15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell) took tho chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Government yet como to a decision in regard to the appointment of an Australian Minister at Tokyo? If so, has any person been selected for the position?
– I regret that I am not at present in a position to make any statement on this subject.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House any information regarding the proposed conference between representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions on production and supplies, to be held at Delhi? Can ho say when the conference is to be held, whether the Australian representatives have been chosen, and, if so, whether they will be able to Teach the conference in time?
– I expect that in the course of the next few days I shall be able to make a full statement on this subject. I can say now that there is to be a conference at Delhi on matters of defence interest, that some of the Australian representatives, namely, officials connected with the Department of Munitions, have been selected, and that they certainly will be able to arrive in time to participate in the conference. All of these matters ure now in course of arrangement. I shall make a full statement on the subject as early as possible.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development yet had a test made of the various types of charcoal in the several States, in order to prove which is the most suitable timber for the production of charcoal for power gas units, and, if so, can lie make a statement to the House on the subject?
– The Director of Substitute Fuels, Mr. Holmes Hunt, is at present in collaboration with the Forestry Departments of the States on this subject. A full investigation is tubing place.
– Can the Minister say whether a monopoly for the manufacture .of producer gas units lias been granted to any firm, or is any person, at liberty to manufacture such units? Can he also say whether the designs must be approved before such units can be sold?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.There is no monopoly of the manufacture of producer gas units, but the Commonwealth Government grants its certificate to approved units. That, however, does not prevent other manufacturers from making units if they so desire. Steps aro being taken, in consultation with the State Governments, to prevent the manufacture of a multiplicity of types of producer gas units, with a view to the utmost economy in manufacture, and a cheapening of the price.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the recommendation of the Commonwealth Liquid Fuel Control Board that encouragement be given to the manufacture of producer gas units, particularly for use in country districts, and that the use of such plants be made compulsory on a scale and in respect of such vehicles as may be specified? Has the Government considered whether the encouragement of tho use of producer gas plants in country districts would contribute to a solution of the problem of rationing petrol to city users, and, if so, has it given consideration to the granting of a bounty for every engine of an approved type that is produced?
– For many months the Government has encouraged the manufacture and use of producer gas units. Some time ago it arranged for the manufacture of some hundreds of units of approved types, on the understanding that if the manufacturers were unable to sell them to the public, the Commonwealth Government would buy them. As to what further steps can be taken to encourage the use of producer #as units, with a view to the conservation of petro), that matter is now engaging the serious attention of Nfr. Holmes Hunt, and tho State governments.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement that tho Government of Slew South Wales, in consultation with representatives of the National Roads and Motorists Association, the Royal Automobile Club, and the Service Stations Association of New South Wales, proposes to introduce legislation to protect the public against inefficient charcoal gas units? Has he any information to give to the House on this subject, and oan hp say whether the State government is collaborating ‘with the Commonwealth Government in this matter?
– My attention was drawn to a press paragraph on this subject. I can only conclude that it has reference to the discussions which are now proceeding between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales.
– Is it true that the department insists on testing producer gas units on trucks? As it refuses to test the units fitted to motor cars, does the Government desire to discourage the use of these units on private cars?
– 1 am not sure as to the exact method bv which the testing is carried out, but I assume, and I think that the honorable member may assume, that it is done in the way which the technical experts of the Government consider to he most suitable. Certainly it is not done, as implied by the honorable member, in such a manner as to discourage the use of these units; on the contrary, their use is encouraged.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether he considers that the popularity of producer gas units must depend, ultimately, upon their reliability and reputation? Is he aware that a number of units on sale are likely to prove detrimental to oar engines? Is it a fact that research has shown that as much as a cupful of charcoal dust has been extracted from some units after one operation? Will the honorable gentleman endeavour to bring into force uniform regulations requiring manufacturers of producer gas units to submit their equipment to satisfactory tests before being offered for installation on vehicles?
– Undoubtedly the success of producer gas units depends upon their efficiency. The Government has recognized that this is so, and has already forwarded to the State governments for consideration draft regulations designed to achieve some of the objects indicated in the honorable member’s question.
– Does the Minister for Supply and Development consider that the storage of petrol in coastal districts is a sound policy, and have any steps been taken to establish supplies in places less vulnerable to enemy attack?
– Adequate steps are being taken to build storages, at Commonwealth expense, in provincial centres which are being selected by the Service departments.
Mr.RIORDAN.- In view of the appointment of Sir Keith Murdoch as Director-General of Information, will the Prime Minister now grant to the pro prietors of the Radio Times the newsprint licence necessary to enable them to establish an afternoon newspaper in Melbourne? Does he not consider that the refusal to grant such licence is tantamount to giving a monopoly to the proprietors of the Melbourne Herald? Will the Prime Minister make available to honorable members the correspondence which passed between the Government and the management of the newspaper company concerned?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs, and ask Mm to supply an answer.
– In view of the acute housing shortage at Lithgow, following the great increase of employment in the small arms factory there, is the Government prepared to lend its support to any sound scheme to provide permanent housing for the people of Lithgow ?
– I shall be glad to give consideration to the honorable member’s question.
– In view of the serious inconvenience to the people of Hobart and Tasmania generally, which the withdrawal of the Zealandia from the shipping service between Hobart and Sydney has caused, can the Minister for the Navy say when the Zealandia will again be placed on this run? If that vessel be not available, will it be possible to get another ship to take its place, thereby maintaining sea communication between the two cities. mentioned?
– The Zealandia is under the control of the Department of the Navy, and it will he so employed for some time to come. Every effort is being made to replace ships which are requisitioned for naval purposes, but in many instances this cannot be done. That applies to other places besides Tasmania. People must recognize that in time of war the difficulties must be encountered and overcome.
– I have forwarded to the Parliamentary Librarian the report of the Director-General of Navigation for the year ended the 31st December, 1939. With the concurrence of the House I shall dispense with the printing of the report this year. It will be available to honorable members in the Library.
– Has the Minister for the Air seen a statement in the Kalgoorlie Miner of the 30th July last that Mr. G. Lewis, of Goldfields Airways, had applied for a subsidy for a service between Kalgoorlie and Norseman and Perth, and was refused it on the ground that funds for the purpose were not available? Is he aware that since then it has been announced that Airlines (W.A.) Limited had secured the right to conduct a service between the places mentioned?
– Mr. Lewis himself showed to me a newspaper article on the subject when I called at Kalgoorlie on my recent inspection flight around Australia. The facts are that Mr. Lewis applied for a subsidy in respect of a proposed service from Kalgoorlie to Norseman and Perth, but that subsidy could not be granted. Subsequently, during my absence, Airlines (W.A.) Limited asked for permission to extend its service to include Norseman. Permission was granted for a trial period, but without any subsidy.
Mr. G ANDER. ; Can the Prime Minister say whether the Cabinet has yet decided on the date of the general elections? If not, will he tell me personally when he thinks the elections will take place?
– I shall be most happy to have a private conversation with the honorable gentleman at about four o’clock this afternoon.
Mr.ROSEVEAR. - I have asked a number of questions regarding the construction of aeroplanes in Australia, and the Minister for Supply and Development yesterday said that my inquiries were covered by a report which had been published in the newspapers. I now desire to know whether the press report, which appears to have emanated from Mr. Essington Lewis, is the complete report or only a condensation of it? In view of the importance of this matter, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of having the full report printed, so that honorable members may know the whole of the facts?
– My recollection of the newspaper report was that it was a full report of the document sent to me. I shall have a look at it, and, if that is not so, I shall have copies of the document circulated.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state whether the Government has decided to build a floating dock at Brisbane ? If such a decision has been reached, when does the Minister anticipate that the work will be commenced?
– I am not prepared at the present time to give information as to what the Government is doing in that matter. It is not desirable to make public certain things being done in time of war.
– Will the Minister for Commerce inform the House whether there is any ground for the impression abroad that the Government’s proposal to build cargo steamers has been temporarily shelved? What is the Government doing in this matter?
– The shipbuilding yards of Australia are working at full pressure in the construction of vessels of war, and they will be so engaged for some time.
– In reply to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the Minister for Trade and Customs has informed me that the Townsend report on shipbuilding in Australia was purely a departmental report for the information of the department and the Government. As matters of policy are involved, the Government has decided that the report shall not be made available to the public at the present juncture.
– Will the Treasurer confer further with the Minister for Trade and Customs with regard to the matter, explaining to him that, in the preparation of the report, Mr. Townsend sought the aid of myself and others, and that the report is of great value, not only to the Government, but also to all who are interested in shipbuilding in Australia ? On these grounds, will the Minister further consider the desirability of releasing ike report?
– The reply that I have given conveying the view of tho Minister for Trade and Customs is a considered one. I do not see that any good purpose is to be served by discussing the mutter further, although I am quite prepared to do so.
– Will the Minister for Defence Co-ordination state whether it is a fact that the draft regulations for the discontinuance of the sale of air, naval, and military uniforms to other than authorized persons have been in his hands for two months, and that nothing has been done in the matter? Can the Minister indicate the reason for the delay?
– The draft regulations referred to have not come before me, but I shall make inquiries regarding them and ascertain where they are.
– Will the Minister for Commerce state what action the Government is taking by way of representations to the Government of the United Kingdom regarding the extraordinary increase of the British duties on Australian wines? As the new duties will have a most disastrous effect on the wine industry of Australia, and as the storage of the wine to he produced during the coming vintage is a matter of major importance to the industry, can the Minister explain why the British Government imposed prohibitive duties on our wines?
– It is not customary for a Minister to be called upon to explain why the British Government has done certain things in its own country. The Commonwealth Government is making representations to the British Government. On the subject of the storage of wines, I have nothing to add to the statement made by me in South Australia last week, with which the honorable member is no doubt familiar.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral responsible for the instructions issued to postal officers throughout Australia that certain positions are to be filled by females, thus preventing the promotion of young married men ? Will the Minister give instructions that this practice must be discontinued?
– I am not aware of the instructions to which the honorable member is referring, but if he will supply me with details I shall have inquiries made regarding the matter.
– During the last sittings of the Parliament, I was advised, in reply to a question submitted to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, that reports received from the State Prices Fixation Commissioner in New South Wales containing recommendations for action to be taken against certain companies, including a subsidiary of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, had been referred to the Attorney-General for his consideration. Will the Attorney-General nowstate whether that report has been considered, and what action his department proposes to take regarding it?
– I shall make inquiries, and I shall let the honorable gentleman know what action the department contemplates taking.
– In view of the fact that the industry of barley-growers in Western Australia is being ruined, owing to the desire of the Government to protect barley-growers in South Australia, will the Minister for Commerce make an effort to relieve the Western Australian growers from the present restrictions, and enable them to recover the market that has been destroyed by the action of the Government?
– I am unable to depart from the rule that a pool established under war-time conditions must be Australia-wide. Therefore, all barley-growers in Western Australia and in the other States will have to come into the barley pool on the same terms and conditions.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether all political matter proposed to be broadcast has to be submitted to the censor for approval 48 hours prior to the broadcast? Does such provision apply to all members of tho Government? If not, would not an unfair advantage be given to Ministers, particularly during an election campaign? Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to remedy this position?
– I shall look into the suggestion made by the honorable member, and I shall provide him with an accurate account of the persons to whom the rules apply, and of the time limits that have been fixed.
– Did the PostmasterGeneral personally investigate aud approve the leasing by the Postal Department of the Melbourne Tramways Board’s old building in Bourke-street? If so, did he endeavour to ascertain the rent being received by the board for these offices before he approved of the leasing of them bv the department?
– Speaking from memory, I believe that I dealt with that matter yesterday in reply to a question upon notice by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact that on the whole of the north coast, north of Newcastle, a stretch of 400 or 500 miles, there is no military camp? Is he aware that at Lismore accommodation has frequently been provided for 600 militiamen on the showgrounds and that that system could be continued without serious expense to the department? Similar arrangements could be made at Casino and other north-coast centres. Will the Minister have investigations made as to the possibility and desirability of establishing military camps along the north coast?
– I shall do so.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether he was personally responsible for the publication in the press of the statement to the effect that the sanitary arrangements at the military camp at the Sydney Showground were unsatisfactory? Have those conditions since been improved, and, if so, in what way?
– I take it that the honorable member’s question relates to a matter involving the provision, at the Sydney Showground, of an ambulance, and also the making available of hospital accommodation for convalescent patients. A request was made to my department by the medical authorities that suitable accommodation should be provided for about 300 convalescents. Such accommodation has now been made available, and is actually in use, at the Quarantine Station at North Head, where the men are comfortably and suitably accommodated.
– Is it the intention of the Government to provide refrigeration facilities and also proper sanitary conditions at the Grovely camp? If so; will action in this regard be expedited so that these services may be available before the summer comes?
– Initial steps have already been taken to provide the facilities referred to by the honorable member. The work had begun when I was at the camp a week or two ago.
– Some months ago the Minister for Health said that investigations were being made in regard to tuberculosis and chest diseases and announced a certain policy in regard to that matter. Can he make any statement in regard to the progress of the investigations?
– The Australian Medical Congress discussed that matter in Canberra four or five weeks ago, and, in addition, representatives of the three organizations dealing with tuberculosis interviewed me and submitted tentative plans for co-operation between the Tubercular Soldiers Association, the antituberculosis organizations in Sydney and Melbourne, and the British Medical Association.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the Government intends to introduce an amendment of the Defence Act to provide that compensation shall be paid to militiamen who are injured, or to their next of kin in the event of their death, while serving in the forces? The honorable gentleman will remember that I brought this matter under his notice some time ago, and he promised to consider it.
– The payment of compensation to the family of a militiaman whose death occurs, or to a man who is injured, while serving, is receiving the consideration of the Government. Certain compensation is already payable in respect of the death or injury of such men if they have families dependent upon them. The honorable member brought a specific case before my notice which presents certain difficulties. I hope that an early decision will , be given in relation to it.
– Consequent uponthe publication of certain reports in the press on the alleged unsuitability of Wirraway aeroplanes, I ask the Minister for Air whether he can make a statement on the subject? How many such planes are being produced each week at the factory at Fisherman’s Bend?
– I assure the honorable member that the Wirraways are giving splendid service in theRoyal Australian Air Force. I recently spent some time with a squadron using these aeroplanes to carry out long patrols on our coast. The men have every confidence in the machines, and there has not been a single case of engine failure.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether arrangements have yet been made to authorize appropriate officers in the Eastern Military Division and, in fact, in all military divisions, to determine and pay the rates of separation allowance for eligible relatives of the men who have enlisted, or is it still necessary to send all reports on these matters to the Military Board in Melbourne?
– I do not think that thehonorable member has been quite accurately informed as to the present position. I assure him that certain officers in each command have full power to deal with the subject to which he has referred.
– I refer the Minister for the Army to the delay which occurred in the payment of a separation allowance of £2 6s. 3d. to the mother of a soldier serving in the Australian Imperial Force in Palestine. We were informed that an officer in the Eastern Division was not able to deal with the subject, which had to be referred to the Military Board in Melbourne. Is the regulation which hindered the officer from taking action still in force?
– The Military Board does not deal with any questions involving the pay of members of the forces. Within the last three or four months the powers of the district finance officers have been considerably enlarged, so that, except in very rare instances, the officers are able to deal with all matters brought under their notice. That the new arrangement is working satisfactorily is reflected by the relatively few questions which have now to be referred to the Chief Finance Officer at Army Headquarters in Melbourne. The district finance officers now possess powers which are considered to be ample to deal with the innumerable cases that continually arise concerning the payment of allowances. In the early stages delays were experienced in these matters, but the new arrangement is working quite satisfactorily.
– As I had occasion recently to interview the District Finance Officer in Sydney on a question relating to allowances, and was informed that a matter in relation to an allotment which I brought before him could be settled only in Melbourne, I ask the Minister for the Army whether he will again look into the subject to ensure that the district finance officers really have the power to deal with these subjects, and are not unduly hampered by certain regulations?
– If the honorable member will submit any specific cases to me I shall inform him whether the District Finance Officer has power to deal with them.
– Is the Minister for the Navy able to inform me whether we can expect legislation to be introduced this session dealing with the repatriation of merchant seamen?
– A bill on that subject is almost ready for submission, and I hope that I may be abt? to do something about it.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he does not think that certain occurrences since he made his previous statement on the international situation warrant the making of a further statement?
– I do not consider that it is either necessary or desirable to make a further statement to-day. When the Government is of opinion that a further statement should be made it will be made.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the report in the press recently that arrangements had been made for goods purchased for war purposes from the Dutch East Indies to be paid for on the sterling basis is correct? If so, can the honorable gentleman inform rae why it is now considered that payments for petrol and petroleum products from the Dutch East Indies should be paid for on the dollar basis?
– I answered a question on that subject last Tuesday.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the engagement of a certain hairdresser at a military camp in the northern district was terminated at a moment’s notice by the man being simply informed by the commanding officer that his services were no longer required? I point out that tho hairdresser’s father was born in this country, and that his father and brothers served in the last war. It is alleged that the hairdresser was dismissed because his grandfather was of enemy origin. Does the Minister think that such action was justified, and that the man should have been dismissed without compensation seeing that he had incurred certain expense in equipping his hairdressing saloon? I should not have asked the question but for the delay that occurs when representations on a subject of this kind are made through the departmental channels.
– -The case referred to by the honorable member has been brought to my notice, but I have not yet received the report which I have asked for concerning it.
– Will the Minister for Air state whether all the financial arrangements with respect to the allotments made by members of the Royal Australian Air Force to their dependants must be transacted through the District Finance Officer in Melbourne before they can be paid in any of the States? Is the District Finance Officer in each State able to settle all claims with respect to the allotments made to dependants of airmen without reference to Melbourne?
– A pay office is being established at Central Area Headquarters in Sydney, but whether it is yet functioning I am unable to say, although I believe that it is. That office will be able to deal with all claims made by the dependants of airmen. A number of the delays in connexion with the allotments made to the wives and dependants of airmen have been due to the failure on the part of airmen to make the necessary allotment to their dependants, and not altogether to delay on the part of the office. A number of airmen have not been aware of the steps that have to be taken to ensure that their dependants shall receive the allotments made to them.
– Until recently all allotments went through the Melbourne office.
– When the pay office is established at Central Area Head-quarters in Sydney all such matters will he settled there.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state what progress has been made in connexion with the construction of a graving dock in Sydney, and what action is being taken to provide employment during the preliminary stages ?
– The work of construction is under the control of the Minister for the Interior, and I know from close contact with him that preliminary borings are being undertaken. A certain volume of work must be done before a large number of men can be employed. The Minister for the Interior is arranging for the preliminary work to be carried out with great expedition.
– Is the Treasurer of the opinion that the national economy-
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to ask the Minister for an expression of opinion.
– I desire to know whether the national economy would be detrimentally affected by the issue of credits through the Commonwealth Bank for the carrying out of urgent national works, and, if not, will the Treasurer explain why the Government does not adopt this method in order to accelerate its defence programme ?
– Obviously the honorable member’s question cannot be answered without notice.
– For some time the Defence Department has been considering the establishment of a military camp at Sellheim, north of Charters Towers. Can the Minister for the Army state whether it is the intention of the department to establish a camp at that centre?
– Yes ; a camp may be established there almost immediately.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether it is a fact that that department purchased an engine, which has since broken down, at a cost of £600, for use at the Tatura internment camp, and that the person who sold the engine to the department bought it for £50? Is it a fact that the Minister approved this purchase, and that no inquiries were made concerning the history of the engine?
– I am notin a position to answer the honorable member’s question without notice. I shall see if the information he requires can be obtained.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 7th August (vide page 298).
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ accounting period “ means -
in the case of a company which in pursuance of the Income Tax Assessment Act has adopted or is deemed to have adopted an accounting period as its year of income for the purposes of that act - the accounting period so . adopted in lieu of the financial year next preceding the year of tax; or
in any other case - the financial year next preceding the year of tax; “holding company” means a company which controls, or is in a position to control, any other company (which other company is in this definition referred to as “the subsidiary company”) either by virtue of its shareholdings in the subsidiary company or indirectly through another company, or by virtue of any agreement, express or implied, and which would be entitled to receive more than onehalf of the profits earned by the subsidiary company during the accounting period if those profits were distributed; “ taxable profit “ means the amount remaining after deducting from the taxable income of the accounting period as assessed under the Income Tax Assessment Act the income tax payable in respect of that taxable income ;
Amendments (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That after the word “adopted”, third occurring, in paragraph (a), the words “, or deemed to have been adopted,” be inserted.
That after the word “ receive “ in the definition of “ holding company “ the words “, either directly or indirectly,” be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the definition of “taxable profit” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following definition: - “ ‘ taxable profit ‘ means the amount remaining after deducting from the taxable income of the accounting period as assessed under the Income Tax Assessment Act -
the income tax payable in respect of that taxable income;
so much of any dividend received by a company in respect of its shareholdings in any other company as is included in the taxable income of that firstmentioned company of the accounting period; and
in the case of the first accounting period of a company formed after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, any tax payable under the law of any State on the income derived by that company during that accounting period; “.
– I wish to express my strong disapproval of the manner in which this measure has been presented to Parliament. Numerous amendments and an explanatory memorandum have been circulated only within the last hour, and it has been quite impossible for honorable members to study their purport. Taxation is one of the most involved subjects which we are ever asked to consider, and in this instance we have had no time whatever to obtain assistance or advice from experts who give their full time to the complex problem of taxation. Yet, we are asked to express our opinion on matters which are of vital interest to the community. The Treasurer (Mr. Spender) has already moved three amendments, and it would tax the ingenuity and ability of a first-class accountant to determine exactly what the amendment now before the committee means.
– The memorandum explains the meaning of each amendment.
– What opportunity have we had to study the memorandum? What attitude would the Treasurer adopt if a client asked him to take an important brief and appear in court at half an hour’s notice ? He would not do it.
– These amendments were foreshadowed yesterday.
– The amendments and the explanatory memorandum should have been in our possession for several days. Has the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) had any opportunity to confer with the members of his party on the purport of the amendments to which we are now asked to agree? After all, we cannot be expected to possess encyclopaedic knowledge and understand at a moment’s notice all the involved problems associated with taxation measures. I say quite frankly that it is essential that we should have an opportunity to obtain some advice as to the dodging expedients which may be adopted by big business in order to evade responsibility. I suppose that this measure will be passed and, owing to the lack of opportunity to study the amendments, all that we can do is to give our formal assent, because the Government needs additional finance in order to accelerate its war effort. I do not wish to suggest anything sinister on the part of the Minister, but, in the circumstances, we are entitled to think that the action being taken is not in the interests of this Parliament or of the people. Apparently, as a result of the representations made by certain business interests, the Government decided to shelve or withdraw the bill.
– Big business interests have had nothing to do with the delay in the passage of the measure.
– The bill was introduced during the last period of the session, but no pressure was exerted by honorable members on this side of the chamber to delay its passage.
– No pressure was exercised by any one.
– No member of the Opposition asked that the bill should be withdrawn or delayed, and there was a sharp conflict of opinion between some members of the Opposition as to the course to be followed. We did not wish to delay the business of Parliament, and we were in no way responsible for the withdrawal of the measure.
Mr.Fadden. - The bill was not withdrawn.
– It was not proceeded with. This is almost an entirely new measure.
– It is not.
– Its passage was delayed because some honorable members on this side of the chamber thought that its provisions were not sufficiently severe on certain big companies.
– No pressure was exerted by members of the Opposition, all of whom were willing to discuss the measure on its merits to the fullest possible degree. Big business interests have apparently been able to exercise some influence on the Government, and the bill has remained in abeyance to meet their wishes. What chance have we to determine the effect of the amendments now proposed and to what degree certain interests are being sheltered?
– No one is being sheltered.
– We have had no opportunity to decide that point. There is no reason why the bill should be proceeded with to-day. If the Minister would agree to report progress at this stage, honorable members would have an opportunity to examine the measure and to obtain advice. With the House meeting at 10.30 a.m., we have not had time to give any attention to it. If the amendments which the Minister moves are not debated by the Opposition, it will be because we have not had a chance to grasp their purport, and our assent to them must be purely formal. If the Treasurer will not report progress and enable us to obtain advice, he will probably find that the Opposition will be compelled to take other steps against the Government during the remainder of this period of the session.
.- This is one of the most important financial measures that has been brought before this Parliament for some time. I support the suggestion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) should report progress, so that the committee may have an opportunity to examine the amendments and the explanatory memorandum which has been circulated only this morning. I have just received the copies and in consequence have not had an opportunity to examine them.
.- On behalf of the Opposition, I strongly protest against the action of the Government in resuming the second-reading debate on this measure, as it did yesterday with another long second-reading speech by a Minister. Following the second-reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) during the last period of the session, the debate was adjourned, and immediately honorable members were inundated with protests from people who would be affected by the measure. I understand that the Postal Department had to put on additional staff to deal with the volume of letters of protest addressed to the Treasurer in regard to it. No doubt these were examined by the taxation officers, and as a result the bill is to be greatly modified. We were then told by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) last night that the amendments which he then forecast would be circulated later to honorable members. Although we adjourned last night at nearly eleven p.m., and met again at half-past ten again this morning we now find that, after questions have taken upwards of an hour, there has been thrown before us a complicated memorandum of sixteen pages explaining the proposed amendments, and we are asked to proceed with the bill forthwith. What opportunity have we had to examine this voluminous memorandum? Surely a measure which proposes to extract from the taxpayers no less than £5,000,000 during the present year is of prime importance. If this chamber is to preserve its deliberative capacity, surely honorable members are entitled to more consideration than has been displayed by the Government in this connexion ! Its action to-day savours of star chamber methods. I demand that the Treasurer agree to postpone consideration of the bill.
– I do not bow to demands. For the last few minutes, I have been endeavouring to tell the honorable member that I am prepared to accede to his request that progress be reported.
– The honorable gentleman can put it in whatever way he wishes, but I remind him that the electors have the right to demand that their representatives shall be given adequate opportunity to consider important and complicated taxation proposals such as this before they are asked to vote upon them. I am sure that the majority of honorable members will refuse to be stampeded into a vote on this bill. The Treasurer is a young man who has shown some promise,but I remind him that one of his predecessors got a dressing down for being too intolerant towards suggestions made to him by honorable members.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) must confine himself to the subject-matter of the bill.
– I ask the Treasurer to be more considerate of the convenience of honorable members.
– I am quite agreeable that progress be reported and consideration of the bill be resumed next week, so that no excuse may be made that any silence on the part of honorable members opposite is springing from ignorance of its provisions. A suggestion has been made that the debate on this bill was postponed under the pressure of outside interests. Nothing could be further from the truth. When the bill was first brought down I recognized that it contained many debatable points, and at the first opportunity, and entirely of my own volition, I indicated that I was prepared to consider criticism or suggestions from business interests affected by it. Since that time there has been a good deal of criticism and a great number of suggestions have been made for the improvement of the bill. I confess, however, that until the point was made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), I did not know that the explanatory memorandum had not been circulated until this morning, and, realizing that more time should be allowed for its consideration, I am prepared to report progress. I wish to make it plain, however, that any suggestion that the Government in delaying the passage of the hill is acting at the behest of big interests, can have only a purely political purpose.
Debate resumed from the 7th August (vide page 277), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition has no objection to the passage of this bill which it regards as being of great benefit to the mining industry. The object of the bill, as outlined by the Treasurer (Mr. Spender), is to remove certain drafting defects in the original act and, on the advice of mining experts, to make adjustments of a minor character which are considered advisable in the light of advice offered by mining experts and officers of the mines departments of the various States. The first amendment removes ambiguity in the principal act in connexion with fine gold. As honorable members know, there is a great difference between standard gold and fine gold. Fine gold is the relatively pure gold. Standard gold contains a considerable quantity of alloy, so that 25 oz. of standard gold may contain only 15 oz. of fine gold. A. good deal of the gold produced in New Guinea is worth only about £2 10s. an oz. as compared with the United States of America dollar exchange equivalent of £4 4s. 11 1/2d. a fine oz. The object of the amendment is to provide that a refund shall be made of the amount of tax on the first 25 oz. of fine gold, and not on the first 25 oz. of gold. The second amendment alters the basis of determining the cost of mining and treating ore, and provides that the cost of production shall have reference to the cost of the actual ore treated. This amendment will be of great benefit to mining companies and prospectors, particularly those iii remote parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, who may work for several months before finding it necessary to send away ore for crushing. The last amendment deals with accounting periods. Under the existing act doubt arises from time to time as to whether a prospector or a company is entitled to a refund of the tax. This amendment gives discretionary power to the Commissioner of Taxation to adopt a variation of the quarterly period when dealing with bona . fide claims for refunds. This bill is consistent with the repeated declarations by the Treasurer that, especially in war-time, the production of gold is essential. The Government, of course, recognizes that, so long as the present currency system remains in operation, gold is necessary. War-time conditions have created serious marketing difficulties, which are severely hampering the disposal of our primary products. Wheat-growers are meeting with many setbacks in their endeavours to place their products on the world’s markets, and, to a lesser degree, wine-growers and other primary producers are in a similar position. But for gold there is a market at all times, because under present conditions, the solvency of any country, and the efficiency of its war preparations, depend largely upon its reserves of gold. We are now encountering monetary exchange difficulties with the United States of America because we are unable to pay for our purchases in that country with gold. Were Australia almost wholly a goldproducing country, as is the Transvaal, the importation, of aeroplanes and other essential war requirements from nonsterling countries would not be hampered by the adverse exchange position which obtains to-day. Nobody knows Australia’s financial difficulties better than does the Treasurer. The comprehensive statement made to this House by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) on Tuesday clearly showed that the position of most of our primary industries is bad indeed. We cannot expect any great improvement until peace comes, and once again we are able to obtain shipping space for our exportable surplus of primary products. With regard to the wheat industry, the position of Western Australia is extremely unfavorable, because, although that State has only onefifteenth of the population of Australia, it produces one-fifth of Australia’s wheat crop. Until the immediate pre-war years, the price of wheat on the world’s markets was very low because, owing to improved methods of agriculture and the adaptability of different varieties of wheat to varying climatic conditions, the production of almost every wheat-growing country was expanding. Their costs of production being higher than the price obtainable on overseas markets, our growers were in financial difficulties Many of them had to relinquish their holdings and abandon the accumulated results of their labours over many years. During that lean period, the gold-mining industry saved Western Australia. Many of the wheat-growers who were forced off the land turned their hands to goldmining. Happily, when prices of agricultural products were depressed the price of gold rose, with the result that Kalgoorlie, which depends solely upon gold-mining, so far from feeling the depression, actuallyboomed. On the other hand, when the price of wheat goes up to a payable figure, say 4s. a bushel at the farm, and other primary products also realize enhanced prices, the price of gold will go down in accordance with whatever variation occurs in the exchange rate. During the worst depression years gold-mining alone enabled many people in Western Australia to exist. Had it not been for that industry, and for the increase of our timber trade in the southwest portions of the State, there would have been a general exodus from the State of people who had been driven off the land. Gold-mining, however, isa transient industry. Whereas wheat-growing and other primary industries can be continued year after year at the same rate of production, merely by adopting scientific methods of farming and replenishing artificially the virtues that have been removed from the soil, a gold-mine is a wasting asset, for the more gold you take out of the ground the poorer the mine becomes. Nevertheless, Western Australia has a vast area of auriferous country awaiting development, and the present high price of gold has encouraged the erection of large plants of up-to-date machinery and is inviting an influx of capital from abroad. The resultant expansion of gold production has kept the economy of Western Australia, and, indeed, of Australia., much healthier than it otherwise would have been.
When the gold tax legislation was first introduced, many prospectors complained that they were unable to obtain exemption from taxation in respect of the first 25 oz. of gold produced. Apparently, there was a misunderstanding, and some dissatisfaction was caused, but relief will be given by the amendment setting out that gold means “ fine gold “. Generally speaking, prospectors have been considerably assisted by the recent goldmining legislation of this Parliament, and that assistance will be enhanced by the proposed amendments, which have been found necessary to clear up obscurities in the act.
.- This bill is a machinery measure to rectify defects in the original legislation, and I rise merely to thank the Government for the manner in which it has treated the gold-mining industry in recent years. The many difficulties which have beset the industry have been aptly dealt with by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), and I shall not enlarge upon them. The honorable member omitted to say, however, that some years ago, owing to the, fact that no suitable equipment was available in Australia, the Wiluna Gold Mining Company was obliged to purchase large quantities of machinery in Great Britain, and to pay customs duty on it amounting to £100,000. That was a serious burden on the company, particularly in view of the fact that it was able to make only small profits. Such a handicap on the industry should not be imposed again. Of the many goldmining companies, few are paying dividends to their shareholders.
I congratulate the Government upon this bill and upon the original legislation, which granted concessions of great value to people engaged in the gold-mining industry, the importance of which cannot be denied ; not only does it employ a great amount of labour, but also the gold won helps us to meet our overseas commitments. Gold is in demand everywhere, and the more that is produced in this time of national’ emergency, the better for Australia. There can be no objection to the passage of this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 31st May, 1940 (vide page 1725), on motion by Mr. Nock -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- If there is need for administrative reform anywhere, it is in the administration of the Australian territories. By force of arms, New Guinea was wrested from Germany during the last war, and was subsequently handed to Australia under mandate. Generally speaking, successive governments of this country have done much to open up that territory. At least, so far as New Guinea is concerned, and to a certain extent Papua also, the opening up has been done largely by white people. However, there has been very little legislative reform in the administration of these territories, and no attempt has been made to give to the people a voice in their own control. As for the Northern Territory, the same thing prevails, with this difference: The Northern Territory has a representative in this House, who voices the opinions of the residents of the territory as often as he considers necessary.
This bill was introduced in May last, but I have looked through it in vain for any indication that relief is to be extended to the people of Papua. On the contrary, their conditions under this legislation will be worse than at present. One might have expected the bill to contain provisions giving the 1,500 or 2,000 white people in the territory some say in the government of the place in which they live, but no such provision has been made. Far from extending the democratic right of self-government to this community, the bill provides for keeping all power of administration exclusively in the hands of officials. I am not saying anything against the officials in Papua. They are mostly Australians who have lived in the territory for a considerable time, and understand the conditions there. Nevertheless, the system of taxation without representation is being extended, and 1 hai is a system which has given rise to great discontent in colonies all over the world. It led to what the Americans call the “ American revolution “, which began with the “ Boston Tea Party “, when the people of Boston tipped a cargo of tea into the harbour rather than pay on it duties which had been imposed by England. We have been told that the only constitution enjoyed by the people of Papua was that conferred in the Papua Act. Now we have a bill before us which seeks to apply to Papua the general principles of the legislation under which New Guinea is governed. It is as if the people of Australia, when they were about to inaugurate federation, were asked to model their constitution on that of the negro republic of Haiti. The constitution of New Guinea, if it can be called such, is one of the most primitive in the British Empire, and it is a retrograde step to apply its provisions to the government of Papua. It is no wonder that the people of Papua are intensely dissatisfied. I have here an extract from the Rabaul Times, which quotes from the Papuan Courier, a newspaper circulating in Papua, on the subject of the new constitution -
The following- is an extract taken from the Papuan Courier and gives some idea of public opinion regarding the “disrating” of that Territory. We can sympathize with them : - “ A bill to amend the Papua Act was introduced into the House of Representatives on May 3.1. It was a long bill of seventeen clauses with a great number of sub-clauses, but most of the amendments are formal.
I have no desire to criticize the Assistant Minister (Mr. Nock) ; I am blaming the Government for bringing forward a measure of this kind. The provisions of the bill have, no doubt, been suggested by some of the officials. I suSpect that the Administrator of New Guinea has had a hand in it. It is sufficiently retrogressive to have come from him. The extract continues -
The changes which will give most concern in this Territory are those which reduce the rank of the head of the Government from Lieutenant-Governor to Administrator and the amendment which takes away the practical power to appoint officers, and reserves such power entirely to Canberra. This is the beginning of the end and Papua will now hp. dragged down to the administrative level of Dawin and Rabaul. Everything important will be decided in Canberra.
The people of Papua have enjoyed a certain amount of civil liberty in the past, and they object now to their capital being reduced to the level of Darwin and Rabaul. If this measure becomes law - and I have no doubt that it will - everything in connexion with Papua will be decided at Canberra. I admit that the present Assistant Minister in charge of External Territories has devoted a great deal of time to his job. Unfortunately, he has not yet been able to visit the territories, and I hope that the Government will put off the elections until November so that he may do so during the coming recess. He necessarily lacks that personal knowledge which he would gain by such a visit; but he hay been a conscientious and painstalcing Minister, and I regret that it has been his unenviable task to have to oiler this shadow constitution to the people of Papua. The extract goes on -
There must he some pain in the Territory at the loss of the few rights of self government which we have enjoyed for over fifty years; now we must fall under the dominion of the clerks in Canberra.
Until recently the territory was under the administration of Sir Hubert Murray who, with the rank of LieutenantGovernor, proved himself one of the finest and most capable men in the colonial service in any part of the British Empire. I pay sincere tribute to the manner in which he shaped his legislation, and directed his efforts, towards the uplifting of the natives, which he considered his first duty. He devoted a long life to the service of Papua and Australia. The office of lieutenant-governor, which carried with it the right to appoint the administrative staff, is now to be abolished, and the staff is to be selected by Canberra. All I can say is that the selection of some of the highest officials in the territories have not reflected much credit on the Canberra authorities. The trouble is due, not to those who are doing the spade work, but to the action of administrative heads. In New Guinea, a man was appointed as administrator because he had political “ pull “. He is entirely unfitted for the job which he occupies, and his presence there is a cause of discord. Therefore, it is regrettable that the Government proposes to abolish the office of lieutenant-governor in Papua, and substitute for it the lower position of administrator, at the same time reducing the salary from £1,800 a year to £1,500. The administrator, if he does his job, will have to be travelling almost continuously in order to keep in touch with natives and settlers. These journeys have to be made by sea, and along rivers which pass through territory where the natives are more or less hostile. Much of the country is fever stricken, and white men are subject to the constant risk of infection from malaria. Of course, if the administrator stays at Port Moresby, where the climate is dry, like that of the Northern Territory, he will run no risk of contacting malaria, but to do the job properly he must face hardship and risk; yet it is proposed that the salary of the office shall be reduced. I wish that some of the Ministers in the present Cabinet would take on the job for the next five years. I suggest that one of the least desirable Ministers - and there are several whom I could name, though I do not include in that number the Assistant Minister in charge of External Territories - should take on the job. Let him have a taste of travel on some of the fever-stricken rivers where the scenery, admittedly, is beautiful, but where the customs of the natives are vile. Let him travel through country similar to that traversed by Hides, Champion, Taylor, Kyle, and others in New Guinea. He would then obtain a better understanding of the territory, and of the needs of the people. In that way some member of the Government might develop a little human understanding, which he cannot do while he makes his head-quarters in one of the exclusive clubs of Melbourne, always surrounded by a group of attentive “ yes-men “. The extract continues -
The Central Court will now be the Supreme Court -
That is a wise provision because it will give supreme power to the court already established in the territory -
The Executive need not have nine members, it can get along with four. Officers acting as departmental heads can be added to the Executive while the permanent heads are away, also the non-official members aif the Legislative Council are hereafter to be appointed for four years instead of six, an extraordinary non-official member can be appointed, who however will not have a vote.
The Legislative Council is the only body to which outsiders may be appointed, but I understand that at present there is only one member on that body representative of the non-official white people. The Executive Council is. entirely run by public servants of New Guinea, in which benighted territory the white people are clamouring for the democratic right to have representatives of different districts appointed to the Legislative Council. Until recently, only one class, the planter class, has been represented. Those men have done their particular work well ; but no representativehas been given to the mining industry, which has been largely responsible for putting New Guinea on a sound financial footing. In addition, the Labour party at Wau, which has a membership of 400, is clamouring for representation. The constitution of that party is so broad that any honorable member opposite could join it without compunction, because its one duty is to see that progressive legislation is given to the people of New Guinea. It is representative of the butcher, the baker, the hotel-keeper and all of the workers and residents of Wau. It asks for representation,but the Administrator of New Guinea, with his hidebound conservatism, does not approve-
– The honorable member is out of order. He is not dealing with the bill before the House.
– The Administrator of the Mandated Territory refuses to listen to requests for direct representation of the people in the local Legislative Council. The Administrator of Papua has yet to be appointed, and, incidentally, I should like to know whether the Minister could now tell me who will be the appointee.
– The appointment will not be made until this measure is passed.
– That was not the answer given to me when I asked for this information previously. Like the road which the Government proposes to construct in New Guinea, this matter will be dealt with God knows when.
– I think I gave that reason to the honorable member when he raised this question previously.
– That may be so.I regret that it is not proposed to establish the Legislative Council in Papua on a broader basis of representation. It seems extraordinary that Australians, on going to Papua - and most of the residents hail from the Commonwealth - should find themselves disfranchised although they are still within Australian territory. This injustice is all the more pronounced when we remember that most of the people who go to Papua to open up the country take their lives in their hands. If this Government fails to give to the white residents of Papua a voice in the control of their affairs, the Labour party, when it assumes office in this Parliament, will immediately give to them some semblance of democratic government.
– Does the honorable member advocate that the residents of Papua and the Mandated Territory should be given a representative in this House on the same basis as the Northern Territory ?
– Yes. Each of these territories should be given a representative in this Parliament, or, if they could unite in the matter, one representative here.
– I am now organizing a petition to that effect.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member is one which 1 have had in mind for a considerable time. The residents of Papua and the Mandated Territory desire to be directly represented in this Parliament, so that their views can be placed before the Government by a man with intimate knowledge of their requirements. Such a representative would be better able to accomplish the task which I am now endeavouring to do on behalf of those people. The extract to which I have referred continues -
There are sinister clauses about the minutes of meetings which must now be sent at once instead of quarterly. Apparently Canberra wants to keep a tight hold over the few powers which are left to the local government; it will have to obey orders. It is a painful bill to read and can only be described as a retrogression. One would think that the Federal Government would always be looking ahead to the time when the territories can completely manage their own affairs. Instead of that they are reverting to the 17th century idea of colonies.
I can only describe this measure as drastically reactionary. I regret that the Government has not accepted this opportunity to do something really worth while for the territories. Unfortunately the committee which was appointed at the beginning of last year to survey the possibility of establishing a combined administration of the territories of Papua and New Guinea failed to recommend favorably on the proposal. That committee consisted of the Honorable Frederick William Eggleston, chairman; the Honorable Hubert Leonard Murray. C.B.E., official secretary, Papua, as the representative of the territory of Papua, and the Honorable Harry Orton Townsend, O.B.E., treasurer, territory of New Guinea, as the representative of the territory of New Guinea. It was appointed by the present Minister’s predecessor, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Perkins). If that committee had recommended the amalgamation of the two administrations, the Government would now have a golden opportunity to abandon the present makeshift arrangement of governing the territories separately. In the course of their investigation those gentlemen travelled over 8,200 miles after landing in the territories, and heard witnesses in most of the accessible centres, examining 37 in New Guinea and 25 in Papua. They reported -
The two territories of Papua and New Guinea are so similar in natural resources, population and physical characteristics, geographical conditions and native races that if they had been acquired at the same time and under similar titles, it is highly improbable that they would have been divided into separate political units. The size of the combined area would have made a certain amount of decentralization desirable, but it is not large as compared with other colonial territories. Generally speaking, it seems desirable that contiguous territories in the same geographical area and with the same problems should be governed as one political unit.
The two territories however were acquired at different times and under different titles and their historyas separate units makes a combined administration difficult for a variety of reasons. These factors may be classified as follows : -
Differences of laws, administrative methods and conditions.
Difficulties arising from different financial position.
Considerations arising under the mandate.
As the committee recognized that the people in both territories were of similar types, and that conditions generally in the two territories were alike, the only obstacle remaining to an amalgamation of the two administrations would be considerations arising under the mandate. As a matter of fact a difference of opinion arose as to whether this really presented any difficulty. A representative of one of the territories thought that it could be overcome comparatively easily. As we have made no distinction between the territories in the steps we have already taken for their defence, it seems to me that both territories could be considered as being part and parcel of the
Commonwealth. Dealing with the difference in respect of native policy the committee remarked -
There is a higher minimum wage and a shorter period of indenture in Papua than in the Mandated Territory.
This difficulty could easily be overcome because the Mandated Territory is the wealthier, and could afford to pay the wages now being paid in Papua. In respect of the supply of native labour the committee observed -
Now Guinea has drawn on the native population to a greater extent than Papua and there is a demand for further supplies in that territory.T he Papuan employers want to conserve their supply and would oppose a combined administration if it would mean access by New Guinea employers to Papua’s labour supply.
This difficulty also could be overcome by regulation. A large number of Chinese were brought by the Germans to New Guinea. The original Chinese have now died out, and most of those remaining were born there. The residents of Papua are afraid of any move which might allow these Chinese to flood the businesses in Papua. If that fear be justified, sufficient safeguards could be provided by regulations. Dealing with native education the committee stated -
Papua has adopted a policy of native education through the Missions and gives a per capita subsidy subject to inspection and examination. This policy hits not been adopted in New Guinea.
I have visited mission schools in New Guinea, particularly near Rabaul, and I know at first hand that the education given to the native boys in the Mandated Territory is not inferior to that provided in Papua. I see no substance in that claim.
Since the days of Sir William MacGregor there has been an informal agreement under which the different missions have operated in separate spheres. I feel quite sure that, with the Christian spirit by which missions are usually actuated, they could agree to the delimitation of their areas, as the residents of Victoria and New South Wales have agreed that the Murray River shall be the frontier between those two States. There are differences between the political constitutions of the two territories, as set out in the New Guinea Act and the Papua Act. These seem to be slight, but I regard them as important.
Perhaps they will be removed under the provisions of this measure. The people of New Guinea would prefer to be in Australian territory rather than be governed under the terms of a mandate. I can understand that. The problem of the mandate might well be grappled with. I regret that these two territories are not combined, and that the Government is not making democratic provision to meet the requirements of the population.
I shall not deal with the thousand and one grievances of the people in the sister territory of New Guinea, one of which relates to the construction of a road from Salamaua to Wau. For years the Government has been urged to proceed with I Iris work, and money for the purpose has been appropriated. The present Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) could not be jockeyed out of having some semblance of authority over the affairs of New Guinea. Repeatedly he has been questioned concerning the construction of this road, which matter he has had under his control. Divided administration should cease. The Assistant Minister in charge of External Territories (Mr. Nock), who now faces me from across the table, should be given complete control. If that were done, he would be able to furnish us with definite information, and would not attempt to bluff and bluster. It looks as though the Commonwealth lias been playing fast and loose with the people of New Guinea. That condition of affairs should no longer exist. The gold-fields should have representation in the New Guinea Council and in the Papuan Council. The judiciary system should be reformed to permit of trial by jury, to which objection has been raised in the past. Trial by jury has for centuries been in operation in Great Britain. The same objections that were raised centuries ago to its incorporation in the judiciary system of Great Britain are now raised by the Administrator of this territory. The withholding of the right of a. man to be tried by his peers is a shocking example of what can happen under the control of a man who has an archaic, stone-age mind. The Workers’ Compensation Act also needs revision. Under the present law, a widow who attempted to secure a. pension because of the loss of her breadwinner - a white man - was given only a paltry sum, and found it impossible to have the amount increased under the archaic provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Without delay, an arrangement should be made whereby the workers’ compensation law of the different States of Australia should be applied to white Australians who work in New Guinea. I have no objection to offer to the present Minister in charge of External Territories, who is most painstaking in all that he does. 1 wish that he had complete control of the whole of the administration. Under the present humbugging methods of the Attorney-General we shall never get anything except bluff, because no notice is taken of him by the Cabinet of which he is a member.
– Order! I have already reminded the honorable member that discussion of the territory of New Guinea on this bill is out of order.
– I protest against the passage of this bill because, as has been ably stated by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), it proposes to reduce the status of the LieutenantGovernor to that of an administrator. That is indicated not only by the title, but also by the reduction of the salary to be paid to the holder of the office. [Quorum formed.’] I should have thought that, in view of the present crisis and the strategic value of this area - it is almost within gunshot of Australia - this officer would have been given status equal to, if not higher than, that of Governor of one of the Australian States. It is obvious that the Government has no intention to appoint as administrator any person of the calibre of those persons who are selected from the well-trained Public Service of England to administer His Majesty’s eastern possessions. These high officials first receive an advanced education in England. They are sent out as young men, and their training is designed to give them the ability to Inflow when a thing is proved; in other words their training, apart from being highly administrative, is scientific. Last session, I read in a journal on public administration published in
England which is on the shelves of the Parliamentary Library, an article written by a senior official of the British Post Office. I believe that these officers are termed Post Office surveyors, but they are different from our conception of surveyors. This senior official indicated the type of person who could obtain the highest positions in the Post Office in England, and in no uncertain terms laid it down that scientific training was essential; an other words, the officer should know when a thing was proved. In one paragraph, the article stated that it mattered’ not whether the studies of the officer related to botany, zoology or astronomy; study of any scientific subject made his mind so receptive, and gave him such an outlook, that he knew when a thing was proved. I make this brief reference merely in order to indicate that when these young men go out to the Malay States they are already equipped with that outlook and that training. After a service of three years at Singapore and in other tropical regions, they have some grip of the whole scheme of higher administration in tropical areas. They are then sent to China for a further period of three years, and are told to learn the language of the Chinese and the Malays. Their time is not ill-spent; they return from. China more seasoned and with a good grip of the language. They can then speak with a knowledge of the people whose affairs they are administering, and also of the peculiar local difficulties of a tropical country. The brilliant men gradually rise to the highest positions in the service, and incidentally receive a high salary. But what is done in Australia? I am not here to criticize the officials in Canberra, because of their attitude; they have to act on the instructions that they receive. This Parliament is the responsible authority, and it should see that officers who are - selected for the administration of Commonwealth territories can make decisions of their own. In regard to the Northern Territory in particular, I have endeavoured to ascertain why I have had such an up-hill struggle for six years. When I first came to Canberra, I blamed the Department of the Interior. There is justification for laying some, but not all, of the blame on that department. I have, endeavoured to trace the matter back to the Treasurer, who is the connecting link between the administration and the territories. I believe that, in the final analysis, the Parliament itself is responsible, in not insisting on the payment of salaries sufficiently high to attract, not only an administrator or a lieutenantgovernor who is capable of making his own decisions, but also district officers who would have no need to appeal to a higher authority for guidance.
Sitting suspended from 12.J+5 to 2.15 p.m.
– This bill proposes to lower the status and salary of the senior official at Papua, and I believe that we shall not obtain the right man for this high post unless the emolument is in keeping with the administrative and scientific’ training necessary to solve the problems of a tropical region, particularly a region close to our north. It is obvious that the Government is of the opinion either that there are no resources in that area or that the resources are to ba locked, up for an indefinite period. I am certain that there are resources there, because, although I have not had the privilege of visiting New Guinea or Papua, I have a circle of friends there, technical men and men on the lower rung, who keep me advised. They are trying to invoke the services of this Parliament to solve their immediate problems, and I have been interested in helping them. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has taken an even keener interest in trying to ensure that those people who have no representative in this House shall get a fair deal. I congratulate the honorable member upon what he has done. Honorable members may remember that when some shipping legislation was before the House two years ago, I endeavoured to ensure that sufficient sea transport was provided for the islands. But we are at war, and it was not my intention when I came here on Tuesday to speak on any matters. Rather did I come here as a “watch dog” to see that our war effort is 100 per cent, efficient. I was constrained to speak to-day, because it is obvious that the Government does not realize the necessity for seeking the best-trained men for high administrative posts in Australia’s tropical possessions - not that I think that a high salary connotes ability. In fact, if we can accept the quotation from the newspaper read by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the senior official, whom I have never met and about whom I can, therefore, form no judgment, has ability which is in inverse ratio to his salary. This whole subject revolves about the demand for local government and I take leave to give from memory some remarks made on that subject some years ago by Professor Bland. In an article, he asked, “ Why not more local government?” He was on the right track. It is a pity that members of this Government are not imbued with the same idea. [Quorum formed.’] Professor Bland. showed how necessary it was in giving great authority to local governing bodies to have district officers of the highest qualifications. I understand that in New Guinea we have been most careful in choosing our district officers, but in the same manner as we have restricted the authority of district officers in the Northern Territory, so, too, has the authority of the district officers in Now Guinea been so restricted that inevitably they will degenerate. If men are not allowed to make decisions, they become incapable of doing so. Hence we have the government departments at Canberra, which already have on their hands more major problems than they can comfortably handle, worrying about domestic details in New Guinea with which they should not be troubled. I do not criticize the officials in Canberra, because, having been an official of the Department of the Interior, I realize that they would welcome the appointment in the territories of men of high training «nd high salaries who could solve their own problems and not have to rely on the men in Canberra to solve them. The matter is one for Parliament itself to decide. It should offer salaries commensurate with the magnitude and importance of the task.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggested the desirability of a member from New Guinea being elected to this House in the same way as the Northern Territory has been honoured with representation since 1922. There is a section of the population in New Guinea which is in total agreement with that proposal, but there is a section that is not. I shall mention it later. Last year some of the first group came to Canberra to seek direct representation in this Parliament and I undertook to prepare a prayer and preamble for the purpose of a petition. Copies have been sent to New Guinea for signature, so that the petition might be presented to the House through me, but I have been informed by letter in the la3t few days that action is held up because of the war emergency. The people of New Guinea realize, as we all do, that we must concentrate our all on the prosecution of the war. The majority of the men up there are returned soldiers, and in the present emergency they are prepared to allow their own aspirations to stand over. Whereas New Guinea has a Legislative Council and no member of this House, the Northern Territory has a member here, voteless indeed, except on matters affecting the Northern Territory itself, and no legislative council. The residents of the Northern Territory are seeking through me to be given the same privilege as is given to New Guinea, namely, a legislative council, but not a legislative council dominated by government nominees who have to take their instructions from Canberra. After the great war adventure is over a few of us will see that the Northern Territory has not only a member of this House with full voting rights, but also a legislative council elected by the people. I also look forward to the time when the New Guinea Legislative Council will consist of popularly elected representatives, not nominated officials, and when that territory shall also be represented in this chamber. I am a firm believer in local affairs being administered locally and I am astonished that that principle finds no place in this legislation. The problems in a tropical region differ vastly from those which Canberra officials are accustomed (to handle, although I concede that some of the senior officers have been to New Guinea and are highly qualified. For example, there is Mr. R. Halligan, upon whom I intended to call in reference to a matter which has been placed before me in a letter I have received from a woman whose husband died on a boat while returning to Wau. A passage of this letter reads - l Iia ve recently lost my husband. Now I have a job of work to try and keep the sawmill going, but it is going to be an uphill go. However, we are all more or less in a bad way up here, and lots of people have lost their plantations. Copra cannot be given away now. I would be fairly well off if I could get a market for sawn timber down in Australia. At least it would help to keep the machinery going.
I imagine that that is the beginning of an epic story. I intend to ask Mr. Halligan’3 advice as to what that unfortunate woman can do.
Whilst there is a strong body of opinion in New Guinea in favour of representation in this House, there are some wealthy mining men, who, if New Guinea elected a member of this House, would cut his throat. They have told me that they do not want a member because they would immediately be taxed.
– But the mining companies are taxed.
– They fear that they would have to bear increased taxes. It is high time that this Parliament listened to representations made by men like the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and myself, when we speak on behalf of the residents in the territory who, although not wealthy, are trying to develop the country in a way commensurate with its natural endowment. These territories should carry a larger white population if they are to be effective outposts between Australia and the Near North. T look forward to the day when this Parliament will no longer refuse proper representation to tho people of the Northern Territory, Papua and New Guinea. I ask the Government to withdraw the present bill and substitute for it a measure worthy of Australians. Otherwise it should leave the reins of government to others better qualified to rule.
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable members for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green), but I propose to strike an entirely different note, for I wish to commend the Government for having introduced this bill. I have endeavoured to see behind this measure and ascertain what the Government had in mind in introducing it. I listened to the eulogy of the British Colonial Service by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and agree with him that that service is the envy of the rest of the world. Young cadets appointed to that service are encouraged to gain experience which will fit them to occupy positions of responsibility and trust. The honorable member for the Northern Territory opposed the measure but in doing so he presented what I regard as an unanswerable case for the introduction of this measure. I read in this bill an attempt to lay the foundation of an Australian territorial service, similar to the British Colonial Service. The Government had in mind that very thing when it appointed the committee to consider how the administration of the two territories could he combined. The Government realized that there was a discordant note, in that petty jealousies arising out of the different conditions which obtained in the two services affected the administration of the two territories. So long as such conditions exist, there cannot be harmonious administration. The late LieutenantGovernor of Papua, Sir Hubert Murray, who compared favorably with the greatest; colonial administrators that the Empire has known recognized this, and accordingly, he maintained official rates of pay in Papua which were generally on a lower scale than in New Guinea. The basis of that difference in official salaries was the smaller area of Papua, the fewer Europeans there compared with the number in New Guinea, the much smaller revenue, and the infinitely fewer possibilities for- development. That principle having been established in the administration of the two territories, the Government now says that it must be taken into consideration in relation to the salary of the Administrator. In my opinion, that is a logical view for the Government to take. As evidence of the differentiation between the rates of pay in the two territories, I mention that the judge in Papua is paid £1,200 a year, whereas in New Guinea the chief judge receives £1,500 and another judge £1,400 a year. The salary ranges of the office of Government Secretary are £S04 to £900 in Papua, and £900 to £1,100 in New Guinea. The chief clerk to the Government Secretary in Papua is paid a salary ranging from £564 to £636, whereas the comparable officer in New Guinea has a salary range of £660 to £732. In Papua the Crown Law Officer is paid £828 per annum; the Crown Law Officer of New Guinea has a salary of £900 ranging to £1,050 per annum. The same differentiation is seen throughout the whole range of offices in the services of the two territories. The salary payable to the Administrator of Papua should not necessarily be based on the wonderful service which Sir Hubert Murray rendered; all of the relevant facts must be taken into consideration. The Government is acting wisely in endeavouring to establish a system under which public servants may be transferred to positions anywhere in the Australian Territorial Service. I shall quote from the report of the committee which was appointed to survey the possibilities of establishing a joint administration for the two territories. In paragraph 178 a note by the chairman and Mr. Townsend contains the following: -
The difficulties in the way are mainly political, financial and legal arising under the mandate. We think it incumbent on us, therefore, to explore fully possible ways of co-ordination. N’o doubt the only means of overcoming the weakness due to separation is a completely combined administration, but if this is impossible we should consider limited forms of combined administration. The existence of two rather small services side by side working under similar conditions suggests that each will bc weak unless a considerable degree of co-ordination exists. The two considered are a unified territorial service for all Australian territories and a combination of scientific and technical staffs. We agree that a unified territorial service could not work unless all the differences of classification, salaries, conditions and superannuation were reconciled and that even then there would remain some question of executive responsibility.
Honorable members will agree that had it been possible to bring about a system of combined administration for the two territories, some of the difficulties which now confront us would not have arisen, because there would have been a common policy for both territories. In the administration of these important outposts, there must be a common basis for the salaries of all government employees, so that officers may be appointed to any position for which their training and ability fit them. It should be possible for a member of the Australian Territorial Service to attain to the position of Administrator. In my opinion, it is possible to link the Northern Territory with these other territories under one Australian Territorial Service. The measure before us is a step in the right direction, and I commend the Government for having brought it forward.
.- Some years ago, when I represented Cape York and other territory in that part of the continent, and was in communication with various people in the Territory of Papua, I found that the general consensus of opinion was that the late LieutenantGovernor, Sir Hubert Murray, was not only respected for his administrative ability, but also was beloved by those who knew him. It was not my privilege to know Sir Hubert Murray, but I have always heard him spoken of in the highest terms by people holding different political opinions. There was, however, considerable dissatisfaction with the composition of the council ; the white residents of the “territory wished to have some say in the selection of its members. That opinion is still strongly held by the residents of the Territory of Papua. They fear that some person in whom they have little or no confidence may be appointed as Administrator in Sir Hubert Murray’s place. They are particularly fearful that some “ brass hat “ - a retired military officer - will be appointed. If they had the right to elect their own council and had some say in local affairs, they would be much happier. I receive numerous communications from residents of Papua and New Guinea, and whenever I have brought their cases before Mr. Halligan I have never failed to get from him an explicit and straightforward statement. People who have to obey the laws that govern them should have some say in the election of those who frame the laws. I can see no harm in these people having a representative in this Parliament. Surely it should be possible to find some one who could represent both territories satisfactorily. The people would be happier if they knew that they had a direct representative in this Parliament. The people of Papua and New Guinea, and the people of the Australian Capital Territory, should be given the right to vote. I have always held the view that the thousands of people who live in the Australian Capital Territory and have no voice whatever in the election of this Parliament should be enfranchised. That is only right in a democratic country. A good deal of the trouble that has occurred in Papua and New Guinea could have been avoided had the people there been given the right, years ago, to elect their own legislative councils. Moreover, we should then have been sure that individuals with a sound knowledge of local affairs were watching the interests of their respective territories.
I am not at all concerned about thi; problem which governments may have to face in finding positions for members of Parliament who have lost their seats. We need, in these territories, officers who have a real knowledge of the general questions which are of concern to the local residents. There seems to me to be very little ground for transferring men from, say, Canberra, where they are doing good work, to Papua or NewGuinea, where they would have to inform themselves of problems quite different from those that had engaged their attention here. I believe, also, that we have men in our own service in the islands just as competent to fill the high office of administrator as any persons who might be appointed from England or elsewhere. I cannot see any need for a man to spend, say, three years in China in order to equip himself for the work that has to be done in our island territories. Training in England or China would not specially fit a man for service in New Guinea or Papua. The late Sir Hubert Murray visualized, in a complete way, the needs of the territories and of their peoples, and he had the confidence of the whole community. I believe that if he had been asked to express an opinion, he would have said that it would be wise to give the people an opportunity to elect their own legislative council. I sincerely trust, therefore, that the Government will consider the wisdom of taking action to achieve this end, for it would be of great advantage to the Commonwealth as well as to the territories concerned.
Sir CHARLES MARR (Parkes; [2.48].- The introduction of this bill has given honorable members an opportunity to debate a number of questions affecting, not only Papua, but also other adjoining territories. The Government is taking a step in the right direction, but I am sorry that it has not introduced a more comprehensive bill to strengthen the territorial services as a whole. I first became associated with the administration of our external territories in 1925, and during the life of several parliaments I have had an aggregate ministerial experience in that connexion of eight years. I may therefore draw upon my practical knowledge in order to make some suggestions to improve the existing position. A great deal of useful work has already been done in widening the scope of training of our officers. Personally. I do not favour the appointment of an administrator from outside the territorial service. Officers trained in New Guinea and Papua know the problems of those regions and, in my opinion, are competent to deal with them. I cannot see how a visit to China would help a prospective administrator of Papua or New Guinea. In 1925 I had the honour to inaugurate the cadet system in the services of the territories.
We offered young men in Australia, between the ages of 20 and 24 years, an opportunity to train for three years for service in the territories, and our hope was that they would remain in the service and not migrate elsewhere. In my opinion they should be given the opportunity to reach the highest positions of the service. In fact, unless the highest positions are open to them, including the office of administrator, there is little use in them remaining in the service. Among our administrator? there have been some inglorious failures. Persons have been chosen for such offices without regard to the special qualifications required, and, it may be, simply because they have had a title. That system is entirely wrong. Administrators should be appointed from the officers of the service, because, in the course of the year&. men who actually work in these tropical areas must become fully informed on the problems that have to be faced. Consequently they are better equipped to administer affairs there than newcomers can possibly be. I was glad to hear the remarks made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) concerning the territorial service. When he became Minister in charge of External Territories, I had the opportunity to submit to him certain proposals affecting the territories, in which I have been deeply interested for eleven years, particularly in relation to the appointment und control of officers.
Why should not the officers of the Northern Territory, which is tropical and sub- tropica], have the opportunity to serve in other similar territories? Within the last year, the Department of the Interior, not, mark you, the Department of External Territories, advertised for a superintendent of agriculture for the Northern Territory. Applicants were required to have a knowledge of the problems of tropical agriculture, and tropical affairs generally. The munificent salary of £500 a year was offered ! A man of suitable qualifications cannot be obtained for such a salary. I am glad to say that a fine agricultural service has been developed in New Guinea, the officers of which should be made available to assist in the development of other Commonwealth territories in the same latitude.
We all are well aware that serious problems have been encountered in Norfolk Island, where the inhabitants are expected to carry on a hand-to-mouth existence without any adequate guidance. Active steps should have been taken to encourage the growing of bananas, peanuts, passion-fruit and other tropical and semi-tropical products on the island, but very little work of that kind has been done. There has been no soil analysis, nor has any expert advice been made available to the people as fca what they could grow and how they could market their products.
– This Government believes in low wages.
– I am not concerned at the moment about the wage rate. Whatever is produced must be marketed in competition with similar products from other countries, such as the Dutch East Indies. While I was Minister in charge of Ex ternal Territories I endeavoured to secure the services of officers from the Malay States to advise settlers in our own external territories concerning the growth of coco-nuts, the control of tropical plant diseases, the treatment of copra, the growing of grasses, and so on. In this regard the officers of the Department of Agriculture in New Guinea have done a good joh. One of those officers was appointed Director of Agriculture in the Papuan Service, where he has done excellent work. The knowledge he acquired in New Guinea proved to be of the utmost value in Papua. I regret, though, that relatively little agricultural development has occurred in Papua or New Guinea. Several schemes which have been submitted by the Department of Agriculture of New Guinea, and also a number of departmental reports, have been simply pigeon-holed. An experimental farm was established at Wau at an elevation of 3,000 feet, but unfortunately the administration leased it to a private individual.
– The honorable member seems to be devoting most of his attention to New Guinea. I remind him that the purpose of this bill is to amend the Papua Act.
– I am endeavouring to indicate the similarity of the interests and problems of our external territories, and. to point out that it is unfortunate that the hill does not make practicable a discussion of wider issues.
– After the election the honorable member may be appointed Administrator of Papua.
– I should not be prepared to accept the position. I do not favour the appointment of any of the so-called “ brass-hats “ simply because they may have occupied certain positions in this country. Several officers of the Papuan Service are thoroughly qualified for the office of administrator.
– Both Mr. Taylor and Mr. Page are good men.
– They are extraordinarily efficient officers. The gold-mining industry has been a useful instrument in developing our external territories, but the gold resources there will not last for ever, and we should be developing an effective policy to maintain the general progress of the country when gold-mining begins to decline. I hope that to this end the Government will appoint an administrator from the territorial services. I have had close contact with some of the officers in both Papua and New Guinea and appreciate their qualifications. Of course I have nothing to say against the officer in charge of the External Territories branch in Canberra. I worked with him and his associates for a number of years. No one could have had a more loyal set of officers. The departmental head has travelled widely in all our territories and has accumulated a wide experience. However, the present Acting Administrator of Papua, Mr. Champion, is an extraordinarily fine man who has given many years of service to the Territory. Mr. Leonard Murray, the Official Secretary, is also a brilliant officer whose experience would have entitled him to advancement years ago, had vacancies occurred. I trust, therefore, that in dealing with this matter, sympathetic consideration will be given to the qualified officers now in the Papuan and New Guinea services. I have had a personal conversation with the Minister in charge of External Territories (Mr. Nock) and know that he is sympathetic towards the proposal that the territorial services generally should be strengthened and stabilized, and I trust that action to that end will not long be delayed.
I can see no reason why the Northern Territory should not also be included in a general scheme of co-ordination. At present, conditions in the various services differ as to cadetship, superannuation and general arrangements. Superannuation benefits on retirement from the Papuan Service are the highest of any we have in force. Differentiation in the treatment of officers in these services tends to cause jealousy and difficulty, and this should be avoided. I suggest that if arrangements were made to permit the transfer of officers from one territory to another, it would be to the general advantage of everybody.
– The conditions in both Papua and New Guinea are alike.
– That is so. The large island of New Guinea is divided into three parts - Papua and the Mandated Territory, which are under
British control, and Dutch New Guinea. Reference has been made to the trying times through which the territory of Papua is passing in connexion with the disposal of copra. That brings me to this point: Even though the European markets are closed as the result of the war, Papua and New Guinea to-day are losing valuable copra markets in certain South American countries, because the British Ministry of Shipping has commandeered the 9,000-ton ships belonging to the Carpenter line which traded with the territories. The Australian Government should have stated very firmly to the British Ministry of Shipping that it would not countenance the commandeering of ships so vitally necessary for the successful development of territories under its control.
– Does the honorable member not think that copra should be pooled as wheat is pooled?
– I do. Some time ago I tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to get the planters to organize pools for their own protection. I believe that Papua is on the verge of great development. Although its production of copra is insignificant as compared with that of New Guinea, its timber resources have never been exploited. Papuan oil-bearing country is in process of being tested and, from all reports, the prospects of the discovery of large quantities of flow oil in Papua are better than anywhere else in Australasia, if not in the southern hemisphere. The discovery of flow oil in large quantities in territories adjacent to and under the control of the Commonwealth would be of untold value to our people at the present time. I commend the bill, but I ask the Minister in the interests, not only of the territory, but also of the Commonwealth itself, to give every consideration to the desirability of establishing a territorial service in Papua.
.- My entire sympathy goes out to any white man who does not enjoy the right to vote for the election of those who make the laws that govern him. I have known what it is to be robbed of a vote. That happened to me in England above all places. Six months after I landed in England in 1880 I applied for the franchise, only to be told that I had not acquired the qualification of residence, and that I could make another application in twelve months’ time. In the meantime, I shifted my place of residence ‘because I found that I could secure accommodation at a place nearer to the hospital at which I was a student. Later,, on applying for the franchise, I was told that as I had changed my address within twelve months prior to the making of the application I was not entitled to the franchise, and that I would have to remain in England for a further twelve months before I could qualify. Honorable members can understand the pleasure I had in later years in mentioning this to a committee consisting of representatives of the House of Lords and the House of Commons when the Empire Parliamentary Association was in the process of formation. At that gathering I was more interested to hear Mr. MacDonald speak than in addressing the committee myself. I asked the chairman how long we would have to wait before Mr. MacDonald’s turn would come, as it was difficult to determine when a particular speaker would get the call from the chair. The chairman said that Mr. MacDonald would be called upon to speak in a few moments. Mr. MacDonald told me afterwards that he would never have been called upon to speak if I had not mentioned the matter to the chairman. After some time I got fed up and asked the permission of the chairman to leave, and to my surprise I was told I could address the committee then. I had the pleasure of telling the members of the committee that I was a proud representative of a country which enjoyed adult suffrage. I told them how, after leaving Australia, we came to Ceylon where, although the English flag was flown, the people had no vote. I told them that the same state of affairs existed in India. We then went on to Aden and along the coast of Italy and France,, where every adult person is entitled to vote. I contrasted the position of white people in the British possessions with that of the people in certain French possessions who enjoy representation, not only in their own Government, but also in the French legislature. I mentioned that at Gibraltar, which was our next port of call, again the people had no voice in their government. I found on my arrival in England that comparatively few of the residents of Great Britain enjoyed the franchise, because, in those days, the property franchise was in operation. Honorable members can understand how I hate the idea of robbing a white man of a vote. I am sorry if the flag of Australia is to be sullied. I am told - and perhaps this may be only in jest - that Australia’s representative in the mandated territory is endeavouring to establish the equivalent of the English court, and insisting that persons presented to him must conform to certain rules relating to dress. Any pretentions of this kind on the part of Australia’s representative in the territory are too ridiculous to imagine. I have a vivid recollection that the grandfather of the present King of England was man enough to let us be presented to him in our ordinary working attire.
Something has been said regarding the establishment of a territorial service for the territory. If this is projected we might well emulate the example set by the Commonwealth Bank which has set up an apprenticeship system under which officers are promoted from the lowest to the highest positions, advancement being governed by ability and length of service. Officers of the bank are usually first appointed to outlying places and, as they become more experienced, they are promoted to more important branches. Under a system such as this, promotion to senior positions is decided by merit. I should not like to see established in Australia a system such as that established in England under which appointments to senior positions are made not on merit but by political preferment. I appeal to the Government to guard jealously the rights of a democratic people.
.- I commend the Minister for having brought down this bill. Some matters have been mentioned during the debate to which I propose to address myself briefly. The first is the substitution of the title of administrator for that of lieutenant-governor. I am one of those who believe that the titles of those who are called upon to accept these jobs in our territories ought to be commensurate with the character of the work they are asked to do. The gentleman who is appointed to take charge of the actual hard executive work of administration should be given a title of a utilitarian character. It may be said that a name does not mean very much, but to some persons a name means a great deal. When they are given titles they feel called upon to live up to them. I have known some territorial officers who, because of the position they occupied, felt impelled to set up something in the nature of an oriental court. Therefore, I suggest that we should adopt the title of administrator, as is proposed, and that we should see that the person appointed is capable of carrying out the work in a practical way rather than that he should be merely a social ornament. There is a great call for men of ability and capacity in the territorial service. We have undertaken the administration of Papua and of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and the responsibility devolves upon us to develop them. Whether or not we have succeeded in that I shall not say now. I do say, however, that a great deal of consideration and sympathy should be brought to bear in the administration of these territories, particularly at the present time. They are the outposts of our defence, and economic conditions there are not satisfactory. I have a letter here from a gentleman in New Guinea, who says -
The copra industry seems to be gradually fading away - plantations becoming valueless, and properties worth £20,000 and £30,000 a few years ago, now merely a burden to maintain.
Some honorable members have proposed the exchange of officers between the various territories. I approve of that suggestion, and believe that the scheme should go further so as to make it possible for officers in the territories to be exchanged with officers in Canberra. It has been suggested that there should be a representative of Papua and New Guinea in this Parliament. That, no doubt, would be of value, but much, more good would he achieved, in my opinion, by the exchange of officers between the distant territories and the head office administration in Can’ berra. Then we should have officers here in Canberra, possessed of first-hand knowledge of the territories they were administering, and there would bo officers in the territories themselves with experience of head-office administration. I know officers- who, with their wives and families, have been in New Guinea for ten or twelve years, and there is no prospect of their getting away. All their working lives must be spent in the tropics. I believe it would be a good thing from an educational and health point of view if these people, who are the forgotten citizens of Australia, were given the opportunity to enjoy the climate and amenities of Canberra. They have no one to speak for them in this House, except one or two of us who have visited the territories, and have become interested in them. Therefore, I suggest that a scheme should be drawn up for the exchange of officers between Papua, New Guinea, Norfolk Island, the Northern Territory, Nauru and the Australian Capital Territory. In that way, transfer to Canberra would become looked upon as a prize to which an officer might aspire after faithful service rendered elsewhere.
I am glad to see that the bill empowers the Administrator to appoint to the council, from time to time, persons who possess special knowledge of a particular matter. It i3 gratifying to find that the Government, and the Minister, have shown sufficient interest in the territories to bring forward a bill of this kind. No doubt many improvements could be effected in it, but it represents a step in the right direction.
– in reply - I was pleased to note the practical interest shown -by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) in the territories, as well as the interest displayed by other honorable members who have made practical suggestions. As for the proposal to alter the title of the chief officer in Papua, and to vary the salary, I think this can be justified by comparing the situation in Papua with that in the other territories. In the Northern Territory the Administrator receives £1,200 per annum; in New Guinea, £1,800; in Norfolk Island, £800; and in Nauru, £1,250. The white population of Papua, the native population, and the aggregate production are less than half those of New Guinea. Therefore, I do not think it is niggardly to propose that the salary of the Administrator should be within £300 of that of the Administrator of New Guinea. As to who is to fill the position, I shall be able to look around for a suitable person when this bill is passed. The Government does not want someone who will be merely a figurehead, but someone who will foster the progress and development of the territory.
Reference has been made to taxation without representation. Taxation in Papua is small. There is no direct taxation whatever. There is a tariff, but the Commonwealth Government contributes over £40,000 a year to the cost of administering the territory.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to the matter of workers’ compensation, and to the need for legislation to protect the interests of employees. I remind him that there is an employer’s liability act in operation, and I understand that the Legislative Council is at present considering amendments to bring that act more into harmony with the wishes of the employees.
– I had in mind particularly the position in New Guinea.
– The Legislative Council in Papua has power to bring in an ordinance and, unless the Commonwealth Government vetoes that ordinance, it becomes law. Never since I have been Minister in charge has any exception been taken to the exercise of this veto.
I am glad that so many honorable members approve of the suggestion that territorial officers should be exchanged between the various administrations. This proposal is not dead, but there are difficulties in the way. One is that New Guinea is not an Australian possession but a mandated territory, and it is not desirable, therefore, for us to take any action which would suggest that we were taking possession of it. Personally, however, I do not think that the difficulties are insuperable, and there is no reason why uniform conditions should not obtain throughout the various services, and certain officials such as medical officers, be exchanged.
I admit that there are real difficulties in the way of marketing produce from the territories, the most serious being in connexion with the disposal of copra. Though we have not been able to evolve a scheme which fully meets the situation, we are doing our best to relieve it. The Government has the matter in mind, and we hope that something can be done to enable owners to keep their plantations in production until things improve.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Shipbuilding in Australia - Military Camps: Lining Material - Commonwealth Railways: Transfer of E. J. McQuoid - Tasmanian Shipping Service - Petrol Rationing: Garage Proprietors - Canberra : Government Policy - Munitions Annexe at Laun ceston - Melbourne Wool Merchants Association - Wheatgrowing Industry.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I protest against the decision of the Government to postpone the building of cargo-carrying ships in Australia. A report on this subject, based on expert evidence, was submitted to Cabinet some time ago. Everybody recognizes that there is need for more cargo space at the present time and that such need will become more urgent in the future. The elaborate ministerial statement dealing with primary produce and its disposal was based largely on a consideration of the rationing of freight space. In spite of this, however, the Government has decided to postpone the commencement of the building of ships other than naval vessels. That, I believe, is a grave blunder. I recognize the need for expanding our naval forces, but I am assured that it is possible for the two programmes to be run concurrently. All who can do so are endeavouring to assist the Government to overcome the difficulty of obtaining the necessary labour to carry on its naval construction programme. I have conferred with naval authorities and officials of the metal trades unions to this end. I have been informed that naval construction work has to be carried out in progressive stages, and that the men who do the first portion of it are discharged or transferred elsewhere when that portion is completed. A joint programme, embracing the construction of standard cargo vessels and units of the navy - first preference being given to the latter - would result in the services of skilled men being retained, and would prevent the scattering of those men to different parts of the continent. If a number of ships were constructed at the same time, the men could be transferred from one to the other as their section of tlie work was finished. This matter has been discussed at conferences of metal trades societies. These societies have been asked by the naval authorities in Melbourne to assist in the organization of groups of riveters and other skilled workman, for naval construction. I know that certain engineering workshop proprietors have canvassed the possibility of a spread of the work, so that special parts may be made in specified workshops and be immediately assembled at the central depot. The building of ships and aeroplanes is conducted along these lines in every country in which they are being constructed. We are now confronted with the decision of the Government to postpone indefinitely the programme in relation to the construction of cargo vessels. I object to that decision, and ask the Government to give further consideration to the matter. Plans could be prepared quickly, almost overnight, by three or four experts, representative of the whole of the States, indicating how construction could proceed concurrently on naval and cargo vessels. It has been suggested to me that it would be sufficient to entrust the task to three experts, but I believe that we should not overlook any State in which there are facilities for shipbuilding. Already information is available in respect of labour, supplies of material, and places in which specified portions of the work could be carried out and assembled. The need for cargo vessels is almost as urgent as the need for naval vessels, because those who do tlie fighting must be fed. We are gradually drifting into a state of famine in respect of freight space. If it can bc shown that the adoption of my suggestion would, in the long run, add to the momentum of naval construction, consideration should be given to it. The Government should ask naval authorities in Melbourne if any value could accrue from the appointment of a committee of three expert shipbuilding men who are in touch with the available labour, have been accustomed to handling it, and are in contact with those who organize it, to prepare and submit an inexpensive report, setting out the means whereby the two programmes could be proceeded with concurrently, and thus accelerate the momentum of the naval programme.
.- I have received a letter sponsored more or less by the Country Fibrous Plaster Manufacturers of Victoria, complaining that the lining used in the military camps of Victoria is a material made from cane fibre, and stating that the use of fibrous plaster would .be much cheaper. One of the statements in the letter is that certain building contractors who tendered for the supply of the material, contend that the acceptance of their tenders in connexion with the buildings at Seymour and Puckapunyal would have resulted in a saving of £3,000. If that be so, an explanation is necessary. If the Minister for Supply and Development (Sir Frederick Stewart) is unable to show that the material chosen is essential, he should investigate the matter. It is contended that fibrous plaster should be used in connexion with any future camps, so long as the tenders submitted by those who would supply it are lower than the other tenders received. The assurance is given that the quality of the work can be guaranteed, that the material can be supplied in the specified form, and that the necessary labour to fix the sheets can be provided. This last-mentioned fact is specially stressed, because carpenters must be employed to fix any other kind of lining material, and there is a scarcity of these tradesmen.
.- Within recent months a checker named E. J. McQuoid. employed by the Com.monwealth railways at Port Augusta, was transferred to Alice Springs. It is contended that the reason for the transfer was that he had incurred official displeasure because of his earnest activities as a Labour man at Port Augusta. It would be most reprehensible if those who administer the Commonwealth railways were to allow their political feelings to influence their official actions. There is no feature in the service of this man which would justify his being “ shanghaied “ from Port Augusta to Alice Springs. Such action is an indication of vindictiveness on the part of the administration. If redress be not given, I shall feel it my duty further to expose those who are responsible. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Poll) most earnestly to inquire into the matter. I believe that the behaviour of McQuoid in the discharge of his duties has been exemplary, that his qualifications are unquestioned, and that he has an unblemished character. I am prepared to give to the Minister privately the names of officers of the Commonwealth Service who can verify what 1 have said regarding his ability and character. I have previously had reason to .believe that the Common wealth Railways Commissioner, in particular, has not acted rightly towards officers who had disagreed with him. Whether he or a subordinate is responsible for the transfer of McQuoid to Alice Springs is a matter that needs investigation. I hope that within the next week or so the Minister will intimate that the man will be reinstated in his former position at Port Augusta, where he had his home, and where he can still be profitably employed. He should not continue to be subjected to the penalty imposed on him because of his activities as a Labour man in that community.
.- I register my dissatisfaction at the removal of the Zealandia from the shipping service between Hobart and Sydney. I asked the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron) when this service was to be resumed and what were the prospects of having another vessel put on the run, and his reply was that Tasmania had to share in the suffering caused by the war. Looking at the matter fairly and squarely from an Australian point of view, wc should inquire as to whether or not Tasmania is suffering greater disability than any other State by reason of the discontinuance of its shipping service with the mainland. According to the Commonwealth Constitution, trade and commerce between the States must be absolutely free, and no one State shall be given an advantage over any other State. That is the basis of federation. The removal of the Zealandia from the run has deprived the Tasmanian fishing industry of refrigerated space which it requires to transport its produce to the Sydney market. It is true that many cargo steamers travel between Tasmania and Sydney, but they have no cool storage capacity. The fishing industry in Tasmania is worth £50,000 a year to those taking part in it, and indirectly benefits the whole of the Commonwealth. Therefore, the removal of the Zealandia from the regular service to Tasmania has imposed a hardship upon a large number of Australians.
Traders on the mainland can resort to road and rail” transport facilities when insufficient shipping space is available; it is possible to move commodities expeditiously in this way from West Australia to Sydney. But Tasmania relies on the shipping service, which is always inadequate, and any interference with it imposes severe economic hardships. Unless sufficient shipping accommodation be made available, the fishing industry of Tasmania will be ruined. The Government must be fair to every State of the Commonwealth. Ships which are now trading along the mainland coast could be placed on the Tasmanian service without creating any disadvantage to the other States, which are well served by road and rail. The Hobart Mercury of the 11th July, 1940, stated in a leading article -
When the war broke out there was an immediate effect on traffic between Tasmania and the mainland. Thousands of persons, with exaggerated ideas of its danger, refused to undertake travel by sea, whereby the tourist season suffered gravely. Unfortunately? the authorities, too, appeared to be unduly apprehensive at the time, a.nd there was no definite attempt on their part to reassure the public, although the Mercury condemned an attitude and a conduct of things in regard to Australian shipping that fostered alarm.
I have appealed to Ministers to lift a form of censorship that is not essential, even in these dangerous days. News- paper3 are not permitted to publish the dates on “which vessels arrive at or depart from Tasmanian ports. The publication of such information would not betray anything of value to the enemy. I do not suggest that the actual hours of departure or arrival should be advertised, but the complete suppression of all information regarding shipping movements creates an unfortunate impression in. the minds of the travelling public. Many people now believe that it may be dangerous to travel by sea between the mainland and Tasmania, although there is no submarine menace in this part of the world. The only persons who support the suppression of news of shipping movements are those whose interest in other forms of traffic makes them desirous of preventing people from travelling by sea. Of course, there might be some slight danger of sabotage if the actual hours of sailing were announced in the newspapers; an enemy might be able to place a bomb or some other destructive machine aboard a vessel. But the mere announcement of dates of sailing would not be dangerous. The public should be reassured that there is no danger of submarine attacks. This is important to those financially interested in the Tasmanian tourist traffic. Travel to that State should be encouraged in order to compensate Tasmanians for enormous losses they have sustained through not participating in the heavy expenditure on arms and munitions in the mainland States. Tasmania is prepared to share the responsibilities and hardships of the Commonwealth’s war effort. There is no doubt about that. It will co-operate to the fullest degree with the Commonwealth Government. But we strongly object to interference with shipping communications with the mainland, upon which the financial stability of many people depends. Failure to restore the full service might ruin the tourist traffic and the fishing industry in Tasmania, with the result that the Commonwealth might be called upon to pay thousands of pounds by way of compensation to that State for disabilities suffered under federation.
I have no fears about travelling by sea between Tasmania and the mainland, but dozens of people whom I meet believe that sea travel is dangerous; this belief has been induced by the suppression of shipping information. It is significant that my arguments are supported by the Hobart Mercury, a newspaper which helps to dictate the policy of the Government in some matters and acts as its mouthpiece in others. It has not hesitated to attack the Government because of its action in “ bushwhacking “ the Tasmanian people over the shipping service.
When I travelled to the mainland on the Taroona recently I noticed that the vessel was carrying large quantities of fish which had to be shipped to Melbourne and then transported overland to Sydney. The men who had despatched these consignments asked me to endeavour to have the Zealandia returned to the Tasmanian service, so that their fish could be sent direct to Sydney. They said that the Sydney market was being captured by fishing companies from outside Australia, because Tasmanians could not obtain adequate shipping space. Ministers have told me that ships are required for the transport of troops and other war services. But the Government could commandeer the Wanganella, to name but one vessel, and use it for the transport of troops or for the commercial traffic between Hobart and Sydney, or Sydney and New Zealand. That would be a proper thing to do. The Government should be logical and practical. It should not act always in the interests of the large States to the detriment of Tasmania.
Tasmania has become more important in Australia’s defence organization since danger in the Pacific has become more acute. Some time ago, when sea danger zones were confined to the North Sea and the Mediterranean, I was not so concerned about the Government’s neglect of Tasmania’s defence preparations as I am to-day. But now it is possible that the submarine menace will extend to the Pacific. In that event the Government would have no guarantee of security for ships travelling between Tasmania and the mainland. Nevertheless it has made no preparations for aeroplanes to take over the passenger service from ships should the submarine danger arise. It should look to these things. It is holding the destiny of this country in its hands and it should fulfil its obligations to the nation without trying to side-track the urgent demands of the people of Tasmania, which is an integral part of this great Commonwealth. Whenever anything has to be done for one of the mainland States, the necessary legislation is rushed through this Parliament as quickly as possible, in order that greater profits may accrue to mainland residents. The position is becoming so serious that, unless Ministers change their attitude, the public will demand that they be replaced by strong men who will do the job of government faithfully to the whole Commonwealth. If I were speaking on behalf of wheat-growers, vignerons or other producers in the big mainland States, immediate action would be taken. Those States have many advantages that Tasmania lacks. I appeal to the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) to return the Zealandia to the Tasmanian service.
A ship: has been fitted out as a trawler by a number of Tasmanians and whenever the Government wishes it may commandeer that ship for mine-sweeping purposes.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- I wish to refer to the effect of the proposed petrol rationing upon garage proprietors. It seems to me that the Government has been entirely indifferent to the fate of the proprietors of small roadside garages. I can understand that the Government should divert petrol from civilian use to military use, but I maintain that the burden should not fall entirely upon the people who live by the motor industry. Most people can adjust their burden by distributing it throughout the community, but garage proprietors, through no fault of their own, arc threatened with ruin. At all times they work on a small margin of profit, but now they are losing customers daily, and many of them have been told by their bankers that their businesses are so unsafe that they cannot be encouraged by advances of money. I know that to be a fact. If the garage proprietors are to he put out of business because of Government policy, they should be protected by
Government policy. Just as a man whose property is taken for army use is compensated, so should compensation be paid to a person whose business is destroyed for defence reasons. I impress on the Government that nearly every small garage proprietor sees ruin staring him in the face. That is not an exaggeration. If the Government does not protect these persons, it is behaving unjustly towards people who have a right to he protected.
.- I support the protest of my colleague, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), against the interference with the shipping service to Tasmania. That interference is not confined to Hobart, because the taking of the Zealandia from the service affects the people of Tasmania generally. It maybe necessary to take the Zealandia for other purposes, but an effort should be made to provide another vessel to take its place. In the northern part of Tasmania also, difficulty is being experienced in obtaining ships to load timber which is used indirectly, if not directly, for military purposes. I understand that that difficulty is likely to be overcome soon, but, if it is not overcome, I shall make further representation on the subject.
In its issue of the 25th March last, the Canberra Times, in a leading article under the heading “The Melbourne Racket”, referred to the neglect of the Federal Capital by the present Government. After referring to a report which established that the division of departments between Melbourne and Canberra was a weakness, that newspaper stated -
That weakness was to have been overcome by a bold bid to transfer departments to Canberra in accordance with a carefully prepared plan. But the plan was smashed by Mr. Menzies who has ever since seized every opportunity to build up further obstacles in Melbourne to the development of the Seat of Government. Meanwhile, Australia is paying dearly in several directions. In the first place, Canberra has been prevented from being a source of larger revenue to the Commonwealth for the uncompleted city cannot be expected to give the revenue certainly to be derived from its development to be the seat of all Commonwealth Departments. Secondly, there has been division of authority at a time when effective direction from one centre was vital. Thirdly, the insidious manner in which officer after officerhas been sneaked away to Melbourne has tended to build up staffs in a State Capital which are being used as a serious reason why Parliament should not bo meeting as frequently as is desirable.^ Parliament has been closed down while decisions of the utmost consequence and measures of vital importance to the people have been undertaken -without effective supervision or control by the chief instrumentality of our democracy.
If this were the end of tlie mischief, it would have been bad enough, but instead of national interest being the dominating influence, Australia is sinking back to subservience to State interests.
That complaint was voiced on behalf of all of the States, but the newspaper would have been more correct if it had said that the action taken was in the interests of certain States. Ever since the Menzies Government came into office there has been a tendency to “ sneak “ officers back to Melbourne. The headquarters of the Government has practically been transferred to Melbourne since most of the meetings of Cabinet for some time past have been held there. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) claims that he has no special reason for returning to Melbourne, but the facts Indicate otherwise. In its issue of the 6th August, the Sydney Daily Telegraph stated -
Since its formation tcn months ago the War Cabinet has sat 70 days- 4G in Melbourne, 20 in Canberra, and 4 in Sydney. This was stated last night by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
That may he true ; I hope that the Prime Minister has been correctly reported. In any case, it indicates that the Cabinet, instead of meeting at the Seat of Government where it could have functioned much more cheaply than in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane has, during the last fifteen months, met mainly in Melbourne and Sydney. If it were only a matter of Cabinet Ministers meeting in the State capitals, there would be less ground for complaint except as a matter of principle, but the Government’s action means more than that, for it involves the transfer of staffs from Canberra and necessitates heavy expenditure for travelling expenses. The policy of the Government in this connexion has caused a tremendous waste of public money, and it is time that some one spoke on behalf of the tax pavers. Whenever money is sought for other purposes, members are told that it cannot be made available because of the need to concentrate on the country’s war effort. I realize that our war effort is of paramount importance, but that does not mean that I must sanction an obvious waste of money. Each Minister has a number of officers who must accompany him to wherever the Cabinet meeting is held. Those officers have to be paid travelling expenses and overtime, which must amount to a considerable sum. I am informed that some typistes draw as much as £14 a week in overtime and out-of-pocket expenses. For a full year the cost to the country of holding Cabinet meetings away from Canberra may be as much as £50,000. It would appear that, in its attempt to sabotage the Federal Capital, the Menzies Government is indifferent to the cost. I register my protest against this method of doing the country’s business. A promise was given that the Economic Cabinet would meet in Canberra, and I should be interested to know how often it has done so. I urge greater consideration for the taxpayers in this connexion.
Yesterday, when asked a question in connexion with the provision of a munitions annexe at the Launceston railway workshops, the Prime Minister, in his characteristic manner, attempted to evade it. For some time the Government and the people of Tasmania have asked that a munitions annexe be established at Launceston, and have made every effort to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in this matter. I shall give to the House a sample of the answers to questions on this subject. Yesterday, I was supplied with the following answer to a question which I had asked a day or two earlier: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that arrangements for the establishment of the munitions annexe at Launceston are in the hands of the Board of Area Management for Tasmania, one member of which is the manager of the railway workshops. Two members of the board are at present in Melbourne obtaining the technical information necessary.
Similar answers have been given ever since this question was first asked in this House. The Prime Minister and his colleagues seem to me to be guilty of a lack of frankness in withholding from honorable members information on this subject. I can see no reason why an annexe should not be located at Launceston. I know, from officers with whom I have been in contact, that all sorts of excuses have been advanced against the proposal, among which is the isolation of Tasmania. Of course that is always a good argument. Sometimes we Tasmanians use it ourselves. Yet nowadays as Ministers and honorable members know very well, the journey from the mainland to Launceston may be made in two hours on any day of the week. In fact, by air transport Tasmania is as near to Melbourne as Sydney is. I hope., therefore, that the Minister will take cognisance of my remarks on this subject and make available some more definite information with regard to the _ proposal. The subject should be treated as urgent. The establishment of an annexe at Launceston would, in my opinion, be of considerable service to the nation at this critical juncture, as well as a great satisfaction to the people of my State.
.- -On three different occasions I have brought under the notice of the members of this House, and particularly the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) the unjust manner in which the Melbourne Wool Merchants Association is being treated by the Central Wool Committee. As the Minister for Commerce is not present in the chamber at the moment I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), who is in charge of the House, to convey my remarks personally to his colleague. I directed attention to this subject in the House on the 17th April, the 3rd May, and the 23rd May. On the 23rd June the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and .’the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and I, with representatives of the Melbourne Wool Merchants Association, waited as a deputation on the Minister for Commerce and submitted the grievances to him in detail. Although the honorable gentleman has promised on four different occasions to give a decision on the subject, no decision has yet been announced. Consequently, there is ample justification for the dissatisfaction that the company, as well as I and other honorable members, feel concerning the whole matter. The new season’s wool clip will be coming forward for handling almost at once, and the Wool Merchants Association considers that the Central Wool Committee should intimate in the clearest possible way what procedure it intends to follow, and how it intends to apportion the work of handling the clip among the various interests concerned. I am not interested only in the position of the wool merchants., for I also have in mind the uncertainty of the position in which the wool-growers themselves are placed. It is outrageous that a definite pronouncement has not been made before now on this important subject. I am aware that one of the excuses given for the failure of the authorities to reach finality is that both the chairman and the secretary of the Central Wool Committee are ill. That is to be regretted, but surely a subject which I first brought under the notice of the Minister for Commerce in this House on the 17th April, could have been determined by now, despite certain difficulties which it presents. I, therefore, again ask the Minister for the Army to bring these remarks personally under the notice of the Minister for Commerce. Unless a decision on the subject be given immediately I shall feel impelled to take further steps which may considerably embarrass the Government, the Minister and the Central Wool Committee in regard to the whole matter, for it is beyond question that simple justice requires an immediate pronouncement.
.- Once again I am forced to direct the attention of the Government to the rapidly deteriorating position of the Australian wheat-growing industry and those engaged in it. Within recent weeks I have received hundreds of ‘letters from wheat-growers which indicate clearly to me, though I knew it before, that the industry is on the verge of financial collapse. I estimate that. about 80 per cent, of the wheat-growers of Australia are in straitened financial circumstances. They are bearing a load of debt and usury from which there seems to be no escape unless the Commonwealth Government grapples with the situation in a courageous and determined way. Positive and effective steps must be taken quickly if this industry is to be saved. We are at present experiencing a dry season, if not a drought, and, on present prospects, the coming harvest will be light. Attention should also be given to the price factor. There seems to he little prospect of the world price for wheat rising, but even if it should rise the Australian wheat-growers would be in an impossible position owing to the lack of shipping to take their product to the world’s markets. Some State Governments are planning to assist their wheat-growers in a small way in order that they might have a breathing space pending the adoption of some really constructive plan to protect the whole industry; hut the main responsibility rests upon the Commonwealth Government, which has ample financial resources upon which to draw in order to rehabilitate the industry. I suggest that the Government should give serious consideration to the diverting of at least a part of the proceeds from the flour tax in respect of the coming harvest, which admittedly is likely to be lower than in recent years owing to insufficient rainfall, from the marginal lands problem to the assistance of individual wheatgrowers who may be suffering from seasonal disabilities. I have always contended that, in the main, the marginal lands problem falls within the sphere of the States. The spokesmen of various wheat-growing organizations have lately supported the proposal I have just made. Despite certain statements by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) I have never been persuaded that the Commonwealth Government has any definite policy in respect of the Australian wheat industry. The wheat-growers do not know what is expected of them. Consequently the need for the application of an effective policy is urgent. In the briefest terms I suggest three headings under which this problem should be considered at this juncture: The first is stabilization of price; the second, the control of production; and the third, the establishment of reserves to meet emergencies. I urge the Government to take immediate action to stem the drift that is occurring. The correspondence that I have received in recent weeks would make an irresistible appeal on humanitarian grounds to anyone who read it. There are. of course, other than cold business reasons why the Government should face the situation courage- ously, such as, for example, the moral welfare of the people engaged in the industry. I emphasize that the morale of the wheat-growers is in bad shape at present, and that this is having a serious reaction upon the national war effort. A more comprehensive moratorium should be proclaimed in order to assist the farmers over the period that must elapse before a complete rehabilitation plan can come into full operation. I request the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Street) to place before Cabinet the views that I am expressing. I understand that the honorable gentleman has some wheat-growers among his constituents. I, of course, have a great many. I plead for the greatest possible consideration for them, in the interests not only of the individuals themselves but also of the whole nation.
I wish to make a few observations on the subject of petrol rationing. Many garage proprietors and others vitally concerned in the drastic proposals of the Government have communicated with me by telegrams and letters. I agree, as we all do, that if petrol must be stored in order to meet defence requirements, that consideration must be paramount. But there is a general feeling amongst those engaged in the transport industry that ample storage is available in Australia. It is asked, therefore, that no drastic steps be taken in regard to rationing ‘ which may involve the ruin of thousands of people. Stories are circulating, which may be true or untrue, that tankers are coming to Australia with large quantities of petrol which cannot be stored in the reserve tanks which the Government has available but which could be made available for normal use. There seems to be a good deal of obscurity about the whole matter. This much is certain, however, that if the Government’s proposals be applied ruthlessly, great hardship will be caused to the motor transport industry. A great deal of the machinery installed by the motor trade and many thousands of motor vehicles will be put out of use as a consequence of the introduction of petrol rationing. I suggest that this machinery might well be used for the reconditioning and re-equipping of these motor vehicles in order to fit them for use by our military forces. The rapid transport of troops in time of emergency is of the utmost importance to-day. Machinery lying idle in our garages and huge repair works could also be utilized for the manufacture of components of tanks and other war material. I make these suggestions in the hope that they represent a means of breaking down the economic effect on the motor trade of the imposition of any scheme of petrol rationing.
– As the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) would no doubt say, this House has in the last hour or so had a very good opportunity to -
Let observation with extensive view,
Survey mankind from China to Peru. in the course of the last hour a great number of subjects has been discussed.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) referred to shipbuilding, which he has discussed in this House on more than one occasion, and said that he believes it to be possible for the Government to go ahead with its naval shipbuilding programme and, concurrently with it, the building of cargo steamers. As a practical method of ascertaining whether that was possible or not, the honorable member advocated the setting up of a small committee to make an immediate inquiry and report. I shall bring his remarks before the notice of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Archie Cameron).
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Scholfield) urged the use of fibrous plaster sheets in the ceiling and halflining of huts in military camps throughout Australia in place of cane plaster sheets. The ceiling lining of huts has al ready been completed at Puckapunyal camp, but whether cane or fibrous plaster has been used I am unable to say. The half-lining of these huts is in course of progress now, and I believe that cane plaster sheets are being used for this purpose. The relative durability of the two kinds of plaster sheets is not a matter upon which I am qualified to express an opinion, though I understand that cane plaster is more resistant to the rude shocks to which linings are apt to be subject in military huts. Possibly that is why it is being used for this purpose. I shall look further into the matter and let the honorable member know the result of my inquiries.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) referred to the transfer of a checker in the Commonwealth railway service from Port Augusta, alleging that the man had been victimized on account of certain political activities. The honorable gentleman said that, although this checker was admitted to be a good workman and of exemplary character, on account of his political activities he was transferred to Alice Springs. I shall bring the honorable gentleman’s remarks to the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll).
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney), who, with his usual irrepressible optimism, predicted that his majority would increase by 10,000 at the next election if his requests were not granted, again drew attention to the removal of the Zealandia from the Tasmanian service. I can only say that I shall bring under the notice of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Archie Cameron) the arguments which the honorable member advanced this afternoon as to why this ship should be restored to the service or some compensatory transport facilities provided, for Tasmania. The other point raised by the honorable gentleman, which is also a matter for the Minister for Commerce in his other incarnation as Minister for the Navy, is whether it is permissible to publish the dates on which ships are to sail, even if it is not allowable to publish the hour of departure. This is a matter to be decided by the naval censor, and I shall ask my colleague to reply to the honorable gentleman’s recommendation in this regard.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) discussed the incidence of petrol rationing on garage proprietors. I shall bring his remarks under the notice of the Minister concerned.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) supported the honorable member for Denison as regards the removal of the Zealandia from the Tasmanian run, and quoting from the Canberra Times . an article headed “ The Melbourne Racket “, referred to the concentration of Cabinet activities in Melbourne to the detriment of the Australian Capital. His arguments which I have heard him express on more than one occasion are, I think, reasonably well known to the House. I shall bring this matter and also his suggestion regarding the establishment of munitions annexes in Tasmania, to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) referred to the delay which had occurred in remedying an alleged injustice suffered by the Melbourne Wool Merchants Association, and said that, in view of the fact that the new season’s wool is now upon us, it is desirable that the wool merchants should know exactly what their position is to be. I agree that this is an urgent matter and that a prompt decision should be made. Probably, as the honorable member himself suggested, the delay, in part at any rate, is due to the illness of the chairman and the secretary of the Central Wool Committee. I shall see what I can do to have the decision expedited.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who referred to the wheat industry, said that three things should be done: - Prices should be stabilized, production should be controlled, and reserves should be established. The honorable member covered other aspects of the wheat position, including the moratorium. His remarks will be referred to the Minister for Commerce and the Cabinet. The honorable member also made suggestions as to how it might be possible to use motor transport, which he suggests will otherwise be left idle, if and when severe petrol rationing takes place. I certainly agree that it is desirable to move troops by motor transport rather than let them walk, but as to the practicability of the honorable member’s suggestion regarding the reconditioning and utilization of motor vehicles thrown out of use by a petrol-rationing scheme, I should prefer to have time to make a considered reply.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The representations of the honorable member will be given consideration.
e asked the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the poor financial position of most primary producers and the difficulty of obtaining profitable markets and, further, in view of the rising costs of production in various ways, especially the heavy increase of the cost of fertilizers, will the Government subsidize the producers to the extent of the amount of the increased cost of fertilizers?
– The honorable member’s question involves a matter of Government policy. A decision will be made on the subject in due course.
d asked the Minister for
Commerce, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The months in each year during which importations were made are not available.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What has been the amount of bounty and other assistance granted by the Commonwealth each year since the Government undertook to assist the cotton industry?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Commonwealth Government’sshare of guaranteed prices to cotton-growers from 1923-24 to 1925-26-£170,900.
Bounty payments on seed and raw cotton under Commonwealth Cotton Bounty Acts -
Munitions Annexe at Geelong.
s. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman) asked me when the munitions establishment at Geelong would be brought into production. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that this establishment is now in partial production and plant is at present being laid out preparatory to its coming into full production.
Safeguarding Of Soldiers’ Jobs.
– On the 6th August, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked the following question, without notice : -
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has taken steps to secure to men volunteering in the Australian Imperial Force their positions at the expiration of the war so that they will not return to find their jobs have been taken by others; is there any guarantee to members of the Public Service who enlist that their jobs will be open for them on their return; in regard to private employment, is the Government prepared to consider the making of regulations requiring that volunteers’ jobs shall be restored to them on their return from the war, subject to some right of appeal being given to the employers on account of changed circumstances?
I desire to inform the honorable member that, so far as men in civil employment are concerned, the matter is covered by the National Security (Reinstatement in Civil Employment) Regulations (Statutory Rules 1939, No. 176, and 1940, No. 63). Permanent officers of the Commonwealth Service are granted leave of absence under section 72 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and their rights as to promotions, increments, &c., are fully safeguarded during their absence. Temporary employees are granted leave, and upon expiration of their period of war service, they will be re-employed by the Commonwealth if it is reasonably practicable to reinstate them.
n asked the Minister in Charge of External Territories, upon notice -
Will he make a statement to the House outlining the assistance that is to be given to the planters in the copra industry in Papua and New Guinea, and indicate when such assistance will be available?
– Details of a scheme under which assistance will be provided for the copra-planters of Papua and New Guinea have not yet been settled and the matter is at present under consideration. Pending the formulation of a scheme, assistance has been provided for the month of August for advances to be made to planters other than companies, in order to enable them to meet the cost of the wages and rations of native labourers and to supply essential household stores. The advances are to be restricted to planters who are unable to meet the foregoing payments.
n asked the Minister in Charge of External Territories, upon notice -
In view ofthe objection raised by the Government to undertake the establishment of a copra pool similar to that established for wheat and other primary products on the grounds that copra is a perishable commodity and in view of the facts that this product is, for the time, unsaleable due to restrictions placed on shipping owing to the war, and that the planters of Papua and New Guinea are on the verge of ruin, due to the same cause, will the Minister submit to the Government a proposal put forward by a leading member of the New Guinea Legislative Council that £5 per ton of copra should be advanced to the planters engaged in the industry (other than the big trading companies), the product shipped to Australia and arrangements made to have the product milled for oil in the Commonwealth, such oil to be stored here until the normal market for coco-nut oil is re-established?
– The present difficulties of the copra industry are mainly due to the closure of normal markets, particularly European countries, though accentuated by the restrictions upon shipping. The proposal mentioned by the honorable member and all other suggestions for meeting the present position are receiving consideration in connexion with the formulation of a scheme of assistance to operate untiladequate markets are available.
Papua : Appointment of administrator.
n asked the Minister in charge of External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 August 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400808_reps_15_164/>.