13th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented . -
Dried FruitsExport Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules1932, No.17.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended- StatutoryRules 1932, No. 18.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Home Affairs has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1, 2, and 3. The conference considered that the number of observatories should be reduced from five to two, and that a committee should be appointed to advise as to the location of the two national observatories, the disposal of equipment, and associated questions. No decisionhas yet been arrived at as to the observatories to be retained, and no information can, therefore, be given as to the effect of the arrangements on the Commonwealth Solar Observatory at Mount Stromlo.
Senator O’HALLORAN (through
– The answers to the honorable senators questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the fol lowing answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government set aside the sum of £20,000 for the purpose of assisting the Lyon Brothers, of Newcastle, in their research work of producing oil from coal; if not, why not?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Messrs. Lyon Brothers’ proposals were investigated fully by Dr. A. C. D. Rivett, Chief Executive Officer, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, whohas a wide knowledge of matters relating to the production of oil from coal, and Dr. Rivett reported that there weretoo many unknown and undetermined factors to permit of the drawing of any definite conclusion in favour of the economic feasibility of the establishment of Messrs. Lyon Brothers’ process on a large scale. In view of this report, it is not proposed to give consideration to the question of providing financial assistance as suggested.
Dismissals During Term of Scullin Government
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many employees, both male and female, were dismissed from the Federal Public Service during the term of the Scullin Government, and what are the totals in each State?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
I shall look into the honorable senator’s question with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to obtain and furnish the desired particulars without incurring undue’ expense.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government see its way to set aside the sum of £500,000 for general Easter relief work throughout Australia, on the same lines as Christmas relief work; if not, why not?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
It is regretted that, in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth, it is not possible to comply with this request.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. I have not seen the balance-sheet of the Albany mills, referred to by the honorable senator, but I will have inquiries made and furnish the honorable senator with a reply at an early date.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the consideration, in committee of the whole, of the report of the Standing Orders Committee, presented to the Senate on the 24thJuly, 1931, be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
In committee: (Consideration resumed from the 25th February, vide page 268).
Reconsideration of clause 10.
A person carrying on insurance business (other than life insurance business) at the commencement of this act shall, within six months after such commencement, deposit with the Treasurer money or approved securities to the value of five thousand pounds in respect of each ten thousand pounds or part thereof of his annual premium income, but so that the deposit required under this section shall not exceed in any case forty thousand pounds.
– I move -
That the words “ five thousand pounds in respect of each ten ‘thousand pounds or part thereof “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ one thousand pounds in respect of each two thousand pounds “.
This amendment is inserted to meet representations made yesterday afternoon that the deposit of the larger sum might prove unduly harsh upon a number of small companies that were being established.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) proposed -
That the reportbe adopted.
Amendment (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the bill he recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clauses 3,6 and 12, and for the insertion of a new clause, 22a.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 - (1.) In this act unless the contrary intention appears - “ Approved securities “ means -
– I move -
That after the word “ two-thirds “, paragraph (f) in the definition of “Approved Securities,” the following words be inserted: - “ or such other proportion as the Treasurer determines “.
Yesterday afternoon SenatorDuncanHughes pointed out that, owing to the fall in land values, securities of that nature transferred to the Commonwealth as deposits might not meet the requirements of the law. I have consulted with the draftsmen, and the amendment now submitted is designed to meet any difficulty that might arise.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Commonwealth on account of one insurer or society of insurers, thu business carried on in the Commonwealth by the persons so acting shall, for the purposes of this act, if the Treasurer so directs, be regarded as business carried on by one person, and the amount of any deposit required to be made under this act shall be calculated accordingly.
– I move-
That the word “one”, sub-clause 2, line 5, be loft out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the letter “a”.
I submit this amendment because the clause as it stands prejudicially affects the representatives of Lloyds in Australia. There are three firms of Lloyds brokers in Sydney, each representing the name of a group of underwriters in one person. If wo used the word “ one “ each of these persons would be mulct iri a heavy deposit, which is not, I presume, the intention. The desire of the Government, I understand, is that Lloyds shall pay one deposit, which may be the maximum. I have discussed this matter with the Minister (Senator McLachlan), and I trust that he will accept my amendment.
– Senator Thompson proposes to amend the sub-clause to read “ a person outside the Commonwealth.” As I understand the position, there is one group of persons in Australia representing Lloyds, exclusive of the organization in London. “There are other individuals who represent Lloyds, but who are represented in London through different persons.
– They send their business through London. They are not really representatives of Lloyds in the true Sense.
– They are not representatives in the true sense. They accept business in Australia. One group represented in the various States by an incorporated company sends its business through ari individual broker in London. There are also other persons who accept business for Lloyds and send it through other individuals in London. One broker in London does not represent all of them. The provisions as it stands, therefore, might penalize them to the extent that each would have to find a separate deposit of £50,000,000, whereas -there is no need for them to do so so long as they act in association. If they are associated in Australia and allow the business to go through an individual broker in London, they will have to provide only one £50,000,000 instead of three sums of that amount, which would be rather a hardship, because all their business litis to go through London eventually. I am prepared to accept, the amendment moved by the honorable senator.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move as a consequential amendment -
That the word “one”, line 11, be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ such “.
– It would appear that there is no necessity for the amendment moved by the honorable senator as the sub-clause in its present form refers to an association, and not to certain individuals in London. I think that the honorable senator’s purpose would be better served by leaving the sub-clause in its present form. It is regarded as business carried on by one person, which makes the association liable for only one deposit. In the interests of those whom the honorable senator desires to protect the sub-clause should be left as it is.
– I accept the Minister’s interpretation of the subclause, and am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause’ 12- (1.) Any person (not being a company to which the last preceding section applies) not carrying on insurance business in the Commonwealth at the commencement of this Act shall, before carrying on insurance business in the Commonwealth, deposit with the Treasurer money or approved securities or both to the value of Five thousand pounds in respect of each class of insurance business proposed to bc carried on. (2.) The person shall thereafter deposit annually with the Treasurer money or approved securities or both to the value of Five thousand pounds, until the deposit in respect of life insurance business carried on by him reaches the value of Fifty thousand pounds and in respect of other insurance business, carried on by him reaches the value of Forty thousand pounds.
. - “When this provision was under discussion yesterday, Senator Elliott moved an amendment in the interests of new mutual life insurance companies which may he formed. Provision is made in sub-section 1 for a deposit of £5,000, the payment of which would be evidence of good faith on the part of a company. The Government has no desire to restrict the development of new mutual life insurance companies, some of which. I understand, are in course of formation. In order to lighten the burden of such companies I propose to amend sub-clause 2 by leaving out the word “five” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ one “. I regret that I cannot accept an amendment in the form submitted by Senator Elliott, as it, would not harmonize with the drafting of the bill. The honorable senator suggested the payment of a deposit based on the premium income, but I think that in actual practice it will be found that the proposal which I now submit will not be detrimental to new companies. I move -
That the word “five “. sub-clause 2, be left nut with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ one “.
A company paying an initial deposit of £5,000 will thus have 45 years in which to pay the additional £45,000. This is the only course which the Government can adopt to meet the wishes of Senator Elliott.
– Does not the Minister think it desirable to confine this concession to mutual life insurance companies?
– It will apply all round. There are some proprietary companies carrying on business whose interests should be considered. I have had correspondence on this matter from those conducting quasi mutual life insurance companies in Melbourne.
– The amendment moved by the Minister relates more particularly to new companies in whose interests it has been submitted. It is also closely related to old established companies at present carrying on business, to which I referred when the measure was under consideration yesterday; but you, sir, in the exercise of your prerogative, ruled that my reference to them was not in order. The point upon which I wish to centre ministerial attention is, that the deposits which are about to be transferred to the Commonwealth authority must, in the case of old-established businesses, be given very careful consideration. For example, Western Australia - and for that matter other States - years ago took steps toensure that the insurance companies carrying on business within their borders conducted their operations in a proper manner, by requiring from them the deposit of securities such as this bill contemplates. Those deposits have been in the care of the Governments of the States for years ; and meanwhile, from a variety of causes, they have shrunk in value. I should like an assurance from the Minister that those States who thus forestalled the federation will be given a fair deal, and that they will not be penalized by the taking over of these securities at a depreciated value. Boiled clown the position is, that unless provision is made to protect the States who so acted in the interests of policy-holders, the Commonwealth may - I do not say that it will - take over those securities at a value far below that which they enjoyed years ago.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the amendment.
– The point that I am raising is very closely related to that . envisaged by the amendment. If I do not, raise it now, I shall have to do so ata later stage.
– The honorable senator is out of order in making that remark.
-the question can be raised at the third reading stage.
– What could be done at that stage ? The committee stage, during which action may appropriately be taken, would then have passed. I want to make sure that the point which I have raisedis covered, and that the State to which I have referred will not be mulct in damages as a result of having taken precautionary measures which until now the federation has not thought of taking. Even at the risk of being slightly out of order, I want that assurance from the Minister, because I wish to ensure that fair play will be done.
– I again ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the amendment.
– May I ask the Minister to give me the assurance that the case which I have endeavoured to outline will be properly covered, and that the State will be safeguarded ?
.- On the first point raised by Senator Lynch, I point out that in an insurance measure which reached a certain stage in this chamber on one occasion, and was passed through all stages on another, it was provided that new companies should deposit £2,000 annually until the sum of £20,000 had been deposited. As we are striving for something higher in the direction of safeguarding policy-holders, the committee might well accept the amendment, even though it may appear to honorable senators to give to new insurance companies an undue length of time to get on their feet. In the history of insurance, however, particularly in the case of wellmanaged concerns, 40 or 50 years is merely a fraction of time.
The responsibility of maintaining the value of the securities that will be lodged with the Commonwealth will not rest with the States, but with the companies which are now required to deposit them with the States. The States will merely have to hand over to the Commonwealth what they now hold, and any deficiency will have to be made good by the insurance companies concerned, up to the amount which they are liable to deposit. No injustice of any kind is contemplated in that or any other direction, so far as the States are concerned.
– But if a State is mulct in damages, will the Commonwealth indemnify it?
– A State cannot be mulct in any damages nor interfered with in any way. The securities are accepted by it at their face value. If their value has depreciated, that is not its fault. Should the Treasurer find, when they are handed over to the Commonwealth, that their value is insufficient to make up the amount whicha company has to deposit, he will make a request for a further deposit. The only responsibility of the States will be to hand back what they have received. Whether the value is equal to, less than, or greater than what it was in the first place, will not affect the liability of the States in any shape or form.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.38]. - Instead of amending the clause in the direction suggested, the Minister ought to move for the addition of a proviso covering the case of mutual companies. I quite see the force of Senator Elliott’s argument. Mutual companies, possessing only the money that is paid into them, cannot put up large deposits. But I cannot see any reason why companies that are promoted for private profit should not be compelled to put up deposits as substantial as those suggested in the bill. A good deal of harm has been clone in the not very remote past, as a result of the operations of life insurance companies which have been formed chiefly for the purpose of making a profit for the persons who promoted them. We shall take the risk of that sort of thing continuing if we fix the annual deposit at a sum which is purely nominal, such as £1,000. No hardship would be caused if the promoters of companies whose principal object is the making of profits were called upon to lodge substantial deposits. I consider that even the preliminary £5,000 is too small an amount in cases of that kind; and I certainly object to its being whittled down in this fashion. If the Minister will allow the clause to stand, with the insertion of a proviso that will lighten the burden in the case of purely mutual companies, I shall be pleased to support it.
– I desire to help the mutual companies, and, if it is the wish of the committee, am quite prepared to accept the suggestion of Senator Colebatch. But I still think that the lodging of £5,000 annually would impose a rather severe burden on some of the younger companies that will come into being.
– There is no need for any more to come into being.
– If the honorable senator desires to create a monopoly in insurance among those companies which are at present in existence, very well. I have had strong recommendations made to me concerning one or two small insurance companies- local State concerns - that will probably come into being. On the other hand, however, I have no objection to the suggested proviso if it meets the point raised by Senator Elliott; but I am not quite certain, from what he said yesterday, whether it would cover that class of company which he visualized, or some other company. Another distinguished gentleman named Elliott, who does not grace this chamber with his presence, has informed me that the application of this provision to mutual companies would practically mean the destruction of any possibility of further mutual companies coming into existence in this country; and he is no mean authority on insurance. Having regard to the provisions enacted elsewhere, I do not think we should insist upon the retention of the amount of £5,000; but if it is the wish of the committee, I shall have a proviso drafted along the lines indicated by Senator Colebatch.
– What has a new company to put up?
– It has to put up £5,000 before it does any business. Under this provision it would have to put up £5,000 every year until the amount deposited had reached £50,000.
– So it should.
– It seems a little stiff, having regard to the provision that is made elsewhere.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.43]. - I do not think it is a question of establishing monopolies. Mutual companies should be helped. But if any person commences the business of life insurance with the object of making a profit out of it, there ought to be the utmost limit of security for the policyholders. I go so far as to say that I would welcome the greatest possible difficulty being placed in the way of private profit being made at any time out of life insurance. No person should be allowed to establish a life insurance company for the sake of making private profit, without putting up such a deposit as would absolutely guarantee the insurer against the lossof his policy. We know that within the last few years people who have taken out life policies have lost them because of the instability of the company with which they were insured. It would impose no hardship on any combination of persons who desired to commence the business of life insurance for private profit, to compel them to put up a deposit of this kind. I hope that the Minister will not reduce the amount.
– The idea involved in Senator Colebatch’s statement, which arose out of a suggestion by Senator Elliott, is that co-operative insurance companies do good in this country. The very existence of a co-operative company alongside a privately-owned company keeps the latter up to the scratch, and induces it to give a fairer deal than it otherwise might give. Years ago I spent some considerable time on the gold-fields of Western Australia, and the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will bear me out when I say that the premiums charged in those days by the people who carried on insurance there were simply outrageous. When at length the public became incensed and raised an outcry, the insurance companies reduced their premiums to something approaching reasonable figures. I remember when the rate on the gold-fields was 50s. per £100. Had co-operative concerns such as are contemplated by this amendment then existed the public would have had its choice of patronage.
– There was a reason for those high rates; in those days the fire-fighting appliances in remote centres were particularly crude.
– The conditions did not warrant the extraordinary high rates that were charged. When the outcry was made, the rates were reduced to 15s. or 18s. per £100 for the same class of risk onwhich 50s. was charged previously. They had been making a harvest beyond the dreams of avarice. I am a living witness of those times, as I had to pay the high rates for which the public was mulcted. It is time that the public interest was safeguarded against such cormorant companies, which are not satisfied with their pound of flesh, but want the whole animal. An amendment such as that suggested would give the needed encouragement to the establishment of co-operative concerns. You, Mr. Chairman, know the advantage of a cooperative wheat pool, which is on all-fours with co-operative insurance company. I do not suggest that private concerns should be wiped out. It has been my fixed policy to have the two doors open, so that the public may make its choice. I support the endeavours of Senator Colebatch and Senator Elliott, and I hope that the Minister will have an amendment drafted on the lines suggested.
.- I sincerely hope that the Minister will take notice of the representations made by Senator Colebatch with regard to life insurance companies. I place life insurance in a different category from fire, accident, marine, and other forms of insurance, for a person who takes out a policy on his life does so in the belief that when he passes over the Great Divide the amount assured will be paid to his dependants, to provide for their needs. As Senator Colebatch pointed out, the position regarding life insurance companies has been very lax in New South Wales. There have been numerous instances where a person or a group of persons has rented an office, had a title painted on the windows, furnished the office with tables and chairs, and then set out to insure lives. They had no adequate reserve capital and, inevitably, the crash came. It is against that state of affairs that we must protect the people of the Commonwealth generally. Senator Lynch claimed that he is a living witness of the extortionate rates charged by fire insurance companies on the gold-fields of Western Australia in the early days. 1 am a living witness of the methods of mushroom companies. With others, I took out a policy in such a concern. The crash came, and policy-holders did not receive 6d., although some of them had paid premiums on industrial policies for 30 years. I urge that we should not countenance any laxity with regard to the deposits that must be lodged by insurance companies. The regulations should be tightened as much as possible. I am against the diminution of the deposits as the years pass. It is essential that insurance companies should have the necessary assets to meet their obligations when policies mature. We must guard against what has so frequently happened in New South Wales. I urge the Minister not to recede one inch from his intention to specify an adequate deposit being lodged with the Government.
– I have listened with interest to the views that have been expressed on this subject. Personally, I am all for maintaining the deposit as high as possible, but I feel somewhat embarrassed with regard to the assurance that I gave to Senator Elliott that the amount would be reduced. The honorable senator was rushing away to catch a train when he spoke to me, and he had in mind a comparatively small concern that was to be formed in a country centre.
– Senator Elliott referred to a mutual concern,
– If what I am about to do does not meet the circumstances, action can be taken in another place to adjust the matter. My sympathies are entirely with keeping the annual deposit up to the proposed amount until, in nine years, it amounts to £45,000. If a company is not able to meet that provision, it cannot be in a very stable condition. With the permission of the Senate, I propose to withdraw my amendment, and to have a proviso inserted that should meet the case that Senator Elliott has in mind.
Amen dment - byleave - wi thd r a w n .
Amendment (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That the following words be added to subclause 2: - “ Provided that in the case of an organization having no shareholders and carrying on life insurance business the annual deposit under this sub-section in respect of that business shall be one thousand pounds until the maximum deposit offifty thousand pounds is reached.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
. -In clause 22 relating to the value of securities deposited under this measure the decision of the Treasurer is subject -to appeal to the court, and in clauses 15 and IS there are similar provisions. Seme question has been raised as to the machinery governing such an appeal. The general provision which I understood had been made is not quite in the terms I anticipated, and in order to overcome the difficulty I shall move to insert in this bill the provision covering appeals under the Income Tax Assessment Act. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “22a. - (1.) The court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals under this act. (2.) The justices of the High Court or a majority of them may make Rules of Court for regulating the practice and procedure in relation to appeals to the court under this act.”
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Debate resumed from the 24th February (vide page 204) on motion by Senator Duncan-hughes -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
To His Excellency the Governor-General - Mav it Please Youn Excellency:
Wc, 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 criticism levelled against the proposals of the Government is of a very meagre type. It has been suggested that the Government is open to attack for the means adopted during the election campaign to secure the return of members of the United Australia party. Reference has been made to slogans and placards, and other efforts by various parties to draw the. attention of the voters to the fact that an election was in progress, and that certain parties were advocating certain principles, whilst other parties were advocating other principles. The present does not seem to me to be the time for that sort’ of carping criticism, nor for recriminations. I should exceed the time allowed to me under the Standing Orders if I were to comment upon the promises that were made when the Scullin Government was swept into office on a wave of popularity and misplaced enthusiasm a little over two years ago. Such things are incidental to any appeal to a democracy. I feel, however, that at the last election the people generally were more in earnest about the future of their country. They seemed to have come to a realization of the position into which Australia had’ been allowed tq drift through the lack of proper guidance by those in control of the parliamentary machine. It seemed to the great majority of the electors that the then Government was hopelessly afraid to meet the emergencies that had arisen. I venture to say that many of them were afraid to meet their own constituents.
It has been suggested during the course of this debate that Ministers are erring in proposing to have a short session. One of the worst things in the interests of the country that the last Government did was to have long sessions of Parliament. It meant a neglect of administration. At no other time in the history of Australia has it been so necessary to exercise care in administration to bring about savings in public expenditure, to eliminate waste, and to harmonize the functions of Commonwealth and State Departments as it is to-day. Had the late Government devoted itself more intensely than it did. to such requirements, instead of skirmishing for political advantage, or inciting warfare between political parties, it would have served its country better.
The problems to be confronted to-day are of amazing importance. That this i3 realized by some honorable senators who have spoken on the other side of the chamber is apparent. Nevertheless they seem to think that the parliamentary machine can function ; that Ministers can play their parts on this particular stage, and at the -same time carry on effective administration in the interests of the country. In my opinion Australia would be better served if, having got rid of such legislation as is urgent in the interests of sound finance and more effective administration, and after .having produced a balanced customs tariff, we went into recess. There -is a great deal more to- be done outside the walls of this building. For instance the requirements of Empire unity and Empire trade are sufficient to absorb the time of all Ministers with commercial leanings or instincts.
– The Minister does not suggest that we shall get that balanced tariff before Parliament adjourns.
– We shall get the first instalment of it, and if the honorable senator will possess his soul in patience he will get the balance. Ministers have not rushed in with a new schedule, which requires immediate alteration, as our predecessors did on more than one occasion. We believe that in its own interests the tariff requires the fullest consideration from many aspects. Certain things have arisen through the operation of the tariff. Before the Government can come to a decision, many features of the tariff must be examined in the light of the economic position of Australia.
During the regime of the late Government, honorable senators opposite felt that they were safer at Canberra than among their constituents, having regard to the fact that, during the election, they had been so lavish in their promises, which they must have known at the time they could not fulfil. The present Government promised nothing during the elections, except sane and honest administration, and an endeavour to rectify the unfortunate financial and economic position of the country.
With his usual geniality the Leader ofthe Opposition (Senator Barnes), said in effect that all that the Government’s policy amounted to was to closeParliament as soon as possible. When the necessary legislation is passed, making the adjustments which are needed in the tariff, and enforcing the will of the honest majority of the people upon a minority who does not propose to be honest, the Government will be acting in the best interest of Australia if it devotes itself to two important issues, the holding of the Ottawa Conference, from which I hope not only Australia, but also the Empire will derive some benefit, and an endeavour to restore a measure of employment, which has been absent so long in this country. My friends opposite say that we should adopt the policy of the Labour party. To-day there is no logical ground for the existence of a Labour party. There are only two parties in Australia to-day which count, those that stand for some principle, and those who are distinguished by lack of principle. I do not class my friends of the so-called Labour party among the latter; but they or their predecessors of another party have given to the people a relief in the shape of social amelioration of their conditions, which is perhaps more than the country can at present afford. They have provided tribunals which have raised wages to an extent which it is very doubtful the country can afford to pay. If we have shared in this we must bear the blame with our friends opposite. That is why I say thequa-Labour party has no logical place in our legislatures to-day. That is manifest from its decimated ranks, and from the limited support which it is getting from the constituencies. I have seen this coming.
My honorable’ friends of the Labour party may be buttressed here and there by some measure of support in some particular State, but before long they will cease toexist as a party. The portcullis will fall behind them. Their only hope to secure themselves passed, when they failed to resist the intrusion of the red element in their midst. To-day the only party in Opposition with a policy, if it can be called such, is one led, bullied or bluffed by a politician who does not function in the Federal arena. It is a party which stands for dishonesty - at any rate that is its first plank - and its chief ally is Russia. The majority of its members preach the gospel ofRussia, the dreary doctrines of Karl Marx. As Senator Lynch pointed out in his very eloquent speech the other day, the political doctrines so much favoured by Senator Rae, and those who think with him, represent merely an advanced system of chaos which, at varying periods in the history of the world has been tried and found wanting. At the present time this communistic scheme is in the crucible in Russia, and, I venture to say, even there it will fail eventually. We have heard much in recent years about the Russian five-year plan for the industrialization of that vast country. Senator Lynch last week told us something of the appalling conditions under which its people are now living. A not inconsiderable proportion of the population is in a state of semi-starvation. A friend of mine, who recently travelled through Russian country, also told me a sad story. He endorsed all that Senator Lynch has said about the appalling distress which prevails on every hand, and remarked that while in that country he never saw a human being smile. Downtrodden as they might have been under the long regime of the Czars, life then was a joyous thing compared with the conditions of tyranny which they are. called upon to endure to-day. “Russia,” he added, “is the saddest country in the world.”
This revolutionary change in the social order has the public support of some honorable members opposite, but I am confident that if the others were to speak from their hearts, and it is time they did, they would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the party in office in this country and, in association with the Country party, by helping the Government to stem the tide of anarchy that threatens to overwhelm our civilization. The time will soon come when, from the already decimated ranks of Labour, some with greater courage than others, will step out into the open and declare, with us, that they stand for the right, that they are opposed to a policy of lying and dishonesty which is abhorrent to every right thinking man and woman in the community and awakens a feeling of revulsion in every decent human being.
The task before us is an important one. First, we must put our economic house in order. On this point I was much impressed with the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley), who, apparently, now realizes that something is wrong; that all the talk that has been indulged in for nearly a generation about the rising standard of living, due to the payment of higher wages in industry, is so much thin air, and that after all, wages are only worth what they will buy. But there is no economic light in the mind of the honorable senator; he has not yet discovered the cause of the economic blizzard which is devastating Australia, in common with other countries. Had he done so, the honorable senator, like some of his colleagues, who have had longer experience in relation to finance, would have abandoned those of his Labour friends who have a kindly interest in communistic ideals. But it is not his habit to abandon any one. The honorable senator, to use his own language, I believe would prefer to stick to his “ cobbers “ right or wrong. One appreciates that admirable trait in his character, but .1 remind him that there is such a thing as one’s duty to one’s country, and to civilization, and that if we are to restore the Commonwealth to a sound financial position, the honorable senator and his friends should come into line with the Government and its supporters.
This much desired co-operation of political parties is reported in many other countries where there is a genuine desire to avert the economic disasters that threaten the world. After every great upheaval, such as the Great War, there has been a corresponding fall in commodity values leading eventually to an economic and political crisis. If we care to delve into the history of civilization, and go as far back as historical records take us, we shall find that even in times when the world was much smaller titan it is to-day when trade and commerce was not developed to anything like the same extent, the people of all countries suffered, just as we are suffering, after every prolonged struggle - even after wars that were small compared with the tremendous convulsion in Europe a little more than a decade ago. We shall find that within a period of approximately ten years following such conflicts the world suffered economic and financial collapse not unlike that in which we now find ourselves. My honorable friend, Senator Daly, will remember the Overend and Gurney banking crisis in Great Britain which proved to be the forerunner of the financial earthquake which was felt a little later in the Mother Country.
The reason for these crises is not far to seek. War, as we have very good reason to know, apart from the destruction of human life, is most wasteful and destructive of the economic resources of any country. Its sole purpose is destruction, annihilation. In. pursuit of it, warring nations use every weapon in their power, subject to the conditions imposed upon them by international convention, to destroy their foes. Finance is one of the principal weapons. So in the Great War, the Mother Country, to provide finance, indulged in inflation to such an extent that, in common with all the belligerent nations, it is suffering extraordinary hardships to-day. Money was obtained from any and every source; the whole of the nation’s credit resources was utilized to provide money to carry the conflict to a victorious conclusion. Australia adopted the same methods. And now the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, forsooth, would cure the financial and economic ills from which we are suffering and which, as I have explained, are the effects of war-time inflation, by administering another dose of what he is pleased to term controlled inflation. That would inevitably lead to the economic destruction of this country. I invite honorable senators to study carefully the speeches and writings of Mr. Chas. Schwabb, the eminent multi-millionaire of, the United States of America, who, in 1919 and 1920, warned the people of America about what would happen as the result of the long drawn out conflict in Europe, and the policy of inflation which all belligerent nations had adopted.
– How much did he make out of the war?
– What does that matter? Is this the way in which we are to discuss the merits of proposals for the rebuilding of the nation? I do not know how much Mr. Schwabb made out of the war, but I have read his writings and his speeches. They are of absorbing interest. He was a multimillionaire before the outbreak of the war, and if he did make a million or so out of it, that is neither here nor there ; it is as nothing compared with the wisdom and foresight which he displayed in his addresses to brother’ Americans and bankers concerning the position as he saw it a little more than a decade ago. The American bankers would not listen to his words of wisdom, nor would they heed the advice of British bankers, or any of the commercial leaders pf their own country. Instead, they went merrily on their way, inducing still further inflation of credit, and plunging countries deeper into the financial morass. Some countries have already taken steps to put their finances in order, but others, which have not been so prudent or wise, are endeavouring to circumvent this sane movement. The present world position is due to an over-expansion of credit during the war years, and to the nonrealization of the fact that the altered circumstances following the war demanded a changed financial policy.
– Did not all nations release credits during the war?
– Yes, and the policy of inflation which then had full play is directly responsible for the disaster which has overtaken all countries.
In the years that are before us, we shall, as an Empire, have to pursue perhaps a lonely course in order to restore our financial and economic position. The world is in a desperate situation, so it is the duty of the British Empire to do something which will prove to be. in the interests of civilization. We cannot stand alone.
The Economic Conference to be held at Ottawa in a few months’ time will be one of the greatest gestures that could be made by the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is a gesture in which we should cooperate to the full in order to give a certain amount of relief at all events to the people of the British Empire. It is a movement to which all our energies, to the exclusion of everything, with the sole exception of urgent matters of finance, should be directed. In the decisions of that conference, we may find- an element of hope not only for Australia but for other portions of the Empire. We should approach the subjects to be dealt with at that important gathering, as I am sure we shall, with an open mind in an endeavour to advance the cause of civilization within the Empire, and also, with a view to assisting the wider interests throughout the world in the years to come. This is not going to he an easy matter. It is not to be the work of a day or of a year; but having regard to the economic conditions we have built up, should result in great benefit to the Motherland and to the dominions. The results may not be felt for some time; but the foundations must be well laid in order that the Empire may derive some advantage from what is accomplished.
– Would the Minister recommend the adoption of the Lang plan at Ottawa?
– The adoption of such a plan would result in the ruin of Australia. As I see it the Lang plan is the plan of a “ welsher “. It is the plan of a man who says that he is not going to pay, who intends to dishonour his obligations, and who violates every moral and legal edict. It is a plan that would lead this country to destruction and isolate it from those countries which believe in adopting an honest policy. Much has been said of the socalled Lang plan ; but no one appears to know exactly what that plan is. I do not think that even those who support it know what it means. I appeal to men with intelligence to ask themselves what the result would be if full effect were given to the so-called plan of the Lang party in New South Wales. . The Governments of the Australian States should deal with their creditors as honest men deal one with another. If the honorable senator who interjected owed me £5, I am sure that he would not say that as he was “hard up” he intended to pay me only £4 10s. He would pay up the full amount like a man. If honest individuals do that, governments should act in the same way. Why should not the Leader of the Government in New South Wales meet the position in an honorable way? If he did so, he would confer greater benefits upon those people whom be claims to be helping than he alleges to be doing by submitting proposals such as those embodied in his so-called plan of repudiation.
I have dealt with what I conceive to be some of the remedies for restoring financial stability in this country. There are others which could be applied. It is pitiful to see the conditions which exist throughout the Commonwealth. In travelling recently through the State which I represent - and I am glad to say with good results - I hoard of thousands of young persons going out into the world with no prospects whatever of securing employment. Are we to have a repetition of what has occurred in Great Britain? I say with bated breath that the payment of the dole in Great Britain has been one of the most soul-destroying acts ever undertaken. Are the young people in this country to be brought up in a similar atmosphere? Measures of relief must be afforded; let us face them fairly and frankly. Let me give honorable senators a true illustration of what is happening throughout the Commonwealth. I called on a banker whom I shall not name - he is not my personal banker - a few weeks ago, and in discussing my business, I asked him what were the possibilities of providing employment in the institution he is controlling. He said that he was innundated with requests from mothers and relatives of boys who had just left school. I informed him that he ought to be able to find employment for some of them. He assured 111 e that the institution of which he was the manager, and which was the smallest of its kind in that State, could employ twenty youths, but added “ There is one thing I cannot do, I should have to pay these boys, just fresh from school, £75 a year to commence and their remuneration would have to be increased annually until they receive £252 a year.” He said that he did not. mind employing the youths but he could not afford to pay them at the rate of £75 a year at the outset. He further said that, as youths who had just left school, they knew nothing of the duties they were expected to perforin. Quite naturally they had the minds of schoolboys. They had never had any commercial training. At the end of twelve months, he said, he would probably be able to retain the services of ten or twelve at the outside. He contended that he did not mind that number being retained at the rates mentioned, but the conditions of employment made it impossible. In that city alone, something like 400 youths could be taken from a state of idleness and given profitable employment, but for our arbitration laws which are far too rigid. The insurance companies are in a similar position. I read in a letter recently that at the end of the third year of service youths employed by insurance companies have to be paid £250 per annum. Can the economic conditions of this country stand that? I ask honorable senators opposite if it is not better for such youths to commence employment at £40 or £50 a year than to idle away their time, get into mischief and destroy their morale.
– It would mean putting others out of employment.
– No. These youths are wanted to-day. Some of the banking and commercial institutions are working short handed because the employment of such youths, at present rates, is uneconomic. Even if some of them were appointed to fill vacancies caused by the retirement of older men, those who were retired would derive the benefits of superannuation and similar funds.
– There is no arbitration award which prescribes £252 a year for other than an adult.
– After serving only three years in an insurance office a youth cannot possibly have a thorough knowledge of the intricacies of the business. Many of them are employed in writing up cash books, ledgers, journals or policy registers. Companies cannot afford to pay the salaries I have mentioned for work of that character. Such conditions have been brought under my notice within the la3t few days. It is the duty of governments to grapple with the situation. No one has supported arbitration more consistently than I have.
– And low wages.
– It is better to have low wages than no wages at all.
– Low wages and big profits !
– Who is making big profits?
– The insurance companies.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the balancesheets of many of our insurance companies, he will find that they have not made anything like reasonable profits durthe last twelve months. They are not receiving any return on their capital. Moreover, there has been a reduction of 22$ per cent, on interest rates.
– Has not the Australian Mutual Provident Society made any profits ?
– The honorable senator should be aware that the profits of that society are distributed amongst the policy-holders.
These are problems with which we must grapple. W e must take stock of the position. I have at all times advocated arbitration, the principle of which is absolutely sound ; but my friends opposite should realize that it is the abuse of arbitration that has brought about a great deal of the unemployment prevalent in this country to-day.
– They are killing the principle of arbitration.
– Yes. It is one for which I have stood for 30 years. The action of honorable senators opposite and those with whom they are associated will inevitably destroy the groundwork of arbitration. Paid claquers are making jobs for themselves by agitating and bringing men before the court, instead of encouraging a system of conciliation between employer and employee. They are engines of destruction spreading such doctrines as the annihilation of private interests. It is well that we should know where we stand. We must shoulder our responsibilities, in order to relieve civilization, instead of giving any encouragement to those whose sole object is the destruction of property and capital. That system has already been tried with disastrous results. Senator Lynch recently gave a dissertation upon the subject which should be beneficial to us all.
Socialism has been tried in the balance and found wanting. Failure was inevitable, because socialism is absolutely opposed to the basic principles of human nature. In the matter of arbitration we must all move in the direction of getting the machine to function as we hope it will.
– By sacking men.
– Such interjections do not get us anywhere. I am as sincere in my endeavours to get people back to work as are honorable senators opposite. I am more sincere in this matter than those loud-mouthed individuals who voice their opinions in the Domain, and batten on the few pounds contributed by the workers, and, in some cases, rob them.
– That ia rot.
– The honorable senator is not in order in describing the remarks of another honorable senator as “ rot “.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do that there appeared in the press the other day a statement that in the case of a union to which unfortunate unionists have for years been contributing 6d. or ls. a week to union funds, there is a. deficit of over £8,000.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– While I stand, and always have stood, for the principle of arbitration, I desire to stress again the fact that various administrations in both the State and Federal sphere have been responsible for tieing up the economic position in such a way as to make it very difficult for the system of wage fixation in force in Australia to react to the benefit of the community, and particularly the unemployed members of it. In addition, those who have abused what I call the great principle of trade unionism have adopted methods that have not brought out what is best in arbitration. A considerable measure of relief could be given if there were some more elastic provision which would enable action to be taken speedily, such as is to be found in the judicial proceedings of the different courts of justice. It has been clearly demonstrated that the absence of this factor is preventing the employment of men at a wage which may be regarded as low but which, after all, is the only rate that can be -paid in this country to-day. I regard it as a sad commentary on our civilization and our methods that men should be wandering about this country, and be provided with the means of existence by the various State Governments or territorial authorities, when throughout the length and breadth of Australia there is scope for considerable improvement in a great deal of the cream of the countryside. There should be a little give and take, a little more of the spirit of com promise, conciliation and common sense, and a little less agitation on the part of the union organizer, who loses sight of the fact that h”e is not serving the best interests of the class he is paid to represent by insisting on conditions that cannot be conceded.
– He could keep his job and yet be reasonable.
– Quite so. Take the country districts of Australia to-day. Where is the farmer or the grazier who can afford to pay the basic wage? Under the conditions that prevailed until the last few weeks, the payment of such a wage would have been, entirely uneconomic. Numbers of men are falling out of the ranks of trade unions and are free to make such contracts as they think fit. I suggest to the heads of trade unionism in this country, the big organizations, over one of which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) presides, that they should see to it that these conditions are relaxed, and that men are enabled to eke out an existence for themselves instead of living upon what a number of them object to strongly and were ashamed in the first place to take - the dole from the State or territorial authorities.
– Quite a lot of workmen could not be employed at any price.
– There is room for them to-day in many of the country districts of South Australia. A little while ago men were afraid to advertise for labour because of the number of unemployed who sought engagement. During the recent harvest, however, that condition was for the time being absent, proving that there is economic employment available. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) suggest that the countryside along the route from Melbourne to Albury is in a condition to give of its best in the way of production to those who hold it? Would it not be better if the Victorian Government, whose particular responsibility it is to look after these men, employed a number of them in the removal of fallen timber and the clearing of the dead timber that is still standing?. Would not that’ ultimately benefit Australia? Even though the farmers were not able to contribute the full amount paid by the Government to these men, would it not be better for them to be employed at this work than to continue in idleness?
– Will the Minister give us some idea of what they can afford to pay?
– It is not a question of what they can afford to pay. They may be able to pay very little. It is costing the governments of Australia something like £12,000,000 per annum to maintain the unemployed. I suggest, however, that we have to consider not only the amount of money spent in that way but also the absolute undermining ofthe morale of these people. Would it not be better for them to be employed at work of the description I have mentioned, even though they got only a bare living from it? Those who adopt the narrow view expressed by Senator Daly might object that individual farmers would reap an advantage by having their land cleared for £1 an acre, and paying to the Government only 3s. or 4s. an acre. Even if that were so, would it not be of advantage to the country to have its productivity increased?
– We must’ first find markets for what we produce.
– There will always be a’ market for what we produce, so long as we sell at the right price. The question is wholly one of price. I have known worse markets for some primary products than those that exist to-day. It is true that this country was not then burdened with a national debt of £1,150,000,000. I have seen wheat sold for less than it has brought during the present depression. I have seen full mouthed ewes without a broken tooth in their heads, and with five months wool, sold in the Burra yards for 9d. apiece. I have seen cattle sold for less than they are being sold to-day. This country surmounted those difficulties, and it will win through again if we only put our backs into our task. There was no preaching then of the doctrine of class hatred and the waging of war by one class on another ; the spirit of the times was co-operation, thrift, and the doing of everything possible to improve the condition of every class in the community
To-day the conditions call aloud for something to be done, something that the last Government, probably owing to the exigencies of its political beliefs, was afraid to touch. The organization of some movement to relieve the unemployed in the congested areas is called for very clamantly. We must get these men to work even if they only do something in the nature of what I have indicated. I believe that there is an element in this country which is prepared to assist in that direction. There will be cavilling, fighting, and quarrelling in certain activities, as there is in an activity with which I have to deal to-day, in which the men were told plainly that they must produce more or the activity would have to close. Iti a moment of impetuosity, in language which I shall not repeat for fear that it might offend sensitive ears, they expressed their determination not to continue their operations under those conditions, and walked out; but better counsels ultimately prevailed, and they walked back ; and they ure now producing a quantity that for the moment is satisfactory to those who are in charge of the work.
– Many ratepayers have offered to work off their rate liability.
– Many more things of that sort may have to be done. I have seen the day when barter was quite common in this country. I am not altogether convinced that it is not in existence to a- certain extent to-day. Acts of Parliament will not feed’ the people nor restore employment. There must be organization and an examination of the economics of this country. Action must be taken at Ottawa ‘which will make markets available, even though the prices obtained for our surplus production may be low. Let us devote our energies to the big things, instead of cavilling about the small’ things.
I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) that the Government is just’ as sincere to-day in its determination to do all that it can to relieve the unemployed, as it was during the election campaign. If we refrain from preaching against and denouncing those who lend -us money, and who in the past have enabled us to construct bridges, railways, and waterways and to improve the countryside in every direction, we might be able to obtain a certain amount of relief. But who overseas will provide that relief when they realize what doctrines are being preached and practised ? Who would say to New South Wales, “ We will reduce your interest,” when in that State nothing but hatred and malice are preached against those who have anything? It ought to be our solemn obligation to pay what we owe. I do not believe that the lender will prove to be a hard taskmaster when the time of renewal arrives, provided we comport ourselves with decency and honesty. The Government should seriously consider by what means the unemployed may be organized. It is not the work of a day or a month. Sporadic attacks were made upon the problem by the Scullin Government during its tenure of office. It spent a few pounds here and a few pounds there. There can be no real relief in that sort of thing; the problem must be tackled in an organized way throughout Australia. I have failed to find in the policy put forward by the late Government any basis upon which it attempted to deal with the unemployed. It ladled out a small amount at Cockatoo Island and on the coal-fields and shale oil-fields.
– With money that it borrowed.
– It borrowed the money from the Commonwealth “Bank. Action of that sort may provide relief for a few men here and there; but that is not the problem which Australia has to face. It is a bigger and a wider problem, which requires organization and a relaxation of strangling arbitration conditions. Above and beyond all, it needs a new outlook, a new orientation of the ideas of the great trade unions of this country. There must be a change of heart on their part if we are to bring about a better state of affairs.
I have indicated the alternative, the red rule for which Senator Bae stands; the abolition of the capitalistic system. I invite honorable senators opposite to choose between that rule and joining us. .That is the issue that Australia has to face, and I venture the opinion that it will face it with the courage and common sense that has hitherto characterized the people of this country. We had evidence during the recent election that Australia is sound at heart; that the 98 per cent, of British stock in the Commonwealth has not lost the common sense that has been an attribute df our Mother Country : that our people intend to assert themselves in the name of honesty, and make an effort to rehabilitate Australia. That may not be done to-day or in a few months. It may take years before we regain a measure of our former prosperity.
The Ottawa Conference is a joh in itself, and keeps one busy from early morning till late at night. It brings to us problems that have currents and crosscurrents, as will be appreciated by Senator Carroll, who has applied himself to the subject. However, difficulties arise only to be overcome. I assure honorable senators that there is a strong desire on the part of Australia to do what it can to make the Ottawa Conference a pronounced success, for it presents an opportunity for laying the foundations of a great Empire policy.
I may have spoken with some degree of fervour in regard to unemployment, because I feel that the jibes that have been flung by honorable senators opposite are entirely unwarranted. The Government will settle down to these problems, and do its best to solve them. It may be slow in bringing about a change of heart on the part of certain persons, but if the desired results are to be effected, it is essential that they should change their outlook. That change must come, or the last condition of those people, under a policy of repudiation, will be worse than it is at present. Senator Lynch visualised the conditions of Russia applied to Australia. I have first-hand knowledge of those conditions, and I know what it would mean if they were adopted in Australia. Under the Russian plan, there must be a military dictatorship, and absolute discipline. Under sovietization there is no freedom to the individual. It is a policy that has only to be stated to stand condemned in the eyes of any British community.
– We have to clean our own Augean stable before starting out on Russia.
– Had the honorable senator been as active when he was in office as he now is in opposition, something might have been done towards eliminating our troubles in Australia. I invite him to wait a little and see what wo are going to do in that direction.
– Do not keep us too long in suspense.
– My honorable friend is ever in a hurry. At one time I regarded him as being of a placid disposition. Perhaps we should take it as a compliment when he expects the successors of the Scullin Government to do in six weeks what that administration failed to do in two years. That Government staggered along, plugging a leak here, and plugging a leak there. I know that it had its difficulties internally, and I am inclined to forgive its members, because they know not what they do. They blundered along in a most ineffectual manner, doing nothing to solve the problems that confronted the nation. Their one. great effort was the Canadian treaty - -‘and I believe that a Scotsman was responsible for that.
– What about balancing the budget?
– The Scullin Government endeavoured to do that by issuing a series of I 0 U’s, and allowing Mr. Lang to adopt similar methods. I am afraid that I am disturbing the equanimity of my honorable friends opposite. Admittedly, our trade balance is now in a satisfactory position, but Australia would be ever so much better placed if the Scullin Government had taken strong measures to remedy the position in New South-Wales
This Government is twitted by Senator Daly, who now graces the Opposition benches so well, with alleged inaction with regard to the tariff. The honorable senator -has only to remember the initial step that was taken yesterday, and the promise of good things that are to come, which should more than satisfy the tariff reformers of South Australia. The Government is dealing with the problem on a principle, and not leaving it to tie individual whim of a Minister or anybody else. The Tariff Board has been charged with certain duties, and I cannot accept the suggestion of Senator Carroll that that board should be substituted by another more comprehensive body, which would determine, instead of Parliament, the fiscal policy of the country. The reports of the Tariff Board will be examined and respected, and, should the necessity for further investigation arise, they will be referred back to that body. The policy of the Government has been clearly defined, and the first step taken towards carrying it to fruition. I commend the two schedules that were tabled yesterday to those honorable senators who seem to have made a somewhat wild forecast in some respects and a more accurate one in other respects.
– How long will itbe before we have an opportunity to discuss the tariff?
– It should not be very long. It depends upon the loquacity of our supporters and opponents in another place.
There is one thing that this Government has done, and for which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) gave it only a small amount of credit. It has endeavoured to deal with the vexed problem of our railways. I know, from a conversation that I had with the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) that his Government had been seriously considering taking some move in this direction. Our railways represent one of the biggest economic problems with which we are confronted. For the year ended the BOth June last, our various systems showed an accumulated deficit amounting to £10,500,000. That cannot go on much longer, as the leakage endangers all of our social benefits. There are other activities besides our railways that are losing money, but the latter represent a particularly great leakage, and the hole must be at least partially stopped. I myself was rebuked by ex-Senator Needham when I expressed the belief that it would have been better for the country if the railways had been privately owned. Those in the service of our railways, both Commonwealth and State, are living in dread of the future; they do not know what is going to happen. They know that the present condition of affairs cannot continue. A number have been rationed; many have been reduced and others dismissed. For the moment, there may be temporary relief in some States because the harvest has been above the average, but the problem demands immediate attention.
– Let them go on the laud.
– If some of these men were placed on the land they might be able to make a living for themselves, and, if markets improve, perhaps add to their worldly goods.
Those are some of the larger aspects of His Excellency’s Speech. Senator Daly referred specifically to the words, “ you will be asked to direct your energies during the coming months “. I fail to see, except by passing the legislative enactments which are engaging the intention of this and another place, and dealing with the tariff, what other legislation we can pass that will bring any relief to the country. We have, too, the Ottawa Conference, a review of our railway administration, and the matter of unemployment. In those three things alone there is a job that will keep any government going at full speed for the next few montths. We have sent to the Disarmament Conference a very worthy delegate, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). There he will be engaged in the interests of humanity. Temporarily, we are deprived of his great services to this Commonwealth, which is an added reason for freeing Ministers to enable them to get down to the work that is so essential to the interests of the country.
Somewhat similar sentiments to those expressed by the honorable senators who made such excellent speeches in moving and seconding the Addressin.Reply were uttered by Senator Daly regarding appointments to the high office of Governor-General. Our standing orders preclude our making any reference to that appointment, but I welcome the words which fell from the lips of Senator Daly to the effect that no Government should curb His Majesty’s discretion in the appointment of a Governor-General. Those sentiments should satisfy my honorable friends, Senator Duncan-Hughes and Senator Brennan, who made passing reference to this subject. That is the position for which we on this side stand - that His Majesty’s discretion in the appointment of his personal representative in this country .should not be curbed ; that he should have a free hand to select whom he pleases to hold the high office of Governor-General.
– The then Prime Minister made that statement following upon the appointment.
– It is a pity it was not made before the appointment. We are, however, assured by the remarks that have fallen from Senator Daly as to the views of honorable senators opposite on this particular point.
There was a little kindly by-play on the part of that skilled debater, Senator Daly, with regard to the appointment of Ministers. The honorable senator made reference to the personnel of the ministerial bench in this chamber, and Ministers are duly grateful and bow their acknowledgments, but I can assure the honorable senator that no one but Mr. Lyons and the Deputy Leader of this party (Mr. Latham) had any voice in the appointment of the present Ministry. Mr. Lyons consulted with Mr. Latham and, as is customary in the constitution of a government of any British dominion, formed his Cabinet. I deprecate the dragging in of small matters at a time like this. It is unworthy of honorable senators to suggest that a country newspaper has been saying something about a particular Minister, or that some journal has had something to_ do with a particular appointment. At a time like this our minds should be grappling with problems confronting us, and which it will take us all our time to solve.
I appreciate the sentiment expressed by the honorable senator, although it comes a little late, that the parties in this chamber should pull together. I remind him that when the Scullin Government submitted a very short Governor-General’s Speech to this chamber, in which it was suggested that Parliament should sit as an economic council, the gestures which we made, and the suggestion that we should resolve ourselves into an economic council were rejected with scorn, and the Government followed that rejection by introducing legislation of a highly partisan character, having for its object a unified Australia. On this side of the chamber we believe that we have the goodwill of the people. We have a mandate to go on in the way we see fit.
– But not to go into recess.
– If a government has the courage to get on with the job entrusted to it, knowing that it has the people behind it, and no internal warfare, or if it is not lacking in courage to go to the constituencies, it can do a great deal more for Australia in six months than if uninterrupted discussions were continued in this Parliament for a couple of years. There is work to be done by this Parliament, but let it be got over and let the Government get down to the solution of some of the problems confronting it. One thing more than another which made for the undoing of the Scullin Administration was the fact that it kept Parliament here too long. It never permitted itself to get down to any real administrative work.
– That is a reflection on honorable senators, because the late Government looked for collective, and not individual, wisdom.
– But there is an executive arm as well as the legislative arm. We know what the wisdom of this chamber dictates in principle; we know the will of the people who elected us in their wisdom, and we know what the parties will say if we get to work in a business-like and sensible way. It is true that there is legislation to be passed, and it will be passed. But the discussions at Ottawa, with their repercussions, transcend in importance anything we may do in this country, and for those we should be prepared from every angle. The Ottawa Conference will be discussing, not only the relations between Great Britain and Australia, but also those between every unit of the Empire, including the Crown colonies. Its task will be a difficult one, hut never before has there been a better opportunity to lay the foundations of a successful and prosperous Empire. We should see to it that those foundations are well laid.
.- Mr. President-
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I appreciate from the new followers of the Government their applause of one whom I may term the leader of the real Labour party of Australia and New South Wales. I do not know how long their “ hear, hears !” will continue, because I have no intention of promising what Senator McLachlan promised in his opening remarks. He said that he rose to carry on the debate without any feeling of partisanship and without discrimination. When he was saying it there came into my mind the picture of a man with the Eastertide spirit, who carried a Christian palm in the one hand and a brick or a bottle in the other. The honorable senator certainly laid aside the palm in the course of his speech and finished up by flinging verbal bricks all over the place. If he had continued, he would have felt like drawing a sword. He certainly advanced sound arguments from his own point of view and no doubt he is fully armed with every argument that serves the interests of the party he has represented in this chamber for so many years.
During the course of my remarks, I wish to deal with the situation, not only as we see it in New South Wales, but also from an Australian viewpoint. In my outlook I do not stop at the banks of the river Murray, although I was elected to this chamber as a representative of New South Wales.
I was rather intrigued by the few words with which Senator McLachlan admonished Senator Brennan, an eminent senator and a K.C. to boot, and the newly elected honorable senator from South Australia, my friend Senator DuncanHughes, with whom I am prepared to lock arms at any time, and upon whose views I should attempt to exercise no censorship. In moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, those honorable senators had chosen to find fault with the late Government’s adoption of the principal of appointing an Australian as Governor-General. I was among the Scullin Government followers who sent to His Majesty the King a recommendation that Sir Isaac Isaacs should be chosen by him as GovernorGeneral. I am not Australian born, but I have been in this country since I was fifteen years of age, and I see nothing against an Australian filling the position of Governor-General. The Scullin Government sent to His Majesty the King the recommendation that it had a man ready to fill the high and distinguished position of Governor-General in the person of Sir Isaac Isaacs, one of the greatest constitutional lawyers Australia has known, and I therefore appreciated the little political rap on the knuckles which the Vice-President of the Executive Council gave to my friends on the Government benches, Senator Brenn an, K.C., and Senator Duncan-Hughes. I feel sure that the new senator from South Australia will take the lesson to heart. So far as the wisdom of appointing distinguished Australians to the position of Governor-General is concerned, I see nothing wrong with the policy of the past Government in that respect.
– How many names of Australians were submitted to His Majesty the King, or was there only one suitable person for the position?
– There were 6,500,000 Australians who were eligible, and the Scullin Government, having gone through the list, recommended the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs.
His Excellency the Governor-General in the concluding words of the Speech which he delivered said -
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth. I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.
That is a laudable sentiment. One of the first steps taken by the new Ministers to bring about the economic rehabilitation of Australia has been to bring clown a long list of tariff amendments. It will react upon them.
During the election campaign we were told that if the United Australia party was returned to power it would provide a solution of our unemployment problem. At one time I was a follower of the Scullin Government in this chamber, and occupied the position of Government Whip. Later, because, with certain other honorable senators, I was prepared to put up a fight on behalf of the workers, I was expelled from the party. I now regret very much indeed that I was identified with a party that supported an administration which proved to be the most vacillating government that has ever occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament in the name of Labour. The Scullin Government, in furtherance of its policy to balance the budget dismissed no fewer than 8,000 employees of the Commonwealth, and cut down the social services of the nation. In fact the Scullin Government did the work of the previous government. I say without fear of contradiction that this Administration will take further similar action in the near future. I find my warrant for this statement in some remarks which fell from the lips of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) only a few minutes ago. The honorable gentleman hinted that, in order to adhere to the rehabilitation plan, the social services of the Commonwealth would have to be re-examined.
The Speech also indicates that the Government contemplates another attack on the wages and conditions of the workers. I know that the Minister in charge of the Senate for the time being (Senator Greene) will not intimate, by way of interjection, what is in the Government’s mind - he is too wily a politician to be taken unawares - but I invite him to do so. The Scullin Government, acting largely upon recommendations made by Sir Otto Niemeyer and Professor Gregory, two eminent representatives of the Bank of England, adopted the rehabilitation plan and made a number of drastic economies, including cuts in invalid and old-age and war pensions. During the war a man was provided with clothing, and was given a rifle and 250 rounds of ammunition with which to defend himself. Those who are in the firing line to-day in the greater economic war which is being waged on every hand have absolutely nothing with which to defend themselves, so they are powerless to withstand any demands for greater sacrifices which this Government may make. These additional sacrifices may take the form of a further reduction of our social services, or increased taxation, but as trade and commerce are strongly entrenched in this chamber there is little hope of the latter course being adopted. There are in the ranks of Ministers some members who are on the directorates of various large companies, while among its supporters are others who are closely identified with the pastoral industry. Accordingly we may assume that the Commonwealth will fall into line with other countries, and in its rehabilitation scheme, will make an attack upon the wages and conditions of the workers.
Recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in an appeal to the people of Australia urged them to “tune in” with England, to follow Britain. That was a very laudable sentiment but since it was uttered, the British Government, under the leadership of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, has become hopelessly divided on the tariff issue, “and England, with its vast army of 4,000,000 unemployed persons, is a sorry spectacle. I am convinced that when the people of Australia rejected the Scullin ministry they did so not so much because of their belief in the promises made on behalf of the United Australia party and the Country party, hut because they were determined to rid themselves of a government which had broken practically every definite pledge which it had made a year or two earlier.
I have said that this Government intends to cut down our social services in order to balance the budget. Its intention to do this was indicated by the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan), who referred to theurgent need to bring about a reduction in costs, and incidentally he made an attack upon the judges of the Arbitration Court. When I was Government Whip, and attempted to criticize His Honour Judge Lukin, of the Bankruptcy Court, you, sir, quite properly called me to order. To-day the Vice-President of the Executive Council made a bitter attack upon the four arbitration judges. Apparently the arbitration system is to be subjected to an extensive overhaul by the present Cabinet. I feel sure that when the whip is cracked over the heads of Government supporters there will be something doing in this direction.
New South Wales is passing through a period of severe depression, but I am glad to say that we are still in a fighting position. Up to the present time, there has been no serious reduction in the basic wage nor has there been an increase in the hours of labour, and its social services are being maintained. To me it is extraordinary that honorable senators from other States who enjoy the social services provided by the Government of New South Wales are so ready to “ knock “ that State when they return to their own States. I have paid visits to other States and having enjoyed the social services provided by their Governments, have never stooped so low as to attempt to “ knock “ them upon my return to my own State. Senator Mooney, who is now my colleague in this chamber, is with me in the determination to protect, so far as is within our limited power, the State of New South Wales from these interstate “ knockers many of whom represent the mendicant States of Western Australia, Tasmania, and South Australia. Those States often appear before the Loan Council with, figuratively speaking, contribution plates attached to theirbreasts, pleading for financial assistance from the Commonwealth.
– Who told the honorable senator that fairy tale?
– It is not a fairy tale. The records of these interstate “knockers” is to be found in Hansard. The honorable senator himself has, on more than one occasion, attempted to “ knock” New South Wales.
His Excellency’s Speech goes on to say-
My Ministers are deeply conscious of the fact that, transcending in importance all matters of public business at the present time, is the necessity for maintaining the soundness of national finance, and for hastening, so far as is within their power, the conditions that will bring employment to the workless. It is to the solution of these two fundamental problems that you will be asked to direct your energies largely during the coming mouths.
The Government has sent the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) on a little jaunt to Geneva as Australia’s representative at the Disarmament Conference at” a cost to the nation of £2,000 or £3,000. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) is also to take a little excursion to Ottawa as one of Australia’s representatives at the Economic Conference to be held in that city at a cost of about £3,000.
– Should Australia not be. represented at that gathering ?
– We should be represented, but preferably by a departmental officer fully conversant with the nature of the work to be undertaken. Could not Australia have been ably represented at the Disarmament Conference by the High Commissioner for Australia? The present occupant , of that position once represented the constituency of Warringah in another place, and as he was a distinguished general in the Australian Imperial Force, he should be more conversant with matters to be dealt with at such a conference than the Attorney-General whose knowledge of constitutional and legal matters will not be of great assistance to him.
– Australia’s representative has to put the policy of the Government; he need not possess military knowledge.
– Whatever may be said by honorable senators opposite, it cannot be truthfully contended that there is any necessity to incur the expense involved in sending the Attorney-General to Geneva, and the Minister for Trade and Customs to Ottawa. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is also to make a visit to Ottawa, and later, to act as. Resident Minister in London. I do not know what duties he is expected to perform. The appointment of a Resident Minister in London is quite unnecessary.
– It is an intelligent act on the part of the Government.
– That gentleman is largely responsible for the present unsatisfactory state of Commonwealth finances. The appointment has to be considered in the light of the fact that Mr. Bruce has large financial interests in London.
– He may undo some of the harm which Mr. Lang has done.
– Whatever may be said of Mr. Lang, he did not spend over £500,000,000 from short-dated loans and Consolidated Revenue within a period of six years. While in London, Mr. Bruce will be able to conduct his private business at the expense of the taxpayers of Australia.
– That is a shocking statement.
– It is the logical conclusion
– Of an evil mind.
– Ido not possess an evil mind; I am merely stating a fact.
The Governor-General’s Speech further states -
My advisers, however, are satisfied that there is a general determination to adhere to the plan of financial and economic rehabilitation whichhas already produced a favorable effect upon the position of Australia.
In what way have favorable results been achieved? Prior to the last general election, the members of the present Government said that if returned to power men would be placed in industry. How many men have been found employment since this Government assumed office? In a flamboyant article the Sydney Morning H erald writes “ Thousands of boys are leaving school. What does Labour offer? More jobs will be available as soon as Labour is out of office. When Britain recently elected a United party Government there was an immediate and substantial increase in employment.” That is not true. That story was written up by the section of the press which supports the United Australia party in this country. We have been informed that one of the first actions of the present British Government was to take 300,000 persons off the dole. By doing so, it placed them in a state of destitution, and they arc now depending upon charity. There is something wrong in the statement that “ What Britain can do Australia can do “.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) has submitted a list of goods in respect of which prohibition of importations has been repealed. Included in this list are such items as manufactured tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, &c. It would appear from the action of the Government in this respect that the policy of the previous Government has been repealed. What will be the attitude of the Country party, of which Senator E. B. Johnston is a member, and which was associated with the United Australia party during the elections, towards the Government’s tariff proposals?
– There has not been much reduction.
– The United Australia party and the Country party were returned on a common policy, which has now been sabotaged by the party with which the Country party was associated prior to the election. In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania thousands of acres have been placed under tobacco.
– And in Western Australia.
– I am pleased to know that that is so. But one of the first acts of the present Government has been to lift the prohibition on certain classes of tobacco, which must have a serious effect upon those engaged in the industry.
– It will remove the gold ‘bounty next.
– Will the Country party, of ‘which Senator Carroll and Senator Johnston are members, support such a policy?
– Hands off the gold bounty.
– Farmers who have been engaged in preparing land for the production of tobacco for over twelve months, now find, in consequence of the Government’s tariff proposals, that their position is hopeless. Moreover, those engaged in the production of hops will now be compelled, to exercise their energies in other directions. When the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) and I visited Tasmania a few weeks ago on a short holiday, we found that the firm of Henry Jones Limited, and others, were doing everything possible to encourage the cultivation of tobacco. At its own -expense that firm obtained the services of an expert from Victoria, who arranged for the distribution of tobacco plants to farmers in the Derwent Valley. The result of the action of the Government is that all that has to go.
– Oh, no !
– It has.
– The local industry is still being given protection to the extent of 100 per cent.
– That may be so. The previous Government afforded the growers complete protection. I should like to know the attitude that honorable senators from Tasmania propose to adopt. At different times they castigated the last Government for doing what they considered was not the right thing in the interests of the farmers. We now have a so-called farmers’ government in power ; it holds office by virtue of the support which it receives from the Country party; yet its first action is to stab in the back every tobacco-grower in Australia generally, and in Tasmania particularly. The firm of Henry Jones and Company has repeatedly proved a very good friend to the small orchardist and farmer in Tasmania, including the hopgrower. By one vicious act of administration, the Government has declared war, not only on the tobacco-growing industry, but also upon the farmers of Tasmania, who are engaged in that occupation. Shame on it, I say. I do not wish to make any accusation; but there must be something wrong when it is left to me to fight for the rights of the farmers of a small State which is not represented by me, without receiving any support from those honorable senators who are sent here t’o look after their interests. My friend, Senator Sampson, has charged me with having an evil mind. Does he regard as the product of an evil mind the statement that Mr. Beading, one of the directors of the Commonwealth Bank Board, is also a principal director of the British- Australasian Tobacco Company? I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date. *
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Arbitration Court Judges: Statement by Senator McLachlan
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– During my temporary absence from the chamber on official business, I understand that Senator Dunn suggested that in the course of my speech on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I attacked the judges of the Arbitration Court. The honorable senatoreither must have spoken in the heat of the moment, or did not express himself quite plainly; or he misunderstood what I said. You, Mr. President, would not allow such an attack to be made by me ; and I did not intend to, nor did I, make it. What I said was that the arbitration system had become so tangled that it was difficult for any government to make it function in such a way as to enable speedy relief from existing conditions to be given. Nothing was further from my mind than to make an attack on the judges of the Arbitration Court. If I left that impression on the minds of honorable senators, I regret it.
– I welcome the assurance that has been given by the Minister. I felt certain at the time that he did not mean to attack the judges of the Arbitration Court, hut if he will read the proof of his speech, he will find that there is some justification for the interpretation placed upon his remarks. He certainly left on the minds of honorable senators on this aide of the chamber, the impression that, through the action of the judges of the Arbitration Court, industry had been imperilled. He quoted the example of an arbitration award having provided a wage of £252 a year for a youth. The principles of wage fixation are enunciated by the judiciary.
– We enunciate the principles, and the judiciary gives effect to them.
– That is not so. The Minister is absolutely in error in that assumption. This Parliament has no power to fix a basic wage, or to prescribe any wage, or lay down any conditions. All that we have is the right to set up a tribunal, which in turn lays down principles, upon which basic and other wages are fixed. Calling in question the fixation of a basic wage of £252 is criticism of the particular body responsible for the fixation of that wage. I am certain that Senator McLachlan would be one of the last men to criticize the judiciary. I am convinced that what he had in mind was the whole system, and not any portion of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 February 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320226_senate_13_133/>.