12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the apparent rejection by the miners of the terms of the proposed settlement in the coal dispute, I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sena: tor Daly) if, in order to give the men engaged in the coal industry a real chance of expressing their individual opinions upon the merits of these terms, the Government will arrange for a secret ballot, for which provision is made in the Common wealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– As the Leader of the Opposition knows the point raised by him is purely a matter of Government policy, and therefore one which cannot be dealt with in answer to a question.
– I am afraid that my question has been misunderstood by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I am asking him a question relating not to Government policy but to the administration of a law upon the statute-book which provides that in the case of an industrial dispute a secret ballot may be taken. I ask if the Government will set the machinery in motion to enable such a ballot to be taken ?
– As the right honorable gentleman knows the administration of the law is a matter for the Government. I have no doubt this Government will take every step to see that the laws of this country are properly observed.
Statement by Senator Pearce.
– I desire to ask your permission, Mr. President, to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) a question without notice.
– The honorable senator will be in order in doing so.
– Having received your consent, sir, I should also like permission to make a brief statement.
– I understood the honorable senator wished merely to submit a question to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Yes, and also to make a brief statement.
– The honorable senator should first submit his question.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) if he is correctly reported in the Canberra Times this morning as having said that he did not think that the Senate was a negligible factor in politics to-day, and that some people would wake up to that before they were very much older ? If so, I wish to know if that statement is by way of a threat to the Government that steps will be taken by the Opposition to bring about an early double dissolution. Further I ask if there is anything in the rumour that the right honorable gentleman appeared before a secret meeting of bankers in Melbourne and made a statement to the effect that he was going to put a straight jacket on the Government when the Commonwealth Bank Bill came before this chamber?
– The honorable senator is not in order in using the words “putting a straight jacket on the Government”. I suggest that he employ some other term.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The statement I made yesterday in the course of a speech in the Senate stands on record. I suggest that the honorable senator is gifted with sufficient intelligence to be able to study and place his own construction upon it. I am not responsible for any interpretation that he or the Canberra Times may place upon my remarks.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.;Yesterday I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether any reply had been received from the British Government to the cablegram sent to it by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) concerning the suspension of assisted migration. I was then informed that a reply had not been received, but I notice in this morning’s press that a communication has now come to hand. As the further statement which appears in the press to the effect that it is the intention of the Government to communicate that reply to the Governments of the States apparently emanated from the Government, and since this Parliament is directly concerned in the communication, I ask the Minister whether it will be laid upon the table of the Senate so that honorable senators may be aware of its terms.
– A reply has been received from the British Government and is at present in the hands of the Prime Minister. I hope to be in a position to make a statement on the subject later in the day.
The following papers were presented : -
Exchange of Notes between His Majesty’s Governments in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of India and the Italian Government concerning the Reciprocal Recognition of Passenger Ships’ Certificates and Emigrant Ship Regulations, January, 1929.
International Conference on the Safety of Life at Sea - London, April-May, 1929 - Reports of Commonwealth Government’s Representatives, together with copy of Convention signed at London, 31st May, 1929.
Conference in relation to International Exhibitions, Paris, November, 1928 - Report of the Australian Representative, together with copy of Convention, Protocol, and Protocol of signature.
Congress of the Universal Postal Union, London, May- June, 1929 - Report of the Australian Representative, together with copy of Convention.
Diplomatic Conference for the Revision of the Geneva Convention and the elaboration of an International Convention for the treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva, July, 1929 - Report of the Australian Delegates, together with copy of the Final Act, the revised Geneva Convention, and the Convention for the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
Preference in Employment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister state whether the Government will favorably consider a proposal to give preference in Government employment or other encouragement to all officers, N.C.O.’s and men who volunteer for service in the militia forces?
– This matter has not been considered, and, in any case, it would not be in accordance with Government policy.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information on these points will be furnished when the tariff schedule is being discussed.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
Grants to States
– The answers are : - 1 and 2. I am not in a position to make any statement in regard to this question at the present stage. The matter will be the subject of negotiation between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers on Monday next.
Dawson Valley Scheme
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Will the Minister ascertain and inform the Senate what progress is being made with the expenditure of £100,000 allotted through the Development and Migration Commission to investigation and inquiry into the merits of the Dawson River irrigation scheme in Central Queensland - (a) how much of the money has been spent; (b) what information results have so far been obtained ?
– No scheme has yet been put forward by the Queensland Government for acceptance by the British and Commonwealth Governments.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
What steps have the Government taken to improve the shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland?
– Arrangements have been made for Engineer Rear-Admiral Sir William Clarkson to inquire into and report upon the question of the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping service between the mainland and Tasmania. In addition, certain investigations are being carried out by a sub-committee representative of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Navigation Service.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
What steps are being taken by the Government to establish a regular air service for mails and passengers between the mainland and Tasmania?
– The matter is receiving consideration but active steps cannot be taken to establish a service until the requisite funds for the purpose are available.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government, in its consideration of the case of the gold-mining industry, give due regard to the proposal for a subsidy on. the footage bases of all developmental work done either as an alternative or inclusive means of assisting that industry.
– The matter will receive consideration.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 p.m.
.- I move-
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended up to and including the 12th December, 1929, for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past 10 at night.
I can assure honorable senators that the Government will meet their conveniences as far as possible. No advantage will be taken of the suspension of this Standing Order without first consulting the Leader of the Opposition, and only in cases of extreme urgency to enable the Senate to dispose of its legislative programme before we adjourn for the Xmas vacation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from December 5 (vide page 745) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When the consideration of this measure was adjourned last night, I was endeavouring to explain the genesis of the Tasmanian Rights League, and the work which it performed in ‘ the interests of the Tasmanian people. It was formed as a result of the activities of a number of public-spirited citizens of Hobart, and its membership increased at a remarkable rate. It held numerous public meetings throughout the State and gathered a tremendous ‘ amount of information in an endeavour to show that the depressed financial position of Tasmania is directly attributable to the disabilities which that State is experiencing under federation. At the outset, I should like to mention that the league was rather in error in some of the hard things it said concerning federal members. It charged them with indolence and ineptitude in the matter of placing Tasmania’s position fully before the Federal Parliament. I was inclined to subscribe to that new; but soon after my election to the’ Senate iri the following year I found that the assumption was incorrect. The object of the league was to assist Tasmanian members in this Parliament to obtain justice for the State. In addition to enrolling a large membership of persons pledged to the objectives of the league, a petition was circulated. Hansard of Friday, 22nd January, 1926, contains a record of the presentation of that petition to Parliament -
Mr. Jackson presented a petition, containing 10,429 signatures, from electors of Tasmania, praying that owing to the disabilities suffered by Tasmania since federation the Common wealth Parliament should grant to that State further financial assistance, amend the Industrial Arbitration Act, maintain a continuous ferry service across Bass Strait, and amend the Navigation Act to exclude Tasmania from the operations of the sections relating to interstate passengers.
Petition received and read.
The then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) visited Tasmania in October, 1925, and was interviewed by representatives of the league, who urged Tasmania’s claim for assistance. Mr. Bruce promised that if bis Government were returned to power it would .cause an investigation to be made into the circumstances leading up to Tasmania’s unsatisfactory financial position. That promise was kept, for in the following January, when Parliament assembled, the Government announced that Sir Nicholas Lockyer had been appointed a commissioner to inquire into Tasmania’s disabilities. That gentleman left for Tasmania on 5th February, 1926, and in the following month he furnished his report. Personally, I regarded his report as an excellent one; but his recommendations raised a storm of protest throughout Tasmania because of the conditions which he suggested should attach to any assistance granted to that State. After the tabling of the report Mr. Lyons, the then Premier of Tasmania, arranged for the presentation of Tasmania’s case. A document, known as “ The case for Tasmania,” was prepared. It set out to prove that Tasmania’s difficulties were directly attributable to federal legislation.
In my speech on the Address-in-Reply I referred to the promises made to the electors by the present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) in another place. I believe that both those gentlemen were sincere in their belief that should a Labour Government be returned they would be able to prevail upon the caucus to grant Tasmania a larger amount than the late Government proposed. Tasmania wants nothing to which it is not justly entitled. A further inquiry has been promised into Tasmania’s disabilities; but I submit that the whole matter has already been so thoroughly sifted by various bodies that that is unnecessary. Probably no one in this Parliament has more accurate first-hand knowledge of the true position than has the present Postmaster-General; and he should be able to place Tasmania’s true position before his colleagues in Cabinet. I do not propose to deal at length with Tasmania’s position, as disclosed in published financial returns and in a statement made recently by the Premier of that State, but I want honorable senators to realize that when Tasmanian members in this Parliament advocate the claims of their State they are asking only for justice. I welcome the bill, for it will enable the present Premier of Tasmania to know exactly where he stands in the matter of financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
– I should not have participated in this debate had it not been for the statement of the Leader of the Government (Senator Daly) as to the further action proposed to be taken toinquire into Tasmania’s disabilities. I desire to make it clear that I am entirely in accordance with the provisions of this measure, for Tasmania is undoubtedly entitled to assistance. Nor have I any objection to a further inquiry being made if the Government thinks that sufficient data are not already available, or that the present PostmasterGeneral and the honorable member for Bass are not sufficiently informed to advise it in the matter. My objection is to referring such matters as the granting of assistance to States to a committee composed of members of this Parliament. I doubt whether any State should agree to its affairs being investigated by a committee of federal members. It is equal to a man being his own judge. Section 3 of the Committee of Public Accounts Act sets out the duties of the Public Accounts Committee: -
The duties of the committee shall be -
to examine the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament any items in those accounts, or any circumstance connected with them to which they think that attention should be directed.
to report to both Houses of the Parliament any alteration which the committee think desirable in the form of the public accounts or the method of keeping them, or in the mode of receipt, control, issue or payment of the public money.
to inquire into and report upon any questions in connexion with the public accounts which are referred to them by either House of the Parliament.
any other duties assigned to the committee by joint standing orders approved by both Houses of the Parliament.
A judicial, or a quasi-judicial body, not the public Accounts Committee, should deal with the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The States should not have to submit to the determination of a tribunal which is essentially Commonwealth in character. The Government would be well advised to re consider its decision to refer this matter to the Public Accounts Committee. A vital principle is at stake. Should the contemplated action be taken a dangerous precedent will have been established. Although the proposal to refer this matter to the Public Accounts Committee is not referred to in this measure itself, I have deemed it my duty to enter my protest in the hope that even yet the Government will reverse its decision. I can conceive circumstances arising in which political considerations might obtrude themselves. I do not suggest that there is anything of the kind in this case, but a door is left open for it. The position is capable of such grave abuse that I, as a State representative, could not let the measure go through without voicing my protest.
– Although this proposal refers especially to Tasmania, it is one of general importance to all the States. It is encouraging to think that everything that the last Government did was not wrong, and that its action in making a financial grant to Tasmania as a recognition of the loss suffered by the State through federation, has been endorsed by the present Government. As Senator McLachlan pointed out, the Government has improved somewhat upon the previous arrangement in that, in addition to making the grant, it has promised to hold a further inquiry into Tasmania’s case. That is a healthy indication that the Government is. not so resolved upon the abolition of State Governments as we feared it might be, judging from the platform of the Labour party. The Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Scullin) once said that if a Labour Government were returned to power the per capita payments of 25s. to the States would be restored. So far no step has been taken to honour that promise. The statement was made for the purpose of securing the favour of the electors, but we do not hear much about the matter from the Government now. I have heard it said that Mr. Scullin does not propose to honour the promise because a financial agreement has been entered into with the States dealing, among other tilings, with the per capita payments. I should think, however, that Mr. Scullin would have no difficulty whatever in getting the States to attend a conference, and agree to an alteration in the terms of that agreement, if they were to get a little more out of it. The fact that the case of Tasmania may be re-opened as promised by the Government is an indication that the question of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth has not been settled as we were told it had. When South Australia and “Western Australia see that Tasmania is getting something more, they may feel, human nature being what it is, they also are entitled to have their claims reconsidered. Therefore, the financial agreement which was supposed to be a lasting and final adjustment of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth is shown to be not so permanent a thing as it was supposed to be. I do not wish to pose as a prophet, but a few of us here who raised our voices against that agreement when it waa before the Senate, have at least the melancholy satisfaction of knowing that what we said would happen has come to pass. The only thing for Mr. Scullin to do now is to keep his word, call a conference of State representatives, and restore the per capita payments.
– Does the honorable Senator think that the States would be unanimous upon any such proposal ?
– I believe that they would tear up the agreement to-morrow if they were to get something better in its place. Even Senator Thompson, I believe, would be in favour of that if he were to get something more as a result of it.
– The terms are too liberal now.
– My conscience would not trouble me in accepting something more if it were offered, and I do not think that Senator Thompson’s would trouble him either. Federation has been an advantage to the two most densely populated States, New South Wales and Victoria, but the other States have not benefited from it.
I object to the term “grant” which is used in this measure. A grant is something which, if not exactly a gift or dole, is a first cousin to it. Tasmania has a right to this money. When the fathers of federation laid it down that the States were to receive one-quarter of the customs and excise revenue in the form of per capita payments they did not call it a grant.
– Section 96 of the Constitution calls it a grant. It is stated there that the Commonwealth may grant financial aid to the States.
– Of course, it is financial aid. Everyone knows that the only States that have benefited from federation to any appreciable extent are New South Wales and Victoria, and I may also include Queensland. We are hoping that this geographical prosperity will not continue indefinitely. All students of finance realised at the outset that under federation the Eastern States would enjoy a large measure of prosperity chiefly at the expense of the numerically smaller States, because they would immediately have a wider market available to them. That is why these States have prospered out of all proportion to the other States, and is why Tasmania is now applying for financial relief. We call it a grant ! It is not a grant, but a right. I do not complain, of course, that New . South Wales and Victoria have so benefited, because I voted for federation, and I did so with my eyes open. All I wish to do is to impress on the Senate the fact that prosperity has been localized, and that certain States have not had their share. Western Australia, for example, provides a market for £8,000,000 worth of goods produced or manufactured in the Eastern States. That trade certainly has contributed to the financial opulence of our eastern neighbours, but the time will come when this prosperity will be broader based. In the meantime, the smaller States, having been reduced to grave financial straits, are compelled to seek assistance from the Commonwealth. The spirit of their people is not in any sense impaired. They are determined, and will eventually surmount their difficulties. It is true that at times they become faint hearted, and sometimes they fear that people in the more prosperous States are disposed to ignore the trials and sufferings of their less fortunate brethren.Though I do not wish to make any distinction between the States, I remind the Senate that Western Australia has not received, by hundreds of thousands of pounds, that amount of financial aid which, as recommended, should be given to it by the Commonwealth. But we are now growling too much about that. We merely wish it to be known that the commission recommended the grant of a certain sum to lessen the disabilities suffered by Western Australia, and that the amount recommended has not been advanced. When the time comes we shall make an appeal, because we do not wish to continue to be indefinitely the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the other States of the Commonwealth. We believe we are entitled to get something in return.
– I suggest that the honorable senator confine his remarks to the subject matter of the bill - a proposal to graat a certain sum of money to Tasmania.
– Yes, Mr. President. I am supporting the bill becauseI believe that Tasmania has every right to the grant, is in urgent need of the money, and would have been in a much better position had it not joined the federation. One of the principal reasons for Tasmania’s unfortunate state is the manner in which it has been treated as regards sea transport.For many years the State, on many occasions, has been in the position of a beleaguered city, owing to interruption of the shipping services. The produce of its people, representing the sweated toil of hard workers and poor men, has been allowed to rot on the wharfs. This proposal is an attempt to equalize the difficulties, and as such it has my hearty support.
– I do not propose to reply at length, but I feel it is incumbent upon me to answer the criticism of Senator McLachlan. I find it difficult to understand why the honorable senator should find fault with the Government in connexion with this proposal. I remind him that in 1927 the Ministry of which he was a member instructed the Public Accounts Committee to proceed to Tasmania for the purpose of making a certain investigation.
– What was the subject ?
– Shipping communications with the mainland. If, as is continuously contended, the legal maxim, Bex non potest peccare, may be applied to the Bruce-Page Government, then how can there be objection to the action of the present Government in following its lead?
– The cases are entirely different.
-I disagree with the honorable senator. The principle underlying this Government’s action is exactly the same as that which induced the Bruce-Page Government to authorize the inquiry into Tasmania’s shipping communication. If we are wrong now, the Bruce-Page Government also was wrong. But the previous administration had every warrant for instructing the Public Accounts Committee to make the investigation referred to. I am in full agreement with the remarks of Senator Sampson and Senator Lynch that when a State makes application under section 96 for a grantinaid it is asking not for a dole but for something to which it has a legal right. Section 96 imposes upon the Commonwealth an obligation in certain circumstances to make grants to the States. Tasmania made a claim for an amount which, for the purpose of my argument, may be stated as X. The former administration considered the claim and came to a certain decision without consulting Parliament. I take no exception to that course, because the Government would have brought in a measure to ratify its decision. The previous Government decided that £250,000 annually for a period of five years was sufficient to meet Tasmania’s needs. Subsequent to the making of that decision the present Government came into power. One of its members is a representative of Tasmania and knows all about the disabilities of that State. The request came before this Government for consideration, and since it was regarded as urgent Cabinet decided that at least £250,000 a year for five years was necessary to meet the situation. But we were not satisfied to allow the matter to rest on the ex parte statement of a Minister, who admittedly would be biased in favour of his own State; so as a matter of abstract justice we decided to refer the subject to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts for investigation and report. This committee is appointed by Parliament to make investigations into those matters which cannot conveniently be dealt with on the floor of Parliament. Tasmania claims that it is entitled to a certain sum. The previous Government, which had a much greater opportunity to consider the claim, decided that the State was entitled to £250,000 a year. The present Government was not quite satisfied with that decision, but it decided that the payment of the grant for the term mentioned would discharge at least portion of the moral obligation of the Commonwealth to Tasmania and considered that the subject should be further investigated by the Statutory Committee appointed by the Parliament, which will be in a position to say whether such payment will fully discharge the Commonwealth’s liability. If, as suggested by Senator McLachlan, this is a dangerous precedent, then I am afraid we shall have to consider the advisability of abolishing the committee altogether.
– The Joint Committee of Public Accounts is not the proper tribunal to make investigations into the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that it would be ultra vires of the act, under which the Public Accounts Committee is appointed, for that body to make this investigation ?
– It is a contingent liability.
– Contingent upon certain facts being established. Would the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) suggest that such contingent expenditure should not be referred to the Public Accounts Committee.
– But the receipts and expenditure contemplated by the act to be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee are those of the Commonwealth, and not of a State.
– It seems to me that honorable senators are straying from the bill.
– The Government has been challenged with having adopted a new procedure in referring the disabilities of Tasmania to the Public Accounts Committee.
– Quite so ; but, as a matter of fact, honorable senators on both sides have strayed quite far enough from the bill.
– I do not wish to say more than that the amount in question is an expenditure within the meaning of the expenditure covered by the Committee of Public Accounts Act, and certainly cannot be classed as expenditure by the State of Tasmania. The other portion of the Public Accounts Committee’s investigations will be to ascertain whether the grant provided for in the bill is the full expenditure the Commonwealth is entitled to make in order to mete out abstract justice to the State of Tasmania.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Payment of £250,000 per annum for financial assistance to Tasmania).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.59]. - The amount payable to Tasmania is fixed at £250,000 per annum for a period of five years, and Senator Daly has at considerable length explained that the Government proposes to hold an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee to see whether this amount is justified or whether further grants should not be made to Tasmania. Are we to understand that the committee can find in one way only : that it must confine any recommendation it makes to the payment of the £250,000, or a larger amount, and is not free to recommend the payment of a smaller amount?
– The Public Accounts Committee will inquire into this item of expenditure which the Government has power to refer to it. If it should bring in a recommendation to the effect that the Bruce-Page Government and the present Government were wrong in fixing the amount of the grant at £250,000, Parliament will still be the final body to deal with the matter.
– If the Public Accounts Committee inquires into this expenditure of £250,000 by the Commonwealth, and that is the only possible jurisdiction that can be conferred on the committee, Tasmania may be in the unhappy position next year of having the grant reduced to £220,000 or even £200,000. I hope that the State will be absolutely sure of getting the £250,000 for five years, and I am amazed to hear that there is a possibility of the amount being less - that there is a suggestion of any possibility of Parliament being asked to reduce it.
– Parliament will not be asked to reduce it.
– In that case the reference to the Public Accounts Committee cannot cover this £250,000. The Leader of the Government in the Senate is evidently on the horns of a dilemma. At first he wanted us to believe that the £250,000 was to be a fixed amount, irrespective of what might be recommended by the Public Accounts Committee or any other body, and that all that the committee was to be asked to investigate was the need for any increase in the amount of the grant, a matter which, I contend, should be decided by a tribunal having in its keeping neither the interests of Tasmania nor those of the Commonwealth. I suggest that the grant of £250,000 ought not to be reviewed by the Public Accounts Committee. The statute providing for the payment of the grant for five years should prevail.
– Senator McLachlan knows that Parliament can at any time undo what it has already done.
– That is the danger I fear.
– If the fears of Senator Dunn as expressed by him earlier in the day are realized and honorable senators who are now on the< treasury bench are transferred to the other side of the chamber, it is quite possible that steps may be taken to repeal this bill if it becomes law. But Tasmania knows that it is taking that risk, and it will be no greater under the present Government than it was under the Bruce-Page Government. The present Government. agrees with the late. Government that on the evidence adduced this Parliament should be asked to enter, into a compact to pay £250,000 to Tasmania for the next five years, but in doing so it does not suggest that such payments will deal out full measure of justice to Tasmania. Ministers do not believe in the setting up of costly royal commissions such as were appointed by the late Government. They would rather have the financial position of Tasmania inquired into by Parliament itself. But, of course, Parliament would not have the time to undertake such an investigation, and without incurring the expense of a costly royal commission, the Government has asked the Public Accounts Committee to ascertain whether the Commonwealth in making available this grant of £250,000 a year is discharging its liability to Tasmania. The Government is not asking Tasmania to accept any risk. The State will not be in any worse position if the inquiry is held by the Public Accounts Committee than it would be if, following the procedure adopted by the Bruce-Page Government, the royal commission advocated by Senator McLachlan had been appointed. The Government is not trying to toss Tasmania with a double-headed penny. As a matter of fact there has never been on the treasury benches in this Parliament a Government more sincerely anxious to assist States suffering under the disabilities referred to by Senator Lynch than the present Government. Its policy may be unification, but so long as the federal system remains, it will mete out justice to all, and the smaller States will probably find themselves better off than before.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.7].- The explanation given by Senator Daly is very unsatisfactory from the point of view of Tasmania. The policy of the Bruce-Page Government was that Tasmania should get a grant of £250,000 a year for five years without any suggestion of further investigation. From inquiries already made, the Bruce-Page Government was satisfied that £250,000 a year was the amount that the State was entitled to receive to compensate it for the disabilities it is suffering. When a bill making provision for the payment, of an annual grant to a State becomes law it is a binding contract which subsequent Parliaments will honour. Senator Daly, however, suggests the possibility of future parliamentary intervention in the direction of reducing the grant to Tasmania. In my opinion no Parliament should contemplate such a step. The Government has indicated that, although it is passing this bill which provides for a grant of a fixed sum to Tasmania, it will ask the Public Accounts Committee to hold an inquiry to ascertain the amount that Tasmania should justifiably receive. But. that inquiry must be fair and impartial. The committee must be free to find whether, under the present grant, the State is receiving enough or too much. According to Senator Daly, if the committee finds that the grant is in excess of what Tasmania should receive, Parliament can reduce the grant.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that Parliament would not.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Then why have an inquiry? The bill provides for a fixed grant for a period of five years, and there is no need for an investigation. It is no use blinking our eyes to the fact that this little promise of an inquiry has been made by the Government to save the face of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Lyons). That gentleman went about during the last election campaign saying that the grant proposed by the Bruce-Page Government was not sufficient, but when he met his colleagues in Cabinet he found that they would not agree to increase it. Now, in order to save his face they have put up this story about having an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. It is nothing but a sham. The grant is all right and I support it, hut I do not think the proposed inquiry will be worth anything.
– In an endeavour to escape Scylla, Senator Daly has run into Charybdis. If at the outset he had frankly explained why the inquiry was to be held by the Public Accounts Committee, he would not have brought this blast upon his head with regard to the risk the people of Tasmania may be running. In his second-reading speech he indicated clearly that Tasmania was entitled to this £250,000, but having no peg on which to hang this proposed inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee the honorable gentleman with the adroitness for which he is famed, set up the very specious argument that the committee was to inquire into thisCommonwealth expenditure of £250,000. If that is the real position, the Government is not doing the State that measureof justice which the late Government was prepared to mete out. The Bruce-Page Government attached no condition to the grant it was prepared to make. I venture to say, however, that the £250,000 is a closed book, and that all that the Public Accounts Committee can do is, to ascertain how much more the State is entitled to receive. That, however, does not fall into line with the suggestion made by Senator Daly that the committee is to inquire into “ Commonwealth expenditure.” The action of the Government in directing the Public Accounts Committee to inquire into the financial position of Tasmania is mere “ eye-wash,” and has been taken merely to protect the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons). The Public Accounts Committee was appointed to conduct investigations into the activities of Commonwealth governmental departments, and not into the financial relations existing between the Commonwealth and the States. This tribunal, which comprises members of this chamber and another place, is now to be the judge in its own court.
– It will report its find; ing to Parliament.
– Yes ; when the Government may, if it so desires, give effect to its recommendations.
– The honorable senator did not offer any objection to the payment of a grant to South Australia, but he is now “ putting the boot “ into Tasmania.
– That is not so. I am endeavouring to protect Tasmania and to ensure that it will receive a grant of £250,000 for the period provided inthe bill regardless of any political manoeuvring that may take place. As a member of the late Government I was convinced that Tasmania was entitled to £250,000 a year without further inquiry, but the Government is now in a dilemma and, in order to save its face, is referring the subject to the Public Accounts Committee which, as I have said, is not the authority to conduct such an investigation. The duty of that committee is to conduct internal investigations in relation to Commonwealth finance, and not to inquire into a matter involving the responsibility of the administration under an important section of the Constitution. If, as suggested, the committee is to ascertain whether Tasmania is entitled to more or less than £250,000 a year, we have been misled because I understand that the amount mentioned has been definitely decided upon by the Government for a period of five years, and that there is no risk of its being reduced. It is only right that the people of Tasmania should be assured of receiving the amount promised for the period stated in the bill now before us. If further inquiries are to be conducted they should be made by an independent tribunal, and not by one comprising members of Parliament. A vicious principle is being inculcated into our political life. If the Public Accounts Committee recommended that an annual grant of £50,000 was sufficient, would the Government introduce amending legislation in order to give effect to its recommendation? I think not. The State would be satisfied with the recommendations of an independent tribunal.
– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member was not satisfied with the recommendations of the commission which it appointed to inquire into child endowment.
– We are now dealing with State endowment, and I am contending that if any investigation is to be made it should be by an authority absolutely independent of politics, instead of by a committee appointed solely to act as a watch-dog of Commonwealth departmental finance.
.- The Senate has already agreed to grant financial assistance to South Australia for a period of three years, and I have no doubt that the grant which the Government propose to give to Tasmania will be agreed to without any opposition. I cannot understand, however, why the Government should refer this subject to the Public Accounts Committee when similar action was not taken in connexion with the grant to be paid to South Australia.
– The Government is givingeffect to a recommendation of a royal commission which fully inquired into the financial position of that State.
– It is not giving full effect to the recommendations of the commission.
– The amountto be paid is the same; but it is to be spread over three years instead of two.
– The explanation given by the Minister (Senator Daly) for the Government’s action in directing the Public Accounts Committee to conduct an investigation is unsatisfactory. Already Tasmania’s position has been inquired into.
– By whom?
– Three years ago Sir Nicholas Lockyer conducted an investigation, and, although the Government did not give effect to his recommendations, the information which he obtained is still available. It would be interesting to know why Tasmania should be treated differently from other States in this respect, particularly when the amount to be paid is similar to that which the BrucePage Government proposed to make available. If further inquiries are to be made, the Government should appoint a nonpolitical tribunal, comprising, say, two men with an expert knowledge of governmental finance, who would be able to gather all the information required at a lower cost than would be involved in the inquiry proposed. With due deference to the Public Accounts Committee, a majority of its members have had little experience in governmental finance. As stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), the action to which exception has been taken by honorable senators on this side of the chamber is merely to camouflage the position, and save the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) and the Government, of which he is a member, in the eyes of the Tasmanian people. During the election campaign, the present Postmaster-General told the electors of Tasmania that they were mugs and humbugs if they supported Nationalist candidates who, he said, were lacking backbone and courage. In effect, he told them that if a Labour Government were returned to power, Tasmania would get a grant of £400,000.
But, as a member of the Labour Cabinet, he finds that he cannot honour his promise, so this moat unusual course has been adopted. We were informed to-day that another inquiry is to be instituted in regard to a Government line of steamers between Tasmania and the mainland.
– Does not Queensland need assitance?
– Queensland, with its tremendous natural resources, is able to carry on without assistance from the Commonwealth. On the hustings, Mr. Lyons strongly abused members of the late Government and their supporters in this chamber.
– I rise to order. I ask, Mr. Chairman, if the utterances of Mr. Lyons, during the election campaign, are relevant to the clause before the committee, which deals with the granting of financial assistance to Tasmania?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the clause.
– The proposal of the Government is merely to protect the Postmaster-General, but the Tasmanian people will soon realize that he not only made a number of cowardly statements, but some reckless promises, which he cannot possibly keep. Promises were also made in connexion with the coal-mining dispute-
– Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the subject matter of the clause under consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing and sessional orders suspended and bill (on motion by Senator Daly) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 167), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the papers be printed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [12.28].- I have little to add to what I said when this motion was before us a few days ago. I wish, how ever, to take advantage of the opportunity it offers to refer to the position in the coal-mining industry, which is of vital importance to the Commonwealth at this moment. A few days ago we were all hopeful that the end of this tragic dispute had been reached, as a settlement would have a very important bearing on the financial position of Australia. That the matter has not been settled is indeed serious. The proposed terms of settlement have been rejected and, apparently, our industries are again to be thrown into the vortex of this industrial upheaval. It is the duty of the Government, and of the parties to the dispute to try to bring about a settlement. I suggest to the Government that, even if it means swallowing some of the things it has said regarding certain provisions of the Arbitration Act, the time has arrived when it should give those who are employed in the coal industry a real opportunity to express their opinion. The issue is so serious, and its effect on the Commonwealth so great, that something should be done. I invite the attention of honorable senators to to-day’s Canberra Times, which contains a report of a meeting at which the proposals for a settlement of the coal trouble were submitted -
The first of to-day’s miners’ aggregate meetings, which was held at Kurri Kurri, attracted a gathering of about 4,000 or 5,000.
All honorable senators have had experience of addressing public meetings. I ask them to imagine a gathering of 4,000 or 5,000 intensely interested, and probably excited men, and to ask themselves whether the atmosphere of such a meeting would tend to a settlement of the dispute, particularly as the proposed terms of settlement involved some sacrifice on their part. The report continues -
Mr. Rees spoke bitterly of the Federal Government leaders who had said they would have the pits re-opened within a fortnight. The general concensus of opinion, he said, regarding a general strike was that it would end in a debacle.
Pandemonium reigned when the officials entered the hall. Mr. Tom White, the vicepresident of the federation, who appealed for order, was howled down.
Before the officials could explain the proposals they were howled down, probably by a minority in the crowd.
When Mr. Rees was introduced he was greeted with prolonged hooting, catcalls and organized interruptions. Someone moved that Mr. Rees should not be heard and Mr. Davies, who also received a hostile reception, said that the only alternative to acceptance is a general strike.
Mr. Davies was hooted by a section when he sat down.
Mr. C. Leslie, who moved the motion for the acceptance of the terms of the conference, was howled off the platform.
The meeting rejected the proposal and elected a committee to carry on the fight.
The atmosphere of such a gathering is not conducive to a peaceful settlement, whereas a secret ballot would enable each miner, in the secrecy of the polling booth, to express his honest opinion. There would be no tooting or howling, and no intimidation. The secret ballot is a democratic method of dealing with such matters. The present Government has probably more influence with the miners than the previous Government possessed, because it is supposed to represent them. I, therefore, commend to it the suggestion for the taking of a secret ballot. It is useless to expect a settlement of the dispute at mass meetings of miners.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [12.35]. - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that the financial statement prepared by the Treasurer is, for “the most part, political propaganda for the purpose of discrediting the late Government, particularly its Treasurer. Honorable senators who heard the Leader of the Senate when introducing the Estimates and budget papers, will agree that the intention of the Treasurer lost nothing in the reading of his statement in this chamber. A budget should be a clear and statesmanlike record of the accounts and expenditure of the Commonwealth. It should set out clearly the financial position of the country, and should not be used as political propa ganda. I remind the Leader of the Senate that the contents of the document he read are disseminated throughout the world, and that some of the statements in it are likely to affect our credit abroad. I do not question the right of the Treasurer to attack the previous administration; but the proper place to do so is in Parliament. I trust that in no future budget will there be a repetition of such statements.
In one paragraph of the Treasurer’s budget speech the following appears : -
The examination revealed that in some important instances the late Government had greatly understated the expenditure requirements and over-estimated the probable revenue. The late Treasurer has grossly miscalculated both the cost of definite commitments of the departments and services for the rear, 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, old-age 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.
The late Government, realizing the Commonwealth’s financial position, prepared its Estimates with due regard to economy. Those honorable senators who have administered public departments know how the Estimates are prepared. First, the heads of departments draw up draft estimates, which are then submitted to their several Ministers, who frequently find it necessary to eliminate items which, however desirable, cannot for financial reasons, be included. I think that is invariably the experience of Ministers. I know that I have had to refuse many requests made by the officers of my department. The Estimates are then scrutinized in the Treasury; and, later, by the Treasurer himself. Finally, they come before Cabinet, and the amount to be allocated to each department is then settled.
The late Government realized the need for economy; but it is evident that the present Treasurer intends to follow the methods he adopted in Queensland and which resulted in that State having five deficits in the nine years he was in office. The four surpluses in Queensland during that period amounted to £84,000, whereas the five deficits totalled £1,200)000. It i« unfortunate that methods which had such ill effects in Queensland are now to be applied in the federal sphere. As Treasurer of Queensland, Mr. Theodore made a regular practice of underestimating the taxation receipts and of overestimating the expenditure ; and because the late Federal Government did not follow similar methods he is upset. One paragraph in the budget reads -
Moreover, it has been found that if Mr. Justice Pike’s recommendations relating to soldier land settlement loons 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, 1029.
That that item would not have been a liability until the” State Parliaments had ratified the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governments is borne out by a statement by Senator Pearce when presenting the late Government’s budget proposals earlier this year. On page 202 of Hansard for the 22nd August, 1929, the following appears: -
The Commonwealth will also, during the year, relieve the States of a further sum of approximately £2,600,000 in respect of the losses on soldier land settlement.
The Commonwealth makes the concession on the condition suggested by the Commissioner that the settlement of returned soldiers be completed satisfactorily, and that the States agree that the settlement be full and final.
Until that arrangement had been agreed to by the States, the Commonwealth was not liable, and therefore there was no necessity to place the item in the budget.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Evidence as to whether the Estimates of the late Government were carefully framed can be obtained by comparing them with Mr. Theodore’s Queensland efforts. On a total federal budget of £78,000,000 the expenditure exceeded the estimate by only £181,000, or by only one quarter per cent., whereas in the last year of Mr. Theodore’s regime as Treasurer in Queensland, the expenditure exceeded the estimate by £358,000 on a budget of £13,000,000, an excess of two and three-quarters per cent. That proves definitely that the exTreasurer framed his estimates _ with a thorough knowledge of the facts.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW. His estimated expenditure was exceeded by only £181,000. This Government proposes to reduce expenditure on defence by £150,000 during this financial year. It has been indicated that that amount is to be saved by not providing camps of continuous training. I suggest to the Government that, whether the force be on a compulsory or voluntary basis, camps of continuous training are most important and attractive. They, if anything, would help to popularize the voluntary system. Youths will not sign up merely for a few nights’ training each year. They look forward to the week or more in camp, when they get a change from their ordinary routine, and receive the most interesting portion of their military training. This action of the Government indicates to me that it is its intention gradually to whittle away the defence of the country. I should not be surprised if, when next year’s Estimates come down, it will be discovered that a further whittling of the provision for defence has taken place. As the Government has promised that our defence system will be an adequate one, I urge it to seek advice before attempting further to reduce present services, and not to do as it did with our system of compulsory training. There the Government wiped the system out of existence, and then asked the Council of Defence to submit proposals for its replacement. Even though it desired to give effect to its platform and abolish compulsory training in favour of a voluntary system, it would have been well advised first to consult the Council of Defence. That body would have been able to suggest a scheme to tide over the transition period which would have left us with an adequate defence organization.
On page 3 of the Financial Statement, The Treasurer, in stating that the amended Estimates disclose an estimated expenditure over the previous year of £744,424, declares, “As I have already shown, this increase is almost entirely theresult of the financing of the late administration.” It is due to nothing of the sort. It is due to the financing of the present Treasurer.
To prove the inability of the present Treasurer to keep a strict control of expenditure, I desire to quote some figures showing how the rate of expenditure grew in Queensland during his regime. When the honorable gentleman first became Treasurer in 1915-16, Queensland’s annual expenditure was £7,671,593, while by 1921-22 it had grown to £12,499,969, an enormous increase over such a short period. Thai illustrates very clearly that the present Treasurer is prodigal of expenditure. If he pursues the policy forecast in his financial statement, he will leave the Oomm.onwea.lth finances in a morass, just as he did those of Queensland. In a further paragraph in the Financial Statement, the Treasurer says - lt is the intention of the present administration as soon as time and opportunity permits to make an exhaustive, examination of the entire governmental and semigovernmental organization of the Commonwealth with a view to putting an end to extravagance and terminating the employment of highly-paid office-bearers and functionaries.
We have heard nothing further of these unnecessary office-bearers and functionaries. Last week the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) stated that a Mr. MacDougall was in receipt, of £5,000 a year. When the facts were examined it was disclosed that that officer, who is a very capable and efficient man, was rendering a great service to the producers and the country generally, and did not receive half that amount.
– The honorable senator must accept the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I do. But that his remark conveyed the impression that I have suggested is borne out by the opinions of other honorable senators and by press reports which the honorable senator did not take any steps to contradict.
– 1 made a perfectly clear statement by way of interjection while Senator McLachlan was speaking.
– Senator McLachlan made the matter perfectly clear to the Senate on the day that the statement was made. An injustice was done to Mr. MacDougall, and some action should be taken to give him redress. The press report should have been corrected. It has been broadcast throughout the Service that Mr. MacDougall receives the salary quoted in the press.
That the late Government effected a decrease in federal taxation per head, direct and indirect, is shown by the following table : -
This table shows clearly that under the Bruce-Page Government taxation was decreasing and that the Government was exercising economy in its administration. In his budget Dr. Earle Page said -
The cost of departmental expenditure per head of population, which surely is a test of sound administration, has shown a steady decline during the life of the present Government. Tn 1921-22 the cost per head was 10s. 7d.; in 1928-29, 9s. 6£d. This consistent record of wise and prudent control of public expenditure challenges comparison and speaks for itself.
That is further indication that the BrucePage Government kept a careful hand on the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Still further proof of this fact is provided in the report of the Public Accounts Committee on temporary employment in the Commonwealth Service, particularly in the following tables and statement: -
A comparison of the figures of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department at 30th June, 1924, with those at 1st Mardi, 1920, reveals the following position: -
Increase in permanent-staff 14.5 per cent.
Decrease in temporary staff 2.0 per cent.
Decrease in exempt staff .. 14.5 per cent.
Increase in total staff . . 2.0 per cent.
It is interesting to note that of the total number of 40,730 employees in the Commonwealth Public Service at 30th June, 1928, no fewer than 40,010 (80 per cent.) were engaged in the Postmaster-General’s Department.
While there has been an increase of only 2 per cent, in the personnel of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department since 1924, there has been a great expansion of business in various branches of the department. For example, atthe 30th June, 1928, there were 1,532 more post offices in operation, 15S,421 more telephone instruments in use, 804,259 more miles of line to maintain, 129,591,805 more telephone calls, and 198,598,000 more postal articles handled. Details of expansion are as follow: -
The capacity to cope with such a large increase in work with such a small increase in staff is attributable to a number of causes some of which are: -
The adoption of the automatic telephone system :
Developments of the science and art of telephony and telegraphy, which enable existing circuits to be so much more fully utilized that physical circuits, which would otherwise have been constructed, are not yet required ;
Internal re-organization, which has brought about staff reductions and improved methods.
That is a demonstration of the economical way in which the late Government controlled its largest business activity. It provided a capital expenditure which helped the Postal Department to meet the increasing needs of the Commonwealth with a minimum increase of staff. The report of the Public Accounts Committee shows very clearly that the Commonhas not been extravagant.
The following table shows how taxation was increased in Queensland while Mr. Theodore was Treasurer of the State: -
Mr. Theodore’s budget of a few days ago indicates that in the Commonwealth arena he will pursue the policy he adopted when he was Treasurer in Queensland. In his budget he says -
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.
I am pleased that Senator Daly has since indicated that an important body, like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, will be continued, and given every assistance to carry on its work of enabling Australian industries to develop and overcome many of the difficulties that are now retarding their progress. I sincerely trust that the Government will also continue the good work done by the Development and Migration Commission. That body is doing wonderfully useful work; it has won the approval of all State Governments; it has assisted them to overcome many of their difficulties. Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, the only Labour Premier in the Commonwealth to-day, has every confidence in it. He has utilized its services on many occasions, and when it was announced that the present Commonwealth Government contemplated getting rid of the Development and Migration Commission, Mr.
Collier said that he hoped it would be continued. In his budget, Mr. Theodore also says -
In his budget speech, the late Treasurer, in dealing with the debt position stated that the gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1929, stood at £377,621,573.
I 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 to 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 a conference between the Commonwealth and the States in 1927. The ratification of the agreement wae accordingly deferred, but the Commonwealth agreed, without prejudice to its rights, to defer collection of interest from the States.
Under the recommendations of Mr. Justice Pike, which were accepted by the late Government, a further sum of approximately £2,600,000 will have to be written off as from 1st July, 1927, subject to agreement by the State Governments and ratificationby all Parliaments.
If both these sums are allowed for, the debt of the Commonwealth as at 30th June, 1929, would stand at £7,600,000 more than the sum quoted in the budget speech.
There was no liability on the Commonwealth in this respect, until the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States were ratified. This amount was not included in the budget for the same reason that prevented the inclusion under the heading of . war services of £100,000 to meet ‘ the interest on the £2,600,000 which the Commonwealth proposed to pay over to the States in final adjustment of the soldiers’ settlement difficulties. I should also like to have an assurance from the Minister that some provision will be made for what is known as the home maintenance area’s. In some of the States the areas are too small, and I know that the previous Government intended to set aside £150,000 to enable the States to provide living areas.
In conclusion, I suggest that, at a time like the present, the Government should use every endeavour to keep down expenses. I hope that it will not, like former Labour governments, continue a policy of prodigal expenditure. It is encumbent on Ministers to see that the expenditure is kept as closely as possible to the Estimates. The financial statement brought down by the Treasurer suggests that efficient ministerial oversight has not been exercised in the preparation of departmental estimates.
– I rise to support the financial statement presented by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly). Senator Glasgow painted a very unpleasant picture of the condition of the Commonwealth, and would have us believe that the Bruce-Page administration was the saviour of the country. I have no wish to hurt the feelings of the honorable senator and his friends opposite, but I cannot help reminding him and them that when we appealed to the people recently the majority of electors in all the States endorsed the policy of the Leader of the present Government.
– Not in Queensland.
– I think the honorable senator will agree that even in Queensland the Labour party made gains. We won back the division of Kennedy, very nearly succeeded in Oxley, and we gave Colonel Cameron a severe “shaking up “ in Brisbane. Although this Government has been in office for only five or six weeks, it has demonstrated its ability, to govern, and if it is allowed to continue it will do much to lift Australia out of the financial mire in which it was placed by the Bruce-Page administration.
In presenting his budget the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) said -
Since the new Government assumed office there has not been sufficient time to call for fresh estimates in detail from all departments, and 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.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition exercised his privilege, which no one would deny, to him or his colleagues, of attempting to flay the Government and its supporters. The honorable senator referred particularly to the suspension of compulsory military training. Like Senator H. E. Elliott, Senator Glasgow has devoted a great deal of study to defence, but I think that even he will agree that the time has arrived when we should seek to cut down expenditure.
– Economy is not justified until we make the defence of the country sure.
– This Government does not propose to leave Australia unprotected. In suspending compulsory military training we are giving a lead to those countries where peace societies and other organizations are seeking to bring about a general disarmament. This Government is prepared to fall into line with them. Senator Glasgow is well known as a man who has played his part in defence, and I have no doubt that he has a complete understanding of not only our own defence system, but also of the systems in other countries. But I strongly resent his charge that this Government is disloyal to the Empire because it has suspended compulsory military training and is reducing the defence vote. Although I have not been long in this chamber T am aware that things are moving, and that responsible leaders of parties are talking of a “ show-down “ in the Senate. We have had a hint to this effect from the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). I may not be well versed in political strategy, but I have learned something from my association with the industrial movement for the last twenty years, and I am not unaware of the rumblings that foretell a trial of strength. Events may move quickly, but I suggest that, if there is to be a “show-down,” some of our friends, including Senator Reid, and perhaps also our worthy President, will be missing from this chamber. I should be sorry in the latter event, because I am beginning to like our President.
– The honorable senator need not worry about Western Australia.
– I suppose we need not. Sof ar as New South Wales is concerned we have no time for “rainbow trout “ - I understand the honorable senator once was a Labour man. We have been told that the people will have something to say about the suspension of compulsory military training. Speaking for myself, I hope that if the Government is challenged it will not back down, and if I may be permitted to use the term, I should say to Senator Reid - “We will take you on at any time.”
– The honorable senator is bluffing.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in threatening another honorable senator.
– I did not wish to do so. A challenge was thrown out by Senator Reid, and I would not like it to be thought that I, as a supporter of the Scullin Government, was not prepared to accept that challenge. I do not wish, however, to enter into a controversy concerning the honorable senator’s utterances. He is entitled to his opinions, and is at liberty, if you, sir, do not prevent him, to interject; but whilst I am a member of the Senate, I shall, if permitted, interject on national, but not on personal issues. I intend to play the part of a man.
During the debate on the AddressinReply, and on this motion frequent reference has been made to the action of the present Government in suspending compulsory military training, and so saving the huge expenditure that is now being incurred in maintaining a large military organization. The money that has been spent in that direction should have been used in providing employment on reproductive works. The defence policy of the Government has the support of many promi nent authorities. Let me quote from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, which is not a Labour paper-
– Is it not?
– In fairness to that journal, I should say that no exception could be taken to its reports of the meetings addressed by Labour candidates during the election campaign. The country press of New South Wales also published fair reports of the speeches of candidates supporting the present Government, and I desire to pay it this slight tribute. In the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 4th December, 1929, the following article appeared -
American Policy. naval construction.
President Hoover, in his annual address to Congress, said that the foundations for future peace were being substantially strengthened. “ Through the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a great moral standard has been raised in the world by its 54 nations covenanted to renounce war and to settle alldisputes by pacific means,” he said. arbitration.
Referring to the Court of International Justice, President Hoover stated: I believe it will be clear to every one that no controversy or question in which this country has, or claims, interest, can be passed on by the World Court without our consent at the time the question arises. Our adherence to the International Court is, as now constituted, not the slightest step towards entry into the League of Nations. As I before indicated, I shall direct that our signature be affixed to the protocol of adherence and shall submit it for the approval of the Senate with a special message at some time whenit is convenient to deal with the matter.” naval expenditure. “In the hope of reducing friction in the world,” he said, “ and with the desire that we may reduce the great economic burdens of naval armament, we have joined the conference for the further limitation and reduction of naval arms. We hold high hopes that success may attend this effort.”
Although efficiency in the army and navy was maintained under officers of high intelligence, added Mr. Hoover, the growing expense of the means of national defence was a matter with which Congress could well be deeply concerned.
– Although the first citizen of the United States of America, a highly civilized country with a population of 120,000,000 people, has said that armaments are too costly, Senator Sir William Glasgow condemns this Government for making an honest attempt to curtail defence expenditure in Australia.
- Mr. Hoover said that the United States of America would not reduce its defence expenditure by one penny, until an agreement had been reached.
– That is the opinion of the right honorable gentleman.
– No, that is the statement of Mr. Hoover.
– I remind the Leader of the Opposition that some one must take the lead in such matters. Australia has appeared in the role of leader on previous occasions; why should we not set an example to others in this instance? The article from which I have quoted continues - “ The total of our military expenditure is in excess of those of the most highly militarised nations,” he said. Upon the conference shortly to be held in London will depend such moderation as we can make in naval expenditure. If we shall be compelled to undertake the naval construction implied in the Washington Arms Treaty, as well as other construction which would appear necessary if no agreemen can be completed we should be committed to construct within the next six years more than 1,200,000,000 dollars worth, plus the increased cost of upkeep. “ Under the Kellogg Pact, we have undertaken never to use war as an instrument of national policy.”
I repeat the words “under the Kellogg pact we have undertaken never to use war as an instrument of national policy.”
– Will the Soviet agree to that?
– I am not concerned with the action of Soviet Russia or of China. Russia is working out her own destiny.
– Is Russia going to disarm?
– When the proper time comes.
– Russia has the biggest army in the world.
– Russia offered to completely disarm.I am not a member of the Communist party, but Senator Rae has stated-
– Does that honorable senator belong to the Communist party?
– No. Senator Rae, when giving reasons why the Soviet army had not been disbanded, said that the earliest attacks made upon Russia were made not by the working class, but by the armies of vested interests in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, America and Japan. It was only natural’ that Russia should accept the challenge, and any one who has studied the situation knows that Russia, through its Red army, has been able to keep its frontiers intact. The policy of the Russian people is of concern to them alone and not to Senator Reid or any one else. I should like a delegation representative of all parties in this chamber and another place to visit Russia to see for themselves the conditions which prevail in that country.
– They would be shown only those places which the Soviel leaders wished them to see.
– If a Russian delegation came to Australia they would be shown Senator Thompson, who is one of the “ bad things “ politically in Queensland. I do not use that expression in a personal sense.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not be so personal.
– I do not wish to hurt the honorable senator’s feelings.
– It is not a question of hurting the feelings of an honorable senator, but of upholding the dignity of the Senate.
– I have never attempted to lower the dignity of this chamber; but if an interjection comes to me, it goes back again.
– That is my concern, as the presiding officer in this chamber.
– I trust, Mr. President, that you will allow me the same latitude that you allow to others.
– The honorable senator will proceed with his address.
– A visit to Russia might disabuse the minds of some honorable senators of certain hallucinations regarding that country. Delegations have gone to Soviet Russia from Britain, Canada,France, Germany, and the
United States of America. An Australian delegation to Russia might elicit facts concerning that country which would end the “ tripe “ published about it in such journals as the Sydney Morning Herald.
– We have no objection to the honorable senator going to Russia.
– I should like Senator Pearce and Senator Glasgow to be members of the delegation, for they would probably return with entirely different views and kneel as penitents at the drum, or the penitent form, and ask permission to sit in sackcloth and ashes on this side of the chamber. In that case, I should use my best endeavours to get political absolution for them.
– Why does not the honorable senator go to Russia?
– In the interests of orderly debate, it would be well for honorable senators on both sides to cease from interjecting.
– The President of the United States of America, in his annual address to Congress, said -
From the defence point of view, our forces should he proportioned to the national need. … I recommend Congress to give earnest consideration to the possibilities of prudent action which will give relief from our continuously-mounting military expenditures.
He assured Congress that the people of that country desired peace, yet Senator Glasgow condemns the Treasurer for his efforts to curtail military expenditure in this country. In my opinion, the sooner our military system is placed on the scrapheap the better. Instead of £1,000,000 being placed on the Estimates for defence purposes, as was done by the late Government) the money should be used to assist “ down and out “ returned soldiers, and to relieve the distress caused by unemployment.
Reference has been made to migration, and the visit of the British Economic Mission. The members of that mission were men of standing in their own country, who came here at the invitation of the late Government. They made extensive tours; possibly they learned a good deal about this country; no doubt enjoyed themselves very much. In his speech on the Address-in-Reply,
Senator Glasgow appeared to be concerned about the action of the Government in suspending migration. The Government is not prepared to ask thousands of our own kith and kin to break up their homes and come to Australia to compete in a labour market which is already full. Senator H. E. Elliott appears to be greatly interested in the Southern Europeans in this country. ‘The Government will resist any attempt to bring Southern Europeans to Australia to act as strike breakers, as was done by the late Government. Thousands of Southern Europeans, whose standard of living is entirely different from ours, were used by the late Government as strike-breakers on the waterfront. Senator Pearce - this political giant of the Nationalist party; this genius who was a prominent member of the party which was defeated at the last election ;this representative of vested interests; this gentleman who received his early training on the bread and butter line in the Labour party - now says, with his tongue in his cheek, that the licensing of waterside workers brought peace to the waterfront. Did he, as Vice-President of the Executive Council, tell the Southern Europeans that, because they were foreigners and did not understandour language, the Government of which he was a member would assist them? No. He allowed them to be used by the shipping combine to the detriment of genuine Australians and other British subjects.
– I take exception to that statement, which is both offensive and incorrect. I have not allowed the employers of this country to use Southern Europeans to the detriment of British subjects. The only legislation introduced by the late Government to deal with waterside workers was the Transport Workers Act, which makes no differentiation between persons of different nationalities. The statement is offensive and incorrect, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) regards the statement as offensive, and it must, therefore, be withdrawn. I remind the honorable senator who made it that offensive statements must not be made in the Senate.
– If Senator Pearce is offended, I withdraw the statement, but I do not suppose that I can be punished for believing it.
– The honorable senator may believe what he likes; but he must be careful what he says in the Senate.
– I believe it, anyhow.
– The honorable senator must withdraw the statement unreservedly.
– I withdraw it, but-
– I hope that the honorable senator will not proceed to qualify his withdrawal.
– I do not want to disturb your mind, Mr. President, by doing something wrong. I repeat that the Government will not be a party to bringing Southern Europeans, or other migrants, into this country to be used by vested interests to lower the Australian standard of living.
– Our arbitration system prohibits that from being done. The awards of the Arbitration Court must be observed.
– Our arbitration system needs remodelling. The other day, Mr. President, you checked my colleague, Senator Rae, when he attempted to criticize a judge. I do not wish to violate your ruling, so I shall put my opinion in this way: Assuming that I wanted to appoint a judge, I should not employ any of those at present presiding on the Arbitration Court Bench of Australia.
I have here an interesting extract from the Sydney Morning Herald, of Thursday, the 10th January last. Honorable senators will appreciate that this is the journal which has the support of, and in turn supports, Senators Pearce and Glasgow. The extract refers to the activities of the British Economic Mission which visited Australia, and it reads: -
Immigration Should be Restricted. criticism of arbitration court.
The report of the British Economic Mission has been submitted to the Prime Minister, and was discussed at the Premiers’ Conference in Canberra yesterday.
The mission points out that the total number of assisted migrants from the British Isles decreased from 26,511 in 1023 to 22,209 in 1928. This diminution was variously accounted for, the report states, but the probable reason was the drought period and a deflation following the expenditure of borrowed money. In the opinion of the mission, the present is not an opportune time for the increase in migration from Britain. Even the expenditure by the different States of their quota of the £34,000,000 developmental money from Britain will make it hard to establish the requisite number of assisted migrants in the industrial States of New South Wales and Victoria, though the difficulty will hardly be so pronounced in the other States, where the primary industries still predominate. The mission recommends that the agreement between Britain and the Commonwealth should be made more elastic, and that its term should be extended, and emphasizes that if “the British Government is disposed to continue spending money to promote migration, and given that the prudent expenditure of such money is properly safeguarded, we are unable to suggest a better use which could be made of it.”
The report emphasizes, however, that means designed to increase Australia’s wealth production and the power of absorbing new population tend to be defeated if there are strong forces within her which operate so as to raise her costs of production that she cannot sell her products in the markets of the world, and is restricted within the limitations of her own market.
In 1928 Senator Glasgow was a representative of Australia at the conference of the. Empire Parliamentary Association, held in the Senate Chamber, Ottawa, and I have here a report of what he said on that occasion. No doubt, according to the Government of the day, he did his duty well. According to the report of the tour, the honorable senator had a very pleasant time. I wish him all good luck for that, and thank the people who entertained him, at the Canadian Club and elsewhere. I, myself, should like a similar trip, and perhaps the goddess of fortune will some day grant my wish. I have become a member of the Empire Parliamentary Association, and I am proud to belong to it. This is what Senator Glasgow said: -
We in Australia realizethat we have an enormous continent, with enormous resources and sparsely populated, and we realize it is our responsibility to see that Australia is peopled, but we reserve the right to say what class of people may come into Australia. We there have set up a certain standard of living, and the people of Australia are desirous, as far as the economic conditions will allow, to maintain that standard of living. We realize that if we are going to increase the population in Australia, before we ask the people to come there we should have schemes of development prepared so that the immigrants, as they arrive, will be readily absorbed.
That was a bold statement, and it embodies entirely the views of Labour on the subject. I ask the honorable senator to be a soldier and to stand up to his words.
– The honorable senator says that these people are not to come into the country. That is a statement with which the Labour party is entirely in accord.
– Is that plagiarism on the part of the honorable senator’s party? Did it take its cue from Senator Glasgow ?
-It did not. The Labour party is doing the right thing. It does not put misleading facts before the people of Great Britain and encourage people to Australia when it is impossible for them to get work in this country. A visit to Australia House is like a reading of the Arabian Nights. It is a place of impossibilities. There by means of advertisement people are promised that in Australia everything is to be obtained as easily as by means of Aladdin’s wonderful lamp. Attractive literature and posters are displayed on all hands. That relating to Queensland pictures a man struggling to devour a huge watermelon three times bigger than himself. It shows tremendous pumpkins, great herds of cattle and horses, and untold flocks of sheep. It pictures a land of milk and honey. A similar story may be told of. the literature dealing with New South Wales. That dealing with Victoria tells of the beautiful forests of Gippsland and the prosperous sawmills putting through millions of super feet of timber. This dangerously attractive propaganda is also associated with the other States. The shipping companies also assist to paint an alluring picture and offer assisted passages to all migrants. And many people, who in Great Britain are just about able to keep body and soul together, are enticed to come out to this wonderland, to their bitter disillusionment.
The present Treasurer has submitted a statesmanlike financial statement, and a budget that may be accepted by the people of Australia as a corrective to the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government.
.- I desire to speak briefly on the budget in order to avoid the necessity of having to speak on the motion for the adjournment. I trust that after my introductory remarks I shall be permitted to continue the subject on another occasion.
I have listened attentively to theremarks of honorable senators, but I had great difficulty in tracing any reference to the budget in Senator Dunn’s speech. I have time, this afternoon, to touch only upon one matter, which is an important one, that dealing with the customs and excise proposals of the Government. The Treasurer claims that the revised estimate of customs and excise revenue is £44,450,000, an increase of £700,000 over his predecessor’s estimate. Honorable senators are aware that the Government has tabled in another place a very lengthy list of new duties, comprising some. 200 odd items. To-day I asked a question on the subject and received the reply that I expected in view of a similar reply that was given a day or two previously. I asked the question so that the public of Australia might know definitely how far an autocratic Government is prepared to go. I wish my voice was strong enough to reach the ears of every person in Australia so that they would be able to ‘judge the calibre of the present Government. By introducing a tariff schedule of this kind without first submitting to the Tariff Board the question of any proposed increase of duties for a report thereon it has imposed on the people of Australia additional burdens, which they must inevitably carry until Parliament meets again next year. The questions I asked were -
The reply I got was -
Information on these points will be furnished when the schedule is being discussed.
The Minister knows that this schedule will not be discussed until the end of March next. I resent being put off with a reply like that. The people ought to be furnished with the necessary information, and as the Minister is evidently determined not to supply it I am prepared to do so. My reply to question No. 1 is “No.” To question No. 2 I say “See answer to No. 1.” My reply to question 3 is “No,” and in answer to question 5 I say, “ They have been withheld as a matter of policy.”
I was a member of the Senate when the Tariff Board Bill was first introduced, and it was clearly explained that its purpose was that the customs tariff should not depend any longer on the whim or fancy of certain members of Parliament, but should be the outcome of close deliberation and inquiry by a board, on whose report the Minister could act by bringing in a schedule of alterations or additions. Section 15 of the act reads -
The Minister shall refer to the board for inquiry and report the following matters.
One of those matters is -
The necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties.
Yet we have a Minister for Trade and Customs adopting the role of autocrat and imposing additional duties, which must apply for from three to four months at the least without having referred the matter to the Tariff Board for inquiry. The additional burdens imposed on the people will fall very heavily on the working classes, which are least able to bear them. I have with me the last report furnished by the Tariff Board, after a very lengthy inquiry, upon a food product, nine-tenths of which is consumed by the working classes of Australia. Certain people who were interested applied to the Government for an inquiry, and the Tariff Board, after making a full investigation, furnished a report, from which I quote the following: -
The effect, therefore, of increasing the duty on a food product that is essential and is not grown in Australia would be to increase its price. Seeing that dates are a food consumed by the worker, the result would be that his cost of living would be increased without appreciably benefiting a local industry . . .
The argument advanced in favour of increasing the duty on dates owing to their competition with locally grown prunes carries little weight, as the board considers the comments set forth herein apply equally to raisins and prunes.
The Tariff Board, after full consideration of the evidence given in connexion with this matter, is of the opinion that the date does not compete detrimentally with the raisin, and recommends that no alteration be made in the rates of duty now operating.
I turn now to the tariff schedule as laid on the table of another place by Mr. Fenton, the Minister for Trade and Customs in the present Government, and I find item 53, sub-item b, which shows that the duty on dates has been increased from1d. per lb. to 3d. per lb. I have also with me an advertisement which appeared in the Melbourne Argus on the 2nd inst., notifying the public that the Minister for Trade and Customs has referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report proposals for increased duties on a long list of items contained in the schedule be laid on the table of another place on the 22nd November last. Included in this list I find item 53, subitems a and d, but there is no mention of sub-item b dealing with dates. The proposed increase of duty on dates which the Tariff Board did not recommend is not to be submitted to it again, and the only conclusion I can form is that in this respect the Government has adopted the role of autocrat and has exercised the power conferred upon it by the Customs Act to impose its own sweet will on the people, no matter how prejudicial an effect it may have upon them. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 December 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19291206_senate_12_122/>.