15th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
-Is the Minister for Civil Aviation able to give me any information concerning theflight of the survey boatGuba and whether it has landed at its destination?
– The flying boat Guba, which is making a trial survey over the Indian Ocean, landed at Chagos, beside H.M.S. Manchester at 10.42 a.m. yesterday, eastern standard time, which was eighteen’ minutes ahead of the time at which it expected to reach that destination.
Mr.CURTIN.- Is the Treasurer in a position to make a statement concerning the internal loan which was floated yesterday ?
– I regret thatI cannot do so at the moment as applications in transit still have to (be checked. Possibly before the House rises to-day 1 shall be able to make a statement.
– I was asked by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) on the 9th June, whether the Government would indicate its views on Australia’s interest in the proposed Anglo-Soviet agreement in Europe and the relation of such an agreement to the countries bordering the Pacific.
From the beginning of the negotiations for the inclusion of Soviet Russia in the European anti-aggression group, it was clear that the effects which an eventual agreement might have on Japan could not be disregarded. This was especially so when a stage was reached which envisaged a direct defensive agreement between the United Kingdom and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. As I have already stated, the Commonwealth Government has expressed its support of the efforts of the United Kingdom Government to secure Russian participation on the most effective terms possible, and this support extends to the conclusion of a direct defensive agreement.
– On the most effective terms Russia would accept!
– Not at all. It is not intended that such an agreement shall have any application outside Europe, and in all the circumstances the Commonwealth Government is satisfied that it would not prejudice the interests of Japan.
The whole object of the security arrangements already made in Europe on the initiative of the Government of the United Kingdom, and of the present consultations with Soviet. Russia for the further re-enforcement of those arrangements, is to ensure European peace. If this object is attained and European relations are restored to a footing on which the settlement of recognized differences by discussion and not by force or under the threat of force is the ruling principle, the political and economic benefit will be felt in every part of the world. Out of such a. settlement Japan cannot fail to secure profound general relief. It is certain that Great Britain and France and the countries associated with them in these endeavours will never commit any act of aggression or attempt by any means to offer hostile obstruction to the legitimate aims of any State. It has been emphasized that the present efforts are not an attempt to “ encircle “ any particular country, and allegations to this effect are entirely without foundation. It is in this light that the Commonwealth Government regards its own relations with the countries bordering the Pacific, in particular, Japan. The objective of the establishment of an enduring peace, the Government is. convinced, is best advanced under conditions of stability and order between the great powers. In giving its support to the present efforts in Europe of the Government of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government feels confident that this will prove the quickest and most effective way to forward its own policy of peace in the Pacific region.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked me a question concerning Japanese actions in Tientsin. The Commonwealth Government has had no official information regarding recent events there, but it is clear from press reports that a situation has arisen which threatens a serious clash .between British and Japanese interests. . As the result of the murder last April of a Chinese official in the Japanese-controlled administration, the Japanese military authorities at Tientsin demanded the surrender from the British Concession of four Chinese alleged to be responsible .for the murder. This demand has been refused on the ground that no evidence has been forthcoming against these individuals and that therefore their surrender would create a_ precedent detrimental to British influence in all of the China treaty ports. The Japanese have now announced their intention of instituting a blockade of both the. British and French Concessions. . Tha blockade is said to be. intended to bring, to a standstill, external trade, to prevent, exit or entrance except tor official purposes, and to cut off. everything except supplies of food. .
This situation ‘‘is the latest example of methods employed by the Japanese military authorities who control Tientsin,which have been a source of friction from the time the city was first occupied in the course of the present hostilities. It will be recalled that’ in .February last the Japanese . erected live-wire and bar.bedwire fences around the British Concession, ‘while for many months British com,mercial interests at Tientsin have been consistently hampered, Th’e Government of the United Kingdom,, on: the necessary occasions, has protested strongly to >the Japanese Government against these measures, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs again declared on the 12th lune, that the Government ‘crf the United Kingdom was not indifferent to such treatment- of “British interests by the Japanese. He added that the Govern^ ment could hot forget the rights which had been acquired for British nationals under .treaty and -could -not accept the Japanese excuse that ,the measures taken were necessary on military .grounds.
It can be said that the hostility displayed by the. Japanese against the British Concession, at .Tientsin is not, in fact, justified by any action or inaction on the part of the British authorities. Inhabitants of the’ Concession were, indeed, recently reminded by the Municipal Council of their duty to maintain strict neutrality through the present conflict, and the Japanese have not been able to produce any evidence to support their charges that the Concession is being used as a base for anti- Japanese activities. “
I may add that the Commonwealth Government is making inquiries from the Australian Government Trade Commissioner at Shanghai as to: the recent developments. It is understood that there are no specific Australian local interests at Tientsin, .but a considerable volume of Australian exports to China, particularly flour, has for some time been passing through the port.’
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the strike at Darwin has now been continued for five weeks, with the result that important government works are being delayed and serious losses incurred by contractors? Does the right honorable gentleman intend to take any action in regard to it such as, for example, to apply for the de-registration of the union, or in any other way to ensure that the law will be observed so that work may be continued according to schedule?
– It is not in order for the honorable member to ask whether the Minister is aware of a certain thing.
– Then I ask whether the right honorable gentleman will take action such as I have suggested ?
– I have no information as to the exact position at the moment, but I shall make inquiries and if possible make a statement on the subject later.
– Has the Govern ment yet reached a decision concerning the proposal to enlarge the Tariff Board? If so, what is the nature of it?
– No decision has yet been made. The matter has been considered by the Government but finality has not been reached.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce to the following report which appeared recently in a section of the press: -
NoFears now in Britain.
British confidence in Australia’s ability to advance industrially on sound lines was growing daily, said Mr. Eric Murray, for fourteen years secretary of the British Empire League in London.
He said to-day that he had submitted a memorandum on Empire trade to the Department of Commerce, Canberra.
Has the memorandum referred to been received by the Department of Commerce, and, if so, will the Government make it available to honorable members as it un doubtedly has an important bearing on Australian secondary industries?
– I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether the memorandum is in the office of the department and, if so, whether it is an appropriate document to distribute as suggested.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether it is correctly reported that the K.L.M. air line has been given permission to extend its service to Australia, and, if so, whether it will directly compete with. Imperial Airways and Qantas?
– The reply to both questions is, “ No “.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs state whetherRoyal Dutch Airlines have submitted an application to the Commonwealth Government for permission , to extend their services to Australia, and if so, what decision has the Government readied on the matter?
SirHENRY GULLETT.- An application on behalf of K.L.M. was submitted, not by the company itself, but by the Government of the Netherlands, but after negotiations, the application was withdrawn for the time being. A further application on behalf of K.N.I.L.M. for permission to charter K.L.M. aircraft, and run them under the existing arrangement, has been received, but no decision in respect of that has yet been reached.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the withdrawal of the application by the Netherlands East Indies Government on behalf of K.L.M. can be taken as an indication that the agreement under which Dutch airliners now operate in Australia is the subject of review by this Government?
– That is not so.
– Will the Minister for
Social Services inform me how many approved societies have been registered under the national insurance scheme; whatamount of money has been paid to them to date; and what amount is expected to be paid to them in the future?
– Certain information which I gave yesterday to honorable members answers part of the question. Obviously, I cannot indicate what future payments will be made. I said yesterday that sympathetic consideration would be given to all equitable claims by the approved societies. I shall have the information concerning the number of approved societies and the amount paid to them brought up to date and made available to honorable members.
– Having regard to the recent decision of the House in regard to national insurance, and to the fact that payments by way of compensation, salaries, &c, have to be made from the public Treasury, will the Prime Minister indicate, before the House rises, the extent of the commitments of the Treasury, and approximately how long they are likely to be continued and the extent to which friendly societies are to. be protected?
– I shall endeavour to obtain that information by to-morrow.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs give any information regarding the present state of negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United States of America for a trade agreement between the two countries? If he is not able to do so now, will he be able to make a statement on the matter before the House goes into recess?
– As was indicated by the Prime Minister last week, exploratory discussions are now taking place with the Government of the United States of America. They must necessarily be of a somewhat protracted character, and it will not be possible to make a useful statementbefore the end of this week.
– I desire to re-address to the Minister for Defence a question which I asked yesterday, and which I think he misunderstood. In view of the fact that the number of experienced officers in Australia is not great, and that the Government is asking men of 65 years of age to register; will the. Minister for Defence give an assurance that formation commanders will be consulted before reduced retiring ages are brought into force for members of the Citizen Forces ?
– I regret that I thought yesterday that the honorable member’s question referred to the Permanent Forces. It is not intended at the moment to vary theretiringages in the Citizen Forces, and formation commanders would certainly be consulted before any such change was made.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Customs furnish any information in regard to a reported agreement, or negotiations for an agreement, for the exchange of British and Australian film productions ?
-I am not aware of any such negotiations, but if a proposal of the kind is brought under my notice it will receive full consideration.
– Is itin order, Mr. Speaker, for Ministers, under the guise of answering questions, to make statements without leave?
– The honorable member apparently refers to answers given to questions by the Minister for External Affairs. It appeared to me that the Minister was, in fact, answering the questions; he certainly answered them fully.
Publication of Journals
– Will the Prime Minister, during the coming recess, consider the question ofthe publication of journals by statutory bodies, such as the Dairy Board ? In view of a previous reply, will he study the advice supplied to me by the Attorney-General last year, on which I took action?
– I meant to convey that the Government would give consideration to the mattermentioned by the honorable member. I can assure him that I shall read with the greatest possible respect any advice given by the former Attorney-General.
– Yesterday, a deputation from the -Federal Tobacco Advisory Committee waited upon the Minister for Trade and Customs and asked that measures be taken to ensure the use of an increased percentage of Australian leaf in cigarettes and pipe tobacco; also, for an increase of 6d. per lb. in import duties, and a further reduction of differential excise on Australian leaf by approximately1s., per lb. Can the Minister say whether the Government will give effect to the recommendations of the committee, and if so, when the necessary legislation will be introduced?
– I have been informed that the adoption of those proposals would involve a loss of revenue amounting annually to £1,250,000. Therefore, the Government cannot see its way to adopt them.. I understand further proposals will be made whereby it is claimed that effect may be given to the requests ofthe deputation without involving the revenue in any. loss, and those counter proposals will receive the consideration of officials of the Customs Department.
-Can the Prime Minister say why the advertising for the recent loanflotation was splitbetween the newspapers and radio stations in such a way that the Commonwealth Bank handled the newspaper advertising, as it has always done, while a private advertising agency, known as Gotham’s, handled theradio side? Why was not the Commonwealth Bank also ‘given the radio advertising? Will the Prime Minister make inquiries regarding the way in which Gotham’s discriminated in the placing of radio - advertising so that many large townsand districts covered by radio were notincluded ?
– I naturally have no personal knowledgeof the matter, but I shall make inquiries.
– In view of the fact that various organizations representing the wheat industry have put plans before the Government, and that Labour members representing wheat districts have submitted a complete plan, is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement as to what is being done regarding the stabilization of the industry?
– No, we are not. Discussion with State Premiers has yet to take place, but the matter is regarded as of first-class importance, and will be considered by Cabinet early in the recess.
– Will the Minister for
Trade and Customs state what department now handles negotiations for trade treaties ?
– Trade treaty negotiations are initiated by the Minister for External Affairs, after which the Minister for Trade and Customs takes charge.
– In view of the difficulties attending the landing of aircraft during the winter season, will the Minister for Civil Aviation state whether the direction-finding beacons have been fully installed at the various aerodromes, and whether they are working satisfactorily ?
– All beacons at present proposed to be installed have been installed, and the latest report I have had was that, with the exception of two, all of them had been tested and were working satisfactorily, while tests were being completed on the others. All Douglas airliners are fitted with receivers,but the individual receivers have yet to be tested before they can be declared to be wholly satisfactory. It is the intention of the department that the beams should at first be used entirely to increase the safety factor, and that no more ambitious schedules will he attempted before it is quite certain that they are working satisfactorily.
-I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the wireless beacon equipment installed in Australian aerodromes is giving as efficient results as the American equipment, particularly in directing the landing of aircraft in fogs? Can any improvement of our equipment be made in that respect?
– I am informed by technical advisers that the beam equipment installed in Australia is in advance of anything of its kind in use elsewhere. Our equipment varies in some particulars from that being used in other countries, but when it is completely in operation it will represent the most advanced system of its kind in the world. A feeling exists in the public mind that in other countries blind landings are being carried out by airliners, but my information is that that is not so. “With beam equipment companies in other countries are carrying out landings in light fogs with success, but it is not proposed to conduct such landings in Australiauntil we are assured that our equipment is absolutely satisfactory for that purpose.
– Seeing that a great number of country districts desire to construct aerodromes, will the Minister for Civil Aviation state what is the general policy of his department in regard to the granting of assistance, by advice or otherwise, to the local authorities?
– It is not custom- a ry, in answer to questions, to make statements on policy, but the general position is this : The commitments of the Commonwealth in regard to aerodromes that are directly its responsibility are so great that there seems to be little prospect of providing assistance for the development of any other aerodromes.
Road from Wau to Salamaua.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that much disquiet exists in Wau over the undue delay in commencing the construction of the road from Wan to Salamaua?
– From the papers that have come before me within the last few days, I can say that all preliminary steps are being taken expeditiously.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior if he will indicate before the House goes into recess what consideration has been given to my previous suggestion that a certain number of passes be made available to honorable members forair travel in cases of urgency and sickness, the cost of these passes to be offset against the amount now paid to the State governments in respect of gold passes ?
– The matter has had some consideration, but has not yet been finalized.
– In view of the ignominious defeat which the Government suffered last night by 42 votes to 19 on so important a matter of policy as national insurance, I ask the Prime Minister whether the Cabinet met this morning for the purpose of considering its resignation ?
– Nobody knows better than the honorable gentleman that many a team has gone out quite cheaply in the first innings, but has yet won the match.
– In view of the con siderable expenditure incurred on improvements to the Essendon Aerodrome, and in view of the serious accident which occurred there recently, will the Minister for Civil Aviation, without prejudice to any plans under consideration for the improvement of other air ports in Melbourne, confer with the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works to see whetherthe reservoir onthe aerodrome cannot be removed ?
– I shall have inquiries made on the lines suggested by the honorable member. Proposals for the further extension of the aerodrome, which are designed to provide the fullest accommodation, are being considered at the moment. I do not think that the accident to which the honorable member referred can be attributed to any unfavorable feature of the aerodrome.
Mr. MENZIES. (Kooyong - Prime
Minister) [11.34]. - I move -
That Order of the Day No. 1 Supply (Formal) be postponed until a later hour of the day.
I point out that debate will in no way be curtailed as the result of this procedure, because honorable members will be able to cover the same ground on the Supply . Bill.
.- This is the second occasion on which private members’ day has been put aside.
– This has no relation to private members’ day.
– I point out that this is the second occasion on which the subjectmatter involved in my notice of motion for the appointment of a select committee to report upon general anomalies in the operation of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act has been pushed aside, because on Supply it is not permissible to anticipate a discussion on any subject appearing on the noticepaper.
– The matter could not be discussed under Order of the Day No.1.
– I am referring to Supply and am pointing out that the right honorable gentleman was wrong in saying that any subject could be discussed in this connexion.
– What I said was that the debate on Supply would cover exactly the same ground as a debate on Order of the Day No. 1, and, therefore, there was no point in proceeding with Order of the Day No. 1.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 14th June (vide page 1859), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1939-40 there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue fund a sum not exceeding £10,477,100.
.- The committee is asked to grant a certain amount to enable the Government to meet its expenditure during the three months for which it is contemplated Parliament will go into recess. In view of the Government’s barren record it is astonishing that it should ask Parliament to go into recess at this juncture, particularly when it has failed to accomplish any appreciable measure of its policy in connexion with several important problems which have been so prominently in the public mind in the immediate past. Not the least among these is the problem of unemployment. The Opposition has constantly brought under the notice of the Government the alarming increase of unemployment which is now taking place, but the Government appears to be indifferent to the urgency of this matter. Of all of the problems confronting us to-day unemployment is the most urgent. I know that this Government will say it is the responsibility of the States. We on this side have long recognized the futility of that argument. We contend that unemployment will never be solved except through action by the Commonwealth Government. Despite the huge programme of expenditure now being undertaken in respect of defence, we find that unemployment is not being relieved in the slightest degree. In view of these facts we object to granting the Government Supply in order to enable it to adjourn Parliament. Some indication should be given by the Government of its proposals to deal with this problem. In one of many typical United Australia party statements the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently said, “ We must have industrial and social security “. What contribution has this Government made towards that end ? Such platitudes are lightly uttered, but the Government has so far failed to back up its word with any definite proposal. Furthermore the Prime Minister begged for the people’s support until the Government had had an opportunity to tackle the many problems confronting this country. Surely it is the Government’s responsibility to provide some concrete plan for the solution of unemployment, which is bringing in its train other evils such as malnutrition and housing difficulties, with consequent serious effect on the health of our people. The Government has failed to make the slightest attempt to deal with this problem which so vitally affects the welfare of the people as a whole. I propose to give a comparison in order to show that the number of unemployed is gradually overtaking our previous record in this respect. Apparently the Government will refuse to budge until the position becomes so serious that it will be forced to take action. Even then it will go only so far as to help the States to supplement their provisions in respect of the dole and relief work. We shall never make any substantial contribution towards the solution of this problem by tinkering with it in this fashion. The figures supplied by the trade union organizations for the December quarter of 1.937 show the percentage of unemployed as 8.7 and the number of trade unionists as 37,558. For the March quarter of 1939 the percentage of unemployed was 9.S and the number of trade unionists registered as unemployed was 46,611, showing that within fifteen months the percentage of unemployed increased by I.-.6. The actual increase of the number of unemployed is approximately 35,000. That is an alarming position and this Government will be recreant to its trust if it does not give the serious position revealed by those figures immediate consideration. To-day there are approximately 200,000 persons unemployed in Australia, and as the census figures reveal that there are usually four times as many out of employment as are disclosed in the trade unions’ returns, the position is extremely serious. It is remarkable that in the sister Dominion of New Zealand there is no unemployment problem. Indeed there is an increasing demand for additional manpower, particularly skilled artisans, to carry out the important work which the Labour Government in that country has in hand. It is to be regretted that this Government cannot adopt a policy under which greater economic security can be given to the industrial section of the community. Moreover, the Government of New Zealand has sought the services of persons in other dominions, including Australia, to assist it in providing better housing accommodation and in generally improving the facilities of the people.
– .The New Zealand Government is taking hundreds of men from this country.
– Yet the number of unemployed in Australia is increasing. There must be a striking difference between the policy adopted by the Labour Government in New Zealand and that of the United Australia party in Australia. The first and chief responsibility of a government is to ensure a happy and contented community, and the second is to provide a strong, virile race. Such conditions are essential in any country, and they can be secured by honouring the promises made by this Government. It has been said that this Government, like the one which preceded it, believes in full-time employment, improved housing conditions, and generally a higher standard of living. Those engaged in the industrial life of this country have a right to some economic security, but many who are in permanent employment overlook the hopeless position of others engaged in ordinary industrial pursuits who are always wondering how long their joi) is likely to last, and, if they should lose it, when they will get another. There is no economic security for the average working man. The Government should make an immediate attempt to improve the industrial position at the earliest possible moment, as has been promised by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. In these circumstances it is unreasonable for this Parliament to go into recess before a definite pronouncement has been made as to the policy of the Government in respect of the unemployed.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– One of the main causes of the increase of unemployment referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is the depressed state of the wool industry, because that industry has always been one of the mainstays of Australia’s prosperity. There is no doubt that when wool prices are very low the community suffers directly or indirectly. A reduction by approximately £30,000,000 of the value of the clip is reflected in the employment position in Australia. This morning I desire to place the position of the wool industry before the committee because for the first time in the history of that great industry it is finding itself in a desperate position and has asked for the payment of a bounty and an inquiry into its position by the Tariff Board. This request is unprecedented because, during the whole of its existence the wool industry has endeavoured to keep free of government support and government interference. At a conference of Australian wool-growers held last week, the following resolution was carried unanimously : -
Tli.it the Prime Minister’s attention be drawn to the urgent necessity for the Commonwealth Government to take action to stop the definite drift towards bankruptcy of Australia’s foremost primary industry, and that he be advised that owing to the serious position of the wool-growing industry, the Australian Wool-growers’ Council is compelled to ask the Government for a bounty en wool sufficient to allow a. margin of profit to the growers, and that he be requested to expedite the necessary inquiry and action owing to the urgency of the matter.
The reasons given were: first, the lack of balance in national economy has increased costs in certain directions; secondly, the interference in overseas markets due to tariff quota restrictions, and policies of economic nationalism as are adopted in so many countries, and, thirdly, the inability of the industry to produce without loss even after reducing costs to the bone.
It will be remembered that about seven years ago the government of the day appointed a wool inquiry committee, which obtained evidence throughout Australia. That committee consisted of pastoralists and others interested in the industry and .included also Mr. Grayndler, a representative of the Australian Workers Union. The committee reported that the cost of producing wool at that time - taking into account interest charges on the actual debt owed by the industry, excluding other capital involved - was ll.:(:d. per lb. Certain suggestions were made whereby the industry could reduce its costs, and since then it has endeavoured to bring about a reduction to enable it to become profitable. It now finds that, owing to certain costs beyond its control, and in consequence of the low price of wool, there is a gap between the cost of production and the price realized which renders the position increasingly difficult, During the last ten years the average price in Australia has for four years been above the cost of production, and for six years it has been below that cost. Wages for shearing and crutching have increased from 1.55d. to 1.63d. per lb., but total costs have been reduced from 11.25d. to 10.460d. per lb. This has been” possible owing to reductions made by State governments in the matter of lease rentals. The Commonwealth Government has also reduced the land tax and there has been a reduction of interest charges as compared with ten years ago. Unfortunately, with the huge expenditure on our defence programme, and the possibility of increased taxation, there is now a tendency for interest rates to firm steadily, which will increase costs immediately. In order to give some indication of the position of the industry this year as compared’ with last year, I may explain that in the first ten months ofthis financial year 2,377,000 bales of wool were sold for £33,900,000, and in the first ten months of the previous financial year 2,067,000 bales- were sold - 300,000 fewer bales- for £33,364,000. It will therefore be seen that on an increased export there has been a substantial loss, ft is obvious that this position, cannot continue. The industry feels that if it can be tided over the immediate future it will ultimately adjust its financial position. The . wool-growers have always adopted the policy tinder which the industry can meet the market by selling every year’s clip in the year of production. The only occasion on which there has been a surplus was after the war years, the British Government purchasing the whole clip during the war period. During the last ten years the industry has managed to meet the market despite the fact that countries such as Germany, Italy and Japan have endeavoured to make themselves independent of wool by producing artificial fibres and also by restricting the importations of wool and other commodities. If the industry can be tided over the immediate future it will be able to pull itself together and re-assert itself as the mainstay of Australia’s prosperity. A compensating aspect of the present, condition of the wool market is that while the price ff wool is low its use tends to be extended and the product is better placed to compete with substitutes; but, of course, the industry cannot be carried on when the price of the product is less than the cost of production. What does the future hold? If war comes, there will be no question that the wool industry will receive a tremendous impetus because of the demand for wool for the manufacture of. uniforms and other war equipment; but if war does not come, and we all, naturally, hope that it does not, what will happen? International trade must sooner or later be restored and wool will be absorbed at better prices with a general return of prosperity; but restoration of trade will not occur spontaneously with a restoration of international goodwill. It can only be brought about by arrangement of trade treaties between the different countries, country by country. The most important country with which Australia could reach- a trade agreement, so far as the Australian wool trade is concerned, is the United States of America. A trade agreement between Australia and the United States of America would ensure a large increase of the total world trade in wool, because, despite the fact that the United States of America has a bigger national income per capita, both absolutely and relatively, than any other country the per capita use of wool in that country, the winter climate of a great part of which is inclement, is small, about one-third of that of Great Britain and about one-half of that of Australia, a much warmer country generally than the United States of America. That state of affairs is due largely to the fact that the United States of America has high import duties against raw wool and manufactured woollen goods. Attempts are now being made to reduce those duties. The AngloAmerican agreement has been instrumental in’ reducing duties and the price of the manufactured article. If the American duties on Australian wool can be reduced I believe that it will be a good thing -for ‘both countries. The relatively ‘ low consumption of wool in the United States of America is largely due to the fact that high duties are imposed upon both the raw material and the finished woollen products. These high duties have been considerably reduced, in respect of some items by the AngloAmerican trade treaty, and this must result in an increased use of British manufactured woollen goods in the United States of America and also in increased efficiency of the American manufacturers. The biggest obstacle to the encouragement of the wide use of woollen goods in the United States of America, however, is the prohibitive duty of 34 cents per lb. on raw wool imported into the United States of America. The duty is equivalent to I7d. per lb. sterling and represents about 200 per cent, on the present price of Australian wool. Every one will agree that such a high duty must inevitably defeat the aims of the protectionist policy of a country. The Lyons Government attempted to negotiate an AustralianAmerican treaty with the object of assisting the people of the United States of America ‘to obtain cheaper and better woollen goods. We suggested that the duty on the raw material should be reduced by 50 per cent, to, say, 17 cents per lb. which is equivalent to 8£d. per lb. sterling. Our request was stated in these apparently modest terms for the reason that the President of the United States of America cannot, under his treatymaking powers, agree to a reduction of more than 50 per cent, of the existing duties in any treaty that he negotiates. However, a reduction to 100 per cent, of the duty on Australian wool would have a good effect, which would be shown in the price of clothing and woollen goods generally in the United States of America. It would undoubtedly lead to the increased use of wool by the lower paid and poorer people of the United States of America. . If the consumption of wool in the United States of America could be increased from 4 lb. a head, which is the present figure, to 5 lb. a head, which would still be only half the average Australian consumption, it would represent an increase of between 400,000 and 500,000 bales of wool. If the Australian graziers could place that increased quantity of wool on the American market it would undoubtedly rehabilitate the industry and stabilize prices. I therefore ask the Government to do these three things : First, to grant the request of the wool industry for an inquiry into the whole situation by the Tariff Board, thus enabling those engaged in the industry to state their case fully and publicly; secondly, to give an assurance that no fresh taxation will be imposed upon those engaged in the pastoral industry while they are in their present dilemma; and, thirdly, to push on with the negotiation of treaties with the United States of America, Japan, and other countries which are great users of wool. If these steps are taken it will undoubtedly have the result of restoring the health of our great woollen industry which has been the basic foundation of Australian development. A continuation of the depressed condition of the woollen industry must cause a serious loss of employment in practically every other Australian industry because it involves such a heavy reduction of the purchasing power of our people.
.- I propose to say a few words on this Supply Bill, which, as honorable members know, is a bill to grant authority to the Government to spend the revenues for three months of next yearbefore Parliament meets again. I take this opportunity to express a word of warning and some of the fears that I have with respect to the financial position as it presents itself to Australia. Defence expenditure is the big item, and, because expenditure on defence is so readily agreed to by all sections of the community, a great financial danger is created. There is a lack of the inquiry and supervision that would accompany other things which would not so readily be accepted. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) is new in his position and I believe very active.
– A good spender.
– That is not a bad phrase.
Mr.Spender. - Do not give me that name. It would just about finish me politically.
– I should like to feel more satisfied that this defence money is not being extravagantly expended. I have seen some, but not all, of the defence constructions, and I have heard of others. As the result I am impelled to observe that the defence of this country will not, bestrengthened by ornate buildings or very elaborately established official quarters. They are not the implements for the defence of the country.
– The right honorable member wants terra firma, not terra cotta.
– Yes, I would sooner be on terra firma. Without any carping criticism, I think that experience has shown to us that the military, naval or air force mind is not an economic or careful mind. The training of military and naval men is training of destruction and not of economy or of construction. I recall that in the depth of the depression I experienced difficulty as Prime Minister in obtaining anything like a reasonable approach to economy in the Defence Department. We made economies in that department! Some of the extravagances were obvious. One, for example, was in the cost of training the few army and navy officers that were being turned out. That was altered. I am not satisfied that we are not starting again on the wrong track.
Another matter about which I issue a warning is a hardening of the rate of interest. These are ominous signs of which heed must be taken. Every precaution must be taken to prevent the rates of interest from rising. A high rate of interest is a real death blow to all enterprise, whether it be private or public. A question which should be considered at the next meeting of the Loan Council is how great a check is being kept on the borrowings by authorities outside the Loan Council. That sort of borrowing is increasing and it can be asked whether the Loan Council is being too lenient in its dealings with outside bodies. I am not advocating that we should curtail useful and necessary works, because such works provide employment ; but we must ensure, particularly in defence works, that we are. getting value for every pound that we spend.
– Of what use is the Loan Council if it does not control borrowings?
– The Loan Council has the power to control, andI suggest that it should exercise that power. In the financing of the big undertakings presented in the Commonwealth budget every avenue is being exploited. Money is being derived from borrowing overseas, localborrowing, increased taxation and credit expansion. I am not altogether quarreling with three of these methods, but with overseas borrowing I do quarrel. I believe that loanflotations on the overseas market are only meant to cloak the fall of our London funds. I submit that our London funds should not be bolstered by borrowing overseas. That fund should be checked and regulated by regulation of the imports of this country. That is the only sound way in which the London fund can be handled and controlled.
Credit expansion for useful work and utilization of idle resources and manpower can be quite sound and eminently desirable. Labour and material that are unemployed can be converted by a method of credit expansion into production of goods which, if pace is kept with the expansion, will not produce inflation, that is, inflation of prices, which is the only serious thing that we have to consider; for every honorable gentleman knows that inflation of prices is really a reduction of the standard of living of the people, in that it reduces the purchasing power because of the increased prices of the goods that have to be purchased. Methods can be used for credit expansion by the central bank, the Commonwealth Bank, going on the market and buying bonds, by drawing cheques against itself. Those cheques find their way to the private banks. We find in the financial columns of the newspapers that the cheques are being utilized by the private banks to build up cash reserves and on that basis to create further credit for themselves. That is what we have to watch. We must ensure that the credit the Commonwealth Bank creates will not be used by the private banks to create more credits and more profits for themselves. If credit expansion is to be used for useful purposes it should be used only by the public authority of the Commonwealth, namely the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank may charge the same rate of interest as the private banks, but it is only a book-keeping entry. The profits made by the Commonwealth Bank go back to the people in many ways. But if the credit expansion of the Commonwealth Bank is merely to increase the basis for further credit creation by the private banks at higher and everincreasing rates of interest, we shall not derive much advantage from credit expansion as a means to finance government. I repeat that credit expansion for useful works to utilize the unemployed and the idle material resources is sound and desirable and, to the limit that it is sound and desirable, it can be utilized, but not as I say by the banks, private and otherwise, to implement an inflationary policy to the detriment of the standard of living of the workers of this country. A safeguard against that would be comprehensive banking legislation. The private banks have too much freedom in the creation of money, really, because the creation of credit means the creation of money, although I do not actually subscribe to that phrase. Credit belongs not to the banks, but to the individual or the community. What the banks do is to create bank credit against the nation’s credit or the individual’s credit and get a pretty big reward for doing so. It has been said here, only the other day in the course of debate, and over and over again, that local expenditure, whether it be for defence or for anything else, comes from the production of the country. Of course, overseas borrowing comes from the production and everything else of the people overseas.
– Is that not credit on the other fellow’s assets?
– Yes, if you have assets you have credit. However, I am not embarking on a dissertation on that question. I raise these matters as a. warning that we should not get into the wrong channel in pursuing a desirable course.
Last week when there was a discussion on the overseas loan the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made an extraordinary statement, particularly, for a Prime Minister and Treasurer. He said that had the Labour party been in office the loan would not have been underwritten. When he was asked to produce authority for that statement, after having had a few minutes for reflection, he said that no authority whatever had come to him from the underwriters, but that he had made the statement on the basis of the known facts of Labour’s financial record. At this stage I am not concerned about the party aspect; what concerns me is the national aspect. The repercussion from a statement like that is serious from the point of view of a nation’s credit. It only needs a statement such as that made by the Prime Minister, to the effect that a change of government might result in loans not being underwritten at all, to destroy the credit of this nation overseas; I regret that, and I emphasize its importance because it is essential that the good- name of our country should be preserved here and abroad. I remind the right honorable gentleman that his statement was aimed at a potential government of this country, and for that reason, it strikes at the very root of the good name and credit of Australia. In answer to that statement I wish to place on record the loans undertaken by the Labour Government which were not only underwritten, but were also actually floated successfully. In 1929, the Scullin Government floated a £10,000,000 loan for public works. In 1930 it floated another loan of £12,440,000 for public works, and in the same year, two conversion loans’ amounting to £78,000,000 were successfully undertaken. I point out that these loans I have mentioned were carried out in the depression year of 1930. In 1931, the Labour Government undertook a conversion loan of £536,000,000, at an interest rate which represented a reduction of 22i per cent. That loan was successful’! and it was the biggest financial undertaking up to that date in the history of the world. The honorable! member, for New England (Mr. Thompson) referred to this gigantic undertaking and claimed that it had been supported by all parties in this House. I submit that that is not an effective answer. ‘A Labour government was in office, and had that government not had the confidence of people, it could not have accomplished what it did. The effect of that huge conversion loan was a saving of £7,600,000 a year to the Commonwealth and State Governments as well as a saving in private loans. Up. to date, approximately £60,000,000 has been saved to the governments of this country by that transaction. In addition to the loans I have already mentioned, in 1930 the Labour Government successfully con: verted a. small £3,750,000 loan overseas.
At times such as this nothing should be said that might seriously affect Australia’s good name in the future, because within the next four years loans amounting to £40,000,000 will fall due, and will be subject to conversion. Party politics should not be allowed to enter into this matter, because Australia’s credit and reputation might be seriously impaired.
– I listened with interest to the informative speech made by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and I should like to follow up some df his arguments. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that we should hesitate before embarking upon a heavy loan programme abroad. I wish to deal particularly with semi-governmental borrowings, because in this matter we have reached a serious stage. I do not, in any way, protest against the spending of loan money by the semi-governmental bodies, because possibly they are in a better position to spend the money more effectively than the Commonwealth or State Governments, but I wish to draw attention to another aspect ‘of the matter. Under the Financial Agreement Act the Loan Council meets every year to consider proposals advanced by the various State governments for the expenditure of loan money during the ensuing year. The Loan Council considers the applications made, and ascertains what amount of money can be borrowed at what might be regarded as a satisfactory rate of interest. What is considered to be an equable distribution of the available loan funds is then made to the States. It is possible, however, for States to accept the decision of the Loan Council with regard to the allocation of funds, but then immediately to speed up semigovernmental borrowings with the result that there is in reality no equable distribution of loan expenditure throughout Australia. Let me indicate just how serious this matter has become. In 1934-35, the borrowings of semigovernmental bodies in Australia amounted to £6,308,000. By 1937-38, the total had grown to £15,539,000. As a matter of fact, in 1937-38, borrowings by semigovernmental bodies, exceeded that arranged for the State governments by the Loan Council. That is the serious aspect which I wish to emphasize. I have referred to this matter on numerous occasions, and, in fact, as far back as 1927, when I was Lord Mayor of Brisbane, I urged that semi-governmental borrowing should come within the jurisdiction of the Loan Council. Competition on the loan market between semi-governmental bodies has the effect of increasing the rate of interest on money available to the Loan Council on public loans generally, and unless some definite action is immediately taken to deal with this matter, the operations and objectives of the Loan Council will become futile. To-day we have the spectacle of semi-governmental borrowings amounting to more than is actually borrowed by the Loan Council.
– And at a higher rate of interest.
– That is so. I raised this matter in 1927, and the then Premier of Queensland promised that he would have the matter brought before the Loan Council at an early date. He agreed that it was in the best interests of the people of Australia that something should lie done. The position is even more serious to-day.
– The hardening of interest rates is not solely confined to public borrowing.
– I know that. I had’ the job of ‘borrowing money on the public market in 1927, when the Brisbane City Council endeavoured to raise £1,000,000. We were told to keep off the Australian market and we had to go to America to get the money. Had we insisted on raising the money in Australia, the result would have been an increase of the interest rate on money made available to the Loan Council, meaning, in effect, an increase of the interest rate generally.
I hope that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr.. Spender) will indicate later on how the amount, of money at present being asked for compares with last year’s total.
– The total last year was 68,824.000, including a Treasurer’s Advance of £2,000,000 only. An additional £500,000 for Treasurer’s Advance was made in September of last year.
– As it is apparently the usual custom to introduce a supply bill providing for the carrying on of the country’s services from the end of the financial year until September, 1 suggest that when it is introduced, corresponding figures for the previous year should be given.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the Auditor-General’s report, i regret exceedingly that this House has not been given an opportunity to discuss that report, which deals with important aspects of public finance. Members of this House did not receive the report for the year ended June, 1938, until May of this year. That is a very unfortunate state of .affairs, and I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) if he would take steps to ensure that in future the AuditorGeneral’s report for a financial year was made available before the budget for the ensuing year was disposed of.
An item in the latest report, to which 1 wish to refer, is that referring toinvalid pensions in New South Wales. Not only in this report, but in previous reports also, the Auditor-General has drawn attention to the fact that invalid pensions in New South Wales were out of all proportion to those in other States. He points out that, at the 30th June, 1938, there were 149 invalid pensioners in New South Wales for each 10,000 of population, whereas the average of other States was only 109. It appears to me that there is a different basis of examination of applicants for invalid pensions in New South Wales from that in other States, because the Auditor-General has suggested that a permanent medical officer be appointed to examine applicants in that State. I should like to know whether or not any action has been taken as the result of the Auditor-General’s comment. I do not suggest that the applications in New South Wales are unduly high, ‘but I do think that the whole of Australia is entitled to be put on the same basis. I point out that of a total of 86,000 invalid pensioners in the Commonwealth, approximately 40,000, nearly 50 per cent., are in New South Wales. I trust that the Minister will see that some attention is paid to this matter.
I should like to make an appeal to the Minister in connexion with the proportion of money to be spent in the various States on public works during the coming financial year. I. realize, of course, that the major part of our public works expenditure on defence bas to be spent in the two big southern States of New South Wales and Victoria, due to -the fact that there is in existence in those States the necessary plant and equipment to deal with major works. I urge, however, that in the preparation of the budget for public works this year, some favorable consideration should be given to the other States to ensure that, as far as possible, there will be an equable distribution throughout the whole of Australia. That is essential, in the interests of the balanced development of this, country. If we intend to persist in spending the major part of the money we have available for public works and defence works in the larger centres of population we shall, in effect, be making magnets there to draw people from all other parts of the Commonwealth, and that, in my opinion, would be exceedingly regrettable.
I am sorry that the Government has not yet announced its intentions in regard to the proposed reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, concerning which I have a motion on the noticepaper.
– I hope that the committee will be reconstituted soon after Parliament re-assembles after the recess.
– I am glad to heaT that statement. It is impossible, under existing conditions, to consider the budget calmly, either during the budget debate or while the Estimates are under discussion, and unquestionably all such expenditure should be examined carefully. I agree with the right honorable member for Yarra that a closer examination is desirable of the various items of our huge defence expenditure. I am pleased that the Government proposes to reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee.
.- The occasion of the introduction of a Supply Bill gives members an opportunity to discuss a variety of subjects. I shall deal with one only. I have a notice on the business-paper relating to the appointment of a select committee to inquire into anomalies in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. As it will not be possible for private members’ business to be discussed prior to the coming recess, I take this opportunity to make some general obser vations upon the whole subject. I might use as a text for my speech the following paragraph which appeared in the leading article of a Melbourne newspaper last week -
The Ministry of the day is the. lender of the House, it is true; but it should not attempt to be its driver. The power of members to criticize Government proposals and to submit amendments presupposes a right not only to have their criticisms respected but also to have their amendments accepted if such amendments be inspired by fairness and buttressed by sound logic.
The subject of repatriation is above party considerations. It is a very human matter. I say this advisedly because when it was discussed very briefly recently honorable members of all parties expressed their sympathy with the objects I had in view. I have no desire, in this connexion, to attack either the Government, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison), or the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. I know that my desires can be achieved only by legislative action. The Minister cannot, of himself, rectify my complaints. I was Minister for Repatriation for an all-too-brief period, I am sorry to say, but I know that any Minister who holds that portfolio is more of a rubber stamp than any other Minister. He cannot make changes. He can only follow the course that has been set. Changes must be made by legislative action. Successive governments have administered the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act fairly generously ; but, unfortunately, the measure is, in many respects, out of date. It has been amended from time to time and I myself have -taken part in the introduction of a number of reforms; but its terms are altogether too rigid for presentday conditions. While they might have been suitable to the circumstances of 1919-20, they are entirely unsuited to those of to-day when many ex-soldiers, well into middle age, are finding great difficulty in establishing that the various ailments in respect of which they are making applications for pensions can be really attached to war causes.
A certain amount of misunderstanding has occurred in respect of what I desire to do. It might have been thought that I have taken this matter out of the hands of those who should be dealing with it. But a private member of Parliament has his rights, and has a definite responsibility to correct injustices if be can. I am a member of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia and of some other ex-soldier organizations, and know what good work the league has done for returned men. I am also one of the founders and a pastpresident of the Legacy Club, which has been a buttress for the league and has also done a great deal for the dependants of ex-soldiers. In addition, as with every other honorable member, I receive numerous letters in the course of the year concerning anomalies in our repatriation procedure. It is to adjust these matters that I have taken certain action in the approved parliamentary way. As indicative of the anomalies that need attention, I shall mention some specific items. After hearing what I have to say I am sure that all honora’ble members will agree that justifiable grounds exist for asking for the appointment of a hon-party select committee to inquire into and report upon the whole subject.
First let me direct attention to the following statement issued by the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia under date the 29th May, 1939 :-
Select Committee on Repatriation. - Subbranches will have read that the League is opposed to the setting up of a Select Committee to examine the Repatriation Act in connexion with reported anomalies.- The suggestion is opposed because it can be a two-edged sword. Not every member of Parliament has a proper appreciation of the needs and claims of the ex-soldier. Very few have anything but a cursory knowledge of the act. Recommendations based on cloudy knowledge might be dangerous; the League would prefer to be without them. In any case, the League itself is constantly making recommendations and these recommendations are adopted from time to time as circumstances permit. Since 1920 there has hardly been a year without some additional repatriation benefit being made available - consequent upon League representations, and upon a need bei>ng disclosed by League representatives.
Honorable members and many returned soldiers will disagree with the opinion expressed in that memorandum, knowing that my intention is not to .take away benefits, but to obtain recommendations for a better deal for returned soldiers under the Repatriation Act. Although we are aware of the good work that the the league has done, it is a fact that at present it represents less than half, of the ex-soldiers in our community. I admit that it is an authoritative body, yet some of its sub-branches and numerous returned soldiers, in letters to members and the press, disagree with the views expressed by the federal president in his letter to the Prime Minister, as well as the statement I have read. This divergence of opinion alone emphasizes the need for inquiry by the proposed select committee.
One matter that I wish to have investigated is the position of soldiers suffering from tuberculosis. The anomalies in the Repatriation Act with respect to these men are remarkable. In this connexion I direct attention to the following statement that has been signed by a large number of ex-soldiers at Cresswell State Sanatorium at Mont. Park-
This is to certify that the soldiers whose signatures are hereon are all inmates of the Cresswell State Sanatorium, Mont Park.
Wo consider even though absolute proof may not be forthcoming, that we should receive the benefit of any doubts regarding out tubercular state as due to war service.
At present most of us are practically destitute excepting for the usual invalid pension. After our discharge, if at all, from Cresswell is it right and just that we should be thrown on the mercy of the world next door to penniless after our honest duty for King and Country ?
After all the promises of sincerity made on . our behalf, does it not seem unjust that because of some technical point which we have no power of surmounting we should be turned down for a war pension?/
The financial worry alone is enough to retard our progress towards the return to health and strength.
We appeal for renewed efforts and sympathy on our behalf.
I have in my hand my acknowledgment to the above, sent to the name heading the list at Creswell State Sanatorium, Mont Park. The letter was returned to me unclaimed because the unfortunate addressee had died before it could be delivered. I have no desire to harrow the feelings of honorable members by discussing, in too much detail, the nature of the anomalies that need rectifying; but I urge that these should be made the subject of early investigation by a select committee.
Another anomaly relates to men who served in places where it was difficult to keep a complete record of their medical history. The men attached to base units had no trouble at all in this regard. Every cold and minor ailment could be easily noted, but men who were serving in places remote from head-quarters often ignored those matters or found difficulty in having them recorded. When they were demobilized and had put aside their khaki they thought they had done with the whole business; but now that they have reached middle age and feel their disabilities, they realize the difficulties that confront them in showing that it is “ due to war service “.
– I take it that the honorable member desires the onus of proof to be placed upon the department.
– That is so. There ought also to be a presumptive section in the act. This is particularly desirable so that the widows of ex-soldiers who apply for the widows’ pension may be able to substantiate their claims to a widow’s pension of two guineas a week. Under present circumstances, unless they can support their claim with a certain amount of documentary evidence, which, in many instances, it is impossible for them to obtain, they must be satisfied for the rest of their lives with their portion of the war or service pension of their deceased husbands, which amounts to only 17s. a week for the service pension and may be considerably less if a. war pension. In all the circumstances, such treatment is often unjust and paltry.
Another class of ex-service men who find difficulty in attaching their disabilities to war causes are those who were prisoners of war. Having been one, although I have suffered less, I sympathize with these men greatly. It may surprise some honorable members to know that 4,104 Australians were made prisoners of war. Of that number 3,861 were imprisoned in Germany, where 385 died. A total of 196 Australians were taken prisoners by the Turks, of whom 60 died. The remnant of the 4,104 who are still alive and suffer from disabilities find the greatest difficulty in satisfying the authorities that their disabilities are associated with their war service. I can say of my own unit, the Flying Corps, that of the 44 men who were taken prisoners, only six survived. There were nine Australians among them, of whom only one is now alive, and he is a sick man.
Recently I appeared before the Entitlement Tribunal to give evidence in support of the second application by the widow of a lighthorseman who had been imprisoned by the Turks during the war. Actually much delay had been caused because the department had written to Turkey to find out how the man had been treated. Could anything be more ridiculous?It is stated in a paper which was presented to the British House of Commons, after a wide inquiry, that of the 13,000 men who were taken prisoner after the siege of Kut-el-Amara approximately only 3,000 survived their captivity. The man in connexion with whose case I appearedwas one of four who were exchanged by the Turks because he was seriously ill with dysentery, a disease common amongst Turkish prisoners, whilst he also had malaria, which was rife among those who served in Palestine or Mesopotamia. He died, leaving a widow and five little children, and for the last eighteen months or thereabouts the widow has been trying without success to obtain a pension. This is a glaring instance of the injustice that can be created by the lack of flexibility in the act. Even the enemy showed the man some compassion, but for eighteen months his own country, for which he fought, has denied justice to his widow. The tribunal, which hears appeals from the Repatriation Commission, rejected the claim because there was no evidence that the man’s death was due to war service.. It was stated that he had died from a heart affection which the specialists said was common in middle age, but the cause of the affection in his case could not be demonstrated. When I appearedbefore the tribunal at the request of the widow,. I found that another witness, who had also been a prisoner of war, had stated that the soldier in question had been a very sick man while in Turkey, and had been exchanged. Had that witness not been available, and had I been unable to give evidence, the widow would have had little chance of obtaining a pension.
– Has she received the pension yet?
– I do not know. The case, is to some extent, sub judice, and perhaps I should not say anything about it, but this is the only opportunity I shall have. The annual repatriation vote amounts to approximately £8,000,000, and the money is not wasted. Only 76,000 ex-soldiers receive pensions; the other recipients are dependants. The department is run very economically, but the act is too rigid, and should be overhauled. Consideration should be given by the Government during the recess to this matter. Over two months ago I strongly suggested that something should be done in the matters that I have related, and during recent years I have made frequent attempts to have improvements effected. I have received shoals of letters from every part of the Commonwealth asking that the act bo amended. Unless action in this direction is taken many worthy people will be denied justice and be deprived of their rights. I know that other honorable members feel strongly on this subject. They appreciate that successive governments have tried to do the right thing, and that the officials are administering the act in the only way they can ; but it is the act itself that is at fault. At present, the returned soldiers are not receiving the help and the sympathy to which they are entitled.
.- I believe that Parliament, given the opportunity, would widen the scope of the Repatriation Act very considerably, so as to make it easier for those who are trying to obtain justice for themselves and their families. Most honorable members of this Parliament have had repatriation cases brought before them. I have several soldier settlements in my electorate, and I come into contact with a large number of persons who have claims before the department. Recently, I have received a great many letters from returned soldier clubs in my electorate, and’ from individual returned soldiers, protesting against the statement of Sir Gilbert Dyett that there was no necessity for an amendment of the Repatriation Act.
– The honorable member is not putting the matter fairly. Sir Gilbert Dyett did not object to the amendment of the act. He objected to the appointment of a select committee.
– When an honest attempt is made by members of this
House to secure justice for the returned soldiers, Sir Gilbert Dyett, and every one else interested in the matter, should applaud the effort. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was at one time Minister in charge of Repatriation, and I have no doubt that, even then, many things could have been done by him to relieve the condition of those who were promised practically everything under the sun when they went to the war, but actually obtained very little.- - The efforts of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to obtain an expression of opinion from honorable members on this subject should be applauded by every ex-member of the Australian Imperial Force and, indeed, by every citizen of Australia. In the repatriation hospitals there are hundreds of ex-soldiers suffering from tuberculosis who are receiving pensions of only £1 10s. a week. Deaths among them are frequent, but the department persists in its attitude that their disability is not due to war service. When a tubercular soldier applies for a pension, he has very little chance of success unless his application is supported by medical evidence.
– Even then his chances would be slender.
– Every one who has appeared before the Entitlement Tribunal as an advocate knows that the act is too rigid, and should be amended. Under the act as it now stands, it . is impossible in many cases for applicants to prove their claims. A little while ago I interviewed the then Minister in charge of Repatriation (Senator Foll) on behalf of a man who enlisted in 1915 and who, upon his discharge, received a 50 per cent, pension because of war injuries consisting of injuries to both his legs. Some time later he went into hospital at Randwick, and was afterwards discharged, being told that one leg was well-. On the strength of that, his pension was reduced by 25 per cent. He continued to receive treatment for the other leg. Eventually, the leg which was supposed to be sound became bad again, and it is now necessary that an operation be performed on both legs. The Repatriation Department, however, will recognize the disability in respect of one leg only, so that the man will have to go into Randwick for three, months for an operation on one leg, then leave that institution and go into another hospital for an operation on the other leg.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give me particulars of that case.
– The man told me that he had been unable to obtain any satisfaction from the . authorities,but after an interview with the Minister in charge of Repatriation, I was able to arrange that he should-, be admitted to Randwick for an operation on both legs.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the administration of the Repatriation Department. I could give many more instances in addition to those which I have already outlined, showing that it is almost impossible for large numbers of returned soldiers to prove that disabilities from which they are at present suffering are due to war service. The Government is not giving to this department the attention which it deserves. The Minister in charge of it is also PostmasterGeneral.
– The Repatriation Department is receiving the maximum of attention.
– I am not complaining in any way about the Minister, but am simply pointing out that it is impossible for one Minister to handle two such important departments. Undoubtedly the Minister is doing his best in respect of each of those departments, but I suggest that the combined job is beyond one man. If Parliament were given an opportunity to review the Repatriation Act it would undoubtedly broaden the scope of that legislation in order to enable large numbers of returned soldiers to obtain justice in cases of the kind which I have mentioned.
This Government has made no attempt to deal with the problem of unemployment which is daily becoming more acute. In my electorate thousands of people have had no employment excepting relief work during the last four or five years. Unemployment is primarily the responsibility of the national government. Something might be said in favour of the youth employment scheme initiated some time ago, but I point out that in New South Wales, at any rate, up to last
December veryf ew young men obtained jobs under thatscheme. Those who were successful had first to find someone who would employ them. That is not the basis on which to tackle this problem.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- 1 should be the last honorable member to criticize officers charged with the administration of the Repatriation Department. However, so many years have now elapsed since the termination of the Great War that it is imperative that we alter our policy towards those returned soldiers whose disabilities are almost certainly the result of their war service, although no official records exist to prove that claim. Because these men cannot prove definitely that their disabilities are the result of war service they are denied any benefits under this legislation. I am not criticizing the Government or the department in this respect, but I urge the Government to call a conference of representatives of those interested in order to see what can be done to remove anomalies of this kind. Not only are the men themselves to be considered; we should also bear in mind the welfare of their dependants, because it is obvious that, owing to their disabilities, returned soldiers, as a general rule, are not able to provide for their dependants or survivors as fully as can breadwinners who enjoy complete health. A system under which a returned man is treated by the departmental doctors for one complaint, which is directly due to war service, but is forced to seek medical attention elsewhere for another complaint from which he is also suffering, is ridiculous. Even if the latter complaint were shown definitely not to be due to war service the repatriation authorities should treat it in the general interests of the returned man. That course would be far more sensible than the one now followed. It has been stated in this debate that, generally, medical evidence tends to show that disabilities of returned soldiers are due to war service. It has been my experience that it is very difficult to get the Repatriation Department to accept the opinion of eminent outside medical men when that opinion conflicts with that of the departmental medical officers.
– There is something more to the matter than that; outside medical men could not form an opinion in that respect unless they know the full history of a case.
– There is something in what the Minister says, but my point is that the departmental doctors and officers follow a hard-and-fast rule that they must not be influenced in any way by outside medical evidence.
– That is definitely not the case.
– That has been the procedure followed in practically every case of this kind which I have handled.
– Some of the best soldiers who would not go on sick parade are suffering more because of their war service than many who are receiving pensions.
– That is so. I know of many returned soldiers who today are looking up their old army comrades in an endeavour to secure evidence concerning their state of health while at the front. One, for instance, who was a member of the Army Medical Corps contracted what he thought to be a minor skin disease. As he did not think it was serious, he did not seek treatment for it while on active service and, consequently, no entry concerning his complaint was made in his record. To-day, however, that man is suffering a very great disability as the result of the development of that complaint. He is hardly able to walk, but because he is unable to furnish a medical record covering the time he was on active service, he is refused a pension. I know that man well, and I feel certain that he is not trying to “put over “ anything on the department. More sympathetic consideration should be shown by the department in cases of this kind. I am not blaming the authorities in this respect. Indeed, I pay a tribute to the efforts which successive governments have made in broadening the scope of the Repatriation Act. As time goes on, however, we must treat claims of this kind with increasing sympathy. Again I urge the Government to call a conference of interested parties with the object of overcoming some of the anomalies to which I have referred.
Another matter to which I wish to refer concerns the development of our fisheries. A research vessel is engaged in surveying the waters off the north coast of Queensland. I believe it is doing good work. I suggest, however, that it should not confine its operations to any one locality for too long a period. 1 understand that it will be engaged off the north of Queensland for about two years. The experts might easily justify this arrangement, but I suggest that greater encouragement wouldbe given to the extension of the fishing, industry if the services of this vessel were made available for varying periods in other localities around our coast. One spot to which it might direct its immediate attention, temporarily at any rate, is in the vicinity of Port Fairy on the south coast of Victoria where, incidentally, the largest fishing fleet in Australia is operating. Undoubtedly, large quantities of fish exist in these waters, andI know that various interests are considering the establishment of enterprises there in connexion with the industry. However, they do not feel inclined to go ahead with any proposal until they have been able to obtain certain information which could be supplied by this research vessel. I trust that the research vessel will be transferred,at least for a time, to other parts of the Australian coast, instead of allowing it to operate in only one section.
I also urge the Government to increase its activities in the search for oil, in localities other than those in which investigations are now being made. I am aware that the Government is assisting in the search in Gippsland, and, according to the reports received, good work is being done. There is, however, an area in the vicinity of Portland, in the western district of Victoria, where seepage of oil and material cast up on the shore suggest the possibility of oil being obtained. A company which has been formed for some time has expended a considerable sum in the search for oil, and, as I understand that it has now qualified for governmental assistance and is submitting an application, I trust that the Government will afford it some help, because it is making a genuine endeavour to discover oil in that part of Australia.
– I support the opinions expressed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) concerning the disabilities experienced by many returned soldiers in the mutter of war pensions, and also his remarks concerning the unfortunate position of many South African war veterans. I ,am wholeheartedly in agreement with the honorable member for Balaclava that the Repatriation Act should be amended in order to afford more “assistance, to many hundreds of returned soldiers who are unable to receive a war pension or to secure the necessary medical treatment. Hundreds of returned soldiers interview me seeking advice and assistance, but, unfortunately, owing to the way in which the act has been framed, help cannot be afforded. I do not blame the members of the Repatriation Commission or the members of the Entitlement Tribunal, all of whom are returned soldiers, because I believe they carry out their duties faithfully to the degree that the law permits. The honorable member for Balaclava has, on several occasions, endeavoured to introduce a private bill to amend the existing act, but ‘an opportunity has not been afforded. The Repatriation Act will have to be amended before these unfortunate men will be able to get the assistance to .which they are entitled. During the last two months, numerous cases have been brought under my notice of men appealing to the board, then to the commission, and then to the tribunal, but because they cannot furnish fresh material evidence - that is the stereotyped reply which they always receive - their applications for a pension have been rejected. Unfortunately, it is difficult to obtain fresh material evidence. As stated by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) they would have to travel all over Australia searching for men who were members of the same unit to support their claims.
– The position is worse for a widow, who, in many instances, does not even know the unit.
– That is so. I knew a big robust man who before he enlisted was doing labourer’s work, and who on returning from the war told me that he was suffering from what appeared to be a severe cold. I suggested that he should see a doctor, but he said that he wished to get out of his uniform and back to work. His condition became worse and instead of consulting a doctor, he went to a chemist who treated him for an ordinary cold. Eventually he died, leaving a widow and four or five children, but when his wife applied for a pension her application was rejected because -it was said that he did not die as the result of war disabilities. We endeavoured to ascertain when the cold which eventually developed into tuberculosis first attacked him, but the files did not disclose that he had ever suffered any disability in thai or in any other respect. There is no doubt, however, that his death from tuberculosis was due to war service. Eventually we secured ,about a dozen sworn affidavits from men who worked with him prior to enlistment and on his return from the war, all of whom declared that he always enjoyed good health. The only intimation we received was that a pension could not be paid unless there was fresh material evidence to show that his death was due to war service. His widow is not receiving a pension. Provision should be made in the Repatriation Act, whereby a woman on the death of her husband, can receive some financial assistance. I congratulate the honorable member for Balaclava upon the action he has taken in this matter, because I believe that he has the support of an overwhelming majority of returned soldiers.
For some time past, I, and other honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) and. the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), have brought under the notice of the Government the position of some of the South African war veterans. The matter was raised when the Estimates were last under consideration, and several days ago a deputation representative of every State in Australia waited on the Minister for Repatriation, urging the Government to assist those few unfortunate men who, up to the present, have not had any relief. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that he sympathized with the request and would place the whole matter before Cabinet. As the result of representations made to the Government two or three years ago, it decided that on the death of a South African war veteran £10 should be paid towards his funeral expenses. That is unfair because if any financial assistance is to be afforded, it should be given during the life of the person concerned. Only a few need assistance, but many of them who are between the ages of 60 and 65 are compelled to live on the verge of starvation.
– There are only about 200 throughout Australia.
– Yes.I know a South African war veteran residing in Queensland who was wounded in the neck, a knee, an arm, and also had a scalp wound, and consequently is a total cripple. For years he has been living on charity. During the South African war, £32,000 was raised in Queensland for patriotic purposes. None collected was used for the purpose for which it was subscribed. The money was paid into a trust fund, and the trustees were never approached as to what should be done with it. In 1910, about £13,000 was still available and the fund eventually dwindled to £6,156, which amount was handed over to those controlling patriotic funds raised during the Great War. Had that amount been retained many of those unfortunate men would have derived considerable benefits. The South African war veterans want very little when they ask that they be placed on the same footing in respect of service pensions as is occupied by members of the Australian Imperial Force. I plead with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison) to do everything that he promised to do in this direction. Summed up, the proposal is merely that the South African war veterans receive a service pension at the age of 60 years instead of the old-age pension at 65.
– I endorse the appeal made by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) on behalf of the South African war veterans. Their plight has been referred to by myself and others on many occasions in this Parliament and it was the subject of a recent deputation to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison). I do not desire to anticipate the result of that deputation. No exservice men have been so badly treated in Australia as have theSouth African war veterans. They have no repatriation benefits, no pension rights and no recog nition as returned soldiers under the provisions in respect of preference in employment to returned soldiers.
– Even though they can join the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia.
– That has nothing to do with the Government. The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia is outside the Government.
– The Repatriation Act needs overhauling.
– The honorable gentleman was once Minister for Repatriation. I like these men who, having been in charge of a department, criticize that department for shortcomings which they failed themselves to rectify.
– The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia is strongly behind the South African Soldiers Associations in their claims. The South African war veterans is a forgotten legion. The honorable member for Brisbane declared that the fund for the benefit of South African war veterans was raised in Queensland during the South African War. Some indication of the way in which they have been treated is shown in the fact that large balances of funds raised in the States during the South African War for one specific purpose - repatriation of South African soldiers - were transferred in a. most reprehensible way to other revenue without reference to the donors, £26,000 being transferred in New South Wales and £40,000 in Victoria.
Mr.Harrison. - The transfers were made by the State governments. That has nothing to do with this Government.
– I am not blaming the Commonwealth Government. Funds were similarly transferred to other revenue in South Australia and, as the honorable member for Brisbane pointed out, the balance of the fund that was created in Queensland was not used for its original purpose.
– In Queensland it was transferred to the patriotic fund.
– Which has no particular reference to South African war veterans. The point is that if this revenue was available to-day, there would be little need to come to the Federal Government for assistance. Perhaps the Minister may confer with the States on this aspect. The Minister for Repatriation has investigated the claims of the South African war veterans and I hope that he will arrange for them to have access to the repatriation benefits, including service pensions. The Commonwealth Government already grants amounts of £10 to meet the costs of the funerals of South African war veterans who die in poor circumstances, indicating its acceptance of its moral responsibility towards these ex-service men.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has referred to anomalies in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I have received complaints from persons affected by that act, but I have been given to understand that the Minister for Repatriation is arranging a consultation with the returned soldiers’ organizations throughout Australia in reference to the Repatriation Act. I will await with interest the report on this conference.
It would appear from the remarks of some honorable gentlemen that they feel that the borrowing activities of semigovernmental bodies should be curtailed, t hope that that will not happen, because, if it did, the adverse repercussions on employment would be tremendous. I realize the difficulties in connexion with loan requirements of several bodies and a regulation of the system to prevent a hardening of the interest rate. Every State has important national works in hand, but it may be argued that most of them are in New South Wales. It must be realized that two-fifths of Australia’s population is concentrated in New South Wales, and that there must necessarily be more development in that State than in any other part of Australia. The establishment of large industries at Port Kembla, Newcastle, and elsewhere, entails the provision of amenities, including water, sewerage and housing, which can be provided only by a sturdy financial policy. The entry of semi-governmental bodies into the loan market cannot be blamed for the hardening of the interest rate. The semi-governmental bodies control many national reproductive works. The Sydney Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board has 6,000 men employed on full-time work. The Newcastle Water
Board employs 1,600 men. At Broken Hill 400 men are engaged in water-works, and similar works in other parts of the State employ about 2,000 men. Housing schemes are urgently necessary at places such as Port Kembla and Captain’s Flat, as well as in metropolitan areas. Curtailment of the financial resources of semi-governmental bodies would result in a stoppage of reproductive works and essential services, loss of orders to factories, curtailment of industries, with an extension of unemployment and a recession. The Minister for Works, Mr. Spooner, in the Government of New South Wales, said that the lives of more than 20,000 workers would be affected by curtailment of the activities of semigovernmental bodies, and I urge that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) give earnest and sympathetic consideration to the aspect which I have placed before him.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) a few days ago referred to the postal workers’ award. The postal workers are a loyal and efficient body, but the award has given them a great deal of concern. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) already has the facts, and I hope that he will give earnest consideration to the position placed before him. r
.- The first matter to which I wish to refer involves the practices of the .States in administering their unemployment relief schemes. In Victoria and, I presume, in the other States, the practice is to deny unemployment assistance to persons whose family income exceeds what is called “permissible income “. In determining permissible income everything that is received by members of the family living under the same roof is counted - even the old-age pension that is paid to the father or to the mother, or, perhaps, to both, and the invalid pension that is paid to an incapacitated member of the family. This means, of course, that the invalid and old-age pensioners are contributing out of their pittance to the maintenance of unemployed members of their families. It is quite true that they could say to the unemployed members of their families, “ Get out of the place and apply for relief on your own “, but that is not human nature, and it is very unfair that pensioners should be burdened with the maintenance of their unemployed adult children, as they are in Victoria. I suggest, as I have suggested before, that this matter should be taken up with the States. It seems to me that it would not be beyond the competence of this Parliament to pass legislation in respect of invalid and old-age pensions to provide that the States shall not adopt the practice to which I have referred.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is a long-overdue agreement for reciprocity in pensions between Australia and New Zealand. In 1913 an agreement was made between New Zealand and Australia. That agreement was set out in a schedule to an act passed in New Zealand in 1913, namely, the Oldage Pensions Reciprocity Act. That agreement was reached between the Fisher Government in Australia and the Massey Government in New Zealand. The Massey Government introduced legislation to give effect to that agreement, but it has never been adopted in Australia. I understand that negotiations are proceeding between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand for a reciprocal pensions scheme on lines more favorable to Australia than the scheme that was agreed upon in 1913. I have not seen printed in any paper here the text of the 1913 agreement, but I find the text in a speech made last year by the Minister for Pensions in New Zealand, Mr. Parry, when presenting the New Zealand Pensions Department’s annual report. He said -
With the permission of the House I will read the principal part of the proposed agreement to which we are still awaiting a reply: -
In the case of an applicant who is eligible otherwise than by residence on or before the 1st January, 1930, for a Commonwealth pension and who has been in residence in the Commonwealth for twelve months immediately preceding his application, residence in New Zealand to count as residence in the Commonwealth.
In the case of an applicant who is eligible otherwise than by residence on or before the 1st January, 1930, for a New Zealand pension and who has been resident in New Zealand for twelve months immediately preceding his application, residence in the Commonwealth to count as residence in New Zealand.
Each country to accept financial liability in proportion to the respective period of qualifying residence by the pensioner in each country as at date of first grant of pension. In the event of any person in receipt of a reciprocal pension becoming eligible by residence for a pension in the country in which he is residing, full financial liability to be then taken by that country.
This matter has been under consideration since July last, but nothing has been done. In reply to a question which I asked recently, the Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) stated that the agreement had not yet been completed. That was almost the same reply as was given by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to the New Zealand Government in February of this year, when he said that the proposed agreement was receiving consideration, but had not been finally settled. This matter is very important in view of our nearness to New Zealand. One of the greatest embargoes on the free movement of people between Australia and New Zealand is the feeling that they will lose their pension rights. “We should ensure that people who leave Australia and take up residence in New Zealand, or vice versa, will be able to carry on their incomplete rights to a pension until those rights are completed at the expiration of 20 years’ residence in either of the two countries. The agreement which has been proposed by New Zealand seems to me to be entirely fair. I understand that it is much more favorable to Australia than the one which was drawn up in 1913, but was subsequently abandoned by us.
For a long time I have been of the opinion that the Pensions Department is not administering the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act according to its legal content. There is no appeal from the commissioner’s decision. The commissioner interprets the provisions of the act according to his own sweet will. The act provides that, with the exception of blind persons, nobody shall be entitled to an invalid pension unless he or she is permanently incapacitated for work. By regulation the phrase “permanently incapacitated for work” is expanded to mean, “ totally and permanently incapacitated for work “. The view taken by the Pensions Department of the phrase “ totally and permanently incapacitated for work “ is that it is not sufficient that a person’s incapacity debars him from obtaining work at which he can earn a living, or for that matter earn anything at all. He must be totally and permanently incapacitated for all physical exertion in the nature of work. Let us take, for instance, the common case of a person suffering from small epilepsy - I have many such cases in mind. Such a person is totally unemployable, because ho one knows at what time he or she may be subject to a fit. Girls suffering from that disease cannot obtain employment as domestics because, being overcome by a fit in the course of their duties, might result in the breakage of articles or the frightening of children. For that reason no one will offer them employment. Yet, while at home with their families, relatives, or friends, these unfortunates are quite capable of performing general household duties. The department takes the view that these persons are not totally and permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the act.
– The department should give special consideration to cases such as that.
– In many cases that is done.
– I personally have not been successful in securing pensions for such persons whose cases I have brought under the notice of the department. I have received many letters from the department stating that people suffering from .small epilepsy are not recognized as being totally and permanently incapacitated for work. What happens is that a case is referred to a departmental doctor - in Victoria, we have some very conservative doctors - who certifies that the person concerned is not totally and permanently incapacitated according to the department’s interpretation of the act. I submit that this rigid view of the law is wrong. There is similar wording in some of the Workers’ Compensation acts. In the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation Act there is the phrase permanent and total disablement”. That, I should say, is on all fours with the phrase “ permanently and totally incapacitated “ in our pensions regulations.
The meaning of the former phrase was dealt with by the High Court of Australia in 1933 in the case of Wicks v. The Union Steamship Company of NevZealand Limited. The six judges of that court united in giving a judgment which included the following statement: -
The commissioner was, therefore, called upon to decide whether the worker had been permanently and totally disabled, an expression which, in our opinion, means physically incapacitated from ever earning by work any part of his livelihood. The condition is satislied when capacity for earning has gone except for the chance of obtaining special employment of an unusual kind.
I submit ‘that, if an injury sustained by a person is such that he is debarred from earning by work any part of his livelihood, then he is permanently and totally incapacitated, even though there is some special employment - which he is not likely to find - at which he might earn his living. For instance, a girl suffering from epilepsy might secure work for an hour or two during the day, but she could not possibly earn her living. That is the natural meaning of the phrase “ totally and permanently incapacitated “. 1 endeavoured in this Parliament to have an amendment made to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act to remedy that anomaly, but I was informed that it would cost too much. In my opinion, many people who are entitled to invalid pensions are suffering because of the view of the. law taken by the department.
– The honorable member would approve of a partial pension for partial disablement?
– That, of course, would require an alteration of the act. All that I am asking for now is that the actual words in the existing statute should be more liberally interpreted so that a pension would be granted to persons whose incapacity prevents them from earning any part of their livelihood. It is not sufficient that in some hypothetical or imaginary case, not likely to occur, a person may possibly be able to do some work.
– Some persons who are partially incapacitated might obtain intermittent employment.
– What I am seeking is that the English meaning of the words assigned by the courts in cognate statutes should be assigned to the words in this statute.
Another .matter to which I wish to refer is also the legal interpretation of that section of the act which provides for the withholding of pensions from people who deliberately divest themselves of their property in order to make themselves eligible for a pension. The department goes beyond that and says that if at any time an applicant for a pension has voluntarily given property to a child or some other relative that property may for all time be regarded as the property of the applicant. It may be that ten years ago a person who had no thought of ever applying for a pension disposed of a house, or ‘ some other property to a child or relative. In course of time, circumstances may have changed and that person may have had to apply for a pension. -The department says “While we do not suggest that you divested yourself of that property with the object of qualifying for a pension, and we are prepared to believe that you never contemplated wanting a pension,- for the purposes^ of this act it is our practice to regard that property as still being your property “.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I draw attention’ to the fact that in South Australia there are quite a number of borderline cases which should be thoroughly investigated. It often happens that the departmental doctors do not agree with opinions expressed by an outside doctor.
– Or by half a dozen outside doctors.
– Exactly. There are many cases of that nature. I know personally of quite a number of cases in South Australia in which pensions have been withheld from deserving people. The position of many dependants of deceased soldiers is also deplorable. When a conflict of opinion occurs between the departmental medical officers and private practitioners, the Repatriation Commission almost invariably disregards the opinions of the private practitioners. This T. consider to be quite unfair.
– Many applicants for pensions are instructed by the department to consult private practitioners.
– That may be so, but those who have had considerable dealings with the department have formed the opinion that the word of the departmental officers carries far more weight than, that of the private practitioners. The benefit of any doubt should be given to the applicants.
– The law provides that they shall be given the benefit of the doubt.
– Then the law is seldom observed in that respect. I plead for a more sympathetic investigation of cases by the Repatriation Department.
I wish now to refer to the urgent need for consistent investigations into the possibility of making Australia more selfcontained in regard to its oil requirements. It is estimated that about 400,000,000 gallons of petrol a year is used in Australia. Scientists and geological experts have declared that the world’s known sources of petrol supply are being rapidly exhausted, and it is predicted that they will be utterly depleted within the next twenty years.
– Our power alcohol resources should be investigated.
– I agree with the honorable member. If power alcohol can be economically produced from sugar, grapes or other’ raw materials, the production of it should be encouraged. In 1936 this Parliament authorized the opening of the Petroleum Oil Search Trust Account, with a credit of £250,000, to encourage the search for oil. Although a small amount of money has been expended from that account in Victoria, practically nothing effective has been done. We should not confine our search for oil to ari examination of the contours of the country by the use of aeroplanes. A much more intensive activity is essential to success. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that a great deal more could be done to encourage the extraction of oil from coal. While I was in Sydney recently I inspected a plant established there for this purpose. I do not suggest that it was the best plant that could be obtained, but it appeared to me to be doing good work. The production of oil from shale deserves more attention that it has received. We should also make a great deal more use of our brown coal resources in this regard. South Australia has very extensive deposits of brown coal, which, I believe, could be utilized for the production of oil. The trust account to which I have referred could be drawn upon to assist experimentation in this regard. The motorists of Australia paid £10,668,000 in taxes in 1937-38 through the impost of 7d. a gallon on petrol, plus primage. Unfortunately, practically the whole of this amount of money is taken from Australia. The subject, therefore, is important and merits the closest attention by the Government. The answers I have received to questions I have asked Ministers on this matter have not been satisfactory.
The Defence Department could, in my opinion, do a great deal more than it has done hitherto to encourage the local production of oil in one way or another.
.- I support the request of the honorable member for Balaclava. (Mr. White), the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and other honorable gentlemen who have urged the Government to introduce an amendment of the Repatriation Act to liberalize its provisions. The public generally is of the opinion that far more returned soldiers are drawing pensions than is actually the case. According to the last returns available, the number of Australian ex-soldier pensioners is 77,315 and their average pension is £1 19s. 6d. a fortnight, which is less than the amount paid to invalid and old-age pensioners, who are in receipt of the full pension. It is admitted by medical officers attached to the Repatriation Department and also by eminent private practitioners that the average life of exsoldiers has been shortened by ten years in consequence of their war service. For this, reason these men are entitled to the most favorable consideration possible. Fortunately many ex-soldiers are enjoying good health and do not need pensions; but those who apply for pensions should be treated favorably and be given the benefit of any doubt as to whether their disabilities are actually due to war service or not. As the honorable member for
Balaclava pointed out, ex-prisoners of war must, in the very nature of the case, find it almost impossible to demonstrate that their disabilities are due to war experiences, yet every reasonably-minded man must surely agree that those who had to live under the appalling conditions that existed in the concentration camps in Germany and Turkey during the war must inevitably have suffered an impairment of their health. It should not be necessary to argue that point. The great majority of the officials of the Repatriation Department are sympathetic to returned soldiers, and, as far as the law allows, treats them with every consideration, hut I fear that the Entitlement Tribunal, on which there are two legal gentlemen, is too apt to search for legal reasons for not granting pensions.
– The honorable gentleman cannot know the chairman of the Entitlement Tribunal or he would not make such a statement.
– From my experience of the Entitlement Tribunal I feel that it deals with the business that comes before it in too legalistic a way.
– Before a case reaches the Entitlement Tribunal it has been considered by two other boards, the whole of the members of which are returned soldiers or the nominees of returned soldiers’ organizations.
– Nevertheless, I cannot dismiss the feeling that the Entitlement Tribunal is unduly influenced by the legal outlook. This may not be intentional, but it is so.
– If the tribunal can find a reason for rejecting an application it rejects it.
– That is my feeling and it is based upon personal observation.
– If the honorable member had had any experience within the Repatriation Department he would hold a different and contrary opinion.
– I do not agree with the Minister, and I have had experience within the- department. The act needs overhauling.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman overhaul it while he was in office?
– I did some overhauling.
-I know of a number of cases that have been harshly dealt with, and I should like reconsideration given to them. I have in mind a man who suffers from a tubercular throat. He could not prove that it was due to his war service. He is unable to work and has practically lost his voice but, because he has a small income, he cannot secure either a war pension or a service pension, although he has a wife and six children to maintain.
– Is he not receiving treatment?
– Yes ; he is allowed treatment at the Caulfield hospital. I do not see how any reasonably-minded man with a knowledge of the facts of that case can deny that the disability is partly due to war service. I direct attention to the case of another man who has a piece of shrapnel in his thigh which has caused serious trouble in his leg. A local doctor and an officer of the Repatriation Department at Caulfield X-rayed him. He has rapidly become worse. He applied to the Department for consideration and after waiting a fortnight without a reply he communicated with it again, and was informed that the department was not in the habit of communicating direct with applicants; it communicated with their medical advisers. Consequently, he had to consult a doctor at his own expense. The doctor communicated with the department, which replied that the case was being considered. A month passed, during which the man heard nothing, and in the meantime he became bed-ridden. He communicated with me, and I got in touch with the Deputy-Director, who said that the matter was finalized, and would shortly be considered by the board. He said that he would communicate with me further on the subject, but I have heard nothing more. The man was X-rayed on the 26th April, and practically a month went by without his hearing anything more about it.’ Itwas admitted, of course, that he had been wounded by shrapnel, but he was not informed whether he would be admitted to a military hospital for treatment, or whether he would have togo to a publichospital All inquiries should have been completed within a week or ten days.
I ‘agree with what was said by the honorable member for Brisbane regarding the claims of the South African war veterans to service pensions. There are very few of these men. left now, and their request is reasonable. I have several in my own district who are anxious to receive this concession, so that they may obtain a pension as a right instead of having to apply for the old-age pension, which might be regarded as a charity.
I should like to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) the position of returned soldiers employed in the Public Service, particularly in the Postal Department. I have been told by reliable persons that when temporary employees have been in continuous employment for nearly the full period that would entitle them to permanent appointment, they are put off for a while, so that they lose their qualifications. Sometimes, when there is only a fort- night to go they are put off, whether deliberately for the. purpose of depriving them of their qualifications, I do not know.
– I should be glad if the honorable member will furnish me with particulars of specific cases.
– I shall do that.
– I have had cases of the kind referred to me on previous occasions, but, upon investigation, it : was found that the facts were not just as stated.
– I know that the Minister is sympathetic, and I hope that some action will be taken to ensure that the men are treated justly..
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Government the serious position of the wool and wheat industries, the two most important industries in Australia. The prosperity of the whole Commonwealth depends upon those industries, and no national government can afford to neglect them. The prices of wool and wheat in the world’s markets to-day are below the cost of production, and that is why difficulty is being experienced in raising both internal and external loans, and why the rate of interest is rising. Much greater attention is being given in this
Parliament to the needs of less important industries, probably because they are able to command greater political influence. It seems possible to obtain money and attention for industries not nearly so important as the ones I have mentioned. The wool and wheat industries are of the utmost importance, not only to those directly engaged in them, but also to every one in Australia. The financial stability of the country depends upon its exports, which provide the income on which every body lives, lt is pleasing to know that our new Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recognizes the importance of these great primary industries, and the seriousness of their present condition. He has promised that an attempt will be made to solve the problems associated with them, but it should not be left until next harvest; action should be taken now. There seems to be little prospect of anything being done during the present sittings of Parliament. The problem facing Australia in connexion with wheat is the same as that which faces all wheat-exporting countries, but that does not make it any the less serious from our point of view. The wheat industry is one of the greatest employers of labour in Australia, and it is a big factor in the decentralization of population. No less than 97£ per cent, of the national income from exports is derived from primary industries, and of these wool and wheat are the most important. It may be said, indeed, that they constitute our first line of defence. It is of little use creating defence forces if the economy of the country is crippled to such an extent that we are unable to finance military operations.
In “Western Australia, we are not blessed with many rivers, and the problem of a water supply is a serious one in many townships. The cities everywhere are well off in this respect, but the people of the back-blocks have difficulty, in a low-rainfall year, in getting sufficient water for household purposes. Watersupply systems are needed in districts along the Great Southern line, and north of the Coolgardie pipe-line, and I hope that sympathetic consideration will be given by the Loan Council to requests for loan moneys for this purpose.
In common with other honorable members, I desire to urge upon the
Government the need for more generous treatment of returned soldiers m the matter of pensions. I know that the Repatriation Act has been amended so as to give more generous treatment than formerly, but many deserving applications are still being turned down because the applicants are unable to produce the. evidence required. One returned soldier whom I know was wounded and gassed, but, with his youth still upon him, he did not apply for a pension when he returned home. He went to work, but in a short time his health broke down, and then the question arose whether his condition was due to war service. His brother, who had practically the same period of service, and who had also been wounded and gassed, applied for a pension on his return because his chest, happened, at that time, to -be a little worse. To-day, he is in receipt of a pension, although his condition is no worse now than that of his brother, who receives no pension at all. It so happens that the records of the doctor who examined him upon his return were destroyed by fire, and now, because the doctor cannot turn <up the relevant papers, this man, who is not able to work more than one day a week, has been refused a pension. In this way, men of sterling worth, who served their country faithfully, and whose records are clean, are being allowed to suffer real want because they cannot supply the proof demanded by the department. Surely it is only common sense to assume that the condition of a man who served for four years overseas, who suffered from wounds and gas, and whose health has now broken down, is almost certainly due to war service: That is much more reasonable than ,to assume that his condition is due. to life in. the sylvan glades of Western Australia. The department should) be more generous in its treatment of such men.
.- I wish to justify an interjection which I made a little while ago with regard to the administration of the Repatriation Department. It will be a sorry day for the returned soldiers if the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, Mr. Norman Mighell, is replaced by any other man. Because of his great kindness and his knowledge as to how far he can go under the act my only regret is that he is not also chairman of the Entitlement Board. I know that he has stretched the act in order to do justice to many returned men. I voted against the establishment of both of these tribunals, and I do not think that I shall ever be sorry that I did so. Any man who went to war in perfect health physically and mentally should not now be denied a pension when lie suffers certain disabilities due in part, at least; to his war service. I know of many men who were perfect physical specimens when they enlisted, and who, since their return from the front, have not worked in city areas where it might be said they have contracted complaints peculiar to congested industrial life. Nevertheless, these men are to-day dying on their feet, and when they ask for ‘a pension they are told that they must prove that their complaints are due to war service. The departmental doctors are to blame more than anybody else for the unsympathetic treatment meted out in eases of this kind. Our repatriation legislation should be liberalized, particularly in the direction of giving, greater recognition to outside medical opinion.
For a number of years I have been urging the Postmaster-General’s Department to build a post office at Collinsville. The other day I asked the following questions on this matter: -
The reply I received was as follows: -
More than £600 has been paid. in rent by the department” for this building which at no time would have brought more than £150 by auction and possibly would not bring more than £70 at a sale to-morrow. When Mr. Corbett was Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland he endeavoured unsuccessfully to have repairs effected to this structure. The owner, Mrs. Fiddler, said that the rent she received for this place represented the major portion of her income, so she could not afford to keep the building in proper repair, although under the terms of the lease she is required to do so. 1 again urge the Postmaster-General to provide a new post office at Collinsville. Not more than a few hundred pounds would be involved. A new post office would be more than justified because Collinsville is the centre of a rich little coal-field and the township itself gives every promise of expanding. Furthermore, when the town was surveyed an area was set aside as a site for a permanent post office. Nevertheless, the department has decided against the erection of this building, preferring to continue to pay £1 a week for the shack it now uses. The building is not more than 25 feet by 50 feet, yet it accommodates a postmaster, three male assistants and a telephonist, all of whom work in the one room because there are no partitions. Records are kept in fourteen benzine boxes which were installed for the purpose by the postmaster. Surely’ the department will not tolerate this state of affairs. To continue paying rent for such a building is a wilful waste or public money. Successive deputy directors in Queensland have turned down the proposal to erect a new post- office in thi? town on the ground that no money is available. I understand that the present lease will expire in October, when, from all appearances, Mrs. Fiddler will hold out for a higher rental, knowing that there is no other available place in the town. Furthermore, the department would be involved in considerable expenditure in transferring its equipment. I urge the Postmaster-General to give this matter further attention.
For some time the Cane-growers Council at Ingham has been endeavouring to secure a right-of-way on property owned by the Postal Department. I urged thar that request be granted, but was told by the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs that it was the policy of the department to retain all of its land. However, some time ago when the present Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) visited Ingham a deputation from the Cane-growers Council waited upon him and renewed its request, and on the Minister’s return south it was granted immediately. I am pleased that the
Cane-growers Council was given that right-of-way. I cannot see that any harm or injustice was done to the department in that direction. What I complain about, however, is that whilst the fixed policy of the department can be waived when a Minister makes a request, it is quite a different thing when an ordinary member makes the same request.
I have been endeavouring to secure a piece of land now held by the Postal Department as a site for a new Commonwealth Bank building at Ayr. The PostmasterGeneral said to-day that it was the policy of the department to retain possession of all the land now under its control. I point out that there is sufficient land available between the drill hall and the postmaster’s residence to buildanother post office, and that the department could easily spare about a quarter of an acre of its land. After all, the Commonwealth Bank is as much a government institution as is the post office. The area owned by the department covers from 3 to 4 acres, and I do not suppose that it will need all of that land within a thousand years. Nevertheless, it refuses to surrender any portion of the land for the purpose which I have mentioned. I brought this matter under the notice of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) when he was PostmasterGeneral and. he told me that he would investigate, it. So far, however, nothing’ has, been done. When I was in Sydney recently, the bank officials told me that things, were moving in the right direction. I point out that the bank’s lease of its present premises will expire, next year. I have no doubt that the landlord will take the opportunity to squeeze a greater rental out of the Government. I ask the Postmaster-General to expedite the investigation which his predecessor commenced. The present postmaster at Ayr has been obliged at his own expense to clear this land of weeds, because the property which faces the main street of the town is an eyesore.
.- I urge the Government to give immediate effect to the recommendation of the Oil Advisory Committee contained in that committee’s, report in December last with respect to. the development of the Lakes
Entrance oil-field. Briefly, that report stated that boring had proved that the field contained at least 150,000,000 gallons of oil, on a conservative estimate. That would mean a production of 1,000 barrels of oil a day for seven days, a week for nearly twelve years, a quantity,. I suggest, sufficiently great to claim our attention when, oil means so much to us from a defence point of view. It was pointed out that over most of the field there is insufficient gas pressure to bring the oil readily to the surface, although when I visited the field recently in company with the then Minister for the Interior (Mr. McEwen) I saw oil coming to the- surface under natural pressure. The committee, pointed out that great success has attended methods which have been adopted in other parts of the world in dealing with similar conditions by artificial pressure, or as it is called, repressuring. One instance was cited in the report of a place on the Mediterranean, where, by the use of the repressuring system, the daily output had been increased from H tons to 300 tons a day. Considerable expenditure is involved in preparing a field for repressuring. On the Gippsland field there are a number of old bore holes which unfortunately have been sunk through the oil strata into water, and the report indicates that it will be necessary to seal up at least some of these holes- before repressuring can be commenced. The report goes on to state that the committee strongly recommends that governmental assistance should be- given to seal up these old bore holes and to aid the work of repressuring. It further points out, however, that before such assistance could be given it will be necessary for various licence-holders to agree, tei a system, of unitary control, because it is obvious that a repressuring scheme would be unsatisfactory if some persons were: operating on, a given area-, and just across an. imaginary border line others were rendering that plan of campaign ineffective. The whole of the operations must be brought under the one authority.. The companies concerned - they. are only small - have done their part in securing the necessary co-operation, between themselves, and are now expecting the
Government to do its part. These small companies have expended money gamely over a number of years in establishing the existence of substantial oil supplies in that area. Those concerned in the venture, knowing that the Oil Advisory Committee has recommended that they be assisted to develop the oil field, are anxiously waiting to learn what the Government proposes to do to assist in overcoming the initial difficulties associated with the commercial production of oil in this field. The Petroleum Research Act, passed in 1936, and amended in J.937, confines assistance to be given to companies searching for oil, but the Advisory Committee’s report, which was made available in December last, recommended that assistance be given beyond the point of mere searching for oil, because oil has already been discovered in that locality. About ten days ago the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior gave notice of his intention to ask for leave to introduce a bill to amend the Petroleum Research Act, with, I hope, the object of overcoming the difficulty 1 have mentioned. As no further action has been taken, I asked last week if the Minister would endeavour to introduce an amending bill before the House rose, but he was. unable to give me a definite reply. I trust that the Government will pass that small noncontentious measure before Parliament rises to-morrow. I do not think that any honorable member would oppose the insertion of the few words necessary to enable assistance to be given to these small companies in the direction recommended by the Oil Advisory Committee. If such an amending measure be not passed before the House rises, there will he a further delay of possibly three months, at a time when development of this oil field could be proceeded with. We are expending millions on defence. That is necessary, but I do not think that any honorable member will dispute the fact that fuel oil is just- as essential for defence purposes ns is any other commodity.
– It is useless expending millions on defence if we have not an adequate supply of fuel oil.
– Yes ; it is needed in practically all mechanized equipment.
In these circumstances, I urge the Government to introduce- the measure I have mentioned and thus avoid unnecessary delay.
– I desire to take this opportunity to reply to some of the observations made by honorable members concerning the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Department of Repatriation. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) referred to the replies he had received to questions concerning post office buildings and postal matters generally in his electorate. I shall give very careful consideration to the suggestions he has made concerning the post offices at Collinsville and at Ingham, and shall, if possible, see to what degree his wishes can be complied with. The honorable member also referred to the land held by the Postmaster-General’s Department at Ayr, but I would remind the honorable member that for some time it has been the policy of the department to retain the control of land that is likely to be of use to the department. The honorable member spoke of the block in question as if it were considerable in area, whereas it has a frontage of 264 feet to one street and 165 feet to another street. The area is only small, and, in view of the possible development which must eventually occur in that district, it is reasonable to assume that in time it may he necessary to establish an automatic telephone exchange to serve the surrounding district. In those circumstances the area would not be too large to accommodate a post office and an automatic exchange. The honorable member complained because the land has not been made available for other purposes, but by retaining the land the Government is getting the benefit of its increased value. If the land were disposed of and the township of Ayr developed considerably, the Government would be compelled to purchase another site at an increased cost and the honorable member would be the first to complain.
– The honorable member said it would not be needed for one thousand years.
– Possibly the honorable member for Herbert is not acquainted with the possibilities of development in his electorate.
– A lot of land now held by the department should be disposed of.
– That matter is at present exercising the attention of the department. In some instances where substantial structures have been provided, owing to the migration of the population, allowance post offices now serve the purpose. The whole matter will be considered, and if a good case can be made out for the sale of some of the land now held by the department, its disposal will be seriously considered.
I remind those honorable members who have spoken of the provisions of the Repatriation Act that I was once in the position which they now occupy, and on many occasions I too have criticized the provisions of that act. If honorable members could analyse the position, as I am now forced to do, they will find that our repatriation law is possibly the most generous in the world. To remove the anomalies and to meet cases of hardship such as those which have been mentioned, would virtually mean scrapping the present act, and paying a minimum pension to every returned soldier, and a higher pension to some according to disability.
– That is nonsense.
– The honorable member for Balaclava was once in control of the Repatriation Department-
– For two months.
– But he was a member of governments for almost a record period.
– And I was responsible for many improvements in the act.
– I do not dispute that. The honorable member for Balaclava must be fair. If the conditions are as he stated, he must have been somewhat remiss in his duty if he did not endeavour to remove some of the anomalies of which he now complains.
– I did do so. I would like the Minister to do something now.
– I am quite prepared to do so. The department, can be assisted to make necessary amendments, but that cannot be” done by destructive criticism.
– The Minister was not in the chamber when I spoke. I did not attack the Minister or the act.
– The interjections of the honorable member indicate his attitude. If the honorable member checked up the cases he has brought before the House with the departmental records he would find that the statements made by him do not always coincide with the records on the files. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) only the other day stated a case. I turned up the file and showed it to the honorable gentleman who assured me that he had been misled by the returned soldier who had made representations to him. I do not want to state the cases in detail, but I have them here, and, if honorable members were to hear them, they would realize that cases stated on the floor of Parliament - in all sincerity, I believe, and ‘with a sense of truth behind them - are often cases that are not in accordance with the facts, although the honorable gentlemen who state them honestly, believe them to be so on the assurance of the persons for whom they speak. Nevertheless, eases stated to Parliament have a value because the department is given an opportunity to make an investigation. I should like the committee to understand, however, that none of the cases that are stated to Parliament have lacked sympathetic consideration from the Repatriation Department. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) referred to the necessity to reconsider cases that had been turned down by the department, and suggested that outside doctors should be used. When a “ digger “ makes application for a pension he goes to the department. In most cases, the only thing he knows is that he is suffering a pain or an ache. The Repatriation Department immediately sends the man to hospital for observation, assumes responsibility for the maintenance of his wife and children during the time that he is under observation and, in addition, pays him, his wife and family sustenance at war pension rates. A report is obtained as to his condition and the circumstances leading to his condition, and the dossier so compiled is placed before the Repatriation Board before which the mas makes application for the pension. L impress upon honorable members that the applicant goes before a board which is made up of returned soldiers, and on which the returned soldiers themselves have a direct representative. It is not suggested, surely, that a board constituted thus would be lacking in sympathy?
– The president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia does not speak for the rank and file.
– I have received a letter from the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia stating that all of the State presidents are in accordance with the views of the federal president.
– But the rank and tile are not.
– 1 have received a letter from the Legion and other bodies which endorse Sir Gilbert Dyett’s views. They are representative bodies. The interjection has made me depart from my point. If the application made by the returned soldier is rejected by the board, the applicant then goes before the Repatriation Commission, which again consists of returned soldiers, and which has in its personnel a nominee of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) paid tribute to the chairman of that commission, Mr. Norman Mighell, who is a humane man of infinite wisdom. That commission never disallows an application for a pension unless it unanimously decides to do so. There is no such thing as a majority decision. Should it not be able to come to a decision on the evidence of the applicant and the panel of repatriation doctors, specialists are called in. Men with special knowledge in medical science are called in whenever there is the slightest doubt. ‘Should the commission still be unable to reach a unanimous decision, the case goes before the War Pensions Appeals Tribunal, a body which was appointed by this Parliament and lifted away from political control. We have no power over that tribunal, which also consists of returned soldiers and a nominee of the returned soldiers themselves. That tribunal sits in judgment and sometimes reverses the decision of the ‘ commission.
– Very rarely. Never in my experience.
– Oh, yes, I can assure the honorable member that that is so. The War Pensions Appeals Tribunal gives the widest possible interpretation to the Repatriation Act in analysing the claims that are made’ by returned soldiers for pensions.
All honorable members must have the widest and greatest sympathy for the sufferer from pulmonary tuberculosis, a disease about which medical science know* very little, but honorable gentlemen must recognize that if we so widened the repatriation legislation as to grant a pension to all returned soldier sufferers from .that disease, we should also have to grant pensions to sufferers from all other diseases. One cannot differentiate between diseases and we cannot accept all cases of tuberculosis as being due to war service unless we treat other diseases similarly. Nevertheless, if an applicant for a pension in respect of tuberculosis can establish that any illness which he suffered in service was a contributing factor in bringing about his tubercular condition, his disease is accepted as a war disability. If a man can establish that he contracted tuberculosis as the result of war service, the department gives him free treatment and a service pension and he is also permitted the invalid pension up to a limit which honorable gentlemen well know. The Repatriation Commission has departed to a degree from the act passed by this Parliament in respect of service pensions, which laid it down that in order to qualify for a service pension a man must have served in a “ theatre of war “. The commission accepts as a “ theatre of war “ any part of France, even a military base.
The honorable member for Boothby spoke about the necessity for a wider interpretation and a liberalizing of the whole repatriation scheme. Honorable gentlemen are aware that we expend about £7,750,000 a year on repatriation. In the year ended the 30th June last, we expended £7,725,963 on repatriation.
– Compare that with the interest paid to war-bond holders.
– I do not suggest that that wipes’ out our debt to the returned soldiers. We could never wipe that out. But the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act is a liberal measure as compared with repatriation acts in other parts of the world, and we have to administer the act according to our purse. Honorable gentlemen know the commitments that face the Government. We cannot draw money from the ambient air, as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) would probably say.
– If there were another war the Government would not stop at £ 7,000,000 a year.
– I have expressed my opinion about that before.
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) and other honorable members have mentioned the need for repatriation benefits to South African war veterans. I have already met representatives of those war veterans and I have told them that I will give consideration to the establishment of a service pension and some medical treatment for them. I intend to investigate that possibility and I hope to be able to report something when Parliament reassembles.
Honorable members have spoken about anomalies in the repatriation legislation and have cited individual cases and, as I point out, those cases are useful because they allow of investigation by the Repatriation Commission, but they are not cases generally which substantiate anomalies. My first action on my being appointed Minister for Repatriation was to establish contact with certain of the bodies of returned soldiers. I want them to meet me in conference in order to enable us to discuss the alleged anomalies in the repatriation act. They surely will have a greater knowledge of what constitutes an anomaly in that legislation than the individual who picks up individual cases. I intend to explore the whole field of the Repatriation Act, and if it should be shown to me that there are anomalies bearing unduly on the returned soldiers, and if it is possible to alter the act to relieve those anomalies, remedial action will be taken.
– At last something is being done.
– When I took this office I told the honorable gentleman who interjected that if he would give the Minister time the Minister would endeavour to rectify the anomalies. Some honorable gentlemen have suggested the establishment ofcommittees to investigate the Repatriation Act. Such committees have been appointed in other countries and their recommendations have . not reacted to the benefit of the returned soldiers. The consequences of such committees are perhaps best expressed in the words of Brigadier-General Ross, the president of the Canadian legion in a report to the British Empire Service League.
Apropos of a suggestion made at the last Conference that Empire head-quarters should endeavour to secure expert opinion as to attributability of certain conditions to war service, we may say that this suggestion was advanced by another organization, before this committee, as a means of dealing with complaints in regard to Neurological cases and, much to our regret, was accepted. In the result, the fears expressed by our representatives at the last Conference have been more than justified; and we have now a document which practically precludes the allowance of any further pensions in these cases.
That was the result of a special committee appointed to inquire into the Canadian act. The anomalies of which honorable gentlemen complain will be best adjusted through the organizations which represent the returned soldiers and not indiscriminately (by bodies set up by Parliament.
– The subject that I particularly want to deal with to-day concerns the Minister for Customs (Mr. John Lawson), and I hope that the Ministers who are at the table will be good enough to impart to him what I have to say, with some result, I hope, before the adjournment to-morrow. The matter which I propose to mention has been the subject of discussion in this Parliament for a number of years. It relates to the question of placing an embargo or some form of tariff duty on ships built outside Australia. Agitation has been forthcoming from many quarters, but particularly from the trade unions engaged in the construction of ships in Australia. Deputations have waited upon the Government; inquiries have been made; many’ suggestions have been .put forward; but time is marching on, and nothing has been. i done. - The position now- reached is such .that the trade unions themselves have taken action which, they hope, will force a decision by the Government. Following upon repeated representations made in this House eight or nine months ago, the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) directed that an inquiry should be carried out by officers of “his department. Just what officers were’ assigned to those duties I have been unable to ascertain, but I understand that a report was submitted to the Minister, and that it has been in the possession of the “department for many months. Admittedly, ministerial changes have taken place, but it does not seem reasonable that a decision in this mailer should have been delayed so long. As the result of the inquiries made, the officers of the Trade and Customs Department no doubt made certain recommendations to the Minister.
– The report was made in November last.
– I think that the exMinister for Trade and Customs will give me credit for having repeatedly urged that this matter should be finalized, and that an indication of where the Government stands should be given. Apparently, the matter is not considered by the Government to he of sufficient importance to warrant an immediate decision, a position I very much regret. As I have indicated, it is the policy of the Government that has forced the trade unions to take action. It. is unfortunate that that state of affairs should have arisen, but the patience of all concerned has been sorely tried. The metal trades organizations have decided that an embargo should be placed on the carrying out of repairs to any vessel which was purchased outside this country that could reasonably have been built, here, The object of that action is threefold : to direct public attention to this matter; to force ship-owners to have their vessels constructed in Australia, and thus show some patriotism towards their country, and “to bring the matter forcibly under the notice of the Government, with a view ‘ to ‘ getting a decision. The metal trades- decided to apply the embargo on and after the- 30th April, 1939. Many months’ notice of the embargo was given Other trade unions– I refer particularly to those -engaged on ship repairs, ‘ such as painters, dockers, Ajc., have decided to apply a similar embargo on and after the 1st July, 1939. The first vessel to which the embargo by the metal trades organizations has been applied is the North Coast Company’s ship, the SS; Bangalo, which was constructed on ‘ the other side of the world, despite the fact that it Could have been built in Australia! That vessel is in need of repairs, and steps were taken by the company to have them effected, but the metal trades refused to do the work. Some unofficial talks have taken place between representatives of the unions and of the North Coast Company, and I believe that the attitude adopted by the company indicates that it is sheltering behind the failure of the Government to arrive at a decision in this matter. The company holds the view that the unions are asking it to do something in which the’ Government is apparently largely disinterested. If the company feels that the Government is not very much concerned with whether or not ships are built in Australia, then it is not likely to be indifferent to the attitude of the metal trades, which can very well be the cause of considerable amount of industrial trouble. .
Five weeks hence, the Hunter River Company will bring to Australia a new vessel for the purpose of engaging in trade on the Australian coast. This vessel has been built in China. It will probably need repairs, docking and adjustments when it arrives, but in accordance with the decision of the trade unions, this -work will not be carried out. All of this trouble has been caused by the failure of the responsible authorities, namely, the Government, to deal with the matter and to arrive at a decision. On all occasions on which I have been privileged to hear speeches made on the launching of vessels constructed in Australia, reference has been made to the Government’s alleged policy of fostering the shipbuilding industry in Australia, and high praise has been paid for the workmanship displayed in the vessels’.
It has also been claimed that, as Australia is an island continent, isolated from other parts of the world, great importance must be attached to having its own mercantile marine, and shipbuilding industry. Apparently, these speeches have merely been empty phrases, because no practical steps have been taken to put the Government’s expressed desire into effect. There is, however, a limit to such things, and people listen to speeches only for a reasonable time. If the Government does not live up to its declarations the time will come when steps will be taken to force it to do so. On the question of the comparative costs of vessels built in Australia and overseas, some interesting evidence has been produced at interviews. It has been pointed out that, after meeting commitments in connexion with exchange, the provision of a crew to bring the vessel to Australia, the return of its members to their homeland, and many other costs incidental to the importation of a ship, there is not very much difference between the total cost of a vessel purchased overseas and one built in Australia. It does seem, therefore, that this matter is one on which the Government should make a very definite declaration.
Not long after the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) came into this Parliament, somewhere in his electorate, he made a speech which dealt extensively with the shipbuilding industry and received a considerable degree of publicity in the week-end newspapers. I thought, at the time, that there was certainly no harm in a new recruit feeling so keenly on a subject, so long as he would subsequently endeavour to have his ideas carried into effect. Nothing, however, has been done. I suggest that, now that the honorable gentleman is a member of the Government, he should play his part in an endeavour to have the Government arrive at a decision. According to present indications, to-morrow afternoon Parliament will go into a recess which will probably last two months. In the meantime, more vessels, which have been purchased overseas instead of in Australia, will be arriving in Australian ports and may be put into dockyards for repairs. According to the embargo which has been decided upon by the various trade unions, these repairs will not be carried out. The owners of these vessels will no doubt realize that it was not a sound policy to have their ships built outside Australia, because the small amount which they might have saved by so doing will be lost when their vessels are tied up alongside the wharves. I hope that the Government will be prompted by this state of affairs to take some action. This matter has a very important bearing on employment, and also has some association with a measure which has not yet been finally disposed of by Parliament, namely, the States Grants (Youth Employment) Bill 1939, because there is no industry which offers such a wide range of , employment for apprentices as does the shipbuilding industry.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) drew attention this afternoon to the need for amending the .Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act in its relation to disabilities and pensions generally. The Minister (Mr. Harrison), in his reply, suggested that the measure was satisfactory in its present form, and that the Repatriation Department has adequate power. I disagree with that view. Cases are continually coming under my notice which . indicate that the act needs amending. I have, in mind the extraordinary case of a young man who, on the advice of Sir John Monash, went to America to complete his education. While there, he was stricken with tuberculosis. His case was considered by two of the largest medical associations of America, and each declared that his condition was due to war service. A special board of inquiry dealt with the case upon his return to Australia and his application f or a pension was rejected. Such cases make it clear that the act needs amending.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) had something to say about the problem of unemployment, but he, like a good many other honorable members of the Parliament, rarely gives any consideration to the cause of unemployment. The honorable member for West. Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has just made certain demands upon the Government in the interests of the workers in a particular industry, and has said that unless these are granted the industry will be dislocated, and threatens dislocation of industry by strikes if his request is not granted. He asked, in effect, that special taxation should be imposed to assist the shipbuilding industry. Of course, it is all a question of economics. The high tariff policy of Australia has had a great deal to do with the seriousness of its unemployment problem. I have, year after year, referred in this Parliament to the value of our export trade. A return which I obtained some time ago made it clear to me, although that was not necessary, that as our imports increase employment increases and as they decrease employment decreases.
– Does the honorable member suggest that all of our factories should be closed in order that we may import more goods?
– Only a person with a stupid outlook would advocate that policy. All that I say is that wc should adopt a sound fiscal policy and encourage reasonable imports. Since 1920, however, the tariff policy of this country has been absurd. The idea has been abroad that our wool and wheat industries were sufficient to provide for us a great reservoir of wealth from which we could draw without limit. We are now finding that this is not so. At one time it was said that Australia “lived on the sheep’s back “, but to-day the price of wool has fallen to so low a figure that many pastoralists are on the verge of despair and bankruptcy, and this applies with greater force in regard to the wheatgrower. This is all due to the restriction of our markets abroad. The Government showed its unbalanced outlook by its conduct in connexion with the proposed exploitation of the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound. We have in that locality deposits aggregating hundreds of millions of tons of iron ore which I SUK- gest could have been mined under conditions that would have made iron Available in this country at a far lower figure than that ruling to-day.
This afternoon, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made some important remarks concerning the wool industry. The basic facts underlying his observations have equal application to the wheat industry. Without any doubt the wool and wheat industries of this country are its greatest economic assets. I do not know that any one is to-day urging that a very drastic change should be made in the tariff policy of the country without reciprocal treaties with other countries, but additional assistance must be provided for, and added encouragement given to, our wool and wheat industries. I urge the Government to consider taking prompt steps to stimulate these industries. Western Australia is almost wholly dependent upon the development of its rural areas.
– Does the honorable member think that Mr. Willcock is a good Premier?
– I have no faith in any Lal,- dr administration. If a Country party administration were in charge in Western Australia, the State would be in a much better position.
One definitely dangerous situation that is developing in Australia at present has relation to semi-governmental borrowings. Such borrowings are not subject to control by the Loan Council, yet the position deserves close consideration. Under the existing procedure, New South Wales, which is the richest and biggest of the Australian States in many respects, not only obtains the larger share of the borrowings authorized by the Loan Council, but in the last three years it has also obtained the lion’s share of the borrowings for semi-governmental instrumentalities. In 1935-36, semigovernmental borrowings aggregated £6,980,000, of which New South Wales received £3,781,000, or more than half; in 1936-37, the total of such borrowings was £11,770,000, of which New South Wales received £6,572,000 ; in 1937-38, the total was £14,806,000, of which New South Wales received £7,921,000. I condemn the Government of Western Australia for not resisting the activities of New South Wales, in particular, in this regard. Each of the - smaller States needs additional financial assistance. It is a regrettable fact that almost the whole of the huge defence expenditure of Australia in the next few years will be incurred in New South Wales and Victoria. The smaller States need far more assistance than they are getting. Western Australia, for example, desperately needs additional water.. conservation schemes.
Our high tariff policy has undoubtedly hindered the development of our agricultural and pastoral industries. Our markets abroad hu ve been limited because our high duties have made it impossible for manufacturers overseas to sell goods in this country. I .admit that the Government has attempted, by means of the flour tax, to help the wheat industry ; but a far more comprehensive scheme for the stabilization of wheat prices is essential. I hope that some further proposals will be advanced by the Government in the. near future for the assistance o’f the wheat-growers to enable them to carry on their operations profitably and avoid the destitution with which they are threatened. The help given under the flour tax is too small in view of ‘the present low price of wheat.
Wo must increase our export trade if we are to provide the money needed in this country for public works and general developmental projects. In Great Britain and Germany money can be obtained in ways not open to Australia. Great Britain, for example, is a wealthy country with many foreign investments. The accumulated surpluses of many years and the reserves that have been aggregated there are available for periods of stress. I remember reading just lately a report which caused a good deal of comment in my own district to the effect that Herr Hitler was able to obtain money from the Reich Bank free of interest. I took some trouble to ascertain the facts and I learned from Report XII. of the League of Nations, covering the period 1928 to 1935, that Herr Hitler in 1934 floated a 4$ per cent, conversion loan for 300,000.000 reichmarks at 95 per cent. In 1935, a 4^ per cent, loan for 500.000,000 reickmarks was over subscribed. The price at issue was 98 per cent. A second series of loans covering 500.000.000 reichmarks issued at ii per cent, was taken up entirely by savings banks and clearing banks, and another 4i ner cent, loan for 200.000,000 reichmarks was also issued. This might indicate that Herr Hitler was able to obtain unlimited sums of money through the Reich Bank, but in actual fact he had to consolidate this short term indebtedness by converting it to long-term loans, for up to June, 1936, long-term loans covering 3,400,000,000 reichmarks was issued of which 1,500,000,000 reichmarks was raised by public subscription; 1,125,000,000 by savings bank subscriptions; 700,000,000 by insurance companies; and 75,000,000 by co-operative societies. This should be a complete answer to certain honorable members who think that the Government of this country could raise unlimited sums of money through the Commonwealth Bank. That kind of thing cannot be done in a debtor country. .
I wish to say that I approve of the policy the Commonwealth Bank has adopted as a central bank. It has provided for some extension of credit. An examination of the bank returns for some years ago indicates that prior to the* bank operating as a central bank amounts aggregating 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of deposits were advanced. In the last few years, however, advances up to 95 per cent, of deposits have been made. In one year, advances aggregating 105 per cent, more than the total bank deposits were made. This could be done only because the Commonwealth Bank acted as a central bank. I suggest to the Government that it should make provision in the Commonwealth Bank Bill shortly to be placed before Parliament for the Commonwealth Bank to fix the maximum rate of interest to be paid on deposits and the maximum rate to be charged for advances. Although this policy might not receive unanimous endorsement, it would, in my opinion, be wise. Some years ago the Savings Bank of Tasmania offered 5-J per cent, interest on deposits .with the result that the trading banks lost a good deal of their business. The Savings Bank of Western Australia at one period offered 5 per cent, interest to depositors. Such a policy naturally increases interest rates for the trading banks must endeavour, to retain their deposits. If the Commonwealth Bank, as the central bank, were clothed with power to determine maximum rates of interest for deposits and maximum rates of interest for advances it would be in the best interest of the whole country, for it would have a tendency to depress interest rates. That is very desirable at present. I congratulate the Commonwealth Bank Board upon its work in the last couple of years in keeping interest rates at a low figure. This, with the existing exchange rate, has done a good deal to assist our export trade.
In conclusion, I urge the Government to give close attention to the devising of ways and means to assist our wool industry which at present is suffering severely from the growing competition of artificial fibres and also from the effects of restricted markets due to our high tariff policy. The wheat-growers also deserve more consideration than they are receiving, and the Government should introduce a comprehensive wheat stabilization scheme without delay and so ensure a greater degree of future security for this industry.
. -I desire to discuss what many honorable members might regard as a ticklish subject, namely, the policy of this Government, which it inherited from the previous Government, of admitting 15,000 Jewish refugees to Australia during the next three years. I do not wish to be misunderstood. My opposition to this proposal is far stronger than if the immigrants were of the Nordic race, and came from Northern European countries, from the north of Italy or from Jugo-Slavia. People from those places would help to develop Australia. I recognize that many Jews have rendered signal service to humanity, and this is true of the Jews in Australia also. To such men as the late Sir John Monash, and the ex-Governor General, Sir Isaac Isaacs, we must all lift our hats. It seems true, however, (hat if we want people to come to this country, we want people who will help to develop it. There are already sufficient people here in business and in the professions - in what may be regarded as the more sheltered jobs which should provide the natural openings for educated young Australians, and goodness knows there are enough of them. The Jews, on the other hand, are essentially a trading people. I do not say that disparagingly, but I point out that we have plenty of trades and business people in Australia, now, and the Jews who are coming here will be of no help to a producing country like. Australia. Thousands of young Australians who have passed the leaving examination are looking for a chance to enter the professions. Nevertheless, at this very time, legislation is being passed in New South Wales to give refugee doctors from Austria the right to practise without passing any medical examination. A certain number of them is to be absorbed every year. I maintain that there are plenty of Australians fitted for such positions, and that for every Jew who is given a professional job in Australia an Australian will be shut out. lt is true that Jewish doctors are to be examined by a medical board which will certify as to their attainments, but what chance would an Australian doctor have of being allowed .to practise in Palestine unless he first passed the examination prescribed for doctors in that country? I make bold to say that his chance would be very slender. The unemployed problem in Australia is most acute amongst unskilled workers, and we want our educated lads to be able to go forward to the professions. During the depression, I interviewed the Director of Education in Victoria on behalf of an applicant for a position as a junior teacher in the Education. Department. In order to secure the -position, it was necessary that an applicant should possess a leaving certificate, which represents a fairly high standard of education, but the director told me th.it . there were already 1.50 young people on the waiting list who had not only ‘ passed the leaving examination, but had also passed it with honours. ‘ Those youths had been unable to get into other professions, and were seeking to become teachers. I know boys in the country, at the present time, with leaving certificates, who are carting wood, and yet we are bringing professional and trading people from overseas, who will use their special talents to create trusts and combines, for which they have a peculiar “genius. Why is it necessary for the Jews to leave Europe? I have no anti- Jewish feeling, and no racial hatred. I” recognize that the Australian-born Jew and the Britishborn Jew have as much right in Australia as we have ourselves. They have the same ideals as we have, but the Jew born in Argentina or Germany, or in the United States of America, is international in his outlook. Such men are ready to trade under any flag, and many of them have relatives in Argentina, in the United States of America, and in Germany. Mr. C. Ward Price, who was German correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, has written a book called I know these Dictators, in which he discusses this problem. I am not trying to excuse Hitler for his persecution of the Jews, but it is only fair to point out that there may have been some reason for his wishing them to go elsewhere. It is interesting to point out that Canada refused to make itself a haven for J ewish refugees ; it was left to Australia to open its arms to them. Mr. Ward Price wrote -
In the confusion after the war a fresh Jewish invasion of Germany took place. It came from Poland and Galicia. The cause of this migration was the collapse of German currency, which gave the Jews of neighbouring countries a chance after their own hearts to make big profits. Any one coming to Germany at that time with foreign funds could buy up businesses, houses and other properties at fantastically low cost. The Jew who left Lemberg or Cracow, with the equivalent of a few hundred pounds found himself, on reaching Berlin, a capitalist with the financial resources required to give his ability full scope. And while these meaner elements of the Jewish race were exploiting German depression, the intelligentsia of the same stock were getting a stranglehold on the learned professions. Although the statistics of synagogue membership showed the Jews as forming only 1 per cent. of the total population of Germany, 45 per cent. of the professors of Berlin Faculty of Medicine were Jews when Hitler came to power, and the Jewish practitioners of the three chief municipal hospitals of Moabit, Friedrichstein and Neukolln are recorded to have formed 50, 63 and 67 percent. respectively of the whole staff. Jewish doctors and surgeons were numerous even in Catholic hospitals. Under the Republic the public-relations officials in three of the principal German Ministries were Jews. The proportion of Jewish lawyers varied from 29 per cent at Dortmund to 64 per cent. at Frankfurt,66 per cent. in Berlin, and 67 per cent. at Breslau. Jews dominated the Berlin Stock Exchange. Of 234 theatrical managers in Germany. 50.4 per cent. were Jews, and in the capital Jewish predominance was four out of five. The ready-made clothing and multiple-store business of Germany was practically a Hebrew monopoly. Most intolerable of all from the Nazi point of view was the fact that the popular press and publishing-houses were largely staffed and controlled by Jews, with the two outstanding concerns of Ullstein and Rudolf Mosse at their heads.
– It is worth while to read side by side with the book of Mr. Ward Price the book written by Louis Goldberg.
– Louis Goldberg is a Jew, and one would not expect him to be anything other than an apologist for the Jews, the people who are trying to dominate Australia. Does the Minister suggest that in Germany, a country where the people are of high intelligence, the Jews were of such outstanding intellectual ability that for that reason alone they were able to dominate the learned professions ?
– There is an historical reason for that.
– -The fact is that wealthy Jewish fathers were able to put their sons into the professions, although we know that there is always sufficient talent among the working classes to fill professional positions, provided educational facilities are available, as has been demonstrated in this country and elsewhere.
I have not the time to discuss this matter fully, but I desire to point out some examples of Jewish influence in Australia. Most of the cut-price tobacco shops in the suburbs in Melbourne and elsewhere are run by Jews, most of them recent arrivals. Australian tobacconists have told me that the ordinary practice is to obtain their tobacco through an intermediary, and the retailers are not allowed to sellbelow a fixed price. The cut-price shops, however, which are controlled by alien Jews, obtain their tobacco by the ton from the big companies. The fur shops are completely in the control of Jews. Even little shops for the mending of stockings, some of them a mere hole in the wall where a little Australian girl can be seen working, have behind them a Jew who controls the business. The mantle shops, where mantles priced at ten and twenty guineas, allegedly exclusive models from Paris, are for sale, are also Jewish-owned, though the Jew’s name does not appear, of course. The practice is to import one or two Paris models, and then have them copied in Australia. There is a well-known mammoth emporium in Melbourne which is controlled by Jews. When trade is slack, the workers are told to take a couple of weeks ofl, and they are not paid for that period. In Western Australia, there is another great emporium under the control of Jews. In that business Australian workers are being dismissed, and their place taken by refugees. The very press of this country, including the Melbourne evening papers, is controlled by these people who are now stretching out their tentacles to South Australia. The story is told that when a Scotchman, an Irishman and a Jew forgathered in a public house and toasted their countries, the first said, “ Here’s to Scotland “ ; the second, “ Here’s to Ireland “ ; and the third, “Here’s’ to St. Kilda”. That classic suburb of Melbourne is almost entirely in the hands of the Jewish race. So far as Australia is concerned they are not required here; we have enough exploiters among our own people, but these other people are the kings of exploiters. I shall take - an opportunity to continue my remarks later.
.- I wish to supplement my previous remarks relating to the administration of the Repatriation Department. Since I last spoke, the Minister (Mr. Harrison) has replied to the general debate on this matter. I regret that he was not present when I was speaking. The representations made by other honorable members and myself were based on humanitarian grounds. Nothing we said could be construed as an attack on the Government, the Minister or the Repatriation Commission. The Minister stressed a few obvious facts. All of us know that the act is a good one, and that it provides benefits for thousands of returned men. However, the Minister did not tell honorable members that pensions are paid to only 77,000, whereas over 300,000 men enlisted, or that the average pension works out at £1 19s. 6d. a fortnight, which is a little less than the old-age pension. He adopted a rather contemptuous attitude. He suggested that 1, as the honorable member who had introduced the subject under discussion, should have cleared up the anomalies complained of when I was a member of the Government. When I suggested that 1. had been Minister for Repatriation for about two months he replied that I had been a Minister for many years. I have always practised, not only by word but also by deed, the principle of preference to returned soldiers. It is, perhaps, not irrelevant to mention that because I had no need of it I surrendered my own pension, realizing that many who were entitled to it needed it more than I did. Indeed, many men who are entitled to the pension have not yet succeeded in getting it. The Minister has not sufficient perception to realize that the act needs overhauling. I suggest that he would alter his views if he studied his files or received some of the letters which honorable members receive from returned men on this matter. The Minister has challenged what I did, or failed to do, as a member of the Cabinet generally in respect of repatriation matters; but this is not a question of what I or any other individual Minister did or did not do. Cabinet as a whole had this question at heart. The honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis), Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) and North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and I brought forward many reforms and assisted in putting them through/including the restoration of commuted pensions and the initiation of the service pension. Indeed, the last was brought within the bounds of financial possibility through my suggestion that it should be paid to men who had served in a theatre of war. I also suggested paying the old-age or service pension for nurses at the age of 55. When the present Attorney-General was temporarily out of the Cabinet, I persuaded the Repatriation Commission to adopt a more sympathetic and practical attitude in its treatment of ex-prisoners of war. Over 4,100 of our soldiers were prisoners in Germany and Turkey, yet some of those who survive to-day cannot possibly secure evidence concerning their state of health while they were held prisoners.
– I know that.
– But the Minister adopted a very contemptuous attitude.
– I did not mention prisoners of war at all.
– The Minister said, in effect, “ We would have to give them all a pension. These things are only little anomalies. We might as well tear up the act”. There will be no need to tear up the act if the Minister will consider representations on their merits and not take it as a personal criticism.’ He should realize that honorable members are primarily concerned that justice should he done to these people. I do not mind any criticism of my action in bringing this matter forward. Irrespective of criticism, I shall continue to raise it until justice is done to these men. The Minister said that not only the Federal president, but also the State presidents of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia acquiesced with his view that the act was satisfactory and was being administered satisfactorily. We’ are all aware that the Federal president would not speak without the approval of State presidents, but in order to show that many sub-branches of the league, not just individuals, differ from that view, I propose to quote from a few letters which I have received on this matter. The Blue Mountains ‘ Council pf sub-branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, writes -
The Repatriation Act, as it now exists, 13 fill I of anomalies and has been the, bone of contention amongst diggers over a period of many years. Thu provisions of that act may have met the requirements of 1919, but they fall very far short of the requirements of Unlay as disabilities are manifesting themselves mid have been for many years past, that could not have been foreseen when the Repatriation Act came into being.
That expresses the point which I have emphasized in this debate. We need to ensure that the act will be not only administered with the greatest consideration, but also overhauled. It is not up to date at the moment. The Katoomba sub-branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia passed the following resolution at its general meeting held on the 1st June, 1.939 :-
That this sub-branch emphatically disassociates itself from the statement of the federal president of the league, regarding the formation of a select parliamentary committee to inquire into the anomalies of the Repatriation Act, as it holds completely contrary views to those expressed by the federal president.
I could quote similar resolutions from other sub-branches such as those .at Collie, Wentworth Falls, Woy Woy and The Entrance. I am glad to hear that the Minister proposes to call a conference to consider existing anomalies, but I suggest such a. conference would not have been proposed had the matter not been raised and pressed so strongly by me in this Parliament. I am not particular as to what procedure is adopted in this connexion so long as something is- done. Nor am I concerned what individual honorable member should receive - the credit for such a reform. My main concern is that steps should be taken to rectify these anomalies, which are- not’ trifling, as the Minister suggests they are. A man who has not seen service in a theatre of war might be suffering from tuberculosis and be in receipt of a war pension whereas another, occupying a bed alongside him in the same hospital, might have seen service in a theatre of war but is denied a pension simply because’ his history sheet does not disclose that he had a cold, or any other complaint, ‘ to which tuberculosis might reasonably he traced. Obviously, many men, including prisoners of war, cannot possibly hope to unearth evidence of this kind. Because of their -failure to do so, their widows would receive a pension, of only 17;S. compared with that of £2 2s. paid to the widow of another returned man who was able to produce evidence as required by the department. Many anomalies of this kind exist in the present legislation, and they are not trifles- to the persons concerned. Furthermore, there is the greatest difficulty in getting access to the Entitlement Tribunal. This should be made easier. Honorable members are aware of the procedure in that respect. On the death of her returned soldier husband, a widow might make application to the Repatriation Commission for a pension. If it is thrown out ‘she is obliged to appeal to the Entitlement Tribunal, a procedure which might take six months or more. In the meantime, the soldier’s dependants are expected to fend for themselves as best they can. The Entitlement Tribunal is a judicial tribunal. In order to support her application, a widow might have to search in another State for evidence concerning the health of her late husband when he was on active’ service. That is one of the great difficulties associated with this aspect of the claims. A widow whose husband might have-been living in, say, Western Australia, at the time’ of his death, but who might = have enlisted in Victoria, is forced to search, in
Victoria for old comrades of her husband in order to dig out evidence of the kind required by the department, the commission or the tribunal. The case is rendered more pathetic still when many of these women have the impression that on the death of their husbands they will receive a pension automatically. The fact that only about 77,000 men out of a total enlistment of over 300,000 are receiving pensions is evidence that the department is not prodigal in the granting of pensions. Returned men are not mendicants. Occasionally we might find one who is not deserving of sympathy, but in the main they spurn charity. Indeed, it is because of that attitude that many of them find themselves now unable to qualify for a pension under the existing law. On their return they discarded khaki, and said that that was the end of it. In middle age, however, when ill health, arising often from their war service, afflicts them, and they see that a sum of over £7,000,000 a. year is being paid in repatriation services for returned soldiers, they naturally believe that they are entitled to every consideration, although they have had no cause to apply for it over the course of years: The Government should insert in this legislation a presumptive clause. I do not pretend to have the legal ability to draft such a clause, although I have no doubt that it can be done. In a case where a man known to have an excellent record in a fighting unit dies of a complaint which might have been associated with his war “service, the Entitlement Tribunal, as a judicial body, can reject the application in spite of the present “ benefit of the doubt” clause. This difficulty couldbe largely overcome by inserting in the act a presumptive clause providing that applicants in such cases should actually be given the benefit of the doubt. In that way, the legislation would be made humanitarian as well as judicial, and would thus render to returned men their true rights, as some compensation in keeping with the promises made to them when they unlisted.
.- I propose to deal with an answer supplied in’ reply to a question which I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) with regard to the defence of the northern part of Queensland. I first discussed this matter with the Minister, who was very sympathetically disposed towards my view, when I suggested that something should be done to improve our defences in that area. Subsequently I asked him on notice whether he was aware that north-eastern Australia was not only vulnerable, but also undefended. In his reply the Minister set out reasons why “ my statement was without foundation “. It is to reply to this statement that I now rise. As ‘ specific measures that were being taken for the defence of Queensland and Northern Australia he mentioned the improvement of the fixed coast defences at Brisbane and the provision of air force squadrons at Brisbane and Townsville. I remind him that Brisbane is one thousand miles from Cairns, and 1,500 miles from Thursday Island. One would think from the Minister’s reply that air force squadrons had already been established in the centres mentioned, whereas at present not one member of the permanent air force isstationed in Queensland. I have received a copy of a letter which the Minister for Defence forwarded to the town clerk of Cairns, who asked for the establishment of an aerial squadron at that centre to enable some of the youths of the Cairns . district to receive instruction in aviation, in which it is . stated that those desirous of being trained in such a squadron would first have to attend ordinary drills in order to become eligible. Apparently the authorities overlook the fact that they could be drilled only at Townsville, which is 200 miles south of Cairns.It would appear that the Minister and those advising him are not very conversant with the geography of Queensland. Many persons in that State realizing the unsettled state overseas are vitally concerned with their defenceless position. The Minister for Defence also said the defence of Queensland would be assisted by “ the development of Darwin as a naval and fuelling operational base “. Apparently ‘ the Minister and those advising him overlook ‘ the fact that Darwin is approximately ‘500 miles west of Thursday Island, and that in the absence of direct railway communication and efficient roads, water transport is the onlymeans of communication between Queensland and Darwin. Surely the defence experts realize that an attack upon Australia from the north would be made not on Darwin, but on some portion of the Queensland coast, where an army could obtain all that it required. That coast, which extends for over 1,500 miles, is not defended in any way by aircraft or antiaircraft guns, and in the opinion of the Government, the security of the State is assured by the natural protection afforded by the Great Barrier Reef. But is the Government aware that even the admiralty charts of that reef are hopelessly obsolete and that the representatives of a certain northern nation who visit the Queensland waters frequently know every navigable opening in it? Their charts of Queensland waters are up to date. It has been suggested that the openings in that reef could be mined, but although the defence authorities do not know all the openings in the reef they are all known to a potential enemy. The argument may be advanced that no foreign power would risk bringing even a portion of its fleet through the barrier reef, but that is ridiculous because interstate vessels negotiate certain channels almost daily. Some adhere to the recognized steamer routes, but there are others which do not, because they know the waters surrounding the reef as well as a Sydney Harbour pilot knows Port Jackson. It is useless the Minister and his advisors saying that the Great Barrier Reef will afford all the protection necessary, because in the circumstances I have mentioned, it is only reasonable to assume that the openings in the reef would be used by those fully conversant with them. The residents of Cairns, Townsville, Port Alma, and Gladstone, as well as those inland, are deeply interested in the defence of Queensland, because in the event of an invasion, they could not offer any resistance. It is useless to speak of what our naval force, depleted as it is, could do, or of the assistance which could be afforded by the Royal Australian Air Force to such a remote and unprotected part of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the activities of these two important services are concentrated in New South “Wales or Victoria, to the detriment of the. northern State.
The Minister also said that Queensland could be defended by the “provision of mixed posts and antiaircraft defence “. The only coastal defences provided in Queensland are in the vicinity of Brisbane. In referring to “ local seaward defences “, I suppose the Minister means anti-submarine devices or mines, but had war occurred in September last, the nearest mine depot was at Swan Island, some thousands of miles away. Unless supplies have been despatched recently, I do not believe that one mine is available in Queensland and there are no anti-submarine devices in that State. The Minister also said that “fortress troops and a mobile garrison at Darwin “ would assist. Surely the authorities realize that the only effective means of communication with Darwin is by water. This suggestion is ridiculous. The Minister also mentioned “ the erection of a strategic wireless naval station at Darwin “. That might be of service, but only as a means of facilitating communication between various points. “ Provision of two air force squadrons at Darwin “ is another alleged means of defending Queensland. That port is being developed to operate in conjunction with Singapore, which was fortified for the protection of Britain’s trade with China, a trade that has now largely disappeared. If a northern power should become hostile to Austra- lia, Singapore will be challenged despite what has been said as to its impregnability. I feel very strongly on this matter, and object to the way in which representations concerning the effective defence of Queensland have been disregarded. The fortification of Darwin would be of no benefit whatever to northern Queensland, because an attack on Australia would be made not at Darwin but on the north-eastern coast. Many organizations in Queensland, including chambers of commerce, shire councils, returned soldiers’ organizations and branches of the Australian Labour party are annoyed at the inactivity of the Government, and believe that in the event of war Queensland would become a second Manchukuo - a base from which the enemy could operate. Should an enemy land in Queensland, the most fertile portion of Australia, it would not be long before the whole of Australia would have to surrender. If the Government is sincere in its endeavour to protect Australia it should take immediate steps to safeguard that 1,500 miles of unprotected coastline of, Queensland, and in that way afford some security, not only to those on the coastal strip, but also the others in the western portion of Queensland, whose interests are now jeopardized.
– The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- If it is the intention of the Government to amend the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act, I trust that it will consider the personnel of the Repatriation Commission. If a returned soldier applies for a pension he has first to appear before the commission, and if his application is rejected he can then approach the board and finally the Entitlement Tribunal. I submit that the applicant for a war pension has to go before too many boards and that if the Entitlement Board, the Assessment Board and the commission itself were merged into one substantial body the interests of the returned soldiers would be better served because the almost interminable delays which applicants experience in having their applications determined would be eliminated. The result of a multiplicity of boards generally is injustice. An American university professor said the other day that the medical profession had no cure for 224 diseases, and cures for only seven. I mentioned that fact to the chairman of a repatriation board recently and he told me that I would interfere with the prospects of the man for whom I was appearing if I made such statements. I replied “I have nothing more to say to you as chairman because you are not administering this legislation in the way in which the community expects you to administer it. You are here to help the soldiers and not to be prejudiced against them “. On another occasion, I sought permission from a. repatriation tribunal to accompany the returned soldier whom I was representing before the doctor who would examine him, but permission was refused on the ground that no doctor would ex amine any one in the presence of a layman. I asked one of the leading medical men of Sydney, a friend of mine of 30 years standing, if this were so and he said that he had never be.en in favour of allowing a layman to be present when he was examining a patient. The presence ofthe soldiers’ advocates at medical examinations would be helpful to the soldiers concerned and steps should be taken to make that possible. If the advocates know what is happening, I am sure that they will be able to see that the soldiers get a fair deal. I think also that the soldiers would get a better deal if there were a new chairman of the commission because in my opinion he has been there too long.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, it is customary for honorable members on each side of the House to be called in rotation. On this occasion the Chair has called in succession two members on the Government side. Was that a mistake?
– An honorable member may at any time move the closure.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 4
Mr. Spender. - Yes.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I declare the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1939-40 an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1939-40 is an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the initial stages, including the first reading, until6.15 p.m. this day.
For the second reading, until 8.15 p.m. this day.
For the committee stage, until 9.20 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 9.30 p.m. this day.
Several honorable members rising to address the House,
Motion (by Mr. John Lawson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (Mr. Spender’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) put -
That the House will, at a later hour this day, again resolve itself into the Committee of Ways and Means, that the resolution reported from’ the committee be adopted, that Mr. Spender and Mr. Street do prepare andbring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution,and that the bill be now read a first time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker -hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 10
– The honorable member should have taken the point at the time the motion was put and before the House went into division.
– May I ask, sir, whether the motion can be legally agreed to by means of this division? I submit that it is definitely contrary to parliamentary practice to put four motions together in this way.
– I shall deal with the matter after the division is completed.
– Well, if the Government intends to adopt these tactics it will not receive our support in respect of the two bills which it desires to have passed, even though we have to stay here all night.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– In reply to the point of order raised in division by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I point out that the motion just agreed to was covered by the motion for the allotment of time previously agreed to on a division. The stages of the bill referred to in this motion were covered by the motion dealing with the allotment of time.
– On a point of order,I ask under what standing order it is legal, even under, the guillotine rule, to put four motions together?
– The motion for the allotment of time covered the stages of the bill referred to in the motion.
– In view of the fact that the guillotine resolution fixed the time for the completion of the first-reading stage of the bill as 6.15 p.m., I ask whether it was in order to include the motion for the first reading in a dragnet motion submitted to honorable members before 6.15 p.m.? I submit that the adoption of that course was a clear deviation from ordinary parliamentary practice.
– The House had decided that all stages up to the first reading were to be completed by 6.15 p.m.
– This is a sharp practice.
Bill brought up by Mr. Spender, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 7.30 p.m.
.- Owing to the fact that the “guillotine” has been applied, I must omit much that [ had intended to say, but I wish to draw the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) to a matter affecting his department. The Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934 will expire on the 13th November of this year, and it is necessary that the growers, numbering approximately 3,000 in Queensland, should know in a week or so whether the bounty is to be continued at the same rate, whether it is to be increased or whether it is to be reduced, so that they may decide whether it will pay them better to continue to grow cotton, or turn their lands to some other use. The existing legislation, which was introduced in 1934, provides for the payment of a bounty at a basic rate of 4½d. per lb. on raw cotton when the Liverpool price of American middling cotton is 6d. per lb., and the rate of the bounty goes up or down as the Liverpool price goes down or up. It is of great importance to Australia that we should produce, in this country, sufficient raw cotton for our own requirements. Unfortunately, we are not doing so at the present time. We need 18,000,000 lb. of raw cotton, or 36,000 bales, a year. In 1938, Queensland produced 4,773,936 lb., or 9,548 bales at about 500 lb. to the bale. The acreage under cotton for 1939 was 46,000, making an average of 15 acres for each of the 3,000 growers. It is clear, therefore, that this is a small man’s crop.
– Is Queensland . the only State that grows cotton?
– Yes, so far as I know. During the season the cotton-growing industry provides employment for 2,000 pickers and 1,200 field workers. The cotton ginneries and cotton oil mills employ about another 100 persons. Seeing that we did not grow enough cotton to meet our own requirements last year, we had to import 13,357,291 lb., which is the equivalent of 26,714 bales. I hope that, with proper encouragement, we could grow in Australia all that we need. The secondary branches of the cotton industry provide direct employment for 2,600 persons. According to press reports, one of the largest cotton-spinners, Davies Coop Proprietary Limited, intends to establish a mill in Adelaide with a capital of £250,000, another in Sydney with a capital of £500,000, and another in Queensland with a capital of £250,000. In the next two or three years we shall need not less than 52,000 bales, or 26,000,000 lb. of raw cotton. The cotton-growing industry is in need of further assistance which can be given in various ways. First, there should be a generous bounty system announced at once, before land has to be prepared for the next crop. Secondly, by means of irrigation the growers in some districts could treble their production. If they could produce one bale, or 500 lb. of cotton, to the acre they would be able to carry on very successfully. For 1938, the growers averaged only one-third of a bale to the acre. That accounts for the lack of prosperity in the industry, and makes difficulties and hardships for those working on wages. Most of the growers were themselves working for wages a short while ago. They acquired blocks of land on which they first grew cotton and later put cows and raised pigs, besides growing 1.5 to 20 acres of cotton. They are working men in the best sense of the word, and they would be willing to pay decent wages to those they employ if the industry could afford it. The fact that there has been no substantial increase in the quantity of cotton produced shows that difficulties have been encountered, some of them due to lack of rain at the right time, and others to inadequacy of the bounty. This could be largely overcome by means of irrigation. The Government should at least continue the bounty at the present rate, if it is not prepared to make an increase. I am of opinion that a good case could be made out for more generous assistance. The Minister for Trade and Customs should take the matter up with Cabinet, and the Prime Minister could arrange with the State governments to make money available for expenditure on irrigation schemes. Farmers with 50 acres of irrigable land - and there are many such in the Dawson Valley, Callide Valley, and the Northern Burnett - could, with proper rotation of crops, produce three bales of cotton to the acre, or 1,500 lb. The growers at the present time are very dissatisfied with conditions in the industry, particularly with the low yield, which accounts for high overhead costs and low net return. In some years the cotton is actually produced at a loss. During the last two seasons, the acreage has been increased, but production has declined, due mostly to unfavorable seasons. Last year, in California, 750,000 bales of cotton were produced from 620,000 acres.One bale of seed cotton to the acre which equals 1,500 lb. of raw cotton, is the average in California^ where it is grown wholly by irrigation; If that can be done in California, it could be done here, so that : we should be able to look forward to producing 1,700 lb. of raw cotton to the acre. The average yield in Queensland at the present time is 300 lb. If we go on expanding the secondary branches of the industry we shall require before long 300,000 bales of raw cotton each year. This is a matter which cannot be left to the State governments ; it must be tackled by the Federal Government, working in co-operation with the States. Apart from the payment of a bounty, the Commonwealth could assist in many ways with the help of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If all cord tyre yarns in this country were made from Australian grown cotton, we should require an additional 25,000 bales of raw cotton, and another 15,000 bales would be needed for the manufacture of condenser yarns.
The question of protection for the cotton : industry was referred to the Tariff Board in August of last year, and it is time the Government announced what it intends lo do regarding the board’s recommendation. It is not usual for reports of. the board to be made available until the Government has reached a decision regarding them. I understand that the report of the board on this question was pi.ese.nted to the Government some time, ago., since when there has been ample opportunity for considering it and reaching a decision. I do not want Parliament to go into recess leaving the growers in a state of uncertainty. The Department of Trade and Customs usually spends a good deal of time considering these matters before they are presented to Cabinet, which is then able to reach a speedy decision. I have had personal experience in dealing with legislation on this .matter. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, I introduced a Raw Cotton Bounty Bill myself, and was instrumental in having tariff protection afforded to a large range of cotton goods manufactured by factories in Australia, resulting in an increased ‘ demand for
Australian-grown cotton. A great stimu-lus was given to the industry by ‘ that protection,, and by the bounty on raw cotton/ The industry, which had almost gone out of existence, was first ‘ revived by the payment of a guaranteed price of 5d. per Lb. for seed cotton by the Queensland Labour Government in 1920. Later,- the- Commonwealth took the matter over, and a bounty was granted. Successive -federal governments of various political colours have since dealt with the. matter. I sincerely hope that the present Minister will not let the growers down. I extend an invitation to him to visit the cotton growing districts in Queensland so that he may see for himself what an important part the industry plays in making possible closer settlement of the land. Large pastoral properties, which formerly gave employment to 20 or 30 persons, have been cut up, and now furnish a livelihood’ for 10,000 or 12,000 persons, who are engaged in cotton growing, pig raising, “and dairying. This is a small man’s industry. It is one that enables a man to go out and clear the land and make a. living before he can afford to buy dairy cattle or go in for pig raising. I appeal to the Minister to make some definite pronouncement as to the Government’s intention in regard to this industry, in order that the growers will not be held in suspense. Naturally, many of them will refrain from putting in increased acreage if they are left in doubt. They have been told to go in for increased acreage, but if they cannot be sure that they are going to make a profit, many will abandon the industry altogether, as happened in connexion with tobacco. We do not want any of these people to go off to the large cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed. I remind the Minister that the primary producers in Queensland realize that Australia has adopted a protectionist policy and do not begrudge protection being given to any of our secondary industries. However, they ask for a share in the benefits of that policy. It is the Minister’s duty to let them know immediately where they stand, because within the next few weeks they must prepare land for the next planting, and any delay would cause them serious embarrassment. The’ production of raw cotton, of course, is ‘linked up with our defence preparations. I point out that those .directly depending on the industry for a livelihood include 3,000 growers, 2,000 cottonpickers; about 1,200 field workers and over 100 mill-hands. All of these people are anxious to know what is going to happen! to their industry. The growers, of course, also need to be certain of the future– -before they can order necessary implements or engage labour. If the Minister’s pronouncement is not favorable: they will be able to proceed immediately with the planting of other crops. :From a defence point of view it would be disastrous to allow any to. abandon the industry, but that is what will happen if the Minister cannot allay their apprehensions by making some definite pronouncement this evening.
.- I wish to bring several matters under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison). Some time ago, business people in a small country town which does not possess u bank asked me to see whether it would be possible to arrange for the registration of mails on the morning of the day on which the train left the town. The regulations ordinarily provide that a .registered letter must be delivered for registration one hour before the closing time. ..: If that regulation; were adhered to in this instance, it would .bring the closing, -time for - registered mails to an hour before the post office:.opened. Consequently, these business people are obliged to register valuables, including remittances, and leave them in a small post office over-night subject to the risk of burglary or fire. The department originally refused my request on this matter, advising me that the regulation must be observed. At that time the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who has had some experience in an. allowance post office, was PostmasterGeneral. When I approached him he said that he had been in this particular town, and .when I showed him the department’s letter refusing to grant this request he replied, “ That is ridiculous ; while I am Postmaster-General, I expect the department to render service “. He made a minute on the letter advising the officers concerned that he expected the department to render service and point ing out that having had experience in an .allowance post office he had no doubtthat all of the registered mail in this case could be handled inside a quarter of an hour. The matter was reviewed and the country postmaster concerned was advised that he could receive letters for registration up to within twenty minutes of the closing time for the ordinary mails, which meant 50 minutes before the departure of the train. Now, however, because of red tape or’ some petty viewpoint taken by some officer, people wishing to register mail in this country town are also obliged to pay a late letter fee. Some officers of the department, do not hesitate to inconvenience people living in the back-blocks. I urge the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Harrison) to see that the instruction issued by his predecessor in this case is carried . out.
I am -pleased to note from press reports that the Government is determined to carry out the resolution agreed upon by the Cabinet at its meeting in Hobart to abolish the surcharge of 4d. on interstate telegrams. I and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) fought strenously for this reform for years. Because our electorates lie on State borders some people think that the matter affects only people, residing near such boundaries, but the alteration will apply to all telegrams despatched,, including those between the capital cities. This surcharge is not only anomalous, but also out of keeping with ‘the spirit of federation.
The department places a limitation of £50 on its contribution towards the cost of erecting a telephone line in country areas whether the line be required by one. two or three subscribers. It pays no regard to the fact that where more than one subscriber is interested it will receive greater revenue. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to increase the department’s contribution in reasonable proportion to the increased revenue which will be received when more than one subscriber is concerned.
My next point deals ‘ with broadcasting listeners’ licences. Many schools in country centres install wireless sets from which they receive a distinct advantage. I understand that some concession is allowed ‘in respect of licence fees to the blind, and I suggest it would be a wise move for the Government to allow a similar concession to these schools which use the sets largely for educational purposes. Such schools should not be compelled to pay the full annual listener’s licence-fee.
I now desire to draw the attention of the Government to the precarious position of the wool industry which has been facing disaster for the last two years. A schedule issued in the annual report of the Woolbrokers Association of Australia shows that the average price received by the graziers for wool in recent years was as follows: 1933-34, 15.S4d. per lb.; 1.934-35, 9.75d.; 1935-36, 14.01d.; 1936- 37, 16.48d.; 1937-38, 12.05d. For this year the price is in the vicinity of lOd. For the three years prior to 1933-34, the prices respectively were 8.5d., 8.46d., and ti.72d. In 1932, the Federal Government instituted an inquiry into the industry, at which it was shown that, including interest, the cost of production of wool averaged 14d. per lib. From these figures, honorable members will realize that the industry is slipping. I do not suggest that the Government is responsible for the price of wool, but succeeding governments have exercised considerable influence with regard to its cost of production. As the result of the inquiry held in 1932, it was also shown that land tax represented Id. and . the tariff 2d. of the cost of production per lb. Even if the Government is not prepared to provide a bounty, as suggested by the Federated Graziers Association of Australia and the New South Wales Graziers Association, when the price of wool is under ls. per lb., it should be able to help the industry by reducing costs in respect of land tax and tariff incidence, and also by expediting its decision to establish a long-term mortgage branch of the Commonwealth Bank, with a view to reducing interest rates on mortgages on land. According to press reports, the average price of wool received at last week’s sales was 8d. per lb. When our trade-diversion policy was introduced, the graziers were made the spearhead in the attack upon imports from Japan. The market for wool in that country has not since been recovered. Thus the industry was definitely penalized through governor. Nook. mental action. Furthermore, the wool industry is the only industry which is fighting its own battle, because the dairying, dried fruits, rice and sugar industries, and now the wheat industry, enjoy a home-consumption price, whilst the cotton and wine industries are assisted by bounties. There is a homeconsumption price in. respect of metals, as a cartel fixes tho prices of copper and zinc, whilst the iron and steel industry is practically a monopoly, which fixes its prices on a payable basis. Now that the wool industry is finding difficulty in making ends meet, the Government should come to its assistance in a practical way.
I also ask that the Government will arrange for the Tariff Board to give further consideration to the duties imposed on glass, on iron and steel and certain classes of motor manufacture. It has been the policy of governments during recent years to give reasonable protection to efficient and economic Australian industries, but it has been most forcibly demonstrated of late that there are industries in Australia which still have highly protective duties while they could easily carry on. The cement industry is an illustration of what should be done because in that instance the Government dispensed with the British preferential tariff and the industry is still carrying on efficiently and paying satisf actory dividends. In recent years British galvanized iron, which has been allowed in under licence, has been sold at from £3 to £5 a ton more than the Australian galvanized iron, but duties are still in the schedule. In these circumstances the imposition of customs duties against the British product is unnecessary. It is unreasonable to have unnecessary duties embodied in a tariff schedule, as they are only an invitation to Australian industries to exploit the people. I urge the Government to reconsider the duties on the commodities 1 have mentioned and to re-submit them to the Tariff Board.
I now wish to deal with the site selected for ah aerodrome at which pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force are to be trained. I have received letters from Junee and Narrandera which show that. there is considerable dissatisfaction concerning the selected site and the report made by certain officials of the Royal Australian Air Force. The communication from Narrandera states that sufficient allowance was not made for the comparatively perfect surface of the suggested site at that centre, and that in one day one man could level off the undulations and fill in the crabholes, According to a report in the Wagga Advertiser, it will cost £12,000 to place the selected site at Wagga in reasonable order. The land at Wagga is to cost £10,500, whilst that at Narrandera would cost only £5,000. Reference was also m-ade to a railway crossing between the buildings on the landing ground at Wagga, which would interfere to some degree, but such an objection does not exist at Narrandera. Moreover, those who reported on the sites did not refer to the fact that a new defence highway will pass right through Narrandera, and will pass the border of the suggested aerodrome site. There is not any railway connexion with the suggested site at Narrandera, but the people in that town were prepared to arrange for the construction at a small cost of the necessary 4 miles to establish communication. Moreover, the authorities disregarded the fact that a new waterpipe line is under construction at Ganmain and that filtered water could be obtained quite as cheaply as on the site at Wagga. In the matter of electric power, there is to be connexion between the scheme at Burrinjuck and the Yanco power-house. It will be seen that a considerably larger amount is to be expended by the Government in the purchase of and in preparing the ground at Wagga than would be necessary lit Narrandera. The prevalence of fogs at Wagga is also a decided, menace. Reports from Wagga state that there have been nine fogs in a year, but the records are taken after 9 o’clock and fogs are usually more dense before that hour. I urge the Minister for Defence to give further consideration to the extra cost that will be involved, and to realize thatsafer conditions exist at Narrandera than at Wagga and at a greatly reduced cost. The residents of Junee have also complained that there are fewer fogs in that locality and that the Junee site is more suitable than the Wagga site.
I realize that the powers of the Government over monopolies are very limited, but such menaces to industry and to consumers should be controlled.- Power kerosene is a commodity used extensively by many farmers and others on the land, particularly in tractors, and means should be provided to reduce its cost. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, in which the Government has a controlling interest, could be used to supply farmers with power kerosene without the necessity of distributing it through agents as at present, thus adding to the cost. If farmers could obtain supplies from the works in Sydney and have it distributed at the ordinary wholesale Sydney price through a farmers’ representative, considerable savings could be effected. There would be no charge for commission and no business risks, as payment could be made before delivery. A saving of £20 a truck load could be effected which would be equivalent to an advantage of one penny on each bushel of wheat. As the wheat-growers are experiencing considerable difficulties in many ways, I trust that the Government will give earnest consideration to the suggestion I have made.
– I take this opportunity to reply to the observations made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) concerning the Queensland cotton industry. I am sure that the fears of the honorable member are quite unfounded and that the cottons-growers are not very perturbed. About a month ago, I visited Brisbane, and interviewed the chairman and secretary of the Cotton Board, with whom I fully discussed the subject of a bounty for the ensuing ye.ir.
– I have received several communications from Queensland expressing grave apprehension concerning the outlook of the industry.
– I venture to say that such communications were not received from the leaders of the industry. I assured the chairman and secretary of the Queensland Cotton Board that theGovernment would do the fair thing by the industry, and’ that assurance was reported in the Brisbane press the following day. The record of the Government in respect of cotton production will inspire confidence in the minds of all cotton-growers. The Government has subsidized the land under cultivation for cotton to about £2 10s. an acre per annum, which I regard as substantial assistance. This subsidy works out at £40 per annum per grower, which must be of considerable help to those engaged in the industry. I have already assured the cotton-growers that the Government will continue to do a fair thing by them ; but every one will admit that the mere granting of a bounty cannot in itself guarantee the efficiency of the industry. I hold the view very strongly that we should do something more in order to attain a higher measure of efficiency than has so far been reached, and it is for that purpose that I am now considering a scheme under which the Commonwealth Government will co-operate with the State government with a view to devising a plan for growing cotton under irrigation, and improving cultural and scientific methods. It is recognized in Australia that one of the greatest difficulties of the growers is the cost of production, and that that cost cannot be lowered appreciably unless it is possible in some way to greatly increase production. It is estimated that with proper irrigation it would be possible to increase the yield threefold, and if the yield were trebled it is only reasonable to assume that the cost of production would be considerably reduced. I should like to see a scheme formulated whereby assistance could be given to the growers in that direction. The Tariff Board has submitted its report after a thorough investigation of the industry and that report is now receiving the attention of the Government. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may rest assured that there will be no avoidable delay in making a pronouncement as to the future intentions of the Government in this respect.
.- The few remarks which time will permit me to make are prompted by a letter which I have received from a returned soldier. WhatIhave to say will be in the nature of a plea for better consideration for returned soldiers generally, particularly in connexion with defence works. My correspondent was one of those who answered the first call for volunteers in 1914, served at Gallipoli, and afterwards rendered three years of meritorious service. He is now married with three children to support and is unfortunately out of work. For over twelve years he has been subject to periods of unemployment in the government service, but owing to the system in operation he is not permitted to remain at work sufficiently long to qualify for a permanent position. In twelve years he has been out of work for four years, and at present he says that he has been unemployed for the last three months. That is a most unfortunate position for a man who has to maintain a wife and family, particularly in view of his war record. I feel that there is a responsibility upon the Government and upon the people to do more than is being done for the ex-service men. A portion of his letter reads -
The Air Raids Precautions stipulate middle or exempt men so that mobilization would not entail dislocation. Whynot apply it to new vacancies created by defence activities; and after twenty . years’ delay absorb us? Nitches can be found in the new “ B “ reserves without pay and similar nitches could surely be found in the paid service.
A great deal of money has been spent on defence and I believe that ex-soldiers have a first call on employment for defence purposes. When the Government carries out works there is some application of the principle which is embodied in the’ law that, all other things being equal, preference shall be given to returned soldiers. I am not quite sure that that principle is carried out in its entirety. I have heard some complaints that the Public Service Board, in its extreme desire for efficiency, is not much impressed with the necessity to observe preference to returned soldiers.
– Order! The time allowed for the second-reading debate has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- This gives me an opportunity to complete what I was saying. On the second reading I was referring to the necessity to provide for returned soldiers. When government jobs are let out to contractors they’ are under no obligation to observe the preference to returned soldiers rule, but the Government could very properly include a clause in all contracts requiring contractors to observe that rule. That rule does not require absolute preference to returned soldiers ; it merely stipulates that preference shall be given to returned soldiers, all other things being equal.
.- Mr. Chairman -
– The Brisbane General Post Office again.
– Yes, and again I have no apologies for raising the matter. The citizens of Brisbane were pleased when the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison), shortly after taking office, visited Brisbane and inspected the General Post Office, about the condition of which I, and other honorable members, have been complaining for many years. The honorable gentleman went further than his predecessor, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron),who merely stood on the front steps and looked around and about, and when asked whether a new post office was to be built said “ I do not know ; I have not seen any plans “.
– He had his photograph taken, too.
– Yes. Fortunately the citizens of Brisbane did not take that statement lying down.. They made a strong protest about his attitude. The present Postmaster-General has shown more aptitude. I hope that. he. will continue to do his job.
– Would the honorable gentleman like to wager on that?
– At least the. honorable gentleman cannot do less than his predecessor did in respect of this antiquated building in Brisbane. In the last Estimates £50,000 was provided for the work, but nothing has yet been done: I shall not weary the committee by a repetition of what I have already said at least one hundred times in this chamber about the disgraceful condition of the Brisbane General Post Office. I speak to-night because this will be the last opportunity before the budget is prepared, and I am anxious to know whether the Postmaster-General is in a position to state what action he has taken, if any, and whether he intends to carry out his promise, which was reported in the press of Brisbane, to submit the question to Cabinet.
– That promise will be fulfilled. The matter will be referred back to Cabinet.
– I am pleased to hear that. Earlier the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) expressed the hope that, as Queensland had received such a meagre share of the defence expenditure, the Commonwealth Government would see that the Queensland Government received a greater share of loan moneys in order to carry out its huge public works programme. I endorse the honorable member’s suggestion. It is appropriate for me to read to the committee what the Postmaster-General said in Brisbane, as reported in the Brisbane Telegraph of the 17th May last. The newspaper carried the following report : -
Mr. Harrison said that the profits were there, £3,500,000. The matter of the new building would be referred to Cabinet, notwithstanding what decision had been reached by his colleague, the former PostmasterGeneral. Even though everything had to be subjected to defence at the moment he would not hesitate to refer the matter to the Cabinet for their early consideration. “ If the Treasury and the Cabinet do not give us the consideration we desire I think we ought to transfer back some of the profits to the subscribers by way of reduced personal services . . . and- . . Th is morning Mr. Harrison said that the present building might have been majestic enough when it was built years ago, but it was behind the. times now. Although he thought that the floor space was sufficient, the conditions under which the staff was working were poor. “ A staff cannot give of its best under such conditions. I, as a commercial man, believe in good working conditions for a staff “, he: said.
I have made a similar statement in this Parliament on several occasions’, and I am glad to have the Postmaster-General’s agreement. Nevertheless, promises are of no use unless they are kept, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will in future influence Cabinet to make available sufficient money to carry out this important and urgent work.
– I intend to raise a matter in advance of fact. I spoke to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) about it this morning. It arose here in 1936 during my original term, when there were suggestions that the dissolution of this House would take place, and that honorable members would go to the country on the same day as the referendum was taken. The argument advanced in support of the contention at that time does not fit in with the constitutional position with which we are faced to-day. It was argued then that the representative of the Crown in the Commonwealth of Australia has no alternative but to abide by whatever advice is tendered by the Prime Minister for the time being in office. The Minister was not in this chamber at that time, but there was very serious disagreement of opinion on the point as to whether that is a correct statement of the relationship between the Prime Minister of the day and the representative of the Crown. I -raise the point to-night because I think, as T thought in 1.936, that some authoritative statement of the constitutional relationship between the Crown and his advisers is necessary. We hear a good deal about the changed conditions which will apply in the Dominions consequent upon the adoption of the Statute of Westminster. I do not know if that was the argument behind the contention advanced in 1936, but I do know that I felt so strongly on the matter that I drafted and placed upon the noticepaper a notice of motion which I desired to have debated. Parliament, however, prorogued and a new session started. To-day, we find ourselves and the Commonwealth in a very much more interesting constitutional position than we did in 1936, and that from two points of view two entirely new factors have come into calculations since I mentioned this matter in 1936. One is the fact that it can no longer be said that the head of the Government of this country received a mandate from the people of this country to carry on certain government for a stipulated length of time. I am not raising this matter - I hope that the right honorable gentleman does not think that I am - in a party spirit. I am raising it in what I believe to be the interests of this country and this Parliament from the constitutional aspect. The Prime Minister (Mr.- Menzies) was Deputy Leader of the United Australia party at. the time of the 1937 elections. Sub-“ sequently he resigned from the Government and from the position of Deputy Leader of the United Australia party, so it cannot be argued to-day that he has any definite mandate personally from the electorate, as was argued in the case of the late Mr. Lyons in 1936. I contest that point in any case, but, even if it were argued successfully that the 1936 proposition in regard to the prerogative of the Prime Minister was correct, that state of affairs does not exist in this Parliament to-day. It is not for me to inquire into how this came about. 1 simply state the facts as I see them. Another interesting point and new factor which will come into force before the end of this year will be that for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth we shall have a Royal Governor-General. It has been suggested in certain quarters that it may then be that the representative of the Crown would perhaps not take the strong line that it might be possible for another representative of the Crown to take.
I do not know whether or not there is any ground for that contention; nevertheless, it is a very interesting possibility. If the contention of 1936 is held good; then, of course, I am in the wrong. The contention of 1936, as I have tried to make plain, was that on the advice of the Prime Minister and of nobody else, the Crown, having no discretion, is obliged to grant a dissolution to the Prime Minister of the day. As I understand the constitutional development of the British Empire - I speak with all due deference to the learned King’s Counsel now at the table - the position to-day is that if that argument holds good, and the Crown has no discretion in these matters, we come up against a logical sequence of events. We have watched very closely that sequence of events and the development of the Constitution over a great length of time. If the Crown is to have no discretion in these matters, or, in the case of tho Commonwealth, if the Crown is to be placed in the position in which Speaker Lenthall found himself in the time of Charles the First when he said he had no tongue to speak anything except what the House- of Commons directed him to say, the time is not far distant when the people will ask just exactly what useful purpose is served by a royal representative who has no discretionary power at all to influence ‘the course of events in any way.
– When was a statement made to the effect that the GovernorGeneral had no discretion whatever in ii i ry circumstances ?
- Hansard will show that questions were asked on this subject and answers were given, or what is more important, answers were not given. That is why I am asking to-night for an answer. An interesting position has arisen and no satisfactory explanation of it has been given. The difficulty is one which may crop up in a very real and vital form at any moment, particularly having regard to the circumstances in which this House functions to-day. I have always contended, as a student in a small sense of these matters, that the job of the Crown is to see that the government of a country is carried on by the Parliament elected for that purpose until such time as it is clear to the Crown that Parliament is unable or unwilling to keep in power a government capable of carrying on the King’s administration. That contention is very opposite - almost diametrically opposite - to the contention advanced in several quarters that the Crown has no discretion, but must abide by the advice tendered by the head of the Government.
– I do not know where the honorable gentleman will find any lawyer who would support the view that the Governor-General has no discretionary power. I have never heard it suggested.
– The honorable gentleman should search among his close friends.
– I said “ any lawyer “.
– I lay emphasis on the word “ lawyer “. But I realize that this is not the right time to have a full-dress debate on this ques tion, although I see some very . serious possibilities in the relations which may exist if certain ideas are held to be good in law and capable of being carried into effect. As one of the commonality in this community, I see what I understand to be son]e reserve of power, known ns the Royal Prerogative, which is above party and Parliament, and which in certain eventualities is supposed to be evoked for the good of the people as a whole. I am among those who would be very sorry to see a state of affairs arise in which it was successfully argued that the Crown has no prerogative in these affairs. Therefore, in view of the experience of December, 1936, and having, for some time since not been in a position to question these matters owing to being engaged in the exercise of certain prerogatives of my own, I suggest it would be very interesting if the Government, during the next parliamentary session which, we understand, may include a consideration of constitutional matters, would make some clear-cut pronouncement, with regard to the present-day relationships between the Crown and its Ministers, particularly the Prime Minister.
– I very warmly support the remarks made concerning the present Repatriation Act. I believe that the rigid terms of that act are causing serious injustice to many people who claim pensions. There are many returned soldiers - I personally know of many cases - whose applications for pensions are seriously prejudiced because, owing to the lack of medical records, they are unable to show connexion between the disabilities from which they now suffer, and their war service. It is a remarkable thing that although a man may have been classed as medically unfit when he returned from the war, if he were subsequently discharged by medical authorities, and then years later suffered a relapse, unless he can definitely prove that the relapse is attributable to his war service, he cannot obtain a pension. I have known of several cases of that kind, and although I have personally brought them under the notice of the Repatriation Department I have been unable to secure satisfaction.
– All members have had the. same experience.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) will let me know of the cases to which he refers, I shall be glad to investigate them.
– With regard to the administration of the Repatriation Department, I personally have only the highest regard for the commission and the officers. I do feel, however, that the medical officers, of that department, to put it mildly, have a very conservative outlook. That complaint applies not only to the Repatriation Department but also in some respect to the medical section administering invalid pensions. I informed one medical officer of the Repatriation Department that while 1 did not doubt his conscientiousness and sincerity, I felt that he and his associates were acutely actuated by an inordinate desire to serve the interests of the department. Undoubtedly the claims of many people for pensions are ‘ unduly prejudiced by the medical officers. I have at times wondered whether the medical officers had been given some unofficial instruction that they had to tighten up their examinations.
– They are very unsympathetic.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Badman) supports my contention in this regard. I have no doubt that my complaints in this matter are shared by many other honorable members in this House.
I very heartily support the representations made on behalf of Boer War veterans, and I agree that repatriation provisions should be made available to them. I should also like to see included within the scope of the Repatriation Act those men who served during the Great War not in the Australian Military Forces, but with the armies of other countries of the British Commonwealth. There .are many men in Australia to-day who have to their credit good service in various branches of the British army, but unfortunately, many of them have lost touch with the Ministry for Pensions in England. Some consideration should therefore be .given to them. They ‘should receive the provision of the service1 pension. Many of them are prematurely aged and are suffering from a degree of invalidity which makes their cases worthy of the most sympathetic consideration. They have lived in Australia for a number of years, and are, in fact/ “burnt out”, as .are. many of our own ex-service men. I ask that special consideration be given to them and their dependants. If nothing more liberal can be done for them by repatriation pensions, they should, at leasts be brought under that section of the Repatriation Act providing for a service pension. 1 very strongly recommend these deserving cases and hope that an early amendment of the act will be introduced.,
I wish now to refer to the policy of the Postal Department in closing certain post offices which are said to be unprofitable. Some of these offices have been serving certain localities for many years, and even if they may not be profitable, they are still necessary to the convenience of the general public. I have just received word that such a post office in a part of my electorate, which has been serving the public since before the achievement of federation, is to be closed, although the community in which it is situated is growing. Why should the department adopt such a. policy? Surely the convenience of the general public should have some weight! It appears that the Postal Department is very unwilling to give service anywhere unless it can be sure that it will make a profit. The very substantial surplus in the working of the Postal Department warrants improved services rather than the policy of discontinuance. The policy of the Postal Department should be to ensure service rather than become . a taxing machine. If I can point to grievances of this kind in my electorate, I am sure that honorable members who represent country districts must know of many such instances. I urge the Government to give instructions that the policy of which I. complain be altered. The department should consider more than it does the general convenience of the community. People who live in the somewhat isolated areas in our more settled districts as well as those who live in -the remote areas outback are entitled to reasonable service from the Postal Department, and it should be possible to maintain offices in such areas by setting off against any losses that may be sustained there a certain amount of the profit made in thickly populated centres. I ask for sympathetic consideration for these representations.
.- I shall not delay the committee long.
– I rise to a .point of order. Is it right for the call from the Chair to be given to an honorable member who has already spoken at one stage of this bill ? He should not have preference over other honorable members who, so far, have not had an opportunity to speak, particularly seeing that he voted in favour of the “ guillotine “.
– There is no point of order.
– I sympathize to some extent with the honorable member for Hunter, but I have my rights as a member of this committee. I shall be very brief. I wish, first, to congratulate the Government upon its interest in our shipbuilding industry. Last Saturday, Mrs. Street, the wife of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) launched the sloop Parramatta, which was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and is a fine example of Australian craftsmanship. Once upon a time, South Australia had a shipbuilding industry. The last ship built there was turned out in a most workmanlike way. A sloop like the Parramatta could he built in South Australia if some assistance were given to the project. I ask the Government to consider distributing its shipbuilding operations so that some of the less-favoured States may share in them. I look for the day to come when South Australia will again have a shipbuilding industry.
.- I wish to make some reference to the need for an amendment “of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act. “When the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) gave notice of’ his intention to move for the appointment of a select committee to consider and report upon anomalies in the Repatriation Act, I said that I would support his motion if it provided for consideration to be given to the rights of
Imperial ex-service men resident in Australia. The Repatriation Act, as it stands, is harsh in some of its provisions, and many of the complaints made by ex-service men in this regard are thoroughly justified. We all know that after the war many men who returned to this country from active service in apparently good health made no call whatever upon the War Pensions Department. At that time, a considerable amount of work could be obtained, and pay was fairly reasonable. These men, therefore, decided to rely upon their own ability to get a job and hold it. But, with the passage of the years, the health of many of them has become impaired. They now find themselves unable to furnish the department with a continuous medical history when they feel impelled to make a claim upon it for a pension. Moreover, many of the medical practitioners who treated them in days gone by are dead, and no records can be found of the details of such treatment. This prevents numerous ex-service men from furnishing a continuous medical history, and for this reason they are denied a pension. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison) stated this afternoon that our Repatriation Act was more liberal than that of any other country. He also observed that Australia was expending £7,700,000 per annum in war pensions of one kind or another. He did not think it worth while to inform honorable members that about £20,000,000 per annum is being paid out, even now, in interest on war bonds and the like. I can see no justification whatever for restricting the benefits of the repatriation legislation while no restriction whatever is imposed upon the payment of interest in respect of war bonds. Surely the men who were prepared to give their lives for their country are worthy of more consideration than those who remained at home and lent their money to the Government at a high rate of interest in a time of national peril! It is neither reasonable nor fair that ex-service men whose health has been impaired should be denied a pension on the ground of financial stringency, while people who lent money to the Government for war purposes should be permitted to continue to draw substantial amounts year by year in interest. Where do these individuals show their patriotism? 1 can see no semblance of it in their conduct. True patriotism would be shown if the bond-holders would intimate to the Government that they are prepared to forgo the payment of any further interest on their bonds in order that additional benefits might be provided for ex-service men. If it is good enough to restrict the payment of pensions, it is, in my opinion, good enough also to cease meeting charges on interestbearing securities.
I wish to say a few words concerning service pensions. As the honorable member for Balaclava pointed out this afternoon, the conditions in respect of these are in some ways grossly unfair. At the close of the Anzac Day celebrations in a part of my district this year, I was invited to visit a sick soldier who had been denied a service pension. I found him absolutely incapacitated and bedridden. His wife had to treat him as a child. She even had to lift him out of bed to change his bed. He could do absolutely nothing for himself. I made representations for him to the Repatriation Department, from which I have now received a reply to the effect that he is not permanently unemployable. When does the department consider a man ito be permanently unemployable? This exsoldier is absolutely helpless and bedridden. His name is Logan, and. he lives at Cessnock. I ask the Minister for Repatriation to make a special investigation of his case. He was recently an inmate of the Repatriation Hospital, but has since been taken back to Cessnock, where he has been bedridden ever since. Another case that I wish to have investigated is that of Thomas Elwell, of Hebburn Western. His complaint affects him from the hips down. His legs are useless, and he cannot walk let alone work. Yet the department says that he also is not permanently unemployable. I urge the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to his case.
I join in the representations that have been made to the Government for the setting up of a select committee to recommend amendments to the Repatriation Act and also for the inclusion within the provisions of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act of the thousands of Imperial ex-service men who, since the war, have made their homes in Australia. They fought beside Australians in the Great War, they have adopted this country, they pay taxes and rear Australian children, and they have been here long enough to qualify for invalid and old-age pensions; yet they are refused repatriation benefits, which are paid from Consolidated Revenue to which they, with all other taxpayers, contribute. Why should the Government discriminate between the ex-soldiers of Australia and Great Britain. British ex-service men feel that they have been deserted. When they left the Old Country they were advised that Australian sunlight would cure them of that dread disease, tuberculosis, which they had contracted during the war. The Imperial authorities bought them off by paying them lump sums in lieu of pensions. While residing in Australia, many of them became totally and permanently incapacitated. When they have been here long enough, they qualify for invalid pensions. Their complaints are diagnosed by the highest medical authorities as being due to war service, yet they cannot receive repatriation benefits. Is there any justice in that? Because there is no reciprocity between Australia and Britain in regard to pensions, Australian taxpayers have to carry these men on the invalid, pension, when their maintenance should primarily be the responsibility of the Imperial Government. If we accept them as citizens - in fact, in conjunction with the Imperial authorities, encourage them to come here - we should be prepared to treat them as Australians, at the same time making representations to the Imperial authorities to help in the ‘ matter. The Imperial ex-service men have a just claim. Hundreds of them reside in my electorate and I have fought, and will continue to fight on their behalf. Recently I was appointed an honorary member of the British Ex-service Legion at a reunion in Weston and I am proud that my services have been so recognized. I hope that this Government, or a future government, will ensure that these men become eligible for repatriation benefits. At present they have to appeal to the imperial authorities and wait six months or more before their cases are determined. If they were eligible to receive Australian repatriation benefits, their files would be kept in Australia, and their cases could be dealt with expeditiously. Representations should be made to the Imperial Government to set up in Australia a tribunal including representatives of Imperial ex-service men, and the High Commissioner for Great Britain, who could look after the interests of the British Government, which should bear a fair share of the costs. That would do away with the present unsatisfactory system. Many honorable members are acquainted with a song which has been practically dedicated to the French Foreign Legion - “ The Legion of the Lost They Call Us “. I have made changes in one of its verses which make it appropriate to the case I am submitting on behalf of these exImperial service men, many of whom are “ forgotten men “ in this country of their adoption. The amended verse reads -
The Legion of the Lost, they call us:
The Legion of the Lost are we.
Legionnaires and outcasts.
Outcasts from humanity.
Marching to the grave with our hands praying.
Marching on to death with our souls saying,
Listen to the hums of the politicians saying,
Fight, fight, fight ….
But we’ll never get our rights;
We can fight and we can die for the Empire,
The Legion of the Lost are we.
Imperial ex-service men, who reside in my electorate, have done everything humanly possible to ventilate their grievances, and as they feel noone cares for them, they become despondent. I have advised them not to form separate organizations, because I believe that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia is now doing its best on their behalf. Their case has been fought so strongly that now they have representation on the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia. They come from the land of our fathers and they pay taxes on the same basis as other Australian citizens, portion of which is used to pay repatriation costs. Why, therefore, should they receive treatment different from that accorded to Australian returned soldiers?
.- I urge the Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison), when the budget is being framed, to consider the representations that have been made in this House on many occasions for the erection of a new General Post Office at Brisbane.
– The honorable member voted for the “gag”. Why should he speak at this stage?
– I wish to have my say. I have not spoken previously in this debate.
– I rise to a point of order. As the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has made a similar speech, to my knowledge, about 50 times, I wish to know whether he is entitled to make it again or whether he is guilty of tedious repetition?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).There is no point of order.
– Although the matter has been brought up in this House on many occasions, a new General Post Office has not yet been erected at Brisbane. Recently, the present Postmaster-General visited the building, and afterwards I was glad to hear his undertaking that he would bring before Cabinet a proposition supporting the case for a new building. I hope that the House and the people of Queensland will not be disappointed when the budget is presented.
I have been requested to urge the payment of returned soldiers’ pensions by cheque, either directly or to branches of the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) has supported a proposal for the payment of invalid and oldage pensions by cheque. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Harrison) to take similar action on behalf of ex-service men, many of whom have to wait in cold post office corridors for long periods to collect their pensions. Many of them are maimed, and serious hardship is inflicted on them.
I remind the Minister for Repatriation of representations made to him recently by a deputation of South African war veterans. For a long time, I and other honorable members, have been urging that these veterans should receive service pensions and hospital benefits. The amount involved would not be very great. I have been advised that not more than 200 South African veterans are likely to claim benefits, and a sum not exceeding £10,000 a year would be sufficient to provide the service. Seventy-five per cent. of the
South African veterans also served in the Great War, and therefore are now eligible for repatriation benefits. That would limit the number who would be eligible for South African veterans’ benefits.
– What about the Imperial ex-service men?
– I listened to the representations made by the honorable member on behalf of Imperial ex-service men. The provision of pensions for them is the responsibility of the Imperial Government for the same reasons that the ex-soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force are the care of the Australian Government.
I appreciate the fact that the PostmasterGeneral has seen fit to implement the arrangement made by Cabinet at Hobart to reduce the interstate telegram rate from ls. 4d. to ls. As one who represents a border electorate, I know how unjustly that surcharge operates in many cases. For instance, a telegram despatched from Surfers’ Paradise to Tweed Heads, which is 15 miles away just over the border of New South Wales, costs ls. 4d., whereas it costs only ls. to send a telegram from the same place to Cairns, which is 1,500 miles away. Nothing can justify a discrimination of that kind after 30 years of federation.
.- The Government is asking the committee to appropriate the sum of £10,477,100 in order to enable it to carry on during the next three months, when Parliament will be in recess. I should like to know what the Government intends to do, during that period, to relieve unemployment. How much of this amount will be spent in the alleviation of distress and poverty among the unemployed throughout Australia? In this great Commonwealth, which produces an abundance of the necessaries of life, we find large numbers of people suffering from malnutrition, and unable to purchase clothing. Such a position cannot be tolerated on humane or christian grounds. At the last general elections this Government promised to relieve unemployment, but it has failed to do anything tangible in this direction. It should recognize its responsibility, as the national Government, to solve this problem instead of shelving it on to the State governments.
Is it any wonder that so many semigovernmental bodies throughout the Commonwealth are endeavouring to obtain as much loan money as possible in order to initiate necessary works in their respective areas with a view to relieving local unemployment? The Labour Government of New Zealand has definitely given a lead to the Commonwealth in this matter. To-day conditions in New Zealand are attracting artisans from Australia. If this Government were sincere in its desire to assist the unfortunate unemployed, it would not allow any of our artisans to go elsewhere in search of work. In Canberra alone there is a shortage of approximately 400 houses. Why cannot the Government go ahead immediately with a huge building programme to overcome that shortage? The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) has repeatedly urged upon the Government the necessity for building a new general post office in Brisbane. The post office at South Brisbane, which is in my electorate, is housed in a shop, which is an eye-sore. Any government would feel ashamed to call such a building a post office. These are the works with which the Government could go ahead immediately in order to relieve unemployment. During the recent by-election in Griffith electoral officers were obliged to work in a room which was not fit for animals, let alone human beings. Those officers laboured all day and through the night until 3 o’clock the following morning, and for their extra services they received no remuneration whatever. Does the Government call that democracy?
– The time allotted for the discussion in committee has expired.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- Whilst I feel privileged to represent the division of Wilmot in this Parliament, I regret the circumstances which necessitated the holding of the recent by-election for that seat. I have many happy recollections of the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons). One of the most pleasant of them is the fact that he was the first public man to suggest to me that I should enter public life in Tasmania.
I do not oppose the third reading of this measure, but I intend to draw attention to ‘two very important omissions from the bill. This measure contains no mention of the important matter of unemployment, although that problem is definitely the responsibility of the National Government. Unemployment saps the very vitality of a community, and, unfortunately, it is one of the most serious problems confronting this country at the present time. Only last week I was a member of a deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and asked that a pensions scheme in relation to unemployment be introduced. This problem has reached alarming proportions, not only on the mainland, but also in Tasmania, and it is not confined to any particular industry. “We find hundreds of unemployed, not only in industrial areas, but also in rural districts. In his policy speech at the 1934 general election campaign the late Mr. Lyons said that the States had almost reached the end of their resources in dealing with this problem, and that it was essential that the Commonwealth evolve a definite plan to solve the difficulty. As the result of that promise a youth employment scheme was approved by this Parliament some time ago. What; pleased me most about that fact was that in dealing with it this National Parliament recognized that it has a responsibility in respect of unemployment. It is all very well for this Government to take £10 out of the pockets of the taxpayers in the States and to pose as a benefactor by returning £5 or £6 out of that amount to the State governments in the form of grants. Having recognized that it has a responsibility in connexion with unemployment this Government should get down to work arid tackle the problem in a businesslike way, because unemployment has become too big a job for the States. It calls for statesmanlike action. If we cannot make our working people contented, we cannot hope to lay a solid foundation on which to build the future of this country, or to inspire our people to respond to the defence of their country in a time of emergency. A contented community will defend itself to the last man. This Government must tackle this problem, even if its solution involves a re-organization of the economic structure of this country. Only last night in this House the national insurance scheme was held up for a further period. In reconsidering that scheme I urge the Government to give careful attention to the institution of unemployment insurance. That will be one way in which we can attack this evil. Another method is by the introduction of a shorter working week. Those two reforms will assist us materially in dealing with this problem. I suggest that if the Government brings down a constructive proposal in this direction it will be astonished at the co-operation which it will receive from honorable members on this side.
I am sorry that no provision is made in this bill for widows’ and orphans’ pensions. In moving around my electorate I have many opportunities to make first-hand acquaintance with the conditions of the poorer people. In many homes which I have visited I have found a girl, no more than thirteen years of age. looking after four or five of her younger brothers and sisters. This cruel responsibility is thrust upon such young shoulders because the mother, as I invariably discover on inquiry, is obliged to go out washing and scrubbing in order to earn sufficient to keep the home together. The family having lost the breadwinner, the mother had to maintain the children.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the remaining portion of the bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 7th June (vide page 1443), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill he now read a second time.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia) r9.311.Although the Opposition does not. intend to oppose this measure, I should like some information from the Minister (Mr.
Spender) concerning the reports received from the. State governments on the expenditure of the £200,000 previously appropriated. I should also like to know how many young persons have been trained in trades or assisted in obtaining employment as the result of the expenditure of the money already provided. According to the Minister’s second-reading speech, 5,900 persons have benefited in all the States, and 3,226 are waiting to receive educational facilities or to he assisted to learn a trade. According to the report from the Queensland Government for the year ended the 30th June, 1938, it would appear that, since the inception of the scheme up to the 31st August, 1938, the position is as follows: Enrolled in commercial trades, 202; resultant employment, 67; enrolled for farm ing pursuits, 73; resultant employment, 5 ; enrolment for mining, 30 ; resultant employment, 7. These figures show that although the Government has taken a step in the right direction, it is only toying with the great problem of assisting unemployed youths to obtain suitable work. This is a matter on which a very definite promise was made by the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who, as Leader of the United Australia party in 1934, stated in his policy speech that the employment of youths was of such paramount importance to Australia that it would be one of the first problems which his Government would tackle. He also stated that the Government proposed to increase its efforts to relieve unemployment with particular reference to the needs of youths which, he said, should take precedence over all other Commonwealth activities. When such a promise was made we naturally expected that the Government would treat the matter seriously, and would not consider that by appropriating £200,000 to be divided among the six States to. assist in the training of youths, its responsibility ceased. The last census figures disclose that there were approximately 90,000 of both sexes under the age of 21 out of employment, and of that number 23,000 had never performed a day’s work. Various police magistrates have stated from the bench that the unemployment amongst youths in Australia is one of the chief causes of crime, and that it was distressing to them to find that many young men who came before them had been brought up under favorable conditions and were anxious to make their way in life, but, having been denied that right, had drifted into bad habits. The Government now proposes to appropriate an additional £200,000, making a total of £400,000 to be expended during a period of five years. The late Mr. Dunningham, Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales, who was strong in his criticizm of the niggardly treatment meted out to the States by the Commonwealth in regard to unemployment generally, and particularly unemployed youths, said -
There seems to be a hoodoo on Federal Ministers who talk unemployment, perhaps that is why so many of them dodge it altogether.
After having read the many statements emanating from Federal sources as to the Commonwealth’s ardent desire to assist youth training and employment throughout Australia, I am very disappointed at the decision of the Federal Government to make only £200,000 available.
In effect, this means that the amount will be taken from the pool, which is divided between the Federal and State Governments and provides employment.
We really reduce employment in one direction and utilize the money so withdrawn in an endeavour to deal with the problem in another.
Although the late Prime Minister said that employment of youths would take precedence over all other Government activities, his Government did not do anything for two years. A conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was then convened to consider the subject at which it was decided that £400,000 should be appropriated for use during the following three years. The present Prime Minister, who was Attorney-General and Minister for Industry, said that the Government had no set plan to deal with the problem, and we have not yet had any definite report as to how the money already provided has been expended in each State, and whether it has been additional to the normal activities of State Governments in assisting youths to obtain the necessary training in trades or in commerce. I should like to know if this amount is to be used to supplement the expenditure of State governments, or if it is the only money which is being expended for this purpose. When this subject was debated recently in the New South Wales Parliament one honorable member said -
Over 50,000 young people of both sexes in New South Wales are at present looking for work, and this number will be added to automatically when young persons who reach the age of 1!) to 21 years are dismissed.
Unfortunately that is the practice throughout Australia. Boys of 14 to 15 years are engaged, but when they reach 1.8 to 20 years of age, and, when by virtue of their experience they are entitled to an increased’ remuneration, they are dismissed and younger persons employed. That is a great injustice and is responsible for a good deal of the unemployment which now prevails.
– Exactly. When young men have received a certain amount of training and are becoming proficient, they are dismissed in order to employ others at a cheaper rate. The Unemployment Council of Now South Wales found that blind-alley jobs were adding 1,500 young men annually to the ranks of unskilled youths, and that most of these youths were dismissed because they became 21 years of age, when they were entitled to higher award rates. The council also made an exhaustive survey and assessed the proportion of juniors to adults in 40 firms, and found that there was a total of 1,246 juniors to 305 adults. The following table shows the position: -
Mr. A. B. Lalchere, chairman of the Young Citizens Association Advisory Council, referring to the appalling conditions under which the youths of the day are being thrown on the industrial scrap-heap, said-.
The onus of the whole trouble is on the employers, who are making huge profits ‘ ‘tit tile expense of youths.
These lads do not acquire any skill or any experience which would enable them to secure employment as adults. They are discarded and go to swell the ranks of unemployed unskilled, labour.
I think that every honorable gentleman has had the ‘ same experience as I have had with parents who are driven almost frantic wondering how they shall place their boys and girls,, mainly boys, in employment. -It is not every parent who is so fortunate ‘ as to have children who can pass the junior or senior university examinations. Many parents tare forced to- send their children out to employment at an earlier age than one would desire to see. A great. many boys leave school at the age of fourteen years. They cannot say they have passed the intermediate or the junior university examination, and they find, that they cannot get employment as apprentices in trades which are congenial to them. Many of them take Up blind-alley jobs at the end of which is the dole office. ‘ . The latest census revealed that there were 90,000 youths who were unemployed. The census also showed that 23,000 youths had never done a day’s work. The Commonwealth Statistician estimates that approximately 90,000 juniors enter the wage-earning group every year, and that deaths, retirements, &c, account for 50,000 a year. The net increase of the number of youth wage-earners is thus about 40,000 a year.
Australia intends to expend £63,000,000 in three years or less on defence, and in this regard the Labour policy of industrial preparedness for defence is being acknowledged. Unfortunately, however, owing to the short-sighted policy of the Commonwealth Government in not pushing ahead with industrial activities to the full extent, the industries which could be developed with rapidity and thereby absorb the people in employment cannot develop at the rate at which they would develop if they had the whole of the Australian, market. I suggest to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) that he look into the question of the number of industries which have asked for additional protection to enable them to extend their enterprises and thus absorb a greatly-increased number of workmen and youths in factories. If the honorable gentleman would, with the greatest possible speed, have those requests considered by the Tariff Board and acted upon, many of the youths who to-day are walking the streets looking for work as apprentices in factories would find work. The Western Australian Government has already gone into this question at great length. It appointed a royal commissioner in 1938 to inquire into the question of youth employment and the apprenticeship system. The commissioner made some very good observations and recommendations. He said on page eight of the report -
I proceed to outline some of the more important specific measures adopted or under consideration by various countries in dealing with the problem. They are -
The raising of the school leaving age and the raising of the age for admission into employment; compulsory attendance at education centres of unemployed young persons; part-time attendance of employed young persons at educational centres until the age of ‘ eighteen years ; vocational training of employed young persons between18 and 25 years of age, with provision for supplementary general education.
This royal commissioner, in this report that was submitted to the Government of Western Australia towards the end of last year, summarized the recommendations made in the various countries to grapple with the question of unemployment amongst youths. Amongst them were -
A revision of the apprenticeship system; the provision of recreational and social services ; the establishment of work camps or work centres ;
The development of systems of - vocational guidance, pre-vocational training, vocational training, as part of the general educational methods;
The establishment of placement bureaux and labour exchanges, and the transference of young persons from “ depressed areas “ to areas where work is available; the rationing of employment (i.e., parttime), in times of economic depression; the reduction of the hours of labour; the shortening of the working life by compelling the retirement at, say, 60 years of age.
Other measures of a general character which have been discussed or suggested are -
The development of a long-range policy of public works so that the maximum of public works construction will coincide in point of time with periods when depression is severe; the curtailment of women’s services in industry, and the question of equal pay for the sexes; unemployment insurance.
This report is so voluminous that it would require days for honorable members to absorb its details. The commissioner after deliberation then made these recommendations -
I therefore recommend -
That a Bureau of Industry and Economic Research with statutory powers of holding inquiries and of obtaining information be established. It should be presided over by a full-time director who should be a widely experienced officer and be given power to utilize the services of technicians and State officials. It should be a representative body consisting of representatives of the Government, the employers and the workers and having the services, in an advisory capacity, of an economist and industrial technician. The powers and duties of the bureau should include the following: -
To acquire and disseminate in formation with regard to the States’ economy with a view to improving economic efficiency;
To inquire into the conditions of employment and the causes and extent of unemployment;
To collect statistical and other information ;
To endeavour to improve the relations of employers and workers ;
To assist in improving the efficiency of existing, and to develop new, enterprises.
That an economic research section be attached to the Statistician Branch. That this section be charged with the duty of conducting continuous research and keeping in constant touch with the director. The first duty of this section should be to have at its command immediate interpretations of statistics so that the fullest possible use can be made of them.
I recommend that the State co-operate with the Commonwealth and the other States of the Commonwealth in the formulation of a scheme for providing credit for new types of industries, the fostering of which is recommended by the Bureau of Economic Research, acting in conjunction with the credit banks established for this purpose.
I commend this report to Ministers and hope that they will read it carefully. The report continues -
That the present buildings used for technical education are inadequate.
That it ia necessary, if youth is to be properly educated for industry, that the building should be enlarged and the equipment increased.
At the present time there is a limited number of trade classes in the day time for the crafts in which apprenticeship is compulsory. In the other crafts there are either no classes at all or instruction is given in the evenings in self-supporting classes. The Technical Branch should cater for all classes of industry in which apprenticeship is necessary, and should also provide rural workers with a general course of instruction in agricultural science and methods, the course to cover a period of two years, and instruction to be given at slack periods of the year in the farming industry, so as to enable as many students as possible to attend.
The point is to what extent is the Government considering all the reports on this question of youth employment that are available in the various States? Is the Government doing anything constructive apart from providing £200,000 for division amongst the six States under this bill? Such provision, after all, is very niggardly considering the revenue resources of the Commonwealth and the fact that we are finding £63,000,000 for defence. These young people who leave school every year, invariably fired with enthusiasm to make their way in life, are the young men who join the Militia and will play an important part in the defence of this country if defence be ever necessary. The best way to lay the foundation for them to become effective citizens is to engender among them the feeling that they arc not being overlooked by the State and Commonwealth Governments, that the governments are desirous of equipping them for the great work that lies ahead of them, that this country cares for them and their welfare and that this is a country really worth fighting for. I am always deeply moved by the representations made to mc in my electorate by unfortunate parents who are unable to place their children in work. What applies in my electorate applies equally in other parts of Australia. The Government cannot wash its hands of responsibility by the mere granting of £200,000. It must follow up this bill. I think that the Queensland Government is the only government which has submitted a comprehensive report to the Commonwealth Government on this matter.
– The Government of New South Wales too.
– I shall be glad to hear the Minister on that .point later. I understand that there is no uniformity among the States in tackling this problem, and I should be interested to hear from the Minister what the several States are doing. The Minister for Social Services (Sir Frederick Stewart) displayed a keen interest in this matter a few years ago and I should like to hear him on the subject. After his visit to Geneva, the honorable gentleman said -
As in Australia, I found this phase of the problem provoking great concern in all countries. At the Geneva Conference a striking demonstration ensued when representatives of youth organizations ‘ from all ‘ parts of the world were received by the conference to whom oral appeals were made, backed up by petitions containing hundreds of thousands of signatures, asking that special consideration be given to the plight of 7,000,000 unemployed youths.
It must have been a stirring experience to hear the earnest and sincere representations from the representatives of those 7,000,000 youths throughout the world to the conference to tackle this problem in a comprehensive way and on an international scale. In his report to the Commonwealth Government, the then Minister for Labour and Industry said -
The petitions and appeals were in perfectly good form and created an obvious impression in the Conference. They were referred to a committee of which I was a member. After the most sympathetic consideration, the general conclusions of the committee were that it was not practicable to separate and deal with unemployment issued in arbitrary agc sections, and the most effective aid to youthful victims would be found in a more rigorous attack on the general situation.
The honorable gentleman then stated that the main features of the recommendations were -
What has been done in regard to the recommendations of that conference to which the present Minister for Social Services was a delegate.? Has the Government ever perused these recommendations? If so, has any decision been arrived at as to what action should be taken? Has the Government a plan in mind, or has the matter just cropped up because a departmental head pointed out that the £200,000 previously voted for this purpose had been exhausted ? Probably that is the only reason why the matter has been brought up at all. In my opinion, before bringing down such a measure as this, the Government should have investigated the whole problem ; for then it would have been in a position to announce to the House what it intended to do. A longrange plan should be evolved and submitted to a Premiers Conference, so that the matter could be fully considered and concerted action taken with a view to ameliorating the distressing conditions which exist to-day. Thousands of youths leave school every year and find that industry has no place for them, or can offer them only a temporary place until they reach the age of nineteen or twenty years. Many youths are discharged after giving four or five years’ faithful service to their employers, and they find themselves without jobs at an age when they should be considering undertaking the responsibility of marriage, and fulfilling a useful place in the community as husbands and fathers. Unless the Commonwealth Government is prepared to render assistance, we can expect nothing but demoralization amongst the youth of this country. Youth employment is one of the most important responsibilities of any Government, and this Government cannot wash its hands of the whole matter simply by passing a bill providing for the granting of £200,000 to the States.
.- This bill has more than ordinary interest, because it indicates the Government’s desire to help the States in this most important phase of national development. While I agree that the States should be given financial assistance in this direction, it is necessary to scrutinize just what is being done with the subsidy. With regard to this problem, we come once again against the old constitutional difficulty, namely, divided control. Whereas the control of unemployment is a function of the States, the financing of schemes such as this is a responsibility of the Commonwealth. This is a hurdle which looms up with monotonous regularity. Important problems such as this should be under one authority, because they are nation-wide in their application. We tackle unemployment here at its foundation., If we can co-ordinate with the State on this question we can more readily reach the stage when we can secure the young man’s future so that he can take his place as an Australian citizen, to marry the girl of his choice and encouraging on a proper basis the urgent population need. Last year a youth employment scheme was inaugurated in New South Wales under which youths between the ages of 19 and 25 years were subsidized in their employment by the State Government, aided by Commonwealth assistance.
Nearly 3,000 youths were employed, under this scheme and I suggest that that scheme could be expanded to include technical and commercial activities, such as those dealing with scientific appliances and commodities, in which three or four years’ training is necessary to acquire proficiency. There are also semigovernmental activities such as main road construction calling for skilled men and engineering talent. Recently, the Main Roads Board of New South Wales engaged three overseas road engineers who happened to be recent arrivals in Australia. I have been officially informed that the board required men who were experts in reinforced concrete designs and steel bridge designs, and that no such experts were available in Australia. It seems to me that we are sadly lacking in our efforts to eliminate unemployment if we are not training youths in skilled trades such as these. The expansion of main roads throughout Australia is one of the most important phases of- our national development in this motor age and with defence need. I understand from inquiries which I have made, that the New South Wales youth employment scheme was cancelled on the 1st January last. 1 ask the Minister what was the reason for that? Is a new scheme being contemplated, or is it desired that a further subsidy should be given by the Commonwealth ?
– No concrete scheme has yet been decided upon but negotiations are proceeding between the Commonwealth and the States.
– Is the scheme still in operation, or has it been cancelled?
– It was not cancelled. No more recruits have been taken since the beginning of the year, due to the fact that an alteration of a Commonwealth industrial award was not continued beyond that date.
– I learned with much interest that a select parliamentary committee has been set up in New South Wales, sponsored by Mr. Baddeley and Mr. Mitchell, to inquire into the capacity of industry to absorb unemployed youths; the extent and distribution of youth employment; what steps should be taken to provide opportunities for those engaged in “dead-end” occupations, and the relationship between the school-leaving age and the present system of technical education. That proposal has much lo commend it, and I suggest, in view of the position that this Government should appoint a similar committee, consisting of honorable members from both sides of the House, to inquire into every phase of :this important national question. For instance, what is the attitude of the trade unions and industry itself to this question of employing and training youths in skilled occupations? I have no doubt that finance is an important factor in this problem, and I suggest that the Loan Council should give this matter and other employment requirements earnest consideration, in order that some method of providing the necessary finance might be arrived at.
’.- I think that the name of this bill is more impressive than the effort which is being put forward by the Government. I am not at all satisfied with the effort that the Government is making in connexion with this very important major problem. The bill which has been brought down is a very small one, and it appears that the Government regards it as a minor question. Personally, I think it is a matter of great importance to the youth of Australia, and one in which the Government should wholeheartedly interest itself. A great majority of youths leaving school to-day are unable to find work, and one of the results of this great wastage of useful lives has been an increase of juvenile crime. As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has frequently stated, many young men have reached the age of 25 years and have never done a day’s work. In a country such as this, that is a very unfortunate state of affairs, and it does not reflect to the credit of the present Government, or of the governments of the same political colour that have preceded it during the last seven years, because these governments are responsible for the position of the youth of Australia to-day. Had steps been taken years ago to combat this social evil, the plight of the unfortunate unemployed youths would not be nearly so acute as it is now. Tn mining areas, where little scope exists for the employment of youth, the Government should exert itself to deal with the situation in a competent way. At present a good deal is being said about the desirableness of bringing migrants of youthful age to Australia. I consider the Government would bc acting more wisely if it made provision for youths in depressed areas, such as the mining fields, to be transferred to other areas where permanent employment could be made available. This would ensure that these young men would be given an opportunity to become useful citizens of this country under conditions which would enable them to marry and rear families with reasonable prospects of economic comfort. It appears to me that the amount of money proposed to be voted in this bill will be useless to do anything of a major character. The sum of £200,000 will probably be sufficient only to maintain activities already in operation. The Government should go much farther than this. While the schemes now in force are useful in their way they are limited in their scope. New avenues of employment, and especially new avenues of training, should be opened. The men who are trained should, moreover, be given some assurance that permanent employment will be available for them in their chosen callings. Many of the young men and women who attend high schools until they obtain their leaving certificates are well qualified, but no employment is available for them. Surely something is wrong with the system that permits that kind of thing to occur. It is frequently said that youths eighteen years of age are too old to obtain employment. In various industries young people of fourteen years of age and thereabouts are preferred. Yet it is deplorable that people who remain in our educational establishments until they reach the leaving certificate standard should be left high and dry. Another regrettable feature of our economic life to-day i3 thai so many dead-end jobs are offered to young men and women who are retained in certain lines of employment until they reach the age of possibly 21 years when they are dismissed as unskilled, and thereafter find extreme difficulty in gaining a new start in life.
The Commonwealth Postal Department is one of the worst offenders in this way.
It employs juniors as messengers until, they reach the age of eighteen or nineteen years, and then dismisses them. Surely something could be done to train these young people so that, as they advance in years, they can take more responsible positions in the department. The Government should direct the employing agency of the Postal Department to give more consideration to this aspect of its administration. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to discourage the employment of young people in dead-end occupations. It will not be discharging its responsibilities by merely saying to the State governments, “ Now we have made this sum of money available to you it is your responsibility to do the job. Thank goodness we are well out of it “.
The Opposition has made several suggestions to improve existing conditions. lt has proposed that the school leaving age be increased so that boys and girls of tender years will not be available for absorption in industrial enterprises. It lias also suggested that vocational training should receive more attention from the Commonwealth Government. Unfortunately, some young people who spend two or three years in vocational training find themselves afterwards left high and dry. Vocational training should include the provision of employment for the persons trained. Actually, to-day young men and women who take up vocational training courses frequently find themselves without permanent employment on the completion of their courses. The Labour party is of the opinion that a shorter working week would provide a greater measure of employment for our people.
The subject with which we are dealing is of vital significance, and the Commonwealth Parliament should exert every effort to formulate an adequate scheme to meet the urgent needs of the situation. If national works were put in hand on- a larger scale, more employment would be available, greater facilities would be offered for the training of artisans, and the spending power of the people would be enlarged. The building trade provides varied employment for a large number of people, but, unfortunately, it is languishing throughout Australia.
Some years ago the Commonwealth Government made funds available, through the Commonwealth Bank, for the building of homes; but in reply to questions I have put to Ministers recently I have learnt that no advances have been made under that scheme for a considerable time. I urge that fresh attention should be devoted to home-building projects. The employment situation for the young men and women of Australia is so unsatisfactory to-day that many are leaving this country to go to New Zealand. If the Government wishes to do the fair and honest thing by our young people it will provide avenues of training for them, and then take all the necessary steps to see that they are assured of permanent employment. I ask the Assistant Treasurer to state specifically whether the amount of money proposed to he voted under this hill is intended simply to permit youth employment schemes already in operation Jo be continued?
– In substance that is so.
– Then the measure is totally inadequate to the needs of the situation. This is an important national problem with which the National Parliament should deal comprehensively. It should not be left principally to the State authorities to train youth or to find employment for them after training. A larger amount of money should be appropriated so that an adequate scheme could be devised.
– The purpose of this bill is to appropriate a comparatively small sum for the pin-pose of training and placing in employment youths between the ages of IS and 25 years; but the measure involves a very important principle. It is based upon section 96 of the Constitution, which was first used in this way when the federal aid roads scheme was put into operation. This use of the section has led to an expansion of Commonwealth powers in a really remarkable way. The Commonwealth has power to offer to the States sums of money which the economic position of the States forbids them to refuse. It says to them, in effect, “ We will vote money to you for pertain purposes, provided you use it in a way that satisfies us”. In this way the Commonwealth Parliament is able indirectly to dictate the policies of the States. A French writer on the American Constitution referred to this procedure as legislation par ricochet. Although the Commonwealth has no direct power to influence State policy its indirect power is proving most effective.
The particular object behind this bill is to encourage young people to take up technical training courses. As the Commonwealth has a considerable measure of control over industry through the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, on the one hand, and the tariff-making power of our Parliament on the other, it is fitting, in my opinion, that it should do as much as possible to encourage technical education. Obviously the State authorities would find technical education a heavy burden if they had to provide for it unaided. As the Commonwealth is able to assist in this way it indirectly influences State policy to the advantage of all concerned. It has been said that the making of grants of this kind is in effect an invasion of State provinces, but I cannot agree with that point of view. By subsidizing technical education, as is proposed, to even this limited extent, the Commonwealth is doing something of benefit to the whole community. In other countries where the federal system of government is in operation the federal authorities have no hesitation in voting large sums of money for the encouragement and assistance of technical education under conditions specially prescribed in acts of Parliament or set out in agreements made between the federal body and the provinces. Section 639 of the British North America Act declares that power over education is expressly reserved to the provinces; yet the Canadian Dominion Parliament has passed legislation which- provides for the granting of £10,000,000 over a period of ten years for the assistance of technical education in the provinces. That amounts to £1,000,000 a year for the assistance of technical education, but the money is not made available until the provinces have made agreements as to the conditions to be fulfilled in order to qualify for federal aid. In that way, the Federal Government has been able to regulate technical education.
– The Federal Government now substantially controls technical education in Canada.
– That is so, yet the Assistant Treasurer’s leader informed the Teachers’ Council in Sydney recently that it would be an invasion of the constitutional rights of the States for the Federal Government to do the same thing in Australia. In the United States of America, in spite of the fact that the federal authority enjoys only certain specified powers and that all other powers are expressly reserved to the States, the Smith Hughes Act was passed in 1917 providing for the matching of State funds with federal funds. The federal authority was to provide a subsidy in proportion to the amount provided by the States. The money wa3 for the payment of salaries of vocational teachers, and the act provided that the federal authority should prescribe the subjects, and approve the methods employed, before the money was made available. In this way, the giving of the subsidy has been the means of controlling the educational policy of the States. The Commonwealth Government in Australia should say that technical education is so much bound up with the future of Australian industry, of which the Commonwealth is the chief controller and regulator, that it proposes to make technical education its own responsibility. It should provide the funds, and lay down the conditions upon which the money will be made available. There would be very little difficulty in getting the States to agree to uniform technical education provided that the Commonwealth found most of the money. As I regard this bill as an instalment of what is to come, 1 commend it to the House.
.- This bill is an excellent illustration of the defects arising from the divided authority under which’ the various parts of the Commonwealth are governed, with the Commonwealth controlling finance, and the ‘States exercising sole responsibility for spending, particularly in the matter of the education and training of youth. In this instance, we have presented to us a quite insufficiently considered measure of relief, which was set before the House by the Minister in a speech almost bar ren of information, uninspiring in its terms, and suggesting that it was really in the nature of a concession to one of the junior Ministers who has interested himself in child welfare. Less than a week ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) whether he would extend the sittings of Parliament for the purpose of dealing with the ever-present problem of unemployment. I asked the question in good faith, and for very practical reasons, which are familiar to every honorable member of this House as a representative, as they are to those who, as parents or as applicants for employment, are constantly knocking at the doors of honorable members in the hope of obtaining some relief from the odious condition of absence of occupation which, as a scholar once said, is not rest. The Prime Minister, of course, said politely that he would consider my request, and I make no charge against him if that is the end of the mutter, because one does not suppose that the Government, having determined to close . the Parliament, will alter its plans merely because a question was asked. Linked with the problem indicated in this . measure, but not solved by it, is the wider subject of social amelioration and uplift. which has been so sadly neglected by this Government and its predecessors, preference constantly having been given to imagined troubles, which were not really present or threatening, but which seemed to serve better the political ambition of the Government. The present bill, which is for an act to grant out of Consolidated Revenue a fund for the purpose of giving- financial assistance to the States, is littlebetter than a. dole. There is no plan associated with it; no scheme is suggested’ which might conceivably bring the light, of hope into the eyes of the rising generation and their harassed parents.. We in Australia are presented with this problem. We have a very elaborate scheme of public education; we have our primary schools, for the most part efficient and well managed, under the guidance of competent teachers; we have our technical schools, our secondary schools, and our universities, none of which is perfect, yet all of which are practical contributions to the uplift and betterment of the rising generation of which we have just cause to be proud. We have, in a word, a fine body of Australian youth, always increasing in numbers - promising lads and young women of whom any country might well be proud. I pay tribute to the teachers, some of whom are performing heroic work. They devote long hours and great enthusiasm to the cause which they serve, and in no case are they highly remunerated. Too much praise cannot be given to them. But alas, though education is good, and in many instances complete, opportunities for applying the knowledge gained, or for providing an outlet for the enthusiasm of youth, are sadly lacking, and that is the responsibility of the Government. With failure in that direction, comes congestion of those knocking at the door of opportunity, which remains closed to them. Many employers engage boys and youths, only to put them off again when they reach the age of 21 years or, in some cases,’ even before that, and they are passed out again into the ranks of the unemployed, at an age when it is more dangerous than before, to themselves, and the community, that they should be unoccupied. They are at an age when they possess an immense fund of vital energy which is available for use by the community, and the community could well make use of their services, but for the failure of governments, and, indeed, of the whole capitalist system under . which we labour. According to an official report quoted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), in Nev.’ South Wales alone 1,500 young men are passed out of industry every year, and there are others waiting all the time to take their jobs at the smaller wages paid to youths as compared with adults. Those who are driven out are easily replaced with others. Examinations are held for the Commonwealth and State public services. I know of nothing sadder than the lists of those who have succeeded in passing these examinations. Of course, there are many hundreds who fail to pass. But having succeeded in open competition in getting into the list of successes these young boys and girls imagine that they will necessarily be employed. They have to be disillusioned, and their parents have to learn that although many are called few are chosen, and that of those who qualify - and the standard is high - few will be called to commence work in the various government departments. And, as I have said, the position is similar with respect to private employment. All of us have had experience in association with various classes of college teachers who are interested in their work and proud of their boys, but who are at their wits’ end to find employment for those who attain the required standard of education under their expert guidance and tuition. I know, of course, that part of the problem is involved in the fact that many are driven out by reason of mechanical devices which makes the employment of numbers less necessary. This machinery, which should lighten the burden of labour and distribute the benefactions and riches of a rich country like ours, becomes an instrument of unemployment under the . perverse and obstinate methods of governments which refuse, to employ this machinery for the work, under improved conditions and at higher wages that is waiting to be done. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports told me this evening th.-.t Mr. Giles, the secretary of the Victorian Unemployed Youth Movement, had stated that hundreds of jobs of a kind are offering for boys, but they are dead-end jobs which open up no future for the youths to whom they are offered. For that reason skilled educationalists do not encourage promising youths to take up these positions. The hopeless dead-end nature of the employment offered to the youths of this country is emphasized in a press interview with Mr. Giles who puts at 166 the number of positions offering and refused either for the reason that they are dead-end jobs and, therefore, undesirable, or because the youths to whom they were offered would be dismissed on attaining the age of 21.
I felt that I should not let this measure pass without making it the occasion of these few observations. It has been introduced in the closing hours of this session, if I may call these sittings a session. It is submitted hurriedly, and will rank in history as the Commonwealth Government’s contribution to the solution of a great problem - this beggarly allowance to the States for youth employment. Indeed, it is not merely beggarly; it is tragic that an Australian government should so inadequately provide for the solution of so serious a problem - our greatest problem - the provision for the rising tide of youth in this country. I have had some experience of conditions under which youths live in congested suburban areas. I have had some experience of the crime statistics of this country, and also experience among youths who have got into trouble with the police authorities, youths who could just as well and just as easily and much more naturally have become self-respecting, responsible and progressive young Australians as they have become members of the so-called criminal classes. But because we have no intelligent appreciation of the problem, and no real resolve to face it, because our minds are diverted to things which do not matter to the neglect of those that do, we pass this over, making a kind of a verbal concession to the requirements of youth, but no real, earnest and determined effort to face the major task and to perform it. The solution of this problem is not impossible ; it is not even difficult. There can be no difficulty in a country of infinite riches like Australia with a sparse population to provide adequately for the rising generation, such as must be faced in a country beset by plague, pestilence or ravages, in a small poor country of niggardly resources where climatic conditions essentially entail hardships the position is different, but in this country, with its equable and ideal climatic and undoubted resources, any government which realizes the social importance of exercising some supervision of its people, should not be perplexed by this problem, and there should be no need for this measure which I am bound to call a despicable contribution to a great cause.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat) [10.55 J. -I must support this measure, but I regret that under the forms of this House, I have no right to move for an increase of the amount proposed to be allocated for the all-important purpose of training and employing our youths. This provision of £300,000 in respect of the Common wealth as a whole is inadequate to enable the States to deal with this problem, which to my mind ranks in the forefront of the problems confronting Australia to-day. Indeed, it is of equal urgency to the provision which this Government has made in respect of our defence. When we examine the position critically we find that this problem is an important factor in defence, and, indeed, should be dealt with primarily as a problem related to defence. When one compares this amount of £200,000 with the sum of £63,000,000 allocated for defence one wonders whether this Parliament is competent to view these problems in their true perspectives. On a conservative estimate it will take, on an average, £100 to train one youth under this scheme, and on that basis, allowing for an equal contribution from the States, the maximum number who can possibly gain any benefit from this proposal will be 4,000. Do honorable members realize that that number of unemployed youths can be found in any one of our capital cities, and in some bf our provincial districts ? It is obvious that a more serious effort is called for on the part of this Government in order to deal with this problem, particularly when this Government has seen fit to make such huge financial commitments in respect of defence. We cannot hope to deal with this matter in a statesmanlike way by making a mere gesture of this kind.
This problem first impressed itself upon my mind about the time of the depression in which I believe, it had its origin. I find confirmation of that view in this measure which provides that preference in the distribution of the meagre benefits to be made available under this allocation is to be given to youths who have never yet been employed, or who were thrown out of employment as the result of the depression. In respect of training, preference is to be given to youths who have never had a job at all, mainly because of the economic depression which afflicted this country in 1929-31. But, to-day, we find that this problem is becoming a permanent evil in our economic life, and a realization of that fact prompts us to examine the reason for this development. Youth unemployment has now become a problem in country districts in Victoria where it was never known in the past. One explanation of this unfavorable development is the mechanization of agriculture which has resulted in the development and improvement of production from land at so rapid a rate that in country districts, and indeed in the larger provincial cities, no outlet now presents itself to our lads for employment on the land. When I was a youth ample employment was offering in rural areas in clearing, fencing, road-making, dam sinking and ploughing, the last-mentioned being undertaken with comparatively primitive implements. In the initial stages of land settlement in Australia horses, and in some instances, bullocks were used to propel the primitive implements used; but we have travelled a long way along the road since then, and to-.day farming is mechanized to such a degree that under the present system a farmer with only one assistant can actually work a 640-acre farm from the time when the land is first cultivated until the crop is harvested. That has been accomplished by a farmer in Victoria who with only one assistant carried out the whole of the operations without undue inconvenience. In the early days of the potato-growing industry cultivation was undertaken by a single-furrow plough which was followed by a man planting the seed potatoes in rows, but to-day that work 13 done by a three-furrow plough and a mechanical planter thus dispensing with the laborious work which once had to be undertaken. A good deal of the manual labour which was once necessary in connexion with primary production has now been eliminated. In the dairying industry milking machines, coolers, and other equipment have been installed and the services of many young men are not now needed. The representatives in this Parliament, particularly of country constituencies, once knew little of the youth unemployment problem ; but we are now interviewed almost daily by farmers and other country residents asking if we can assist their sons to obtain employment, either in the Public Service, in munitions factories or in other governmental undertakings. We are also asked if we cannot exercise our influence with the directors and managers of some of the vast industrial undertakings ; but owing to the lack of activity on the part of the Government, employment cannot be found for many deserving youngmen. It is therefore the responsibility of the National Parliament to provide work for these youths by, say, the development of the motor car manufacturing industry. The present Minister for External Affairs (Sir Henry Gullett) when a private member strongly advocated the manufacture of the Australian motor car, and had this Government been earnest in that matter, as it has been in providing for wasteful defence expenditure, it might have found a solution of this tragic problem. Closely associated with the employment of young persons is the education of youths to equip them for positions in our secondary industries. I am fully in accord with the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) who contends that it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to assist in providing technical education particularly as in every State technical schools are over-crowded. There is a shortage of teachers and equipment, the buildings are too small, and the equipment insufficient. This problem is becoming more accentuated every day, and in at least one State the technical schools are unable to absorb the students offering.. I trust that the Government will remedy this position, and become conscious of the great need which exists in .the community in this respect. During the debates on this subject I have listened to speakers 011 both sides of the chamber speaking of the necessity to dispense with dead-end jobs; but no one has yet defined what a “ dead-end “ job actually is. Perhaps the Minister who is conversing with another Minister instead of attending to his job-
– I am endeavouring to make a constructive contribution to this debate, and I think that the Minister in charge of the bill should listen when I am endeavouring to elicit information that will help me to deal with the subject intelligently. It is tragic to find fine specimens of young manhood from 18 to 21 years of age almost imploring us to assist them. I again ask the Minister if he can define a “ deadend” job. He is dumb and will not attempt to assist me. In my ignorance
I am not sure whether the term applies to men who are compelled to leave the industrial arena at 21 because they will be entitled to higher wages, or whether it applies to men engaged in casual and labouring work. If that is so, who is going to undertake dead-end jobs which necessarily will always exist? If the concentration of the Government on this problem should have such satisfactory results that men will no longer be available for such jobs, what will be the position? I believe that the Minister, dumb as he is, will urge the Government to tackle the problem of training youths for technical work, and in that way make employment more attractive than it is to-day. The Government should exercise whatever power it possesses to institute a 40-hour week, and in that way help to improve the working conditions of those who are supposed to be occupying dead-end jobs. Some portion of the money being appropriated under this bill should be used to train those left in dead-end jobs to become more skilled, and eventually deadend jobs would become more attractive than they are to-day. I have always felt that the motor manufacturing industry offers greater opportunities for the employment of youths and artisans in this country than almost any other, particularly as in many inland cities and country towns there are engineering shops and technical staffs quite capable of undertaking the manufacture of the component parts of a motor car, which could be forwarded to large assembly works in the most suitable centre. All of our defence expenditure is being centralized in the coastal cities, but I trust that when the manufacture of motor cars is seriously tackled in Australia, an effective decentralization policy will be adopted. Some of the authorities interested in the administration of this proposal are apprehensive that if the amount specified for the respective States be not expended in the year in which it is voted, it will not be available in the following year.
– The States will get all of the money voted.
– Whether it is or is not expended?
– I appreciate that assurance of the Minister. Those responsible for the administration of the scheme have to plan ahead perhaps for three years, and in so doing may not in the first year be able to utilize all the money voted. In those circumstances it is essential that the administrative authorities in the States should have the assurance that the money that is unexpended in one year will be available in the next year, and I am glad to receive the assurance of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender) to that effect. I should also like an assurance that this grant will not have a fate something like the fate which attended the farmers’ debt adjustment scheme, under which, whereas the States were promised £12,000,000, they have received only £6,000,000 or £7,000,000.
– The States are getting their £12,000,000, but perhaps not for that purpose.
– Yes, if the States get the public money for public works they do not get it for farmers’ debt adjustment, and vice versa. The assurance thatI require on that point is partly covered by the assurance that the Assist-‘ ant Treasurer gave me on my first query.
I hope that this measure will be agreed to by this Parliament, but that the people will realize that the bill represents an inadequate provision to meet this allimportant problem. I hope too, that in the future when provision of this character is being made, that the bill will not be thrown before us in the dying hours of the session.
– This bill has not been thrown before honorable members in the dying hours of the session. It has been before them for more than a week.
– This problem should have engaged this House for at least a fortnight. The problem of unemployment, especially unemployment of youths, transcends in importance all other problems, even that of defence. Instead of a bill for the distribution of £200,000 to the States, we should be discussing a measure for the provision of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 for the construction of technical schools, of a magnitude at least equal to the new defence buildings that arc being constructed at Maribyrnong and elsewhere, in which youths could be trained as artisans, and for essential public works to absorb those artisans so that they could settle down as married men and rear large families and contribute thereby to the development and defence of this country.
.- The question of the training of youths for service in industry is dear to me. In 1931-32, I asked the Government of the day to place a sum of money on the Estimates for youth vocational training and ever since 1932 I have been urging the Government to tackle the problem, and. I congratulate the Ministry on the introduction of this measure. My principal reason in speaking is to discuss the way in which the States disburse the shares they receive from grants of this sort. Last year the Commonwealth Government distributed £200,000 to the States under a bill somewhat similar to this measure, and the South Australian share of £19,000 was supplemented by another £17,000 by the State Government. That State wisely spent what it received. I know that that is so, because from time to time I have made it my business to attend at the South Australian schools to ascertain what results are being achieved. I understand, however, that some of the States, New South Wales for one, and I think, also Western Australia, have failed to use the money for the purpose designated by this Parliament and may have paid it into revenue.
– That is a serious charge and I hope that the Assistant Treasurer will be able to enlighten honorable members as to actual facts.
– In Western Australia the funds are being expended on extensions and equipment of schools of mines, the Muresk Agricultural College and the Perth Technical College. About £18,000 is being put into the building of the technical college.
– That disposes of the honorable gentleman’s charge.
– That may be good business for Western Australia, but I thought that the money was voted by this Parliament for the actual training of youths.
– The Commonwealth advanced the money for the purposes of capital expenditure on something lasting.
– This bill has my wholehearted support because I feel that in pursuing this line of action the Commonwealth Government is doing a real service.
.- The amount of £200,000 is a niggardly contribution from the National Government to the States for the technical training of youths. About £2,000,000 would be a more fitting payment for this Government tomake in view of the fact that there are so many tens of thousands of youths in this country who need equipping to meet the storms of life. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) estimated that in Sydney alone there are 1.0,000 unemployed youths, but I should say that his estimate is far below the actual figure. In the Newcastle and Maitland areas there are thousands of young men of 25 or 26 years of age who have never known work. These figures make the grant of £200,000 ridiculously small. New South Wales is to receive only about £80,000. The bill is merely camouflage designed to induce the people to believe that the Commonwealth Government is honest in its intention to do something for the youths of Australia who are really the backbone of the country. The country’s economic security depends on the well-being of its people. I object to the slipshod method adopted in the distribution of this money. Apparently there has been no inquiry as to what methods of control of the expenditure will be adopted by the States.
I take this opportunity to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that there has developed in New South Wales a deplorable circumstance in which certain employers are taking advantage of the grant of money for this purpose by the Commonwealth Government to the State Government to flout industrial awards. In country towns certain garage proprietors take youths on to their staffs in order to train them as mechanics. When these youths are approaching the skilled stage which would entitle them to reasonable rates of payment the employers announce that they are to be dismissed. Application is then made to the State authority controlling the youth employment fund with the result that those authorities subsidize the employers by £2 2s. a week in respect of each young mechanic. The employers add £1 ls. a week and the lads are kept in employment at £3 3s. a week. Notwithstanding the fact that the lad’s services are costing them only £1 ls. a week the employers charge full rates for the work that they do. Honest employers who observe the awards and pay full wages are unable to meet such unfair competition. This is a matter which should be dealt with severely by the Commonwealth Government. Efforts should also be made to see that some money is expended in giving mechanical training to youths so that they may take their place as skilled tradesmen. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia to-day there are hundreds of youths who have no mechanical knowledge whatsoever. This bill, as 1 said before, is only a paltry attempt to solve the vital problem of unemployed youths. I do not think the Government is serious in this matter, because if it were serious it would evolve a definite plan whereby the money which it proposes to grant to the States would be expended judiciously and would have some appreciable effect. I hope that steps will be taken to ensure that the money will be devoted to the purpose for which it has been allocated and will not, as the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) suggested, be paid by the States into Consolidated Revenue.
– The honorable member for Boothby produced no evidence in support of his contention.
– It is a serious statement for an honorable member to make. It should be definitely investigated.
– It may have been done in New South Wales under the Stevens Government, but it was not done in Western Australia where there is a Labour Government.
– I suggest that the Minister should give a full explanation. I do not know that the system to which I have referred is definitely in operation in New South Wales to-day, but the Government should make an investigation it the earliest possible moment and make sure that the money which it is granting will not be used to break down awards and working conditions. The Government is not tackling this very serious problem in the right way by bringing down a measure such as this in the dying hours of this session, and not giving any detailed explanation as to how the money is to be expended. I suggest that the Government should seriously consider assisting the States in the provision of educational facilities, such as technical training. The burden of education to-day is more than the States are able to bear, and I submit that it is a function of this Government to ensure that the youths of Australia are adequately trained to engage in skilled employment. Legislation of this character should be much more liberal. To allocate only £80,000 to a State as large as New South Wales is only begging the question.
Mr. LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [11.35 J. - No one can deny the gravity of this problem. It is unfortunate that measures of this kind are brought down in such a way that honorable members are given very scant time to discuss them. The young men of Australia, who are looking to the Commonwealth Government to assist them in making a start in life will say in regard to this measure, “ Thank you for nothing “. To allocate the paltry sum of £200,000 for the purpose of dealing with this problem throughout the Commonwealth is laughable. One of the gravest features of this problem is the practice which has grown up in industry to-day of sacking boys when they reach the age of 18 or 21 years, because they would have to be paid higher wages. The Commonwealth Government itself is a very serious offender in this matter. Recently I received a beseeching letter from a young man in the Department of Trade and Customs who was to be discharged because, at the age of 21, he was regarded as too old. The Postmaster-General’s Department has also been one of the worst offenders in this regard. In that department, it is the practice to employ boys as telegraph messengers until they reach the age of sixteen or eighteen years and then to discharge them because, under the Commonwealth awards, their wages are becoming too great. This tendency is a manifestation of the dying system of production for profit. Industry to-day has become so organized that machines are doing much of the work formerly done manually. I have no objection to that, but it is a tragedy to see young men who can only obtain relief work being sent into slush and mud up to their knees when the work could be done much more efficiently by machinery. However, relief work is all they can obtain as a means of livelihood, and they are forced to do whatever the Government asks. I say to the youth of Australia to-day, “ Do not go down on your knees and beg for work. You have a right to live and if society cannot find you work, then it must grant you the right to live “. That is the Government’s job. I am satisfied that until the vicious system in operation to-day is abandoned, there can be no hope of alleviating the unfortunate position of unemployed youths and unemployed persons generally. This problem must be tackled from its very foundations. If production for profit cannot be eliminated then profit must be regulated and the controllers of industry must be forced to pay better wages and give their employees better working conditions. What is the use of talking about £200,000? The Government might just as well talk about 2d. when it comes to giving occupational training to a few young men, because before they will finish the training there will be machines that will do the work they are being trained to perform. That experience is repeating itself every day. I do not desire to reiterate the evidence available, but unless the Government attacks the problem from the point of view that every body is to share in the production of machinery and in the advantages that the employment of machinery gives to the human race there will be no benefit to anybody. If machinery that is doubling and trebling production every few years and so reducing employment is to be piled up there will be no remedy. The Government must face the matter from the point of view of managed economy. The Minister has talked of scientific control. If he wishes to handle the problem, he should bring in the scientist to find jobs for youths. That expert would tell what the country’s productive capacity is, its man-power, and the number of men, women and children there are to feed. I get tired of listening to the palliatives suggested, when we know that the approach to the question is only humbug; it is like little children pretending to be Bed Indians. The Government is trying to persuade the people outside Parliament that it is doing something, but it is not even touching the fringe of the problem. It cannot do so unless it faces the matter honestly. The vicious system under which we live must be attacked. This is not a problem of only to-day or yesterday; it is as old as the history of man, but it now manifests itself in different phases from what it did 100 years ago, and that is due to the ever-changing complexity of the economic arrangements of the nation. There are the few who have and the many who have not. The Government must be prepared to realize that and to approach the question so that it will mobilize the resources of the country and carve out an economic policy that will have regard for human well-being. Human well-being is the first problem, and it can be guaranteed only when the wealth produced each year is equably divided among those who produce it.
Mr.Spender. - How would the honorable member propose to do it?
– I am afraid that if I attempted to explain it now I should transgress the Standing Orders. The Government would have to move towards managed economy and the reduction of profits, if not their complete abolition. This may be called socialism or any other ism, but the Government must move towards it. I am not foolish enough to say that the Government can jump to it, but no attempt has been made to bring about something like an equable distribution of the productive resources of the nation; on the contrary, most of the things done have simply aggravated the position. Will the Government say that £200,000 is worth a snap of the fingers towards solving the problem of the unemployed youth to-day? I believe that the Minister has done some thinking on this subject.
– I would not contend that this measure would solve the problem of unemployment, but that is not the point to be debated on this bill.
– The point that I am trying to drive home is the stupidity of fooling Parliament when the Government knows that this proposal is not worth a snap of the finger. The subject is worth debating in order to show how recreant the Government is to the youth of the country where there are hundreds of thousands to be dealt with.
– Will the honorable member tell me what he would do if he were going to solve the problem?
– The first thing I should do would be to effect a radical change in the monetary system, and the second thing would be to create a monetary policy so that in a little while we should lift the huge burden of interest of £60,000,000 a year from the taxpayers.
– What kind of change does the honorable member mean?
– I shall go into that matter when the budget is brought before the House, and I shall give full details.
– Why not tell me now?
– The Minister would not take any notice if I told him now, but I tell him that he is only fooling Parliament and the country with this measure.
– Will the honorable member vote against the bill?
– I would not vote against giving 6d. to anybody. That is a stupid interjection. This is the kind of thing that goes on and the Government gets away with the suggestion that it is doing something for the youth of this country when it is doing nothing. The Government can find £60,000,000, £90,000,000 or £100,000,000 for defence purposes; in fact, there is no limit to the amount it can raise. If die Government allows things to go on much longer with the constantlygrowing problem of unemployment, there will be no manhood in this country to defend it in a. few years’ time. Man cannot continue to live under the present conditions. The race is being destroyed before it gets a chance. What sort of fathers and mothers will the men and women be who are living on the dole and relief work? What sort of families will under-nourished men and women bring into the world? The Minister knows that that is more a question for a biologist than it is for me, but this fact is self-evident to the meanest intellect. I wish the Minister to tell us what the Government intends to do in regard to the matters of which I have spoken. What does it propose to do for the youths who have been “sacked” ? What is to happen to the boy of 21 years of age, who was dismissed from the Customs Department because otherwise he would have drawn too high wages? I have sent a letter to the Minister on the subject. What will the Government do for the youths that it entices into the Post and Telegraph Department at fourteen years of age and sacks at sixteen years of age, because they have to receive higher wages? It is of little use for the Government to talk about providing for youths dismissed by private employers while it continues to permit government departments to dismiss so many of their youthful employees. Even in prosperous times, before the man-made depression overtook us, that policy was followed in the Postal Department. It is also the practice of the Telephone Department to treat girls in the exchanges in this unfair way. Seeing that thousands of young government employees are dismissed from their employment every year because they reach the age of -21 years, it is hypocritical for the Government to talk about correcting the faults of private enterprise in this regard. I urge the Government to give instructions that the young men in its employ shall be retained in the service in some capacity which, they are competent, to fill. The amount which the Government is now asking us to vote for the encouragement of the employment of youth is paltry and wholly inadequate.
.- I shall not repeat the arguments in the excellent speech delivered by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). It must be as apparent to the public generally, as it is to honorable members, that this Government, which has been in office since 1931 - for 1 regard it as the same government although the personnel has changed somewhat - can do nothing but talk about providing employment for youth. It has shown clearly that it lacks the will or the ability, or both, to deal with the problem. A miserable £200,000 will get us nowhere. Some honorable members have questioned the bona fides of the States in the expenditure of this money. In New South Wales a subsidized apprenticeship scheme was put into operation, but nothing was done to provide for the adequate supervision of it. Therefore, many objectionable practices were adopted. I have in mind a youth who lives in the electorate of Cook. He was employed under the subsidized apprenticeship scheme for three months by a certain firm, and then dismissed as unsuitable. The whole of his time was occupied in labouring work, for the firm was shifting its premises during that period, and his duties3 consisted of helping to dismantle the machinery and transport it to new premises. He was given no opportunity whatever to learn the trade he wished to learn, yet he was dismissed as unsuitable. The representations which the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) made on his behalf met with no success whatever. Other unscrupulous employers have also made use of that so-called subsidized apprenticeship scheme to obtain cheap labour, for under it the Government pays part of the wages of the alleged apprentices. The Commonwealth Government should insist that any apprenticeship scheme is adequately supervised.
Commonwealth and State co-operation it. essential in this matter of youth employment, but it is rendered difficult because of the operation of certain soldier preference measures in the various States. It is time these, too, were reviewed. A boy born in 1918, the year the war ended, would be 21 to-day. Yet he is seriously handicapped in his search for employment because of the operation of the soldier preference measures.
– I have expressed my personal view on this subject, on a number of occasions.
– Many returned soldiers now growing old and in ill health are being handicapped because their ablebodied sons cannot obtain employment owing to the operation of this legislation. Consequently they themselves are obliged to remain in work in order to maintain their families. Some of the aldermen of the Sydney City Council have endeavoured to meet the position. but they have been debarred from giving employment to young men over the age of 21 solely because of the existence of the soldier preference principle. I urge the Government to consult with the State authorities on this subject to see whether some more satisfactory arrangements cannot be made. Under existing conditions the very men which these measures are alleged to help are handicapped by them.
I agree with the honorable member for Werriwa that no effective results are being obtained from the expenditure of the money previously provided for the technical training of young men. One reason for this is that after those men are trained they are left without regular employment. Some of them have had to become voluntary outcasts from their own country on this account. They have gone to the sister Dominion of New Zealand where, under a Labour administration, industry is prosperous and developmental works are in operation. In that dominion decent conditions and good wages are provided which many Australians are to-day enjoying. This Government should adopt a comprehensive plan for national development under which the young men of this country would be assured of permanent employment. I daresay those of us who are still members of this Parliament nine or ten years hence will find that if an antiLabour government is still in office - a circumstance it is hard to imagine - the Government will be still talking about providing for the employment of youth hut doing nothing to give effect to such a policy. Economic planning on a national scale is necessary. Our problems should be faced in a scientific way. Only by that means will they be solved. The provision of a miserable £200.000 to provide for the employment of youth is practically useless. In any case, I ask the Minister to give me an assurance that any subsidized schemes of training assisted by means of this money will be properly policed, so that honorable members may he assured that this money will be used for the purpose for which it is being voted. I hope also that he will take up with the State governments the question of the effect on the employment of youths of the operation of the policy of preference to returned soldiers.
Friday, 16 June 1989
– in reply - I do not propose at this late hour to do more than seek to summarize a few of the points raised by honorable members during this debate. No one will dispute that the question of youth unemployment is a very serious one. The cold hard fact is that each year the number of unemployed unskilled or semi-skilled men is being increased as a result of young men being thrown out of employment. A review of the circumstances shows that to a large degree this is due to the fact that young men are employed in certain industries only up to the time they reach the age of 21 years, and are then thrown out of employment. They then come upon the already saturated market and to a substantial degree the difficulty is aggravated from year to year. The Government does not suggest that this scheme touches more than the fringe of the problem. The real problem is how best to absorb in useful and continuous employment the young men thrown into the discard at 21 years of age. I am no recent convert to the cause of youth; but I do not believe, for example, that the spending of any unlimited sum of money on vocational employment will solve their problem. The point is how to find avenues of useful employment. There are only two avenues; one is through private industry which, at the present moment, does not lend itself readily, so far as I can see, to their absorption-
– What about the shipbuilding industry?
– As the honorable member knows I am strongly in favour of the development of that industry. The other method is through the medium of public works, but that medium is questionable.
– Public works provide other works.
– Public works as an avenue for the employment of young men is wrong. I agree and would not dispute that certain public works in their turn assist in providing other works and so assist in the solution of the problem. The problem of youth employment is, of course, part of the general problem of employment, but at the same time presents certain peculiar features of its own. A review of industries will show that in the retail trade sometimes as much as 33 per cent. of the employees are juveniles, that in the wholesale trade, the percentage of juveniles is in the vicinity of 20 per cent., and that the percentage of juveniles in factories is about the same. Those are the chief industries in which juvenile labour is employed. We find, too, that in New South Wales alone, in the year 1937, permits were issued for the employment of 6,000 boys and 6,000 girls under the age of sixteen years. I regard that myself - and I have no hesitation in saying so - as a serious reflection upon our economic structure. Indeed, honorable members may rest assured that so far as I am able to do anything to assist in the solution of this problem, something will be done. I have no doubt that this Government can be relied on to take no narrow view of this problem, but a wider national view in its attempts to solve it. If one considers the means by which juvenile labour may be restricted, and thereby increase the number of jobs available to young men, there are avenues which suggest themselves. I summarize these avenues as follows: -
The unfortunate fact is that most of the younger men who are in the ranks of the unemployed at the present time are not there because they are inefficient, or because they are not physically capable of discharging heavy labouring duties. Indeed, it is found that about 75 per cent. of the younger men are strong enough to carry out the most arduous duties, yet by reason of the employment of juvenile labour they are thrown onto the already saturated unskilled market. It appears to me that by approaching the problem along these lines we may do something to assist in its solution, though it must be remembered that this is only part and parcel of a larger plan. That, together with a sane approach on public works, will very considerably assist in placing young men in permanent employment. One knows, of course, that it is usually said that a Government can find unlimited money for any purpose. I am afraid I am not one who lends himself to that idea. I believe that the ease or difficulty with which money may be found for any given public work is conditioned by the nature and the purpose of that public work. And it is because of certain matters which have been referred to in this House to-day but which do not touch this particular bill, and the present lack of coordination between State and Commonwealth instead of a national programme, that we do not get any scientific approach of any real value on a problem such as this. I listened with considerable interest to - every honorable member who has debated this question. I summarize my views in respect of this appropriation as follows: We know perfectly well that this vocational training scheme will not solve the problem, but it is playing an important part in assisting in its solution. In New South Wales alone over 2,700 young lads have been placed in permanent employment under this scheme, and there is at present under consideration by the New South Wales Government, in respect of which it has been in communication with the Commonwealth Government, a more comprehensive scheme which it is possible the Commonwealth and the State will be able to implement. At least I can give an assurance to honorable members that the matter will not be allowed to rest where it is. A deliberate attempt will be made to bring some measure of relief as quickly as possible to the young men who at present are to a great degree the forgotten legion of every party and every parliament.
– Not every party.
– It does not serve this problem merely to say “Find the money and it will be solved “.
– Will the Minister consider the suggestions I have made regarding the development of the shipbuilding industry ?
– I shall refer to that. I realize that this measure assists in the solution of the problem to a small degree, but that it gives considerable assistance to the States towards the solution of the problem cannot be denied. The sole question on this bill is whether or not we should vote for this appropriation.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the shipbuilding industry. I may indicate to the honorable member that this subject has by no means escaped the scrutiny and investigation of this Government. We are appreciative of the fact, and our investigations reveal that we have the material, the man-power and- the skill in Australia to undertake the building of our own ships. I hope that the time is not far distant when an earnest step will be taken towards the consummation of what is the desire of all real Australians, namely, that we should be able to build in Australia all the ships that we need.
During the next week, the Government will consult State representatives on a number of subjects, including youth employment, but in this bill the Government is honouring a promise of the late Prime Minister, given in 1937, that £400,000 would be applied, not to the relief of all unemployed youths, but to those who, owing to the depression, had been retarded in their training. The amount provided for in this bill is the second instalment of that £400,000. This proposal has no relation to the wider problem of unemployment towards which most of the debate has been directed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill brought up by Mr. Street, and read a first time.
.- by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short bill consisting of six clauses, the first two of which are selfexplanatory. Clause 3 provides for the inclusion in the principal act of two definitions, one of Australia, and one of the Commonwealth. It says that, in each case, the terms shall include territories of the Commonwealth to which the act extends. The fourth clause provides for the inclusion in the principal act of a new section, 5a, which says that the act shall extend to the territories of the Commonwealth as if each of those territories were part of the Commonwealth. Parts 4, 5, 12, 13 and 14 of the Defence Act do not apply to natives of any territory governed by the Commonwealth under a mandate. Attention has been drawn to what is a serious defect in the Defence Act at the present time, in that it does not apply . to either Norfolk Island or Papua. The acts governing some territories of the Commonwealth contain a clause which negatives application to them of any other act, unless that act is expressed to extend to the territory. For example, owing to the prohibition contained in section 7 of the Papua Act 1905-1934, the Defence Act - and, consequently, the Australian Military Regulationsdoes not operate in Papua. For the same reason, the Control of Defence Areas Regulations are not operative at Port Moresby, and it was recently found that there was no law to prevent the erection there of certain oil installations in a position where they would menace defence works. The extension of the Defence Act to the territories has become urgent because of the necessity for raising forces for local defence purposes. Clause 5 provides for the repeal of sec tion8 of the principal act, and the substitution therefor of a new section. This has been rendered necessary by the approval given by Cabinet to the recommendation of Inspector-General Squires in his first report that there should be a grouping of formations into commands to enable the army to function efficiently in time of peace and war.
The Inspector-General reported that a serious defect in the existing organization of the Military Forces was the absence of any grouping of formations into “ commands”, which he considered militated against efficient training and administration in peace, and involved a risk of confusion in the event of war. The three main objections to the existing peace organization may be summarized as follows: -
On the basis of the Inspector-General’s recommendations, approval has been given for the organization of the Australian Military Forces into four commands and one independent garrison. It has been decided that the present 1st Military District, Queensland, and the present 5th Military District, Western Australia, should remain independent commands, under Army Head-quarters. The Darwin garrison will also be retained directly under Army Head-quarters, but two commands will be created, one comprising all units - both permanent and militia - in New South Wales, and the other all the units in the present, 3rd, 4th and 6th Military Districts. The Australian Military Forces will therefore be organized in future as follows: -
Apart from the educational establishments, Army Head-quarters will deal with these five head-quarters only on all matters - operational, training and administrative.
At the present time the act permits, the Commonwealth to be divided into military districts and sub-districts only. The amendments proposed are simple in form to enable commands and sub-commands, also, to be established. Paragraph viii of section 8 now provides for an officer or officers to be appointed to command the whole or any portion of the Defence Force in time of war. The words “in time of war “ have been omitted, for there seems to be no reason why this power should be limited to a time of war. In fact, officers are appointed in peace time to command portions of the Defence Forces, and these appointments should be legalized. Clause 6 of the bill provides for a consequential amendment.
– This apparently inoffensive bill embodies two principles, one of which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) referred to in relation to the recommendations made by General Squires. To clauses 5 and 6, which give effect to the desire to establish Commands, I have no objection whatever; but, in my opinion, the earlier clauses extend the obligations of Australians to render compulsory military service. Under the present act. in my view Australians cannot he required to serve outside the Common wealth itself, which comprises the contracting States. The Minister and I have discussed this point, and I was furnished with a proof copy of the bill. The Minister thinks that it is clear from the Defence Act that the obligation can be imposed upon Australians between the ages of IS years and 60 years to serve, if required not only within Australia itself, but also within the territories of the Commonwealth. My view is that the act does not provide for that. Section 33 states -
The Governor-General may, subject to the provisions of this act, raise, maintain, and organize, in the manner prescribed, such permanent and citizen forces as he deems necessary for the protection and defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
That has reference to the continent of Australia and to the island of Tasmania. Section 49 of the act, upon which the Minister relies, reads as follows : -
Members of the Defence Force who are members of the military forces shall not be required, unless they voluntarily agree to do so, to serve beyond the limits of the Commonwealth and those of any territory under the authority of the Commonwealth.
In that section, the Minister thinks there is express authority to extend the obligation of military service to territories of the Commonwealth. He must, find express words. Section 35 of the New Guinea Act says -
Except, as provided in this or any act, the acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be in force in the territory unless expressed to extend thereto, or unless applied to the territory by ordinance made by the Governor-General under this act.
Section 7 of the Papua Act 1905 states -
Except as provided in this or any act, the acts of the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be in force in the territory unless expressed to extend thereto.
– Does that not refer only to the raising of troops?
– No, it says that no act of the Commonwealth shall apply to the territory unless the act expressly applies it. I submit that that mere prohibitory section, section 49 of the Defence Act, does not apply the whole of that act to the non-mandated territories, and if it did, it seems perfectly clear that it would not apply to the mandated territory, because, although the Acts Interpretation Act of 1.930 denned the territories of the Commonwealth to include the mandated territory, two of Their Honours of the High Court in Jolly v. Mainka were of opinion that that definition could not apply to any act before 1930. The Military Forces are divided into the Permanent Forces and the Citizen Forces. The persons who, under section 59 of thu Defence Act, can be called upon to serve in time of war, are in the Reserve Forces. All men between the ages of 18 and 60 are members of the Reserve Forces as defined in that act, and the section which I have read provides that they are to be used for the defence of Australian territory. .There is nothing in that provision that extends defence and protection of the Commonwealth to the defence and protection of the territories of the Commonwealth. The only section to which the Minister can point is section 49, and that section does not amount to an expressed extension of the Defence Act to the territories. It may leave the matter doubtful, but I prefer it to remain doubtful rather than have a definite provision inserted whereby the men of Australia may be compelled to serve in the Admiralty Islands or some islands which are near the equator. Even if the Minister is right, this bill as presented to I he House will have the effect of compelling Australians to serve against their will in the mandated territories. The Minister cannot contend in any way that the Defence Act, as it stands at present, applies to the Mandated Territories, but this bill proposes to apply that act and its compulsory obligations not merely to the actual continent of Australia and Tasmania, but also to Papua and the mandated territories. That is a very serious departure from the principle of the Defence Act. It has always been understood that the men of Australia could, in time of actual or apprehended invasion, be called upon to serve in the defence of Australia, and whenever territories have been created provision has been made in nearly every act relating to such territories that the Commonwealth legislation shall not apply to them unless intended to apply. I refer the Minister to section 7 of the Papua Act, section 35 of the New Guinea Act, section 7 of the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Act, and section 5 of the Norfolk Island Act. The only territory in respect of which this provision is not made is Antarctica. Theoretically, however, there is no doubt that if this measure is passed in its present form, it would be legally competent for the Commonwealth Government to compel Australian people to serve in Antarctica. If this change is made in the law, it will be possible for forces to be raised anywhere in Australia to serve in New Guinea, the German Solomons, New Britain and the Admiralty Islands which are nearly on the equator. I suggest that such a proposal should not be made in the dying hours of a session. It is an important extension of the obligation to serve. Sections 59 and 46 were inserted in the Defence Act in 1903, with grave misgivings. The first Defence Act Drought to this House was found upon examination to contain a carefully wrapped-up provision by virtue of which Australian young men could be compelled to serve anywhere. The honorable member for North Melbourne, Mr. H. B. Higgins, as he then was, pointed out that under that provision, Australian men could be forced to serve in Afghanistan, or anywhere else; and so great was the opposition that the bill was eventually dropped, and in 1903 the tendency was to limit the obligation to serve in Australia only. Section 49 of the Defence Act is prohibitive. It says that men shall not be required to serve except in the Commonwealth and territories, but it does not expressly provide that men can be required to serve in the territories. That does not amount to the express provision which section 7 of the Papua Act and section 35 of the New Guinea Act require. If there is a doubt it should be preserved. I do not desire Parliament to make an alteration of the act, making it perfectly clear that the Commonwealth Government will be able to compel men to serve in New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands or the Solomons. This Parliament has always been very jealous of the limitations of the power to exact compulsory service or compulsory training. When it inserted section 59 in the Defence Act, it also inserted section 49 in that act, and when it provided for compulsory training it provided for compulsory training for the defence of the Australian territory only. .It was thought that no departure from the principle ought to be made without the sanction of the people, and a referendum was taken on that issue in 1916. Now we are being asked, just before Parliament goes into recess, to extend the operation of the Defence Act so that Australian men can be required to serve not only on the actual continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania, but also in the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. That is something to which this House will not agree if honorable members understand the position. Such a proposal might be carried in the dying hours of a session when many honorable members are anxious to get away, but if it is it will be a gross betrayal of the interests of the people we are here to represent.
In my view, I repeat, the Defence Act, as it stands at present, imposes an obligation to serve for the defence of Australia, meaning thereby the continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania. It does not contain any expressed provision to extend the operation of that obligation to either Papua or the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. The acts relating to those territories provide that no act of the National Parliament shall apply to them unless it contains express provisions for that purpose. I cannot find in the Defence Act any express provision applying the obligation to serve in time of war to those territories: but if this bill be passed, that obligation will rest on the manhood of Australia. But even if the Defence Act does apply to Papua, it certainly does not apply to New Guinea. I hope that the House will refuse to make the amendments contained in clauses 3 and 4 of the bill. They appear to be innocent, because they come under the mask of interpreting clauses - clauses which alter the interpretation of the act - but in this matter we must be exceedingly careful, for those clauses, by altering the meaning of words, actually extend the operation of the act. Proposed 11ew section 5a 1 reads -
This act shall extend to the territories of the Commonwealth as if each of those territories were part of the Commonwealth.
Associating that provision with the Defence Act, there is an obligation on the part of every male between the ages of 18 and 60 years to serve in the territories of the Commonwealth in time of war. Sub-section 2 of proposed new section 5a reads -
Parts IV., V., XII., XIII. and XIV. of this act shall not apply to the native inhabitants of any territory governed by the Commonwealth under a mandate.
If full consideration is given to so important a subject, the present sittings will have to extend beyond this week. I know that the bill could be carried by the application of the closure and the operation of the guillotine; but I warn honorable members that in voting for such methods they will be voting for the imposition of an extended form of conscription on the Australian people. The party of which I am a member will strenuously resist any such proposal. The Minister would be well advised to drop the early clauses of the bill, for he can achieve his objective by an amendment of the Papua Act. If he wants to provide for the military discipline of the forces in Papua, he can do so by a simple amendment of either that act or the Defence Act. In this bill, he proposes to go far beyond that. Measures such as this justify the suspicions of the Opposition and of the electors. Under the guise of innocent preparation and extensions of the law, the Government is attempting to encroach on the liberties of the people. I hope that the Minister will consent to the adjournment of the debate, and will submit the bill to further and more mature consideration by his advisors.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 295), on motion by Mr. Perkins -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the bill before us has not been before the House for some time, it may be well if I restate briefly what it proposes to do. It is a bill to provide for the effective registration of aliens, and of their movements after their arrival in Australia, so that their domicile may be known to the Government, and a check placed upon their concentration in alien communities. For that means, the electoral machinery is to be used.
– Is it intended that the divisional returning officers shall undertake these additional duties without further help or increased pay?
– Apparently, that is intended, but I do not think that the duties will be heavy.
– Their duties will be greatly increased.
– Possibly, that aspect has been considered by the Minister. If additional staff is required, or additional remuneration justified, I imagine that such matters will be attended to.
– I understand that the Minister is reviewing that aspect.
– Although this, bill is a contribution towards the settlement of the alien problem, I had hoped that when a measure of this kind was introduced it would deal effectively with the subject. Sooner or later the Government will have to deal with this problem. The policy now in operation practically provides an open door to aliens; it is similar to the policy which has led to considerable trouble in the United States of America. Sooner or later Australia must adopt a quota system in order to ensure that in the majority of cases only those aliens who will readily become absorbed in the commun ity shall be admitted. I shall not engage in a long dissertation on that subject now, but shall content myself with saying that I believe that that could be done without causing any international friction whatsoever. I do not suggest that action be taken along the lines adopted by the United States of America. The percentage of aliens admitted to that country is based on the number of aliens of different nationalities already in the United States of America. In Australia we shall have either to accept aliens or face the fact that, without a great increase of the birth-rate in British countries, we shall not be able to populate this country at all. During the secondreading debate on this bill, a good deal was said about maintaining the Australian population at 98 per cent. British, but it would appear that if we insist on such a high percentage of British people in Australia, the country will never be peopled. If this country is to carry a greater population, aliens will have to be admitted in larger numbers than at present, and we shall have to formulate a policy under which they will readily be absorbed into the Australian population. At present the Government has not the power to deport an alien who has been in Australia for five years. That is a power which nearly every civilized country possesses. Regardless of the activities - in which an alien may be engaged, such as establishing an organization subversive of our democratic system of government, preaching sedition, or carrying on espionage work, he cannot be deported. I trust that the Minister will give immediate consideration to this serious omission from our immigration laws. Further, an alien arriving in Australia, possibly for purposes distinctly detrimental to the best interests of the Commonwealth, can remain for 60 days without registering. During that period he may move freely from place to place carrying out nefarious work, which he might have been sent here to do, and the Government will have no check whatever upon his movements. As honorable, members are aware, in most European countries all aliens, and even tourists, have to report nightly at the hotels at which they may be staying, and their movements can be checked daily.
Under this legislation it is possible for aliens to serve whatever purpose they choose without their movements being checked. Aliens may he here for purposes subversive of the best interests of the nation.
– ‘Cannot they be dealt with under the Crimes Act?
– They cannot be deported.
– A person born outside of Australia can be deported under that act.
– I have conferred with the Crown Law authorities, and J. understand that such persons cannot be deported.
– Section 30 of the Crimes Act provides that persons not born in Australia can be deported.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), but I cannot now deal with the provisions of the Crimes Act. I have conferred with the Crown Law officials and the officers of the External Affairs Department. The power is not general.
– I object to it being general.
– I suggest that when the Minister considers it necessary, an alien should be required to report at intervals so that his movements may be continually checked. In certain part3 of the British Empire, particularly in South Africa, persons are engaged in certain questionable activities, and if the power provided in this measure were extended as I suggest, the movements of aliens during the 60 days in which they would be permitted to remain in - Australia without registration could be checked, and in that way the Government would have a much greater control over them. I trust that the amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will receive the serious consideration of the Government. The Minister in charge of the bill mentioned the concentration of aliens, but I do not think that the Government can check concentration under this measure. The admission of an alien may be on the condition that he shall not settle in any particular area, but, in fact, he is entitled to go where he desires. All this legislation provides is that he shall report any change of address to the electoral officer of a subdivision. The prevention of concentration by registration will be quite ineffective. It is only reasonable to assume that aliens settling in this country will wish to congregate in alien communities, as would Britishers in a foreign country. Our main objective should be to endeavour to absorb aliens into the Australian community, and in that connexion I again bring forward the subject I have mentioned previously - the control of newspapers printed in a foreign language. I am not opposed, of course, to the circulation of educational works, or to the importation of foreign newspapers, but I am opposed to the publication in Australia of newspapers printed in a foreign language. The assimilation of aliens in our population can be achieved more effectively by means of a common press than in any other way. If Britons settled in a foreign country, grouped themselves in one locality, and were allowed to publish newspapers in the English language, soon they would constitute an alien British community in that country. That undoubtedly has been the case in the United States of America. Citizens of the United States of America have assured me that the authorities in that country are sorry not only that they applied the open door policy and allowed alien groups to settle, but also that they obtained no effective control over the press established by aliens and so allowed them to carry on their traditions that to-day even the third and fourth generations retain their old nationalities as Poles, Spaniards, Italians, or whatever their grandparents and great-grandparents were when they migrated to America. These groups live within the body of the nation as almost separate entities, and as the result of their establishment, the Government of the United States of America finds it almost impossible to apply a direct line of policy on affairs not only international, but also internal. Sooner or later the same problem may have to be faced in this country. The people generally, and most honorable members, are not aware that there are circulating in Australia more than 40 newspapers, printed in foreign languages and published by foreigners. By this means we are preventing the assimilation of the alien migrants into our nation.
– It adds to our culture to gain a knowledge of foreign languages.
– I anticipated the point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I have already said that I am not against the importation of educational works or newspapers from Germany or any other foreign country, but I am against the circulation of newspapers printed in foreign languages in Australia, because they preach the ideals and traditions not of Australia, but of the lands from which the readers and publishers came. In order to ensure the complete absorption of alien migrants into our population, the Government should exercise the power it. has to put a stop to the dissemination of propaganda directed against the interests of Australia in newspapers published locally in languages other than English. I am told that in the External Affairs Department translators have to be employed continually in the checking of such newspapers. I believe also, on authority, that those newspapers need checking. The alien problem in South Africa is causing perturbation to the Union, and compels the government of the Union to take certain steps which would not have been necessary now had the development of alien groups been prevented in years gone by. Those groups are a distinct source of weakness in the Union, and I do not want Australia to suffer similarly. In order that it should not, this Government must give a good deal more consideration than it has given to a policy of alien migration. Further than that, I shall not attempt to go. This measure is a contribution to the settlement of the alien problem, but the greater aspects of the problem have yet to be considered. The time for that consideration will not be when the problem has assumed tremendous importance; the time is now, and I hope that the Government will in the near future bring down a bill for the applica tion of a policy to which every member of the Australian community can subscribe with confidence.
– I regret that the debate is taking place at such a late hour because I had wished to discuss many aspects of this problem. I shall content myself with naming what I consider to be two important omissions from this bill. The bill provides that electoral officers in each State, the Chief Electoral Officer in the Australian Capital Territory and the Returning Officer in the Northern Territory, shall keep an index of aliens. That is all right so long as the aliens are law abiding and so long as the machinery works, but experience of even our own people, shows that people are apt to be forgetful and, sometimes, not law abiding. We must expect the same lapses on the part of alien migrants. It would be difficult to keep track of the aliens registered under this bill unless there were set up a central register in Canberra to which the electoral officers in the several States would furnish returns. For example, an alien may slip unnoticed into Victoria and transgress the laws of that State. The Victorian police would be put to the trouble of corresponding with the registrars in each of the other States and the two Commonwealth territories in order to ascertain where he was registered. That would be avoided, and inquiries would be facilitated if there were a central registration bureau. The second point which occupies my mind is the failure of the bill to specify that the registration cards that are to be issued under the bill to aliens shall bear photographs of the persons to whom the cards are issued.
– What about fingerprints ?
– I should not go so f..r as to suggest that the aliens should be fingerprinted as part of this system, but I do suggest that they should be photographed and that their photographs should be printed on their registration cards. It is difficult to distinguish one foreigner from another. Handwriting is not a sufficient guide. In most European countries every visitor carries a card of identity which includes a photograph of the holder. In some countries those cards have to be produced at least once a day. The points that I have suggested are worthy of inclusion in the bill in order to make the measure an effective check on the registration of aliens.
Mr. BLACKBURN (Bourke) [1.9 a.m. - The provisions of this bill are on the whole very reasonable. I propose to make some suggestions in committee, but I rise to speak mainly because of the suggestion that the bill should contain more stringent provisions directed against aliens. The point I wish to make is that this- country has a tradition of tolerance of aliens. That tradition is based on the fact that non-British people have made large contributions to this country. The discovery of gold, especially in Victoria, attracted a large number of people who had taken part in the Young European Movement and who led, and to a large extent inspired the democracy of Australia. Apart from them we had enormous contributions from the religious exiles from Germany, the Lutherans, who came to Australia in 1.839. They have contributed great advantages to South Australia and Victoria ; they have especially left their mark upon South Australia. We owe the wine industry to an Italian-Swiss, the butter industry to Danes, and other industries to other aliens who came here. We have shown them a very tolerant spirit, especially in the State to which I belong. In Victoria we have agreed that an alien may hold land although Queensland forbids it. We do not go as far as some of the States of America which permit men to vote after a certain residence while they are still aliens. In the United States of America the famous Judah Benjamin, the author of Sales, was Attorney-General of the Southern Confederacy of America and before that a member of the United States Senate, and he was nothing more than a British subject. When he returned to England he practised at the British bar without difficulty because he had never ceased to be a British subject. Although it may be necessary for this country to register aliens it should not do so in a spirit depreciatory of them, but merely for its own protection. We ought, as has been suggested, to say this to them, “ While wo are imposing this system of registration, we wish to make, it easier for you to acquire Australian nationality”. lt should be understood that we are doing this for our own protection and not in a spirit of hostility to them. An honorable member suggested that the Commonwealth Government should have power to deport aliens, and he said that the power i > deport is necessary because aliens may be guilty of subversive actions, or of offences against our laws. We have laws providing that aliens and British subjects no; born in Australia may be deported for using subversive language, for membership of subversive organizations, for taking part in strikes and lock-outs, and so forth. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) challenged me to give a reference on this matter, and I refer him to section 30l of the Crimes Act -
It will be remembered that without the preliminary condition of a trial it was attempted to deport people who were British subjects, but that failed because the High Court held that persons who were in this country before the Commonwealth was founded were members of the Australian community. That was one of the reasons why the attempt failed. The point I wish to make is that this’ legislation should not bc considered as anti-alien legislation. We are entitled to pass these laws for the protection of ourselves because although we have a register of .our citizens under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, we haveno register of the persons whose names do not appear on the electoral roll. I object strongly to the suggestion that the alien is a potential enemy of Australia, the aliens have not been our enemies. The people who have come here have made great contributions to this country and have enriched its life. I believe that aliens have enriched the life of America., Canada and ‘South Africa, which are all the better because of the influx of people of different races. The various strains that have poured into the United States of America have made it a greater and more vigorous nation tb.an it would have been otherwise. We have had a great mixture of strains in Australia. The honorable member foi1 Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) does not object to the many descendants of aliens who are constituents in his electorate. The loyalty of those men was tested in 1913. In that year the Kaiser celebrated his 50th birthday, and the German Language Union was formed; Germans all over the world were urged to join that organization. An appeal was made to the Australian-German Lutherans, whose ancestors had fled on account of religious persecution in their country. The German authorities had attempted to force a creed on them, had taken their children from them and baptized them in a new religion; and they had ruined and persecuted many. Some of those people fled to the United States of America, and some to Australia. What did their descendants in this country say when they were invited to join that union? They said, “ We have received nothing but tolerance in Australia. From the Kaiser and his government we had nothing but persecution. We arc not Germans, but British. We keep alive the German language because in it Luther translated the Bible and wrote his hymns “. Their devotion to this country was also tested by the fact that many of them went to the Great War. Thousands volunteered in South Australia, as did many in Victoria. Small congregations in the Wimmera and Wannon districts had no young men left. All the men bearing German names had gone to fight for the country that had given them a free life. Such people have made great contributions - social, cultural, and economic - to this country, and it is most undesirable that we should enact legislation which stamps the alien, the stranger within our gates, as a potential enemy. We are entitled to make a register of aliens, and we should make an easier opportunity for them to become naturalized citizens of this country. We should see that this legislation is framed in a fair and ‘tolerant spirit - there are one or two clauses to which I shall direct attention - and is designed for the protection of Australia, and not for the denunciation of aliens. It would be very dangerous to load the measure with the anti-alien provisions suggested by some honorable members of the House.
– in reply - 1 regret that the debate on this measure has been interrupted, and, consequently, has been hard to follow, but its general tone shows that the House agrees that aliens should be registered. I think that probably the last speaker has a better idea of what the Government has in view than have some other honorable members. It is a matter, nol of alienating the sympathy of people of other nations, but of making them feel at home. Many of the proposals suggested could not be introduced into this bill. If the reforms mentioned were necessary, they would probably involve amendment of the Immigration Act or the Nationality Act. The bill is purely and simply for the registration of aliens, but the other things that might follow in time of war are not considered necessary now. If we were at war most of the conditions mentioned could be met by the powers contained in the Defence Act. Here is a simple measure that will, I am sure, meet with the approval of the House generally, and it will not inflict any more hardship on aliens than Australians themselves suffer to-day. We all register our names on the electoral roll and we all are liable to pay fines if we fail to do so, or fail to record our votes at elections. Some speakers have suggested that the penalties provided in the bill are excessive, but I point out that they are very similar to the penalties .provided in the Electoral Act. The highest penalty under that act is £50 as it is in this measure. There is further provision that the electoral officers may under this measure and in certain circumstances impose a fine not exceeding £5. That is really intended to try and keep cases out of the law courts in the interests of the people concerned. Fines of £5 are also provided under the Electoral Act, but usually the imposts are not more than a few shillings.
I congratulate the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) upon his excellent’ contribution to the debate. He imparted some useful information to the
House. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) also made some helpful suggestions and certain amendments which he has proposed will be accepted by the Government. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) had a great deal to do with the drafting of this measure in its early stages and I regret that he did not have the opportunity of piloting it through the House. Much of what he said, however, had relation to aliens about whom we might be concerned in war time, rather than to aliens of the character that this bill proposes to deal with.
Some objection has been taken to the provision that a Minister may decide certain matters. The purpose of this is to counteract any suggestion that officers may be too officious. In effect, it is proposed that the Minister shall act as a kind of intermediary.
The honorable member forWerriwa objected specifically to the provisions of sub-clause 3 of clause 14 to the effect that no prosecution for an offence against the sub-clause, which deals with the failure of occupiers of habitations or others to furnish’ information, should be instituted without consent of the Minister. This is really a protective provision, designed torestrain any tendency towards undue bureaucratic secrecy by reposing in the Minister, as’ the representative of this Parliament, to which he is answerable, the final decision as to whether the circumstances of the case warrant the institution of legal proceedings or not. The honorable member also suggested that the definition “ Commonwealth officer “ embraced too many classes of persons. It is considered, however, that the definition could not be abridged without detrimentally affecting the effective administration of the bill and, in the event of war, the desired control over our alien population. The honorable member may rest assured that adequate precautions will be employed to prevent the information in the records from being wrongfully divulged.
– The Minister will, of course, be answerable to Parliament.
– That is so. The honorable member for Batman(Mr. Brennan) suggested that the register of aliens should, under certain conditions, be open to public inspection. The honorable member for Werriwa held a different view. The Government also is opposed to the suggestion of the honorable member for Batman. It feels that that would be most undesirable in the interest of the aliens concerned. We have no desire or intention to make the information contained in these records available to foreign agents or to any one who might use it for improper or subversive purposes. The bill is really a registration measure, which will serve a useful purpose, not only for the Government, but also for the aliens themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ alien “ means any person over the age of sixteen years who is not a British subject within the meaning of the Nationality Act 1920-1936; “ Commonwealth officer “ means any member of the police force of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, any person permanently employed in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, or any officer of the Permanent Naval, Military or Air Forces of the Commonwealth, acting in the course of his duty;
– I move -
That the definition of “ alien “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following definition: - “ alien “ meansany person over the age of sixteen years other than a person who -
is a British subject within the mean ing of the Nationality Act 1920- 1930; or
is, by reason of a declaration made under section eighteen a of that act, entitled, whilst in Australia or any Territory, to all political and other rights, powers and privileges to which a natural born British subject is entitled; “.
The object of the new definition is to clarify the position of British women who may marry aliens, and to ensure that their status under the Nationality Act shall be preserved.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That in the definition of “ Commonwealth officer “ after the word “ Commonwealth “ fourth occurring, the words “ or of a State “ he inserted.
The purpose is to include within the definition certain officers of a State who, under some circumstances, might be required to .perform duties under the act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Index of aliens).
.– The Assistant Minister indicated in his second-reading speech that the compilation of this index would impose additional duties on certain officers of the Electoral Department. I wish to know whether it is proposed to reimburse them for this extra work. Probably very few of us realize the amount of work which the officers of the Electoral Department perform, notwithstanding the fact that they are very closely identified with the Parliament and with the individual members of it. From my experience I know that they have very little, if any, spare time for extra duties, and if they are called upon to perform additional work they should be adequately paid for it. Their salaries, under present conditions, are not too large. I do not know that I should agree to allow the matter of any additional remuneration to be left to the Public Service Board for determination.
Mr. PERKINS (EdenMonaroAssistant Minister [1.29 a.m.]. - I cannot make any definite statement in reply to the observation of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). No doubt the electoral officers concerned will be called upon to perform additional duties.
– The district returning officers will be supervising authorities.
– That is so. Any question of additional remuneration will, I think, of necessity, be referred to the Public Service Board. I undertake, however, to bring the remarks of the honorable member under the notice of the Prime Minister.
– Is the Minister perfectly satisfied that all information in the register will be kept secret? Some people are naturally afraid that consuls politically opposed to them may have access to the information contained in it,- and use that information to intimidate the relatives of aliens in their home land.
– I am perfectly satisfied that this information will be kept secret. I assure the honorable gentleman that it will be kept as secret as possible, and that it will not be disclosed to outsiders or to members of the public generally.
– The Electoral Office officers are most reliable.
– That is so.
– Is there to be any exemption period?
– No; the provisions of this bill will apply to all aliens settled in Australia.
, - I am not quite satisfied with the Minister’s statement. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has had somewhat the same experiences as I have had. I have reason to believe that the activities of Italians and Germans in this country are reported to their home countries, and that punishment for any offences which the overseas refugees are deemed to have committed against ‘the countries from which they were expatriated is visited upon their relatives who have remained there. Complaints have been made by Italians in Melbourne that their acts have been reported to Italy, and that punishment has been visited upon the- members of their families who have remained in that country. I do not think we should run the risk of the disclosure of information which is to appear in the register. Although I have every confidence in the staff of the Electoral Office, the prejudices of men are very hard to check. Some oath of secrecy should be imposed on persons who have any part in the compilation of this register, similar to that prescribed in the Census and Statistics Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
A’ register of aliens or an index of aliens shall not be open for inspection except for official purposes.
– From the symposium of wise men whom the Minister congratulated for having assisted him in the passage of the bill he excluded me on the ground that I struck a discordant note. It is a somewhat amusing complaint coming from the ministerial side, that only one member of the’ Opposition should have ventured to strike a discordant note. I suggest that I was reprimanded for a very mild offence. On this, clause, to which the observations of the Minister are peculiarly pertinent, and in anticipation of what the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is about to say about the inviolable secrecy of this register, I would like to present a view consistent with my attitude to the whole bill and my second-reading speech. It is some time since I spoke upon the bill, and I presume I would not be in order now in quoting my actual words. But I know the tenor of my observations. In speaking of the welcome which we should give to aliens who had satisfied the Commonwealth authorities that they were desirable citizens I said that they should be accepted as welcome guests, and desirable citizens or, if not citizens in the full sense of the word, desirable residents of the Commonwealth. I said that no stigma should attach to a man because he was an alien - first because he had to be here for five years before he could qualify for full citizenship, and, in the second place, although he had not qualified even after the expiration of that period, he might have sufficiently good reasons for not having done so. In regard to the register, I think I pointed out - at all events I do so now - that we have public records of our own citizens. We have our own electoral rolls for every part of the Commonwealth on which are recorded the names, addresses and occupations of all of the electors and which are open to inspection by every body. We have registries of births, marriages and deaths, where any citizen may go and find out particulars about a fellow citizen upon payment of a small fee. There are many other public records affecting’ private- interests. I suggested, therefore, that as there was no stigma attaching to alienage, and as it might be desirable for any citizen to make himself acquainted with the names of persona who had been admitted to the Commonwealth and later on naturalized, in the same way as he could make contact with people already resident here, I saw no reason for secrecy in connexion with the register, if the provisions of. this bill were operated in good faith and in the spirit in which they should be operated. But of course, I assumed in favour of the Government, as I must assume in favour of any government, that such a list will be operated in good faith, and that the persons on that list will be treated fairly as desirable residents of this country. I did not assume against this or any future government that it might make that list the instrument of oppression of aliens resident in this country. I recalled in my speech the occasion of the last disastrous war when a concerted attempt was made” to deport nonnaturalized Italians from this country against their will. ‘
– And their Australianborn wives and children.
– Yes. It was a sad chapter in the history of Australia and brought almost unlimited discredit upon this country. I was not counting on that kind of thing being repeated. I thought that a broadminded government, preferably a Labour one, would treat these aliens properly, and there would be no reason why the list of aliens should be any more secret than a list of any other citizens. That was the whole head and front of my offending. I am sorry that I was the one Labour member who was considered to have raised a discordant note during the secondreading debate. [Quorum formed.]
– I listened with attention to the opinions so succinctly and clearly expressed by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), but I am afraid that he has not given due weight, first to the local Australian prejudice against aliens - unreasonable, I believe - and, secondly, to the jealousy and enmity among aliens themselves. It is undesirable that information compiled for the protection of the. nation should be available to the public. The persons engaged in compiling the information should be bound not to make disclosures. It would, perhaps, operate to the prejudice of a man who had been living in a district for years, if it became known that he was a foreigner, and the danger would become graver in times of tension. . Clause 7 does not sufficiently safeguard the register. I have just had brought under my notice section 35 of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations which embodies a provision relating to secrecy. I believe that such a provision should be imposed by statute or by regulation. . I am not satisfied that the regulations under the Public Service Act go far enough. Some of the persons employed in the electoral department of the State are not Government officers at all. I was going to suggest that persons concerned with the compilation of the register should make an affidavit, or an oath of secrecy in the prescribed form but, in view of the regulations to which my attention has been drawn, I shall not press that point. I suggest that the Minister might consider this point when making regulations. But, I move -
That the words “ except for official purposes “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ by a person authorized in writing by the Minister “.
The clause will then read that the register of aliens shall not be open for inspection except by a person authorized in writing by the Minister. The clause as it now stands gives no protection. A” State policeman might claim the right to inspect the register for official purposes.
– The Government will accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Nothing in the last preceding section shall apply to -
. -I have received representations on this matter from several Yugo-Slavs in Western Australia, and also from the publisher of the Yugo-Slav journal in Sydney. Under the law as.it now stands, it is difficult for a foreigner to become naturalized in Australia. Frequently an objection is raised on the ground that the applicant has not a sufficient knowledge of the English language. Yugo-Slavs, like English people living in foreign countries, are gregarious, and tend to concentrate in certain hotels or residential areas. Yugo-Slavs find it difficult to learn to speak the English tongue fluently. Our law provides that a foreigner must be resident in Australia for five years before becoming eligible for naturalization. In the United States of America, a period of six months’ residence only is required before a foreigner may take out what are known as “ first papers “. I suggest that the period here should not be. more than three years, and that the language bar should be largely removed. If foreigners are able to live here for three years without coming into conflict with the law they should be welcomed as Australian citizens. I know of some Yugo-Slavs, the fathers of Australian school teachers, and in every way worthy persons, whose applications for naturalization have been refused. I also think that the fee of £5 is too high, and prevents many thrifty men from seeking naturalization. These men experience great difficulty in becoming naturalized, and we should not impose a hardship upon them by requiring them, after having lived in Australia for some years, to register as if they were criminals.
– Every Australian citizen is required, on reaching the age of 21 years, to enrol under the Electoral Act. The Minister said that the penalty for a breach of that act is the same as that provided for under this clause, but that is not the position. The Electoral Act imposes a fine of £50 or imprisonment for offences that are almost of a criminal nature, such as dual voting and misrep- resentation. The maximum penalty for failure to enrol as an elector is only £2. 1 am aware that the fine of £50 provided for under this clause is the maximum penalty, but I think that the alternative punishment of imprisonment for three months would be too drastic.
– The period of residence in Australia before naturalization can be secured is governed by an Imperial agreement, if a person were naturalized in Australia after three years’ residence in this country, he would not be recognized as a British subject in other parts of the Empire. But that matter has nothing to do with the measure under consideration.’ Another suggestion put forward would, if adopted, require an amendment of the Nationality Act. I do not believe that any great hardship would be suffered by Yugo-Slavs, on account of this measure, because Australian citizens are liable to similar penalties for failure to comply with the Electoral Act.
– In the case of an Australian national or a British subject who fails to enrol, the law discriminates between a first and a second offence. The penalty for the first offence is 10s., and for a subsequent offence, £2. It seems to me that the penalty of £50 or imprisonment for three months is an extremely heavy one for a first offence. I do not say that the penalty provided for an alien for non-enrolment should be the same as in the case of an elector who contravenes the Electoral Act. The penalty to be imposed on the alien for non-enrolment should be higher than on the British subject for nonenrolment, but, f ollowing the policy embodied in the penalty section of the Electoral Act, we should impose a smaller fine, and a fine only, for a first offence, and a higher fine for the second offence. For the first offence of an alien, which might be committed in ignorance, he could be fined £50 or sent to prison for three months. It may be said that the magistrate would not be likely to impose the maximum penalty, but we do not know what magistrates might do in periods of tense feeling. I suggest that the penalty for the first failure to enrol should be a maximum of £10, and that, for a second offence, the punishment should be heavier.
– The Government would not be prepared to accept such an amendment. The question whether the maximum penalty should bo imposed could be safely left to the Minister or to the courts. In times of tension, the Defence Act would probably override some of the provisions of this measure.
Amendments (bv Mr. Perkins) agreed to-
That after sub-clause (1.) the following sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) Every alien making application to be registered as an alien under this act shall make application in the name which he bears at the time of making the application but shall also state in the application the name which appeared on his passport or other document of identity when he first entered the Commonwealth or, if he produced no passport or other document of identity, the name, by which he was then known.”.
That the words “ the last preceding subsection “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Subsection ( 1 ) of this section,”
Amendment (by Mr. Archie Cameron) proposed -
That after the word “ days “, sub-clause 2, paragraph “ d. the following words be inserted: - “. , or such shorter period as the Minister,- in any particular case, may direct”.
– It seems to me that this amendment might be unfair to the aliens. If a shorter period is to be fixed, it should be fixed when the alien arrives in Australia. The amendment would mean that the Minister could arbitrarily change his mind, and say .to the alien, “ You must go out in a week”.
– That is exactly what I intend.
– That would not be fair to the alien.
– I am chiefly concerned about the welfare of the community.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Archie Cameron’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mb. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 12 agreed to.
Australian Capital Territory: Complaint against Sergeant Bailey - Division Bells - Public Service Arbitrator -Postal Workers Union.
Motion (by Mr. Perkins) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the House a matter which concerns the administration of the Attorney-General’s Department. On the 22nd March of this year, a man named Warren, a resident of the Australian Capital Territory, was charged at the Acton Police Court with negligent driving. The case was dismissed. When Warren was conversing with two other gentlemen, Messrs. Jones andCooper, outside the police court immediately after the case, Sergeant Bailey, of the local police force, according to a statement made in writing to the Attorney-General’s Department by Cooper and supported by two written statements from Messrs. Warren and Jones, said to the three men, “Do you know what it means to commit perjury ? “ Warren said to the sergeant, “What did you say?” and Sergeant Bailey is alleged to have replied, “ I was referring to the lies you told in the court.” The sergeant is then alleged to have addressed Cooper, “I will get you, Cooper.” I am not in a position to pass judgment on these allegations, but the point which concerns this House is that when three reputable citizens of the territory make a complaint to the Attorney-General’s Department alleging certain action against a member of the local police force, they are entitled to more consideration than they have so far received from the department. In reply to his complaint, Mr. Cooper received the following letter dated the 1st June, . 1939, from the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) -
Further to my letter of 29th April, 1939, concerning your complaint against Sergeant Bailey, I have now obtained a report from the sergeant in connexionwith your complaint.
Sergeant Bailey denies the allegation that he threatened you and states that his remarks in relation to possible proceedings for perjury werenot directed to you personally.
After considering the matter carefully,I do not think it calls for any action by me as Attorney-General.
It appears that the only inquiry which the Attorney-General made in regard to this very serious charge was to ask Sergeant Bailey to make a statement in reply to the allegations which had been made against him. According to the letter forwarded by the AttorneyGeneral to Mr. Cooper, Sergeant Bailey admits having made one of the statements attributed to him, although he explained that he did not direct it to Mr. Cooper personally. The residents of the Australian Capital Territory, who do not enjoy representation in this House, are entitled to some protection. A member of the police force has no more right to address citizens in that manner than has any other person. The evidence of three reputable citizens should not be brushed ii side by the uncorroborated statement of the person accused of making these threats. The matter should not he allowed to rest where it is, but these gentlemen should be given the opportunity to state their case before a properly constituted tribunal, and the sergeant of police’ also should be given an opportunity to speak in his own defence. Irrespective of the result of any inquiries that may be held, it is obvious that Sergeant Bailey was wrong in making remarks of that nature after the Court had decided the matter. If he thought that further action was warranted, he ought to have known the proper course for him to take. I hope that a full inquiry will be made, so that these gentlemen may have the satisfaction of knowing that their complaint has been investigated.
.- 1 desire from you, Mr. Speaker, some information about the division that was taken a few minutes ago. With the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), I was in the refreshmentroom having a cup of tea when the division bells rang for a short period. When the hells ceased ringing, we returned to our cups of tea. The bells commenced to ring again, but when 1 reached the door of the chamber I was toy late for the division. I am confident that the. time for locking the doors must have been taken from the commencement of thu first ringing of the bells. If that was so it is. unfair; the time should have been taken from the commencement of the second ringing of the bells. I should like to know what really did take place?
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. &. J. Bell).The incident referred to by the honorable member occurred in committee, and therefore I have no knowledge of it. I shall ask the Chairman of Committees to inform me on the subject.
– Were it not for the possibility of .the House adjourning to-morrow for the winter recess, I should not bring forward .at this hour the matter which I 1 how raise. Some . days ago I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ta question relating to a decision by the newly-appointed Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. M. C. Boniwell. in .’ a. ‘- case affecting the Amalgamated
Postal Workers Union of Australia. His award has caused great dissatisfaction, and. has seriously perturbed members of the union. A person occupying so important a position as Public Service Arbitrator should be properly qualified for the task; he should have a knowledge of the industry, or the particular clerical sections of the Service concerned, and be capable of assessing not only evidence but the human values involved in making determinations. The recentlyappointed Public Service Arbitrator was formerly an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. His first determination reveals a lamentable lack of ability to weigh the evidence submitted on behalf of the postal workers. Not only has his determination caused dissatisfaction and alarm among the members of the union, but also many competent impartial observers, whoso opinions have been sought, have declared emphatically that the decision is contrary to the weight of evidence submitted. It might be contended that Parliament is not the tribunal to deal with this matter. Indeed, the Prime Minister said last week that he did not believe that Parliament should be made a court of appeal in this instance. I remind him that Parliament has acted as a court of appeal on a number of occasions by disallowing through the medium of regulations determinations with which the government of the day was not pleased. The Opposition stands for arbitration, but it believes that those who exercise the duties of an arbitrator should be competent to perform them. The arbitration system would break down if men in such positions were unable to act impartially, or to do justice to those over whom they exercise authority It would appear that the new Public Service Arbitrator is so immersed in legalism as the result of his training that he is totally unsuited for the work which has been entrusted to him. In that respect he is entirely different from his predecessor, Mr. ‘Westhoven, who had considerable experience in the postal service before ho was appointed Public Service Arbitrator in 1930.- If the new Arbitrator ; continues as he has begun he can expect to hear many . complaints from the Opposition in this Parliament. We shall have to take steps to persuade the Government to transfer him to.some other position if he persists in the attitude that he has adopted in this instance. The union submitted comprehensive evidence, both documentary and oral, to support the claim for an increase of £30 a year to all mail officers, but the Public Service Arbitrator granted an increase of £5 a year to employees who had reached the maximum rate of pay, and also to those who were in receipt of the subdivisional rate next to the maximum. The number of mail officers who will, immediately upon the determination becoming effective, be entitled to the increase is approximately 50 per cent. of the men involved, the remaining 50 per cent. being on varying ranges of a much lower rate, so that many years will elapse before they reach the maximum. The way in which the award has been made excludes from the determination about 50 per cent. of the men engaged in these duties. The decision is amazing, and no one appears to understand it. . Now the union states -
Experienced arbitration court authorities who are fully conversant with the documentary evidence tendered and the evidence of witnesses to the Public Service Arbitrator are firmly convinced that an increase of at least £11 to £13 was justified.
Submissions made to the Arbitrator included -
That since 1915 no increase inrates of pay had been granted to mail officers, apart from adjustments due to the rise in the cost of living, other than an increase of Thirteen pounds (£13), in 1923.
Increased complexity of work, the knowledge required and the responsibilties involved due to many changes in procedure, growth in all mail services, the introduction of extensive air-mail services, which are daily being further extended, while the output per employee was much greater.
Differential postage rates applying to air and overseas mails, increased number of mails for despatch, daily changing of routing of mails, 33 per cent. increase in private boxholders, changes being made in at least one-third annually, and the fixation of responsibility on an individual . officer for the correct sorting of every single postal article.
That extracts from reports of, the Public Service Board were indicative of savings effected from the introduction of mail-handling plant, closer supervision and increased efficiency.
The special selection of employees for admittance to the training school for mail officers, and the groundwork instilled in trainees prior to appointment as mail officers, with the object of the attainment of efficiency was most marked.
Comparisons with the salaries paid to other classes of postal employees, namely, postal clerks, clerks, telegraphists, mail officer machinery, senior mail officer, Grade 1, and senior assistant mails. With the exception of the latter three, these classes in 1923 were in receipt of a range of salary either equal to or less than mail officers, whereas their range to-day is much higher.
That mail officers being the men who perform the real work of a mail branch were entitled to share in the general tendency of increased rates of pay which within recent times has been extended to superintendents, assistant superintendents, supervisors and overseers of the various mail branches throughout the Commonwealth.
Offsetting reduced salaries that applied during years of financial stringency against times of financial prosperity.
I have set out the grounds of complaint which have been obtained from the documents which the Prime Minister was good enough to have placed on the table of the library. I do not wish to delay the House by discussing this subject at great length, but I felt it my duty to direct the attention of the Government to the attitude which this newlyappointed Public Service Arbitrator has adopted. If he continues to make decisions so extraordinary as this one he will certainly strike trouble. Men cannot be expected to submit to such determinations without complaint. They expect only a fair deal, and the sooner this gentleman realizes that the problems with which he has to deal must be studied not only on cold legalisms, but also on justice as well as humane considerations, the more efficiently will he be able to carry out the important work entrusted to him.
– I shall bring the subjects raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) under the notice of the departments concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Survey Act - Aerial, Geological and Geophysical Survey of Northern Australia - Report of Committee, for period ended 31st December, 1938.
Advances to Settlers Act - Statement of cases in which Minister has varied terms and conditions of repayments of advances for purchase of wire and wire netting.
Ordered to be printed.
House adjourned at 2.24 a.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
International Labour Office Conventions.
asked the Minister for
Defence,upon notice -
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.menzies.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions, are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained from the Australian Broadcasting Commission in relation to the matters referred to by the honorable member.
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
National Fitness Campaign.
s asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) asked me on the 7th June, whether a return could be prepared showing the total issue up to date of semi-governmental loans which have been guaranteed by State governments, and in which the Commonwealth is involved under the Financial Agreement. Act.
In reply to the honorable member, I would say that the Commonwealth is not involved under the Financial Agreement Act in any semi-governmental loans, whether guaranteed by a State or not. I regret that the Treasury is not in possession of information showing the amount of semi-governmental loans guaranteed by State governments.
Port Douglas Post Office.
n. - On the 8th June, the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked a question, without notice, as to whether it was proposed to close the post office at Port Douglas, and if steps wouldbe taken to ensure that such action be not proceeded with.
I now desire to inform the honorable member that the position is that Port Douglas has retrogressed to such an appreciable extent that the maintenance of the post office with official status is no longer justified, and approval has been given for its reduction to non-official status and conduct of the postal business in conjunction with a local business enterprise. None of the facilities at present in operation will he withdrawn under the change in classification. The Government building at Port Douglas is in a bad condition and neither the post office itself, nor the residential quarters, is worth the expenditure that would be required for re-conditioning purposes.
Australian Dairy Board: Publication of Journal.
Mr.Menzies.-On the 14th June, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following question, without notice: -
Can the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Dairy Board is now actually publishing a certain journal, to the publication of which I, with the backing of the AttorneyGeneral, objected last year? Has the Government reached a decision regarding the wisdom of statutory bodies having the right to publish journals on their own initiative?
I am now able to inform the honorable member that the Australian Dairy Review has been issued for many years past, at first jointly by the Australian Dairy Produce Export Board and the Australian Dairy Council and, since the amalgamation of those bodies as the Australian Dairy Produce Board, by the latter body. In the earlier stages, it was issued intermittently, but is now published monthly.
The Government has not yet considered the question of statutory bodies publish ing journals, but in the meantime, has left this matter to be determined by the individual boards concerned.
Defence: Railway Transport Facilities.
d asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, on the 17th November, 1938, the Minister stated that the defence requirements of the railway systems could be met by-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1939/19390615_reps_15_160/>.