15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HOLLO WAY presented a petition signed by 7,000electors of the division of Melbourne Ports, praying that the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act be repealed.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will make funds available to persons interested in national insurance in order to enable them to issue a pamphlet, similar to that recently issued, so that an answer may be made to the grossly misleading and inaccurate statements it contains-
– Order ! The honorable member for West Sydney is not in order in criticizing a pamphlet in that way in asking a question.
– I ask your ruling on this point, Mr. Speaker, as it is important to me. I regard the pamphlet to which I have referred as grossly misleading-
– Order ! The honorable member may notdebate a subject in asking a question.
– As necessity has arisen to answer certain statements made in the pamphlet, on national insurance to which I have just referred, I ask the Treasurer whether he will make funds available, equal to those used in the production of that pamphlet, in order that the statements made therein may be answered ? Further, will he provide similar means of distribution for the pamphlet?
– As there is no necessity to answer the statements made in the pamphlet, my reply is in the negative.
– The Public Service is being used for the purposes of propaganda.
– Does the Treasurer concur in the statement contained in the unsigned circular relating to national insurance, to the effect that the public could meet the cost by forgoing three packets of cigarettes or a seat at the pictures each week?
– I concur in the pamphlet as a whole.
– Some time ago I asked the Treasurer to lay on the table of the Library a list of the appointments made from outside the Service in connexion with national insurance. That has not been done. Will the Treasurer see that it is done?
– I gave instructions that the papers should be laid on the table of the Library, certainly a month ago, and was under the impression that they had been placed there. If this has not been done, I shall see that it is done immediately.
– In view of the fact that the Government has made available a considerable sum of money for the issuing of a pamphlet designed to set out certain views on national insurance, but certainly not including those of a number of honorable members who opposed the measure, will the Prime Minister undertake that the Government will now reconsider its refusal to have printed an additional number of Hansards containing the arguments both for and against, so that the public may be fully informed in regard to the objections put forward by the Labour party to the scheme ?
– The legislation was passed by this Parliament, and is therefore no longer the proposition of either one side or the other. It is the law of the land and it is the duty of the Government to carry that law out and administer it. That is what the Government is doing. It would not be justified in incurring heavy expenditure to do something in the direction of defeating legislation that has been approved of by the National Parliament.
– This is a lying pamphlet. That is our argument.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has been called to order several times for interjecting with the same statement. I ask him not to repeat it.
– Is it not a fact that the Treasurer has already promised that a report of the debates upon the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill would be prepared for circulation? That promise was made before the consideration of the bill had been completed by Parliament. Will the Treasurer see that such a report is circulated?
– No, I made no such promise.
– With regard to the pamphlet recently issued by the National Insurance Commission, is the Treasurer able to quote any precedent for the policy of making a public servant the shockabsorber for criticism levelled by the Opposition at the Government in connexion with a matter of controversy in this chamber and, despite whether he can or cannot quote such a precedent, does he favour the policy?
– I regret I do not understandthe honorable member’s question.
– With regard to the pamphlet entitled What National
Insurance Means, I ask the Treasurer whether Professor Brigden, whose name and photograph appear on the pamphlet, is responsible for the personal message contained in it; whether in view of the politically controversial statements made in the personal message, Professor Brigden can be regarded as a public servant in every sense of the word, or one who has been engaged as a booster for the Government’s national insurance scheme; and whether the fact that his photograph appears on that government pamphlet can be taken as an indication that he is a candidate for a popular-boy competition?
– The chairman of the National Insurance ‘Commission is Mr. Brigden. He is a public servant and a very capable one.
– Will the Treasurer consider the withdrawal of the pamphlet or ask Mr. Brigden to agree to the removal of his photograph, so that it may be replaced by photographs of every honorable member of this Parliament who voted for the National Insurance Bill?
– The answer to the honorable member’s first question is in the negative; the answer to the second question is also in the negative, and therefore his third question does not arise.
– In view of the excellent matter contained in the pamphlet issued by the chairman of the National Insurance Commission, and the fact that it brings to the notice of the people ‘of Australia the great benefits proposed by the national insurance scheme, will the Treasurer ask Mr. Brigden to have a second issue made so that the whole of the people of Australia may know of the wonderful benefits accruing from the scheme?
– The honorable member’s request will receive favorable consideration.
– Will the Prime
Minister state whether it is a fact, as the secretary of the Master Pastrycooks Association, Sydney, is reported to have said, that the best wheatmeal biscuits used for the feeding of 60,000 greyhounds in that State are exempt from the flour tax, whilst the poorer class of children will be compelled to subsist on less food than they have hitherto enjoyed because their parents cannot afford to pay the increased price of bread?
– If the honorable member will place his question on’ the noticepaper, I shall mate every effort to ascertain what sort of biscuits are fed to greyhounds.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that to-day the price of bread in the Australian Capital Territory has been increased to 7d. a loaf? That being the case, does the right honorable gentleman intend to issue a proclamation on the subject?
– There is a question ou the notice-paper to-day on that subject.
– In view of the fact that the legislation recently passed by this Parliament to assist the wheat industiy was introduced at the unanimous request of the six State governments, will the Minister for Commerce cause the attention of the State Premiers to be drawn to the statement of Mr. W. C. Cambridge, general secretary of the Partners and Settlers Association of New South Wales, which was circulated among honorable members, to the effect that with wheat down to 2s. 2d. a bushel bread was selling at Gd. a loaf, which was the price eighteen months ago when wheat was 5s. 5d. a bushel? Will the right honorable gentleman also direct the attention of the Premiers to the statement of the honorable member for Riverina, Mr. Nock-
– Order ! The quotation made by the honorable member for Watson (Mt. Jennings) is not in order. As the honorable member would not be permitted to make a statement on that subject himself when asking a. question, he is certainly not in order in citing the statement of another honorable member.’
– Then I ask the Minister for Commerce to bring under iiic notice of the State Premiers a certain statement that the price of flour has been loaded by 15s. a ton. I ask that this be clone in order that the State governments may make the necessary inquiry in order to ascertain the facts when endeavouring to arrive at a reasonable price- for flour for bread purposes.
– If the honors bio member will let me have the figures to which he has referred, I shall forward them to the State Premiers.
– In view of the intimation during the discussion of the legislation imposing an excise tax on flour, that assistance would be withheld from any State the government of which did not take reasonable precautions to protect consumers against an increase of the price of bread, can it be taken that the Prime Minister regards the present price of bread as reasonable? If not, does ho propose to take the action promised?
– One would have to examine the position very carefully to decide whether the present price of bread is reasonable or not. Therefore I suggest that the honorable member should place his question on the notice-paper in order that the matter may be carefully looked into.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, prior to the passage of the legislation imposing an excise tax on flour, bread could be procured over the counter in many industrial suburbs of Sydney at 4d. a’ loaf and that to-day bread cannot be purchased at less than 5$d. a loaf? ‘ Does the right honorable gentleman consider the prevailing price of bread a reasonable price for consumers to pay ? If not, what action docs the Government propose to take iri view of its assurances that suitable action would be taken to prevent an increase of the price of bread ?
– I cannot accept the figures cited by the honorable member until I have had an opportunity to investigate them. I therefore suggest that ho should put this question on the noticepaper. Further/ 1 suggest that he should be a little more courteous in the tone in which he asks questions or they will not be answered at all.
– Yesterday in the New South Wales Parliament a statement was made by a member of that Parliament, that during the discussion of the legislation imposing an excise tax on flour in this House, assertions were made that the tax would not affect the price of bread, to which the Premier replied that he could hardly believe that such assertions had been made in, the Federal Parliament, and further that no such statement had been made in the State Parliament. 1 ask the Prime Minister whether the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which agreed to the submission of the legislation, was or was not of the opinion that the excise tax on flour would increase the price of bread?
– I cannot recall the statements made by the members of the conference to which the honorable member has referred. If the question is placed on the notice-paper I shall be able to look up the report and inform the honorable member exactly as to what was said.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to a report in the Melbourne press of Friday last, in which he is said to have announced that the Government had no intention of imposing a ban on the broadcast of betting odds until after the last race? Did the honorable gentleman make such a statement? If so, does it represent the policy of the Government ?
– The statement attributed to me was said to have been made in answer to a question by the honorable member for Watson. No such statement was made by me.
Policing of Ordinances
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is the practice to appoint members of the clerical staffs of Government departments in the Australian Capital Territory to act as inspectors in the policing of ordinances during week-ends? If so, and in view of the fact that suitable “men are available to undertake this particular class of work, will the honorable gentleman consider additional appointments to the staff of inspectors ordinarily engaged on this work?
– I am not able to answer the question offhand, but I shall inquire into the matter raised by the honorable gentleman and give consideration to the proposal he has advanced.
Unemployment - Fishing Industry - Appointment of Offices - Development Policy
– In view of the fact that more than 100 men are unemployed in Darwin and throughout the Northern Territory, will the Minister for the Interior state what action has been taken in connexion with the provision of temporary employment before Christmas?
– During the last week or ten days I have been in communication with the Administrator of the Northern Territory, and through him with the works officers, in an endeavour to arrange that, if possible, there shall be full-time employment for all men in the Northern Territory during the period of several weeks before, and perhaps after, Christmas.
– Seeing that it is of urgent national importance to establish industries in the Northern Territory, and that the fishing industry in northern waters lends itself to exploitation in that direction, will the Minister for the Interior help to meet the possible menace coming from the north by inviting the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to have the fisheries research vessel sent to northern waters at the earliest moment?
– As I understand that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has devoted considerable attention to exploring the possibilities of developing the Australian fishing industry, I have no doubt that it will give consideration to the opportunities offering in the northern waters of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: - (1) When does he intend to appoint the two field officers to the Lands Department of the Northern Territory; (2) Is it the intention to make a statement in respect of the Northern Territory development policy this afternoon?
– As regards the first part of the honorable member’s question, applications have been received from persons who seek appointment as field officers in the Northern Territory. Although I am not in a position to state what stage the consideration of those applications has reached, I am under the impression that a choice will be made almost any day. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I shall make a statement to-day or to-morrow regarding the Government’s policy for the development of the Northern Territory.
– Some time ago I urged that assistance be given by way of bounty to the export of canned pineapples. What answer has the Minister for Commerce to make to my representations?
– Immediately upon receipt of the representations of the honorable member, very careful investigation was made of the whole position, and the Government was led to the conclusion that a further investigation of the circumstances in Queensland is needed. An officer of the Department of Commerce will be sent to that State at an early date, and I also propose to visit it with a view to discussing the matter.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether progress reports show that up to date enlistments for the Militia are satisfactory? Will he also advise the House as to the number of recruits enrolled since the commencement of the drive to raise the establishment to 70,000 men?
– If the honorable gentleman will place his question on the noticepaper, I shall endeavour to obtain the information for him.
– Will there be time for an answer to he given to a question on notice before the impending adjournment?
– If there is time, I shall answer the question; if there is not, I shall be unable to do so.
– It was officially announced in New South Wales yesterday that the total enlistments to date for the whole of the Commonwealth were 2,801. It was officially statedin Victoria to-day, that the new recruits for thewhole of the Commonwealth since the 30th September total 1,884. Can the Minister for Defence say which of those two figures is the correct one?
– I am unable to say which of the two figures is correct. I have no definite information about them at the moment, but I should probably not be very far out if I said that neither was correct.
– In the light of the statement of the Prime Minister, that peace is hanging by a thread, and the reference last night by one of his Ministers to the existence of a state of serious emergency, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House, in order that honorable members may more intelligently approach the consideration of the subjects of recruiting and the burden of taxation -
– The views of the Government in the matter of defence have been placed before the House by the Minister for Defence and the Treasurer. During the debate that is to ensue, further information will be made available to honorable members. I am not prepared to supply at this time any information in reply to questions, particularly without notice, when there is before the House a proposition dealing with measures for the defence of Australia and the financing of. them.
– I have received from the wheat pool of Western Australia a letter stating that it is difficult to do business in Australian flour in Palestine because of the increase of the import duty, which now amounts to £5 10s. sterling a ton, whereas the duty on Canadian flour is only £2 sterling a ton. Is the Minister for Commerce aware as to whether or not that is correct? If it is correct, is itposible for action to be taken with a view to placing Australia on the same business basis as Canada in this matter?
– I shall look into the matter, and acquaint the honorable member of the exact position.
– Is the Treasurer yet able to give me any further information in reply to the question I asked him a couple of weeks ago about the amount of overseas funds available to back our note issue generally, and to balance our overseas accounts?
– I have nothing further to add to my previous reply.
– Will the Minister for the Interior place upon the table of the Library a copy of the very interesting report made to him by Mr. E. J. Connellan on the potentialities of air transport for the development of the Northern Territory, and the improvement of living conditions there?
– I shall do so. Honorable members will find Mr. Connellan’s report a most interesting, exhaustive, and useful statement on the subject to which he has devoted himself.
– Has the Government yet had time to consider the report of the special committee of inquiry into the Kyeema disaster? If not, when does the Prime Minister propose to make a statement on the subject? Will the report he made available in the meantime for the perusal of honorable members?
– Ministers have been able to make only a preliminary survey of the report. A complete examination of it has not yet been possible . I hope to make the report available for publication to-morrow afternoon.
– In view of the urgent national importance of Parliament being allowed to deal with the report of the committee which inquired into the Kyeema disaster, and the possibility of an early adjournment of Parliament without such an opportunity having been afforded, does the Prime Minister consider the publication of the report in the press to-morrow of more importance than a discussion of it in this chamber?
– The report will be made available to honorable members also to-morrow.
– What opportunity shall we have of discussing it?
– Honorable members will have the report before them to-morrow.
– Is it the intention of the Minister for Trade and Customs to visit Adelaide on the 12th December to attend a dinner arranged by the Adelaide Chamber of Manufactures? Will the honorable gentleman be prepared to receive deputations while he is in the city on customs subjects of concern to residents there?
– I expect to be in Adelaide next Monday and Tuesday and shall be pleased to receive such deputations as the honorable member may introduce.
Provision of Work prior to Christmas.
– Has the Prime Minister yet decided to advance money to the State branches of the Commonwealth Public Works Department in order that work for the unemployed may be made available prior to the Christmas season this year, as on previous occasions?
– The Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) has made the intention of the Government very clear. In view of the substantially increased amount of money made available this year throughout Australia for public works, particularly in regard to defence projects, and of the endeavours to accelerate the provision of the work in every State, the Government is not making a special grant on this occasion for relief works prior to Christmas. It is felt that with the larger works programme in operation this year persons who are unfortunately unemployed should be able to obtain work before Christmas or immediately afterwards. Every effort is being made to initiate works before Christmas.
– Some new work has already been started.
– As much work as possible will be made available both before and immediately after Christmas.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that arrangements have been made for certain military manoeuvres and battle practice to be held on Sunday in the metropolitan areas of Sydney? In view of the affront which such an arrangement offers to a considerable section of the public, will he use his ministerial power to prevent it?
– It is not quite correct to say that battle practice is to take place. Next Sunday, an inter-unit competition, which is of a purely voluntary character, will be held at the Anzac Rifle Range. It will be held on Sunday in order to meet the wishes of the men themselves.
– Or of their employers?
– No,of the men themselves.
– In cases where millers have made forward contracts for the sale of flour before the flour tax came into operation, will the flour tax be charged on the new value of the flour, or on the contract price fixed before the tax was imposed ?
– The flour tax is fixed at a certain rate per ton of flour, and can have no relation to the price paid for the flour. If forward contracts have been made at prices above or below the current price, they concern only the individuals who have made them. Any other arrangement would be quite unworkable.
– In view of the report in the press that oil has been found in payable quantities in Gippsland, and also that great interest has been shown by many municipalities in the search for oil, will the Minister for the Interior make a statement in the near future regarding what has been done?
– I shallbe glad to make available to all honorable members a copy of the report which has recently been made on this subject by the Commonwealth Oil Advisory Committee. It may be advisable for me also to supplement that report by making a statement on the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening, and this I shall do.
– I have just received a telegram from the employees of the Crown Crystal Glass Company, asking whether the Minister for Trade and Customs will finalize matters regarding the tariff before Parliament adjourns. Will the Minister take steps accordingly?
– I hope to have everything finalized before the House rises.
– Has the report of the
Tariff Board on refrigerators yet been received by the Government? If so, when will it be tabled ?
– I understand that the report has not yet been received by the Government.
– Can the Attorney-
General state whether it is his intention to proceed with the Patents Bill during the present sittings?
– If time permits I propose to move the second reading of thatbill, and to allow further debate to stand over until the next sittings.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Perkins) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Senate’s amendment -
After clause 1 insert the following new clause: - “ 1a. This act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The new clause is inserted so that the bill may be brought into operation upon a date to be mutually agreed upon by the contracting parties to the agreement. The amendment has the endorsement of the Government.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Newsprinting Paper Bounty Bill 1938.
War Pensions’ Appropriation Bill 1938.
Apple and Pear Export Charges Bill1938.
Primary Produce Export Charges Bill1938.
Apple and Pear Publicity and Research Bill 1938.
Financial Relief Bill1938.
– I move -
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report on the law and procedure in relation to -
The decision of the Government to ask Parliament to approve of the appointment of a joint committee to inquireinto, and report on, the two very important phases of the Commonwealth electoral system embodied in this motion arises, in the case of the choice and election of senators, from a widespread public demand that an effort be made to discover a more generally satisfactory method, and, in the case ofthe limitation of electoral expenses, from the conviction that the existing provisions are ineffective and out of date.
Pursuant to section 7 of the Constitution, which sets out that senators shall be directly chosen by the people voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate, each of the respective States has, since the inception of the Commonwealth, been regarded as one constituency for the purpose of the election of senators. There is to-day, however, a substantial body of opinion that the division of the respective States into three single senatorial districts would result in a more direct, responsible and diversified character of representation, and that, therefore, such an alternative merits the fullest consideration.
Apart from the question of the constituency, there is the method employed in the election of senators. Prior to1918, senators were elected by what is usually termed the “first past the post” system. Each voter was required to place a cross in the square opposite the names of the candidates for whom ho desired to vote, the number of crosses permitted being confined to the exact number of senators to be elected. Thus, where three senators were required, the three candidates with the greatest number of crosses were chosen.
The existing “ preferential block majority “ system, introduced in1918, continues the principle of the “ first past the post” system in that, generally, all seats in the State go to the party or combination of parties favoured at the time by the majority of the electors. On the one hand, this “ preferential block majority” system has achieved exactly the results it was designed to achieve, and because it ensures majority rep re- sentation a3 against possible minority representation it may be considered an advance on the “ first past the post “ system formerly in use. It would be futile, however, to suggest that it has given universal satisfaction. On the other hand, it has been severely condemned in many quarters for its failure to provide any representation in the Senate for the minority of the electors, of a State, no matter how great that minority might be.
– You only thought of that after the last Senate election.
– I shall quote later some figures to show the extent of the minorities which at different elections have been denied, under this system, any representation in the Senate.
I find, on reading the debates of the federal conventions, which were held when the Commonwealth Constitution was drafted, that it was scarcely in the mind of one delegate that the present system should operate. When the convention met in Sydney in 1S97, the relevant proposal in the draft constitution with regard to this matter, read -
The senators shall be directly chosen by the people of the State as one electorate.
Before the convention had an opportunity to consider that proposal in the draft, motions were carried separately by each house of the five colonial parliaments, which were represented at the convention, asking that that clause of the draft should not be adopted. Every colonial parliament asked that the provision in the Commonwealth Constitution in regard to the Senate election should provide either for proportional representation, or for the subdivision of the proposed States into single Senate electorates. It is well worth while quoting .to the House some of the statements made by delegates at the convention when this matter was under revision. Sir John Forrest, later Lord Forrest, speaking as a Western Australian delegate, said -
The proposed system is too unwieldy. The people will not know whom they are voting for, and candidates will not be able to visit their electors - great scope will bc afforded for tickets, cliques, and associations to try to force upon the people of the country persons holding their particular views.
How true that prophecy has become !
Mr. Simon Fraser, of Victoria, agreed. He said -
If the colony is one electorate, I have no hesitation in saying that the press will Lave almost all powers.
– In that case your party should win every Senate election.
– Nevertheless, he offered that as his criticism, and time has proved that there was a great deal of foundation for it. How true was that prediction! Mr. Lyne, representing New South Wales, remarked, inter alia -
If we allow the country to remain as one electorate, we will have a system of tickets on which elections will take place . . . and Sydney or Melbourne can rule the whole colony. The suggestion from both Legislative Council and Assembly of New South Wales is to six electorates, and from Victoria the same - in each case it was made by an overwhelming majority.
Sir George Reid opposed the amendment before the convention. He was disposed to support the original proposal in the draft. In reciting the requisition or petition which had come from the then colonial Houses of Parliament, Sir George Reid said -
I think - although I would adhere to the original clause under less pressure than this - that, with the enormous pressure put upon us by the fact that each colony through its Parliament objects to the provisions, we must respect the suggestions they have made.
These were the suggestions for proportional representation or individual Senate electorates. Mr. Clark, a Tasmanian representative, advocated that proportional representation should bo provided for in the original Commonwealth Constitution for the election of senators. Mr. Isaac Isaacs, who became a Governor-General of the ‘Commonwealth, concurred, and presented to the convention a requisition from the Victorian Parliament, asking that the States should be divided into Senate electorates. Mr. Alfred Deakin observed -
I think, however, that it would allay the apprehensions which Iia ve been awakened by this proposal for a single electorate which has been laid before us in its naked form, that it, without any requirement for the representation of minorities … Instead of leaving it to the option of the States and of the Commonwealth to provide for the representation of minorities, wo should place in the Constitution a direction to the effect that some method for the better representation of all the electors should he provided for.
Mr. Higgins, later Mr. Justice Higgins, who opposed the proposal for small Senate electorates, sponsored a system of proportional representation. He said -
I do admit there is a danger of the operation of what might bc called the party ticket, of only one party being represented in an election by the colony us a whole. 1 think tl at any one who looks carefully into the matter will see that, by the adoption of the “ Hare “ system or something of that sort, it will be quite possible to avoid the whole of the members being elected on a party ticket.
Mr. C. C. Kingston, who presided at the convention, used his influence to secure the amendment of the proposal which was in the draft Constitution in such a. manner that it should be left to this Parliament to decide as between the virtues of proportional representation for the Senate and the division of each State into Senate electorates. So we find that the relevant section of this Constitution reads -
The Senate shall be composed of senators fur each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, a3 one electorate.
The convention was almost unanimously agreed that the system of Senate elections which we have followed since federation, was a bad one; but the convention did not take upon itself to decide as between the merits of proportional representation and single Senate electorates. Anticipating that it would do so, the Federal Convention left it to this Parliament to make that choice and adopt a more reasonable or acceptable system of election.
At the Federal Convention, the colony of Queensland was not represented. At that stage, there was some doubt whether Queensland would join the federation, but, when it was later disclosed that Queensland was likely to join, a separate section was inserted in the Constitution dealing with the eventuality of Senate elections in Queensland. The following is the section to which reference is made : -
Cut until the Parliament of the Commonwealth provides, the Parliament of the State of Queensland, if that State bc an original State, may make laws dividing the State into divisions and determining the number of senators to be chosen for each division, and, in the absence of such provision, the State shall be one electorate.’
The whole theme of the debates when the Constitution was framed was that there was uppermost in the minds of the framers the thought that the system, which we have allowed to continue for electing senators, would not be satisfactory. It was feared that such a system would give undue representation to certain political parties, undue influence to the press, and would most inevitably lead to the denial to substantial minorities of representation in the Senate. All of these fears have been realized. Unfortunately the framers of our Constitution, whilst foreseeing these difficulties, were not able to agree among themselves upon a better method to be adopted, and specifically left to this Parliament the review of the matter and, at its discretion, tho alteration of the system. In view of the results of Senate elections since the adoption of the existing system, this Parliament might well consider the exercise of that authority given to it under the Constitution, wherein it is laid down that the existing system shall continue only until the Parliament otherwise provides. Honorable members are aware that, on the occasion of the last general elections, there was one of those swings which are typical of all elections, the winning party securing the whole of the Senate representation in five of the States. The swing was even moTe glaring and - if I may use tho term - even more inequitable on the occasion of the previous elections when, as we know, the government of the day secured the election of its representatives in every one of the States.
– In 1917, the Nationalist party won every seat, and in 1919 every seat except one.
– A very substantial minority, because of those results, was denied representation. On the occasion of the last election, the winning senators were representative of 53 per cent, of the whole of the electors of the Commonwealth, the 47 per “cent, who voted for other candidates being denied representation. On the occasion of the 1934 elections, the winning candidates secured only 52.8 per cent, of the total number of votes cast, whilst the defeated candidates who, on that occasion, represented the Labour groups, received 47.2 per cent, and did not obtain a single representative.
These are not isolated cases. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) has drawn attention to a very glaring instance,” whilst I have taken figures relating to more recent Senate elections. Of the total number of votes cast, winning senators secured 54 per cent, in 1931, 53 per cent, in 1928, and 55.3 per cent, in 1925. These figures show that there has always been a very substantial minority, which under the existing system has been denied representation in the Senate.
The advocates of proportional representation contend, broadly, that a Senate elected under that system would be more truly representative of the people, whilst those who favour the retention of the existing system, or reversion to the “ first past the post “ method, claim, inter aiia, that the results thus achieved indicate more clearly the majority will of the electorate, and facilitate more effectively the functions of government by lessening the likelihood of a stalemate.
In addition to the major issues referred to, there are also other phases of the Senate election system - the grouping of candidates; the order of the groups or of the names of the candidates on the ballot-papers; and the degree to which voters should be compelled to indicate their preferences - regarding which there is much contention and wide diversity of opinion.
The effective constitution of the Senate as a part of the governmental structure of the Australian democracy, and the adoption of the most satisfactory method of election, obviously are of the greatest importance. Having regard to many considerations which must be carefully weighed, the Government has arrived at the conclusion that it is desirable that the whole matter of the choice and the election-of senators should in the first instance be referred to a joint committee consisting of members of both Houses of this Parliament, for a thorough investigation.
The second matter proposed to be referred to the joint committee for consideration is the limitation of .electoral expenses in connexion with elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives. The existing provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in this regard undoubtedly are not only ineffective, but also quite out of touch with present-day actualities. Were these existing provisions capable of strict application in their generally accepted sense, the limits imposed upon candidates would be unduly restrictive, having regard to modern conditions and to the vast growth of the electorates since the inauguration of federation and the fixing of those limits. Actually, it seems not only that the provisions are incapable of -a definite interpretation but also that, as there is no restriction on the amount which may be expended by a party or an organization on behalf of a candidate or candidates whom it supports, there is in reality in the overwhelming majority of cases no effective limitation on the’ expenditure which may be incurred in connexion with electoral campaigns. Revision of the law in this connexion is obviously necessary - I think that there will be no division of opinion on that particular point - but before determining the character and the extent of the proposals to be applied to that end the Government considers it desirable that this matter also should be the subject of investigation and consideration by a joint committee consisting of representatives of the two Houses. It submits this proposal to the ‘ House believing it to be the best method of approach to a matter which obviously and, I think, by common consent, is due for1 revision and serious consideration. There have been the most positive expressions of opinion as to the unsatisfactoriness of the present method for the election of senators, not only by representatives of all political parties, but also by practically the whole of the press of Australia as well as by persons holding public positions not directly connected with politics. The. Government does not desire, and certainly it would be improper of it to do SO,-40 give any lead in this matter. It merely suggests that the two Houses should jointly constitute such a committee, and that that committee should be free to conduct the most thorough investigation of all the issues arising from these two particular points and to submit a. report to the Parliament, which, no doubt, would give consideration to it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Rosevear) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th December, (vide page 277.1), on motion by Mr. Street -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The matters involved in this loan bill of £10,000,000 were presented to the House last evening as an indispensable requisite to the safeguarding of Australia in atime of grave international difficulty.We were told on Sunday night last that whilst war was not inevitable, it was at least clear that peace could not be assured.
Although only last week we completed the consideration of the estimates of expenditure for the current, financial year, including provision for the defence of Australia - provision at a rate far in excess of anything previously adopted - I find that to-daya matter which has been on the stocks for weeks is interposed between the consideration of the requirements of this grave international situation, and the continuation of the debate upon defence measures which it is considered should be put in hand.
– That does not affect consideration of this matter.
– The deliberative capacity of the House is made very difficult by this constant rearrangement of the notice-paper. I say parenthetically that that notice of motion has been at the bottom of the notice-paper for weeks, and that my amazement this morning at its elevation to the first position, over and above even the continuation of the debate on this important and, shall I say, pregnantly significant £10,000,000 loan bill, made me feel that the Government had lost, all sense of proportion.
This is a loan bill. It provides for a part of a programme to increase the financial provision for defence by approximately £20,000,000 compared with the expanded programme upon which we agreed only last week. This sum of £10,000,000 is to be taken wholly from loan fund, and it represents, so the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has said, the legislative authority which will enable orders to be placed so that deliveries may be assured in point of time in order to comply with the ‘balanced nature of the defence programme. I shall return later to the financial aspect of the measure.
This House has been invited to consider this loan bill, as the result of statements made by two responsible Ministers. First, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), spoke in elaboration of the additions required to an already large and comprehensive programme which the Government had persuaded the Parliament to accept. For myself and my party, I say that we regard what the Minister for Defence said last night as being acceptable to us, because of the reasons which he gave’. We are in no position to judge, as the Government is, the imminence or the nature of the danger that confronts Australia. The Opposition, no more than the country, is able to be informed regarding the gravity of this situation, nor is it equipped to know whether or not the Government has read the situation aright. We acknowledge, however, that the Government has a paramount responsibility to do its utmost to bring its best judgment to bear on this subject to ensure that no lack of preparation shall imperil the safety of this country should it be subject to either raid or invasion. All through its existence, the Labour party has pointed to the responsibility of the Australian people to develop to the utmost capacity of the nation a selfreliant spirit, so that our shores might be defended if they were assailed. We have differed with other political parties as to the way in which Australia could be best defended, and also as to the probable hazards in this connexion; but we have never had any hesitation nor any reserve in advocating a complete defence programme. Our outlook has been based upon two fundamental principles : first, we have emphasized our paramount obligation to ensure, so far as it is humanly possible, the safety of this country against attack; and secondly, we have postulated the tremendous importance of developing our resources so that we should leave nothing undone in this connexion. We have said that after we. have done all that we can do, we have no resources left which would warrant us undertaking commitments in the defence of other countries far away. We regret that this is the case, but we feel that the realities of the situation compel us to acknowledge it.
In the present state of the world, and in the present capacity of various countries of the world, there is a probability that should an attack be made upon this country, Australia would, in the nature of things, for some indeterminate period of time, be compelled to rely exclusively upon its own resources and the strength of its own preparations to meet at least the first onslaught of the attack. Our policy through the years has conformed to the belief that that was the core of a sound and rational defence programme for this nation. Fourteen years ago, a leader of the’ Labour party in this Parliament said -
The Labour party stands not for -what is merely, spectacular, but for what is fundamental, important and imperative. All talk about defence is mere sham if we are not getting down to the real and essential preparations for defence. The Labour party stands for the development of those industries which, whilst fulfilling definite, useful purposes in times of peace, have a necessary part in defence. It stands for peace-time production methods so planned that the change from peace to war manufacturing can be rapidly effected. Standardization of plants and rollingstock arc essential. The nation should not be found wanting in essentials when it has to fight for its life.
The pregnant last sentence of that statement is not a recent declaration of our policy, but contains the very essence of our views, and indicates the . outlook that has governed the formulation of the specific planks of our platform. In fact, it contains the explanation of a great many phases of our entire political, fiscal and economic programme, which must be related to our realization that it is not sufficient to talk of our capacity to defend this country in a time of emergency. We have always contended that years of preparation must be devoted to the foundation and development of industries and of technical services of an infinite variety which are an indispensable necessity to defence. While we have always hoped, and still hope, that war will never come to this country we must none the less endeavour so to shape our course as to contribute continuously and consistently towards an increase of our general competence to resist an aggressor and to fight for our lives if the need to do so should arise.
In recent years, and particularly in recent months, the policy of the Labour party has been criticized because it has been said that we do not stand for schemes of co-operation with other countries. I venture . to declare that the speech made by the Minister, for Defence last night, although it contained the phrase “ Empire co-operation was, in fact, a speech that, in the specific proposals it propounded, called for the kind of programme which, in broad outline and general character, conforms to the programme for the defence of this country against attack for which the Labour party has stood since the beginning of our federation.
I have already pointed out that we have voted in favour of the expenditure of the amounts of money sought by the Government recently to prepare for the defence of this country. We felt that the programme had to be supported, although the amounts asked for were tremendous and must impose a very great burden upon the present generation of Australians, and must also bequeath a legacy of debt to those who come after us. We had hoped that last week’s programme, which the Government had, no doubt, very carefully elaborated, represented what it considered to be an adequate provision during the next three years to ensure the defensive capacity of Australia. It will be recalled that on three relatively recent occasions defence matters have received exhaustive examinations by us. The first examination was made after the previous Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, returned from the Imperial Conference. The second occurred when the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announced, early this year, the details of a policy which was considered to be necessary in the light of the discussions at the Imperial Conference. Then, more recently still, we had a comprehensive discussion of defence matters when the last loan bill was before this House. We then reviewed what the Government intended to do, how it intended to do it, and why it desired to do it. With the reservation that we objected to the provisions of the loan bill, we then said that we were prepared to vote the amounts required for the purposes stated.
Last September a grave deterioration occurred in the international situation. I have always felt, and I believe that common sense suggests, that while Australia may remain at peace, the probabilities of an attack upon it must increase if a world war began. Whether we participated in such world war or not the actualities are that an enemy of Great Britain would select for attack such parts of the territories of the British Commonwealth of Nations as would cause a weakening in the resistance of the Empire, and that therefore Australia would undoubtedly be a target. Our refusal to cooperate in respect of wars in Europe has not been dictated by any desire for the weakening or the dismemberment of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but solely by the conviction that our most efficacious contribution to the British Commonwealth of Nations is to make ourselves increasingly more self-reliant than we have ever been. This, I submit, represents the best that we can do and also the safest way in which we can prepare ourselves to face a world war. We decline to be associated with wars of aggression because we know, unfortunately, that even in the history of our own people occasions have arisen in which they have been associated with campaigns which, in the light of present facts, we wish they had not been associated with. But I let it go at that.
It was suggested that the necessity for the programme which the Minister for Defence submitted to us last night has arisen out of an examination of the situation that has developed since the making of the Munich Pact last September. I must, however, associate it with the Prime Minister’s own declaration; for we must assume that it was upon that predicate that the Minister for Defence made his speech. That predicate is that peace is far from being assured. The right honorable gentleman further said that while war is not inevitable it had at least to be realized that the course of events since last September had not been so satisfactory as this, or, for that matter, many other governments could wish. The members of the Opposition are not in the confidence of the Government, nor am I, but I take, it as a first principle in this democracy that the Government must have complete justification for its belief that an additional vote of £20,000,000 is necessary to effect additions to the programme involved in the expenditure of more than £40,000,000 in the next three years in order that our defence may be completely assured. In effect, we shall be required to spend £63,000,000 instead of £44,500,000 on defence in the period under review. I do not agree with that statement, but 1 do not disagree with it. I am not in a position to judge how far the Government is justified in its view of the situation. But, as I cannot know the exact position, 1 have an obligation, which also rests upon other- Australian citizens, to believe that this Government, which was elected by the people of this country, accepts full responsibility for submitting to Parliament what it believes to be the minimum financial burden requisite to ensure the maximum degree of capacity to defend ourselves. It is for that reason that I accept the proposals made by the Minister for Defence last night.
We believe, however, that this programme should be criticized to some degree in order that we may be assured that the proposed expenditure will be effected in such a way as to provide the greatest possible safety, and also that as large a percentage of the money as possible shall be expended in Australia. It has been said that £11,500,000, or approximately IS per cent, of the total vote, will be expended overseas. I suggest that this percentage should grow smaller and smaller as we develop our own resources.
– History shows that this is actually so.
– I agree with the Minister, but I remind him, with very great respect, that this is so largely because of the fiscal policy advocated by the Labour party. We also say that profitmaking should be entirely eliminated from these tremendous activities.
– Hear, hear !
– We assert, -too, that the manufacturing activities incidental to this vast programme should be located as far as practicable in Government factories so as to ensure, to the greatest possible degree, that the profit-making element shall really be eliminated. Then 1 tuy, as I said last week, that waste should be controlled and full value obtained for the money that is to be expended. The scheme which the Minister for Defence communicated to us last night represents in many respects phases of the programme which, with les3 information and. less technical equipment, I have endeavoured to submit to the people myself. It includes the survey of our resources, which appears to me invaluable; it provides for the mechanization of the army and for an increase of anti-aircraft equipment, and also for increasing the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force. In this connexion the Government proposes a front line strength of 212 planes plus reserves, which almost equals the Labour party’s programme of 300 planes. In that connexion I remind the House of the gibe of a former Minister for Defence when I put up a proposition that we should have at least 300 planes. The programme provides for the enlargement of the destroyer strength of the navy and the improvement of ship-building and docking facilities. This is a feature of the programme that we welcome. I venture to use that aspect of it as a vindication of the Labour party’s contention, over a long period, that the two new destroyers to cost, I understand, £935,000 each, should be built in the Commonwealth. It provides for supplies of munitions to be manufactured in Australia, with decentralization of manufacture. That last point appears to me to be an essential feature of the mobility which should be the prodominant characteristic of the Australian land forces. Without industrial decentralization and without engineering units and repair shops and plants distributed throughout the inland towns of Australia, particularly in view of the . fact that we have no standardization of railway gauges, it must be clear that the efficiency of our land forces would be greatly lessened. I put to the Minister and the Government the proposition that not only does such decentralization increase the general effectiveness of our forces in the event of an attack, but its economic value in the development of the nation is too great for us to be deterred by its present cost. I believe also that the programme submitted last night involves us in the general principle of building up Austraiian industries, particularly secondary ones, and certain technical services in which we are comparatively weak at present, as things stand in the world, even if we do not, in fact, lack them altogether. The plan also provides for land and shore organization for coastal defence. I am not clear as to the strength to which it is proposed to bring the permanent military forces. I have said in the past that a highly trained force would bc an effective corps to which the training of the militia could be related, but I regret that the speech of the Minister last night omits any reference to several features of the programme which 1 put before the country previously, although these are important and demand immediate consideration. They include the efforts being made for the local production of oil, either naturally or by artificial means. Not only ought something to be done to give to our defence forces security in respect of reasonably large oil and petrol reserves as the result of importations from overseas, but we ought also to regard it as imperative, at the earliest moment, systematically to prosecute active research into the possibilities of extraction of oil from coal or by other processes, in order to minimize Australia’s present dependence on overseas supplies.
– I did make reference to the provision of reserves.
– That is so, and on that point,’ I suggest that, however much the oil companies may dislike it, there should be an early removal of the oil tanks which are established along our coastline. At North Fremantle, for instance, they constitute a visible target, far too exposed to be safe in the event ofan attack. I think that that is true also of other places. I believe there ought also to be development of roads from bases to likely vulnerable points. Nobody knows where the Australian coastline is most vulnerable, but I take it from the Minister’s speech that he regards the greatest vulnerability to exist in those- centres where the population is greatest, and where industrial strength obtains. I grant that the effective occupation of areas of that kind would enable an invader more effectively to dominate the country, but that does not alter the fact that there are numerous possible landing places along the Australian coast. The essential quality of mobility demands rapid means, of transportation and good roads. T am not unmindful of the great contribution that has been made in recent years to this important feature by the Federal Aid Roads Act. Another great necessity is the standardization of certain railway routes. This appears to me also to be related to Australian defence. There should be a survey of motor transport services as an auxiliary to the mechanized army, and engineering units ought to be established at strategic points in readiness to repair plants and the like, so that there may be less likelihood of equipment breaking down in places where repairs would otherwise be difficult, or even impossible.
In the Labour party platform, we have for years elaborated the methods of defence for which we stand. In our view, the industrial basis is the foundation upon which the whole thing rests. Manpower is an essential aspect, ‘but the men of Australia cannot and ought not to be expected to defend a country which is merely a replica of every old-world country in its economic and social conditions. We must have here a better country than other nations have. I do not say that we have not got it, but what we have is due to the fact that the power of the workers expressed industrially through their organizations, and politically in the parliaments of Australia, has forced conservative and other types of governments steadily to yield ground, either as the price of their continued political existence, or because public opinion has forced them to recognize that no government would be tolerated which did not at least stand for certain fundamental principles in respect of wages, hours and social conditions. That fight has been going for decades, and is still going on. I remind the Government that at the Premiers Conference recently, the Minister for Commerce, as Deputy Prime Minister, outlined to the Premiers certain requirements for the effective defence of Australia, one of them being the development of this country economically and productively, apart from any question .of military preparedness. It is essential to improve the standard of living, because only by that means can the right type of population be attracted, without artificial aids such as assisted schemes of migration and the like. I put it to the Government that at this juncture, when we are asked to spend millions of pounds upon defence, there will still be thousands of workers whose mode or place in life in the Commonwealth cuts them off from access to any employment that this defence plan will give. Any government that submits a programme of this character for the defence of Australia should ensure that the manhood of Australia, which will have to do the defending and use the equipment, has proper citizenship rights in times of peace, and a guarantee of work at wages which will enable its wives and children to be decently circumstanced. A balanced programme of defence means also something more than merely relating the army, navy, air force and munitions supply to one another. It means relating the population of Australia to the conception that this is a valuable country, that its institutions are in themselves precious, and that what we understand by liberty here is worth preserving. The manhood and womanhood of Australia should, therefore, be given a vital interest in the preservation of the safety of the country. If they are to be called upon to defend the integrity of the nation in times of war, they are certainly entitled in times of peace to decent standards of living, so that they will not feel that they have been shut out of a place in the sun. This balanced programme requires us also, to associate with it a programme of work for those who are unemployed. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say that the programme itself is an aid to employment. 1 know it is. It is not sufficient for him to say that the States have a. responsibility. I know they have. In this instance the Prime Minister relates the States to the defence programme. He says that it was no party plea that he made last Sunday night, but that it was the .nation calling. Upon that broad basis then, every section of the people is entitled to feel that it is a valued part of the nation. The Country party this week and last has used its political power to win favours, the cost of which the taxpayer has to meet. It has done amazingly well for itself, and I call upon all sections of this Parliament, in the preparation of a balanced scheme of national defence, to see that no part of the Australian people has cause for complaint now, lest there should be disturbing discontent when a greater call should come. Therefore I accept the speech of the Minister for Defence. I agree to give the £10,000,000 which this bill asks in order that this instalment of the programme may be carried out; but I arn not prepared to find that £10,000,000 in the way which this bill suggests. I therefore move, as an amendment^-
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words, “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide that the £10,000,000 required to meet the expenditure specified in the schedule ‘ be raised in Australia by the imposition of direct taxation and by cooperation between the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Government.
This is the second loan bill that has been associated with the general expansion of the Australian defence operations. As I said earlier, it makes the total loan authorization sought by the Government from the Parliament £20,000,000, and up to date all that the Government has asked from direct taxation this year, in view of the gravity of this situation, in view of all the arguments it has used warranting this colossal outlay upon defence, is an additional amount of £1,400,000. At a time when other departments are expanding, and when the general costs of the Commonwealth Government are rising, it is unfair to suggest that the whole of that £1,400,000, which has been gained to the budget this year as the result of the variation of the Income Tax Act, is for the purposes of defence, because there are very considerable subventions going out in every direction. Only portion of that amount is available for defence. I put it to the House that in the present year the expenditure of this colossal sum, 72 per cent, of it in Australia, must mean that the incomes of a great number of persons, indeed of categories of persons, will rise. If we do not tax them now when they are on a good thing, we shall never be able to get from them their rightful contribution to the sacrifice which Australia i3 being called upon to make. I say that the man who is receiving a large income in Australia at the present time has a greater stake to defend than the man who has an income barely necessary for the means of life. I agree that each has his life to defend, I agree that each has cer’ tain principles which are part of what we call our conception of liberty and freedom to defend - I acknowledge that - but I submit that the rich man with landed estate, the rich man with money invested in big manufacturing industries, the man who draws a large income from his employment of labour, or, if you like, from the exploitation of labour, has more at stake, because, in the event of successful invasion of Australia, even if his life were not endangered, his property would be subjected to the risk of confiscation.
– The general masses of the people suffer.
– They do, because they have to do most of the fighting. They suffer also because of the general inability of governments to fight any war, even a defensive war, without destroying the conditions the masses have built up for their own self protection. The honorable member will know that the aftermath of this expenditure will be a period of economic deterioration m Australia. There will be the subsidence of industrial activity when the programme has been completed ; workmen will be unemployed; they will have to go without jobs for a while; but the man who invests in this loan will be assured of his interest all the time. Instead of solely investing in this loan, the wealthy investor should be called upon by the imposition of increased taxation to make a direct personal sacrifice. What other sacrifice does he make? Invariably the men of wealth are those who have gone beyond the age of military service. By and large, it is the older generation that will not be called upon to take part in warlike activities, especially in field service, which are for the most part associated with that category of the community called the investing community. They are the shareholders in large industries; they are the stockholders. Honorable members will not tell me that increased taxation will destroy the equi- ties of the widows of this community. 1 know this jibe is always used. I acknowledge that there are some widows with a certain amount of money invested in property; but I point out that the federal income tax is at the present time yielding far less in revenue than it did years ago, and that at least another £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 ought to be sought from the direct taxpayers of this countryin view of all the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence have said. Is it true that there is a grave international situation? Is it true that we have to do all this in order to make ourselves secure ? Is it a fact that we need 70,000 instead of 35,000 trainees? Is it a fact that we must build a naval base at Port Moresby, where we did not intend to build such a base? Must we have all this outlay on guns, ammunition, andthe like? I accept it as being necessary to have all these things.
– We have had no information on that subject.
– I accept it because it is the responsibility of the Government; but if it be true - and there is the core of the matter - howdoes the Government propose to find the money to pay for it? This bill suggests that we should go to the pawnbroker, and leave it to our grandchildren to meet the bill.
– I suggest that that is cheap criticism. In three places in my speech yesterday I outlined the methods proposed to be adopted.
– It is not cheap criticism. What are the facts in this connexion? First of all, the honorable gentleman reserves to himself the right to borrow the whole of this money overseas. He did so in the previous bill, and he does so again in this one. It is true that he has taken advantage of the conversion loan to raise £4,000,000 from the local market, in pursuance of the authorization given by the first £10,000,000 loan bill; but he gives no such undertaking this time. He leaves the whole of the other monetary factors in connexion with this financial burden until next year when he produces his next budget.
– That has not been said.
– It was in the honorable gentleman’s speech last night.
– I shall speak again to put the honorable member right.
– The Treasurer is not entitled to speak again ; he did not move the second reading of thisbill; it was moved by the Minister for Defence.
– I shall have an opportunity to put the honorable member right during the committee stage of the bill.
– The Treasurer can speak to the amendment.
– The Treasurer said that the balance of the authority remaining in the £10,000,000 was insufficient to meet this year’s commitments and that, therefore, he must have a loan bill now in order to cover the gap until this yearis over, and also to meet the fact that his authorizations in this year will be £30,000,000 as against an expenditure of £18,000,000. He said that in the following year authorization would be reduced but expenditure would be increased. Then he said -
The final allocation of the expanded programme asbetween revenue and loan will be decided later when the budgets for 1039-40 and 1040-41 are brought down.
– Hear, hear!
– That is precisely what I claim the honorable gentleman said. I said earlier, that the necessity for the £1,400,000 which is to be obtained in this year’s budget as the result of the increase of the tax on incomes, and the increase of the financial provision that has been made to finance this programme, has been sought only by two loan bills, the first of which we have passed for £10,000,000, and the second which is now before us involving another £10,000,000, making £20,000,000 in all. I defy the honorable gentleman to point to anything else that he has done to raise revenue for defence. He says that in a year from now, when he brings down his next budget, he will be able to tell us what amount of additional revenue he expects to collect from the people in respect of incomes in that year. The Labour party says that that is monstrous. We object to borrowing overseas for national defence; we regard that as fundamentally wrong. We say that as far as practicable we should carry this burden on direct taxation within Australia, and if that is not practicable then, most certainly, instead of borrowing over- seas, if we Lave to borrow at all, we should at least borrow within Australia. I venture to say it is not impracticable for the Commonwealth Bank and the Common-, wealth Government, acting in conjunction, to arrange such accommodation as may be required to meet this programme as it gradually unfolds - that plus the imposition of direct taxation at a reasonably sacrificial rate; for nobody will deny that there should be sacrifices in this connexion. We should not simply blithely borrow every penny we can and incur mounting interest rates and leave the whole heritage of debt to unborn generations. This kind of defence preparation involves the purchase of materials which in themselves can never be revenue-producing. They are utterly unlike all other forms of capital expenditure which, in the history of this country, has contributed to increased production, enabling the annual charges of the debt to be earned by the equipment which the capital provided. There will remain little of any permanent value from this expenditure. It may be that some portions of it will leave assets of a permanent value, but the greater part will not. In the very nature of things, implements of war and armaments in relation to warlike activities tend to become obsolescent. As a matter of fact, the life of aeroplanes and warships is very short. The life of all appurtenances of defence is not long. There is not much about any programme of defence, however large it be, that can be regarded as a contribution to the permanent defence of a country; otherwise when we look at the enormous expenditure on defence since the war, we should be faced with the fact that, although we have spent approximately £125,000,000 on defence since the armistice, we are now asked in three years to vote another £60,000,000. Therefore, it seems to be a reasonable and sound proposition that as far as possible we should avoid incurring debts for defence. What would be the position if we had to borrow in order to prepare ourselves to meet an aggressor? If we can not live within our own means during this period, what would be the predicament of this nation should it be attacked? Where would the money for its defence be borrowed from? Under what plan could we finance activities if we had to finance not actually preparations for defence but preparations for hostilities against an aggressor, especially if we lived right up to the hilt as this Government lives to-day? We should not be leaving a perpetual burden of debt for those who come after us to carry, knowing that the annual charges on that debt will be all the greater at a time when the economic life of the nation is under eclipse, and when depression and economic subsidence characterize our affairs. We have been told that overseas markets will not be available in time of war, that our trade routes will be endangered; that the whole of our export trade will cease for a time, and the national income will fall. How shall we be able to finance a war, then, if we can now finance preparations to avert a war only out of loan funds?
The Opposition is quite definite in its views. We say that we accept the Government’s programme of defence preparation. We shall vote for the appropriation of this amount of £10,000,000, but we say that the Treasurer is going the wrong way about raising the money. We say that he should ask the wealthy sections of the community ‘ to make greater contributions towards the finding of the £63,000,000 for the complete programme, and more particularly for the £10,000,000 covered by this measure. The Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Government together, controlling as they do two of the most important activities of the nation, should be able to reinforce, without going on the overseas loan market, the revenues raised by taxation for defence purposes. Overseas loans have constituted Australia’s major difficulty during the depression of a few years ago. They nearly made Australia default, and it required the most energetic and sacrificial measures to avert default. The Labour party does not want to see that situation repeated. It believes that it is not necessary to repeat it. It stands by the declaration that there’ are two classes in Australia - the rich and the poor ; or, to put it another way, the welltodo, and the not-so-well-to-do. Having regard to the gravity of the situation, and to the need for such vast expenditure on defence to avert the peril under which the nation labours, it is surely reasonable to ask rich men to make a substantial contribution towards the cost. Otherwise we are not in peril, and if we are not in peril this expenditure is not justified. If this is the minimum which the safety of the nation requires, then the contribution made by the taxpayers through the federal income tax is not the maximum which should be made.
I am moving my amendment because I feel that the safety of the country is not assured by merely going into debt. We must do something more. I believe’ that we can take more out of the resources of those who enjoy prodigal incomes. I am not one of those who paint pictures of how rich men live, or of how huge incomes are abused, but I know that, in all our capital cities, there is a vast abuse of resources by those who apparently do not know what to do with them. There is a vast distinction between the living conditions of the classes. There is a vast quantity of riches in this country which the nation ought to tax in the hour of its necessity. I accept the declaration that we are in a state of necessity; that we need to prepare for possibilities. Therefore, we ought to make financial preparations. We ought not to borrow now; we ought to tax. A nation that values its liberty, a nation in which the workers are asked to train themselves for defence, ought to call on rich men to contribute towards the cost of training. the men. Money does not fight; it is men who fight. No war was ever lost for lack of money. Nations may have been compelled to give in because of a lack of material - the product of labour in co-operation with nature, but no nation has ever had to give in because it could not borrow money, or because it could not pay for what it was able to get. Because of blockades, nations at war have had to go without munitions and guns, and they have even had to go without food, but no nation within the last 50 years has ever lost a war for lack of money. Therefore, to borrow money overseas for the financing of this defence programme is the very antithesis of what we should expect from a self-reliant nation. I believe that the people of Australia are patriotic. I believe that the well-to-do are sufficiently patriotic to enable this country to avoid borrowing overseas. I believe that they would agree to co-operate if all the circumstances were explained to them as they have been explained by the Prime Minister to this House. This defence programme is either necessary or it is not necessary. If it is necessary then a taxation measure should be an essential part of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made it clear that he accepts the declaration of the Government regarding the need for this defence programme, and that he believes that the responsibility rests on the Government to advise this Parliament and the people as to the urgent necessity for the steps that are being taken to put our defences in order. He is right in that; it is our responsibility. I am very pleased with the attitude of the honorable gentleman when he says that he accepts the proposals which the Government regards as necessary for the protection of the country. That means that the members of his party accept them also, and that is one of the things for which I have recently looked and hoped. However much we may be divided on other issues, at a time of emergency such as this - and I say that the Government is unable to give any guarantee that peaceful conditions will continue - it is a splendid thing that both sides of the House can agree on this defence programme. There may be, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, differences of opinion regarding methods, and any suggestions which he may put forward will be considered by the Government and its advisers. It may be possible to accept some, while others may be found to be impracticable.
– There is a fundamental difference between us, an unbridgable difference, and I dissociate myself from the right honorable gentleman.
– I am aware of that, but I cannot single out every individual member on the other side of the House. I can only take the declaration of the Leader of the Opposition, and hope that it stands for the attitude of his supporters as a whole, even though there are exceptions. I am pleased to know that that is so.
– Every member of this party is pledged to oppose the Government’s policy.
– I merely wish to make the position of the Government clear.
– Keep to that. The Prime Minister is on safer ground there.
– I wish to compliment the Leader of the Opposition onhis general attitude.
– The Prime Minister may do so, but let him not compliment me.
-I am aware thatthe statements of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) and of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) last night have made it plain that a very heavy load must be borne by the people of Australia. The recognitionof this fact must make some heavy hearts in Australia, and mine among them. Itis to be regretted that it is necessary for the Government to put forward proposals of this kind. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, side by side with our defence proposals, we shall apply policies, the effect of which would be to enable the country to meet the obligations that will rest upon it. We cannot evade our responsibility. We must ask the people of Australia to carry this burden, andwe must consider how best to enable them to do so. It is not possible for us to reduce the programme submitted, or to lighten the burden. That is inescapable, butwe can evolve and implement a constructive policy for the nation as a whole so that the heavy expenditure on defence will not have the effect of impairing the living standards of the people. It is useless for us to deplore increased expenditure on defence.
The Leader of the Opposition quoted what was said by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) with regard to the need to maintain our standards of living. It is necessary not only to maintain the present standards, but also to increase the number of Australian people who will have to carry the load. It is not sufficient for us to provide ourselves with the technical equipment for the fighting services, and the men and munitions immediately required. All of those things are important, but the defence of this country will ultimately be based on its ability and willingness of the people to defend it. What is required is a concerted effort on the part of every citizen. The Leader of the Opposition I think set an example in the declarations which he made in regard to defence matters generally.
– The bread tax does not give the people much encouragement.
– We do not want tens of thousands of men to continue to grow wheat under starvation conditions. We have to look at this matter from a constructive point of view. We recognize the load that has to be carried by a small handful of people in a vast country, and that we must have a greater population. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the maintenance of the Australian standard of living, which is high in comparison with other countries of the world, is one of the things which should make for the attraction of people to this country. I say, therefore, that we have to look to the future, and not be satisfied with merely developing a defence force. We must regard the defence and development of Australia as a single problem and set about the solution of it by making possible the settlement of more people in this country. The parliaments of Australia, Commonwealth and State, by social legislation have brought about a high standard of living in this country, but I say without hesitation that we cannot continue to carry the load involved in thedefence of this country unless we have a contented people, security . against economic adversity, physical fitness, and the ability and willingness among the people to defend Australia and maintain the existing methods and standards of living of which we boast, and which 1 hope we shall do our best to maintain, and, if possible, increase as the years go by. We must have such an organization and development of our economic resources as will enable the people to throw their full weight behind the fighting services. The sinews of modern war comprise the whole military, economic and human resources of the nation.
The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) and the Minister for Defence have outlined the measures which the Governmentproposes to take in expanding and strengthening the naval, military and air arms of our defence. I want to refer to the other side of the problem, and to point out the necessity to develop the nation from the aspects to which I have referred. We boast about our social legislation and standards of living. In the field of social security we have attacked our problems on many fronts. We have introduced a scheme of national health insurance, and its benefits for the people of Australia will soon become apparent, despite existing criticism of the project. We have conducted an investigation into the nutritional standards of the people. On this basis, we hope to establish longrange plans for the betterment and preservation of national health and fitness. We have contributed towards a solution of the problem of unemployed youths, and we have assisted the States in many other ways to relievo and mitigate the general unemployment problem. Recently there has been introduced in this House a proposal to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank, through which we hope to assist actively in measures to curb the severity of future economic fluctuations, and we are providing finance for primary producers and home builders. All are contributions towards developing in Australia a nation worth while and towards the maintenance and improvement even of present-day standards. In these and countless other ways, the Government is helping to strengthen the stout faith we have that in this country there is something worth defending, and pride in the country which the people are asked to defend.
The development of our economic resources is another path along which our activities must be directed. So far as these lie within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament, we have already proceeded far. To-day the Leader of the Opposition referred to the part that Labour has played in the development of our secondary industries. I recognize the truth of what he said. I recognize also, however, that in recent years the policy of this .Government has contributed very substantially towards the development of our economic resources. That that is true is shown by the industrial statistics - statistics relating to factories, employment in factories and output of goods. As I say, so far as it is within the competence of the Commonwealth Parliament we have made our contribution. It is hardly necessary for me to refer now to the conclusions which resulted from our recent imperial trade discussions. Honorable members know that for the first time Great Britain acknowledged, or admitted, if honorable members prefer it that way, the right of this country to go straight ahead with the development of its secondary industries. That was another step towards the development of industries and the provision of opportunities for the employment of our people. In a wider field, however, we share responsibility with the States. There are some things that we can do under our own Constitution, but there are others that w-e cannot do without the co-operation of the States. It seems to the Government that many of the difficulties that confront us in regard to the development of existing industries, the creation of new industries, and the decentralization of industries are basically associated with the haphazard development which has occurred up to the present. There has been no plan to guide us. Each State has done its own particular work. It was preference for, or, perhaps, prejudice against, districts which decided where industries would be established, or where public works would be carried out as a contribution towards the establishment of industries. These difficulties are associated with the division of responsibilities for development and defence between seven parliaments. Our roads and railways have grown up, our power resources have been developed, and our factories have been built largely where immediate interests have dictated. Partly because of the casual nature of our industrial development, there has been a lack of planning and continuity in the extension of public works and services. Strategic considerations have almost completely been disregarded and national economic considerations have received scant attention in the selection and location of essential industries and public utilities. In an ordered world we could go on in this fashion without the efficient development that a plan produces, but in a disordered world, it means economic and, possibly, national suicide to do so. A re-alignment of constitutional responsibilities may well be the ultimate solution. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred to this aspect in this House, and it is receiving consideration. Meanwhile, however, there is an urgent need to bring the developmental and defensive policies of the State and Commonwealth Governments into line. There is urgent need for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. This is not a time for coercion of the States; it is the time for co-operation. The Leader of the Opposition referred in passing to this matter. I agree that when we have provided for defence works, however great they may be, there will still be a large number of men who need work. It is from that aspect that we approach the question of co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. Recently an attempt was made to secure this cooperation, as honorable gentlemen know, at a conference at Canberra. I make no secret of the fact that the result of th° deliberations of that conference wa3 neither satisfactory nor encouraging, but I am not satisfied that something cannot be done upon co-operative lines. The Government believes that in the future there must be a combined and united attack upon the problems that confront us. We cannot drop the proposition where it was left at the conference. We still think .that it is essential that we brush aside any antagonisms that may exist, and recognize that we are all Australian people. We propose again to confer with the States, and I feel sure that the results of the next conference will be more satisfactory. We have to examine the possibility of developing this country suitably by taking steps for the establishment and expansion of industries away from the great capital cities. We need a complete and wide examination of the possibilities of increasing the number of people in Australia, and at the same time maintaining living standards.
– I hope’ that when the next conference is held with the States the proposals of the Commonwealth will have been placed before the State governments some time previously. On the last occasion the State Ministers were confronted with the Commonwealth proposals without having had the opportunity to examine them. It was not fair.
– We recognized the extraordinary demands of defence, and we knew that the States were expending millions of pounds on works, some of which were of greater importance from a defence point of view than others. Our main objective was to reach some agreement, so that works would continue, giving the same amount of employment within each State, but so that priority would be given to those works which had the greatest significance from the defence point of view. We desire the development of this country, the decentralization of industry, and an increase of population. I say advisedly that that is essential. If we look into the future, and appreciate the load that is being placed on the people to-day, can we for one moment believe that such a mere handful of people can continue to carry so great a load? Do we not realize that the economic effect must be prejudicial unless side by side with it action is taken for the development of this country? Some years ago, when Australia was in the depth of the depression, the Government of the day called into consultation persons outside of this Parliament who could advise it regarding the possibilities of the position and the dangers then existing and those that lay ahead, as well as the remedies that might be applied for the cure- of the evil. The right honorable member for Yarra consulted with persons who had made a special study of these economic problems, and the advice and assistance then obtained were extraordinarily helpful to this country in its difficulties. I should say that, in some degree at any rate, those circumstances are again present, and that consequently we must look into the future and plan remedial measures. The Government that I lead would not hesitate to consult with persons of similar character and ability in order that, as far as possible, the future might be examined and methods might be adopted for the removal of whatever evils may lurk along the path that we are treading. I am sure that I speak for the Government when I say that I would follow such lines. I would also consult with the” States and their advisers in order that we might make provision for a constructive policy designed to increase our population and avoid some of the evils apprehended by the Leader of the Opposition in the programme that lies before us. I accept the attitude adopted by that honorable gentleman, and am perfectly sure that with a united Parliament facing the problem of defence, which is vital to the whole of the people of this country, the task can be performed adequately and infinitely more efficiently than would be possible if undertaken alone by honorable members who sit on this side of the House.
I return to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. The responsibility for the financing of the measures to be adopted must be taken by the Government itself. Quite unintentionally, I believe, the honorable gentleman failed to do justice - to state the case mildly - to my colleague the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), when he stated that we shall do no more than raise another substantial loan, either in Australia or overseas, in order that the expanded programme of defence may be financed. The honorable gentleman suggested that we are making no effort to call upon the wealthy section of this country to make its contributions to the requirements of the nation. At an earlier period of the session, when the budget was submitted to this Parliament, proposals were brought forward for an increase of direct taxation and the placing of additional taxes on the wealthiest members of the community. Those proposals will affect any profits which may accrue as the result of the defence expenditure, because additional taxes will have to be paid on such profits in this year and in future years. The Treasurer made it quite clear that, for the time being, he seeks approval to raise a loan merely in order to adjust the present position. It is not possible at this stage, for instance, to introduce amended proposals in connexion with direct taxation. It may well be that before the expiration of this financial year proposals designed to bring additional revenue to the Treasury to meet the existing situation will be submitted to this Parliament. That consideration must be kept in mind.
The Leader of the Opposition made a quotation from a statement by the Treasurer, which I shall complete. That statement reads -
The final allocation of the expanded programme as between revenue and loan will be decided later, when the budgets for 1939-40 and 1940-41 are brought down. Honorable members will realize that it is impossible to say at this ‘ stage what the budget position will be so far ahead, but the policy of the Government will bc to carry as much as possible of the total expanded programme on the revenue account for the next two years.
At a later stage, the Treasurer emphasized that by repeating it. He then said -
As previously indicated, it is not possible to make a final allocation between revenue and loan for the whole of the £03,000,000 programme, but the policy will be when the budgets of the next two years are brought down to carry as much as possible of the total programme from revenue.
This declaration is repeated more than once in the statement of the Treasurer, and it voices the intention of the Government itself. I merely say that the government making these proposals must, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, take the responsibility of giving advice to this Parliament and to this country, because of the knowledge it possesses, first of the international situation, and, secondly, of the methods to be adopted in the financing of these programmes:
– :Whom are we going to fight?
– That question has been asked by others. I, in the statement that I made to the people of this country, the Minister for Defence last night, and various other members of the Government on different occasions, have endeavoured to impress on the people the seriousness of the situation as we see it. Time will go on, and it may well be shown that our fears are not justified. Even though I have to recommend to the Parliament and the people of this country this programme of insurance, as it were, against possible dangers of the future, no one will be more pleased than I to learn that my recommendations were not justified. But we cannot look into the future. We can only see what is happening in the world to-day, and what has recently happened. These happenings give no sense of security to a nation which is not prepared to protect itself. That is the experience of the past. There.is. no need to refer to any particular nation. At some time it may be possible to go into greater detail in regard to these matters; but, in doing so, we may invite in respect of this country and the Empire of which it is a part .the very danger that we are seeking to avoid.
– It would be madness to do so.
– It would be madness to do so, and any one who asks for it and wants it is not making any contribution towards the continuance of peace in this country. I say again that we cannot expect that the Opposition as a whole will accept every detail of our pro gramme. We would disagree with their proposals, just as they disagree with ours. But it is cheering to me this afternoon to know that on both sides of this House there is an equal determination to defend this country against any danger that may happen to lie in its path.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blackburn) adjourned.
I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 6).] (1.) That the Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1933-1938, as proposed to be amended by Customs Tariff Proposals, bo further amended as hereinafter set out, and that, on and after the Eighth day of December. One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, Duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff 1933-1938 as so amended. (2.) That, without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1.) of this Resolution, the GovernorGeneral may, from time to time by Proclamation declare that, from a time and date specified in the Proclamation, the Intermediate Tariff shall apply to such goods specified in the Proclamation as are the produce or manufacture of any Britishor foreign country specified in the Proclamation. (3.) That on and after the time and date specified in a Proclamation issued in accordance with the last preceding paragraph, the Intermediate Tariff shall apply to such goods specified inthe Proclamation as are the produce or manufacture of a British or foreign country specified in that Proclamation. (4.) That any Proclamationissued in accordance with paragraph (2.) of this Resolution may, from time to time, be revoked or varied by a further Proclamation, and upon the revocation or variation of the Proclamation, the Intermediate Tariff shall cease to apply to the goods specified in the Proclamation so revoked, or, as the case may be, the application of the Intermediate Tariff to the goods specified in the Proclamation so varied, shall bo varied accordingly. (5.) That in this Resolution, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Customs Tariff Proposals “ means the Customs Tariff Proposals introduced intothe House of Representatives on the following dates, namely : - 4th May, 1938 ; 21st September, 1938 ; 17th November, 1938 ; and 30th November, 1938; “ Proclamation “ means a Proclamation bythe Governor-General, or the person for the time being administering the government of the Commonwealth, acting with the advice of the Federal Executive Council, and published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette ; “ the Intermediate Tariff “ means the rates of duty set out in the Schedule to this Resolution, in the column headed “ Intermediate Tariff “, in respect of goods in relation to which the expression is used.
[Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Amendment (No. 2).]
That, on and after the eighth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirtyeight, at nine o’clock in the forenoon, reckoned according to standard time in the Australian Capital Territory, the Schedule to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act 1933-1938 be amended as follows: - by omitting “10” and inserting in its stead “10(b)”, “10(c)” and “10(d) “. by omitting “ 11 (a) “. by omitting “54(b) “. by omitting “91 (b) “. by omitting “ 105 (aa) (2) “. by omitting “106(e)(3)” and “100(f)
by omitting “107(a) “. by omitting “ 108(b) “. by omitting “110(c) “ and “110(d) “. by omitting “ 114(c) “. by omitting “ 122(a) “. by omitting “133” and inserting in Its stead “ 133(A) (1) (a) “, “133(a) (2) “ and “133(b) “. by omitting “180(c) “ and inserting in its stead “ 180(c) (1) “. by omitting “ 18.1 (b) (1) “. by omitting “225”. by omitting “242(c) “. by omitting “255(b) “ and inserting in its stead “255(b) (1 ) “. by omitting “ 268 “. by omitting “271 (a) “. by omitting “281(h)” and inserting in its stead’ “281(b) (1) “ and “281(b) (2) (b) “. by omitting “ 290(c)(1)” and “200 (c) (2) (as to ad valorem rates only) “. by omitting “334(f) (2) “, “334(g) (3) “, “ “ 334(l) (2) “, “ 334(l.) (3) “, “334 (m)(1)”, “334(n)”, “ 334(t)” and “334(u) “. by omitting “ 338(a) . “. by omitting “340(b) “ and “340(c) “. by omitting “ 397(b) “.
The resolutions I have just moved provide for amendments to the customs tariff, and consequential amendments to the Customs Tariff (Exchange Adjustment) Act.
Thecustoms tariff proposals incorporate 97 items and sub-items, which are affected as under : -
The summary or alterations, which has been distributed to honorable members, shows clearly the alterations of duties made by the proposals.
Twenty-seven of the increases and decreases under the British preferential tariff are merely nominal, the previous rates, less exchange adjustment, being altered slightly to obtain a convenient rate of duty. In the majority of such cases, the intermediate and general tariff rates have now been adjusted to make allowance for the protective incidence of exchange. In this category are fur felt hats, toilet preparations, and certain paper and paper manufactures.
Forty-one Tariff Board reports are given effect in the schedule, the most important items being those relating to apparel, n.e.i. ; household clothes washing machines; electrical cable, wire and strip ; articles of cut glass ; and vacuum cleaners.
In respect of apparel n.e.i., new subitems have been provided for shirts, collars, pyjamas, dressing gowns, kimonos, bath gowns and underclothing. On these goods, the ad valorem rate under the general tariff has been increased by 5 per cent., and alternative specific rates have been provided under the intermediate and general tariffs. These new duties should adequately protect Australian clothing manufacturers from competition which they have recently been experiencing from cheap imported articles.
On clothes washing machines for household -use, electrically or power driven, increased duties are provided under the British preferential and intermediate tariffs. The rate under the general tariff was increased in the customs tariff proposals of May last, which extended protection to industries developed under the Government’s trade diversion policy.
The duties on electrical cable, wire and strip, have been reviewed, protection being extended to a number of types now made in Australia to which rates of free British preferential tariff and 15 per cent. general tariff have hitherto applied.
The item covering articles of cut glass has been subdivided. On certain articles not manufactured locally, the duty has been decreased, but on articles in which the Australian factory is interested the rates under the intermediate and general tariffs have been increased by17½ per cent. The Government has given much thought to the duties on this item, and is satisfied that it has reached a solution which will lead to the resumption of employment at the Australian factory and at the same time not impose disabilities on the trade of those countries which regard cut glass as an important item in their trade agreements with the Commonwealth.
In respect of vacuum cleaners, protective duties are accorded on the outside bag: type when the f.o.b. price is £4 10s. sterling or less. Other types which are not at present being made in Australia are not subject to protective duties.
Other items on which duties are increased include those covering ethyl acetate, buckles, buttons, pyjama girdling, discs for agricultural implements, miners’ portable acetylene lamps, hairdressers’ and opticians’ chairs, printed cellulose transparent “paper, gummed stay cloth, pencils, carpet sweepers, and casein sheets, rods and tubes.
Apart from the decreases of duty already mentioned, which merely extend adjustments on account of exchange to the intermediate and general tariffs, a number of reductions have been made where the protection afforded is unnecessarily high. These include asparagus tips, french chalk, certain types of sheet glass, casein, paper bags, boxmakers’ fancy papers, certain gummed paper, and articles designed for the use of the blind.
The opportunity has been taken to clear up a number of anomalies in the tariff. Among these may be mentioned cement clinker, which is partially manufactured Portland cement, requiring merely crushing, and the addition of a small amount of gypsum to complete manufacture. This clinker was hitherto unspecified in the tariff, and provision is now made for rates of duty similar to those on Portland cement.
I move -
That progress be reported.
.- I enter an emphatic protest against the introduction of increased duties in this way.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).It is not competent for the honorable member to debatethe motion “ That progress be reported “.
– I am opposed to the reporting of progress.
– Then the honorable member must vote against the motion. He cannot debate it.
Motion agreed to.
Debate resumed from page 2820.
.- Every one must admit that the consequence of this new policy will be that the amount available in this country for the employment of the people in useful productive industries, and also for social services, will he enormously and progressively diminished. Obviously when a nation embarks upon preparations for war upon a large scale it cannot provide additional social services. It has not the money to do so. It must use its available money for its warlike preparations, or itmust raise money for the purpose by further taxation. By increasing taxation, it imposes further burdens upon the community, withdrawing money from productive employments and tying it up in the fixed capital of the war industry - a fixed capital which we hope will never become unfixed. The loan policy, which is the alternative, must cause an inflation of the amount of credit or money equivalent, thus increasing the prices of the people’s necessaries. It cannot be said that the great masses of the people have any real interest in even a war for the purpose of defending their country, for the great majority of them have nothing to defend. The people who have something to defend in any country are the people who own the wealth of it.
The policy of the Government is being recommended to the people of Australia under the influence of two appeals to the imagination. The first appeal is to that of fear, and the second is to that of Empire loyalty by the suggestion that, should Britain be involved in a war as the champion of small nations, we shall be fighting for the liberties of the human race. In every country to-day people are being urged, under the whip of fear, to agree to the expenditure of large sums of money upon warlike preparations which must have the effect of awakening a spirit of hate between nations, and result in depriving the masses of the people, to an even greater degree than ever, of the things they need. There is no need to say much about the potency of the fear motive.
As to the other motive, we are told that the British Government stands today as one of the champions of public liberty, freedom, democracy, and the rights of small nations, and that as Britain will probably be involved in war as the result of standing for these things, it behoves us to be ready to enter into the war on its side. But surely no reasonable person can conceive of the Chamberlain Government going to war for the small nations, or of it standing as the champion of democracy ! Any one who, in his wilder moments, might have imagined these things must have been disillusioned by the first experience of China, the experience of Abyssinia and Spain, and the experiences of China today. The Chamberlain Government is different from the British people. It is different also from Great Britain. I yield to no man in my admiration of the British people; but I have no more admiration for the Government of Great Britain than I have for theGovernment of Australia, though. I must say that 1 admire the Government of Australia much more than I do the Government of Great Britain. Whatever happens in Great Britain, the Chamberlain Government is, to all intents and purposes, the ally of the governments of Germany and Italy. It will never be engaged in a war against those governments for the reason that it protects in Great Britain the same interest that Hitler protects in Germany and Mussolini protects in Italy. There is an international solidarity of the capitalist class which will always be above national solidarity, and the loyalty of the Chamberlain Government is to the great capitalists and financiers of Great Britain. I do not believe, for a moment, that Great Britain is running any risk of being involved in a war as the champion of the small nations or as the champion of democracy. There is very little difference in practice between the measures adopted in the interests of capitalists in so called democratic capitalistic countries like Great Britain and those adopted in such interests in countries like Germany and Italy. It is only a question of degree. To the masses of the people there is really no difference. As a matter of fact, the helpless and hopeless masses of the people are probably more cared for by the governments of Italy and Germany than by those of Britain and America - and of Australia too, for that matter.
Any war in contemplation seems to me to be a war not to ensure that the smaller nations will be protected, but to ensure that China shall not become the monopoly of one nation, and that the Pacific countries shall not be controlled by one nation. We may expect in China such action as that taken by Theodore Roosevelt, in 1905, at the time of the Russo-Japanese war, when he sought to protect the interests of American investors. I believe that we shall shortly see similar action taken to protect British and American interests in that country. That is possibly where our menace of war lies. It is impossible to conceive of anything else. What the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has asked us to do is to participate in an Empire-wide preparation for war. There can be no doubt about that. I felt that when I heard him deliver his speech last night, and felt it again when I read his speech this morning. Tho honorable gentleman said so in as many words.
– There would not be much harm in that, would there?
– There is harm to any country in war which is for the defence of the capitalist and financial classes. Such a war is very different from a war to defend the soil of Great Britain.
– Does the honorable member disapprove of the Government’s policy?
– I do ; and I think I am saying so as definitely as I can. I disapprove of the Government’s policy. I believe that it is based upon the assumption that the Pacific is going to be a major theatre of war, if not in fact, the only theatre of war. It is contemplated that Great Britain will detach part of its fleet to serve in the Pacific. In the last few years we have come to believe t,hak, without the consent of Italy, Great Britain cannot send vessels through the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Such consent cannot be won unless the Government of Great Britain is the friend of Italy. I think that unless Britain is assured of security in Europe it will not spare any portion of its fleet for operations in the Pacific. In my opinion, it is not ‘ likely that the Government of Great Britain will become involved in European war. Therefore, it will be able to send vessels to the Pacific. The Minister’s policy is based on the assumption that British vessels will be sent to the Pacific and, expressly as well as implicitly, commits Australia not merely to the defence of Australia’s shores, but also to co-operation with Britain in the defence of overseas trade. In my opinion, the Minister for Defence contemplated this. Great Britain, of course, will desire to protect the material interests of its capitalist and’ financier class, who have a big stake in the East. If Great Britain with America, or Great Britain alone, should fight Japan for the privilege of exploiting a conquered country, China, then, of course, Australia would be in danger of war. But if that is the possibility that we are expected to face, the Government should tell us so. We should be told what we are asked to fight for. But what has been said to us is that this expenditure is required, first, because of the danger that faces small nations; and, secondly, because of the menace of an attack upon Great Britain, and, in consequence, upon Australia as a British dominion. It seems to me that the policy of the Government pays, no regard at all to the needs of Australia. Rather, Australia is to be regarded as included in Empire partnership and is to be expected to prepare for imperialist war.
The ‘ Labour party stands for the defence of Australian soil against outside foreign aggression. It holds that preparations should be made to enable the country to defend itself against attack, but at present we are being asked to do a great deal more than that. We are being asked, not only to prepare for an attack upon our own shores, but also to police shipping and to protect overseas trade. In my opinion, immediately war occurs there will be no. overseas trade to protect. The moment we start to take active steps to protect overseas trade by naval preparations, we at once enter the danger zone, in which it would be impossible to distinguish between aggression and defence. It has always been the policy of the Labour movement in various countries - I do not say of Labour governments only - to make provision for the protection of their territory against attack by foreign powers, but that preparation is always made in the country concerned, and it is directed against aggression only.
– The honorable member cannot remember what I said last night on this subject. I said that naval preparations were necessary to defend our trade routes.
– The Minister said -
Our defence problem as a small nation is insoluble without Empire co-operation. We can share in the common naval defence of the Commonwealth, hut we cannot provide naval forces sufficient for our security.
If a bargain is being made with Britain to provide a naval force for the defence of the Pacific, there can be no doubt that attack is expected- in that quarter. If such an attack be made, British financial interests will be in danger, and, in my opinion, what is contemplated is the possibility of Great Britain being involved in a war in the Pacific, and that, as a consequence, Australia will be in danger of an attack.
– Is the honorable member in favour of helping Great Britain?
– I am not in favour of doing anything except defend Australia against the possibility of invasion. As I have said over and over again in this House, in the event of warlike operations in foreign countries it becomes impossible to draw the line between defence and aggression. It is for that reason that I wish it to be made very clear that, in my opinion, we should not engage in any military operations whatever except in our own territory, and for the defence of our own soil. I admit that it is necessary to take risks by adopting that policy, but at any rate any nation that does so makes it clear that it is doing nothing to perpetuate war in the world. If every nation acted upon that principle, there would be no war.
– If they did, but they do not.
– Some nation must make a start. I am quite satisfied that we can do nothing in Australia which will make us absolutely safe. We could spend a hundred times or a thousand times this sum, and yet not have absolute security. We could not ensure Australia against risks, but we could do our part in promoting world peace by announcing that although it is not possible in the world as it exists to-day for a nation to disarm because a nation cannot invoke the sermon on the Mount to defend its enjoyment of what it has taken in defiance of the Ten Commandments, we shall so limit our defence policy that no one can believe that we have aggressive intentions against anybody. We are told that everybody is concerned in this programme, and that we all have a tremendous amount at stake in case war should come. That may be so in this respect, that probably in this country we enjoy a greater standard of comfort and political liberty than do the people of other countries. But there are vast and increasing masses of people who are sinking lower and lower in the scale, with no one to care for them, and who say that it does not matter twopence to them what flag they live under. That state of things is becoming more marked in this country and in many others. There is only one way to ensure that your people will want to defend themselves, and that is by making their stake in their country not imaginary or theoretical, as it is at present, but practical. This can be done by so re-organizing the community that everybody has his rightful place in it, and feels assured of it. Until that is brought about, the masses of the people will not be ready to make the sacrifices which war and preparations for war call for. I hope they will never be called upon to do so. I find myself, with the greatest respect, unable to allow the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) to speak for me in this matter. Doubtless that will not worry the House or him. But it seems clear that we are beginning again the cycle of preparation for war which we began in 1913 and 1914. In 1914 we were involved in war, then in militaristic proposals in 1915 and 1916, covering a system of recruiting which was conscription under a subterfuge, then in the proposal for actual conscription, and finally in the Treaty of Versailles. No vote of mine will be cast to retrace the course of that cycle.
.- The House and the country are interested in the comprehensive statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) last night. It was intended to be comprehensive, and in some ways it was so, but it was notable for certain omissions. The principal omission was on the subject of training, which was passed over in very few words. Although £74,000 extra is provided in the Estimates for the purpose, very little is said about it. A great deal of what the Minister said was after all only a re-hash of what’ we heard from two previous Defence Ministers.
I was pleased to hear that considerable naval expansion was proposed, and that Port Moresby was to be defended. I made a report to the Government some years ago on that matter. Apparently the Minister’s belief that isolated parts need not fear invasion is contradicted by the fact, that the Government is doing something to defend so isolated a spot.
– I said “ remote and nonstrategic parts “.
– Of course the first principle of strategy for an’ army in the field is to meet the field army of the enemy and march on his capital, but modern wars are not fought in that way, as is instanced by what happened in Manchukuo. Some other country may send to our shores armed fanners such as were put into Manchukuo. Therefore every outpost must be considered,- and we must contrive to have the most mobile force possible.
I come now to the particular contention that was in my mind when I rose. The taxpayers’ money is being poured out like water. We are asked to support the expenditure of another £10,000,000, bringing the total for the three years up to £63,000,000. Of that extra £10’,000,000, £9,000,000 is to be spent on the army. If spending money would save us, Australia would be safe indeed, but it is to the training of its citizens that every country must look for success in arms in the ultimate resort. Poverty-stricken countries like Turkey and others, have fought against the most powerful nations of’ the world and inflicted upon them considerable defeats. I am surprised that members of a party who call themselves democrats, and claim that the rich man should do more than he does, do not approve of a democratic system which makes rich and poor alike, give service. It is not service if one does not give it oneself, or contracts himself out of it. The Government is giving what is tantamount to a bounty, or what an army general described as a bribe, to trainees.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Territorial Army bribes its recruits?
– I say it is quite unnecessary in a country like Australia to offer £12 to induce boys of IS and upwards to come in and spend three years in the militia. If the old system of training was democratic in 1911, when the Labour party supported it, the idea is still democratic to-day. We have 35,000 enlisted in the paper army that we have today.
– I will not admit that it is a paper army.
– Only 60 per cent, of that 35,000 go into camp, so where does the effective training for even that small army come in? The Minister and the Government know, and almost everybody in the service admits, that the best efficiency is attained by some form of universal service.
– By the old form?
– I will explain what I mean. I say that 35,000 is a paper army and only 60 per cent, of it goes into camp. It is a totally inadequate force for Australia.
– The honorable member’s figure is incorrect.
– The figure is correct. It was quoted in the Cabinet. I cannot reveal Cabinet secrets, but I am forced to do so by the Minister’s challenge. I shall’ refer to something else in which I think the Minister has misled the House. The Government has lowered the height standard to 5 ft. 4 in. and the standard of chest measurement to 33 inches, and is giving higher pay and a bounty, in the endeavour to double the present strength of the militia. But what is to be done for the extra training of these men? Are they to be made to do their camps? If only 60 per cent, of the 70,000 go into camp, it will mean a total of only 42,000 doing training. Is that an adequate force to, protect a territory of 3,000,000 square miles? The essence of defence is a mobile army, but if those men, who have, perhaps, attended only one camp, are scattered around the Commonwealth, the Minister knows that they cannot constitute an adequate army of defence.
I come now to a matter on which I think the Minister has milled the House. We are at a disadvantage, as members of the House, in that we do not get copies of the previous day’s proceedings supplied to us, a3 Ministers do. I therefore cannot quote the Minister’s words. All I can do is to go by the newspaper reports.
– The Hansard reports are available; they are in the honorable member’s room.
– They had not arrived up to five minutes ago.
– Others have them.
– I had not intended to be severely critical of the Government, had not the Minister by interjection led the House to believe last night that the Government was acting on the advice of its service advisers. No doubt when the Minister made that statement he hoped it would quieten criticism, but if he intended to lead Parliament and the public to believe that the service advisers had advised the Government against universal service, then he was wrong. I asked the Prime Minister this morning if the enlistments were satisfactory, seeing that the Government, according tothe comprehensive statement submitted by the Minister last night, had embarked upon a scheme to raise the strength of the militia to 70,000. All I wanted to hear was that the enlistments were satisfactory, but the Prime Minister could not tell me. I asked what numbers were coming. Neither he nor the Minister for Defence could tell me that.
– It takes time to obtain those figures.
– I should have thought that the Minister, who is out to do his job well, would be up to date, and know from day to day what the enlistments were in every State. We, however, get no information on that subject. A definite time limit should be put upon the drive for volunteers. Various honorable members have asked that that should be done, and there is a clamour for a definite time, whether it be three or six months. If then the numbers cannot be obtained, let the Government announce frankly that it is necessary to have an adequate number of men in the defence forces, and that that number must be obtained by other means. The old system of universal training, as any one who was in it knew, was not only democratic but was appreciated and liked by the trainees themselves. When they went into camp they realized that it was manly training, and, when they found that everybody had to do it, they went to it with a will. I suggest that the old system, under which senior cadets were trained from the ages of 14 to 18, and members of the Citizen Forces from IS to 26, need not be reverted to. Trainees attended camps under that system, and the employers gave them the necessary time to do it, many of them freely, but others because they knew that if they did not they would be heavily fined. Under the present voluntary system, however, a lad sometimes is afraid to mention that he has to go into camp. Many employers are generous and make up tin* time and pay; but others do not. I suggest that the system should be revised. If the Government finds that the drive for volunteers is not a success, and feels that it wants 35,000 more men then 35,000 of certain ages should be called up and should go into camp for two or three weeks in the year. It does not hurt any youth to go into camp for two or three weeks on a few occasions in his lifetime to learn something of his duty to his nation. Why was the Australian Imperial Force such an excellent force ? One of the main reasons was that approximately 75 per cent, of its numbers did some training under the old universal training system. Do honorable members believe, now that universal training has been discarded for eight years, that the Australian young man who perhaps cannot fire a rifle is the equal of a potential invader who may come to this country? He definitely is not. It is not a matter of physique when it comes to war; it is a matter of skill at arms. It will not be only the resolute and young who volunteer, say, for service overseas, as was the case in the last war, who will be killed. If war should unhappily come upon us, it will be in Australia; it will not be left for a small expeditionary force to fight on the other side of the world for Australia’s safety. Everybody in this country will feel the horrors of war.
The Opposition says that it believes in adequate defence. I feel sure that those honorable members who speak of the universal military training system do not realize that it is not conscription, that it has nothing to do with the continental idea of military training, and has nothing in common with the German or Japanese systems. It is modelled on the Swiss system and is really education in citizenship. Some parents would not have their children educated if education were not compulsory in Australia; so, too, young men will not go through this education in citizenship unless it is made obligatory on the whole nation. The Government ought to put national safety first and not set it aside because of political expediency. We have before us the biggest defence vote in the history of this country and, seeing that twenty years ago the compulsory military training system was in operation with, a considerably smaller vote, surely it could be applied to-day.
– Would the honorable member deal with the conscientious objector?
– I respect the feeling of the conscientious objector. I think that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is iri that category, but I say that in all fairness to the honorable member for I think he is sincere. The idea of war is abhorrent to him, but it is to all of us. The honorable member does not believe in facing realities when he declares that all wars are the creation of capitalists. He deludes- himself into thinking that nothing may happen. He should know that capitalism in Germany is practically non-existent today. He says that there is no possibility of war between Germany and ‘the British Empire. Norman Angell and other eminent writers said that before the last war; but war came and it cost us the flower of this nation, and the British Empire had the closest escape it ever had. Do ‘ honorable members shut their eyes to the recent expansion of Germany in Europe? Are they satisfied that the Munich Pact ushers in a new era of peace on the Continent? Do they shut their eyes to the persecution of the Jews and, in fact, of all minorities in Germany where liberty as we know it no longer exists? Democratic ideals have gone in that country. We have democratic ideals here in Australia but would lose them if the British Empire should be broken up. When the honorable member for Bourke and other honorable members say that we should not support Great Britain, they are only shutting their eyes to the real danger. It would be national suicide if we had non-co-operation of that kind. Great Britain does not want assistance from us, but we may want heavy assistance from Great Britain. The voluntary system might be quite adequate for the Mother Country, which is a small, compact and densely populated country, but here in Australia, with 3,000,000 square miles and only two people to the square mile, it is absolute folly to go on as we are going, and we cannot help but view with great alarm the fact that our isolation has ended and trouble is nearer to Australia than ever before.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) madeabriefstatementonthematterof thepurchaseofacapitalshipandthen brushedthequestionaside ;butfromwhat I gathered, he said that if the Australian Government pressed the British Government for a capital ship to be located at Singapore, it might be successful. I know that representations to that effect have already been made; and I have recently had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Lords ofthe Admiralty who expressed the hope that Australia will be able to be more self-reliant. During my period as a Minister of the Government, I tried to make Australia selfreliant economically.
-Tariffs are the most fruitful causes of war.
-There will come a time, no doubt, when the nations will settle their differences as we settle industrial and civil differences, but that time is a long way off yet. The ideals of the honorable member for Bourke are centuries before their time. I have no doubt the time will come when the League of Nations will be re-constituted. It was set up under the Treaty of Versailles, but certain nations have flouted it while others have left it, and now we have to realize that it is a fact that power politics have returned. Germany has had great gains from power politics, so also have Italy and Japan, and if any honorable members in this House do not see that there is potential danger to the British Empire and to Australia they live in another world.
I feel that the capital ship question should be definitely decided. We could not get such a ship until some time in 1942, butas we could afford to purchase a capital ship in the period 1912-14, I think we could afford it to-day. As a matter of fact, it was the presence of H.M.A.S. Australia in Australian waters at the outbreak of the war that kept our coasts free from bombardment by the German Pacific fleet. I repeat that what could be done then could be done again now. In this immense vote there is surely room for the inclusion of money for that purpose.
Speaking of finance for defence, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), that we should not borrow overseas. If we have to borrow we should borrow within Australia. We have been able to do that over a number of years and there is no reason why we cannot continue to do so. We should hesitate to add to the burden of our overseas debt.
We are told that the number of squadrons in the Royal Australian Air Force is to be increased from seventeen to eighteen. Australia is the most suitable country in the world for aviation. Here we can fly every day in the year, yet we make great virtue out of the fact that another squadron is to be added out of this extra vote of £10,000,000. Another squadron is quite inadequate for our needs. Pending development of Australian construction we are ordering American machines and we intend to build up the front line strength to over 200 machines; but what has this Parliament done for those who are interested inaviation and see the potentialities of aviation in this country? In Great Britainthere has been established Civil AirGuards in which young lads are taught to fly for a fee of 2s. 6d. an hour, yet for the development of gliding, an adjunct to aviation, in Australia, this Government provides merely a paltry £300 a year. It is high time that sum was increased so that boys who cannot afford it at present may learn the rudiments. The Government might well emulate the example set by Great Britain in this respect by assisting aero clubs more liberally. In Australia at the present time, it costs from £25 to £50 for a youth to gain his A licence. It is obvious that that is quite beyond the reach of most workingboys who, being interested in aviation, are Australia’s potential pilots of the future. If war came a tremendous reserve of pilots would be necessary, but except for those lucky enough to he chosen for the air force or possessing sufficient means to learn, we have no great reserves of pilots at present. Some assistance should be rendered in this connexion out of this increased defence vote, yet nothing has been mentioned about it.
– This is not a civil aviation vote.
– Nevertheless, I think some of it should be allocated to civil aviation because the civil aviation of today is the defence aviation of to-morrow. In Germany, there is a complete liaison between the civil and defence branches of aviation. Service pilots fly over the air routes in order to gain proficiency in cross-country flying in their own country. That system might well be copied here.
– A perfect air-map of this country is long overdue.
– That is so. It seems to me that the speech made by the Minister for Defence last night is more notable for its omissions than for what it contains. The Minister gave a resume of what has happened in recent years.
– It was a wonderful speech.
– Although it was informative from many points of view, it had. definite omissions, in that the Government said nothing about the time factor in . enlisting volunteers.” No reference was made as regards training. Further, we were misinformed regarding the information of experts concerning universal training. Nothing was said as to the provision of greater help to potential pilots and no definite information was given regarding the matter of the capital ship. These are matters which the Government might well take in hand. It should face the fact that there is room for differences of opinion with regard to its policy.
I make a request to the Minister for Defence in connexion with a small matter concerning the supply of defence requirements. Very often when there is no time for tenders to be called, direct purchases are made. Will the Minister see that when that is done, the Government will secure at least three quotes? If that is not done, a lot of money will be wasted, being expended in ways that might profit industry and merchants, but will not profit Australian defence.
.- In dealing with the supplementary defence vote, which entails a very great increase of defence expenditure, the natu ral questions which honorable members will ask themselves and which the public will ask are, how. soon may we possibly expect danger, and just how do the Government’s plans provide for that emergency ? If we are to expect the emergency to arise within a comparatively short space of time, the Government’s efforts up to date are to be commended, but one might legitimately ask whether they go far enough, particularly in relation to the provision of the very necessary manpower to make this huge expenditure thoroughly effective. I was reading in the press only to-day that one of the South African Ministers who had visited all the European capitals within the last few weeks,Mr. Pirow, had also been in contact with Hitler in Berlin, and on his return to London expressed the opinion that, contrary to appeasement having been secured in Europe, the position was more critical than ever. That gentleman contemplated that we might have to face a crisis in the spring of next year when the German occupation of Sudetenland had been thoroughly settled.
– The honorable member refers to the European spring, of course.
– Yes, that would be in May or June. According to that statement, which cannot be taken as authoritative but which is, nevertheless, the considered opinion of a responsible man after having visited the various European countries and seen the activities in them, within a period of six months we might again be called upon to face a crisis such as we went through at the end of last September. The thought in the minds of the public and of honorable members is whether the country will be in a relatively stronger position on the 30th June next than it was in September last. Most of us have heard since the crisis that serious weaknesses in our defence system were revealed. It would have been helpful if the Government had indicated what steps were being taken to rectify those weaknesses.
The Government should take a courageous stand in regard to defence. It has done so in regard to defence expenditure, having increased the total amount to be expended during the next three years by £20,000,000, but it has not exhibited the same determination regarding the means to be adopted in raising the necessary forces. There is only one way to d!o ‘this, and that is to enlist all able-bodied men under some system of universal training, so that everybody shall contribute his share to the defence of the country.
– The honorable member is advocating conscription.
– I am asserting that every person has a duty to his country, and should render service according to his ability. I strongly disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) that Great Britain would not go to war in defence of democracy. He said that Great Britain might embark on a war for reasons with which we were not in sympathy, and that we should not become involved when we have no real interest in the matter in dispute. The honorable member’s attitude reminds me of that of the man who will not go out to fight a bushfire, though it be approaching his property, until it actually reaches his boundary. I warn him that irreparable damage might be done to Australia by an enemy who need not set foot on Australian soil; tens of thousands of lives would be lost, and no distinction would be made between workers and capitalists. If the warships of an enemy were to arrive off the coast of Australia, the gunners would not inquire .before directing their shells whether they were likely to strike the mansion of a capitalist or the cottage of a worker or a man on the dole. Every one in the community would share the ri:5k, and the life of the dole recipient is as valuable to him, and just as much worth saving, from his point of view, as that of the greatest capitalist in the land. Much has been made of the argument that the workers have no obligation to participate in the defence of the country because they do not possess anything to defend. One has only to go to places of amusement such as the beaches at St. Kilda and Bondi, or the race-courses at Flemington and Randwick, to realize that a very great number of Australians do enjoy a much higher standard of living that would be theirs if the country were conquered by an invader. It is only necessary to study the statistics relating to home-owners to understand that a large percentage of our people come within the category of those who have something to defend.
The Government should, as urged by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), indicate for how long it intends to carry on its drive for militia recruits, and when it will make up its mind whether or not the drive has been successful. It should also indicate what alternative it proposes if the campaign fails. Most thoughtful people recognize that, under the voluntary system of recruiting, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to keep up the strength of the militia forces over a period of years. We shall not always have the Minister for External affairs (Mr. Hughes) delivering inspiring recruiting speeches, and, when the excitement dies down, recruits will once more be difficult to obtain. Moreover, it is particularly important from the point of view of training staff officers at our military academies, such as Duntroon, that there should be adequate bodies of troops for them to command. Only in this way can they gain sufficient experience in the officering of a corps. It is necessary that we should have men as well as money if we are properly to defend the country.
The Treasurer should consider how far we can continue to maintain or to increase our social services, side by side with this increased defence expenditure. He should consider whether the national health and pensions insurance scheme, for instance, should be gone on with at a time when we are called upon to find an extra £20,000,000 within the next three years, over and above what was contemplated when the insurance bill was passed. The Government should take advantage of the experience gained during the crisis in September last in order to rectify whatever weaknesses may have been revealed in our defence system. It should consider the holding of a test mobilization of all the defence organizations, in Australia within the next six months or so, as. is done in other countries, in order to test the efficiency of our arrangements!
.- I congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) on the very comprehensive statement which he made to the House last night, and on the tremendous scope which he covered in a short space of time. I wish to thank him for having made arrangements for the circulation of copies of his speech to honorable members this morning, so that they might study it before the debate was resumed.
My chief regret is the same as that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), namely, that this first really comprehensive statement regarding what is proposed for the defence of Australia should have been introduced during that unbecoming scramble that occurs at the end of every session, when the House, year after year, gives a brilliant imitation of a school breaking up for the holidays. If I may be permitted to vary the simile, the Government, at this time, somewhat resembles an indifferent wrestler wriggling towards the ropes. In order to show that my criticism is not unfair I propose to point out how the business of the House has been mismanaged during this session. Most honorable members will agree that the most important subject which Parliament has had to consider this session is this tremendously expanded defence programme, involving as it does colossal expenditure, and we are being asked to debate it during the last few hours of the session. Parliament was called together on the 21st September, and measures of comparative unimportance were placed before honorable members for their consideration. During the first week, the total sitting time was 20 hours 51 minutes. As far as I could see, we were practically stone-walling while business was being prepared.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member is not in order in discussing the time taken on previous debates.
– The budget and Estimates, and the defence proposals associated with them, were rushed through the House at an all-night sitting in a week during which the House sat for 57 hours.
– Order !
– Am I to understand that you rule that it is improper to suggest that this House is not being given adequate opportunity to debate the defence proposals?
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to the time taken up on other debates or to the method in which those debates were conducted.
– I must content myself with the generality that, thanks to the way in which the business of the House has been conducted, we have been afforded inadequate opportunity to debate defence proposals at the proper length, and in a proper atmosphere.
– The honorable member is out of order. He is at liberty to debate this question at any length within the Standing Orders.
– Having congratulated the Minister for Defence, I desire now to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his fearless statement in which, in effect, he indicated that he was prepared to admit that the expenditure by the Government -was essential.
– He did not say that.
– I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable gentleman. He qualified his statement by explaining that he did not have the information in his hands which the Government possessed.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the courage he showed in stating that the proposals put forward by the Government did not differ in any great degree from the proposals that he had put forward as being necessary for the defence of Australia, because I realize how repulsive to so many of his followers that statement was. I agree that the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition do not differ appreciably from the proposals of the Government, but I do not get a great measure of content from that, because I consider that both policies are inadequate. The only difference between the Leader of the Opposition and the Government in this matter is that the Government can get the support of its followers to carry out its proposals, whereas I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition, with all his courage, could get the unanimous support of his followers to carry out his proposals if he were Prime Minister of a Labour government.
Australia, therefore, in one of the most dangerous times in the history of the world, possibly on the brink of Armageddon, is in the most uneviable position of having to choose between two inadequate policies.
– The people have no choice at all. The honorable gentleman’s party is in power.
– Well, if the people should ever become impatient with the policy of this Government and decide to turn it out of office, it could only turn it out in favour of a party which, in theory, has the same policy, but the unfortunate new Prime Minister would not he able to carry out that policy because of the lack of support of those whom he would have behind him.
The pronouncement of the Minister for Defence is not only the most comprehensive that has been made to this House, but also in a great many respects a tremendous improvement on any proposals that the Government has previously put before Australia. I wish to refer to four specific improvements, not because they are of the greatest note, but because they come readily to my mind in the limited time that I have had to study the statement. I am pleased at the decision to station an air squadron at Townsville, instead of Cairns, which was previously rumoured to have been selected. My experience of Cairns is that its weather conditions and rugged mountainous surroundings would have been a death trap to any air squadron stationed there. Townsville with its better climate and less rugged terrain will be much more suitable.
I am pleased to hear that the destroyers whose effectiveness I queried in a question which I asked in this House, are to be replaced by more modern destroyers. I cannot share the contentment of the Minister for Defence at the report that was made to him, because the rumours that I suggested I had heard came from sources with expert knowledge. Since the Minister’s reply to my question was made, I have had the rumour confirmed by retired naval officers of very high standing. I suggest that while our new destroyers are being built the Minister should make certain that the inadequate destroyers are more adequately maintained than they have been.
I share the gratification of every person who takes the defence of the Australianterritories seriously, at the decision to fortify Port Moresby and to establish there a station for flying boats to assist, in the defence of not only Port Moresby itself, but also the two territories, Papua and the Mandated Territory of Sew Guinea. I hope that the decision to establish a garrison at Port Moresby will lead the Government to take the small steps necessary to make it not only a suitable base for the defence of the territories, but ‘also a suitable capital for both of them. If a garrison is stationed there, the Government should make the small outlay necessary to ensure to the town an adequate water supply.
I suggest further that the well-trained and loyal Papuan constabulary should be equipped with rifles that will shoot. I found on my visit to Papua that the rifles with which the native constabulary is equipped were like the torpedo tubes of our destroyers. Only three out of 300 of the rifles were serviceable. Having watched the men at exercises, I can say the Government would be well justified in equipping them with modern rifles.
The most important matter on whichI congratulate the Government is its decision to provide a dock in Australia which will cater for a capital ship. For many years, I have been particularly conscious of Australia’s lack of such a dock. The provision of a dock for a capital ship was one of the first things that 1 advocated in this Parliament. I later had the privilege of supporting the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) when, some four or five years ago, he led a deputation to the then Acting Minister for Defence to urgethe provision of a dock for a capital ship. A long time has passed, but better late than never! Now that the Government has decided to build the dock, I hope it will not allow the grass to grow under its feet, because, conscious as I. am of the value of the Singapore Base to Australia and of the fact that British battleships based there could prevent a serious invasion of Australia, I still feel that it might well be possible for Japan, which, of those aggressor powers in the world, is the one that is closest to us, to send to these waters a ship which might render our cruiser squadron more or less, if not completely, impotent. If it is not possible for us to have a battleship of our own, we should be able to dock a British battleship here. The Minister should make himself sure in the near future that the British Ministry, in the event of an emergency, will be prepared to send a battleship to Australia. He should not be content to take the advice of his experts, but should ask for an assurance from the British Cabinet itself. I am concerned because, whenever I have suggested to naval experts that Japan might send to Australian waters, not necessarily a battleship - it might not risk the loss of a battleship - but a battle cruiser or a pocket battleship which could outrange and outfight our cruiser squadron and that our vessels would be rendered more or less impotent, the reply has always been, “ But Japan has neither a battle cruiser nor a pocket battleship.” The answer sounds convincing, but, strangely enough, there . are two pocket battleships on the stocks in Japan to-day. Is it most reassuring to know that they are being built for that great naval power, Siam? If the Minister is satisfied that Japan would have no vessel available to render impotent our cruiser squadron, I am not. It is essential for us to know that a British battleship can bc sent to Australian waters in the event of an emergency. If we cannot be satisfied on that point, whatever be the cost, we should build one battleship, or even two battleships, ourselves.
I have mentioned some of the aspects of the new programme which please me. I turn now to some of the aspects about which I am less satisfied. We have been told by the Minister for Defence that he cannot visualize a position in which tho United Kingdom could not come rapidly to our assistance. That means that Great Britain could not only send battleships but’ also hold Singapore as a base for them. I bow to the Minister’s greater knowledge and I feel that it might be possible, whatever were the alignment of forces in Europe for Great Britain to send battleships to Singapore, which would mean that, so long as Singapore stood, an invasion of Australia would be impossible; but I, and, I feel, every thinking person, can visualize the position in which Great Britain could not send reinforcements to reinforce the- Singapore Base. In order of precedence, therefore, the first glaring omission from the programme is that there is no proposal whatever for a force to be sent to defend Australia’s first line of defence. We must remember, accepting the Minister’s word for it, that the Government, in its defence policy, visualizes Singapore in being, and bases its policy on that assumption. If that be the total provision, Australia ought to make trebly certain that Singapore will continue in being. We have been told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has assured us of the co-operation of Great Britain in the event of war. I am quite certain of the goodwill and the wish of the people of the United Kingdom to come to our assistance if we are in danger, but what I have looked for over and over again - and perhaps the Minister can enlighten me on the point - is some assurance that, particularly during the last crisis, the Commonwealth Government communicated to the Government of the United Kingdom the nature of Australia’s co-operation if Great Britain were faced with the trouble into which so many people in Australia seemed to be urging it. We were cheering Great Britain on, but I have not yet heard of any great effort having been made by the Government of Australia to co-operate in any defensive measures. I suggest that our co-operation should take the form of assistance in the defence of Singapore, which is of vital importance to Australia, and would be of the very greatest assistance to the Government and people of the United Kingdom.
One other matter, provision for which would have to be included in the civil aviation estimates, but which, nevertheless. is of considerable importance to the defence of Australia, is the ability to overhaul the Empire flying-boats in Australia. I raised this matter the other day by means of a question, and it was airily dismissed by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Thorby). I realize, of course, that because of his greater opportunities to gain information, his know* ledge of civil aviation matters is greater than mine. When the Empire air-mail agreement was being debated in this House, I expressed the keenest regret, for many reasons, at the fact that the Qantas organization had been, in effect, broken up, and that it was no longer to be a selfcontained unit servicing and overhauling its own aircraft. I appreciated the arguments against this; but the last crisis made it abundantly clear that it was a very grave omission from the airmair agreement, because the Qantas company indicated that, had war broken out in Europe, and had the air route to Europe been blocked, as it almost certainly would have been, no Empire flyingboat which found itself on this side of the Mediterranean could possibly have had its engines overhauled. The engines of these flying-boats require overhaul at a minimum of 240 hours and a maximum of very little over 300 hours of flying. A trip to Singapore represents 30 hours’ flying. Therefore, the maximum flying time between Australia and Singapore in any of these flying-boats before they needed overhaul would have been five trips there and back. Had war broken out, a number of them would have been approaching the period of overhaul, whilst others would have been half way towards it; therefore, the average flying time still available would have been 150 hours. These flying-boats cost £50,000 each, yet had war broken out Australia would have had practically no commercial or defence use out of them. They would have had either to he laid Hp or to make their way to ‘Great Britain for service there. This matter merits more serious contemplation than the Minister for Civil Aviation deigned to give it when I raised it by means of a question.
The subject upon which I most particularly disagree with the Government is that of our land forces. The Government pins its faith to a paper militia of 70,000 men. I showed in a speech that I made on the last defence estimates that 70,000 men would give our most important strategical point - New castle, where Australia’s great steel works are situated - only 1,077 militiamen for its protection. I pointed out that Japan, for example, could put almost double that number of men into one transport. If Singapore were to fall - the Government seems to be quite prepared to allow it to do so, because it has shown no evidence of a desire to help in its defence - Japan would have control of the seas in the Pacific, and in that event invasion of Australia would be a real possibility. It is said that distance lends enchantment to the view. The Minister has said that it lends security. One of the reasons why three nations in the world to-day are aggressor nations is that they are starved of raw materials and colonial territory in which to ‘find an outlet for their surplus population. What more suitable area could be found for an outlet for surplus population and the production of raw materials than is to- be found in Western Australia? With a militia of 70,000 men, the whole of that State, extending from Wyndham to the electorate of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), would have a total quota of 4,600 militiamen. I direct the attention of tho House to -the fact that, in one set of transports, on one day, Japan recently landed, 30,000 men on the south coast of China. With command of the seas, it would be just as easy to land men on the coast of Western Australia as an the coast of China. I suggest that a force of 70,000 is entirely inadequate. The Minister said that it is only a nucleus. It is a nucleus which will dwindle daily, because only enthusiasts will remain in it year after year. There are men who served with the Australian Imperial Force who have been in the militia ever since their return to Australia. Other recruits have served for a few weeks and then left the force. This system gives no reserves, and reserves are essential. With some system of universal training under which every man, upon reaching a certain age, would- be taught how to defend his country, reserves would be built up each year. I could mention quite a lot of arguments against a voluntary militia force. There is the very real argument of unfairness to the best section of our community, the young men who are prepared to make great sacrifices in order to learn to defend their country. A very grave objection to a voluntary militia is its inefficiency. When the well-meaning militiaman is asked by his girl friend to take her to the pictures, the girl will almost certainly win and the defence of the country will lose. I also realize that 50 per cent, of the militiamen, through no fault of their own but for other reasons upon which I need not dwell, never go into camp, which is the most important part of their training. 1 have discussed the militia with men who, like the Minister for Defence, served with the compulsory forces before the war, and with the Australian Imperial Force during the war, and who at great personal sacrifice- have served with the volunteer force since the war. I have spoken to every one I could get hold of, and have not yet found one who agrees with the contention of the Minister, that voluntary training is either adequate or efficient. Apart from its inefficiency, it is the most expensive form of training that could be adopted. I have in my electorate some excellent infantry units. I take off my hat to every man who serves in them, for his efforts to train himself under most unattractive conditions. Infantry training, I consider, is apt to be always unattractive in comparison with other specialized forms of training. When ten or fifteen enthusiasts attend for training night after night without the provision of a drill hall, they are making a sacrifice which is too great to ask of them. I quite realize that drill halls cannot be built for every ten or fifteen men who wish to be trained; which is one very good reason why the voluntary militia is the most expensive form of training we could have; but if it be intended to restrict the number to 70,000 men, which we may get owing to the patriotism and enthusiasm of the young men of Australia, and if the conditions are to be made sufficiently attractive to keep them in the force, drill halls by the. hundred will have to be built to house units of ten or fifteen. Otherwise they will be asked to serve under hopeless conditions and it will not be possible to carry out their training efficiently. These are arguments that I have had confirmed by every militia officer to whom I have spoken.
What are the terrible arguments advanced against the form of universal training introduced by a far-sighted and patriotic Labour government years before the war, which I think I am right in saying has never been repealed bu’t has merely been suspended? Some persons object to it because it is compulsory. Is there any objection to compulsory education? If it be right to educate people to take their place in civil life, surely it is right to educate them to defend their homes and their country ! If there is any section of the community which thinks it is wrong for its young men to rub shoulders with all classes of Australians, the sooner those young men are put into camp with a fair average sample of Australians taken from every walk of life in country and town, the better it will be for them. I can see no argument against universal training from the point of view of efficiency, and there are tremendous arguments in favour of it from the point of view of the social good it would do to .the people of this country. I have never known any young Australian who has come out of camp without a much more broad-minded appreciation of his fellow Australians than he held when he entered camp. I know lots of Australians who have gone into camp with a definite prejudice against other sections of the community with whom they had never previously come into contact’, and have come out of camp realizing that those with whom they had been associated were as good as and possibly better than they themselves were. In order to make Australia into a nation, nothing could be better than for Australians to ru£ shoulders with one another in camp, and to realize that from whatever part they come one is as good as another. I would not suggest reversion to a compulsory system on the lines of that introduced before the war, although the training then given was of great value to Australia and had much to recommend it. I believe that we could greatly improve upon it. We could evolve another system of universal training which would mean far better training and far greater efficiency, and would interfere with the life of the individual much less than the old system of Saturday afternoon drills year after year. I suggest that our boys should learn the elements of drill at school so that when they started training in the citizen forces they would not need to go through the tedious business of learning to form fours and to shoulder a rifle. They might also learn something about shooting while at school. At whatever is considered the most convenient age for young men to go to camp, they should be required to undergo three months’ intensive training. It would be of tremendous advantage to every young Australian, irrespective of whether he ever had to fight. This would have physcial advantages and would ako enable him to come to know his fellow Australians in a better way than is now possible. Every one who had spent three months in a continuous camp should be required, at stipulated periods, to take a “ refresher “ camp course in order to keep in touch with efficient training methods.
I congratulate the Minister for Defence upon having made to us the most comprehensive statement that we have yet had the privilege to hear on defence. I regret that the House has not been afforded an opportunity to discuss the whole subject in something different from the holiday atmosphere that now seems to prevail. The programme of the Government is, however, still inadequate. The Government lias shown itself prepared to spend money m defence, but it is not prepared to display the moral courage needed to implement its programme. It has not shown sufficient courage to declare that Singapore is our first line of defence, and that we must be prepared to defend it. Wor has it shown sufficient courage, for some queer reasons of political expediency, I presume, to declare that the’ most efficient means of training the young men of this country for defence is by national military service.
.- I have no intention to follow the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) in his observations concerning sound technique and strategy in defence. I listened to his speech with interest, particularly insofar as it referred to compulsory mili tary training. Happily, that is not, for the present, part of the policy of the Government, and I am concerned with the policy of the Government. But to show that I have no desire to ignore the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders on this aspect of the subject, I remind him that compulsory military training may be approached from two points of view; first, that of physical fitness; and, secondly, that of the technique of militarism. Respecting physical fitness, I have never observed any reluctance on the part of Australian youth to develop their physique to the utmost in accordance with their opportunities. In suburban areas, every vacant allotment of land, in respect of which the owner hopes at some later stage to collect an unearned increment, is occupied by lads endeavouring to play some health-giving game for physical development. In respect of country districts, I suggest that my honorable friend should apply the knowledge that he undoubtedly possesses and talk to the bush youth, who rises at 4 a.m., commences work at 6 a.m., and knocks off at 8 p.m., on this subject of physical training. He would probably receive a suggestion to the effect that this youth might be allowed to change places with him so th’at he could pursue their training in this Parliament, while he engaged in physical training in their place between the hours of 6 a.m. and S p.m. at 7s. 6d. a week, or whatever the wage might be. In plain fact, tastes differ in regard to physical training. Apparently, some are willing to take up with avidity the work of learning how, expeditiously and thoroughly, to destroy their fellow men, while others are unwilling to suffer compulsion in such a matter. Tastes differ. At any rate, whatever may be said for the policy of conscription, I have no intention whatever to join with those who would impose conscription upon the helpless children of this country. If I had to begin at all, I should begin with the conscription of wealth, and pass, gradually and naturally, from that to the conscription of the army of self-satisfied grey-beards of this country, who are always telling our people that youth should be conscripted in order to defend the, interests of old age.
This afternoon when the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) was delivering himself of that thing of shreds and patches which”, perhaps, should be referred to as his speech, he seemed to take a passing pleasure in the thought that there was unanimity between the Opposition and the Government in respect of defence, so far as it was affected by the bill now before us. Indeed, for a moment he seemed ready to sing a bar or two of that well-known ballad, Solidarity for Ever, which must have been thoroughly familiar to him before he joined the distinguished retinue of quitters with whom lie has become associated on the other side of the House - before, in the words of the poet, he sought those “ fresh woods and pastures new “, which he could not discover while he belonged to the rank and file of the Labour party, but which he evidently discovered subsequently, on satisfactory terms, when he became the the leader of another party with other principles on the opposite side of the House.
The honorable member is not now discussing the measure before the Chair.
– So far from the Opposition and the Government being as one on this subject of defence, they are widely separated. To use the words which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) employed in this Parliament not long ago, “ They are separated by a chasm as wide and deep as hell”. For once I agree with the right honorable gentleman. The differences between myself, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), and one or two other Labour members on the one hand, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and some of his other colleagues on the other hand, are differences of detail rather than of substance as I understand them : but the differences between the Opposition and the Government are differences of substance of the most important kind. The Government stands for what might be described as an ambitious imperialist policy. The Labour party stands for defence against aggression. That is a. very vital and easily-understood distinction. In the case of Australia, there can be no diffi culty in understanding what we mean by defence from aggression. It is possible that with some of the smaller principalities and nations of Europe and elsewhere, with small populations in close contiguity, difficulty might arise in such a matter. Difficulties of the kind occurred at the time of the Boer War. It will be remembered that, at that time, when the British Government initiated its policy of despoiling the Boers, its technique was to set up its military machine and to employ its threatening military devices oil the borders of British and Boer territory, so as to persuade the Boers to cross the border and drive off their aggressors. That was a case of contiguity. But we are many thousands of miles away from any potential enemy. We have an island continent. We are remote, at the moment, from any possible theatre of war. We are, within our own shores, selfcontained and self-maintained. We could even live as a beleaguered country for an almost indefinite length of time supported by our own tremendously great and varied resources. We are, moreover, a self-governing nation. It is true that, with that craven fear of being great which distinguishes certain individuals, this Government has declined, up to the present, to put the hallmark on our nationhood by adopting the relevant sections of the ‘Statute of Westminster. Nevertheless, although this Government has failed, pursuant to policy and pursuant to its political character, we have to thank the British Government for the fact that the British Parliament, as the source of law governing Australia, has itself passed the relevant statute which confers upon us the toga of nationhood. As every lawyer would now be prepared to admit, however reluctantly, the control of our own affairs, not only local but also international, rests entirely in ou’r own hands. It is, however, a very different thing when we come to consider the nebulous but still ambitious imperialist policy of the Government to which for the moment, most unhappily, the people of Australia are harnessed.
My honorable leader, in the course of his eloquent speech, said that we could take it as probable, if not certain, that a war involving. Britain must necessarily affect other members of the
Commonwealth of Nations. I agree, but I interjected at the moment that there was an Empire outside the Commonwealth of Nations. I was either unheard or, if heard, very properly disregarded, but I take the opportunity now to point out that there is a British Empire, and a very extensive one, outside the Commonwealth of Nations. So, when this* Government mouths its familiar phrase, unexplained and unelaborated, but meaning that we are to act in cooperation with Great Britain in connexion with any international trouble, I invite it to look at the map and see for itself what the British Empire really consists of, what we are expected to cooperate in, and where the limitation of our co-operation lies, if there is indeed any limit to this friendly co-operation to which we are committed by the Government. Britain consists in the first place of the Island of Britain, the home of our friends and of the fathers and mothers of many of us, but the British Empire consists also of its colonies, protectorates, mandated territories, spheres of influence, and alliances, almost, one might say, al! over the world, which are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations at all. These others are dominions. If honorable members look at a map they will see a footnote which was put there for the information of the young hopeful of other days, to the effect that British possessions are coloured red. The colour has no reference whatever to the political affinities attributed to some honorable members on this side of the House. They will see also that the red colour is widely diffused all over the world. So I ask myself, Where does our co-operation with Britain in the matter of war begin, and where does it end? Psychologically, of course, it is of an indefinite character. Psychologically, we have friendship for the people of Great Britain. Historically, we have great admiration for her best, and stern condemnation for her worst, both in people and ir, institutions. That is my answer to those absurd and thoughtless critics who seek to gain a passing advantage based on prejudice and passion when they would, accuse me of hating Britain. It might just as well be said that because T so roundly and soundly condemn this
Government and its policy and all that it stands for, I therefore hate Australia, whereas the truth is that the contrary is the fact. But in any case my particular preoccupation is not all with geographical boundaries, but with the people who inhabit those areas, wherever they may be, and I confess that I am not greatly inspired by that class of patriotism whose limitation is defined by those who, waving a Union Jack, shout “ My country, right or wrong “. I have long since done with allegiance to that sentiment. That, however, is the kind of co-operation we are invited to exercise. Let me ask one question. There is a little red spot on the western coast of Africa. True, we acquired it dishonestly, let me be candid and fair to all parties, at the close of the last war, but there it is, coloured in red. It is one of many, and I ask: Supposing a sudden attack is made upon the Cameroons, this insignificant spot on the west coast of Africa, of which the Government knows nothing at all, with the possible exception, of course, of my honorable friend, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), doe3 the Minister promise complete co-operation on the part of Australian fathers and mothers in giving up their sons to fight for the Union Jack, so that the little red spot which we took from Germany after the war may be maintained as a British mandated territory in 1938?
– The honorable member is familiar with the theory of reductio ad absurdum?
– Yes, and it is by that process that I propose to impress my arguments upon the Government. Are we supposed to co-operate in respect of the maintenance of all those various territories of which we know nothing? We have no part in their government, we have no participation in their revenues, we have nothing whatever to do with them from beginning to end. I venture to say that there are very few people, amongst whom I do not include myself, that could at a moment’s notice, reel off the complete list of British dependencies of various kinds in respect of which we are expected as a self-governing dominion to lend our complete co-operation.
– Would the honorable member substitute New Zealand for the Cameroons, and then continue his disquisition?
– No, New Zealand is a dominion, as the Minister knows.
– Or New Guinea?
– New Guinea was one responsibility “ wished “ onto us by the Hughes Government, as one of its many mischiefs during the war. I am not at the moment expressing any opinion about it, nor has my party considered it in detail. I am not pretending to decide what we are going to do regarding New Guinea when the matter of the realignment of colonial possessions comes up for final decision.
– The honorable member depends on Great Britain to defend it for him.
– I have already said something about the honorable member’s suggestion, and shall deal with it again later. So much then for co-operation. Mr. Chamberlain a few months ago made a speech which was marked by a considerable degree of candour. I have referred to it in this chamber before. He pointed out to the British people that, if the worst came to the worst, the order of preference in Britain’s defensive measures would be as follows: First, Britain itself; secondly, its allies; thirdly, its dependencies, which, of course, are not the dominions ; and fourthly, the dominions. The dominions, therefore, came in last. So far from taking any exception to Mr. Chamberlain’s declaration of policy - and it is not my practice in any case to discuss the statements of foreign policy by leaders of countries other than my own - I agree with him that, according to his alignment of Brtiain’s defences, the dominions, as self-governing nations, come last, and quite rightly too. He recognized that, mainly through the inspiration of British statesmen, rather than our own failure of statesmanship, we did enjoy the standing of a dominion with complete selfgovernment, and that it would be presumption on his part to suggest that Britain had any obligation to defend a sister self-governing nation, any more than we have an obligation to defend Britain.” That statement by the British
Premier should give the gentlemen on the ministerial bench pause. They should be led to consider, however reluctantly, that the defence of Australia is a matter., for Australians, and that we are a selfgoverning dominion, which involves our acceptance of complete responsibility for our own defence. That is my answer to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) who suggests that I look’ to Britain for my defence, for Australia’s defence, or the defence of New Guinea. Nothing of the sort is the case. That is his policy, not mine. But the fact that we are responsible for the defence of Australia is the best possible reason why our strength should not be dissipated and diffused in defending the imperial connexion of Britain with her various dependencies the world over. The Minister for Defence says that thedefence of Australia is insoluble except as part of a policy of co-operation, but he gives us no satisfactory assurance that the co-operation of Great Britain in a world war could possibly be available for the defence of Australia in the present world conditions.
– I gave that assurance as strongly as I could put iti
– No doubt, but I point out, too, that the interests of our friends in Great Britain in these various dependencies the world over, in respect of which Ave are expected to co-operate for their maintenance and integrity, are interests quite distinct from our interests. They are certainly not working-class interests. Australia has no investments such as high finance in Great Britain undoubtedly has in those dependencies or the various mandated territories. Although some financiers in this Commonwealth may have interests in these, they may be regarded as negligible and are not willingly disclosed. Therefore, to talk about co-operation for the defence of this far-flung Empire, mainly of. capitalistic interests, is, for an Australian democracy, an absolute absurdity, and I do not propose to entertain it as a practical political proposition for a single moment.
The1 Government invites the workers to join with it; it invites the honorable members of my party, as the representatives of the workers, to join with it, first of all to raise recruits and, secondly, t? assist in this Empire war of co-operation. The answer of the worker, naturally, is “ While you have taxed us, you have left us without employment; you have put us on the dole; at best, you have employed us at most arduous labour on the lowest wages you can possibly pay to us, giving us the bare cost of living, neither more nor less; you cannot expect the same enthusiasm from us in defending a country which maintains these conditions as you will undoubtedly receive from the rich monopolists and the capitalists of this country who have almost unlimited resources to defend, which are rightly, from their point of view, well worth defending.”
– The honorable member said that in 1913.
– That is very possible. It is merely proof of my consistency. It may be said that Australia is the best country and pays the best wages in the world ; but my answer to that is that all capitalist countries are militarist and all extremely class-conscious; and in Great Britain, the maximum of labour is exacted from the worker for the minimum of reward. It is said that the Government, which i3 loading the people with this colossus of debt for the purpose of defence, must know something. I should like to know who has so informed it. Has the enemy kept in contact with it all the time? Has the Japanese Government informed it that it is fortifying the Carolines as a convenient jumping-off place to make the entirely unexpected attack, about which it has informed the Government, on Australia?
The honorable member for Bendigo interjecting,
– I do not blame the honorable member for Bendigo; he simply does not understand my argument. Are we to understand that the enemy has informed these honorable gentlemen of the Government of its intentions? I merely say in regard to this whispering campaign in which it is said, “If you only knew what we knew ‘and what’ we dare not tell you, you would enlist “, that for me it falls upon deaf ears, and as far as my influence goes it will fall upon the deaf ears of my constituents; because I hare lived long enough to have the benefit of ripe experience, and ripe experience has taught me, in matters of war, not to take too much notice either of militarist governments or of militarist advisers for, in the last 25 years, on all major issues, they have been proved uniformly wrong.
– The honorable member does not believe that.
– I certainly do. We are asked to recruit 70,000 men, and I ask - and it does not seem too much to ask - “What are they wanted for, and where are they to be used?” The Minister for Defence will admit that this request for such a colossal amount of money is unprecedented. The amount demanded is going up by leaps and bounds and every jump proves that the Government was wrong when it took the last jump. It has been wrong every time, but it is still confident that if it keeps on with mounting millions it will reach the sum which represents the limit of its resources. In fact, the Minister for Defence said that we have already gone to the limit, and that to go any further would mean tho dislocation of the economic resources of the country ; but on the very next day following that statement by the honorable gentleman I find that at least one newspaper propagandist’s leading article said that, although the Minister had said we have reached the limit, there was no certainty that we should not have to go beyond it. I agree that there is no certainty that we shall not have to go beyond it, because there is no limit, no end, to war mongering, war scaring and war propaganda. From experience the Government learns nothing; it is impervious to knowledge on this matter. If it were not, it would look back over the pages of history for the last twenty years; look at the promises made during the last war, and broken; look at the objects declared to be those for which we fought the war, and which have been exposed as not the true objects. The true objects, the inevitable consequences of war, were found to be, in the light of history now supported by historians who cannot be gainsaid, those objects which, they had been declared to be by the Labour party, and those results which the Labour party had declared would be inevitable by the Labour party. Where, then, are these recruits to be employed? Is that too much to put to the Minister for Defence? He should tell us, if he wants troops, whom they are to fight. Where is the enemy? I have asked the question over and over again. I repeat: Is it Japan? Is Japan about to attack us? It seems to me not an impossible line of argument that Japan is the only country that it could be suggested is liable to attack us in any circumstances. I do not admit the danger of attack from that quarter. I know enough about recent history to know that Jap.»n is fully occupied in its territorial expansion in a country peculiarly suited to be occupied by it, a disintegrated nation lying right at its doors, and that with the complete colonization of that territory and the final victory over the unfortunate Chinese, which I foresee, it is unthinkable that Japan, within the next 50 years at all events, would entertain the notion of .an aggressive war against a highly organized nation like ours, prepared by the expenditure of ‘adequate sums of money to defend its own territory.
– The honorable member’s leader seems convinced of the necessity for the .expenditure.
– The only difference between my leader and myself in this matter is a difference of detail as to the proper outlay for the defence of Australia against foreign aggression. I do not agree to the expending of this money, nor do I think it is justified to the degree that the Government demands, even for the purpose of local defence. I do not believe that any government is justified in neglecting its social services, in holding up its social legislation in a condition of paralysis, in neglecting the interests of the people, in writing down the standards of living, in allowing the long line of the unemployed to increase, and in continuing to disinherit the rising tide of youth. I do not think that this Government is justified in pursuing this craven policy. What I invite it to do is to get lime into its spine, and have the courage to carry on business as usual in this country, and not to go about creating a psychology of fear and panic in the breasts of the people against an unnamed and unknown foe- If there is a foe, that foe has been there since we ever had settlement in Australia. It, has been there all the time, and our motto has been the very excellent one which Great Britain prescribed for its people during the war, namely, “Business as usual”. So I suggest to this Government, if it is not game to come out and tell us against whom it is arming, who is the foe, where it wants these soldiers to serve, and what it wants them to do - if it is not prepared to tell us for what reason these colossal sacrifices are being exacted from a suffering people, I am not prepared to suggest that even one soldier should enlist in Australia, even under a system of voluntary enlistment. Let the Minister unlock the sources of its secret horrors as he disclosed last night to the world the secrets of our defence policy. Labour’s policy is, “Adequate defence of Australia “. It may be possible, as the Leader of the Opposition says, that the amount we are asked for now is not too much for the adequate defence of Australia, if we knew the facts, or if we knew the imminent danger; but as we do not, and as our policy is defence against aggression, and there is no proof of contemplated aggression, I am not favorable to this imposition upon a suffering people, and I put the Government to the proof that there is no justification for the condition of terror and disorganization which it is creating.
. –The object of this measure is to authorize the raising and expenditure of a certain sum of money for the strengthening of our Navy, Army and Air Force, and for the manufacture of munitions.
– It is merely a bill to authorize the raising of a loan for those purposes.
– Under this measure the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will be given power to raise this amount either by loan or by the issue of treasury-bills. Should he come to the conclusion that the raising of a loan is the better way, I hope that the Government will not go outside Australia for the loan-.
– Hear, hear !
– I believe that all of our loans should be raised in Australia, particularly when money is sought for defence purposes. It has yet to be shown that we cannot raise in this country sufficient money for that purpose. I take my mind back to the early days of the Great War. If any one then suggested that we should raise a loan of £3,000,000, the amount for which we had been in the habit of going overseas, he would have been laughed to scorn. Yet, during the war and since, we have raised hundreds of millions of pounds in this country.
Dealing with that aspect of the measure which has been the main subject of discussion to-night, I commend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) on his speech. I have always believed that in dealing with any proposal of such paramount importance as defence, the cooperation of all parties should be sought. For this reason I should like to see the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite as members of a defence council, with the object of co-ordinating with the Government’s ideas the various suggestions put forward by the Labour party. I should not balk at the inclusion of even the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on such a body, although he says that hebelieves in adequate defence against aggression, but is not in favour of one soldier being enlisted. What kind of defence is that?
– I said, “ under certain conditions “.
– A force of 70,000 men, whether they be fully trained or not, would not be capable of saving this country under the conditions which would induce the honorable member to favour enlistment, because the moment Ave are called upon to defend this country on our own shores we might just as well put up the shutters. Australia is part of an indissoluble Empire; it can only exist as a part of the British Empire. When I was recently in New Zealand I was very glad to hear the Premier of that dominion say that New Zealand can only exist while it is part of the British Empire. On the eve of the recent New Zealand election he said, “ Once the Empire is at war, New Zealand is at
Avar “. The policy of defence enunciated by some honorable members opposite is analogous to a young man declaring, in the event of a burglar attacking hie mother, father, and his younger brothers and sisters, living in the same home as himself, that he would not resist the burglar unless lie himself were attacked. I venture to suggest that if a burglar entered the home of the honorable member for Batman the honorable member would lock himself up in the bathroom. By interjection, I asked the honorable member what he would do if New Guinea were attacked. Coming nearer home I now ask what he would do if New Zealand were attacked. In a matter of such vital importance as defence I have no time for party political differences; blood is thicker than water. If New Zealand were attacked I should willingly go to its help, even though the honorable member might not do so. New Zealand is a member of our great family - the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I again congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the speech he delivered to-day, and accept his apology for the speech which he last made on defence when he enunciated a policy of isolation.
– Nonsense !
– I do not wish to be unfair to the honorable member, but it cannot be denied that the policy which he enunciated to-day differs in many respects from that which he outlined in his last speech on defence in this chamber. I noted the change Avith pleasure, but I point out that not one honorable member opposite has yet spoken one word of commendation of the speech delivered by his Leader to-day. Indeed, both of the two honorable members opposite who have spoken to-day have disagreed Avith their Leader’s utterances. Are Ave to take that as an example of the glorious co-operation offered by the Labour party to the Government, or of the wonderful defence policy of that party?
– The honorable gentleman can rest assured that I spoke authoritatively as the Leader of the Labour party. Does he suggest that every honorable member opposite agrees Avith every detail of the policy enunciated by the Government?
– If we attempted to apply every idea held by individual honorable members we should make a horrible mess of our defence. We can only be guided by our experts in so vital a matter. I do not agree with the honorable member for Batman that, in order to ensure the permanency of their positions, our military advisers are prone to encourage war and preparation for war. I know from my experience with members of the Indian Forces that, although they were desirous of holding their positions, they were most anxious that war should be avoided.
As the result of happenings in September last we cannot escape the conclusion that the rule of force has definitely come to stay, for a period at least, in the settlement of international difficulties. I make that admission with very much regret. Events in Czechoslovakia have shown what will be the fate of a nation which is not prepared to meet force with force. Listening to the previous speech on defence delivered by the Leader of the Opposition I understood the policy of the Labour party to be that if Great Britain were attacked Australia should say to Britain’s enemy, “ “We are not at war with you at all ; we keep ourselves isolated “. Evidently the Labour party believes that in a time of emergency Australia shall regard itself as being outside the Empire, in the belief, apparently, that the enemy who attacked Britain, or any other part of the Empire, would consequently leave Australia alone. In the light of present international dissension and chaos, can any one who claims to have the interest of this country a,t heart, come to any other conclusion than that we should be living in a fool’s paradise if we thought we could defend this country by word of mouth?
– How many shares has the honorable member in New Guinea?
– I do not hold any at all.
– Well; what is the honorable member after?
-I am urging that we should adequately defend Australia as a part of the British Empire, and it is on that point that I differ from the honorable member. I know where the honorable member stood in the last war; to-night he has repeated utterances which he made in 1914, and, I suggest, he would repeat his actions of 1914 in the event of Australia becoming involved in another war.
– Has the honorable member learned nothing from the last war?
– I have learned quite a. lot. I have learned, for instance’, that there are several coldfooted members of this Parliament who would not defend Australia if the necessity to do so arose.
The defence of the Empire, and of Australia, lies primarily on the water and in the air. I agree with the policy enunciated by the Labour party that we should build more aeroplanes and strengthen our defences at sea. In building up our navy we should be prepared to provide more than one battleship. It is within the bounds of possibility that we could raise as much as £100,000,000 for the purpose of constructing and manning ten pocket battleships, providing for the amortization of that debt at a cost of about £6,000,000 annually.
– In addition to the cost we are now contemplating?
– I suggest that we could possibly provide £6,000,000 annually in order to build up our navy. Such an undertaking would be fully justified considering that we have a coastline of 12,000 miles and several vital sea routes to defend. Honorable members opposite declare that they would not go outside Australia to defend any of our trade routes. But they are the arteries upon which the life of this nation depends and, therefore, we need to guard them as effectively as possible. As individuals we pay insurance against fire, burglary and accident, and as a nation we provide for the welfare and security of our people by social legislation, such as the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act, which will cost more than £20,000,000 annually. Over the years our workers have won, very tardily I admit, standards of living and working conditions far superior to those operating in any other country. Returning to Australia from overseas one cannot but feel that this is the finest country in the world. I am aware that we still have some people unemployed; nevertheless, our people enjoy the best living and “working conditions of any country. We can only retain those conditions if we are prepared to defend them. We cannot defend them through industrial boards or arbitration courts, or by merely speaking from a soap-box. We can- do so only by building up our defences to such a degree of efficiency that no enemy will dare attack us. No honorable member of this Parliament desires to see war break out, but we should merely be inviting attack if we did not attend to our defences. The Munich Pact has not put a stop to re-armament. What has happened since that pact was signed by Britain, Franco, Germany and Italy? The mad armaments race has still gone on. I agree with honorable members opposite that the manufacture of armaments by private enterprise has, in the past, been largely responsible for war. I would go further. I would not allow any firm to build armaments for profit. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) objected to the placing of trial orders for munitions with private firms. My information is that the orders were given only to test the ability of the firms to produce munitions in time of war. If war should break out, the Commonwealth would probably take over those firms and manufacture munitions for itself.
I commend the Government upon having inaugurated this intensive defence policy. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has only recently taken over the job, but his experience in the last war, and his association with defence units since then, should be of great value to him. No one wants to spend more money on defence than is necessary, but if we are to preserve our. hard-won liberty, we must be prepared to defend it.
Reference has been made to the subject of compulsory training. I would go further than introduce compulsory training; I would introduce universal training. In time of war I would not hesitate to conscript the wealth of the country. If we would conscript a man’s dearest possession, his life, we should also be prepared to conscript wealth in the interests of the country. Defence considerations are paramount; everything must give way before them.
Frequent reference has been made to the need for the physical training of our population. I believe that all our boys and girls should be given physical training. Honorable members opposite claim to represent the workers, but the party of which I am a member would not be in power to-day were it not for the support of a great many of the workers. They recognize that we must make the defences of this country so strong as to discourage aggression. Recently, we were addressed by a member of the House of Commons, who was visiting Australia. He said that he was a member of the right-wing group of the Conservative party, while the Government of Czechoslovakia represented the opposite school of political thought. Yet he found himself in sympathy with Czechoslovakia, and I think that the sympathy of every honorable member of this House went out to that nation during its time of trial. The population of Czechoslovakia is more than twice that of Australia and, according to this speaker, Czechoslovakia has the best soldiers in Europe. They are well trained and well equipped, and Czechoslovakia at that time held the mountain ranges of which Napoleon said that the country that held those mountains held Europe. Al] this, however, was not sufficient to preserve the integrity of Czechoslovakia. I could never see that Czechoslovakia had done anything to antagonize the Germans, or any other country; yet, as a nation,. it has been practically wiped out of existence. The same thing could happen to us in Australia hut for our association with the British Empire. What could New Zealand do to defend itself with a population only equal to that of Sydney? Do honorable members suggest that we in Australia should stand by if New Zealand were attacked? If we did, we should not be worthy of the name of Australians, or of our place as members of the British Empire.
In the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Australia was given a mandate to govern the former German territory in New Guinea. I agree that the Treaty of Versailles has brought a great deal of trouble to the world. Many matters were included in the treaty which might well have been left out, and the treaty, instead of drawing countries closer together, has, in. many instances, merely aggravated international differences.
In the interests of the defence of the country and of the welfare of the population, we should embark upon a scheme of physical training for our boys and girls. All of them should be trained, as are the boys and girls who belong to the surf clubs up and down our coasts. I have never seen better physical specimens in any part of the world than the young men and women who take part in the beach carnivals from time to time.
– Show them how to use the bayonet!
– I would do as Hitler does. I would give them a broom-handle, and let them practise with that. Some time ago, I attended a jamboree of boy scouts at Birkenhead, in England, when scouts from 54 countries were represented, from the blackest negroes of Africa to the fairest lads from central Europe. All of them had one common ideal - they stood for the promotion of what was best in life. We should endeavour to instil the same ideals into our boys and girls. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is an idealist, and I can go a long way with him in what he advocates. I know that he desires to abolish war. He said, “Let us show an example to the world.” I remind him, however, that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Arthur Henderson set out to show an example to the world by disarming Great Britain, and most of the international troubles from which the world suffers to-day are due to that policy of disarmament and peace at. any price inaugurated by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. Do honorable members think that the Germans would have given us the box on the ears that we recently received if we had been in a position to stand up and defend ourselves?
– Have we been attacked?
– We have received several knocks from the Germans and the Italians. If the policy of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) were adopted, we should close up the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow and the munitions works at Maribyrnong.
I wonder what the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) would have to say to that. It would be an education to honorable members to inspect those factories, and the T.N.T. factory, which is capable of producing more explosive of this type than any other factory in the Empire. Our munition factories are also turning out guns and gun carriages. Our defence policy is being directed along proper lines. It has been said that we should enlist the aid of engineers for our defences. I would not take an engineer from the railways and put him into the army because, in time of war, he would be much more useful doing his job in the railways, but I would form special corps in Holdens’ body-building works, and in similar factories, for the repair of wagons and trucks for defence purposes. I would also create technical units in Newcastle and other manufacturing centres. The men associated with various trades should be placed in special units, where their skill would be of value in an emergency.
– Would the honorable member give the unemployed a job?
– I would start with them.
– Well, the honorable member can start with 1,000 of them in Bankstown to-day.
– I would put them into camp, and give them broomhandles to train with.
– Will the honorable member say how the defences of the country can be made secure in the absence of standardization of railway gauges?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for the interjection. He and other honorable members have consistently advocated the standardization of railway gauges. I commend them for their efforts, and I am prepared to support them. The Government would be well advised to give serious consideration to the matter. Railway gauges should be standardized, so that rolling-stock could pass without delay from one end of the continent to the other. Roads should be improved. I agree that much has been clone in this direction through the Federal Aid Roads Agreement, but there is more to be done. During the last war buses and lorries were found to be almost as useful for the transportation of troops as were the railways. The moving of a division of 20,000 men with their equipment is a big task, and we should co-opt all forms of transportation, both road and rail, to ensure that it can be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
– Does the honorable member think that the north-south railway line is necessary?
– No; I do not think that it is necessary - for the time being, at any rate. It would be better to construct a line from Bourke across to central Australia, and then up to Darwin.
It is important that we should embark upon the training of technicians for our defence forces. Years ago, this matter was gone into very thoroughly in England, particularly with regard to the training of signallers. Members of the Royal Engineers were employed throughout most of the year in avocations which kept them in training, many of them as telegraphists in the British Post Office. Radio is destined to play an important part in all our future activities, both civil and military. In my opinion, it would be wise to seek the co-operation of the wireless manufacturing companies which are training operators and mechanics so that we could have available men who could be used to advantage if trouble came. Only yesterday, when in Sydney, I rang up the officer in charge of a technical unit and asked him whether he had any vacancies for men. He replied that the unit was only at about half strength. He explained that the establishment had been increased recently.
– It has been doubled.
– He requested me to send along any men whom I could persuade to join the unit. Our system should be so universal that no eligible man, and very few women, would not be organized to do some kind of work. In the last war I saw men without legs performing useful work in a clerical capacity. That could be done again. Why should they not do such work, and relieve able-bodied men to do the fighting? In those days girls and women performed many jobs which previously were carried out by men. To the credit of the women, it should be remembered that many thousands of them donned dungarees and served in various capacities. They did as much to win that war - if we did win it - as any one else did. Although this bill has been introduced during the dying hours of the session, it deals with issues of such paramount importance as to justify a full discussion, even though the time occupied be many hours. I commend the Minister for Defence on the programme that he has submitted to us, and I hope that in the near future the Government will seriously consider adopting universal training, so that every male in the community can be set to work at the job for which he is best fitted.
.- Before I speak to the Loan Bill I desire to say that the admirable speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) this afternoon was delivered with the definite authority of the Labour party. I support the honorable gentleman in his excellent presentation of the views of that party.
Dealing now with the bill, I must say that I heard with grave disquietude the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) that, in the circumstances now existing, the Government has in contemplation the raising of some portion of the £10,000,000 on the British market. I wish that the honorable gentleman had been frank, and had indicated what portion of the £10,000,000 is to be raised on the British market, I do notagree that any portion of it should be raised overseas. Various excuses for this action have been put forward. One of them is that certain equipment is to be purchased in Britain. That may be, butI point out that equipment can be purchased there without raising an overseas loan. That is not a sufficient reason for the proposal to raise portion of the loan on the British market. Another excuse is that if we were to raise in Australia all this money - and I admit that it is a colossal sum - we should deplete our resources. I heardthat statement repeated over and over again during the years from 1922 to 1929 - seven prosperous years, when Australia had abundant seasons and high prices. We were told by Sir Earle Page, the then Treasurer of the Commonwealth, that we had to borrow overseas because there was only sufficient money in Australia to provide for certain State works. During those seven years the overseas debt of Australia was increased by £53,000,000. In the same period Australia had an excess of imports over exports amounting to £70,000,000. Then we reached the depression years, when all that colossal and tragic burden was heaped upon the heads of the people of Australia. Another flimsy excuse which was put forward twelve months ago is being repeated today, namely, that if we purchase our equipment in England with English money, or sterling, we shall save exchange. On one occasion that argument was advanced by a prominent member of this chamber. If we buy in Great Britain equipment for £8,000,000 sterling valued in Australia at £10,000,000, we shall still owe £10,000,000 in Australian currency. Moreover, we shall have to pay interest and sinking fund, with exchange added. Obviously, we shall save nothing in that connexion. But by borrowing overseas, we shall have started again the old policy which was so ruinous to Australia in the past. I suspect that the reason for this proposal to borrow money overseas is that it is desired to take advantage of tho defence position to borrow money overseas in order to strengthen London funds which the policy of the Government has allowed to get weak.
– How would the right honorable gentleman strengthen London funds ?
– I should strengthen London funds, not by borrowing money overseas, but by adjusting imports to exports, and allowing for an excess of exports to meet our obligations overseas. I have not forgotten the dark years of 1929, 1930 “and 1931. I reminded the Treasurer of them in December last year, when the Government proposed to take the first step towards borrowing overseas that had been taken since 1929. Early in that year two attempts to float loans on the London market failed. More than a broad hint was given that Australia’s credit had been stopped because of excessive borrowing in times of prosperity. When the crisis came upon us wo ‘ were without funds in London because of previous borrowings and the fall of prices of export commodities. A year ago, almost to the very day, a start was made with an overseas borrowing policy. It is true that the loan then floated was only £2,000,000. The Treasurer sought to excuse the action of the Government by saying that it was only a small sum. I reminded him then that the small trickle may become a rushing mighty torrent, but the Treasurer assured us that last year was an extraordinary year, that special circumstances existed, that Australia had heavy non-recurring expenditure that year and a big conversion loan to meet. I asked him whether it was not a fact that Australia would have to face similar circumstances in the following year, and the year after that, and, indeed, in practically every year for the next 25 years. I argued then, as did my Leader, that there was nothing extraordinary about last year’s finances. Nevertheless, the policy of the Treasurer prevailed with honorable members. I cannot allow these things to pass without at least striking a warning note. I handled the position in these days, from 1929 to 1931, as Prime Minister, and for part of the time as Treasurer, and I know what happened. To-day we have talked patriotically about defending our country and its people. I suggest that we should be sufficiently patriotic not to pawn our country and bring it again to the verge of default, as was done when for seven years both Commonwealth and State governments pursued a policy of borrowing money overseas. As a private member in what, I believe, was his first speech in this House, the present Treasurer referred to the period of the depression, and to the action taken by my Government to save Australia from bankruptcy and default. The honorable gentleman then said that those drastic measures were not necessary because, with the cessation of borrowing overseas, the lack of funds in London would have automatically adjusted the excess of imports. But he did admit that it would not have been adjusted so quickly as it was adjusted by the drastic measures that my Government employed. Those drastic measures would never have been necessary had a little caution been exercised, during previous years. I admit that the measures then taken were drastic, and upset trade and industry considerably, but they were the only measures left to us to correct the position in time to save default. I come now to the Treasurer’s own argument that a cessation of borrowing overseas would have allowed the balance of trade automatically to adjust itself. Then why interfere with that method of adjustment by borrowing abroad? The proposal of the Government means that Australia is taking another step down that slope that on a previous occasion led us to the verge oi bankruptcy. I urge the Government not to take it. A year ago, when the Opposition urged the Government not to borrow money overseas, the Treasurer met our pleading with the argument that a peculiar set of circumstances existed at the time. That was in 1937. The Treasurer then said, “ The Government does not propose to make borrowing overseas a permanent part of its policy. This is a special operation.” The Treasurer cannot make the policy much more permanent than by repeating the dose every twelve months. He started in 1937 by borrowing £2,000,000 overseas. Now, twelve months later, another loan is to be floated, some of it overseas; we do not know what proportion is to be raised outside Australia. What is .to prevent similar action from being taken next year, and in subsequent years? If that course be followed, it will not be long before Australia will again be in the position to which I have referred. Australia will experience a lean time this year; there is ahead of us a period of low prices, because export values are low. With export values falling, increasing obligations overseas, and no gold to export as there was on the last occasion, how are. we going to meet our commitments? I warn the Government to take a lesson from the past. I do not think that there are many members of the present Ministry who really faced that situation in this Parliament. The Prime Minister was the only one who was in the Ministry at the time when it had to be faced. I should have thought that he would have learned a lesson from what we had to face; that he would have seen the difficulties which met us in our Cabinet meetings and in this Parliament when we tried to preserve the fair name of Australia by saving it from default. If we again reach a crisis and have the same difficulties of low prices and bad seasons, special adjustments can be made to meet the financial obligations which the country has to meet in this country just the same as we can meet a run on a bank by Special action. But none of those methods can be employed to meet the obligations overseas. The meeting of £10,000,000 worth of treasury-bills on three months’ terms in London, an overdraft from the Bank of Westminster, a short-term debt - fancy borrowing on short term in London without having knowledge of how we were to meet it - were nightmares to us in 1930-31. They will be nightmares to future governments if the policy of borrowing overseas is again allowed to be applied in Australia. I warn the . Government that it is now taking the second step down the slippery slope.
.- In considering a programme such as ths Government now proposes, which involves the expenditure in a three-year period of about £63,000,000, it is necessary for the Labour party to ask how far down the road will it go. It has been stated by members of the Government, and repeated by members of the Opposition, that we are compelled to see to the adequate defence of this country, but we must ask ourselves just what constitutes adequate defence. We must ask ourselves whether we are justified in blindly supporting every proposal for expenditure just because the Government says that it is necessary in the interests of defence.
Up until to-day, no honorable gentleman opposite has been prepared to mention the name of the potential enemy against which we are asked to prepare to defend ourselves. To-day, however, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn), who claims close contact with military experts and appears to be in possession of special information, made no secret of the fact that the power which it was anticipated by the Government would attack Australia was none other than Japan. Yet when the waterside workers, evidently imbued with a desire to defend this country as far as they are able against the potential aggressor nation, refuse to load certain materials, which could and probably would be used in the manufacture of war equipment by that nation, this Government is so unduly influenced by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a company that will rake many millions of pounds out of the expenditure of this money on what is called defence equipment, that instead of saying, as one would expect it to say, if it has in its possession information which points to Japan as the aggressor nation, that the men are to be commended for their action, it condemns them, and prepares to take drastic action against them. Because the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited wants profits from the sale of pig iron to Japan, this Government, believing in the perpetuation of the system of profits, is prepared to use its instrumentalities to compel the waterside workers to do something against the dictates of their consciences.
– Tha t matter does not appear to have any relation to either the bill or the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) announced that £1 0,000,000 of loan moneys would be raised as part of the £63,000,000 defence programme. Despite the protestations of the Minister a considerable part of that money will go to the private manufacturers of armaments in this country in the form of profits. If I can show that the Government is not sincere in its declarations that it will protect the public against exploitation, I think that I am justified in stating why members of this Parliament should not blindly vote for the expenditure of moneys simply on the say of the Government that it is necessary in the interests of defence.
The Prime Minister and the then Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) said on a previous occasion that the Government was evolving a plan for the limitation of profits to those companies which would be required to supply war equipment.
Where is the plan? We have not seen it. All that we have had in this respect are the speeches of honorable gentlemen opposite, and we know that they are not worth anything, because, whereas many honorable members have frequently spoken in condemnation of government policy, they have always voted for it. The position that Labour must face is that it will be the poorer sections of the community who will be called upon to bear the cost of this enormous war expenditure. I call it “ war expenditure “ justifiably. There must be some point at which a halt must be called. The same thing applies to Great Britain and to all nations that prepare for war. When nations have reached the point at which they are in a position to wage war, do they allow their war material to go to waste - it deteriorates very quickly - or do they say, “ We shall now make war against our enemies”? No honorable gentleman could claim that the sparse population that we have in this country could continue to maintain the war machine which it is proposed to create. A natural corollary of the policy of the Government must be a recurrence of what happened in the past when we were in financial difficulties. Honorable gentlemen opposite then talked about equality of sacrifice, but it was only talk; because we had Arbitration Court judges who, although they compelled the workers to make sacrifices, refused to do so themselves. When this country reaches the position when the bill for this huge defence programme has to be met, the Government will bring down another plan for economies. [Quorum formed.] It will ask, not the profiteers or those who are fortunately situated in the community, but the poorer classes, to bear the burden of sacrifice. As evidence of that we have the bread tax. When some people engaged in the wheat industry had to be granted assistance because they were in difficulties, the Government, because the Treasury was depleted of revenues as the result of the huge outlay on war equipment, imposed a tax on the people’s bread.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that the matter to which he refers has been agreed to by this Parliament and has no relation to the matter now before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to point out that this Government brought clown legislation for a bread tax because the Treasury had been depleted of revenue.
– The honorable gentleman is not entitled to criticize a decision by Parliament.
– I am talking about the effects of what Parliament did.
– The honorable gentleman may not do so.
– That is new.
– It is not new. It has always been the rule of debate in this House.
– The action the Government took in respect of the wheat industry is an indication of what it will expect from the workers when the bill for all of this defence preparation ls presented. All of the talk by Government supporters, that they are seeking the co-operation and goodwill of the workers, goes for nothing. The Prime Minister spoke of the living conditions in this country as being something of which we should be proud. That depends on the grade of society in which one lives. In many centres there are thousands of people who could not be said to be proud of the conditions of life that they have to endure. This Government has clone nothing to assist them. On every occasion on which proposals have been made that something be- done for the benefit of the unemployed’ workers, honorable members opposite have expressed their sympathy, but said that there were no funds procurable to carry out the necessary works that would provide them with employment. Nevertheless, when those interests which exploit the workers for profit say that the country needs defending, unlimited money is immediately forthcoming to buy defence equipment.
The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) some time ago said that money had been made available and would be made available in the future in any quantity required for defence purposes. This being so, the Labour party would like to know what has become of all the arguments advanced by Government supporters against Labour’s demand for the provision of money to raise living standards in this country. Evidently there will’ be no difficulty in raising money for defence, but strong objection to providing it for the improvement of living conditions of the people. If the Government expects to have the co-operation of the Labour party in its present defence programme, it should tell us what we are to say to unemployed members of the community, and also to the large number of unfortunate disabled returned soldiers who have been left without pensions or other provision whatever in return for their services to this country in the Great War. The people of Australia should demand that certain things must be done before the Labour party can be expected to even consider co-operating with the Government in its defence scheme.
Although Government supporters claim that militarism in Australia is different from militarism in Germany or Japan, we know, from bitter experience, to what uses the military forces can be put. Not always are they employed in the defence of a country against invasion by a hostile force. In Great Britain, some years ago, when the workers were fighting for better living conditions, a special act of Parliament was passed to authorize the employment of the military forces to perform the services which had previously been carried out by the striking workers. In other parts of the world also, where militarism has grown in strength, the liberties of the people have practically disappeared. And what is the position in this country? There has been much talk of the wonderful conditions and the high living standards of Australian workers. The truth is that many of those who took part in the last war are actually forced to secure a licence in order to have the right to work and earn a livelihood for themselves and those dependent upon them. There is upon our statute-book legislation which provides long terms of imprisonment and other severe penalties for men who, having the courage of their convictions, are prepared to criticize those in authority in this country.
In my opinion, this Government has a long-range plan, only part of which has been announced to Parliament. Many of its most important features, have been kept secret. I believe that the Government is preparing against all sorts of eventualities. In furtherance of its plan it “will demand greater sacrifices from the people of this country in the near future, and if the workers, in desperation, are driven to revolt and if bread riots occur, the military forces, which in this measure we are asked to strengthen, will be used against the Australian people, and not against aggressors from overseas.
Apparently the Government fears that if our military forces were controlled by Australian officers they might not be willing to do what the Government would expect of them in certain circumstances. Therefore it is placing the armed forces of this country under Imperial officers. The Australian army is to-day under the control of an ex-Imperial officer who, as Director-General, is in receipt of a salary twice that paid to the Australian officer whom he succeeded. There is afoot a movement to place the Royal Australian Air Force under the command of an Imperial officer. For many years the Royal Australian Navy has been under the control of a Navy Board which is completely influenced or dominated by Imperial - naval officers who have no sympathy with the ideals of the Australian people. These men have their own ideas with regard to the use to which the defence forces of this country may be put - ideas that are totally at variance from those held by the Australian officers whom they have displaced.
If this Government is sincerely anxious to build up Australia’s defence forces, it should make it possible for Australian recruits to rise to the highest positions in all arms of the services. But the Government does not propose to do that. It knows, probably, that it could not trust Australian officers to assist in any measures which it might be proposed to take against the Australian people in the near future.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) let the cat out of the bag when he said that the Government had to ask itself whether Australia could carry out this enlarged defence programme and, at the same time, continue the present social services. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the national insurance scheme which was passed by this Parliament recently will cost the Commonwealth £20,000,000, and he asked if the nation could afford it. Because of recent developments in connexion with defence expenditure the honorable member argued that the Government should not proceed with its insurance legislation. If the Government continues to expand its defence programme, and if it is found that the nation cannot afford the expenditure for national insurance, Government supporters will no doubt also ask whether we can afford to pay old-age, invalid and war pensions. That is the position which, I believe, will have to be faced.
In order to enlist the support of the Labour party for its defence plan, the Government has claimed that it will provide employment. I point out, however, that I have just received a communication from postal workers’ organizations stating that, after advancing the plea that all available finance is required for defence purposes, the Government has advised the postal authorities that certain works which were contemplated during the present financial .year cannot now be undertaken. This will mean the dismissal of a considerable number of employees from the postal services of this country. I should like to know what the Government t proposes to do and what additional sacrifices will be asked of the people of Australia in order that this so-called defence programme may be proceeded with.
The Labour party has a policy for the adequate defence of this country. I am pleased to state that it is not identical with the policy announced by this Government. The two are as wide apart as the Poles. If Labour were in control of the treasury bench, it would provide for adequate defence and at the same time would protect the people against not only enemies who might come from overseas, but also enemies from within. The Labour party would demonstrate not only that it was capable of providing for the adequate defence of Australia, but also that it was able to make the working and living conditions of the people worth defending. That is an important consideration in any defence scheme. This Government has not the confidence, and, therefore, it lacks the support, of the people in its present defence proposals. This is evidenced by the poor response to the Government’s appeal for recruits for the Militia Forces. The latest available figures show that only 3,000 men have responded to the Government’s appeal and that this number includes many aged returned soldiers who are seeking jobs as instructors. I ask Government members who are supporting the plan of the Government, many of whom have expressed themselves as being definitely against conscription or compulsory military training, what is to be their attitude if the present drive for recruits fails? The Minister for Defence (Mr: Street) has stated that 70,000 men are required to man the war equipment which will be provided by the defence programme. If the Government does not secure that number of militiamen, there will undoubtedly be a demand from supporters of the Government’s defence programme for the introduction of compulsory military training. That will be a logical sequel if the present appeal for enlistment fails, as I believe it will, because the people have no confidence in the Government and are not satisfied that it has done everything possible to improve standards of living and working conditions. I say to members of the Labour party, and of the party supporting the Government-
– They are not listening to the honorable member.
– If the members of this Government will not listen, the people outside will, and they are better able to appreciate what I am saying than the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane). Many members of the Government parties apparently believe themselves to be important personages; in the opinion of a great many people outside, they count for very little. The people outside know that the only party to which they can look for protection and assistance is the Australian Labour party.
We, on this side are anxious that the people should not be carried away by war hysteria, or by rumours that an enemy is awaiting an opportunity to strike. I remember some members of older generations telling of similar scares raised in past years. On one occasion a fort was hurriedly constructed in Sydney Harbour to resist invasion by Russia which was then the bogy of the British Empire.
If this Government wishes the people to believe in its present defence programme, and in the sincerity of speeches made by its supporters, it must translate words into actions. Unless the Government is prepared to do that, it cannot hope to obtain the co-operation or support of the Labour party.
There is much talk at present of a” national physical fitness campaign, and of what the Government has done in this connexion, and proposes to do in future. Yet workers and their families are being evicted from their homes every day of the week. Wo protection is being given by the Government to these people. Organizations which care for unfortunate children are appealing to the Government for finance in order that they might provide an issue of milk to improve their health; but no assistance has been forthcoming. The Government also turned down an appeal by an organization in Melbourne for a grant of a few thousand pounds to enable it to continue charitable work of a similar character. The answer given by the Government was that no fund was available from which the necessary assistance could be provided. But money can be provided for other purposes. The people want something more than sympathetic speeches from the Government. They want action. This country needs more schools and hospitals, and improved roads, but national works of a reproductive character have been passed over, in favour of defence works. The Government cannot hope to get the co-operation of the people in its defence proposals, because the people have no confidence in it. The only party capable of carrying out an adequate defence programme, is the present Opposition. The best thing that the Government can do is to resign and make way for a party which is prepared to do the job properly and defend Australia, not in the interests of the exploiters of the workers, but in the interests of the nation. A Labour government would build up our standards of living to a level of which we could be proud; they would then be worth defending.
I assure honorable members opposite that, despite the outside influences which are urging them to embark upon this extravagant defence expenditure, the Labour party knows what it will entail for the workers. Despite legislation imposing heavy penalties on those who may criticize the Government, some members of the Labour party will be prepared to take that risk. No doubt the Government forces realize the necessity for preventing adequate public discussion of the defence proposals. I ask the Government to explain why it is now contemplating the introduction of legislation to prevent newspapers from criticizing its defence programme. “Why is it using its influence to have certain newscommentators removed from the broadcasting stations? If the Government has nothing to hide, why should it desire to prevent adequate discussion of its proposals? I hope that the Opposition will not blindly follow this Government along the track that it has marked out for itself,’ but that it will make certain demands upon the Government. First, the Government should keep this Parliament in session until it has expunged all anti-Labour legislation from the statutebook. It should also take immediate steps to see that every able-bodied man who needs work is provided with it, and that those unable to work are supplied with sufficient income to permit of their living in decent conditions. Then the Opposition might consider that there was some sign of sincerity on the part of the Government. [Quorum formed.]
. -The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has enunciated most emphatically the Opposition’s attitude to the defence proposals. Its policy has the approval of not only the entire Opposition in this House and the solid Labour vote outside, but also, I believe, the great mass of the people - in fact, almost the whole of the population. Therefore, it is a matter for congratulation that the Leader of the Opposition has made the position of the Australian Labour party clear. The bill brought forward by the Government last evening to provide for a loan for defence purposes furnishes further proof, if it were needed, that all the criticism offered by the Labour party regarding the Government’s defence programme is justified, and that the policy enunciated by that party at the last elections is the most suitable for Australia, because the nearer the Government approaches to a satisfactory defence policy the closer it comes to that advocated by the Labour party.
– We are not prepared to accept that assertion.
– The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) has certainly submitted a better scheme than that propounded by the ex-Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby). At the last elections the Government party was returned to power as the result of a perversion and distortion of the facts of the situation.
– The honorable member is not in order in making that remark.
– The Labour party pointed out that Australia must depend upon itself for defence, and could not expect Great Britain to give it a substantial measure of assistance in a time of national emergency. Because the Labour party pointed out that fact, it was accused of advocating a policy of isolation. Yet Senator Brand, one of the leading military experts of Australia, expressed practically the same view in the Senate - that this country would have to depend on itself in the event of war.
This Government has been indicted at thebar of public opinion for the manner in which it has attempted to solve the defence problem of Australia. Week after week, proposals have been presented for increased expenditure on defence, and every new proposal has indicated that the former plans were inadequate. During the seven years in which this Government has been in power, its work has been characterized by almost inconceivable incompetence, and, although the Government has outdone all others in its neglect of the welfare of the nation, in regard to defence matters, it boasts at all times of having a monopoly of knowledge on this subject. At elections, our opponents will have the people imagine that the
Government party alone could be trusted with the task of safeguarding the interests of Australia from the point of view of defence. Yet we find that the force available for local defence consists of a navy so small that it has not the numerical strength of the navy of a second-rate South American State. It would be of use only in conjunction with the British navy or the navy of some other country in the Pacific. Our army could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be regarded as an effective force, because it consists of fewer than 10,000 efficient men distributed among the various arms, which are spread over Australia from Cairns to Perth. The essential equipment available would barely meet the needs of one-tenth of that number.
– That is a most unwarranted slur on a very fine section of the community.
– The slur is not on the Army itself, but on the method of training adopted.
– The method of training is determined by the Army authorities.
– But this Government and the Minister himself must take the blame.
– I dispute that statement,
– In making it, I am supported by a prominent military expert. Our Air Force is furnished with obsolete machines.
– I deny that most emphatically.
– How often do our military planes go into the air without having to make an involuntary descent?
– That also is a serious slur on the Air Force.
– No; it is a slur on the Government. The force is provided with machines of less power than those of countries such as Portugal. We are entitled to accuse the Government of having neglected the Air Force, because, although it has been in office for seven years, only during the last few months has it submitted proposals for strengthening the defence forces of Australia. It is impossible for me to say whether the expenditure now to be incurred is adequate or extravagant, but I realize the seriousness of the world position.
I do not think that we have much to boast about in connexion with what happened in the international sphere last September. I do not intend to criticize the Prime Minister of Great Britain for the action which he took on that occasion. Fortunately, he succeeded in maintaining peace, but it is generally realized that Great Britain, either with or without its allies, was not in a position to face any powerful military nation. Only a couple of years ago, when a crisis occurred in the Mediterranean, Australia’s own two small cruisers were sent there to stand by, although the dispute was with only a second-rate naval power.I did not approve of that action, because, according to the policy of the Australian Labour party, they should not have been despatched overseas. I am not pleased about the present position of Great. Britain, but we must face up to the facts. Last September, the French general staff was greatly dismayed when it was informed that all the help that Britain could give on land, in the event of a European war, would be an expeditionary force of less than one-third of the number of men it made available in August, 1914. We know that the Royal Air Force is in a deplorable condition. Russia has, on paper, one of the greatest fighting machines on earth, but, even if Russia were an ally of Britain, the question has arisen as to whether the Russians would march for or against us. We have to ask what assistance Britain could have hoped for from its allies. No doubt, Britain was, in reality, hoping for assistance from the United States of America, after that country had spent a few weeks in dealing with the Fascists within its own borders. Then, if the best happened, Britain might have received assistance from that quarter; but it could not have depended upon America to any great degree. We have to face the fact that practically all of the regular forces of Great Gritain are required for service in Asia Minor, North-East Africa, and certain other centres, and none are available for service in the self-governing dominions. This, unfortunately, isthe reply that must be made to the Minister’s suggestion that we may hope to obtain assistance from Great
Britain if war should occur. We may hope that the Minister is right, and that assistance will be forthcoming, but I believe that that is not likely. Of course, we shall not refuse any assistance that is offered to us.
The Government has no long-range programme in respect of defence. I shall mention a few matters in respect of which such a policy should be initiated. We should endeavour to standardize our railway gauges, but despite the fact that this work would occupy a long while, and that it would be of the highest value to the country in time of war, nothing has been done. No consistent effort has been made to discover oil supplies in Australia or Australian territories, despite the fact that oil is of vital consequence to mechanized military units. Not even the best machines in the world can be flown without petrol and oil. All that the Government is proposing, even at this late stage, is that our reserve supplies shall be increased. That policy is inadequate. No effort has been made to reform our monetary system, despite the fact that in times of crisis our prospects of success are dependent, in some degree at least, upon our monetary system. Mr. Hartley Withers, one of the great economists of our time, in his book, Wartime Financial Problems, pointed out that when the last war was imminent, rumours were current in the city to the effect that the Imperial War Committee had had to face an unprecedented task in obtaining war requirements. The situation was so serious that it was about to deal with fianancial methods when the war actually occurred. One of our basic problems to-day is finance. Yet this Government cannot make a single -constructive suggestion in respect of it. If war occurred we should find ourselves lacking financial resources.
Constitutional reform is also necessary if we are to deal effectively with defence matters. This subject has been discussed in this Parliament recently. The Government has assured us that something will be done, but apparently its policy is limited to the calling together of State Ministers for a. conference. It is appalling that the National Parliament of Australia should have to go on bended knees to petty State governments for permission to do certain things which obviously any national government should be able to do, at any rate, in time of emergency. The Government has been neglectful in respect to all of the matters to which I have referred. I had hoped that at least one useful outcome of the serious times through which we arc passing would be that the movement for urgent and far-reaching constitutional and monetary reforms would be accelerated. That would be something to be thankful for, but apparently the Government is content to jog along in the same old way and trust to luck that it will be able to muddle through. “Muddling through “ may serve for a time, but it cannot be regarded as a satisfactory permanent policy.
Recently 30 honorable members of this Parliament visited the munitions factory at Lithgow. I wish to direct attention to comments made by a weekly newspaper on that visit. .Information that I have received from other sources substantiates the comments made by this newspaper. Evidently the visit of the parliamentarians was expected at Lithgow and a demonstration was staged which can only be described as a farce. The serious thing is that farces of a similar nature have been staged on other occasions when parliamentarians have visited Lithgow. Such a farce was presented when the predecessor of Sir Archdale Parkhill was Minister for Defence. I direct attention to the following observations made by the newspaper to which I have referred : -
Thirty members of the Federal Parliament who visited Lithgow last week to gain a clearer insight into munitions manufacture were surprised at tho great activity and the magnitude of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory.
They did not realize until after the visit that a special show had been put on for their benefit, and that some of the machines which were busily engaged in maufacture, have not been in use for over eighteen years.
The skeleton staff of 350 employees had been busily occupied for a week prior to the visit in renovating disused machinery for the show - but even then sonic of the machines still remained idle.
The Lithgow people are annoyed that the department should go to such a great deal of trouble to mislead the visitors, who are in the position to keep the wheels moving every day of the year.
Apparently iu the know that a great show was being put on, a dally newspaper stated after the visit: “Members saw for the first lime how Australia is going about building up its armaments resources. Large factories are working almost at full pressure in every department. Military rifles, machine guns, and anti-aircraft gnus are being turned out in a constant stream.”
There was never a statement so ridiculous. When the factory worked at full pressure 1,700 men were employed, hut now there are only 350 men engaged. Those men, too, are not engaged in turning out vast numbers of machine guns, but for the most part plough shares and other commercial products.
– I commented on those matters in my speech last night.
– Surely if the Minister for Defence is sincere in his desire to stimulate defence activities and increase our defence efficiency, he would have taken action to refute these statements immediately they were published?
– They were not brought under my notice.
– The Minister must have officers in his department whose duties include the checking-up of newspaper reports on defence matters
– If I were to attempt to deny every inaccurate statement published in -a newspaper in Australia, my time would be so fully occupied in the work that I should not be able to do anything else.
– Seeing that so much harm can he done by the publication of inaccurate reports regarding defence, I consider that the Minister should take every possible’ step to reply to all misleading statements on this subject. The report, to which I have already referred, also stated -
Australian soldiers would be more effectively armed with the old time club or “ nullanulla “ than with the guns that arn being manufactured at the present time. Not that the Lithgow Small Arms Factory could not manufacture all the arms required if given the. opportunity.
An additional £200,000 wing has been added to the factory to manufacture the “Bren” gun, but the manufacture will not commence until the end of 1930. just because some one had the brain-wave that the necessary tools should be made in England and forgot that the factory itself was competent to do the job.
No doubt, the members of Parliament who visited Lithgow enjoyed their excursion, but it is deplorable that such comments should have been published in regard to it and not refuted.
I wish now to refer again to the attitude of the Government in regard to the manufacture of aircraft in this country. “When the Labour party first suggested that this industry should be established in Australia, the Govern. ment discouraged the idea by every means in its power. “We were told that sufficient aircraft could be obtained from British capitalists. Our reply was that it would be disloyal in the highest degree to the British people for us to encourage the manufacturers of that country to sell their ‘products to Australia when they were so greatly needed in Britain. It has been frequently said that Britain needs all the aircraft that can be manufactured there. Ultimately, of course, it was realized that it was sound policy to establish aircraft manufacturing in Australia. We contend- that we were loyal to Great Britain in the best sense of the word, when we advocated the development of this industry in our own country. It is significant that the Government has now adopted the policy of the Labour party in this respect. Of course, Australia deserved what it got from Great Britain. Either our orders were not fulfilled, or we were supplied with machines for which Great Britain had no further use.
– Avro-Anson aeroplanes are still being manufactured in Groat Britain for the Royal Air Force - for the first line, too.
– The Labour party has advocated for a considerable time that as aircraft are so urgently needed in Australia, machines should be purchased from the United States of America, but the Government, saying that it would ne’er consent, consented. At last it accepted our advice and ordered 50 American machines. This is interesting, seeing that we were accused of being disloyal because we suggested that purchases should be made in the United States of America.
The Labour party also suggested that we should build our own ships at Cockatoo Island dockyard, but the Government would not hear of it. Now, because of the extreme urgency of the situation, it is being forced to adopt our policy. This is extraordinary, seeing that the Government opposed our views during the last general election campaign.
Although I do not agree with all that the Government is doing with regard to defence, I am glad that it is coming around, to an ever greater degree, to our way of thinking. In regard to battleships, for example, the Minister has told us that at no time has it been the intention of the Government to build or purchase a capital ship; yet one of the newspapers, which has always been regarded as a strong supporter of this Government, declared, in specific terms, that a battleship would be purchased from overseas.
– The press was wrong on that occasion.
– Then it was one of the few occasions on which the Government lias given false information to this particular journal. It will be dangerous for Ministers to give too much false information to the Melbourne Herald or the associated newspapers. Although I cannot conceive of these journals turning upon the Government, it is quite easy to believe that they may turn upon particular Ministers who would then find themselves thrown out of the Cabinet because of the comments made upon their administration by this particular section of the press. On the strength of the statement published by the Melbourne Herald, I am prepared to believe that the Government seriously considered purchasing a battleship from overseas. I am glad however, that here again the Government has seen fit to adopt the policy of the Labour party, and build motor torpedo boats, which, I believe, will give satisfactory service. Of course, Great Britain needs all the ships that it can produce.
I realize, with other honorable members of the House, that whilst the workers have very little to gain from imperialistic or capitalistic wars, it is nevertheless necessary that, in the event of an international conflagration occurring in which Australia is involved, we shall be in a position to defend ourselves and our country. Of the 70,000,000 white persons within the British Empire, 7,000.000 reside in Australia. It is only reasonable to assume that our people, presenting one-.tenth of the white population of the Empire, will play their part in protecting this country, and should they do so they will have done sufficient. Some years ago, Great Britain led the way in the. disarmament in which Australia, under the Scullin Government, participated. At that time, the Scullin Government was informed by experts that there was little probability of an oubreak of war within the next ten years, and as seven years has already elapsed, the information then given was fairly accurate. The Labour Government at that time, following the example of the British Government, disarmed to a degree, but, unfortunately, other nations did not follow the lead then given and Australia, in common with other countries, has now to make some preparation for its defence. The Air Force and the Naval Force are practically dependent on permanent staffs, but the military arm consists of only about 2,500 permanent members. because the militia cannot be considered to any marked degree. In the event of Australia being attacked, the members of the permanent military force would have to play a very prominent part. “We are frequently informed that Australia is liable to attack, and during the last few months names of certain potential enemies have been bandied about and mentioned freely in the press. .1 direct the attention of honorable members to the following article written by Lieutenant-Commander Donald MacKenzie, an ex-officer of the Royal Australian Navy: -
It may come as a shock to many Australians to realize that we now possess a border problem. We are no longer isolated and protected by countless leagues of friendly ocean. The border-line between the Japanese Empire and Australia is the three-mile limit along our northern, north-eastern and north-western coasts.
The writer says that the border-line between the Japanese Empire and Australia is the three-mile limit, and that it would be our responsibility to prevent an enemy from approaching within that, limit. The article continues -
From Broome to Thursday Island and down the oast coast as far as Mackay, there is now a well-established Japanese fishing industry employing thousands of men - and it is there to stay.
In order to remedy its past neglect the Government proposes to increase the strength of the militia.
– This Government is responsible; it cannot say that the neglect is- due to the British Government or to any State government. Apparently the only member of this Parliament who appears to believe that there has been no neglect is the newly appointed Minister for Defence, lt. would be interesting to know the reason for the deposition of the previous Minister for Defence who, although the Government says that his status has not been reduced, has been placed in a minor post. I am not blaming the ex-Minister for Defence, because I think that he has had to suffer for the sins of the Government. It is now proposed to increase the strength of the militia from 35,000 to 70,000, but apparently the only method of strengthening our defence system which appeals to the Government is voluntary enlistment or compulsory enlistment.
– I have not heard anything about compulsory enlistment.
– It is common knowledge that certain Ministers favour the introduction of compulsory military training whilst others are opposed to that system. Some honorable members of the Government believe that there is less danger politically under the voluntary system than there is under the compulsory system. I trust that the militia system will be a success, and I give it my blessing, but I have not very much faith in it. My own experience was that the men receive worthwhile training only when they are in camp aim that at other times they can come and go as they please.
– That is not so.
Mir. BAKER. - My considered opinion is that neither the voluntary nor the compulsory system is likely to be successful. A third method is to provide a standing army which would be of value in defending this country.
– Of what size, that is the point ?
– At present we have 2,500 members of the permanent force, and I suggest that Australia should have a standing army of 20,000 men.
– Maintenance would cost about £300 a man a year, or £6,000,000 a year.
– I am glad that the Minister has given that estimate. Hia figures must be fairly accurate as they agree with mine. I estimate that if each man received £5 a week, a standing army of 20,000 men would cost £5,000,000 a year in wages.
– Without any overhead.
– Yes. The Minister has said that at an estimated cost of £300 a man, the annual cost would be £6,000,000.
– Surely £6,000,000 a year is not a very large sum to expend to maintain a standing army of 20,000 men.
– Would the honorable member have no militia at all ?
– I do not think it would matter very much whether the militia were retained or not, although I realize that a militia force would be needed eventually. Under this bill, the Government is proposing to increase its defence expenditure by £8,000,000, although the cost of a permanent standing army of 20,000 men would be only £6,000,000. A standing army of 30,000 would cost £9,000,000 and one of 50,000 would cost £15,000,000, which is less than the cost of a new battleship.
– The men must have equipment.
– Does not the amount mentioned by the Minister include equipment ?
– No. They would need uniforms, arms and munitions.
– I understood that the estimated cost of £300 a man included equipment.
– A battleship would have to be manned and there would be maintenance and running costs.
– Yes. If we ‘ had a permanent army, allowance would have to be made for the saving that would be effected if the militia were dispensed with. A standing army of 50,000 men, which would be of valuable assistance in protecting Australia, would cost less than a modern battleship; I do not believe that the troops at present in training could be called upon for immediate action should the occasion arise.
– They are only a nucleus.
– I suggest that the members of the Citizen Force are more or less gilded peacocks. They are encouraged to join the militia forces because the uniform is attractive. It would be suicidal to ask soldiers garbed in such multicoloured uniforms to face an enemy.
– It is an ordinary khaki uniform.
– I am referring to the highly-coloured uniforms to be seen in the streets of our capital cities.
– Khaki is the only field service uniform.
– Honorable members are frequently interviewed by persons who wish to join the Army, Navy or Air Force. According to a weekly newspaper, of . 1,000 men who applied for admission to the Air Force, only twelve were accepted. In Brisbane the other day - and this is only an example of what is happening in every capital city - when men were being examined, many more wanted to join the Air Force than could be accepted. I have had men come to me wanting to join the permanent forces. If they are sent to the leaders of the Army, they are kept waiting many weeks before they are employed, or else they are not employed at all. We have many fine types of men who want to devote their lives to this work, and to make a career of it. Instead of encouraging them, the Government is going on in the haphazard pot-luck manner which characterizes almost every one of its activities. As to the method of financing the defence programme, there is no reason why the money should not be raised by taxation. In the first place, if money is borrowed, it can be obtained only in two ways - either out of savings, or by increase of credit. Mr. Hartley Withers, a leading British economist, dealing with war-time financial problems, criticized the British Government for obtaining money required during the last war for some of its objects by means of borrowing instead of taxation.
Writing at the time of the war, Mr. Hartley Withers said -
In the meantime the Government falls hack on finding about80 per cent. of its requirements of the war on a system of borrowing. Insofar as the money subscribed to its loans is money that is being genuinely saved by investors, this process has exactly thesame effect as taxation, that is to say, somebody does withoutgoods and services and hands over his power to buy them to the State to he used for the war. Burrowing of this kind consequently does everything that is needed for the solution of the immediate war problem, and the only objection to it is that it leaves later on the difficulties involved by raising taxes when the war is over, and economic problems are much more complicated in times of peace than in war, for meeting the interest and redemption of debt. But, in fact, it is well known that by no means all that the Government has borrowed for war purposes has been provided in this way. Much of the money that the Government ban obtained fur war purposes, has been got not out of genuine savings of investors, but by arrangements of various kinds with Che banking machinery of the country or by the simple use of the printing press, with the result that the Government has provided itself with an enormous mass of new currency which has not been taken out of anybody else’s pocket,but has been manufactured by or for the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time. [Quorum formed.]
– It will be agreed by members of all parties that the statement made by the Minister for Defence. (Mr. Street.) last night was the most detailed one yetpresented to the House on the subject of defence. I do not think, however, that Parliament has been properly supplied by the Government with information as why this money is to be raised and I disagree with the proposals for financingthe scheme. Honorable members on this side have pointed out that no definite information has been given on which to base the enormous expenditure which the Government now asks Parliament to sanction, and I am one of those who subscribe to that view. I feel that members of Parliament, as representatives of the people, are entitled to more detailed and definite information than the Government has at any time attempted to give them inthis vital matter. Apparently one sideof the House is in possession of more information than is the other. That is entirely unfair. The Government apparently has been able to convince its supporters in the Country party and the United Australia party that it is essential to borrow the amount of money which Parliament is now asked to sanction, in order adequately to defend Australia, but we on this side have not been given any such information. One cannot wonder at the dissatisfaction expressed in regard to the need for raising all this money, and particularly the way in which the Government proposes to raise it. Although I am the representative of 63,000 people, I have not been given adequate information on which to base the spending of £63,000,000 within a period of three years. Many others on this side share my conviction in that regard. When doubts are thrown by members on the Government side upon the attitude of the Labour party towards defence, it becomes necessary to quote the policy laid down by the party at the last federal conference held in Adelaide two and a half years ago. The leader of my party has stated the position clearly from time to time, but I wish to put on record now what was decided at that conference. The first plank was “ adequate home defence against possible foreign aggression “. The programme also included the manufacture of munitions of war, complete control to be vested entirely in the Commonwealth Government. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) suggested that I would be concerned at the possibility of losing some of the people employed in the Maribyrnong electorate. More than 3,000 are engaged there in the manufacture of munitions and armaments, but the Scullin Government a few years ago did more than any other government, before or since, to put Australia in a position to obtain the necessary materials for making its own munitions and armaments if the occasion arose to use them. That policy is still believed in by the party to which I have the honour to belong, but it asserts that no profit should go to private firms. In furtherance of the attitude of the Labour party on this matter, it was decided at that conference to make the following declaration: -
The following is adopted as a declaration of policy and in amplification thereof: -
The AustralianLabour party expresses its greatest abhorrence to war and Fascism and urges that the Commonwealth Government should endeavour to establish and maintain friendly relations with other nations.
That the complete control of the production of munitions and war materials of all kinds, should be vested entirely in the Commonwealth Government.
The policy of the Government is vastly different. I regret that it is prepared to hand over that portion which will probably produce profits from the manufacture of munitions to its friends who come to its support at elections and other times. The declaration continues -
That preparation, to counter any possible foreign aggression, be made by the establishment of a defence scheme commensurate with Australia’s ability to maintain it and adequate for our needs, and that this lie done by concentration on the following essentials: -
Apparently the Government, if it has not adopted Labour’s defence policy as a whole, is carrying out the objects which two and a half years ago the party declared that it stood for. Many of the things which the Government has criticized the Labour party for putting forward, it is now adopting and placing in the forefront of its platform. The fact that the Leader of the Labour party has been able to state on behalf of the party to-day that he is willing to sanction the spending of this money proves that the Government is now in line with the policy we advocate. I am glad that sometimes the Opposition, which is fewer in numbers than the Government party, can convert Ministers to a common sense policy. There is no mention in the statement, made by the Minister for Defence of the provision of bomb and gas proof shelters and means of evacuating women and children from menaced areas, such as is contained in paragraph (v) of the Labour party’s declaration of two and a half years ago. Surely, if the Government contemplates the possibility of raids on Australia, it should have made some provision in that direction.
– I could not go into everything.
– The Minister could at least, when making so comprehensive a statement, have indicated what he was prepared to do to protect women and children if raids took place. I should have thought that some consideration would be given to that subject in the allotment of the £63,000,000. The financial proposals of the Labour party are indicated by the amendment which has been moved by my leader. Several honorable members on the other side have disclosed their belief that the Government’s policy is inadequate. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) definitely did so. He said that the Government might have gone further in its financial proposals, but he did not say that he was prepared to do what the leader of my party has suggested. Whilst generally approving of the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member was not ready to sanction the necessary extra taxation of the wealthy sections of the community. Seeing that they have the major portion of the wealth of Australia in their possession, they should be asked to finance this £10,200,000 loan. In view of the policy of our party, honorable members can readily understand why its lender has put forward this amendment. I believe that it is quite within Australia’s financial capacity to raise the loan in the way suggested. We should not go overseas to borrow, because that would be detrimental to the interests of Australia, although it is in accordance with the policy that has been pursued for a number of years by governments similar to the present one. I regret that, whilst the Government is learning a little from the Labo.ur party, it is not prepared to adopt our proposals in full. If we do become engaged in a war, I am sure the Govern ment will have to follow the policy adopted by a certain nation which has financed at least part of its war expenditure by a system of internal credit. It does not go to foreign countries to raise money, and I venture to say that we should not ask people overseas to lend us money for a scheme of this kind. I trust that even now the Government will be prepared to give some consideration to that matter. I should like to see .honorable members, like the honorable member for Flinders, (Mr. Fairbairn), who always makes reasoned statements in this House, realize that if Australia is called upon to incur this tremendous expenditure, the wealthy sections of the community should be compelled, in view of their greater stake in the country, to provide a great deal more in the future than they have in the ‘ past. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) said that he was recently in New Zealand and that he had to admire the spirit of the people there. I believe that if conditions in regard to employment and social services operated in Australia similar to those that operate in New Zealand to-day, there would be no difficulty whatsover in securing sufficient volunteers to complete, or even extend, the programme of the Government for the raising of the strength of the militia, because our men .would feel that they were citizens of a country worth fighting for. Because of the failure of this Government to take any steps to improve the social security of this country, Australia to-day . is lagging far behind New Zealand. In these circumstances, one cannot expect to see the -workers springing with any great enthusiasm to assist the Government in its campaign for the enrolment of volunteers for the militia. I believe that the Government is creating in the minds of the people a. psychology of fear. We have been given no information that would lead us to believe that this country is in danger of attack within the next two or three years. Although we are to embark upon the expenditure of a very large amount of money to meet an emergency, until the Minister has told us how, when the 70,000 recruits are raised they can be transported to the point of attack, we shall not be satisfied. No attempt has been made to deal with the question of transport of troops; we are simply told that we have to raise 7O,0Q0 mcn and he ready to meet an aggressor who might effect a landing on Australian shores. As a matter of fact, I think the Minister made a definite reference in his statement to the necessity for having an army and an air force of sufficient strength to resist an aggressor who had secured a footing in this country. I cannot see how it would be possible to transport with sufficient rapidity an army of 70,000 men or any substantial number of them to the place where an aggressor might land. The Minister knows quite well that eminent military authorities have stated time and again that it is absolutely essential that more adequate transport facilities than exist at present should be made available for the rapid transport of troops in time of emergency. Under this programme, involving the expenditure of £63,000,000 in three years, however, no provision is made for improved facilities for the rapid movement of troops. In the last resort, it is on the transport of an adequate force and of their supplies by sea that the different parts of the Empire will have to rely to resist aggression. It is from the sea that Australia must look for danger; yet the transport facilities in this country are so inadequately capable of dealing with* the movement of troops that in the event of a landing being made on our shores it would be necessary to send troops by sea to repel that invasion, notwithstanding that the navy of the opposing forces had brought the invaders here by sea. I venture to suggest that the Minister has not been properly informed. I say that with the utmost respect, because I wish it to be understood that I do not believe he would give misleading information to the House, particularly in connexion with a matter of this kind. In order to satisfy myself that the Minister had stated that the last thing necessary for the defence of this country from a military standpoint was the standardization of railway gauges, I recently asked the following questions : -
The answers were as follows : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the proposed inquiry has not yet been made.
The Premiers Conference held in August, 1936, decided that a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Transport should be held for the purpose of considering railway and transport matters generally.
It was decided, shortly after the holding of the Premiers Conference, to refer to the Conference of Ministers for Transport the question of the personnel of the body to conduct the proposed inquiry.
It has not yet been found practicable to hold the Conference of Ministers for Transport, but it is now expected that this will be held early next year.
The unification of railway gauges is listed on the agenda for this conferen’ce.
A similar reply has been furnished to nearly every question on that subject asked by me or by other honorable members. The reply entirely ignores that portion of my question which asks if a departmental investigation had been made since 1936. I am satisfied that an investigation has been made, and I believe that the statement made by the Minister in this House, when the standardization of railway gauges was under discussion, that that work was the last thing considered necessary as a defence measure, was based on reports made in 1934. I feel sure that another ‘ investigation has been made since that time which will be found to indicate that it is essential that the standardization of gauges should form an integral part of any effective defence scheme. I am sorry that such an evasive answer should have been supplied to questions asked by an honorable member in search of information, and I regret particularly that no answer was given .to the inquiry as to whether any recent departmental investigation in regard to this matter had been made. My rights as a member of this House should not be ignored in this way. Before leaving the question of transport, which is a vital matter when we are proposing to embark on the expenditure of large sums of money for defence, I should like to refer once again to the following statement by the Prime Minister which was published in the press on the 14th November last: -
Except for relatively short links for alternate routes transit facilities at junctions and other improvements, broadly speaking, conformed to military needs, and the railways were the principal means by which an army can be disposed strategically.
The military authorities did not consider the unification of gauges necessary for purely military purposes.
I could cite many authorities to disprove the essence of that statement, but I do not propose to do so; I content myself with saying that practically everybody who commented on it expressed doubt as to its correctness. Immediately prior to that statement being made, the Argus, in an article which I think correctly reflected public opinion with regard to the respective merits of road and railway transport, said : -
One outstanding problem that has not been faced - probably because it seems formidable - is the problem of transport. It must be faced.
That has not been faced yet.
Courageous men must be found to face it. And in view of the time the completion of the practical work will occupy it must be faced now.
And this is the important portion -
Our great highways are magnificent for the motorist; with caterpillar traction, necessary for tlie transport of heavy military material they would be crushed to pulp and powder within a few weeks. Only on steel rails laid upon substantial foundations could these great burdens be carried. The railways must bc used for that purpose. They cannot he used as they are to-day because many are single track for long distances.
I have no doubt that that statement was not merely an assertion of the opinion of the Argus but also was published on the advice of people of military experience. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) reached high rank in the last war, and I am sure that he spoke with a practical knowledge of the needs of the country in time ofemergency when he said on a number of occasions that it is absolutely essential that this problem be tackled. I wonder whether his voice has been heard at the party meetings. In view of that statement by the honorable member for Bendigo, and other authoritative opinions which have been expressed, how can the Minister still say that he is satisfied that the standardization of gauges is not an urgent necessity for defence purposes? Reference has also been made to this matter by the honorable member for Parkes, who regards the undertaking of this work as most essential. He also is a man of military experience. One section that has dominated the policy of the Government in this connexion is composed of the interests that stand behind the big shipping combines. I remind the Minister that Sir Ragnar Co] vin, the first naval member of the Naval Board, said recently that for every ton of produce carried by the railways, sixteen tons were carried by sea. I suggest that he would not make a statement of that kind without authority to back it up. It, therefore, appears that the shipping interests have been able to influence the Government against the carrying out of this work. If that is so I regret that the -influence of the shipping combine should be permitted to prevail against the real interests of Australia and thu wiser counsels of military experts. When such a statement is made by the first naval member, it is quite apparent that the shipping interests will be allowed to continue to exert their influence upon the Government, even at the risk of injuring Australia. It’ is difficult to understand the present apathy of the Government in regard to this proposal, particularly in view of the fact that General Sir Harry Chauvel, the Inspector-General of the Military Forces, in three successive statements in 1921, 3923 and 1925, made it quite definite and clear that it was essential to have the means to shift a division of troops from one area to another with rapidity. I venture to suggest that the Government is falling down on its job in not making some provision for the standardization of railway gauges as a part of a defence programme which envisages the expenditure of no less than £63,000,000 in three years. It is admitted that it would take seven years to complete the standardization of gauges, and if we do not tackle the problem for another three years almost a decade will elapse before this important project can be completed. Maybe the Government feels that, having neglected the problem for so long - in 1931, all parties declared themselves in favour of it - there is not time to tackle it now. Apparently, tho Government believes that it must obtain fast gunboats and torpedo boats capable of travelling at a speed of :’6-i) knots an hour and that the troops of this country should be moved as expeditiously as possible with existing facilities in time of emergency. I am amazed at the statement of the Minister that the standardization of railway gauges is the last thing necessary in our defence programme, because that is not the opinion of experts in the forces and of many qualified people outside of them. As I have said, that policy has been adopted as the result of reports made some time ago, and I think it will be found that it is based on reports and advice tendered to the Government in 1934. I believe that later information is available to the Minister, and I hope he will search for it. The Labour party accepts, as it always has done, the policy of adequate defence against a possible aggressor, and it is quite prepared to assist in providing the necessary money to prepare against imminent aggression. The point on which 1 am not satisfied is that the danger is imminent. However, since the Government accepts that view and appears to possess information on which’ it feels justified in asking Parliament also to accept that view, we must decide whether or not we can acquiesce in the expenditure of this money. My criticism is aimed, not at the amount, but at the manner in which it is proposed to be expended. I believe that we can raise all of the money we require without going overseas. We can utilize the credit of the nation, and in providing for our defence requirements, we can establish permanen t assets. I am afraid that the money will be so expended that within a decade w« shall not have one permanent asset to show for it, whereas one-third of the amount could be devoted to the standardization of our railway gauges. In that wa.y, we should acquire a permanent asset which will be of value, not only in time of war, but also in time of peace. If is no. wonder then that honorable members on this side are not convinced of the sincerity of the Government.
We should have been given a very much earlier opportunity to discuss, this measure. I do not blame the Minister in this respect, because I know that he has only recently assumed Iris present, very important post; but the Government could have presented a complete scheme to this House a month or more ago, and thus given us ample opportunity to consider these proposals, which are among the most important yet brought before this Parliament. However^ it has chosen to throw this measure before us during the last few days of the session. That is entirely unfair. We should have been informed very much earlier of the details of this programme in order that, having agreed to the principle of the adequate defence of Australia, we could have made suggestions as to ‘how best the money should be spent. In such circumstances, we might have been able to persuade the Government as to the desirability” of allocating some of this money to the standardization of railway gauges and to other purposes not included in its programme. The Government, however, has taken fine care not to give to honorable members such an opportunity. I again protest against its action in presenting, during the closing hours of this session, a measure which involves the expenditure of an unprecedented sum on defence. I believe that the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition will be approved throughout Australia. It shows that the Labour party is fully prepared to safeguard the interests of the people. I repeat that any doubt as to whether the workers of this country will respond wholeheartedly to the Government’s call for volunteers would bc dissipated if employment were found for the work ess, and the workers were given a. standard of living equal to that enjoyed by workers in New Zealand. We should immediately attend to the claims of the workers for better treatment in this respect, and I have no doubt that, if the Labour party were in power, no difficulty would be experienced in raising sufficient forces to defend this country adequately.
– in reply - As 1 do not desire to detain the House longer than is necessary, I propose to reply but briefly to the matters raised by various honorable members in this debate. I should like to express the pleasure with which I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) support the programme which 1 have had the honour to place before this House. The Government has, of course, a paramount responsibility to ensure that we shall not be lacking in any respect in the preparations we make for the defence of this country against an aggressor. I assure the Leader of the Opposition, that it takes full responsibility for the programme which has been placed before the House, and makes these proposals only after having given the fullest and most careful consideration to all of the information at its disposal. It realizes that the amount which it asks Parliament to appropriate under this bill is unprecedented, but it would not ask for such an amount unless it sincerely believed that the amount is necessary to meet the present situation. The honorable members for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and Batman (Mr. Brennan), I am sure, will agree that they and I cannot find common ground on which to debate the subject of defence. Therefore, I do not propose to say anything with regard to their contributions to this debate. Various honorable members on this side have advocated the adoption of universal military training, as opposed to voluntary training, but the policy of the Government is to persist with the voluntary system. I have had experience of both systems and I am satisfied that the voluntary system will succeed. Furthermore, I am convinced that the Government will get the number of men which it has set as its objective in this programme. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has inferred that it is useless to rely upon a system under which only 60 per cent, of recruits go into camp. At the time I challenged that figure, and from inquiries which I have made in the meantime, I find that 73 per cent, of recruits now go into camp, which is very different from the proportion stated by the honorable member. As I said by way of interjection when one honorable member was speaking, I regret very much that criticism of this kind should be directed against a body of men who are deserving of the highest praise for . the manner in which they are standing up to their obligations. I am afraid that we have had very good proof this evening of the lack of what I might call a joint-staff mind. We have had ex parte statements in support of one particular arm of the service as against another arm, and I suggest that the differences of opinion evidenced in that respect in this debate indicate the very real difficulty which confronts any government in establishing a properly-balanced programme in which each of the three arms of the service can play its proper part. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) took a very gloomy view of the international situation generally, and had something of interest to say about the composition of a standing army. In his enthusiasm, he even went so far as to suggest that it might be possible for Australia to finance a standing army of 50,000 men. I indicated, by interjection, that I might discuss the matter with the honorable gentleman later, because I am convinced that, when he realizes the implications of his suggestion, he will reconstruct his ideas on the matter. In dealing with the standardization of railway gauges, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) referred to a question to which I replied only the other day, namely, the order of priority in which the military authorities regard this problem. I point out that the information which I gave to the honorable member was supplied direct to me that very day by the Military Board. In its reply, the board stated that, from a purely military point of view, quite apart from any social or economic considerations, the first essential is the improvement of transfer facilities where a. break of gauge now exists; second in importance is the duplication of certain sections of line; thirdly, the ballasting of other sections of lines to carry heavy military traffic ; and, finally, complete standardization. I said then that this represented purely the military view.
– Provision for the standardization of railway gauges could be included in the scheme.
– As the honorable member knows, certain difficulties in regard to the States are involved in this problem. I shall not argue that complete standardization of railway gauges would not enable troops to be transported more rapidly; but as we envisage the possibilities at the moment,we shall not require to transfer very large bodies of troops from one position to another without adequate warning being given.However,Iamawarethat this is a problem in which the honorable member is particularly interested; as I have frequently said, I pay the greatest respect to his knowledge of the subject. I regret very much if I failed the other day to answer that part of his question as to whether any departmental inquiry had been held since the date towhich he referred; I shall see that a reply is given to the honorable member on that point. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who speaks all’ too infrequently in this House, again outlined the clangers which he considers to be inherent in any resumption of borrowing on the London market. He recalledwhat he said on this subject at this time last year, when he warned the Government against taking another step along what he described as the downward track. As the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) replied to the right honorable gentleman on that point last year, it is unnecessary for me to dealwith the matter on this occasion. Dealing specificallywith the amendment moved by the Leader of the . Opposition, I remind the honorable member that the Treasurer has emphasized on more than one occasion that it is not possible to forecast the budgetary position two years ahead, but that the policy of the Government will be to carry as much as possible of the total expenditure involved in its defence programme within the next two years on its revenue account. That, I feel, is a complete answer to the amendment, which the Government cannot accept.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he omitted (Mr.
Curtin’s amendment) stand part of the question.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.5 a.m. till 12.35 a.m..
Thursday, 8 December
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 11 -
Subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this act. the tax imposed by the Apple and Pear Tax Act1938 shall be levied and paid upon apples and pears grown in Australia and. on or afterthe first day of January, One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-nine, sold by or on behalf of the growers. senate’samendment -
Leave out the first day of January One thousand, nine hundred and thirty-nine,” insert “ the date fixed by proclamation under that act,”.
.- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that no tax shall be payable for any period prior to the proclamation of the act.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 14 - Senate’s consequential amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
Clause 4 -
A tax is imposed upon apples and pears grown in Australia and, on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, sold by or on behalf of the grower.
Senate’s request -
Leave out “the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine “, insert “ a date to be” fixed by proclamation “,
– I move -
That the requested amendment be made.
This amendment is in keeping with that made to the Apple and Pear Tax Assess ment Bill. The object is to alter the date from the 1st January, 1939, to a date to be fixed by proclamation, so that arrangements may be made for the appointment of a board after the 1st January.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Bill, amended accordingly, returned to the Senate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests -
Customs Tariff (No. 2) 1938.
Customs Tariff (No. 3) 1938.
Customs Tariff (No. 4) 1938.
Excise Tariff (No. 2) 1938.
Consideration resumed from the 6th December (vide page 277]),on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1938-39 for the services hereunder specified, viz.: -
– The additional Estimates of expenditure for the current year cover the expenditure of £1,320,000 in connexion with the Department of Defence. This expenditure is, I think, implicit in the expanded defence programme which the House considered earlier in this present sitting, and therefore, I do not feel disposed to do other than agree to the adoption of the resolution.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
Resolution ofWays and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Casey and Mr. Street do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to appropriate for Defence expenditure of a capital nature an amount of £3,494,733, which represents the excess receipts of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the last financial year. Honorable members may recollect that by the Defence Equipment Act of 1934, there was established a Defence Equipment Trust Account into which various amounts have since been paid, with the approval of Parliament, with the object of relieving the revenues of later years. The purposes for which amounts standing to the credit of this account may be used are : - (a)fornavalcontruction;
The balance in the Equipment Trust Account at the 30th J une last was approximately £1,000,000 which is fully committed in respect of orders placed in 1937-38. This is apart from the balance of £400,000 remaining in the Civil Aviation Account, which is also fully committed. Of the total amount included in this bill, the Government proposes that £2,494,733 be set aside to meet, expenditure for the current year, leaving a balance in the trust account of £1,000,000, which will he available towards expenditure in 1939-40. Honorable memberswill find the items of capital works on which the amount is proposed to be expended set out on page 299 of the Estimates. The policy of treating the excess receipts in this way has already been approved by Parliament in the past. I commend the measure to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Thompson) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the States Grants) (Fertilizer) Act 1937.
– It is fortunate that I refused to go on with this bill last night because it is conceivable that it could have gone from this chamber to the Senate without the Governor-General’s message having been before the committee. I do not think that that would have had a fatal effect on the bill because the appropriation message could have been considered here before the bill was finally passed. That may or may not have been in compliance with the Constitution, but it would have been a wrong practice. Appropriation messages should be produced in this chamber before bills with which they are associated go from us to another place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; resolution - by leave - adopted .
Debate resumed from the 6th Decem ber (vide page 2772) on motion by Mr. Thompson - that the bill be now read a second time.
– In resuming my remarks on this bill, I find it amazingly difficult to keep my mind working in the interrupted way that the submission of the Government business compels it to work, and, at the same time, work connectedly on subjects which seem to appear, disappear, and re-appear before me in a way that makes it unpleasant, at any rate, for me to consider them. Without repeating anything I said on this bill before, I merely emphasize the additional point that it proposes to give a subsidy of 10s. a ton, up to a limit of 10 tons, to primary producers, other than wheat-growers, who use fertilizer. There are certain primaryproducing interests to whom I agree the continuation of the subsidy would be fair and reasonable, but I see no reason to continue it in this year of tremendous financial commitments on the Commonwealth Government to primary producers whose circumstances do not warrant their continuing to receive it. The subsidy was designed, I take it, to increase the fertility of land. It is in the interest of the man who has the requisite capital resources to do that himself; he should not rely on the greatly-attenuated resources ‘of the Commonwealth to obtain a subsidy merely to improve the yield of his own produce and the productive capacity of his own land.
– The ‘bill excludes the wheat-growers.
– Yes, it excludes the most necessitous class of primary producers, having regard- to adversities inherent in low production, low prices, and bad seasonal conditions. I put it to the Country party that the milking of cows is a practice associated with primary production, but that on the balance Parliament has dealt generally in the last month or two with the needs of primary producers. I can see the significance of primary industries in the economic life of the nation.
– They are never satisfied.
– The average primary producer is a good citizen and a fairminded man. Thousands of producers will have the common sense to realize that this Parliament has acted fairly towards them ; also that there are other sections of the community who are in greater need than many sections of the primary producers, whose needs this Parliament has not been able to deal with. Any benefits that have come to them are incidental to and derivative of other policies which we propound, not in their interest, but in the interest of the nation. I agree with what is being done in respect of apples and pears, butter, sugar, and wheat, but I see no reason to continue this subsidy . except in cases in which it is proved that applicants would not otherwise be able to use their land to the best advantage because of shortage of money.
– The quantity of fertilizer on which the subsidy is payable is reduced.
– Yes, but I know of hundreds of cases in which there is no need for the payment of the subsidy.
– It is paid to the very small people.
– It is not limited in any way. I could understand its being limited to persons with comparatively poor holdings or to persons whose average returns are low, but it is applicable to all primary producers, other than wheatgrowers, regardless of needs. The subsidy is payable on fertilizer up to a limit of ten tons. Therefore, if a man in wealthy circumstances purchases 20 tons of fertilizer he gets from the Commonwealth Government a present of £5. That is wrong, and I submit that in committee we should incorporate in the bill a provision to limit the payment of the subsidy to cases in which it is proved that for financial reasons the primary producer is not making the best use of his land.
– The country gets back more than the cost of the bounty.
– The country is, at the present time, getting back an output from some industries which it is far beyond the capacity of the home market to absorb, with the result that the excess production has to be sold in world markets at a price which makes necessary a subsidy to many Australian industries. That seems to be a disease of bounties which can become a serious national malady.
– Bounties are not nearly so bad as the tariff.
– The honorable member for Forrest knows very well that there are poor dairy farmers in his own electorate who are in need of this bounty. I am prepared to give it to them. He also knows, better than I do, that in his electorate there are. wealthy dairy farmers who are in a far better position to do without this bounty than thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth who have no other resources open to them.
– The Leader of the Opposition may know; I do not.
– 1 think that the honorable member does know them. I venture, with great respect, to say that to the degree that he himself has shared in this bounty is evidence of the kind of thing which I do not desire to see continued.
– I shall not share in this bounty.
– Not now, because, so I understand, the honorable gentleman is not now associated with the industry. I am speaking of the past. I regret this personal reference. But there are many areas in the south-west of Victoria, in northern New South Wales, or in Queeusland, where, if subsidies are necessary they are not required by the primary producer who has an assured income. To have encouraged, over a period of years, the use of fertilizer is, I think, justifiable. We have done that. We have continued this bounty for several years and its purpose - to encourage the use of fertilizers - should by now have been accomplished. Hundreds of primary producers have demonstrated that the use of fertilizer increases production and therefore makes the cost of production lower. I understand that the amount involved in this legislation is £250,000.
– That ^ amount, I gather, is to be spent this year, plus other incidental bounties which will make a great hole in the resources of the Commonwealth. We shall have to call a halt, not only in regard to this measure, hut also in regard to other items of expenditure, in view of what has been said in this House during the present sittings about the dire peril of the nation. I put it to the common sense of honorable members that the primary producers who need this bounty should he given it, but that those who would still buy fertilizer, even if this subsidy were not provided, should not be given it. The maximum payable to each primary producer is limited to £5, but thousands of producers ought to he ashamed to take it at this particular juncture of our national life when taxes have been increased upon the poor and upon the consumers of bread ; when, with- the prospect of allround financial difficulty for this Govern- ment, we are being asked to vote millions of pounds for purposes which cannot be economically reproductive.
– How would the honorable member discriminate in this matter?
– A government led by the present Prime Minister conditioned the payment of one bounty by the stipulation that it should not be paid to any one who, in the previous financial year, had a taxable income, which for the purposes of federal taxation meant an income of approximately £400 a year for a man having a wife and two children. Exemptions under the federal income tax legislation are such’ that any one having a taxable income is assured of reasonable means of subsistence. I suggest that, in the committee stages of the bill, an amendment imposing some limitation upon the payment of this subsidy should be inserted. Such an amendment would be quite in order, because it would not increase the appropriation. I regret the personal reference to the honorable member for Forrest; it was made under provocation.
.The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) must be aware that particularly in his own State it is only by the use of fertilizers that dairy farming can be carried on except in some favoured areas. The honorable gentleman must also know, if bte is as familiar with his own State as I am, that dairying is carried on there for a shorter period than in any other State. Even without a subsidy, primary producers in Western Australia are forced to use a greater quantity of fertilizer than farmers use in other States. The subsidy is almost indispensable to small producers in the south-west of Western Australia, where the bulk of fertilizer is used. I know that some conservative farmers do not believe in the use of fertilizer; they prefer to carry on in the old way. Others, however, by the use of fertilizer, have immensely enriched their land and have been able to get back more than they have spent on this aid to production. The amount paid by way of fertilizer subsidy has been diminishing each year, and this allocation is th’e lowest that this Government has ever made. I very much regret that the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that there should be any further limitations to the payment of the subsidy.
– Does the honorable member think that those who can afford to buy fertilizer should receive the subsidy?
– I should like to see more concern shown in this House about the great profits being amassed by sheltered secondary industries in this country. One enterprise alone showed a profit of £1,000,000 last ye.ir. The Leader of the Opposition made no great outcry about that. The £215,000 allocated under this measure will be spread over the whole of Australia and will greatly increase primary production. An attitude of ‘indifference is shown to the way in which the cost of living in this country is greatly increased by tariff protection to certain industries, but because this measure proposes to give a little direct assistance to primary producers, attention is drawn to it, and objections are raised. I regret that the Government has seen fit to further reduce the allocation this year. About £90,000 is to be paid unnecessarily to approved societies under the national insurance scheme, but a more economic policy would be to apply the money to the encouragement of the use of fertilizers by means of this subsidy.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has drawn attention to the one-sided character of this measure. Many people are becoming restive because of the bounties and relief from taxation granted constantly to one section only. I remind the Country party that honorable members of the Opposition have consistently voted for measures designed to afford relief to the primary producers, but honorable members of the Country party generally do not reciprocate when asked to safeguard the interests of the poorer sections of the community. During the last five years, many measures providing for relief from taxation and enabling the farming class to escape tax have been passed. Regarding almost, every article used by the man on the land, honorable members of the
Country party are constantly asking for reductions of duties. They have gone through the tariff and the sales tax schedules with a fine-toothed comb to see how much relief they can get on practically every implement used by the farmer. This week, honorable members of that party were urged to devise means of assisting necessitous wheat-growers without imposing a tax on flour, which honorable members of the Opposition pointed out would inevitably increase the price of bread by at least Id. a 2-lb. loaf; but all that we got from those honorable members were misleading speeches. Almost with tears in their eyes, they attempted to convince the House that the excise tax on flour would have no effect, on the price of bread.
– What has that to do with this bill?
– I am trying to show how one-sided this measure is. I am getting tired of voting to help the section represented by honorable members of the Country party. Those honorable members knew perfectly well that the inevitable result of the flour tax would be an increase of the price of bread. I have never voted against measures designed to assist the man on the land, but the time. has como when it is necessary to apply a means test to this section. During the last five years, the wheatgrowers h’ave received bounties amounting to millions of pounds, although many of the growers should not have received any financial assistance. Wealthy farmers are working land which has been handed down for several generations. They have not paid high prices for their land, yet they have been accepting bounties which they have not needed. There appears to be no end to the demands of the Country party, not because of the merits of its claims, but because it holds the balance of power in this Parliament. It takes advantage of its political power to exact many perquisites.
– I support the plea of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that discriminaton should be shown in the distribution of this subsidy. I am surprised that members of the Country party generally have not shown a desire to confine this subsidy to needy farmers and to withhold it from those whose land is richly endowed by nature. I have no complaint in regard to the encouragement of the use of fertilizers in Western Australia. I am probably better acquainted with the farming areas of that State than I am with those of Queensland and the Northern Territory, and during iiic time 1 SpenT there, 1 could not locate any 100-acre block on which it was not desirable to use fertilizers. Last year, I was astonished to notice the enormous benefits gained by the application of fertilizers, even at the rate of 80 lb. to the acre. Western Australia owes much of its economic stability to the application to the soil of these fertilizers, and it has greater agricultural possibilities than most people in the eastern States realize. The Leader of the Opposition proceeded on sound lines in arguing that discrimination should be shown between rich and poor lands in the encouragement of the use qf fertilizers. I have long advocated a motional stock-taking, and now is the time for a survey to be made. In the Northern Territory, there is so much land available that no difficulty is experienced in practising rotation of crops, but even in the territory this subsidy could be applied with advantage. The great basalt areas of the eastern States, facing the Pacific, are not in need of fertilizers. Western Australia and some of the other parts of the Commonwealth, however, are not so richly endowed, and, therefore, require their application. This is necessary, for instance, in the lighter country in the neighbourhood of Camperdown, Victoria. It seems to me that a mistake has been made in regarding the whole of Australia as one district for the purpose of this subsidy. I suggest to members of the Country party that discrimination as between people richly endowed with this world’s goods and those not so fortunate, is justified in a case like this. I’ therefore support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. This aspect of the subject should certainly be considered before any similar bill is introduced.
I agree with a good deal that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has said; but honorable members generally seem to have a wrong conception of the objects of this subsidy. Its purpose was educational. It was never intended merely for relief. I admit that the Government is being generous in continuing to provide money for the fertilizer subsidy this year in view of its heavy expenditure on defence, but nevertheless the amount involved Will undoubtedly be wisely spent. The proposal for the payment of a subsidy in respect of fertilizers was introduced some years ago following upon. the enthusiastic advocacy of the use of artificial manures by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and certain agricultural institutes for pasture improvement. Quite a lot of producers have since come to realize that fertilizers greatly improve potatoes, fruit, rice and sugar areas, and the educational work begun at that time has been yielding valuable results ever since in increasing the the national production. It was never intended that the fertilizer subsidy should be payable permanently.
– Why were the wheatgrowers excluded from eligibility of the subsidy ?
– Because when the scheme was first introduced the wheat-growers were receiving a bounty, and it was felt that they should not be paid a bounty and at the same time be eligible for the fertilizer subsidy. There can be no doubt that the use of superphosphates has greatly increased the national wealth of this country, and I am glad that the Government has had the courage to continue the payment of this subsidy for another year.
– The honorable member should say that the Government has not had the courage to discontinue it.
– When this scheme was first introduced a suggestion was made that the rate of subsidy should be progressively reduced; it was first 15s., and then it was to be 10s., and then 5s. a ton, after which it should be discontinued ; but the wiser course was adopted of determining the gross amount that should be provided for the purpose and limiting the tonnage to spread it amongst the greatest number of producers. I realize that this subsidy cannot be maintained on a permanent basis, but as the scheme is fulfilling the purpose for -which it was introduced, I support its continuance for this year.
.Most honorable members will endorse the view of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) that the use of fertilizers has greatly increased the volume of primary production in Australia. I feel, however, that by now the scheme should have served the educational purpose for which it was introduced. Primary producers should, by now, realize the value of treating their soil with fertilizers. The Government has, admittedly, been generous in this matter, but during this financial year heavy commitments have to be met in respect of defence and also in regard to social services such as national insurance. There is, therefore, no real justification for continuing the payment of this subsidy this year. I am reinforced in this view because of the action of the Government in reducing, by one-half, the grant made last year for the technical training of the unemployed youth of Australia.
– That grant was reduced because the State governments were not spending the money already made available to them for this purpose.
– In that case I hope that we may be assured that, if the full amount provided this year is expended, tho vote will be “restored to its previous level. In a year when the Government is expending such a vast sum of money on defence, the expenditure of an amount of £215,000 for the purposes of this hill must be regarded as being excessive and, indeed, unnecessary.
As the honorable member for the Riverina has admitted that it was never intended that this subsidy should have permanent application, and as the amount made available for the purpose has been progressively reduced, I think it probable he expects that the subsidy will be discontinued altogether next financial year. Without any feeling of hostility to persons engaged in primary production, I feel that I must say that in my opinion the Government would not be justified in continuing this grant at this stage. This is not a time when the country can afford to distribute largesse of this description.
.I wish to refer briefly to the method by which this money is distributed. Every eligible person who applies for a subsidy receives it at the fixed rate of 10s. a ton, irrespective of the value of the artificial manures he employs. Men who pay anything from £10 to £18 a ton for manures, such as nitrate of potash and sulphate of ammonia, receive only 10s. a ton, whereas producers who use superphosphates, costing perhaps not £4, also receive 10s. a ton. This, in my opinion, is wrong in principle. If persons who pay only £4 a ton receive 10s. a ton in subsidy, it would be. equitable if persons who pay £16 a ton for their manures received £2 a ton in subsidy. The present method of distribution is wrong. A majority of the primary producers whom I represent derive very little benefit from this subsidy, ‘because they are compelled to use the more expensive fertilizers. In these circumstances, I suggest that an investigation be made with a view to paying n higher subsidy on fertilizers, which are more expensive than superphosphates.
.- I compliment the Government upon making the subsidy available again this year, even at a lower rate, particularly when it is faced with such heavy commitments in respect of defence. Some honorable members have suggested that owners of valuable pastoral lands benefit by the subsidy, but I remind them that the object of the measure is to encourage the use of fertilizers on the poorer classes of laud in order to stimulate development and production. It is not a general rule to use fertilizers on the richest properties. They are used only on land such as is devoted to fruit-growing, or for the improvement of pastures on poor land. The honorable member for the -Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred to the use of fertilizers in certain parts of the Northern Territory, but I doubt very much whether the application of any fertilizer would benefit land where the rainfall is so low, because the best results from the use of superphosphates are obtained in districts where there is a reasonably heavy rainfall. The more extensive use of artificial manures will also assist materially to solve the important problems of closer settlement which are confronting the nation to-day. It has been found by those who are occupying subdivided estates that the application .of fertilizers improves production by at least 50 per cent. Increased development of production will provide employment for a large number of men. The growth of subterranean clover and other fodders, which have not previously been encouraged on closer settlement areas, is now being undertaken and heavier pastures are being grown. This policy is a more important factor in breaking up large estates than is the federal land tax, which was introduced with that object. I have seen remarkable results of the application of superphosphates to the poorer class of land. The Government is to be complimented upon again making the subsidy available, and although it will be limited to 10 tons, many will benefit. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) said that considerable advantage will accrue from the application of superphosphates to the poorer classes of country, and even if £5 be paid by means of a subsidy, the Commonwealth will benefit by increased production. I regret that the Government is not in a position to make the subsidy available to wheat-growers, some of whom are in distress; but, as nas already been stated; they are to receive a ‘bounty on wheat, and consequently cannot have it both ways. An honorable member paid the Country party a compliment by saying that the members of that party are always gaining some benefit for those whom they represent. That shows that we do represent effectively those who sent us here to protect their interests.
– As one who has demonstrated the beneficial effect of superphosphates by practical tests as well as by educational effort I am always prepared to encourage their use in order to benefit pastures and to increase production; but I am definitely of the opinion that the time has passed, particularly in the circumstances now confronting us, when the payment of this subsidy should be discontinued. A few moments ago some one asked why the wheat-growers do not participate in this subsidy, and as one who was pretty close to the throne when this arrangement was first entered into, I can answer that question most effectively. Assistance was provided in this direction as a solatium to those who would not participate in the wheat bounty.
– That is the first I have heard of that.
– 1 was the Minister concerned at the time, and consequently know something of what occurred. If funds were available, the Government could spend money in worse ways than this; but when there i3 such a parsimonious display in connexion with the development of our social services, one of which was referred to by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) - others could be mentioned - it is time to exercise some discretion in respect of those who receive the bounty. I do not believe that I should be assisted in this respect.
– Does the honorable member claim the subsidy?
– No. I realize the benefits to be derived from the use of fertilizers and although I have been entitled to claim the subsidy I have never done so. For these, reasons I do not intend to support the Government’s proposal.
.- I am always anxious to assist necessitous primary producers, but in this instance wealthy farmers as well as those in poor circumstances will benefit. Between 1931 and 3934, when the Government did not have to depend upon the support of the Country party, concessions such as this were made only to those in necessitous circumstances, and there are Ministers at present in the chamber who at that time criticized the members of the Country party who were in favour of the benefit being extended to all primary producers. But now, because the Government depends upon the support of the Country party, it has extended concessions to primary producers which a few years ago it flatly refused to grant. I am pleased to hear that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), although entitled to the subsidy has never collected it. That does not hold good of members of the Country party, two of whom have already indicated their intention of supporting the bil! as originally drafted. Members of that party are only too anxious to vote themselves a subsidy to supplement their parliamentary allowances and other rich emoluments of office. It is a travesty of justice that wealthy members of this Parliament should be permitted to vote for themselves and their relatives moneys which only go to swell their already large resources at a time when such heavy sacrifices are demanded from the people. It savours too much of the policy of “ the more you get the more you want “. Those hungry individuals of the Country parry, who are out for everything they can get, have been referred to as butcher birds. Especially are their efforts to be discouraged when we take into consideration the unfortunate position of the mothers who are called upon to render the greatest service to this country as the result of the restrictive provisions of the maternity allowance legislation, which insist that if a. man has an income in excess of the basic wage, his wife is not qualified to obtain the maternity allowance in respect of the first child she ushers into the world. Where is the equity in legislation which makes such odious distinctions? Members of the Country party sit here cheek by jowl, anxious to see rushed through a bill designed to further their interests. What do they care about the plight of the unfortunate dole worker who has to submit to a most iniquitous questionnaire before he can get bread from the State governments? Has the farmer to submit to a questionnaire before he becomes entitled to a subsidy such as that proposed under this bill? All that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has suggested is that the payment of the fertilizer subsidy shall be restricted to those farmers who have had no taxable income in the previous year.
This subsidy is being granted at a time when many essential services are being pared down because of the huge expenditure on defence. I suppose that almost every honorable member of this House has received a letter by air mail to-day, from the postal workers’ organization, urging consideration of the plight of certain temporary postal employees who
Mr. James. are to be retrenched because of the necessity to cut down expenditure in order to make more money available for defence purposes. Surely at a time when this cutting-down of essential services is necessary, the members of the Country party should be prepared to agree to the restriction of this subsidy to those who have had no taxable income in the preceding year. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has suggested that this fertilizer subsidy is in the’ nature of an experiment. Why should the wealthy farmers be given the people’s money to conduct an experiment in times such as these? What service will those wealthy farmers render to the community for this proposed expenditure of the people’s money? Certain members of the Country party in this House would do well to emulate the splendid example set by the honorable member for Parramatta; in doing so they would be performing a real service to the community. I distinctly remember the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) saying in this House when the first fertilizer subsidy legislation was before the Parliament, that it should be given to the needy and not to the greedy. The honorable gentleman went on to say that two members of the Parliament told him that they had purchased two properties adjacent to their own at fairly high prices, and he -added that they would both participate in the subsidy. I feel sure that if the Minister, who represents a large rural electorate, were now a private member sitting on the back benches, he would not cast a silent vote in regard to this amendment. The constant demand by wealthy Country party members of this Parliament for their pound of flesh is nothing short. of highway robbery. Once again we are to have an instance of the poor supporting the rich. In spite of definite assurances of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when the flour tax legislation was before Parliament, th’at there would be no increase of the price of bread, prices have recently been increased and the children of the poor will have to suffer.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill now before the House.
– Everything used by the farmer for the production of his crop is exempted from s’ale3 tax. Even his rabbit traps are exempted from that tax, but if a worker purchased such traps to eke out an existence he would pay the tax, yet the Government brought down legislation imposing a further tax on flour which will be borne mainly by the poorer people. Why is not a similar measure of assistance meted out to other primary industries? What has the Government done for the rehabilitation of the coal industry? Noi.hing whatever. The reason, which is obvious to everybody, is that the coalmining districts have ‘not sufficient representatives in this chamber to force the Government’s h’and. It is high time that the Government realized that it can no longer continue to meet the avaricious demands of the Country party which, we are told, has now delivered an ultimatum to the Government that if it does not withdraw the national insurance legislation it will be shot from the flank.
-Order! This bill does not deal with national insurance.
– That is the ultimatum, and it is making a few honorable members opposite tremble. We on this side are not afraid of another election; measures of this kind have given us all the ammunition we shall require in such a contingency. If it is fair to give this assistance to one section of primary producers, why should not similar assistance be given to all sections of primary industry? Honorable members opposite speak of the suffering of primary producers; they do not know the meaning of suffering. What section of industry has suffered more than the coal-miners? As the result of unemployment, many of these thrifty men have lost their all. I know of cases in which miners have lost to the banks homes upon which they owed no more than £80 when unemployment overtook them. Yet, when I have appealed to this Government to rehabilitate the coal-mining industry, and have supported my arguments by directing attention to the necessity for making this country independent of overseas supplies of oil, my representations have not been heeded. The governments of other countries have realized the importance of developing their own oil resources, but this Government refuses to take similar action simply because there are not sufficient honorable members in this House representing coal-mining constituencies to bring the necessary pressure to bear on it. I have done my utmost in urging the Government to do something for the coal-mining industry, but all of my efforts have been in vain. In these circumstances, it is my duty to protest against the unfairness of providing this subsidy ‘ in which wealthy farmers will be able to participate. I cannot support such a proposal when the needs of the industry with which 1 have been associated all my life are disregarded by the Government.
.- 1 support the amendment forecast by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). It is unthinkable that we should agree to provide a subsidy of this kind, in which wealthy people will participate, at a time when we are faced with such a huge expenditure on defence. It can safely be said that 75 per cent, of the fertilizer used in this country is used by wealthy land-owners who are well able to pay for their requirements. We know that in the northern coastal districts of New South Wales, especially in the New England district, which is one of the richest woolgrowing areas in Australia, graziers are now going in for. pasture improvement and are using considerable quantities of fertilizer. All of these men are men of means. In such a time of financial stress as the present, when we are faced with commitments in respect of defence, which are almost beyond our financial capacity, I can see no reason why we should make available a sum of £215,000 for this purpose. It is a colossal sum, particularly when we’ are told that the Government, is unable this year to provide any Christmas cheer for the unemployed. In view of that fact, this subsidy cannot but be regarded as patronage of a kind greatly to be deplored. As a representative of a wheat-growing area, I, like other honorable members, recognize the unfairness of excluding wheat-growers from participating in the subsidy, particularly when it is obvious that a greater percentage of wheat-growers are more in need of this kind of assistance than are those to whom it will be distributed. I protest against the exclusion of the poorer wheat-growers from this assistance. I hope that honorable members opposite will see the rea.sonableness of the amendment forecast by the Leader of the Opposition. In such a time of financial strain as the present, th’e duty of all honorable members is to see that money is not expended unnecessarily.
– in reply - Honorable members who oppose this measure do so. on two main grounds; first, because they object to the lack of discrimination in the distribution of the subsidy as between farmers with small incomes and those with large incomes; and, secondly, because they contend that the present financial position does not justify the making of so large a contribution as £215,000 for this purpose. It’ is true that our financial position is such as to warrant a very close examination of any proposal for the payment of a subsidy of this kind; but I remind honorable members that this subsidy has been in existence for several years. It was first introduced, I think, by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) when he was Minister for Commerce. It- was included in the budget proposals introduced early in September, and at that time the defence position was not anything like so serious at is it to-day. Quite possibly had the position been as serious then as it is to-day the Government would have reconsidered the continuation of this subsidy for this financial year. However, as the Government committed itself in the budget to the payment of the subsidy, it proposes to go ahead with it. I have not the slightest doubt that if the financial position fails to improve, the matter will be reconsidered next year. Any refusal on the part of the Government at this stage to provide the subsidy would be a breach of faith on the part of not only the Government but also this Parliament towards those who have been receiving this assistance for the last four or five years.
There is a good deal to be said in favour of excluding those who can well afford to pay for their own fertilizer. The Government would give serious consideration to an amend ment designed for that purpose, but for the fact that it would be practically impossible to apply such discrimination. Altogether there are about 100,000 applicants for this subsidy, and every application would have to be closely investigated by departmental officers. Some years ago, an attempt was made to prevent so-called wealthy wheat-growers from participating in the wheat bounty, but it was found to be so difficult in practice th’at Parliament decided not to persevere with the experiment. That is why there is no such provision in this bill. It is not that the Government is so sympathetic with the well-to-do; it is that discrimination in the manner suggested would be difficult and costly. Only a very small percentage of persons, would be affected. I am informed that about 95 per cent, of the applicants for this subsidy can be classed as small or poor farmers. There seems to be little reason, therefore, for objecting to the bill on this ground.
Most of the fertilizers upon which the subsidy has been paid have been used for the improvement of pastures by topdressing. Other purposes for which the fertilizers were used were for growing fodder crops, fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, lucerne, maize, oats, millet, barley, rye, tobacco, sugar-cane, hops and rice. It will be seen, therefore, that the subsidy is paid in respect of a large number of valuable cereal crops of great importance in the primary-produce ing economy of Australia. It is desirable to pay this subsidy on fertilizers, not necessarily because the recipients are hard up, but because the farmers need to be educated into putting something back into the land which, for many years, has been steadily denuded of its fertility.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) suggested that the bounty should be paid upon the manurial content of superphosphate. That proposal was carefully investigated by the Department of Commerce, and by agricultural experts in the various States, but it was found impossible to arrive at a unit of calculation, and the proposal was abandoned.
I appeal to honorable members to support the bill. Next year, the scheme will be reviewed, not necessarily with a view to discontinuing the subsidy, but in order to ascertain what value the Commonwealth is receiving from the money expended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) The amount which may be paid under the last preceding section to any State shall be such as represents payments made by the State to primary producers in respect of the production of primary produce, other than wheat, in that State, at the rate of Ten shillings for each ton of artificial manure used, during the year ending the thirtieth day of Tune, One thousand nine hundred and thirtynine, in that State by primary producers in respect of that production:
Provided that, in calculating the amount which may be paid to a State under this subsection in respect of artificial manure used by any primary producers during that year -
any artificial manure in excess of ten tons used by that primary producer shall be excluded: and
fractions of a ton less than one-half of a ton shall be excluded, and fractions of a ton greater than one-halt of a ton shall be excluded to the extent by which they exceed one half of a ton.
– I move -
That after sub-clause ( 1 . ) the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided further that in calculating the amount which may be paid to a State under this section any artificial manure used by a primary producer shall be excluded unless -
during the year ended the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, he derived no taxable income; or
having derived such income during that year, he produces evidence to the satisfaction of the prescribed authority that there are circumstances by reason of which it is just that he should have received the payment from the State.”
This amendment is drawn in conformity with a provision inserted in legislation passed by this Parliament some years ago, in which the principle of need was recognized. On the 1st December,1933, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), discussing the principle implicit in this bill, said -
The Government felt that it would be anomalous to make payments out of such funds to persons who were really not in financial difficulties.
He went on to say -
It is known that many who received government assistance in the past did not need it. Either they were growing wheat under more favorable conditions than most, or they had incomes from other sources. The object of the Government is to assist those who are really in need of assistance, and it considers that a man who is in a position to pay federal income tax has not a just claim for financial help from public funds.
That was the declaration of the Prime Minister in 1933 in respect of an identical provision to that which I now seek to embody in this bill. We do not wish by this amendment to deprive of assistance those primary producers who, but for the subsidy, would be unable to use fertilizer during the coming growing season. We accept the argument that a reduction of the cost of production is desirable and also that it is advisable to demonstrate the value of fertilizers in production generally; but, having regard to the necessities of Commonwealth finance and the burdens that those necessities impose upon large sections of the people who are in worse circumstances than are many of the prospective recipients of this subsidy, we are of the opinion that the bounty for this year shall be conditioned by the proviso which I have submitted. I submit itthe more readily because I believe that there is a great deal in the argument that it was never contemplated that this subsidy should be of a permanent nature. Further, I remind the committee that one of the principal spokesmen of the Country party in this chamber has already acknowledged that the Government is exceedingly generous in continuing the subsidy for the present season. I submit that the Government has no right to be generous with public funds. Its duty is to act economically in the use of them, having regard to the burdens imposed upon the community. I cannot understand why the distinction of needs in respect of this subsidy should not be the distinction already contained, in the measure. The bill limits the subsidy to 10s. a ton up to ten tons. It does so because the Government believes that some limit should be imposed. I seek to impose the additional qualification that the recipient of the subsidy shall be in need of the assistance. I repeat the declaration that I am willing to assist all primary producers who, were it not for the subsidy, would be unable to use fertilizer, but 1 see no reason why payment should be made to those primary producers who, regardless of the subsidy, are in a position to buy fertilizers.
– I regret that the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– What is the amendment?
– It is that wealthy people be excluded from the subsidy. It is not because of any desire to force this subsidy on wealthy people that the amendment cannot be accepted, but merely that it is impracticable, and could not be put into operation. There are at least 100,000 applicants for the subsidy and only a small proportion, probably 5 per cent. of them could possibly be classed as wealthy land-holders. If the amendment were agreed to, it would be necessary to investigate every claim in order to sift out the small number of primary producers who would not be entitled to payment. That process would cost more than the amount which would be saved by accepting the amendment. An attempt at discrimination on the basis of needs was made in connexion with the wheat bounty, but it was found that the advantages were small and thecost great. I am convinced that the same thing would happen in this instance; we should merely give to the department a great deal of additional work without any gain to the country.For those practical reasons, I ask honorable members to reject the amendment.
.- If the amendment would have the effect of saving the country any considerable sum of money, after meetings the added cost of ascertaining who the beneficiaries of the subsidy should be, there might be some substance in the argument of the Leader of the Opposition. When the subsidy was first proposed, the object was to assist struggling primary producers and to encourage production which, in turn, would assist all sections of the community. The original provision for a subsidy on fertilizer contained no safeguard in relation to the prices to be charged by fertilizer companies and, consequently, there has been nothing. to prevent the raising of prices of fertilizers. Those prices have, in fact, increased during the period that the subsidy has been paid.
– Superphosphate was never cheaper than it is to-day.
– The prices of other fertilizers have been raised. Whilst saving practically nothing to the country, the amendment would add to the cost of administration. In any case, the most that any person can benefit by it is ?5. The Opposition is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Originally the subsidywas 15s. a ton and there was no quantity limit; last year the payment of the subsidy was limited to 20 tons of fertilizer and this year, on a limit of 10 tons, the amount of the subsidy is only 10s. a ton.
-The wheat-growers are left out.
– The wheat-growers are being very well treated otherwise. The honorable member should be one of the first to support the small farmers, including the wool-growers in the New England district, who will benefit from this legislation. The wool-growers bear the whole burden of the Australian tariff system and have to sell at the lowest world parity prices that have ever been experienced. This is the only relief that has ever been given to them. I cannot understand the Opposition and some honorable members on the Government side quibbling about the paltry amount that would be involved if a few persons who really did not need assistance obtained ?5 each from the Commonwealth. Any money that might perhaps un necessarily be handed to certain primary producers will be more than compensated for by the increased production that will follow from the fertilization of the soil.
.- If I had been disposed to vote for the amendment of the Leader . of the Opposition, I certainly should not have been persuaded not to do so by the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr.
Anthony). It. is us great a shi to collect £5 wrongly from the Government as it is t,o collect £505 wrongly. I can understand, however, the unreadiness of the Government to accept the amendment, because to do so would be to transform what purports to be educative and encouraging to a mere dole. I am aware also of the difficulties which would be encountered in discriminating between those who would be entitled to the subsidy and those who would not. My objection to the measure is accentuated by the fact that men of means will participate in the subsidy, but I do .not think that the solution of that difficulty is to be found in the amendment. I prefer to wait until the third reading when I shall vote against the bill.
– I support the amendment. The argument that the saving which it would effect would be paltry is not worthy of consideration. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Thompson) stated earlier that of 100,000 applicants only 5 per cent, would be in a position to pay for their own fertilizer without a subsidy. My quarrel with the Assistant Minister is that his estimate should be reversed - I should say that only 5 per cent, are in need of this assistance - but, conceding its correctness, £25,000 would be needlessly taken from the Treasury. I hesitate to think that it would cost that sum to inquire into the affairs of the hungry farmers who are always looking for something for nothing from the Commonwealth. L. question the figures.
– The honorable member is only guessing.
– The Assistant Minister guessed wrong.
– I have the right information.
– At any rate on the Assistant Minister’s figures the Treasury will be needlessly depleted of £25,000, whereas the most that is to be expended by the Commonwealth Government on relief of unemployment is £5,000. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is always careful of the Commonwealth purse so long as the demands upon it are not for the benefit of those whom h* represents. The honorable gentleman said that the Opposition was trying to crack nuts with a steam hammer. I should like to use a steam hammer on some of the wealthy farmers who are always making demands on Commonwealth revenues. I am surprised that any honorable gentleman should stand for the robbery of the Commonwealth Treasury. The amendment would not involve the Government in heavy cost, because a simple statutory declaration accompanying the application for the subsidy would be sufficient proof that the applicant was in need of it; it could not be argued that it would be costly to examine statutory declarations. If it were found that there were people in the community so mean as to contemplate the wrongful taking of £5 from the Treasury, they should bc prosecuted. On every occasion on which appeals for assistance for the more needy sections of the community have been made we have been rebuffed on the score that the defence programme involves tremendous expenditure ; yet the Government is scornful of an opportunity to prevent the robbery of the Treasury of £25,000, because prevention will be too difficult. In spite of what the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) said, I believe that the amendment is practicable and that it can be easily operated. There are two safeguards : first, the subsidy would be paid only to those persons who signed a statutory declaration that they were in need of it; and, secondly, no one would dare to sign such a declaration if he did not need the subsidy.
– It is obvious from the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) that h’e has missed the point; otherwise his memory is out of order. The original reason for the granting of the subsidy was the encouragement of people on land in good rainfall areas to employ labour for the purpose of spreading fertilizer. No money paid by the Commonwealth Government by way of bounty or subsidy has done more. to create employment than has the fertilizer subsidy. It cannot be paid to a wheat-grower, but only to persons engaged in other forms of primaryproduction. If .this subsidy had not been available in recent years, hundreds of men who have been employed in the clearing of country to which superphosphate has been applied would not have had that work. If members of the Opposition visited portions of Australia where small land-holders have cleared and fenced hilly country at heavy cost, they would discover that much labour has” been employed as the result of this subsidy. Any action taken to restrict the payment would reduce employment. Members of the Opposition should show by their vote that they are not prepared to prevent the employment of labour in country districts.
.I shall oppose the amendment. It would be difficult to discriminate between necessitous applicants for this subsidy and those in better circumstances. A person may be in necessitous circumstances because he has not been thrifty. I recall that on one occasion, it was decided to confine a bounty on apples to necessitous growers, with the result that growers who had worked hard and saved a few pounds were prevented from participation in the bounty, whilst others who had been thriftless had shared in it. . It was noted at that time that the bounty had been wrongly distributed. Even this small subsidy will be of assistance to primary producers, but no individual farmer may receive more than £5. How would the Leader of the Opposition define a wealthy producer? Fanners who pay federal income tax are not wealthy; they may not be so well off as city workers.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to be added (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (chairmanprowse).
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 10 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G.J. Bell.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) - by leave - agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business at the next sitting.
Mr. PERKINS laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Ammonia, viz. : - Acetate, Carbonate, Anhydrous, Liquid and Chloride.
Articles, n.e.i., partly or wholly made up from Textiles or Feathers.
Books, viz.: - Account, Betting, Cheque, Copy, Copying, Drawing, Exercise, Guard, Letter, Memo., Pocket, Receipt. Sketch, and the like.
Buckles, Clasps and Slides; Buttons, n.e.i. Canary Seed and Mixtures containing Canary Seed.
Cotton and/or Paper-covered Electrical Conductors; Weatherproof Braided Aerial Cable.
Feathers, dressed, including Feathers made up into Trimmings, also Natural Birds and Wings.
Glass Paper and Flint Paper; Abrasive Papers, n.e.i., and Abrasive Cloths.
Manufactures of Paper, n.e.i.
Paper, viz. : - Stencil, Carbon and other similarly prepared Copying Papers, in packets or otherwise.
Paper, viz.: - Vesta and Match-boxes, empty, n.e.i.; also Vesta and Match-boxes, empty having advertisements thereon.
Paper Bags, n.e.i.
Paper-insulated Lead-covered Telegraph and Telephone Cables further processed by a covering (outside the lead sheath) of any protective material.
Pencils of Wood and Pen-handles of Wood.
Playing Cards, in sheet or cut.
Sheet Glass, viz. :: - Figured Rolled, Cathedral, Milled Rolled, Rough Cast ami Wired Cast.
Woven and Embroidered Materials in the piece or otherwise, Ribbons, Galoons and Bindings.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.Although I do not like speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House at this hour of the morning, I feel obliged to do so. I asked the Minister administering External Territories (Mr. Harrison) a question relating to New Guinea, and he requested me to place it on the notice-paper. I have received a letter dealing with the subject to which I shall refer, a copy of which, I understand, has been forwarded to the Minister. It is to the effect that a great disservice is being done to Australia at present in consequence of the fact that a system of slavery of the natives is being operated in the Territory of New Guinea, over which Australia holds a mandate from the League of Nations. My purpose in referring to the subject now is to rectify, if possible, a most unfortunate situation. J asked the Minister whether he was aware of the exploitation of the natives of New Guinea by .plantation owners and others, who were being allowed to enslave these people. I also asked whether he was aware that an ordinance had been rushed through the Legislative Council of New Guinea in deference to the wishes of these exploiters of the native people. The purpose of the ordinance I am informed, is primarily to prevent complaints by the natives from being brought before the authorities in such a way as to force them to take action. Provision is made for a penalty to be imposed upon any person who causes discontent between « native and his employer. I have received a letter from Mrs. J. Wallace - who sent a similar communication to the present Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Territories - in which she claims that she has, on several occasions, written to the Minister previously controlling the department. In the communication, dated the ‘1st December, she directed attention to the outbreak of an epidemic of measles and to the fact that natives were dying like dogs. She also cited a case in which a native, Manual To Kone, was sentenced to imprisonment for five years for having, with two others, stolen some whisky. This person, she states, has been in prison for over four years, and she has written to Mr. Page, the Acting Administrator asking that he be released. The Acting Adminstrator claimed that she has exaggerated the position and suggested that her letter should be couched in different terms. The letter from Mrs. Wallace read -
A native named To Kakia of Tavui, north coast, has come hero to-day to ask my son’s help in getting his brother, named Manual To Kone, out of prison. As my son is very ill at liresent, I am taking up the matter for To Kakia. He says that Manual was working at Salamaua (T think he means the goldfields) when three of them stole sonic whisky and bid it in the hush. They were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, each for five years in the
Rabaul calaboose. To Kakia says his brother is now in his fifth year of imprisonment, something well over four years having been served, and To Kakia would like very much if you would free him now on a promise of good behaviour. He, To Kakia., would give that guarantee as well.
He tells me that one of the three convicted natives, name To Wutu, of Wodup, died whilst in prison. He says he beard To Wutu had been beaten to death by police-boys. Anyway, the story is worth investigating.
To Kakia lost his wife the other day, which reminds me. Do you know that measles with pneumonia supervening has .been sweeping through the country for months, taking toll of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of natives without medical aid and without quarantine? I. wrote to Dr. Brennan on the 17th September, I!)ii8. What do your three government doctors in Rabaul do all day and every day?
The reply from the Acting Administrator read -
I have to acknowledge your letter of the 21st November, 1938, relative to the native prisoner Manual To Kone, and to inform yon that your representations will receive due consideration and that you will be advised of my decision in duc course, in view of your repeated assurances that you arc anxious to be of assistance to natives, may ]. suggest that your purpose could better be served if representations made on their behalf were couched in more reasonable terms and were admitted without the reviling language which can only have the effect of clouding the whole issue. The Administration has for its policy the promotion to the utmost of the material and moral well-being and the social progress of all the inhabitants, both indigenous and nonindigenous of the Territory, and is glad to have the co-operation of all individuals and societies that have a similar objective, and if you have a genuine desire towards this end we shall be glad to have your co-operation also. It is regretted that many of your representations in the past as in this ease would appear to have been made an excuse for destructive rather than constructive criticism, and have been couched in language that cannot he accepted in official communications. You may be assured that if you could give more evidence of your bona fides in those cases much better results would be achieved.
In reply to that communication she contended that the language which she had employed was not in any way reviling. In 1932, I brought under the notice of the Government the case of a native who h’ad been beaten to death by a plantation owner. If honorable members will refer to the Rabaul Times of the 4th December, 1931, they will see the judge’s summing-up in which it was stated that the native had been beaten to death in an unmerciful manner without just cause. This native Sambung, was requested by his master to deliver a launch to another plantation-owner and return by the Monday, and also to give the launch a trial run in order to make sure that it was in perfect order. The murderer of Sambung was sentenced by Judge Wanliss, on the 23rd November, 1931, to ten years’ imprisonment. I shall refer to this later.
This plantation-owner, although imprisoned for murder was released from prison early in 1936, and is now in South Africa, but the unfortunate native who stole whisky was sentenced to five years imprisonment and is still in gaol. I wish now to contrast the treatment meted out to natives and Europeans. In the Rabaul Times of the 17 th December, 1937, the following paragraph appears: -
A native indentured as a carpenter was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with hard labourfor entering a Chinese store and stealing therefrom £25 5s.
The following paragraph also appeared in a cutting forwarded to me by Mrs. Wallace ofRabaul : -
It would appear that while Europeans who have in some instances flogged natives unmercifully are permitted to go free, unnecessarily harsh treatment is meted out to the natives. Professional recruiting agents visit the villages and collect natives who are sold at £10 a head to plantation-owners and mine-owners. These whites make contracts with the natives to which the latter signify their assent by impressing “their thumbprints on the documents. This practice is termed “ marking paper “. If their master proves kind and treats them fairly they endeavour to honour the terms of the agreement as far as they understand them, but many of them when subjected to harsh treatment run away, only to be hunted like criminals by the police hoys. When arrested they are sentenced to terms of imprisonment in addition to corporal punishment. As the use of the lash has been abolished in most of the States of the Commonwealth I claim that its use should he discontinued in the territory, particularly in view of the fact that the natives often act in ignorance of the terms of the contract to which they have signified their consent. Their rate of wages is very low. I am informed that the average wage paid to natives employed in the mines is 10s. a month and keep. The keep consists mostly of a ration of sweet potatoes. Indentured natives are not allowed to leave their compounds, and should they go into the towns they are haled before the court and fined. Indentured natives engaged on plantations are not allowed even to associate with their wives. Once the contract of indenture is signed a plantation native seldom sees his wife until the contract expires. To illustrate the striking contrast between the treatment of the natives and that of Europeans it is interesting to read the following paragraphs from the Rabaul Times of the 17th December, 1937, relating to the hearing of cases at theRabaul District Court by Judge Phillips : -
For intent to insult a female a native lad was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour. On two similar charges a native was convicted to one year’s imprisonment and a whipping, and to six months’ imprisonment with a whipping - the sentences to be cumulative.
A native indentured as a carpenter was sentenced to three year’s imprisonment with hard labour for entering a Chinese trade store and stealing therefrom the amount of £25 5s.
On charges of being absent from their places of employment without permission several natives were convicted. In one case imprisonment for two months was ordered; in two cases fines of 5s. each were imposed; in another case the accused was remanded to Salamaua.
A charge was preferred againsta licensed publican-
And here is the striking contrast -
For failing to keep the bar room locked during prohibited hours. The case was dismissed. [ Leave to continue given.] The following further cases dealt with by the Rabaul District Court were reported in theRabaul Times of the 24th December, 1937 : -
Ten natives appeared before the Rabaul District Court on charges of being absent from their quarters during hours when it is prohibited for natives to be abroad within the town boundaries. Several were sentenced to imprisonment for terms of from fourteen days to one month. Others were fined sums ranging from1s.to 10s.
Several cases of stealing were dealt with during the week. For stealing dynamite a native was sentenced to two months’ imprison- meat. Another native, for stealing a tin of tobacco, was given one month’s imprisonment. Yambung was remanded to Madang on the charge of stealing a £5 note. Two natives who pleaded guilty to stealing a case of wine were committed for sentence.
An indentured labourer who misrepresented himself as free to enter into another indenture, was given a whipping of five strokes with a cane.
A native was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment with hard labour for drinking intoxicating liquor.
I want honorable members to contrast this with the treatment of the hotelkeeper, who probably sold the liquor during prohibited hours, to the native who was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for “ drinking liquor “, not for being drunk!
A claim for maintenance was brought against a Malay by his wife and he was ordered to pay her £5 a month.
A sentence of six months’ imprisonment with hard labour was imposed on a native charged with spreading false reports. The accused admitted that he had inveigled other natives into playing Sartu, a gambling game, falsely informing them that he had obtained a licence to play the game from an A.D.O. at a cost of £2.
In the Supreme Court before His Honour, Judge Phillips, two natives from the Waria River area, Upia and Arahuva, were found guilty of wilful murder and sentenced to death. The murder took place four years ago.
It is quite safe for mo to say that both natives would be hung. I conclude by quoting from the Rabaul Times some of the remarks of Judge Wanliss in summing up the case in which the plantationowner to whom I previously referred was charged with having flogged Sambung, the native. A portion of His Honour’s summing-up reads as follows : - I have stated what the evidence was as to the state of the boy’s body after the flogging. Mr. Lambert says when ho examined the boy he was really in a dying condition. His left buttock was very shrivelled and discoloured and evil smelling, the whole area of the right buttock devoid of skin and bleeding, and that the left buttock was a mass of gangrene; the right buttock had no gangrene, but he says the boy was skinned and bleeding. This is the state of the boy who, according to the accused in his evidence, after the flogging was normal. I need not go into the symptoms described by Mr. Lambert, but he said the respiration was shallow, the pupils dilated, and other conditions which simply meant that the boy was dying. He did die. It was suggested by counsel that the defence, which was hard put to it to raise a defence, that it was not proved that death was caused by the logging. To my mind it was abundantly proved and there was no suggestion of any other cause of death. It was suggested that ifhe had not been taken in the pinnace to Lorungau he might have survived. The only possible chance he had of living was to be taken to Lorungau, where he would receive attention. If, as it was the case, it was necessary to take him in the pinnace, he had to be taken. He had to be taken in the pinnace or left to die where he was. The suggestion also that death was due to other causes also fails. The cause of death was the flogging. The shock, gangrene,&c., are all attributable to the flogging and nothing else, and if ever a native was flogged to death this one was. Now, I have stated that in my opinion the first assault or the first fight was the fault of the accused. The boy may have been, as he says, cheeky. That is quite possible, although he had only the accused’s word for it. There is the possibility that the boy was the attacker in that case, and as it is a possibility I am going to give the accused the benefit of that, but that is no excuse for what happened afterwards. The flogging, unfortunately, was a considered act, done after the heat of the struggle, after the other part to the struggle had gone and after Sambung had been brought back for reasons of revenge and punishment. The revenge or punishment was brutal, cowardly and deliberate. The act was one which is a disgrace to the white race, and one of a type that discredits the Territory. These things, when they happen, do more harm than many cases of violence by natives, and I cannot treat it as other than a very serious offence.
I refer honorable members to the evidence published in the press. While this native was being flogged, the accused said to the flogger, “ You are not hitting hard enough “, and thereupon took the walking stick with which the native was being beaten, and mercilessly flogged the boy himself. He then returned the stick to the native, who continued to beat the boy. When the flogger became tired, the accused called in another native to proceed with the flogging. Every now and again he would stop the flogging and ask the boy, “ Now, who is your master”? The native refused to admit that the accused was his master, because, as I have already pointed out, he believed that the plantation-owner who sent him to. deliver the launch was his master. Yet,because he said, when he wag given several tasks to do by the accused, that his master had told him that he must return by Monday, the accused claimed that the native had given him cheek. He told the boy that he was his master, and knocked him down, as he admitted, with a backhander. In falling, the native scuffled with the accused, who fell over.
When he picked himself up, he found that he wasbleeding and, as he stated in court, when he saw his own blood mix with the native’s blood, he became incensed. He then “spread-eagled” the native, whereupon four men held down the boy while this beating took place. The result was that his flesh was cut and bruised from his shoulders to his buttocks. His wounds became gangrenous, and these complications caused his death. I repeat that when incidents of this kind are allowed to occur in a territory, over which this Government has been given a mandate by the League of Nations, Australia is discredited. It is a disgrace that wepermitthese floggings, and allow natives to be sold into slavery to work for a pittance of from 10s. to £1 a month and the standard of keep which I have indicated. I hope that the Minister will reply to the allegations which have been made inthe letter which I have received from Mrs. Wallace and also to the statements in the Rabaul Times.
– I do not think that the honorable member would expect me to answer every one of the complaints which he has made this evening, complaints based in the mainon information contained in a letter which has been sent to me, and a copy of which was sent to him. In raising these matters that are obviously of a nature requiring investigation, the honorable member has unwittingly forced me prematurely to make a statement on the matter contained in the letter. Before I deal with these complaints in detail, however, I shall answer some of the observations madeby the honorable member. He suggested that slavery exists in the territory. Every investigation which I have made in regard to the territory concerning the employment of natives, convinces me that the natives are adequately protected, not only under the ordinances but also by the officers of the administration. Incidentally, the reports of those who have investigated the treatment of these natives on behalf of the League of Nations are so commendatory that I am led to believe that the statements made by the honorable member with regard to slavery are gross misrepresentations. I refer particularly to the Native Labour
Ordinance of 1935-38, which contains special safeguards for the protection of natives from undue exploitation by white men. Those safeguards cover his hire, the signing of his contract, and his treatment upon concluding his contract until he returns to his village. The employment of natives is mainly under indenture, but where contracts are made apart from indenture, similar safeguards are provided. It is insisted in all cases in which a native enters into a contract that he must first have volunteered his services as an employee, and an officer of the administration is called upon to satisfy himself that the native has so offered his services, and that he understands exactly the terms and conditions of the contract before he signs it. The officer is obliged to satisfy himself that no force whatever has been applied in order to recruit the native’s services. Furthermore, the native has explained to him the conditions under which he will be obliged to work, and the conditions which will apply to* his services in regard to housing, rations, and medical attention. All of these things are fully explained to the native, and all kinds of penalties are provided in respect of breaches of this ordinance. Inspections are made regularly, and in the flogging case mentioned by the honorable member the ill-treatment of the native was discovered by an officer. On going to one of these plantations he found that the boy was not present, and in response to his inquiries was told he was over the river on another plantation. When the officer visited that plantation he made further inquiries for the boy, and it was due to his diligence that the case to whichthe honorable member has referred, was discovered. It can at least be conceded, therefore, that the officers of the territory are seriously concerned with the welfare of the natives, and take every care to preserve their rights by seeing that the regulations are strictly observed. Dealing with the honorable member’s allegations that wholesale floggings take place, I refer him to sections 110 and 111 of the Native Labour Ordinance, which provide -
Any person, being in authority over a native labourer, who inflicts flogging or other corporal chastisement upon thenative labourer is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months, or both.
I also draw the honorable member’s attention to the fact that, in cases in which assaults on natives have occurred, appropriate remedial action has been taken by administrative officers. For instance, in 1936-37, 29 persons other than natives were convicted for assault upon natives in the territory. Thus, the honorable member’s sweeping allegation that administrative officers take no steps whatever to prevent the flogging of natives is entirely unfounded ; it is in conflict with the evidence in the possession of the department bearing on this case. The honorable member also referred to recently promulgated ordinances which, he said, had imposed a penalty upon even the person who complained on behalf of the natives. He stated that his informant had received a. summons for acting in the interests of the natives. Here is a statement supplied to the department by the Administrator -
I lie papers include si statement by Mr. laines Dowsett. supported by, his affidavit and Hint of his brother, Alfred P. -Dowsett. in which he. stated that, on the 22nd November. l!i:fi. “1 met Mr. T. Wallace at the Native Labour Market, and accused bini of forcing an indentured labourer of in inc. named Stirling, to make a complaint against mc.” Wallace walked with me to my car which was parked near the. Electric Light .Company’s office. and. in the, presence of my brother, Alfred Dowsett. who was seated in the car. he remarked ihat he was very sorry for any personal discomfort caused to nic. through his (Wallace’s) action, and offered to pay my fine with all costs. He also stated that he was using me in order to get at the. District Office and thu District Services, and that he was particularly anxious to get Mr. Waugh, Mr.
Evans and “that white-headed old.-
Mantle “. “ f am reporting this matter in fairness to your staff, and as 1 am of the opinion that Wallace is acting in a malicious vindictive and under-hand manner, and is also endeavouring to stir lip disaffection among the natives.”
That statement is supported by an affidavit, and we may assume that the person referred to has been guilty of inciting the natives. I deplore the fact that Mrs. Wallace, having sent to me a letter containing a series of complaints, did not allow sufficient time for me as a new Minister, to investigate them, but sent a copy of the letter to the honorable member to be made public in this House. That is not the proper way in which to seek information from the department. That, in itself, would appear to be evi- dence that the writer is trying to create disharmony.
It was stated that there was great loss of life among the natives from pneumonia following measles. The department receives a quarterly report from the territory regarding the health of the natives, and of the population generally, and beyond the fact that a mild form of measles, causing incapacity for only three or four days, has spread among some of the natives, there is nothing to indicate that there has been a severe epidemic. However, in case there may be some later information to be had, I have caused inquiries to be .made to ascertain whether hu epidemic causing loss of life has” occurred. This information has not yet been obtained.
Reference was made to the sentence of five years imposed on To Kone, and to applications which have been made for his release. He has not yet served the full term of bis sentence. We do not know the circumstances surrounding his case. He may not yet have acquired the necessary good conduct marks to justify his release, or there may be other reasons preventing his release before the termination1 of his sentence.
– The mau who flogged a native to death was released after serving only half his sentence.
– That case has been raised in this House before. The man has been punished for his offence; he has been released, and has left the country to begin a new life. It is not British justice to pursue him now that he has served his sentence.
– I mentioned his case in order to point out that preferential treatment was accorded to him in comparison with that accorded to the natives. He was released after serving only five years of a ten-year sentence.
– The honorable member quoted from the Rabaul Times at great length concerning certain alleged anomalies associated with the proceedings of the courts in New Guinea. I have no doubt that similar anomalies could be found in the proceedings of courts in Australia. The moral code in New Guinea is different from that in Australia and certain offences arc looked upon more seriously than they are here. It is not fair simply to cite a string of sentences as indicating that the natives suffer hardship. It is necessary to understand the circumstances, and the code that prevails, in order to make an effective comparison. If the honorable member made any representations to which I have not replied I shall endeavour to obtain the information for him.
– On Friday last, I raised the subject of leave due to temporary clerks in the Commonwealth Public Service, and on that occasion, I spoke under a misapprehension when comparing them with the staff employed at Parliament House. I said that temporary clerks in the Public Service in Canberra did not receive recognition for holidays due to them when their employment was terminated. That part is correct. I mentioned, however, that similar conditions existed in connexion with the parliamentary staff; when their temporary service terminated, they were not given recognition in regard to holidays. I now learn that the position in regard to the parliamentary staff has been remedied, and I feel that I must make acknowledgement of that fact and correct my previous statement. I hope that the action which has been taken in relation to the parliamentary staff will be considered by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) in dealing with these other employees. I believe that the matter couldbe remedied easily without much cost to the department.
– I take this opportunity to endeavour to obtain justice for a constituent of mine in Darwin who has been denied justice by the police authorities there. A valueless cheque was passed on to my constituent by another person. He complained to the police, and left the cheque with them, but no action was taken. Singularly enough, the same person passed on two valueless cheques, with the result that he was arrested and served two terms of imprisonment. My constituent complains that he was unjustly treated. Having failed to obtain a satisfactory reply from the Minister for the Interior or the Darwin police, I have endeavoured to obtain a reply from the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). Un fortunately, the police at Darwin are not under the control of the AttorneyGeneral, although they are anxious to be so controlled. On the 2nd December, I asked the Minister for the Interior a number of questions but, in replying to them, the department resorted to a subterfuge. The questions which I asked were -
To those questions, the Minister replied -
Section 49 of the Justices Ordinance sets out -
A complaint should be made to a justice in any case where -
any person has committed, or is suspected to have committed any simpleoffence.
Section 52 sets out -
Where no time is specially limited for making the complaint by any statute relating to the particular case, the complaint shall be made within six months from the time when the matter of the complaint arose.
The departmenthas used a subterfuge. In view of the fact that the police took possession of the cheque, it was incumbent on them, not on my constituent, to take action. Every one recognizes that the passing of a valueless cheque is an indictable offence, but yesterday, in order to ascertain whether the department took that view, I asked these questions - 1.Is it a fact that section 52 of the Justices Ordinance ofthe Northern Territory (No. 20 of . 1928) applies only to charges for simple offences andhas no application to information for indictable offences?
It is not the practice to express opinions on matters of law in reply to questions.
The reply I was given is a familiar one to honorable members. A grave injustice has been done to my constituent, and I ask the Assistant Minister to place before the Attorney-General all of the facts in order that the matter might be rectified.
– I undertake toplace the honorable gentleman’s representations before the Attorney-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Australian Broadcasting Commission Act - Sixth AnnualReport and Balance-sheet of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, for year 1937-38.
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Twelfth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1937-38, together with Statement by Minister regardingthe operation of the act.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1937-38, together with Statement by Ministerregarding the operation of the act.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act -Tenth AnnualReport of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1937-38, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the act.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 29 of 1938 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
Bankruptcy Act - Tenth Annual Report by Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July,1938.
Papua Act- Ordinance of 1938- No. 14- Quarantine.
Nauru - Ordinances of 1938 -
No. 4 - Appropriation (Supplemental) 1937.
No. 5 - NauruanRoyalty Trust Fund Appropriation (Supplemental) 1937.
No.6 - Appropriation 1938.
No. 7 - NauruanRoyalty Trust Fund Appropriation 1938.
Science and Industry Endowment Fund - Eleventh AnnualReport of the Trustees, for year 1937-38.
House adjourned at 3.34 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the purchasing power of £1 based on the purchase of uniform quantities of (a) groceries (including bread); (b) dairy produce; and (c) meat, at each of the capital cities for the years 1901 to 1938?
– I regret that to compile the whole of the information desired by the honorable member would involve an amount of labour and expenditure that would not be warranted in the circumstances. I am able, however, to supply the following statement showing the amounts necessary on the average in each period specified to purchase in each capital city what would have cost, on the average, £1 in 1911 in the six capitals as a whole: -
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following are the average metropolitan wholesale prices for wheat in the various States from 1910 to 1938inclusive:-
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Militia Forces : Definition of Duties.
Mr.sheehanasked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
When will a reply be furnished tothe question upon notice asked by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) on the 2nd December,1938, with regard to the duties of militiamen in their relation to the police forces of the States?
s. - My colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street), furnished a reply to the honorable member’s question yesterday.
Northern Territory: Application of Justices Ordinance.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon, notice -
– It is not the practice to express opinions on matters of law in reply to questions.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice - ls it a fact that the Government lias promised to introduce legislation enabling the owners of trade marks to control the prices at which the trade marked goods are retailed?
– No such promise has been made.
National Insurance: Comparison of Act with New Zealand Social Sec i: rjty Act. «
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the respective merits of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act and the New Zealand Social Security Act, will he offer some comparison of the legislation in regard to the national character and the rale of contributions of both?
– The New Zealand project is “national’’ in the contributory sense, in that every person receiving a wage or other income must contribute both by direct and indirect taxation to the cost of the social security scheme. As I understand the New Zealand scheme, benefits are not to be distributed on a national basis, but are, in the main, restricted to those people who can pass the various tests as to means, residence, and conduct. Under the Australian National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. benefits will be paid as a contractual right to all who have paid the required number of contributions, and there are no means tests o«- residence tests or other restrictions. Because of this, the Australian scheme will be more national in the distribution of the benefits it provides than will be the New Zealand scheme.
The New Zealand social security project is quite different from national insurance. It does not relate contributions to benefits, and, as previously stated, imposes tests as to means, residence, and conduct. It does not set out to establish any fund to secure future benefits as liabilities increase, but relies on a flat-rate wage and income tax and on increases in other tax revenue.
The rate of tax levied on employees under the New Zealand Social Security Act is considerably higher than the amount of the contribution payable by employees under the Australian National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. In New Zealand, in addition to a flat-rate tax of ls. in the £.1. on wages and other income, an employee is required to pay a registration fee. This registration fee for a man is at the rate of £1 per annum (i.e., over 4-kl. a week), whereas, under the Australian National Health and Pensions Insurance Act. an employee earning the average Australian weekly wage of £4- lis. pays a contribution of ls. 6d. a week (ls. for women). Under the New Zealand Social Security Act an employee on the same wage would be taxed to thu extent of 4s. 11.2 id. (i.e., practically 5s.) a -week.
Constitution a i. Reform : Recommendations of Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
s. - On the 2nd December, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question, upon notice -
What action (if any) has been taken by the Government in the matter of the recommendations made by the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on constitutional matters, held at Melbourne in 1034, on the following matters: - Company law, navigation, jurisdiction of the High Court, quarantine, exhibition of cinematograph films, wireless broadcasting, fisheries in territorial waters?
I have since had an opportunity to go into this matter. At this conference the Commonwealth was represented by eight Ministers, including the late Minister for Trade, and Customs. As I stated at the opening of the conference, the inclusion of a subject on the agenda of tho conference did not necessarily mean that the Commonwealth was asking further powers respecting it. It was thought that the States might desire to discuss the matters included on the agenda, as the Commonwealth might possibly submit proposals to the people.
Of the seven matters specified by the honorable member, six related to amendments of the Constitution, and it was not possible to arrive at a unanimous recommendation with respect to any of these proposed constitutional alterations.
No formal resolutions were passed regarding these matters, but the discussion that took place at the conference cleared the air. For example, the first matter referred to by the honorable member is company law. Only one State expressed itself in favour of giving the Commonwealth any increased powers. As the result of the discussion, however, all the States have brought, or are bringing, their companies laws up to date.
Again,take the subjectwhich was placed before the conference by the honorable member - cinematograph films. Three States expressed themselves as being definitely opposed to the constitutional alteration proposed by the Commonwealth, so no resolution on this matter was carried.
The States adopted a similar attitude towards constitutional amendments relating to navigation and wireless telegraphy, and accordingly no resolution was agreed to.
The proposed amendment relating to the jurisdiction of the High Court was discussed, but it was not possible ‘ to obtain any general agreement in this matter. The Commonwealth representatives undertook to give the matter further consideration. This has been done; but, as the matter is of comparatively minor importance, the proposed amendment has been allowed to stand over until other amendments to the Constitution are proposed.
The matter of increased powers in relation to fisheries in territorial waters was received sympathetically by the States’ representatives. The position, as the result of the conference, was that it was a matter for working out details of an amendment of the Constitution or a reference by the States. The Commonwealth has been in correspondence with the States in this matter, but so far it has not been possible to secure a general agreement as to the form the proposed alteration to the Constitution should take.
The remaining matter - quarantine - which is of minor importance, does not relate to any amendment of the Constitution. It was merely that a joint committee of Commonwealth and State experts should examine and report on all particulars of entry of goods or animals on the ground of disease. All the States agreed to refer the matter to their governments; but, so far, no agreement has been arrived at, and no committee has been formed.
y. - On Friday, the 2nd December, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following particulars for the honorable member’s information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1938/19381207_reps_15_158/>.