so that when they reached the stipulated age, and attained their licences, they might be admitted to the Air Force or be given some work in the Civil Aviation Department, or in some organization under its control, rather than be discouraged by the department as it is doing indirectly at present.
While I offer no objection to the policy proposed to strengthen the militia, I believe that the volunteer system, which has served a useful purpose, must fail to provide an efficient organization for the defence of this country. I believe that a larger permanent force, and longer and continuous training, would ensure the efficiency which is so essential. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister the fact that many employers - I shall not mention names, although I am prepared to give them privately - are penalizing employees who desire to join the militia forces. Under the compulsory system any employer who refused to allow his employees to train or placed any impediment in their way was subject to a heavy penalty.
– So they ought to be.
– Yes. “Under our present system young men who have, shall I say, heroically served their country under the voluntary system have been penalized by large companies in Sydney, because they have attended camps. In such matters it is essential to have the co-operation of every employer and employing organization, and if the employers will not assist we cannot expect the young men to offer their services voluntarily. If employers will not assist in this direction they should be compelled to do so.
In connexion with the Navy, instances have been brought under my notice where lower-deck ratings - warrant officers who are the senior non-commissioned officers - have been treated, not by the present Minister for Defence, but by the department generally and by governments, in a most cavalier fashion in regard to the rates of pay allowed them. I understand that at present warrant officers cannot be obtained for service in the Navy. Petty officers refuse to take the work because the pay is not commensurate with the responsibility of the duties which they have to perform. Should a petty officer be promoted to the rank of warrant officer he gets an- “ Irishman’s rise “ because the pay of a warrant officer is actually less than that of a petty officer in that warrant officers have to bear heavier expenses for their mess. I feel sure that when these facts are brought under the notice of the Government a more satisfactory arrangement will be made. Consideration should be given to the lower-deck ratings, and inducements offered to men not only to qualify for the higher positions, but also to retain their connexion with the Navy so that in the event of war the Government would have available a sufficient number of welltrained men.
I regret that the time for the discussion ot the Estimates has been curtailed, because the defence of the Commonwealth is of paramount importance. I would go so far as to say that the Government cannot possibly hope to establish an efficient defence organization if it continues to proceed along present lines. Although a voluntary system of training will not provide an efficient defence organization, I am prepared to assist towards increasing the number of recruits to 70,000; but with an extensive coastline, such as we have, the military defence of Australia is of secondary importance to the Navy and the Air Force.
.-1 have listened with some attention to the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) who stated that he considers the Navy and the Air Force of paramount importance in the defence of Australia. Those resident in country districts are naturally interested in aerial defence, and in this connexion I direct the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) to the inadequate facilities provided in country centres. Many people in country districts are willing to engage in aviation, but owing to the centralization of aerodromes it is practically impossible for them to do so. I have made representations to the Defence Department on behalf of shire councils and municipalities for financial assistance to construct aerodromes, and to bring those already in existence up to a standard of efficiency that would enable pilots to he trained, but my requests have been refused. I trust that the Minister, from whom we expect so much - I do not think that we will be disappointed - will give some attention to this form of defence, and will make funds available to assist shire councils and municipalities which are anxious to provide adequate landing grounds. I do not think that we can contribute to the defence of this country in a better way than by providing aeroplanes and aerodromes at convenient centres to enable pilots to be trained. The residents in the outback areas of New South Wales are air-minded, and aerodromes should be constructed to assist those who wish to learn to fly. Moreover, in many country centres there are many unemployed, and if money were expended in the direction suggested their position would be relieved. I listened with rapt attention to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), whose statements were a revelation to many honorable members. We are indebted to the honorable member for the able manner in which he dealt with the maladministration of the Government in this respect. The Government should accept the opinion of an expert in such matters.
I join with many other honorable members in protesting against the indifferent treatment by this Government of numerous rifle clubs throughout Australia. These clubs should receive every encouragement, for they are necessary to the development of an adequate defence service. According to the explanatory statement issued fey the Minister, the number of efficient members in relation to the total strength of the clubs, compared with the figures for the previous years, is as follows -
The strength of the clubs has therefore declined by more than 3,000, and the number of efficients by nearly 2,500 in the twelve months. This is very regrettable, but the treatment that the rifle clubs have received should have led us to expect such a result. I have made repeated applications for assistance for both new and already-established rifle clubs in my electorate. Inverell has, perhaps, the largest rifle club in my district. Continuous efforts have been made for a long while to obtain assistance from the department to provide a new rifle range for its use, in consequence of the range previously used having been resumed by the Government. Unfortunately so far .all these efforts have failed. At Gwabegar, we have, one of the most enthusiastic bodies of men to be found anywhere. They have formed a club with a prospective membership of more than 100 and have undertaken to do all the work necessary to construct a rifle range if the Government will pro vide them with the necessary equipment. It might have been expected that such an offer would be accepted with alacrity, but unfortunately the request was refused.At Pallamallawa another enthusiastic body of men are desirous to establish an effective rifle club, but so far they, too, have been denied official encouragement.
In still another direction, the Government could do a good deal to encourage the militia forces. I refer to the strengthening of the light horse units. In most country towns the light horse unit is popular, and the time is now opportune to purchase horses. I know a good deal about horses, having been associated with them for more than twenty years. I assure the Government that at present it has an opportunity to secure remounts of the highest standard. Usually our best remounts are exported, but in consequence of recent events overseas, the export of both remounts and artillery horses has been suspended. The Government could at present purchase as many suitable horses as it desired at a more moderate figure than has been possible for many years past. If sufficient money were made available for the purchase of horses our light horse unitE could be -strengthened at a minimum of cost and in a most effective manner. Even the most casual examination of the magazines, and other publications, that have come to hand from overseas in the last few weeks show clearly that in the recent crisis considerable attention was given by the Central European powers to an increase of horse units. Germany, for example, purchased more than 3,000 horses from other countries during its recent mobilization. The pictures in the illustrated magazines that have come to hand show that horses are being increasingly used in military operations to put guns into position that could not be reached by mechanized units. As horses are now available at reasonable prices they should be purchased. Until recently the Defence Department would not offer within £5 or £10 of the value of horses suitable for shipping overseas. That state of affairs has existed for the last ten or fifteen years. We have been exporting more than 5,000 horses a year for military purposes, but such exports have now been reduced to a minimum. 1 appeal to the Government, therefore, to accept this opportunity to increase the efficiency of this branch of the service by buying the horses that are available.
I had intended to speak on other aspects of this subject, but the time available to discuss these Estimates is limited, and other honorable members wish to speak, so I shall content myself with once again appealing to the Minister for favorable consideration of the points that I have raised.
– I wish to add a word or two in support of the appeal that has been made to the Government to provide additional monetary assistance for the purpose of establishing rifle ranges at new centres through the country. For quite a long time strenuous efforts have been made to get the Defence Department to provide a useable rifle range at Alexandra. Now that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) and his colleagues are engaging in a recruiting campaign the Government will see the wisdom of constructing rifle ranges and providing necessary equipment for training of this description in country districts. An enthusiastic public meeting was held at Alexandra some time ago to further the project to establish a rifle range adjacent to the town. I have no hesitation in saying that if the Government will adopt the proposals made at that meeting the recruiting campaign in that district will receive a great impetus, and the local light-horse troop will be strongly reinforced. For at least eighteen months I have been making representations to the Government on this subject., but have met with no success whatever.
– Similar representations are being made in respect of many districts throughout, the Commonwealth.
– The old rifle range near the town is the site desired for the new ranges but the matter has been held up because of the refusal of one land-owner to grant firing rights. In my opinion the objections of this particular landowner are quite unjustified. I have visited the locality, and I cannot believe that any harm would come to stock if firing rights were granted. In my opinion the departmental regulations should be reviewed. At present, if one land-owner refuses firing rights, rifle-range project* can be entirely held up. Land-owners should be obliged to give good reason for refusing firing rights. It seems to me that, under the existing conditions, a change of ownership of certain land might result in the withdrawal of firing rights in which case a difficult situation would have to be faced. I urge the Minister for Defence to give immediate consideration to my request for a review of the departmental decision in respect of the rifle range at Alexandra. An officer of the department visited the town some time ago in connexion with this matter, but he interviewed only the objecting land-owner. He did not make contact in any way with the rifle club. That was a mistake. I ask the Minister to arrange for another visit, to the district by a departmental official, so that the matter may be reconsidered. If such a visit occurs, I hope that those interested in the local rifle club will be given an opportunity to state their case. If nothing can be done in connexion with the existing range, I appeal to the Government to make a new site for a range available. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that recruiting throughout the district will be stimulated if an effective rifle range is made available for use.
.- I move -
That the amount be reduced by fi.
This amendment, if carried, will be regarded as an indication to the Government thai; -
The Estimates of the Department of Defence have been inadequately dealt with by the committee of the whole House, which has been rendered unable to examine the details of this colossal expenditure in a way which would safeguard the nation against profiteering and exploitation, and to ensure that the amount asked to be voted is the minimum necessary adequately to defend Australia against aggression.
Acceptance of the amendment will not in any way impair the efficiency of our defence forces during the current year. The Opposition feels that a strong protest should be made against the incurring of the colossal expenditure of £6,874,000 for defence until Parliament has been provided with an adequate opportunity to consider all the details of the Government’s policy. This is imperative, if we are to do our duty to the taxpayers of Australia.- Earlier to-day, I pointed out that only three hours have been allowed us to discuss this proposed vote,. although our endorsement of it will involve an expenditure of about £16,000,000 in this financial year. We should be given an opportunity to determine for ourselves whether the allocation of this huge sum as between capital and maintenance is satisfactory. It might be that after discussion it would be agreed that the Government’s proposal should be endorsed, but at least we should be permitted reasonable time to consider the subject. We ought also to be allowed to review the allocation of the proposed vote as between the different arms of the service to ascertain whether it is satisfactory. The Opposition holds the view that the development of certain phases of our defence service is imperative to the safeguarding of the country. For example, we regard a standardization of our railway gauges as so important that it should be put in hand at once; but the Government has made no provision for that work to be undertaken. The Estimates have been submitted to us in such a way as to preclude any consideration of the balance as between the various activities. The whole vote is being submitted under the generic term of “defence of Australia”. I have no desire to do more than to emphasize what I said earlier thi3 afternoon. I mentioned that the assurance in respect of safeguarding the country against profiteering did not appear to have elicited any positive programme by the Government. What we do know is that it, for the most part, favours the utilization of private enterprise which operates for profit as against the utilization of national or State instrumentalities which would perform their functions at a reasonable cost. Furthermore, we are not in a position, in view of the way in which these Estimates have beer submitted to us, to decide whether the expenditure which is to he incurred outside Australia on capital equipment could not be equally economically and more advantageously, for other reasons, spent within Australia. I asked the Minister’s predecessor how much of certain equipment was to be imported, and, for reasons which he said were confidential, he refused to give the information to me or to the House. I know 1 can get an approximate idea of what the expenditure outside Australia will be by looking at the external loan floated by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the increased amount of exchange which the Defence Department expects to pay within the present year, but the dissection of the accounts in order to ascertain that total is an accountancy problem which, I confess, is so difficult that the liability to. error is very great. The Estimates should have been presented in a way which would have enabled us to know exactly what we are doing in this connexion.
An announcement has been made within the last two or three days which leads me to the belief, which may, or may not, be justified by events, that this colossal expenditure does not represent the entirety of the amount which the Government intends to ask Parliament to vote for the defence of Australia in the very near future. Should that be the case, then more than ever it appears to me that the Parliament, which is to tax the people in order to provide the money, should be given far more time and more information than have been given to us to consider this expenditure. Furthermore, we should be enabled to be certain that we are not wasting a very good deal of this tremendous amount which now exceeds £16,000,000. When this total is compared with the expenditure in past years the only justification for the stupendous increase involved should be the realization by the Parliament that the country is actually in grave peril. This is a reasonable construction to be placed upon the difference between the amount which we are asked to vote this year and amounts voted in respect of previous years. I know that this yea] the Government, apparently, has bad information which has warranted the Prime Minister in making a series of statements in which he has justified a very great expansion of the defence programme, but up to date the country has had only the generalization that increased defence is imperative, that the international situation is parlous, and that Australia is far from being secure. Those statements appear to me to call for something move than a mere declaration. In this committee there should have been given to us more substantial evidence of the imminence of the danger.
In conclusion I can only add that there can never be any doubt in the minds of the Australian people, or in the minds of the Government and its supporters, regarding the policy of the Opposition for the defence of Australia. We are ready - indeed, it is an integral part of our policy - to defend this nation adequately, and to make it self-reliant in its own defence.
– How far would the Labour party go? That is the point.
– I am asking the Government to give to us now a specification of what it says is required in order adequately to defend Australia. I have the feeling that these estimates involve an expenditure which is in part “wasteful, and which represents an amount of taxation upon the people that goes beyond what is required adequately to defend the country. Instances of profiteering and exploitation in connexion with war and defence, as I have already said, have been notorious. Those honorable members who support the Government can console themselves that they trust the Government, but the obligation of the Parliament is to make certain that it does not deplete the resources available to the people for the pursuits of peace merely because the Government feels it ought to spend more upon defence. The Opposition is willing to find every pound which, it is assured, is essential to the defence of Australia, and this committee is the place where that assurance, and that information, should be given.
– The Government needs more than money; it needs men.
– It is money we are asked to vote for in these Estimates.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has moved an amendment that the amount allocated for defence he reduced by £1, and, as his reason for so doing, has stated that this committee has not had an opportunity to examine in detail whether or not the amount provided is reasonable, and whether or not the situation is such as to justify what is a colossal expenditure on defence. The honorable gentleman will realize that, attached to the Defence Department, are financial officers of a very high standard of training whose duty it is to scrutinize every single item of proposed expenditure that comes before them. There are also tender boards which scrutinize every contract that comes before them. In fact, every item brought before the committee on these Estimates to-day has been scrutinized most carefully by officers within the department, by Treasury officers, and, to the degree to which I am capable, by myself.
– By the Public Service but not by Parliament!
– It is no pleasant task to ask Parliament to vote nearly £17,000,000, and one does not do so without a full realization of what it means, or without a full realization of the fact that it would be an iniquitous request to make if the Government did not believe that the adequate defence of Australia warranted the expenditure of that sum. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he and his party stand for the adequate defence of Australia. Of course, it is very difficult to define what that phrase “ adequate defence “ really means. The Government also stands for the adequate defence of Australia. It has consulted with its technical advisers both here and abroad, and as has been stated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), by my predecessor (Mr. Thorby), and by myself, it is as the result of those consultations that the Government has presented its programme to Parliament involving an expenditure of about £44,000,000 over a period of three years. This has been done with a full realization of what is involved. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to believe that this year’s provision of nearly £17,000,000 has not been fixed because of some war hysteria, which it may he alleged exists, but is a sum which the Government and its advisers believe is necessary to enable Australia adequately to defend itself. Accordingly, Parliament is asked to vote that sum. I do not quite see how we could function if we had to take each individual item and allow some committee to say whether or not that item was justified, because in that case we should merely be doing again what has already been done. But I can assure the honorable gentleman that each particular item in the Defence Estimates has been scrutinized most carefully. The various arms of the services have not put up their requests for what they, consider necessary without going very carefully indeed into the justification for each amount. I know the honorable gentleman will say that there has been profiteering in the past, and broadly speaking it is, perhaps, true that there will be profiteering in the future; but it is the aim of this Government to watch things as closely as possible in order to ensure that there shall be no profiteering. In respect of the people who are offering their services in whatever direction their abilities may be useful, the Government, only recently, decided to utilize the services of accountancy societies in connexion with the supply of munitions and materials of war in order to ensure that costing might be fully investigated. That has been done so as to prevent any possible chance of profiteering, which I abhor just as much as does the Leader of the Opposition.
I repeat that the Government presents this defence programme in the very full realization of what it means. The Estimates, which set out in fairly close detail what the various services require, have been in the hands of honorable members for some considerable time. It is difficult, of course, to develop a joint-staff mind; it is difficult to say whether any branch of the service should receive priority over another branch. There will always be difficulty even among experts in that respect, but I believe that these Estimates have been viewed, as far as it is possible to do so, from the aspect of a joint-staff mind in order that a correct balance between the various branches might be maintained, and in order also to achieve the only objective which they seek to attain, namely, that we should have adequate defence. That is what the Leader of the Opposition wants, and that is what the Government wants.
In moving his amendment the Leader of the Opposition said that it would be immaterial if this sum were reduced by £1. That is true, but, of course, he realizes that, the import of his amendment goes further than that. Furthermore, he said it was not possible to tell, without a great deal of dissection and some guesswork, what proportion of this expenditure was being incurred overseas and what proportion was being spent in Australia. I assure the honorable gentleman that the greatest proportion which it is possible to expend in Australia will be expended in this country over the three-year-period. The nearest figure I can supply at the moment is that 72 per cent, of the total expenditure involved will be expended in Australia over that period. Nobody likes to send orders out of this country if they can be fulfilled in Australia. However, if we find that initial orders must be placed overseas then we shall do so in order that we shall make our position secure in the shortest possible time. I could continue at length in this strain. Both the Prime Minister and my predecessor have repeatedly outlined the defence requirements of this country, and the Estimates now before the committee are the means of putting the Government’s policy into operation. I’ agree that the amount which will b’e expended is enormous. I shall in the near future take the opportunity myself to state again in full the policy of the Government on defence, although honorable members on both sides of the committee must now know it.
– Will the Minister say whether in that statement he will be obliged to ask for a further appropriation?
– When I make my statement I shall make evident what I intend to ask for. The honorable gentleman will then be able to pass judgment on what I say. I cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable gentleman. I feel that the committee has had ample opportunity to examine these Estimates in the several months in which it has had them before it.
– What? Here is a document of 36 pages and we have just received it.
– I believe that it would be in the interests of honorable members generally if that statement were circulated early, and, if at some future date, I am in a position to make an early circulation of a similar document, I shall do so. I admit that it is difficult, impossible really, for honorable gentleman to assimilate the explanatory statement in an hour or so, but, if they have carefully studied the items in the Estimates, they can relate those items in their minds to the statement, and clear up some of the points that interest them. I repeat that I cannot accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I do not understand his purpose in moving it, because I believe that this committee has bad the opportunity to examine the Estimates in detail. They have been checked as carefully as possible and I do not believe that there is any wasteful expenditure. Every penny that it is possible to expend in Australia is being expended here.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because I am of the opinion that this committee should be given more details of the proposed expenditure of more than £16,800,000 on defence this year. With due respect to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), he has not indicated clearly what this money is to be expended on, where it is to be expended, or that it is to be expended in the best possible wuy to give every section of the community some interest in the defence and welfare of this country. The Minister said that it was difficult to state what arm of defence should receive the greatest portion of this vote, but I think that the Leader of the Opposition has made it abundantly clear that aerial defence is the best means of defence, and that expenditure on the purchase of aeroplanes for the Royal Australian Air Force would have better results than the outlay of a huge sum of money on the purchase of capital ships. We have established in this country a factory for the manufacture of our own aeroplanes, and, instead of sending money overseas for the purchase of naval vessels, which we are capable of building in this country, and munitions, for the manufacture of which, there are government-owned factories in Australia,we should devote as much money as is possible to the development of the aeroplane manufacturing industry and to providing employment in out ship-building industry.
On previous occasions, I have advocated the provision of coastal defences at Port Stephens. Incidental to the fact that if Port Stephens were adequately defended, a menace to the safety of the Newcastle iron and steel industry, and other great industries, including coalmining, would be removed, the earthworks which would be necessary for gun emplacements would provide a great deal of work for the unemployed. Port Stephens was selected some time ago as a naval base. As a port it is second to none in Australia. It has a wonderful entrance through which a fleet of vessels could enter abreast. By air Newcastle is only eight miles away.
– A fleet in Port Stephens would be vulnerable to guns at Newcastle.
– Not at all. It would have the protection of the cliffs. A hostile fleet could sail into Port Stephens without hindrance and bombard Newcastle. There is not even between Newcastle and Port Stephens a strategic road, although I have suggested on many occasions that one should be built.
When Sir Archdale Parkhill was Minister for Defence an application was made by the citizens of Cessnock, the metropolis of the coal-fields, for the Cessnock aerodrome to be put into good order and for the provision there of an air force machine for training of recruits to the Royal Australian Air Force, but nothing has been done. Irrespective of what is said about the people on the coal-fields, they have always shown loyalty to a degree which is equal to, if not better than, that shown by other citizens of the Commonwealth. For instance, at Kurri Kurri, throughout the years, there has been maintained a fine volunteer force. The former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, opened the aerodrome at Cessnock, and also visited the Kurri Kurri drill hall grounds. It was shown to him that the footballers who had a lease of the ground had expended £300 to make it fit for the game, and that it was also used as a parade ground for volunteers. When money was asked for the provision of a fence so that charges could be levied for admission to the ground, it was not forthcoming. Money was also asked for the provision of wooden flooring to cover the concrete floor of the drill hall. The then Minister made an estimate of the cost, but the work was not proceeded ~with. If the Government wants to encourage recruiting, it should provide facilities to make the life of recruits a little more f on genial than training on a cold concrete floor, and should also improve their social life. These are matters which we say should be attended to in order to encourage people to join the militia.
Why should there be centralized training of youths for the Air Force? If a young man in New South Wale3 wishes to enter the Air Force he has to go to Richmond, near Sydney, for training, but, in my opinion, there should be facilities for training in country centres. From time to time I have mentioned the appalling number of unemployed youths in my electorate, who have frequently made application to join the Air Force. If facilities for aerial training were provided in country centres, there would be adequate numbers of volunteers. It would also have a good effect on the recruiting for the militia. The Cessnock aerodrome is in a shocking state. At one time aeroplanes flying from Sydney via Charleville to Darwin landed at Cessnock, but, owing to the bad condition of the aerodrome, the landings were discontinued.
Duplication of railways, which is also necessary if this country is to’ be adequately defended, would provide work which would give many thousands of our citizens a stake in the country, with the result that the Government would have no trouble in obtaining the men necessary to defend it.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) twitted the Opposition with having no sincere defence policy.
– The honorable gentleman accuseJ the Leader of the Opposition of insincerity in his policy for the defence of this country.
– That is incorrect. I asked the Leader of the Opposition to state his policy.
– The honorable gentleman implied that this party was in sincere. He will find that that is so when he reads his speech. But the Opposition is sincere. What it is up against is this : Most honorable members of the Opposition represent industrial centres where there are thousands of unemployed, who ask, “ What have we to defend - a dole of 8s. a week?”. They want something to defend, and the only way in which the Government can instill in them the necessary patriotism is by giving them employment. Every available pound should be used for the purpose of providing employment. Several times honorable members on this side of the committee have suggested works which would not only be of defence value, but would also provide employment for the people. When the unemployed ask: “ What have we to defend?”, we are hard put to it to answer. The unemployed and their families live under deplorable conditions. Go into the coal-fields and you will find that the relatives of those who made the supreme sacrifice - in large numbers mark you! - are unemployed today. They wonder whether the sacrifices of those who went to the Great War were worth while. A state of revolt among the unemployed is being engendered by the order of society which exists to-day.
I have frequently urged the rehabilitation of the coal-fields by the adoption of methods for the extraction of oil from coal similar to those already in use in England. The Minister for Defence knows that we could build all the naval vessels and aeroplanes necessary for our defence, but that, unless we had ample supplies of fuel to propel them, they would be powerless. We can never be assured of having sufficient fuel for our mobilized defence forces unless we follow the example of England and obtain oil from solids such as shale and coal.
No one will question the sincerity of people in connexion with proposals to defend this country. Many requests have been made to the Defence Department to improve country aerodromes and to provide aeroplanes for the training of young men. More training centres are essential to meet the requirements of those who are anxious to get experience in the air. If the Government is sincere in this matter, it will make adequate provision for all defence arms, and will be prepared to maintain a standing army, not at the miserable rates of pay now proposed, but at least the basic wage. If this policy were adopted, there would be no need to send the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) out on a recruiting campaign; there would be no lack of volunteers to join the Permanent Forces. From the Hunter and Newcastle electorates alone, 12,000 or 15,000 men would readily enlist for three or four years’ service if good conditions were guaranteed. Why should not the conditions of service be made better? Is there anything wrong with the proposal to give permanent soldiers the basic wage? The creation of a standing army at good rates of pay would be a wonderful gesture by the Government, and would also be a positive contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem. The Government could then appeal for 100,000 or 200,000 men and expect to get them. If the Government will not offer the basic wage to volunteers, it should at least make sure that money voted for defence is spent to advantage. At present, it would be difficult for honorable members on this side to go into their electorates and call for recruits from among the unemployed, many of whom have reached the age of 26 or 27 years without having done a day’s work in their lives. These people cannot be expected to enlist in large numbers to train for the defence of this country. Naturally enough, they will ask themselves, “ What have we to defend ?” But if the ownership class, who have all to lose, offered them decent conditions, these men would then show some patriotism. This Government has continually evaded its responsibility with regard to unemployment which, it claims, is a matter for the States. I repeat that a standing army, paid at the basic wage, would be a wonderful contribution towards the solution of that problem.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The committee has not had an opportunity to consider in detail the Defence Estimates. Members have been unable to i get details of the proposed huge expen diture on defence. I am much concerned at the rapid expansion of the scheme, which the Government regards as adequate to make Australia secure against aggression. Government supporters have alleged that members of the Opposition have not indicated what amount, in their opinion, is necessary to ensure the adequate defence of this country. For our part, we say that, although the Ministry parades its belief in adequate defence, it has given no indication of the total amount which it considers will be required to make Australia safe. With the rapid expansion of defence activities and consequent increase of an already swollen defence budget, there is a definite possibility that, unless a limit is fixed, the Government will eventually find it necessary to effect economies in other directions. When that time comes this Government will, no doubt, do what other anti-Labour governments have done in the past; it will expect sacrifices to be made by the working people. The inevitable result of any nation engaging in an arms race, and expending huge amounts of money on defence, must be a demand, by those in control of the government, that the people shall accept a lower standard of living. We, on this side, would like to know what amount the Government considers necessary for the adequate defence of Australia. The sayso of this Government is not sufficient for the Opposition. Experience has shown that much of the expenditure on defence in the past has been extravagant. Apparently the defence authorities believe that the Government has unlimited sources of revenue at its command.
On many occasions I have brought under the notice of honorable members the unrest existing in certain of Australia’s defence forces, notably the Royal Australian Navy. Men on the lower deck have frequently voiced their grievances through members of the Labour party. They know that they cannot possibly hope for redress by an appeal, through the ordinary channels, to this Government. The following is an extract from a letter which I received recently from one of the naval ratings : -
I have been asked by several fellow members of the Royal Australian Navy to place a few facts before you. knowing that, in the Federal
Parliament, you and members of the Labour party are the only ones who are interested in the low er-deck wen.
It might be news to honorable members to know that there has been no increase of the pay of naval ratings since 1921, with one exception - that of seamen petty officers whose pay was increased by 2d. a day - and when the financial emergency legislation was passed the reductions of the pay of men on the lower deck were made in common with other public servants. This is one of the matters of which men on the lower deck have been complaining for some time. They contend with every justification” that at least they should receive any increases which have been granted to other sections of the Commonwealth Public Service. Since the abolition of welfare committees in 1933 the ratings of the Royal Australian Navy have had no satisfactory way of obtaining redress of their grievances. Although these committees, as constituted originally, did not give entire satisfaction, they were at least able to do something in the interests of the lower ranks. The welfare committees were abolished by the Defence Department following the ventilation by the ratings of certain grievances, and their subsequent report in the press. The abolition of these bodies was evidence of considerable discontent in the Navy. The Government took action to stifle expression of that discontent. In place of the welfare committees there was established what is known as the “lower deck board of review “ to which ratings were asked to make their complaints. Such a board exists on every ship, but as the boards are controlled by officers, in my opinion, it is impossible for them to deal satisfactorily with matters affecting the lower deck. The naval ratings are denied the right to bring their complaints directly before members of Parliament,’ and they are precluded the right of meeting, either on the ships or on shore, for the purpose of discussing grievances. The men strongly advocate the reestablishment of welfare committees.
General dissatisfaction is being expressed in many quarters at the manner in which members of the Naval Board deal with complaints, either from members of the naval forces direct, or when submitted through members of this Parliament. Despite the practice of refusing applications for extensions of periods of service beyond the normal retiring age, exceptions have been made in the case of higher-paid officers. Commander C. A. Parker, employed in the Navy Office, and Captain Pope, an officer at Flinders Naval Base, have been granted extensions of service for one year despite the fact that they are in receipt of substantial pensions from the British Government. The general opinion throughout the naval forces is that there is too much of the methods of the British naval authorities employed in the control of the Royal Australian Navy, and that the Naval Board, which consists almost entirely of former Royal Australian Navy men, does not encourage promotion from the lower ranks. If the Naval Board is continuing its policy with respect to the lower ranks, and gives preferential treatment to the higher-paid officers, further discontent will be caused among the ratings. Another matter which calls for comment is the fact that it is apparent that the Government is anxious to increase largely the number of professional soldiers in Australia, but at the same time it gives no encouragement to citizens to become familiar with the use of arms.
Judging by the vast expenditure which the Defence Estimates involve, the Government, if anxious to provide for the training of the largest number of members of the community, might have been prepared to make financial accommodation available for the development of the rifle .club movement. Evidently the Government has different ideas. Some members of the community who may not feel disposed to enlist in the militia forces may be prepared to become members of rifle clubs; but apparently the Government considers that it would not have so much control over the ‘members of such clubs as it has over the regular militia, and that the rifles and ammunition entrusted to them might fall into the hands of members of the trade unions, who probably would not be so pliant in the hands of the Government as would be the members of the militia, in the event of civil disorder.
Therefore, it seems that the Government is drifting towards a state of affairs in which the stage will be favorably set for the establishment of a dictatorship based on Fascist lines.
Let us consider for a moment the arrangements made by the Government in regard to the present recruiting campaign. Sir Thomas Blamey has been appointed to take charge of the recruiting secretariat. Everybody with any knowledge of public affairs knows that he did not disguise his hostility to the workers when he was Commissioner of Police in Victoria. When the . workers on the waterfront were struggling for better standards of living, he was prepared to allow armed police to shoot them down. Therefore, the workers must be careful how far they go even in suggesting that support be given to the proposals of the present Government. As a Labour representative, I always regard the actions of the present Government with suspicion, and I shall do my utmost to defeat it in any attack upon the interests of the workers. When financial assistance has been sought for food and clothing for the poorer sections of the community, the Labour party has been told that no money is available; but, when a huge expenditure is to be incurred in the purchase of guns and warships, we are informed that there is no limit to the cheque that can be written for defence. The Labour party is watching the actions of the Ministry carefully, and will not be sidetracked by honorable members opposite, who say that it is in possession of certain information which warrants this vast expenditure. The. Opposition desires sufficient evidence of the urgency of the proposed expenditure, and this Government has not yet furnished it.
– I protest against the way in which these Estimates have been submitted to the committee. As a business man, I strongly object to honorable members being asked to authorize expenditure to the amount of about £17,000,000 in the short time allowed for consideration of the proposals, and with the meagre information available. This committee must have regard to the interests of the taxpayers of Australia. Whilst this huge expenditure may be indispensable if Australia is to be adequately defended, every honorable member should see that extravagance is avoided, and that full value is obtained for the money expended. Having regard to the way in which the Estimates have been placed before us to-day, I challenge honorable members to prove that that desirable scrutiny is assured. The Government itself does not know where it stands in this matter, because we are asked to consider estimates as at the 30th June last which were submitted in printed form previously, and we have had other printed matter placed before us which we have been unable to examine in the short time at our disposal. The Government has amended its Estimates from time to time, if what we read in the press is correct. Only the other day, we were informed that the contemplated defence expenditure had to be supplemented by a further £3,000,000; therefore, it is useless for honorable members to close their eyes to the fact that inadequate examination has been made of these Estimates. Scant consideration has been shown for the welfare of the community, and, particularly, of the taxpayers who must supply the money for defence measures. The sum of £17,000,000 is not a small one, and, from my limited experience of public finance, I know that, whatever money is made available, means of disbursing it will be devised. Socalled advisers of the Government will submit all kinds of schemes involving the expenditure of large sums, regardless of the source from which the money must come. I lodge my protest against the unbusinesslike method in which the people of Australia are asked to provide for a minimum defence expenditure of £17,000,000, and a maximum which cannot be calculated. The total is being added to from time to time. The taxpayers of Australia have sufficiently heavy responsibilities already, and production has a big enough load to carry without a wastage of public funds. Having regard to the economic position of the nation, and the taxable capacity of the people, the Government should accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that an expert committee, representing both sides in politics, should be appointed to go minutely into the details of this scheme, in order that honorable members at least should be assured that value will be obtained for this enormous outlay, and that only indispensable expenditure will be incurred.
– I join in the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). Everybody knew that when the skeleton of the plan for defence was outlined an enormous sum of money would be required to complete it, and now we have reached the stage when we must ask at what point a halt will be called. I can see decided signs of the economic conditions of the people being depressed for the purpose of making increased funds available to augment the defence plans. Postal and State railway employees have been dismissed, and activities in other services are being curtailed in order to meet this tremendous expenditure. I should not be quite so critical of the Government if it were prepared to take a progressive step forward, and, if not prepared to go all the way with those who say that the Commonwealth Bank should extend credit to enable effect to be given to necessary defense proposals, it would at least say that sufficient credit should be made available by the Commonwealth Bank for ordinary peace-time activities if it will not do so for defence’ purposes. If the living standards of the people are undermined, the capacity of the nation for defence will be reduced. To ask the committee to increase the expenditure on defence from £9,000,000 to nearly £17,000,000 with the stroke of a pen, and to throw the Estimates before us without allowing time for their consideration, is unreasonable. Extravagant expenditure without careful examination of the proposals cannot be justified, and I will oppose it unless the living standards of our people are safeguarded. The question of the sincerity or otherwise of honorable members on either side in their support ofadequate defence measures does not arise. This is not a party political matter. The question is whether we should give proper consideration to the heavy defence expenditure for which provision is asked. From my point of view I wish to know whether it is reasonable to reduce expenditure on peace-time works, which would press down the living standards of the people, in order to make additional money available to cover the extraordinary expenditure for. defence proposed by the Government. There is every indication that this is what is being done. I can visualize the defence vote growing each half-year. I am sure the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) will ask for millions more money six months hence in order to carry out further defence plans. If this be so, some other method will have to be resorted to than extracting the money from the community at the expense of ordinary peacetime operations. The Government should have the courage to adopt other means of raising the necessary funds, even if it would result in treading on the toes of the private bankers who make loan funds available. Throughout the world, the raising of loans for war purposes is referred to as “ the Shylock’s delight “ and “ the people’s degradation “. If the policy of raising loans within and outside Australia is to be continued to meet the needs of defence, instead of the Government having the courage to adopt more modern methods of finance, it will be necessary to call a halt in the near future before we are taxed to the point of starvation. The opposition must cross swords with the Government when it prefers to reduce economic standards rather than adopt new methods of finance.
Question put -
That the amount be reduced by £1 (Mr. Curtin’s amendment).
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £726,000.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £135,500.
Department of Commerce
Proposed vote, £510,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
Sitting suspended from 640 to 7 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– I wish to take the opportunity presented by the discussion of the Estimates for the Health Department to congratulate the Government on a decision which I feel will give greater satisfaction throughout the Commonwealth than practically any other it has reached in recent months, that is, to promote a national fitness campaign and to set up the necessary machinery for that purpose. I merely express the hope to-night that the Government will press on with the necessary administrative steps to put this scheme into operation. It can rest assured that there is a tremendous amount of public support for a campaign of this character at the present time; the support which is reaching the Minister for Health (Senator Poll) from all quarters of the Commonwealth should be sufficient assurance in that regard. In taking such a step it will merely be following the good example set by the Parliament of Great Britain when, in 1937, it passed the Physical Training and Recreation Act and provided a sum of £2,000,000 to be spread over a period of three years to get the scheme thoroughly under way. In addition the Government promised that thenceforward it would provide for the continuance of the scheme a sum of £150,000 annually. Since then we have seen New Zealand, in November, 1937, put into operation a Physical Training and Welfare Act, the activities arising from which were featured by both political parties in the recent election campaign in that dominion. Faced with so much evidence of activity in this direction, not only in European countries but also in Great Britain, the United States of America, and the sister dominion of New Zealand, the Commonwealth Government may well feel that it is merely falling into line with a post-war development which has brought wonderfully good results in its train. I therefore express thevery sincere hope that it will not permit this project to languish in the months immediately ahead, but will see that by the beginning of next year, at any rate, the machinery is established and that there is someprospect of getting positive results at anearly date. Some financial provision will be necessary to initiate the scheme, but not on a large scale. If this scheme is handled, as have similar schemes in other countries, the Commonwealth will act merely as an administrative link between the various States. Although it should give a national lead in this matter and sponsor the scheme, the great bulk of activity in connexion withthe carrying out of a fitness campaign of this sort must devolve first from the
Commonwealth to the States, and thence to .the municipalities as the necessary local units. A great deal of interest and support has already been expressed in my State by municipal authorities in regard to the campaign, indicating that they are quite eager to give the fullest possible support to the scheme. If the scheme be launched with central administration from the Commonwealth Government, with State bodies set up by the State governments, and from them devolution to the municipal authorities, we shall find it comparatively easy to harness the enthusiasm of the people. Each municipality will be able to create a national fitness centre of its own, around which can revolve so many of those healthful activities which will do much to promote the general standard of health. The amount of money involved “would be relatively small having regard to the savings which could be effected by an all-round improvement towards optimum health standards - not only direct savings in respect of invalid pensions and claims which might be made for example, on the National Health and Pensions Insurance fund, but also indirect gains in the form of the assistance which better health standards would give to our defence measures. Taking all these factors into consideration the Government may well consider that any money expended in this regard will be money very well expended. Any improvement of the health standards which we can make is desirable, because even in this young and healthy country, not less than 30 per cent, of our volunteers for military service during the Great “War had to be rejected on the ground of medical unfitness. Faced with that fact, and with the spectacle of the growing number of invalid pensioners in the Commonwealth, we may well consider that the best economy can be effected in the Commonwealth by an expenditure concentrated on improving the all-round health standard of the community. I repeat that the Government, having given some hope to those who have advocated for so many years the promotion of a fitness campaign along the lines since recommended by its own National Health and Medical Research Council, should follow up its spoken word with positive action, by expeditiously inaugurating the projected campaign.
– On the 24th October, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) stated that since New Zealand had placed an embargo upon the exportation of white pine, the dairying industry of New South Wales had experienced great difficulty in obtaining supplies of timber for butter boxes. I have received information, not only from the timber interests, but also from Mr. Pease, Minister for Lands in Queensland, that that statement is not in accordance with fact. The Queensland Timber Export Association, writing to me on this subject, said -
In the last season New South Wales exported approximately 503,000 boxes of butter, and on the premise that each box requires- 3 ft. 0 in. of timber, approximately 2,000,000 super, feet of timber would be utilized for the season -
That is for the season in New South Wales -
There are numerous saw-milling firms in Queensland who turn out monthly more than 1,030.000 super, feet of timber each, and there are therefore absolutely no grounds for Mr. Anthony’s question.
The Queensland Minister for Lands, Mr. Pease, said -
Queensland could supply Australia’s requirements in hoop and kauri pine for butter box manufacture for all time.
It appears that there is an agitation in the dairying industry in New South Wales for permission to import timber from the United States of America. Following the statement made by the honorable member for Richmond the whole question was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. I trust that when the report is received by the Minister he will go very carefully into it in order to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the figures I have cited. I am perfectly satisfied that they are absolutely correct. I say very definitely that there is sufficient suitable hoop and kauri pine in Queensland to supply the whole of the requirements of the dairying industry in Queensland and New South Wales for many years to come. I trust that the Minister will do everything possible to protect the Queensland timber industry against timber imported from the other side of the world.
A very grave anomaly exists in the application of certain quarantine and inspection regulations by the Department of Trade and Customs. Several customs agents and importing firms in my electorate have complained to me about the pinpricking regulations that cause them not only a waste of time, but also, in the final analysis, quite a lot of unnecessary expense. It appears that all articles of timber or woodwork are subjected to quarantine inspection. A case hasbeen brought to my notice in which a firm imported a large case of agricultural machinery, consisting wholly of iron with the exception of one wooden handle or lever. Before the customs agent was able to secure the release of the case from the quarantine authorities it had to be opened and the one hardwood handle inspected. Fortunately, that regulation has now been repealed. I have here a long list of articles which must be submitted to the quarantine authorities before being released to the customs agents. In many instances these agents have to wait several days before they can obtain articles for the consignees. Under the quarantine regulations processed handles for various implements and tools, such as chisels, axes, digging forks, and lawn mowers, have to be submitted for inspection, whilst camphor wood chests, cigar boxes, coat hangers, cotton reels and handles for brushes all of which are made of softwoods, and are more likely to be affected by borers than are hardwoods, are not subject to such inspection. I hope that the Minister for Trade and Customs will ascertain whether it is really necessary to enforce this irksome regulation. It seems ridiculous that softwoods can come in without inspectionwhile tested hardwoods must be inspected.
– I take this opportunity to refer to the phenomenal increase of the imports of metals, metal manufactures and machinery, as compared with last year. A recent summary of statistics made available by the Commonwealth Statistician shows that in 1937-38 the total value of such imports to Australia was £A.46,589,693 as compared with £A34,165,024 during the previous year. Customs duties collected on metals and machinery and vehicles amounted to £A.5, 675,595 as compared with £A.4,563,601 during 1937- an increase of 24 per cent. The remarkable increase of imports during the last five years is shown in the following table: -
It might be suggested that these figures relate to goods not manufactured in Australia, but my information is to the contrary. The increases are not restricted to goods not made in Australia; indeed some of the greatest increases are in respect of goods which have been produced in Australia on a large scale for a great number of years. Manufactured goods cannot be imported in increasingly large quantities without causing losses of markets to Australian producers, unemployment, and a diminishing demand for raw materials. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to take prompt action to stem this deplorable drift. The information which I have given to the committee has come, in the first instance, from the Commonwealth Statistician, so that the figures which I have cited cannot be questioned. Before a vote is taken to-night I should like the Minister to give an explanation of this record increase of metal imports. If time permitted I could discuss this matter at greater length, but I think that I have said sufficient to convince the Minister that it is a matter which deserves serious consideration. Should the Minister not find it possible to make a statement to-night, I hope that he will take an early opportunity to do so.
Recently I have met in Queensland numbers of persons who are interested in the manufacture of butter boxes. I discussed this subject with James Cossart and Sons of Boonah, Hancock Brothers Proprietary Limited of Ipswich, and others. I am informed that the agitation in favour of importing timber for butter boxes is restricted to a small section of people in northern New South Wales, who claim that it is impossible to obtain in Australia suitable timber for butter boxes.
– Do they refer to butter for export?
– They refer to butter for both home consumption and export. 1 am assured by these manufacturers, and also by the Minister for Lands in Queensland, Mr. Pease, that there is no scarcity of suitable timber in Australia for making butter boxes. Moreover, I am informed that the prices at which these boxes are supplied are substantially less than are paid by those who complain of the scarcity of suitable timber in Australia. I point out further that these timber firms are being subjected to considerable expense and inconvenience in appearing before the Tariff Board, whereas an examination by the officers of the Trade and Customs Department would have elicited all the information required and proved conclusively that such proposed imports were unnecessary and that adequate protection should be assured to the Australian timber industry. I regret that it has been thought necessary to refer this matter to the Tariff Board, but, as that action has been taken, I ask the Minister to arrange that members of the Tariff Board shall proceed to Queensland to take evidence on the spot.
.- The abnormal increase of imports, to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has referred, bears out the contention of honorable members on this side of the chamber that, by whittling down the tariff protection given to Australian industries by the Scullin Government, the present Government has encouraged a substantial increase of imports to Australia of lines which could be efficiently and economically manufactured in this country.
– These imports are adversely affecting Australia’s trade balance.
– That is so. In an earlier speech, I pointed out that the Scullin Government had to take drastic steps to stem the tide of imports. The value of goods imported in 1931-32 was £44,700,000. “Last year, the value rose to £114,000,000, which was dangerously near to the peak figure of £140,000,000 when the Bruce-Page Government -was in office. It is useless to say that the high figure for last year represented largely imported machinery and capital equipment. That is not so. The honorable member for Moreton was right when he cited figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician to show that Australian factories could increase their plant and equipment and find employment for more Australian workers if adequate protection were given to them. There is a big difference between revenue duties and adequate protection. Revenue duties merely encourage a flood of imports, whereas really effective duties would mean the development and expansion of Australian factories, with a consequent increase of the number of their employees. Such development is particularly desirable in Australia at the present time, when 160,000 are out of work, and parents are at their wits’ end to find employment for their sons and daughters who are leaving school.
These Estimates show an increased vote of £47,770 for the Department of Trade and Customs. I have no doubt that the Minister will have some satisfactory explanation of the increase. He will probably say that it is due to the creation of new departments, under the supervision of the Assistant ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, Mr. Moore, to deal with research.
I should also like the Minister to tell us when and for what period the Tariff Board is to be reappointed, and what salaries are paid to its members other than the chairman.
The Estimates also show a phenomenal increase of expenditure by the Commerce Department. In 1928-29, when it was known as the Markets and Transport Department, the vote was £95,000 ; this year, it is £510,000. I know that the transfer of the Marine Department, which has been taken over from the Trade and Customs Department, would account for £200,000, but I have reason to believe that the country is not getting good value for much of the expenditure by the Commerce Department. Indeed, I have heard it stated authoritatively that the department is largely engaged in issuing propaganda for the Country party. I hope that that is not so, but T should like to hear the views of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on the subject.
I know that the department has able publicity officers who work overtime in disseminating the views of the Country party. The vote for the Commercial Intelligence Service abroad shows an increase from £30,790 in 1937-38 to £55,000 for the current financial year. Is an annual report submitted to the Minister, and is the Government satisfied that Australia is receiving a fair return for the money expended? Time will not permit me to speak at length on the administration of the Department of Health, but I should like to know if an annual report is submitted to the Government by the Director-General of Health.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The time allotted for the consideration of this portion of the Estimates has expired. [Quorum formed.]
Proposed votes put and agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,356,000.
Refunds of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £1,450,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £2,500,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
Mr. JENNINGS (Watson) [1M.-I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that under “Miscellaneous Services “ amounts totalling £121,000 are provided for advertising Australia abroad. No one complains of the wise expenditure incurred in advertising Australia’s tourist attractions in other countries, but some criticism has been expressed concerning the manner in which the money is being expended. I have no complaint to make concerning the activities of the Australian National Travel Association in London, which is rendering excellent service with limited means; but there appears to be some dissatisfaction concerning the way in which Australia is advertised abroad. New Zealand, Canada and the other dominions, it is suggested, are advertised in other countries to greater advantage than is Australia. It might be advisable to obtain the services of some of our smart young Australian journalists to direct attention to the tourist attractions which Australia possesses, and also to give greater publicity to trade matters. It would not be necessary to send them all abroad, but some could be employed in Australia to supply our trade agencies abroad with the information which should be at their disposal. Greater energy should be displayed in this branch of governmental activity.
.- I direct the attention of the ‘ Minister to the item “ Director-General of Postal Services and Chief Inspector of Telegraphs - Visit to Great Britain” for which £200 was voted last year and £842 expended. The committee is entitled to some information on the expenditure incurred by those two officials, particularly as the actual amount expended was four times greater than that voted.
– That is a regular occurrence.
– It is. I have no objection to highly paid departmental officials visiting other countries to conduct investigations when necessary, but I am strongly opposed to the amount provided being exceeded as it has been in this instance. Although it appears to have been the practice, since T have been a. member of this Parliament, to exceed the Estimates, the position in this respect is becoming worse.
Under “ Advance to the Treasurer ‘” £2,000,000 was voted last year, and this year it is proposed to appropriate £2,500,000. I understand that such provision is made to enable the Treasurer to make advances, and to meet expenditure, particulars of which are afterwards included in a parliamentary appropriation. I admit that there must be some elasticity in the advances made to the Treasurer so that the requirements of departments may be met throughout the year; but I should like to know why the amount this year is being increased by £500,000. It appears to be quite unnecessary, and indeed, undesirable, that Parliament should vote such a large additional amount without knowing the purpose for which it is being appropriated. Although there is a footnote which reads. “ Expenditure shown throughout the Estimates under the heads to which it will be finally charged when specially appropriated “, further information should be supplied. I have a very distinct recollection of money which was not definitely earmarked last year being used for a purpose to which I objected. I trust that the Minister representing the Treasurer will be able to explain why the advance has been increased by £500,000 this year.
.- As this is the first opportunity 1 have had to speak on the Estimates, I wish to place on record the fact that I opposed the motion providing a time limit for the discussion of the Estimates. I look upon the Estimates as one of the most important matters with which Parliament is called upon to deal. I object to the use of the guillotine, particularly as this year’s budget is the biggest on record. The honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Jennings) referred to the excellent work performed by the Australian National Travel Association, which, I understand, will be closely associated with the San Francisco Exhibition, at which Australia is to be represented. As the Australian activities of that organization are confined largely to advertising the attractions of New South Wales and Victoria, I suggest that the Minister should remind its officers that some publicity should be given to the attractions of the other Australian States. South Australia possesses so many beauty spots that they hardly need organized publicity, but as the Australian National Travel Association is subsidized by the Government it should devote some of its energy to advertising the attractions of that State. The forthcoming exhibition at San Francisco is of particular importance to Australia. Many . Commonwealth Ministers have been abroad, and it is time that some of the “ back benchers “ were given an opportunity to represent the Commonweath overseas. I feel that they could render a service equal to that rendered by Ministers. As probably 20.000.000 people will visit the San Francisco exhibition, which will be known as the Golden Gate Exhibition, I regard it as a golden opportunity to advertise this country in the United States of America. Australia has had a raw deal, economically, from the United States of America, but I trust that in the future better relations will be established, lt would be a fine thing for both countries if their economic contacts could be improved. I would like to see a gettogether movement between the United States of America and Australia. From the standpoint of defence, this is important. If the proposed expenditure in connexion with the San Francisco exhibition has that effect, it will prove a good investment.
.- I direct the attention of the Government, and particularly of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen;, to the fact that, although for the last five or six years conventions have been issued from the International Labour Office recommending the granting of holiday leave on full pay to all employees, the. Public Works Branch of the Department of the Interior still denies this concession to the relatively few manual workers whom it employs. I believe that this is almost the last public department of any progressive country in the world to refuse its manual workers at least ten days’ leave on full pay. I have made representations to the Government on this subject on a number of occasions, but so far without success. I brought the matter under the notice of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) two or three times when he was Minister for the Interior, and 1 now ask the present Minister (Mr. McEwen) to give favorable consideration to the proposal. I believe that very few men are involved - probably only three or four in the whole of Victoria - but as these officers have worked for a number of years for the Government, they are entitled to this consideration. What I desire is that every person employed by the Government on manual work who has twelve months’ unbroken service to his credit shall be granted not less than ten days’ leave on full pay.. The last big public undertaking in Australia to adopt this reform was, I believe, the Electricity Commission of Victoria, which now grants every one of its numerous employees ten days’ leave on full pay. The Public Works Branch of the Department of the Interior is the only Commonwealth department which still refuses to adopt this practice. I cannot understand the reason which actuates it in doing so. Practically every big company in Australia, including the gas companies, give their employees not less than a week’s annual leave on full pay in addition to the gazetted holidays I trust, therefore, that the Minister for the Interior will review the departmental decision in this respect. I am informed that only a few electricians, maintenance engineers, and gangers are likely to be involved. As these men have given good service to the Commonwealth, some of them for a number of years, they should be allowed a proper holiday on full pay.
– I direct attention to the item - “ Northern Australia survey, contribution towards cost, £10,000 “, which is included in the proposed vote for miscellaneous services in connexion with the Prime Minister’s Department. Last week the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) tabled the report for the period ended the 31st December, 1937, of the “Aerial geological and geophysical survey of Northern Australia “. I have not yet had time to read it thoroughly, but I must confess that I am disappointed with the work that has been done so far. I made my maiden speech in this Parliament on this subject, but I am of the opinion that the Commonwealth has not, so far, received value for the money that it has expended in this connexion. A different policy should have been adopted. I am not unmindful of the work that the survey party has done at Tennant Creek, in locating anomalies at depth in connexion with iron ore deposits, but some of my constituents feel that their particular “ shows “ have not been given the attention that they should have received, in view of the fact that during the three years ended the 31st December last, £128,335 was expended in this work. They feel that they are more or less justified in considering that the survey party has been in the nature of an organized gang of spies to ascertain what assets the miners possessed,’ but without extending to them any real help. I know that th.it is strong language, but that is how my constituents express themselves. I should not go so far as that, for I know that good work has been done also at Tennant Creek in estimating the value and dispositions of gold at depth. But prospectors engaged in practical operations on various fields in remote parts cif the Northern Territory were entitled to expect that something more effective would be done to assist them in determining the value of their “ shows “. In view of the remarkable lecture delivered by Sir David Rivett on this subject four years ago, in which he told the people of Australia, in no uncertain terms, how Australia’s debt could be taken out of the ground, we are justified in being somewhat disappointed at the results of the survey to date.
– I do not think he told us where we could get the gold.
– My complaint is that the survey party has not put a pick into the ground in an effort to discover gold. The report states -
The primary object of these reports is to draw the attention of mining investors to the results which have been obtained, in the hope that the development of the north will be stimulated.
My constituents feel that something more should have been done to help them to sink shafts and do cross-cutting to prove the value of their properties. They should be considered more than some of the shilling-a-share option companies that have been formed by city speculators. Undoubtedly, a good deal of the work of the survey party has been nebulous. Many unfortunate prospectors in the north have had to live on damper and wallaby for a good many years while they have been trying to prove the value of their properties, and it is time that the Government came to their assistance. If this survey had been properly conducted it could have proved for these men whether values existed at depth in their various mines. Last year £25,000 was expended ou this survey, and it is proposed that another £10,000 shall be expended this year. Some of the companies that have been formed to exploit certain areas in northern. Australia are well able to pay for the pioneering work that must be done, but many unfortunate miners who are working their own “ shows “ need help in shaft-sinking and cross-cutting. Some of them have spent half a lifetime living under deplorable conditions, in the continuing hope that they may at last “strike it lucky”. Under such circumstances I am entitled to ask the Government which is spending so much money in work of this description to come to their assistance. In the various States the State geologists are the supreme authority in these matters, and they determine whether holes shall be sunk in the ground or not. The Commonwealth Geologist, Dr. Woolnough, may be said to act, in connexion with Commonwealth territories, as the State geologists do in connexion with State territory, and I hope that the Treasurer will take steps to see that instructions are issued to him to make the decision whether shafts shall be sunk or not. To the best of my knowledge the survey party has not sunk a hole in the ground anywhere except in a remote part of the Daly Eiver district, where excavations only a few feet deep were made. I do not wish to be unduly critical, because I understand that where deposits of iron ore occur, the methods of the survey party have proved successful. They have, as I have said, been invaluable at Tennant Creek. Seeing that the individual prospectors on whose behalf I am speaking are willing to pay for any service that is performed for them, a percentage of the gold won each year, it should be a good business proposition for the Government.
I now wish to refer to the item “ Duty, remissions under special circumstances, £2,600 “, in the proposed miscellaneous vote for the Department of Trade and Customs. I should now like to know to what that refers.
Mr.White. - It relates to missions, and the like.
– This seems an appropriate occasion for me to repeat requests that I have made on frequent occasions, that outlying districts should be granted regional tariffs. Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, I have advocated that newlydeveloping areas should not be placed on the same tariff footing as well-settled areas in which substantial economic progress has been made. This matter is referred to in the Payne-Fletcher Report - a document which, it seems to me, has been dumped.
– It has not been dumped.
– So little action has been taken in connexion with it that I feel justified in making that statement. I direct attention to paragraph 4 of the report, in which the subject of regional tariffs is discussed.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing regional tariffs under this item.
– I now wish to refer to item 15, “ Northern Territory publicity - exhibitions and pictorial map, £1,000 “, under miscellaneous services, Department of the Interior. I am the last to say that Australians cannot know too much about the territory, but I again ask the Minister, as I did some years ago, not to put the territory in the public eye to the extent of attracting tourists before something is done to dress the territory’s window. Goodness only knows that with its Timor ponies, near the Coburg Peninsula, its buffalo and alligator country, wild game and fish, and with such streams as the Daly, Victoria and Roper rivers, and Western Arnheim Land, the territory is unique, and can offer greater attractions to the tourist than can any other part of Australia. Apparently, however, the department intends to advertise the territory before it even builds roads to enable visitors to traverse the country. I again ask that good branch roads be built off the north-south line. Until such facilities are provided we shall have tourists returning from the territory with that “never again” look on their faces. Before seeking to attract visitors by undertaking extensive advertising campaigns in Melbourne and other capital cities, we should first make an endeavour to dress the territory’s window, so that visitors to the territory will return to the south as ambassadors for that part of the Commonwealth instead of feeling that they made a mistake in going there. If the Minister is in need of any suggestions as to where tourist roads should be built, I shall be only too pleased to help him in that regard.
I congratulate the Government on providing a subsidy of £5,000 for aerial medical services at Alice Springs. It has acted very wisely in making this sum available to this remarkable band of voluntary workers who have done so much to make life more tolerable for settlers in the interior. It is also to be congratulated on establishing a hospital at Alice Springs, which will mean that the whole of the interior will benefit from the work of the aerial medical service which has its head-quarters at that centre.
I notice that not £1 is allocated in respect of scientific research in secondary industry. I do not know what Sir David Rivett will have to say about that. As one who supported the Science and Industry Research Appropriation Rill last June, under which £250,000 was made available for this purpose, I am amazed now to find that not £1 is allocated for the establishment of a research bureau for secondary industry, the necessity for which cannot be over-emphasized. Most of the money now allocated in respect of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is expended on scientific research for primary industry. Surely we have spent sufficient time ‘in investigating the codlin moth, red spider, and black spider, and can now afford to devote some money to research on behalf of secondary industry.
– I remind the honorable gentleman that expenditure in respect of secondary industry research has already been dealt with under the Prime Minister’s Department.
– When that section of the Estimates was under consideration I endeavoured to get the call in order to speak on this subject, but when I failed to do so I thought that I could deal with it at this juncture. I repeat that I am amazed to find that most of the £250,000 voted last June has been disbursed by way of capital expenditure. To-day, if anyone in secondary industry wishes to have a problem investigated he is more or less obliged to give his secret to such great organizations as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, and General Motors-Hold en’s Limited, which are, perhaps, the only three organizations in Australia sufficiently financial to be able to establish research bureaux. We should make greater use of the services available through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research by setting up a research bureau for the investigation of problems confronting secondary industries.
.- I propose to deal with item 6, page 81, “ Tobacco investigation and instruction (to be paid to the credit of the Tobaccogrowing Investigations Trust Account), £15,000 “. I am amazed at the action of the Government in reducing this vote from £20,000, which was the sum allocated in respect of this work last year, particularly as this item is of such great importance to a large section of our struggling primary producers. When the Assistant Minister (Mr. -Thompson) occupied a seat on the cross-benches, he was very drastic in his criticism of the Government for its failure to treat the tobacco industry more liberally. The honorable member having become an Assistant Minister, we expected that this sum would be increased, but we find that it has been reduced by 25 per cent. I do not think that the honorable gentleman or half of the Ministers in the Cabinet, who are members of the Country party, will claim that the tobacco-growers of Australia are enjoying a very prosperous time.
– This is not a subsidy, but a grant in respect of investigation and research.
– As a member of the Country party, the honorable member is endeavouring to defend the Government, but I remind him that at the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee’s meeting held at Perth on the 2nd and 3rd of May last, it was reported to the conference that the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. White, had promised a deputation which waited upon him that he would do his utmost to see that this annual grant of £20,000 would be continued. I assume that he carried out that promise and urged the Government to continue this grant. Somebody, therefore, has let the tobacco-growers down. If it is not the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, then it is the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). Mr. MacKnight, who is president of the Tobacco Growers Association in the Tamworth district, and, incidentally, a former president of the largest branch of the Country party in that district, addressing delegates at the Perth meeting in May, 1938, said -
The industry to-day is definitely unprofitable. The growers are demoralized ; they are losing heart. A large number has already given up production, and others will be forced into doing so if present prices are not increased.
– Order! The honorable member is now departing from the question before the Chair.
– I am emphasizing the necessity for the continuance of this annual grant of £20,000 for investigation and research in the tobacco industry.
– But the manner in which the honorable member is dealing with the subject is not in order.
– I am pointing out that it cannot be claimed that the industry is prosperous, but, on the contrary, is dwindling, because of the unsympathetic treatment meted out to it by this Government, which has been responsible for a substantial reduction of the tariff duties originally designed to protect the industry. According to Mr. MacKnight tobacco leaf production in New South Wales has decreased from 2,750,000 lb. to 600,000 lb. Is that not sufficient evidence ? In 1931-32, the production for Australia rose to 10,000,000 lb. as the result of protection given to the industry by the Scullin Government. To-day the industry is in the doldrums, and, in view of that fact, this Government is deserving of severe censure in reducing this grant to £15,000. Although I claim to have made a very close study of the industry I do not ask honorable members to accept merely my word as to the present condition of the industry. The delegates at the Perth conference, which was representative of growers all over Australia, after considering a report on the industry, made by a select committee appointed by the Government of New South Wales, earned the following resolution: -
Conference recommends an increase of the tariff and the adoption of the suggestions made by the select committee.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in proceeding along those lines.
– I point out, Mr. Chairman, that you allowed another honorable member, in dealing with the administration of a department, to discuss rather fully the problems confronting secondary industry. 1 have good grounds for protesting very vigorously against the treatment meted out by this Government to the tobacco-growers.
– The tobacco-growers in the Chairman’s own electorate have suffered considerably.
– Undoubtedly they have, like the growers in every other district. This grant was made in order to assist the industry to solve its problems, and the Government cannot possibly justify its action in reducing it. Of course, it will be able to find excuses for doing so. It will probably attribute its action to the fact that it is now called upon to meet large commitments in respect of defence, but the best way to build up our standards and our ability to defend Australia is to encourage new industries of this kind. There is every justification for continuing the grant of £20,000; particularly when we remember that the industry, instead of getting, out of trouble, is getting into f further trouble ; its problems, instead of being solved, are becoming greatly accentuated.. I point out that imports of black-grown tobacco leaf increased, from 11,633,955 lb. in 1933-34 to 23,292,338 lb. last year, and as the result, thousands of growers have gone out of the industry.
– Order ! I am inclined to think that the honorable member knows that he is infringing the Standing Orders.
– I do not wish to transgress your ruling in any way, Mr. Chairman, but I feel very strongly on this matter, because, on one occasion, I was deputed to investigate this industry and saw for myself the trials experienced by those engaged in the industry. I saw the number of growers increase from a few hundreds to 6,000, and the annual production increase from 1,000,000 lb. to 10,000,000 lb. Subsequently, as the result of increased importation of tobacco leaf, the industry has dwindled, and 3.000 growers have gone out of the industry.
Them is every justification for increasing this grant to, say, £25,000, instead of decreasing it, and in order to test the opinion of honorable members, particularly members of the Country party, 1 move-
That the amount of the Vote - Miscellaneous Services, £1,356,006, be reduced by £1.
If this amendment be accepted by the committee it will he regarded as an instruction to the Government to restore the expenditure on tobacco investigation and research to £20,000 per annum, and to increase the protection to the local growers in accordance with the recommendation of the select committee appointedby the New South Wales Government, which was endorsed by the Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee which sat in Perth on the 3rd May, 1938.
– I direct the notice of the committee to the increased commitments that we have this year in respect of international organizations. The contribution by the Commonwealth to the League of Nations Secretariat will rise from £34,112 last year to £43,000. Representation at the League of Nations Assembly will cost £2,150 compared with £1,635 last year, and the cost of representation at the International Labour Conference at Geneva will be £450 more than last year, whilst there will be an increased contribution for the International Institute of Agriculture at Rome. I question the usefulness of expenditure on some of the items contained in the list. When, with the establishment of the League of Nations, the Commonwealth entered into these commitments, it was not expected that our defence expenditure would be so huge as it is. I suggest that when the High Commissioner, Mr. Bruce, returns to Australia in the near future, a conference should be held of those in Australia who are familiar with the workings of the League of Nations, in order to ascertain the exact position in regard to the league and in order also to examine these items of expenditure, because it seems to me that, when our defence expenditure has increased so greatly, we should try to reduce our expenditure in other directions. [Quorum formed.] The call for a quorum by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was in accordance with what could be expected from him; if he brought some of his Labour colleagues into the chamber, he would do better. I do not suggest that Australia should not continue its representation at the international labour conferences; in my opinion, they do more good even than meetings of the League of Nations Assembly. When I was in Geneva last year, I learned that the budget of the League of Nations is about £1,000,000 a year, out of which about £800,000 goes exclusively in salaries. Enormous salaries are paid to officers of the League Secretariat. Nevertheless, when grants for investigation of the tobacco industry and other primary industries have to be reduced in order to cope with increased commitments in respect of defence, we should take stock of the huge amounts that we pay annually to international organizations. Of these, there is a long list, but I shall content myself with directing the attention of the committee to these increases of avoidable expenses at a time when we are compelled to expand our expenditure on defence and to reduce contributions to useful industries in Australia.
– I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), who has moved an amendment, as he said, in protest against the reduction of the grant for research in the tobacco industry, that the Government has honoured its agreement to provide five annual grants of £20,000 for tobacco research. The result has been a marked improvement of the industry. The grant was made with the intention of establishing the industry, previously more or less haphazard, on a permanent and scientific basis. The Government could rightly have refused to maintain this grant because last year the final instalment was paid. Realizing, however, the value of the research work, the Government has made available this year £15,000, and it proposes to continue the grant on a gradually diminishing scale up to 1943. Next year, the grant will be £13,750; in 1940-41, it will be £12,500; in 1941-42. £11,250; and in 1942-43, £10,000. The honorable member must realize that, if the tobacco industry is to be of any value to Australia, it must ultimately stand on its own feet. It cannot continue tohave grants for research when, obviously, the back of that work has been broken. Honorable members who have watched the development of this industry will agree that it has made remarkable progress. The crop of 7,000,000 lb. of good quality tobacco leaf this year will supply onethird of Australia’s requirements.
– That is a little more than half of what was produced six years ago.
– The honorable member knows that the leaf which was produced six years ago was not of such good quality as the leaf which is produced now. When I visited the tobacco areas of Queensland some years ago, I gained a knowledge of the quality of the leaf which was then being produced. The average quality of the leaf was not nearly so good as that of the leaf which is produced to-day. As the result of the re-‘ search and the instructions that have been given to the tobacco-growers, a marked improvement has taken place ; the tobacco industry is now on a good footing and it is making gradual progress. The stage will be reached when no more assistance of this sort will be needed. I feel that the committee will readily acknowledge that the Government has done a good job of work, and that the honorable member’s declaration that there should be an increase, instead of a decrease, of the amount of money made available for research is not based on sound premises.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) complained that the expenditure on the visit to Great Britain of the Director-General of Postal Services and the Chief Inspector of Telegraphs exceeded the vote. If the honorable gentleman will study the Estimates more closely he will see that the item to which he took exception related to the previous financial year; there is no vote for this year.
The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) referred to the San Francisco Exhibition, and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) to the Australian National Travel Association. I shall direct their remarks to the attention of the Ministers concerned.
.- An amount of £40,000 is set aside this year as part of a total of £120,000 for investigation of our iron ore resources. We should be giving consideration to the elimination of costly expenditure that can he avoided, and I am at a loss to know of what real value will be the report on iron ore, other than possibly as a justification of the action of the Government in imposing an embargo on the export of iron ore, but even for such justification £120,000 is too big a price to pay.
In reference to the reduction of the vote for tobacco research, I should like to see any such votes made available direct to primary producers. There would be no objection to such money being voted as a subsidy to enable the tobacco-growers to carry on production, but it is questionable whether it is necessary year after year to make sums available for investigation and instruction. I doubt whether the grower who is producing the tobacco leaf is obtaining full value for the money. I should prefer that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should make a report showing what research is necessary, and what the cost will be. Money could then be allocated over a period of years on a sound basis, but instead of annually granting funds which may or may not be expended usefully. There is justification for the reduction this year of the amount to be expended on instruction, because the growers surely do not need the same instruction year after year.
Another item inthe Estimates is £40,000 for the New York Exhibition. Our expenditure has not been curbed as it should be, but if we are to finance the defence programme, it will be necessary to reduce expenditure in some way, particularly expenditure which is of doubtful benefit to Australia. The expenditure of £40,000 on the New York Exhibition is hardly likely to be justified by the results which will accrue to Australia from it. We cannot expect, as the result of that exhibition, to sell to the United States of America more wool or more of other products; nor do we wish to buy any more from the United States of America than we buy at present, because the balance of trade is against us. We must prune our expenditure somewhere. We do not wish to cut social services or grants to primary producers, but we should be able to reduce expenditure on luxuries, which may have been justifiable last year, when conditions were ever so much better than they are now, but are not justifiable this year when our national income will be down by millions of pounds as the result of reduced prices for our wheat, wool and other exports. There is no immediate urgency about the investigation of our iron ore resources. There would be, I dare say, if it were intended to work the iron ore deposits in order to obtain some return from the £120,000 that is to be expended on the proposed survey. At present, however, our taxation is rising and costs are increasing as the result of the defence programme, and we must consider the need to make economies.
– I draw attention to the fact that last year £2,000 was provided on the Estimates for the relief of distress among returned soldiers and their dependants. I cannot see a corresponding amount for this year.
– It appears on the Supplementary Estimates.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The time allowed for the discussion of the votes has expired.
Question put -
That the amount of the vote - Miscellaneous Services, £1,356.000 - be reduced by £1 (Mr. Forde’s amendment.)
The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
War Services Payable Out of Revenue
Proposed vote, £1,333,000.
.- In my opinion, the medical treatment given to returned soldiers in repatriation hospitals is not so good as it should be. This matter has been mentioned on other occasions by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander). A returned soldier who is an inmate of a repatriation hospital receives treatment only for disabilities deemed by the Repatriation Department to have arisen out of war service. I had brought to my notice recently the case of a returned soldier who was in danger of losing both his legs owing to a certain complaint. The department apparently admitted war disability in respect of only one leg, and would not give him medical treatment for the other. That is not the right way to treat men who gave their services to the Empire during the Great War. Especially is this attitude to be deprecated when a campaign is being undertaken on a wide scale for army recruits. How can men be expected to volunteer freely for military service when they know that those suffering as a result of the last war are being shown so little consideration? The man to whom I refer was refused medical treatment for one leg at the Randwick Military Hospital, but after I had interviewed the Minister for Repatriation on his behalf, the decision was reversed and he is now getting medical treatment for both legs. Those men who can bring their cases before the Minister, can get injustices put right; but hundreds of men who are unable to interview the Minister or members of Parliament cannot get the medical treatment to which they are entitled.
Only £30 is provided in the Estimates for relief of ex-imperial soldiers. A number of British ex-service men in receipt of pensions in England commuted their benefits for a lump sum and migrated to Australia with their families. Some of these men now find themselves in difficulties. Their war disabilities have become acute, and they are unable to provide for their families. One man, suffering from a chest complaint, commuted his pension in England for £90, and came to Australia with his wife and two children. Eight or nine years later he died and left his widow and children destitute. The Commonwealth Government should bring such cases before the Imperial Government. These people should not become a charge on Australia. Some relief should also be given to Australian veterans of the ‘South African “War, of whom from 200 to 250 are in indigent circumstances. Many of these men are not eligible for the old-age or invalid pension. Those who fought for the Empire in the South African War are entitled to some consideration. The cost of giving much needed assistance to these men would not be more than £400 or £500 a year.
– I support the contention of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) that some assistance should be given to veterans of the South African War. On various occasions, several honorable members have brought this matter under the notice of the Government. I am one of those who urged it to consider the claims of the veterans, who experienced privations and suffering in South Africa, and served their country in the same way as did those who left these shores to fight for the Empire in the Great War. A deputation representative of the South African War Soldiers Association, which has branches in the various States, recently waited on the Minister, for Repatriation (Senator Foll), who appeared to be sympathetic towards the request submitted. I understand that he forwarded it to the Cabinet, but, unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears. All that the Government has been prepared to do is to make available, in the event of the death of one of these veterans, the sum of £10 to cover his funeral expenses. That is not the way in which men who served their country on the field of battle should be treated. They should receive some compensation during their lives. They are not asking for charity, but only for the recognition J;o which they are entitled. To show how unfairly these men have been treated in Queensland, I may mention that, from 1899 to 1902, the people of that State, recognizing the good work of those Australians who served in the South African war, raised a patriotic fund of £32,000, but not a farthing of that money was paid over for the purpose for which it was collected. Not one member of the South African War Veterans Association - the Queensland branch of which is known in other States as the South African Soldiers Association - received a penny from that fund. In 1914, all that was left of the £32,000 was £6,000, and this was handed over to the Red Cross Society for the benefit of the wounded in the Great War. As the honorable member for Lans; has said, the number of the surviving veterans of the South African war is very small. If the Government is prepared to do justice to them, ample funds are available for the purpose. All they ask is to be placed on the same footing, in regard to the war pension, as men who fought in the Great War. They desire to be permitted to draw the service pension on reaching the age of 60 years.
.- If the men who served in the Great War are to be properly repatriated, it will be necessary to grant pensions or medical benefits to all those who are now in broken health, irrespective of whether they can prove that their present disabilities are due to their war service. Cases come under notice from time to time in which men who were wounded at the front are now suffering from a nervous breakdown, and there seems to be no satisfactory means of determining the cause of their disability. It is poor compensation to a returned soldier to receive 7s. or 8s. a week because of the serious effects of a wound upon his nervous system. Some of these men are told that their disability is not due to war service, but I claim that it is impossible for anybody to be sure on that point. Men who were gassed at the front may suffer a physical breakdown years later, and be thrown on the industrial scrap-heap. Those who left these shores to assist in the destruction of Prussian militarism were promised that on their return to Australia they would never be left in want, and I claim that any returned soldier who is now a complete physical wreck is entitled to the full pension. No question ‘should be raised as to whether his present physical condition is a result of his war service.
– The onus of proof that it is not should rest on the department.
– Yes. These men were promised that their interests would be safeguarded on their return to Australia, but after the lapse of 20 years many of them are still suffering injustice. The treatment accorded to returned soldiers who have sons eligible for enlistment in the militia forces will have a prejudicial effect on the present recruiting campaign. I appeal to the Government to do something to assist the sons of deceased soldiers. I understand that the Repatriation Commission has inaugurated a scheme under which it attempts to apprentice such boys to trades, or to find for them other employment. This scheme should be extended as much as possible. We know that once a boy reaches the age of sixteen years no pension is payable in respect of him, and, unless he can find employment, he becomes a charge on his mother, who is herself, perhaps, receiving only a slender pension as the widow of a returned soldier. There is a definite obligation on the Government to do the right thing by the children of those men who fought in the war, and who died abroad or after their return to Australia. The fact that, twenty years have passed since the termination of the war does not relieve the Government of its responsibility in this respect.
– I join with other honorable members in making representations on behalf of returned soldiers who are now invalids, but are unable to obtain war pensions. 1 know personally several men who are permanently incapacitated for work of any kind, but whose applications for pensions have been refused on the ground that their present disabilities are not due to war injuries. I know one man in Gunnedah, with a large family now dependent on him, who was gassed while at the war. He was treated in hospital overseas for gas, and, after six months, was sent home. He recovered, as far as it is possible to recover from the effects of gas, and went about his ordinary work. About six or seven years ago he became ill, and it was found that his lungs were affected. All the local doctors who examined him said that his condition was attributable to the fact that he had been gassed at the war. Knowing the man well, I am sure that he would not malinger in any circumstances. He was too proud even to apply for a pension until it became absolutely necessary for him to do so. Then the Repatriation Commission turned his application clown, because it said that his condition was not attributable to war injuries. It is generally agreed among members of the medical profession that once a man has been gassed he never recovers. His condition becomes gradually worse until he becomes permanently incapacitated, and it is absurd for the commission to say that his condition is not due to war injuries. I believe that, in cases of this kind, the Minister should insist that a pension be granted. A definite promise was given to these men when they enlisted that they would be looked after. We know that many men have been affected in health by their war service. Some have become nervous wrecks, and are quite incapable of earning their living, but their applications for pensions have been consistently refused. It is contemptible for the Government to shelter behind technicalities when men who deserve so well of their country are being denied justice. I do not say that members of the Government are deliberately callous, but they are unacquainted with the circumstances, and no action is taken. The legal obstacles raised by the commission to the- granting of applications should be removed, and these poor, human derelicts should be given the assistance of which they stand so much in need. They are now in the evening of their lives; at best they have only a few more years to live. Their cases should be investigated, and justice should be done to them.
I appeal to the Minister for more sympathetic treatment of occupants of war-service homes who, after making their payments regularly for many years, now find themselves unable to continue. I have in mind the case of a returned soldier and his wife who, until quite recently, fulfilled all their obligations under the contract of sale. The original purchase price of the home was about £600, and the man has already paid £750, including interest. He is now too old to work, and is practically an invalid. He claims that he and his wife should be allowed to remain in the house for the rest of their lives without further payment. When they die it could revert to the commission. Many millions of pounds owed by returned soldier settlers have been written off, but no corresponding benefits have been received by the occupiers of ar-service homes, even though they may have paid back, in interest and principal, more than the original capital value of the property. Many of them have proved their willingness to meet their obligations when they were able to do so, and it would be no great strain on the financial resources of the Commonwealth to permit them to occupy their homes rent free now that they are no longer able to earn.
.- What honorable members have said, in regard to the treatment of soldiers suffering from disabilities is, to some extent, warranted. A few months ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation a question on this subject, and I was informed that the returned soldier would be entitled to the benefit of any doubt as to whether his present disability was due to war service. 1 am not altogether satisfied that the act is, in fact,- being interpreted in that way. [Quorum formed.] I have a close personal knowledge of one man who suffered agony for years from the stump of a leg. He developed other disabilities such as nervous trouble, blood pressure, &c, though he is still a comparatively young man, and, when he went to the repatriation authorities for treatment, he was told that his condition was not attributable to war service. I maintain that there is a reasonable doubt in cases of that kind, and the returned soldier should be given the benefit of it. The department should .not quibble about providing medical treatment, at any rate. Even though a pension be refused, he should at least be given treatment, so that he will not have to put his hand in his pocket to pay for treatment in respect of disabilities that may, after all, be attributable to war injuries. I have brought some cases under notice, and, although hope has not altogether been abandoned, the final decision in respect of them is still doubtful. I am hopeful that, as the result of what I am now saying and what other honorable members who addressed themselves to this matter before me have said, the Minister will discuss this matter with the officials of the Repatriation Department, and again issue an instruction that the benefit of any doubt shall be given to the exsoldier.
– To-night the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) raised what is really a very important question in regard to the South African war veterans. In supporting the ease he made for more sympathetic treatment of those nien, I would say that at present they really belong to what is known as “ the Forgotten Legion “ so far as repatriation benefits are concerned. Only 200 or 300 of them would be likely to claim service pensions. In view of the ages of these men, the cost would be small. I ask the Minister to give very serious consideration to their claims. It has been pointed out that the Government has been pleased- to grant a funeral benefit of £10 to South African veterans in certain cases, and this is appreciated; but why not give them greater benefits while they are alive? During the South African war, various funds were, 1 understand, raised throughout the States of the Commonwealth for comforts for the soldiers engaged in the South African campaign. After the war ended, a balance of approximately £27,000 in such a fund in New South Wales was passed into general revenue. The balances outstanding in such funds in other States were similarly dealt with. Of course, this has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Government, but I venture to suggest that the Commonwealth Government might very well inquire into the destination of funds of this sort. Some of the men who served in the South African campaign are already in charitable homes. I maintain that those who are in indigent circumstances to-day should be brought within the scope of the Repatriation Act, and I ask the Government to give favorable consideration to the claims of the men who played their part on behalf of Australia and of the Empire during the South African war.
.- First of all, I wish to support the representations of honorable members that the Government should honour its obligations to the South African war veterans. The number of those who left Australia to take part in the South African war and are still alive is, comparatively speaking, small. They are not as articulate as those who served in the Great War, and consequently have not been given the consideration to which they are entitled. These men who to-day find themselves without political or other influence should be given their just due.
Another matter with which I propose to deal briefly is the treatment meted out to applicants for war pensions. I know that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers [imperial League of Australia, assisted h. honorable members of all parties in this chamber, has been able to secure certain rights for ex-soldier claimants for wai’ pensions, but I am convinced that there are still a great many rights that have not been yielded by the government of the day or by its predecessors. The onus of proof that an applicant’3 condition can be attributed to war service is still thrown upon the ex-soldier, and to-day the ex-soldier is definitely not being given the benefit of the doubt. Unless that principle is adopted in all cases justice will not bc done to the men who served during the Great War. I am satisfied that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll) will admit that where the question arises, as it frequently does, as to whether a man’s physical or mental condition is attributable to war service, the onus of proof is thrown back on the ex-soldier, and he is not given the benefit of any doubt which may exist. That is a very grave injustice which T believe should be remedied at the earliest possible moment.
Another matter relating to repatriation pensions which is deserving of consideration is the fact that where war pensions are reduced or claims are refused the applicants are given the right to appeal to a tribunal set up by this Parliament, the last court of appeal as it were, a tribunal of an entirely judicial character. Some years ago the then Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Cerutty, took it upon himself to cite in his report to the Parliament, specific cases in which the tribunal had yielded to the claim of the ex-soldier and had recommended the grant of ‘ a pension. In criticizing the action of the tribunal in this respect he acted, in my opinion, quite outside his jurisdiction, and it would appear that he placed himself in a position somewhat analagous to that in which he would be placed had* he criticized the judiciary. One sometimes wonders, when reflecting upon the work of the tribunal, how far it is influenced to-day and, perhaps, may be influenced in the future - and I do not desire to reflect upon it in any way - by that criticism of the former Auditor-General. I trust that the tribunal will not be influenced in the hearing of future appeals. It was singularly unfortunate that this, criticism should have been permitted to be published in the report of the AuditorGeneral, but, despite it, I trust that more appellants will be successful in their appeals before the tribunal.
.- I support the observations of honorable members on this subject. I feel that the South African veterans who, to-day, an? very few in number, should be given the repatriation benefits which they have been denied all these years. They have not been pressing strongly for this, nevertheless at this juncture it would be a gracious act on the part of the Government to recognize their claims. Many of them who served subsequently in the Great War can claim pensions for disabilities arising as the result of their later service, but those who, because of age or other reasons, were not able to volunteer for service in the Great War, are denied war pensions.
In the other matter I shall mention I do not criticize the Repatriation Act; it is a good one and, in my opinion, one of the best and most liberal in the world. It endeavours to give justice to all soldiers for the disabilities they suffered as the result of their war service; but I feel that the officials , within the department are sometimes entangled in the red tape of their regulations, and that to throw on to the applicant for a war pension the onus of proof that his disabilities are attributable to war service is wrong. In my opinion, the onus of proof should definitely be put upon the department. I have no intention of mentioning names, but I desire briefly to refer to. two cases with which I have had to deal lately.
Former prisoners of war in Turkey have no true medical record, and when ex-prisoners of war apply for a pension the department usually writes to Turkey for particulars as to how the man was treated. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if you feel that the Turkish authorities can search round and find records of these men at this juncture, when I know personally that rarely did they keep any that could be believed? Yet that was the practice adopted until recently, and unfortunately, it was again reverted to in the case of an application for a widow’s pension by the widow of an ex-lighthorseman who had died, leaving her with five young children. The cause of death was a heart affection, which the department stated could not be proved to be attributable to war causes. This man was one of the very few prisoners of war exchanged by Turkey, because of the sickness and suffering he experienced. When his widow’s application was refused - she resides in a distant State - sheappealed to the Entitlement Tribunal, and again the application was turned down. I have seen the file, and leading specialists admit that the cause of the affection from which the ex-soldier died is unknown. Yet the department and the appeal tribunal have taken it upon themselves to say that death was not due to war causes. The children of this exsoldier may go into penury if the widow is unable to keep them. If a pension were granted she would receive £2 2s. a week, which would make all the difference in the education of her children. There are societies and generous people who do their best for people of this kind, but it is an obligation on the Government to look after them. An amount in excess of £8,000,000 is expended on war pensions, and some £800,000’ a year is expended on administration. Instead of the applicant being made to run the gauntlet of frequent inquiries by the Repatriation Department because there is no definite proof that disability or death is due to war causes, and then being passed on to the Entitlement Tribunal, only to be turned down and asked to apply again when more evidence is available, I suggest that it would save a lot of trouble and inconvenience to thiapplicant, and a good deal of expenditure by the department, if such applicants were given the benefit of the doubt.
I instance another case of a man with an excellent record. He was a sergeantmajor of a splendid battalion, and was severely wounded on Gallipoli, but, on his return from the war he wanted to cast away his khaki and forget war. He made no application for a pension. He is now stricken with tuberculosis and is in hospital, where he may not recover. He recently applied for a pension and was told in the usual few stereotyped line? that he had been medically examined and that his disability could not be said to bo due to war service.
– Thatis not the answer now.
– I know that he may get a service pension, but surely the Minister for Defence does not suggest that the man should merely get a service pension which is only equivalent to the invalid and oldage pension. The man should get a pension based on his disability. Here he is, unable to work, spending his last days in hospital, and he should get a war pension for his disabilities. Can the Minister say that this man did not get the germ of his disease from the hardships he endured ? One need not play on the feelings of honorable members in this regard. When this man enlisted for war service, he was in excellent health, and now when he has been stricken with tuberculosis in the last few years, and goes to a hospital to die, he is told that his disease is not due to war service. I would not have spoken in regard to this matter had not the subject already been raised by other honorable members, but it is high time some change was made. I exhort the Government to put it to the department that it should not go on dealing with red tape and regulations, but should give the benefit of the doubt to the ex-soldier in these cases.
My next point relates to the administration of the War Service Homes Department. May I ask the Government not to evict men who are out of work? There was a period when that was done during the depression. Instances of the eviction of unemployed men have come to my notice, though in fairness to the Government it must be said that the Government was not the owner of the house in the case I have in mind. Nevertheless, men are sometimes evicted from war service homes when they have lost their employment in a government department. I had an instance recently of a man with a large family who was dismissed from his employment in the Postal Department, but for whom Iwas fortunate enough to be able to secure a job. He was evicted from a war service home because he was in arrears to the amount of some £10 in respect of rent. I hope that the Govern ment will adopt a more considerate attitude in regard to these matters.
– I should like to have some information in regard to the health survey of contacts of tubercular soldiers. This year it is proposed to expend only £160 for this service. Last year an amount of £2,500 was provided, of which only £1,490 was expended. I desire to know if the balance of the money unexpended last year will be available for utilization this year, so that health survey of contacts with tubercular soldiers can be proceeded with. The children of affected soldiers are in danger of contracting the disease, but if medical attention be forthcoming in its early stages the disease may be arrested.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this vote has expired.
Proposed vote put and agreed to.
Proposed vole, £681,430.
Proposed vote, £11,804,400.
Ordered to be considered together.
.- Recently I asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) for particulars of post office expenditure in the several States, and- whether efforts were being made by the department to decentralize its expenditure. I asked also whether the department followed any guiding principle in the letting of contracts. I received an interesting reply. I was informed that 49 per cent. of the materials used by the department was of Australian production. When I inquired as to the percentage in each State, I was told that in the Australian Capital Territory it was 2 per cent. ; in New South Wales, 64 per cent. ; in Victoria, 30 per cent. ; in Queensland, 3 per cent. ; in South Australia and Western Australia, 2 per cent.; and in Tasmania, 1 per cent. Those figures indicate that the allocation of money as between the States is not made on an equable basis. In my opinion, the department should spread its expenditure as evenly as possible over all the States. If the position were analysed, I believe that it would be found that it would be not only of advantage to the States, but also economical from the point of view of the Government to obtain locally as large a proportion as possible of the department’s requirements. I have in mind the supply of cross-arms for telegraph poles. This is not a new question, for it has been raised on several occasions by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), as well as by myself. Even now, the position is not satisfactory, and I hope that the Minister will direct the attention of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs to this subject with a view to something being done. Seeing that 60 per cent, of the money expended in New South “Wales and 30 per cent, of the expenditure in Victoria is for materials of Australian production, whilst the percentage in the other States is much lower, it would appear that sufficient attention is not being paid to the .industries in the other States. The expenditure by the department in New South Wales is set down as £109,195, whereas for Tasmania the amount is £6,570. In the Australian Capital Territory it is £66,719. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to look into this matter in order to see if something cannot be done to apportion more equably the expenditure to the -several States.
– I shall speak briefly on the subject of the dismissals of returned soldiers from the Postmaster-General’s Department. Recently, two ex-soldiers who were at the Gallipoli landing and served through the war in the Australian infantry, called on me. One had been an assistant lineman, and the other a lineman’s labourer, in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Victoria for three and a half years and four years respectively. They showed me a printed 3lip of one sentence announcing their dismissal after three days’ notice. I submit that that is not the way in which a great government should treat its returned soldier employees. Such action is singularly unfortunate at the present time when the Government is appealing for voluntary enlistment in the militia forces. It is an unhappy coincidence that these veterans of a past war should be scrapped in order that a little, more money may be made available to ensure the safety of Australia. I appeal to the Government to show every possible consideration to its ex-soldier temporary employees. When I brought this matter before the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Victoria, I learned from him that no reduction of the total number of employees in this section of work is being made. That means that younger men are being put on, and that these older men are being laid off in the interests of economy. I recognize that a great business undertaking like the post office must be run on business-like lines, but I submit that, just as private employers are expected to give special consideration to their ex-soldier employees, so it is the sacred duty of the Government to carry the returned soldiers who are employed in Government departments until they reach a proper retiring age. I believe that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), who hear my appeal, are as sympathetic towards these men as I am, but they are in a difficult position. I suggest, moreover, that it is false economy to dismiss these men. Even if they were being paid £1 a week more than they are worth - which I do not admit - I point out that they will have to be kept somehow. One of these men has eight children, only two of whom are old enough to go to work. They receive 17s. 6d. and 12s. 6d. a week respectively. The treatment meted out to these men is unworthy of a national government,
.- I wish to refer again to the establishment of an A class broadcasting station to serve western Queensland - a subject which I have raised in this chamber on a number of occasions. During the term of office of Senator A. J. McLachlan as Postmaster-General, about 300 letters were sent to him on thi3 subject by representatives of every section of the community in western Queensland. Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), accompanied by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Foll), visited certain towns in north-western and central -western Queensland. While there, several deputations waited upon them, and presented the case for the establishment of an A class station to serve that area, but their request was refused point blank. When Senator Foll was receiving a deputation at Hughendon in north-western Queensland, I suggested that the application for an A class station had been rejected because the population of the district was too small. Senator Foll replied that that was contrary to the policy of the Government. But within a week of the Prime Minister and his party leaving western Queensland the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs announced in the press that northwestern Queensland would never be given an A class station. Naturally, the people in that area are agitated. They will be called upon to contribute to the largely increased expenditure on defence, yet when they ask for some consideration in respect of their radio licences, their application is refused. The exPostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) said that he would improve the short-wave stations in Victoria and “Western Australia in order that the western portion of Queensland might be given better radio service. “Whenever I am in my electorate I listen to various programmes on all kinds of wireless receiving sets, in order to find out for myself the nature of the reception. For four months the reception is only fair. For the remaining eight months of the year all that can be heard consists of howls, squeals and noises indicative of static. It is the responsibility of the department to arrange for the erection of a 7,000 to 10,000 watt broadcasting station in the central west of Queensland to serve that area and the north-western portion of Queensland. Longreach is about 500 miles from Dalby, where an A class station has been erected, and I have been informed that the erection of that station will definitely improve reception in western Queensland. From Townsville, which is 350 miles distant in a direct line, the reception in the central west and north-western districts is practically impossible, but it is contended that the station at Dalby will be of benefit to the people in these areas. I received a letter from the Postmaster-General in connexion with this subject in which he stated that the limited population to be served made it economically impossible to provide a broadcasting service for western Queensland on exactly similar lines to those provided in the more populous parts of the Commonwealth. 1 remind the Minister that it is not economically impossible to impose taxes on those people in the remote parts of the Commonwealth who produce wool, beef, mutton, and minerals, and who, leaving behind them all the comforts and conveniences of civilization, carry on the important work of developing this great continent. Notwithstanding the valuable service which the people of western Queensland are rendering, the Governnent contends that it is economically impossible to erect an A class station to serve them, and thus enable them to receive much more suitable programmes than they receive from the short-wave station in Victoria. Even those who are fortunate enough to possess a short-wave set are not satisfied with the service they receive. The news service which is relayed to them, and is supposed to be of great benefit, usually concerns events in the Darling Downs district, or in areas close to Brisbane. Sometimes they hear something concerning the Burnett River districts or districts to the north of Brisbane, but they hear little or nothing concerning western Queensland. The programmes transmitted from the short-wave station are obviously useless to the people of western Queensland.
There is a 400- watt B class station at Longreach, the transmission from which is received exceptionally well even in the Cairns district; in fact, on the Atherton Tableland the reception is better from Longreach than from the national station at Townsville. “When the Longreach station sent a representative to Canberra to interview the Postmaster-General to ascertain if he would make available free of charge to the Australian Broadcasting Commission a land-line from Rockhampton to Longreach, he was told that he should interview Mr. Malone, the radio inspector in Melbourne. He interviewed Mr. Malone in Melbourne, who informed him that he should confer with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Sydney. He was pushed from one official to another, and eventually was advised by the Postmaster-General that the line could not be made available. All that was required was the use by the Broadcasting Commission, and not by a B class station, of a land-line from Rockhampton to Longreach. Had that been made available, the commission could have relayed free of charge through 4LG at Longreach, items of general interest to the people of western Queensland. The request was rejected by the Postmaster-General on the ground that, if the concession were granted in that instance, similar facilities would have to be afforded to other B class stations in the Commonwealth. That may have been considered a reasonable explanation, but the conditions in western Queensland are totally different from those in any other part of Australia owing to the vast area which at present is not served by any broadcasting station, with the exception of this small station at Longreach. Broadcasts from the national station, through 4LG, would give the service to which the people are entitled. Although 4LG offered to relay the service free of all cost to the department, the Postmaster-General turned down the request. If this Government wishes to assist residents in the outback area - the Country party Ministers in the Cabinet should be anxious to do so - it should remove some of the disabilities under which these people labour. They are, to use their own expression, becoming “ fed up to the back teeth “ with the treatment they are receiving from this Government. This subject has been under consideration since 1932. Now that we have a PostmasterGeneral who represents a country electorate, I earnestly trust that people in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth will receive more consideration rhan they have had in the past. I believe that if a more satisfactory service is not provided, many holders of wireless licences will decline to renew them, and will dispose of their wireless sets. Surely, people in that locality are entitled to more consideration than those living in metropolitan areas who have many comforts and conveniences. Those living in capital cities have morning and evening papers from which to obtain all the information they desire, whereas the settlers in Western Queensland have to depend almost entirely on radio transmission for news. I appeal tq the PostmasterGeneral to reconsider his decision and to authorize the erection of an A class wireless broadcasting station in western Queensland.
.- Although it is generally considered that the Postmaster-General’s department is efficiently organized, I am impelled to emphasize the fact that there is a great deal of discontent concerning the charges imposed. I suggest that the department make some differentiation in the matter of postal rates, as it does in respect to telegraph rates within a State.
– I can tell the honorable member quite frankly that that will not be done.
– That is surprising from the Minister. The people will be very dissatisfied when they know that there is no immediate prospect of any such reduction being made, and, doubtless, more will be heard on the subject at an early date. There has been a good deal of agitation concerning telephone charges. Every one recognizes that some means should be employed to enable a subscriber’s calls to be registered where a telephone is installed. Surely it is not impossible to install reliable meters as i? done in connexion with the supply of gas, electricity, and water.
– Many complaints are made concerning the meters used for such purposes.
– But telephone subscribers are denied any check at all - they are at the mercy of the present system. In order to remove the public discontent which at present prevails, the Minister should have an investigation made into the suitability of some of the devices which are now available for checking telephone calls. I understand that he is at present investigating an invention, and I hope that some relief will be afforded to subscribers, many of whom consider that they are overcharged.
.- Several honorable members have desired, during this session, to discuss at some length, the housing conditions of Commonwealth employees along the transAustralian railway line, with the object of securing very necessary improvements ; but unfortunately the order of business has not made this possible. However, the circumstances are so unsatisfactory that in justice to the men and women concerned I feel obliged to draw attention to several more urgent aspects of the matter. A review of the general question of housing must await that moment when it can be adequately dealt with. I hope that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) will take note of my remarks and act at once to remedy the particular complaints that I shall voice, lt may be said, in general terms, that the housing arrangements at practically every settlement along the trans-Australian line are unsatisfactory, but in one or two cases the conditions are such as to require immediate attention.
I call attention to the circumstances under which a man and his wife and infant are required to live at Watson, where the quarries are situated from which ballast for the line is obtained. Quite a number of foreigners are employed in the quarries, and the wife of the railway officer there is frequently required to remain, with her child, for considerable periods alone while her husband travels on the ballast train up and down the line. It is very unfair to this woman that she should have to live under such insufferable conditions in such an isolated place. The manager of the quarry use’s a building at Watson belonging to the Commonwealth railways for office accommodation that would be much more satisfactory as a residence. Even that building is not really adequate for residential purposes but it would be infinitely better than the place in which this man, woman and child have to live at present. The baby is under twelve months old, and the young mother has every justification for feeling aggrieved at the conditions under which she has to live. I urge the Minister to call upon the Railways Commissioner to remedy this complaint without delay.
The lot of the maintenance men who work along the railway and have to live in travelling vans is also most unsatis- factory, and must be improved immediately. These vans are intended to accommodate a limited number of men, but in many instances they are so overcrowded that even such primitive living conditions as they would make possible are made intolerable. The camps also require better equipment, and the rest houses must be placed on a much better basis. I feel sure that when the Minister investigates this complaint he will recognize the wisdom of catering in a much more satisfactory way for the comfort and well-being of these employees. The wider aspect of this housing question will be dealt with in a direct approach, in the first instance, to the Minister, and then later will be fully detailed to this House.
There is urgent need to make arrangements for the Commonwealth railways to accept as apprentices and train as many boys and young men as the regulations permit, but I am given to understand that the Commissioner is not prepared to engage even the limited number of apprentices that could be utilized. A good deal has been heard from honorable members in the course of this discussion about the defence requirements of Australia. May I point out that unless we train artisans to undertake the responsibility of servicing our various mechanical appliances we shall find ourselves in trouble if ever a call is made for such service. If it is worth while to spend such vast sums of money to provide for the defence of this country it issurely also worth while to spend a reasonable amount in training artisans under a proper apprenticeship system. I hope that the Government will see that the Railways Commissioner fulfils his obligations in this respect. Railway men who serve the Commonwealth in remote places along the trans- Australian railway line are entitled to expect the Government to make available some avenues for the employment of their boys in railway workshops and elsewhere; but this does not seem to be the policy of the Government. I was very surprised to learn from a railway man at Cook that, when he endeavoured to place his boys in the Commonwealth railways service, so that they could learn a trade, he discovered that the department was neither sym- pathetic nor interested in his problem. This is unreasonable in view of the isolation of these men, and I hope that steps will be taken to develop the apprenticeship system in such a way as will make openings for the sons of these men.
The last matter to which I shall refer relates to the practice of the department in using porters as temporary guards on various trains. I do not suggest that all the trains are staffed by porters acting as temporary guards, but it is undeniable that the practice is followed quite frequently. It has two ill effects; one is that it hinders the promotion of officers, and the other is that it enables the Railways Commissioner to evade the continuous payment of rates of wages to which men are justly entitled. The guard’s rate is certainly paid when these men are acting temporarily, but it is not a fair method to adopt to utilize them as guards and deprive them of the permanent status that should be given. This is a subtle method of depriving men of their proper grade in the service.
I do not wish it to be imagined that 1 have any desire to pillory the Commissioner, but the complaints that I have made must be remedied without delay. The Minister should take advantage of the information that honorable members gather when they take the trouble to make personal inspections of the conditions of life and work along this line.
– How long is it since the honorable member travelled along the trans- Australian railway?
– I travelled along it during the last recess when, with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), I made a thorough inspection of the working and living conditions of the men employed on the railways, who live at wayside stations. The honorable member for Maribyrnong and I intend to make a further inspection along this railway during the coming recess. I hope that we shall then discover that the complaints I am now voicing have been remedied. “We should do our utmost to improve the conditions of the men who serve the Commonwealth in distant and lonely places, such as those along this railway.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory) [10.11). - I support the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). I notice that last year £57,000 was voted for Commonwealth railways purposes under the heading “ Increased payments in accordance with the determination of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator “. I commend the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) for having forced the issue in this respect about eighteen months ago. It was largely due to his advocacy that Commonwealth railways employees were granted the right to approach either the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, though I gave my modicum of support to his appeal.
– I consider that railway employees in the Northern Territory should be given a similar right.
– One of my objects in rising to speak is to make such a request to the Government. The railway men of the Northern Territory should be granted the same conditions in this respect as other Commonwealth railways employees.
Reverting now to the subject of housing conditions, to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh devoted himself, I direct attention to the following remarks made by the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. “Westhoven, in determination No. 10 of 1937, in the matter of certain industrial organizations and the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner : -
Fettlers’ cottages, framed tent-houses, <fcc, at wayside places. - Generally speaking, the housing accommodation provided by the department for its gangers and fettlers and other ^miscellaneous employees stationed at wayside places along the line is not what it should be. Mr. Justice Starke, in 1020, expressed the view - “ But the Commissioner’s accommodation huts are in truth makeshift affairs, and the Government must soon consider the permanent housing of their employees along the trans-Australian railway line “.”
– Did the honorable member refer to an opinion of twenty years ago?
– I did, but the Arbitrator added -
That comment still applies to-day - seventeen years later - to many of the dwellings now occupied. The married fettlers’ homes which I inspected, for example at Pimba, Wirraminna, Kingoonya, &c, consisted, of two main rooms, with an intermediate porch fitted with stove for a kitchen, one -of the main rooms being used as a living room, the other as the bedroom.
That is a scathing indictment of the conditions existing in those parts. Mr Westhoven went on -
On the Central Australian railway, the married fettlers, in some cases, live in old stone cottages taken over from the South Australian railways. Thu accommodation is better, in some respects, than on the TransAustralian railway, but the buildings give the impression of decay in old-age. The absence of provision of bath, washing troughs and copper for household laundry is notable. At Marree one of these cottages was inhabited by a fettler and his family (wife and five young children) which, in my view, was not fit for habitation.
I have quoted sufficient from this report to substantiate the remarks made by previous speakers. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) does not seem convinced that this is a recent report. I point out that it is dated 1937. I emphasize that government employees are forced to live under even worse conditions in the Northern Territory from Birdum to Darwin. When I urged the Minister for the Interior to appoint the Public Service Arbitrator to inquire into the conditions of these employees, the Commissioner defeated my endeavours. I then tackled the problem in another way, and this is where the Minister could do lie right thing if he desired to do so. I suggest that Mr. Hill, chairman of the Industrial Board in the Australian Capital Territory, which also deals with industrial matters at Jervis Bay, should be given a full-time job by also being appointed chairman of a local industrial board for the Northern Territory. So far I have failed to convince the Minister in this respect, mainly because of the opposition offered by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, who has played up to the vanity of the railway employees in the Northern Territory by giving two of their representatives from the Darwin railway workshop a free trip to Port Augusta in order to discuss matters with him there.
– It is not fair to say that he played up to their vanity; that is a reflection on the men.
– As I see no reason why the Commissioner could not meet the men when he is visiting Darwin, I repeat that there was, apparently, a nigger in the woodpile when he decided to give a free trip to Port Augusta to two of their representatives. Darwin is the place to decide the problems of Darwin. It must be obvious that any action taken by the Railways Commissioner solely affects railway employees and leaves the claims of other Government employees in the territory still to be attended to. The Carpenters Union in Darwin was not invited to send representatives to Port Augusta to confer with the Commissioner. That union was obliged to pay the fares of its representatives to Port Augusta. Many other workers, however, remain disinherited so far as arbitration is concerned, including girls working in hotels and the stockmen on stations. As the territory is the “ pigeon “ of the Minister for the Interior, I appeal to him to give this matter serious consideration, if he really desires a settlement of the labour question in that part of Australia. He now has a chance to do something in that direction by appointing Mr. Hill as chairman of a local industrial board to clean up the situation.
The existing inland mail services in the territory are a disgrace. In order to secure contracts tenderers are compelled to quote very meagre prices. In many cases it happens that a person who has a son or two old enough to run a truck tenders at an unreasonably low figure for these services with the result that real inlanders lose contracts which they have had for years. The mail service from Mataranka to Borooloola has been abandoned altogether, whilst another mail service along the Roper River has been taken from the old original contractor by the lessee of the station which mainly benefits from the service. That lessee has defeated the purpose of that contract by securing the contract for himself, because most of the loading goes to the station which he controls, instead of returning by a circuitous route to serve other stations. I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), when mail contracts are let in the interior in the future, to secure first of all an estimate from a departmental official as to what would be a reasonable tender to enable a man to make a living out of the work.
I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without protesting against the practice whereby the services of the wives of police officers are utilized as attendants at inland post offices. These women are completely tied down to the job from one end of the year to another. In this respect I mention particularly the post offices at Barrow Creek and Maranboy. The wives of police officers in such centres are engaged in this work for meagre payment because the department is not prepared to pay a salary to a special official. I urge the Postmaster-General to see that this practice is discontinued.
.- Whilst residents of country districts appreciate the extension of postal services provided by the Postal Department, and the. institution of certain reforms, involving the removal of some anomalies, there still exist three long outstanding anomalies to which I desire to refer. The first is in connexion with interstate telegraph rates, which I mentioned in my speech on the budget I appreciate the assurance given by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the removal of the surcharge is being looked into. The second matter relates to telephone charges in country districts compared with those in city areas. The user of public telephones in city and suburban areas pays a rate of 2d. a call for which he is entitled to speak over distances ranging from 1 to 15 miles and, in some instances, 20 miles, whereas a person making a call at a country exchange is charged 4d. for 10 miles, and 5d. for 15 miles. The country people are not asking for any preference in this respect, but I should like the new Postmaster-General to look into the matter in order to see if it is not possible to put them on the same footing as users of public telephones in the city. The third matter to which I wish to refer deals with the construction of country telephone lines to connect private subscribers. At present a regulation prevents the department from expending more than £50 for the connexion of any subscriber. Any cost in excess of that amount has to be provided either by work, or payment, on the part of the person, or persons, requiring the service. This is all very well in cases where only one individual is affected, but, whereas the department will receive £3 as annual rental from a single individual, it will receive £6 in respect of a party line on which, say, half a dozen subscribers are connected. However, the department still limits itself to an expenditure of £50 for the construction of that party line. If it is prepared to expend £50 in respect of a single subscriber who pays £3, it should be prepared to contribute £100 towards the original construction cost in the case of a party line on which additional subscribers would bring in £6 instead of £3. 1 hope that the PostmasterGeneral will investigate these matters, and do a fair thing by country subscribers.
.- I should like to know from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron)- what is being done by the National Broadcasting Commission to improve its services. Each year when the Estimates are being considered I take an opportunity to urge the Government to reduce the listener’s licence-fee from £1 to 15s. I have often been asked why I do not advocate a reduction to 10s. I take the view that this fee should be reduced gradually. The Government could well afford, first of all, to reduce it to 15s. .
– Is the Broadcasting Commission making too “much profit?
– It is making considerable profit, and if time permitted I could produce evidence to show that the Broadcasting Commission is not doing its job as well as it might.
– What is the honorable member’s criticism?
– In the few minutes at my disposal, I cannot develop those points. The listener’s licence-fee is too high, and should be reduced to 15s. at least. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to submit that suggestion to Cabinet. 1 should also like to know what kind of work is being done by the advisory committees on broadcasting set up in the various States? Have they any power? Is any notice taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the advice that they tender?
I take this opportunity again to refer to the failure of the Commonwealth Government to honour its agreement with the Government of South Australia to complete the north-south railway line. The agreement contemplated the construction of a railway line from Oodnadatta in the south to Darwin in the north. Up to the present the line extends only as far as Alice Springs from the south, and to Birdum from the north. A gap of 560 miles has yet to be bridged. I am ready to compromise on this matter. I realize that the Government has huge obligations in respect of defence, but it should be able to find sufficient money to build the line from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek. If that were done, a fine tract of country would be thrown open, and a service would be given to the people outback who, for many years, have suffered needless privations. The mineral resources of Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek and other places would be greatly assisted. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) knows the conditions under which those people live, and I should like to see him display a little more enthusiasm about this railway than he has shown.
– I advocated it3 construction long before the honorable member did.
– That statement is debatable. In any case, I am pleased with the honorable member’s promised support. The honorable member should show more enthusiasm about it now, because it is time that the Government honoured its obligation under the agreement. There are men in the Northern Territory who say that the railway between Darwin and Birdum should be replaced by a road. I do not know whether the Ministry shares that idea.
– I am glad to hear that. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) should confer on this matter, because it is my opinion that the completion of the North-South line is essential in the interests of defence. There has been a great deal of talk about the need for us to defend Australia, but we have not been told from where the enemy is coming. I think that, if any attack is made on Australia, it will come from the north, and, accordingly, the completion of the North-South line is essential. A pronouncement of policy on this matter should be made.
– I am pleased to be able to say a few words on the vote for the Postal Department, particularly because we have present in the chamber the newlyappointed Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron), whom I sincerely congratulate on his elevation to a high position in the Ministry. I bring under the notice of the honorable gentleman the need for a new post office at Brisbane. I have already placed this matter before three of his predecessors without results, but I hope that my appeal on this occasion will not fall on deaf ears. The present Postmaster-General while sitting as a private member must have heard me on at least a score of occasions appeal to the Government to proceed with the construction of a new post office at Brisbane, and he must also have heard the many promises that were made by at least two of his predecessors that the work would be put in hand. When the Estimates for 1934-35 were before the committee, the then Postmaster-General (Sir Archdale Parkhill) declared that money was on the Estimates for the work, and he promised that it would be started before Christmas 1934, in order that the unemployed would have some work before the festive season. We are just as far to-day from “having a new post office building in Brisbane as we were then. When the Federal Cabinet met in Brisbane three or four years ago, the existing post office building was inspected and a further definite promise was made that it was intended to replace it. There is no need for me to elaborate on the shortcomings of the building. I have done so on enough occasions for honorable members who have not first-hand knowledge of it to know that it is entirely unsuitable. During the last session a representative deputation waited upon the then Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and urged upon him the necessity to begin the work. It also urged the need to erect a new building on the alignment of the existing building which is 16 feet back from the foot- path. For six or eight months the newspapers in Brisbane almost every day received articles from certain postal officials in Brisbane setting out how the new post office would be built. The representatives of the citizens, particularly the City Council and the Town Planning Association, were at the same time urging upon the Postmaster-General the need to build on the existing alignment. They were told by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Brisbane that there was absolutely no chance of that being done because the department had already decided on how the building was to be erected. The citizens of Brisbane were incensed at his attitude, and members of the House of Representatives and senators from Queensland went as a deputation to the Postmaster-General. They were able to advance sufficient argument to convince the Minister that, in the interests of the city, the new building should be erected on the old alignment. After that deputation had taken place the PostmasterGeneral wrote me a letter of which the following is a portion : -
The department is impressed by the representations made in regard to the setting back of the building alignment, and after taking all the circumstances into consideration, is disposed to accede to the request to the extent that the face of the new building itself will be tcn feet from the inside boundary of the footpath. The entrance steps to the building will, of course, project over a portion of this space.
We were pleased at the concession granted, but, nevertheless, we were not satisfied, because the people of Brisbane still claim, as I claim, that the existing alignment ia the alignment on which the new premises should he built. It has been the alignment for 60 years, ever 3ince the Brisbane post office was built. I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to go on with this work. I have been given to understand that the Estimates contain provision for the expenditure of £50,000 on the construction of the new parcels section facing Elizabethstreet. Is it the intention of the department to go on with the work, and when does it intend to start? I should like to see a start made before Christmas so that the unemployed will benefit. I pui it to the Minister that the promises which have been made since 1934 should be carried into effect. I am fairly con fident that they will be, because in the new Postmaster-General we have a Minister who is not a rubber stamp, and is one who will not allow himself to be dictated to or allow his officers to ride rough-shod over his directions.
Complaints are frequent regarding the misuse of public telephones in Brisbane. I have mentioned this matter in the House on other occasions, and it has also been brought to the notice of postal officials in Brisbane. While it is admitted that there is a considerable misuse of these telephones, the department states that it has no control over them.
– In what sense ?
– I understand that if a person uses a public telephone installed in a post office, only three minutes is permitted for a conversation; but there is no such limit in connexion with other public telephones, four or five of which are situated in Queen-street, Brisbane. Sometimes these telephones are used by one person for as much as ten to fifteen minutes. That is not right. Any one of these public telephones may be required urgently, but its use may be prevented by some one carrying on perhaps an unimportant conversation for much longer than the three minutes ordinarily allowed. The department has, I understand, endeavoured to trace the people who improperly carry on long conversations regularly on certain days of the week, to the inconvenience of other people who wish to use the telephones, but so far it has not been successful. I am informed that there is a device which automatically cuts out a conversation after the prescribed period of three minutes has elapsed, but that its installation on public telephones would he costly. Whether heavy expense would he involved or not, protection should be given to people who desire to use public telephones in a legitimate manner. I hope that inquiries will be made in an endeavour to prevent a continuance of this misuse.
-I bring under the notice of the committee cases in which, . I understand, it is alleged the Government has not adhered to its policy of giving preference in employment to returned soldiers. I have here a file, extending over a long period, relating to a man employed as a temporary telegraph lineman who, twelve months ago, was recalled to the Postmaster-General’s Department. This man has served for a total of eight years in a temporary capacity. Recently, he left his employment with the Ipswich City Council to work with the Postal Department, which was finding it difficult to obtain men with experience. He was informed by officials of the Postal Department that if he took the position he would soon be made a permanent employee. I also have a letter from the Public Service inspector stating that the lineman referred to had passed his qualifying examination in 1926. Almost thirteen years have elapsed and still he is a temporary employee. In the last issue of the Commonwealth Gazette appear the names of eighteen persons - none of whom is a returned soldier - who have been appointed as linemen. I am advised ako that, in a more recent issue of the Commonwealth Gazette; applications were called for linemen in training and that a number of employees who entered the service as telegraph messengers are now doing the work of linemen. If the Government intends to continue its policy of giving preference in employment to returned soldiers, a policv which I strongly endorse, it should not delay in making permanent the position of this man who passed the qualifying examination in 1926 and has since done temporary work for a period of eight years. I am advised that at least eight other men in Ipswich are similarly situated. I regret that, so far, the department has not seen its way clear to do the fair thing by these men, but I am certain that I have only to bring the matter to the notice of the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is himself a returned soldier, to have the matter put right.
Portion of my electorate borders upon the State of New South Wales. Although it is now 38 years since federation was established, people living on State borders are still paying ls. 4d. for telegrams sent over State borders, whereas people in other parts of the Commonwealth pay only ls. for telegrams despatched to addressees in the State. A wire sent from
Southport to Tweed Heads, a distance of 20 miles, costs ls. 4d., while a telegram sent from Southport to Cape York, a distance of about 3,020 miles, costs only ls.
– That matter is now being investigated.
– I have raised it on many occasions and I am glad of the Minister’s assurance that some steps have been taken to remove this annoying anomaly.
I should like to know also what action is being taken to install rural automatic telephone exchanges.
– In answer to a question asked last week I stated that a number of rural automatic exchanges had been placed on order.
– Were many placed on order?
– Does the Minister expect the orders to he completed this year?
– In view of that assurance I am hopeful that many additional rural automatic telephones will he installed in the near future. Nearly two years ago the department assured me that an automatic exchange would be installed at Sunnybank, Queensland. I am in receipt of regular communications from people in that district asking when that promise is to be honoured. I hope that outstanding orders will be fulfilled at an early date and that Sunnybank and other centres will be included in the first installations.
.- I am confident that the new PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) will discharge his ministerial duties thoroughly, to the satisfaction of the general public. I should like to impress upon the honorable gentleman the necessity for giving more attention to the provision of postal facilities in outback districts. For some time there has been considerable cheese-paring in the letting of mail contracts. A promise was given to me some time ago that in future a more liberal attitude would be adopted, but I have in mind one case which indicates that departmental officials are still indulging in cheese-paring economies and are not giving the service to which outback settlers are entitled. One man I know of in the Collarenebri district, living on a holding which for years has been just outside the regular mail route, has made repeated applications for a service to his property. I know the country well. In my opinion that man is as entitled as any other settler to a mail service. The cost of diverting the mailman from his present route would be very small. This year tenders were called, and the contract specified the inclusion of the property to which I have referred. As the increase in the tender price on this account was £20, the department decided to keep to the original route. I know also of five or six pioneer settlers living in an area not now served by a mail delivery, who have been unsuccessful in their applications for an extension of the present service. They are men who have done splendid pioneering work in developing their properties, and they should be encouraged by the granting of all possible postal and other facilities. In my opinion, all settled localities are entitled to a mail service whether the diversion from existing mail routes would be great or not.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) with regard to the need for improved telephone facilities in country areas. I know of several settlers, in the Wee Waa district, who have made application for the extension of a telephone line five or six miles to their holdings. The department insisted on a cash deposit of £160 before authorizing the connexion. As there were four men concerned, that would have meant a cash payment of £40 each. These men had passed through adverse seasons and were not able to find the amount demanded, but stated their willingness to enter into a guarantee to repay, over a term of years, the capital expenditure involved. In the meantime the department would derive revenue from telephone rentals and from the large volume of local and trunk line business which would result. The department, however, refused to accede to their request, despite the fact that the men concerned agreed also that in the event of any of them being obliged to leave their properties, the other guarantors could be called upon to honour his pledge as well as theirs. I impress upon the Postmaster-General that the proposition is a sound one, and, with the honorable member for- Riverina, I hope that something will be done in this direction.
I was pleased to hear the PostmasterGeneral give an assurance that the provision of rural automatic exchanges will not be curtailed in New South Wales. Several of these exchanges were provided for in the Estimates of recent years, and the localities in which they were to be erected were mentioned; but the announcement was made eventually that the department did not intend to proceed with their installation. I was pleased to hear to-night that that is not the present intention of the department.
I urge upon the notice of the Minister the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) of the treatment of casual telephone linemen who are returned soldiers. I have previously brought under the attention of the department the specific case of a man of excellent character who has had over twelve years of casual service. Under the regulations an employee must have two years’ continuous employment to make him eligible for a permanent appointment. Quite recently this man was employed for a year and ten months continuously, and then he was dismissed. The statement was issued that the department had no intention to prevent him from being made a permanent employee, but, seeing that he was dismissed within a couple of months of qualifying for a permanent appointment, I can come to no other conclusion than that he was dismissed for the purpose of preventing him from so qualifying. It seems to me that such treatment of returned soldiers is despicable, particularly as work was available for this man to do. Other temporary employees have had similar experiences.
.- The Postmaster-General’s department is to be congratulated upon the extension of postal and telephonic services in country districts, more particularly the extension of the hours of service, which has been advocated by honorable members for many years. Although the service after 6 p.m. has been extended in many country districts, good work still remains to be done in this direction. I urge the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) to push on with the establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges. Frequently, honorable members who represent country districts are faced with the problem that arises when people are unable to carry on their post and telephone offices. These offices have to be moved at considerable expense to the department, and great inconvenience is experienced by residents. The establishment of rural automatic telephone exchanges would help to overcome that difficulty.
I also make a plea in regard to the discharge of temporary linemen who are returned soldiers. I have had several letters recently from men who have been engaged in a temporary capacity and have been put off. This period, shortly before the Christmas season, seems to be a most unsuitable time to discharge these men, and I urge the Minister to endeavour to employ them, if only until after the Christmas holidays. Work could perhaps be found for them as lettercarriers, because, with the rush of work that occurs at this season, letter-carriers are frequently employed until midnight and even later.
I urge the Minister to do something to improve the programmes that are broadcast from the national as well as from the commercial stations. I have previously criticized the programmes of the national stations, and there is still room for their improvement. Many excellent items are given, but we still hear others which might well be omitted. Some of the so-called musical items are, in my opinion, merely noises. I go further, and say that some responsible authority ought to have some measure of control over the programmes put over the air by the commercial stations. I realize, of course, that it is necessary for revenue purposes for these stations to broadcast advertisements, but the matter used for advertisements should be regulated. My own children and those of other people have listened to stories of a very undesirable kind which have been broadcast by B class stations.
Every effort should be made to ensure that the programmes are of as elevating a character as possible. These stations should not interfere with the education system by introducing questionable kinds of entertainment.
I strongly object to the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) for the extension of the railway from Alice Springs to Birdum, a distance of 560 miles. The cost of such a line is too great to contemplate at a time when heavy defence expenditure is essential. Before consideration is given to the building of further railways, attention should be paid to the possibilities of aerial transport. The large transport aeroplane has not yetappeared in Australia, although enormous quantities of goods are transported by aeroplanes in other parts of the world. Heavy loads are carried by air in New Guinea. The aeroplane has the advantage of not being confined permanently to fixed routes, and for that reason is much to be preferred to a train for the carriage of goods.
.- For years, honorable members in this chamber have spoken on postal matters before a Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral who occupied a seat in the Senate, and whose representative listened with cold indifference to our pleas. Happily that is no longer the position in this chamber. For a long period I have been associated with other members in commenting on the anomaly and injustice of the surcharge on border telegrams. Many requests have been made for the removal of the charge, and I hope that the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is noted for his fairmindedness, will soon see that it is abolished.
The disabilities suffered by people in country areas through lack of postal facilities have frequently been mentioned in this chamber. In many instances the services provided, even in progressive country centres, are inadequate. In towns where dilapidated offices are used the erection of up-to-date official offices would be justified. When requests are made for new post offices, in towns both large and small, the plea comes from the department that the business transacted does not warrant further expenditure; hut I claim that, if the revenue received at some offices is insufficient to warrant the provision of improved accommodation, portion of the revenue collected in larger centres should he allocated for the purpose. Under the direction of the present Postmaster-General, I look forward to an improvement of the postal services throughout the Commonwealth. Rural automatic telephone exchanges are becoming very popular in country districts, and I realize that my electorate has received its quota of these exchanges.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) commented on the living conditions of the people living along the transcontinental railway, and while I agree with him that the residences are primitive and, in some cases, inadequate, I approve of the LI ew housing scheme adopted by the Railways Commissioner. The houses which are being constructed of compressed straw and plaster that I inspected at Port Pirie, are excellent, and I personally heard the tenants express themselves . as delighted with them.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General to provide improved postal and telephone facilities for people living in the outback areas. Those living closer in have the advantage of such transport facilities as are provided by the railway and aerial services, but those in the more remote districts of New South Wales are hampered by bad communications, and the lack of telephone and postal facilities. In wet weather it is impossible for them to travel over the sodden roads to places where there are telephones; and, in their interests, improved facilities should be provided.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) the excessive rates which passengers on vessels travelling between Australia and New Zealand have to pay for radio telephone conversations, and for radiograms, between the ship and Australia. The rates are about four times as high as those charged between the ship and New Zealand.
– Communications between ships at sea and Australia are handled by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, not by the post office.
– Whoever * handles them, I think that some action should be taken to bring the rates more into line with those to New Zealand.
I also desire to call the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) to the existing arrangements for the inspection of the passports of Australians returning by sea to this country. Recently, the Monterey arrived at Sydney carrying 900 passengers. I want to know if . the Minister can so arrange matters as to spare returning Australians the indignity of having to line up with aliens to have their passports inspected, as was required of them on that occasion.
– The matter will be looked into.
Mr. DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) jil. 20]. - I support the request of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) that a tribunal should be established to hear the claims of railway men and others in the Government service working in the Northern Territory. If the Public Service Arbitrator were empowered to deal with all such cases it would be more satisfactory both to the department and to the men. Failing that, a local tribunal should be created. Under the present arrangement the men are being brought down from the Northern Territory to Port Augusta to have their claims discussed at conferences, and they go away probably as dissatisfied as they were before.
I should like to discuss several other matters, but I am prevented by the curtailment of time. It is absurd that, after waiting patiently until the relevant item comes before the committee, we should then be debarred by an unwarranted limitation of time from discussing it. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to the housing of railway workers. That is a matter which cannot be discussed adequately in the time allowed, and we therefore propose to approach the Minister by letter so that the matter may be dealt with during the recess.
– I shall inquire into the individual cases mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I am speaking mainly of the general question now. I am aware that it would be neces-J sary to amend the existing legislation in order to bring railway men under the same provisions as postal workers in regard to housing, but there is no reason why such an amendment should not be made. Something should be done to remove the anomaly which results in one section of Commonwealth employees being accommodated in good houses, while another section has to put up with bad ones. I make no charge against the Commissioner for Railways. He is trying to make the railways pay, but it is an impossible task, and the railway workers should not be penalized for that reason. Reference has been made to housing conditions at Watson. I know that this is a temporary settlement, but, even so, something should be done to improve matters. It is a grave reflection on the administration that a woman with a young child should be compelled to live under such conditions.
As for- the rest houses which aire provided, they are entirely unsatisfactory. The comments of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) on the housing of railway employees in the Commonwealth Railways anticipate particulars which are to be incorporated in a case to be put before the authorities, and I hope that the Minister will give those representations sympathetic consideration. In the single men’s camps, the cooking and bathing arrangements are such that no one should be asked to put up with them, particularly men in responsible positions, and their living quarters are also very inferior. The honorable member for Hindmarsh and I have seen these conditions for ourselves, and we know what we are talking about. We appreciate the difficulties of the commissioner, and I would be prepared to accompany the Minister on an inspection of these places with a view to having matters improved.
Time does not permit me to put before the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) the matters relating to his department which require attention. Some of them have been mentioned by other honorable members, but I propose to bring them in greater detail under his notice through a deputation which will wait upon him later. I congratulate the Postmaster-General on the new public telephone boxes, which are highly decorative and artistic and eminently suited to their purpose. Unfortunately, there seems to be a hold-up in the supply, with the result that the installation of public telephones is being unduly delayed.
I shall defer any further remarks in order to give other honorable members an opportunity to speak under this wretched system of .the curtailment of time.
– I urge upon the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron) the need for overhauling the financial policy of his department and its general attitude to the public which results from that policy. Because of the charging of capital expenditure against revenue, the department has been forced to adopt a somewhat cold-blooded attitude towards requests for telephone extensions and improved facilities generally. Every request is considered in the light of the immediate revenue likely to be earned, and the result of putting everything on a pounds, shillings and pence basis is that the public are being deprived of the facilities to which they are in justice entitled. That policy should be changed without delay. These matters should be regarded from the point of view of rendering a service to the community so that people, particularly in the out-back areas, may be kept happy and contented by being provided with those facilities which, in this twentieth century, they may reasonably expect. Every farmhouse should have a telephone, and the policy of the department should be directed towards that end. An illustration of the department’s attitude is provided by what has happened in the important country town of Esk. There, the Postmaster-General’s Department erected a line of telephone poles 8 feet out from the footpath. Afterwards, the Chamber of Commerce, the local municipal authority and myself, made representations to the department to remove the posts, which were a danger to traffic, but all our efforts have failed. The department insists that the local authority shall pay half the cost, estimated at £165, of removing the posts. That is not right, and I ask the Minister to see that the request of the people of Esk is given favorable and early consideration.
I join with the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) in asking for the removal of the iniquitous surcharge on border telegrams. It costs Is. 4d. to send a telegram from Brisbane to Tweed Heads, and only ls. to send a telegram from Brisbane to Cape York. It isa ridiculous and artificial charge, which is helping to perpetuate State divisions at a time when we are hearing so much about the need for unity, uniformity, and national spirit. Parliament should give a lead by insisting that this surcharge be abolished.
– The time allotted for the consideration of these departments has expired.
Proposed votes put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 11.80 to 11.50 p.m.
Proposed vote, £338,150.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed vote, £358,890.
Proposed vote, £44,180.
Proposed vote, £25,000.
Proposed vote, £4,000.
Ordered to be considered together.
.- Under division 141, £6,500 is provided for maintenance of survey camps for the Northern Territory. I do not think that amount is adequate to carty out the survey work so urgently needed in that vast area. When I was in the territory last year and during this year, the Surveyor-General was very disappointed because of the inadequacy of his staff to carry out the surveys that he desired to undertake in conformity with ‘the developmental policy which he had every right to expect would follow the presentation of the Payne-Fletcher report. Naturally, residents of the territory expected that some developmental policy would result from the presentation of that report. Provision is also made of £13,000 for “ mines branch - maintenance of batteries and ore sampling”. These seem very meagre amounts tor the two great departments of lands and mines on which the development of the Northern Territory depends. Of all things we must try to secure for the administration of the Northern Territory the functions of a State government. Residents of the Northern Territory have to pay the equivalent of State taxes, as well as Federal taxes, and therefore they are justified in demanding that the administration be clothed with the functions normally exercised by the State governments, and that a system of grants in aid be adopted in order to finance its operations. The Northern Territory should be controlled by the administration from Darwin instead of from Canberra. Although I am very disappointed that the Minister (Mr. McEwen) has not yet made an announcement in regard to what he proposes to do in respect of the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher committee, I compliment him on the authority which he has given to the new Director of Mines from Western Australia, Mr. Hughes. I hope that it is real. Some time ago I went to a good deal of trouble to urge the Government to reorganize its Mines Department, and I now wish to congratulate the Minister on being able to secure the services of Mr. Hughes. It is, however, not sufficient merely to do that. I urge the honorable gentleman to look upon the two great departments of lands and mines as a nucleus on which to build future plans for the working out of the destiny of the Northern Territory, by clothing them with the authority possessed by corresponding departments in the States. Provision is also made in this division of £2,000 for the encouragement of primary production. I should like the Minister to give very serious consideration to the necessity for the encouragement of the growing of peanuts, which is practically the only primary industry established on the two rivers, the Katherine and the Daly. It appears that the Government has neglected entirely the development of this industry because it has failed to lift the embargo on the importation of foreign peanuts and seed, with the result that those engaged in the industry have had a very difficult time. I ask the Minister to see that the customs regulation prohibiting the importation of peanut seed is repealed. Only those growers who were fortunate enough to have imported the choicest seed have been able to secure decent crops. Much of the local seed is now run out. We hear a good deal of talk about the prohibition of the admission into Australia of aliens, but in that area there is a small settlement of Australians and white Russians who have continued operations against heavy odds. The Minister has met them, and he must admire their pluck and the manner in which they have developed the country. The most suitable land is situated on one side of the Katherine River and is owned by Vestey’s Limited. The growers at this settlement are looking .across the river with covetous eyes. I said to some of the Russians, “ Would more of your countrymen come out from Harbin and engage in agriculture in the territory if they had the opportunity to do so and the land were cleared for them “ ? They replied, “ Give us the land ; we will do the rest “. All they ask is that they be permitted to farm the more suitable land on the other side of the river.
– Why cannot they get the land?
– Because it is owned by Vestey’s Limited who are merely carrying a few tick-infested cattle on the area. Provision is also made, under Division 141, of £6,000 for unemployment relief and alleviation of distress. I compliment the Minister upon having made that provision, but in view of the fact that the larger works cannot be started until after the wet, I urge him to make some of that money available before Christmas. I was conversing with the chief engineer of the Department of the Interior a few days ago, and he informed me that the depart ment will be well satisfied if the contractors for the water supply works at Darwin commence operations after the wet season, during which the machinery was to be established. This is not by any means undermining the Minister’s policy, because I am sure he realizes the difficulties presented by the high rainfall at Darwin during the wet season. I point out that before these works can be commenced, a great many men will be unemployed. The territory has been so much in the spotlight lately that men have been attracted there, and they will have no opportunity to obtain work . until the wet season is over. Therefore, I ask the Minister to make available a portion of the £6,000 for unemployment relief in order that these men may be given some employment until the contractors are able to put in hand the larger public works about April.
Under Division 141, £1,750 is provided for educational services and scholarships. This is a matter of great importance to the parents of children residing in the territory. Only two scholarships are available. Having regard to the remoteness of the territory from other centres, that number might very well be doubled. Those youngsters who have won scholarships go down to either Brisbane or Charters Towers to sit for the junior public, matriculation, or leaving certificate examinations. The parents of children who matriculate naturally desire that the children should go on to a university course, but in many instances the necessary money is not available. They claim that a more adequate allowance should be made to enable their children to enjoy the benefits of a university education. The residents of the territory are put to great expense in sending their children to the university in Brisbane. The fares charged are out of all reason. The return fare between Darwin and Brisbane for a child of thirteen or fourteen years amounts to no less than £27. For two years I have been battling for the schoolteachers in Darwin. Every honorable member who has been to Darwin knows of the trying time experienced by the teachers, male and female alike, in standing in that climate for from five to seven hours a day. teaching classes of pupils of mixed races.
Wednesday30, November 1938.
So great is the strain imposed on them that many of the women teachers are nervous wrecks at the end of the year.
– Does that apply to all schools in the territory?
– I refer to all schools from the Katherine River to Darwin.
– How many schools are there?
– There are three government schools and one convent school. My point is that the teachers were seconded from Queensland under an agreement which provided that they should have three months’ leave after three years’ service. Two years ago the agreement was varied. I do not know who was responsible for that, hut an attempt was made to place the teachers in offices in Darwin during a portion of their period of leave. They successfully resisted the attempt. Later, instead of being granted three months’ leave after three years’ service, they were granted only one month’s leave. Moreover, the department published advertisements which made a special appeal to younger teachers in Queensland. Realizing that adventurous young people will go almost anywhere - even to Timbuctoo - in order to experience the thrill of seeing new scenes, the department set out to induce young teachers to go to Darwin, and that is not to its credit. Some of the older teachers in the territory returned to Brisbane in disgust, hut the altered conditions still obtain. I appeal to the Minister to revert to the old conditions, and thereby restore harmony among the teachers. They certainly earn the period of leave provided for in the original agreement. The Northern Territory is the Cinderella of, not only the Commonwealth, but also the territories under its control. In no other Australian territory are technical officers so shamefully treated. I know that in the Malay States, to which many of my friends have gone, conditions are much better than in the Northern Territory. Honorable members would be shocked if they knew the facts. Technical men are constantly leaving the Northern Territory in order to obtain better positions elsewhere. The Surveyor-General is about to leave, and the Chief Draughtsman has left. I admit that the former is ill owing to overwork and the conditions. Others are trying to get away because of the treatment they receive. When I was in Darwin with the present Minister’s predecessor, I was able, by prompt action, to retain to the department the services of an assayer. Mr. Williams, one of the later assayers, refused to work under the conditions imposed, and resigned. The previous assayer also was about to leave, but the then Minister (Mr. Paterson) without hesitation granted his request, and his services were retained. It would appear that no great trouble is experienced in granting improved conditions when the Minister has the will to do so.
– The honorable member wants in the Northern Territory similar conditions to those which apply in other territories under the control of the Commonwealth ?
– That is so. I have heard from numbers of people that climatic conditions in Darwin are much worse than in New Guinea and other territories under Commonwealth control. I ask that teachers and technical officers, and, indeed, all Commonwealth officers in Darwin, be given the same conditions as apply to officers in the other territories. Members of the Administrator’s staff at Darwin are there for the term of their natural life. Some have already been there for 25 years. In my opinion, there should be a rotational system, by which Darwin officers would be transferred to Canberra for a period of three years before returning to the north for a similar period. The sojourn in the better climate of Canberra would not only improve their health; it would also enable the officers of the department to gain valuable knowledge. I appeal also on behalf of the women and children of the territory. If the Minister were to seek the opinion of medical men in the territory he would be told that the lot of women there is not what it ought to be. I have already mentioned Dr. Nesbitt, of Townsville. He is now a Sydney specialist, and if the department is sufficiently interested it should approach him for information on this subject.
– What is the honorable member’s opinion of the treatment of aborigines in the Northern Territory?
– I do not propose to refer to that subject at this stage. I should like the Minister to tell the committee the cost of the deferred judgment in respect of the Japanese pearling luggers which were arrested. Honorable members are entitled to that information.
The sum of £4,100 has been set down for “ electric supply, Darwin and Alice Springs”. Those places are 1,000 miles apart, yet the cost of these services is lumped together. We are entitled to know the separate costs. It seems strange that the expenditure in respect of scientific matters is frequently treated in this way. It would appear that honorable members are not expected to be interested in scientific matters. All honorable members are interested in them, even if only superficially. Those who attempt to hoodwink honorable members in this way regard us rather cheaply. Not all honorable members are ill-informed on scientific subjects, and even those who have little knowledge of such things are interested in them. In this connexion I compliment the honorable members for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and Lilley (Mr. Jolly) on their speeches in regard to financial subjects upon which they are especially qualified to speak. They have asked for information in regard to certain accounts. I do not claim to he an expert in those matters, but I have some knowledge of technical and scientific matters and, like those honorable gentlemen, I desire some details of the things in which I am interested. The people of the Northern Territory are critical, and are inclined to blame me for my lack of information on certain subjects. They do not know how difficult it is to obtain information. When I was a staff surveyor for the Commonwealth Government I was not treated as generously as are those persons now conducting geophysical surveys in the territory. I do not know the intrinsic value of their work, although I have sought information on the subject, but I know that in some instances their camps are wasteful, and that they are surveying old and known fields, and refrain from putting a pick into the ground.
– Why does not the honorable member still engage in survey work in the territory?
– I should like to bo in charge of that area for 24 hours.
– Why decry the Northern Territory?
– I am not doing so. I propose later to quote certain paragraphs from the Payne-Fletcher report in order to show that the two gentlemen who compiled that very valuable document have apparently received a gratuitous insult from the Government. Mr. Fletcher left his business as a pastoralist in Queensland on my special pleadings to engage in the important work with which he was entrusted, and Mr. Payne, as chairman, was requested by the Government of Queensland to see that justice was done to the Northern Territory. The report prepared by them is an outstanding document in that it did not exaggerate any of the favorable features of the Northern Territory, and it did not hide those which are unsatisfactory. In these circumstances I, as one who has classified land in the Northern Territory, have a right to ask why effect has not been given to the valuable recommendations which the report contains. The caro that these gentlemen exercised is summed up in a few paragraphs in their report. What they state can relate not only to north-western Australia, northern Queensland and the Northern Territory but also to all outlying parts of the Commonwealth. Mr. Payne, who was seised of the apathy of the Commonwealth in connexion with these outlying districts, suggested that they should be developed by the adoption, in the first place, of regional tariffs. In fact, when reporting on the Northern Territory he went even further and advocated the complete suspension of customs duties. If the Government cannot adopt that suggestion, surely it will favour the application of a regional tariff, particularly in respect of commodities used by basic industries upon which development so much depends. Such commodities include mining machinery, pumps, galvanized iron, Oregon, cement, wire netting, and all fencing materials. Surely it is not suggested that if these were admitted into the Northern Territory free of duty they would be carried over bush tracks into adjoining States where they are dutiable? If they were admitted free of duty all purchases could be recorded and the material traced until it was actually used. Paragraphs 36 to 38 of the Payne-Fletcher report read -
That is the opinion of well-informed men, yet the Government, by its delay, is offering them a gratuitous insult. The report is a statesmanlike document, displaying sound and farsighted judgment on the part of its authors, who understand the problems of the Northern Territory. Whether the report be from the standpoint of econo mics, practical politics, humanitarianism or national progress, the people have a right to demand that the Government shall give immediate effect to the recommendations contained in it.
– I desire to refer briefly to two aspects of the administration of the territories under the Government’s control, one of which relates to the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and the other to the Northern Territory. Residents in New Guinea are very much concerned at the unwarranted delay that is taking place in the construction of a road from Wau to Salamaua. The residents interested believe that the Government should show more sympathetic consideration and provide transport at rates more reasonable than those at present ruling. It will take eighteen months to construct a road by the shortest route from Wau to Salamaua, and 1 understand that the Prime Minister has been asked to indicate immediately the Government’s willingness to put the work in hand. I trust that the representations will be treated as urgent, and that a decision will be announced as early as possible.
– Surveyors are at present engaged on that work.
– I shall be glad if the Assistant Minister will inform me, by letter if necessary, of the actual position in that respect.
I am surprised that the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have refrained from mentioning the aborigines in his area. Their problem is most pressing.
– I did not have sufficient time.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked if the honorable member had any suggestions to make concerning these unfortunate people.
– I believe in looking after the white man first.
– The honorable member had sufficient time to state his views on the subject. I can quite understand his silence - the aborigines have no votes. If they had he would not need to be urged to advocate the adoption of humanitarian methods in dealing with them. After the revelations that have heen made recently to this House and to the country on matters affecting the aborigines, we have a right to expect a pronouncement of government policy on the subject in the near future. We cannot, as a civilized community, allow a continuation of abuses that have occurred during the last year or two in connexion with these unfortunate people. If the Government does not remedy the complaints that have been made it will deserve and receive the severest condemnation of every person who is at all interested in the welfare of these people, and deplores the neglect of them in past years.
– If they had votes, the Government would do something for them !
– There can be no doubt about that. Our treatment of the aborigines shows a very poor appreciation of our obligation to native races. Time will not permit me to discuss this subject as fully as it should be discussed; but I call, in a most emphatic way, for a pronouncement of government policy upon it. The rights, material welfare and health of these unfortunate people should be of primary concern to the Government, and I hope that the Minister for the Interior, in his reply, will give an assurance that the Government intends to make more effective provision in the future than it has made in the past for the welfare of the aborigines.
– I have not sufficient time at my disposal to reply at length to the various issues raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin).
I take this opportunity, however, to assure the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who has a wide knowledge of his electorate and should be able to contribute something of real value to those charged with its administration, that his representations will receive my most careful consideration. I was particularly impressed by the case he stated for the provision of scholarships for children in the Northern Territory.
During my recent visit there, I observed personally the educational disabilities that the children suffer. I had in my mind the possibility of establishing a high school at Darwin at no distant date. That should go some way to meet the desires of the honorable member.
In reply to his request for an analysis of the proposed vote of £4,100 in respect of the electricity supply for Darwin and Alice Springs, I inform him that, in respect of Darwin, running expenses, including wages, are set down at £2,000; fuel at £450, and oil at £250, making a total of £2,700; and in respect of Alice Springs, running expenses are set down at £1,000, provision for reticulation maintenance at £100, plant maintenance at £250, and miscellaneous expenses at £50, making a total of £1,400. These figures account for the total vote of £4,100.
The honorable member complained that the Government had not yet made any statement of policy respecting the recommendations of the Payne-Fletcher report on Northern Territory affairs. I assure him, and honorable members generally, that this is not due to neglect on my part. I have been at considerable pains, with the help of the officers of my department, to prepare for Cabinet certain recommendations of a comprehensive character which, if agreed to, would go a considerable distance towards implementing the Payne-Fletcher recommendations. Necessarily, however, this policy cannot be encompassed in one financial year. The expenditure contemplated would have to be spread over several years. This made it necessary for the Government to consider the whole subject, together with its financial implications, in the, light of budget provision for future years. I give the committee the assurance that, before the session concludes, I shall make a pronouncement of Government policy respecting the Northern Territory, covering the PayneFletcher report and my own observations during my recent visit there.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory asked for some information about the amount involved in the judgment in the Japanese lugger litigation.
Mr.McEWEN.- I have not the details available at the moment, but, in view of the interest of honorable members generally, I undertake to make a statement in the House on that subject.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to the position of the Australian aborigines, and asked for a statement of Government policy in connexion therewith. I have been preparing recommendations for Cabinet on this subject also for several months. It must be realized, however, that the Commonwealth Government may deal only with aborigines within its own territory. Constitutional limitations preclude it from taking any action in respect of aborigines resident within State boundaries. I have carefully examined the reports and recommendations of Dr. Donald Thompson, and other experts, and, during my visit to the Northern Territory, I made exhaustive personal inquiries into the whole subject. I have also consulted the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory, and his officers, on the subject, and I was accompanied, on my recent visit to the territory, by Mr. Chinnery, who is charged with the administration of native affairs in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
– Has this subject been listed for a Premiers conference?
– As the result of the reports to which I have referred I have prepared certain recommendations as regards policy on this matter, which I hope I shall have an opportunity to explain to honorable members before the conclusion of this session. Later a conference of State Ministers administering native affairs, over which I shall preside, will be held with a view to establishing closer co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
Proposed votes put and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: - That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1938-39 for the several services hereunder specified a sum not exceeding £30,553,050.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Motion (by Mr. Casey) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1938-39, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £16,379,300.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. McEwen do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to deal with the treatment of aborigines. This measure involves the expenditure of over £30,000,000, and included in that amount is an amount of £37,000 which has been set aside to finance all the efforts that are now being made for the care of fullblooded aborigines in Australia. The whole of that amount will be absorbed in the payment of salaries to patrol officers, matron, prospector, supervisors, clerks and typists. Limited as they are, 99 per cent, of those efforts is associated with the half-caste problem, which means that nothing at all is being done to improve the position of our full-blooded aborigines. I am not charging the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) with having failed in his duty in any respect, but merely express the hope that in the near future a policy will be mapped out in respect of this problem. I waited patiently for the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) to refer to this problem.
– The problem has already been mapped out in the Northern Territory, and I shall take an opportunity to enlighten the honorable member.
– I know that since he has taken over his position the present Minister has been very busy in relation to activities in the territory, and I know that those activities have almost trebled during that period. Neither he, nor the Government, has had time to map out any definite proposals for dealing comprehensively with the aborigines. 1, and many other honorable members, have seen a lot of the activities in connexion with our native problem in Central Australia, the Northern Territory and the north-west portion of Western Australia, but nobody can say that we in Australia have done anything like what has been done by the people in New Zealand, the Mandated Territories, or in any other country, which has a native problem, to improve the lot of the full-blooded natives of Australia. We have been tinkering with the half-caste problem, but we have not made any impression on it ; it is gaining all the time. Some new-fangled, or extremely peculiar ideas, were advanced by the protector of aborigines some years ago; he claimed that he could breed out the half-castes through the marriage of halfcastes to quarter-castes and so on, but his plan proposed nothing to stop the growth of half-castes or uplift the full-blooded aborigines. We must feel dissatisfied when we see the excellent work that has been done by New Zealand on behalf of the Maoris. I know that that race is on a higher plane than the Australian aborigines, but I suggest that some comparison can be made between what New Zealand has done for the Maoris, and what we have failed to do for our natives. The Maoris were allowed to develop in their own territory under their own control, and that scheme succeeded. We have not tried a similar scheme here in respect of the aborigines. We have contaminated them and helped to break down their native bush-craft. If we wish to speak convincingly to the rest of the world about carrying out our trusteeship of the Mandated Territories, particularly in relation to-the treatment of the natives of those territories, we should first do something to improve the lot of those people who have a more direct claim on us. But nothing has been done in that direction. I am hoping that after the Minister carries out his plans in respect of the Northern Territory - we have just agreed to the expenditure on defence, the planning of new towns, water works, hospitals, gaols, &c. - he will be able to turn his attention in the near future to the problem of the aborigines and will tackle it as it has never been tackled since federation by the Commonwealth Government at any rate, namely, by finding for the natives areas of decent land - land that is decent in comparison with mast of the land in the Northern Territory, which is not useful at all. It is an erroneous policy to tell the world that it is valuable land and prolific in production, because it is not.
– The aborigines were even deprived of their water rights.
– Many of the reserves for aborigines, which were selected years ago, were in dry, dismal parts of the territory. Those which were not were taken from the natives because minerals were found upon them.. The natives were driven farther afield and those lands which had utility were put to better economic use. The natives have never been given permanent reserves or been allowed to develop their own live3. It is a vastly different story in respect of the white settlers and miners, who have been given every advantage. At the earliest possible date, permanent encampments for native tribes should be created. There must, of course, be no overlapping that will break down the customs oi the natives or involve tribal warfare. This problem must be faced by Australia. Some portion of the territory should be reserved for the aborigines and every step must be taken to ensure that the tribes have adequate water supplies, even if, in order to ensure this, it be necessary to sink wells. The natives could live their own lives in their own districts for the whole of the year.
– Has the Minister given any consideration to that?
– The Minister cannot be blamed for not doing more than he has done. None of us had thought sufficiently on this problem. It would not be just to say that this Minister or some previous Minister had done nothing. It is the duty of the House to tell the Government and of the Government to tell the Minister to deal with the problem in the near future. It is time that this note was struck, and I am sorry that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) did not strike it, and did not cooperate more fully with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) and hi? party when they went through the territory. The honorable member would have been useful to the Minister’s party, which . earnestly tried to find out all that it could to help the natives. When I came back from the Northern Territory, I reported the things that I had seen. I am certain that the ministerial staff did its best, but I am sorry that the member for the Northern Territory did not co-operate with it. I have heard that comment from men in the Northern Territory, although no doubt the honorable member thought that he was doing the best thing.
– Let the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) attend to Melbourne Ports, and I will attend to the Northern Territory.
– This seems to be an organized attempt to prejudice the honorable member for the Northern Territory. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is the third honorable gentleman opposite who has made accusations against the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– I do not intend to impugn in any way the honorable member for the Northern Territory, but he was the honorable gentleman whom I expected to advise the House on this matter. I hope that in the future he will give us his assistance and show us how to solve this problem, which I believe the Australian people are anxiously awaiting to tackle.
– It is with pleasure that 1 rise to speak on behalf of the aborigines. When the true story comes to be told, the fact will be realized that no person has endeavoured to soften the pillow of their passing more than I. If the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) would produce the report and maps which I prepared when I undertook an expedition into Arnhem Land in 1933-34 so that the aborigines and half-castes who are now denied avenues of employment could find a haven, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), would be confronted with evidence which I feel sure would compel them to apologize to me for the remarks that they have made.
– No apology is necessary.
– The history of the Australian natives under the influence of white civilization goes hack to when our forefathers fought their way into the country. It is because they did that after the landing at Port Jackson that we. in this chamber, including the honorable members whom I have mentioned,, the third and fourth generation, are here to-day. The searchlight has been focussed on the Northern Territory lately simply because there have been a few isolated cases of ill-treatment of natives. If the few cases of ill-treatment were set in the scales against numerous acts of kindness, the balance would be so much to the credit of territorians that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Hindmarsh would not be able to throw a cheap gibe at the honorable member for the Northern Territory. It is the influence of Melbourne that compels the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to stand up in this chamber and cast a dirty slur on me and the people I represent; because he knows it represents votes.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Gr. J. Bell).Order !
– I am out to have my say, Mr. Speaker, if you will give me a chance.
– The honorable member must express himself in terms that are parliamentary.
– I and my brothers and sisters were nursed by aborigines. I did not see a train or the sea until I was fourteen years of age. And if any one should show kindness towards the aborigines, it is I. I have had aborigines with me on my expeditions, not as servants, but as horse boys, and if honorable gentlemen care to do so, they can speak to them and learn that I have not ill-treated one of them. I was charged with the task of surveying in the Northern Territory and the Chief Protector of Aboriginals asked me, through the Lands Department, because of my experience of similar country in Queensland, to report on the general problem of native welfare and recommend suitable lands for their occupation. Has the Minister for the Interior read my report on the expedition to Arnhem Land and the East Alligator River?
– There is a confession. The Minister has not even seen my report on my sincere endeavour to soften the pillow of the natives’ passing. I submit that the work of the Department of the Interior at Canberra always will be unsatisfactory until it is sectionalized. “When I was about 25 years of age, and shortly, after I had returned from the war, I was sent out to Arnhem Land charged with the responsibility of subdividing and designing that country for the especial benefit of the aborigines. I took as my model the trustee estate of Scartwater, near Clermont, in western Queensland, where Mr. Cunningham, the manager and owner of the Strathmore Station on the Bowen River has done such splendid work on behalf of the returned soldiers. 1 may add that the Lands Department charged 30s. a square mile for that property, a price which I considered too high. The pastoralists presented, the property with 500 head of breeders’ cattle for the benefit of returned soldiers and so successful has the management been that last year Mr. Cunningham was able to present the Returned Soldiers Association at Townsville with a profit of £1,000. A scheme on similar lines to that which I modelled in my report should be adopted in that part of the Northern Territory north of the East Alligator River together with an area containing 800 square miles called Stuart Station and capable of carrying 10,000 buffaloes. Recently the owner offered that property, through my representations on behalf of the aborigines, to the department for £3,000, and, strange to relate, the offer was refused by the aborigines department. If it had been accepted it would have provided an avenue of employment for half-castes and aborigines who, on the rationing system, would have been able to shoot about 400 buffaloes per annum. Later, the property was bought by a solicitor in Sydney, so now, I presume, it is lost to the department for ever. Adjoining that property is another holding which was offered for sale by Mr. Fred Hardy, of the Adelaide River, after I entered this Parliament. I pleaded with the department to purchase it and also Good-parla Station, but no action was taken. Another station, Mataranka, is owned by the Government, but the land is not so good, and the rainfall is unsatisfactory. All this vast area is full of game, and capable of providing abundant food for the aborigines. In my reports to the department, I have endeavoured to indicate clearly how best to provide employment for the half-castes, and, in fairness to me, it is only right that honorable members should have an opportunity to examine those reports. . A few years ago, Dr. Donald Thompson, the well-known anthropologist, spent a considerable time among the natives in Arnhem Land. His report is in the hands of the Government, lt is well known that some persons associated with various religious organizations have been and are doing good work among the natives in that part of the territory. I have discussed the native problem with the Bishop of Darwin and the Bishop of Carpentaria, who have given me their considered views as to the wisest policy to adopt. From my personal knowledge of the aborigines, I am convinced that women living in the Northern Territory, the wives of station-owners, are in a better position than any other section’ of the community to advise in this matter, because they are in daily contact with aboriginal and half-caste women employed on their properties. The Minister should take the people of the Northern Territory into his confidence, particularly the women of the out-back, when framing his policy. If white settlers be definitely charged with the duty of looking after the natives, this problem will be solved. Our duty to the natives is to see that they receive proper treatment in the evening of their tribal existence. The Minister should heed the views expressed by the Bishop of Darwin and the Bishop of Carpentaria. Dr. Thompson has had a good deal to say about the culture of the natives. I should hesitate to shock honorable members by relating some of the barbaric practices of the old aborigines in relation to the young girls of the tribes. To leave them - the female babes - segregated and at the mercy of these old men of the tribe is not culture, but barbarism on our part. I admire the Bishop of Darwin for the splendid work which he has done on behalf of aborigines in the Northern Territory, and I earnestly hope that all honorable members will peruse the reports that have been made to the Government, and make contact with His Grace, the Bishop, himself. Only in this way can they learn something of the real conditions of the aborigines in the Northern Territory, and of their standard of culture, which in plain terms, means barbarism. As one who has given much time to the study of the native problem, who has done more than any honorable member to improve the lot of the aborigines of the Northern Territory, I ask the Minister for the Interior to make available to honorable members the reports and plans which I have submitted in order that the pillow of their passing may be softened.
– I have no opportunity now to reply to the arguments that have been advanced, but I am prepared to lay on the table of the Library, for perusal by honorable members, the report and maps to which the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through .its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 27 of 1938 - Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists’ Union; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment of F. R. T. Stevens, Department of Health.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for year 1937-38.
House adjourned at 1.2 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: - “
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. It is not the policy of the Commonwealth to inquire into the religion of any person desirous of emigrating to Australia. Persons admitted into Australia are recorded according to their nationality. It is known, however, that persons of Jewish race represent the great majority of aliens who are at present seeking permits to come to Australia from the European countries where there is active discrimination against Jews.
r asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– As the majority of the works under the control of my department are executed by contract, no information is available regarding the number of employees engaged by the various contractors. A small proportion of works is carried out by departmental labour. The information required in regard to these works will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Manufactureof Aeroplanes in Australia.
Mr.Scholfield asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the danger in time of war to manufacturing concerns in Great Britain, will he consider offering a special inducement to aeroplane companies to establish factories in Australia?
s. - Certain proposals regarding the manufacture of aircraft in Australia are at present receiving the attention of the Government which is fully seised with the importance of the matter.
d asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Contract price for new fire station, £8,324; (b) contract price for new staff residences, £12,137. 2. (a) Contract period for fire station, 20 weeks; (b) contract period for staff residences, £6 weeks. 3. (a) Three extensions for fire station; (b ) none for staff residences. 4. (a) No. The completion date for the fire station is the 15th December, 1938, and for the residences the 17th May, 1939; (b) it is not proposed to occupy the station until the staff quarters are completed.
d asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for Works, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What amount of money has been paid to Messrs. Brebner and Jeffries by the Commonwealth during the twelve months ended the 31st October, 1938, for services rendered as the Adelaide agents of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor ?
– No money has been paid by the Commonwealth to either Mr.Brebner or Mr. Jeffries personally. They are partners in the firm of Messrs. Fisher, Jeffries, Brebner and Taylor, in which there are five partners. The firm received during the twelve months ended the 31st October, 1938, an amount of £934 4s. 5d. for services rendered as Adelaide agents of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor.
Customs Duty on Bananas.
n asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount of customs duty on bananas was collected in each of the States for the years 1835-36, 1936-37 and 1937-38?
– The amounts of customs duty (including primage) collected on bananas in each State were as follows : -
t. - On the 25th November, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: - 1, 2 and 4. The only information which can be disclosed regarding the performance of the Ansontype aircraft is contained in the publication, Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, 1937 issue, and I have arranged for relevant extracts from this publication to be furnished to the honorable member.
t. - On the 25th November, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan)asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Lorenzradio Beacons: Patents.
s. -On the10th November, 1938, the honorable member forBoothby (Mr. Price) asked what patent numbers are, in accordance with the Patents Act, marked upon Lorenz beacon apparatus in the possession of the Government, and I informed the honorable member that the information would be obtained.
I am now in a position to state that there are no patent numbers appearing on the Lorenz equipment which is being installed for the Commonwealth Government. I would point out to the honorable member that section 125 of the Patents Act provides alternative methods of giving notice. Where, from the character of the article, notice cannot be given by fixing thereon the prescribed particulars, notice may be given by fixing to the package containing the article a label containing the prescribed particulars. I am unable to state whether any such labels were attached to the packages containing the equipment in question.
Farmers’ Debt Adjustment.
y. - On the 9th November, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following question, without notice: -
Can the Treasurer state the amount that has been paid, or will be paid up to the end of this year, by the Commonwealth Government for farmers’ debt adjustment, and the number of farmers who havebeen placed upon a solvent basis as a result of the provision of that money?
I am now in a position to furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member : -
As the honorable member is aware, grants made to the States under the Loan (Farmers’
Debt Adjustment) Act under certain conditions which include, inter alia, that no payment shall be made to or for the benefit of any farmer for the discharge, in whole or part, of his debts unless, in the opinion of the authority administering the State scheme, some discharge of the debt is necessary to unsure thatthe farmer will continue to carry on farming operations and to give him a reasonable prospect of carrying on those operations successfully. Returns received from the various States show that, to the 30th September, 1938, the following numbers of applications for adjustment of farmers’ debts have been settled: -
Export of Pig Iron.
s.- On the 22nd and the 25th November, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked me questions, without notice, regarding contracts entered into between the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and Japan for the export of pig iron ; also, whether the fact that contracts have been entered into would induce the Government to remove the embargo on the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the quantity of pig iron for which definite contracts have actually been entered into by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for export to Japan is 23,000 tons.
It is not the intention of the Government to rescind the prohibition on the exportation of iron ore from Australia. The Government has had under consideration again the question of ‘ the exportation of pig iron and has decided that this trade would be permitted to continue for the time being. The volume of exports is comparatively small viewed in relation to the quantity of iron ore which would have been exported had not restrictive action been taken. Moreover, the Government has been advised that the present exports of pig iron are not prejudicially affecting the ability of industry to meet Australia’s requirements of iron and steel products. The whole position is, however, being kept constantly under review, and if it appears at any time that the exportation of pig iron 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.
n. - On the 25th November, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to advise the honorable member that the matter of the selection of a suitable site for the administrative head-quarters of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea has been reviewed recently by Cabinet and that the claims of Wau and of other likely sites have been considered. The possible
Bites are Salamaua, Wau, Lae and an area near Madang, but none of these, according to the information at present available, is outstanding as a suitable location. The Government has decided thoroughly to survey the possibilities of a unified administration for both Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea with one main administrative centre for the two territories. Pending the completion of such investigations, it is not proposed that a separate site shall be selected for the administrative headquarters of New Guinea. It is proposed, however, that certain functions of government, such as the central staffs of the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Public Works, and other activities of a like nature, should be transferred to Salamaua. The staffs of the other departments will remain at Rabaul for the present.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381129_reps_15_158/>.