13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
International Labour Organization of the League of Nations - Fifteenth Conference, heldat Geneva, 28th May to 18th June, 1931-
Draft Convention concerning the hours of work in coal-mines.
Reports of the Australian Delegates.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. -
No. 31 of 1931 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 32 of 1931 - CommonRule re Accidents.
No. 33 of 1931 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 34 of 1931 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 11- No. 15- No. 19.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 3 - City of Canberra Arms.
No. 4 - Canberra University College.
Customs Act and Commerce (Trade Descrip tions) Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 12.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 31st December, 1931.
Land Tax Assessment Act - List of Applications for Belief from Taxation during the year 1931.
Report of Australian Delegates
[3.3] . - by leave - The reports of the Australian delegates to the fifteenth session of the International Labour Conference, 1931, which have just been laid on the table, have already been printed for distribution to the organizations and others interested. The results of the conference are of more concern to the States than to the Commonwealth, the main item being the adoption of a draft convention on the hours of work in coalmines. This draft convention has been referred to the States, and copies of the text are being tabled in both Houses. Australia was represented at the conference last year by two non-government delegates only, namely, Mr. Marshall Eady (employers’ delegate) and Mr. Robert Taylor (workers’ delegate). No government delegates were appointed. Items on the agenda were: (1) Age of admission of children to employment in nonindustrial occupations. (2) Hours of work in coal-mines. (3) Partial revision of the Convention Concerning the Employment of Women during the Night. On the first item a list of questions was drawn up to be addressed to governments for the purpose of eliciting their views as to the advisability of the adoption of a draft convention or recommendation. This subject will come before the conference this year for final discussion. On the second item - hours of work in coal-mines - a draft convention was adopted which, as I have mentioned, has been referred by the Commonwealth to the States, and is being presented to the Commonwealth Parliamenttoday. On the third item certain amendments of the existing convention of 1919 were agreed to by small majorities. These amendments relate to the exemption from the general prohibition of women holding positions of managerial responsibility, and to the definition of the word “ night “. They were embodied in a new convention which, however, on a final vote, failed to obtain the requisite majority, and was consequently not adopted. Some of the non-government delegates in the past have complained of the ineffectiveness of Australian representationat the conference owing to the absence of advisers, and some have criticized the utility of representation so far as Australia is concerned. Last year, both the employers’ and workers’ delegates questioned the value of Australian representation at the conference. I refer honorable senators to the delegates’ reports in this connexion. The text of the convention adopted at the session of the conference in question - limiting the hours of work in coal-mines - is being tabled separately.
[3.5]. - by leave - The Disarmament Conference has before it a draft convention, prepared by the Preparatory Commission of the League. A copy of this document has been laid on the table of the Library. The Commonwealth Government accepts the draft as generally satisfactory, and the endeavour of its delegation will be to have figures inserted in the tables contained in it which will secure not only limitation, but also substantial reduction of armaments. Our delegation will support the abolition of sub m arines, the prohibition of gas and chemical warfare, the reduction in the permissible size of ships of war, and the calibre of naval guns, the prohibition of large land guns, and the limitation of conscription by agreement. At the same time, it will bear in mind the interests of Australia, which necessitate that our very slender defensive provisions can be limited only if other nations agree to reductions.
– On the 18th February, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information; -
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) agreed to by an absolute majority of all members of the Senate -
That so much of the Sessional and Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Insurance Bill being proceeded with without delay.
Sanctity of Contracts
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) if the Government will consider the wisdom of directing the attention of the Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Lang) to the action of the Irish Labour party, which lays it down that the sanctity of contracts must be the basis upon which the Irish Parliament shall be conducted, and appeal to the. Premier of New South Wales to follow that example, in order to repair the damage to the credit of Australia, and to restore harmony between the Commonwealth and that State?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The matter will receive consideration.
Illustrationsin the “ World.”
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers are 1.Yes.
– In moving-
That the bill be now read a second time,
I point out that it does not give effect to any new principle in respect of deposits being made by insurance companies carrying on insurance business in Australia, and that a measure of this nature has been too long delayed. This is really a step in the direction of obtaining uniformity of legislation in respect of a matter over which the Commonwealth should have authority.
The bill is designed to protect the people of Australia from any improper application of the deposits lodged by insurance companies in which they are interested. It also secures uniformity of practice as to deposits throughout Australia. The whole effect of the bill is to require the lodging with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of deposits by persons or companies carrying on insurance business in Australia. For the purpose of the measure, insurance business is divided into two classes-one being life insurance and including business relating to personal accident - the other representing all other classes of insurance business.
The requirements of the billvary as between: - (1) Companies carrying on business at the commencement of the measure; (2) Companies starting business after commencement of the measure ; and (3) Foreign companies starting business after such commencement.
Companies carrying on life insurance business at the commencement of the bill are required, within six months after such commencement, to deposit as follows: - (1) Money or securities to the value of ?50,000; (2) Where net liability is less than ?250,000, money or approved securities to the value of ?1,000 for every ?5,000 ofthe net liability, such deposits to be increased by ?1,000 in respect of every ?5,000 by which the net liability of the depositor increases until the amount deposited reaches ?50,000.
Companies carrying on insurance business, other than life, must deposit as follows: - Money or approved securities to the value of ?5,000 in respect of each ?10,000 or part thereof of the annual premium income. The deposits under this heading shall not exceed, in any case. ?40,000.
New foreign companies must deposit ?50,000 in respect of each class of business carried on by them. A foreign company incorporated or having its head offices outside the British Empire must deposit ?60,000 in respect of each class of insurance business. New companies formed within the Commonwealth must deposit ?5,000 in respect of each class of insurance business proposed to be carried on; and this deposit is to be increased in correspondence with any increase of business until the maximum sums appropriate to the respective classes of business have been reached, namely ?50,000 life; ?40,000 other.
The constitutional limitation of the Commonwealth’s legislative power on this subject is affirmed, namely, that the act shall not apply to State insurance within the limits of the State concerned.
Persons who merely collect premiums in respect of life insurance contracts entered into outside Australia will not come within the ambit of the bill, but it is made clear that, irrespective of whether the headquarters of the companies concerned are outside Australia or not, so long as the contracts of insurance are executed in Australia., such companies become liable under the provisions of the bill.
Section 7 (1) of the bill expressly provides that the Commonwealth Act will override any State acts to the extent to which those acts require deposits from insurance companies, whether such acts are passed before or after the commencement of the Commonwealth Act. Deposits held by States at the commencement of the act are required to be returned to the depositing companies, which, in turn, are bound to hand over those deposits to the Commonwealth Treasurer, to the extent to which the deposits consist of money or securities acceptable under the bill. It is intended to introduce an amendment iu committee which will widen the definition of “ approved securities so as to empower the Commonwealth Treasurer to - (1) Accept existing securities in which cash deposits have been invested by the States; and (2) in certain cases, deposit receipts issued by the States in respect of cash deposits. Certain consequential amendments will also be necessary, but these can be dealt with at the appropriate stage.
It is important to note that the bill exempts the following classes of insurance : -
Any scheme or arrangement whereby staff superannuation benefits are provided by an employer or his employees or by an employer and his employees;
Some amendment will be made in respect of paragraph b to meet cases unknown to the draftsman when this paragraph was drawn up -
The definition of approved securities is a wide . one. It comprises government securities of the Commonwealth or any State, or the United Kingdom or any other part of the King’s dominion ; municipal securities approved by the Treasurer ; debentures as approved by the Treasurer ; fixed deposits in any bank carrying on business in the Commonwealth and approved by the Treasurer ; bank guarantees, or undertakings which are approved by the Treasurer; unencumbered, titles to freehold lands in the Commonwealth, and first mortgages of freehold lands in which the sum secured does not exceed twothirds of the improved value of the lands, or any other prescribed securities.
Initial deposits made with the Treasurer under the bill are required to be accompanied by certified returns showing the extent of the business of the companies or individuals,, and provision is also made for depositors to furnish returns annually showing the progress of their business. If the Treasurer is satisfied at any time that securities lodged with him in pursuance of the act have depreciated, it will be competent for him to require that the amount of the deposits shall be increased up to the amount provided under the bill. Provision is also made concerning the availability of deposits to satisfy judgments in respect of policies.
The proposals of the Commonwealth Government are entirely free from any suggestion of ulterior motives. The deposits to be lodged are to be held solely for the benefit of policy-holders, who are given rights of recourse against those deposits. There can be no doubt that this legislation will inspire confidence in the minds of the investing public. It is possible, too, that this increased confidence may react to the advantage of the insurance companies.
The bill is of interest to all classes of the community, because all classes insure in some form, whether it be life, fire, burglary, or accident insurance. To this extent, the measure marks a progressive step by the Commonwealth Government in the interests of the whole of the community, and not of any one class.
The origin of deposits, so far as Eng lish legislation is concerned, is to be found in the Life Assurance Companies Act of 1S70. The Policies of Assurance Act 1867, which was passed three years previously, relates merely to the assignment of life assurance policies, and contains provisions for enabling assignees of such policies to sue thereon in their own names.
The select committee of f/he House of Commons,- in 1853, recommended a deposit of £10,000 from new companies. The act of 1909 required every assurance company to deposit and keep deposited the sum of £20,000. Every life assurance company which had not such a deposit existing when the act came into force was compelled to make one, and to maintain it as long as it transacted life assurance business.
The passing of the English act of 1870 was the direct result of the failures of certain life assurance companies, and the necessity, as shown by the distress arising therefrom, for some special means of ensuring the stability of companies transacting this class of business. Of the companies which collapsed during this period the “Albert” and the “European” were those whose failure caused the most widespread loss. The former of these, it may be noted, had, in its career of 31 years’ duration, absorbed no fewer than 26 other life offices. The Life Assurance Companies Act of 1870 provided for the making of deposits of £20,000. While such a deposit was manifestly inadequate as security for policyholders in big companies, it was considered to have the effect of frustrating attempts to form mushroom companies.
In commending the bill to honorable senators, I would remind them that power is vested in the Commonwealth under section 51 (XIV) of the Constitution to legislate upon insurance other than State insurance. A Commonwealth Royal Commission appointed in 1908 reported on the question of uniformity of practices as follows: -
Owing to the nature of the legislative enactments of the several States of the Commonwealth, relative to the conduct of life assurance business, and the fact that these have all had a common basis, viz., the English Acts of 1870 to 1872, there does not exist in Australia the same degree or inconvenience and want of equity from variations in State legislation that are to be found in America; but even here the diversity is of such an extent that tho enactment of a uniform federal law superseding the existing State legislation would represent a distinct gain to the companies transacting life assurance business in Australia, and indirectly to their policy-holders, since under it the present necessity for lodging separate deposits and returns of revenue, expenditure, assets, liabilities, &c, with the separate State Governments would be obviated, the deposits and returns lodged with the Commonwealth Government applying to the whole of Australia.
It should be emphasized particularly that the bill provides for the deposit of approved securities, or cash, or both, and not cash deposits exclusively. In the circumstances, I feel that honorable senators will appreciate fully the significance of, and the necessity for, this legislation aa a measure of vital national importance.
I, therefore, trust that it will be accorded the support which it unquestionably deserves.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dooley) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th February (vide page 140), on motion by Senator Duncan-Hughes-
That the following Address-iii-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
To Hia Excellency the Governor-General - May it Please Youn Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- The Speech makes reference to a number of important matters other than those on which I had touched when the debate was adjourned on Friday last. On page 2 special emphasis is given to the necessity of the Commonwealth maintaining what is termed budgetary equilibrium, and to the Government’s determination to exercise the strictest economy. No one will question the wisdom of this decision. The time is ripe for a complete investigation of all Commonwealth expenditure, with a view to ascertaining if ‘it is possible to effect still further economies without impairing the efficiency of any department. It is not possible to institute drastic reforms in the administration of government departments in the space of a few months or even in a year or two; but I believe government expenditure can be further reduced. It is common knowledge that, as a rule, government departments are not conducted on business lines, that is to say, unlike private business establishments, there is no individual responsibility to ensure the highest business efficiency and at the same time maintain budgetary equilibrium. But it is not sufficient merely to balance Commonwealth accounts. Something more is required. We might reach budgetary equilibrium in Commonwealth administration, and the results might be disastrous to the people. In recent years, and particularly during the last year or two, business nien throughout Australia have been terribly harassed by restrictive legislation, and hampered financially by ibc very heavy imposts laid upon their shoulders in the shape of excessive taxation. In addition to heavy taxation they have been required by certain departments, to keep voluminous records of their transactions, and although this additional work . may have entailed considerable expenditure, not infrequently the net result to the Commonwealth, in the form of additional revenue, has been only a few shillings. To support my contention I shall give an instance, but before doing so I wish to impress upon the Government the necessity for its delving deep into our affairs in an endeavour to relieve all sections of eur business, industrial, and manufacturing activities from at least part of the burdens that they have recently been called upon to bear. Unless that is done, we cannot hope to see in Australia a new era of prosperity. I am aware that there is practically no limit to the powers of governments to impose taxation, but I point out that by going to extremes they may grasp at the shadow and lose the substance, as their action “will simply result in the impoverishment of our taxpayers. They will have no surplus, and, as taxation can be obtained only when they have a surplus, there will be no tax to collect.
In recent months, I have taken the opportunity to confer with a number of representative business people in the Commonwealth, and I have come to the conclusion that the harassing conditions which obtain as a result of the operation of the sales tax are of such a cruel nature -and I use the term advisedly - that it is high time that steps were taken to simplify the collection of that tax. Only a short time ago, when I was in Launceston, Tasmania, a gentleman who is . engaged there in the grocery business, showed me the records that he has to keep of that infinitesimal section of his business which may be termed wholesale, in order to satisfy the authorities that his returns with regard to the sales tax are correct. He informed me that it cost him at least £’5 a month to keep those records, -while the return to the Government amounted to only 16s. a month. That’ sort of thing is intolerable. I suggest that the. Government should endeavour to devise a simpler form of collecting the revenue that is now raised by the sales tax.
Reference is made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the intention of the Government to delve. to some extent, into tariff matters. The Speech states -
My Ministers recognize the special importance of the tariff at the present time, and its intimate relation to the welfare of both primary and secondary industries. It is considered that, with industry generally in its present depressed condition, changes in duties should he made with caution and only after full inquiry and consideration. In preparing proposals for tariff revision, my Ministers will give close attention to recommendations made by the Tarin” Board.
I take a great interest in the operation of our tariff schedules, and I say without hesitation that half measures in this direction will not meet the present needs of the community. I know that there are worth-while industries in Australia that need protection. I also know that there are other industries that are afforded high protection, and cry for still more; industries that have been an incubus instead of a blessing to the people ever since they were established. In that category there are manufacturing concerns which are of no vital importance to Australia, the maintenance of which have “been a perpetual burden to the community. One has merely to read the report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June, 1931, to learn that that body is alive to the situation. That report provides food for thought, and should cause the Government to take suitable action promptly. At page 19 the’ board makes .special reference to two or three manufacturing industries that are of importance “to Australia. One forms the opinion that suggestions for increased duties emanate, not only from manufacturers, but also from governments, actuated possibly by a desire to gain additional political support. The report indicates that during the period under review duties were increased without any request having been made from the manufacturers, and’ when they were not needed to maintain the industries concerned. The soap industry in Australia ha& been built up most successfully. The figures in this report show that the average yearly production in Australia for the two years ended the 30th June, 1928, was 121,545,144 lb., valued at £%2o8,943, while the total imports of soap for that period was 1,030,444 lb., valued at £85,164. The report comments -
As will bc seen, the figures quoted show that tha importations represented less than 1 per Cent. of the Australian consumption (based on local production, plus imports and less exports) and that they are practically negligible when compared with local production.
It was obvious that the proposed increased duties could have no appreciable effect on the local industry even if their effect were to entirely exclude importations, and that from a protective stand-point the imposition of additional duties could not be justified.
The most extraordinary feature of this business is that the late Government, having imposed additional duties without waiting for a request from the manufacturers, instructed the Tariff Board to take evidence thereon, and, notwithstanding that the usual publicity was given to the proposed hearing, no evidence in support of the suggested increase was offered at the inquiry.
Tariff matters sometimes become wearisome, but they are important to Australia, and I hope that I shall never weary of exposing happenings such as have taken . place in Australia in recent years, which have added additional burdens to the community without bringing any resultant benefit; which have made wealthy manufacturers still more wealthy, leaving the unfortunate working man and his family to bear the burden. I have drawn attention to these matters because I want the Government to go further than is contemplated in the Governor-General’s Speech. I want it to institute an exhaustive inquiry into the operations of the tariff with a view to dealing with the bocalled British preference duties which are actually prohibitions. Examples are to be found throughout the schedule of items appearing in the column British preferential tariff, which are so high that they make it impossible for the British manufacturer to trade with Australian consumers. Yet, it is contended that that is British preference.
At page 20, under the heading “ The Tariff Habit,” the report states -
In the course of the inquiries conducted by the board during the year under review, there has not been lacking evidence of the tendency of some manufacturers to turn to the Customs Tariff for assistance without first making reasonable efforts to increase their production by other means available to them.
The report goes on to say -
Excessive duties tend also to encourage the local production of certain goods the manufacture of which in Australia, under existing conditions, is so costly as to make production uneconomic . . . Further, prohibitive duties-
Those are the duties to which I have been referring - the so-called British preferential duties- tend to seriously disrupt trade generally. It is important in fiscal and other governmental action to disturb the natural channels of trade as little as possible. The disruption of trade frequently brought about by the sudden imposition of a prohibitive duty tends to throw many out of employment until such time as the business adapts itself to the new conditions. It often checks buying of the goods concerned and frequently results in unemployment for those who were manufacturing accessories required to complete the imported goods or were assembling such goods after importation. All these disadvantages, together with the loss of revenue previously obtained from the duties collected on the imports, must be Bet against the benefits to be obtained from the establishment or extension of any industry in Australia. The board holds that the community in general is best served by the imposition of a duty sufficient to enable an efficient manufacturer to develop his business and secure the trade. This method tends to promote efficiency and economic production, and is much loss disruptive in its operation than are prohibitive duties.
Those are not my words; they are the findings, after careful consideration, of the Tariff Board, and they endorse up to the hilt the views that I expressed in my opening remarks with regard to the necessity for a complete investigation of our tariff schedule, with a view to placing it on a reasonable basis, giving protection which is adequate, but no more, to ensure the maintenance and the progress of those industries that are essential to Australia, and the elimination of many industries that have been a continuous burden ever since they were established in Australia. I hope that action along those lines will be taken by the Government, and that eventually such a result will be attained.
Reference is made in the Speech to certain conferences that are to be held abroad this year. I wish to refer particularly to that which it is proposed to hold at Ottawa. I have always been an advocate of trade within the Empire. By all means, let us give preference to Great Britain, in the expectation that the British Government will extend to Australia an equal measure of preference. Inter-empire trade is absolutely essential. We must do all that we can to strengthen the bonds of empire by an adherence to .the principle of true reciprocity in. every direction. At the same time, however, we must not allow ourselves to ignore the claims of countries that are outside the Empire. If we had to rely entirely on the British Empire for the disposal of our surplus primary products, where should we be? At the present time, we are compelled to rely on other countries also to purchase a portion of our surplus production. Therefore we cannot afford to make an enemy of any of those countries. Our policy should be to endeavour to maintain the friendliest relations with every country with which we have been trading in the past, or with which we hope to trade in the future. From my reading, I gather that countries which are valuable customers of ours feel no resentment at the imposition of reasonable duties upon those of their manufactured articles which find a market in Australia. But retaliation can easily he instigated. Retaliatory measures have already been taken against us as a result of our idiotic attitude towards certain countries which have been numbered amongst our most valuable customers.
At the risk of repeating what I said last year, I remind honorable senators that only recently, in New Caledonia, wo obtained a most valuable customer for a portion of the rice crop grown at Leeton. That market was close to our door, and wisdom dictated the cultivation of those friendly relations which always should exist between business people. But what did we do? Last year, and the year before, schedule after schedule was introduced imposing, not duties, but prohibitions on the product’s of the country, one of whose colonies New ‘Caledonia is, the conse- quence being that in October or November last the edict was issued prohibiting the importation by New Caledonia of rice grown in Australia. Can one wonder at such action being taken? The marvel to me is that they restrained themselves so long. This applies also to other countries. We have in the Dutch East Indies magnificent customers; yet, only a year or two ago it was proposed in all seriousness by the then government to impose a duty on one of the items with which they had been doing a considerable volume of trade with Australia, although it was nothing like the extent of the trade that we were doing with them. Fortunately the Tariff Board realized how iniquitous the proposal was, and how opposed to the best interests of Australia, and unanimously reported against it. Had it been imposed, we should have lost our trade with the Dutch East Indies in preserved fruits and other preserves; because they could quite easily have obtained their requirements elsewhere. While doing all that we can to maintain the solidarity of the Empire, we should not lose sight of the fact that we cannot afford to ignore the claims of other countries to a share of our trade. Australia is productive enough to help materially to feed the world; and we rely upon the goodwill of the world for the disposal of our surplus production. Some time ago, while I was expressing these sentiments, an honorable senator interjected that Japan would have to purchase from Australia the wool that she required. I hope that she will.
– She will, if she wants wool.
– Unfortunately, as I have learned quite recently, she already is turning her attention to another part of the world with a view to obtaining the wool that she requires.
– A day or two ago the press reported that the reverse was the case.
– I have obtained my information from a man who is very prominent in the business life of Japan.
A shipment of Japanese goods -arrived in South Australia a short time ago, the invoice value of which was less than £100 ; but the duties and other charges on them amounted to something like £700 or £800. Those goods had to be re-shipped elsewhere.
– Were they cotton goods?
– They were goods of various kinds. But it does not matter what they were. Are we to adopt the attitude that we have no backbone and no stamina, that we have become so weakened by the wretched artificial legislation passed within recent years that we cannot stand up to the competition of other countries whose standard is almost as good as ours, but who are handicapped by heavy freights, wharfage charges, and ‘ other impositions, in addition to a substantial duty? We used to boast that Australians were better than any other people in the world, that they had more stamina and more virility. Unfortunately, the happenings of recent years appear to have weakened that position.
A little while ago I said that I was of the opinion that savings could be effected if a thorough and complete investigation were made of governmental activities. I wish to particularize one such activity; and I hope that I shall not be misunderstood. I refer to old-age pensions. No man in Australia is more anxious than I am that our old people should be able to carry on with some degree of comfort, especially those who have given of their best to the Commonwealth. But in recent years, in fact, ever since the old-age pension has been granted, its administration has been a lackadaisical kind of affair. I believe that, in the aggregate, very large sums have been paid out unnecessarily, and without due regard to the principles governing the act. Without giving names, I can cite cases that have been brought under my notice - I believe they could be multiplied many times each year - which makes me wonder whether sufficient care is exercised by the department in the investigation of applications for pensions. I am only a layman, but I heard of a case the other day in which, if I had dealt with the claim, no pension would have been paid. The person who got the pension is not the kind of person for whom it was intended. The old-age pensions department of the Commonwealth has access to State departments, and can always get the cooperation of State authorities in regard to any inquiries it makes. In the particular case to which I am referring, the appli cant received the full pension. A person who -knew the family very well, said to me a little while ago, “ I cannot understand the old-age pension being granted in this case. Has a person who has property any right to a pension ? “ I said “ No, unless he or she is living in it, and it is the home of the applicant.” In such a case the applicant declares that he has no property. The local authority in the town where the applicant was residing for many years before leaving for another State could have informed the old-age pension department that for some time the applicant had been trying to sell the property for £850. It is true that it is not in the same name now. It has been transferred to another member of the family. I am confident that there is a good deal of this going on - people evading questions or making false replies.
– In what State did this happen?
– Two States were involved. Although I can give the necessary information I prefer not to do so now. Such people are increasing the burden on the whole community.
Another matter which is even more serious, although, probably, not so extensive from the point of view of the administration of the act, is the number of claims recognized and paid under a ruling given by a former Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. Section 17 provides -
No person shall receive an old-age pension unless -
he is residing in Australia on the date when he makes his claim for the pension:
he has on that date s<: resided continuously for at least 20 years.
To a layman, a common-sense interpretation of that provision is that an applicant for the old-age pension must certify that he has continually resided in Australia for twenty years immediately prior to the dat, on which he has submitted his claim for i. pension. About 23 or 24 years ago two former residents of Australia went to another part of the world to live. They spent their substance there, and then wrote to Australia asking whether, if they came back, they would be entitled to old-age pensions. They were told by the department that they would be, and they returned to this country to get full pensions immediately. I quote this instance, because I believe that there are others like it. Logically, it means that if a thousand people left Australia at the age of twenty, and spent 45 years in America, Australia would be compelled to pay them, if they returned to this country, the equivalent of a pension of £1 a week, basing the payment on the scale paid a year ago. I am confident that the act never intended that this should be done. Yet it is done, and it is high time the matter was looked into. If the present Attorney-General and the Grown Law Office still hold that the interpretation given by a former Attorney-General is correct the law should be amended. No country can alford to pay hundreds ®f thousands of pounds annually to people who have given no financial er other support to it in the period I have mentioned prior to the granting of the pension. If we had a ministry of business men hard put to it to make ends meet, as many people in Australia are to-day, they would have their wits sharpened and would go into matters so closely that they would speedily eliminate everything in the nature of an unjust and, according to my interpretation of this act, illegal burden upon the people.
I am compelled to refer to another matter in view of the fact that my esteemed friend, Senator Duncan-Hughes, made reference to it in his very able speech in moving the adoption of the Address-iii-Reply. In making reference to the recent grant of £80,000 by the Loan Council to Tasmania, which by the way Senator Pearce explained later, was a loan to bo repaid, the honorable senator compared the per capita taxation of South Australia and Tasmania. He said that in South Australia it was £4 2s. lOd. compared with £2 7s. 2d. in Tasmania, yet Tasmania was able to get this £80,000 grant. He said that the authority for his figures was a committee of Treasury experts and he made it clear that he gave the figures not because of any enmity or dislike towards Tasmania, but in order to draw the attention of the Senate to the facts. The figures quoted by the honorable senator were not at all conclusive.
I have other figures which put quite a different complexion on the matter. They are based on the taxable capacity of the people of the two States, which is a far fairer method of computation than the figures quoted by Senator DuncanHughes. I have taken them from the report by the Public Accounts Committee on Tasmania’s disabilities. Taking 100 as the mean, from 1924 to 1928 the taxable capacity of South Australia was 85 and that of Tasmania 47. For a period of fourteen years the taxable capacity of South Australia was 92 compared with 56 for Tasmania. In regard to the severity of taxation, from 1921 to 1930, still taking 100 as the mean, the Tasmanian taxation, excluding taxation from lotteries, was 146.5 compared with 122.9 for South Australia. There aremany disabilities over which Tasmania has no control. Many of them have been brought about since federation.
– I admit, that.
– These disabilities have reduced the taxable capacity of the people of Tasmania. Economists and others who have gone into the matter are responsible for the figures which were submitted to the Public Accounts Committee. I am sure that the honorable senator will see that we cannot assess the ability of the people of any State to pay merely on a statement of the direct taxation levied by any one State compared with that levied by any other State. Before we can institute a fair comparison we must take into account the ability of the people to pay taxation. If the tax is a federal one its incidence is unfair if the taxable ability of one State is much less than that of another. People with the least taxable capacity should get some relief to put them on the same footing as people in another State with a higher taxable ability.
I want to refer now to one particular disability suffered in Tasmania, which I hope this Government will devise means to remove. For years now we have been promised that steps would be taken to remove it. The people of Tasmania are merely asking that the position in regard to passenger traffic should revert to that which existed prior to the coming into force of the Navigation Act. The coasting trade provisions of that act, as they operate against Tasmania, cannot be justified in any way. The island is cut off from the mainland by 100 miles of water. It has not the transport facilities that exist on the mainland, and it depends to a very great extent on its tourist traffic. Yet to-day the same restrictions which have had such a disastrous effect upon Tasmania since the inception of the Navigation Act are still applied. -It is not reasonable that although we have magnificently fitted steamers trading between the mainland and the very best ports of Tasmania thousands of people who are desirous of visiting the island cannot take advantage of the superior accommodation offered by those vessels. Before the Navigation Act was put into force many thousands of persons visiting Tasmania travelled by the succession of vessels running to Ho: bart during the fruit season. To-day those people do not visit the island. Probably Tasmania can offer more inducements to tourists than can any other State. It is regarded as the tourists’ paradise, yet notwithstanding all the money we spend in trying to develop the tourist traffic, we are hampered and restricted. I hope that the present Government will see that the relief promised by the BrucePage Government is given to Tasmania at the earliest possible moment.
I take this opportunity to refer to another disability experienced by the Tasmanian people, and which occasionally is responsible for making the cost of living in that State higher than it is on the mainland. A bill was introduced towards the end of the last Parliament to amend the Customs Act, but, owing to the dissolution, was hot passed. Immediate steps should be taken to so amend the law as to proVide that the duties applying to the cargo of an overseas vessel at her first Australian port of call shall be operative irrespective of the port of discharge. Owing to its geographical position, Tasmania is usually the last port of call, and -time after time during the last few years duties have been increased after a portion of a cargo has been discharged, with the result that higher duties have to -be collected when the Tasmanian’ portion of the cargo is landed at Hobart or Launceston. In some instances the rate paid by Tasmanian importers is from 15 per . cent, to 20 per cent, higher than that paid by importers on the mainland, which places them in a most unfair position and renders it practically impossible for them to enter into successful competition with merchants on the mainland. A simple amendment of the “Customs Act would remove that disability.
– Under the Government’s tariff reduction policy Tasmania may benefit in the near future.
– I am referring to this particular disability. In one instance, a portion of an overseas shipment was landed at Hobart, and by the time the Launceston consignment was discharged, the primage duties had been increased by 10 per cent., which placed the Launceston traders at a distinct disadvantage. The only way out of the difficulty is to provide that the duty payable on a consignment at the first port of call’ shall be applicable at every port.
A paragraph en page 2 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech states that the Government intends to introduce a measure to amend .the law with respect to unlawful associations. I need hardly say that any law to deal with unlawful associations, or with associations which, although they may not at present, be unlawful, are a menace to the community, will have my hearty support.
Senator- Hoare. - For instance, - the New Guard.
– The New Guard has not been responsible for disorder or for endeavouring . to destroy our social fabric. I am thinking more particularly of the activities of Communists.’
– The other crowd is just as bad.
– The New Guard may be enthusiastic, but the ho’norable senator cannot name any actionby. it which has been detrimental tei’ the community. ‘ The honorable senator knows that _ the object of the communist organizations in Australia is, not to build up, but to destroy our present social system of which we are proud. Notwithstanding that social and industrial conditions in Australia are not excelled in any part of the world, there are paid nien and women in Australia who are organized and determined to destroy the present social order and to bring about the disruption of the British Empire. It is my intention to refer to this matter at every opportunity as I feel that the people of Australia should know what is actually happening. It is astounding that the Council of the Australian Railways ‘Union, assembled in Melbourne, decided to affiliate with the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat and to take immediate action in the matter of affiliating with the Red Internationale.
– But the rank and file did not accept that proposal.
– The council decided without consulting the rank and file, as was done in the waterside workers’ dispute. In this instance, the railway men were ignored, and they did not know what had been done until the decision of the union was published in the newspapers.
– This is ancient history. “Why not let the Government get on with the job of putting men back to work?
– This is not ancient, but modern history. When we realize the seriousness of the situation and consider what has to be done before affiliation can be granted by the Red Internationale, we are surprised to find there are men in Australia who, as members of the Australian Railways Council, would descend to such a depth as to bring about affiliation with the Red Internationale. The conditions of the Red Internationale are as follow : -
It rejects any compromise or co-operation with bourgeois parties. Similarly it rejects parliamentarism us a normal method of political development. Conditions of affiliation to this Communist International prescribes that every party which desires affiliation must develop a systematic and persistent communist activity within the trades union co-operative societies and other mass organizations of workmen. Within these organizations it is necessary to organize cells which by persistent and continuous work must win the anions to the cause of communism.
Observance of these conditions must be promised before affiliation will be granted. Whatever action the Government may take in . the matter of checking the activities of unlawful organizations will have my support.
Last year we had a very lengthy debate in the Senate on the subject of sugar, in which the Tasmanian people are vitally interested. It is my intention to-day to “touch on only one phase of the subject. I believe it is within the . of the Government to remedy an injustice which at present exists. The sugar agreement provides that sugar depots shall be established in the capital cities of each State. Requests have been made from time to time that a depot be established in Tasmania; but as yet no action has been taken. The board has said that what is equivalent to a depot has been provided, but those interested in the trade in Tasmania say that that is not the case. They wish a depot to be established, and intend to agitate until their request is granted. I do not know why there should be any opposition to effect being given to this portion of the agreement.- The people of Tasmania are in a different position from those in the other States. As something may happen at any time which may result in a sugar famine in that State, I urge the Government to give immediate attention to this matter. I know, it has had it under consideration, and I trust that further pressure will be brought to bear on the parties to the agreement in the direction of establishing a depot in Tasmania without delay. I have received numerous letters from Tasmanian people on the subject, and I, in conjunction with my colleagues, intend to agitate until our request has been complied with. It is the only insurance we have against a sugar famine.
– What is the’ honorable senator’s attitude with respect to the price of sugar?
– That will have to be reduced. I know that the agreement in force has some years still to run, but I understand that an attempt is being made to effect some compromise under which relief may be given. Consideration should be given to the question of whether the area from which sugar -is- now produced cannot be considerably reduced. Too much land is under sugar-cane to-day. It is a foolish policy to continue growing sugar at a certain price, and to sell it overseas at less than one-half of the’ cost of production in Australia.. If the area were reduced so that only Australia’s requirements could be met, the loss on overseas sales would be obviated, and the price could then be reduced.
– Who are to be privileged to have the right to grow sugar ?
– That must be determined by the parties concerned.
– If we obtain Imperial preference there will be no need to restrict tho area.
– The report of the Sugar Board shows that year after year future losses will be even heavier. It is foolish to continue raising a product the loss on sales of which overseas becomes greater each year.
– Is not the hop-growing industry in a similar position?
– Not to the same extent.
– The hopgrowers have reduced the area on which hops arc being produced.
– Only last year the area was reduced because those engaged in production saw the folly of growing more hops than could be profitably marketed. The sugar-growers should do the same.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the production of hops in Tasmania?
– I do not think that there is any advantage in producing more sugar than can be profitably sold. The areas could be gradually restricted until it was found possible to obviate the heavy loss which is now incurred on overseas shipments and consequently bring about a substantial reduction in the price of sugar.
In conclusion, I wish to compliment the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply on the way in which they presented their case, lt was a pleasure to listen to both speakers, and I trust that their wishes with respect to an early return to prosperity will soon be realized. This Government has been appointed to act, and I hope that it will not endeavour to improve our financial and industrial position by keeping Parliament continually in session throughout the year merely to occupy time, but will dispose of its legislative programme as quickly as possible, and get to work in an endeavour to rehabilitate this country. I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that the result will be as predicted by those honorable senators who moved and seconded tha motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply.
– Like other honorable senators I approach this session with a keen sense of the responsibilities resting upon the Parliament, as well as of the difficulties confronting the people of Australia, and with a spirit of helpfulness towards the Lyons Government in respect of any legislation that it brings forward for the re-establishment of industry in Australia, for the re-employment of our people ; for the discouragement of Government participation in business and encouragement of the initiative and enterprise of the individual. My congratulation of the Ministry on its handling of the financial situation arising out of the default of the Government of New South Wales is tempered somewhat by regret, and, perhaps, bewilderment at it’s interpretation of the Financial Agreement. Clause 1 of Part III. of the agreement provides -
Subject to the provisions of this part of this agreement, the Commonwealth will take over, on the 1st July, .1029:
That seems to be quite clear. I, therefore, regret the Government’s interpretation of its provisions. I had hoped that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), when speaking to the motion, would have given reasons for the Commonwealth Government’s refusal to make good the default by the New South Wales Government in its interest payments on the due date. Fortunately, payment was subsequently made, but, unhappily, not before great damage had been done to Australian credit, both in the Mother
Country and in the United States of America. It was generally understood, when the Commonwealth took over the States debts, that the object in view was to improve Australian credit overseas, so that the Commonwealth Government, on its own behalf and on behalf of the States, would be able to borrow money at lower rates of interest. I, therefore, regret very much that, in construing the Financial Agreement, the Government took -.advantage of such phrases as “ Subject to the provisions of this part of the act “, and “ Subject to this clause “. Its interpretation, I feel sure, was contrary to the intention of the legislature and not in the best interests of Australia. Perhaps we shall hear more upon this point a little later in the discussion.
There are two ways by which a nation, like an individual, may extricate itself from financial difficulties. One is by making all possible cuts in unnecessary expenditure ; the other is, as suggested by some honorable senators, by increasing the national income. The latter can be achieved by establishing secure home markets within the Empire for goods produced in Australia and other parts of the Empire by means of a well-considered scheme of Empire trade reciprocity. The Governor-General’s Speech declares that “ expenditure, both public and private, must be adjusted to the available means “. The need for this is recognized and admitted by all. But, unfortunately, by our political folly we have put a large part - by far the greater part - of the nation in possession of rights to draw upon the public purse. Whether these rights take the form of sustenance relief, dole, pensions, official salaries, subsidies, bounties, bonuses, protective duties, or interest payments on the national debt, they all constitute very heavy chains on Australian production, so that even if, happily, we do manage to escape national bankruptcy, we have established for the minority, the primary producers of this country, a form of slavery far more oppressive than many people realize - a bondage from which they will find it extremely difficult to extricate themselves. Figures relating to Commonwealth and State expenditure since 1918-19 are alarming. In 1918-19 the aggregate was £97,000,000.
Ten years later, in 1928-29, it was £202,000,000. In 1918-19 the Commonwealth expenditure was £38,000,000, as compared with £81,000,000 in 1928-29, while the expenditure of the States rose from £58,000,000 in 1918-19 to £120,000,000 in 1928-29. Stated in other terms, governmental expenditure in those ten years increased by 120 per cent. It is claimed on behalf of the States that they have made substantial reductions in all adjustable expenditure. New South Wales, it is contended, has made cuts to the extent of 15 per cent., and South Australia has reduced its expenditure by 29 per cent. These may appear at first sight to be considerable reductions, but when we compare them with the increase of 120 per cent, in expenditure during the ten-year period mentioned we see that very little has yet been done by way of economy in either Commonwealth or State governmental expenditures.
This brings me to the almost hackneyed subject of overlapping Commonwealth and State departments. That is one direction in which it is hoped that the change of government will bring about substantial economies and make it possible soon to give substantial relief to industry and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. In recent years industry has been taxed almost out of existence. Those engaged in it have been so hampered and worried by official red tape restrictions and by increased taxation, that many have wondered why they should continue to struggle against such heavy odds. Their position may be likened to that of the widow who had so much trouble with her lawyer over the estate bequeathed to her by her husband, that she declared she sometimes almost wished her husband had not died! To illustrate the extent to which Australia has been drifting - I use the word advisedly - during the last twenty years, I point out that the national debt has increased by 313 per cent., the interest payments by 501 per cent., taxation by 401 per cent., and production by only 72 per cent. During the same period unemployment has increased by 600 per cent., and dole payments by 1,000 per cent.
The Speech expresses the belief of the Government that “ the present year affords an unprecedented opportunity for making a definite advance in the direction of Empire trade reciprocity.” In dealing with this subject two or three honorable senators have warned the Senate against supporting any policy which might offend France, and interfere with Australia’s trade with that country, or other foreign nations. I advise those who hold that view to study the subject a little more carefully. Senator Payne has just warned us of what he considers may be the consequences if we do anything to offend France. He referred particularly to Australia’s wool trade with France. I remind the Senate that France has not merely closed but has slammed the door against Australia and the rest of the British Empire.
– By way of retaliation.
– Not at all. Our principal export trade with France is in wool. For many years France has been spending hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds in an endeavour to find a substitute for wool. She does not obtain her requirements from Australia out of consideration for this country, but simply because it suits her to do so.
– France is a good customer.
– Under a well organized system of Empire trade reciprocity, any loss of trade which might result between Australia and France *ould be more than off-set by the increased trade secured in the United Kingdom or the other dominions of the Empire. France has been buying our wool, just as Russia, Germany and Japan have been operating in our markets, simply because it suits her purpose to do so. Having obtained the raw material in a favorable market, French operatives in the textile industry, working under a lower standard of wages than obtains in Great Britain, have been dumping the manufactured product in the free market of the United Kingdom, with its 45,000,000 people.
– Empire trade preference does not mean a prohibitive tariff against the products of other countries.
– I am not speaking of prohibition. I am merely replying to the admonition of the honorable senator that, in formulating a policy for Empire trade, we must be careful not to offend the susceptibilities of the French people. Again I remind him that as far back as 1913 the French Government, realizing the importance of Empire economic unity, took steps to develop its trade with French colonies, and, as a result, this trade has increased from £6,000,000 in 1913, to £137,000,000 in 1929. The most effective means to ensure international co-operation in tariff policies is for the British Empire to develop a sound system of trade reciprocity. “We shall then have a negotiable instrument, and there will then be a disposition, on the part of foreign governments, to lower their tariff walls against British and dominion products. At present Great Britain is not in a position to negotiate. France has been in a most advantageous trade position. In 1929-30 her exports to the United Kingdom exceeded imports by £45,000,000. France has always been ready to squeal about the tariff legislation of other countries. I am sure, therefore, that if we formulate an Empire trade reciprocity scheme on sane, common-sense lines, we shall be able fully to develop the great economic resources of the Empire, aud France will soon be in a mood to negotiate with regard to tariff matters.
– I was merely objecting to the present prohibitive tariff of the Commonwealth.
– France, I remind the honorable senator, was one of the first countries to erect a prohibitive tariff wall against foreign products. At the present time she imposes a duty of 98s. 3d. per cwt. on Australian butter, and 10s. 6d. per bushel on Australian wheat.
– That was in retaliation for the prohibitive tariff imposed by the Scullin Government.
– It was not, strictly speaking, retaliatory action; it was in pursuance of the definite tariff policy of the Government of the day. Similarly the United States of America has slammed the door against Australia find other sections of the Empire. In the years 1929 and 1930, the export of merchandise from the United States of America to Great Britain exceeded imports from the United Kingdom by £275,000,000. Thus the United States of America and France, with other foreign countries, realizing that their trade interests may be jeopardized by the adoption of a system of Empire trade reciprocity, voiced their strongest objections to it. But, as I have already stated, if we take this course, we shall, in addition to developing the resources of the Empire, have a negotiating instrument with which to approach France, the United States of America, Germany, Belgium and other countries for a reduction of the tariff walls of the world. We are paying both France and the United States of America the greatest compliment possible : we are imitating them. This policy of trade reciprocity has been in operation for many years in the United States of America and France, with the result that in the colonies of those two countries there is no unemployment to-day. Their resources are being developed. That can be seen by entering any of their colonies. A visitor to Martinique, a French colony in the West Indies, will witness extensive shipping and business activities in the town, and a steady development of the land and the natural resources of the island. Then let him go to St. Vincent, a British colony very similarly situated, and he will find no such activities. There trade and development are practically at a standstill.
– I presume that the honorable senator agrees with my protest against the prohibition of British goods into Australia?
– I do, entirely. The- fault is that we are overlooking business developments throughout the world. We have erected the high tariff wall to which Senator Payne objects, so that now we cannot see what is happening on the other side. We forget that even in Manchuria the external trade has grown from £5,000,000 in 1907 to £80,000,000 last year. We overlook the fact that we have lost our trade with Fiji, and are losing that with New Zealand at the rate of £500,000 a year.
– Because we are geographically isolated, and have become mentally insular. 1
– In other words, we have put on duties against those which obtain in other countries.
– We are attempting to develop economic laws without regard to the rest of the world. Our policy has been one of drift, instead of drive. It is hoped that behind the Speech that we are discussing to-day there is a determination on the part of the Government to change that condition of affairs and take full advantage of the opportunity that will be presented to us by the Ottawa Conference. We in Australia do not realize the full opportunity of that conference. If we looked to the trade of the British Empire, to the commodities that we can and should produce and that are now being imported from foreign countries, Ave should cultivate a more liberal attitude of mind on this subject. I have not so far heard any of our Ministers or other leaders of thought give expression to the policy of “ give “ ; it has all been an attitude of “ take “.
– Was not that the attitude adopted by the present Minister for Trade and Customs when he was in Opposition ?
– I shall take advantage of the honorable senator’s interjection in a few minutes. I do not desire to go deeply into this subject now, as it has been dealt with on previous occasions. Surely it is time that we awoke to a realization of the opportunities that are before us and mobilized the resources of Australia and the Empire, approaching the task as business men anxious to obtain effective results, realizing that we have entered a period of economic history when close cooperation within the Empire is practically our only agency of self-preservation.
– From which British exports does the honorable senator suggest that duties should be removed ?
– The Federal Government is in possession of all the items in connexion with which the British Government would like consideration from Australia. . I feel that the Government should take us into its confidence, give us an opportunity to discuss those items, and go as far as possible in granting adequate and effective preference to Empire products. Apart from specific items, it is a fact that in a normal year the colonies and dominions of the British Empire take from foreign countries per minute £500 worth of manufactured goods that could and should be purchased from the United Kingdom. Nothing is involved in this policy that means the destruction of the secondary industries of Australia or of any other dominion. It simply means the development of our oven economic resources by the British people for the British people, and ultimately, for the benefit of the world at large. It contemplates, not the development of one section of the British Empire at the expense of any other, but the fostering of a closer understanding between Great Britain and all sections of the Empire, to their mutual advantage.
– Would that not affect the action of Great Britain in sending more ships to Russia to buy wheat?
– Apparently, the honorable senator has not followed the trend of public thought in the United Kingdom, otherwise it would not have been necessary for him to ask that question.
– I have studied the facts so far as Great Britain is concerned.
– The action of Russia in shipping wheat to the United Kingdom, and selling it there regardless of cost, has forced the British people to appreciate the need to do something to protect British and dominion farmers against such dumping by Russia and any other country. I believe that Senator Daly knows that new season’s Russian wheat was sold in Liverpool last year at 10s. a quarter less than the then ruling price. It was because of such happenings that, on the 27th October last, the people of Great Britain awoke to the necessity of definitely brushing aside the enemies of Empire development. They realize now, if they never did before, that their own farmers must bc protected. It is probably common knowledge that last year 58,000 farmers were forced off the land in the United Kingdom. If we in Australia are big enough to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Ottawa Conference we should endorse a policy that would bring about protection for the farmers of the British Empire.
In view of the fact that- we delayed, and for a little time repudiated, our financial obligations on their maturity in Great Britain, and that we have such a “ noble “ advertisement for Australia in the person of the Premier of New South Wales, it would be a wonderful advantage if we refused to wait for the Ottawa Conference, and, instead, possessed of the facts, explored the position, and immediately granted adequate and effective preferences to the United Kingdom. Then our delegation would go to Ottawa and take a leading, instead of a subordinate, position.
– What does the honorable senator suggest in that connexion?
– According to the press, the Government is in possession of a list of all the items in connexion with which Great Britain would like to receive concessions from Australia. That knowledge is not in my possession. It is for the Government to give the matter consideration. I should like to see this Government follow the lead established by Great Britain. Let it grant the Mother Country preferences now, without waiting for the Ottawa Conference.
In connexion with the British position, and as a basis for preference, it may be of interest to honorable senators to know that if the level of real wages in Britain is taken as .100, it is only 74 in Germany, 59 in France, and 50 in Belgium, while it is 157 in Canada, and 152 in Australia. If we are seriously looking for a basis on which to give preference without involving the welfare of our secondary industries, there surely is a formula that could be used.
Senator Daly suggested that there is some doubt in his mind regarding the attitude of the present Minister for Customs on this subject. Apparently he has been supplied with information that has also been sent to me. I have in my hand an article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 12th March, 1930, which is headed -
MR. BALDWIN’S NEW FISCAL SCHEME.
” Britain Dare Not Tax Food.”
In the following article, specially written for the Herald, Mr. H. S. Gullett, M.H.R., and exMinister for Customs, raises doubts as to the soundness of Mr. Baldwin’s new scheme for a great extension of Empire trading.
Mr. Gullett then begins by stating
Although we Australian people perhaps do not hold politicians in a particularly high regard, we nevertheless show a most trusting disposition towards all new political schemes and promises which are ostensibly framed for our welfare and salvation. It is this fact doubtless whichhas greeted the phenomenal enthusiasm which has greeted Mr. Baldwin’s new project for reciprocal trade between Britain and the Dominions.
We all recognize that unless Britain can continue to sell manufactured goods in vast quantities against an ever increasing competition from foreign countries, a, decline of the power and glory and population of the Mother Country is inevitable. Already wages in Britain are the highest in Europe.
But before we discuss further the British end of thescheme let us take an honest openeyed look at the Australian end of it. If we are to get anywhere in the extension of preferences, there must be unquestionable evidence at both ends of the will and the capacity to reciprocate. So far, reciprocity at the British end hasbeen weak, for reasons already stated. We in Australia have given Britain a great deal.
That is a point with which I do not concur. We have made our tariff so high that the preference that we have been granting to Great Britain is worthless. The article continues -
The vital question now arises, not only as to whether we in Australia are likely to be able to give more in the future, as, under the Baldwin scheme, we certainly would be expected to do, but as to whether we are likely to find it possible to maintain the preference of recent years.
I am definitely of the opinion that Australia’s disposition and capacity to grant preference of substantial value to British manufactured goods are diminishing rather than increasing.
Before Britain will entertain full duties on any terms at all, she would probably demand more preference than we have been giving; certainly she would not accept less.
The Closing Door.
If there is one thing true about Australian politics at the present time it is that we are going head down for protection of the completest kind for our own manufacturing indusries. At no time since tariff-making began long ago in the six colonies has the disposition to erect holus bolus a comprehensive set of prohibitive duties been so pronounced. This policy can only mean the partial, if not the complete, abolition of effective preferences to Britain.
It then goes on to say -
But, it will be asked, what of the manufactured goods Australia does not make? What about giving the Australian market in these to Britain? Mr. Hume Cook plainly and honestly states that these are the only goods open for British preference. But will Mr. Cook venture to tell us which are the British manufactured goods Australia is prepared for a term of years to admit free or with a strong and effective preference to Britain?
Of which of the manufactured goods not now being made in Australia can we definitely say that there will be not a strong and perhaps irresistible demand that they should he manufactured here within the next ten years.
With prohibitive protection raging as it is I can think of practically none.
The truth is that this prohibitive duty campaign brings the end of appreciable preference to British manufactured goods within measurable distance.
The policy of piling on prohibitive duties may perhaps prove an economic blunder of the first magnitude, but this new class of duty will, like all protective duties in the past, endure for quite a long time regardless of consequences.
Mr. Gullett then discussed the Empire Crusade proposal, and declared -
The Beaverbrook proposal discloses on the face of it such a depth of ignorance of Australian industrial aspirations and actual achievements that its birth and advertisement are almost beyond credence.
That, in my opinion, shows an absolute lack of sympathy and understanding with the whole question of Empire reciprocity.
– I do not so read it. Mr. Gullett was expressing the Australian, and not his own opinion.
– He stated, “I am definitely of the opinion that Australia’s disposition and capacity to grant preference of substantial value to British manufactured goods are diminishing rather than increasing.”
– That has been proved during the past twelve months.
– I recognize that in Mr. Bruce we have a man who possesses a thorough understanding of British preference, and of the opportunities that will be afforded by the Ottawa Conference, but I should like to know what will be the attitude of the present Minister for Trade and Customs on Empire preference. If he has changed his attitude, if he now realizes the possibilities of inter-Empire trade to Australia and the Empire, no one will welcome more heartily than I his inclusion in the delegation to Ottawa. But it would be well to have the matter cleared up, because in connexion with Empire reciprocity the stage is set for what may well prove to be a momentous political drama in the long history of the British Empire. I regret that the Government has not considered it advisable to mobilize the opinion of all parties in. this Parliament, so that they mightcombine their knowledge, wisdom and foresight, as was done during the war, in the carrying out of a policy of Empire economic unity.
– The Country party would not join with the Government.
– It has not had an opportunity of joining with that or any other section. It is whole-heartedly behind the Government in this and every other measure that is directed towards the reconstruction of this country.
– It wanted to be given control of the Customs Department.
– I am not discussing that aspect, nor shall I. For the benefit of Senator Daly, may I say that the Country party will be whole-heartedly behind the Lyons Government in every action it may take for the reestablishment of this country.
We dare not allow this “opportunity to pass. The time is short; the need is apparent to every one who has studied the question ; but it is necessary to develop public opinion, so that we can insist upon performance. It is not sufficient that the voice should be raised; it must be heard ; it must have in it the ring of bitter determination, the ring of men who are determined to have their will. It is for us to see that the Government carries out this policy, which can bring economic security and prosperity to the agricultural industries and to all other sections of the community. It is not for us to worry over this or that party leader; we must concentrate on the policy in which we believe. Therein lies economic salvation and employment for our people. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs will give us some indication of his attitude towards thi? great policy of Empire development be fore he departs for the Ottawa Conference.
– It is set out in the Governor-General’s Speech in very direct terms.
– That is the attitude of the Government as a whole.
– It is the attitude of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– If that be so, it is satisfactory; but during the last two years the evidence has been all to the contrary.
– We speak with one voice.
– And joining in the chorus you have the voice of every member of the Country party.
.- The first few lines of the Governor-General’s Speech are important, because they stress the urgent necessity of the Government getting on with the job with which it has been entrusted. I and my colleagues have no desire to prolong its agony; we fully appreciate the difficult times through which it is about to pass, and know full well how far it is possible for it to go in the direction of relieving those about whom we are so greatly concerned, the unfortunate unemployed.
I should not have spoken to the motion but for the statement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that it was the intention of the Government to close Parliament shortly and to conduct the affairs of this country administratively. The right honorable gentleman also made a statement which I took to be an admission that the Government could not expect very much consideration from those out of whom it hopes to obtain the most - the public servants. That statement indicated very clearly to me the imminence of a further attack upon wages, salaries and conditions in the Public Service. If that should prove to be the object of the Government, I shall use every endeavour to frustrate it; because I feel that such action will have no appreciable effect towards enabling us to escape from our difficulties. Retrenchment, reductions of wages, a lengthening of the hours of labour, or the abolition of all the protective measures which the workers hold so dear and which they have fought so hard to obtain, will merely make the path of the Government more difficult, and render impossible the balancing of the budget. I am at a loss to know just how far the Government intends to go. I know that it is powerless to do very much. The existing depression is worldwide. We are not the only people who are suffering from unemployment and the other effects of the depression, consequently, we cannot, alone hope to solve the problem. Nor can we afford to wait until we see what takes place ,in other parts of the world. We have to keep pace with what happens elsewhere, especially in Great Britain. I believe that there is no alternative but for this Government to act along the lines adopted by the British Government. I admit, however, that the British Government may not always be right in the methods it employs to escape from its difficulties. I have read quite a lot that has been written by persons who have made a life-long study of economics, and who have gone to a great deal of trouble in an endeavour to find a remedy for the present position. The last Government did not sit down on the job, but made every effort to release credits for the purpose of stimulating employment and industry generally, and thus improving the lot of the people of this country. In the United States of America to-day the question being asked is, whether they should depart from the gold standard and carry on with a fiduciary note currency. America has discovered that the gold standard is of no value, and that the mere possession of all the gold in the world would not enable her to feed a soul. Gold is a medium of exchange, but so is credit. If a man is allowed to issue cheques, and they are honoured, thus enabling him to purchase food, they are of as much value to him as gold. Throughout the world the people are beginning to realize that. France has found that the possession of a large proportion of the world’s gold is not assisting her to escape from her difficulties. Great Britain is not on tha gold standard, nor is Australia. The question is, are we to go back to it? The_ people of Australia should be advised of the attitude of the Government on this ques- tion. If it proposes that we shall revert to the gold standard, the reduction of wages, pensions and other concessions suffered by the people will be, not 20 per cent., but more likely 75 per cent. Whether the Government will consider that real money is, of course, another question. There has been a clamour iu this country for the maintenance of a high rate of wages, the only object being to enable a man, his wife and family to live in decency.
According to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General the other day, the present Government intends to adhere strictly to the Premiers plan. Let us assume that within the next- three or six months that plan will be found to be not effective ; what will happen ? Another conference of Premiers will have to be called, and a review of the situation made, with the result that a further “cut” will be decided upon.
– If it is unavoidable, what else can be done? A review of the position must be made if the conditions become worse.
– I recognize that the Government is up against a very tough proposition. Only a little while ago, I and my colleagues sat on the Government benches. Honorable senators who then sat on this side advised us to do this and that. When we asked them to suggest a remedy, their reply was, “ Restore confidence.” “ How,” we asked, “ may that be done ?” The retort was “By putting out the Government.” There, is another Government in power now, and its leader tells us that it is not a matter of the individual government, but of the profit that can be made out of investments. We realize that to the full, and have done all along. If it is not profitable to invest money in industry, it will not be so invested. As the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) has said, the people are taking their money out of current accounts and placing it in savings bank accounts or on fixed deposit with the trading banks, the reason being that they cannot get the same amount of interest out of industry. While such a state of affairs exists, no relief can be given by the legislation which the Government proposes to enact. A further onslaught on the wages and conditions of the workers in this country will lessen their purchasing power.
The problem to-day is not one of producing the requirements of the people. The last season was the best that we had experienced for many years. Our storerooms contain an abundance of food and of all the other requirements of the people. Yet people are actually starving, or on the verge of starvation! That proves that there is something radically wrong; and it cannot be righted by increasing the hours of labour, or the amount of production. The trouble is that our markets have disappeared. The introduction of machinery, the installation of mechanical devices, has put out of gear the human machine. Australia alone cannot solve that problem; but it can do quite a lot towards solving it. The question that we have to consider is, whether machinery has been the benefit it was’ intended to be to the people generally. The ability of the people to purchase is rapidly diminishing. What is the use of manufacturing or growing more if the people are unable to purchase it? You see on bakers’ carts the slogan, “ Buy more bread “. Others ask us to eat more butter or eat more rice. Such policies are all very fine when people have the money to buy these commodities, but it is useless to appeal to a man to buy more bread ©r eat more butter or more rice, when he has no money.
The great question throughout the world to-day is how the workers aro to be employed, thus restoring the market for the primary producer. Even if we could find employment for all hands to-day, I doubt if, in a few years, we should not again be in the position of not being able to compete with machines. I think that our best policy is to follow the lead of other countries, which are looking to the release of credits. Certainly we cannot hope to mend matters by a scrapping of machinery. We cannot possibly revert to the use of horses instead of tractors.
Let us see if there is any justification for the claims of members of the Country party that the primary producers are being exploited by the manufacturers because the latter are charging excessive prices for machinery.
Twenty or 30 years ago 30 men haymaking on one farm was quite a common sight. In those days, men were stooking threshing machines and chaffcutters were travelling about from farm to farm, and alongside every road could be found farriers and wheelwrights. Threshing machines, chaffcutters, farriers and wheelwrights have now disappeared. Harvesters and tractors work in the fields day and night. Horses have almost disappeared. The manual labour engaged in farming operations is today not 10 per cent, of what it was 30 years ago. I venture to say that people could grow sufficient for their own immediate requirements on a few acres, but where are they to find a market for any surplus? I was serious when I interjected whilst an honorable senator was talking about growing cabbages. I noticed in the press the other day that one market gardener received three 1-Jd. stamps for four tons of cabbages. The honorable senator said that brains were required even in the growing of cabbages. But if the cabbagegrower were obliged to visit all his neighbours for the purpose of trying to regulate the market supply, I am afraid he would have no time to grow his cabbages. The. real trouble is that very many people to-day cannot buy cabbages. They are obliged to look for a cheaper substitute.
An honorable senator complains that, as a result of our tariff, we have lost our market for rice. He forgets that if we secured the market to which he referred, others would lose it. The trouble is that there are not sufficient markets in the world to-day to go round. It is not so much a question of production; our chief difficulty is distribution. The Sydney Morning Herald, of this morning, contained the following: -
Nearly £00,000 in Erina Shire.
The Erina Shire Council has a tremendous sum outstanding in arrears of rates. The sum on the general fund alone exceeds £27,000 and on all accounts, the total is between £50,000 and £00,000. Recently the council offered for sale many blocks of land in F. Riding, to recover the rates owing on them, but, though a fair number were sold, the prices offered did not reach within 50 per cent, of the rates owing on the land.
The council has decided to give ratepayers a month to meet arrears, and, if payment is not made or satisfactory arrangements entered into, for settlement,’ legal action will be taken for the recovery of the amounts owing.
The people of that area evidently have not the money with which to pay their rates/ and as the value of their land is not equal to the amount of rates owing, how will the local council get over its difficulty? It cannot be overcome by reducing the cost of wages. The farmer will not improve his position by increasing the hours of labour.
– No ; he has to pay rates and taxes and the high cost of machinery. What effort is the Government making to reduce the value of land? Has it seriously considered the position? It seems to me’ that by its policy of forcing down wages and increasing the hours of labour it will place the whole country in the position of Erina Shire Council. It will make it impossible for the country to meet its obligations. The position of the State of New South Wales to-day is no different from that of Erina Shire Council. The Premier of the State says that he cannot pay. Of course he uses other arguments about placing women and children and workers before bondholders that do not enter into the question at all, hut the fact remains that the State of New South Wales cannot pay and the other States are in the same boat. They are unable to meet their obligations. The ratepayers in the Erina area will be obliged to make an arrangement with the council to prevent their land from being seized. The people of the States and of the Commonwealth will be obliged to follow their example.
It seems to me that the attitude of the present Commonwealth Government is not to make any serious attempt to overcome the difficulty of inflated land values, and excessive costs of production, but to bring about a reduction in wage3 and an increase of the hours of labour. It will seek to remove such “ artificial burdens “ on industry as workmen’s compensation. If effect is given to that policy, it will not be many years before we shall require a succession of Premiers plans, and the invalid and old-age pensioners will be fortunate if they get 10s. a week instead of the 17s. 6d. they are now receiving.
I recognize that it is necessary that we should live within our means. But if the bottom falls out of industry, the wage-earner will find it difficult to make arrangements to meet his liabilities. In the circumstances, no creditor would be unwilling to help a wage-earner out of a difficult position, and I feel that the Commonwealth must take up the same attitude towards the debtor States. In regard to the overseas creditors, I hope that something will be done to get us out of trouble in that direction. Personally, I cannot see how we can meet our obligations, because of the way the country is drifting. In the Governor-General’s Speech it is suggested that our only hope is a restoration of world prices. But I do not think that even that will get us out of our difficulties. Although it may restOre our trade balance, it will not help us to pay the interest instalments due overseas. At present we have to pay American bondholders, from £160 to £170 for every £100 we have borrowed. How are we to overcome that difficulty? Who can say that the rate of exchange will not go higher, making our position impossible? In any case the rate of exchange is a twoedged sword. It is very nice to have a high rate of exchange when we have exportable products to send overseas, but a high rate reacts on this country when it has to pay interest on money borrowed overseas. It is impossible for us to have a high rate when we are sending our products away and to reduce the rate when we are paying our debts. That is, therefore, another difficulty which I cannot see we can overcome very easily.
There is only one solution of the problem. The last Government would have applied it to relieve the position until the prosperous time referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech arrived - when the price of primary products increased. Its solution was the release of credits with the banks in control of inflation. I believe that a certain amount of inflation is necessary to enable industry to go on producing and giving employment. That is the only way to restore confidence. I agree with the Leader of the Government that until an industry can show a profit for the amount of money invested, it “will not move. If a man is anxious to acquire a home, will he not seize the opportunity to get. into a house for £1 a week instead of building one like it, the interest on the cost of which would exceed £1 a week? It is because of this that the building industry has become stagnant, and all trades connected with it. Until the working people are put back into employment, confidence will not be restored in the minds of those who have money to invest. It seems to me that the only hope for Australia is to put people back into profitable employment. We could not employ men at shifting sand as was done many years ago at Bondi, but there are many avenues in which workers can be profitably employed for the purpose of increasing production. Some declare that we must cheapen the means of production. We have a number of rivers that
Gould be locked. The Hume weir is little more than half built. It is likely to remain in that state for many years. Although millions of money have been spent in the construction of the dam, most of the water conserved is not being put to any useful purpose. If there is any possibility of finding markets for our produce we should spend money in irrigation, for the purpose of placing people on the land. Of course the eyes have been picked out of the lands of Australia, and it is idle to expect a man to live on five or six acres, keep a cow and grow a few cabbages, having regard to the high price which has been placed on the lands of Australia - “artificial value “ were the words used by the Leader of the Government - and the other artificial burdens that have been placed on primary production. Such values- are artificial if-the returns are insufficient to meet rates and taxes and other commitments. A policy of placing men on a few acres of land to produce vegetables, run a cow, and raise a few head of poultry will not assist this country out of the difficulties with which it is confronted. From an industrial viewpoint it would appear to be preferable to scrap all our modern machinery and revert to the methods employed in olden days of using wooden ploughs and harrows drawn by oxen. Tho extent to which we can afford to allow this country to drift must be considered. It has already been allowed to drift too far. Employment can be provided only by making money available to employers to pay men for the services they render.
The present policy of having so many railway gauges should receive immediate attention. We talk of the necessity to protect this country by spending money in training men for defence purposes. But if we are ever called upon to defend it we shall immediately be confronted with the difficulty of expeditiously transporting troops from one centre to another. lt is essential to have a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia if only for defence purpose. If we are sincere in this matter money should be spent in that direction. Such an undertaking would provide employment for thousands’ of men and when the money they received commenced to circulate we would begin to prosper. Work of that nature must be tackled by this Government or whatever government is going to pull the country out of the difficulties which it is in to-day.
The subject of communism has already been very effectively dealt with.
– The honorable senator should declare himself on that subject.
– I have no sympathy with any one who is not prepared to abide by the law, or who wishes to take away control from the properly constituted .authorities. This Government should take stock of the position and consider what is being done before its eyes by certain mushroom organizations. General election, results show that only a comparatively small number of persons support the communistic policy. Communist candidates’ contested many of the constituencies represented in another place, and one stood for the Senate. This Government will not do any more than a previous government did in frustrating the activities of Communists.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the number of Communists in Australia is increasing?
– If that is so, it is the duty of the Government and employers generally to remove the troubles on which communism thrives. That can be done by providing employment. While there is room for justifiable discontent there will always be some support for communist principles. There are many who do not desire to become rebels, but economic circumstances embitter them. I do not think that the number of Communists in Australia is increasing.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is apologizing for them.
– I am not. I say to the Government, “ go ahead with your policy, and deport them if necessary.” Only a few days ago a Minister said that while the Communists behave nothing need be done. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
[5.25]. - The Government desires to afford an opportunity to honorable senators and members of another place to say farewell to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), who leaves Canberra to-night to represent the Commonwealth at the Disarmament Conference. The Government invites those who wish to do so to adjourn to the smoking-room, and in order to meet the convenience of honorable senators, perhaps you, sir, will suspend the sitting until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from, 5.36 to 8 p.m.
– I am anxious that the Government should have an early opportunity to give effect to the promises made on its behalf to the electors during the recent campaign. No one will deny that it has received a mandate to go ahead with its policy to cure the economic ills from which the country is suffering, and to restore confidence. One of the promises made was that if the United Australia party were returned to power, the banks would release credits and assist the Government to find employment for the people. I feel sure that if the Government were called upon to face the people again in the course of a few months, it would once more be relegated to the
Opposition benches if this were not done. I also believe that the path which the Government intends to travel to reach its objective is not the path which the people expected it would take. They did not believe that the restoration of confidence means, as a preliminary, further cuts in wages, and further economies in the Public Service. Senator Payne, referring this afternoon to ‘the sales tax, complained of harassing conditions and suggested that it would be necessary to dismiss officers employed in that department. Almost in the same breath the honorable senator added that apparently not sufficient interest was taken in pensions administration to ensure efficiency and avoid imposition. I can assure him that it is not so easy as he suggests to obtain any kind, of pension. The administration in New’ South Wales, at all events, is not by any means inefficient; the claimant must establish his or her right to receive it. Are we to understand that, before confidence is restored, there is to be further retrenchment in the Public Service, and consequent lowering of the standard of living? Are the workers and those dependent upon them, including the landlord, expected to make further sacrifices ?
– Rents are down already from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent.
– In some cases the reduction has been greater even than that. But is it sound policy so to reduce the wage standard as to make it impossible for a tenant to pay his rent, thus forcing landlords to reduce rents in order that they might induce other tenants to occupy their properties, and so oblige other landlords to come down to the same level? Will not this policy make for more vacant homes and make it harder for landlords to pay their rates, thus rendering it more difficult for municipal councils to carry on without further retrenchment?
– Following the line of argument used by the honorable senator, it might be urged that higher wages mean more employment.
– Higher wages will mean the circulation of a greater amount of money for use in industry. Obviously, if the banks are to remain solvent, they must be in a position to lend deposit money at a higher rate than that paid to their depositors, and, as we all know, they must look to industry to provide that market for it.
We-have been told that. the Government intends to assist private enterprise. Government undertakings, I remind honorable senators, are not necessarily carried on for profit; they are intended to be carried on as social services for the benefit of the people. “Would the postal department, for example, maintain its wide range of services if it were expected to show a profit on every undertaking? How many people, in the more remote districts of Australia, would have the benefit of a mail service to-day if each service were expected to show a profit? And how many undertakings by the State railway departments would bc carried on if all were expected to be paying propositions?
– Those departments have been obliged to reduce their services because of the financial stringency.
– That is so. I have in mind a concrete example of the effect of this policy of retrenchment in industry on the railway revenue in my own State. In one family, some time ago, there were three girls, all employed by a Sydney business firm. As they lived in a distant suburb, their weekly train fares amounted to 18s. One of the girls’ was receiving 13s. a week, another 15s., and a third 18s. Because of the depression, the firm in question found it necessary to ration employment, and as the wages paid to those three girls was not sufficient to justify the payment of such fares they either had to leave their home, and take a room in Sydney, in which case the railway revenue would suffer, or leave their employment. They wore obliged to cease work, so in addition to the loss of railway revenue, amounting to 18s. a week, the community was the poorer through the total loss of their purchasing power. The money which they formerly had received in wages, has gone out df circulation. I fail to see how this Government will be able to assist industry if further retrenchment is contemplated.
– Most people are unable, even now, to buy many of the things which they want.
– Exactly; to remedy this state of affairs this- Government has promised to find employment and improve the conditions of the people. To this end, the Leader of the Government (Mr. Lyons) states that one of the first steps must be to remove some of the artificial burdens which have been laid on industry by the previous Government. My point is that the effect of any action which this Government can take in accordance with its policy, must first be felt by the workers; that, I submit, is not the right policy. I referred earlier in my remarks to the steps taken by a certain municipal council against ratepayers who were unable to meet their obligations. The right thing for all public and semi-public bodies to do is to make concessions wherever possible. Any other course is likely to make rogues of honest people, and possibly breed communism, which we all dread so much. When people are in employment we hear no complaints and no desire expressed to change the form of government. I am fully convinced that 95 p,er cent, of the people are quite willing to work if only they can get work to do.
– Is it not a fact that too many people are concentrated in our capital cities?
– Where can they go?
– On the land.
– If a city resident takes up land, what will he produce? Already there is too much rice, wheat and wool, and, according to Senator Payne, there is also too much sugar being produced.
– There would be markets for all products if the prices were right.
– What can be paid by a man who has no income, as is the case with so many hundreds of thousands of Australians to-day? I cannot follow that line of reasoning. What would be the use of cheapening commodities if the purchasing power of the people had been destroyed through a policy of public and private retrenchment? What then would be the use of money?
– The honorable senator would prefer the printing press.
– I will take as many fi notes as I oan get, because I am convinced they are just as valuable as sovereigns. Lately a number of people, including Dr. Maloney, a member of another place, have been advocating the minting of silver for currency purposes. There should be no need for that ; the fi note can serve the same purpose and is just as valuable.
– Then why are people getting 34s. in notes for a sovereign ?
– The exchange rate is responsible for the higher price in Great Britain and the United States of America.
This Government, in common with the governments of all countries, is facing a very difficult problem, and unless it can produce a policy to widen the field of employment, we shall continue to drift still further into danger. I believe that credits must be released if we are to get out of our difficulties.
– There must be an asset behind the credit.
– I agree with the honorable senator. His interjection reminds me that, before Canberra was built, the whole of the Federal Capital Territory was a stock run. The expenditure of capital and labour in the building of the city has given to it its present value.
– How much credit could the Government get on Canberra to-day?
– Possibly it could not get much, because there would be no inducement to private enterprise to purchase. Properties erected in this city Were not intended for profit. They were designed for the social services of the Commonwealth. After all, what constitutes “ value “ ? The Valuer-General places value upon a city property, and upon that assessment you pay taxes. If you try to raise money on the property, your bank ignores that valuation and sends along its own valuer, who invariably values it from 25 per cent to 30 per cent, lower than the assessment of the Valuer-General. Until it is developed the land upon which a lime kiln is to be erected is valueless; it will not sustain a flock of goats, and so, too, is undeveloped shale country. But employ labour and material, and an asset is brought into existence. The point is that until labour co-ordinates with natural resources, matters are at a standstill. So if it is reasonable to assume that a piece of land is converted into an asset by the collaboration of labour, what is wrong in suggesting that the Government should get on with its job? It is said that people do not require more houses. That is only because they cannot afford to buy them. It may be said with just as much reason that, because people cannot afford to buy food, they do not want any.
– Does not the honorable senator admit that Sydney and our other capitals are already over-built?
– No. In 1929 building was proceeding apace in Australia. The timber-worker, the bricklayer, and every other artisan connected with the industry was acquiring homes. While the banks assisted purchasers the demand for houses continued. As soon as they declined to make further advances, everything stagnated. Mortgages could not be lifted, and properties reverted to the “ spec “ builder. As a result, we have the anomalous position of houses in one locality being empty, while in other localities four and five families live in one small dwelling. Anybody who goes from Brighton-le-Sands to Shea’s Creek, Sydney, will see from 400 to 500 persons camped in bag humpies. Do honorable senators opposite seriously suggest that those people prefer to live under such conditions? .Obviously, they live there because they lack the money to provide better facilities.
– They had not to do that sort of thing before the New South Wales Labour Government came into power.
– That is a cheap gibe. Labour is not responsible for such a state of affairs. Labour Governments are not responsible for the 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 unemployed in the United States of America, and for the vast number of unemployed in Great Britain and elsewhere. Certainly blame cannot he attributed to the Scullin Government, than whom none worked harder and longer in “the interests of the people.
– I specifically referred to the Labour Government of New South Wales.
– When the Scullin Government assumed office, Australia’s income had decreased alarmingly, and the prices of our.products had fallen to hitherto unknown, depths. That was not the fault of the Government to which I had the honour to belong. The Scullin Government stated that it would honour its obligations. It did so. I regret that, before the present Government was in power 24 hours, it besmirched the fair name of the Commonwealth by failing to pay its indebtedness abroad. That is inexcusable. Recently I saw a cartoon in a Sydney newspaper depicting Mr. Lyons, the Prime Minister, firing a gun at the hare, and shooting the dog. The hunter was Mr. Lyons, who, in shooting at Mr. Lang, shot the Commonwealth.
– He shot the poor old bondholder!
– He and his Government shot the Commonwealth by destroying its good name in the eyes of the world. When the Scullin Government was faced with a similar position, it honoured its obligation, and then took the proper legal procedure against the Government of New South Wales.
– Promptly withdrawing the writ on the eve of the election.
– It was not influenced by the imminence of the election. That action was taken because the Lang Government gave a written undertaking to pay the amount.
– The Scullin Government merely encouraged Lang to continue his practices.
– The honorable senator knows that that is not so, but that my Government took the legal and honorable course. The position is, to use the words of Mr. Lang, that “ It is not a question of not wanting to pay, but of I can’t pay “. I am not troubling about Mr. Lang. He merely happens to be Premier of New South Wales at the moment. However, he and his Government were elected by the people, who have a perfect right to their opinion. Tho Scullin Government held the view that any contract into which it entered, as representatives of the people, should be honoured in the spirit and the letter, and that any parties to the agreement should adopt a similar attitude. There is a constitutional means to compel them to do so. It is most improper for this Government to introduce an act to legalize something that is illegal; to justify an unjust proceeding. New South Wales is not the only State that is in the unhappy position of being unable to meet its obligations. Why, then, should it be singled out for this treatment? It is not the Premier of that State Who will suffer, but the people of New South Wales and of the Commonwealth.
– The people are suffering as a result of Mr. Lang’s action.
– So, too, are the people of other States suffering because of the actions of their governments.
– No other States have defaulted.
– That is only be-, cause the Commonwealth has come to their aid, in the belief that they were trying to live up to the Premiers plan. It has harassed the Government of New South Wales in an endeavour to force it to carry out the terms of the Premiers agreement. Other States made applications to the Loan Council, similar to that submitted by Mr. Lang, and they received different treatment. It was not as if Mr. Lang said that he would not pay. He intimated that the New South Wales Treasury had a certain sum of money available, which was insufficient to meet its commitments abroad, and merely asked the Loan Council for the balance.
– At 24 hours’ notice.
– The Commonwealth was familiar with the circumstances. It knows that a similar position will occur in the near future. It is the responsible party, and it should see that the obligations are met as they fall due.
It is disappointing that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech should be so vague and devoid of constructive proposals. It i3 unfortunate, too, that this Government refuses to take the people into its confidence, as did the Scullin Government with the returned soldiers and others when salary reductions were contemplated. On this occasion the Ministry is to consider the matter, and take what ever action it deems right. That is not the proper course to pursue. I believe that if the public servants were told that they were to suffer further salary cuts, retrenchments, or were to be rationed, they would do their utmost to assist the Government if it placed the position frankly before them.
– Is the honorable senator trying to persuade us that he wants another election?
– I repeat, ‘if the Government went to the country tomorrow, it would probably find that the feeling of the people towards it has undergone a change since last December. In another six months the opposition to it may be more pronounced; and if it should live for a year or two, it will be lucky if it is again returned to power.
I am very disappointed at the nature of the Governor-General’s Speech. In view of the promises that were made to the electors, I thought that the Government might have had something up its sleeve. I am afraid, however, that I was mistaken. My contention all along has been that confidence can be restored only by making it possible for people to invest their money profitably. The reduction of wages and salaries, and the withdrawal of conditions for which the workers have fought for years, and which they have enjoyed for a comparatively brief space of time, will, I fear, only cause Australia to sink further into the mire.
– I take this opportunity of congratulating the members of the Government upon having attained to their present positions ; but I do not envy them the task with which they are confronted. So far as I can see, they will not tread a path of roses. No government that was charged with the administration of the affairs of Australia in times like those through which we are now passing would have many kind things said about it; therefore, it behoves us to -
Be to their virtues very kind;
Be to their faults a little blind.
This document which has been placed before us by the Governor-General purports to give some idea of the legislative enactments which the Go vernment proposes to place on the statute-book with a view to improving the condition of affairs in Australia. I think it was Dr. Johnson who said “ When things are at their very worst, get married, for any change is bound to be for the better “. I believe that the conditions are so bad in Australia to-day that any change which may take place is bound to be for the better. I hope so, at any rate. I believe that I speak for the other members of our little party in this chamber when I say that, so long as the Government is prepared to tread the path that we all believe will eventually lead Australia back to solvency, it will have our unqualified support. I am not in the least disturbed because the Cabinet portfolios are held by the members of only one party. I do not think that anybody envies them the task that is set them, nor that any member of the Country Party is at all anxious to share with them the responsibilities of office.
During the present debate extensive references have been made to the liabilities of the States, particularly one State. The whole of the States are in a bad financial position and, because of the invasion by the Commonwealth of almost every avenue of taxation, it is extremely difficult for them to provide the essential services that are demanded of them. But even should some of them fail to live up to what Ave expect of them, and what in happier circumstances they undoubtedly would undertake and carry through, if they make an honest effort in that direction, I do not think that they will be judged harshly by either the present or any future generation. When one particular State, however, will not do what is necessary to enable it to live within its means, but keeps on demanding further financial accommodation, action must be taken against it.
It appears to me that during the last twelve months the greater part of the time of the Commonwealth Parliament has been occupied in passing legislation that has been rendered necessary by the actions of the Government of New South Wales. Admittedly, Ave passed during the last Parliament an unconstitutional act in order to relieve people who were suffering as a result of the actions of that Government. The Premier of New South Wales, in his public utterances, claims that any serious effort to meet his just liabilities can be made only at the expense of starving women and babies. If there is any substance in that assertion, the inference is inescapable that the babies of every other State are starving; because the Governments of those States are making some effort to meet their obligations. I have been in the capital cities of four of the States quite recently, and can affirm that there is more apparent poverty and begging on the streets of Sydney than is to bo seen anywhere else in Australia. If there is any truth in the statement of the Premier of New South Wales that he is acting in the interests of his people, how is it that they are worse off than the people of any other State, despite the fact that New South Wales is admittedly richer in natural resources and productive capacity?
– That is merely sob stuff, and is used to delude the people.
– As Senator Thompson says, that is sob stuff, which is served up for public consumption, and to suit a purpose that this gentleman has in mind. That purpose has a far more sinister import than appears on the surface.
Several of the speakers who preceded me referred to the reduction of adjustable government expenditure. I believe it was Senator Elliott who said that that expenditure had increased by 120 per cent. It appears to me that no government can exercise very much control over what is known as adjustable expenditure. I have said previously, and I now repeat, that I do not consider that individually public servants receive too high a salary. But I am of the opinion that the services of the Australian Governments as a whole have grown out of all proportion to the needs of the community, and that there are far too many of them. Furthermore, they have become so firmly entrenched behind different enactments that they can defy any ministry to do, (anything to them. Honorable senators can recall the scandal that was unearthed at the Sydney General Post Office, in which it was disclosed that certain officers had telephones secretly connected with the premises of starting-price bookmakers. One of those involved did not wait for action to be taken against him but retired voluntarily; the others were either disrated or dismissed, but upon appealing to the Public Service Commissioner they were reinstated in opposition to the decision of the Minister concerned. That is the position into which we have drifted in Australia. Can it be wondered at that our expenditure is altogether beyond our means to cope with it? Some day this and similar matters will have to he tackled by a government that is prepared to commit political hari kari in the interests of the country. It might be an improvement on the present system if public servants were given separate representation in the Commonwealth Parliament. It is my impression that the influence which they bring to bear upon members is greater than their numbers entitle them to wield, and that it is not altogether in the interests of the country. If such action were taken, we should know exactly what to do and how to do it.
A good deal has been, said regarding unemployment, and the failure of the banks to provide a greater amount for its relief. If the banks had not to finance government overdrafts to such an enormous extent, they would be able to divert that money into business channels, thus making possible the provision of a larger volume of employment. In the light of the fact that they have to provide £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 to finance government overdrafts, no thinking person need look further to ascertain the reason for the ‘existence of so much unemployment, and their inability to finance industry to an extent that would be beneficial to Australia as a whole. We cannot have it both ways. If the governments spend money and are obliged to call upon the banks to finance their overdrafts, there is no money available for reproductive expenditure in private enterprise, and until money can be made available for that purpose, there is no help for the country.
No conference ever contemplated within the Empire is fraught with greater possibilities than the forthcoming Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa and it behoves the Government to send the very best possible delegation to represent Australia. We have come to a definite parting of the ways. If some system of reciprocal trade is not established within the Empire, I am very much afraid we shall be going backward very rapidly instead of going forward. The primary industries furnish the great bulk of the commodities exported from Australia to help to pay our interest bill overseas, and I think that it is vitally essential that a delegation representative of those great primary and exporting industries of Australia should be at Ottawa. No matter how well prepared the brief taken by the Government representatives may be, some question may arise quite unforeseen, requiring a consultation by the Government delegation with persons well versed in the industries concerned. I am credibly informed that Mr. McKay of the Sunshine Harvester Company has already made up his mind to be in Ottawa, so that he will be available to prompt the Government representatives
On any subject affecting the industries with which he is associated.
– That does not constitute Mr. McKay as an official representative of Australia. Any citizen can do what he proposes to do.
– I do not say that Mr. McKay is going to Ottawa as part of the Government delegation, but tie will certainly be there, and I think that the great primary industries which have organized for export trade would be -well advised to follow his example. At any rate, the Government delegates would be well advised to keep in touch with any delegation sent by those industries to get advice at a moment’s notice.
I do not blame any government, past or present, for the increase in governmental expenditure in Australia. Every member of Parliament is equally responsible for that increase. I happen to know that many a member after having publicly criticized a government for its extravagance may be found next morning at the door of a Minister asking for a little expenditure in his constituency. What happens on the Minister’s door-mat does not get into Hansard, but a public utterance denouncing the Government for wilful extravagance does, and the member concerned will throw out his chest like a pouter pigeon and say, “ This is what I said, but the Government would not take notice of it.” Behind each member is the elector. I have heard State electors say, “What has our blighter done? He has got us nothing, whereas so and so has got a road or a railway for his electors. We will not put this man of ours back again “. So, after all is said and done, the fault goes right back to the elector. Tho people have the mistaken idea that each government has some magic fund from which it draws supply. They do not pause to think that the money actually comes out of their own pockets; that the Government has no money of its own and only has the power to take a certain amount out of their pockets. John Brown, who pays £5 a year towards the cost of government, does not realize that when he gets £150 spent by the Government for his benefit, it is at the expense of his neighbours. It is useless for us to blackguard a government for increasing expenditure, when each has helped to contribute towards that result, or has become greatly annoyed at failing to have money spent.
I want to mention briefly the effect of one of the recent economies. Maternity allowance is not paid where the breadwinner is in receipt of £260 a year or over, and it has come to my knowledge that farmers who have sold £260 worth of wheat in the year are classed, for this purpose, as having earned an income of £260 a year. Everyone knows that not half of the £260 is income, the balance having been spent to earn the income before actually receiving any. As a matter of fact, in some cases there may be no income at all from the sale of £260 worth of wheat. It does not cost the man in receipt of a salary of £260 anything to earn it; he does not have to pay out £100 before lie can receive £260.
– The farmer has often to pay out £400 in order to produce £260 worth of wheat.
– Yes, it frequently happens that a man has to pay out more than he receives. ,
– The income of a man with a salary of £260 cannot be regarded as profit; he has to live out of that amount. .
– The farmer has also to live out of his £260, hut the point is that he has to put out that money before he can even start to earn. He has to spend money for equipment, seed wheat, fertilizers and other things before he can hope to earn anything.
The last tariff was described by a critic in another place as a tariff of abominations. The present Government’s proposal suggests that it is not now nearly so abominable as it appeared to be; that it looted very bad at a distance, but has apparently improved on closer acquaintance. I wish to qualify what I have said about supporting the Government by stating that I hold myself free to use every influence and vote I have, to secure reductions of duties. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech says that changes in the tariff should be made with caution and only after full inquiry and consideration. I agree that the Tariff Board should inquire into and report on all items before any alteration is made by the Government. But in my opinion, the Tariff Board, as now constituted, is not sufficiently clothed with power to deal with the tariff. We have all heard that tariffs should not be bandied about for party political purposes, but with a tariff board simply taking evidence and making recommendations to the Government, which may refuse to act upon those recommendations, it is impossible to avoid making the tariff anything but a party question. I think that the powers of the board should be enlarged ; that the board should be constituted very much on the original conception of the Interstate Commission, for which provision is made in the Constitution.
– Hear, hear!
– The Tariff Board should have power to make alterations in the tariff after full inquiry, and should submit a report to Parliament.
– And each State should be represented on the Board.
– I am - only throwing out a crude idea of what I think should be done, but I do not think we shall get anything! reasonable out of our tariff unless something is done on the lines I have suggested.
It would certainly relieve the Minister of the odium that sometimes falls upon him. People say “ There are big changes in the tariff; it will be of immense benefit to some people. Of course, the Minister- “. They leave the sentence unfinished with a shrug of the shoulders, but the innuendo is there all the same. If my suggestion were carriedout the Minister would simply administer the act after the duties were fixed by a responsible board.
When we were before the electors in Western Australia, we made no promises except to do the best we could for the country in the very difficult circumstances which exist to-day. We did not promise the electors that we should find work for thousands of people, that coal-miners would be back at work within a fortnight. We simply said that if the party to which we belonged were returned to power, it Would not have an easy time; it would not say what it could or would do, but it would do the very best it could in the difficult circumstances of the country and the people would have to take it on trust. I cannot answer for those in other States who may have made promises to the electors. Those who sought re-election in Western Australia persuaded the people of that State to accept their word, and to realize the seriousness of the position. I told the electors present at the declaration of the Senate poll in Western Australia that they were not to think that the millennium was at hand, but that Australia, having taken a considerable time to reach its present unfortunate position, would necessarily take a very long time to recover financial stability. We shall never get out of our present difficulties unless we resolutely face the position confronting us and endeavour to live within our means. It is easy for some persons to say that employment should be found for our people. That is quite right ; work should be found for men if we have the means with which to pay them. No one would be more pleased than I if work could be found for those unfortunate men and women who are at present out of employment. But if we have not the means with which to pay we should not turn around1 and blackguard others because they do. not lend us the money to make good fellows of ourselves. Such a policy is entirely wrong. It is far tetter to stand up and honestly say that we have not the money to accomplish more than we are at present doing.
When a general election was held in New South Wales about sixteen months ago, the leader of the party then in power honestly told the people that the State was in for a bad time. He said that the Government then in office could not promise them anything, and that they would have to tighten up their belts and live within their means. That Government was defeated. A great deal has been said concerning Mr. Lang, the Premier of New South’ Wales, but I should like to say something concerning the people of that State. By their votes no fewer than 750,000 persons said that they would not live within their means. In effect, they told the then Premier to get out, and they would find some one else to do what they required. The promises made by the gentleman who is now Premier could not possibly be honoured, and that must have been clear to every sane man and woman in New South Wales. A similar position would arise in the Commonwealth if this Government said that it would find employment for every one. Every one must realize that the promises made by Mr. Lang were worthless, and incapable of fulfilment. Our only hope is to live more frugally and more naturally than we have been doing for some time past. There is no doubt that some years ago the people of Australia, from the highest to the lowest, embarked upon a method of living which was not natural, and which was wholly unjustified. The young people in homes of all classes now require what was never dreamed of when we were children. If we received ls. to spend on the day in which the annual agricultural show was held we thought that we were fortunate; but to-day many children receive more than that amount every week, and sometimes twice a week to enable them to attend picture shows. The people will have to get accustomed to doing without luxuries, and to more fingal living. Progress can be made only by living soberly and frugally; if we do that we will be assisting to help ourselves.
I give the Labour Government credit for some acts which would have been creditable to any government, and which were beneficial to the credit of Australia. What happened immediately proper action was taken by the Government? It received approval from all parts of the world. If we show that we are anxious to help “ourselves, we shall soon be assisted to overcome some of the difficulties which now surround us. If we show the world that we are willing to do our best to help ourselves, I am certain that we shall get help and time in which to do it. But no one will give us time if ‘we say: “I owe you £500,000, and you can whistle for your money.” Quite recently I saw a cartoon depicting all the State Premiers, with one exception, bearing on I.O.U. placard. The exception bore the inscription, “I owe everybody”. If we do as I have suggested, I shall look forward with great hopes to the return of this Government, when it has to face the electors three years hence. Even if it has not accomplished all that the most sanguine would hope for, it will have placed Australia in a much better position than it is in to-day.
, - I join with Senator Carroll in congratulating both the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I also congratulate the members of the Ministry in this chamber who have been selected to fill the important positions they hold. Whatever our political opinions may be we know that under the present party system »f government Ministers have to be selected, and had I to select Ministerial representation in this chamber from honorable senators opposite, I feel certain that they would be the three who now occupy the ministerial bench. I have worked with them, and I can assure them that in opposition I -shall, whenever practicable, give them my support.
– Should we not have had another Minister in the Senate?
– I think so. I remember the protest made in tha Senate when Senator Barnes and t entered this chamber as honorary Ministers, and because of that were described by my esteemed friend,
-baked Ministers. This Government has seen fit to appoint only one Minister with a portfolio and two honorary ministers. Personally, I should have liked the appointment of a fourth Minister. So long as I am in opposition the members of the Government will receive from me the same loyal support as Senator Pearce, Senator McLachlan, and Senator Greene rendered to me when I occupied the treasury bench.
I agree also with Senator Carroll’s contention that this is not the time for carping criticism. There was a time early in the history of the previous Government when we did not realize to the full the difficulties to be overcome, and when notwithstanding party political influence and prejudice, we were not prepared to sober down to the extent that we should. But every day is bringing us nearer to a realization of the fact that our problems must be solved by the united effort of all parties. I am not suggesting that we should coalesce. We differ, of course, in matters of policy, and a healthy Opposition is good for the government of a country. But the Government need have no fear so far as the Opposition in the Senate is concerned, that the criticism offered will be other than constructive.
– Would the honorable senator suggest the appointment of an unofficial leader of the Senate!
– We have sufficient leaders at present; what we need is more workers. We have to get down to work. The members of the Opposition will have to watch the legislation introduced, and honour the sacred trust reposed in them by the electors. I feel confident that any legislation introduced by this Government during the present session will receive full and fair criticism from the Opposition.
– What of the Premiers plan?
– The Premiers plan constitutes an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. I have never stood for repudiation. I intend to stand by those prepared to honour any solemn compact. The code of honour that is expected of individuals should be observed by the nation. A compact was entered into by the plenipotentiaries sent to the conferences by the various Parliaments, and that compact should be observed. So long as I am a member of this Parliament I intend to support that compact, regardless of the consequences.
I would, however, remind the Government that there is one note, which, on the face of it, seems to be discordant, and may destroy what I feel confident a majority of honorable senators are anxious to bring about, and that is a proper understanding of the proposals brought before us. The policy of the Labour party provides for one sovereign Parliament. But that policy is to be introduced by a front door and not by a back door method. I am afraid that one administrative act to which I shall refer, and other legislative acts which are foreshadowed, are calculated to strike a blow at the States as they exist under federation. Out of the six States which entered into the compact the Australian Commonwealth was created. This Parliament has to recognize that the States have certain rights which must be preserved. Take a case in point. What happened in South Australia in connexion with the waterside workers? Every one with any knowledge of the law knows that the Transport Workers Act strained the trade and commerce powers of the Commonwealth almost to breaking point. If the regulations issued by the Commonwealth are intra vires of the Constitution they are just within it; they are almost on the borderline. The Government of South Australia entrusted by the people of that State with power to preserve and maintain order, saw week by week the possibility of insurrection and rioting. Acting upon the information contained in police and other reports the Government proclaimed certain regulations to govern work on the waterfront in South Australia. These regulations did not affect employment on the waterfront in Melbourne or Sydney, but only those engaged on the waterfront at Port Adelaide. They were in accord with the wishes of the trading people of Port Adelaide, and also of those who worked on the wharfs. They were introduced for the purpose of protecting South Australian citizens. Merely to show that no State is entitled to come into conflict with a federal law, a Commonwealth regulation was immediately promulgated, which nullified the effect of the regulations introduced by the State Government. I submit that that was an. unwarranted interference with the affairs of that sovereign State. The Commonwealth would not have been harassed had it allowed the State regulations to remain in force. The Premier of that State, who had these regulations proclaimed in all good faith for the purpose I have mentioned, was suddenly met with a demand from the Commonwealth that the State regulations should be withdrawn. New Commonwealth regulations were issued, and the waterfront in South Australia revested to the state of chaos that prevailed prior to the State regulations being brought into force.
Having disposed of that matter, I turn now to certain legislation forshadowed in the Speech. In this connexion I urge the Government to recognize its duty to enact federal legislation under a federal, and not a unified system. It is of no use to ask the co-operation and assistance of the Opposition to right a position, due to the breaking of some sacred principle of British law by the Premier or Parliament of a State by the enactment of an equally obnoxious piece of legislation. The Government should not ask this Parliament to arrogate to itself the right to decide any question between the States and the Commonwealth, because that is absolutely repugnant to the whole system of federation. If the Commonwealth enters into a contract with a State, and if the Commonwealth commits, or is alleged to have committed a breach of its agreement, can it be held to be a fair exercise of Commonwealth authority to insist that this Parliament shall be the final arbiter, thus destroying the right, which has been inherent in the States since the establishment of federation, to approach the High Court? For this reason I appeal to the Government to, adhere strictly in all its legislation to the principles so strongly emphasized last year by Senator Sir Hal. Colebatch, when this chamber was dealing with taxation proposals introduced by the previous
Government. Honorable senators will’ recall that the Ministry was told by this chamber in no uncertain language that the people of Australia had invested the High Court with certain jurisdiction, and that they desired ‘ that all citizens should have the right to approach the High Court in any circumstances. Because of that principle, the Government, of which I was a member, was forced to accept amendments inserted by this chamber. We were then told that the Senate was a States’ House ; that one of its functions was to protect the interests of the States. I now appeal to the Government to reaffirm that principle in all its legislation, because I believe that the Senate will fight strenuously to protect the rights of the States.
Senator Brennan made reference to the appointment, by the previous Government, of an Australian as Governor- General. This, I admit, is a very delicate subject to discuss, and, because of that fact, I was pleased at the honorable senator’s references to the present occupant of that high and honorable office. But I do not share his fears as to possible action by any future government. Honorable senators will appreciate at its full value the fact that the King’s representative in the office of Governor of any of his Majesty’s dominions is the King’s own appointee. That is to say, His Majesty makes such appointments following advice tendered to him by his advisers. Until the recent appointment to the office of GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth, it was the practice of the British cabinet to advise His Majesty with reference to all such appointments. Prior to the war men distinguished in British politics or some arm of the Service were rewarded by His Majesty by receiving appointments to these coveted positions. More often than not the persons appointed were drawn from the ranks of politicians in Great Britain. Because of this fact no one suggests that the British cabinet, in tendering its advice to His Majesty, made political appointments. But it cannot be contended that political honourin the Mother Country is on a higher level than in Australia, or that an> Australian cabinet is not as punctilious- in advising His Majesty whom to> appoint. I sincerely trust that, whatever government may .be in power in the Commonwealth, no man will be debarred from occupying the high and honorable position of Governor-General simply because he happens to be an Australian. X do not, for a moment, contend that His Majesty’s discretion should be in any way limited, but I do say that we should not discourage His Majesty from taking into consideration an Australian if the position is open to him. I have no fears for the future as the result of the change made by the previous Government, because there are in this country many Sir Isaac Isaacs capable of discharging the functions of that high and honorable office.
– But is there not some danger of partisan appointments in the future?
– There is always that danger, but my experience of politics, limited though it may be, confirms me in the belief that the vast majority of men in the public life of Australia are actuated by a high sense of honour, and would not expose His Majesty to any indignity in. connection with such an appointment. It is true that some crank could, by a chance turn of the whee of fortune, obtain the reins of office, and might make a ridiculous appointment, but I do not think that there is any real danger of a partisan selection in the sense implied by Senator Duncan-Hughes. Many appointees of the British Government came from the ranks of British politicians.
– But in the office of Governor-General they were officiating outside their political environment.
– That is so. Accordingly there would only be danger of partisan appointments being made if the office of Governor-General were regarded as “ spoils to the- victors “, and that is most unlikely.
– There might be some thought of future benefits.
– There would be the same temptation in England as in Australia. While I believe that His Majesty’s discretion.should not be limited, I feel- that we should not do anything to lead the people of the world to suppose that to be an Australian is a disqualification for appointment to the office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth.
I pass now to the Speech itself. Reference is made in the first paragraph to the fundamental problems of finance and unemployment, with which this Parliament has to deal. We are specifically told that “ it is to the solution of these two fundamental problems that you will be asked to direct your energies largely during the coming months “. The word “you” in the sentence referred to means the “ gentlemen of the Senate and gentlemen of the House of Representatives “. I emphasize this point, because the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), so I understood, suggested in his speech and Senator Payne, in his remarks certainly expressed the hope, that Parliament would rise quickly and go into recess for many months so as to enable the Government to confine its attention to administration. I am entitled to assume that the Governor-General was addressing his remarks, not only to members of the Ministry and their supporters, but to honorable gentlemen- ‘on this side also; that he believed that Parliament would resume after the Easter vacation and sit for some considerable time to deal with the fundamental problems referred to. Personally, I believe there is need for definite legislative action. If we are to institute the reforms mentioned during the election campaign, to restore confidence and rehabilitate industry, Parliament should remain in session. How can our collective energies be directed to these problems if “ gentlemen of the Senate and gentlemen of the House of Representatives “ are not asked to continue with the work? How can there be collective responsibility if, for example, Senators Duncan-Hughes, O’Halloran, Hoare and myself return to South Australia for the Easter vacation and remain there for some months, leaving only Senator McLachlan as the sole representative of South Australia in Canberra? If we are to apply our collective energies to the solution of these problems, we ought to be here.
I believe, with Senator Dooley, that the Scullin Government was removed from office on the distinct promise that the present administration would be able to restore confidence and widen the field of employment. Since Senator Carroll is not a member of the Ministerial party, he is not bound by any promise made on its behalf, but other honorable senators supporting the Government are so bound. If I and other honorable senators on this side were supporters of a government on whose behalf such promises were made, what would be our feelings if, after a few weeks’ parliamentary work which did not solve the problems, we returned to our State and were confronted with the election posters on the hoardings depicting thousands of men, headed by the present Prime Minister, being led back to their jobs? The few odd jobs which we, as private citizens, might be able to make available in our gardens, would not be much of a contribution to the promised rehabilitation of industry. The workless were told plainly that a change of Government would mean a restoration of confidence, that it would induce the banks to release frozen credits, and lead to a stimulation of industry and more employment. . No one can deny that the previous Government was doing its best to this end, but, following the election, we .were token from the job. A new set of workmen ha3 been installed, but, as far as we can ascertain, all they propose to dp is to close the workshop. This is not the way to solve fundamental problems mentioned in the Speech.
During our term of office we did our best, and made considerable headway, but the impatience of the people, and misrepresentation by our political opponents, destroyed us. The present Ministry is not called upon to correct an adverse trade balance or to put through a big conversion loan. All that is required of it is to produce the formula for the restoration of confidence. Consequently Parliament should be kept in session until a complete policy has been evolved. “We understand that this is not the intention. “We are told that Parliament will rise before long, and it may not resume until September, in order to - pass a Supply Bill. “Who is going to keep these men during the cold winter months? “We shall not have, an opportunity to do anything. I submit that it will be a gross betrayal of the promises that were made, not only to the men who are out of work, but also to those who are in work, that if the Scullin Government was removed from the treasury bench, and the great United Australia party was placed in charge of the affairs of the country, it would be a matter of only a few weeks before the position was set right. If my party desired to obtain political advantage, we should encourage the Government to go into recess, because the longer it was in recess, the less it could do in furtherance of its many specious promises, and the better would be the chances of my party being returned when next we went to the poll.
– Cannot the Executive do something, without the aid of Parliament ?
– It can; but why did His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, in the early part of his Speech, say, “ It is to the solution of these fundamental problems that you will be asked to direct your energies largely during the coming months “ ? In that fashion the Government, in order to complete its windowdressing - and that is a charitable term - having the people here assembled on the occasion of the opening of this Parliament, carried to a conclusion the piece of superb bluff by which it won the election. Neither the mover nor the seconder of the Address-in-Reply suggested for a moment that those problems should be solved other than by the collective energies of the Parliament. Certainly no reference was made to their being confined to the Executive. Immediately His Excellency and the people left the chamber it was indicated that we shall not have a long session; we shall have a long holiday. I am not content with that. I believe that while there are people starving in Australia this Government needs the assistance of the Country party, not one representative of which is in the Cabinet, and of the Labour party, not one member of which is in the Cabinet. Unless it re;ceives that combined assistance, I fail to see why it desired to remove the Scullin Government from the treasury bench. “When this Government was elected, a statement was made by the Leader of the
Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to the effect that he had been kept out of the Cabinet by the representations of the Melbourne Herald. If that is true, it is an abrogation of every known principle of British parliamentary practice.
– Does the honorable senator believe it?
– The honorable senator had better ask that question of a member of the Country party, as I have not had sufficient experience of Dr. Earle Page to pass judgment. The fact remains that the statement has not been denied. I am loth to think that any newspaper in Australia has exercised undue influence in connexion with the selection of the Ministry. In fairness to the Melbourne Herald, I may say that I believe that Dr. Earle Page was misinformed. Nevertheless, he made the statement.Were I in another place, I should take steps to see that he either proved or withdrew the allegation. It is of no use the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) chuckling over my remark. A statement of that description, made by the leader of an accredited party, tends to undermine that confidence in our parliamentary institutions which is so essential to their proper functioning. It is different when the allegation emanates from the rank and file, but it is of serious moment for a leader of a party to allege that politics in Australia have sunken to such a depth of corruption that a section of the press can dictate to the man chosen by the people to select his Ministers, whom he shall choose, and what portfolios they shall fill. I am not sure that Dr. Earle Page has seen the statement; but I hope that members of his party will draw his attention to it.
– Did not Mr. David Syme, as proprietor of the Age, exercise considerable influence on the selection of Ministers in Victoria, 40 years ago?
– Possibly; but Senator Duncan-Hughes must admit that every responsible authority will agree that no outside influence should be brought to bear on suchoccasions. The people select the members that they desire to represent them, and those members themselves, on behalf of the people, should dictate in what manner the Government shall be chosen. Senator DuncanHughes will agree that if a newspaper obtained such a grip over a man or men as would enable it to dictate the choice of a Ministry, it would be in no way different from a person with sufficient cash buying the necessary votes to place him in power. I have a high regard for all of our legal institutions, and I take strong exception to such a statement being broadcast. If it is true, the practice should be stopped. If it is not, we should say, in no uncertain language, that our leaders must be more careful and refrain from making statements which may bring discredit upon our parliamentary institutions.
I come now to the tariff. I am certainly not much afraid of any drastic changes in it although, prior to the election, I entertained certain fears as to what would happen. I think that those fears were shared by the manufacturers. Despite the fact that, since the election, the manufacturers have tendered dinners to members of the new administration there was no more resentful section of the community than they on the night when the Scullin Government was defeated in another place.
– Because the manufacturers were afraid of what was going to happen to the tariff. However, I have no doubt that undertakings were given which will be carried out. I do not anticipate any lengthy discussion on the tariff or any radical change in it. We shall probably cut 5 per cent. off pepper, salt and sago, but there will be no alteration in connexion with sugar, galvanized iron, wire netting, motor bodies or agricultural machinery. As a matter of fact, the tariff policy of this Government will be as near to that of the Scullin Government as is its general policy to that of its predecessor in office.
– The Scullin Government had no policy with regard to the tariff. It simply did not draft its own schedule.
– Then I do not know who did.
– The manufacturers wrote their own tickets.
– That is a nice statement to emanate from a member of the Country party. The manufacturers must have a remarkable influence over both political parties, because to-day they are not writing their own tickets; they are issuing them.
– Yet the honorable senator said that the manufacturers were very disappointed when the Scullin Government was defeated.
– They were. They could not have felt other than uneasy when they read of the progress of the tariff schedule in this chamber, where one day the Government won by one vote and the next day it lost. I am only sorry that the Beasley group did not postpone its action for another week, for the manufacturers would never have recognized the tariff had the Senate got its teeth properly into it.
– Does the honorable senator think that we shall again vote in the same way?
– Of course I do.. Did not Senator. Johnston hear the apologetic speech that was made by Senator Payne when he discussed the tariff. He is not seeking any vital alteration. Why, when the Scullin Government was in power, he desired to bring about prohibition by making available cheaper beer. The effect of his speech on the AddressinReply is “ I recognize the difficulties that confront this Government. Some of them are insuperable. I recognize, too, that some action must be taken with regard to the tariff. I shall give any assistance I can, in the hope that only one or two little items may be altered- “
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Daly is misrepresenting me and I ask that his statement should be withdrawn.
– To what words does the honorable senator object?
– To the allegation that I hoped the Government would go slow in regard to the tariff and that I did not recommend any action in connexion with it. Senator Daly is aware that the tariff will have to be materially altered in a number of instances.
– In fairness to Senator Payne, I admit that he did say that the tariff would have to be materially reduced, but he left the impression in my mind that he would like to add to the words “ must be materially reduced “ the provision “ after this Government vacates the treasury bench.”
– That is not so.
– I. assure the honorable senator that he can go back to his constituents confident in the knowledge that there will be no vital alteration in the tariff.
– The honorable senator is impugning the honour of this Administration.
– I am not. In effect, I am quoting the Governor-General’s Speech, which reads -
Subject to certain alterations which will be proposed, steps will be taken to ensure the continuance of the tariff schedules now in force, pending inquiry by the Tariff Board into a number of important items in the schedules.
Honorable senators know that if the Tariff Board had to inquire into the whole of the items concerning which no report has yet been furnished, and the Government remained in office- for the full term of three years, it3 term would have expired long before the inquiry was completed. If honorable senators opposite were consistent, they would favour the existing tariff schedules being dealt with by the Senate.
There is a good deal to be said for the contention of Senator Colebatch that no government should be allowed to hold up schedules to the extent that they were held up by the last Government, and even the Bruce-Page Government. “ I am strongly of the opinion that the people never intended to render such action possible. My point, however, is that the Country party can rest assured that in connexion with tariff reform it will obtain from this Government no more than it expected to receive from the last Government. The Government knows full well that if the existing schedules were dealt with by the Senate before July next, there is a fairly solid band of senators sitting on this side of the chamber who would vote for every item in them, and that there is a sufficient number of our opponents in favour of them to see that no alteration was made in them. Before long the Country party will awaken to a realization of the fact that it is immaterial whether the Labour party or the Nationalist party is in power, and that their only hope was the holding of the Customs portfolio by Dr. Earle Page. But even if that gentleman had been appointed Minister for Customs and had brought down n schedule containing vital alterations, those alterations would not have been allowed by this chamber. The attitude of the Country party towards the tariff is the most inconsistent that any party could adopt. It is easy to understand the attitude of the Labour party, and not difficult to understand that of the Nationalist party, but the Country party does not want an embargo imposed even, on the importation of sugar, despite the fact that that is n primary product.
Legislation providing that companies carrying on the business of insurance in the Commonwealth shall lodge securities with the Government in order to safeguard the interests of policy-holders on a uniform basis throughout Australia, may take away from the States certain rights that they enjoy to-day, but will not have the effect of putting any men in work, and I cannot see the urgency of it. Where, too, is the urgency of the proposed measure to amend the law relating to unlawful associations? The .Communists do not emerge from their burrrows until the Labour party conies into power, or an election is being held. There is no need to worry about any unlawful association at the present time; that is a matter which might well be allowed to remain in abeyance until just prior to the next elections. I should like to know, also, the reason for regarding rs urgent the passing of legislation to. control wireless broadcasting. How will that restore confidence?
Reference is made in the Speech to the railway services of Australia, and there is a suggestion that some co-ordination is to be effected. I suppose that the unification of railway gauges is one of the proposals. The Government would be welladvised to read the report of Mr. George Gahan, the Commonwealth Railway Commissioner. There is no need to set up an independent commission, because his report furnishes sufficient guidance in the matter. A ministerial statement has been made in another place to the effect that the Government cannot secure any money with., which to carry on public works. Why decide on thu unification of gauges to provide cheap transport facilities if confidence cannot be restored sufficiently to enable us to obtain the necessary financial accommodation.
I agree entirely with Senator O’Halloran’s contention concerning the two Parliamentary Standing Committees that it is proposed not to reappoint. The Government is acting foolishly in bringing down measures providing for the abolition of these bodies. “While they are in existence, there is a reasonable chance of the States having some say, and of the men who are appointed to them becoming experts in the particular class of work in which they engage. Last year the Senate decided to set up a Standing Committee to make a careful study of regulations that were tabled, because it waa felt that regulations might become law in opposition to the wish of a majority of the Senate as a result of honorable senators not having either the time or the inclination to consider their probable effects. The Public Works Committee and the Committee of Public Accounts consisted of the cream of the different political parties, and doubtless saved this country thousands of pounds. Now it is contended that when the necessity arises a special committee or commission shall be appointed to inquire into any proposed work. That, I submit, is an inefficient method. A better plan would he to allow the existing committees to function.
There is not one line in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which gives a ray of hope to the hig army of workless men and women. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that governments - qua governments - can do very much to alleviate unemployment. Private enterprise is the only means by which the unemployed can be absorbed. But I am convinced that we have by no means reached the final stage of development in the Commonwealth. I know of a good deal of profitable work that could be done; not the building of North Shore bridges, underground railways, or work of that description, but projects which will increase the productivity of the nation,’ or its absorptive capacity in relation to its population. Tho Government cannot afford not to have the very best brains of all political parties applied to the solution of our problems. It is not sufficient merely for Parliament to meet and pass a few pious resolutions, leaving it to the” Government to do what it thinks best in the direction of providing employment. There cannot be that co-operation between political parties which, in my opinion, is essential, if we arc to make any progress towards the solution of our problems. The Labour party did its best, but did not obtain satisfactory results. It hoped and expected that the conditions would before long show an appreciable improvement; but before that state was reached, it went out of office. Although the crisis is still with us, the present Government is in a more fortunate position than was the last Government when it came into power. Co-operation was then urged by the arty which now sits on the ministerial bench. If it were necessary then, it is doubly necessary to-day; and it cannot be obtained if we scatter to the four quarters of Australia, leaving it to the Government to perform administratively work that should be carried out in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLachlan) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 0.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 February 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320224_senate_13_133/>.