12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On the 21st March Senator Foll asked the following ques tions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
Yes, it was stated by the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs on 24th of October, 1920, that owing to the precarious condition of the cattle industry for some time previously it was the duty of both Commonwealth and State Governments to render every assistance it was possible to the industry, but, fortunately, therehas been a decided improvement in the industry, as was evidenced by the statement made by Mr. E. W. Archer, president of the Rockhampton Agricultural Society, who referred in January last to the buoyant state of the industry, and prophesied that owing to the way the position was improving the various cattle districts would soon be lifted to a prominence which years ago would have been a fanciful dream. Inquiries show that there has been a large increase in prices for fat bullocks and cows since September last, as is evidenced by the fact that, whereas the average price of fat bullocks in July, 1929, was 30s. 7d. per 100 lb. weight, the price in December, 1920, two months after the election, was 38s. per 100 lb. weight. The position of the cattle industry will, however, be closely watched, as its importance to Australia is fully appreciated.
– Arising out of the answer I received from the Minister (Senator Daly), I ask him if, in view of the fact that the Bruce-Page Government in its last budget made provision for meeting the deficit, it is not due to the defeat of that Government by the Labour party that there is now an accumulated deficit which otherwise would not have had to be met?
– I do not know of the existence of any such fact, and the only person who believes that the position is as stated is the honorable senator who asked the question.
– I remind honorable senators that questions must be asked for the purpose of obtaining information, and for that purpose only.
– On the 28th March, Senator Payne asked the following questions: -
I now desire to inform the honorable senator that the Minister for Defence has advised that the landing ground at Darwin is under the control of the Air Board, but that no expenditure from Air Force funds has been incurred on the ground since 1925. The Minister for Home Affairs has been advised by the Government Resident, Darwin, that no trees have been removed from the aerodrome or the vicinity thereof since 1920.
– On 20th March, Senator Sir George Pearce asked the following question in the Senate: -
Will the Government prepare a return showing the operations of the compulsory wheat pool during the war and subsequent years, particularly with respect to -
quantity of wheat purchased by the wheat pool in each year;
average price per bushel paid in each year ;
total amount paid in each year on account of the purchase of wheat;
the amount of overdraft at the various banks incurred by the wheat pool each year at the peak period of payment during each year ?
I am now in possession of information which enables me to furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– On the 13th March, Senator Duncan addressed the following questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate realize that the Government by its policy of prohibiting certain imports has struck a very serious blow at many countries with which Australia has a very favorable trade balance, and has allowed the United States of America, which is mainly responsible for Australia’s adverse trade balance, to go practically scot free?
– I am at a loss to understand from what source the honorable senator has obtained his information.
Senator O’HALLORAN brought up the majority and minority reports, together with minutes of evidence, of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts on the claim of Charles Dean and others, trading under the name of Henry Dean and Son, against the War Service Homes Commissioner for compensation to cover losses alleged to have been sustained as the result of extensions and alterations made to their works to provide bricks for the erection of war service homes.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Aerodrome at Western Junction.
Senator DOOLEY brought up the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence relating to the proposed development of the civil aerodrome at Western Junction, Tasmania.
The following papers were presented : -
Compulsory Wheat Pool during the War Period and subsequent years - Particulars of quantity of wheat purchased, average price per bushel paid, and total amount paid in each year.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 4 of 1930- Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 5 of 1930 - Public Service Association of North Australia and Central Australia.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 33.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances -
No. 9 of 1929 - Birds Protection.
No. 1 of 1930- Dog.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 9 - No. 20.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 26 - No. 29.
Meteorology Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 21.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 22- No. 30- No. 31.
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1930-
Central Australia - No. 3 - Coroners.
North Australia - No. 4 - Coroners.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 3 of 1930 - Recovery of Lands.
War - Prohibition of Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare - Protocol, signed at Geneva on 17th June, 1925.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Will the Assistant Minister for Works (Senator Barnes) inform the Senate of the nature of the Ordinance under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act, which, I understand, he has just tabled?
– It refers to the recovery of land.
– Has the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs received a reply to a question I. asked on 27th March in relation to the importation of ply wood?
– The information has. not yet been received.
Trade Union Rates to Employees
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Seatof Government (Administration) Bill.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill.
Solar Observatory Fund Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders.
.- I move-
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the. bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
It is not the intention of the Government to press the bill to completion today. The suspension of the standing and sessional orders is sought in order to enable me to make my second-reading speech to-day, and then to allow the debate to be adjourned until tomorrow. By that means, it is hoped to dispose of the bill before the Easter vacation.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.23]. - I have no objection to the suspension of the Standing Orders, so long as it is done merely to enable the Minister to make his secondreading speech, and that honorable senators will not be called upon to deal with the bill to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [3.24]. - I move -
That the Aboriginals Ordinance, 1918 (No. 9 of 1918) which was laid upon the table of the Senate on Thursday, 27th March, 1930, be disallowed, as an intimation to the honorable the Minister of the desire of the Senate that he amend paragraphs (2.) and (3.) of section 67 in order that regulations made by the Administrator shall be subject to the same provisions as ordinances made under section 59 of the Northern Australia Act, 1926.
While there may be no precedent for asking the Senate to disallow an ordinance that has been in operation for nearly twelve years, I hope to be ableto convince honorable senators that the course of action I propose is not only justifiable, but necessary. Seeing that a week or two ago the Senate was occupied for some time in validating a regulation, passed in 1901, my action can scarcely be regarded as extraordinary, for if it is legitimate to make good something that has been bad for 30 years, it cannot be illegitimate to make bad something that has been good for nearly twelve years. I know no other method of bringing this matter under the notice of the Senate than the course I have adopted. While I do not blame the present Government for the regulation under consideration, I point out that to follow the procedure of the past would be to take away the privileges of Parliament and the rights of the people. The circumstances of this case are rather peculiar. In the Senate a fortnight ago, the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) made a full, frank, and informative statement in answer to a question submitted on the previous evening by Senator Foll. That question had reference to certain regulations made in February of this year regarding employment of half-castes in the Northern Territory. I shall not enter into a discussion on the merits of those regulations; first, because they are not now before the Senate; .and, secondly, because I understand that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley), following representations made to him, has suspended the operation of those regulations pending further investigation. My sole object in moving this motion is to give the Senate an opportunity of saying whether or not it considers that regulations of this kind should be placed before Parliament and be subject to disallowance by Parliament. Honorable senators arc aware that all regulations framed under an act of Parliament have to be submitted to Parliament within 30 clays of the date on which they are made if Parliament is sitting, or if Parliament is not sitting, then within 30 days of its re-assembling. They are- then subject to disallowance on a motion of which notice may be given in either House within fifteen sitting days of the tabling of the regulations. I desire to direct attention to three features of the statement of the Assistant Minister to which 1 have referred. He said first, that the regulations in question had not been tabled because it was not necessary to do so; secondly, that they were made under the Aboriginals Ordinance of 1918, which gives the Administrator power to make regulations subject to the Minister’s approval; and, thirdly, that through an inadvertence, Ordinance Wo. 9 of 1918 had not been submitted to Parliament until recently. The first question that arises is that of the validity or otherwise of the ordinance. I do not propose to invite the Senate ‘to enter into a legal argument in this connexion. We are told that the Minister has been advised that the fact that the ordinance was not tabled does not affect its validity. Yet the words of the act in relation to the making of ordinances are clear. The provision for the tabling of ordinances is mandatory; every ordinance must be laid on the table of Parliament within 30 days after it has been made. A fortnight ago we had some experience in the validating of regulations that the High Court had held to be ultra vires. On this occasion I do not propose to go further than to say that I should think that it is extremely doubtful that the High Court would regard as valid a regulation in regard to which the provisions of the act had not been compiled with. To take an opposite view, that suggested by the advice tendered to the Minister is to my mind putting Parliament out of office altogether. It seems clear that a Minister might make a regulation or ordinance of which, rightly or wrongly, he thought Parliament would not approve and, merely by refraining from laying it before Parliament, he would rob Parliament of its chance to object, and the ordinance would still be valid and enforcable. I do not propose to quarrel with the advice given to the Minister, but I do think that it is extremely doubtful what attitude the High Court would take in the matter.
The Minister, in the course of his statement last Thursday week, set up what was to my mind a very extraordinary proposition. Referring to the procedure regarding ordinances issued under the authority of acts of parliament and regulations issued under ordinances, he said -
It will bc seen that there is no difference in principle between these two sections. In both cases where an authority is given power to make regulations, the exercise of that power is subject to review by an immediately superior authority.
Where would that principle lead us if it were carried to its logical conclusion ? The Minister has obtained from Parliament power to make ordinances. He turns to the Administrator and gives him power to make regulations, and by so doing, if the honorable senator’s contention were right, cuts away from Parliament the right to review. If that is a sound principle we might expect the Administrator to delegate a regulationmaking power to . his chief clerk, such regulations to be referable only to him. And so the Minister would be cut out. The chief clerk might delegate the power to somebody else, until we should find that the office boy would be an unquestionable dictator. To my mind the opposite principle is the only sound one. That is that no person, Minister or otherwise, can delegate to anybody else a power that he does not himself possess. If we accept that in the present case we find that if the Minister, by way of ordinance, had made the regulations now in question, they must have been laid upon the table of Parliament, and subject to its approval or disapproval. I point out that in the past it has been the practice to provide, by ordinance, the condition for the employment of aborigines in the Northern Territory. Now it is suggested that instead of these things being provided for by ordinance, which must be reviewable by ^Par- liament, the Minister may, by ordinance, delegate his right to the Administrator, and, having done that, the regulation is referable only to the Minister. It may be disallowed or not by him. If it is not disallowed by him it has all the force of law, without having been placed before Parliament.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Quite so. The position would have been protected. Another question arises which I do not feel competent to argue. Under the Acts Interpretation Act all regulations made under an act of Parliament must be submitted to Parliament. It is open to argument that a regulation made under an ordinance is a regulation made under an act of Parliament, because the act of Parliament is really the ground for the authority ; it alone gives the power. Even from that point of view it might be contended that the provision in the ordinance that the regulation need be referred only to the Minister is a bad one. Under the North Australia Act 1926, the GovernorGeneral is given power to make regulations which, of course, must be laid before Parliament. One of the matters in respect of which he may make regulations is “ for ‘ empowering the commission to make by-laws for any purpose specified by the GovernorGeneral.” So that if the GovernorGeneral makes a regulation giving some by-law-making power to the commission he has to specify in the regulation itself, which comes before Parliament, the particular class of by-law that may be made. But in this case we have this ordinance merely providing that the Administrator may make regulations. It does not tie him down to regulations on any particular subject. He may make regulations, which have to be referred to the Minister, but need not come before Parliament. The Lands Ordinance for the Territory, No. 14 of 1927, gives the Minister power to make regulations, and specifically provides that those regulations must be laid before the both Houses of Parliament. There you have the two contrary procedures. The one ordinance gives the Minister power to make regulations, and says, “ You must lay them before Parliament.” The other gives the Administrator power to make regulations, and says that they need not come before Parliament.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH Yes. The whole matter of making ordinances and regulations is well worthy of more consideration than it has received at the hands of this Parliament. It was never intended that the granting of the power to make regulations or ordinances should take away from Parliament any of its rights, but it has happened that some of those rights have been taken away.
In no part of the world is this practice of governing the people by regulation carried to the same extent as in Australia. In 1903, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Rules Publication Act, based on the act .of the same name in force in Great Britain. Section 3 provided -
This 60 days notice had to be given before the regulations could become operative, and this practice was followed until 1916. During the period of the war it was, no doubt, realized that it would not be convenient, and in many cases not practicable, to give 60 days notice of intention to make regulations. Exactly the same condition of affairs obtained in Great Britain, but those sections of British acts in’ regard to which it was thought regulations might be required to operate immediately had attached to them a paragraph providing that section 1 of the Rules Publication Act should not apply to regulations made under them. When this Parliament was confronted with exactly a similar difficulty in 1916, it swept away entirely the provision requiring prior notice of intention to make regulations.
There is also a striking difference between the regulation making power given under English acts and similar power given under acts passed by this Parliament. Under English acts, the power to make regulations is given under specific sections, which require regulations to render them effective. Our practice has been to include, at the end of acts under which regulations may be made, a dragnet provision, giving a general power to make regulations. In view of this fact, there is greater need for a careful examination by Parliament of all regulations made.
Without wishing to introduce party politics into the discussion of this motion, I submit that the Senate is the proper chamber for the reviewing of regulations made under Commonwealth acts. The making of regulations, it should be noted, is an act of the Government. The power to make or unmake governments resides in another place, and while a government might have a strong following, some of its supporters might disapprove of regulations made, but might feel that it would be impolitic to vote against them. In this chamber, that situation (does not arise. Governments are not made or unmade in the Senate. All members of this chamber are at liberty to express themselves freely concerning the merits of every proposal brought before them. I, therefore, say that the Senate is the proper authority for the reviewing of regulations, and certainly it should not allow regulations to become operative until they have been reviewed.
I have no hesitation in saying that, in the past, this power to make regulations has been grossly abused. In no country has there been a more striking instance of the abuse of this power than is to be seen in the regulations framed under the Transport Workers Act. Those regulations not only created new offences, but provided new punishments. When a man is convicted of an offence against our ordinary laws, his punishment very often is hard labour for six months, but under the regulations framed under the Transport Workers Act, the punishment is a denial of the right to labour for six months. I assume, of course, that a man convicted under those regulations could find employment in some other avocation - possibly he could become a bookmaker’s clerk or perhaps even a member of Parliament - but he may be forbidden the right to work at his own calling for a period of six months. It is, however, provided, that the unfortunate worker so penalized may appeal to a court, which may decide whether or not he is guilty ; but, strangely enough, it has no power to reduce the penalty imposed on him. The fact that these regulations were subsequently embodied in an Act of Parliament to my mind only aggravates the position. I feel certain that if they had been laid before Parliament, they would not have been approved.
In certain directions the Commonwealth Parliament, has abrogated its legislative authority to an extraordinary extent. We have had the spectacle of the community being taxed for months without Parliament being given the opportunity to express any opinion concerning the nature of such taxation. Not only has the community been taxed but there has been a violent revolution in the Australian trading policy vitally affecting the trade relations of Australia and other countries, and desperately affecting the. condition of many Australian citizens, all done by executive act without authority from Parliament.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.The particular ordinance to which I am directing attention was , not made by the present Government. Therefore no party significance can be attached to my motion. This Parliament has gone to the danger limit in permitting things to be done by ordinance and regulation which ought to be done by Act of Parliament. I trust that it will go no further. I hope that it will not endorse the view that a Minister can delegate to a subordinate officer power to make regulations which he himself does not possess. I hope that the motion will be carried.
.- It is not my intention to traverse the ground so ably covered by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch. I hope that the Senate will disallow the ordinance, as an indication to the Government that it is not satisfied with the way in which regulations and ordinances are being made. As a member of a select committee of the Senate I have had an opportunity recently to become familiar with the procedure adopted. .Senator Sir Hal Colebatch made special reference to regulations framed under the Air Force Act. Those regulations contain over 100 clauses and are so comprehensive in their nature that they should be incorporated in the act itself, which, as the honorable senator has stated, is merely a skeleton measure consisting of a few clauses. The tendency in recent years has been to introduce bills containing a provision giving power to the executive to make regulations. The result is that a sort of superParliament is set up, and is doing much of the work that ought to be done by Parliament itself. The select committee found, in the course of its investigations, that the validity of many of the regulations made by heads of departments was doubtful, but, as Senator Colebatch has pointed out, people would rather pay than go to the expense of testing them in a court of law. A fortnight ago we had before us a provision in the Customs Bill to validate a customs regulation in operation since 1901. It was a regulation fixing a time limit for the submission of applications for rebates of duty. This practice of governing by regulations is probably more common in Australia than elsewhere, but a prominent member of the House of Lords has recently issued a publication in which he severely criticizes the practice of -government by regulation which, he says, is growing in Great Britain. In the case brought under notice by Senator Colebatch an ordinance has not been tabled in this Parliament, but even more serious, is the possibility of the regulations under that ordinance having a damaging effect upon individuals who are endeavouring to open up new country and establish industries in the Northern Territory. I understand that under on ordinance regulations may be made by the department but need not be laid before Parliament. It amounts to the establishment of a super-Parliament in Australia if departments can turn out regulations under ordinances like sausages out of a sausage machine. After the recent recess we found our lockers full, and one of the most formidable parcels was a bundle of ordinances and regulations which it would have taken any honorable senator a fortnight to peruse, let alone study. I think the’ Senate should take steps to bring about a reduction in the output of regulations which has assumed large proportions, and Senator Colebatch is to be commended for submitting this motion. T trust that the Senate will disallow this ordinance as an indication to the Government that Parliament will not permit the continuance of the practice of making innumerable regulations under ordinances without reference to Parliament.
– I entirely agree with the principles laid down by Senator Colebatch, and I can assure honorable senators that there is no need to pass this motion to impress on the present Government the necessity for legislating on different lines from those adopted in the past. The present Government is opposed to legislation by regulation ; but so long as the acts under which regulations must be made continue in force, there is no other means of legislating to meet requirements as they arise from time to time. The ordinance referred to in the motion has been in operation since 1918, but was not laid on the table in the Senate until the other day. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) has advised me that he has been unable to ascertain why the laying of the ordinance on the table was delayed, but a possible explanation is that, when the ordinance was framed, quite a number of the senior officers of the department were at the war, and that by over sight, it was not laid on the table of Parliament. I suppose it would have still remained where it had been permitted to remain for so many years, had it not been necessary to lay it on the table so that the particular regulations to which exception had been taken, could be dealt with. If the motion were simply an intimation to the Government that the Senate disapproved of the principle of government by regulation, or even that it had changed the opinion it held not so long ago when the Transport Workers Bill was passed, it would not be opposed by me, but I am opposing it, first, because I am advised that even if it is passed, it will not amount to a disallowance of the ordinance referred to. The Crown Law authorities have advised me as follows : -
The ordinance in question was made in 1913 under section 13 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, which provides, inter alia, that until Parliament makes other provision for the government of the Territory, the Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory, and that every such ordinance shall be notified in the Gazette, take effect from the date of notification, or from a later date to be specified in the ordinance: and be tabled in Parliament within fourteen clays. Power is then given to cither Houses of the Parliament to disallow the ordinance hy passing a resolution of which notice has been given at any time -within fifteen sitting days after the ordinance is tabled.
Apparently through an oversight the ordinance was only tabled recently. I do not think that the delay in tabling the ordinance affects either the validity of the ordinance or any power which either House may have under the law to disallow the ordinance.
Consideration must, however, be given to the effect of section 38 of the Northern Australia Act 1926. That act divided the Territory of Northern Australia into two territories, viz., the Territory of North Australia and the Territory of Central Australia. By section 38 it made provision for the continuance of laws the provision being that, subject to the act, all laws in force in the undivided territory on the proclaimed date should, so far as applicable, continue in force in North Australia and in Central Australia, having effect in each of these territories as if they were laws of North Australia or Central Australia, as the case may be. Power was also given to alter or repeal by ordinances made in pursuance of the Northern Australia Act. Section 4 of the Northern Australia Act repeals inter alia, section 13 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, under which the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918, was made. In my opinion the effect of section 38 of the Northern Australia Act 1926 is, so far as ordinances of the Northern Territory (that i”< the undivided Territory) are concerned, to convert those ordinances into ordinances of the two separate territories, and I do not think it would now he competent for either House of the Parliament, even if section 13 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, had not been repealed, to take action under that section to disallow ordinances made under it.
At the same time as section 38 of the Northern Australia Act of 1920 was enacted, there was enacted also section 59, which gives power to make ordinances having the force Of law in North Australia, and a similar power to make ordinances having the force of law in Central Australia. This power is subject to similar conditions as to disallowance to those which applied to ordinances made under section 13 of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910, but does not extend to the disallowance of ordinances made under the last-mentioned act, but merely to those made in respect to one territory or the other under section 59 of the 1926 act.
In my opinion, therefore, even if a resolution in the form proposed by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch should be carried by the Senate, the legal effect will not be to disallow the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918.
I desire to point out that so far as the power to make regulations is concerned, the method of making regulations, except in-so-far as a contrary method is provided by a particular ordinance, is now laid down by sections 11 and 12 of . the Interpretation Ordinance 1927 of the Territory of North Australia, regulations made by the Government Resident being subject to disallowance by the Minister, and regulations made by the Minister being subject to disallowance by either House.
The Minister for Home Affairs has submitted a report on the matter, from which I quote the following: -
Consideration is, however, now being given by the Minister to a number of alterations in the law of the Territory affecting aboriginals, and when these amendments are finalized, a new ordinance will bc promulgated and laid before Parliament.
The Minister has also advised me that I can assure the Senate that while this ordinance is in course of re-consideration, he, has taken the precaution to advise the Government Residents in the Territory that they are not to issue regulations under it until they have first been submitted to the Minister. In future the Minister will not permit the Government Resident to make any regulations which, under this ordinance, the Minister can make. The Senate can rest assured that the Government is taking all the necessary precautions, but does not desire the ordinance to be disallowed, because of the chaos that would be created. In view of the assurance which
I now give the Senate on behalf of the Government, that the principles enunciated by Senator Colebatch are those with which I think we are all in full accord, and that immediate steps are being taken to give legislative effect to what is desired, I trust the honorable senator will withdraw his motion.
– Is it possible to include in the new ordinance a provision to the effect that regulations made under an ordinance must be tabled in Parliament?
– Under the new system it is proposed that regulations of any description whatever shall be tabled in Parliament before they shall have any legal effect. The position which has arisen is not the fault of this or the preceding Government. It is due to an over? sight before the late Government came into power.
– Do 1 understand that the Minister’s assurance is that in future regulations or ordinances such as those now under consideration will be laid before Parliament before becoming operative?
– No ordinance or regulation will be promulgated by the Government unless it is to be tabled in Parliament.-
– Does not the opinion which the Minister has read turn entirely on the question of whether the ordinance in question was in force at all.
– If we were to enter into a -discussion of the legal aspects of the position, the Senate would be fully engaged until the Easter adjournment. 3 say, with great respect, that I am not satisfied that the position is as clear as Sir Robert Garran makes it appear; but I am not presumptuous enough to say that I do not agree with the opinion he has expressed. There is some doubt about it; but we cannot do any good by disallowing the ordinance, particularly in view of the fact that the Government is prepared to remove as speedily as possible the fault that at present exists. In these circumstances, I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the motion.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [4.8]. - In the first place I should like to say that there was no deep-laid scheme on the part of this or any other Government to defeat the will of Parliament by failing to lay this ordinance on the table. It is obvious that the omission to do so was due to an oversight on the part of some one, but there was no attempt by this or the preceding Government to dodge Parliament. I was a member of the Government that passed this particular measure, and I know of no conspiracy in the Cabinet of that day to get away from Parliament, nor have I any recollection of the question ever having been raised. Had it been brought under my notice, I should have expressed the view which Senator Colebatch has voiced to-day that if it is necessary to bring an ordinance before Parliament, it is equally necessary to table in Parliament the regulations framed under it. The assurance which the Minister has given the Senate is, I think, quite satisfactory. I should like to say a few words concerning the framing of regulations. I was pleased to hear Senator Foll declaim against legislation by regulation. I notice that the present Government, which is new at the art, is making all sorts of promises of good behaviour in this regard, but I venture to say that there will not be fewer regulations in the future than there have been in the past. Legislation is very complex and covers such a vast field that every parliament and every government must have recourse to this means of meeting emergencies which arise from time to time, and of interpreting the law as it thinks Parliament intended it to be expressed in its acts. Senator Foll, however, must not think that Australia is the greatest or only sinner in this respect as it will be found wherever there is a system of government similar to ours that the regulations exceed in number and size those which are promulgated in Australia. When an act of Parliament is passed it is necessary to give a tremendous amount of detailed instructions to the officers who have to administer it. If the regulations are in accordance with the spirit of the act there should be no objection. They are always in the nature of instructions to those who are to interpret the intention of Parliament. If we were to include in our legislation all this minutiae, litigation in the courts would not be reduced; on the contrary it would be enormously increased, and the difficulty of administering acts of Parlia ment would be greater. I know that some of the gentlemen who gave evidence on this and other points before the committee to which Senator Foll referred, have had no experience in the actual governing of a country. These theories may be all very well in a University but in the hard task of governing they are of little value. It is not easy to put everything in an act of Parliament.
– One of these gentlemen has had a lot of experience in making regulations.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Very well. I venture to say that the present Government will make as many regulations as the late Government.
– No. It will not be in office long enough for that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I shall correct my statement by saying that this Government will make as many regulations in twelve months as the preceding Government did during a similar period. Senator Colebatch gave an interesting illustration which he regarded a? condemnatory of the practice of making regulations. He referred to a bill in which the Government of the day took power to- make regulations dealing with the transport workers and went on to deal with the nature of those regulations. I would remind the honorable senator, however, that there was never an instance in which Parliament was so fully informed in advance of the nature of the regulations proposed to be made as in the case to which he referred. If ever there was a clear case of a government framing regulations with the full consent, nay, with the full authority of Parliament, that was the most striking of all. When the Transport Workers Bill was under consideration the Government of the day informed Parliament what it intended to do, and of the nature of the regulations which it intended to frame under that measure. Resolutions were passed by both Houses commending it for its intentions and instructing it to go ahead. If ever there was a case in which the Government acted with the full consent, indeed on the instructions of Parliament, it was that mentioned by Senator
Colebatch. Those “ terrible “ regulations, to which Senator Colebatch referred, formed one of the main points upon which an election was fought, and the Government which brought them down was returned with a big majority authorizing it to put them in an act of Parliament. And it did so. If Senator Colebatch brought that case forward as an instance of a government exceeding its authority in making regulations, he could not have been more unfortunate in his selection. “When the Government was returned it honoured its promise in an act of Parliament. That act, which has conferred more industrial peace on Australia than any other act, Federal or State, is causing honorable senators opposite some sleepless nights in their desire to get round it. I am somewhat of a pessimist in regard to the question of whether the Government can reduce the number of regulations, or the extent which they should cover; but, in my judgment, backed by years of experience, the condition of affairs to-day makes it almost impossible to legislate merely by act of Parliament. We have to legislate to some extent by regulation. I agree that Parliament should have the same control over regulations under ordinances that it has over ordinary regulations, and I am glad to learn that in connexion with regulations framed under an ordinance the Government will exercise the same authority as it does over other regulations. I am satisfied with the assurance which the Minister has given the Senate.
– I do not wish to make a speech on this subject, but I desire to bring before honorable senators the fact that there does not appear to be any consistency ill the way in which the English language is used in framing these regulations. I am not a university graduate; but although I have always been taught that the word “aboriginal” is “an adjective, and the word “ aborigine “ a noun I find that throughout this ordinance both words are used indiscriminately. The word “ Australian “ is used as. a noun and as an adjective, as is the case with other nationals; but as a distinction has always been previously drawn in the case of aborigines of this country, I should like to know why it has been dispensed with in this ordinance. While agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that in all probability there will be as many ordinances and regulations made in the future as in the past, I think it imperative that we should keep a watch over all ordinances and regulations to see that they do not transgress the rights of Parliament. Therefore, I think it desirable, that instead of the negative method which is now employed whereby an ordinance or regulation which is not disallowed automatically becomes effective, it- should be provided that unless they are definitely allowed by either or both Houses of Parliament they shall not become operative.
– If that were the case we should be engaged for twelve ‘months of the year in debating them.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree that a vast majority of the regulations cover merely routine matters, in which there is nothing contentious. But on more than one occasion, during my limited experience, I have known of regulations having the force of law which it was reasonably certain would have been disallowed had we been aware of their actual nature. The fact that we get them by the bushel makes it impossible for Us to go through them. Consequently, some slip through which Parliament would not knowingly tolerate. In these circumstances, it would be preferable if the positive instead of the negative method were adopted in regard to the validating of such ordinances and regulations.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [4.20]. - In view of the assurance of the Minister, I do not propose to proceed with my motion.
Question resolved in the negative.
brought up the report of the Select Committee on the Standing Committee system, together with minutes of proceedings, minutes of evidence and appendices and moved -
Ordered that the report he printed.
Debate resumed from 27th March (vide page 578), on motion by Senator Daly -
That the paper be printed.
– When the forms of the Senate interrupted my speech, I was commenting on the tremendous growth of borrowing in Australia, particularly in New South Wales. I was referring to a time when I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament. The public debt of that State was then about £51,000,000; to-day it is about £240,000,000. There has been a corresponding increase in the public debts of the other States and of the Commonwealth, with the result that an enormous burden has been placed on the shoulders of the people of Australia by reason of the heavy interest bill which has to be met. I pointed out in the New South Wales Parliament that, although interest rates then ranged from 4½ per cent. to 3 per cent., ifwe pledged our securities to the utmost in times of prosperity, we should be compelled, when evil conditions fell upon us, topay very much higher interest rates ; that, indeed, we should be practically at the mercy of those who provided the money. That is the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Year by year, as old loans mature and must be renewed, they are renewed at very greatly increased interest rates. In that way we have increased our indebtedness without increasing our assets or our available cash. We have reached a stage at which we are practically borrowing year by year in order to repay not only old loans, but also interest on loans. That state of affairs, if continued, must eventually lead to an evenworse disaster than that which has now befallen us.
That the whole world is incurring enormous indebtedness is evidence of the futility of the capitalistic system. Sooner or later there must be a general crash. At a time when honorable members opposite urge greater production, more and more people are existing in luxury and revelling in prosperity, while others, because of the constantly increasing interest bill, are living in poverty and distress. The community as a whole is continually plunging deeper and deeper into debt, because of a fanciful idea that the expenditure they incur is in connexion with reproductive works. If things continue inthis way, we must eventually reach that stage in which a few people subsist on the interest of their investments, while the majority of the population virtually toil in servitude and destitution. Then, instead of having a real democracy, we shall have a triumphant plutocracy.
On various occasions I have been accused of being an extremist, a bolshevik, a “ red “ and other evil things. Whatever may be said of me along those lines to-day could with equal truth have been applied to me 30 or 40 years ago, for I have not altered my principles in any way whatever in the meantime. I was born more or less a rebel, and I see enough in our social system to make me more a rebel to-day than I was in the past. At the best, we can only palliate existing evils by legislative action. In the course of time, nearly all palliatives work to the disadvantage of the people. The best that can be said of them is that they confer a temporary benefit. Sooner or later, they are either distorted into a means of injuring the community generally, or they produce negative results at the best. Our system is so inherently bad, so destitute of any quality worthy of further preservation, that if we are to accomplish any permanent good, we must work for its complete overthrow, and the inauguration of an entirely new conception of the position of the various classes in the community.
– What guarantee is there that the new system would be any better?
– It certainly could not be any worse. I believe that there is good in every system. There have been advantages in the social systems of the past. The patriarchal system of thousands of years ago had its advantages; but they passed away with the passing of the system. There were certain aspects of the old feudal system that we cannot but admire. But, as those systems reached their zenith, they became corrupt; they had within themselves inherent contradictions which made for their ultimate downfall. The same is true of the present capitalistic system. It originated with the invention of the steam-engine, the locomotive, the spinning jenny and other means by which production was stimulated. Up to a certain period the capitalistic system did a great deal to develop the resources of the world and to encourage the growth of individual freedom. It also sowed the seeds which led to the spread of education and knowledge. I do not deny that the capitalistic system, especially in the earlier stages of its history, conferred some benefits on mankind; but I maintain that it has now reached that stage in which its inherent evils entirely outweigh whatever good remains in it. The manifest duty of those who believe in the possibility of raising humanity to higher levels is to bend their energies towards instituting a newer and better system, and the destruction of the old system. Those who believe that they can bring about an industrial or social millennium by legislative alterations of the present system are doomed to continual and disastrous dissappointment.
The Ministerial statement concludes -
The difficulties confronting Australia are serious, and a proper realization of them should result in the whole-hearted co-operation of all sections in the working out of a satisfactory solution. Indeed, at the present juncture the Parliament might fittingly become an economic conference of representatives of the people meeting to discuss the general position.
I am absolutely opposed to that view. It displays an entire misunderstanding of the position. I do not mean that in times of emergency we should never sink party differences when vital principles are not involved, but I claim that it is hypocrisy and humbug to pretend that men whose principles are diametrically opposed to each other can work together in harmony.
– Then the honorable senator regards the Ministerial statement as a pious aspiration or, perhaps, a childish hope?
– At best, it is a childish hope. I do not believe in pious aspirations. We should not attempt to deceive ourselves any more than we should attempt to deceive others. It is hypocrisy on the one hand, and treachery on the other, to attempt to co-operate in matters concerning which we fundamentally differ. Let us take a few examples. We on this side believe that the people as a whole should own the land - that the ownership of land should be nationalized. We also believe that banking should be a national activity instead of a source of private gain. We believe, in short, in the socialization of industry under democratic control - which means under working class control. “ Working class control” means, in more flamboyant language, a proletariat dictatorship, which is merely a Latinized way of saying the same thing. As honorable senators opposite and their associates disbelieve in those ideals and fight us every time that we endeavour to attain them, it would be incongruous for us to work together for an objective which is opposed to their convictions. Working together when the issue is not a contentious one is an entirely different matter. Although I do not make a practice of decrying anything merely because it emanates from honorable senators opposite or necessarily laud anything that comes from my own party, only such endeavours as will further the principles of the Labour movement, whether by legislative action or otherwise, meet with my approval.
How can we ask honorable senators opposite to co-operate with us in bringing about an entire change of existing conditions when we believe that the operation of the principles which they support has brought about not only national, but world-wide disaster? I believe that the outlook for the world consists not in collaboration but in fighting these rival principles to a finish by all the means that we possess, and by any other means that may hereafter become available. I believe in a militant policy. I believe that that is the only way that we can prevent ourselves being pulled down to the coolie level. [Extension of time granted.] I thank honorable senators for their consideration. I hope that if I am not converting, I am at least interesting them. I believe that the hope for the future of this country - and it is in Australia that I am particularly interested - is for the working class that I represent to push forward steadfastly towards their objective. Our policy is strenuously to oppose any reduction in wages, any increase in hours, or anything that will in any way tend to lower our standard of living. It may be that many of our class have spent money foolishly. So have our political opponents. But that is no reason why the remuneration of members of the working class should be reduced. I and others have been told over and over again that we should produce more ; that there would be no objection to higher wages if we did more work for the money received. On the other hand, we are informed that in many fields of endeavour we are producing too much. I remember that the exPrime Minister, Mr. Bruce, addressed a meeting connected with the proposed completion of the Hume reservoir on the Murray river, and pointed but that Australia had already reached the limit of its exporting capacity for dried fruits, grown on the different irrigation areas, and that it was necessary to reconsider what should be grown on the land which would be irrigated from that reservoir. Only a few years ago, not a grain of rice was produced in Australia. At the present time the Leeton settlement, on the Murrumbidgee, grows more rice than Australia can consume, and we have an exportable surplus. All this goes to indicate that it is very easy to reach the limit in some branches of production.
– The production of sugar in Australia is now strictly limited.
– For some considerable time Australia has produced more sugar than it can consume. I do not claim that we could not export some commodities at favorable prices, if they were produced in sufficient quantity, but, generally speaking, the different countries of the world have reached a state of over-production. The wheat-farmers of Canada and the United States of America are requested to lessen their production of wheat, while in Australia we are urging our wheat-farmers to produce more of that grain. Three or four years ago I read in the press of the United States of America that, owing to the overproduction of cotton in the southern States of that country, the growers met and decided to reduce their plantings by onethird. Several planters objected to that procedure, and the majority, determined upon effecting their policy, inaugurated gangs of night-riders who burned out the crops of those farmers who would not conform to the edict of the majority. The output of cotton in the United States of America was reduced, and the price of the commodity maintained. I recall that, duringthe war, the Australian Gas Company, in Sydney, cast into the Pacific Ocean thousands of barrels of tar produced at its works.
When honorable senators opposite, who represent the wealth, the finance, and the manufactures of this community, urge that the worker should produce more, and at the same time countenance the destruction of portion of the production of the owning section of the community, in order to maintain high prices, they display to me either woeful ignorance of their opponents, or a barefaced effrontery.
Notwithstanding the sneers of some honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Lynch, I know that there are honorable senators on this side of the chamber who have a practical knowledge of farming, and who have shared in the hard work of pioneering that industry. From the time that I was sixteen years of age I worked on farms or stations, and on bush and various other classes of country work. Later on I became a farmer, and spent many years growing wheat and fruit. I know something about the trials and struggles of the primary producers. I also know about the man who, with no capital to speak of, has to do all the strenuous pioneering work before he can obtain a footing. But though that man may work longer hours and more strenuously than the wage-earner, he has an incentive that the wage-earner does not possess, the pleasure of working for himself, and the hope that he will increase his prosperity. Whether that hope is realized or not is an entirely different matter. We all know that when a man is his own boss, he is working all the time for himself, and is in an entirely different category from the wage-earner. No matter how hard the latter works, he can reap only a set wage. It is illogical, therefore, to place them in the same classification for purposes of argument.
– Would not the honorable senator’s policy take all incentive from the man who works for himself ?
– Not at all.
– All incentive would be taken away under a socialistic system such as the honorable senator proposes.
– I do not think so. While the incentive might not be the same, it would still, be there and on a higher plane than at present, and it would stimulate the person concerned to further effort. The present system often leads people to throw up the struggle as hopeless; to join the ranks of those who follow more or less parasitical occupations, and so become a burden on tile community. The hopelessness of continual toil for little result drives many to live on their wits rather than to rely upon honest labour for a livelihood. Honorable senators opposite, who are continually pointing to the unnatural growth of our city populations, to the rush for the pleasures and distractions of the city, with a consequent depletion of the population of rural districts, are guilty of flagrant contradiction. Their policy of endeavouring to abolish rural awards in order to make one nian compete against another for the few available jobs, at any old wage, compels country workers to turn towards the city, where they can at least organize and demand a modicum of their rights.
The more one examines the existing social condition the more one finds oneself faced with its inherent contradictions and is forced to believe that it cannot survive, as it carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. The debts of the various nations of the world are being piled up sky high, and there is the keenest rivalry between them for the limited markets available for the sale of their commodities. Nations are endeavouring to produce a surplus for export, while at the same time they are trying, by means of tariffs and other devices, to close their doors to exports from other countries. They are fighting one another and striving to get rich by boxing themselves up within their borders. These and various other contradictions in the system mark it out for its ultimate destruction.
We should face those facts and realize that in tinkering with legislation we are only postponing the evil day. Sooner or later there must be a re-adjustment of the existing social conditions. We shall then find that whatever drawbacks there may be are due to evil traditions: to the evil habits that we have inherited through generations of strife, and that unless we make these changes the condition of the world must result in anarchy and _ bloodshed. I cite the conference now taking place between the great powers of the world, allegedly to bring about a reduction of armaments. It is patent to any one who reads only the bare cables that instead of that being their objective the nations are endeavouring, by a constant diplomatic effort, to out manoeuvre one another in order to obtain an advantage and so increase their armaments. President Hoover recently intimated that there are now 10,000,000 more men under arms than there were in 1913, the year before the outbreak of theGreat War.
– And the largest army is that of Soviet Russia, the land of the proletariat.
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. It is only the imminent danger that once the other powers compose their difficulties and effect a superficial peace they will make a united attack on Soviet Russia, that causes that country to appreciate the necessity of maintaining its armed strength. Russia is the only nation which, up to the present, has made a reasonable disarmament proposal. Instead of taking part in endless conferences it declared its willingness to disarm at once and be done with the business provided other nations would agreed to do the same. However, I am not here as a Russian ambassador to state the case for that country. I am merely remarking, in reply to interjections, that at the League of Nations Assembly a few years ago, Russia made a proposal to disarm, and stated its willingness to cease military and naval construction and instruction. The other powers would not even debate the proposal.
I have a copy of a very conservative publication - the Australian Mining and Industrial Standard - which reprints, evidently with approval, an article from another newspaper giving particulars of the economic progress which Russia is making, and the agreements which it has made with the other governments for the interchange of patent rights, engineering experts, and in many other directions. This indicates clearly that, despite the unfavorable propaganda which appears in the newspapers from day to day, the real position is being revealed and is appealing even to opponents of the Soviet system of government, who now are being forced to admit that Russia is making wonderful economic headway against almost insuperable difficulties. If this great experiment proves successful, it must necessarily be the most powerful of all propaganda for the Soviet form of government, and must disclose the inefficiency and sterility of the existing social system, to which other countries are wedded.
– The Soviet Government could have done nothing without the assistance of the capitalists.
– The honorable senator is in error. Ever since the revolution financial assistance has been withheld from Russia, but under the new economic system that country is gradually building up its industries, and capitalists now appear to be anxious to make terms with it and take a share of its prosperity.
– Russia practically stole £300,000,000 from Great Britain.
– With that lopsidedness which he displays whenever he is discussing a controversial subject, the honorable senator omits to mention th.it Great Britain, according to an admission made by Mr. Short, then Home Secretary, advanced in cash and munitions over £100,000,000 to Kolchak, Denekin, Wrangel, and other leaders of the Russia counter revolution for the purpose of /destroying the Soviet system which had been established following the revolution in 1917. The Home Secretary admitted, further, that that was not ibo end of the story, so we may assume that the final amount advanced by Great Britain was a great deal more than £100,000,000. I therefore suggest to Senator Foll that, when he talks about Russia not paying its debts, he should remember that that country has a heavy contra account against Great Britain, which probably amounts to more than the sum mentioned.
Russia is attempting to follow an ideal which directly conflicts with the ideals of the existing social system in other countries. The two systems cannot live permanently side by side, The existing social system, which is on the decline, is becoming more aggressive, vindictive and revengeful in its attack upon the new system which is challenging its supremacy. For this reason I believe that sooner or later there will be a clash between the two systems. Whether that clash will come in our day or generation it is not for me to say; but if it does, I, for -one, will be found on the side of the new system, because 1 am convinced that the existing social order must end in disaster.
– Is that why the present Government is destroying our defence system?
– The late Government never had one.
– The defence system of this country was such an absolute farce that I wish this Government had taken stronger action. The money spent on it could be applied to a more useful purpose.
.- Senator Rae’s statement that under the late Administration, Australia had no defence system, cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. Prior to the entry of the Labour Government we had a most efficient defence system. It was inaugurated by a Labour administration, and was built up by subsequent Nationalist Governments. The Bruce-Page Government some years ago submitted and carried proposals for naval construction in cooperation with and the approval of the British Government, the object being to ensure the presence on the Australian station of an efficient naval force. The two cruisers that were built in Great Britain for the Commonwealth were paid for out of revenue. Their cost was to some extent responsible for the deficit in the previous year’s estimates, but we bao* the satisfaction of knowing that the Commonwealth possessed two of the most modern battleships afloat. Our land defences also have been maintained in a high state of efficiency, and yet Senator Rae has the audacity to say that Australia never had a defence force. It is significant that the present Government, of which Senator Rae in a supporter, has been in office for only six months, and it has done its very damnedest to destroy it.
– I do not regard the word which I used as unparliamentary.
– But I do.
– Very well, Mr. President, I shall not use it again. The present Government, I repeat, has done its utmost to destroy our defence system. Money could have “been saved in other directions if the Government wished to do so. Instead it has used the pruning knife on every possible occasion to cut down naval and military expenditure, notwithstanding that the previous Government, acting on the advice of the responsible heads of all arms of the service, had cut the Estimates to the utmost limit compatible with safety. I agree with Senator Rae that we should be in a happy position if all nations would agree to disarm; but it is dangerous for the Commonwealth, with its sparse population, to be the first to scrap its naval and military defences.
I remind the honorable senator also that while this Government is cutting down expenditure on defence, it is adopting a policy that is far from friendly towards the Mother Country. It is declaring that Australia does not want British goods, and will not even allow its kinsmen from Great Britain to come to Australia. This is not the way to treat Great Britain, which has extended its protecting arm over us for the last 130 years. And this certainly is not the time for Australia to scrap its insurance policy, by cutting its naval and military estimates to the bone. I warn this Government that it is playing with fire. We cannot close our doors to the people of other nations, and at the same time strip ourselves of our only means of defence. This Government has gone to the extreme limit. I hope it will reconsider its policy. With our scanty population and our immense coastline we cannot afford to dispense entirely with the means of defending this country.
– Can a country .with a population of 120,000,000 afford to do it?
– A country with a population of 120,000,000 has many economic methods and many other resources than a navy to defend it. An almost empty continent with a population of only 6,000,000 has not those resources, and is not so immune from attack as a highly developed country like the United States of America, with a big population. Although I am hopeful of something beneficial resulting from the Disarmament Conference that will relieve the people of the world of a considerable portion of the expenditure which is now absorbed by naval construction, no agreement has yet. been reached, and judging from the way in which the conference has been dragging on week after week, the prospects of success seem less hopeful than ever. Until we have some assurance from the powerful nations of the world, it is therefore foolhardy of us to scrap our only means of defence and, at the same time, inform Great Britain, to which we must look for protection from an enemy, that we want none of her goods and none of her people.
During the last few weeks very high duties have been placed on certain commodities imported from overseas, and steps have been taken to prohibit the importation .of others. This action will hit most severely some of the countries with which we have a very favorable trade balance. Four or five months ago, I said in this chamber, that I feared that the adoption of such a policy would result in fiscal retaliation from those countries. Let me remind honorable senators that not many weeks ago, the Prime Minister, through the broadcasting stations, made an appeal to the producers of Australia to grow more and more wheat. Is that wheat to be grown for Australian consumption or for exportation? It is to be grown for importation into other countries, and as a matter of fact, Australia is seeking to sell its butter, wool, sugar, and wheat” in the very countries upon which she is now placing a tariff embargo. I have always been a supporter of the policy of giving adequate protection to Australian industries, but, to my mind, it is humbug to say that, the purpose of the Government’s recent proposals is to right Australia’s trade balance. This afternoon, I asked the
Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) why the United States of America, which buys practically nothing from Australia, and will not buy anything from us if it oan avoid doing so, but is yet willing to pour her goods into this country as fast as vessels can bring them, should be scarcely touched by the Government’s new tariff proposals, whereas many European countries with which we have a favorable trade balance are being severely hit by them. The articles that are mainly responsible for our adverse trade with America, are scarcely touched. A government which was anxious to deal properly with the present situation would have placed an embargo on the importation of all petrol except British. Millions of pounds sterling would then have gone to right our trade balance with Great Britain instead of going to America, and there would not have been a farthing increase in the price- of petrol.
– Where is the British petrol to be obtained. In Persia?
– Tes, and in Borneo. There are many British oil companies. If the Government had been really desirous of rectifying the trade balance, it would have gone to the root of the trouble instead of resorting to a subterfuge in order to give additional protection, which it could not give in any other way. One serious result of its policy will be to hit friendly countries to which we are selling our primary produce.
– The United States of America has just increased the duty on wool.
– And on wheat.
– That is so. I think the duty on wool has been increased to 34 cents, per lb.
– Unfortunately, the Bruce-Page Government borrowed money from the United States of America.
– The first Australian Government to borrow money in the United States of America was the Queensland Labour Government, headed by Mr. Theodore, and the second one to do so, if my memory serves me right, was the New South Wales Labour Government, headed by Mr. Lang. If the Commonwealth Government has also borrowed in New York, it has simply followed the bad example set by Labour. In any case, the money secured by the States from the United States of America was borrowed at a higher rate of interest than would have had to be paid on the money available in London; and I go so far as to say that if there had been a different government and a different Treasurer in Australia to-day, the bad time we are experiencing in the London, financial circles to-day would not have come about.
In the course of his remarks, Senator Bae said that the suspension of the rural workers’ award had a tendency to drive workers from country districts to the city. One of the main planks in the Moore Governments policy, on which it was returned to power in Queensland recently, was the suspension of the rural workers’ award. During the election campaign I was on the Atherton tableland, where some of the best maize-growing country in Australia is to be seen. There are hundreds of returned soldiers and others growing maize there, but while the rural workers’ award was in force the price of maize did not permit them to employ labour. It is all very well for a court to say, “ We shall fix a certain wage for an industry,” but the court does nothing to help the industry to pay that wage; and if the industry cannot afford to pay it, the net result is not to give men additional wages, but to deprive them of employment. The first step taken by the Moore Government on assuming office was to suspend the rural workers’ award. Before that there were hundreds of men out of employment, because the employers could not afford to pay the award rate, but when the award was suspended, hundreds of men immediately secured employment at good wages in the Dawson Valley, on the Tablelands, and in some of the other primary producing districts of Queensland. The wages were not the old award rates, but nevertheless they were good wages. At any rate, they were wages which the industry could afford to pay, and it was a far better economic proposition for the State that these men should be paid these wages than that they should be receiving the dole, which they had previously been drawing. So serious had become the position in some of the rural industries in Queensland that even the McCormack Labour
Government had suspended the rural workers’ award in regard to fruit-picking. It was impossible for the fruit-growers to pay the award rates at the price of fruit, and the Government suspended the award, with the general approval of all sections. There was no party political disturbance about it. The fruit-growers, and those who wished to work in the industry generally, approved of the step that was taken. As a result of the general suspension of the rural workers’ award by the Moore Government, unemployment is now less in Queensland than it is in any other State. The Government’s action has been amply justified.
The present Commonwealth Government is at all times preaching economy. It declares that there should be no unnecessary expenditure on the part of the Governments or private individual, yet I have in my hand a closely typed document of 37 foolscap pages, headed “ Summary of Government’s Activities,” which is purely party propaganda, and has apparently been paid for by the taxpayers.
– Can the honorable senator point to anything in that statement which can be regarded as being of a political nature?
– Yes. There are a number of paragraphs to which I intend to direct the attention of the Senate. This statement which contains a good deal of political propaganda, is roneod on paper of good quality, has been circulated in expensive envelopes, and compiled, I suppose, by Government officials at the expense of the taxpayers. The Nationalist party has always paid for the preparation of its political propaganda, but the cost of the work of the Labour party in this respect is being paid out of Consolidated Revenue. It is regrettable that such a course should be adopted, particularly at the present juncture when every one is being asked to reduce expenditure in every direction. Why should the Government incur this unnecessary cost when retrenchments are being made in the Defence .and other departments? The cost of the preparation of this report should be met out of the Labour party’s funds, and not out of Consolidated Revenue. A few moments ago the Minister (Senator Daly) asked me to direct his attention to any item in this statement which could be regarded as of a political nature. On the first page I find the following paragraph : -
The revised estimates of expenditure in the budget for 1929-30 provided for the following increases : - Maternity allowances - £00,000 - to continue payments to persons in receipt of family incomes of £8 per week or more. The previous Government proposed to abolish these payments.
Is not that political propaganda?
– Is it not true?
– It is; but the circulation of that information is being paid for by the taxpayers, many of whom are opposed to the policy of this Government. A further paragraph reads -
Allowances to public servants under regulations and awards - £140,000 - to continue existing allowances in respect of overtime, Sunday pay, higher duties, travelling, and other services. The previous Government proposed to reduce these payments by £140,000.
That is more political propaganda. It continues-
Abandonment of tax of 5 per cent, on gross receipts from charges for admission to entertainments as proposed by previous Government.
Why was it necessary to include that paragraph in a list of the Government’s activities? It has nothing to do with the budget brought down by this Government. Another paragraph reads -
The previous Government proposed an increase of 10 per cent, in the rate of tax on individual taxpayers whose taxable incomes exceeded £2,000. ‘
If this statement was prepared merely for the purpose of showing the activities upon which the Government is engaged, a leaflet could have been issued, showing what it has done and is doing; but the cost of this report for the reasons stated should not be met out of public funds. Honorable senators are fully aware of the previous Government’s proposal in connexion with the maternity allowance. It was never suggested that the maternity allowance should not be paid to those who were actually in need of it; but that persons in receipt of £S a week and over should not be eligible for the maternity bonus. If the present Government were to adopt the policy suggested by their predecessors, it could save £60,000 a year, which would provide the basic wage for many of the men whom they are now sacking. In view of the financial difficulties with which the country is confronted, it would be infinitely better to adopt such a course than to continue the payment of the maternity allowance to persons in receipt of £S a week and more, many of whom do not need it. The proposal of the late Government was reasonable, and, when the financial position became easier, the payment of this allowance would have been placed on the old basis. During a period of national stress the Government should not be compelled to pay the maternity allowance to persons in receipt of £10, £15, or £20 a week.
– The greater part of the saving that would be effected would be utilized in administering the act.
– Not at all. The number of applicants would be reduced, and the administration could be carried on as at present by officials who are performing other work. It was suggested when the late Government’s proposal was made known that it would have the effect of pauperizing certain persons; but in view of the circumstances any Government is justified in declining to pay the allowance to persons who are not actually in need of it. One paragraph, which I have already quoted, reads -
Allowances to public servants under regulations and awards - £140,000 - to continue existing allowances in respect of overtime, Sunday pay, higher duties, travelling, and other services. The previous Government proposed to reduce these payments by £140,000.
Here again political capital is made out of the fact that the late Government proposed to reduce expenditure by discontinuing certain allowances, but the present .Government has inflicted a much greater hardship on many public servants. Prior to the last general election honorable senators opposite, and those with whom they are associated, went through the country telling the electors that unemployment which was so rampant had been caused by the maladministration of the Bruce-Page Government; but unemployment is greater to-day than it has ever been in the history of the Commonwealth. The supporters of the present Government said that the saving of £140,000 which was to be effected under Public Service awards and regulations, meant a reduction of that amount in public servants’ salaries. The present Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), when discussing this subject some time ago, made it clear that if the savings then proposed were effected wages or salaries would not be reduced. It was shown on that occasion that a good deal of unnecessary expense was being incurred by the Public Service Arbitrator in travelling from State to State obtaining unnecessary evidence, in granting excessive allowances, and in making awards for slightly higher rates which were not justified by the costs. But immediately the present Government assumed office it prevented that saving by extending the term of the Public Service Arbitrator and continuing a costly system. There are a number of other items in this statement which can be regarded as purely political propaganda, and upon which I could comment if time permitted.
In view of the circumstances with which we are faced the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) should take the members of this chamber and another place into his confidence and place before them Australia’s real financial and economic position. Many rumours are current, and endeavours are being made by some to make political capital out of the economic difficulties with which we are confronted. As this is an occasion when we should all pull together, I urge the Prime Minister to convene a conference of members of Parliament, which could be held in camera, if necessary, and to tell us exactly where we stand. I have sufficient faith in the people of Australia to believe that if the facts are placed before them they will be willing to face the situation and assist in whatever direction they can. But, apparently, the Government is afraid to tell the people, and by its reticence a goodmany are under the impression that circumstances are worse than they actually are. During the war period, when this country and others were faced with a tremendous task, Britishers did not shirk their responsibilities, and if, at this juncture, the people enjoyed the confidence of the Government, I believe a much better spirit would prevail. As Australia is faced with a serious financial and economic position, the Government should, instead of begging the question, tell the people what is expected of them. Why should it be necessary to make spectacular demonstrations such as by prohibiting the importation of snuff and other such commodities when the Government could, by adopting a proper attitude, receive the active co-operation of the people. There has been too much hinting and political manoeuvring.
Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) for certain information in relation to the payment of a bounty on beef. I asked whether he would substantiate the statements made by him during the election campaign. I did so, because a large number of people in my electorate were interested in them. To my question I received an insulting reply; I was told that on account of the deficit bequeathed by the previous Government, the Government was unable to grant a bounty.
– Why not quote the Minister accurately?
– Does the Leader of the Senate say that that was not the substance of the reply?
– It was not.
– In the Minister’s reply reference was made to a legacy received from the previous Government. Am I not correct in saying that during the recent election campaign the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs condemned the Nationalist Government for not having carried out its promises, and promised that a Labour Government would assist the beef industry? The Senate is not the place in which to indulge in any party political propaganda of the type we have had this afternoon. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) in another place made definite promises to the producers of meat. I wanted to know whether those promises would be carried out, but instead of receiving a proper answer, I was informed that, because of the failings of a previous Ministry, nothing could be done. Many of the producers of beef in Queensland accepted the promise in good faith, and probably they voted for Labour candidates because of it. Now the Government says that it can do nothing because of the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– That was not said.
– It is true that the reply stated that the Government would do nothing while beef remained at its present price. The last budget of the
Bruce-Page Government provided for taxation in order to balance the ledger. The deficit to which the Minister referred was brought about by the defeat of that Government. But what has the present Government done? It has deliberately thrown away an annual revenue of between £5,000,000 and £10,000,000, and the amount would have to be> made up by a tax on incomes or by some other means. I remind the Minister that the main source of revenue from income taxation has gone. Approximately 38 per cent, of the total taxation in Queensland is derived from pastoralists. To-day many of those men are on the verge of bankruptcy, because the cost of growing wool is greater than the price received for it. How can the. Government get revenue from them by means of a tax on their incomes ? At the very time when we are told that we should curtail expenditure the Government is issuing party political propaganda at the expense of the taxpayers. I hope that it will make an earnest attempt to fulfil its promise to curtail expenditure without throwing more men out of work. The country is looking for more than lip service from the Government.
There is scope for an annual saving of some thousands of pounds in connexion with official correspondence. Every departmental communication sent through the post has affixed to it a postage stamp. For instance, a letter posted in Parliament House addressed to a Government department in Sydney bears an adhesive stamp, for which there is no need.
– By not placing adhesive stamps on official correspondence, the Government would save only the cost of printing and licking the stamps.
– It would save a considerable amount each year. The installation of franking machines, capable of dealing with 100 letters a minute, would save the cost of the paper on which the stamps are printed, as well as the time of the men. who affix the stamps to the letters. I estimate that by installing these machines, a saving of between £25,000 and £30,000 per annum could be made in connexion with departmental correspondence. Is that saving to be scoffed at in such times as these? To the credit of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Lyons) let me say that when I placed my proposal before him he readily agreed to investigate it. I now offer the suggestion to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly).
I trust that the Prime Minister will make a definite statement to the people regarding Australia’s financial and economic difficulties, and also that he will make it clear to those countries affected by the recent tariff restrictions, that they have been imposed for only a short period. Queensland produces a large exportable surplus of sugar, most of which finds a market in Great Britain. That is possible because of the preference granted to Australian-grown sugar by Britain. Recently there has been a general application by the sugar-growers of Queensland for an increased preference; but what chance have they of getting it when we slam the door in the face of British manufacturers? Is it a sin -to import goods?
– It is a crime to import goods for which we cannot pay.
– They should be made in Australia.
– I, too, would like to see more goods manufactured in Australia ; but I remind the honorable senator that our national existence depends largely upon our ability to export our goods to other countries. I do not want to see other nations retaliate to the injury of our primary industries. The Government should proceed warily. I agree that we should grant adequate protection to new industries in order to build them up; but it will be exceedingly difficult to convince the people of other countries that the recent restrictions on imports are justified. That the Government is faced with a crisis does not justify it in introducing panicky legislation. Any government which would win through must keep its head in times of difficulty. I feel sure that the people would readily respond to their country’s needs if they were taken into the confidence of the Government.
– Senator Foll has damned the Government with bell, book, and candle. His speech was in striking contrast to the opening remark of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce), that in view of our serious financial and economic position it was the duty of every one to assist the Government rather than criticize and make its path more difficult! Even the right honorable gentlem’an himself failed to carry, out his own precept, for his speech was largely a criticism of the Government. The Government is where it is because the people of Australia so decided after a full examination of all the facts. The previous Government had been in office so long that the people knew both its virtues and its vices. When they balanced them they decided that the time had arrived for that Government to go; and out it went.
– The honorable senator supported that Government for a long time.
– I did; but I never neglected an opportunity to tell the Government when I thought that it went off the rails. When I took the stand that is claimed to be the right of any Nationalist senator or member- -the right of free expression and the right to one’s own opinion - I was told that I was no longer wanted in the Nationalist party, and would no longer be recognized as a Nationalist. However, I am not crying about that. I shall confine my remarks to the ministerial statement that has been brought before the Senate, and I shall also examine very briefly one or two criticisms that have been levelled against the statement. With other honorable senators, and particularly with Senator Greene, I admit that the Government is in a very difficult position. That surely is generally recognized.
– Tha! applies to every other government in Australia.
– But some of those other governments have brought a good many of their difficulties upon themselves. This Government has had its difficulties thrust upon it by its predecessor. It is confronted with a very difficult financial situation, for which it is not responsible. That situation is due to lack of foresight on the part of the late Government. This Government is faced with a heritage of unemployment perhaps greater than that which has faced any other government in Australia.
– What is the main cause of that?
– Very largely it is due to the lack of foresight and wisdom on the part of the preceding government.
– The honorable member knows that is not so.
– I shall prove later that it is so. The Government is also confronted with a very difficult industrial situation that is not of its own creation. When one remembers these things one has to be charitable towards the Government, and to commend it when it is possible to do so, particularly when it is standing up to its responsibilities and difficulties in a really man-sized way. It is true that Senator Foll and other honorable senators in opposition to the Government have declared that the things that it is doing are wrong. The Government has brought down a tariff which has not met with the commendation of honorable senators in opposition ; but its action has met with a very great deal of commendation, not merely from Government supporters, but from almost all the fair-minded people in this and other countries. The press of Great Britain, even the London Times itself, has not hesitated to commend the Government for taking that action. The press of Australia, including the section that is only too ready to condemn a Labour government in any circumstances, has commended it on this occasion, while the freetrade press itself has commended the Government, perhaps in a half-hearted way, but nevertheless has commended it, for the courageous way in which it is tackling its problems.
– Even Mr. Gullett commended the Government, in another place.
– That is so. The Government is standing up to its difficulties in a capable manner, and is endeavouring to get a good grip of the situation and to lead Australia out of the morass into which it was precipitated by a government which had not the capacity to appreciate the writing on . the wall. Senator Pearce made a speech, to which I have already referred. In it he condemned the Government in every conceivable way for what it had done and what it proposed to do. According to the right honorable senator the Government should have gone on, legislatively and administratively, as the previous Government did. But the people of Australia have already declared overwhelmingly that the previous Government acted contrary to the best interests of Australia, and had this Government proceeded along the lines of its predecessor, it would have deserved the condemnation of the people. Senator Pearce is not pleased with the position in which he finds himself. It would be unnatural to expect that he would be pleased. The chief reason for his irritability is that the right honorable gentleman is where he thinks the Government ought to be. He read to- honorable senators long extracts from a speech made by Mr. Bruce to a Premiers’ Conference. The right honorable gentleman declared that that speech clearly indicated that the Bruce-Page Government had a thorough grip of the situation, that it understood Australia’s problem and whence Australia was drifting, and that it proposed to save the situation. Mr. Bruce is not here. He is holidaying while we are struggling to find a solution of the difficulties that he has bequeathed us.
– Mr. Bruce has a perfect right to take a holiday.
– Certainly he has. Perhaps, as Senator Pearce claimed, Mr. Bruce did have some realization of Australia’s position when he made that speech; but his was a death-bed repentance. If he really did entertain such opinions, I remind honorable senators that they were very different from those expressed by his Government but a short time before. Those sentiments were delivered to a Premiers’ Conference, not to this Parliament, which is a representative body responsible to the people for Australia’s financial, industrial, and economic condition. I shall quote from the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General on the 6th February, 1929, at the opening of the last session during which the Bruce-Page Government held office. This was just prior to the time that it went to its political doom, and before Mr. Bruce addressed that
Premiers’ Conference. These are the words that Mr. Bruce and his colleagues put into the mouth of His Excellency -
Owing to unfavorable seasonal conditions, and other temporary factors, there has been a period of diminished activity in the commercial and industrial life of certain parts of the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding these adverse circumstances, which have necessarily affected public revenues., the financial position of the Commonwealth is sound. Conditions have already improved, and there are encouraging indications that the coming year will witness a return to normal prosperity.
That emanated from a Government which ought to have had its fingers on the pulse of our economic position and full knowledge of our financial difficulties.
– It was hut legitimate optimism.
– Whatever the honorable senator may say, it proves clearly that the Bruce-Page Government then had no conception of the dangerous position into which Australia was rapidly drifting. In that statement it did not propose to deal with the situation, either legislatively or administratively, in an effort to restrict expenditure or improve matters. I could quote from other parts of that Speech to show that it was altogether unfortunate that the Government did not realize the true position.
– Had the coal strike then taken place?
– That and other troubles -were thick upon Australia at the time. Honorable senators in this place and members in another place did not hesitate to call the attention of the Government to the drift that was taking place. I and others called attention to the financial situation, and insisted that there was a necessity to tighten up matters. As a result I was submitted to a very great deal of criticism from supporters of the Government for daring to suggest that its administration -was not everything that it should be.
Parliament was deliberately hoodwinked. Honorable senators will remember the undignified squabbles that took place between high officials and Dr. Earle Page, who was then Treasurer; when the Auditor-General courageously and properly exposed the true position to the public. The electors remembered that and other matters when an appeal was made to them. No government is serving the people by deliberately courting disaster and placing its opponents upon the treasury benches, nor is an Opposition rightly serving the electors by declaring indiscriminately that whatever the Government of the day proposes is diametrically opposed to the needs of Australia. The electors sat in judgment upon the BrucePage Government, and rejected it. Those of us who were prepared to take a proper stand in this chamber have been made to suffer, and probably will suffer in future. I have not noticed any change of heart on the part of Senator Pearce or his colleagues as a result of the last appeal to the people. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) is still telling the people that they were wrong and the previous administration was right.
– Do not forget the campaign of lies that was indulged in during that campaign.
– I recall only the ordinary lies that one hears during any election, and no particular party can be charged with responsibility for them. I can, however, say that more lies were told during the election campaign in New South Wales by supporters of the previous Government than by the whole of the then Opposition, candidates. This Government may make mistakes. All governments do. I am not a supporter of this Government; I am in opposition to it but if, in my opinion, it is following right lines, I shall commend it. On the other hand, if it does wrong, I shall not hesitate to criticize it.
During the last election campaign frequent reference was made to the proposals of the previous Government to bring about a reduction in the cost of production, and Ministers were charged with the intention to reduce wages. Naturally, they repudiated the charge, but their attitude towards the economic situation in Australia admitted of no other conclusion. Senator Pearce also said that, in addition to bringing down the cost of production, he favoured reductions in other directions, and went on to point out that the tariff was too high. That tariff, I remind the Senate, was brought down by the administration of which he was a member, and, of course, he voted for every item in it. Now he says that it is too high. Within the last few days we have had a further instalment of still higher protection and, in addition, the importation of certain classes of goods is prohibited. Are we to understand from the remarks of the right honorable gentleman, that he and his party are opposed to the accepted fiscal policy of the Commonwealth? Will he make it clear that the Nationalist and Country parties now favour lowering the protective duties under which our manufacturers have built up industries, and from which our primary producers also have derived substantial benefit ?
– We now have to consider the Government’s latest policy to prohibit the importation of goods.
– The prohibition of imports is sometimes advantageous to primary producers. Senator Poll has already referred to the sugar industry in Queensland. Would Senator Chapman be prepared to go to Queensland aud challenge the Government’s policy of prohibiting the importation of sugar in the interests of Queensland growers ? Senator Poll would not agree with him on that point. He and other honorable senators from Queensland would fight tooth and nail against any proposal to change the Government’s policy with regard to sugar. Other sections of our primary producers have benefited similarly from the protective policy of the Commonwealth.
– When all industries are protected there will be. equality.
– I am aware, of course, that it is not possible to give protection to one section of our primary producers - the wool-growers.
– Why not ?
– They can be protected only to the extent that we provide for them a wider home market, and the production of wool in Australia is so great that the home market- is totally unable to absorb the available supplies.
– Why not give them a guaranteed price?
– It may be possible to do for them what has been done for our dairy farmers. By organization and protection the position of dairymen throughout the Commonwealth has been vastly improved. The choicest brands of Australian butter - a product much better in quality than usually is sold in Australia - may be purchased in London for 5d. a lb. less than is paid for the best butter in Australia.
– It is 7d. a lb. below Australian prices.
– That, again, is but another illustration of the benefits of protection to our primary producers. The dairying industry has been stabilized, and our dairy farmers are now doing much better than formerly. It may be possible to guarantee the price of wool, but that must be a matter for.future consideration. I think it is agreed that the position of our wool-growers is different from that of other primary producers; but every section of our primary producers has derived some benefit from the protective policy of the Commonwealth.
– Except the pastoral industry.
– I am under the impression that our beef producers have not done so badly. I recall the time when it was extremely difficult to get meat in Sydney and action was taken to import from New Zealand. Now there is ‘a duty on beef.
– The beef industry was assisted for two years by a bounty of Jd. a lb. Export prices at that time were unprofitable.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– There is only one other subject I wish to refer to in a general way, and that is the statement which has been frequently made in this debate, and is being constantly used in the press, that the costs of production must be reduced. It is only when we come to consider how a truism of that kind, to which every one subscribes, can be applied that we discover the difficulty of the situation. It would be an excellent thing for this country if we could produce all that we raise or manufacture, and particularly our primary products, at one-half of what it costs to produce them to-day; but when those who are constantly claiming that there should be a reduction in the costs of production are asked how it may be brought about they begin to express some doubt as to just how it can be done. We know that there is a constant demand for a reduction in the cost of production in manufacturing industries, and that efficient managements are always on the look-out for opportunities to bring about even a small reduction. They establish most elaborate costing systems, and are always ready to adopt any suggestion likely to bring about a reduction in their costs, because it means so much to a manufacturing concern whose profits are very often cut to the bone in order that it may be able to withstand competition. But for Parliament or the Government to suggest to these people how their costs of production should be reduced is quite another matter. Some contend that it would be a good thing to make a substantial reduction in wages. I do not think that that would meet the situation, because some of the most successful manufacturers in the world, like Henry Ford and others who could be named, pay the highest wages.
– Is it not mostly piece-work in those concerns that pay the highest wages?
– Yes; but there has been no suggestion iri this debate or in the newspaper articles I have seen that our present wage methods should be replaced by a piece-work system. Of course, there are industries in Australia in which piece-work is operating, but they are not industries in which low wages are paid. I doubt very much whether it would be possible to bring about any substantial decrease in the cost of production by reducing wages. Indeed, when you come to work out the proportion paid in salaries in most industries and the amount that would be saved by effecting a reduction in those salaries which would still permit the salary-earner to live at a reasonable standard of comfort, it does not appear that any reduction of that kind would better our position, either nationally or industrially, and it certainly would not improve the position of the workers. A substantial reduction of wages in this country might have a most alarming effect. It would substantially reduce the purchasing power of the community, and already in Australia, because of the financial position, business is difficult enough. Many commercial concerns are finding it extremely hard to carry on, and a substantial reduction in the purchasing power of the community by a decrease in wages would put them in an infinitely worse position than they occupy to-day. Probably many could no longer carry on.
The difficulty has to be faced from another angle. When my friends who represent the primary producers speak about reducing the cost of production, they should realize that the greatest factor is not the wages paid on the farm. It is the high price paid for the farmer’s land, upon which interest has to be paid. The farmer has certainly to find interest on his investment before he can put aside anything to build up a reserve or provide for extensions.
– How does the honorable senator propose to reduce that item of cost?
– That is the point I put to honorable senators. When they talk about reducing the cost of production from the stand-point of the wheat farmers, how do they propose to do it?
– The price of land comes down in spite of the owners.
– The price of land is falling to-day, and undoubtedly it will continue to fall from natural causes.
– Is not the value of land governed by the value of what it produces?
– That is not so. In certain areas, which we call safe areas, in New South Wales, land is £14 or £15 an acre. How can a farmer afford to grow wheat on that land with wheat at 4s. a bushel?
– A great deal of the Mallee country is valued at the cost of the improvements only.
– The Mallee land is not generally a safe area. The Mallee farmer has to make provision for an almost total failure or something approaching that every few years. He does not uniformly get what might be regarded as a” decent return for his labour, and of course, the value of land of that description does not nearly approach that of land in a safe area. In South Australia the value of wheat-growing areas is very high.
– It is too high.
– It is, when one considers the price obtainable for wheat to-day and the possibility that it will fall still further when certain countries come into production.
– There will be a re-adjustment of land values throughout Australia consequent upon those falls.
– Undoubtedly. But that will come about as I have already said from economic causes without interference from the Government or without legislative action. I find it very difficult to subscribe to the doctrine that we can bring about a reduction in the costs of production by direct and deliberative parliamentary or governmental action. The price of land is falling today, and in all probability it will fall still further.
– Why is that so?
– Because the production value of the land is not so high.
– That is just what I said.
– In many places to-day the price of land is a great deal higher than its productive value, and values will have to fall very substantially before it is possible to produce at a profit, particularly wheat and wool.
I do not know whether those who so frequently talk about reducing costs of production propose that this great factor in the cost of production is to be dealt with legislatively; that is to say, that we are compulsorily to bring about a reduction in land values. But if that is so, I want to know how the primary producers will regard a proposal of that kind when, along with a reduction in the value of their products, they are also faced with a substantial reduction of their assets by a fall in the value of their land. Those who are mortgaged and struggling, not only to pay interest on their mortgages, but also to pay them off, will not cheerfully contemplate a compulsory reduction in the value of their land in order to bring about a reduction in the cost of primary produce. I cannot see how it can be done, and I cannot believe that those who are advocating a substantial reduction, in the costs of production realize where their doctrine will lead them, or what is to become of Australia if that doctrine is to be applied in the proper way right throughout the piece.
– Does the honorable senator admit that costs of production are high?
– They are high, and we may have to meet them by more effective organization of production and marketing.
– Why are costs so high?
– Because Australia has been suffering from an inflation period, due- to over-borrowing and similar causes. That is why we have these high values, which are not natural, and have a most unsubstantial basis.
– How can we get off that basis?
– We are being pushed off it. As a matter of fact, I do not see what we can do to alter the position very much, but more efficient marketing would make it easier for the primary producer. If we have wheat pools and such like methods of marketing, we may secure a better return for what is produced.
– But that will not reduce the costs of production.
– No. I want my friends to tell me how costs of production are to be reduced, and how the value of land is to be reduced. To talk of the necessity of having a reduction in the costs of production is all very well, but when those who preach this doctrine are asked to apply it, and tell us how it can be done, they fall down on the job.
– What about Mr. Bavin’s way?
- Mr. Bavin’s way is to cut the wages of the workers - that is to say, to cut the return to all who are the real producers in the community. When it becomes impossible for these people to continue to buy at the present high price of commodities, because they have not sufficient income to enable them to do so, those who have to supply the goods will have to bring down their cost.
– I thought that.Mr. Bavin’s proposal was simply to increase the hours of work.
– It is much the same thing. Mr. Bavin wants it both ways, but he will not be in office, after a little while, to say what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. He, like others, is plunging headlong to his political destruction.
– Does not the honorable senator think that individual production can be increased?
– Yes, in certain directions. But individual production in the pastoral, wheat-growing or other industries is not a matter for this or any other Government, except in the direction of using their influence to educate primary producers in the matter of pasture improvement or more efficient cultivation. That is only an indirect method of stimulating production.
I listened with a great deal of appreciation to the able speech of Senator Sampson, upon the defence of Australia. I agree with almost everything the honorable senator said in connexion with our defence problem, and I regret very much that the Government has seen fit to so substantially reduce the defence estimates. I recognize that the defence of this country is of paramount importance. Unless we are prepared to defend it, we deserve to lose it. The Government seems to be in danger of going too far in connexion with its retrenchments in the Defence Department, and when we have an opportunity of considering its proposals more in detail, I shall be prepared to give them closer attention. I commend the utterances of Senator Sampson to the Government, because I feel that the information which he has supplied to the Senate cannot be too widely known or too seriously considered.
– General Sir Harry Chauvel recently stated that the voluntary system is preferable to the compulsory system.
– Experts are always likely to differ. General Sir Harry Chauvel has expressed one opinion and Senator Sampson another, but the force of logic is, I think, with the latter. As a member of a party that is not associated with the Labour party, I can assure the Government that whilst it “keeps to the rails,” it can be sure of any assistance that I can give it.
– Have we definitely a cross bench now?
– I think so. I represent the Australian party that has very definite and clear ideals, for which I shall be prepared to fight on every possible occasion, either here or elsewhere. While the Government brings down legislation in accordance with those ideals, I shall be willing to enthusiastically support it.
– What are they?
– This is not the time or the place to state them; but whenever the Government departs from the policy of the organization which I have the honour to represent, I shall feel it my duty to oppose it. In the meantime I wish the Government good luck, and hope that, as the result of its legislation and administration, the country will obtain substantial benefit.
– I have carefully read the Ministerial statement, and have also closely followed the debate on it in this chamber, but neither in the statement nor in the remarks which have fallen from the lips of the supporters of the Government - including Senator Duncan - have I seen or heard a word which could be of use to those who are endeavouring to keep the industries of this country from being wrecked on a lee shore. Senator Duncan went out of his way to make some condemnatory remarks concerning the late Government. With the assistance of Senator Payne, I have looked up the speeches of the honorable senator from time to time. Senator Duncan led us to believe that he severely criticized the late Government; but, according to the records, I find that in a speech which he delivered on the 13th February, 1929, there is nothing but the warmest approval of the Government’s actions. Replying to Senator Needham at that time, he said in respect of the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the Parliament -
I agree with him that in certain respects it is vague, because the Government evidently has not arrived at conclusions regarding many features of its policy. The proposals are tentative, principally with the object of securing further consideration of them. Therefore, what the Government has to say is to a certain extentvague, but I cannot agree that there is anything approaching futility of the Speech.
What there is of it is satisfactory. I share the view expressed by Senator Needham, who said lie was more concerned about what the speech did not contain than what was to be found in it. … I look forward with pleasurable anticipation to a great many of the measures the Government proposes to introduce, believing that whatever is done will be entirely in the best interests of the people of Australia.
Is there a word of condemnation, or serious criticism of the attitude which the Government then adopted? I regret that the honorable senator has allowed his disappointment at the failure of certain political ambitions to over-ride his sound judgment in this matter, and I am sure that he will be sorry that he gave utterance to the remarks he did when he complained of his treatment by the members of the Nationalist party.
– I did not complain.
– The members of the -party with which I am associated are allowed very great freedom, but we cannot welcome into our ranks one concerning whom we might say -
Perhaps it was well to dissemble your love,
But why did you kick me downstairs?
The honorable senator was very careful to conceal his real attitude towards the late Government until he caught it “ bending.” The amazing part of it is that while, according to his statement, members of my party are an appalling collection of scoundrels, with whom he could not associate in any circumstances, he should regret that we have parted company with him.
– But what has this to do with the ministerial statement?
– We have to defend ourselves against attacks -made on the floor of this chamber. We have heard the honorable senator’s accusations against the late Government, in his references to the Governor-General’s Speech, in February, 1929. But that was antecedent to the strike in the coal industry, when there was no suggestion of the industrial troubles with which we have been afflicted since March last.
– Has that strike brought about the present financial position?
– Largely, and particularly in the State which the honorable senator represents. The period to which the honorable senator referred was before the last harvest, and when the price of wool was reasonably remunerative. If at that time and in those circumstances the Prime Minister had prophesied disaster, no one would have condemned him more thoroughly than the honorable senator. The honorable senator admits that, notwithstanding these favorable conditions, Mr. Bruce did solemnly warn the State Premiers that they were skating on thin ice. Moreover, eight months before that, Mr. Bruce emphasized the importance of a financial agreement being entered into between the Commonwealth and the States, and this, some time later, as some say, he forced down the throats of the State Premiers. I have looked up the debates on that measure, and I cannot find Senator Duncan anywhere in evidence. Senator Greene condemned the Government’s proposals in that respect root and branch, and I presume from Senator Duncan’s silence that he was opposed to the Government’s financial policy. What would be our position without that agreement ?
– The honorable senator assumes too much from my silence.
– The honorable senator abstained from committing himself, and was absent from the division.
– That is not fair.
– That is the position. The honorable senator has accused the late Government of fatuous blindness, but the proposals which it submitted were obviously intended to relieve the financial stringency. I also find that in November, 1928, the honorable senator entered into a most spirited defence of the then Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in connexion with items which are now vital to the policy announced by the Government. On that occasion he said -
If it is a bad thing, as one is led to believe by the speech of Senator Needham, why does not the honorable senator’s party pluck up sufficient courage to declare that they do not favour it, and fight the forthcoming elections on that issue.
– The Labour party contends that it will make the customs duties so high that nothing will come in from outside sources.
Senator Robinson. They will even impose an embargo on imports.
– If they take either action, how will they finance the affairs of this country? By the imposition of direct taxation ?
In criticizing Senator Needham, the honorable senator waxed indignant concerning our policy of borrowing overseas, and said that the result of it was increased imports. Was there any suggestion of condemnation of the policy of the Government at that time? I think every honorable senator will realize, as I am sure Senator Duncan does, that the finances of Australia are in a critical condition. Apart from attempts to throw the blame on the Bruce Page-Administration nothing has been said to indicate how that state of affairs came about or how relief can be obtained.
Honorable senators interjecting-
– Interjections are at all times disorderly; but it is particularly disorderly . for honorable senators to exchange interjections when another honorable senator is speaking. I must ask them to desist.
– We ‘owe a deep debt of gratitude to Senator Rae for his clear pronouncement of the policy of the Labour party. He said that the true policy of the Labour party was not that co-operation for which an appeal is made in the ministerial statement of policy, but to smite what it called the capitalistic class hip and thigh. He condemned the Government for its hypocrisy in asking for co-operation.
– The Labour party believes in co-operation.
– There has been very little evidence of it. Evidently the Government imagines that by raising excise and customs duties the problems now confronting us will be solved. It is oblivious to the fact that instead of solving the problems it is adding to them.
The abolition of the Economic Research Bureau, founded by the late Government, from which alone true and definite information and guidance could be obtained, can be regarded only as a calamity.
– It has not been abolished.
– The Government proposes to abolish it.
– It was never established.
– The honorable senator should not split straws. One of the earliest actions of the Government was to announce that it would not make-any appointments to the bureau. Without the information which such a bureau could provide, we must blunder along a darkened road as we have done in the past. Could any science progress under such handicaps? Had that body been permitted to function independently of political policy, and as free from interference as is the judiciary, we should have had collected a fund of information to which our arbitration courts and wages boards could have turned with confidence for data upon which to base their conclusions.
– Can the honorable senator inform us who were to comprise the bureau?
– There are in Australia men skilled in economic science - -men like Professor Giblin and others - to whom this work should have been entrusted. The proposal was really for an extension of the work of the Statistician’s Department. The Government would do well to inquire how it is that, despite constant increases in the tariff as well as the payment of bonuses and subsidies, the industries of the Commonwealth are in such sore straits to-day.
– The honorable senator did not say these things when the Government he supported was in office.
– Industry was not then in such a serious condition as it is to-day. The responsibility for the present situation rests largely with the Government and its supporters.
– The late Government did not seem in a hurry to appoint the members of the bureau.
– Honorable senators must allow the speaker to proceed without interruption.
– There is not one honorable senator supporting the Government who does not owe his position, in this House to his bitter and unreasoning denunciation of the “so-called capitalistic class. “Down with the capitalists “ they cry. Yet at this very moment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) is in London to beg British capitalists to establish factories in Australia to save this country. The everlasting preaching of class war which those who stand behind the Government have found momentarily so profitable has landed us where we are to-day. During the last century the accumulation of capital, together with improvements in the arts and sciences, did much to increase the per capita wealth of civilized countries, and to improve the standard of living. Now as each new worker enters the field of production, it. is important that he should meet with a quota of new capital, ready to co-operate with bini in order to maintain or improve the production per head. If, however, that new capital is not there, he must share the old capital and its results with his fellows. The result is that after a few years the national productivity per head of the population sinks, either actually or in comparison with that of other communities, for the latest aids to production will not be forthcoming. No power on earth can avoid that result. Yet this Government is in power to-day because of the cry, “ Put the boss in dungarees ; reduce production to the lowest possible limit in order to make room for more workers.” Senator O’Halloran said that the Government realized that it could not get more out of a pint pot than is put into it.
– I did not mention a pint pot-
– The proposal of the Government to guarantee 4s. a bushel for wheat is an attempt to get more out. of the pot than has been put into it. Whatever happens, the farmer is to get his 4s. a bushel. The pot can only be filled by taking the money from someone else. The Government is endeavouring to get more out of the wheatgrowing industry than it will put in. It is getting more out of every railway in the Commonwealth than there i3 in the pot.
– It can get nothing out of the railways.
– The men get their wages, which total more than the earnings of the railways. The same tendency appears on every hand, and is shown in every utterance of the Government and its supporters. There is not one of them who has not at some time or other in his career given utterance to something like the following sophistry -
The builder’s labourer, whose joh is running out and who in the past has had to tramp the streets for months in search of another, may think that he has a duty to his employer, but he reflects that he has a prior duty to his wife and children. So he makes the job last, and quite right, too.
The effect of that pernicious doctrine so continuously preached by Labour is now being felt; the chickens are coming home to roost. The worker has been told that he is right, both morally and economically, in the attitude he has adopted. How can he be right economically when his going slow has meant that the house he builds costs more in rent or purchase money than it should ; that there is now nearly double the capital locked up in a single dwelling than there was .in pre-war days, and that consequently less capital is available for the erection of other homes. Moreover, this wasteful diminution of savings has increased the interest rates. How call a man be right morally when his slacking-off means that he encourages in his own mind the idea that he should do as little as possible for his employer? He is encouraged by the members of the Government to regard the capitalist as an enemy, and himself as a wage slave whose pockets are for ever being picked by his employers. Is it any wonder that the worker tends to lose all sense of responsibility and to care little whether his employer does well or ill?
– The honorable member is slandering the working men of Australia.
– I am referring to the advice given to them by their leaders. They tell the worker that, whenever he downs tools, his employer or the Government should see to it that he gets almost as much pay as if he remained at work, and that the rich man who “filches” his money from him will have thus to make up for it.
– From what “Deadwood Dick “ is the honorable senator reading?
– I am referring to no “Deadwood Dick,” but to a pernicious doctrine, the preaching of which has had disastrous effects on the character of many of our people. Of recent years pilfering from the. wharfs, railways’ and shops has become so common that a considerable proportion of the overhead charges of industry consists in wages paid to detectives and foremen who are specially employed to guard against ruinous losses. If workmen could be relied upon to be thoroughly honest in their work, in the quality of their product, and in the amount of time actually spent in their employers’ interests, there would be an enormous saving in industrial costs, for there would then not be the same need for timekeepers, overseers, checkers and examiners. Unfortunately the influence of Government supporters has not been in that direction. Indeed, if they were to preach the truth to-day they would be displaced by others whose only cry is a condemnation of the capitalists.
A few days ago the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board appealed to its men to practise economy, because the tramways were losing money. The reply to that appeal is contained in the March number of the Tramway Record, the journal of the union -
Tramway workers should not economize cither in the use of man power or material. The board’s request to tramway workers practically asked the men to sign their own orders of dismissal. If the mon were foolish enough to do so, they had only themselves to blame-
Who is responsible for the propagation of such a stupid doctrine? Who but honorable senators opposite, who have climbed into power by tickling the ears of the more ignorant of their followers with the same kind of talk.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not so.
– I accept Senator Hoare’s denial, so far as he is personally concerned. The time has come when honorable senators opposite must reconsider the matter. I warn them that the more intelligent of their supporters are waking up. The unionist who realizes that the matter of immediate importance is how to restore the depressed industries and how to avoid unemployment is beginning to ask himself whether this teaching is right. Soon only the irredeemable blockhead will be holding the view that these are questions which concern the Government, the bosses or somebody else; that the unionist’s sole motive must be to hold what he has and to strive for more. The cry of “ not a minute on the day and not a penny off the pay “ has not proved an infallible doctrine. The stage has now been reached when facts have to be faced - when the more intelligent of the workers will see that their leaders, political and otherwise, have failed to guide them aright. They will see that it may turn out to be very seriously to their disadvantage to take up the uncompromising attitude that “ what we have we hold” - that what has been obtained in seasons of great prosperity must necessarily be retained in a season of adversity and low prices. They will begin to question why the appeal is being made to the farmers and graziers, who have been held up to them as their natural enemies, to produce more and save the State whereas previously the doctrine has been “produce as little as possible and make more work for your comrades.”
Mr. D. Cameron at the Melbourne Trades Hall is still harping on the same tune. He claims that “ the purchasing power of the Australian worker must be built up by increasing wages and reducing the number- of working hours.” Not one word about increasing production there. There is no indication that the inflated wages, costs and restrictive working conditions which have made the cost of living and of housing so high should be taken into consideration. But the farmer must work harder - he must lay out more capital, he must work longer hours; and thus save the country! And Mr. Cameron, like Senator Rae, tells us that if the people do not give him all he wants he- will use force. No damage done to the people of this country is so deep-seated and far-reaching as this doctrine which encourages the workers to regard industry as something to be exploited solely in their own interests, and the employer as an enemy to be hoodwinked and cheated at every turn
To illustrate what I have said I shall read an extract from Mr. Haden Guest’s ls Labour leaving Socialism. Honorable senators will remember that Mr. Haden Guest is an English Labour representative who came to Australia a year or two ago. At page 69 of his work he wrote - ‘
Job control in Australia has gone very great lengths, as a story told me by a minister of a labour government illustrates, in respect of the railways. Pilfering had been serious on one line and the police had been active and arrested some railway employees. On winch the Secretary of the Railway Union wrote to the Secretary of the Police Union saying that as they were , both trade unionists was it right that the members of one union should arrest the members of the other? And the Minister ended up emphatically “ We have got to learn honesty.
One wonders how long it is going to take the workers in this country to understand that they have been gulled by these catch cries as completely as the public of this country was gulled at the last election by the cry of “ John Brown,” who is nOw admitted by Mr. Davies, of the CoalMiners Federation, to have been one of the greatest benefactors to the miners. No danger more immediately threatens our security than tho suspicion concerning capital brought into existence by the professional socialist and his sentimental followers in the middle classes. To treat as a menace to the welfare of the worker the existence of money devoted to the machinery of production, to denounce as wrong and wicked a way of spending money which is essential to the increase of national wealth, is not merely a gross and palpable lunacy, not only an illustration of the absurdity of the democratic principle in government, but an immediate danger to our national existence. “A democracy,” says Sir Josiah Stamp, an eminent writer upon economics, “ that will not let its Wealthy save, and will not save for itself, must slowly sink in the scale of civilization.” Honorable senators of the. Labour party have constantly preached that if any profit is to be made it is made at the expense of the worker.
– The honorable senator must have attended the wrong church, for honorable senators on this ‘side have not preached that doctrine.
– Either Senator O’Halloran or Senator Dooley declared that the cause of our trouble was the fact that the banks would not advance more th’an 60 per cent, of the value of a security. In my opinion, it was that very restraint by the banks that saved Australia from an absolute debacle. Unfortunately, some government banks, politically influenced, went beyond the margin of safety and advanced up to about 90 per cent.
– There is only one government bank, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and that ought to be a central bank.
– What about the State Savings Banks?
– What are the names of the banks that were politically influenced ?
– I have dealt sufficiently with that matter. If I were to go into detail it might result in a run on the banks concerned by their depositors.
– No one would take the slightest notice of the honorable senator’s statement.
- Senator O’Halloran urged that rates of interest and profits should be reduced. That has already occurred. The latest issue of Smith’s Weekly intimates that 30 leading companies in New South Wales have had a reduction in profits amounting to £1,095,540 as compared with the previous year. That should be a source of sorrow rather than of gratification. Some of those companies were the’ Australian Bank of Commerce, the Bank of New South Wales, the Union Bank, Auto Sup-, pliers, and Elder Smith Limited.
– What was the turnover ?
– I do not know.
– Is it not obvious to the honorable senator that a lower turnover means less profit?
– Certainly. Reduction of rents have been made in all the capital cities, and I would be more impressed by the honorable senator’s
Views if I saw the Government reducing its enormous ground rents in Canberra.
I turn now to the Government’s policy of defence. We have seen in the last few weeks an extraordinary drama, comedy or tragedy, as you will, enacted in London. The great powers having solemnly pledged themselves never to go to war with each other again, met to’ see how much of their navies they could scrap, but they have not been able to come to any agreement. After every great war there has been a similar revulsion from the slaughter and destruction of war, but inevitably as that reaction dies away there arise conflicts which in the end can only be settled by .the threat of force, and in the end by force itself.
– So we must have another war?
– Apparently so. Even in our own land we find people who are ready to resort to violence in order to settle their disputes.
I propose now to refer to Lieut.-General Sir H. G. Chauvel’s report on the subject of our own military forces. In his report dated 31st May, 1929, General Chauvel states that we had at that date 3,104 officers and 49,000 rank and file. He continues -
I am of opinion that the present strength of the nucleus is the minimum possible for the approved organization and, therefore, for security.
Now the Government has reduced even what was considered to be the irreducible minimum to some 35,000 rank and file.
– That is only on paper.
– It is very much on paper. If one can judge by recent press reports, that number will be reduced to 25,000 under the new system. Although every effort has been made to bring the battalions up to strength only very slow progress has been effected. Probably the establishment will be cut down still further in the near future ; and henceforward expenditure on the military forces of this country will be utterly and wantonly wasted. I remind the Minister, too, that although General Chauvel proved himself in the field to be one of the greatest cavalry leaders of all time, his advice is treated with contempt. We have been informed, also, that the Government is . contemplating closing the Duntroon Military College and transferring the cadets in training there to Jervis Bay.
Hitherto we have looked to Duntroon for our supply of military instructors. I suppose we may assume that as the Government has destroyed the defence scheme, it is but logical that it should cut off the supply of instructors as well. I cannot see how the Ministry can expect the people to applaud its efforts in this direction. For some reason or other Ministers and their supporters have of late displayed admiration for the voluntary system. I have been a volunteer all my life, and I remember how strongly the system was criticized by representatives of the Labour party. During the Avar one individual even went so far as to describe us as “ Six-bob-a-day murderers,” and certain people affected to believe that the few thousands of troops which Australia could put in the field would have as little effect upon military operations as would a drop of water added to the ocean. This was the kind of criticism we heard when we were appealing for reinforcements. Yet on the 8th August, 1918 - the day described by Ludendorff as “ Germany’s blackest day,” the day that convinced him once and for all that Germany and her allies were defeated - there were in the field and engaged in that battle three times as many Australian soldiers as there were British troops engaged at Waterloo, and the defeat which they inflicted on Germany was as decisive as the victory of the British troops over Napoleon.
It is worth remembering -that Mr. Anstey, the present Minister, for Repatriation, wrote a book with the plain intention of belittling the efforts of the Australian army in the field, and of proving that the enemy was defeated, not “so much by the efforts of the allied armies, as by the revolt in Germany. It is now apparent that he was indulging in a favorite pastime of deluding and gulling the public. Supporters of this Government took every step they could during the war to hinder the forwarding of reinforcements to assist us to gain that victory. Judging from their actions, there appears to be little doubt that they would have welcomed the victory of the Germans rather than the victory of the Allies-
– Surely the honorable senator does not expect me to sit down and take such an accusation quietly?
– The honorable gentleman will have an opportunity to reply later.
– Is Senator H. E. Elliott in order in saying that the party which I have the honour to lead in this chamber would have welcomed the victory of Germany in the war?
– The statement is most unusual; but I do not think it is out of order. In any case, the Leader of the Senate will have an opportunity to reply.
– I wish it to be clearly understood that I was not referring to the Leader of the Senate, I was speaking particularly of supporters of the present Government, possibly the extremist section but nevertheless having a powerful influence. I repeat that judging from their actions at that time there appears to be little doubt that they would have welcomed the victory of the Germans rather than the victory of the Allies.
– Most unfair.
– They would, I believe, have welcomed victory for the Germans in a war waged, as they loudly proclaimed, in the interests of the capitalists, although it is well known that Lord Grey did everything possible to prevent the war.
When one considers these things, one cannot but conclude that the policy supported by them is, under the influence of the extremists of their party the same to-day as it was in the war years, and that the defence forces of this country are being as deliberately hamstrung now as Labour would have liked to ham-strung them during the war. We are entitled to believe that if the safety and security of the British Empire were menaced to-day as it was then, they would refuse to raise hand or foot to save it, and they could now, with a show of truth, declare that we had no efficient force available. I fail to see how the Prime Minister can appeal to any section of the people to stand behind this Government.
Senator Rae referred at some length to the condition of Russia, and criticized the British Government for its intervention in Russian affairs during the first few years following the revolution. It is well known that representatives of the revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky were sent from Switzerland through Germany to Russia for the purpose of stirring up hostility among the Allied forces, so any financial assistance which the British Government gave to the counter revolution was really for the purpose of assisting the Russian people who were loyal to the Allies. As for the stability of the Russian social system, we all know that Trotsky has been deported because his views no longer conform with the views of the party in power.
I turn now to another matter. A few days ago, the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) informed me that the postal department had to pay nearly £16 for the removal of a telegraph pole. This high cost, I understand, is the result of a system which governs charges made for all work done in the department. If the removal of a telegraph post really cost so much as that, one no longer wonders that the department has been obliged to raise the ground rent for telephones by 10s. a year. I quite fail to see that anything the Government has done or proposes to do, either in administration or by legislation, would justify the support of members of the Opposition.
.- I congratulate the Government upon the strength of its position as I have no doubt the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) this afternoon was encouraged when Senator Duncan, the mouthpiece of the great Australian party, announced that so long as the Government proceededon right lines he would support it. He has denounced the late Government in general terms. I remind the Senate that Senator Duncan was elected to this chamber as a supporter of that Government. There were times when he proved somewhat difficult, but for practically the whole of the time he stood behind the Bruce-Page Administration and did not find fault with its financialpolicy. This afternoon, he made a number of general statements and endeavoured to fix the responsibility for the present position of the Commonwealth on the previous Government. But the difficulties that now confront us cannot be a charge against any administration. The decline in the price of our primary products is the principal cause, and no one can say that the former Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), did not endeavour to warn the people of the probable trend of events. In all his speeches for many months before the defeat of his Government, he stressed the imminence of the crisis which lias since come upon us. Senator Duncan would have the people believe that the only declaration made by Mr. Bruce was contained in his speech at the Premiers’ Conference in Canberra last year. At that conference, which was thoroughly representative of all the States, Mr. Bruce said -
The situation that confronts us to-day cannot fail to cause anxiety to every thinking citizen. A i is tra Iia has in the past experienced periods of temporary depression, which have been due in the main to adverse seasonal influences. Generally speaking, we have been fortunate in that they have been of short duration, and that the disabilities which they have occasioned, such as unemployment and stringency in public finance, have rapidly disappeared with the return of normal seasons. Our present position is, however, due, I suggest, to causes that are more deeply seated, and good seasons alone will not restore prosperity. The price of our staple commodities - wool and wheat - have recently declined. The sale of the surplus products of most of our other primary industries has become unprofitable, and the position of our secondary industries is becoming more and more difficult owing to ever-increasing competition from overseas. The cumulative effect of all these things is discernible in the growth of unemployment throughout Australia, and in the increasing complexity of the problems with which we have to contend in relation to our finance, commerce, industry, and production generally.
Two alternatives face Australia to-day. Either we can resolutely attack this problem of reducing our costs of production, and by so doing reduce our costs of living, expand our avenues of employment, maintain and augment our standards of living, and increase our national wealth; or we can refuse to recognize the needs of the position, and allow our national wealth to diminish, and unemployment to increase until, faced with a national crisis, we are forced to lower our standards of living and re-orientate the whole of our national life. Between these two alternatives can there bc any hesitation?
Mr. Bruce put the position, I think, very clearly. When Senator Daly was Leader of the Opposition in the last Senate, he challenged a statement I made that the price of wool had fallen below the cost of production. I repeat that statement today. Senator Daly knows as well as I do that wool and wheat have kept Aus tralia going, and that our present difficulty is due to the fall in the value of these commodities. According to the estimates of various pastoralists, wool is now 2d. or 3d. per lb. below the cost of production. In 1924-25 the price of wool was £34 14s. 2d. a bale, and in the following year it fell to £21 13s. 3d. In 1926-27 it was £22 6s. 6d. I draw Senator Duncan’s attention to the fact that in 1927-2S, at a time when he says the Government of the day ought to have been realizing the position, the price of wool was £25 0s. 4d. a bale, whereas to-day wool sells for £12 10s. a bale. Neither the late Government nor the present Government is to be blamed for the present position. It is due solely to the reduction in the price of our staple products.
Senator Duncan spoke a great deal about the claim that has been put forward on this side of the chamber and outside that there ought to be a reduction in the costs of production. To my mind that is the one problem- Australia has to face. The value of primary products may be maintained internally by means of bonuses, and our secondary industries may be built up by a high tariff wall, but Australia cannot export unless it gets a payable price for its produce. Very few of its secondary industries can be exported at a payable price.
– Name any one that can be.
– I cannot name one except, perhaps, the Sunshine Harvester Company) which, of course, has been exporting an article not obtainable anywhere else. Senator Duncan says that he has no remedy for the problem of the high costs of production, and the present Government seems to hold the idea that the only method the Opposition can suggest of bringing about a reduction in the cost of production is that of reducing wages. But when we come to study the question, it is not so much the amount of wages a man. receives ; it is more a matter of what he can purchase with what he receives. If the cost of production is reduced, and wages are likewise reduced, the standard of comfort of the wage-earner is not necessarily lowered, because with his reduced wages he is able to purchase as much as he did previously. At the same time the primary producer can get a price for his product that is commensurate with the cost of its production. No one wishes to reduce the standard of comfort set up in Australia, but that standard is not altogether ruled by the amount. of wages paid. It is in reality fixed by the purchasing power of the wages received. When nearly all the banks shut their doors in 1893 the standard of comfort came down. Unfortunate people who were unemployed had no standard of comfort at all. We shall not get out of our present troubles by trying to bolster people in work at the expense of others who are not in work. In my opinion we can best solve our difficulties by asking employers and employees to come together, as Australian citizens, and consider, not the price they expect the public to pay for the services they render, but what best they can do to serve their country. I put that suggestion forward because, in my opinion, it is the speediest way of getting out of our present difficulties. It may not come tomorrow, it may not come for years, but public opinion will eventually demand this of employers and employees.
The late Government has been blamed for the present financial crisis, and, even as late as this afternoon, in answering a question, Senator Daly did not neglect the opportunity to say something about the financial muddle which, he alleged, had been brought about by the late Government. As a matter of fact, during its term of office, the BrucePage Government did many things of advantage to Australia. It brought about .’,Lo financial agreement with the States, and liquidated nearly £50,000,000 of the war debt. I do not think that it did all that it could have done, but I have never known any government that could economize in prosperous times if the public demanded expenditure.Members of Parliament are just as much to blame as the governments; because whenever a government starts to economize, each member is anxious to have economies effected ip the other fellow’s electorate, and not in his own. In prosperous times, governments are thus compelled to spend money which otherwise they might place in reserve for trying times. I have never yet known a government able to withstand the pressure of a public demand for expenditure in prosperous times. Senator Duncan has attacked Senator Pearce for having criticized the Government. Helpful criticism is sometimes the best friend we can have, and I am sure that Senator Pearce’s criticism was helpful to the Government. No Opposition in Australia has been more generous than the Opposition in both chambers of the Commonwealth Parliament has been to the present Government. The leader of the Nationalist party has in his criticisms inside and outside of this chamber been most generous towards the Government, and honorable senators on this side have shown a general desire to assist it during the present crisis. If the employers and the employees dropped class hatred, which, unfortunately has been encouraged by some honorable senators opposite there might be a reasonable chance of overcoming some of our difficulties. The strikes of timber workers, coal-miners, wharf labourers, and other workers, have all been directly or indirectly responsible for some of our present troubles. Whenever it is suggested that the employers and employees should confer, a certain amount of unnecessary suspicion arises. This must all be swept away if normal conditions are to be restored. It can almost be regarded as an act of Providence that the present Government is in power, because if the Bruce-Page Government were in office the attitude adopted by some honorable senators opposite would be similar to that of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament where the Government is not receiving any assistance from it.
When the late Government was in office and the situation was becoming acute there was not even a gesture of help by honorable senators opposite. The class feeling which exists is ruining Australia and frustrating the efforts of those who are endeavouring to build up this great country. The Government is making an attempt to improve our financial position by imposing still heavier customs duties and prohibiting certain imports, and the crisis is so serious that every one must help. I repeat that it is the duty of the Government to make further endeavours to bring the employers and the employees together. By so doing it would render a service, not only to the Commonwealth but also to the whole Empire.
– I am not unmindful of the assistance which the Opposition has given the Government, and I am sure that, speaking generally, the Opposition is not unmindful of the efforts which this Government is making to overcome our difficulties. The debate on the Ministerial statement has been characteristic of the debates on every government proposal. A majority of the members of the, opposition have levelled criticisms of a high and constructive nature; but their efforts have been somewhat frustrated by the puerile attempts of other honorable senators to belittle the Government. I am sorry that in the closing stages of this debate the remarks made by two honorable senators so reflected upon the Government as to call for a reply from me. We have been accused by Senator H. E. Elliott of almost every conceivable political crime, including probably the greatest ever levelled against any government, that of treachery. We have been accused of being members of a party which really wished that Germany wouldwin the war. I knew that honorable senators opposite generally do not entertain that view’; but I ask Senator H. E. Elliott, who gave expression to it, whether he considers criticism of that nature is likely to encourage that co-operation which Senator Reid said was essential if we are to overcome our present difficulties. If we are to have the good feeling that should exist between all classes, why should all this mud and filth be stirred up in the minds of some persons who desire to besmirch us and who compel us to answer unworthy criticisms when we should be engaged on the pressing problems before us ? The honorable senator did not only slander the Government; he also slandered the great body of Australian workmen by suggesting that the leaders of the trade union movement in Australia had so gulled them that there was no longer an honest workman in Australia, or one who was prepared to do a fair day’s work. He suggested, for instance, that the men in the Railways Department were being paid more than they earned, and that in consequence of the parasitical influence which had been introduced into the movement, workmen who desired to make homes of their own were being fleeced by their own mates. The honorable senator suggested that there was practically no hope of doing anything with Australian workmen. Criticism of that nature should not emanate from a chamber such as this, which stands so high in the political life of this country. If, as suggested by Senator Reid, employers and employees are to confer, such a suggestion comes with ill grace from a chamber in which remarks such as those uttered by Senator H. G. Elliott are made. Men who make such statements, and who malign governments with that class of political clap trap, generally offer some suggestion quite as impracticable as it would be possible for any one to imagine. The honorable senator suggested, for instance, that the financial position could be relieved by legislative measures, and said that the late Government assisted, by its legislation, in relieving the financial situation in Australia. But legislative measures will not get us out of our difficulties. As pointed out by some honorable senators opposite, a good deal of the tangle in which we are at present, is due to the legislative measures of Parliament. Notwithstanding this, Senator H. E. Elliott endeavoured to paint a picture of this Government, disloyal, dishonest, and corrupt as he says it is, attempting to correct by legislation our financial position.
This Government has attempted to deal with the financial -situation in a manner which is a complete answer to the calumnies the honorable senator has levelled against it. I am not going to enter into a debate as to who was responsible for that situation. The time has arrived, I believe, when it matters not who was responsible. The fact is that we are in our present position and we have to get out of it, and while Ave argue over the question of responsibility Ave are not helping to overcome our troubles. The Government, realizing the serious consequence of our adverse trade balance, did not set about establishing economic bureaux as suggested by Senator H. E.
Elliott. We believed that the only’ way in which that difficulty could be overcome was by increasing exports and restricting imports; yet we are told by the honorable senator that the policy pursued with that object is nothing but sheer madness. I ask honorable senators to contrast that opinion with that of other authorities who have no reason to flatter the present Government. I ask them to consider the criticism of the Government’s policy which has appeared, not only in the press of Australia, but in the press of Great Britain, the country mainly affected by the imposition of heavier import duties. This is what the London Times says -
Australia is facing her crisis with courage and determination-
Compare that with the opinion of Senator H. E. Elliott, who said that the action of the Government was spineless. The paragraph continues - which will go far to re-establish her credit, showing she is resolved to. shrink from no sacrifice necessary to maintain the stability of her finances.
I ask honorable senators to contrast that opinion with that expressed by a member of the Opposition. The article continues -
The crisis was bound to come sooner or later-
That is a truism -
Ever since the war, the Commonwealth has been living beyond her means-
We all admit that - over-spending and over-borrowing. The crisis is intensified because it has come when it is most difficult to face.
The Government realizes that -
A period of world-wide depression coincided with bad seasons, poor prices, industrial disturbances and extensive unemployment in Australia. There is no reason for pessimism. The Scullin Government certainly has not been found wanting in courage, and has put behind it from the beginning every temptation of evading the issue.
That criticism, coming as it does from a very influential newspaper in Great Britain - a country mainly affected by our policy - shows that the honorable senator was unfair in using his position in the Senate as he did, regardless of the interests of the nation, to vent his personal spleen upon certain members of the Ministry. The honorable senator showed in no unmistakable manner the reason for his opposition to the Scullin Government. We have heard another honorable senator suggesting that the Government should invite the members of this chamber and of another place to meet in conference, and should place the full facts before them, and in the next breath saying that the Government should sack Theodore, the present Treasurer. I have been a member of the present Cabinet since last November, and have spent many hours in discussing Australia’s financial problems with my colleagues.
I say without fear of contradiction that, if there is one man in the Cabinet who is carrying more than his share of the sacrifice, it is the present Treasurer. No man has shown greater skill or devotion to duty than does he who has been slandered in the Senate this afternoon. Is it fair, even though an honorable senator has a personal grudge against the Treasurer, that he should use this chamber to vent his personal spleen ? I appeal to honorable senators to cease from indulging in criticism of this nature, for it will not assist to solve the country’s problems. I agree with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) and Senator Reid that there will come a time when the Government and the Opposition will differ on vital questions of policy. But let us wait until that time come3 and meet the difficulties then instead of going out of our way to create them. When the time arrives the Government will be ready to hear both criticism and advice. Senator H. E. Elliott said that the Government had attempted to influence certain banks; but he was not game to mention the names of the banks. He also said that, the Government had abolished the Economic Science Bureau. The honorable senator knows well that the only bank with which the Government is connected is the Commonwealth Bank, and that over that institution no government or party has ever had any influence. Does the honorable senator suggest that the present Government has any political influence over Sir Robert Gibson?
– I did not refer to the Commonwealth Bank.
– Of course not. Men who make these grave charges are never prepared to make definite accusations. The honorable senator referred to banks connected with the Government, and he knows that the only bank with which the Government is connected is the Common-“ wealth Bank.
– The honorable senator is misrepresenting me.
– The honorable sena-“ tor said clearly that politics had influenced the actions of individual banks.
– Are there not State government banks?
– Yes. The State Savings Bank in South Australia has for the last three years been carrying on its operations with a Liberal Government in power. The State bank of New South Wales has also been operating under a Nationalist Government.
– I did not suggest that there had been influence by any particular party.
– The honorable senator also said that some sinister influence had been at work to undermine the manhood of this country.
– I pointed out-
– I suggest to Senator H. E. Elliott that, if he desires to make a personal explanation, there is a proper way in which to do it. I must ask him to refrain from making interjections which, besides being a most ineffective way of making an explanation, are entirely out of order.
– The honorable senator’s remarks could leave no other impression than that the Government had been responsible for attempting to influence the bank authorities. When he was asked to name the banks to which he referred, he said that to do so would be to cause a run on those banks. He then proceeded to criticize . the Government’s disarmament policy, notwithstanding’ that he knew that a member of the Cabinet is at present in London doing his best to bring about world peace. The honorable senator then strove to link the present Government with a statement made in the dark ages. I challenge him to produce any statement made by any member of the Labour party which reflects on the credit or the loyalty of the nation. It is one thing to make a sweeping statement; it is another thing to substantiate it by citing facts. The honorable senator’s vile outburst included a reference to the Minister in charge of Repatriation (Mr. Anstey). He referred to a book which, if he had read it, lie certainly had not understood, for the doctrine he expounded was a doctrine entirely foreign to the book he mentioned. Of course, the honorable senator did not produce the book; nor did he produce the Tramways Journal to which he referred. He has merely taken an extract and separated it from its context.
It is suggested that the Government, while urging the fanners to grow more wheat, is doing its best to prevent further production. Since it has been in office, the Government has done everything within its power to stimulate production. Unless the honorable senator is in the possession of facts on which to base a definite charge he should refrain from this cheap form of criticism, the object of which is probably to get scare headlines in the newspapers and publicity in Hansard.
In an attempt to belittle the Government, Senator Poll said that it was using the taxpayers’ money to disseminate party political propaganda. The document referred to by the honorable senator is a record of the activities of the Government during the preceding month, which is circulated among the members of both Houses for their information. Surely, the Government’s administrative acts are of interest to honorable senators and members of another place. If that is the only charge of extravagance which can be laid at the door of the Government, it is, indeed, an economical government.
– Surely it was unnecessary to criticize the late Government in the document referred to.
– The statement to which Senator Poll referred merely set out that there had been a change of government, and, consequently, a change of policy. It explains the nature of the alteration. The document contained no suggestion that the people should vote for Labour candidates. If, at the end of three years of office, that is the only charge the
Government will have to face, it need have no fear when it goes before the electors.
– There will be other charges.
– Even since the Government has been in office, Senator Foll has been endeavoring to find something for which to condemn it. No one can doubt the honorable senator’s ability as a ferret. He has endeavored to ascertain the cost of affixing postage stamps to Government correspondence. The questions he asks from time to time indicate that he is paying close attention to the Government’s activities. Yet, he has only one criticism to offer respecting the Government’s administration during its term of office.
– I have read the concluding paragraph of the ministerial statement of policy,’ and have been restraining myself.
– Had I not been in the chamber this afternoon when the honorable senator spoke, I might have believed that he was restraining himself. If he were able to convince himself that in making the remarks he did this afternoon he was contributing to a debate at an economic conference with a view to assisting the Government, he certainly was not able to convince me. The honorable senator has not restrained himself. On the contrary, his hatred of the present Treasurer would impel him, if he saw the slightest ground for criticism, to rise in his place and give vent to his feelings.
– I have no hatred of the Treasurer.
– The honorable senator referred to the presence of Mr. Theodore in the Cabinet, and suggested that the Government should get rid of him.
– That is quite wrong.
– For the benefit of Senator Foll, I desire to read an extract form the London Times -
That British trade will be adversely affected goes without saying. Several important industries will be hard hit, but the setback must bc accepted philosophically.
The man who is hit by the Government’s restrictions on imports admires the courage and determination of the Govern ment in handling a difficult problem. How different is his attitude from that of the two honorable senators to whom 1 have specially referred. The Times article continues -
During the war Great Britain herself was com- pel led to restrict imports by a licensing and rationing system. Australia has a crisis to face which it is difficult to conceive any other way of meeting.
– I want to deal a blow at the country with which our adverse trade balance is greatest.
– This Government does not seek to hit any country. It. has merely set itself out to right the financial position.
– Then why not operate against the country which is particularly responsible for Australia’s adverse balance ?
– Every . country that is not reciprocating our trade is receiving the same class of treatment.
– That is not so, because in some cases their goods are not affected.
– Evidently Senator Foll is referring to the United States of America. He declared in a somewhat sarcastic tone that the effect of the whole thing was merely demonstrative, and that the only prohibition was of snuff. I ask the honorable senator to read the list of imports that the Government has prohibited, and the list of imports in respect of which it has raised the tariff wall, and then ask himself whether the Government has not prohibited two or three of the main imports from the United States of America.
– The Government has not done so.
– Evidently the honorable senator does not know that pianos are in the prohibited list.
– Of recent years piano» have represented but a small import item.
– Senator Foll displays a lamentable lack of knowledge of what has actually been imported into Australia. It is the purchase of pianos, gramophones, and similar luxuries on the time-payment system that is responsible in the main for landing Australia in its present position.
– Those are not the biggest items.
– The Australian motor car industry has received a very high measure of protection.
– What about chassis ?
– The honorable senator knows that Australia has not yet produced motor car chassis. He is aware that the previous Government made exhaustive inquiries into the matter. A question was asked why the Government did not purchase its oil from Great Britain. It does - through the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. But that oil comes from Persia, and an investigation would no doubt reveal that the Anglo-Persian Company is as deeply involved in the oil combine as any of the American companies which are now exploiting the primary producers. The Government cannot prohibit the importation of petrol, but it has attempted to prohibit every class of import that can be manufactured in Australia, and which is not a necessity for the life of this country.
– What about films?
– If the necessity ever arises for the Government to meet the financial difficulty by shutting down amusements it will prohibit the importation of films.
– This Government is pledged not to take any such action.
– That again is one of those unfortunate statements which emanate from a man who handles the truth most carelessly.
– I shall quote the Treasurer’s speech on the subject.
– This Government is pledged to nobody, with the exception of the people of Australia. It will take whatever steps are necessary to save the nation, irrespective of the interests concerned.
– Except to interfere with our amusements.
– The Government is not out to stop amusements, and I should be very sorry to see the economic position so serious that they had to be cut. out. However, if* the necessity arose, the Government would be prepared to treat the film or any other industry in the same way as it has treated those affected by the schedule. (Extension of time granted.]
I assure honorable senators that there is no need for any panic. The bankers and the whole of the producing interests are co-operating to the fullest extent with the Government in its endeavour to right the position. The Government i& receiving the wholehearted co-operation of all classes, and I appeal to the minority section of the Opposition in the Senate to sink their differences and swing in behind the majority by co-operating with the Government in this matter.
No one appreciates more than I do the feelings of Senator H. E. Elliott and Senator Sampson in regard to the defence policy of the Government. But whether that policy is right or wrong, the step has been taken, so what is the use of crying over it?
– We are not crying over it, but trying to make the Government realize its responsibilities.
– From whom is the Government to take advice? If I wanted advice on some ailment of a serious nature, I should consult the highestmedical authority available. That is what was done by this Government in regard to defence.
– The Government did not take the advice of its military advisers before altering its defence policy.
– The position was similar to that, where a patient, who in the first place diagnosed his own complaint, later went to a specialist who stated that the diagnosis was correct.
– General Sir Harry Chauvel, the retiring Inspector General of the Commonwealth Military Forces, is reported in the press of the 9th inst. as having stated at Parramatta, when he was accorded a civic reception, that he felt sure the new voluntary training system would give Australia a more efficient defence force than it ever had under the compulsory training system.
– That is absolutely contrary to what he said to me on the matter last November. It is merely a newspaper report.
– General Sir Harry Chauvel intimated that Australia would have a more effective defence force under the new system. p
– The honorable senator knows that the Government changed the defence policy before it consulted it,3 experts.
– The Government diagnosed the complaint itself, and then consulted the experts. Its diagnosis proved to be accurate. I quote as my authority General Sir Harry Chauvel, acclaimed as one of the greatest military geniuses of the age.
– Has t,he honorable senator an official opinion on the subject from Sir Harry?
– This statement was made at a civic reception, so I presume that it may be taken as official. Sir Harry continued -
Under the voluntary training system we shall get the cream oi the youth of a nation.
– Australia had them under the compulsory system.
– General Sir Harry Chauvel said that it had not. No doubt different generals would have different opinions on the subject. Did not General Sir John Monash say that the compulsory system, having been pared to the bone, as Senator Sampson would say, on account of the financial stringency, had become a farce?
– Oh, no !
– That was the position. The Government could no longer continue on that basis, and it had to seek a new system. Of that system General Sir Harry Chauvel said -
They will form a smaller force than the compulsory trainees. I do not feel a bit depressed about the abolition of compulsory training, for I am sure that when the volunteer movement is going properly, we will indeed be proud of our troops, and they will reach such a state of efficiency as they have never reached before.
– Hear, hear !
– I am glad that the statement meets with the approval of Senator Foll.
– I am animated by the same hope that animated General Sir Harry Chauvel.
– Until General Sir Harry Chauvel is proved to be inaccurate I ask honorable senators not to criticize the Government for what some of them have described as a foolish and destructive policy. It has been claimed that, without consideration, the Government has burnt its insurance policy and left an unprotected country, which we all love, exposed to any who wish to take it away. That is not so. This matter of defence appears to be the only bone of contention with honorable senators opposite. Let us get away from it and tackle the next problem. Some honorable senators seem to be sorry that any success has attended the defence efforts of the Government.
– That is a dirty slur.
– Order !
– I am not unmindful of what Senator Sampson has done in the interests of the voluntary system. Although his criticism on the subject was made with some feeling, it was not unfair. But statements were made tonight in connexion with the Government’s defence policy which justify me in saying that the honorable senator responsible for such statements seems to be sorry that any success has attended the efforts of the Government. Even had the Government raised 60,000 volunteers nothing would have convinced the honorable senator that it was right in abolishing compulsory military training.
– How many Ministers have addressed recruiting meetings?
– I do not know. I think that honorable senators will admit that Senator Barnes and I are sufficiently occupied with the parliamentary and administrative work of the Government to prevent our going round urging boys to join the volunteer army. I imagine that we have sufficient sergeant-majors left to do that. I do not think that the present position is due to any recruiting speeches thai have been made. The Government is quite honest in its endeavour to make the voluntary system a success, and I appeal to honorable senators generally, and Sena- . tor H. E. Elliott in particular, to modify their views a little towards the Government and the personnel of the Cabinet.
– The Government has not been treated ungenerously.
– I realize that. Although the Government strength in this chamber is only seven, the Opposition which number 28, treats us with a certain amount of magnanimity. I hope that the present harmonious relations will not be disturbed during the life of this Parliament.
SenatorFOLL. - I desire to make a personal explanation.
– I remind honorable senators that Standing Order 410 has special application to the debate which has just been concluded. It reads -
A senator who has spoken to a question may again be heard to explain himself in regard to some material part of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter or interrupt any senator in possession of the Chair, and no debatable matter shall be brought forward or debate arise upon such explanation.
SenatorFOLL. - In all that I may say I shall keep within the strict interpretation of the Standing Order which you, sir, have read. In the course of his speech the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) stated that there was in me an inherent hatred of the present Treasurer (Mr. Theodore). I desire to say publicly that I have no hatred of Mr. Theodore or of anyone else. I have the greatest personal respect for the Treasurer, and I recognize that he is occupying a very difficult position ; but concerning his administration I reserve to myself the right to indulge in any criticism which I think is necessary.
– By way of personal explanation I assure honorable senators that in my remarks concerning certain banks I was not referring to the Commonwealth Bank. In all the States there are banks more or less connected with the Government and all, I believe, have made advances on a margin which is not recognized as trustee security. They advance up to as much as 90 per cent. of the value of the security on both country lands and town lands. I do not wish to particularize to a greater extent than that, but with the full knowledge that both town lands and–
– I think thehonorable gentleman is going a little beyond a personal explanation.
– I merely wish to make it clear that I was not referring to the Commonwealth Bank.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I do not propose to traverse the ground covered in my speech on the second reading of the Land Tax Assessment Bill, which was discussed in this chamber, a few days ago. In the debate on that measure criticism was directed mainly at certain provisions which I withdrew on the understanding that amending legislation, framed to meet their objections, would be introduced this week. I shall, therefore, content myself with explaining that this bill consists of two provisions. The first relates to new definitions of “unimproved value in relation to improved land “ and to the “ value of improvements” to replace those which were rejected during the consideration of the Land Tax Assessment Bill . recently. There is also a definition of “ improvements,” designed to meet all the objections raised in the discussion of the other two definitions mentioned. Some honorable senators desired the addition of certain classes of improvements so as to place beyond all doubt the attitude which might be taken by the taxation authorities. I have attempted to embody in the definitions to this hill the whole of the classes of improvements mentioned. If there are others which should come within the principle enunciated and honorable senators will mention them when the bill is_in committee I shall give them favorable consideration. A further provision of the bil) relates to new regulations made upon the passing of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1930 in order to provide rules for the calculation of values of leasehold estates in the leases which that act caused to he taxable as from the commencement of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1914. The bill provides that these new . regulations shall have ‘ the same retrospective operation as Section 3 of the 1930 act, namely to the date of the commencement of the Land Tas Assessment Act 1914. ‘ Until the passing of the 1980 act there was no power to make regulations for the calculation of values of leasehold estates in the leases dealt with by that act. Immediately that act was passed the necessary regulations were made, There is no power for the GovernorGeneral to make those regulations operate retrospectively and Parliament is therefore asked to do so. I tabled the rules this morning in order that honorable senators might have an opportunity to peruse them. The bill now is essentially one for consideration in committee and I shall reserve any further comments until that stage is reached.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George PEARCE) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator DALY) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 o’clock.
Senate adjourned at 10.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 April 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300409_senate_12_123/>.