13th Parliament · 1st Session
The Senate, on the 30th September, 1932, adjourned till a day and hour to be fixed and to be notified by the President to each honorable senator.
The Senate met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the notification of the President.
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair and read prayers.
The following papers wore presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 18 of 1932 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 109- No. 110.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 107- No. 108- No. 112- No. 113- No. 114. lm migration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 103.
Nationality Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 102.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 110- No. 117.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No. 18 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
No. 19- Supply (No. 3) 1932-1933.
Northern. Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinances No. 19 of 1932 - Police and Police Offences.
Marine Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Pearling Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Public Service Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Passports Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 101.
Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 98.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for the year 1931-32; together with statements furnished on behalf of the Governments of Now South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in respect of gaugings, &c.
Shipping Act - Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board -
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers - Treasury Loan Account, and Liquidation Account, 30th April, 1932; certified to by the AuditorGeneral.
Cockatoo Island Dockyard- Balancesheet as at 31st March, 1932; certified to by the Auditor-General.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 118.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted, to 30th September, 1932.
Navigation Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 124.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 106.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 104.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 119.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 111.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s statements of Combined Accounts of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 31st December, 1931, and as at 30th June, 1932, certified to by the Auditor-General.
Excise Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 105.
Financial Emergency Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 115.
Insurance Acts - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 100- No. 123.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act -
Statement re pensions for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1932.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 122.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch). - I have received from Senator Dunn a letter informing me that it is his intention to move that the Senate do now adjourn for the purpose of discussing the following motion, namely, “ That it be a recommendation from the Senate to the Government that the sum of £1,000,000 be made available for special Christmas relief for the unemployed and their family dependants throughout the Commonwealth, this resolution to be forwarded to the House of Representatives, and its concurrence requested “. Until what day and hour does the honorable senator wish the Senate to adjourn ?
Pout honorable senators having risen in their places.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn - until 30 a.m. to-morrow - of course - for the purpose of considering the following motion: “That it be a recommendation from the Senate to the Government that the sum of £1,000,000 be made available for special Christmas relief for the unemployed and their dependants throughout Australia “.
– I rise to a point of order. Standing Order 64 provides that -
A motion, without notice, that the Senate, at its rising,adjourn to any day or hour, other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate for the purpose of debatingsome matter of urgency, can only be made after petitions have been presented and notices of questions and motions given . . .
I submit that the motion before the Senate does not comply with that Standing Order, in that it does not propose that the Senate shall adjourn to any specified day or hour; it is merely a motion “ That the Senate do now adjourn”. If the motion were carried, the Senate would automatically adjourn, and meet again at the hour fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate. Incidentally, I mention that it has always been the practice for honorable senators who desire to move motions for the adjournment of the Senate to give the Leader of the Government in the Senate notice of their intention to do so. I have not received from Senator Dunn any notice of his intention to move this motion to-day. It, therefore, comes as a surprise to me; but it is not for that reason that I raise the point of order. Obviously, the motion is not in accordance with Standing Order 64.
– The letter which I read certainly contained no reference to any day or hour; but honorable senators will recollect that I asked Senator Dunn to state a day and hour, and he replied that he desired that the Senate should adjourn till 10 a.m. to-morrow. Since there was no opposition to his amending the motion, I rule that it is in order.
– The honorable senator did not submit it in the amended form.
– He amended it in reply to my inquiry.
– Any such amendment must be submitted in writing, and the consent of the Senate must first be obtained.
– If this motion were carried, it would be impossible for the Senate to proceed with any other business to-day, for immediately on its being carried the Senate would adjourn.
– To discuss the matter in the back-yard.
– Probably. Standing Order 64, which has been framed to meet such cases, provides that a motion may be submitted without notice, “ that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate “. The difference between a motion embodying the words, “ that the Senate do now adjourn,” and one containing the words, “that the Senate at its rising adjourn,” is vital.
– The point raised by Senator Kingsmill places a new aspect upon the motion now before the Senate. The absence of the words “ at its rising “ is vital, and I therefore rule that the motion, in its present form, is not in order.
-I ask leave to amend the motion so that it may comply with theStanding Orders.
-I object. The Appropriation Bill will be under consideration to-day, and the honorable senator will have ample opportunity to discuss the subject of unemployment.
– As the Leader of the Government has objected, and as leave to amend a motion must be unanimous, the honorable senator cannot amend the motion in the form he desires.
“PUSS MOTH” AEROPLANES.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate if he is aware that the Civil Aviation Department or the Defence Department has placed a ban upon the use of “ Puss Moth “ aeroplanes in Australia? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that this action places the agents and distributors of this particular class of machine in a very difficult position? Can he say what methods have been adopted to investigate further the recent aeroplane accidents that have occurred, and whether the ban is likely to be lifted in the near future ?
– The ban upon the use of “ Puss Moth “ aeroplanes was not imposed by the Civil Aviation Department, but by myself as Minister for Defence. That action was taken because the Air Accidents Committee, which investigated the recent crash in New South Wales, in which certain aviators lost their lives, reported that, in its opinion, there was an apparent defect in the construction of this particular type of aeroplane, and advised that their use should be temporarily prevented, also that a technical committee should further investigate the structural difficulties which they believed were responsible for the accident. That committee is being appointed, and it is proposed to speed up the inquiry as much as possible. It is hoped that the ban which has been placed upon this type of aeroplane in the interests of safety will not remain in operation for any time; that the inquiry will be promptly proceeded with, and that a decision will be given at an early date.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate what proposal was brought forward by the exPremier of New South Wales, Mr. Lang, at the Premiers Conference held in Canberra in relation to the interest rates on loans within the Commonwealth and on external loans? Is it a fact that it is now proposed to raise a loan within Australia at 3^ per cent., and, further, does the Imperial Government, through the Rank of England, propose to obtain new money at a conversion rate of 2 per cent.?
– The statements of the honorable senator seem to be assertions of what he believes are the opinions of Mr. Lang on the subject of raising loans, and are not questions in a real sense. If the honorable senator wishes to make these affirmations, he will have an Opportunity to do so when the Appropriation Bill is under discussion to-day.
asked the Loader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the coining adjournment of the Senate mid the approach of harvest, will the Government state its intentions’ in regard to the renewal of the wheat bounty of at least 4½d. per bushel for the coming crop?
– The whole question of assistance to the wheat industry is at present under consideration by the Government, and it is hoped that it may be possible to make a definite statement on the subject at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Does the inquiry concerning taxation in Australia, which is being conducted by Mr. Justice Ferguson, cover the question of any hardships and anomalies which may have arisen in the administration of the Sales Tax Acts ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The object of the inquiry by the royal commission constituted by Mr. Justice Ferguson and Mr. Nixon, is to secure simplification and standardization of the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and States with a view to uniformity of legislation where Commonwealth and State laws relate to substantially the same subjectmatter. As sales tax is not imposed under any State law, that form of taxation does not appear to be within the scope of the inquiry.
Order of the Day - resumption of debate from the 14th September (vide page 428), on the motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the papers be printed -
Called on and discharged.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Financial Emergency Bill, 1932.
South Australia Grant Bill, 1932.
Western Australia Grant Bill, 1932.
Tasmania Grant Bill, 1932.
Sales Tax Assessment Bills (Nos. 1 to 9), 1932.
Sales Tax Bill (No.6), 1932.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have to inform honorable senators that I have received from Lady Quick a letter of thanks for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of her husband, the Honorable Sir John Quick.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
[3.24] . - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
I anticipate that next week it will be necessary to add to the number of our sitting days, because this bill will need to be passed by dinner time on Wednesday. A sitting on Tuesday would give ample time for the consideration of the measure. I ask the Senate to consent to the suspension of the Standing Orders, not with the object of rushing the bill through or of limiting debate upon it, but so that the various stages of the measure may be taken without interruption.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Greene) proposed -
That the bill be now reada firsttime.
– I understand that the amount which is allocated each year for the maintenance of the defence forces of this country has been reduced this year to £2,995,000. In my opinion, that is disproportionate and inadequate; and I consider that the policy reflected in the vote calls for frank criticism. That it reflects the personal policy of the Minister for Defence is unbelievable, because that portfolio is held by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), who has had more experience of it than any other man in the public life of Australia. Therefore I can only assume that this emasculated vote is the result of the desire of the Government to balance its budget. It is logical to assume, too, that under the lash of financial pressure the Government is determined to sacrifice on the altar of economy our very safety as a nation; because, if this vote is an indication of the strength of ‘our defence forces, it is evident that, in point of aggressiveness, those forces are rapidly reaching something akin to the lullaby of a nursery. It is impossible to maintain an efficient defence machine, even though it is intended to be used only for purposes of protection, on the sum of approximately £3,000,000 per annum, nor will that machine be sufficient to cover 3,000,000 square miles of territory. I maintain that there is in this, as in every other problem, an irreducible limit, and that that limit, judged by the amount of the proposed vote, has long since been passed.
I am, of course, aware that the views that I am about to enunciate on the subject of defence will probably not be endorsed by honorable senators opposite. In fact, I have every reason to believe that they will be condemned in certain quarters, because I have a vivid recollection of a number of election campaigns in which, many of the leaders of the Australian Labour Party coined such phrases as “ Bread, not Bullets “. But honorable senators opposite^ not even Senator Rae, who believes so implicity in the brotherhood of man irrespective of colour or race, or any other honorable senator who supports the Labour party’s defence polley, would honestly advocate the abandonment of expenditure upon defence unless they were quite satisfied that Australia was in a position to defend itself from any possible aggression. Defence expenditure is necessary even at a time like the present, when we require every available penny to help our unemployed. If we deceive ourselves by believing that humanity has reached such a stage as to permit of perfect understanding between the nations, we shall one day have a rude awakening. I propose to submit figures relating to the expenditure on armaments by a number of countries. I feel sure that they will prove conclusively that the armament race between the nations is. being conducted more fiercely to-day than at any time since the great war. Immense sums are being expended on navies and armies, and the story of the development of air forces reads like some tale from the Arabian Nights. Australia is the gem of the southern Pacific. Many nations, confronted with the problem of over-population, are casting envious eyes on this country, which, I regret to say, is virtually unprotected, except for the strength of the British Empire. It is essential, in my opinion, that Australia should adopt adequate measures for her protection; yet the defence vote for the current year is the smallest since the great war. Even compared with the expenditure for last year, when drastic economies were enforced, the provision in these Estimates is less by £215,000, and compared with the expenditure in 1927, it i3 short by no less a sum than £4,859,938. Tn other words, the expenditure this year compared with that for 1927 has been reduced by 62.1 per cent., so that we are spending to-day only 37.9 per cent, of the amount provided for defence in 1927. When we consider our general position, and realize the spirit of supernationalism that unfortunately manifests itself throughout the world, we must be forced to the conclusion that our defence position is far from satisfactory. Other nations, including Japan, are arming at a terrific rate. Japan is distant from Australia only about 3,000 miles - approximately the distance between Canberra and Perth - it has a population of over 90,000,000, concentrated in an area of 268,000 square miles, less than 10 per cent, of the total area of Australia. That country, which lies only a few days’ steam and a few hours’ flight, from our shores is arming at a rate not properly understood by the people of Australia. The following figures relating to expenditure on armaments in Japan are informative, and, I submit, impressive: -
Over the five-year period covered by those figures the general expenditure on armament in Japan has been increased by 29 per cent. If we analyse the figures further to ascertain in what proportion the expenditure has been allocated between the navy, army, and air forces, we get further enlightenment as to the defence developments in that country. The army vote, which may be regarded as stationary, increased by 5.25 per cent., naval expenditure increased by 48 peacent., and air force expenditure increased by 210 per cent. It is interesting also to learn that last year a Japanese bombing flight, consisting of 40 long-range bombing machines, carried out a cruise of over 2,000 miles in one day and a half. As Australia is only 3,000 miles distant from Japan the possibility of a menace from the air is by no means so remote as some people may believe it to be. I understand, also, that the Japanese military authorities have arranged a further programme of long-range flights to test the efficiency of that arm of the service, which comprises 1,387 air craft, of which 800 belong’ to the navy, and the balance to the army. The total air personnel is stated at 16,821. Concerning this phase of Japanese military activity, I may have something to say at a. later date. This year, the Japanese Government is spending, an additional £20,000,000 on the- air force alone, providing for an additional sixteen squadrons of long-range bombing machines. The figures which I have quoted are irrefutable, since they are taken from information supplied by the League of Nations, and from other official sources.
The United States of America, it should be noted, is also busily occupied in this armament race that is going on between the nations. That great republic has a population of approximately 122,000,000, an area of 3,300,000 square miles, slightly larger than that of Australia. Its, defence expenditure in the years 1927 to 1931 is set out in the following table : -
Reviewing the figures, we find that although the United States of America increased its general defence vote by 22 per cent., its vote for aerial defence rose to an unprecedented extent, for it was increased by over 62 per cent. To give honorable senators an idea of the serious attention which that country is giving to the development of its air force, I shall read the following extract from its President’s message covering the 1931 budget : -
The estimates for direct appropriation for war and naval departments is a total of 719,089,000 dollars for national defence. Under the air service programme for Army and Navy, I am asking for a total of 33,000,000 dollars for the procuring of air planes, their engines, spare parts, and accessories. In addition to this, I am asking for the same purpose for the Coast Guard and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a total of 400,000 dollars. With regard to the Army, provision is made for the procurement of 433 air planes. Pertaining to the fourth increment of the five-years’ programme authorized by Congress, this programme calls for 1,515 planes to be on hand or ordered by 30th June, 1931, and it is believed that this goal will be reached. Concerning the - Navy Air Force service, the last of the fifth increment of the five-years’ programme will be reached in 1931. This programme contemplates 1,000 planes and two lighter than air ships to be on hand by the end of the fiscal year. To accomplish this, provision is made for the procurement of 209 air planes including equipment. In addition to these amounts, we are spending large sums for lighting and equipping airways, inspection and licensing of commercial aircraft and furnishing weather reports for the carrying on of commercial navigation. For these purposes there is included in the estimates under the Department of Commerce 8,925,830 dollars, and for weather bureau, 1,400,000 dollars. It is estimated that at the end of this year we will have 18,400 miles of airways fully equipped.
We notice that in 1931 the United States of America had 1,754 service aircraft, of which 800 belonged to the navy, and that its air personnel numbered 27,324. Again I draw attention to the fact that the air vote of that country was increased during the period under review by 62 per cent. It may be argued that the position of the United States of America is not comparable with that of Australia. If that is the opinion of honorable senators, I shall submit corresponding figures in regard to Canada, which is a sister dominion of Australia.
Canada, whose problems are similar to our own, is slightly larger in area than Australia. The following tables snOw that Canada has recognized the paramount importance of air defence-: -
I draw particular attention to the fact that the naval problems of Canada are not the same as those of Australia, but an analysis of the Canadian figures shows that while Canada increased her general vote for defence by 72½ per cent. during the period under review, her vote for air defence was increased by 240 per cent.
– Do those figures include the expenditure on civil aviation ?
– No; so far as possible, I have left civil aviation expenditure out of account.
Great Britain’s defence problem is of course, different from ours; but I intend to submit the British figures in order to show that Australia’s AirForce is not being developed at the same rate as those of other nations. Britain’s defence expenditure from 1927 to 1931 is seen in the following table: -
Although Britain decreased her general expenditure on defence during that period by 5.2 per cent., her expenditure on air defence was increased by 13.1 per cent. It is worthy of note that Britain did not fail to recognize the outstanding importance of aerial defence. I appreciate the desire of the Government to balance budgets - a desire which appears to be peculiar to Australia - butwe must not lose sight of the necessity for providing for the adequate defence of this country. Our expenditure on defence in 1927 was £7,890,938. In the following year it was £7,385,710, decreasing to £6,536,482 in 1929, with a further reduction to £4,885,989 the following year. In 1931 it was still lower, the expenditure being £3,913,031. The present year’s vote is £2,995,000.
– Evidence of returning sanity.
– Notwithstanding the increased defence expenditure by other nations, Australia has seen fit to reduce her defence vote by 62.1 per cent. I am particularly concerned with the reduction by 34.3 per cent. of the vote for the air force. Other nations, which have reduced the expenditure on their navies and armies, have seen fit to in crease their air force expenditure. The reduction in our air force vote is the more strange when we reflect that Australia is particularly suited to air defence on account of the vast distances to be travelled, and the greater mobility of air machines. It may be well to recapitulate. Japan increased her general defence vote by 29 per cent., but her air force expenditure was increased by 210 per cent. Similar action has been taken by the United States of America, the respective figures being, 22 per cent. and 62 per cent. In the case of our sister dominion, Canada, the general increase was 72.5 per cent., and in the case of the air force, 240 per cent. Although the general defence vote of Great Britain has been decreased by 5.2 per cent., the air force vote has been increased by 13.1 per cent. I ask honorable senators to compare those figures with the decrease of our general defence vote by 62.1 per cent., and our air force vote by 34.3 per cent. According to Senator Collings, we are the only sane people in the world, but in the event of an attack by an invading force, our air force would be about as effective as a box of crazy kites bought in a toy shop.
– We cannot provide an effective air force, and the honororable senator knows it.
– We can increase its effectiveness.
– By taking another 2s. 6d. a week from invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Even a Labour Government in Great Britain was prepared to spend 7s. 4½d. per head of the population in providing an air force. Canada’s per capita expenditure for the same purposewas 3s. 7½d. compared with Australia’s1s. 0½d., notwithstanding our 2,974,581 square miles of territory and our 12,210 miles of coast line. We must remember also that nations to the north of Australia are arming with great rapidity. I do not attack the personnel of the air force, for I know that the members of the force do all that they can with the equipment made available to them. In 1931, Australia had 28 machines, including the modern Wapiti and 4 amphibians. A total of 28 machines to guard the Commonwealth ! If we add to that number the training machines, which are not really fighting craft, the total would probably not exceed 50 machines. Do honorable senators regard that as sufficient to defend this Commonwealth ? In 1928, the question of our air force received a good deal of prominence when the Bruce-Page Government invited Sir John Salmond, who was in charge of the British Air Force, to visit Australia, and report on our air force. He did so. In his report, which was discussed freely in the press at the time, Sir John Salmond said -
Duc to the obsolete types of service machines in use throughout the Air Force; to the entire absence of any reserve equipment, and to the low standard of training in these operational units. I have to report that 1 consider that the Royal Australian Air Force would be totally unfit to undertake war operations in co-operation with the Army or Navy, even after the permissible period of training for the latter had elapsed . . . In regard to training in the service on which the operational efficiency of the force depends, this subject is so inextricably interlocked with equipment, that it is not possible to judge the one without reference to the other. I consider that the standard existing throughout the force at the present time is low.
He completed his censure by stating -
With the exception of a few training machines recently purchased, aircraft and engines are old and for the most part out of date and unserviceable. Consequently, a great deal of time that would he otherwise spent in instruction is lost in the constant effort to keep even a small proportion of these aircraft serviceable.
I direct attention to those statements, because they are the conclusions of a recognized authority. In another portion of his report, Sir John Salmond stated - lt must be understood that the life, nf an air force officer is one of continuous training to become efficient in his profession. Apart from the art of controlling a complicated piece of machinery moving at great speed, there arc scientific brandies to be mastered and once mastered to be maintained. Air fighting., gunnery, bombing, air pilotage, photography and cooperation with oilier arms, require tin intimate knowledge of delicate instruments, which constant study alone, will give. To employ this knowledge efficiently at high speed in the face of the enemy, requires that its application must be almost subconscious. Only by constant training and continuous practice can such automatic! facility in an emergency be acquired.
Having examined our Air Force, Sir John Salmond outlined a programme to bring it up to a reasonable standard. His proposals were incorporated in the policy speech of Mr. Bruce in 192S, but, unfortunately, that’ policy was never put into operation, because of the defeat of that Government. Despite the financial stringency, .1 submit that the time is ripe for Australia to go ahead with the programme ‘outlined by Sir J ohn Salmond. The cost would not be great, and the expenditure would make all the difference between danger and security.
– Nonsense !
– Sir John Salmond’s programme provided for -
One army co-operation squadron; 2 bombing reconnaissance squadrons; 2 coast reconnaissance flights (boats); 3 slipways for the operation of flying boats; 2 single-seater fighter flights; 1 stores depot, aeroplane repair and engine repair section ; 1 recruits training section; 1 wing head-quarters; .1 Bovill Australian Air Force cadets training wing, and 1 Citizen Air Force squadron.
That programme was to extend over nine years. The proposal sounds like the Soviet five-year plan, but is better than it. Under the proposal of Sir John Salmond, the expenditure for the first year would be £180,360, which, with maintenance, £70,600, would moan a total expenditure for that year of £250,960, or 9½d. per head of the population.
– Does the honorable senator think that Australian primary and secondary industries could stand that additional cost?
– The money could be taken from other sections of our defence vote, and diverted to the Air Force. The second year’3 expenditure under Sir John Salmond’s plan would be an additional £154,360, representing lid. per head of the population. At the end of the nine-year period, the per capita cost under the plan would be 2s. 6£d., which would still be far below the expenditure of other nations. . As I have said, Britain’s Air Force costs 7s. 4£d. per head of the population, and Canada’s expenditure under this heading is 3s. 7-Jd. Added to our present expenditure, the total cost of providing an adequate air force would not be more than 3s. 6d. per head of the population. It is the duty of the Government to make a start in the direction of providing an adequate air force for our defence. We cannot continue with only 2S or 30 machines to defend this huge continent. I realize that money cannot be obtained easily; but our expenditure should be directed into channels which would give the best results, In my opinion, money spent on the Navy and the Army is not so productive of good results as would be the same expenditure to provide an air force. ^ I now wish to refer to the subject of civil aviation. In developing civil aviation, we are providing a valuable asset in times of emergency. The expenditure on ‘ civil aviation is altogether too lavish in this country. We are not obtaining any return for the money we expend, particularly when we remember that the object of a civil aviation department is to provide assistance in times of national emergency. The tremendous disparity between the figures of Great Britain and those of Australia in connexion with civil aviation is shown in the following tables: -
The money we have spent might as well have been thrown down the sink. Australia is now spending 7d. per head on civil aviation, as against ls. per head on the air force. The rate of 7d. per head spent on civil aviation is nearly three time3 that being spent for the same purpose in Great Britain. We have to decide whether the amount now being spent on civil aviation could not be devoted to the air force, where it would be more productive.
– One would think that the honorable senator was speaking to a kindergarten.
– I ask the honorable senator to check the figures in order to see whether the money we are spending on civil aviation could not be used to greater advantage if spent on the air force.
Since the Civil Aviation Department was established about eleven years ago the actual expenditure - I am taking the figures from the Aviation World - is £1,007,053. An analysis of this expenditure shows that most of it has been absorbed in the payment of subsidies, which have not been reproductive. This expenditure has not created an asset that will be of assistance to the defence forces in time of need. The figures show that the subsidy paid to the Westralian Airways Limited amounted to £336,545, and that paid to Qantas £155,574.
– A valuable service.
– I admit that. The amount paid to the Larkin Company was £168,230. The total expenses in connexion with civil aviation amounted to £124,014. The total subsidies paid amount to £660,349, or 65 per cent, of the total vote. It is costing nearly as much to conduct the Civil Aviation Department in Australia as it is costing to run the British Civil Aviation Department. There is a difference of only £30,000 between the cost of the two. If honorable senators examine the position, they will find that the total amount of- subsidy paid to the companies mentioned is equal to 65 per cent, of the gross expenditure.
The Westralian Airways Limited service, to which I already referred, was established to conduct a service in Western Australia, between Geraldton and Derby; but that service was eventually extended from Derby to Wyndham. When the original contract was entered into, the contractors received 4s. per mile as a subsidy; but later the service was extended to Perth, when it commenced to compete with the railway, with which, for a portion of the distance, it was running parallel. To-day the Government is paying a subsidy of £18,435 to keep the Perth-Derby service in operation, although a portion of the railway with which it is competing is regarded as being of strategic value. What protection is afforded from an Australian view-point? If honorable senators wish to analyse the position still further, they should study the contract entered into with that company for a service between Perth and Adelaide, and endeavour to justify it. Honorable senators should determine whether it is right for the Government to pay £39,520 a year for a period of five years to the Westralian Airways Limited when it is conducting a service in direct competition with the east-west railway.
– Our own railway.
– Yes. That railway was constructed from the profits of the note issue branch, and, although it cost over £7,000,000, the loss last year was approximately £180,000. To-day that railway service is unproductive largely as the result of competition by an air service which is impairing the efficiency of the air force. The expenditure of £39,520 on subsidies paid to the Westralian Airways Limited, based on a cruising speed of 100 miles an hour, works out at £24 an hour.
– Those machines do more than 100 miles an hour.
– They might, with a tail wind.
– The average speed is more than that.
– The subsidy, based on a cruising speed of 100 miles an hour, works out at £24 an hour. I do not think honorable senators can show that it costs £24 an hour to run machines of that type, even allowing for depreciation and repairs. If it does I know nothing whatever about aviation. I submit that the amount paid is equivalent to double the
Actual cost incurred. Notwithstanding this, the Government entered into a contract with the Westralian Airways Limited for the payment of this subsidy for a period of years, and without the slightest stretch of imagination its action cannot be regarded as other than generous, particularly when we remember that that service is competing with a Commonwealth railway. If honorable senators wish to obtain an indication of the competition they should compare the fares charged between Perth and Adelaide, where there is competition with the railway, with those charged by the Qantas company operating between Brisbane and Charleville. For approximately the same distance the fare charged by the Qantas is £26, although for a portion of the distance the service is competing with a State railway. If ever there was a blot on the Civil Aviation Department it is the contract entered into with the Westralian Airways. That company now proposes to link up with Imperial Airways service from Europe, and to perpetuate, if possible, the subsidy system.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government proposes to do that?
– I understand that the Government is considering such a proposal; but I sincerely trust that it will not entertain the scheme for a moment. The Qantas service in Queensland started as a pioneer undertaking to serve the outback parts of Queensland, but is a doubtful asset from a defence view-point. That service has since been extended to Brisbane, and those controlling it are receiving a subsidy of £19,935 a year. Based on a cruising speed of 100 miles an hour, it works out at the rate of £12 18s. 4d. an hour, and to that extent the cost is less than the Westralian Airways service. It is doubtful if the actual cost exceeds £9 an hour. The whole system is wrong. The principle of paying the subsidy is wrong. The Civil Aviation Department was formed with the object of strengthening our air defence force; but that force has been left in such a deplorable state that it cannot possibly protect Australia. I live in a district over which the machines of the Larkin Company passed. I saw mail planes flying practically empty, and I know that they carried very few letters. The amount spent by the Civil Aviation Department to assist this company was not great, but it was of no benefit from a defence viewpoint. It could hardly be said that the Larkin company served the outback people, but the service cost the country £168,230. On the general question of air routes, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) said that -
Investigations should be made into the whole subject of aerial mail services, particularly on the question of whether the burden on the Commonwealth is not out of proportion to the benefits received.
That is the view-point which I am urging upon the Government. It should investigate the whole subject of civil aviation with a view of determining whether the money now being spent cannot be used in providing a foundation for an aerial defence service which is so badly needed. In looking over the expenditure for the last ten or eleven years it will be seen that excessive payments have been made for the services rendered. Everyone agrees that although the initial routes served .the outback portions of the Commonwealth, I do not think that it can be contended that the later routes were justified. An examination of the figures will show that two or three companies are receiving practically the whole of the civil aviation vote. For instance, Westralian Airways and Qantas have been receiving 65 per cent, of the total paid in the form of subsidies. This Government, which is pledged to private enterprise, is crushing individual effort. The Government, which professes to foster private undertakings, is preventing small interests operating, and is encouraging a monopoly. I sincerely trust that it will turn down the proposal submitted by certain interests in Australia for a subsidized service between England and Australia, particularly if it means a perpetuation of the subsidy system.
Honorable senators may think that the proposals I am submitting involve expenditure of a large sum of money, but I shall submit a scheme that does not entail the expenditure of any capital. One form of expenditure by the Government cannot be justified, because it does not assist the Defence Department. I refer to the training of pilots in aviation schools. The policy of subsidizing aero clubs was adopted in 1926 with the object of training men as pilots, so that in time of national emergency they could take their place as trained men in the Air Force. The total payments made in this respect amount to £61,577, made, up by £36,682 for gift equipment, and £24,895 as cash payments to clubs. The number of pupils trained by these clubs, and who were supposed to form the nucleus of an air defence force, total 628, and the cost of training each pilot averages £98. Are the pupils trained by these clubs suitable for work in the Defence Department? The answer must be in the negative. Any person who controls a machine for eight hours is entitled to an “ A “ class licence. These pilots know only the ABC of flying; their knowledge of flying for defence purposes is not worth a snap of the fingers. They do not have to submit to a medical test, and after undergoing brief training, one which costs £98, they obtain a licence. They should be acceptable to the Air Force, and the expenditure on their training should be incurred purely with that object in view. Is it right that the Government should expend £9S so that the wife of a wealthy merchant might obtain a licence to satisfy a passing whim? That is what is happening today, I defy any honorable senator to show that the nucleus of a defence force is thus being formed. When this principle was initiated in 1926, the number of clubs that received assistance was not very great. To-day, however, they number ten, and the total amount of assistance given is £61,000 per annum. I do not desire for a moment to attack the record of the aero clubs, because I know the difficulties that they have to overcome; but the Government should so alter its policy that every man trained by them would be eligible for the Air Force. The bonus should be given, not only to aero clubs, but also to any private concern that wishes to train pupils, provided that every pupil trained by them is acceptable to the Air Force on the ground of age and physical condition, and is thus of potential value to Australia in the future. To-day, the small operators are practically being forced out of existence by the. unfair competition of the subsidized aero clubs; yet, notwithstanding the assistance that they receive, every aero club of which I have any knowledge is in serious financial difficulties. At Mascot there are eight flying schools, which turn out 83 pupils a year. They never receive a penny from the Government, yet they are able to function on a commercial basis. If we wish to improve our Air Force, but have not the money to do so, let us give attention to the fundamentals. Surely, it would be a simple matter for the Government to say, “ We are willing to pay a bonus on all air pupils trained by aero clubs or private schools, but insist that, as a first condition, a pupil’s physical qualifications must be up to the standard of the Air Force “. It should also be laid down that the instructor must be a member of the reserve of the Air Force. Let there be a closer liaison between the Air Force and the aero clubs. Let the instructors be graded, so that those who wish to be taught flying will know that their qualifications are undoubted. Let the Air Force be the dominating factor in the whole of ,our national defence. This would not cost money, because it would be only governmental policy. The Government will fail in its duty if it does not immediately review the whole of its policy and endeavour to build up the Air Force to the stage at which it will offer reasonable security.
[4.24]. - I do not propose to deal with the criticism of the honorable senator in regard to defence expenditure generally; the proper time for that will be when the estimates of that department are under discussion. I do not pretend that an effective defence force for Australia can be provided with the amount, of money set down in these Estimates. I should have liked the honorable senator to show where it is possible to obtain more money. Any one can say that, Avith the amount expended on defence to-day, we cannot anything like adequately bear our share of Empire defence; but I rather resent the comparison drawn by the honorable senator of the expenditure upon defence in Australia and Canada. That comparison was most unfair to this ‘country. We admit that we are not bearing our share of Empire defence; but our contribution in proportion to population is very much greater than that of Canada. We have made and are making a reasonable contribution towards Empire naval defence.
– Canada’s contribution to the British Navy is practically nil.
– I should like to know what are the very good’ reasons which, in the opinion of the honorable senator, account for the position occupied by Canada in regard to this aspect of Empire defence. Canada’s ocean-borne trade is as big as. if not bigger than, that of Australia, yet she leaves the defence of it entirely to the British Navy.
– I made the remark that it was not exactly a comparison, because Great Britain looks after Canada’s naval defence.
– The, honorable senator might have given Australia credit in that respect.
– Australian cruisers protected Canada’s trade routes during the war*
– It may be news to Senator Hardy that, during the greater part of the war, when it was necessary to have a patrol along the coast of Canada to protect that dominion’s commerce, the patrol was undertaken by two cruisers of the Australian Navy, and was paid for by the Australian taxpayer.
There is another misapprehension that I wish to clear up. Senator Hardy referred to Sir John Salmond’s report, and his condemnation of the efficiency of the Australian Air Force. I assume that the honorable senator did not intentionally reflect on the present efficiency of the Air Force.
– Oh, no.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Sir John Salmond’s condemnation was made some years ago, and is not at all applicable to-day in regard to either the efficiency of the machines or the training of the personnel.
– But it is in regard to the number of machines in commission.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Since his report was written, the Wapitis to which the honorable senator referred, and the Bulldogs, which are effective machines, have been purchased. I venture to affirm that Sir John Salmond would be the first to say that his recommendations in regard to training had been fully acted upon, and that the force to-day, although altogether too small, is efficiently trained.
The honorable senator advocated an expenditure on air defence of 3s. 6d. per head of population, a total of £1,137,000, compared with the £311,000 provided for in the Estimates, an increase on this one item of £826,000. I ask the honorable senator where on earth we are to get the money. It is all very well to preach the gospel of perfection ; any one may do that in regard to many things; but the problem that confronts us is that we are barely able to find even the comparatively small amount that it is proposed to appropriate, and our difficulty in that respect will become greater unless the conditions become much more favorable than Ave expect them to be.
My principal object in rising was to deal with the question of civil aviation, and the remarks of the honorable senator thereon. First of all, let me say that I long ago realized that there are some peculiar currents at work, and that they are not at all devoid of self-interest. The contending factions look at things entirely from that point of view. One would think that in the setting up of any particular kind of transport, it would not be disadvantageous to have the assistance of companies with capital and organization. Yet, in his speech to-day, the honorable senator held that up as a crime. He would have us believe that it is a fault in the civil aviation branch that there have been established in this country big companies with some capital that are able to provide services that compare more than favorably with similar services in any other part of the British Empire. This condemnation is not confined to Senator Hardy; it appears also in the report of the Auditor-General, and is voiced by that interested section outside whose outcry, I believe, is due principally to the fact that it did not obtain contracts for air mail services.
– There are services for which no tenders were called.
– That is not so. Some of the persons who are now squealing were unsuccessful tenderers. The Government, however, is not satisfied with the present position. It has inherited certain contracts; it must honour them or pay compensation for breaking them. , The honorable senator is in error in saying that the present Government en’tered into a contract for five years for the Adelaide to Perth service. It was entered into by a. previous Government, but it will terminate towards the end of next year. A number of other contracts also will terminate next year, and the Government believes that an opportunity will then be afforded to review the whole question of air trans port services in Australia. It has decided not to be guided by interested contending factions. An inter-departmental committee was appointed to look into the matter, and to show that it was competent to deal with the subject, I shall mention the names of its members. First, there is Captain Johnston, Acting Director of Civil Aviation, who, since the unfortunate accident to Colonel Brinsmead, has had the administration of the Civil Aviation Department, and is well acquainted with the whole of the ramifications of civil aviation throughout Australia from the governmental point of view. Next, there is the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, who is particularly well adapted to advise on transport and has a special interest in the competition between air and rail services. Then, there is Mr. Harry, who represents the mail branch of the Postal Department, and is, therefore, well fitted to advise the Commonwealth respecting that very important aspect of air services, the distribution of mails overseas and internally. Lastly, there is Mr. Harris, who represents the Treasury, a very important factor in. the matter from the point of view of seeing that the recommendations made are within the means of the Commonwealth. These gentlemen have given every opportunity to all the contending interests to appear before them and express .their views.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the interested parties were invited to appear personally before the committee?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I understand so.
– My understanding is that they were invited to give their views in writing.
– In the majority of cases they appeared personally before the committee. During the whole of the time that the committee sat a ceaseless flow of propaganda was directed against the companies that are running the services at the present time. I am not without a certain amount of native shrewdness. I am aware of the objective of this propaganda, and 1 can assure those who are directing it that it will receive full consideration. Apparently they believe that they can get better results by organizing political opinion than by convincing technical opinion.
– It looks as if they might destroy the services altogether.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is that possibility. Many of the arguments used in this propaganda were repeated by Senator Hardy this afternoon. It has been suggested that Australia is not receiving value for the vote for air services. That suggestion, which I repudiate entirely, is due to a misconception of the purpose behind the Government’s policy. The intention is not, as Senator Hardy and some other people seem to think, to regard civil aviation as an adjunct of the air defence system of this country. The principal object of this Government, as it has been of previous governments, in encouraging civil aviation, is to develop an air sense in the people of Australia. The vote is a recognition of the fact that air transport of passengers and mail has become ail important factor in the economic life of this country. Incidentally, the development of our air transport services will mean that, in lime of war, we shall have a wider field from which to recruit pilots for our air force.
– In the meantime we shall be training the ground personnel.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so. Those well qualified to express an opinion, state that the defence value of civil aviation, in respect of the air personnel, may be over-estimated; but they are, I think, agreed that the ground personnel required for civil aviation purposes may be of great value in time of war. It is, however, misleading to assume that commercial aeroplanes which might be extremely useful for the carriage of mails and passengers, would necessarily be of value for defence purposes,’ because in essential features air force machines differ from civil aviation machines almost as much as naval vessels differ from the ordinary merchantmen, although it is true that, in certain circumstances, armed merchantmen may render distinct service in time of war.
Let us see what has been accomplished from the expenditure of this vote. It is, of course, easy for the critic to aggregate the expenditure for the last nine years and say - “During that time the Government has spent £1,000,000 on civil aviation. What can it show for it?” Critics might, with equal justice, aggregate the expenditure on the Postal Department, and declare that all that the Commonwealth has got, by way of return, is a number of post offices, or so many miles of telegraph or telephone line. But is that a fair test? I submit that it is not, and I invite Senator Hardy and other honorable senators who have given attention to this subject to compare the results of our expenditure for 1930-31 with those of any other dominion, or with that of Great Britain itself. In that year the number of single trips scheduled was 635, the number of flights, was 3,730, the number of flying hours was 6,024, the mileage flown was 562,S7S, the passenger miles flown were 2,034,440, the weight of freight carried was 445,000 lb., the weight of mails carried was 27,500 lb., and the average passenger loading per mile was 3.6. That is what this country received by way of return in 1930-31 for that expenditure on civil aviation. But that is not” the whole story. On the 30th June, 1932, there were 365 licensed private pilots, 199 commercial pilots, 307 ground engineers, 204 registered aircraft, 97 licensed public aerodromes, and 184 Government aerodromes and emergency landing-grounds scattered all over Australia. The number of flight operations within the Commonwealth last year was 102,519, the number of hours flown, was 36.760, the mileage flown was 2,958,357, the number of paying passengers carried was 67,280, the weight of freight carried was 457,000 lb., and the weight of mails carried was 35,000 lb. If we included the figures for the New Guinea air services, they would be increased tremendously, because the miles flown in New Guinea last year totalled 395,000, and the weight of freight carried was 6,69^,041 lb. These figures demonstrate rather strikingly the remarkable development that has taken place in civil aviation in New Guinea, due, of course, to mining activity in the Mandated Ter- ritory. If honorable senators compare these figures with those published with respect to air services in Canada or Great Britain, they will find that’ Australia has no reason to be ashamed of the part which civil aviation is playing in the development of this country.
I notice also that Senator Hardy kept on saying, “ They “ are proposing to do certain things. Being at a loss to understand to whom he was referring, I asked for enlightenment, but the honorable senator neglected to indicate definitely to whom he was referring. ‘ Assuming that he was alluding to this Government, I can tell him that we intend to give careful consideration to the report of the committee which has been appointed, with a view to framing a policy for the development of our air services, which, in our judgment, will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– I am quite satisfied with that assurance.
– The honorable senator stated further that the civil aviation vote was draining the air force vote. The amount allocated to civil aviation is only £129,000, and as Senator Hardy visualizes an increase in expenditure on the air force to £850,000, 1 fail to see how the vote for civil aviation is endangering the provision to be made for the air force. The honorable senator also went on to say that he could submit proposals which would give us a better return than is obtained from the existing vote for air services. I listened very carefully to all that the honorable senator had to say and was disappointed when he resumed his seat without stating precisely the nature of his proposals. He criticized the attitude of the Government towards aero clubs, saying that we were not getting anything like value for defence purposes from these clubs throughout the Commonwealth. He contended that bonuses should be paid to any clubs which train pupils, provided the pilots to whom certificates are issued are up to air force standard. If we did that, we certainly should not be getting something for nothing.
– But the Government would be getting a better return for’ the expenditure.
– The honorable senator’s criticism of this phase of civil aviation policy was, I think, based on a misconception of the Government’s policy for the encouragement of civil aviation, which, as I have explained, is not to be regarded as an adjunct to the air force.
Aero clubs are not out to make a profit. Their chief function, is to encourage the use of aeroplanes in the development of this country. Many persons closely indentified with these clubs are past middle age and, therefore, could not expect to qualify as pilots. But they give a great deal of their time and, in some cases, considerable sums of money, to develop the air sense in our people. The Government gives them a certain sum for each pupil trained and for renewals of licences. Senator. Hardy seems to think that that money is thrown away. Surely the honorable senator realizes the part which civil aviation is playing in the development of Australia. Surely he acknowledges the value of a rapid means of transport to people living in our out-back country, who are thus brought into close touch with the centres of civilization ? I invite him to consider the service rendered to our out-back people by the Qantas and Westralian air services. At one time people living in the Kimberleys were almost completely shut off from the centres of population in Western Australia. Prior to the establishment of the Westralian Airways service, it took them three months to get a reply to a letter sent to Perth. Now, thanks to the north-west air mail, they can get a reply in a few days. The importance of rapid transport for medical purposes also should not be overlooked. People living in the north-west of Western Australia, and the same may bc said of other remote areas in this country, can. in cases of sickness, be transported rapidly for special treatment in centres where hospitals are established. By this means, many valuable lives have been saved in recent years. Does Senator Hardy see no value in such services? Again, during the shearing season, if an accident happens to machinery, the use of the air services enables replacements to be made within a few days, whereas formerly considerable time elapsed before broken parts could be replaced. Iu this way owners of stations and shearers avoid heavy losses due to delay. This useful part of the work done by our air services is not shown in the Government balance-sheet, and the AuditorGeneral entirely overlooks it in his criticism of government expenditure. So also does Senator Hardy. I venture to say, however, that by ensuring to people in the out-back country a speedy and safe means of transport the Government is getting a good return, for its expenditure on civil aviation. It is impossible to overestimate the value of our air services in linking up the remote areas of Australia with our centres of population.
I agree with Senator Hardy that something should be done about the AdelaidePerth air service, because I do not believe that subsidized air services should be run in competition with our railways.
Let me now say a word or two about the propaganda directed against the proposal to link up Australia by air with the outside world. There, again, the Government is being subjected to criticism. We have made no decision upon the matter, but it has been suggested that by a properly considered arrangement of our internal air services, we might obtain a connexion with the outside world which would give us an equally speedy and comparatively cheap air service between Australia and England. South Africa and India have already established air services with the Old Country; yet, when it is suggested that Australia should take similar action, all kinds of imputations are made against certain companies in Australia, because it is thought that, should such a contract be let, they are most likely to obtain it. I claim that we should not approach the consideration of this matter in such a spirit. Surely we can deal with the subject on its merits, without making imputations against companies whose only fault is that they have pioneered air transport in this country. The gentlemen who put their money into these companies in the first place embarked upon an extremely risky undertaking, and because Westralian Airways has paid modest dividends, it is accused of having monopolistic tendencies, and the Government is invited to do its best to destroy such companies. The Government will give consideration to all th6 factors that’ Senator Hardy has men- tioned to-day; but it will not be browbeaten by propaganda which, in many cases, I fear, is carried on for the sole purpose of intimidating the Parliament and the Government into acting in the interests of certain individuals.
– I always respect the views of another honorable senator, but I cannot endorse the opinions expressed by Senator Hardy to-day. He has suggested that the Government has not provided for the appropriation of a sufficient sum from the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth for the purpose of bolstering up the military machine. He has in mind, no doubt, the naval military, and air forces. The honorable senator has already been taken to task by the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) in regard to civil aviation matters in Australia. We should bear in mind that civil aviation, which has been encouraged both by the present Government and by the Scullin Government, has been of the utmost benefit to the settlers in the outback portions of Australia, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia ; and we who reside in the capital cities and the large towns should not begrudge those living- in the outlying districts some of the benefits of civilization. The aviation companies have done good work in catering for the needs of the country ; but if the members of certain clubs wish to spend their weekends in learning to fly in aeroplanes, that is no good reason why they should ask for a government subsidy, even if, as Senator Hardy has suggested, they provide the nucleus of an air force. It seems to me that quite sufficient money has already been allotted for defence purposes; in fact, too much has been made available under the budget proposals. We should not lose sight of the fact that 500,000 men and women in Australia are out of employment, and over 1,000,000 are in receipt of the dole. We have been told repeatedly that the last war in which we were engaged was fought to end war, yet some honorable senators opposite contend that additional expenditure on defence should be authorized. We should remember that the Christmas season is fast approaching, when the message of good will to men is . preached in all the churches, and it seems most inconsistent that just at this time any honorable senator should be found suggesting increased expenditure on defence.
I hope that I have as much common sense as the average man, and as the result of my reading of newspapers, and of criticism by political and military leaders throughout the world, I should say that Japan, now has its hands full, because of the responsibilities that it has assumed in Manchuria. An eminent Japanese general, who recently returned from the Manchurian front, after directing Japanese military operations there for three years, considers that the Japanese “Government is faced with the danger of civil war, because the people of Japan are vehemently protesting against the cost of the country’s military operations against China. Hundreds of citizens of Japan, who have protested from public platforms, have been thrown into prison. . Although Japan was one of the last countries to go off the gold standard, its statesmen have found that their gold reserves are practically exhausted through the manufacture of munitions of war for the campaign in Manchuria. China,, with its population of 400,000,000, actively defended its northern frontier, and strongly objected to the setting up of what it regarded as a puppet State, whose controlling officials are Japanese. I cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, agree with Senator Hardy that” Australia need fear any danger of attack by Japan. That being so, when the honorable senator spoke of the fear of invasion from the Far East, did he imagine that there was. any likelihood of Soviet Russia attacking Australia through Vladivostock?. Does the honorable senator suppose that Stalin may order Russia’s Black Sca fleet to proceed through’ the Suez Canal, and cross the Indian Ocean, in order to attack Western Australia, or does he contemplate Russian forces from Vladivostock being transported to our shores? It seems to me that the thought of danger from such a quarter may be dismissed from our minds. What is the next point from which attack is possible? Do we fear aggression on the part of South American republics? Their finanial position to-day is such that they cannot maintain armies or build navies, and they have no vast schemes of colonization. Is there any threat of aggression from the United States of America? Surely that country, with its 15,000,000 unemployed, has sufficient problems of its own without troubling about Australia. Is it imagined that American statesmen desire to .establish new colonies in this part of the world, and would like to take over Australia? I do not think so. Do we fear a declaration of war against us by Turkey or any of the Balkan States? Or does Senator Hardy fear that Mussolini is seeking further territory in which to settle the surplus population of Italy? I should think that Mussolini has his hands full in endeavouring to control the colonization schemes of Italy in Northern Africa. It may be that Senator Hardy is a supporter of Mussolini, and desires to see established in Australia a fascist organization similar to that which Mussolini has created in Italy. The honorable senator said that Australia is in a precarious condition from a defence point of view. It is probably for that reason that he and other politicians, . or near politicians, seek to associate themselves with semi-military organizations which are out to defy constitutional government in this country. It has been freely alleged that officers of our defence force have used the knowledge gained by them in their official capacity to assist semimilitary organizations which are prepared to overthrow constitutional government, notwithstanding that they have taken an oath of allegiance to the King. One semimilitary organization in New South Wales intended to march in a contingent, and-
– Open the bridge !
– Senator Johnston, who has interjected, is prepared to follow the lead of a small coterie of political pigmies in Western Australia, whose emblem is a Union Jack on which is depicted a black swan swimming backwards. -It was rumoured that the organization, to which I have referred, intended to march on Canberra, and to set up the revolutionary flag at the national capital. This organization numbers among its members the champions of secession.
– Secession will come unless something is done to establish new States.
– I am reminded of a speech delivered by Senator Hardy recently at Newcastle. That speech is the more remarkable when we reflect that not many weeks before he delivered it, the honorable senator stood at the table of the Senate, took the oath of allegiance and promised to maintain law and order. The newspaper report of the honorable senator’s speech is as follows: -
Sensational secret history was revealed at the subdivisional conference, convened by the Mayor of Newcastle (Ald. Parker) to-night when Senator Charles Hardy told of elaborate plans fora breakaway from Red Rule which had been made in the Riverina during the last few months of the Lang regime.
He said the people of the Riverina, faced with the probability of having to choose between being loyal to the Commonwealth or loyal to Lang, decided that if the testing time came they would stick to the Commonwealth, setting up their own governing organization, and seek admission to the federation.
– That speech was not delivered at Newcastle, as a perusal of the Newcastle newspapers would make clear to the honorable senator.
– I shall prove that this is the report of a speech delivered by Senator Hardy a few weeks ago at Newcastle. The report continues - “ We had a complete organization, military and administrative, dovetailing all sections of the community and embracing over 400 centres in the Riverina,” said Senator Hardy, “ and it was decided that within 48 hours of the Lang Government’s commission of an overt act against the Commonwealth Government, a constitutional convention would be held at Wagga to decide whether a new State should he formed immediately, and if so, to appoint twelve men to carry out the responsibility of government. “ Riverina was like an armed camp. Overnight the countryside would have been flooded with proclamations. Thirty road routes were mapped out and drivers with cars were ready to rush the proclamations to all centres, where they wouldbe met at appointed times by local representatives. The proclamations were drafted and plans were made for their printing. Proposed delegates to the. convention comprised men in all walks of life from mayors to labourers. At a given signal the complete machinery of temporary government would have sprung into action. “ It was early recognized that it would he of no use proclaiming a provisionalgovernment if we had no organization to back it up, also to protect the new rulers, for Lang would, of course, have at once attempted to have these leaders arrested. And if they had been arrested, as surely as night follows day, civil war in the Riverina would have resulted.”
Senator Hardy revealed these plans in a speech in which he made a plea for the subdivision of the State. He said that unless some definite progress were made in the near future, the people ofNew South Wales would again be faced with the menace of Langism. The Riverina did not want a recurrence of the state of affairs which existed during the ominous months of 1931, but if Lang attained power again and ran true to form, trouble was inevitable.
Does Senator Hardy’s action in criticizing the Government for not spending sufficient money on the naval and military forces of this country mean that he is prepared to adopt the policy preached by himself and others, including Eric Campbell, the mad solicitor in Sydney, and to set up a fascist organization to resist the forces of law and order in this country? Or does it mean that the honorable senator, visualizing the future, can see the swing of the political pendulum and the return of a Labour government to office, and wishes to have in existence an organization, subsidized by the Government, which will establish a dictatorship in this country? Is Senator Hardy prepared to move for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into these semi-military organizations? It appears to be the policy of this Government to strengthen our defence forces so that in the event of any State Government acting contrary to its conception of what is right, there could be a complete showdown and crushing of opposition by force of arms. It is not my intention to support the appropriation of money for naval or military purposes. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who attended the last assembly of the League of Nations, referred to Australia’s contribution towards the cost of the League, which is approximately £480,000 a year. That amount, he said, could be spent to better advantage in Australia. He realizes, as do many others, that the League of Nations, which was established for the purpose of preventing and settling international warfare, is impotent. Quite recently the League appointed a committee to inquire into the activities of Japan in Manchuria, and although the committee reported that Japan was guilty of military aggression in entering Manchuria, Japan has disregarded the recommendations of the committee.
– If the League of Nations is to be ineffective, we should at least have a competent air force.
– The honorable senator, who complains because the Government has not provided a larger amount of money for air defence, should realize that the Commonwealth and State Governments are on the verge of bankruptcy. Quite recently tenders were called for leasing the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, which is one of the most valuable assets we possess. It has the only clock in the Commonwealth capable of dealing with vessels of the size of the H.M.A.S. Australia or the H.M.A.S. Canberra. Such vessels could not possibly be docked at Wellington, in New Zealand, or in the Calliope dock, in the north of that dominion: and, in any case, those docks are too far away to be of service during war time. This Government appears to be bereft of all ideas in the matter of protecting its maritime interests. The Ferndale and Fordale, which were constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard on most modern lines, were capable of being equipped with guns of sufficient range to enable them to combat successfully other auxiliary cruisers. But this Government proposes to lease to private interests the dockyard in which vessels of that type can be constructed.
The Scullin Government, rightly, I submit, suspended compulsory military training; but some of the supporters of this Government stated during the last general election campaign that that system would be re-introduced as soon as financial circumstances would permit. I trust that this or any other government will never re-introduce compulsory military training, which is not only costly, but also detrimental to the youth of this country. During the last great war 20,000,000 persons lost their lives, and the leading nations of the world are at last beginning to realize that some means other than war must be adopted for settling international disputes. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) should be in. the chamber to hear the criticisms that are being offered against the department which he administers.
The right honorable gentleman, with his extensive knowledge of defence, should be leading an attack against the emus in Western Australia that are causing the farmers in that State so much trouble. I do not wish to adopt the role of a political schoolmaster; I am always willing to respect the view-point of my opponents. Senator Hardy, who introduced the subject of defence, should discard these “ chocolate soldier “ tactics. If in the future there are movements for the overthrow of constitutional government, and, with the assistance of a pickhandle, I can help a Labour administration to enforce law and order, I shall do so. Governments are elected in a constitutional manner, and the people have a right to say what form they shall take. Would it not be more manly of any person to argue the rights or wrongs of a matter, without setting up a semimilitary organization that might embroil this country in a state of civil war?
I wish to refer briefly to another semimilitary organization, the New Guard. I have produced in this chamber sworn affidavits which indicate the close relationship that exists between that body and many members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces. I have no wish to assume the role of a political prophet, nor do I ask any honorable senator to journey to a political Mecca ; “but I honestly believe that the death-rattles of this Government are being heard in the highways and by-ways of this country. The next Labour government, I feel sure, will profit by the lessons of the past, and overhaul our military machine and not with a feather duster. The members of the Defence Forces are supposed to know no party. They are paid to discharge certain functions. If they are out of sympathy with any particular administration, in fairness to themselves and to the Government they should cease to be a part of the machine which, under the Constitution, is provided for the internal and external defence of Australia. The taxpayers are being heavily taxed to maintain defence on the existing basis, arid we who sit on this side of the chamber decline to fall into line with Senator Hardy in his advocacy of the expenditure of larger sums in bolstering up an institution which, if it had the chance, would “ turn dog “ on Labour governments in this or any other country. That is exemplified in the Fascisti of Italy and the Nazis of Germany. I do not know whether the military leaders in Australia have any sympathy with Senator Hardy, the new Messiah from the Riverina. There is a conflict of opinion as to whether the Duke of “Wellington or Bill Adams won the Battle of Waterloo. I do not know whether there has been a general of the latter name; but my vivid imagination caused me to fancy that another such had arisen in the Riverina, with the intention of marching at the head of bush contingents and performing doughty deeds of valour. That appeared in cold print in the columns of the press of New South Wales. The sooner Senator Hardy adopts the role of a pacifist the better will it be for Australia and its people.
– I regret having to criticize once more the methods that are being employed by the Government to balance . its budget. The anticipated gap pf £1,500,000 between revenue and expenditure is being bridged by placing further burdens on the shoulders of invalid and old-age pensioners and public servants. The mind of the people of Australia quickly grasped the significance of the action proposed. They are fully alive to the fact that those who are being victimized are possibly the most defenceless ‘persons in the community. Public servants, by reason of the nature of their calling, are largely tongue-tied, while the old-age and invalid pensioners are under the disability caused by their physical state. But because of its cowardliness the action of the Government has aroused the keenest resentment throughout Australia. The gap between revenue and expenditure might have been bridged by the imposition of taxation on those who are very much better able to bear an additional burden, but the Government declined to follow that course. Questions of vital importance have stirred the public mind intensely in the past, but that was inevitable, because every one was affected. In this case the reason is that the most helpless in the community have been attacked. No’ Australian will stand for such cowardly tactics. The action taken will be to the everlasting discredit of the Government. Australians, whatever their politics may be, are essentially fair fighters, and believe in an even go. When last we were before the people unemployment was a grievous problem. Our present difficulties are> I believe, due to the policy of the Bruce-Page Government during its term of office from 1923 to 1929, the legislation passed by that Administration being now reflected in the condition of our people. < Senator Payne. - To what legislation does the honorable senator refer?
– The story is well told in the Sydney Bulletin of the 31st August, 1932. In an article dealing with unemployment, that publication states that in 1932 the collections from customs amounted to £17,328,310, but by 1926-27 the amount had increased to £31,832,600. When the Scullin Labour Government came into office it introduced legislation, the effect of which was to bring customs revenue down to £18,224,237 - a striking contrast to the amount collected in the last year of the Bruce-Page Administra; tion. It checked imports for the definite purpose of giving Australian manufacturers an opportunity to produce .commodities which, under the Bruce-Page regime, were imported from other countries. This policy3 enabled employers of this country to give work to thousands of men and women, boys and girls who were so much in need of it.
– The direct result of the Scullin Government’s action was to double unemployment.
– Unemployment was increasing very rapidly prior to the accession to office of the Scullin Administration. Immediately following the drastic action of that Government .to stem the tide of imports, no fewer than 220 factories were established in Victoria, giving employment to many thousands of operatives. Unfortunately, the people who were encouraged by theScullin Government to invest their money in such enterprises received a rude shock when the present Government came into power. Many of those factories are now closed, and the people employed in them are once more among the workless. During its six years of office, the Bruce-
Page Government encouraged the importation of -foreign goods. In 1926-27 these importations totalled in value £164,000,000. Most of those goods could have been manufactured in Australia and thus been the means of providing employment for our own people. Obviously, Australia could not continuo importations on the scale permitted during the Bruce Page regime. Accordingly, the first act of the Scullin Government was to pass legislation to check imports in the interests of. our own people. While the Bruce-Page Government was in power, the public debt of the Commonwealth was increased by £210,500,000, and the total amount of our overseas debt was increased by £158,500,000.
– The honorable senator is not right in attributing the increase of debt to the Bruce-Page Government; the major portion of the amount represented State debts.
– Although for a time, Queensland was under Labour rule, the Bruce-Page Government was surrounded by its’ State satellites, so it must accept full responsibility for what happened. In 1917-18, federal taxation per head of population, was £4 18s. 9d. In 1922 it had increased to £9 0s. 4d., and in 1926-27 it was lifted to £9 13s. Id. In the ten years while Australia was under some form of Nationalist Government, the taxation per head of population was nearly doubled.
During the last election, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his supporters definitely promised the electors that, if returned to power, they would bring down a policy to provide for the employment of those 400,000 men and women, boys and girls who were tramping the streets of our cities, our country roads, and bush tracks, vainly searching for jobs; but up to the present, nothing has been done to give effect to that promise. Unlike the widow’s cruse, the Government’s legislative programme is an empty promise. So far as providing employment is concerned the proposals in it would need to be multiplied many times to- provide for the vast number of people in this country who cannot get work. At the con ference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, held in Melbourne last week, the Government, so we are told, resolved to take a risk and borrow £8,000,000 of which about £4,000,000 is to be used for relief work schemes. That sum, apportioned among the 400,000 men and women, boys and girls, who are out of work, would represent only about a “ tenner “ each !
– Is the Government to be the only employer?
– No, but governments could, by their legislative proposals encourage private employers to invest money in enterprises capable of providing work for the people. A year or two ago, the manufacturers of this country, relying upon the definite promises of the Scullin Administration to protect the home market for goods of Australian manufacture, did invest considerable sums in new enterprises; new manufacturing establishments were set up, and a considerable amount of employment was provided. But the tariff policy of the present Government has destroyed what chance those industries had of surviving. Many of them have faded out, and the persons who secured employment in them are again on the labour market. Under the Scullin regime, industry was gradually absorbing a considerable proportion of the unemployed. The process was necessarily slow, because we could not expect men with capital to invest to put it into manufacturing enterprises unless they had some assurance from the Government that its tariff policy would be so framed to enable them to carry on successfully. I say, quite frankly, that the Scullin Government did give an unequivocal promise to secondary industries that everything possible would be done to encourage their extension, and having that promise, investors provided the capital for the establishment of new industries., many of which, unfortunately, have been wiped out by the tariff policy of the present Government. In common with other honorable senators, I have received communications fromperson’s who are feeling the full force of this Government’s policy. One is from a girl, the sole support of six sisters and a mother, advising me that recently she had lost her employment through the closing down of the factory in which she worked.
– What factory was that?
– A match factory in Melbourne.
– Not a single box of matches can be imported.
– If that is so, why should I receive complaints about the closing of this match factory in Melbourne? In any case, the factory in question carried on until this Government introduced its tariff policy, and it is a fact that it gave employment to a number of persons last year.
– I assume that last year that company built up a reserve stock.
– Is it likely that it would do that in view of the impending tariff changes following the accession to office of this Government? Would the company be likely to build up a reserve stock if it thought that Swedish matches would later flood this country, and be sold at a price below the Australian cost of production?
The first subject to which the Government should give consideration is that of unemployment, because thousands of the best citizens in this country are now out of. work. We should do everything within our power to find employment for them. The Opposition believes that it could show the Government a way in which this could be done. When the Labour party was in power in this Parliament
– Unemployment increased.
– It increased because measures which Labour passed in the other branch of the legislature were defeated in this chamber. The party now in power rejected the Arbitration Bill, brought down by the Scullin Government, and it also opposed the bill for the amendment of the Commonwealth Bank’ Act, which would have made money flow more smoothly and into more numerous channels. The last Government also submitted proposals for a fiduciary note issue. The measure was passed by a large majority in the other branch of the legislature; but, owing to the attitude of the political thugs in this chamber now in office, it was rejected here. Had the measure been passed, employment would have been provided for thousands of men and women. The Government should realize that our economic ills cannot be cured by reducing the workers’ rates of pay, or by putting men out of work. My salary, in common with that of other honorable senators, has been reduced, and owing to my reduced spending power, I am unable to give employment to gardeners or painters. The party in power to-day should remember that the cutting down of wages reduces the circulation of money. Great Britain has issued £275,000,000 worth of fiduciary notes, and for some years has been carrying on by means of that policy.
– And Britain has a greater percentage of unemployed than Australia has.
– There is a good reason for that. Great Britain was once looked upon as the workshop of the world ; but, because of the spread of education in markets previously served by British manufacturers, industrial activities in other countries have so increased of late years that Britain feels their competition keenly. The unemployed in England are in an even more hopeless position than those in Australia. Thousands of Australians, in order to make themselves independent of the dole, eke out a precarious living on the land. I have in mind such men as gold prospectors, and those who procure wattle-bark and the skins of opossums and other animals. During the régime of the Bruce-Page Government, many thousands of migrants were induced to come to Australia through false promises. These poor fellows, together with their wives and children, suffered great hardships because of the treatment they received at the hands of that Ministry.
The people of this country cannot be reminded too frequently of the fact that members and supporters of the present Government promised at the last election that, if returned to power, they would provide work for all. The people have asked for bread, but have received a stone. The pensions of the invalid and the aged have been reduced by this Ministry. It has also cut down the salaries of the public servants, and it has done much to break down the industrial conditions of the workers. The people are in sackcloth and ashes because of the distress that has been brought upon them by the party opposite. All Nationalist governments, whether they call themselves members of the United Australia Party or adopt any other name, have a record of broken promises. Thousands of boys are leaving school, with no prospect of employment, and they will reach manhood without having an opportunity to learn a trade. By the time this Government has run its course, this country will have an army of young men who are unfitted to do any kind of constructive work.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to8 p.m.
– It would appear that the supporters of the Government are ashamed of the Government’s proposals, which are covered by this measure, for they are loath to discuss them. “We have had two speeches from Opposition members, and one rather caustic criticism of the Government by one of its supporters. To that criticism the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) delivered something in the nature of a reply; but now it again devolves on the Opposition to continue the discussion of this important bill. The Appropriation Bill is an important measure, because it embraces the financial policy of the Government, and with it the general policy of the Government.
The first reading of this measure provides the first opportunity that we have had of reviewing the actions of the Government since it came into office about eleven months ago. During that period we have had a sample of what we may expect from the Government during the balance of the time during which it will control the destinies of this nation.For that reason. I propose to devote some time to a consideration of the general principles of finance for which the Government is responsible, and of the acts of administration of which it has been guilty - I use that word advisedly - since it assumed office in the early part of the year.
I may be permitted to relatethe causes which led to the present Government now occuping the treasury bench. All of us have a vivid recollection of the election campaign of about twelve months ago, and of the trenchant criticism which the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues levelled against the Government at that time in office, but not in power. From every platform in the country the Scullin Government was assailed in no unmeasured terms. It was abused and ridiculed, and its efforts to straighten out the financial mess which it inherited were misrepresented. The electors were led to believe that the return of the present Prime Minister and his colleagues would herald a new era of progress and prosperity in Australia. In order to make my review of the Government’s administration more effective, I propose to compare the conditions inherited by the Scullin Government, and grappled with successfully by that Administration, with those which existed when the present Government came into office, and hopelessly handled by it.
For about seven years prior to the Scullin Government assuming office there was in control in both chambers of this Parliament a government whose political views were similar to those of the present Government. I refer to the BrucePage Government. It was responsible for two things which, had they been permitted to continue, would have brought disaster to Australia. I refer, first, to our trading and financial activities with the outside world, and secondly, to Australia’s internal financial position. Nations, like individuals, should live according to their means. They can purchase from other countries only those commodities which they can pay for, either out of their own production or out of their accumulated savings. The Bruce-Page Government made no effort to comply with that condition by restricting ourexternal trade, with the result that a huge adverse trade balance was created. The figures relating to that adverse trade balance have been given in this chamber before, and I shall, therefore, not weary the Senate by repeating them to-night, but shall content myself with recalling the totals. The adverse trade balance, including bullion and specie, which accumulated during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government amounted to £57,732,000. During the same period Australia was called upon to meet interest commitments abroad totalling £174,306,000. Only by having a surplus of exports over imports could those interest commitments have been met; yet the balance of payments against Australia during that period totalled £232,038,000. Such was the tragic record of the Bruce-Page Government; it maintained Australia’s solvency only by pledging the credit of the country far into the future.
– That is not correct.
– During the term of office of the Bruce-Page Government the external debts of the Commonwealth increased by approximately £47,000,000. I have not referred specially to the debts of the States but the Federal Government must accept the responsibility for any increase in the Australian national liability, resulting from the operations of State Governments, since it controls the exchange in this country, and, through the tariff, imports also. The BrUcePage Government was only too pleased to continue a borrowing policy, and, so long as it was possible to float loans in London and transmit the proceeds to Australia in the form of manufactured goods which ought to have been made here, it was content to allow the policy to continue, because the inflated customs revenue gave it easy money to spend on its many wild-cat schemes. The borrowing policy of its predecessor caused the Scullin Government serious embarrassment in 1929. It was faced with a calamitous drop in the national income - about £200,000,000 spread over two years. Notwithstanding the difficulties which confronted it on assuming office, the Scullin Government rectified the adverse trade balance and converted it into a credit balance.
Turning now to the revenue aspect, I remind the Senate that the Bruce-Page Government inherited a surplus of £7,400,000, but not only did it dissipate that surplus, it left the country with a revenue deficit of £5,000,000 when it went out of office. During the seven years that these Heaven-sent financiers controlled the destinies of Australia our internal financial position went back by approximately £12,000,000. In 1929. when the position was becoming desperate, the Bruce-Page Government, realizing that it had no remedy to offer, staged a dissolution on the unpopular arbitration issue, and gave the electors an opportunity to turn it out and to put a Labour Government into power. On the Labour party was thrust the responsibility of cleaning up the mess. But the Nationalist party, although nominally not in office, retained its majority in this chamber, and so prevented the Labour Government from putting its policy into effect. The ideals of the Labour party for the development of Australia in the interests of the majority of the wealth-producers could not be realized. The Labour Government which was returned at the 1929 election was successful in righting the trade balance. Foi the two years, 1930-31 and 1931-32, it produced a surplus of £68,137,000 in the trading account. Our interest commitments overseas for those two years amounted to £57,093,000, leaving a credit balance for the same period of £12,010,000.
– And an ungrateful public turned that Government out of office !
– The budget deficit inherited from the previous Government and which was assuming alarming proportions in the five months preceding the election of 1929, was eventually converted by the Scullin Government into a surplus of £1,300,000 at the end of that financial year. This surplus was brought forward to enable the budget to be balanced in the following financial year. Senator Brennan suggests that an ungrateful public turned the Scullin Government out of office. That Government would not have been defeated, but for the misleading propaganda of the present Prime Minister and those supporting him. We cannot blame the public for having been misled on that occasion when we remember that the means of disseminating information is controlled by one party in the interest of a certain political organization. Our political opponents were able to speak from thousands of public platforms, they controlled the B class wireless stations, andhad almost complete command of the press. The Labour candidates had to expound their policy from street corners, and because of the paucity of party funds were unable to counter by means of advertising the propaganda of their opponents, which was saturated with misrepresentation. The people were led to believe that if the present Government was returned to power employment would be provided for the workless, prosperity would return to those who were struggling in business, and confidence would be restored within a few months. The present Prime Minister summarized the policy of his party when he said -
I will ask you to trust us to meet difficult circumstances as they may arise with such action as we may consider necessary in the best interests of the people of Australia as a whole. In return for that confidence, I will pledge my party to serve the people of Australia sympathetically and to avoid the imposition of hardships upon one section of the community as against any other.
How . has that promise been kept? Restoration of confidence was the slogan during the last general election. Confidence was to be restored by the return of a government representative of all sections of the community. When the present Prime Minister coined that slogan, he must have had in his mind the memorable words of Macaulay -
Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the State;
Then the great men helped the poor,
And the poor men loved the great:
Then the lands were fairly portioned;
Then the spoils were fairly sold.:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.
Fired with enthusiasm, the electors went in their hundreds and thousands to the polling booths and cast their votes in support of the present Government. Their first disillusionment came when Cabinet forming was commenced. Instead of forming a government representative of all sections of the community, the United Australia Party, finding that it had a majority without the support of the Country party, imposed such conditions upon the members of the Country party as to make it impossible for them to share in the administration.
– What nonsense!
– I am only repeating what has been said by supporters of the Country party who, to use a colloquialism, said that they had been “ sold a pup.” They are becoming more restive as time goes on, particularly in view of the procedure followed when two vacancies recently occurred in the present Government. Again almost impossible conditions were imposed upon the members of the Country party. In effect, they were asked to sign a blank cheque if they wished to share in the redistribution of portfolios. Although this is a matter which only concerns the two parties, it serves to illustrate the mistake made by the electors in supporting this Government. The people are so disgusted with this Administration that it will be defeated when they have another opportunity to express their views.
What have been the results of the ten months’ administration by this Government? It set out to reverse the policy of the previous Government, particularly with respect to tariff matters. The fiscal policy of the Scullin Government was formulated in order to maintain Australia’s solvency by restricting imports in order to pay our creditors overseas ; and by encouraging Australia’s industries to absorb our own people in employment. When this Government assumed office, customs duties were reduced, and prohibitions imposed by the previous Government on the importation of luxuries were removed. The result was that for the first quarter of the current financial year - despite the fact that our primary products such as dried fruits, wheat and wool had increased in price - the Government was faced with an adverse trade balance of £3,000,000.
– Our London funds have increased by £7,000,000.
– That £7,000,000 is portion of the £12,000,000 accumulated during the Scullinrégime.
– Twelve months ago the funds in London amounted to £7,000,000, and to-day they total £14,000,000.
– An accumulation of London funds is due to three causes: the desire of Britishers to invest in private enterprise in Australia, their willingness to invest in government loans, and a surplus of exports over imports. The £12,000,000 provided by the previous1. Government corrected our heavy adverse trade balance. No loan’s have been floated in London by this or the preceding Government, so that any accretion of London funds is due to the causes mentioned. It is obvious to any one who studies the position that any surplus of funds Australia has in London is due to the action of the Scullin Government in correcting the adverse trade balance. Our honorable friends opposite endeavour to make us believe that all is well. If it is, why has the Acting Commonwealth Statistician, who is one of the foremost economists in Australia, issued a grave warn ing to the Government? I refer to the statement of Professor Giblin, published in the Canberra Times of the 7th September last, headed “ Imports Grow “ “ Adverse Balance “. That statement contains one very important paragraph which completely answers the interjections made by Senator Greene a few moments ago. In it he gravely warns the Government regarding the trend of Australia’s trade balance, and the probability of difficulty being encountered in the future in meeting our commitments with the outside world. After dealing with the volume of exports and the probable volume of imports, Professor Giblin says -
It is clear, then, that the present volume of imports cannot be maintained without an increase in export prices. The recovery of export prices to date does not take the export price level above the average of 1.031-32. Something very substantially greater will be required, because with a general rise in prices, some of our principal imports, such as petrol, rubber and tea, may be expected to rise in price as much as our exports, and other imports will rise in price to some extent. It may be reckoned very roughly that a rise in export prices for the whole of the year 1032-33 of at least 15 per cent, above the .present level, will be required to sustain the present volume of imports.
He was referring to the volume of imports that resulted from the reversal by this Government of the policy of its predecessors, and which produced in the first quarter of the present financial year an excess of imports over exports of approximately £3,000,000.
– -Does it not depend on what money is used to pay for the imports? If it comes from British sources, it means the introduction of so much more into Australia.
– My honorable friend can settle that point with the learned professor, whose grave warning has not up to date been acted upon by the Government. I point out, however, that some of the Minister’s colleagues in another place took notice of it, and that one of them made the statement that the Government was watching the position, and would take action if necessary. But the complaint that I make, with others, is that the action taken by the Government is calculated further to accentuate the adverse position, because it has further lowered the barriers erected by the previous Government with a view to creating the favorable situation to which I have referred.
One of the worst charges levelled against this Government by thousands of citizens who take some interest in its activities, is that it cannot make up its mind on any subject. Let us examine some of its more important actions. One of the first situations that confronted it very early in its career was default by New South Wales. It then adopted a firm attitude, and said that it would act as a debt collector for overseas bondholders, and force the New South Wales Government to pay the interest that it owed.. That Government, however, laughed in its sleeve; the interest was not paid, Australia became a defaulting nation, and our credit was very seriously impaired.
– Why, then, was the conversion loan such asuccess ?
– Our credit was impaired more seriously at that time than it had been as a result of all the propaganda of the right honorable the Leader of the Senate and others against the Scullin Government throughout its administration of the affairs of Australia - propaganda that was indulged in regardless of the damage done to Australia’s credit, either at home or abroad. I admit that the present Government subsequently took steps to put Australia right with the outside world; but to do so it had to change its mind and reverse its previous policy. It is well for Australia that it did so. My complaint, and that of the electors who voted for this Government at the last election, is that it did not take the right action in the first place, but waited until it was forced to do so by public opinion and the Opposition in this Parliament.
I shall deal now with the subject of advances for the relief of unemployment. I well remember the statement of the Prime Minister prior to the meeting of the Loan Council and the Premiers Conference at the end of July or early in August, that the Government did not propose to ask the banks for any further advances to enable loan works to be put in hand for the relief of unemployment. Apparently that was the declared policy of the Government. The Premiers Conference was attended by the recently elected Premiers of Queensland and New South Wales. A statement of policy was submitted for publication as the opinion of the conference. Mr. Forgan Smith moved an amendment to it, which affirmed that something should be done for the relief of unemployment. He was criticized by the Prime Minister and his supporters, but upon Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, entering the lists in support of his proposal^ the conference agreed to request the banks to set aside a certain sum. I am pleased that the banks acceded to that request, and that as a result a substantial number of men’ engaged on loan works in differentStates, who would have lost their employment had the Prime Minister’3 original statement been carried, have been kept in work to this day.
– The honorable senator has the story quite wrong.
– I have the story as it was published in the press, and not’ corrected.
– -If that story was published in the press, it is incorrect, and I now correct it, because nothing of the kind happened.
– I accept the Minister’s correction; but unfortunately it is some months late.
I come now to the original proposal in the budget for an all-round reduction of 2s. 6d. a week in invalid and old-age pensions. Emissaries traversed Australia on behalf of the Government defending its policy in this respect. Elaborate tables of figures were quoted with the object of proving that, on the new basis of 15s. a week, the old-age and invalid pensioners would be better off than when they received £1 a week in 1921. But lo and behold ! At the expiration of a fortnight, when it was seen that a storm of indignation was rising, a meeting of the United Australia Party was held. If that was not a stormy meeting, it was at least a lengthy one. The outcome of it was thathis Government, which claims that iv recognizes no caucus and that it is free and untrammelled, bowed its knee and subjugated its will to that of the caucus, by deciding to apply the reduction of 2s. 6d. a week only to those who allegedly have other sources of income. I venture to assert that it would not have got away with that proposal had it been fully understood by its supporters, because later the spectacle was witnessed in another place of some members of the Government party openly condemning it. It is well known that to-day many worthy people who, through no fault of their own, have been compelled to apply for the invalid or the old-age pension, because their means are not adequate to sustain them, have had the full reduction of 2s. 6d. a week applied to them, and are thereby suffering very severe hardship. Only the other day I had brought to my notice the case of a pioneer of over 75 years of age, who some time ago sold a property for a fairly considerable sum. Being illiterate, he has had to employ others to transact his business affairs. His money has gone, he does not. know where; there is an amount of £400 for which he cannot account. He was receiving a reduced pension of lis. a fortnight before the cut was made, and at the present time is paid 5s. a fortnight. Whatever became of the money that he received from the sale of his property, is beside the question ; the important point is, that he does not now possess it and is obliged to rely on the charity of his neighbours and friends to supplement his pension. To a man of that type - and he is only one of many - the cut is serious; yet it is made in order that this year’s budget may be balanced.
Another proposal adopted in the party room, and implemented by the Government in the Financial Emergency Act passed through this chamber, prior to the recent adjournment, incorporates in our pensions law all the bad provisions of an Irish landlord’s agreement of the ‘forties of last century - the provision to seize a man’s property at death, and from.it to recover the amount of pension paid to him ; the provision to search Australia for his relatives, to inquire into their position, and to determine whether they can or cannot contribute towards the cost of his pension ; the provision that imposes something in the nature of class taxation, under which a. man who is lucky enough to have his father and mother alive, and is in a position to contribute towards the cost of their pensions, must make that contribution, whereas the man who is in the unfortunate position of having buried his father and mother, has to make no such payment. This was the financial policy upon which this appropriation bill is based.
– At the same time this Government has remitted taxation to certain sections of its’ friends.
– The Government, as Senator Collings has reminded me, has remitted taxation to certain classes in this community. When I was speaking to the second reading of the Financial Emergency Bill I said, referring to this phase of the Government’s policy, that those who had benefited in this way would spurn remissions at the expense of invalid and oldage pensioners.
This Government inherited a surplus from the preceding Administration, but it deliberately unbalanced its budget on paper, first by the remissions of taxation referred to, and, secondly, by grossly underestimating the revenue for the current financial year. I dealt fairly extensively with this aspect of the Government’s policy on an earlier occasion, so I shall not repeat now what I said then. I merely add that the statements then made are borne out by the progress revenue returns to date. Accord ing to the Melbourne Age of yesterday’s date, in customs revenue, to mention only one item, there has been a tremendous increase over the anticipated revenue, and over the amount received by the previous Government for the corresponding period in its last year of office. The paragraph is headed “ Canberra “, and states -
The continued growth of customs receipts because of the tariff cuts by the Lyons Government was manifest in the figures made available by the Treasury this afternoon. These show that the actual revenue from customs and excise for the first four months of the present financial year total £11,069,068, an increase of £1,869,058 above the estimated revenue of £9,200,000.
This increase alone renders unnecessary a reduction of invalid and old-age pensions, or further sacrifice on the part of Commonwealth public servants and Commonwealth railway employees. The Age report goes on to state -
For the first four months of 1931 the customs collections were £9,336,214. The corresponding period of 1932, therefore, revealed an increase over that figure of £1,732,854. The customs revenue in October was £2,758,000.
These figures show clearly that this Government deliberately unbalanced its budget on paper so as to justify its action in demanding real sacrifices by the aged and infirm citizens of this country, by Commonwealth public servants, and by its daily-paid employees. If there were a real budget deficiency to provide for, one would not blame the Government for insisting upon greater sacrifices. Twelve months or more ago the previous Administration was compelled to take similar action, but, unlike this Government, it did not place the burden on the shoulders of those who were least able to bear it and who were unable to retaliate. When the Scullin Government was forced to reduce governmental expenditure, it took from invalid and old-age pensions approximately only 7 per cent, of the gross amount of savings necessary; but this Government is taking from that source 75 per cent, of the total savings necessary. Again, why should Commonwealth public servants be called upon to bear an unfair proportion of 1;his added burden ? The .previous Government made cuts in expenditure because it was impossible, in the circumstances of the time, to meet the commit- incuts of the nation; but it effected the economies in such a way that they bore less harshly upon the lower paid sections of the Public Service. It protected the man on the basic wage by maintaining it at £182 a year, and, in the case of those who were receiving more that the basic wage, it made provision that the cost of living reduction under arbitration court awards should be suspended until the 10 per cent, financial emergency cut made by the Federal Arbitration Court had been absorbed. This Government reversed that provision, and now the full weight of the cost of living reductions, plus the cuts under the Financial Emergency Act, must be borne by those above the basic wage who had been protected to a certain extent by the previous ^Administration. This Government destroyed, by legislative act, the basic wage of £182, so far as Commonwealth railway employees were concerned. Its action in this matter was taken at a most inopportune time, having regard to the fact that this country is pledged to the principle of arbitration, and that it is the established policy of the Commonwealth that all employers, including governments, in their relationships with employees, should observe ‘ the arbitral principle. As the bulk of the Commonwealth railway employees are in South Australia - the East-West railway and the Great Northern railway are in that State - this Government’s action to reduce wages while a case was being heard before the Federal Arbitration Court at Port Augusta was keenly resented in that State. The course followed was a violation of the principle of arbitration which this Government professes to uphold, and for that reason, it merits the strongest condemnation by all sections of public opinion. Only yesterday I received the following telegram from Port Augusta bearing on this subject -
Place before Prime Minister our members Com.monwen.Ith Railways protest against deletion of £182 minimum basic wage under Financial Emergency Act.
During my recent visit to the north of South Australia, I received many personal representations from townspeople and others against this Government’s interference with the conditions of Commonwealth railway em ployees while their case was being heard by the Federal Arbitration Court. Since the case was the result of an application by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for a variation of an award, this Government might, at least, have had the decency to allow the court to determine the issue, instead of stepping in and, by a rule of thumb method, imposing an additional burden upon one section of its employees.
We are told that confidence has been restored. Honorable senators supporting the Government point to reports in the press recording the rise in value of Australian bonds. It is true that Australian securities are at par, or above par. This is due to a combination of circumstances which time will not permit me to discuss to-night. Every one is, of course, pleased to know that those with money to invest, have confidence in the security offered by this country, just as those who invest money in private enterprise and in rural occupations, have confidence that, under sane government policy, Australia as a commercial proposition is thoroughly sound. But while the inanimate security is so safeguarded as to be at par, the animate security - the man power of the nation - is being very hard pressed indeed. This being so, I should like to know what this Government intends to do to improve the conditions of our people during the next two years. The Senate is entitled to this information before it passes this bill to implement the Government’s financial policy for the current twelve months. We all agree that debts and commitments of the nation should be honorably met, but while we approve of the principle, we do not subscribe to the view that those who provide finance for governments or private enterprise should have the right to vary the conditions of the debt. We do not agree, for example, with the principle which permits the international financial power to juggle with the purchasing power of money to such an extent that, while in one year the Australian pound will purchase a certain number of bushels of wheat, in another year it may purchase twice that’ number, or vice versa. Unless some action is taken to correct this anomaly, nations, as well as individuals, will be prevented from meeting their commitments. I use the word “ prevented “ because I believe that no great section of people in any country desire to evade their just debts.
While the Australian bond is at par or above par, let us examine the position of the men who put money into our great rural industries. I direct attention, in the first place, to our wheatgrowers. In 1928, wheat in South Australia realized 5s. 5d. a bushel, whereas to-day the price is about 2s. 9d. a bushel, a reduction of approximately 50 per cent. Wool in 1928 was worth ls. 5d. a lb; the average price paid to-day at the wool sales held this year is approximately 8d. a lb., a reduction of over 50 per cent. The price of wethers has fallen from 27s. 6d. in 192S to 12s. at recent sales, a reduction of 56 per cent. Eat lambs which realized 23s. 6d. in 1928, have recently averaged 7s. 6d. each. I have referred to the principal classes of production on which the primary producing districts of Australia depend. While interest rates have been reduced to a slight extent, they have not come down in proportion to the fall in the value of primary products. A report by the South Australian Auditor-General, which was published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 19th October last, contains an illuminating paragraph on the subject of commodity prices and the cost of production. There is a table of figures showing that the principal factor in the cost of production is the producers’ interest bill. The results are given of the operation of 3S farms in the four principal wheat-growing districts of South Australia - the mid-north, Yorke Peninsula, the Murray Mallee and the mid-north western division. The figures show that in practically every instance the interest bill represents more than 50 per cent, of the total cost of growing a bushel of wheat. The working expenses, including power, wages, wear and tear, and everything else except depreciation, total only 50 per cent, of the interest cost.
– Interest cannot possibly be an item in the cost of production.
– The honorable senator may debate that question with the Auditor-General of South Australia.
The table of figures to which I have referred is as follows : -
These figures may be accepted as correct, because they relate to a section of the producers who are required under the State debt adjustment legislation to keep proper records of accounts. In another paragraph of his report, the South Australian Auditor-General states -
In many cases, interest is more than half the per acre cost of production. Tractors alone on light soil seem to be much more expensive than horses in working the farm, and on heavy soils aru a doubtful proposition -
With that I entirely agree.
Working expenses, excluding interest, on Mallee lands, can be kept down in the region of 17s. Gd. per acre, and even less on light soils. The working expenses, interest, depreciation and taxes per acre and per bushel are obtained by apportioning the total amount due by the farmer for the year 1931-32 in respect of all his holdings for interest, labour, machinery, instalments, taxes &c, over the area actually cropped, and the bushels actually sold.
In another section of the report, giving the return of the quantity of wheat actually sold, the Auditor-General showed that the proceeds of the federal wheat bounty had been excluded. It is clear that something will have to be done to enable the producers to make it possible for Australian bonds to remain at par, and to make the payment of interest on loans possible. To do this, it is necessary to ensure to the primary producers prices that will enable them to meet both their private commitments and their government taxes. When some honorable senators of the Opposition expressed the opinion that this policy should be adopted, they were vehemently assailed by members of the party in power and told that they were venturing along untrodden paths which would probably lead to national disaster. But we find to-day that many great minds throughout the world are advocating the policy of a restoration of price levels to make debt amortization possible. Our Government is making no effort to assist in the creation of world opinion to that end. It is true that Australia cannot do much in that direction, nor can. any individual nation; but the Government should join the chorus of nations which are advocating the only policy whereby public and private commitments can ultimately be met in full.
Since the return of the Australian delegation from the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, statements have been published in the press regarding the work accomplished there. It is true that while praise was being bestowed upon the Government, two Ministers resigned, and while one did not give much explanation of his action, the other was most outspoken in attributing his resignation to the Government’s tariff policy, which was largely the result of the Ottawa Conference decisions. These were said to be likely to have a valuable influence on the price of meat in this country; but since they have been made known, meat prices have fallen to unprecedentedly low levels. In the Adelaide market recently, I saw a f armer from the district in which I have a property, sell 119 lambs at an average profit of 9d. per head, after paying expenses. He received 3s. 9d. per head, and the handling charges and other expenses amounted to approximately 3s. Similarly low returns are being received by producers throughout the north of South Australia, and I warn the Government that these men are looking askance at its policy. The man in the street considers that it is absurd to boast of the benefits of the Ottawa agreements when such low meat prices are being realized. We shall have an opportunity at a later stage to discuss the results achieved at Ottawa and the arrangements made to enable the dominions to receive a larger share of Britain’s meat trade; but I regret that the Government did not permit the South Australian Trade Commissioner in London, Mr. McCann, to accompany the delegation to Ottawa for the purpose of advising it on the subject of meat. The request made on behalf of a section of the producers of Australia that he should be included in the delegation fell upon deaf ears. While I have no desire to question the qualifications of the gentlemen who were selected for their work, the wide experience of Mr. McCann would have proved of the utmost value to Australia.
We have recently had another example of cabinet-making. One of the weaknesses of this Government at the outset was that it did not include a Minister who was actively associated with primary production.
– I can give the honorable senator an introduction to two or three Ministers who are actively associated with primary pro:duction.
– I believe that certain Ministers who have been engaged in other occupations practically throughout their lives have recently become primary producers; but I venture to suggest that primary producers of that type are not so well qualified to speak on behalf of the producers generally, as are those who have gravitated from the farm and the station to Parliament. One of the most unfortunate features of the recent Cabinet reconstruction was the loss of an able Minister who had graduated from the farm and station to Parliament, and later to Cabinet rank. I refer to Mr. Hawker, who represents a South Australian constituency. Although I differ from him politically, I regret that tile primary producers of Australia have lost his valuable services at this juncture. I resent the aspersion which has been cast on South Australian members by the action of the Prime Minister in passing over other South Australian members of the United Australia Party in. another place, and selecting as a successor to Mr. Hawker a member from another State.
– South Australia is well represented in the Ministry.
– That is true; but it would be well if two members from that State of the calibre of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) were in the
The pastoral and agricultural industries are deserving of the Government’s most careful consideration.
– Just now the ‘honorable senator objected to those industries being relieved of taxation.
– I objected to the Government relieving the machinery merchants of taxation, which they say they do not pass on to the farmers. One of the biggest machinery manufacturing firms in Australia has stated that the sales tax has not been passed on to the farmers who will, therefore, receive no benefit if the tax is taken off. Poor as the farmers are, and bad as their economic conditions may be, they would not, willingly, accept a reduction of taxation at the expense of the invalid and old-age pensioners of this country. I appreciate what has been done to lessen the burden of the sales tax, and I hope that the Government will extend similar concessions to the workers of this country, who, out of reduced incomes, still have to pay sales tax on. the commodities they use, including clothing.
The wheat-growing industry is, I understand, receiving some consideration from the Government. At the recent Premiers Conference, the payment of a bounty on wheat was suggested, but the Prime Minister announced that his Government had a better policy for the relief of wheat-growers than that of the last Government.
– The Premiers Conference did not recommend a bounty on wheat.
– It recommended that £2,500,000 should be spent in granting assistance to wheat-growers, and the only effective means of assisting them is by paying them a bounty on the same basis as last year. Some of the proposals which have been submitted, such as a bounty based on the acreage sown, or on the superphosphate used, would be all right if it were only possible to police them. Although the payment of a subsidy on the superphosphate used would be easy to police; it would not compensate the farmers for the wheat grown at a loss this year. It would only encourage them to go further into debt by planting more wheat next year. It has been said that a bounty of this kind would increase efficiency in the agricultural industry, but we have had efficiency for years in that industry. Many men in Australia ‘have been so efficient that they now find themselves without a job. It would be too much to expect the present Government to adopt the policy of the Labour party, and establish a wheat pool with a guarantee by the Commonwealth Government, in order that the farmers might receive a standard price for their wheat. It would be an easy matter for the Government to stand behind a guarantee to return to the farmers the bare cost of production, and such a proposal would not cost more than, the wheat bounty costlast year. In any case, the payment of a bounty of 3d. or 4d. a bushel would be the fairest and cheapest, as well as the most effective way, of distributing whatever assistance the Government may be able to give to the wheat-growers of Australia.
I am alarmed at the spread of the rabbit pest in Australia. I bad believed that the last drought had almost exterminated this pest, and consequently I was amazed when, on a recent tour of the north and north-east districts of South Australia, I observed the terrible ravages of this pest in one of the best districts of that State. Almost irreparable damage to permanent pastures is being done; spear grass and fodder plants are being destroyed. I am informed that substantially the same conditions are to be found in other parts of the continent. Many of the pastoralists of this country are too poor to pay men to destroy rabbits. I suggest that the Government should consider the payment of a bounty on rabbit skins, or a subsidy on rabbit scalps. Although such a scheme would probably require the co-operation of the States, it would achieve a twofold object. First, it would furnish needy pastoralists, who cannot pay for the destruction of the rabbits on their property, with assistance to destroy the pest; and secondly, it would provide work for many men who are now in receipt of the dole. The saving to the State governments in connexion with dole payments would more than counterbalance the cost of a bounty on rabbit skins or an increased premium for rabbit scalps.
I hope that during the remainder of its term of office the Government will display more humanity in handling the nation’s problems, and will attempt to live up to the expectations of the people who placed it in power, in the hope that thereby the best interests of the country will be served, work and wages provided, and prosperity ushered in. We are told that prosperity is just around the corner, but we have waited a long time for it to come into view. I am confident that, before long, the Government will be forced, to retrace its steps, and to follow the policy of the Labour party, which is the only policy which will benefit the producers of this country.
.- I should not have spoken to-night but for the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), who never seems to tire of denouncing the Bruce-Page Government, and blaming it for our present financial difficulties. I am surprised that the honorable senator does not refer to official figures before he speaks, and thus avoid making incorrect statements. The honorable gentleman said that the extravagance of the Bruce-Page Government, and its policy of permitting a large volume of imports to enter this country were mainly responsible for the ‘difficulties which faced the Scullin Government when it assumed office.
– That is correct.
– The figures prove the opposite. Notwithstanding that imports were large under the Bruce-Page Administration, unemployment was gradually decreasing, while the number of operatives in Australian factories was continually on the increase. During the two years of the Scullin Government’s administration, when imports were less, employment in Australian factories decreased. The following statement, compiled from official figures, shows the position : -
With every increase in imports there was also an increase in the number of persons employed in Australian factories.
– What effect did the money borrowed during that period have ?
– I am replying to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the large volume of imports resulted in a diminution of employment. The figures I have quoted prove the opposite. Let us now see the result of the wonderful policy which was put into operation by the Scullin Government. In 1929-30, the first year of that Government’s administration,, the imports into Australia were valued at £129,000,000, a reduction of £18,000,000 on the value of the imports for 1928 ; but the number of factory hands decreased to 419,000. In the last year of the Scullin Government’s regime - 1930-31 - imports fell to £61,000,000, and the number of factory hands to 339,000.
– Is not the depression world-wide ?
– I am not concerned with . that now. I am refuting the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. The percentage of workers unemployed can only be based on the figures supplied by the trade unions. Those figures show that, whereas the percentage was 11.1 when the Bruce-Page Government went out of office, it was 19.3 in the first year of the Scullin Government’s administration, and 27.4 per cent. in its second year.
– What was the percentage six months ago?
– I have not the figures here.
– It was 31 per cent.
– There are other factors which should be taken into account.
– I am refuting the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, which he made for party purposes. Had the honorable gentleman been fair, he would have given the whole of the facts. I can deal only with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. It is not my responsibility to supply him with arguments to support his case.
Senator O’Halloran endorsed the utterances of the Leader of the Opposition, and charged the Government with continually changing its policy. In view of. the actions of the Government with which they were associated for two years, I am surprised that honorable senators opposite should dare to make such an accusation against this Government. If ever there was a government in Australia that frequently changed its policy it was the Scullin Government. In that respect it established a record. The then Prime Minister would make a statement one day with respect to the course that was to be followed in order to restore confidence both overseas and in Australia, and within a week or two the policy would be changed and confidence as far off as ever. Let me remind honorable senators opposite of an important conference of which the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was a prominent member. Soon after that right honorable gentleman had given his pledge that a certain policy would be put into operation he left for Great Britain. He told his cabinet that that policy was to become operative without delay.
– The Niemeyer agreement?
– Yes. When Mr. Scullin reached London he was received with open arms by the British people who thought that the Government of which he was the leader would keep its word. Britain occupies the position she does to-day because the word of the British people can always be depended upon. The then Prime Minister received a wonderful reception in London because it was thought that the policy he supported prior to his departure from Australia would be carried out. It is true that certain loyal members of his cabinet tried to give effect to that policy, but, unfortunately, owing to the methods advocated by honorable senators opposite in handling political affairs, they were outvoted and the policy was not brought into operation. Mr. Scullin cabled to Australia that the agreement should be carried out, and the people of the Commonwealth naturally assumed that Australia would soon reach financial stability. What happened when the right honorable gentleman returned? He attended the caucus meeting and said, “I shall do whatever is decided by the majority “. In making that utterance he broke his promise not only to the Australian people but also to investors in Great Britain.
– The honorable senator was not present at the caucus meeting. Did he have his ear to the ground like a blackfellow’s dog?
– Every one knows what occurred. The honorable senator does not like to hear the facts. Does he deny that that was the attitude adopted by the then Prime Minister; that he did not break his pledges by saying that he would abide by the decision of the caucus ?
It has been stated that this Government has reduced taxation in order to benefit its political friends. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to cite one case in which taxation has been reduced by this Government for political purposes. On the contrary, I can point to additional taxation being imposed- on those who ordinarily support the United Australia Party. One of the heaviest imposts ever placed upon one section of the people by any government is still being collected. I refer to the 2s. in the £1. property tax in addition to the already heavy income tax. Does that not affect any of the present Government’s political supporters? The supporters of the political party with which I am associated have had no relief from taxation. With the aid of the enormous taxes collected, the Government has been able to find sufficient money to place our finances on a fairly satisfactory basis. Our chief aim has been the restoration of confidence. Confidence had been lost.
– By whom ? The Bruce-Page Government could not borrow a penny.
– There was a lack of confidence among those who had nurtured us and helped us to develop this country.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herbert Hays). - I ask the honorable senator to disregard interjections.
– I am not responsible for the interjections, and if I speak somewhat forcibly, it is only because of the interjections hurled at me from the other side of the chamber.
– Senator Collings is only trying to get the honorable senator off the track.
– Senator Collings is playing a waiting game; but the time will come when I shall follow him in a debate and keep closely on his tracks. A restoration of confidence is needed more than anything else in Australia. The happenings within the last few months must convince any one of the fact that this Government has restored confidence beyond our most sanguine expectations. Honorable senators, regardless of party, must admit that to-day conditions are brighter than they were twelve months ago. There are some whose minds are so warped politically that they do not wish to see confidence restored, because it may upset their political plans.
Senator O’Halloran made certain suggestions with respect to improving our general financial condition. One problem above all others that should claim our close attention, and the gravest trouble that we have to meet, is that of unemployment. It has been suggested from time to time that the Commonwealth Government cannot do a great deal towards its solution. This Government can assist by speedily releasing the people from some of the excessive luxation they are now paying, and the collection of which has been the means of diverting to the Treasury money which should be used in developmental and industrial works. I have always contended that every additional £1,000 collected in taxation means increased unemployment. Governments cannot take money from the people without impoverishing industry. There are many ways in which unemployment can be minimized. The federal authorities cannot do much in this direction, hut suggestions made in this Parliament can be adopted by the State authorities. I have kept my eyes open, and have studied this problem very closely during the last year or two. I believe that in the capital cities employment could be provided by erecting more comfortable homes for many who are now living in hovels in the congested portions of our cities. When visiting England a few years ago I was interested to learn that the London County Council was formulating a scheme to reclaim slum areas with the object of erecting modern homes upon them, and thereby providing improved housing conditions for the people. The Federal Government should request the State Governments to obtain a report from the London Country Council as to the success or otherwise that has attended that undertaking. In passing through some of the industrial suburbs in Melbourne one can sec here and there a fair sized block of land on which a dwelling, which accommodates only one family under wretched conditions, is erected. Under a proper scheme a comfortable and modern building capable of accommodating four or more families could be built on that block, and the rentals charged would not be more than are now demanded for the hovels in which many of them now live.
– Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that the population of our capital cities should he increased ?
– No; but we have to meet conditions as we find them. One or two attempts on a small scale have been made to get people out of the cities into the more healthy surroundings of the country, and they have proved very successful. I hope that the tendency in that direction will grow; but there will always be a large population in the cities, and the provision of decent living conditions for those who do not now enjoy them would provide employment for a considerable number of tradesmen, labourers, and others who, nt present, are out of work.
– Is it not a fact that in the suburban areas of Sydney there are empty houses, out of which the former occupants were driven ?
– They were induced to leave them, and many are now living under conditions that they have not enjoyed for years, through the agency of certain philanthropic bodies in Sydney which arc’ doing splendid work. I consider that this Parliament cannot come to any definite conclusion on these matters. The time is ripe, however, for us to co-operate with the State authorities in obtaining from a committee of qualified persons a report regarding the possibility of doing something in the direction that I have indicated. We should then, at all events, know whether the proposal is economically sound or otherwise.
One of the ‘things that it is essential we should consider, not only at present but also for some time to come, is a reduction of the cost of government, which is far too heavy for our population of 6,500,000 to bear. I agree that one cannot put his . finger on particular items, and say that we may save £1,000 here or £5,000 there. I believe, however, that economies could be effected without causing hardship to any one. We do not want to add to the number of unemployed. I believe that a scheme could be evolved which, spread over the next ten or fifteen years, would materially reduce the cost of government in Australia without increasing unemployment. 1 suggest that the Government should set to work as speedily as possible to see whether steps cannot be taken to eliminate gradually, on a scientific basis, much of the expenditure that now has to be incurred.
– Wipe it out quick and lively. Abolish this chamber to begin with; it is the biggest fraud that was ever perpetrated on the community.
– I hope that the honorable senator does not suggest that we should embark on a policy of wholesale dismissals of public servants. Does he want to drive public servants on to the streets? I wish to avoid that as far as possible.
– I have signed a party pledge to wipe out this Senate, and I am in favour of doing it.
– History has a habit of repeating itself. I have a recollection of a certain gentleman years ago signing a pledge to abolish another legislative chamber in Australia, and I believe that he helped to do it.
– He did, and is proud of the fact.
– I conclude by expressing the hope that the optimism which permeates the budget speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) will be more than justified. The right honorable gentleman struck the correct note in the concluding portion of his speech, when he said that confidence in Australia has been restored; because confidence will be the principal factor in ensuring that, at some time in the future, Australia will regain the prosperous condition that it occupied for many years before the present depression descended on the whole world.
Debate (on motion by Senator E. B. Johnston) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 November 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19321103_senate_13_136/>.