12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The”People’s Patriotic Memorial.”
– I have thehonour to present a petition from the Patriotic Life and Health Saving Mission of Australia, whose headquarters are in Perth. The petition bears 31 signatures and it refers to the visit of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York to Australia in 1927, and to their gracious acceptance in Western Australia of a People’s Patriotic Memorial signed by 3,239 Australians, including a large proportion of returned soldiers. The People’s Patriotic Memorial records these important facts : -
I may say that the petition contains the most praiseworthy, loyal and patriotic sentiments, and it is particularly appropriate that it should be presented to the Senate in this year of historic importance to Western Australia, the year of the State’s centenary. The petition hears the signature of the Clerk of the Senate, testifying that, in accordance with the Standing Orders, it is respectfully worded. It concludes with the following prayer -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this petition be received, and that a copy of the People’s Patriotic Memorial be filed in the records of the Senate as a record of Australia’s appreciation of the messages of a very cordial approval accorded by the Duke and Duchess of York in response to the People’s Patriotic Memorial, as well as a Centenary Record of Western Australia’s settlement, achievement, and progress, due largely to our unity and patriotism towards our State, our Commonwealth, and our Empire.
I beg to move -
That the petition be received and read.
– I second the motion. It is unnecessary for me to add anything to the comprehensive extracts readby Senator E. B. Johnston.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Petition read by the Clerk as follows : -
To the Honorable the Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament Assembled.
The humble petition of theundersigned patriotic and loyal Australian electors, including returned warriors, respectfully sheweth : -
InA.D. 1927 Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York, were received throughout Australia with the greatest enthusiasm as was evidenced by numerous addresses, and especially by “ The People’s Patriotic Memorial,” duplicates of which were signed by 3,239 Australian citizens, were presented, and were very cordially approved by Their Royal Highnesses in messages specially conveyed in writing from England to Australia.
The significant welcome of the People’s Patriotic Memorial opened as follows: - May it please Your Royal Highnesses
The undersigned Australian citizens, who are representative of all sections of the people, reflect the feelings of Australians in extending to you a heartfelt welcome to our State and Commonwealth; and they recall Australian’s services, so valuable to all our Empire.
Important statements of the People’s Memorials were also supported by resolutions passed and signed by municipal councils, and by other public bodies, meetings, organizations, &c.
A summary of some of the chief events, facts, &c, evidenced in the People’s Memorials by public sworn irrefutable testimony, is to the following effect: -
Australia is the birthplace of Empire Day (1887-1897) ;
In 1899-1900 “Our Empire’s Rally “ - supporting the chief principles of Empire Day, “The Unity of all Britons Everywhere,” &c., was dedicatedby Field-Marshals Lord Roberts and Wolseley to the British Army, thereby attracting beneficial celebrity to Australia, and conferring on the composer, the stated originator of Empire Day, an honour without precedent in British history;
In 1900, the petition to Parliament from the Empire Day Patriotic League caused ‘the singing in Parliament of patrioticnational songs, the passing in Parliament of the resolution in support of returned warriors from the South African War, and other scenes of patriotism.
In view of the foregoing, and of other notable events, facts, &c., of the stated Patriotic Memorial and Petition, likewise 1929 being Centenary Year of the State of Western Australia, in which reside the signatories of this petition, we petitioners respectfully express our earnest opinion that the present is a specially appropriate occasion to present this petition with its memorial to the Federal Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this petition be received, and that a copy of the People’s Patriotic Memorial be filed in the records of the Senate as a record of Australia’s appreciation of the messages of a very cordial approval accorded by the Duke and Duchess of York in response to the People’s Patriotic Memorial, as well as a Centenary Record of Western Australia’s settlement, achievement, and progress, due largely to our unity in patriotism towards our State, our Commonwealth, and our Empire.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.
Motion (by Senator E. B. Johnston) agreed to -
That the copy of the People’s Patriotic Memorial referred to in the petition be filed in the records of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Daly) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz., Senator Dooley, Senator Reid and Senator Sampson.
Motion (by Senator Daly) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-20, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz., Senator J. B. Hayes, Senator Hoare and Senator O’Halloran.
. -I lay upon the table of the Senate, by command -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., and Estimates of Expenditure from Loan Fund for the year ending 30th June. 1930.
The Budget, 1929-30 - Further papers presented by the Honorable E. G. Theodore, M.P., in connexion with the Budget of 1929-30. and move -
That Standing Order No. 14 be suspended so far as to permit the moving of a motion “That the Papersbe printed “ before the AddressinReply is adopted.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the papers be printed.
It will be convenient at this stage briefly to outline to honorable senators a few details relating to the Budget and the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure. Since the new Government assumed office there has not been sufficient time to call for fresh estimates in detail from all departments, and to construct an entirely new budget based upon the policy of the new administration. Therefore, the major portion of the estimates of the late Government has been adopted. It was the duty, however, of the new Government to examine the estimates of receipts and revise and amend them so far as was necessary to disclose the true position of the Commonwealth finances. The examination revealed that, in some important instances the late Government had greatly understated the expenditure requirements and overestimated the probable revenue. The late
Treasurer has grossly miscalculated both the cost of definite commitments of the departments and services for the year, and also the probable revenue.
It is now apparent that if the actual requirements of the year had been provided for in connexion with war pensions, repatriation and war services, oldage pensions, iron and steel works bounty, prospecting for oil and sundry other items, for all of which definite commitments had been entered into, the estimates of expenditure should have been increased by approximately £500,000.
– In the opinion of the present Treasurer.
– No.I am quoting facts, not. opinions. It is also apparent that the customs and excise revenue, land: tax, and income tax. and other receipts, would have fallen short of the estimate by at least £1.050,000. The late Treasurer would, therefore, have finished the year with a deficit of about £1,200,000 instead of a surplus of £360,000 as promised by him in his budget speech.
– That is all supposition.
– I shall give honorable senators the facts if they will pay attention.
– These are something like the statements made by the honorable senator and his colleagues during the elections.
– All our electioneering claims have been established. As a matter of fact Senator Sir William Glasgow knows that financially we are £2,000,000 worse off than the Labour party anticipated when it warned the people of the desperate position of the country.
In addition to the inescapable commitments for which inadequate provision had been made in the budget, the late Government proposed to effect a saving of £60,000 at the expense of the maternity allowance by amending the act and altering the basis of qualification, and £140,000 at the expense of officers of the Public Service. The saving in the latter case was to be accomplished by abolishing the Public Service Arbitrator and amending the Public Service Regulations to provide for reduced allowances in respect of overtime, Sunday pay, higher duties, travelling, and other services.
– I thought the Labour party was opposed to overtime.
– I am not responsible for the opinions of the honorable senator. There are also certain arbitrary reductions made in respect of the ordinary votes of departments, the anticipated savings in connexion with which would not have been realized during the year.
The Commonwealth general elections, of course, were not foreseen when the budget was being prepared, but the responsibility for the expenditure involved rests with the late Government. The cost of these elections was £105,000, for which provision is now made in the new Estimates.
Moreover, it has been found that if Mr. Justice Pike’s recommendations relating to soldier laud settlement loans are accepted by the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth will be involved in a liability of £284,135 for interest overpaid by the States during the period 1st July, 1927, to 30th June, 1929. No provision for this liability was made in the late Treasurer’s budget, although his Government was prepared to accept the recommendation. The present Government is of opinion that, whilst there may be objections to the whole of the liability being charged against the accounts of the present year, provision should be made in this financial year to meet some proportion of the liability which falls upon the Commonwealth, and 1:100,000 is being set down for that purpose, and is included in the item “ Other war services “.
The increased expenditure provided for in the new Estimates in respect of Departments and Services (Part T.), for which either no provision or inadequate provision was made in the late Treasurer’s budget, can be summarized as follows : -
The Government proposes to reduce the Defence Department expenditure by £150,000 for the year. The net increase in expenditure, therefore, to be provided for in the new Estimates is £657,340.
The revised estimates of expenditure in respect of Part I. may be set out as follows : -
For the year 192S-29 the corresponding expenditure was £51,S99,077.
The amended Estimates disclose an increased expenditure over the previous year of £744,424. As has already been shown, this increase is almost entirely the result of the financing of the late Administration.
It is the intention of the present Administration as soon as time and opportunity permit to make an exhaustive examination of the entire governmental and semi-governmental organizations of the Commonwealth with a view to putting an end to extravagance and terminating the employment of highly-paid but unnecessary office-bearers and functionaries.
– The Government should get rid of any unnecessary officials.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– What about a redundancy of employees generally?
– We are dealing now with Commonwealth governmental expenditure. The Government has as yet no control over the persons employed in private enterprise, but when the industries of the country have been nationalized, it will bc able to deal with them also.
In recent years the Commonwealth expenditure has been burdened with the cost of a number of more or less ornate boards and commissions whose work obviously has not justified the cost of their upkeep and maintenance.
Moreover the consolidated expenditure carries heavy charges for certain departments and branches of Government, some of which have become obsolete and for others that have grown beyond all reasonable requirements, and also for services that are not, in all cases, a proper obligation for the Commonwealth to carry.
It will be recognized that a reorganization cannot be effected by a stroke of the pen, but must come gradually to be effective. The best way of arriving at economy in the Departments and throughout the Service generally, without sacrificing efficiency, is by making progress gradually in accordance with a wellconsidered plan. In this way the Government hopes to put a check upon the annual growth of expenditure.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
The budget estimates of the late Government were : -
The estimated receipts included a sum of £300,000 to be derived from an adjustment of charges for telephone and parcels post services. The Government proposes to amend the charges for these services, but the estimated revenue will fall short of the original estimate by £30,000.
We heard yesterday from the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition that the Government proposed to relieve the big American combines of the payment of taxes and throw the burden on industry generally. It is therefore meet that I should emphasize that the previous Treasurer expected to derive £300,000 during the present financial year from an adjustment of the charges for telephone and parcel post services. The estimated expenditure of £13,060,839 was arrived at after making a cut of £123,000 in the departmental Estimates arising out of the proposed reductions in allowances to officers to which reference has already been made. After reviewing the position, the Estimates have been increased by £50,000 and the revised amount of £13,110,839 will it is anticipated, be sufficient to carry on the services satisfactorily and at the same time enable the present rate of allowances to officers to be continued.
The revised Estimates are : -
No alteration has been made in the estimates of expenditure of the Commonwealth railways.
The departmental estimate of revenue for the Trans-Australian railway was increased by the late Government by £10,000 to £376,000 in anticipation of further increase of traffic in connexion with the Western Australian Centenary celebrations. It is not now expected that this increase will be realized and the estimate has been amended accordingly.
The revised estimates of the Commonwealth railways are : -
The estimated deficiency is £10,000 more than was estimated in the budget.
Part III. - Territories.
With regard to territories, examination shows that a saving of £10,000 can be made in the services for North Australia and Central Australia and the revised Estimates have been amended accordingly.
Under Federal Capital Territory provision has been made to recoup New South Wales payments made to residents of the Territory under the Child Welfare Act of that State. The amount involved is £550 and a corresponding saving has been made from another item.
Practically the whole of the expenditure of territories is a loss that has to be borne by the general revenue. Under the revised estimates the loss will be £617,630.
Part IV. - Payments to or for the States.
Included in the budget estimates of my predecessor there were two amounts relating to South Australia, viz. : -
This is the first year iu which a proposal is put forward to give assistance to South Australia by means of a special grant. The proposal arises from a claim by South Australia which was investigated by a royal commission. The royal commission recommended a grant of £1,000,000 to be spread over two years. In his budget speech the late Treasurer announced that his Government proposed to give assistance to that extent to South Australia, but it was to be spread over three years instead of two years as recommended. The amount of assistance was to be £360,000 for the current year and £320,000 a. year for each of the two succeeding years.
The amount of £60,000 for relief in connexion with the Port AugustaSalisbury railway represented the annual liability for interest and sinking fund in respect of that railway and the relief was to be conditional on South Australia transferring to the Commonwealth the control of the railway. It was claimed by the late Government that this proposal represented permanent assistance of £60,000 to the revenue of South Australia.
The Premier of South Australia has indicated that his Parliament would not agree to this railway being handed over to the Commonwealth. The present Government, after considering the matter, proposes to make a special payment of £360,000 for the current year.
– This is equal to the total assistance contemplated by the late Government but without any condition as to the railway mentioned. It is also proposed that, a payment of £320,000 shall be made in each of the next two years to complete the payment of the total grant of £1,000,000 recommended by the royal commission.
With regard to Tasmania, the late Government proposed to make a special grant of £250,000 a year for five years. The present Government has adopted that proposal and has made provision accordingly in the Estimates now submitted.
The revised estimates of expenditure for payments to the States in the current financial year, omitting that portion of the interest on State debts which is recoverable from the States, are as follows : -
Owing to the continuation of adverse monetary conditions in Australia, and abroad, the Australian Loan Council has found it necessary to curtail drastically the public- works programmes of the Commonwealth and State Governments for the present year. Each of the governmental authorities affected has a large amount of urgent developmental work of a thoroughly sound character already planned and ready to be put in hand, and in every State there is a large number of unemployed workers eagerly seeking employment.
So far as the market in Australia is concerned, the decline in the prices of our principal primary products, combined with diminished production owing to adverse seasonal conditions in certain parts of Australia, has resulted in a considerable reduction of the national income with its inevitable effect on the amount of money available for investment in Government loans. The high rates of interest obtainable in investment markets abroad has also had the effect of drawing funds from Australia, and in that manner further depleting our diminished resources.
It is unfortunate that coincident with adverse seasonal conditions and business depression in Australia, financial conditions overseas should be so stringent. With easier conditions abroad the Loan Council would have been justified in raising external loans in order to. meet the pressing requirements of the States and the Commonwealth, and by the increased activity, contribute to the reduction in unemployment.
Some honorable senators may take the view that having regardto this fact there should be no tinkering with the £34,000,000 migration loan agreement. We should remember, however, that all expenditure under that agreement will be by loan raised by the Commonwealth Government, and become part of the States’ loan programme. It is not merely a question of cheap money. We shall have to raise the loan and the British Government will contribute towards payment of interest.
One of the factors making for instability of employment, is irregularity of public expenditure by central and local governing bodies. The most variable element in this is loan expenditure, which tends to grow in times of prosperity and to diminish in times of depression. The direct effect of this is to increase the fluctuations in unemployment, not only through the restriction of employment by public authorities but also by its reactions upon business activitiy in general.
Activity on public works should be reduced to a minimum when other employment is abundant, and should be accelerated to its greatest capacity when the general industrial situation is stagnant.
The present Government will endeavour to work in accordance with this plan and will seek the co-operation of the State governments to the same end.
The last loan for new money in the London market was in January of the present year when £8,000,000 was raised at 5 per cent., the issue price being £98. Since then there has been acute financial stringency. The Bank of England rate reached 6½ per cent., interest rates generally increased, and the market prices of all government stocks declined. As a means of temporary finance, twelve months’ treasury-bills to the amount of £5,000,000 were discounted in London in September, the average rate of discount being £6 3s. per cent, and the effective rate of interest £611s. per cent.
The last Australian loan in New York was raised in May, 1928. Adverse conditions in that market have been in evi dence for many months and the raising of a further loan has been quite impracticable.
In the Australian market the last loan to be floated for new money was in February of this year when £7,600,000 was raised at 5¼ per cent., the price of issue being par. The market conditions continued to be satisfactory for some months, but in the last three months there has been a decided drop in the prices of government stocks, due partly to the adverse local conditions to whichI have already referred, and partly to the reflection here of the stringent money position overseas.
When the Government assumed office it was faced with a depleted treasury and the necessity of raising an immediate loan for the needs of the Commonwealthand the States. The earliest opportunity was taken by the Government to meet the chief officers of the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks, when a profitable discussion took place on the general financial position. As a direct outcome of the discussion, the Treasury immediately issued in Australia a loan of £10,000,000 bearing5¼ per cent. interest withanissue price of £98, and a currency of five years, the yield to the investor being £5 14s. 4d. per cent. The banks unanimously agreed to underwrite the loan.
Further temporary finance has been arranged for in London by the issue on 20th November of treasury-bills for £5,000,000. The bills willmature on 30th June, 1930. They are being discounted at an average rate of £5 7s. 6d. per cent., the effective rate of interest being £511s.
The Bank of England rate has recently been reduced from 6½ per cent., and it. is hoped that we may experience better financial conditions generally in the near future.
The loan programme announced in the budget proposals was as follows: -
The amount of £5,520,345 was the figure arrived at in accordance with the decision of the Loan Council in August that there should be a further all-round cut of 20 per cent, on the respective Commonwealth and States’ programmes submitted to and approved by the Loan Council earlier in the year.
The proposals now submitted do not exceed the total of this programme, but certain adjustments have been made within the total allotment.
These adjustments are as follow : -
These alterations provide for a net increase of £210,000, but it is proposed to’ keep within the total programme by making general savings. The expenditure will be closely watched to see that the total allotment, is not exceeded.
The £25,000 increase for river Murray works will be required in the event of the three States concerned being able to provide additional funds for these works without increasing the total of their loan programmes.
The estimated expenditure on the various works and services is as follows : -
Public Debt. in his budget speech the lute Treasurer, in dealing with the debt position, stated that the gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1929, stood at £377,621,573.
We find on examination that this figure does not include a sum of £5,000,000 which the late Commonwealth Government agreed to write off the indebtedness due by the States in respect of soldier land settlement loans. Separate agreements were entered into between the Commonwealth and respective State governments subject to ratification by the respective Parliaments. Four States passed ratifying acts, but before the other two States could ,do so the whole subject was re-opened at n conference between the Commonwealth and the States in 1927. The ratification of the agreement was accordingly deferred; but the Commonwealth agreed, without prejudice to its rights, to defer collection of interest from the States.
– Exactly. I am not condemning the late Government. I am merely emphasizing the point because I wish the Senate to know that it is a contingent liability which may accrue at any moment.
– But it was not a liability at the date of the introduction of the budget by the former Treasurer.
– I repeat that I am not condemning the previous Government in this matter. But I do say that it was the duty of the Treasurer, and also the duty of the then Leader of the Senate, to explain to honorable senators that it was a contingent liability. We intend to take all parties into our confidence and to show exactly what is the financial position of the Commonwealth, with the object of asking them to co-operate with us in putting the Commonwealth finances on a sounder basis.
Under the recommendations of Mr. Justice Pike, which were accepted by tilt late Government, n further sum of approximately £2.600.000 will have, to V written off as from 1st July, 1927, subject to agreement by the State governments -and ratification by all parliaments.
If both these sums are allowed for, the debt of the Commonwealth as at 30th June, 1929, will stand at £7,600,000 more than the sum quoted in the budget speech.
– I doubt that even Senator Pearce is optimistic enough to believe there is no justification for what I am saying. The right, honorable the Leader of the Opposition must admit that financially the position of the Commonwealth is £2,000,000 worse than was disclosed by the former Treasurer.
– Evidently the Minister is now worrying about these matters.
– Yes; because we are trying to put the ship of state on an even keel again.
– There was no attempt by the former Treasurer to conceal the items.
– Perhaps not; but he was in office, long enough to know that it was his duty to inform Parliament about such an important matter as this.
– That was done by the former Treasurer.
– The writing off pf the further sum of £2,600,000 would result in an annual loss to the Commonwealth of interest amounting to £162,000, and would necessitate the refund to the States of £284,135 of interest paid during the last two years. The late Treasurer allowed for a loss of £152,000 in the present year, but, as I have already stated, made no provision to meet the liability of £284,135.
The Government is convinced that the present system of credit control in Australia has many defects which militate against, the best use being made of the credit resources of the nation. These defects mostly arise from the fact that the private trading banks have in recent years almost exclusively arrogated to themselves the power to determine the bank discount and exchange rates, and the extent to which credit shall be expanded or restricted ; and, equally important, the classes of business or industry to which credit facilities shall be extended.
The organization of credit and its use should more and more be regarded as one of the great services of the nation to be controlled by national institutions.
With that object in mind, the Government will shortly give consideration to the question of remodelling the Commonwealth Bank and increasing its scope and functions.
– The Government has no intention of instituting any such procedure. Under the present system the rate of interest is fixed by the private banks when it should be fixed by a national financial institution.
– Why have not State Labour Governments established their own banking institutions ?
– The honorable senator is well aware of the fact that although Labour Governments have been in office in the States they have not been in power. A rural bank was established by a Labour Government in South Australia, but its efforts were frustrated by the representatives of vested interests in the Legislative Council, which whittled away the powers of a bank, established to assist the farmers.
– But there is no Legislative Council in Queensland.
– Queensland is a State which I hope to visit during the recess. The potential wealth and unbounded possibilities of the other States are always being extolled by their representatives in this chamber, but the representatives of Queensland always seem to be decrying that important portion of the Commonwealth.
– That is not so.
– Senator Foll and Senator Glasgow are always directing attention to what has happened in Queensland. I am not responsible for the position in Queensland, and I am sure this Government will be very willing to assist the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Moore, in placing the finances of that State on a sound basis.
– He is already doing that.
– The Premier of Queensland will receive every assistance from this Government should he need it.
– But the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth cleared out from Queensland with the cash register !
– The present Treasurer laid the foundations of the prosperity which Queensland is enjoying to-day, and no one knows that better than do Senator Glasgow and Senator Foll.
– The people of Queensland expressed their opinion very forcibly at the last State elections.
– -Labour was defeated in Queensland at the last election largely as a result of the votes of electors who had never lived under a Liberal administration. The last election in that State was decided by men and women who have within recent years reached the age at which they are entitled to vote. “When the “ money bags “ of Queensland attempted to dictate to the Queensland Government in matters of policy, the late Mr. Ryan saved the State with his election cry of “home rule for Queensland.”
– The present Treasurer did what the “ money bags “ told him to do.
– If the honorable senator read more and interjected less he would appreciate the wonderful work which Mr. Theodore performed on behalf of Queensland.
– I think it would be of advantage to the Senate to hear something more concerning the budget proposals of the Government.
– I am anxious to proceed, but am prevented from doing so by the interjections of honorable senators opposite.
The late Treasurer’s budget proposals provided for the estimates of revenue under Part I. : -
The estimate of £43,750,000 for customs and excise included £41,000,000 on the basis of the old tariff and £2,750,000 to be received from the new duties which were imposed on 22nd August. The Customs Department, after careful review, now estimates that on the basis of the present tariff the new duties will produce £250,000 more than was originally anticipated and the old duties £750,000 less. The revised estimate by the department is, therefore, £43,250,000, or £500,000 less than the budget estimate.
In view of a recent adverse decision of the High Court on the matter of Crown leaseholds, there will be a loss on land tax of £200,000 compared with, the budget, estimate of £2,800,000.
The revised estimate of income tax by the Commissioner of Taxation is £9,700,000, or £300,000 less than the budget estimate. This reduction is due in part to inability to pass legislation tightening up taxation laws in time to obtain any appreciable benefits in the assessments of the current year.
The estimate of £1,000,000 for amusement tax included £360,000 from the entertainment tax at present in force, £600,000 from a proposed tax of 5 per cent, on gross receipts from charges of admission to entertainments, and £40,000 which was not explained in the budget but which was probably intended to represent further entertainments tax consesequent upon a re-adjustment of charges of admission. The present Government does not intend to levy the proposed 5 per cent, tax on gross receipts.
– I can quite understand Senator Thompson viewing with horror any proposal of the Government to tax gross receipts generally, because he knows that principle is unsound.
– It is the practice in connexion with that particular industry, and the Minister knows it.
– It is not. Taxation proposals should be based upon a definite principle.
-Is not the Government proposing to do the same thing in connexion with excise duties?
– What difference is there ?
– Order! I ask honorable senators to refrain from interjecting and to extend to the Leader of the House that courtesy to which he is entitled.
– The estimated receipts from entertainments can, therefore, be set down at £360,000, or a reduction of £640,000.
Coinage revenue was estimated to produce £76,500. The revised estimate will fall short of the original estimate by £44,000. There will also be £10,000 shortage of receipts on the item “ Interest on loans to States for soldier land settlement “.
The shortage of revenue on the foregoing items totals £1,694,000 made up as follows : -
After deducting this shortage there would remain a total revenue of £62,504,000 towards meeting the revised estimates of expenditure.
It is convenient at this stage to summarize the revised estimates of expenditure which must be provided for. They total £64,574,442, made up as follows: -
There is thus a gap of £2,070,442 which has to be budged before the budget can be balanced on the basis of the revised estimates.
To cover this gap additional revenues of £i;200,000 will be obtained this year from an adjustment of the Customs and Excise Tariff, and it is also proposed to raise a further £S85,000 by an increase in the rates of income tax.
The revised estimate of customs and excise revenue is £44,450,000, or an increase of £700,000 over the budget estimate. I have already stated that according to a recent estimate by the Customs Department the collections to be realized if the present tariff remained in operation would fall short of the budget estimate by £500,000. The amendments of the tariff which it is now intended to impose are thus expected to yield this year a net increase of £1,200,000 above the present tariff.
In the Customs Schedule, which was laid on the table in another place last night, the items which were embodied in the resolution tabled in this House on the 22nd August last have been retained, but with variations in the rates of duty proposed at that time. In certain cases increases will be proposed, but in regard to the excise duty on beer the increase of 3d. per gallon will be reduced to Id. per gallon.
– Excise duties cannot be imposed to suit the whims of every section of the community. The Government proposes to reduce the excise on beer, because it does not consider the present rate equitable.
No further increase in duty on excise spirits ‘ delivered from customs control in bottles is contemplated, but increases on excise spirits other than rum delivered for home consumption in bulk will be proposed. The schedule which will be introduced covers 221 items and sub-items of the customs tariff, and IS items in the excise tariff,
In the amended duties, special attention has been paid to agricultural produce and groceries, textiles, including such lines as woollen piece goods, apparel, hats and caps, socks and stockings, metals and manufactures thereof, including wireless appliances.
An increase of Id. per gallon is proposed on petrol. This action is being taken to maintain the margin of protection for petrol distilled in Australia from enriched crude petroleum.
Amended duties on dressed timber, manufactures, of wood and furniture will be provided.
Increased duties will be imposed also on leather and rubber manufactures. The motor car industry, especially the manufacture of the enclosed type of bodies, has had further attention, and the fixed rate of duties on this class of body will be increased. Attention has been devoted to parts of chassis, such as springs and gears. The intermediate and general tariff rates on assembled chassis will be further increased.
Cotton-growers, together with the spinners of both cotton and woollen yarns, will receive increased assistance by way of duties under the proposed schedule in order to help the absorption of our own raw products, cotton and wool.
Under the Excise Tariff the rate of duty of 2s. per gallon on beer imposed by the schedule tabled on the 22nd August last, will be reduced from the 21st December next, that is, the day after the schedule referred to expires, to ls. lOd. per gallon.
An endeavour is being made to assist the cigar-making industry by admitting cigar-leaf - which it is admitted is not being grown in Australia - at the rates of duty prevailing before the 23rd August last. The import duty on cigars will be increased, in order to give the local cigar manufacturer a larger margin of protection against the imported cigars. In addition, it is proposed to reduce the excise duty on hand-made cigars to 3d. per pound, and on machine-made cigars to ls. 3d. per pound - rates which were recommended by the Tariff Board.
The Government has felt that with the vast number of workers who are unemployed, every avenue should be explored whereby the production of goods necessary for the domestic markets of Australia should be conserved to Australian industries, and that where consumers will insist upon having imported goods they must pay for that privilege.
Although the tariff proposals will result in increased customs receipts which will benefit this year’s revenue, they are being imposed with the primary and definite object of protecting Australian industry. The Government recognizes the need to be on guard against attempts to make use of an inflated customs revenue as a pretext for relaxing protective vigilance.
With regard to income tax the late Government announced its intention to impose a super tax of 10 per cent, in the rate of tax on individual taxpayers whose taxable incomes exceed £2,000. The amount to be realized from this super tax was not stated in the budget speech, but since it has been ascertained that it was £400,000, and this amount has been included in the revised estimate of £9,700,000 furnished by the Commissioner of Taxation.
The present Government proposes to raise £10,585,000 this financial year from income tax. The existing rates of tax will be increased by the imposition of a super tax as follows: -
The super tax is estimated to produce this year £1,285,000. Of that amount £4’00,000 was included in the budget estimate of the late Treasurer. The additional taxation proposed by the present Government is, therefore, designed to produce £885,000 more than the amount proposed to be collected by the late Government. Although the super tax is expected to yield £1,285,000 in the present year, the total yield from income taxes for the year will be only £743,000 more than the actual receipts of last year.
I think it can be asserted that taxation of every description falls ultimately upon the wages and incomes of all who labour by hand or brain ; or upon rent, interest, and profits derived from land and property. Where the taxes are imposed in the first instance upon commodities they are ultimately a charge upon the income of the consumers, who pay in increased prices for such commodities.
To comprehend clearly the relative burden of taxation and the real incidence of its varying forms, it is necessary to treat all taxes as being deductions from income, as indeed they always are in the last resort. By this means our interest can be sharply focussed upon the crucial issue: namely, what incomes have and what have not an “ ability to pay “.
The Government has kept this . doctrine clearly in mind in formulating the super tax upon incomes which I have just outlined. The taxes which can be applied most equitably to the varying capacities of the individual taxpayers are unquestionably direct taxes.
The administration of the present income tax law in the last few years has brought to light many anomalies and defects. In order to cure these, and to simplify the law as far as practicable, it is intended to submit to Parliament early nest year an amending Income Tax Assessment Bill.
Under the proposals now set forth, the revised estimates of revenue for the present financial year will be -
The summarized .estimates of revenue and expenditure, as revised and explained, are therefore -
At the 30th June, 1929, the accumulated deficit stood at £4,987,718. Towards the liquidation of this deficit the late Government proposed to apply the sum of £1,200,000, representing the accumulated income arising from liquidations of exenemy properties, in addition to such surplus on the year’s transactions as they had hoped to achieve.
I have already shown that, on the basis of the late Treasurer’s budget, there would have been no surplus at the end of the year to apply to this purpose; but, on the contrary, there would have been a further heavy deficit.
The present Government sees no prospect, in the present financial year, of paying off the deficit bequeathed to it by its predecessors, nor, indeed, of making any substantial contribution towards its reduction. As to whether the deficit will be liquidated from Consolidated Revenue in the near future, or whether provision will be made to fund it, will be considered and determined at a later date.
The purpose for which the accumulated funds accruing from the liquidation of ex-enemy properties will be applied has not yet been determined.
I think it will be generally realized that the new Government has assumed control at a period of extreme difficulty. It inherited an empty treasury, and an impaired credit at home and abroad-. However, it does not view the future with alarm or pessimism. Australia has wonderful recuperative powers, and a stouthearted and industrious community. If we are blessed with good seasons, our troubles will soon disappear, and we shall commence a new era of progress and prosperity.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.9]. - Under ordinary circumstances I would have sought the adjournment of the debate on the motion submitted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but in view of the extraordinary nature of the budget statement delivered in another place, I propose to say a few words at this stage and then ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date. Since the inception of federation, the annual budget statement delivered by the Commonwealth Treasurer has generally been, I am glad to say, an unimpassioned and businesslike- account of the actual financial position. On this occasion, however, and for the first time in the history of federation, the Treasurer’s statement has been 25 per cent, a businesslike account of the financial position of the Commonwealth, and 75 per cent, bitter political propaganda. It is, furthermore, an absolutely misleading statement of the financial position. With other honorable senators, who were members of the late Government, I have recently had an opportunity to review the facts set out in the budget. It is the duty of Ministers to review departmental estimates to see whether they will accept them or not, and in accordance with that practice, and particularly in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth, Ministers in the late Government refused to accept the departmental estimates of expenditure submitted to them. On the contrary, they went through them with a pruning knife cutting off large items of expenditure which the departments said were required. But now, for the purpose of swelling the figures of expenditure as much as possible, those items have been re-inserted in the Estimates which have just been submitted to this Parliament. We all agree that it is necessary for Ministers to give great consideration to estimates of revenue submitted by departments. Years of experience enable Treasurers to acquire a certain amount of knowledge in regard to revenue estimates, in fact to form a judgment which compares very favorably with that of their departmental experts. Dr. Earle Page having had a longer experience of budgeting than any other Commonwealth Treasurer, was clearly in a position to estimate revenue with considerable ability; at any rate with an ability equal to that of departmental experts. On the present occasion, however, Mr. Theodore, whilst accepting every estimate for increased expenditure that any department chose to put up, in order to unduly - I might almostsay improperly - swell the estimated expenditure of the Commonwealth, has, wherever possible, grossly and wrongly cut down estimates of revenue in order to justify a policy - I weigh my words when I say this - of vindictive taxation upon the people and industries of the Commonwealth. The statement we have had presented to-day will go down to history as an innovation in Australia.I hope that it will be the last of its kind. It is a commencement of a practice of issuing political propaganda of a grossly improper type - under cover of a presentation of a statement of the financial position of the Commonwealth - which,I venture to say on thisoccasion, is perilously approaching the region ofa dishonest statement, beca use it grossly inflates the proposed expenditure whilecutting down any possibility of revenue to meet, that expendi ture. There is an amount of £1,200,000 which the Government admits is in its possession, and which is legitimately available for use, but while Ministers propose to impose on the people and on the struggling industries of the country taxation amounting to £1,200,000, they will not tell Parliament or the country what they propose to do with this money which is already in hand. To me it seems to be something in the nature of a confidence trick, and I venture to say that this Parliament and the people will not tolerate it - that before the Government’s taxation proposals are approved Parliament will want to know the use to which this £1,200,000 is being put. Ministers will not receive blank cheques from Parliament. I ask leave to continue my remarks at some future date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Defence - Report by Lieutenant-General Sir H. G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. (for InspectorGeneral), on the Australian Mili tary Forces (Part I., 31st May, 1929).
– I ask the Leader of the Senate will he make available to honorable senators a copy of the tariff as amended by the new schedule laid on the table in another place last night? I understand that it has been the practice to provide honorable senators with schedules showing the various amendments made by new tariff proposals.
– I understand that in the present case the usual practice will be followed by the Government.
– Yesterday Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
– It having been stated by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons), that the Government, on the authority of the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), has assured the farmers of that district that they will receive 6s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government has any pronouncement to make upon the authenticity of the statement?
– The Government has no knowledge of any such promise having been made, and in the absence of such knowledge it may be inferred that no such procedure is contemplated.
Has a Mr. Threlfall been appointed by the present Government as Officer-in-charge of Publicity in the Prime Minister’s Department?
If so, was this appointment made under the Public Service Act?
Were applications invited for this position, and, if so, in what manner and when?
Did the Public Service Board recommend Mr. Threlfall for the position?
Was Mr. Threlfall previously in the Public Service?
Has Mr. Threlfall any war service, and, if so, of what nature?
Is Mr. Threlfall the gentleman who was in charge of the publicity of the Labour party in the recent election?
– The answers to the right honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Appointment of Mr. William Mahony
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
As provision was made in the Estimates of the late Government on pages 384 and 386 for the terminals of the Victoria-Tasmania radio telephone link will the Government proceed with this work as expeditiously as possible?
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government make representations to the Queensland Government in favour of processers having, say, 1,500 tons of sugar at export parity to enable the raspberry and currant’ crops in Tasmania to be made into jam instead of falling on the ground and wasting?
– In reply to the honorable senator, the matter referred to is now receiving the attention of the Government, and a reply will be given at the earliest possible date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence will give the questions his attention, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Clarence River Bridge
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
In view of the expressed intention of the Government to devote £350,000 to work on the north coast railway, will the Minister ascertain and inform the Senate as to whether the completion of the Clarence River bridge will be likely to synchronize with the completion of the railway?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is -
No. The railway line will be finished some months before the construction of the Clarence River bridge is completed.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Government will consider both these recommendations as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. The investigations have been completed and the Government, upon the recommendation of the Board of Trade, has decided that the payment of a bounty is not warranted.
Relief to Growers
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. In the case of hardship arising through the fall in the price of copra, each case will be considered on its merits.
Changes in Policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Before any fundamental changes are finally approved in the defence system of the Commonwealth, will he cause the matter to be discussed and pronounced upon by Parliament?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : - lt is the intention of the Government to introduce amending defence legislation early in the coming year.
Singing of “ Red Flag “ in Common Recreation Room.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2 and 3. At an informal social gathering held at the Kurrajong Hotel on the evening of the 20th instant, at which were present members of the Commonwealth Parliament of all parties, including Ministers of the Crown and lady friends of members, who had been invited to the opening of Parliament, a variety of popular vocal and instrumental numbers were rendered, in which most of those present joined. No offence could reasonably he taken in respect of any of the numbers rendered. In view of the above facts and the nature of the gathering, it is not proposed to take any such notion as that suggested by the honorable senator.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at four o’clock p.m. on Fridays, the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which, question shall not be open to debate; if the Semite lie in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the chair and report to the Semite: and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not. he open to debute: Provided that if the Senate, or the committee, he in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared ; ami if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the businesspaper for the next sitting day.
.- I move-
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week : and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be three o’clock in the afternoon of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and eleven o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE ( Western Australia) [12.30]. - My object in calling “ not formal “ to this motion was to draw the attention of honorable senators to the contemplated inclusion of Tuesday as a sitting day. I can .see no reason for that. So far the Senate has before it only the Address-iu-Reply and the printing of the budget-papers, and, in view of the nature of the business that the Government indicates it will proceed with, it is extremely unlikely that any bill will come before this chamber until after next week. There seems to be no necessity to bring honorable senators back here on Tuesday next. Should it be found necessary for the Senate to sit on Tuesday of the following week, the Vice-President of the Executive Council could on Friday next move that the Senate at its rising adjourn until the following Tuesday.
– If the right honorable gentleman will move an amendment to omit the word “ Tuesday,” I shall accept it.
– I now move -
That the word “ Tuesday “ first occurring be left out.
– While I have no serious objection either, to the motion or the amendment, I point out. that it has not been customary for the Senate to sit on as many days as the House of Representatives has sat. The Senate contains fewer members than does another place, so that it is not necessary for it to sit the same number of hours to deal with the same volume of business. The proposal to ait on Tuesdays is one of the first results of the Government’s neglect of the Senate. With the ministerial representation in this chamber limited to two Assistant Ministers, it is obvious that they will be overworked. The previous Government, recognizing the importance of the Senate, was represented in this chamber by four Ministers. Unfortunately, there is a desire on the part of a section of the community to disparage the Senate. Seeing that the Senate springs from the people, and is of their creation, it should be treated with greater respect. Indeed, its claim to the respect of every citizen of this country is pre-eminent. I feel that we should stand up for the rights and privileges of the chamber to which we belong. The two Ministers in the Senate must be disgusted with the lack of comradeship which their party displayed when it forced them to bear a burden which previously was shared by four Ministers. The volume of business transacted to-day is much greater than it was fifteen years ago, yet the present Labour Government has not treated this chamber so generously as did the Fisher Government, which was represented in the Senate by three Ministers. The action of the Government is an affront to the Senate, for not only is the numerical strength of its ministerial representation here less than it has ever been, but the status of Ministers has also been reduced. There is, in the Senate, no Minister with a portfolio; the nine plums of office are held by men in another place. Now the Ministers in this chamber are to suffer a further indignity in that they are asked to work on four days instead of three each week to transact the business of the country. The Government has offered a gratuitous insult to the first council in the land. What has the Senate done to be treated in this way? The Labour party in Australia will not even follow Soviet precedent; even under the Soviet system of government in Russia the federal scheme is maintained. I look to Senator Rae to support my protest. I well recollect the strong stand taken by the honorable senator when the selection of a site for the Federal Capital city was before the Senate. On that occasion he stubbornly resisted all appeals to vote against the dictates of his conscience.
.- X agree with Senator Lynch that the action of the Government in not allotting to the Senate at least one Minister with a portfolio is a reflection on this chamber. It would appear that the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) is of the opinion that among the members of the Labour party in this chamber there is not a man fit to be entrusted with full ministerial rank.
– The remarks of the honorable senator are only distantly connected with the subject under discussion. Am I to understand that the matter to which he has referred is the principal reason foi his rising to speak?
– I rose to protest against the treatment meted out to the Senate in the matter of ministerial representation. We have in this chamber, in the person of Senator Barnes, a man who for many years has been President of the Australian Workers Union; but it would appear that the Government does not think that qualification sufficient to justify it in allotting him a portfolio. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly), a man of considerable legal knowledge. has to be satisfied with a half-baked job in the Cabinet. I cannot understand why those honorable senators do not protest against the treatment meted out to them.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue that side issue too far.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Senate is prepared to accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition to eliminate Tuesday sittings. It would be unfair to the two half-Ministers to expect them to meet the Senate four days weekly. I support the amendment as much on their behalf as on my own. Among the Government’s supporters in this Chamber are men who have sufficient ability to hold ministerial rank. I am hopeful that, before long, the Government will see fit to increase the number of Ministers in this chamber.
– I feel that some of the remarks made in connexion with this motion call for a reply. I remind honorable senator? that as their statements are recorded in Hansard and are published in the public press, it is unwise to reflect on our Parliamentary institutions by referring to any honorable senator as a” half-baked Minister “. Personally, I regard the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council as a high and honorable one. Members of the Labour party, like the members of other parties, express themselves freely in the party rooms; but when a decision has been arrived at there, they loyally abide by it. As the VicePresident of the Executive Council, I shall endeavour to fulfil the duties of that office as worthily as did my predecessor; 1 should have been the last man to refer to Senator Sir George Pearce as a “ halfbaked Minister “. In appointing the Leader of the Senate to be Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Government has followed the precedent set by the government which preceded it. I am prepared to accept the amendment of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion further consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a Committee of the whole Senate, be suspended on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6.15 p.m. to 8 p.m., and on Fridays from 12.45 p.m. until 2.15 p.m.
Silting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21st November (vide page 66) on motion by Senator
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to : -
ToHis Excellency the Governor-General -
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [2.15]. - In supporting the motion for the adoption of the
Address-in-Reply, I desire to approach consideration of the issues that are raised in the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General from an angle slightly different from that taken by honorable senators who have preceded me. Whether it be pleasant or otherwise to the majority of members of this chamber, I propose, at the outset of my remarks, to state what to me is a clear and undeniable fact, namely, that the Governments, both Federal and State, which have been in power ever since the war, have not succeeded in keeping Australia out of very serious trouble. If the present Labour Government, now that we are unquestionably in difficulty, can succeed in getting us out of it, they will deserve well of the people. It is not unusual for those who are in trouble to attach the blame to occurrences which they could not help. In the present instance it is convenient to attribute Australia’s present financial position to indifferent harvests, falling price levels, or the difficulty of raising loan moneys abroad. I do not for one moment wish to discount the influence which the peculiar circumstances mentioned have had upon our present position ; but I suggest that we should direct our attention to those things which we could have avoided, and can avoid in the future, rather than speak at length concerning those things which are entirely beyond our control.
It would be well, therefore, if the present government learned a lesson from our political and industrial mistakes, which, to my mind, have played a far bigger part in bringing Australia into its present unfortunate position, than the incidence of indifferent seasons or falling price levels in the world’s market. Indifferent seasons are not peculiar to Australia. Indeed, they are experienced by all countries that depend on agricultural production. No country can claim to be in anything like a sound position unless during its good seasons it builds up sufficient reserves to carry it over those periods of indifferent harvests that are common to all. For many years there has been ample evidence of falling price levels everywhere, and only those who were blind to economic truths could have thought it was possible for Australia to ignore the fact that prices for our exportable surplus, upon which we depend so largely, were bound to decrease in the world’s markets. I say, therefore, that there is nothing extraordinary about what has happened to Australia - nothing that we were not entitled to expect, and certainly nothing that should not have been foreseen, and to some extent provided for.
Before I proceed further I wish to tilt a lance against a statement made by the mover of the motion concerning what he termed the high standard of living in Australia. The honorable gentleman boasted about it, and declared that it was something that we should always strive to maintain. I am not particularly proud of our standard of living. Speaking with some knowledge of other countries, I can say without the fear of successful contradiction, that we have natural opportunities that are unequalled - that we have fewer natural difficulties than probably any other country. What troubles we have we have made for ourselves. I believe that our people, springing as they do from the finest stock in the world, and reared in a wonderful environment, should attain to a. high standard of living. When I hear people boasting about our enviable social and industrial conditions, I ask myself what does it all mean. It is true that in certain industries a considerable number of people are employed for short hours at high rates of wages. It is true also that in many of our cities, because of enormous appreciation iti land values, certain people who took advantage of a temporary financial boom resulting from over borrowing are rich beyond the dreams of avarice without having done a great deal by way of service to the community. But when we look further afield we find that even in our cities there is a large percentage of our people living in houses scarcely fit for human habitation, and under conditions that certainly do not justify us in boasting about our high standard of living. Only a small percentage of our. people are decently educated because State Governments declare that they cannot afford the necessary money to improve the educational standard of their citizens. In all our country districts there are people on the land toiling from daylight till dark, and many, unfortunately, are faced with a very uncertain if not a decidedly black future.
I am not content to tall? about the high standard of living in Australia. I hope that instead of boasting about it the Government and its supporters will endeavour to insure to all our people a really high standard of living and comfort.
To my mind there are four main causes for our present trouble. The first is our policy of borrowing money at high rates of interest for expenditure on public works costing a great deal more than they should. The second is the constant industrial turmoil and the restriction of the output of labour. The third is the persistence of government after government, encouraged all the time by a large section of the people, in endeavouring to formulate schemes for the expenditure of the people’s money instead of allowing the people to spend it for themselves; and the fourth is the unwise policy of bolstering up certain industries without sufficient regard to the consequences of such action upon other industries. Obviously, the time at my disposal is quite inadequate for more than a fleeting survey of these four main causes of our present industrial and social trouble.
The first cause cuts right across the £34,000,000 migration agreement. In my opinion, that arrangement, was a bad one from the outset, because it represented an attempt on the part of the Imperial Government, the Commonwealth and State Governments to substitute schemes for sound economic principles. It is supposed to provide cheap money to be expended in Australia. Actually it will be the dearest money that Australia has ever borrowed. One has only to consider for a moment the cost of public works recently carried out to realize the truth of this statement. The facts relating to the cost of the River Murray irrigation scheme are somewhat startling. The estimated cost of those works - I am speaking without my book, but I am not far from the mark - was about £4,000,000. Up to date, although three times that amount has been spent, they are still uncompleted, and experts are in doubt whether it is worth while going on with the scheme, because of the uncertainty that it will achieve the desired end.
As regards soldier settlement, we had an illuminating statement this morning from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly). We are all aware that our soldier settlement schemes have been extremely costly, and that the money spent on them has not gone as far as was expected.
The Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral makes mention of railway construction proposals, and the unification of railway gauges. In 1921-22, when experts inquired into the proposal to construct the Grafton to South Brisbane railway - one section of the unification scheme - the cost was estimated at £3,000,000. We have already appropriated £4,000,000 for that work, and the Government is making provision for an additional £350,000 to complete it.
To give honorable senators some idea of the line of argument which I wish to follow, I remind them that in 1898 the people of Western Australia approved of the proposal to build what is known as the Coolgardie water scheme, at a cost of about £3,000,000. That great undertaking was completed for about the sum mentioned, and since then extensions to important agricultural districts that were not contemplated at the time, have brought the total cost up to £3,750,000. The interest charge on the first loan was 3 per cent, per annum, and the total interest charge on that great undertaking was £90,000 per annum. Contrast that with a later public work undertaken in Sydney. In 1924, Sydney decided to build the North Shore bridge, estimated then to cost £4,200,000. It is important to note that between 1898 and 1924 the general price levels had appreciated by about 64 per cent. Therefore, it may fairly be argued that had those two works been constructed at about the same time, the Coolgardie water scheme would have been the more costly undertaking. But different industrial methods are now in operation, and the Sydney Harbour bridge is now estimated to cost about £6,000,000. In the case of the Coolgardie water scheme, the contractor took all the risks. He gave a price for the job, and had to see it through. Not so in the case of the contractor for the Sydney Harbour bridge. His contract protected him from any increase in wage costs. All additional charges due to the advance in wages have been thrown On the general community. I am not arguing that it would be possible in these days to induce contractors to tender for public works under conditions that obtained, say, 25 years ago. I am merely pointing out that in these later years we have to meet entirely different industrial conditions, and am endeavouring to show the consequences of these alterations. The two public works I have mentioned may be regarded as comparable undertakings, the Coolgardie water scheme being, if anything, the more costly. Yet the annual interest on that great work was only £90,000, whereas the Sydney Harbour bridge, costing £6,000,000, with rates of interest varying from 5i to 5£ per cent., will involve in interest alone about £325,000 per annum. The smaller work having regard to comparative price levels cost three and a half times as much. Possibly the people of Sydney can afford to pay practically £1,000 a day, which represents the interest cost of that huge undertaking; but I am certain that, although there are three times the number of people in Western Australia to-day that there were in 1898, and although the wealth and resources of that State have been substantially increased since then, an undertaking such as the Coolgardie water scheme would be utterly impossible at the present juncture. It would not stand a moment’s investigation. It is important to realize that we have set up in Australia a condi- - tion of affairs under which it is impracticable to do that which is essential for the effective development of the Commonwealth. To me it is inevitable that a big inflow of money for the construction of public works all over Australia must have the effect of increasing the cost of such works. We cannot avoid it. It isone of the inevitable results of the law of supply and demand - that most beneficent law which, if left alone, compels thepeople to do that which they should do. It is a law which governments cannot put: out of office except at their peril. 1 referred just now to what some regard as the cheap money provided under the migration agreement, but which is, in effect, very dear. The money contributed to the States by the Commonwealth constitutes no element of cheapness, because in the end it has to come from the same source. It is the people who have to pay, and if the Commonwealth Government did not have to make these particular contributions to the States it would not have to. impose such oppressive income taxation as is now proposed. This so-called cheap money is not worth a snap of the fingers to the States. The arrangement under which we are now working has the effect of making the State authorities believe that they are receiving capital under easy conditions, and inducing them to put in hand works the construction of which they would otherwise consider very carefully. The cream of this scheme is soon skimmed off, and we are back to the position of borrowing money at high rates to pay for works at an abnormally high cost of construction. The only contribution we receive in the direction of making this money cheap is that received from the Imperial Government. In the original agreement, a sum of £130,000 was set down for each capital sum of £725,000 loaned to the States for expenditure on approved undertakings. In 1926 the British Government very generously, I think, increased this contribution from £130,000 to £150,000 for each capital sum of £725,000 advanced. What return does the Imperial Government receive for this gift to Australia? There is an undertaking on the part of Australia that each State will take one migrant in respect of every capital sum of £75 advanced by the Commonwealth to the States. It simply means that the Imperial Government makes a free gift to Australia of £15. for each assisted migrant settled in Australia. Our obligation is to bring out a specified number of migrants within ten years, making a total, I think, of approximately 450,000 persons, of whom it is agreed that a little more than one-third shall be members of families without capital. We are not living up to our obligations. The year after this agreement was entered into there was a small increase in the number of assisted migrants; but in 1928 the number received was not one half of what it should have been under the agreement. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said yesterday that during the first nine months of this year there was an excess of immigrants over emigrants of about 3,000. It is interesting to note that during that period only 9,000 assisted migrants were brought to Australia, or one-fourth of the number which should have been settled here. Apart from those 9,000 assisted migrants there was an actual increase of emigration over immigration during the first nine months of this year. If it had not been for the arrival of those 9,000 assisted migrants there would have been an excess of departures over arrivals.
This agreement was framed under an act passed by the Imperial Parliament to assist overseas settlement. It had two principal features, one of which was the provision of cheap money and the other the settlement of migrants overseas. It is very easy for us to satisfy ourselves that the money will not be cheap, and equally easy to see that migration is not being stimulated. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in May of this year it was decided to ask for a further amendment of the agree-, ment under which the Imperial Government should continue to make its contribution, and Australia would be relieved of any positive obligation in the matter of receiving migrants. That was a shameful proposition to be made by any country such as Australia. We entered into a bargain with the Imperial Government, which agreed that for every migrant settled in Australia it would give us £15; if we cannot carry out our portion of the agreement why do we not say so? In the agreement itself provision is made for circumstances such as actually have arisen. It is stipulated that at the end of three years and of six years the position shall be reviewed and, if necessary, the Commonwealth shall return, with interest, any money it has received from the Imperial Government in excess of that to which it is entitled. Why cannot we hand back the amount we have improperly received? The Government should realize that this is not cheap money, and rather than continue as at present it should adopt an honorable course and say thai as it cannot carry out its part of the agreement, it does not expect the Imperial Government to he bound by it. 1 cannot understand any self-respecting country such as Australia, which boasts of a high standard of living, seeking to sponge upon the Imperial Government by asking it to carry out its obligations under the agreement and at the same time shirking its own responsibilities in that respect. 1 trust that this Government will study the subject from that viewpoint.
Another reason for our present unfortunate position is industrial turmoil and the restriction of output. I do not wish io repeat what has been said concerning the cost of strikes; but. will place before i lie Senate a few facts which may be of interest. During the three and a half years in which I represented Western Australia as its Agent-General in London, 1 was consulted by many persons, many of whom were not directly interested in Western Australia, in regard to certain business proposals, for the further development of Australian resources. I admit, that in some cases the propositions were fantastic and entirely unsound. There were others’ that appealed to me and concerning which I was able to give prospective investors some useful information. During that period I was frequently confronted with the fact that strikes were occurring in Australia and that because of the uncertainty of a regular output there was a disinclination on the part of investors to invest capital here. Some will say that that is a libel on Australia, and that, as a matter of fact, there are fewer industrial disputes in this country than in others. But it is not outside investors alone who hold this view; the report was confirmed a fortnight ago that Mr. McKay, who is now in control of the Sunshine Harvester Works in Victoria, has determined to remove the export branch of his business to Canada. Mr. McKay is not adopting this course because the wages in Australia are higher than they are in the Dominion of Canada, but because of the industrial conditions which prevail here. Mr. McKay, after explaining the circumstances, said that his operations were not affected by strikes in his own industry, but by industrial disturb- ances on the waterfront, in the coal-mine-*, in the timber mills and other industries. He further said that his organization had been waiting for years in tho hope of firmly establishing the export branch of his business in Australia; but had eventually decided to transfer it to Canada, where tho industrial conditionsenabled him to secure a regular output. Mr. McKay is not transferring his works to a cheap-labour country; but to a sister Dominion where the wages of skilled workers are higher than they are in Australia. The transfer is- being made because there is some industrial certainty which is not available in Australia.
The restriction of output is one of the worst features .of our industrial system. I am firmly convinced that the only way in which to make our country prosperous is by increasing the spending power of the whole of our people. That can bt achieved by increased production of wealth and by no other means. Let me cite an instance in point. I am not going to express an opinion as to whether the industrial trouble on the northern coalfields is due to a strike or to a lockout; but I know that there are probably 5,000 more miners engaged in that industry that can be profitably employed on full time, that the wages in some cases are high and the hours unnecessarily short. In the evidence given before the royal commission inquiring into the coalmining industry, it was stated that miners were being paid £2 2s a day, although they were able to get through a day’s work in from three and a half to five hours.’ The spending power of miners who receive full payment for a half-day’s work is not any greater than when they -receive full pay for a whole day’s work. But the community is robbed, and when they are not working full time the spending power of those engaged in the industry is reduced. If the whole of the Australian people were working full time we would soon be able to remove the economic difficulties which we are now experiencing. If the coal-miners received as much for producing a large quantity as for a small quantity the benefit would be distributed over all the industries of the country. I use coal-mining merely as an illustration, and ‘ I do not care what industry it is applied to. Any industry in which production is artificially restricted becomes a burden on others - one which falls almost entirely on the working men and working women of this country, and with the greatest and cruellest severity on those who are unemployed. The worker has no greater enemy than the man who tells him that by restricting production he can leave a job open to some one else. The worker has no chance of prosperity except by the large production of wealth, and although he may think that he is hitting ut the capitalist or the fat mau when he takes steps to decrease the production, he never does anything of the kind. The capitalist or the fat man always passes? things on. It is always the worker that is hit. There is no more potent cause of unemployment in Australia than the slowing down of industry or the failure of industry -to produce the maximum amount of wealth. It is not without, significance that in Russia, where some of the leaders have at last studied economics, they have recently increased the hours of labour in factories in order to get rid of unemployment. It has always been the case that more work creates more work,, and idleness or partial employment always has been, and always will be, the most fruitful cause of unemployment.
The third cause I give for our present position is the helping of people by government schemes, avid I think that the downfall of the late Government could be directly traced to- its helping the people by schemes. The late Treasurer, having year by year more money than he required or knew what to do with, was always casting round to see what he could do that would benefit the people. He saw that they wanted better roads. He did not concern himself with the fact, that road-making is no part of the functions of the Federal Government in accordance with the Federal Constitution. You may remember reading, Mr. President, that in the final paragraph of his farewell message to the people of the United States of America, Washington, when he was retiring from the position of President, urged that the people, whatever they did, should remember that each government must, do its own job, and stick to its own job. The Treasurer of the last Commonwealth Government differed from Wash ington in that respect. He saw that roads were wanted and that the Commonwealth had the money, and so the Commonwealth Government started out on a Federal Aid Roads scheme under which the Commonwealth gave the States £2,000,000 per annum on condition that the States provided £&, 500,000 per annum. What happened? In a year or two, under conditions that might very easily have been foreseen when money was no longer available, the Federal Treasurer, who had been so anxious to do things to help the people and had freely given them money, was obliged to turn round to them and say. “ You must give me some of it back.” We know the result.
The money expended under the Federal Aid Roads Scheme can be divided into four, perhaps not equal but very distinct parts. One part of the money lias been wasted - I make the statement, deliberately - in excess costs, just as money thai looks cheap or money that is easily goi always will be wasted to a large extent, whether it is obtained by the State or by the individual. It is open to demonstration that in a great many cases money has been extravagantly spent upon the construction of roads. I do not mean that a road has cost- a few hundreds of pounds more than it should have, but that it has cost thousands of pounds per mile more than should have been the case. A very distinct portion of the Federal Aid Roads grant has been wasted.
A second part has been spent in providing quite unnecessary facilities in competition with existing facilities. T do not for a moment suggest, that we ought to stop building roads or that we should not take advantage of the most modern methods of transport, but I say that in the present position of Australian finances the construction of a road that to a large extent competes with an existing railway must be considered from a strictly economic aspect before it is undertaken. That has not always been the case in regard to the Federal Aid Roads scheme.
The third part of the money has been used to provide means for luxury motoring in imported cars using imported spirits. It is the crowning extravagance of Australia to-day that so much money is spent in motoring, just for the sake of motoring; yet no one seems to have seen the humour of the situation when a Treasurer declared that the people must pay more for their whisky, tobacco and their amusements, in order that there should be no stoppage of luxury motoring on the roads. It may be a very fine thing to tax luxury, but to .tex one luxury in order to keep another going seems humorous to me.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.[f the honorable senator would go to Sydney or any other city where motors are freely used, he would be amazed by the extent of luxury motoring on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Indeed, Lt is amazing that in a country like this - and it is the same in the Old Country where labour difficulties are so acute and where unemployment and suffering are so intense - that so much money should be available for expenditure in that direction.
The fourth part of the money expended under the Federal Aid Roads scheme is for entirely beneficial purposes, but the question is whether we can afford to back only one winner out of four when the odds are so short. I do not think that we can, and I am sorry that on coming to the Treasury bench the Labour Government, instead of increasing taxation, did not say, “ We shall for the present - at all events until the money is available - suspend this Federal Aid Roads grant.” We shall not get out of our unemployment trouble by wastefully spending loan money or by doing other than absolutely necessary work.
Some remark has been made about the insistence of the late government on the building of roads under the Federal Aid Roads scheme by contract instead of by day labour. At every opportunity I have denounced this insistence, because I do not think that any Federal Government has the right to dictate to a State government how it should spend its money. If a State government, with its greater local knowledge, does not know the best way of doing work it should not have the money at all. Beyond that I hold for the strict letter of the Constitution : that whatever surplus revenue the Commonwealth has should be distributed among the States. I hope that the present occupants of the federal Treasury bench will not retaliate by insisting that, instead of the work being’ done by the contract system, it must be done by day labour, possibly on a 44-hour week, and also, possibly by the exclusive employment of trade unionists. That would merely be retaliation. I trust that the present Government will prove too big for an action of that kind.
Another scheme to help the people which the late Government initiated was that of Commonwealth housing. Surely it was a splendid idea to help people to build homes to the extent of £1,800 a house. But let us view the facts. The other day the president of the builders and contractors organization made a statement that the house which cost £600 before the war now costs £1,500. He was just about right. It is a far greater increase than the ordinary increase in price levels and it has been brought about largely because governments have been helping the people to build houses. Ever since the British Government started on housing schemes and began to help people to build houses the cost of building has increased. It was inevitable. It is like having a great big bran pie and. asking everyone to put in his hands and have a dip. In this case all have had a dip, the contractors, the men who have supplied material, and the workmen. The number of bricks laid per day has been reduced. All sections of the industry have combined to force up the cost of building. Years ago in the different States we had our little carefully-controlled workers’ homes schemes kept to a small level which was not of sufficient magnitude to disturb the ordinary position of the building industry, and they did an immense amount of good. But then the war service homes scheme came along. If some good had been done to the soldiers I would not have cared what it cost the country; but the soldier is the last man who ought to be thankful for the war service homes scheme because to-day he is paying for a house which cost double what it is worth. The further we go the higher the price we find we pay under this system of government assistance in the matter of housing, and the less value we receive for the home in which we live. Again I say that this helping of the people under the belief that the Government can do better for them with their own money than they can do themselves is a very fruitful cause of the trouble in which we find ourselves to-day.
The fourth cause for our present position is the bolstering of industries. We are told that £350,000 is to be given to the State of South Australia this year, and further sums in the next year and the year after. It is far less than the amount South Australia is entitled to receive, not as a gift, but as a right. This matter has been investigated by no less than five independent commissions, each of which has come to the conclusion that the fiscal policy of Australia by discriminating between industries, and by bolstering secondary at. the expense of primary industries, has cast an overwhelming burden on Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. This is not an appropriate occasion to deal with this matter; we can discuss it better on the budget, but having had an opportunity to follow carefully the whole of the investigations of all these commissions, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the annual loss that each of these three States has sustained has been more than double the highest amount that any one of them has received in any single year by way of a special grant from the Commonwealth. People say that Western Australia is to-day in a very prosperous condition. It is, and I hope that it will always remain prosperous, but those of us who are familiar with the conditions of the State know full well that if it had not been for the drought in the Western Hemisphere - in America, Canada and the Argen tine - which fortunately kept up the price of wheat for us, we should have been in difficulties this year. And if the price of wheat falls much lower than it is to-day we shall be in difficulties next year. We are told that in Western Australia we are extending our wheat-growing too far into unsafe rainfall areas. Are we going to accept the position that in Australia we can do these things only in the most favorable localities and that we must not go a step further because it is unsafe? Surely if our industries are to be sound they must be on such an economic basis that we can face seasonal variations - that we can make sufficient profit during good seasons to enable us to build up an adequate reserve to tide over bad times. If we are going to adopt the policy that we should not penetrate beyond a certain point because of scanty rainfall and the knowledge that we would strike an occasional bad season, we shall bring our industry down to such a level that the development of Australia will be retarded.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Certainly not, because that could never be made to pay. But mention was made about the areas around Southern Cross. There, except during occasional bad seasons, farmers reap fine returns, and I dare say that there are similar places in South Australia from which excellent returns would be received in good seasons. If we are going to restrict our activities to the most productive areas, we shall minimize the progress of our people, and retard the development of Australia.
Mention was made of the wine bounty and we were told that it should be continued until the industry is able to stand on its own feet. I should like any honorable senator to tell me of a single Australian industry that has been protected or bonused and now stands on its own feet. Is there one? Is it not a fact that every time you begin to protect or bonus an industry you decrease its capacity to look after itself, and continue to be greeted with the cry, “ More bounties, more protection.” Honorable senators may review every industry in Australia that is protected or bonused, and, whether the industry is primary or secondary; whether it be sugar, butter, or wine, they will find the one result. So, instead of this system setting an industry on its feet, it knocks its feet from under it; in fact, such industries never have any feet to stand on except bonuses, and invariably the heavy bonuses have to be borne by the non-bonused industries.
I want to say a word or two about unemployment, and to quote a resolution carried yesterday at the conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. It reads -
Recognizing that unemployment is the most important question affecting the social and industrial life of the Australian people, this conference calls upon the Federal Government to introduce immediately an unemployment insurance scheme which will provide for every unemployed person getting at least the Commonwealth basic wage whilst unemployed, and resolves that this request be forwarded to the Prime Minister.
I know perfectly well that the Prime Minister will not accede to that request. I am not inferring that this Government will take such a rash step. But what an example of extraordinary ignorance of the first principles of economics ! What would be the unhappy fate of those who were in work if all those out of work received award wages? Out of what fund could those award wages come except out of the pockets of those who were in work ? The inevitable consequence of a provision of that kind would be an increase of unemployment, and the lot of the worker would be made far worse than it is to-day.
The passage in His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech in reference to the gold reserve is not sufficiently clear to justify much in the way of comment, but. I take it that it is in some way associated with the note issue which certainly should be regulated by the requirements of industry.
I wish to make reference to the remarks that have been directed to the employment of Southern Europeans in Australia.I do not mind much what steps a Government takes to exclude Southern Europeans provided that, at the same time, provision is made for the admission of a sufficiently generous flow of Britishers to enable us to build up our population. But I most definitely take up the attitude that when a Southern European or anybody else is admitted to the country, he is entitled to fair treatment. It is utterly wrong to discriminate against them. There was atime when people said that they did not mind the admission of Southern Europeans provided that they did not congregate in our cities. Wow there is a protest because Southern Europeans are working on our roads, and developing our farms. There is not one city in Australia in which the fruit and fish shops are not almost wholly conducted by Southern Europeans. Australians have been driven entirely out of the business by industrial conditions which are entirely unsound and false economically. That is an illustration of where you land yourself when you set out to defy the laws of supply and demand. Apparently those who look askance at Southern Europeans are reconciled to their having nice “cushy’’ jobs in the cities. But that does not mean that we are able to purchase cheap fruits as the foreigners charge top prices for their wares. And now people are starting an outcry that Southern Europeans are working on our roads and opening up our land.
SenatorRae. - We object to Southern Europeans because they cut wages, no matter where they are.
The subject of defence has been treated by the experts, and I shall not touch upon it except to say that, as a father, my impression of compulsory military training is that it makes better chaps of our boys. A little bit of discipline is good for everybody. Discipline is really the foundation of an independent spirit. I do not think that any undisciplined person ever has a really independent spirit. You cannot control others until you have learnt self-control. Compulsory training taught young fellows to stand upright, and to look their fellow men in the face. T must admit that I was not impressed with the statement on behalf of the late Government by Sir William Glasgow that it discontinued military training in country districts because it cost a little more than similar training in the cities. That is not giving a fair spin to the country towns, and it is setting a bad example to those who come after.
We have heard a lot of talk about Russia. I know so little about my own country that I would not dare to dogmatize about another, but I have had some opportunity to study the constitution of Russia, aud I commend two principles of that constitution, not merely to the present occupants of the treasury bench, but to the people of this country generally. The first of those principles is that it is not merely the responsibility, but the privilege, of every worker to be trained in arms so that he may defend his country. The second principle is expressed, so far as the accuracy of the translation can be trusted, in these words, “ It is the duty of every citizen of the Soviet to work, under the principle that he who does not work, neither shall he eat.” The present condition of Russia is probably not much worse than it has been for many centuries. That unfortunate country may be on the way to something better. We all hope that it is. If it. is to achieve something better, I firmly believe that that will be done by insistence on those two principles : work, and a feeling of responsibility and privilege, and the need to prepare oneself for the defence of one’s country. With us there seems to be an inclination to rely entirely upon the League of Nations. 1 am a great believer in the League of Nations, but I cannot close my eyes to the fact that, right, through the centuries, all wars have had economic causes. Is the world to-day removing the economic causes of war? The United States of America is the country from which peace pacts come. That country is insisting upon the payment to the last farthing of war loans which were, shall I say, rather usuriously lent to the Allies. The United States of America is building its tariff wall higher and higher against trade with other countries, and it is increasing its policy of excluding other peoples from its shores. Do we find in the United States of America, the great protagonist of peace pacts, such a revision of economic policy as would suggest to us that there is no danger of wars in the future? And what are we doing? We are talking about relying on the League of Nations and at the same time flying in the face of the very things that that league is asking us to do. We are building up higher tariffs and granting higher bounties, while the League of Nations pleads for a tariff holiday and the cessation of government bounties on all articles. We refuse to do what the league requests. We continue to do ‘exactly what we like, aud yet rely upon that league to save us from getting into trouble. We insist, and quite properly so,on the absolute control of our own affairs, particularly in regard to that splendid ideal, the White Australia policy, from which I firmly believe no party in this country would ever depart. But it is inconsistent for us to ask the League of Nations to give us any help while at the same time we ignore its requests, and, with a population of but 6¼ millions, and an enormous country with tremendous potential wealth and resources, declare that we have no room for more people, even those of our own kith and kin. I do not deny that we should work for the League of Nations and for peace, but we have to remember that the poet’s conception is not yet complete. While we have -
Pilots of the purple twilight, the hope of the federation of the world is still remote. The economic struggles which caused wars in the past are more intense to-day than they have ever been. Nor do I think that there is the least indication of any fundamental change in human nature. The “dreams of childhood have not yet become the charts to guide the destinies of man.” Even men of goodwill may well fear that with the first shot fired between two civilized nations the League of Nations will dissolve into conflicting portions; in which case woe be to those who are not prepared !
This morning’s newspaper contains an intimation that the Imperial Government will not interfere with the construction of the Singapore Base unless the Dominion Governments agree to such interference. I earnestly hope that the Commonwealth Government wall not agree to any cessation of work there. In no partisan spirit, in no spirit of criticism for what it has done, I beg the Government to recognize, and to live up to the recognition, that the first obligation of any government is to make adequate provision for its country’s defence.
Debate (on motion by SenatorFoll) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. Chifley, Mr. Coleman, Mr. J. Francis, Mr. Gardner, Mr. G. Green, Mr. Guy, and Mr. Yates had been appointed members of the Public Accounts Committee.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. M. Cameron, Mr. Curtin, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Holloway, Mr. Lacey, and Mr. Long had been appointed members of the Public Works Committee.
Absence of Ministers from Chamber.
Motion (by Senator Daly) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia [3.19] . - Although I realize that Ministers are as yet new to their duties, I must say that in my parliamentary experience, which dates back to the inception of the Federal Parliament, to-day is the first time that I have known Ministers so to disregard their duty as not to remain in the chamber during a debate. Just now, when the debate on the Address-in-Reply was adjourned, we were in the extraordinary position of having no Minister in the chamber to fix even so small a matter as the date of the resumption of the debate. I thought that in moving the adjournment the Vice-President of the Executive Council would have given some explanation of his absence from the chamber, as otherwise that absence can be regarded only as an act of discourtesy.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I left the chamber to attend a meeting of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, butbefore doing so I left strict instructions that if the other Minister desired to leave the chamber, I should immediately be sent for. I have given instructions that the Senate shall at no time be left without a Minister, and I am sorry that my instructions were not carried out. I had no desire to treat the Senate with discourtesy. I ask the Senate to accept my apology.
.- I desire to ask the Leader of -the Senate whether he has seen the following report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald: -
Declared “ Black.”
Labour Council Decision.
The Labour Council last night decided to declare “ black “ the industrial peace conference convened by the Prime Minister, Mr. Scull in. It was agreed that the council should not be represented at the gathering. Instructions will be forwarded to the delegates from the council at present attending the executive meeting of the All-Australian Council of Trade Unions in Melbourne, Messrs. J. Kavanagh and J. Hooke, to more for the rescission of the motion recently carried by the executive agreeing to representation at the conference. The decision of the council represented a victory for the Communists, who have been uncompromisingly opposed to aims and ideals of the peace conference. Its determination is likely to place the Assistant Minister for Industry, Mr. Beasley, in an embarrassing position. He will be compelled to choose between allegiance to his chief, who convened the gathering, and the Labour Council, whose influence was largely responsible for his elevation to the Cabinet.
I should like to receive from the Minister an assurance that, irrespective of any resolution that may be passed by outside bodies, the Government will proceed with the Peace Conference. The community generally was pleased that the Prime Minister, so soon after receiving his commission, had taken steps to get the different factions in industry together. I hope that he and his colleagues will not allow themselves to be dictated to by any outside organization.
– I ask Senator Foll to give the Government credit for having the best interests of Australia at heart. If honorable senators desire to assist the Government to bring about permanent industrial peace and better relations between employers and employees, they will refrain from quoting articles of the nature of the one just read. The Government owes no allegiance to any body outside the body politic that elected it. It will shoulder its responsibilities, irrespective of the opinions of any section of the community.
– Then it will go on with the conference?
– The Government will go on with the conference, if it can be arranged. Senator Foll must recognize the right of any trade union organization, such as the Trades and Labour Council of New SouthWales, to express its opinion as to the probable results of any conference that may be held. The Government can do no more than invite the representatives of employers and employees to meet. It must leave it to the good sense of both sides in industry to decide whether or not they will attend the conference. Should the Employers Federation decide not to attend the conference, the Government could not compel them to do so; but it believes that if if can get the parties together, it will have gone a good way towards bringing about those relations in industry which we all desire. It is anxious to secure the cooperation of all sections in framing its industrial legislation. I ask honorable senators not to be scared by headlines in the press, or even to seek cheap notoriety by drawing attention to them ; but to assist the Government in its endeavour to bring about industrial peace. Until they have reason to believe otherwise, they should give the Government credit for sincerity of purpose. If they do that, I feel that they will realize before long that their confidence in the Government has not been misplaced.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 November 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19291122_senate_12_122/>.