28 September 1932

13th Parliament · 1st Session

ThePresident (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Minister for Defence · West orn Australia · UAP

[3.1]. - by leave -I desire to inform honorable senators that the Honorable C. A. S. Hawker has tendered his resignation as a member of the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has takenover the portfolio of Minister for Commerce, in order that certain legal formalities may be complied with. The Honorable J. A. Perkins, will, however, actually carry out the duties of the office, until a new Minister is appointed.

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Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– On the 1st September, Senator E.B. Johnston raised the question of the importation of goods bearing markings calculated to deceive purchasers as to the country of origin, and he exhibited a wrapper for “ Kookaburra “ pencils manufactured by the Swan Pencil Company, Germany.

Senator Johnston claimed that the markings on the wrapper were such as to mislead the purchasing public, and he urged that the matter be brought under the notice of the Department of Trade and Customs. As Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, I instituted inquiries in regard to the questions raised by Senator Johnston, and I have received the following advice from the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs : -

Referring to the question raised in the Senate on the 1st September, 1932. by SenatorE. B. Johnston of theimportation being prevented of goods bearing marking calculated to deceive purchasers as to the country of origin,I desire to state in regard to the particular goods mentioned by Senator Johnston that the marking onthe wrapper for “Kookaburra “ pencils manufactured by the Swan Pencil Company, Germany, does not comply with departmental requirements. In order to comply with requirements a definite statement inEnglish, in conspicuous and legible characters indicating origin, should appear on the wrapper in conjunction with the marking likely to deceive a purchaser in Australia as to the country in which the goodswere made or produced. The word “ Bavaria “ does not appear in conspicuous and legible characters and the collectors of customs in the various States are being instructed that future consignments are not to be permitted delivery unless the goods are marked strictly in accordance with requirements. They are also being instructed in regard to imported goods generally bearing marking indicative of Australian origin that particular care is to be exercised to ensure that delivery is not permitted unless marking requirements are fully complied with.

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Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– The document will not be available until such time as it is laid on the table.

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– Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation continuing the wheat bounty of 4?d. a bushel before the forthcoming adjournment of the Senate. If not, what direct assistance is to be given to wheatgrowers for the coming harvest?


– The question of continuing the payment of the wheat bounty is still under consideration. No decision has yetbeen arrived at.

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Senator McLACHLAN:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · South Australia · UAP

by leave - For the information of honorable senators, I wish to state that, in accordance with a request made to him by Mr. Justice Langer Owen, the Royal Commissioner on Performing Rights, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) is to-day issuing the following statement in another place: -

The Royal Commission on Performing Bights commenced its sittings on the 23rd September, and has adjourned until the 4th October, when evidence will be given with respect to questions arisingout of the use of copyright music in broadcasting. As soon as possible, the Commissioner hopes to deal with matters in dispute between the owners of the performing right in copyright music, and persons interested in its performance in cinemas, theatres, dance halls, publichalls, cabarets, hotels, and restaurants. The Government hopes that these persons will assist to make the inquiry complete and effective in all its aspects, and the Attorney-General asks all interested parties to make all material evidence and information available to the commission at the earliest date. All communications should be addressed to the Secretary of the Commission, Seventh Floor. Commonwealth Bank Buildings, Sydney. Be will advise any persons interested as to the steps which they should take in order to place their evidence before the commission.

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The following papers were presented : -

Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 93.

Canned FruitsExport Control Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Canned Fruits Control Board, year ended 30th June, 1932, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.

Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1932, and Statement of Liabilities and Assets of the Note Issue Department at 30th June, 1932, together with AuditorGeneral’s Reports thereon.

Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1932, No.95 -No. 96.

Commonwealth Census and Statistics Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 94.

Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Dairy Produce Control Board, year ended 30th June, 1932, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquiredat Hall, Federal Capital Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.

Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 99.

New Guinea Act - Ordinance No. 17 of 1932 - Marking of Weight on heavy Packages.

Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1932 -

No. 2 - Customs.

No. 3 - Post and Telegraph.

No. 4 - Lunacy.

No. 5 - Marking of Weight on heavy Packages

Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 18 of 1932 - Prison.

Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 97.

Tariff Board - Reports and Recommendations -

Bunker Coal.

Piece Goods in the Gray orUndyed State.

Plain Clear Sheet Glass.

Road-making material, including Bitumen and Bitumastic Emulsion.

War Service Homes Act - Report of the War Service Homes Commission, together with Statements and Balance-sheet, year ended 30th June, 1932.

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Transfer to Canberra

  1. What departments of the federal administration are still centred in Melbourne?
  2. How many public servants of the Common wealth employed in such departments remain in Melbourne?
  3. What is the aggregate rental value of the offices occupied in Melbourne by employees of the Commonwealth who could more appropriately be domiciled in Canberra?
  4. When does the Government contemplate taking steps to remove the officials referred to from Melbourne to Canberra?
  5. Is it not a fact that when leases for business purposes in Canberra were offered for competition,the then government promised that the great majority of Commonwealth servants residing in Melbourne would be transferred to Canberra, and that many lessees have suffered severe losses through non-fulfilment of such promises?

I am now in a position to furnish the following reply : - 1 and 2. It is assumed that the honorable senator desires information in regard to Commonwealth offices stationed in Melbourne, but still subject to transfer to Canberra. Particulars are as follow: -

  1. The aggregate annual rental at present paid for offices in Melbourne, which are subject to transfer to Canberra, is £13,000, approximately.
  2. Provision has been made on the Estimates for 1932-33 for the transfer of the Patents and Trade Marks Branch. In regard to other departments, &c., no indication canbe given at th is stage as to the date of their removal to Canberra.
  3. I am informed that no definite promises to this effect were made, but that estimates of population were based upon the scheme of development adopted at the time of the first sale of leases, providing for the transfer of Parliament and about 350 public servants, and for the removal of further numbers of officials upon the anticipated completion of the administrative offices in1930. The government of the day found it necessary, for financial reasons, to suspend the work of construction of the administrative offices. It is pointed out that, nevertheless, the total population for several yearshas considerably exceeded the estimate made at the time of the sale, as the number of public servants transferred in the first stage was subsequently increased from 350 to 800.

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Senator FOLL:

– I ask the Minister for Defence if it isa fact that, because of the unfortunate accident that occurred at Lismore recently, in which three men were killed, the Civil Aviation Department has forbidden the use in Australia of puss moth aeroplanes? If so, does the right honorable gentleman not con sider that such action will seriously prejudice the manufacturers and users of these machines, which are generally regarded as thoroughly efficient, and will he have investigations made to ascertain whether there is any justification for it?


– The action taken was consequent upon representations by the officers of the department, as a result of a preliminary examination of the wreckage of the machine involved in the accident to which the honorable senator has referred, and also in the light of other information in their possession. The prohibition of the use of this class of machine is not intended to be permanent. An inquiry is now proceeding into this deplorable accident, in which three distinguished gentlemen lost their lives. In order to strengthen the committee that is making that inquiry, there has been added to its personnel Professor Payne, professor of engineering, Melbourne. The inquiry will be completed within a comparatively short period. Meanwhile, it has been deemed advisable to prohibit the use of these machines with a view to safeguarding life. The matter has been thoroughly explained to those who are interested in these machines. The inquiry may result in some structural alteration being recommended, but until it. is concluded judgment on that point must be suspended.

Senator Hardy:

– Is the inquiry to be open to the public or to be held in camera ?


– It is being held in camera.

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Senator DUNN:

– Is it the intention of the Government to incorporate in the papers relating to the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa the tariff schedules that formed the basis of the bargaining that took place between Great Britain and Australia?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– The tariff schedules will be introduced simultaneously with the tabling of the Ottawa agreement by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and his explanation of the whole matter.

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Senator RAE:

asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -

  1. In regard to a statement by Senator the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, in reply to a question by SenatorRae on Wednesday, 14th September, that 80 personshad been deported from the Commonwealth between 1st January end 31st August, 1932, “on account of illegal entry, health reasons, and other causes.” will the Minister state how many of the number were deported for “other causes,” and the nature of those “other causes’’?
  2. Regarding the Minister’s further statement that the laws of the Commonwealth “ provide ample protection for the liberty of the individual,” will he state explicitly what opportunities are provided under the law for the defence of persons charged with offences rendering them liable to deportation ?
  3. Have any of the 80 deportees classified under the term “ other causes,” been deported without a trial; if so,how many?
Senator McLACHLAN:

– The replies furnished by the Attorney-General are as follow : -

  1. ” For other causes,” 30; “ nature of other causes,” breaches of the law.
  2. It is not lawful to deport persons from the Commonwealth except in certain cases.If the facts do not bring a person within these cases there is an immediate remedy in the courts readily available to any person whose liberty is unlawfully restrained. In the case of persons deported on account of conviction for criminal offences, there is no room for dispute about the facts; but, even in such a case, the person can by proceedings in court challenge, e.g., the fact of conviction or bis identity with the person convicted.
  3. All such persons have been tried and convicted of offences before deportation.

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asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

  1. Was it decided by the Scullin Government, in cases where awards for Commonwealth railway employees made provision for adjustment on the basis of cost of living, that reductions under this clause should not be applied until the 10 per cent. reduction under the Financial Emergency Act had been absorbed?
  2. Were any adjustments withheld as the result of such decision?
  3. What was the percentage reduction so withheld?
  4. Has a decision been reached to apply the reductions as provided in the award?
  5. When was such decision reached?
  6. As the result of such decision, what percentage reductionhas now been applied to Commonwealth railway employees?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The replies furnished by the Minister for the Interior are as follow: -

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes.
  3. In place of a general reduction of 10 per cent., Common wealth railways wages employees suffered reductions varying according to their rate of pay as follows, viz.: - From 12th July, 1931,10 per cent.: from 1st August, 1931, 7.89 per cent. to 10 per cent. : from 1st November, 1931, 4.11 per cent. to 7.85 per cent.; from 1st February, 1932. 5.4 per cent. to 8.61 per cent.; from 1st May, 1932, 6.66 per cent. to 9.35 per cent.
  4. Yes, subject to the minimum adult rate of £182 per annum (or11s. 8d. per day) being maintained.
  5. 4th August, 1932. 6.From6.66 per cent. to 10 per cent. The percentage of reductions lower than 10 per cent. is due to the minimum adult rate of £182 per annum (or11s.8d. per day) still being maintained.

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Assent to the following bills reported : -

Supply Bill (No. 2) 1932-33.

Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1932-33.

High Commissioner Bill.

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Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[3.22]. - I move-

That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill from being passed through all its stages without delay.

As honorable senators are aware, another place will shortly be engaged for some weeksin debating the Tariff and the Ottawa Agreement and schedules arising out of that agreement. During that period there will be no work for the Senate to do, and. it will probably adjourn; but. before it does so the Government is anxious to pass the Financial Emergency Bill 1932, the State Grants Bills, and the Sales Tax Assessment Bills. The Government is anxious to dispose of those measures before the end of the month, because the following period is that upon which the budget has been based, and during which certain savings are to be effected. We hope to dispose of them this week. The State Grants Bills and Sales Tax Assessment Bills are noncontent ions. The former are an act of partial justice and the latter provide for n remission of taxation which no one will oppose. In the case of those measures we do not anticipate any lengthy discussion; but the Financial Emergency Bill is contentious, and the Government does not desire, in any way, to limit reasonable discussion upon it. If this motion is carried, the AssistantMinister (Senator Greene) will move the second reading, and I understand that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) will move the adjournment of the debate until after the dinner adjournment this evening. I think that every one is familiar with its provisions, and honorable senators should, therefore, be prepared to proceed to discuss it. As the Government also proposes to ask the Senate to meet at 11 a.m. to-morrow, it. is assumed that there will be ample, opportunity for full discussion, and at the same time a reasonable prospect of completing our work this week. Of course, if that is impracticable we shall have to come back next week. It looks as if there will be sufficient time for rea so nabil discussion, and that the Senate’’ will be able to dispose of these measures this week. It is then proposed that the Senate shall rise until a date to be fixed by Mr. President, as we cannot anticipate how long the debate on the tariff in another place will continue. It will obviously take from four to six weeks. It is with that object in view that I am moving the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders, and not with any desire to rush the bill through or interfere with its discussion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a. first time.

Second Reading

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I move -

That the bill he now read a second time.

Before I deal with the bill itself, I should like, if I may, to make a few passing references to the financial position of the Commonwealth which, in the opinion of the Government, necessitates the passage of this measure. I do not propose to enter upon a general budget debate, but

I think it desirable, in the first instance, to draw honorable senators’ attention to the financial position of the Commonwealth, and to deal generally with the situation as I see it, and as the Government believes it to be, and with the necessity for the step which the Government now proposes to take.

First of all, the total estimated revenue this year is £Cn,!)S6,000. I realize that during the last three months the revenue has been somewhat in excess of the average anticipated, but the increase has come principally from customs and excise. The Government feels that the importations this year must be limited by the available London funds. There is nothing in the price levels of our primary products, in anticipation of what our exports are likely to be, which will materially add to the estimate of imports upon which the estimate of customs revenue wa3 framed. Consequently, although the revenue may be somewhat buoyant in the first part of the year, with the change over from foreign to British importation which we anticipate will follow the adoption of the Ottawa treaties, we estimate that the customs revenue is not likely to further increase. The normal estimated expenditure for this year is £3S,767,000, and the budget gap is £2,781,000. In considering this bill, I want honorable senators to bear definitely in mind that, although the estimated deficiency between revenue and expenditure is under £3,000,000 this year, we are not budgeting for any of the liability which still exists in respect to the war debt owing to Great Britain. As. honorable senators are aware, the British Government consented not , to ask for the repayment of any of the principal of that war debt for last year or this year, and, under the Hoover moratorium of last year, we were relieved of the necessity of paying interest upon it. With exchange, the interest payment this year, if made, would have amounted to £4,900,000. There is no actual arrangement for the suspension of the payment of the interest this year; we may still have to pay it; and, of course, in those circumstances, the result would be a very serious deficit in our budget figures at the end of the year. If we had to pay this interest bill, without taking into consideration payments in reduction of the principal, our deficiency on the budget figures for this year would be £7,681,000. That is a serious situation.

In order to bridge the gap which exists bn the original estimate figures, a deficiency of £2,7S1,000, the Government proposes, first of all, to carry forward last year’s surplus of £1,314,000. I need hardly remind honorable senators that this surplus does not actually exist in cash. It simply means that we have a smaller overdraft at the Commonwealth Bank. In normal circumstances, and in the ordinary handling of finance, the right course for the Government to take would be to write that surplus off the accumulated deficit which has grown up during the last few years until it now amounts to £17,216,000. I want honorable senators to realize that we have this deficit of £17,216,000, and that we are not meeting the whole of our interest obligations this year to the extent of £4,900,000, and still have this gap in our budget figures. The situation is fairly serious, and impresses on all the necessity for the utmost economy in every direction. The purpose of this bill is to suspend the gold bounty, to limit the amount of bounty paid in respect of wine export, to restrict the payment of the maternity allowance still further beyond the restriction imposed last year by the last Government, to reduce still further ministerial and parliamentary allowances, also salaries of public servants by the amount representative of the cost of living adjustment, and to effect savings in invalid aud old-age pensions through limitations and contributions by relatives. The total estimated savings, according to the budget speech, are £1,479.000. If we make these particular savings and our revenue comes up to anticipation, and if we do not spend more money than we are budgeting to spend, Ave hope at the end of the year to have a surplus of £12,000. This has been arrived at by bringing into this year’s figures last year’s somewhat insubstantial surplus of £1,314,000 and by disregarding payments due in respect of the British war debt. No one has a greater dislike for reductions than has the present Government, but in the face of its responsibility there is no other possible course for it to take.

There is another factor in connexion with this matter to which I wish to draw the attention of honorable senators before I pass on to explain the provisions of the bill. During the last two years, we have placed on the people enormous additional burdens in the shape of taxation of all sorts and kinds. The total new taxation during this period, inclusive of that which we are budgeting to get this year from the sources set out in the budget speech, amounts to £16,600,000. It should be, I think, regarded by Parliament merely as emergency taxation. Certainly it should not be looked upon as permanent and our aim should be to relieve the country of it at the earliest possible moment because in the whole of our governmental activities, no single factor has a greater detrimental effect upon unemployment than has heavy taxation. While these imposts are necessary, and while it is vital that we should balance our budgets, and not get into further arrears, we cannot get away from the fact that these heavy burdens are causing a tremendous lot of unemployment in our midst. For .that reason, more than for any other, the Government is bound to look at all its major avenues of expenditure, it must do so. not merely from the point of view of the immediate present; it must’ try to visualize the future, and find a way of ridding the country of this burden, thereby enabling our people to get back into employment. During recent years, the cost of social services in Australia has grown to such an extent’ as to threaten to overwhelm us. In saying that, I refer, not only to those social services which are a charge on the Commonwealth Government, such as the maternity allowance, and old-age, invalid and soldiers’ pensions, but also to the social services of the States. The following table shows the growth of the cost of social services, both State and Federal, since 1911: -

Honorable senators, will see that in 20 years the cost of these social services has risen, from £8,769,338 to £45,087,916. In 1911, the per capita cost of them was £2; by 1921, it had increased to £5 5s., and by 1931 to £7. Compared with the national income, the expenditure on social services represented 3.5 per cent, in 1911, and 9.6 per cent, in 1931. These figures indicate the heavy burden which these social services are becoming. All are agreed that, as far as possible, the country should care for its poor and indigent citizens, and endeavour to make as easy and smooth as possible the way of those who have been unfortunate; but these figures make it plain that the cost is becoming more than the country can afford. They show a growth which, if not checked, will inevitably make it impossible for Australia to carry on. Something must be done to check that growth. After all, the money spent in providing these social services has to be drawn from the sources of production ; it comes not from the air but from the pockets of the taxpayers of Australia. I repeat that this burden of taxation is the greatest contributing cause of the tremendous amount of unemployment in our midst to-day.

Senator Collings:

– The Minister’s statement does not make it a fact.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I say, unhesitatingly, that if we want to do what is right we must see that these social services are provided only for those who are absolutely in. need of them. To those in our midst who are really in need we owe an obligation; but in every case in which that necessity does not exist, the country is under no obligation to step in and assist’. It should not contribute to the upkeep of persons who have other sources on which they can draw for their sustenance.

The bill is designed to amend the Financial Emergency Act 1931, and to give effect to the somewhat far-reaching financial proposals of the Government as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) in his budget’ speech. In view of the difficult financial position of Australia, the Government is reluctantly compelled to adopt extraordinary measures, not only to maintain budget equilibrium, but also to re-establish the finances of the Com monwealth at the earliest possible moment. This measure will involve further sacrifice on the part of some of our people; but in view of the general fall in the cost of living, it will not impose any real burden on those affected by it.

Some of the early provisions of the bill deal with a matter which I feel sure honorable senators will be glad to get rid of as quickly as possible; I refer to ministerial and parliamentary allowances. Under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931, the aggregate salaries of Ministers were reduced from £15,300 per annum to £11,857, a reduction of 22£ per cent. This bill will reduce them by 30 per cent, or £4,590, making the amount payable to Ministers £10,710. Under the Financial Emergency Act passed last year parliamentary salaries and allowances were reduced on a sliding scale as follow: - £1,000 and under, 20 per cent.; over £1,000 and up to £2,000, 22£ per cent.; over £2,000, 25 per cent. For the purpose of arriving at the precise rate of reduction, all salaries and allowances, including . ministerial salaries, were aggregated. The bill provides for an increased scale of- reductions, as follows: - President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, 30 per cent. ; Chairman of Committees in either House, 27£ per cent.; senators and members, 25 per cent. ; Leader of the Opposition in either House, 25 per cent.

The increased scale of reductions will result in further savings in ministerial and parliamentary allowances of approximately £6,500, which represents a further average reduction of about 5 per cent.

Under the Financial Emergency Act last year the salaries and wages of the Public Service according to the standard operating at 1st July, 1930, were reduced, firstly, by a flat rate corresponding to the t fall in the cost of living, and, secondly, ‘ by a further reduction on a sliding scale up to 24 per cent, on the remaining salary, no salary being reduced below the basic wage. In the case of an adult male, the cost of living reduction was £34, inclusive of a reduction which had been effected in April, 1931. Since that adjustment was made there has been an additional fall in the cost of living, which warrants a further reduction at the rate of £8 per annum.

As the principle of salary and wage adjustments in accordance with the rise

Or fall in the cost of living is a feature of industrial awards, the Government sees no reason why the same principle should not be applied to the present salaries of the Public Service. As a matter of actual fact that has always been the practice. The bill therefore provides for the following general reductions: - Adult male officer, £8 per annum; adult female, £5 per annum ; minors, £4 per annum. The proportionate reductions for adult females and minors are in keeping with the PublicService practice.

Further provision is made so that salaries and wages will rise or fall on the 1st July each year in accordance with the usual formula relating to cost of living index numbers. What will actually happen is that on the passing of this bill, the index figures, whether they show a rise or fall, will automatically apply to Public Service salaries, just as they did before the original Financial Emergency Act, was brought into operation.

Briefly stated, the position of salaries may be explained thus: - If there had been no Financial Emergency Act salaries would have been automatically reduced by £18 last year and a further £24 this year on account of the fall in the cost of living. The effect of the Financial Emergency Act and this bill is to bring into full operation this cost of living reduction of £42, plus the further percentage reductions up to 24 per cent. in salaries above the basic wage, which were made last year, and to provide for automatic adjustments in future varying with the rise or fall in the cost of living.

Senator Rae:

– So that no one will ever be better off.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– That is not so. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that the Public Service regulations fix the maximum and minimum salaries of all officers within their respective classes. Those regulations are not interfered with, so there is nothing to prevent a public servant from being promoted from one class to another in the ordinary way. The actual cut in Public Service salaries made by the Scullin Administration under the Financial Emergency Act, ranging from 3 per cent. to 24 per cent., did not apply to employees on the basic wage. Under this bill the ordinary practice with regard to cost of living adjustments will operate automatically as hitherto.

The field of salary and wage payments of the Commonwealth is so extensive and complex, owing to the various awards and conditions, that, it is not practicable to apply this scheme of reduction to every employee, and at the same time secure equitable results. Special provisions were included in the act last year to meet these conditions, and special provisions are included in this bill. As officers of the Commonwealth stationed outside of Australia may not have benefited by a reduction in the cost, of living, it is provided that the reduction of £8 shall not be applied to these officers unless the Minister so directs.

The composition of the pay and allowances of members of the Defence Forces differs materially from that of the Public Service. Moreover, the pay and allowances of the Defence Forces have not, in the past, been subject to automatic variations in accordance with the rise and fall in the cost of living. It will be necessary, therefore, for special consideration to be given as to the extent to which the pay of the Defence Forces shall be reduced, having regard to the reductions already made under the Financial Emergency Acts 1931. The bill provides that the reductions shall be made in these cases to such extent and in such manner as shall be prescribed by regulations.

With regard to employees of the Commonwealth who work under federal court awards, which provide for cost of living reductions and the further 10 per cent. reduction, the Government can see no reason why the reduction as fixed by the court, for application to outside employees should not also be applied to Commonwealth employees, and provision is being made accordingly.

There are certain employees under other awards, including State awards, industrial tribunals, &c. In these cases the Government proposes to apply the principle which was adopted under the Financial Emergency Act last year, and they will be considered by the committee which was constituted under section 13 of the act. Any variations of salary or wages will be determined by the

Minister following upon the receipt of that committee’s recommendations. An amendment is also provided in the bill to enable the Minister to exercise his powers from time to time to meet the cases to which I have just referred, and other cases in regard to which power was given in the act passed last year.

The provisions relating to salaries and wages are contained in clauses 6 to 10 of the bill. Further explanations will be given when the bill reaches the committee stage. It is estimated that the total savings on the budget this year will be about £220,000.

The Maternity . Allowance Act, as originally passed by Parliament, provided for payment of a maternity allowance of £5 to every mother, irrespective of her financial position. Following on the* adoption of the Premiers plan in 1931, the act was amended to provide that the amount of each allowance should be reduced to £4, and that no payment would be made in any case in which the income of the claimant and her husband for the twelve months preceding the birth of the child in respect of which a maternity allowance was claimed exceeded £260. As the result of this legislation, a saving of approximately £260,000 per annum was effected in maternity allowance expenditure. The experience of the department is that the amendment of the law has operated equitably, and it is believed that a further economy can be effected without involving any hardship in deserving cases. It is proposed, therefore, to provide that an allowance shall not be paid in any case in which the income of the claimant, and her husband exceeds £20S per annum.

The Government has given very close consideration to the most equitable means of securing a reduction in the very heavy expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions. 1. shall deal later with the growth of this social service and see where it is likely to lead us if we do not take action to meet the situation which has arisen, and show the extent to which the expenditure has exceeded the estimate of those who were responsible for the introduction of this system. Our experience has shown that the estimate of cost, prepared with the utmost care by the Commonwealth Statistician at that time (the la re Sir George Knibbs) has been very greatly exceeded, and that we have arrived at the point at which, if something is not, done to limit the number of persons to whom the pension is paid, we shall be faced with a pensions bill of approximately £20,000,000 a year. The intention of course, was to pay this pension only to those in absolute need of it; but every honorable senator knows, from personal experience in the handling of eases which come under his notice, that the pension is now claimed by a great number of persons who are not in need of it. Although legally they would not be in receipt of any income, they could get along very well without it. It is, of course, a very nice addition to the family income. But the Government, must face the position. We must ask ourselves if the Commonwealth can continue to pay pensions in cases of ‘that sort.

In the budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Lyons) announced that the maximum pension payment would be reduced from 17s. 6d. to 15s. per week, and that a system of inspection would be adopted with a view to limiting pension payments to those for whom they were really intended. Unfortunately, cases of fraud have come to light, rendering it necessary for the Government to take action to police the system as far as possible, and see that the Commonwealth is not imposed upon. The Treasurer also announced that future pension payments would be a charge against the pensioner’s estate at death and that, should the pensioner become possessed of property cancelling the right to receipt of pension, the pension would be a charge against such property.

In considering the amendments to give effect to the budget proposals, the Government has come to the conclusion that the necessary savings in the Pensions Bill can be secured without reducing the pension of those who are entirely dependent upon it. The Government, therefore, proposes to continue the pension at 17s. 6d. in all such cases. It is proposed that every pensioner who to-day is enjoying the maximum pension will be left on that rate until investigation discloses whether it may be reduced after the bill has become law. The pensions of those who have no other means of support will not, in any circumstances, be reduced below 17s. 6d. a week. But the reduction will apply immediately in the case of those who are now drawing less than the maximum pension, and also of those who are inmates of benevolent asylums throughout the Commonwealth. At the same time, the Government proposes that, where the children of pensioners are in a position to contribute towards the cost of the pension, they shall be required to do so.

Before explaining fully the proposals of the Government, I think it desirable to give the Senate information regarding the growth of pensions. The estimated expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions for the present year is £10,500,000. Had the pension remained at 17s. 6d. in the case of all those who are ‘now drawing pensions, and those who, it is anticipated, will make claims, the amount this year would have been £11,812,000. Had the pension not been reduced last year, our bill this year would have been £13,125,000. Last year the actual expenditure was £11,126,000. The Premiers plan had as its basic principle a 20 per cent, reduction of all adjustable government expenditure on. the figures for the year 1929-30. The expenditure on pensions in that year was £10,791,325. Last year’s expenditure, therefore, was 3.10 per cent, above that figure. This year, on an estimated expenditure of £10,500,000, a reduction of 2.7 per cent, on the amount expended in the year fixed by the Premiers plan will be effected.


– The Premiers plan did not provide for a 20 per cent, reduction of the expenditure on every item.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– No; it contemplated a reduction of 20 per cent, on the total expenditure for 1929-30, and every government was given a free hand to make whatever adjustments it considered advisable. The pensions bill looms very largely in the Commonwealth’s total expenditure. As the reduction on the basic year of the Premiers plan, as a result of two cuts, will be only 2.7 per cent., it will be realized how very severe it would need to be to achieve the 20 per cent, aimed at. No one contemplates doing anything of the kind.

In the first ten years of the operations of the Pensions Act, the annual rate of increase in the number of pensions paid was 5,428. In the earlier years, the additions were larger than was the case towards the end of that period. Sir George Knibbs estimated that, by the year 1926-27, the number of pensions paid would be 98,500, and that the expenditure would amount to £2,388,000. Actually, the number who received a pension in that year was 133,234. When Sir George Knibbs made his estimate, there was no thought of extending the principle to invalids; that has since been superimposed on the original scheme. In the next ten years, the average annual increase was 11,149.

I have some rather interesting figures which I consider show very conclusively the effect that the increases in the rate of pension have had on the number of claims submitted. The more attractive the pension became, the greater was the number of claimants for it.

Senator Collings:

– We all suffer from that complaint.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I am afraid that we do. I am merely illustrating the growth in this class of service, and the possibility of its extension into realms that were undreamt of when the scheme was originally laid down. In 1922-23, the net addition to the number of pensions was 3,338. In the preceding year the figure was a little higher, and in the year before that it was just about 6,000. The pension was raised early in 1923-24, and in that year the net addition to the number of pensioners was 8,218. In 1924- 25, the number fell to 6,685. In 1925- 26, the. pension was again raised, and the net addition in that year was as high as 13,365. I point out to honorable senators that that year marked the period of our greatest prosperity; yet the net increase was 13,365 compared with 3,338 in 1922-23.

Senator O’halloran:

– That was due to the increased earnings permitted by the act.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I am perfectly convinced that the factor chiefly responsible was the raising of the pension to £1 a week. The last three years, I admit, have been years of considerable difficulty, and, I am sorry to say, of widespread poverty, which has been felt most keenly in the ranks of the unemployed. Unemploymenthas been due very largely to the tremendous load of taxation that it has been necessary to impose for the purpose of raising revenue to pay pensions and meet the cost of other social services. In many cases, pensions have been paid to persons who were not in need of them.

Senator O’Halloran:

– In many families the pension of the aged father is the only income that is being received at the moment.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– In those cases, there will be no reduction below the figure fixed by the Government of which the honorable senator was a supporter. In the last three years, the increases have been as follows: -

Last year, 183,317 old-age and 72,292 invalid pensions were paid, costing £11,126,000, which represented 34s.1d. per head of the population, compared with 8s. 4d. per head in 1910-11, in which year, I think, invalid pensions were first paid.

The following table gives particulars of the growth of the pensions bill in quinquennial periods since the grant of pensions was first established : -

The increase in the cost of pensions per head of the population serves to demonstrate perhaps more clearly than anything else the impossibility of continuing this benefit on the existing scale of expenditure. The increase in the per capita cost from 8s. 4d. in 1910-11 to £1 14s.1d. in 1931-32 is so great that one feels that it must impress itself upon every honorable senator, and that, if such a rate of progression continues, this country will not be able to carry the burden. “When some honorable senators say that the Government’ must impose further taxation in order to pay these pensions, regardless of whether they are or are not required, they have no consideration at all for the vast number of people who are being thrown out of employment.

Senator O’Halloran:

– What was the relative purchasing power of money in those years ?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I am speaking of the per capita charge upon the people. If the cost of living is greater now than it was then, the burden upon the taxpayer is even greater. If the per capita is greater, and the cost of living has risen in the meantime, the burden on the taxpayer is relatively greater and not less. The per capita cost, of course, varies with the rate of pension, but the increase in the number of pensioners is a factor which commands attention. During the last six years the average annual increase in the. number of pensioners was 13,000. That this average was exceeded last financial year, during which more than 15,000 pensioners were added to the roll, indicates that the annual increase in the number of pensioners is still growing. Honorable senators will see from the following figures the increase which has occurred in the number of old-age pensioners: -

In 1910-11, the total of invalid and oldage pensioners was 82,953, but by 1933-32 it had increased to 255,609. It was in these circumstances that the Government was reluctantly compelled to seek a reduction in the rate of pension. It was in totally different circumstances that the rate of pension was fixed at 15s. a week in 1920. The Government at that time was favoured with buoyant revenues, and the financial year preceding that in which the rate of pension was increased had produced a surplus of £2.200,000, whilst the year in which the increase was made closed with a surplus of £893,000. The position facing the present Government is entirely different. Whereas in 1920-21 there were 140,396 pensioners, the number to be provided for at the beginning of this year was 255,609. We were faced with a prospective deficit of £2.781,000, and. after allowing for the surplus brought forward from lastfinancial year, there still remained a deficit of £1,467,000, which compelled a reduction in the expenditure to bridge the gap.

There is only one other table which I propose to give. It shows very clearly how this pensions bill affects the resources of the Commonwealth and to what extent it is responsible for the tremendously high taxation imposed to-day, a great deal of which through various channels falls upon the poorest in the land. The following figures show the relation of the direct taxation raised by the Commonwealth to the pensions bill : -

Even after reducing the rate of pension, the scale of payment in the Commonwealth compares more than favorably with that of Great Britain and the other component parts of the Empire. The scales of pension payments may be set out thus -

The conditions governing the pensions in Great Britain also apply to noncontributory schemes in the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. I particularly draw the attention of honorable senators to the case of pensions in Canada, where the benefits in some respects appear to be more liberal than those provided by the Commonwealth; but it must be remembered that in Canada no pension is paid to a person under 70 years of age. If we adopted that method in Australia we could cut our pension bill in two. The age at. which an applicant becomes eligible makes a material difference. All persons whose age and qualifications entitle them to a pension do not necessarily receive a pension in Canada. From latest information available, just one-half of the provinces and territories have undertaken to pay pensions, and those provinces which have not entered into such an arrangement include Quebec, with a population of 2.734,600. The provincial governments pay one-quarter or one-third, and the Dominion Government the balance. Unless the provincial governments come under the arrangement they do not contribute. The Canadian pension bill does not nearly approach ours. Moreover, it must be remembered that Australia is the only country in the Empire which provides a noncontributory system of invalid pensions.

Senator Collings:

– Can Canada balance its budget?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– This year Canada has a deficit.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch:

– It is finding it hard to do so.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– We are finding it harder; we have gone further than Canada.

If. was originally intended to reduce the maximum rate of pension from 17s. Od. per week to 15s. in all cases. It has been decided, however, that where a pensioner has no income other than his pension on which he is entirely dependent, lie will still receive a pension of 17s. 6d. per week, and where the income of a pensioner is less than 2s. 6d. per week, the a mount of pension plus income shall not exceed 17s. 6d. per week. Pensions to inmates of benevolent asylums and institutions will be reduced from 5s. per week to 3s. 9d. per week. The practice of dividing the maximum pension between the pensioner inmate and tlie institution itself will still bc continued. The reduction in the pension of 2s. 6d. per week will be borne equally by the pensioner and tlie institution which, in the future, will receive Ils. 3d. per week instead of 12s. fid. which it is at. present receiving.

Under the existing law, if a pensioner directly or indirectly deprives himself of property or income in order to qualify for or obtain a pension, he is ineligible to receive one. In order to tighten up this provision it is now proposed to disqualify an applicant for a pension if, within a. period of five years preceding his claim, he has transferred, otherwise than bona fide for value, property exceeding in the aggregate the sum of £100. At the same time, a discretion is left to the Commissioner that, if he is satisfied that any such transfer of property, though not made for value, was a reasonable gift, the claimant shall not by reason of that transfer be ineligible . for a pension, Upon the death of a pensioner the amount of pension paid to him after the commencement of the act. shall be a debt due to the Commonwealth, and is charged upon his estate in priority to all other debts of the pensioner, except encumbrances existing prior to such commencement upon real property of the pensioner.

To give effect . to this provision it is necessary to take power to control the sale and transfer of real property by the pensioner. To this end no pension will be

Granted to any person, and the payment of pension to existing pensioners will not be continued, unless tlie claimant or pensioner furnishes to the Commissioner full particulars of real property owned by him ov in which he has any interest. Every pensioner and every claimant will be required to sign an undertaking not to transfer or mortgage any real property except with the prior consent in writing of the Commissioner, and any person who accepts a mortgage or -transfer of ‘ real property from a pensioner without such consent, shall be guilty of an offence. A transfer or mortgage effected in contravention of this provision shall be void and of no effect.

There are precedents for this provision. Hilder the Victorian Old-age Pensions Act, which was passed in 1901, the claimant was required to sign a deed poll under which he undertook on demand to transfer all his real property to the State, and the State was authorized to sell such property and to deduct from the proceeds the amount. of pension paid. The Canadian pensions law provides- that a pensioner who possesses property, being a home in which he resides, may transfer the property to the pension authority, in which event the property will not be maintained for the purpose of calculating the pension. On the death of the pensioner, or upon his ceasing to use such property as a home, the authority may sell it and, after deducting the amount of pension paid by reason of the home not being maintained as property, together with compound interest at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum, shall pay the balance to the person entitled thereto. The pension authority is also entitled to recover out of the estate of a deceased pensioner the total amount of pension paid, together with compound interest at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. That provision is contained in the Canadian law.

The bill further provides that where a pensioner becomes the owner of property, not. including the home in which he resides, of such value that he becomes dis-entitled to receive a pension, the total amount of pension paid after the commencement of the act shall forthwith he recoverable ‘from the pensioner, but so that the total amount of the property is not reduced below £400 or, iri the case of a married pensioner, £800. Any balance of the pension paid remaining after the application of this provision shall be a charge upon the estate of the person on death. The remaining provisions in the bill relating to the charges on the estate of a pensioner are that in the case of husband and wife who are both pensioners, the recovery of the pension paid shall not be made until the death of the survivor. That is to say, it is only on the death of the widower or widow of a pensioner who ha3 occupied the home that the amount becomes claimable.

Senator Foll:

– Will there be a dual charge in the event of two- pensioners living in the one property?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– It will depend upon circumstances. I shall bc glad to give a full explanation on that point in committee.

If any property, being the home or household effects of a pensioner, passes upon his death to another pensioner, being the widow, widower, father or mother, or a child, sister, or brother, of the pensioner, the realization of any charge on the property shall be deferred until the death of the transferee. If any property, being the home or household effects of a pensioner, passes upon his death to another person, being the widow, widower, father, or mother, or a child, sister or brother of the pensioner, and who was permanently residing with the pensioner at the date of his death, and being a male is not less than 60 years of age; or being a female is not less than 55 years of age; and, in the opinion of the Commissioner is in necessitous circumstances, any charge on the property may be deferred until the death of the transferee. If the pensioner or any person on behalf of or out of the estate of a pensioner pays any amount in respect of which a charge is created, the charge shall, to the extent of the amount paid, be deemed to be satisfied. There shall be exempted from the realization of any charge on property personal effects of a value net exceeding £50, and other property not exceeding in value £50. The charge does not relate to the first £100 of property held in these forms. If a pensioner’s home is destroyed by fire the Commissioner may consent to any insurance money received in respect of such destruction being used for building a home in which the pensioner may reside.

The bill provides that if any person has the control or disposal of any money or other property of a pensioner the person may be required by the Commissioner to apply the money or property in satisfaction of any charge or liability under the act. He is made personally liable for the satisfaction of such charges, and is indemnified for all payments which he makes to the Commissioner.

I come now to the provisions which deal with the liability of children to support their parents if they are in a position to do so. It is common knowledge that there are many cases where relatives of a pensioner, who have a moral obligation at least to contribute towards the maintenance of the pensioner, and who are in a position to so so, are content to allow the maintenance of the pensioner to fall on the State: In order to correct this position the bill provides a process by which the relatives of a pensioner, being a husband, wife, father, mother or children over 21 years of age, and who are not voluntarily contributing adequately to the maintenance of the pensioner, shall he compelled to do so. I may mention that a similar provision is contained in the South African old-age pension lav/. The moneys recovered from the relatives of a pensioner shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a contribution towards the cost of the pension so that the pensioner receives his pension intact, but does not receive in addition the compulsory contributions by his relatives. He may, however, receive voluntary contributions from his relatives without effecting the rate of his pension.

The bill further provides that no pension will be granted to any claimant in cases where his relatives severally or collectively adequately maintain him. There are cases known to the Commissioner of relatives who are not only generously, but even most generously supporting pensioners, yet the old people insist on claiming and getting the pension. In one case which was brought under my notice a little while ago, a son was contributing £10 a week to keep his father, but the old man insisted on claiming and getting what the law entitled him to get, an old-age pension.

Senator O’Halloran:

– Does not the taw prevent it?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– Under the existing law contributions by relatives are not income.

In the administration of the law as it at present stands, an annual review is made of every pension, and if the review discloses that the pensioner has acquired income or property since the date of the last review, or the date of the granting of the pension, the rate of pension is adjusted accordingly. The amending hill places upon the pensioner a statutory obligation to advise the Commissioner of Pensions of the acquisition of -property, or the receipt of income which affects the rate of pension he is receiving. By this means the pension will be more quickly adjusted to the altered circumstances of the pensioner. The present Government is determined that, so far as it is humanly possible, the invalid and oldage pension shall be drawn only by those persons who are legally entitled thereto. Such action is necessary in the interests not only of the taxpayer, but also of the deserving pensioners themselves.

That finishes my explanation of the provisions of the bill relating to pensions. I come now to the proposals relating to the wine export bounty. The Wine Export Bounty Act 1930 provided for an increased bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon on fortified wine exported on or after the 13th March, 1930, the rate having been ls. a gallon prior to that date. At the same time a special excise duty of 5s. a gallon was imposed on spirits used in the manufacture of fortified wine. The revenue derived from this excise duty was paid into a special trust account and made available towards the payment of the bounty, it being anticipated that the amount so raised would be sufficient to meet the payment. It was contemplated that sufficient revenue would be raised from the industry itself to pay the bounty, but the facts have proved otherwise.

Under this arrangement, the fortified wine consumed in Australia was expected to provide by way of excise duty the wherewithal for payment of the bounty on the wine exported. The quantity of wine exported, however, exceeded expectations; and owing to the financial depression, the local consumption of wine fell away, with the result that, in accordance with the provisions of the Wine Export Bounty Act, it was necessary to meet from the Consolidated Revenue Fund a deficiency which amounted to £96,000 in 1930-31, and £131,000 in 1931-32.

The rate of bounty was reduced by 20 per cent, under the Financial Emergency Act 1931, namely, to ls. 4£d. a gallon ; but the Government felt that a further limitation should be placed on the amount to be met from general revenue, and the bill, therefore, provides that the amount which shall be paid from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, in addition to the special excise duty of 5s. per gallon, shall not exceed £96,000 per annum, that amount being the deficiency charged to general revenue in 1930-31. In any case, whenever the payment of the bounty at the prescribed rate, as reduced by the Financial Emergency Act of 1931, will cause the deficiency chargeable to revenue to exceed £96,000, the rate of bounty will be reduced proportionately. In that event provision will be made in regulations for progress payments; but before determining the procedure to he followed in this regard, the Minister will confer with representatives of the industry with a view to the adoption of a satisfactory and equitable basis. The Government does not anticipate any difficulty in making these adjustments should the necessity arise to make them.

Clause 20 of the bill provides for the suspension from the 30th September of payment of the bounty on gold produced in Australia. Payment of this bounty was originally provided for under the Gold Bounty Act of 1930. The bounty was to be a payment in each year, for 10 years, of £1 for each ounce of gold produced in excess of the average annual production during the three years 1928, 1929, and 1930. When the act was passed in 1930, the rate of exchange Australia on London was £9 per cent., and British sterling was on a gold basis. The gold produced in Australia was then, and still is, sold at world prices through the Australian mints. As a result, the producer receives a price in Australian pounds which includes allowance for the depreciation of the Australian pound as compared with sterling, and allowance for the depreciation of sterling as compared with gold. The Australian pound in relation to gold has depreciated so much since 1930 that, without any allowance for bounty, the producer now receives far more in Australian pounds than was contemplated when the. bounty was first, provided for. The par price of gold per fine ounce is £4 4s. lid. When the bounty was first agreed to, the mint price of gold in Australian pounds was £4 Ils. 6d. per fine ounce, or 6s. 7d. above par. When the bounty was reduced in July, 3931, the price of fine gold per ounce was £5 9s. Id., or 17s. 7d.. above the price when the bounty was first agreed to. At the present time, the mint price per fine ounce is £7 6s. lOd. in Australian pounds, or £2 15s. 4d. above what was the price when the Gold Bounty Act was passed.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch:

– It is now £7 7s. 3d.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– If that is so, it makes my argument all the stronger, but the figure I have given is the latest information in the possession of the Treasury. I notice in this morning’s press that sterling is now 3 . 45^- dollars to the £1. It has been falling, and of course, as sterling is falling, gold is going up.

In these circumstances, the payment of a bounty from Commonwealth revenue cannot be justified.

Senator E B Johnston:

– What about the ten years contract?

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I do not, agree that there was a contractual obligation of that kind; but, even if there were, the Government would be recreant, to its duty if it did not tell the people, who are parties to the contract, that in the circumstances, it could not, in fairness to the taxpayers of Australia, go on. But there was no contractual obligation to start with.

The question of whether the bounty should vary with the variations in the rate of exchange was considered when the original bounty was introduced. The then Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), in introducing the bill, said , that the Government reserved the right to reconsider the question of reducing the bounty in the event of an abnormal rise in the exchange rate. That was part of the contract. The Government of the day claimed the right, to review the position in the event of any abnormal movement in exchange. The rate of exchange rose to £130 30s. in January, 1933, but no change was then made in the gold bounty. In July, .1.933, the gold bounty was dealt with in thu legislation arising out of the Premiers plan. While other bounties were then reduced by 20 per cent, the’ gold bounty was reduced from £1 per fine ounce on the excess production to 10s. per fine ounce. The greater reduction then made in the gold bounty was considered to bt fully justified by the rise of the exchange on London from £309 to £130 30s. The Financial Emergency Act of 3933. also made provision for the rate of bounty being increased by 3s. for each fall of 3 per cent, in the rate of exchange Australia, on London. The result was that when the rate of exchange fell to £125 10s. in December, 1931, the bounty became Ils. per ounce instead of 10s. It is important to remember that when the Financial Emergency Act of 3933. was passed Great Britain was still on the gold standard. When Great Britain departed from the standard in September, 1931, and sterling depreciated in relation to gold, the mint, price of gold in Australia immediately increased. That increase was more than sufficient to offset ‘ the reduction made in the bounty under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931. The gold producer is thus now receiving not only more than was contemplated in 3930 when the bounty was introduced, but also more than was contemplated in 3.931 W lie i i the bounty was reduced.

The amount actually payable in bounty for the year 1931 was £88,740. If the. bounty were paid on the total excess production of 1932, it is estimated that the cost to the Commonwealth would be £130,000. If the bounty is suspended as from the 30th September, it is estimated that the bounty payable for this year will be £100,000, and a saving of approximately £30,000 will be effected during the current financial year. Of course, if nothing had been done, six months’ obligations would have piled up by the end of this financial year, in addition to the £130,000.

The point at which payment of the bounty should be renewed is a matter of importance. Although the Government does not admit any contractual obligation in respect of a 10-year period for the gold bounty, it desires to treat the goldmining industry fairly. It is fully aware that in this country there are large bodies of low grade ore, and that it is of the highest importance that mining companies should receive definite encouragement to install the expensive plant required to deal with these deposits. For that reason, the Government desires to treat the goldmining industry as liberally as the. finances of the country will allow. It first took the view that payment of the bounty should not be renewed until gold fell to £5 per fine oz. at the Melbourne Mint, as compared with £4 4s.11d., the par price - a point, considerably higher than the value of gold at the time the bounty was originally granted.Representations have been made by the principal mining interests that the Loudon price for gold should be taken into consideration in determining when the bounty shall be renewed, and so far as I know, that, is the only request made to the Government, in respect of this matter.

SenatorO’Halloran.- It was announced in the press that the Resident Minister in London had made an agreement with the mining companies.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I have read many things in the press which have not been correct.

Senator O’Halloran:

– At least no member of the Government corrected the statement.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I shall correct it now. I am willing that the Senate should know what was actually arranged in London, and that the mining companies there regarded the arrangement as, not only a reasonable, but also a generous and liberal settlement of the difficulty.

Senator E B Johnston:

– I have never seen that stated.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I can show it to the honorable senator, both in press reports and in cables. Mr. Hamilton, whose association with the gold-mining interests is well within the knowledge of the honorable senator, expressed the view that the settlement in respect of the gold bounty, as well as the proposals of the Government in this bill, were regarded by the mining companies as satisfactory and generous.

The representations of the mining companies have been carefully considered by the Government, and it has now been decided to provide for the restoration of the bounty when the Londou mint price does not exceed £5 per oz., and the Melbourne mint price £5 10s. per oz. It might be well if I were to explain the position. If the mint price in London falls to £5 per oz., and the mint price in Australia is in excess of £5 10s., no bounty will be paid ; but, if the price falls below £5 10s. in Australia and the London mint price is £5 per oz., or less, the bounty will again be paid. The Government has not interfered with the sliding scale of adjustment in respect of the exchange. [Extension of time granted.] Should the circumstances I have mentioned arise, the bounty will be restored. In other words, the point at which the bounty will be restored, if the bill is agreed to in its present form, and the price is £5 London and £5 10s. Australia, is 16s. per oz. If it should happen that the parity between Australia and London in respect of exchange rises, the full bounty of £1 per oz. will be payable. That is the basis upon which the settlement has been made.

Senator E B Johnston:

– The mineowners of Western Australia have not agreed to anything. Indeed, they have protested vigorously.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I believe that they did protest; but, so far as I am aware, they did not take any steps to approach the Government directly in any organized way. The interests which are associated with London, and which the honorable senator knows produce the bulk of the gold won in Australia, made direct representations to the Government. Indeed, the Government was glad of the opportunity to discuss the matter with the responsible representatives of the industry, and as the result of that discussion expressed its willingness to modify its original proposals in the way that I have indicated. The representatives of the industry in London met Mr. Bruce, and discussed the matter with him. Mr. Bruce conveyed their representations to the Government in Australia, and eventually it decided to vary the original proposals. As I have said,

Mr. Hamilton, speaking on behalf of the interests which approached the Government, has stated that he regards the settlement as a generous one.

Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.

page 782


Debate resumed from the 15 th September (vide page 520) on motion by Senator Greene -

That the paper be printed.


– At this stage, it seems almost futile to add anything to the debate which took place in this chamber some days ago on the business transacted at the Ottawa Conference. I should not have participated in the debate this afternoon had it not been that when this matter was last before the Senate, I desired to say something in relation to the speeches made by some honorable senators opposite, particularly the speech of Senator Foll. On that occasion, a good deal of finessing was indulged in, with a view to preventing me from expressing my opinion. It is difficult at this later date to focus my thoughts on the subject. The whole debate on the Ottawa Conference has been more or’ less futile.. Indeed, I imagine that the subject was only brought forward, in a purely formal manner, in order that honorable senators opposite might create an atmosphere favorable to themselves not in this chamber, where they are in the majority, but in the country, where they consider it is necessary to do so. Those who spoke last week discussed the subject more or less in the dark. Although the Senate has not, even yet, been told the facts regarding what took place in Ottawa, a good deal of discursive talk has taken place in relation to what did not take place thereI now feel inclined to describe that discussion as a criminal waste of time, because honorable senators who took, part in it were talking to a disgracefully, thin house. Among those on the Government benches were at least two somnambulists. Both were soundly asleep for the greater part of the time. One awakened in the dying stages of the debate, and got in more concentrated inaccuracies and economic and sociological misstatements in his short speech than it has been my lot to listen to for a long time.

Since the adjournment of the debate, the press statements have indicated the disintegration of the Government of Great Britain, and reliable information obtained from sources other than those representing the Government in this chamber have confirmed me in the opinion which I then held. I have no doubt, however, that the Government is going on with this job, that the steam roller will not be checked; and my only reason for speaking this afternoon is that I do not wish it to appear that I have no views to express concerning the Ottawa Conference.

Senator Duncan-Hughes:

– The Russian economic steam roller has stopped.


– I am aware that the honorable senator and his friends fear Russia. Although, for a few short years, he may deceive himself about what is happening, there is arising in that country a new economic force which will play its part in the affairs of the world. But I do not wish to digress further. As a Labour socialist, I expected nothing from Ottawa, and I am satisfied that I shall not he disappointed. Up to date, information concerning the precise nature of the agreement’s’ is somewhat limited because those who represented us at Ottawa are anxious that the whole business of atmosphere-creating shall be done before the truth is told. I am not one of those who like to adopt’ the role of the critic who always says, “ There you are. I told you so ! “. But I repeat that I expected nothing from Ottawa, and I feel sure that, when the facts are known, we shall discover that the people of Australia have been sold a gold brick. Right from the initial stages in connexion with the conference the press of this country, if not bribed, was paid or subsidized to create a favorable atmosphere. First of all, we read elaborate stories about’ the arrival of our delegates on the other side, and were told that the Honorable S. M. Bruce was quite a splendid sartorial figure at the gathering. Later, we were informed that our delegates were faced with an immense task.

I do not complain that Australia was represented by the two Ministers sent by this Government. They and their colleagues in a. former ministry were responsible for muck of the economic difficulties now confronting this country, and I have not the least objection that upon their shoulders should be placed the responsibility of getting Australia out of the mess they created.

Senator Sampson:

– Would not the honorable senator include Dr. Earle Page?


– I am quite willing to include any of the honorable senator’s friends if he wishes me to do so. At that family conference at Ottawa, we had the spectacle of “dad” presiding at the head of the table, and representatives of the grown-up sons on the side benches ready to put their complaints before him. It should be noted also that all the representatives of the dominions had promised their governments that they would get something from” dad’”, and, in the case of our delegates, the Government hoped to be able to persuade the Australian electors that “ dad “ did not see the joke ! How Ministers could entertain that expectation really passes my understanding.

SenatorFoll. - “Dad” has been pretty good to us up to now :


– “ Dad “ has done pretty well out of his sons. The dominions have more than stood up to their responsibilities. The Mother Country has enjoyed greater dividends out of the Commonwealth thanwe have got out of the Mother Country. Do not let usbulldose ourselves that the position is otherwise with regard to any affection which the authoritieson the other side of the world have for us. The “silken bonds of Empire “ about which we have heard so much, prove, in the last analysis, to be financial bonds. We get nothing for nothing. Unless the British investor gets dividends - and he has done very well out of Australia - the bonds of Empire do not mean very much to him.

As a Queenslander, I was under the impression, in my earlier and more unsophisticated days, that under our system of federation the Senate would give adequate protection to State interests. I find now that it is merely another party political chamber in which all the tricks known to politics are practised to prevent the free expression of State opinion.

Senator the Hon. P. J.Lynch

– I must ask the honorable senator not to pursue that branch of his argument further.


– I shall not do so, Mr. President, if you wish it otherwise. As a Queenslander I regret that we are getting nothing from the Ottawa agreements. I charge our representatives at that conference with deliberately sidetracking Queensland interests with regard to sugar. A few days ago Senator Poll, to whom I alluded a few moments ago when hewas out of the chamber, endeavoured to persuade us thatwe had good reason to be satisfiedwith the Ottawa Conference decisions. I do not take that view. The Acting Agent-General for Queensland (Mr. Pike) has informed the Queensland Government that he supplied the Australian delegates at Ottawa with all the necessary information to put the position of the Queensland sugar industry before the gathering. It was not done. Whether or not thatwas due to a lapse of memory I do not know.

Senator MacDonald:

– Even theBrisbane Courier admits that Queensland is getting nothing from Ottawa.


– That is so. Yet we are expected to approve of the agreements even before we know the actual details. When this subject was last under discussion in the Senate an interesting position developed on the Government benches. At one time we had the spectacle of Senators Brennan, Foll and Hardy in disagreement on matters of detail. In fact the disagreement became so pronounced that another honorable senator inquired whether itwas a private brawl or whether anybody could join in.

Senator Foll told us lastweek that we could not do wrong ifwe followed the lead given to us by the experts, and the honorable senator quoted, more or less accurately, certain extracts from statements made by the experts referred to. I wish to direct attention to some observations of Henry Ford, a gentleman not unknown in the commercial world of America.With reference to the reliance that can be placed on expert opinion. Only to-day Iwas advised to study a work on economics representing the views of a number of Australian university professors, and was told that, regardless of the opinions which I might hold on any given subject,I would be sure to find some satisfying endorsement by one or other of the experts. On this subject Henry Ford is reported to have said -

If ever I wanted to kill opposition by unfair means,I would endow that opposition with experts. If you keep on recording all your failures, you will shortly have a list showing that there is nothing left for you to try. A business is a collection of people brought together to workand not to write letters to each other.

Senator Foll also endeavoured to make it appear that honorable senators on this side had, somewhere concealed in their mental make-up, an antipathy to Empire unity, and he urged that we could not go wrong if we followed the example of Great Britain. It happens that, some of us on this side know something of the history of the Mother Country, and ofthe economic conditions now prevailing in that country which is so grandiloquently referred to in this chamber as the heart of the Empire. If the future of the Commonwealth is not brighter than the future of Great Britain, then we may have good reason not to follow the example of the Mother Country.

Senator Foll:

– What did I suggest?


– I know the suggestion the honorable senator made, and why he made it. Whenever honorable senators opposite embrace the opportunity to mouth flowing sentences concerning the bonds of Empire, the heart of the Empire, and the like, it is always with the deliberate intention of reproving those who sit on this side, and of making it appear that the ministerial party has a monopoly of loyalty and of love for the flag, with all that those sentiments mean. That, however, does not affect me in the slightest degree. With me, it is always “ Australia first.”

We are adjured to take notice of the experts - gentlemen who, according to Henrv Ford, will only get, us into a muddle. As we have to listen to the junks of experts’ vapourings that are thrown at us by honorable senators opposite, it is fitting that I should hurl a junk hack at them. Last week Professor Copland expressed his opinion regarding the Imperial Economic Conference that was held recently at Ottawa, and his remarks were reported by a Melbourne newspaper in the following terms: -

Addressing the University Association today, Professor Copland, referring to the Ottawa Conference said that the Empire would not develop into an economic unit as a result of the conference, nor would it lead to any part of the Empire making sacrificesor giving up their legitimate aspirations.

Every honorable senator knows that no part of the Empire is to give up its legitimate aspirations. Professor Copland added -

The benefit that Australia got from increased exports to Britain would lead to higher rates in Britain, higher costs to British exporters, and higher interest rates. In turn, Australia would have to pay more for British goods, and so it became a vicious circle.

Honorable senators opposite know that that is true. All the talk of patriotism, and the pointing of the finger of scorn at honorable senators who sit on this side, will not, get us anywhere. It is said that trade follows the flag. It does nothing of the kind, unless with the flag goes cash. A very big proportion of the difficulties that have been experienced by the meat exporters of this country has been due to the fact that, so much British capital is invested in the Argentine that it pays the British capitalists to serve the interests of that, country rather than those of Australia. Those who are acquainted with the position know that Vestey’s big works in the northern part of Australia were closed down for the sole reason that it paid those great meat interests to draw their supplies from the Argentine rather than from Australia. The remark was made, I think by Senator Foll, that we should be prepared to concede something in order that, the British workers might be given a better chance. In my opinion, our first duly is to Australia.

Senator Foll:

– I made no such statement.


– The honorable senator made the statement that Australian workers were better off than British workers, and that consequently in these matters we should be charitably disposed towards the latter. When one is unemployed, it does not matter whether it he in Australia or Great. Britain.

Senator Foll:

– I said that it was the proud boast of the Labour party that the standard of conditions was higher in

Australia than in England, and T inquired whether Senator MacDonald was asking that the workers of England should pay more for Australian products.


– That is a fair rendering of what the honorable senator said. In the latter portion of his speech, he deliberately attacked Senator MacDonald, knowing that the latter would have no chance to reply to his accusations, none of which had any foundation in fact. Had I secured the adjournment of the debate on that occasion, it was my intention to deal principally with those mis-statements; and if opportunity presents itself, I shall give effect to that intention. The correctness or otherwise of our aspirations is no concern of the honorable senator. He is not a member of the Australian Labour Party, and is nor, a fair critic of its ideals and aspirations. There was a time when lie would have been glad of the opportunity to be on our side. One cannot compare the conditions of workers in different countries who are out of work; their plight is equally unfortunate wherever they may be. But Australia enjoys an advantage over the old country in that its climate is more genial. I am sure that the honorable senator will derive a good deal of satisfaction from the fact that, Australia is tlie easiest country in the world in which to starve.

Much was said by Senator Foll concerning the Empire Marketing Board, and the wonderful work that it had done. The people of this and other parts of the Empire have been urged to wear more wool, and to eat more fruit, cheese, &c. Yet the Government to which the honorable senator belongs, by continually cutting down incomes, is so reducing the standard of life that our people will be obliged to wear cotton instead of wool, and do without fruit or cheese.

In a final inaccuracy, Senator Foll flung at Senator MacDonald, and at. honorable senators on this side collectively, the gibe that, during Labour’s occupancy of the treasury bench a year or two ago, any tinpot factory in Australia- that caught the ear of the then Minister- for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde), was able to obtain an embargo, a prohibition, or a duty, that would place it in a position to fleece the Australian public with out let or hindrance. It was only one of many gross inaccuracies to which the honorable senator committed himself. If he can produce evidence that while the last Labour government controlled tariff matters in this country, a tinpot factory obtained the ear of the Minister, and without further ado was given sufficient tariff protection to market an inferior article at an extravagant price, and I am satisfied upon inquiry that it cannot be challenged, I shall apologize to him.

Senator Foll:

– I did not use the term “.inferior article.”


– The honorable senator was so sleepy when he began, and so obfuscated when he concluded his speech, that, he cannot be sure of what he said. He taunted Senator MacDonald with being a member of a party that did not believe in bringing to this country our own kith and kin.

Senator MacDonald:

– And my interjection was deliberately cut out of his speech.

Senator Foll:

– I rise to a point of order. I particularly refrained from cutting anything out of my speech, because I knew the type of man that Senator MacDonald was, and foresaw the possibility of- such a charge as he has now made, being levelled at me. I ask that a full investigation be made to show whether or not anything was deleted from the proof of my speech. I also request that Senator MacDonald be made to withdraw what he has said, which is particularly offensive to me.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Senator MacDonald must accept the statement of Senator Foll in the absence of proof to the contrary.


-! hope that, if I ever feel it incumbent upon me to rise to a point of order or to make a personal explanation, I shall not transgress the rules of debate as Senator Foll has just done. The Australian Labour Party has a. very definite policy in relation to migration. I ask Senator Foll whether, in the interest of the workers of Great Britain, he is in favour of bringing migrants from that country to Australia when work cannot bc found for them here except by the displacement of fortunate Australian workers who, unlike 400,000 of their comperes, are in a job? Does he now contend, as he did by inference and innuendo in his interjection to Senator MacDonald, that it would be an act of justice either to the British workers or to those of our race already in the Commonwealth, to continue to bring migrants to this country? Every speech that he makes casts some innuendo on those who sit on this side of the chamber. Does he wish to add to the starvation that already exists in our midst? If not, what is his aim? Day after clay, legislation, the enactment of which we on this side are powerless to prevent, reduces the standard of living and the comfort of our people, and adds to the number of those who are either on the bread line, or totally unemployed. Does the honorable senator think that that coincides with what, we on this side of the chamber are likely to favour? Does lie believe in bringing more people into this country to accentuate the misery already existing? We are not going to be a party to it, although we may be accused of being disloyal, or one-eyed, or whatever the accusation may be. We shall go straight forward with expressions of disapproval concerning the administrative and legislative policy of the Government. I shall conclude with the expression with which I commenced my remarks. As one who has taken considerable trouble to become acquainted with what is going on, I have no hesitation in saying that nothing of advantage will accrue to the people of Australia from these treaties. I believe that honorable senators opposite are already beginning to realize that when a final disclosure of the facts is made to the people nothing of advantage will be derived by the different dominions. The representatives1 of these dominions sat around the table trying to gain advantage for themselves; but one can gain advantage only by taking advantage of some one else. The futility of the whole attempt was evident from the outset; the people will be worse off than they were before.

Senator E B Johnston:

– But trade treaties can be mutually beneficial.


– If the honorable senator suggests that one dominion should obtain an economic advantage by depriving another of an advantage, I do not agree with him. The time has gone by when we should attempt to make a living by taking in one another’s washing. We cannot get away with that. That is what the other countries are doing. In conclusion, I . direct the attention of the Senate to the remarks of Mr. George Lansbury, the leader of the Labour party in the House of Commons, who, before the Ottawa Conference was over, said that it was not within the power of any party to bind the British Government to do anything that would increase the cost of living to the British workers, and that any government that attempted to do so would eventually be driven from office. That disintegration has already started, not only in the ranks of the, British Government, but also in the party opposite, and will, in my opinion, continue until there is a complete change of governmental policy.

Debate (on motion by Senator Sir Hal Colebatch) adjourned.

page 786


Report ov Standing Committee.

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [5.40]. - I move -

That the first report from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee presented to the Senate on the 18th Hay, 1032, be adopted.

I am grateful to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) for temporarily postponing the consideration of Government business to enable me to move this motion. I do not intend, at this juncture, to occupy the time of the Senate at length; but I should like to bring a few facts before honorable senators. As it does not seem fitting that the report, of a committee appointed by the Senate should be treated as private business, at the suggestion of other members of the committee, I have already been in. touch with the Standing Orders Committee on the point,’ and, from a courteous letter which I have received from the President, I understand that it is being considered by that committee. I have no wish that a report of a committee of the Senate shall be given special precedence; but it should not be treated as private business. It’ should be at the discretion of the Leader of the Senate, in arranging the business paper, to place the consideration of such a report immediately following any urgent Government business which the Government desires to dispose of. Had that been done in the case of this report, the Senate would have had an opportunity to consider it some months ago.

I shall endeavour to indicate what work this committee, appointed under standing orders adopted by the Senate last session, has been doing. It has arranged and is holding regular weekly meetings whenever,, the Senate is in session. As honorable senators are aware, numerous regulations and ordinances are tabled in the Senate from time to time. Every regulation and every ordinance is forwarded to the committee accompanied by a departmental explanation setting out, firstly, the effect of the regulation and, secondly, the reason for enacting it. On behalf of the committee, I desire to express its very hearty appreciation of the cordial cooperation of the departments in its work. The aim of the committee is not to consider regulations from a party political view-point, but, when it thinks it desirable to give information to the Senate, and, through the Senate, to the public. The principles upon which it is guided are these : That the regulation or ordinance in question is within the scope and power conferred by the act under which it is made; that it does not purport to do what should be done, if it is done at all, by substantive legislation - that is to say, that the department is not abrogating the rights of Parliament - and that the regulation or ordinance does not unduly interfere with the rights of the individual. There are, of course, a great number of regulations tabled at the beginning of each period of the session. These are accompanied by explanatory notes which, at present, are being considered by the committee, and such as the committee thinks necessary will be reported upon in. due course. I trust that one of the results of the investigations by and the reports of this committee will be to have a number of matters which, up to the present, have been done entirely by regulation, covered by acts of Parliament. Take, for instance, the Air Force Act. That act, which was passed in 1953, consists of the title and two short clauses, and is printed

On one sheet of paper. But under its provisions regulations numbering 680 have been gazetted; since this session of Parliament has opened, new regulations under this act cover no less than 51 pages. By the greatest stretch of imagination, that can hardly be contended as being government by Parliament. There may be sound reason for saying that, when the Air Force Act was passed, insufficient was known of the matter to justify Parliament in framing comprehensive provisions ; but that argument no longer holds good. It is not creditable to any parliament that laws should be made for the people of Australia by regulations based on a single scrap of paper consisting of a title and two short clauses. To a large extent, the 680 Air’ Force regulations, covering some hundreds of pages, ought to have been made by Parliament, and there is little doubt - I am expressing the opinion of those competent to judge - that a great many of them are ultra vires, and have no real legislative power behind them. Many could be successfully tested in the courts; but persons prejudiced by them have been advised that it might cost them more than it is worth to have that done. But the point is that citizens may be subjected to injustices, not by an act of Parliament, but by regulations which probably would never have been passed had the matters covered, by them been dealt with by act of Parliament, as they should have been. The report that is submitted, in this instance, deals with a similar matter.

In view of the long time which has elapsed since the report was tabled, I shall quote portions of it -

Your committee desires to report that among such regulations are regulations under the Customs Act relating to the censorship of cinematograph films.

Your committee is of opinion that the matter of film censorship is of the highest public importance, and that it involves to a very large extent tlie rights and privileges of many individuals.

The main alteration made by tlie new regulations is the abolition of the Appeal Board, and the vesting of its powers in a single person. Your committee expresses no opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of this departure, but feels that the determination of public policy on a matter of such moment should not be accomplished by departmental regulation.

Few honorable senators will disagree with me when I say that the subject of censorship of films is important, and that the principles underlying it should be fixed by legislation, and .not by departmental action. It is quite possible that my own views on the subject will not meet with the approval of all honorable senators. I believe that the only effective censorship is the censorship of the public. The real trouble with respect to our films is that, up to the present, public censorship has largely been destroyed. ‘I seldom visit picture shows; but the greater proportion of those which I have seen were of such a character that, had the action been on a stage in front, of the audience, the actors would have been hissed off on the first night of the performance, and the wretched thing would have been withdrawn. Somehow the public does not feel that it. can hiss at an inanimate object. Mark Twain said that different people attend performances each night, and they do not like to advertise the fact that they have been fooled. It is in this way that those wretched films continue to be shown. I do not think that any one can contend that the method of censorship should be laid down by departmental regulations. It is a matter to be determined by Parliament. The report continues -

Your committee would direct attention to the unanimous recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution that the words ““cinematograph films” should be inserted as a new paragraph in section 51 of the Constitution in order to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power to pass laws in regard to films made in Australia as well as those imported.

Your committee would also recall the fact that at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in May, 1929, the suggestion was made that the States should refer the subject of legislation on cinematograph films to the Parliament of the Commonwealth under paragraph xxxvii of section 01 of the Constitution.

Et is generally agreed that the lack of one common method of censorship of films is a great disadvantage to the industry concerned. The report goes on -

Pending the taking ot action to amend the Constitution or the reference of the subject to. the Commonwealth Parliament by the State Parliaments, your committee would submit the following resolution for the consideration of the Senate: - “That, in the opinion of the Senate, the time has arrived when public policy in regard to the censorship of imported cinematograph films should be set out in substantive legislation.”

Paragraph 8 reads -

Apart from the important principle involved in this recommendation, your committee is of opinion that the passing of satisfactory legislation governing the censorship of imported cinematograph films would alford the strongest possible inducement to the State parliaments to refer the subject of film censorship generally to the Commonwealth Parliament, thereby making it possible to achieve a highly desirableend without the delay that would be occasioned by an amendment of the Constitution.

There are only two methods by which the Commonwealth can be given powers to censor Australian films; one is by an amendment of the Constitu-tion, and the other by a reference of the matter to the National Parliament by the State parliaments. 1 am inclined to think that if a satisfactory act were passed by this Parliament the State parliaments would have little hesitation in referring the matter to the National Parliament, thereby obviating the delay involved in seeking an alteration of the Constitution. But it must not be supposed that the State parliaments would do that so long as the censorship of films was controlled not by Parliament, but by departmental regulations.

There is another matter in connexion with the work of this committee to which I desire to refer briefly. The committee comprises seven members, and provision is that the quorum shall consist of four members. It is extremely difficult to get committees to function in Canberra; indeed, it is difficult for Parliament itself to function properly here. In the case of this committee, it frequently happens that when it is desired to hold a meeting a quorum is not present in Canberra. Those who are here attend at the time and- place appointed, but they are not always four in number. In view of the fact that the functions of this committee are purely investigatory and advisory - it can do nothing except refer matters to Parliament - I suggest that the Standing Orders Committee should consider the advisability of reducing the quorum to three.

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.When in Canberra members of the committee attend its meetings. I would noi suggest any alteration in the number to comprise a quorum if the committee had the power to make decisions and do things; but since it can only investigate and report, it seems a pity that when three members are willing to attend to its business they cannot do so because they do not constitute a quorum. The adoption of the report does not involve the acceptance of the committee’s recommendations in this connexion.

Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[5.55]. - As to the number of the committee which shall constitute a quorum, I suggest that it would be extremely unwise tomake a minority of the committee a quorum. When SenatorColebatch was speaking, Senator Collings interjected that if the members of the committee did not attend, they should make way for those who would do so. Although SenatorColebatch says that the committee has no power to do more than submit recommendations, I point out that its recommendations come before the Senate with the imprimatur of the committee upon them. In that case, it is reasonable to assume that the report is backed by a majority of the committee, not by a minority. In my opinion, it would be extremely dangerous to make the quorum less than a majority.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch:

– The committee has not included in its report any recommendation on that point.


– I hope that the honorable senator does not think that the Government is opposed to his general statement that these important matters should be dealt with by legislation rather than by regulation. The Government agrees with him in that matter. The honorable senator was somewhat unfortunate in referring to the Air Force Act. If an Air Force Act were introduced it would be practically a repetition of the Defence Act already on the statute-book. There would be very little need for different legislation to govern the air force than that found satisfactory in the case of the military forces. Nor is there anything particularly alarming in the fact that the air force is governed by regulations, because they are similar to the regulations under the Defence Act which have been agreed to by Parliament. Let me also assure the. honorable senator that there is no mephistophelean design in the mind of the Government in not bringing forward legislation to control the air force.

The other remarks of the honorable senator are worthy of the most careful consideration, and I shall bring them before Cabinet at the earliest possible moment. Apparently the time has arrived for the consideration of this matter. Honorable senators will have noticed that Sir Stanley Argyle, the Premier of Victoria, stated yesterday that he proposed to consult with the other States with a view to getting uniformity in matters relating to the control of films. I suggest, however, that it would be well for us to wait until we have reached some agreement with the States before introducing legislation to control cinematograph films. We do not want to make more than one bite at this thing if we can get the States to refer the matter to the Commonwealth. The trend of opinion in the States seems to be in the direction of having one authority to deal with this matter, and that should be dealt with by legislation rather than by regulation. The Government will not treat the committee’s recommendation in this respect in any hostile way. It is only a question of the best time to take action.

The other matters mentioned by the honorable senator are of an informative character, and do not call for any special comment on my part.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 789


Retirement of Mr. W. Admans

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to announce to honorable senators that the Second Parliamentary Reporter, Mr. W. Admans, will retire from the service of the Commonwealth Parliament this evening. We are thus called upon to part with an old friend, and it is fitting that I should take the opportunity of expressing to him, on behalf of the Senate, our best wishes for his future well being and happiness. Meetings and partings are almost an every-day occurrence in the lives of human beings ; but when it comes to parting with an officer who has rendered loyal and capable service to his country, as Mr. Admans has done, honorable senators will agree that the occasion is more than an ordinary one.

Mr. Admans has been associated with this Parliament from its inception, and has now to his credit over 31 years of uninterrupted service. The Senate i.3 therefore parting with one who has given both long and faithful service to the Commonwealth.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!


– To all of us, irrespective of party, who have come in contact with Mr. Admans, especially to those who have known him for a considerable number of years, the parting comes with a wrench that is not usually associated with such happenings. For myself, I can say that when I first entered the Senate many years . ago, I found in Mr. Admans a guide, philosopher and friend. I found him even more than that : I soon proved him to be a “ recording angel “ of kindly disposition and friendly habit of thought. I only hope that that other Recording Angel who records our frailties and lapses in this world will be like him, for then I know that I shall fare well. I feel that I am expressing the opinion of every honorable senator in saying that’ Mr. Admans has always been approachable, capable, courteous, and gentlemanly.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !


– We cannot retain his valuable services any longer, because he has to bow to the rigid regulation in the Service which requires him to retire on a given date. It is therefore meet that we should pay a tribute to both his worth as a man and his ability as an officer. The Senate would, I am sure, be glad, if it were possible, to avail itself longer of his efficient services.

Mr. Admans is leaving the service of the Parliament, and the only thing that remains for us to do is to wish this capable, faithful and zealous officer well in whatever sphere he may occupy in the future. He has lived a good life, and at all times during his 31 years of arduous service has shown a friendly disposition towards every member of the Parliament. On behalf of the Senate, I wish him much happiness and prosperity in his welldeserved rest after his faithful and laborious service for his country.

Minister for Defence · Western Australia · UAP

[6.3], - On behalf of honorable senators on the Government side of the House, I should like to be permitted to add a few words to what you, Mr. President, have said regarding Mr. Admans. Honorable senators on this side deeply regret the severance of their official relations with him. In my own case, it is a severance also of a personal friendship of which I am very proud. Honorable senators have only to compare the halting speeches which they have at times delivered in this chamber with the clear, incisive, lucid utterances attributed to them in Ilansard to realize what a capable officer Mr. Admans is. That he has organized and led a staff that is responsible for producing such an effective record of the proceedings of the Senate is evidence of his capacity. In my opinion, the Federal Hansard staff comprises a remarkably proficient’ body of men. Their work is done with a thoroughness and efficiency which gives the minimum of inconvenience to honorable senators, and that there is so seldom any occasion to complain of the reports, speaks volumes for the staff and its leader. Mr. .Admans has been one of the figures of the Federal Parliament on its official side, and his retirement leaves a gap which we all deplore. We rejoice that he is still active, both mentally and physically, and know that he will not be an idle man in his retirement. Prior to his joining Ilansard, he was a notable member of the journalistic profession, and I feel sure that in that capacity he will still be able to render valuable service.

He is still a young man in spirit, and I am confident that, in the wider sphere that will now be available to him, he will not be idle. He leaves us with our kindest regards and very best wishes for his future success. I trust that his successor will carry on the traditions which he has so worthily established in this chamber.

Senator BARNES:

.- I welcome this opportunity to say a few words, on behalf of honorable senators of the Opposition, in appreciation of the valuable services rendered by Mr. Admans as an officer of Parliament, and of his invariable courtesy. He is one of those men whom it is always a pleasure to meet. His warm-hearted greeting and pleasant smile often reminded me of the words of the one-time popular music-hall ditty-

Smile awhile and when you smile, another smiles;

And presently there’s miles and miles of smiles because you smile.

That, I believe, can well be said of Mr. Admans. As to his ability in the position of Second Parliamentary Reporter, there can he no doubt.- All that has been said by you, Mr. President, and by the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) is endorsed by all of us. Largely because of his skill in the discharge of his duties, the observations of honorable senators in this chamber have been presented to the public in a much better form than would have been possible had the work been in less competent hands. I join with you, sir, and with the leader of the Senate in wishing Mr. Admans all the best that the world can give him when he enters upon his new sphere of activity. I am satisfied that there is a great deal of work in him yet and that his initiative and resourcefulness will make it possible for him to spend pleasantly and profitably the years that are ahead of him. Bearing in mind the arduous nature of ‘his duties it must be a source of satisfaction to honorable senators to know that he has been able to stand up to it for so long and still look fit enough to face another 30 odd years of it. He takes with him my very best wishes, and, I arn sure, the goodwill of every member of this chamber.

Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!


– I shall now suspend the sitting until 8 o’clock to give Mi Admans an opportunity to say a few words in reply before bidding bood-bye to the Seriate.

The sitting having been suspended at Q.10 p.m., Mr. Admans expressed his thanks.

page 791


Second Reading

Debate resumed from page 782.

Senator BARNES:

.- I listened with considerable interest to the speech that the Minister delivered on this bill this afternoon. The honorable gentleman dealt ably with a very bad case.

The Government claims that in order to balance the budget this year, a deficiency of £1,467,000 has to be provided for. It says that no additional taxation is to be imposed, and that whatever is done will affect only those who are able to shoulder a greater share of the burden. Yet the proposals that have been placed before the Senate are directed against the most helpless section of the community.

Since the gold bounty became operative the value of the production of gold in Australia has increased by £3,500,000. It is doubtful, however, whether that is due principally to the bounty. In all probability the depression that has caused so much unemployment has forced hundreds of men to fossick in every part of Australia in the hope that they would be able to supply themselves with food. But judging by the comments that I have heard, the bounty has been the means of inducing very many men to join in the search for gold, in which a tremendous area has been covered. A saving of £30,000 a year would not seem to be of very great moment to a government even for the purpose of balancing its budget. But it may be said that those who are interested in the production of gold are very much better able to assist in providing the revenue that the Government requires than are many others who are to to be affected by’ the proposals embodied in this measure.

Very little wine is produced in Victoria, and I shall leave to the representatives of those States in which the industry is extensively carried on whatever criticism may be directed against the proposal to cease the payment of the wine bounty.

I come now to a more important matter, namely the maternity allowance. The legislation which provided for the payment of that allowance marked an epoch in the history of Australia which attracted tlie notice of the civilized world. By what may be termed our humanitarian legislation, we have blazed the trail on many occasions. The maternity allowance was given for the specific purpose of assisting the mothers of this country to procure the necessary professional services when giving birth to what has always been regarded as our best class of immigrants. At the time that it was introduced it was sneeringly referred to by many people as a “bangle” bonus, although the greatest statesmen of the time were of the opinion that no such stigma could be attached to it. Those who took up this attitude belonged to a class that was everlastingly clamouring for greater population in Australia, and was ready at all times to make available large sums of money to bring migrants from the Old Country. There is still in existence an agreement signed by the Australian and British Governments, under which Australia saddled itself with certain financial responsibilities in order to fill its empty spaces. I agree that the migrants concerned are people of our own race; but 1. contend that they are not nearly so great an acquisition as our Australianborn. The Governments which entered into this agreement; undertook to share equally the expenditure involved in making the’ following grants to migrants: £16 10s. a head for children of three years and under twelve years of age, £27 10s. a head for juveniles of twelve years and under seventeen years of age, £22 a head for youths between seventeen and nineteen years of age, a similar amount per head in the case of married couples with at least one child under nineteen years of age, £33 a head for domestic servants and £16 10s. a head for other migrants. Those are the prices that were placed on the heads of migrants brought from overseas to populate this country. Yet it is a remarkable fact that the value placed on the Australian-born infant is only £4 a head. “While the Bruce-Page Government was administering the affairs of Australia, hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent in bringing migrants to this country. I have nothing derogatory to say concerning them. They came here in good faith, believing that the inducements offered by the Government of the day would enable them to make a decent home for themselves, and rear a family according to the standards that we considered necessary. But what, purpose did they serve while here?

Senator Foll:

– The Government of which the honorable senator was a member reduced the maternity allowance from £5 to £4.

Senator BARNES:

– I know that it did. There were sound reasons for that action ; but there is a history attached to it, and honorable senators opposite will not feel proud of themselves when they hear it.

We who sit on this side hold the view that was held, by the gentlemen responsible for this class of legislation. So far as we can prevent it, we shall not allow any distinction to be drawn between the mothers of this country. When the maternity allowance was first granted it was said that only the meaner element in the community would accept it; yet it has been the means of ensuring a greater degree of comfort than otherwise would have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousand of mothers. Great ladies turned up their noses and scorned the idea that they would lower themselves to take advantage of the grant that was made by the State in return for their gallantry in helping to populate this country. But, notwithstanding all that was said at, the time, the statistics prove that 99£ per cent, of the women of this country have accepted what the legislature provided for them. That in itself is sufficient to prove the extent, to which the allowance has been appreciated by our women folk. Because of it, many young Australians have had a. much better start in life than might otherwise have been their lot.

I have dealt with three of the proposals of the Government for bridging the gap between revenue and expenditure, lt is expected that the saving on expenditure will be, in the ease of the gold bounty £30,000, in the case of the wine bounty £44,000, and in the case of the maternity allowance £60,000. It is also proposed to save £5,000 on parliamentary allowances. It may be as well to deal briefly with this matter, because there is an idea that members of Parliament are making money hand’ oyer fist out of the salaries that they receive. The reduction made last year, added to what is proposed this year, will bring down to £750 a year what was originally £1,000 a year. As the rate of income tax is calculated by averaging income over a period of five years, it will be seen that a member who lias been in the Ministry or has drawn fees from, a parliamentary committee, will be nailed upon to pay on, say £1,500 a year, a tax of approximately £150. Thus, his salary will be reduced to £600. I.D addition to the commitments which a member of Parliament has to meet, in the matter of taxation and in other ways, he has at least for a portion of the year to incur considerable additional expense through living away from his home. So far as I know there is only one member of this Parliament who has made his home in Canberra. All the others have, in a sense, to maintain two homes while Parliament is sitting. Moreover, there is scarcely a member of the Senate or of another place who lias not had additional responsibilities cast upon him in consequence of the depression. Members of Parliament ate no more immune from these responsibilities than are other sections of the community. Like many workers fortunate enough to have jobs, they have, in addition to meeting their own immediate commitments, to assist in supporting relatives and friends who are out of work. Quite apart from maintaining my own home in Victoria, and meeting certain unavoidable expense when Parliament, is sitting, I am also assisting to maintain another home in order to remove the burden from the shoulders of another. I suppose that, other honorable senators arc doing the same. I do not claim it as great virtue on my part; 1. am merely pointing out the responsibilities cast upon members of this Parliament. I suppose, however, in view of all the circumstances, we should feel that we are better off than many others, and must therefore “ grin and bear it.”

I now pass on to the policy of the Government with respect to public servants who have to submit to reductions totalling £240,000 in order to make up the deficiency in the budget figures. When it was first found necessary to call upon public servants to make a sacrifice .in order to assist in the rehabilitation of our finances, the Commonwealth public servants cheerfully toed the mark. They submitted to substantial reductions, as might have been expected of them, without complaint. I understood the Assistant Minister to say this afternoon that if this measure is passed they will have made n sacrifice of 4.0 per cent, in the matter of salaries..

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– I think that the Leader of the Opposition is confusing that figure with the automatic reduction of £42 in the cost of living.

Senator BARNES:

– Prior to the reduction proposed in this bill the public servants had already made a sacrifice of 24 per cent, in their earnings.

Senator GREENE:
Assistant Minister (Treasury) · NEW SOUTH WALES · NAT

– No. The sliding scale introduced by the Government of which the honorable senator was a member provided for a reduction of from 3 per cent, to 24 per cent, according to salary, but, it did not apply to those on- the basic wage.

Senator BARNES:

– The previous government did not. reduce those on the basic wage; but reductions up to 24 per cent, have already been made in public servants’ salaries, and under this measure male members of the Public Service will have to submit to a further reduction of £8 per annum. It may not be a heavy burden on those in receipt of a fairly high salary ; but in many instances may inflict severe hardship on a very large section of the Public Service, particularly when we know that the cost of living has not fallen to the extent some believe it has. I do not believe the statement so glibly made that the cost of living has fallen to the extent claimed. At any rate, there is not one leader in the industrial movement who believes that it, has fallen to the extent shown in the Statistician’s figures. T have disputed it in the Arbitration Court. In the past the basic wage which, according to the late Mr. Justice Higgins should be sufficient to enable a workman to keep himself, his wife and family in frugal comfort, has been determined on figures compiled by the Statistician. No attempt has ever been made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to give a workman - apart from a slightly higher rate for skill - more than* enough to keep a man and his wife and family in frugal comfort. It may ‘be said that the members of the Public Service have certain advantages in that they are reasonably sure of continuous employment, as compared wi th a nomadic workman, or the artisan engaged in a trade subject to serious fluctuations. But I do not consider that this further demand upon the public servant is justified. The Government has no right to bring down this sledge hammer upon the public servants in the manner now proposed. It should do what other employers are expected to do; it should, if necessary, appeal to arbitration. Quite recently a certain section of the Public Service has been dealt a cruel blow by the disallowance of certain determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator who was appointed for the specific purpose of determining the wages and conditions of public servants. Notwithstanding the fact that he has performed his duties satisfactorily the Government took the matter out of his hands and determined the wages of certain public servants. It is endeavouring to do the same in this instance. It is cutting out the Public Service Arbitrator and allowing Parliament, in which it has a majority in both chambers which does what it is told, to decide a matter which should be decided by the Arbitrator.

The Government also proposes a further reduction of invalid and old-age pensions. In the Old Country workmen and workwomen,’ when they have reached the end of a useful life, are sent to the workhouse to end their days. In this country of ours we set out to deal with our old people in a more humanitarian way by providing for the payment of pensions. Although the payment of invalid and oldage pensions was not actually introduced by a Labour government, the members of the Labour party had for many years strongly advocated the payment of pensions. Under the pension system first introduced in the State of Victoria, provision was made for the relatives of pensioners to contribute 7s. 6d. a week towards the support of their relatives. Brothers and sisters, perhaps receiving pittances themselves, were expected’ to bear the imposition of, say ls. 6d. a week to pass on to the pensions office. That was thought at the time to be a most iniquitous procedure, and was not embodied in the legislation of the Commonwealth. Yet the present Commonwealth Government is now introducing it again. It was hoped nearly 30 years ago that such a provision would never again disgrace the statute-book of Australia.

In order to bridge a gap of £1,467)000 the Government proposes to obtain £1,110,000 from the most defenceless section of the community. That its proposal has inflamed the public conscience there can be no question. One has only to walk down, any street of an Australian city to realize how the people feel about this matter. The old folk of the community are anxious about - the little homes or huts that shelter them. They want to know whether the Government intends to take the roof from over their heads. Many of the aged persons in the community have worked hard all their lives for very little return. In their working days they did not even have the award of a court to look to. Even now the court does not make provision in its awards for a wage sufficient to enable a man and his family to live in frugal comfort, and put aside, say, 10s. a week, for their old age or get a little home over their heads. Not even a Labour government has put forward a scheme to require an industrial tribunal to take such things into consideration. It ought to have been done, even if it meant using all the force at ‘the command of organized labour. If the old people of the nation are not to be entitled to an old-age pension in their declining years, the wages provided for in awards of industrial tribunals should be sufficient to enable them to provide for themselves. An old gentleman whom I met recently told me his story. He said that he and his wife had worked hard all their lives and had “ reared a family. One of his boys had purchased a small block of land, and out of his meagre earnings had bought sufficient timber to build a modest home for his parents. The old man proudly proclaimed that he and his wife would have a home over their heads all their days because of the generosity and selfsacrifice of their son. He pointed out that it was a part of the understanding that the home should revert to the son on their death, but that the Government’s iniquitous proposal would rob his son of his own property. Such things will happen all over the country. In addition, the Government proposes to put the men and women of Australia who have aged fathers and mothers living through a third-degree examination. Many of these younger men are scarcely earning sufficient to keep themselves and their families, and have nothing to spare. They have to live the most abstemious and correct lives to pay their way at all. Why should they be put through the third degree, or subjected to an inquisition? Why should they be asked to account for every penny that comes into their hands? After the inquisitors have finished their examination, they will probably tell these sons and daughters that they ought to be able to pay 2s. 6d. a week at least for the support of their parents, in which case they will have to pay, whether they can afford to do so or not.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– Only those who can afford to pay will be asked to do so.

Senator BARNES:

– The inquisitor will be the judge. The Government will have its sleuth hounds travelling up and down the country. They will submit their reports to the department, and on the statements contained in those reports will the relatives of the aged in the community be judged. It has been said that this reduction of pensions is necessary in the interests of the country.

The Minister in his second-reading speech endeavoured to convey the impression that the number of applicants for pensions had risen to such an extent that a continuance of the present ratio would bring ruin to Australia. I submit that there is no need to fear any such thing. In one form or another, payment of pensions has been in operation in Australia for nearly 30 years. At all times during that period there have been large numbers of persons in the community who are too proud to claim a pension, notwithstanding that their country has made it clear that there is no stigma attached to the receipt of a pension. It is true that, during the last two or three years, the number of pensioners has increased. That is because numbers of these old people who previously were too proud to seek a pension, could no longer be supported by their sons and daughters. These being in - poor circumstances, chiefly through unemployment, found it difficult to care for their own families, and their aged parents had to apply for that ‘ which a grateful country made possible. Hunger and, in some cases, starvation, alone overcame the pride of these old people. I suggest that there is a level beyond which applications for pensions cannot rise. It may be- that the actual number of applications will be greater than formerly, because of an increase in the population of the country; but in that case the burden will be borne by a greater number of people. By interjection just’ now one honorable senator said that the first cut in the maternity allowance and in old-age and invalid pensions was made by a Labour Government. I regret that that is true. When the Scullin Government was in power it was compelled by force of circumstances to introduce legislation to reduce these grants. When that Government assumed office it inherited from the Bruce-Page Government a legacy of financial difficulties; the sum of £20,000,000 was required in order to balance the budget; the country was practically bankrupt. The Bruce-Page Government had tried to raise loans on the London market but was unable to obtain more than 15 per cent, of the amount required. Both in 1928 and 1929 the underwriters had to accept the responsibility for the balance. When an appeal was made to the people, they returned a Labour Government. It, however, was unable to do much because the moneylenders would not lend to Australia.

Senator Payne:

– How long did that Government last?

Senator BARNES:

– It did not last long enough. The Scullin Government was faced with an ultimatum; it had to agree to the old-age and invalid pensioners receiving a reduced pension of 17s. 6d. a week or be faced with the possibility of the pension falling to 12s. a week in July, 1931, and to nothing at all the following month. In order to meet the position in the best way possible, sacrifices were demanded of the people, and in that way the gap was nearly bridged. ‘ The Scullin Government demanded that every section of the community should share in the national sacrifice. No one, not even members of Barliament, escaped. The old-age and invalid pensioners on that occasion contributed 7 per cent, and the community 93 per cent, of the amount required. This- Government now seeks to reverse that order ; it demands from those entitled to pensions 70 per cent, of the money required to bridge the gap, and from the rest of the people the remaining 30 per cent. And at the same time it tells the people of Australia that prosperity is “just around the corner “. It would appear that it is a long way to the corner. It may be that the gap has to be bridged ; but surely the invalid and old-age pensioners should not be required to make the greatest contribution to that end, especially when the Government boasts that it has remitted more in taxation payable by other sections of tlie community than would be necessary to bridge the gap. “We, on this side, ‘say that the Government has no right to remit taxation to the wealthier section of the people and call upon this defenceless, section to make so great a sacrifice. We realize that the burden of taxation on our people is heavy. We appreciate the difficulty of 6,000,000 people finding £16,000,000 per annum for social services, but that is no excuse for throwing the weight of the burden on the weakest section of the community. Yet that is what this Government is doing. However badly off other sections of the community may be, they are better able to make sacrifices than are the invalid and old-age pensioners in our midst. “Unfortunately, these old-age pensioners, unlike our returned soldiers, are unorganized, and, therefore, not in a position to bring pressure to bear on the Ministry.

Senator Collings:

– We shall organize them.

Senator BARNES:

– Undoubtedly ! This Government is proving itself the best organizer for labour that my party has had for a great number of years. I am not grumbling on that score. My complaint is that it is treating our old-age pensioners most unfairly. The gibe which was hurled at the Scullin Government for its action in making a cut in invalid and old-age pensions at a critical period in our financial affairs was possibly deserved; but nobody regretted more than the Government itself, the necessity for the action then taken. The heroic measures taken by the Scullin Administration did a great deal to straighten out the financial tangle in which Australia found itself. The position has so improved since then that this Government is now within £1,500,000 of balancing the budget, but it should be noted that in order to do so, it has drawn on surplus revenue provided by the Labour Government. When the Scullin Administration came into office, our adverse trade balance totalled not less than £164,000,000, which meant that Australia was being flooded with goods produced in cheap labour countries at a time when thousands of our own men and women were unemployed. The increased tariff imposed by the Scullin Government quickly wrought a change in that condition of affairs. Factories! began to spring up like mushrooms all over Australia. In Victoria, 222 factories giving employment to thousands of operatives were established. Now, as the result of the tariff policy of the present Government, those recently established concerns are fading out as rapidly as they came into existence. The proprietor of one cigarette factory in Melbourne told me the other day that his establishment gave employment to 250 persons.

Senator Hardy:

– -How many girls?

Senator BARNES:

– They were mostly girls, but girls, as well as boys, become hungry, and should not be1 denied the opportunity to earn a living. The factory in question, I was informed further, would have been extended, and would have provided more employment had the Scullin Government’s tariff been allowed to stand. The Australian Glass Company in Sydney may be cited as another in-‘ stance of the Scullin Government’s sound tariff policy. The company expended about £300,000 in new plant for the manufacture of sheet glass to supply the Australian market. In such concerns, initial difficulties frequently retard progress, and recently the company threatened to close down because of the interference by this Ministry with the protection given by the Scullin Government.

I understand that the position of the industry is to he again investigated by the Tariff Board, and I hope that its recommendations will be such as to induce Parliament to retain the old duties. If this is done, the company, I am sure, will be in a position to supply the whole of the Australian market.


– Why has notthe company done that during the last seven years?

Senator BARNES:

– Because of the initial difficulties to which I have referred. I understand that the company is now in a position to produce on competitive terms with overseas manufacturers. This Government’s tariff policy will, I fear, bring Australia back to the position it occupied in 1929.

It is claimed that there is a reasonably good prospect of converting the New South Wales overseas loan of £13,000,000 on favorable terms, and that, within the next twelve months, another £60,000,000 of Commonwealth loans falling due in London will be renewed at lower rates of interest. I hope that it will be possible to do this, so that the Government will be able to finance important public works in the near future. The Scullin Administration, as honorable senators will recall, had a definite policy for financing public works. It took the view that, if the overseas market were closed, it could, by an amendment of the Commonwealth Bank Act, authorize a fiduciary note issue to carry out necessary public works. Critics who jeered at the Government when it launched this scheme were wholly ignorant of financial history. Notwithstanding their references to the crimson thread of kinship, and similar claptrap which they indulged in with, I believe, their tongues in their cheeks, they overlooked the fact that Great Britain herself had a fiduciary issue of £275,000,000. Yet Australia was denied the right to issue fiduciary notes to the extent of £18,000,000.


– We have alreadya fiduciary issue of £52,000,000.

Senator BARNES:

– And we could very well do with another £52,000,000 of fiduciary notes. Sir Denison Miller, the first Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, when asked how he managed to finance our war loans of approximately £400,000,000, said that the bank would be able to finance another £400,000,000 if necessary. If the Scullin Government had been permitted to go ahead with its scheme for a fiduciary issue, there would very shortly have been a remarkable change in the financial outlook of the Commonwealth. As the result of the stimulus given to trade, the great bulk of our unemployed would have been absorbed in profitable occupations, and we should have heard less of the cry of hungry children than we hear to-day.

The Government and its supporters, in their desire to secure the passage of this legislation, and to reduce still further the pensions paid to our old-aged and invalid people, are using the financial stringency of the country as a bogy to silence criticism. We know quite well how the sons and daughters of our old-age pensioners are feeling about this legislation, and we know what they will do when the opportunity is given them at the ballotbox to express their views on the subject. That time possibly is a long way ahead, but. one can never say what is likely to happen in the political arena. Already one Minister has resigned from the Ministry to avoid breaking an election promise, and there is rumour that another will follow his action. It is said that when rats begin to leave a sinking ship sailors deem it time to take to the boats. Possibly, that is what is happening in connexion with this Government. Some people suggest that its disintegration is at hand ; but, personally, I believe that Ministers will hang together for the full length of their term. If they do not hang together they will hang separately. I regret that it is necessary for me to speak in this strain to-night in defence of principles for which I have fought during the whole of my political life. We should leave no stone unturned to retain all our humanitarian social services, the destruction of which is threatened by this legislation. I believe, however, that when the people have a chance to do so, they will make what amends may be necessary, and return a Labour government to power again.

Senator DUNN (New South Wales) the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Greene), and to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), I am forcibly reminded of the scathing denunciation by. one of Shakespeare’s well-known characters, “ A plague o’ both your houses.” Shakespeare’s Borneo and Juliet, as honorable senators will recall, deals with the ancient feud between the rival houses of Montague and Capulet, whose bones, possibly be scattered, in the lagoons of Venice. I liken Senator Greene in this debate to the role of old man Montague, and Senator Barnes, it seems to me, appears to fill the role of the head of the house of Capulet. “We are witnesses of a similar feud, but in this case it is a political instead of a domestic one. Mar.cutio, a particular friend of Borneo, became involved, and in the fight that took place between Romeo and Tybolt representing the rival Venetian houses, rushed between the combatants, and was mortally wounded. His dying words were, “ A plague on both your houses “. I feel inclined to say to the Government on the one hand and to Senator Barnes, as the Leader of the Federal Labour party in this chamber on the other, “ A plague on both your Houses “. Senator Rae and I, as representatives of the New South Wales Labour Party, are lookers-on at this “ dog fight “ between the Government and the Opposition in this chamber.

I have listened to the proposals of the Government, and to the criticism that was directed against them by the Leader ‘of the Opposition. Senator Barnes was the Leader of the Government in this chamber when the financial rehabilitation plan was introduced last year. He admitted openly at that time that he did not agree with what was proposed, and that the whole thing was distasteful to him. If that were so, why did he not dissociate himself from the action then taken? In 1929 the Labour party waa returned to power with the largest majority that any party had ever had in the Commonwealth Parliament. It may be said, of course, that there was a hostile Senate. That, however, cannot be held to excuse the failure of. the Scullin Government to give effect to its policy. The challenge thrown out by the brutal majority in this chamber was not taken up because the Government led by Scullin and Theodore did not have the necessary political “ guts “ or backbone. Any man who at that time showe’d a disposition to fight was not wanted. I was Government Whip in this chamber, drawing a most acceptable emolument, but because Senator Rae and I adopted a certain stand we were expelled from the party. I read only to-day in a newspaper called the Daily Standard, a review by its special Canberra correspondent of what is termed “ the treachery of the Beasley group “. I am the leader, and my colleague Senator Rae is a member, of that group in this Senate. Small though we be, we are always prepared to put up a fight.

Senator O’Halloran:

– The group to which the honorable senator belongs was big enough to put the Scullin Government out.

Senator DUNN:

– It was. Senator O’Halloran supported throughout the Government that, in implementing the Premiers plan, slashed old-age pensions, the maternity allowance and many other social service provisions.


– I did not hasten the return of this Government, as did the honorable senator’s party.

Senator DUNN:

– It would have been an easy matter for the last Government to grant our demand for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into allegations concerning the allocation of the £250.000 made available for relief works. Mr. Scullin and those who were behind him, in their self-righteousness, congratulated themselves upon having balanced the budget, even though it was at the expense of old-age pensions and other social services. They believed that their action in that respect, and in connexion with the tariff, had so popularized them in their constituencies that they had only to go to the country to be given a further lease of power. The tariff policy of the Australian Labour Party is not the production of one man; it has been a foremost plank of the party to my knowledge for 23 years.

The following speeches by the Right, Honorable J. H. Scullin, P.C., as Prime Minister, and the Honorable E. G. Theodore, as Treasurer, on the financial rehabilitation plan, have been abstracted from the Parliamentary Debates of the 18th June, 1931. They bear the imprint of h. J. Green, Government Printer.

Senator MacDonald:

– Is not the honorable senator playing the part of Macbeth?

Senator DUNN:

– I am not. I should like the honorable senator to take the Senate into his confidence as to who is the special correspondent of the Daily Standard in Canberra.

Senator MacDonald:

– Is the honorable senator insinuating that I am that person ?

Senator DUNN:

– The honorable senator may make his explanation at a later stage. In the speech to which I have referred, Mr. Scullin said -

It was generally recognized that we hud In agree upon a plan, and, in order to do that, each had to give way on principles which had been cherished for many years.

He went on to say -

The object of the plan is to spread the hurden so that there shall be no privileged section, mid so that budgets shall hu balanced, in order that a feeling of security limy be restored to the community. This, it is expected, will stimulate business activity and promote employment. Some of the economies proposed in this plan are most distasteful to every member of the Government, and, I believe, to every member of the Parliament, and every person in the community. I do not think that any une could face with cheerfulness the reductions which we are contemplating. I assure the House that I cannot do so.

I recollect that when the right honorable gentleman returned to Australia from his visit to Great Britain he stated definitely that he had had no negotiations with financial interests overseas with a view to obtaining a moratorium in regard to our interest commitments on the debts then owing. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -

But what were we confronted with? The Commonwealth Bank had announced that the limit of our overdraft had been reached.

When the bank bill introduced by the Scullin Government was thrown out by honorable senators who now sit opposite, why did not that Government appeal to the people to give it the necessary power to checkmate those who were preventing progress from being made?

Senator O’halloran:

– Because Lang ratted on it.

Senator DUNN:

– That is a very cheap interjection. The policy of the then

Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, was unacceptable to the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), or Senator O’Halloran; but to-day Mr. Lang is on top. It is true that, at present he is the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament; but he can still face the people of that State with confidence. I remind honorable senators from Queensland that some years ago the late Mr. T. J. Ryan left Queensland politics to represent the democracy of that State in the federal sphere, and that it, will not be long before the democracy of New South Wales will be represented in this Parliament by Mr. Lang. Mr. Scullin went on to say -

There are some who ask whether it is not possible to make the necessary savings without cutting into this, that, or the other avenue of expenditure. I have been inundated, and so, I suppose, have all other honorable members, with telegrams, letters and deputations, requesting that soldiers’ pensions shall not be reduced, or that old-age or invalid pensions shall not be touched, or that Public Service salaries shall remain as they arc. The Government does not want to touch one of these things. The members of the Government have fought hard, individually and collectively, to preserve and maintain our present standards, through all the years of their political existence. We would prefer anything, short of national dishonour and the imposition of far worse hardships upon the people, to the placing of our finger on one of these items; but we have to face stern facts.

Why did not Mr. Scullin go to the country and, if necessary, go down fighting rather than establish the precedent he did?

Senator O’Halloran:

– Why did Mr. Lang sign the Premiers plan?

Senator DUNN:

– It is true that Mr. Lang, as Premier of New South Wales, signed the Premiers plan adopted in 1931. After the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers had concluded, he returned to New South Wales, and said that, in common with other State Premiers, he would reduce adjustable expenditure by 20 per cent., but would do so in his own way.

Senator Hardy:

– He balanced his budget with £14,000,000 on the wrong side.

Senator DUNN:

– There are many reputable commercial men in Australia who, in endeavouring to balance their budgets,” show a deficit. Mr. Lang said that he would balance his budget, but that in doing so he would have to adopt measures which would be unpalatable to a large section of the community. In the first instance, lie proposed a capital levy, but later passed through both Houses a measure providing for a mortgage tax. That legislation was not assented to by the Governor who shortly afterwards dismissed the Cabinet, and commissioned Mr. Stevens to form an emergency government.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Will the honorable senator show the relationship between his remarks and the subject before the Chair?

Senator DUNN:

– I shall endeavour to do so. .Under the heading, “ Commonwealth Finance, 1931,” Mr. Scullin went on to say -

Commonwealth FINANCES 193 1-32.

Let us look at the position in detail. For the coming financial )’ear overseas interest., sinking fund payments, exchange, and payments to the States will represent £2.r>,000.000. That expenditure cannot be adjusted in any way at the moment. Interest in Australia will cost us £14.000.000, less £2,000,000, which will he recoverable from the States, making £12,000,000 in all. Pensions and wages will involve an expenditure of £32,000.000, and other expenditure £0,000,000.

Towards meeting the position, internal interest will be reduced by 224 per cent, under the conversion loan. The item represented by the £9.000.000 I have mentioned has already been cut very severely, but it must be cut further. Leaving out of account, for the moment, the £25,000,000 needed for overseas interest and other payments, and £14,000,000 for interest payable in Australia, it will be seen that if we maintain the present rates of expenditure we shall have to find £4.1,000,000 to meet our requirements, and we cannot do it. We have to ask ourselves, then, how is it possible to effect the savings necessary to bring our expenditure within our income? We have examined every possible field of revenue, including taxation, and the only means we have been able to devise for meeting the position is the plan decided upon at the conference.

Some honorable members have objected to the plan almost in its entirety, others have said that it has been too long delayed.

It is hardly necessary for me to remind honorable senators that the then Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes), Senator Dooley, and Senator Daly supported the plan which was strenuously opposed by ex-Senator Kneebone, Senator Rae, Senator Hoare,; and myself. With the assistance of honorable senators who were then in opposition, that, plan was eventually adopted. Mr. Scullin further stated -

I do not say that this plan is 100 per cent, complete, but it is complete in the sense that it calls upon all sections of the community to make sacrifices.

I am not saying that this plan will provide work for everybody, but 1 hope that it will give a sense of security to the people, and that it will ‘enable business to revive and moneys to be released for employment in this country. If the assurances that we have received, and the statements that have been made to us, bear fruit as a result of the operation of this plan, I believe that we shall turn the corner, and be able to employ many of our citizens who are now out of work.

In a special manifesto issued on behalf of the Federal Labour party of New South Wales by the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), it was stated -

That the plan as laid down by the Scullin Government during the .last election will he the medium of employing 100,000 men.

Notwithstanding that assertion, there are still- 450,000 men and women roaming highways and byways looking for work. I may be asked what constructive suggestions I have to offer. My proposal may not, be very palatable to some honorable senators; but I have sufficient courage to propound a scheme which would solve all our difficulties - I refer to the socialization of all means of production, distribution, and exchange. That is the policy laid down at the recent conference of trade union delegates held in Melbourne.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch:

– They have been laying that down for the last twenty years.

Senator DUNN:

– If that is so, why did not’ the party which once had the assistance of the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), bring it into operation? The ex-Prime Minister went on to -say -

Industries must be revived to employ them all. Wo have the assurance that when our finances are straightened out, as proposed under this plan, the banks ‘will carry the Governments of Australia over the period of three years which must elapse before budgets are likely to be balanced, and will, in addition, make further advances to industry. Sound propositions will receive the assistance necessary to enable them to be established.

The principal stumbling block in the way of a trade revival was the attitude of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bani

Board, Sir Robert Gibson. Senator Rae and others will recall that the members of the Labour party were definitely promised by the then Prime Minister that in no circumstances would Sir Robert Gibson be re-appointed to that board ; but he was re-appointed by the Scullin Government.

Senator E B Johnston:

– He is undoubtedly the most suitable man.

Senator DUNN:

– I have nothing against Sir Robert Gibson personally. He may be a very amiable gentleman ; but, so far as I can see, he is merely a pawn in the game. He is guided by international financiers, and has to do just what he is told by an overseas financial ring. Under the heading of “ General Conditions”, the ex-Prime Minister said -

It means, of course, that we have to swallow nasty medicine, but it must be swallowed, because the alternative to it is a more serious condition of the body politic.

I am not going to swallow that, and I am sure Senator Rae will not. He continued -

Government employees who are making a sacrifice will have their positions made more secure; persons whose pensions are being reduced will have removed from them the danger of a greater reduction, and, perhaps with default, the loss of most of their pensions.

This is where the Government comes in. Mr. Scullin said -

It has been my life-long ambition to uplift the people, and improve the standards of living, and it is a crushing disappointment to me that as Prime Minister I have to introduce legislation which envisages the lowering of existing conditions. … It is the greatest disappointment of my life that, aftertwo years as leader of the Government, I am unable to say that the conditions of the people are better than they were when I assumed office; but we have to face stern facts, and I nay frankly to the old-age pensioner, the war pensioner, the public servant, and the bondholder, “ Although we are proposing to reduce what you are receiving, the cut is being made in a legal and orderly way in order to preserve to you more thanyou would get in the event of default

He closed with this remarkable statement -

If we, as a people, put our shoulders to the wheel, and resolutely face our difficulties, my hope and belief isthat the nation will win through to safety and greater prosperity.

Referring to the Ottawa Conference, Senator Collings said, this afternoon, that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) went to Ottawa with a bag full of tariff schedules, like a pedlar selling soaps and face cream, prepared to bargain with the leaders of the Imperial Government. Speaking on the Debt Conversion Agreement Bill, Mr.Theodore, the then Federal Treasurer, said -

It is my part to supplement the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) by setting forth in detail the economies to which the Government is committed, and the financial consequences of the plan we have adopted. . . We cannot afford to ignore the dreadful consequences in which the Great War involved the world. … So far as it can be calculated, the cost of the war to the various participating countries was £50,000,000,000. of which a relatively heavy proportionhas to be borne by Australia. The signing of the Peace Treaty did not end the consequences of the war. nor discharge its costs. We are still bearing the burden of those costs, and some of them are reflected in the troubles which are afflicting the nation to-day.

Of a total war debt of £50,000,000,000, Australia owes £800,000,000. Let us, in imagination, go overseas to Italy, in which country another one-time leader of the working classes, who in pre-war days was the editor of a widely-read working class newspaper, is in power. I refer to Mussolini, a man who has nothing in common with Senator Rae or myself or with any member of the group to which I belong. Mussolini who is the leader of a Fascist organization similar to other organizations which from time to time have raised their heads in Australia, says that there can be no hope for world rehabilitation until the leaders of the nations are prepared to go to Geneva and repudiate their war debts. If that great political reactionary can say such things, why did not Mr. Scullin and Mr. Theodore, when in charge of this country, tell the world that Australia had already made sufficient sacrifices, and that there could be no rehabilitation scheme for Australia other than a complete repudiation of our share of the world’s war debts? Surely it is sufficient that the bones of 60,000 of our men lie on the various fields of war, and over 200,000 more have returned home wounded or maimed. Let us turn again to Mr. Theodore’s speech in which he said -

In the year before the war, the services of the public debt of the Commonwealth and the States combined cost £12, 250,000; for the last complete financial year interest and sinking fund absorbed ?62,000,000. Taxation, which is being levied upon nearly all classes in order to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth and the States, amounted in the year before the war to ?23,000,000; last year it was ?92,000,000. Income tax has risen from a pre-war total of ?2,800,000 to ?20,000,000. . . I have called the attention of the House to some pregnant facts, and whatever we may think of this or that policy, it is certain that some measures must be taken to cope with them.

The Government is now making a further attack, this time on the old-age pensioners. Nothing, however, is done to the- bondholders. Mr. Theodore continued -

I say frankly that, had the necessary legislation been passed, and the Government been able fully to operate its financial proposals, there would have been no need to attack pensions or the basic wage. … I acknowledge, however, that that policy cannot now be carried into effect. . . . The Government must effect a. 20 per cent. reduction. How that is to be done will be left to the judgment of the House. … At that time there was no proposal to bring in the bondholder or those who hold internal fixed money claims; who draw out of the national fund of wealth production a sum of between ?70,000,000 and ?80,000,000 per annum.

Those are the words of one of the most astute financial tacticians that this country has produced. When the then Premier of New South Wales, through his Capital Levy Bill, was prepared to extract some of that money, he was thrown out of office, because it was said his proposal did not conform to British tradition ; it simply “ was not done “. During the course of Mr. Theodore’s speech, Mr. Yates, the then honorable member for Adelaide, interjected–

Mr. Yates. Why does not the honorable gentleman use the right language and say “ The desperate mess that the Government has got itself into “ ?

Mr. Theodore replied

It may be the fault of governments, past and present.

During its term of office, the Bruce-Page Government spent about ?500,000,000 out of revenue and loan money. Practically every few months it was obtaining short-dated loans. The country is now paying the penalty for that Government’s mal-administration. The faults of the Bruce-Page Government, however, do not exonerate the Scullin

Government from blame. Under the heading “ War pensions “, Mr. Theodore continued -

The Government gave earnest attention to the manner in which the deductions should apply to war pensions. . . . The pensions payable to ex-soldiers are to he reduced by 20 per cent. . The pensions of widows and widowed mothers, if they have no other income, are to be reduced by . 10 per cent., and if they have other income, the pensions are to be reduced from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent., according to such other income. . . . In the case of all other dependants, there will be a general reduction of 20 per cent. . . Every part of this plan is unpalatable. . . Future applications for permanent pensions for tubercular ex-soldiers are to be assessed on the basis of disability. This will not apply to claims already lodged.

According to the then Federal Treasurer the following savings in invalid and oldage pension payments were to be made: -

In reply to an interjection by Mr. Parkhill, Mr. Theodore said -

All pensions will be reduced 2s.6d. a week. The purchasing power of money is greater now than it was a few years ago, and therefore the pensioner will not be relatively worse off than he was two years ago.

Senator Barnes, only about an hour ago, declared that the cost of living had not come down to any appreciable extent. I, and the members of my party, take precisely the same view. It is true that it is possible to go into Oxford-street, Sydney, buy a tray of meat and get a loaf of bread or some other commodity from butchers in fierce opposition to one another. The same cut-throat competition between trades-people is in evidence in Balmain and other industrial suburbs, but notwithstanding this, the cost of living has not come down to any appreciable extent. The index figures produced by government statisticians do not truly reflect the condition of the people, and I, for one, refuse to accept them.

Senator Rae:

– Statisticians’ figures are made to order.

Senator DUNN:

– They are used to “ dope “ the people. If an industrial organization goes before the Arbitration Court in connexion with a dispute, its representatives are blinded by the science of index figures produced from all quarters. Senator Barnes, as president of the Australian Workers Union, knows this to be true. Highly-trained officials of the State Statistician’s offices unload trayloads of index figures before the court, and representatives of organizations are reduced to a condition of stupor.

Mr. Theodore also had something to say about Canadian and South African schemes for invalid and old-age pensions.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - Order! Will the honorable senator indicate how Mr. Theodore’s opinions have any bearing on the bill before the Senate?

Senator DUNN:

– Certainly. The Minister in charge of the measure (Senator Greene) referred to the financial plans of the Scullin Government, and I wish to show that this Administration is merely following in the footsteps of its predecessor in its attack upon our social services. Mr. Theodore told us, a year or two ago, that the Canadian and South African schemes were distinctly less liberal than ours. What is wrong with the pension scheme outlined in the fighting plank of the Australian Labour Party? Mr. Theodore went on to show that the saving made possible by reduced maternity allowances would be £225,000, and added -

If such honorable members can bring forward any other plan as an alternative, which will be adequate and practicable, or, if they can show where this plan is defective, their representations willbe carefully considered.

Referring to the interest burden on overseas loans, the Sydney Morning Herald, of recent date, published the following: -

The principal amounts owing overseas by the Commonwealth and the States impose a crushing interest load on Australian Governments. A reduction of one or only one-half of one per cent, would mean a saving of millions of pounds a year. Excluding the interest payable on the war debt (£4,570,782 annually, without the operation of the Hoover moratorium and the suspensions arrangement made by the British Government) the Commonwealth has to pay a yearly overseas interest bill of £4,121,501. and the States have to pay £19,974,348. The greater portion of Australia’s oversea debt (excluding war debt) bears interest at rates of 5 per cent. to6½ per cent., and there arc current optional conversion rights over £96,000,000 of these high rates loans. It is this debt of £96,000,000 which will engage most of the attention of Mr. Bruce. “ Current optional conversion right “ means that the Commonwealth, in respect of any of the loans comprising the amount, may at any time offer to convert, or in the event of the creditors declining this, to pay off the whole of the principal.

We have been told that Mr. Bruce, the Resident Minister in London at a salary of £3,500 per annum, is to be entrusted with the particularly delicate task of converting our overseas indebtedness into securities bearing a lower rate of interest, and have been given to understand that he will be required to go into the drawingrooms of Mayfair, as well as into Threadneedlestreet, to meet the people behind the scenes in the financial world. In fancy, I can hear him in conversation with one or other of these financial giants, and saying, “ Well, old chap, Australia is in a bad way financially, but of course we have to convert this £96,000,000 at lower rates of interest. What are you going to do about it, old top?” Then I can see these financial authorities giving him the “ once over “, and presenting him with an invitation to some select garden party with the parting advice to “ forget all about it “.

Senator E B Johnston:

– He is not so easily bluffed.

Senator DUNN:

– He has bluffed the honorable senator, who is evidently prepared to swallow his policy. The Sydney Morning Herald goes on to state -

The latter alternative is unlikely, but if Mr. Bruce is able to show the creditors that Australia, by making great sacrifices - reducing her internal interest and cutting governmental expenditure in works, salaries, and social services - has succeeded in approaching a position where her solvency is again unassailable, then it is thought in ministerial circles that he will have little difficulty in persuading them that the Commonwealth and the States are entitled to lower interest rates.

When this bill is bludgeoned through the Senate and receives the Royal assent, the news will be flashed to London, and I suppose everything in the garden will be lovely. But let us not forget that the rehabilitation of Australia is to be accomplished largely at the expense of our invalid and old-age pensioners; that to restore our finances we are sacrificing important social services and cancelling Federal Arbitration Court awards three months before they are due to expire. On other occasions we have heard proud references by the legal members in this chamber, Senators Daly, McLachlan, and Lawson, to the traditions of British justice. (Extension of lime grant,ed. The Sydney Morning ‘ Herald states further - ‘

A reduction nf only one per cent, in the interest rate on the £96,000000 of loans would benefit Australia to the amount of nearly £1.000,000 a year, excluding the additional hurden of exchange. The successful renewal of the .Yew South Wales loans at rates in some cases 2 -A per cent, below what they were originally leads Ministers to hope that Mr. Bruce will be able to arrange conversions with an advantage to Australia of more than one per cent. The effect, of this on Australian internal finance would lie of immense benefit, and it is pointed out that to a great extent it would be possible to lighten the very sacrifices which made the better conditions possible.

The total annual interest bill of the Commonwealth and States in London is more than £20,000,000, to which must be added exchange of £ti. 074,000. A reduction in the rate on the £00,000,000 debt would probably be followed by reductions of at least one per cent, eventually on the other loans, with a saving of more than £5.000,000 a year to the people of Australia.

If the financial wizardry of the Resident Minister in London will save us an expenditure of £5,000,000 in interest on overseas loans, why did not this Government and the Scullin Administration also have the courage to demand from Great Britain concessions in interest rates similar to those given by the United States of America to Great Britain, and which Britain extended to France, Italy, Belgium, Germany and other European countries? If Britain can now find the wherewithal to assist the finances of

Austria, Turkey, and other countries, as well as to provide credit for Russian Soviet trade, she could as easily have eased the burden on Australia. The Government evidently prefers to sacrifice old-age pensioners. Because the children of those who are eligible to receive old-age pensions may not be prepared to contribute towards the pensions,, they are to be prosecuted. An army of “’ pimps “ is to be employed by the Government to inquire into the private lives of pensioners. I have a gray-haired mother, and any police pimp employed by the Lyons Government may inquire into my private affairs. I have nothing of which I need be ashamed. But this army of pimps will go into the homes of pioneers, whose only crime is that they have become old in the service of the nation. They are to be penalized in the interest of overseas bondholders and others. The pension scheme was first brought into operation by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1906. Let us see what Sir George Reid, a 100 per centTory of his day, and later High Commissioner for Australia in London, had to say regarding the proposal, as Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament that agreed to it. I quote the following from. Hansard: -

Having taken such time as I could to go through the bill, I propose very briefly to deal with one or two aspects of it; but before doing so I wish to heartily commend its character, in so far as it removes any suggestion of an old-age pension being a charitable allowance. Such an idea degrades a system of old-age pensions. I should look upon a person who qualified under this act to receive a pension, as being just as fully entitled to it as is a Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces, or the Chief Justice of Great Britain, or of any other part of the Empire, to receive a pension under any other system. An old-age pension, in my opinion, is just as honorable as is a pension given under any other system to distinguished public servants.

Another member of this legislature who has gone to his long rest, a Labour exPrime Minister in the person of the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, who, for many years, represented a working-class constituency, expressed the same opinion when he said -

The people believe in this principle and will from time .to time demand that it shall be extended. I was glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the bill would convey no taint of pauperism to recipients of a pension under it.

Another ex-Prime Minister and High Commissioner, Sir Joseph Cook, who owed his political birth to the miners of Lithgow, and later “ ratted “ on his party, contributed the following to that debate : -

  1. know of no more meritorious heroism, shell X say’, than that which is practised in the lower ranks of industrials in Australia and elsewhere. The real heroism nf life is represented hy those men with large families, who have to deny themselves from the beginning to the end of their career, in order to maintain themselves and their dependants in tolerable decency and comfort: and 1 venture to say that hereafter, when account is ‘taken of all things human, those men, who day by day, are undergoing these privations .and sufferings - these mental tortures - will be found a high place amongst the heroes of the race. Such mcn ought to receive pensions from the Statu. They have earned them just as honorably and are just as much entitled to them as the highest in the land. 1 make that stateme,it without the slightest hesitation, and hope that the day will never come in our democratic Australia when any other sentiment will prevail.

He went on to say - v

I rather look upon an old-age pension system in the light of a national scheme of insurance in which the insurers ure all men who contribute to the up-building of the country and the. insured those who need money and take it in the shape of pensions.

When on the hustings the present Government and its supporters promised that if they were returned to power prosperity would be just around the corner, and every man would be given a job. I say, without fear of contradiction that, although it has been in office only five months, the sword of political annihilation already hangs over the head of this Administration. Without wishing to assume the role of political prophet, I assert, that if it were to go to the country to-morrow, it would be annihilated. An important newspaper in “Sew South Wales has published the following concerning it: -

Last week the Lyons-Latham-Bruce Administration practically committed political suicide, if it went to the country to-morrow there is not the shadow of a doubt that it would be defeated ignominiously. And the federal Government appears to he cutting its own throat deliberately.

It has slashed the pensions of the aged and the sick and the maimed. There are some things that are sacred in a British and civilized community. One of them is the maintenance in comfort of our old people who have played their parts in the development of our country, many of them being pioneers. The oilier is Lite care of thu sick and the maimed in our midst. But the Government has ruthlessly thrown aside all pretence of common humanity, and rut half a crown a week off oldage and invalid pensions. Half a crown! The half-crowns that mean the difference between a meagre existence and actual want to so many.

Surely the Government can effect economies iv i tin .u t having to go to such drastic lengths, livery member of the Federal House who votes for this “ misery “ reduction will stand condemned in the eyes of his constituents. The paltry excuse that these economies will mean a reduction of one and a. half millions in taxation is no excuse at all. If it is necessary to place people in abject poverty to save this taxation, the people who are paying it do not want it lifted in this way.

No mme stupidly inane economy proposals have emanated from the present federal Government, which appears to have developed into a leaderless rabble. Truth was outspoken concerning the procrastination of thu Scullin Government, but thu present Government is equally dilatory in attempting anything constructive. lt is a government that “ knows nothing.” and “does nothing.” lt appoints Mr. Bruce to a job in London, at £0,001) per annum, with an equal amount of expenses. Australia knows .from experience the huge departments that grow up around such appointments.

Everything taken into consideration, an election boils down to - not so much a battle for the welfare of Australia - but a battle for the spoils of office, and to put it bluntly, the boodle of alice

And to keep political parasites 011 boards and commissions, and to create more jobs for more political parasites.

An illustration of the truth of that is to be found in this measure. Under it an army of pimps is to be employed to go into the homes of the working-class people of this country. The article goes on to say-

The Gow rumen! heartlessly cuts half a crown off the pensions of the old and needy. Nothing could be more damning on our present system of government, and nothing could be a greater reflection on the outlook and mentality of our politicians

Since assuming office, the Lyons-Latham Administration has sat tight in the job. Air. Latham has had a trip around the world, which ate up quite a number of half-crowns to he filched from old-age pensioners, and generally Speaking, the Federal Cabinet has been content to enjoy the fruits of office without doing the things for which they were elected. Naturally, the Country party has to to bc placated, and the pensions cut is just a sop to keep this party quiet a.nd prevent it from threatening the enjoyment of the plums that fall into the laps of Cabinet Ministers.

Dr. Earle Page, supported by Senator Hardy, has stamped the country breathing threats, and Mr. Lyons has had some nasty things to sa’y in reply. It is not known yet whether he really meant them, and the Country party is anxious to find out.

What Page and Lyons think of each other is not assisting in the restoration of confidence and the creation of employment. In fact, while all this has been going on, our trade balance has slipped across to the other side of the ledger.

But the action of the Lyons-Latham regime in suddenly deciding to cut old-age and invalid pensions is just sheer madness.

The newspaper from which I have made that quotation is the Sydney Truth of Sunday, the 11th September last.

I do not know what is in the minds of my friends, the members of the Opposition, but I tell the Leader of the Government that, small in number though Senator Rae and I may he, we have great ambitions and possibilities. The Government has dug its political grave; it is disembowelled, like the political suicides of Japan. I repeat here what I and the members of my party preach in and out of season, wherever we may be, that there is no complete salvation possible for this or any other country except by the adoption of the fundamental principles - production for use and not for profit. The Government will have a good deal to answer for in regard to this legalized robbery of old-age pensioners, public servants, and others. Senator Rae and I will exert every effort to have the bill thrown out holus bolus.

Senator MacDonald:

– I desire to make a personal explanation. Senator Dunn made it appear that I am the correspondent in this Parliament for the Brisbane Daily Standard. I give that an emphatic denial. I am not the correspondent for that newspaper, and I challenge the honorable senator to make inquiries into the matter in order to prove the accuracy of my statement. It affects me personally. I am a member of the Australasian Journalists Association ; but I state most definitely that I am not the paid representative of the Daily Standard or any other newspaper in this Parliament.

Senator Dunn:

– I should like to say a few words.


– The matter cannot be debated.


– I listened with interest to the speech of the Assistant Minister (Senator

Greene) who moved the second reading of the bill, and to that of the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I regret that Senator Dunn should have been more interested in discussing a family political brawl than in championing the cause of those who are to be injured by this measure. I am inclined to think that when he reflects upon the manner in which he has spent one hour and a quarter, he will regret having made the speech he did. He has certainly dragged into the conflict political personages possessing ability far greater than he himself possesses, and has afforded this chamber a most eloquent example of the satisfaction which small men with small minds can obtain by attacking those far above them in ability, worthiness and integrity. He has endeavoured to show the Senate that he and the party to which he so frequently declares his allegiance have discovered a method by which to bring about financial rehabilitation. The platform of the Australian labour Party contains the following objective : - “ The socialization of industry,” production, distribution and exchange” to which the members of the Australian- Labour Party in every State of the Commonwealth are pledged, and sets out the methods by which that objective may be achieved. The two which are immediately applicable are : “ The constitutional utilization of Federal, State and Municipal Governments - parliamentary and administrative machinery,” and “ The extension of the scope arid powers of the Commonwealth Bank until complete control of banking is in the hands of the people “. It may not be altogether germane to the subject now engaging the attention of the Senate, but it is proper, I think, that I should’ direct the attention of Senator Dunn to that objective of the Australian Labour Party.

I followed with great interest the second-reading speech of the Assistant Minister who introduced the bill. I do not know what is considered to be in keeping with the dignity and decorum of this chamber, but I should not like to place myself in the position of the Assistant Minister who, having delivered a contentious speech, now absents himself from the chamber when it is being criticized.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– He is absent on important public business; it is more important than listening to the speech of the honorable senator.


– I can understand the discomforture of the Minister in having to listen to what I have to say, but that does not disturb me in the least. When I merit his approval I shall be ashamed of myself. A Minister who “moves the second reading of a bill should be present to hear the criticisms that are offered.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– It is not from fear of criticism that he is absent.


– I- know that the Leader of the Government has no fear of anything, but courage is sometimes born of things other than manliness and decency. I sympathize with the Assistant -Minister. He had to present a case of which he was personally ashamed. At one point he put up such a barrage of figures that I began to imagine that he was bravely facing a worthy foe; but later I came to my senses and realized that his object was the annihilation of opponents too weak to stand up in battle. I am amazed that he should indulge in such sophistry. It is particularly degrading to us to realize that, in view of the majority opposing us, we have no redress and that the fell deed is to be done.

I intend to oppose the reduction in parliamentary allowances with all the energy that I can command. Of course the axe is g’oing to fall; I am not worrying about that. I intend to .take this opportunity, through Hansard, to address myself to the people of Australia, and if the Senate adjourns for some weeks, as we are told it is likely to do, I shall avail myself of the further opportunity to bring my views more fully before the people. During the short time I have been a member of this chamber, I have realized that it is becoming less and less a place in which the working class will be able to secure representation; it is becoming more and. more a social club the members of which will consist largely of those who are able to retire, and to whom their parliamentary allowance is of little moment. Membership of this chamber suits those who attach special value to social prestige, but is becoming increasingly difficult for the representatives of the working class to become members of this Parliament, and to maintain themselves in Canberra solely on their parliamentary allowance. I protest against the reduction of that allowance, because I contend that the highest chamber in the National Parliament of the Commonwealth should be open to the poorest individual in the community and that the allowance should be sufficient to enable men to remain here and do their job even if they have no other source of remuneration. I believe that the most sacred work individuals in this enlightened democracy can be called upon to undertake is to make laws under which people have to live. When it is remembered that in this chamber and another place, laws are made under which people have to live, prescribing the conditions under which they work, and, to some extent, the wages they are paid, the allowance paid to members should be made commensurate with the dignity of the position. At any rate, until members of this Parliament are paid an allowance more in keeping with the responsibility of their work, this chamber and the other branch of the legislature will be debased in the minds of many of the people of Australia. We speak of equality of sacrifice. There can be no equality of sacrifice except on the basis of what a man has left after he has made it. The sacrifice that is being made by some is not in any sense commensurate with that which is being inflicted upon what I may term the common people.

I pass on now to the proposed reduction of invalid and old-age pensions and the maternity allowance. I shall have no difficulty in stating my reasons for opposing these proposals. They are quite simple. Some years ago, a Queensland representative in this Senate, who has long sinced passed away, made a remark in connexion with the maternity allowance for* which he was never forgiven in that State. He said that the maternity allowance was simply a sop to profligacy - there is no need for me to say that that was regarded as an insult to Australian womanhood - and right through the ages, because of the attitude adopted by those sponsoring this measure, the .same thing has been said of every piece of legislation of this kind. It was said, in another way, when in Queensland the State Parliament decided to establish an unemployment insurance scheme. Those who’ opposed that legislation said that it was merely brought in to create a loafer’s paradise. Social welfare legislation has always met with the same cowardly criticism from those who are not, in need of it. In my opinion, the Government was ill advised in retreating from its first stand of a fortnight, ago and adopting this new proposal. The original proposal at least had the virtue that it required a certain amount of courage to try to justify it in all its callous brutality. ‘The proposal before us can be described as the refinement of cruelty; it. lacks the brutal courage of the other. It is a surreptitious method of bitting the most defenceless section of our people in a way that will accomplish what its instigators desire, but in a far more subtle way. There is not an honorable senator opposite ‘who does not realize that this inquisition which is about to be established is a cowardly device, not so much for prying into the financial position of the relatives of existing pensioners, as to intimidate future possible applicants. Rather than submit their relatives to the inquisitorial methods proposed, the aged will prefer to do without the pension, and suffer all the resultant poverty and distress. There has been a proposal recently to fence off the pedestrian parts of the Sydney Harbour bridge in order to prevent people from hurling themselves to destruction. That proposal has been jettisoned on account of the expense involved. Most of the ten cases of suicide from that bridge have been due to poverty. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) referred to the pride of many of the old persons in our midst who have not applied for pensions, although entitled to them. We may call it false pride if we like, but there is something in these old people worthy of our admiration. During the debate, a good deal has been said about the way in which these things are managed in other parts of the world. Mention, was made of Great, Britain. Honorable senators who know anything of the hip lory of Great Britain are aware that every year the bodies of hundreds of ~ hungry, down-and-out people, ,are found floating in the Thames. They would rather do anything than sacrifice their, pride and go to the workhouse. Australia is one of the most richly endowed countries in the world. It has a greater variety of soil, climate, and products, than has any other country; its workmen are recognized as the greatest wealth Pl.0ducers per capita of any nation. Yet in spite of the bounteous provision of nature, as well as the genius of man, the Minister in his second-reading speech said that this country cannot afford to continue to pay pensions. Let us not lose sight of the fact that pensions have been paid in a greater or less degree in different parts of Australia for the last 30 years. In that case, it cannot, be denied that the recipients of pensions to-day have paid their quota towards the pensions which others have received. I can think of nothing more cold-blooded or cruel than the proposal before us, to subject every relative of an existing pensioner to an inquisition. I know, and every other honorable senator knows, what will happen. Surely this is a time for us to forget political parties and tactics and face the facts. Instead of looking at. one another across the chamber, and seeking a party political advantage, let us imagine that we are facing the grey-haired old mon and women, with bent backs, who have done their duty as citizens in pioneering this country, and have helped to make Australia what it is. Instead of giving expression to platitudes, let us ask ourselves what we would say to them if they were standing in this chamber demanding an explanation of our uncharitable conduct. I believe that if we ‘ did that we should arrive at a solution of this difficulty in a way much better than that proposed in the bill. Although 1 imagine that I have pome reputation for being a hard hitter in political warfare - and for that I do not apologize - I am not one who believes that any man who opposes my political views is necessarily a heartless fiend. In this connexion, I desire to apply the words of George Bernard Shaw to honorable senators opposite. That well-known dramatist said, “Our governing classes consist of people who, though perfectly prepared to be generous, humane, cultured, philanthropic, public spirited, and personally charming “ - attributes which can be applied to the honorable senators opposite - “ they are unalterably resolved to have money enough for a handsome and delicate life, and while in pursuit of that money will batter in the doors of their fellow mon, sell them up, sweat them in fetid dens, and shoot, burn, and destroy them in the nome of law and order.” The measure before us is designed to destroy the most, defenceless section of the community. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to try to salve their consciences with sophistry, because deep down in their hearts they know that the aged and the invalids, as well as the poverty-stricken mothers of Australia, are being led to the shambles, and are without hope. I ain reminded of the words of William Morris Hughes, spoken at a time when his political charter was different from that which he espouses to-day. The right honorable gentleman then said that “ smug fat-bellied men in this House assert that every man has a” chance. So thinks the pigeon as it flees from the trap, and then flutters bleeding to the ground, murdered to make a sportsman’s holiday”. Honorable senators opposite may say that these people have had their chance; that they should ha-ve done this, that, or the other, or that their relatives should be more generous. They know that the policy of their party, right down through the ages to the present time, has been to make it. increasingly difficult for the common people to live. At every stage of the world’s history everything that has been done to temper the wind to the shorn lamb has been strenuously opposed. Honorable senators opposite either do not mean what they say, or cannot mean the stand they are ‘now taking. I am almost, ashamed to repeat the hackneyed phrase that “ prosperity is just around the corner “. Nearly every speech on the Ottawa Conference has included that phrase. The inspired press invites the people of Australia to take fresh hope, stating that the dark days of the depression are passing, and that, it can only be a little while before things will be brighter. These things are either true or untrue. If they are true, what is the need for extracting from the section of the community least able to bear it a sum in excess of £1,000,000? Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. Those who speak with two voices in this chamber are not upholding the integrity or tlie dignity of the political life of this country. This proposal would not be sobad if it were not a fact that the Government responsible for it has created the very deficit which, by attacking these defenceless people, it now proposes to remove. That cannot be denied, because the budget speech itself contains the definite statement, that’ relief will be given to certain interests that have been paying sales tax. Nor can it be denied that during recent weeks the Government has made other remissions of taxation to favoured sections of the community.

Senator Hardy:

– Does the honorable senator refer to the primary producers?


– The special champion of the primary producers who has just interjected has disappointed me. I expected more from the great “ Cromwell of the Riverina” than a mere “His Master’s Voice “ record of the words of Mr. Davidson of the Bank of New South Wales. This Government has, by its own deliberate action, created a deficit and now it has the indecency to tell this chamber that it proposes to bridge the gap by asking the pensioners of this country to accept, approximately ‘70 per cent, of the sacrifices necessary. Then by wonderful dexterity, which I cannot understand, it announces in the budget speech that there is to be no new taxation. What is this impost upon our old-age and invalid pensioners, if it is not a new form of taxation of a most vicious and unjustifiable character? In his concluding words, when delivering the budget speech, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) suggested that we should take heart in the task of examining our present financial position and our future prospects, and went on to say - “Knowing the sacrifices that would be involved, we have, as a nation, chosen the way of honour and self-help. Let us continue along that path with set determination .” It was

Adam Lindsay Gordon, I think, who said in one of his poems -

Life is mostly froth and bubble; two tilings stand like stone,

Kindness in another’s troubles; courage in your own.

This Government has reversed the sentiment expressed in those lines. It is displaying wonderful courage in another’s troubles, and wonderful kindness in its own. The Prime Minister said further -

If we do, we may be sure that when the world enters upon happier and more prosperous days the people of Australia will reap, in full measure, the benefit of all the sacrifices that they have made. Our economic and financial structure will stand upon a sounder base. The returning prosperity which a rise in the world prices of primary products would undoubtedly bring will be built upon solid and enduring foundations.

I remind the Government that, in the meantime, these brave old pioneers are to be sacrificed even unto death. They will not be here to enjoy this alleged prosperity which, we are told, is just around the corner.

I am aware that in the flood of oratory which is to follow, we shall be told as we were told by thehonorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Dunn ) that the “ Scullin-Theodore “ Government was guilty of the same enormity as that with which I am charging this Government. Without traversing all the arguments that were so ably stated by Senator Barnes to-night, I ask honorable senators to imagine that a serious fire has broken out in a given district, threatening the whole community with disaster, when some one, experienced in such matters, decides that, to prevent complete destruction, certain buildings shall be razed to the ground. That was the task which faced the “ ScullinTheodore” Government. An economic fire was raging throughout the Commonwealth, and rather than stand supinely by and allow it to destroy the whole of our financial structure, the Government resolved to pull down a small portion of the Commonwealth’s social edifice.

Senator Herbert Hays:

– But the Scullin Government did not put out the fire.


– The honorable senator knows, even better than I do, that it did. By its prompt action it altered an unfavorable trade balance into one which was favorable. It had also entered upon a policy which would have put our workless people back to work, and but for its unfortunate and untimely defeat by a method which need not now be recapitulated, it would have been going on with the job to-day. Because of its action the Prime Minister in another place was able to suggest, a few weeks ago, that prosperity was around the corner. For that we have to thank the Scullin Government, and it is just as true to say that honorable senators who now support this Government’s action are wholesale fire bugs prepared to see the conflagration go on to its ghastly and horrible end. One of the difficulties from which Government supporters suffer is that nothing can stir them up unless an attack is made upon their interests and privileges.

During the last fortnight I have received a number of resolutions from organizations in Queensland protesting against this measure. One honorable senator was somewhat concerned, during Senator Dunn’s speech, about the source of information which appeared in a certain newspaper article. To ease his mind, I tell him at once that the resolutions came mostly from branches of the Australian Labour Party in my State. They are none the less worthy on that account. Some also came from branches of other organizations, including the Australian Natives Association, all of which are opposed to the Government’s proposals.

Let me give honorable senators an illustration of what is happening under the present regulations. Some months ago a nicely-dressed and cultured old lady came to my office in Brisbane, and said she wished to make application for an old-age pension. She came to me, so I understand, because she felt she could disclose all the facts of her need to me better than to other people. It appears that some 40 years ago she married a widower with two children. Later the husband deserted her and left her with her two stepchildren, who bought a home for her and furnished it with a reasonable proportion of those things which make for luxury and refinement.. With the passing of the years, the stepchildren married, and agreed that she should remain in her old home. Having no means of subsistence, she decided to apply for the old-age pension, but was afraid to appear before the magistrate. I told her that there was nothing to fear, that the magistrate was a kindly man, and that the papers which I had filled in for her contained all the necessary information. Later she informed me that all was asI said, and that her fears had been groundless. She got the pension. What will happen to that old lady under this bill? In all probability her stepchildren or other near relatives will be put upon the rack and tortured by an inquisitorial investigation into their private affairs. I am sure that she would rather do anything than subject them to that indignity. Another case which has come to my notice is that of an invalid pensioner at Warwick. On the 6th September I telegraphed to Mr. McGuire, the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions, as follows : - Regarding invalid pensioner, Alma Mann, Warwick. Pensioner is widow with one child, a girl aged five. Pensioner is unable to speak, is deaf, and suffering effects paralytic stroke. I earnestly ask continuance pension.

To that telegram I received the following reply : -

With reference to your telegram of the 8th September regarding Mrs. Alma Mann, of Glen-road, Warwick. I have to say that this case was recently reviewed in consequence of a report received to the effect that she was capable of working, that she had a large number of fowls, milked cows, and had a horse and sulkyenabling her to drive about. Inquiries show that she is somewhat mentally defective as a result of deafness and probably birth injuries. Left leg is atrophied, and she has a limping gait. Her general health is good, however; and she is able to do her own housework without assistance. In all the circumstances, she is not deemed to be totally and permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the act, and the pension was cancelled on the 24th ultimo.

I referred that letter back to the friend who had furnished me with the particulars of the case, and he wrote to me as follows : -

I thank you for the letter re Alma Mann. She is 34 years of age, cannot speak, is deaf, and it is impossible to make her understand. You can, therefore, see that it is impossible for her to obtain employment. She has a horse and sulky, and is able to do for herself. In regard to the fowls, she has not a large number, and, further, they bring in no return. Some time back she had a cow which she milked, but now the cow does not exist. She has absolutely no income. I trust that you will be ableto do something for her.

That happened before this inquisitorial legislation was introduced. What is likely to be the position in the future? The Commissioner admitted that what I said was true. This woman has a horse and sulky, but all that she can do with them is to drive about the country town of Warwick. Their possession does not enable her to earn a living.

Another case that I referred to Mr. Maguire was that of a man who was well known to me. In reply, I received the following letter, dated the 19th September : -

With reference to your personal representations regarding Mr. Hans W. Pederson, c/o Post Office, Annerley, I have to say that, further consideration has been given to this case, and the claimant has been re-examined by the Commonwealth medical referee.

He is 52 years of age, is suffering from alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, old injury to left knee, and rheumatoid arthritis of the left shoulder. Whilst these disabilities are admittedly a handicap and interfere with his earning capacity, they are not such as to render him totally and permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the act, and in the circumstances it is regretted an invalid pension cannot be approved at present.

Senator Foll:

– In the cases mentioned by the honorable senator the same answer would have been given no matter what government had been in power, because the act so provides.


– I admit that the same callous answer would have been given.

Senator Foll:

– It cannot be laid at the door of any government.


– I am not arguing that it can. I say that the lot of these men, which surely is bad enough to satisfy even honorable senators opposite, will be made infinitely worse when this scoundrelly bill becomes law.

Some consideration should be shown to blind pensioners, many of whom have dependants, and are having a tremendous struggle to live.

An outstanding fact, which seems to have been entirely overlooked, is that the depression of which we hear so much has been responsible for widespread disaster. Where thousands of men previously were out of work, there are now hundreds of thousands. Persons who formerly may have been able to assist in a small way their parents and other relatives who were in receipt of pensions, now are no longer able to do so. Yet it is proposed to place these people on the torture rack, to apply to them the thumb-screw and all the other horrors of the inquisition, to inquire into the most intimate details of their daily lives, such as the number of pints of beer they have in a week, the number of times they occupy the cheapest 3eats at a picture theatre, the number of tickets in a lottery that they can. manage to purchase. I cannot understand how any honorable senator can derive happiness or satisfaction out. of this action. Is it not rather a startling commentary on Australian public life and political action that we are harking back to the conditions of 31 years ago? The credit for this measure has been attributed to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). Even if it were a creditable act, that honorable gentleman is not entitled to any credit. He is a cheap sort of plagiarist, who has stolen the thunder of the politicians of Victoria 31 years ago. The Victorian act was then considered to be unduly harsh. To-day, similar legislation is an outrage. Those who will be deprived of the right to receive a pension have contributed during their life-time the taxation that has made it possible for others to receive pensions. Now, at the end of their days, when they are unable to maintain themselves, they are to have the last remnant of their self-respect torn from them. In short, they are to be the helpless victims of a form of repudiation. I ask honorable senators opposite, who, perhaps, may be more fortunate than I am iu that their loved parents are still alive, how they would feel if those parents were in need of this pension, and had a serious struggle to live. Let those honorable senators who sometimes boast that they were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths, and that they came up- as they are. pleased to term it. - from the working class, accompany me to the post office in their own or any other town on Thursday when pensions are being, paid. Let us forget political strategy, and all that it means, shake hands with these old folk, and ask them how much they have collected. Should the answer be “ thirty shillings ; we were getting 35s.”, would they like to take that old shaky hand in theirs, and say “ We were responsible for the reduction?” I do not believe that they could stand up to it. If they could, it is because they are far removed from the horrors which poverty means, or have conveniently forgotten them. We open our proceedings daily with the reading of the Lord’s Prayer, which contains one passage that is par*ticularly worth while. It. is, “ Give us this day our daily bread.” We know that our daily bread is safe. But with what feelings do we listen to that prayer, knowing that we arc embarking on a mission to despoil the aged, the invalid, and the mothers of this country, and are doing what lies in our power to rob them of their daily bread ?

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– Sentimental rubbish !


– That interjection is unworthy even of the right honorable senator. I hope that I shall go down to the final accounting which must be made by every one of us, with the knowledge that on the other side I can look square in the eye, without shame, those grey-Ira i red old comrades of mine, the pioneers of this country. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that they consider the following quotation from the Book of Proverbs : -

Bob not the poor, because lie is poor, neither oppress the afflicted in the gate. For thu Lord will plead their cause and spoil the .soul of those who spoil them.

That is worth remembering. The Bev. S. Roberts, the newly elected President, of the Queensland Congregational Church, Brisbane, has made the following statement concerning this particular measure -

The voice “f Jesus was heard just as minh through the man who declared against unfair working conditions as through the preacher who pleaded for righteousness.

I wonder whether the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) would characterize that as “ sentimental rubbish.” The reverend gentleman went on to say : -

He hoped the Federal Government would find a means of balancing the budget without deducting a penny from those in receipt of old-age pensions, lt showed a deplorable lack of sympathy and imagination.

I know that this measure will pass. All that we on this side can do is to register our protest against it. We shall do that at every stage of the bill. The promise of an adjournment for a lengthy period, if we will bo good boys and get this thing through quickly, has no influence on me. Whenever the Standing Orders allow me to voicemy protest, I shall do so. If I did not, 1 should be false to myself, and that is the greatest disaster that could overtake any man. I propose to be true to my political faith, to my upbringing, and tothe brave old pioneers who alone have made it possible for us to sit in this elegantly-appointedchamber. I shall then have justified myself, and have been true to my sense of manhood. More than that, no man can do.

Debate (on motion by SenatorE. B. Johnston) adjourned.

page 813


Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -

That the Senate, at. its rising, adjourn till 1 1 a.m. tomorrow.

page 813



Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [11.12]. - I again ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), whether it is intended to renew the wheat bounty of 4½d. a bushel with respect to the coming harvest; and if not, what assistance is to be given to the wheat-growers this year? His reply this afternoon to a similar question was, that the matter was under the consideration of the Cabinet, but that no decision had yet been arrived at.I hope that the Government will make the bounty at least 6d. a bushel on all wheat exported this year, because that would mean an extra 6d. a bushel to the growers of practically all the wheat produced in Australia. It is not necessary for me to deal with the parlous condition in which these primary producers are placed. That, surely, is as well known to the Government as to members of the Senate. It is expected that at the end of this week the Senate will adjourn for several weeks. I protest against any adjournment until the Wheat Bounty Act has been re-enacted. During the adjournmentI desire to return to Western Australia. What am I to tell the peopleof that State when they inquire concerning the re-enactment of this legislation and the granting of the bounty for the coming harvest? The growers expect that it will be extended over the next three years by this Government, in whom they have shown a large measure of confidence. I hope that an announcement will he made before an adjournment of either House takes place. With the close approach of the harvest, the farmers want to know where they stand, and we are entitled to ask that we be given this information before we return to our respective States.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senateadjourned at11.15 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.