14th Parliament · 1st Session
The PBESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Brown) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for six weeks begranted to Senator Rae on account of urgent private business.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for three weeks begranted to Senator Sir George Pearce on account of urgent public business.
Motion (by Senator Babnes) - byleave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for six weeks begranted to Senators Hoare and O’Halloran on. account of urgent private business.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation - Second, Third, Fourth and Final
Reports of the Royal Commission, dated 5th February, 1934, 12th April, 1934, and’ 19th October, 1934, respectively.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 29 of 1934 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 30 of 1934 - Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.
No. 31 of 1934 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 139 - No. 140.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1934, No.. 143.
Defence Act - Regulations amended- Statutory Rules 1934, No. 144.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Tamworth, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Maternity Allowance Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 126.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 15- Crimes (No. 2).
No. 1 6 - Printers and Newspapers.
No. 17 - Licensing (No. 2).
No. 18 - Matrimonial Causes.
No. 19 - Coroners.
No. 20 - Dangerous Drugs.
No. 21 - Board of Inquiry.
Gaming Ordinance - Racing Club Regulations.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 130 - No. 135- No. 137.
Post and Telegraph Act and Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 136.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 24 of 1934 - Building and Services.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Federal Capital Territory for the period 1st July, 1933, to 30th June, 1934.
Transport Workers Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 140.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Tenth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, year ended 30th June, 1934, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Senate aware of the losses sustained by potato-growers in Tasmania during the last four years? If not, will he have inquiries made, and if he is satisfied that heavy losses have been incurred by that section of our primary producers, will they be included in the rural rehabilitation scheme which the Government proposes to introduce to this Parliament?
– I shall have inquiries made. I understand that information regarding the position of the potato-growers of Tasmania is in the possession of the Federal Government. The latter portion of the honorable senator’s question touches upon Government policy concerning which the Prime Minister will make a pronouncement when the legislation referred to is introduced.
– Has the Government received the report of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the wheat industry ? If so, when will it be made available to honorable members?
– I am not aware whether the report is actually in the hands of the Government, but I understand that it was presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to-day.
– Is it the intention of the Government to table, prior to the Christmas adjournment, a tariff schedule dealing with items which have been the subject of inquiry by the Tariff Board during the last twelve or fourteen months ?
– A tariff schedule will be tabled before the Christmas adjournment. I do not propose to make any statement asto its contents.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce. (1). Has he noticed that Mr. McCann, the Agent General for South Australia, started recently that the scientific standard reached by the Queensland chilled beef industry now exceeded that of the Argentine Republic? (2). In view of the conflicting statements that British restrictions on meat imports were due - (a) To the desire of Britain to foster meat production in the Mother country - (b) To the activities of British interests in Argentina, will the Minister obtain and furnish to honorable senators information as to the comparative imports into Britain of Argentine and Australian meat for 1910, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1930 and 1933?
– Portion of the honorable senator’s question contains an expression of opinion which he knows is not permissible.
– Any expression of opinion contained in my question was merely a quotation of the gist of a statement which has appeared elsewhere.
– I was unable to follow the honorable senator’s question in detail, but I think that the information he desires is available in the department. If it is, I shall be glad to arrange for it to be supplied to him.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether the £15,042,985 subscribed to the recent loan represents the final figures ?
– I understand that those are the final figures.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Accommodation for Single Girls
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior supplies the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Force soldiers were wounded, he was shocked to see the Turkish guns bearing brass labels with the name of a British armament firm on them?
– The right honorable the Prime Minister supplies the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce supplies the following answers : -
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
What action, if any, is the Government taking to protect Australian shipping against the invasion of foreign subsidized shipping trading to and from New Guinea?
– The Minister for External Affairs supplies the following answer: -
The Government is giving close consideration to this question, but is not yet in a position to make any statement on the subject.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Opening Speech be presented to His Excellency by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the AddressinReply to his Opening Speech at Government House at 4 p.m. to-day. I invite as many honorable senators as can make it convenient to accompany me.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill provides for an appropriation of £176,000 to cover expenditure on various works and services for which provision was not made in the budget for the current financial year. Appropriations already passed by Parliament for expenditure on works from loan and from revenue, and available for expenditure during the current financial year, exceed £4,250,000. As that amount is a considerable increase on the amount expended on such services during the last financial year it will materially assist in the alleviation of the unemployment problem.
The bill now before the Senate will provide the appropriation necessary to carry out a number of additional works and services which are of such a nature as to enable the works to be put in hand immediately so that employment may be found before Christmas for a large number of men who are at present unemployed. Moreover, the character of the proposed works is such that the greater portion of the expenditure will be required for labour rather than for materials.
The schedule to the bill indicates under four headings the nature of the works upon which the money will be expended. Of the total, the sum of £154,000 will be expended on works and services in the various States, and will be distributed practically on a population basis. The sum of £12,000 is being allotted for works and services in the Federal Capital Territory, £4,000 for undertakings in the Northern Territory, and an additional amount of £6,000 for New South Wales to be expended in the construction of dips for cattle tick control. The lastmentioned amount is to be supplemented by a contribution of £4,400 by the Government of New South Wales.
The total amount proposed to be appropriated will be divided among a large number of comparatively small works distributed throughout the Commonwealth. At this stage it is impracticable to furnish details of such works, but I hope to be able to furnish further particulars when the bill is in committee.
I emphasize that these works do not, of themselves, constitute a complete works programme; they are merely supplementary to the already large works programme which is now being carried out under appropriations amounting to £4,250,000, which have already been passed by Parliament. The works covered by this bill are mostly of a class that can be put in hand without the necessity for the preparation of detailed plans and specifications, which would involve considerable time. In order to obviate the delays caused by calling for tenders, the work will, so far as possible, be carried out by day labour under the direction of the Commonwealth Works Branch. Of the total amount to be appropriated, approximately £65,000 will be expended in New South Wales, £42,000 in Victoria, £23,000 in Queensland, £12,000 in South Australia, £10,000 inWestern Australia, £6,000 in Tasmania, £12,000 in the Federal Capital Territory, and £4,000 in the Northern Territory. As the passing of this hill will enable work to be given during the next few weeks to a considerable number of men who are at present unemployed, it is hoped that it will be passed through all stages without lengthy discussion, so that the works may be commenced as soon as possible.
.- I am glad that at last the Government has bestirred itself sufficiently to introduce a bill for the carrying out of works which will provide some measure of relief to unemployed men, who otherwise could anticipate only a dismal Christmas season. For that reason, I shall not delay the passage of the bill; but I should like a definite assurance from the Minister that the works to be undertaken by the Commonwealth will be carried out under the direction of its own Works Branch. In the past, large sums of Commonwealth money have been expended by the States upon relief conditions which provided for only a couple of days’ work for a man in each week. I hope that that system will not operate in connexion with the expenditure of this money, but that the Commonwealth itself will undertake the works and pay award rates to those engaged on them. When this Parliament appropriates money for the purpose of relieving unemployment, it is not right that that money should be applied by the States, or by local governing bodies in the States, merely as a means of granting relief to hungry men, who are paid about 22s. for two days’ work a week, and are expected to subsist on that sum for an indefinite period. If the money is to be expended by the Commonwealth, under its own control, and the men to be engaged are paid proper rates of pay, I shall be satisfied to allow the bill to be passed as quickly as possible in order that the men may be set to work.
– I rise with some diffidence to discuss this bill, because on a previous occasion the Minister criticized Opposition members for what he described astheir blatancy. During the election campaign,
Government candidates, as well as newspapers supporting the Government, promised that if the Lyons Ministry were returned, it would undertake such works as would usher in a new era in this country. Now, it appears that the Government’s programme comprises no great undertakings, for only a comparatively small sum is to be appropriated under this measure. We, on this side, while accepting the measure of relief to be provided, look for something more. Under the present economic system, men must starve ifthere is no work for themto do. I look forward to the day when every man will have an assured income whether or not work is made available for him. That may appear to some honorable senators a somewhat revolutionary proposal, but it is the opinion of many distinguished visitors to this country, one of whom was so impressed with the potentialities of Australia that he said recently that four hours’ work a day would probably be sufficient to provide for the needs of the nation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I notice within the precincts of the Senate, the Right Honorable J. G. Coates M.P., Minister of Finance and Customs, New Zealand, and the Honorable R. Masters M.L.C., Minister of Industries and Commerce, New Zealand, also a member of the House of Commons,. Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Dominions. With the concurrence of honorable senators, I shall invite them to occupyseats on the floor of the Senate.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
Messrs. Coates, Masters and MacDonald thereupon entered the chamber and were seated accordingly.
– The Minister in charge of this measure has suggested that we become rather blatant when dealing with unemployment. My answer is that we have good reason to be vigorous in our complaint that the Government has not put forward any common sense suggestion for the solution of the problem. Senator Payne smiled when I mentioned a few moments ago that, although in this country we have an abundance of all that is necessary for the well being of the people, the position, unfortunately, is that only those who have a private income or employment can obtain the wherewithal to satisfy their requirements. Unfortunately although the land is overflowing with foodstuffs and all that the people require, society in its lack of wisdom says, “ We are very sorry there is not work for all to do, but those for whom there is not work to do must starve.” That such an attitude should be taken up shows that we have not reached a very high state of civilization.
– That is an extravagant statement.
– Extravagant statements are sometimes necessary in order to impress those who are not capable of appreciating how serious the situation really is. If we speak in moderate terms our statements are often disregarded. The time is rapidly approaching when in this and every other country the chief consideration will not be work but rather that of giving to the people those things which are produced in abundance and which so many of them now sadly lack.
The Minister in charge of this measure has under his administration the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research, which is doing a wonderful work for the Commonwealth. Dr. A. C. D. Rivett, a distinguished officer of the department, recently published a small pamphlet, a copy of which was sent to every member of the Parliament, showing what could be accomplished by Australia, if, instead of joining with others in flooding the markets of the world with all kinds of primary products, of which there is a saturated market, we efficiently and thoroughly organized our gold production. We have heard distinguished visitors from the Mother Country and the Dominion of New Zealand to-day discussing the situation in those countries, and we realize particularly the tremendous difficulties that confront Great Britain. Mr. Malcolm
MacDonald spoke of the activities of the Old Land, and expressed the view of many of its public men with regard to restriction, or, as he said, “ the regulation “ of imports; but I am convinced that the conditions operating to-day, bad as they are, will become worse. Owing to the intensive development taking place all over the world, there is no hope of an improvement in the future. Senator Collings to-day showed me an extract from the Melbourne Star, in which it is stated that large sums are being expended in the Old Country with a view to eliminating the importation of flowers and certain fruits and vegetables. It is pointed out in this article that thousands of pounds are being expended in the Old Country in erecting glass houses for the production of flowers which hitherto have been imported and that special steps are also being taken to increase the production of certain fruit. As the result of this action it is hoped that there will be a reduction of £10,000,000 a year in the imports of these commodities within the next few years.
– But those are “ the flowers that bloom in the Spring “.
– It is always spring time with the honorable senator; that is why he rarely listens reasonably to the proposals which we seriously put forward for the amelioration of the conditions of the unemployed. Dr. Rivett, in his pamphlet, suggests that the Australian Government, instead of trying to force on already crowded markets many of our primary products should concentrate on the production of something that will always demand a market in every country. He writes -
On 30th June, 1932, we owed in London £554,528,000 sterling, and the annual interest bill was £26,301,000. With gold at £6 sterling per ounce, we need 134 tons of it to pay the yearly bill, while 2,830 tons would liquidate the debt. (If we were forgiven £80,000,000 of war debt, the total weight would be reduced by 408 tons). . .
If we did our level best to pay England in foodstuffs, not merely the annual interest but also the principal sums which we owe to her, we could easily create a situation utterly intolerable to her: even oureffort to pay the interest bill and to give a return for the goods we take from her is causing her painful embarrassment . . .
– On a point of order I desire to know whether the matter with which Senator Brown is dealing has anything to do with the bill before the Chair ?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I understood the honorable member to be discussing the question of unemployment as affected by this measure. In doing so he has, perhaps, strayed a little, but I shall ask him at once to connect his remarks with the bil] itself.
– My complaint is that the amount for which this bill provides is too small and that it is not to be spent in the best way. The Queensland Government, through the Minister for Mines, has done splendid work by expending several thousands of pounds in fitting out members of the unemployed to engage in prospecting. In that way profitable employment has been found for quite a number of men. That is a very important consideration.
– It may be but it has nothing to do with the bill.
– It has everything to do with it. My desire is that the money for which this bill provides shall be spent in a way that will be most serviceable to the unemployed and to the country. If men are employed merely in producing commodities on the export of which restrictions already exist, little benefit will result. Money should be used to provide employment in producing goods that will find a ready market in other parts of the world. I have taken advantage of this schedule to drive home my point. Dr. Rivett’s pamphlet should bring home to Ministers and the people generally that the Government, instead of only playing and tinkering with the problem of unemployment, should exercise its ability and administrative powers in the organization of gold production on an efficient basis, gold being more acceptable in other parts of the world than our primary products. Action in that direction would prove far more effective than the Government’s present policy of trying to find work for the unemployed by spending a few thousand pounds on repainting and titivating public buildings.
– I am very glad that the Government is providing a sum of £176,000 for the relief of unemployment before Christmas, but I agree with the previous speaker that this amount is very small and falls far short of what the people expected to follow the return of the Lyons Government to office. Although I listened carefully to the Minister’s speech I am still unaware of the basis on which this money has been apportioned. It appears that the allocations have not been based on either population or area, or partly on population and partly on area as were previous grants, such as those for road construction. Only £10,000 of this amount is to be allocated to Western Australia, which in area forms one-third of the Commonwealth, and possesses only one-fifteenth of the population of Australia to develop it ! If area were taken into consideration Western Australia should receive one-third of the total amount, and if only half the total grant were distributed on a population basis, and half on area, it would be entitled to receive one-sixth of the amount. Yet Western Australia is given no consideration for its huge area, and for the fact that it is comparatively undeveloped. It is given a paltry £10,000. Is it any wonder that the people of that State want to secede from the ‘federation?
– The people of Western Australia would not know what to do if their claim for secession were granted.
– They would govern Western Australia well. At the State luncheon to-day I heard one of the distinguished visitors from New Zealand praise Canberra - Australia’s tragedy - the place for whose development the rest of Australia is being bled white, and for the expenditure on which no return is shown. It is all very well for a° gentleman coming from a dominion which had the good sense to keep out of the Australian federation to praise the beautiful result of the huge expenditure at Canberra, but the people of Australia are suffering under excessive and unnecessary federal taxation to keep it going. Of this grant for the relief of unemployment, £12,000 is to be devoted to works in the Federal Capital Territory - this little, useless capital where every act of government administration could be done more efficiently and economically in one of the State capitals. But this Territory is to receive £12,000, whereas to one-third of the Commonwealth - Western Australia - a mere £10,000 is to be granted. I inform our distinguished visitors that this action is typical of the attitude of the Federal Parliament to Western Australia. A study of the whole of the federal expenditure would reveal that we have invariably been treated in this fashion. The gentleman from New Zealand admires,as I do, the rose gardens of Canberra, but I remind him that the people of Australia have to pay for them to the amount of at least £30,000 annually. This capital city is to have wonderful buildings to house the arts and sciences, but people struggling in the outlying parts of the Commonwealth who can never enjoy these beauties have to pay for them. This measure is typical of the Government’s attitude to Western Australia. Of the small amount of £176,000, the Federal Capital is to receive £12,000, whilst onethird of the Commonwealth - the most undeveloped State-
– And the most barren.
– If the people of Western Australia were given complete control of their own affairs that State would be developed to support a greater population than that of all the Eastern States combined. Its population at present is only one-fifteenth of that of the Commonwealth, but even on that basis it is not being fairly treated under this bill, as it will receive only a little more than one-seventeenth of the total amount.
I am glad to have this opportunity to tell the gentlemen from New Zealand, who admire Canberra, how the people of Western Australia have to pay to keep this city going, and how little consideration they get from the rest of Australia for governing and developing one-third of the Commonwealth. The voyage from Fremantle to Sydney occupies nine days; the voyage from Sydney to Auckland occupies only four days. The people of New Zealand, I repeat, showed very good sense in not joining the Australian federation, and we in Western Australia are more isolated from the Eastern States of the Commonwealth than are the citizens of our sister dominion.
Sitting suspended from3.50 to 4.35 p.m.
– During the brief adjournment, I had an opportunity to read the Hansard report of the debate on this measure in the House of Representatives. I find that £12,000 is to be set aside for expenditure on works in the Federal Capital Territory, £4,000 for the Northern Territory, and £6,000 for the construction of cattle dips in the Grafton district of New South Wales, but only £10,000 for Western Australia. The distribution of the amount available is typical of the regard paid by the Commonwealth to the needs of Western Australia. Although that State has one-fifteenth of the population of the Commonwealth, it will receive only one-seventeenth of the sum provided in this bill. The Government would be wise to withdraw the measure, because the amount is inadequate, and bring down another bill appropriating £500,000. This sum would give employment to a considerable number of people between now and Christmas. The larger amount should also be distributed amongst States on the same basis as the federal roads grants are distributed - namely, three-fifths on a population basis, and two-fifths on an area basis. Personally, I think the most equitable basis is area alone, but I would be satisfied if the Government increased the amount to £500,000, and, in allocating it, observed the principle laid down in the act relating to federal aid roads. When one remembers that the sum provided in this bill is, in the main, for expenditure on roads, there is no reason why there should be a departure from the method of allocation observed in the Federal Aid Roads Act.
I am pleased that, for the first time in legislation of this nature, the Government accepts responsibility for the construction and repair ofroads on, or approaching, Commonwealth properties. During my six years membership of the Senate, I have placed before governments many requests for the construction or repair of roads leading exclusively to Commonwealth properties, but on every occasion the responsible Ministers have declined to accept responsibility for works of that nature. Although the Commonwealth pays no rates to local-governing bodies, it has hitherto declined responsibility in respect of roads on, or leading to, Commonwealth properties; but in item 3 of the schedule to this bill, there is provision for £35,600 for the construction and repair of Commonwealth roads. This is a very important principle, which, I hope, will be recognized by the Government in future. Hitherto, the stand taken by the Commonwealth Ministers has resulted in an unfair proportion of expenditure being thrown upon individual ratepayers. The road to the Maylands aerodrome, Perth, is used entirely for Commonwealth purposes, and is in a shocking condition. Repeated requests have been made to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the heads of other departments for urgent repairs to be made to it, but without avail. Consequently, when distinguished visitors have come to Western Australia, the members of the Australian Aero Club in that State have, in desperation, carried out the necessary repairs at their own expense. I should like to know whether any portion of the £35,600 provided for in item 3 of the schedule will be expended on that road, which is the worst in the metropolitan area, and is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Government. The road” to the rifle range at Swanbourne is also in urgent need of repair. The same may be said of the roads to the lighthouses at Cape Naturaliste and Cape LeeuwinSome time ago, ‘the former Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) authorized a grant of £50 for the improvement of these roads. I should like to know if further provision is made in this bill. There is also a large area of neglected Commonwealth property at Fremantle - the Henderson naval base - where, many years ago, the Commonwealth expended £1,200,000 on the commencing of the establishment of naval dockyards and works which were to be the most up to date in Australia. Unfortunately, that project was abandoned, and the condition of the site now suggests thatthe federal blight, has settled over it. I hope that the Government will, without further delay, give attention to this area, and not throw responsibility for road construction and repairs on the local governing authority, which depends for much of its revenue upon rates paid by market gardeners and other producers in a small way of business. As the Commonwealth Government has now admitted the principle of maintaining roads leading to properties under its control, I hope the roads I have mentioned, as well as others, will receive proper attention. I am glad that the bill has been introduced, but I trust that, in committee, the basis of apportionment will be altered to that adopted under the federal aid roads scheme. When Commonwealth money is made available to the States it should be on the basis of area and population, and I trust that the Government will decide to apportion this amount on the same basis as the federal aid roads grant. If that is done, I shall, while Western Australia remains in the federation, be relieved of the obligation to direct attention to the callous neglect to which that State has to submit in this and in many other ways.
.- Some of the honorable senators who have spoken on this measure have suggested that the amount to be appropriated is all that the Government proposes to make available to relieve unemployment, but the Minister stated quite plainly that the amount to be provided is in addition to other appropriations yet to be made. Unfortunately the amount is not so large as some would like, but it. will be the means of providing some relief at Christmas. The fact that the basis of allocation is not quite the same as under the federal aid roads scheme or general loan expenditure is not of great importance in this instance.
I take this opportunity to protest strongly against the utterances of Senator E. B. Johnston, who prior to the suspension of the sitting to enable the Ad dress-in -Reply to be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, allowed himself to go a little too far in attackinga distinguished visitor-
– It was not an attack.
– At the time an ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Coates, was a guest of Mr. President and honorable senators. When attending a function at which he was the guest of the Commonwealth Ministers, Mr. Coates paid a high tribute to our national capital, and it ill-becomes a member of the Senate to take him to task for what he said. There are plenty of persons outside the Federal Capital Territory who criticize what we do and say, without members of this Parliament speaking unfavorably of Canberra and the Commonwealth legislature. I am sure that Senator Johnston was not voicing the opinions of other honorable senators, or of the people of Australia generally, when he made a veiled attack upon Mr. Coates.
– It is not my intention to delay the passage of this measure, because I realize that it must be passed speedily so work may be provided before Christmas. A previous Government which attempted to afford relief in this manner was ultimately defeated; but as I believe this Government is anxious to relieve the unemployment situation prior to Christmas, I trust that its objective will, to some extent, be achieved. If this amount is distributed amongst the 300,000 unemployed and their dependants, it will represent only11s. 6d. or 12s. a head which is quite inadequate. At present the States are providing work for ft certain number of days in each week, and I trust that the additional money now being made available by the Commonwealth will not interfere with the relief works under State control.
SenatorMcLachlan. - It has nothing to do with the States.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. Further, I trust that the Government will follow the lead given by the Scullin Government, which directed the Works Department to assist those whose need was greatest I was glad to hear the Minister say that most of the money would be expended in the payment of wages, as was the case under the Scullin Government’s proposals. I am pleased also that the Commonwealth proposes to handle its own money on this occasion. I have a great admiration for the officers of the Commonwealth Works Branch, and I feel that if they control this expenditure justice will be done.
I hope that the Government will follow the lead of the Scullin Government and stipulate that award rates and conditions shall be observed on all the works to be undertaken by it. Legislation passed by the several States makes possible the evasion of award conditions, particularly in regard to marginal rates of pay, and I ask the Commonwealth Government not to take advantage of that legislation to the detriment of the workers. If these conditions are observed, I shall have no complaint to make, except that the amount of money to be expended is less than is required. However, we must be thankful for small mercies - I speak as one who will soon be unemployed. The worker, who previously was not prepared to make any sacrifice, is now resigned to his fate, and is willing to accept the crumbs which fall from the master’s table, but no Government should take advantage of his present frame of mind. In my opinion, the problem of unemployment is not being tackled determinedly by any government in this country. When 300,000 registered trade unionists, able and willing to work, are idle, it is time to embark on a bold programme.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the appropriation of the amount covered by this bill is meant to be only a small contribution to the relief of unemployment before Christmas, and that a larger scheme would be introduced shortly. Unlike the Scullin Government, the present Government has a sufficient majority in both Houses of the Parliament to put through any proposals it desires. It may be that the financial institutions of the country will still place difficulties in the way; but the people believed that they would treat the present Government more leniently than a Labour government, and they recorded their votes accordingly. The Government should use its utmost endeavours to persuade those who provide the wherewithal for the carrying out of works to relieve unemployment of their duty in that direction. If governments do not tackle and solve the problem of unemployment, the unemployed themselves will tackle it, and parliaments will be dissolved and another form of administration set up. I do not wish to see that happen; but I wonder how much longer men who are willing and anxious to work will tolerate a state of semi-starvation with no hope for the future. The most important problem facing the Government is the relief of unemployment, and it is not too much to ask that those who control the destinies of the nation should render service to the Empire by making work available. If the Government fails, it will be because it is not big enough, or game enough, to tackle the problem.
.- The bill speaks for itself, in that it indicates the earnest desire of the Government to do something to relieve the unemployment situation before the Christmas season comes upon us. The scheme covered by this measure is of a temporary nature, and has nothing whatever to do with the Government’s proposals for a larger measure of relief. I should like to deal generally with the subject of employment, and especially to reply to some statements made by Opposition senators. Senator Dooley said that the States had taken advantage of the plight of the workless, and had not paid to them standard wages or observed award conditions ; but I assure him that the policy adopted by the States has done more to alleviate distress among those out of work than would have been possible under the policy which he advocated.
– The labourer is worthy of his hire.
– That may be; but I remind the honorable senator that necessity is a hard task-master. If it is not possible to grant full relief to all in need, it is better that partial relief should be given to as many as possible.
– I said that the workers are prepared to accept the crumbs which fall from the master’s table.
– It is a matter of spreading the money available to reach the greatest number pf necessitous persons. The State authorities have relieved distress more effectively under the system adopted by them than would have been possible if they had adhered strictly to arbitration awards.
– Would the honorable senator give general application to that principle?
– I am speaking of urgent cases. The State authorities should be commended, rather than condemned, for having relieved the distress of so great a. number of people. I hope that the Government will spread this money over as many needy cases as possible.
Probably the most serious phase of the unemployment problem is its effect on the youths of this country. Unless something Ls done shortly to remedy the existing state of affairs, heaven only knows what may happen, even in Australia. I hope that Opposition senators will bear with me if I utter some home truths in this connexion.. For many years, and possibly with the best of intentions, we have slavishly followed a policy which has prevented thousands of young lads from having had an opportunity in life. Many of them have reached manhood without ever having had a chance, largely because every State has passed legislation restricting juvenile employment. Laws have been passed stipulating that, in certain industries, only one boy may be employed to every three men, and in other industries one boy to four or more men. What right have men of mature age to say that boys who, in five or six years’ time, will attain the age of manhood, shall, on leaving school, be denied an opportunity to equip themselves for the responsibilities of manhood?
– Why not give them a chance of getting jobs?
– Our laws, which restrict the employment of juveniles, are responsible for their lack of opportunity.
– The honorable senator knows the reason for the introduction of that legislation.
– Doubtless the legislation referred to was introduced with the best of intentions; but we cannot shut our eyes to the awful results which have followed its enactment. There are to-day thousands of men who have been denied a chance in life because of the existence of such laws.
– Their unhappy condition is due to the failure of the present capitalistic system.
– It is due to a strict adherence to the policy advocated by the Labour party. There is shortly to be a conference of State and Federal Ministers, and, although I cannot predict what lines the discussion will follow, I am confident that, before long, many cherished ideals will have to go by the board.
– The honorable senator has never had any ideals.
– I have had ideals, and I have stuck to them. Surely it is not an unworthy ideal that employment should be found for all our people, especially the youths of to-day, who will be the men of to-morrow. Unless steps are taken to find employment for them, it is impossible to say what kind of a community will exist twenty years hence. Under our State educational systems, millions of pounds have been expended in providing technical education for Australian youths, and to enable them, in the words of a leading educationist in New South Wales, “ to find themselves,” only to realize later, when they have left school, that our laws have closed the doors of industry against them.
– Every vote of the honorable senator has assisted to keep them out of jobs.
– It is time that we awoke to a realization of the true position.
– It is a crime that boys and men should be so treated ; and the honorable senator is an accessory both before and after the fact.
– We must get down to bedrock, and seek the reasons for the present state of affairs. It may be found necessary to relegate to the waste-paper basket many of the State laws now on the statute-book.
– What does the honorable senator propose?
– I propose something which will benefit the community. I trust that the Commonwealth Govern ment, which I believe earnestly desires to relieve the present situation, will confer with the State governments on this subject, and that, as a result, a scheme to remedy existing conditions will be evolved. Figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician show that, in 1922, the natural increase of the population of Australia was 84,000, whereas last year, when the total population was 1,250,000 more, the natural increase fell to 52,000. That ought to make people think.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator not to go too fully into the matter of vital statistics.
– I have been dealing with unemployment, and I desire to show that the unemployment of our young people has a very important bearing on the figures I have been quoting. What will be the position 50 years hence?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that by abolishing wage regulations and conditions of labour, we should improve the situation?
– I suggest that any restriction on the employment of our young people is wrong. Who, can we reasonably anticipate, will be the homebuilders and bread-winners of Australia in the future if the boys of to-day are still to be faced with these restrictions? How can the boys of to-day fit themselves to take up such responsibilities when these restrictions are enforced? Having by law kept lads out of work until they reach the age of seventeen or eighteen years, we then declare that they shall not be employed at less than a certain wage. What employer can afford to pay the stipulated wage to a youth who, because the law has not permitted him to learn anything about it, knows nothing of the trade in which he desires to be engaged. “ Payment according to age” is an absurd requirement, and has no regard whatever to ability or experience. Any day in the week, one may meet in Collins or Swanston streets, Melbourne, from 50 to 100 young men who have never done any work, and who will tell inquirers that they have applied from time to time for jobs only to be told that they are too old to be taken on since the wage fixed for their age is more than the industry concerned can afford to pay.
– Does the honorable senator believe in boys “ scabbing “ on their fathers?
-I do not believe in fathers “ scabbing “ on boys any more than I believe in boys “scabbing” on fathers. I shall say no more on the sub j ect at this stage; butI have at least opened up a campaign that I. intend to prosecute during the next three years, with the object of giving the youth of Australia a chance. I believe the Australian people are ripe for a revolution in that direction; they are determined that the youth of the community shall be given a fair opportunity and will relegate to the scrapheap some of the principles that have been so dear to many in years gone by.
I suggest that the measure before us should meet with the hearty acceptance of the Senate. Senator Brown made an attack upon the Minister in charge of the bill, which would suggest to any one who had not heard that honorable gentleman, that he had sneered at the working class. I did not hear the Minister make any comment except in explanation of the con tents of the bill itself.
-I did not attack him.
– The honorable senator’s remarks concerning Senator McLachlan were absolutely unwarranted. I hope the bill will pass and that the expenditure for which it provides will afford the relief that we reasonably anticipate will be realized by the community.
. -I thought that honorable senators on this side of the chamber had made it reasonably clear that they would do what they could to facilitate the passing of this all too simple measure, and that we should escape the charge made against us of mistaking it for a larger and more ambitious scheme. We, of course, shall vote for the bill as an attempt to relieve a very small portion of the tragic distress prevailing at the present time. As usual, however, we are to be fobbed off with the statement that it is merely to bring a little brightness into the homes of the unemployed during the coming Christmas season.
– Quite commendable.
– Yes, if wewere not being continually fobbed off with apologies for the failure of the Govern ment to attack this question in a statesmanlike fashion. One would imagine that it was commencing only to-day to make promises to the unemployed. This Government has been the most “ promising” of which I have had experience, so far as the serious problem of unemployment is concerned. On the 10th May, 1932, Senator Pearce, speaking on the Unemployment Relief Works Loan Bill, made the following remarks :-
It was the desire of the Commonwealth Government that, in co-operation with the whole of the States, an endeavour should be made to evolve a well -conceived plan for dealing with the most tragic of our problems, that of unemployment, in both its long range and short range aspects.
Two or three weeks ago, we had in the Governor-General’s speech a statement to the effect that “ my advisers will take steps to ascertain the root causes of unemployment.” Two and a half years ago, Senator Pearce said that the Government was desirous of evolving a co-operative plan as between the States and the Commonwealth that would take a long and. a short range, view of the. problem. But when is the job to be tackled? This afternoon, with the knowledge that we shall adjourn to-morrow and that there will be later on another of the series of intolerable adjournments, we are asked to pass a bill that provides for a miserable £176,000 expenditure and we are called upon to deal with it at once on the ground that it is to provide temporaryChristmas relief. When are the people responsible for the government of this country going to recognize that at least 1,000,000 are suffering from the effects ofcontinuous unemployment? This is no recent happening. In Canberra alone, we have the tragic spectacle of800 people out of work. If the whole of this £176,000 were spent here it would not represent a reasonable attempt to grapple with their problem alone. Mention of Canberra reminds me that something should be done to improve the disgraceful housing conditions at the Causeway and Molonglo. For the last two years, I have been asking for reform in this respect, but nothing hasbeen done, or is being done other than the serving of notices to some of the unfortunate tenants of these miserable cottages that they must pay up arrears of rent or go out.
Senatorbadman.- Are not the unemployed in thiscity to participate in a fair share of this expenditure?
– The honorable senator is attempting the impossible by trying to divert me from my argument. We on this side have a great regard for the genial Minister in charge of this bill (Senator McLachlan), but with all respect, I say that his levity, whilst Senator Brown was speaking, was unworthy of him. We on this side are not setting ourselves up as the special champions of the unemployed, but because of our experience of the tragic results of unemployment, because such’ education as we have was acquired in the university of hard knocks and, because we know what the unemployed to-day are suffering, we are determined that no patchwork system of relief shall be allowed to pass without criticism. We accept this bill as representing, as Senator Dooley put it, a crumb from the Government’s table. It is a slight measure of improvement, but we protest that it is not an attempt to tackle the problem in a thorough going way. The Government is not dealing with the problem in anything like an effective manner and, what is more, it does not intend to deal with it. We shall adjourn a fortnight hence, meet early in the year for a few weeks, and then adjourn for some months. In the meantime nothing will be done to bring us nearer a realization of the promise made by Senator Pearce twoand ahalf years ago.
I propose now to make a brief reference to Senator Johnston’s observations regarding Canberra. The press seizes on sensational statements with greater eagerness than it displays in reporting the considered arguments of senators concerning fundamentals of our present economic problem. And, because of that, his re- markto-day concerning Canberra will be givenwide publicity. Itis most unfortunate that we who enjoy the privilegeof living in Canberra and of doing our work here should be so constantly misrepresenting it. We ought to be proud ofthis CapitalCity. We shouldbe delightedthat theotherday the foundation stone of the National Library was laidhere and that the establish ment of a national university is contemplated; yet some honorable senators are continually going out of their way to misrepresent Canberra. I have some figures, supplied to me two years ago, that will show Senator Johnstonhow entirely unwarranted and unfair was his criticism.
-Canberra is very nice, but Western Australia cannot afford its proportion of the cost of it.
– I am not suggesting that the beauty of Canberra does not appeal to the honorable senator. I am referring rather to the wisdomof the examplewhich has been set in building a national capital where the real work of the nation can be done. Is Senator Johnston aware that up to the 30th June, 1932, the building of Canberra had cost £12,232,408, and that the revenue received from buildings and other sources up to that date amounted roughly to £3,000,000? In other words, the actual cost up to that time was about £9,250,000. At the same date the State debts amounted to £768,000,000, the Commonwealth debts, incurred very largely in helping the States, amounted to £386,000,000 and the railway debts of Australia totalled £352,000,000. The Sydney Harbour bridge and the Sydney city railway cost £42,000,000. Nobody declared that the expenditure on these projects was a deplorable waste of public money.
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the subject under discussion.
– I am replying toSenator E. B. Johnston,who was not interrupted whenhe advanced his arguments against the development of Canberra. One method to relieve unemploymentis not to interfere with the development ofCanberra, but to continue the policy ofprevious governments, which definitely promised the people of Canberra that they would proceed with the development of this capital and progressively transfer every Commonwealth department to the seat of government. In that waymy remarks are relevant to a debateonunemployment.
Senator Payne, I regret, has a most unfortunate habit of throwing out challengesto honor able senatorson this side of the chamber and then scuttling out of the way when effective replies are being made to his arguments. He said that he had many cherished ideals; perhaps his conduct represents his* ideal of the manly way of tackling a problem. Senator Payne said that honorable gentlemen on this aide of the chamber are responsible for the great tragedy of unemployment among the youths of this country. I fling back that accusation. He said that, because of the Labour party’s policy, expressed through Labour governments, the number of juveniles permitted to be employed in industry to-day was in the proportion of one to three, four, or five adults, and he suggested that if the legislation embodying those provisions were abolished the unemployment situation in Australia would be immediately relieved. The strength of the honorable senator is not in hig logic; apparently a course in Euclid in his earlier days would have benefited him considerably. He does not realize that to-day there is a certain number of adults normally employed at adult wages, and in proportion to that number, a certain number of youths. Of course he realizes that there is a large number of youths unemployed, but do not all employers, whether governments or private enterprise, employ all the people for whom they can find work? Employers in private enterprise certainly will never go without employees, if they can make a profit out of employing them. If a certain number of adults is employed to-day, and employers are to be allowed to put on additional youths will not the number of employees remain practically the same as at present? Of course not. Senator Brown asked, by interjection, whether Senator Payne was suggesting that we should encourage a policy that would assist a boy to scab on his father? The intelligent retort in reply to that interjection was that to-day the fathers are scabbing on their sons. Senator Payne knows that the opposite is true. In my home town I know of men and women who have reared families to adult age, and although on relief work themselves, are still keeping in the home their children who are also unemployed. I fail to see the force of Senator Payne’s contention that this difficulty can be surmounted by displacing men now employed in industry and allowing their jobs to be taken by juveniles. Among other things of which we, as a nation, can feel proud, is the fact that the percentages of women and youths employed in industry are the lowest for any country. That is particularly so in Queensland. The arguments advanced this afternoon by Senator Payne are merely duplicates of statements made by his prototypes when Lord Shaftesbury’s reform bill was being put through the House of Commons threequarters of a century ago. It is deplorable that we have to sit here and listen to such time-worn platitudes while no sensible attempt is made by the Government to grapple with this problem. Obviously, it has no understanding whatever of the fundamental causes of unemployment, or of the basic causes of the major problems with which every country is faced to-day. Therefore, it is charitable to say that that ignorance probably accounts for the Government’s incapacity to tackle these problems. I would be sorry if this bill were not passed. I have no doubt it will be passed, but at this stage, I emphasize that we on this side of the chamber accept this measure merely, as the Minister said, as an immediate attempt which can be made before Christmas to relieve some of those most seriously affected by unemployment. But we repeat our demands, as we shall at every opportunity, that the Government must not continue to fob us off with attempts like this to solve the problem of unemployment, and that it shall get down to the real job before many more weeks have elapsed for the benefit of those who are suffering most acutely and for the betterment of the nation as a whole.
– It is regrettable that Senator Collings could not refrain from applying a rather caustic criticism to employers as a whole. He said that employers were not likely to employ people unless they could make a profit out of them. It is within the knowledge of every honorable senator that multitudes of employers in the years of the depression retained many employees and engaged additional employees when they could not possibly have been in a position to make profit out of their labour. [Quorum formed.] These employers took this step when they were actually operating at a loss. That applies to employers in both the primary and secondary industries. I feel sure that the honorable gentleman himself will admit that that is true, and that he made a very sweeping statement in the enthusiasm of the moment.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that employers are philanthropic institutions?
– If the honorable gentleman prefers me to put it that way, I say that there are many employers who on numerous occasions, when applicants for work were in dire circumstances, acted in a very philanthropic way.
I should like more information from the Minister respecting the basis upon which these various grants are to be apportioned. Details as to how it is proposed to spend the money were supplied in the House of Representatives, and I think it would have assisted honorable senators in the present discussion if they also had been supplied with that information. The Minister said that, so far as the division between the States was concerned, the grants were calculated on a population basis, and then added details of the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory which had not been treated on a population basis.
– Their allocations were not fixed on a population
– Why is that? What is the real basis of the allotments? I have taken the trouble to calculate the amount per capita of the respective populations, which the various sums will represent when distributed among the different States of the Commonwealth. The grants to Western Australia and South Australia work out at about 6d. a head of the total population in those States; in the Federal Capital Territory, the average will be more than £1 a head, and in the Northern Territory, almost £1 a head. If this money were to be expended on developmental works, such a basis might be considered fair, but where the object of the grant is to provide special work in the nature of
Christmas relief, I cannot see any just reason why the unemployed people in South Australia and Western Australia should receive this money at the rate of only 6d. a head, whilst those in the Northern Territory and the Federal Capital Territory are to receive it at the rate of £1 a head. Such a distribution does not seem logical, and for that reason the Minister should explain the basis on which the allocations were made. Personally, I feel that the only reasonable way to arrange this particular distribution would be on . a basis, not of population or area, but of the number of unemployed people in each part of Australia. That has not been done. I do not object to the Northern Territory being assisted and developed; in fact, I agree with other honorable senators that it is most regrettable that so little has been done in that direction. But no real developmental work will be done through the expenditure of a mere £4,000 on Christmas relief. The only way in which we can hope to achieve good results in the Northern Territory is by the appointment of a Minister who is conversant, or will make himself conversant, with its needs, and who will be constantly at his post. For years we have had the spectacle of Ministers for Internal Affairs, animated by zeal for the welfare of the people there, but because of changing political circumstances, their work was of little avail. We all remember that interest was displayed by Senator Sir George Pearce, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Parkhill and Mr. Perkins, to mention only a few, who, following their appointment to administer the Territory, paid a visit to that vast area, but within a few weeks or months, because of changes in the Ministry, were given another portfolio. The result was that all the experience which they had gained was lost to the Commonwealth and the time which they had given to the study of Northern Territory problems was wasted. The development of the Northern Territory when it comes will not be due so much to the enterprise of chartered companies - we have not heard very much about that aspect of Government policy lately - as to the appointment of a Minister, a junior Minister if you like, who will make the study of its peculiar problems a full time and continuing job.
I notice in the list of works which was supplied to members of the House of Representatives that of the amount allocated for expenditure in South Australia, £1,750 is earmarked for drainage at the Keswick Military Reserve. That item brings to -mind a very troublesome subject, and one which gave rise to more correspondence than was caused by any other subject with which I have had to deal since I became a member of this Parliament. The drain which runs through the Keswick reserve is insufficient to cope with abnormal flood waters which come down it occasionally. Complaints have been made about this drain since at least 1913. When I was a member of the House of Representatives for the division of Boothby I had brought to my notice the fact that the unfortunate people living in an avenue in the neighbourhood of the barracks - the majority of them are returned soldiers - had been flooded out on several occasions. Sometimes water inches deep flowed through their houses. It was my duty to see first the late Mr. Bowden, the then Minister for Defence, and subsequently his successor, the late Sir Neville Howse, with a view to having that state of affairs remedied. The Defence Department which is solely concerned in this matter, wished to put in a second 5-ft. pipe drain to carry off the excessive flood waters which, at rare intervals, cause so much trouble in that neighbourhood: but it was urged that because of the rapidity with which storm waters come down the drain it would not be an effective step. The city council concerned raised objections and I, on behalf of that body, made representations to the Government. The department relied on the opinion of its experts, but I was convinced from information placed in my hands by the district council and others concerned, that the proposal then made would not be effective. We recommended the construction of an open drain which at least would have a chance of carrying away abnormal flood waters. Speaking on this subject in the House of Representatives on the 19th August, 1925, 1 said this - .
The Minister, I am pleased to say, has shown an interest in the matter, and has made provision for the work to be proceeded with. An additional 5-ft. pipe is to be laid. Personally
I have grave doubts whether this 5-ft. pipe will answer the purpose.
In my communication to the Minister on behalf of the district council, I put the case much more strongly than I did when speaking in the House. We were supposed to know nothing about the matter, and, as one might expect, the official view prevailed. The second 5-ft. pipe was put in to deal with the flood waters at Keswick. But again the water has come down in rushing torrents, and because the provision made for it was inadequate, it has once more flooded the residences of these people to their great discomfort and personal loss. Some years ago it was clearly demonstrated to the Government that this would be the result unless the open drain were put in. Representations have since been, or will be, made to the Government that residents who have suffered loss due to this cause, should be recompensed. I am glad that provision has been made for effective drainage, and I assume that at last the department has come round to our view on the subject. After a lapse of ten years it is some consolation to know that what one said on a particular subject has been proved, by subsequent events, to be correct, although in this case every one must deeply regret that the unfortunate residents at Keswick have again been the sufferers. I hope that the Government will also consider the fairness and advisableness of compensating the property-owners and occupiers, the majority of whom are returned soldiers, for the damage done by flood waters.
– My original intention was to allow the bill a speedy passage, because its object is to make available a sum of money for expenditure on works as a little Christmas box for the unemployed in the various States. But I feel that I must point out that, as there are approximately 300,000 unemployed persons in the Commonwealth, the amount set aside represents only the value of two or three ties per man. Still it is something. Even 10s. or 15s. is acceptable to those in great need of it, as occasionally it would have been to me earlier in my life. The fact that the Government has brought down this measure is, in itself, an acknowledgment of the serious condition of the working classes. We do not scorn this gesture of the Government on their behalf - Senator Dooley and the leader of my party (Senator Barnes) reminded us this afternoon that similar provision was made during the regime of the Scullin Government - but as Labour members we believe that the only effective remedy for unemployment is the adoption of long-range scientific proposals that will gain the respect of the people of Australia. One can hardly doubt that our parliamentary system of government, in respect of unemployment problems at all events, is on its trial. If we fail to agree upon a_ satisfactory solution of the present trouble, the existing system of government may be displaced by another perhaps in the form of industrial councils, having for their objective the continued employment of the people on works of an enduring character. Geographical parliaments, as we now know them, may be swept away. I offer this suggestion in the nature of a warning to the Government and its supporters, and I hope that those who constitute the large majority which the Ministry commands in both Houses, will realize their responsibility in this matter. There has been . much talk of proposals to deal with unemployment, and the Government has retained the services of a former Minister of wide experience, one who may be regarded as the fifteenth Minister in the Cabinet, to formulate proposals for submission to this Parliament. But I fear that there is little reason to hope that this Government will handle the situation in the way advocated by the Labour party for so many years, and as the Scullin Government would have dealt with it but for the hostile majority in the Senate three or four years ago.
– To what particular act is the honorable senator referring?
– The proposal of the Scullin Government to expend £12,000,000 on public works.
– By the issue of “ dud “ notes ? I remember that scheme very well.
– It is quite obvious that supporters of the Government are not very much concerned about the present situation because when Senator Collings was speaking this afternoon only nine senators were present, including four Labour senators who may be excused for occasional attendance, because, rightly or wrongly, a Labour government a few years ago was prevented from giving effect to its proposals, and their criticism of this Government’s proposals has not met with very encouraging response, as shown by the recent elections.
– That is because Labour criticism is not constructive.
– That is precisely the objection which can be urged against this Government’s proposals. After it has been three years in office there is now some talk about the unification of railway gauges.
– Do not many authorities believe that railways are more or less obsolete?
– I do not sub.scribe to that view because railways are essential in wet weather, and also for safe and comfortable travelling. Despite all this talk about expenditure on the unification of railway gauges, and other urgent public works, this Government is not likely to do very much because its masters outside appear to think that expenditure on relief works, an arrangement that was much favoured in the time of our grandfathers, meets the situation. We have to remember, however, that there are in Australia approximately 300,000 persons out of work and living from hand to mouth as a direct result of the Government’s disregard of their welfare and the anarchistic state of our economic structure.
– What is the honorable senator’s authority for the statement that there are 300,000 unemployed in Australia ?
– I base my figures on statements by Governments supporters, who never tire of telling us that three or four years ago, when the Scullin Government was in office, there were 4:00,000 persons out of work in this country, and that since this Government has been in power, the figures have been reduced by about 25 per cent. That would make the number about 300,000.
– Then the honorable senator does give this Government credit for having done something?
– I think the real explanation for the improvement in the figures is to be found in the higher prices for wool and in the return to higher price-levels. But foreigners are now giving their attention to the use of synthetic wool and are restricting imports from Australia.
– The price of wool has dropped.
– It may have dropped temporarily, but the honorable senator is aware that during one recent year the increased return from Australian wool alone amounted to £17,000,000. Whenever the subject of unemployment is under discussion in this chamber, the members of” the Labour party urge the necessity for a general reconstruction of our economic and financial system; but honorable senators opposite, who are as deeply steeped in toryism as were the men of 4.0 or 50 years ago, are always opposed to any reform, and consequently have no means of determining the value of the Labour party’s proposals. If some determined attempt is not made to prevent the recurring curse of unemployment, and so bring about a general improvement of the conditions under which many persons in Australia are compelled to live, our parliamentary system must eventually collapse.
Senator E. B. Johnston took full advantage of the presence in this chamber of such distinguished visitors as the Bight Honorable J. G. Coates, and the Honorable B. Masters of New Zealand, and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald., M.P., Under-Secretary for the Dominions in the British House of Commons, to ventilate the alleged grievances of the Western Australian people. Although -the honorable senator spoke with such fire and volume of sound that, for the moment, I though it was Senator Collings or Senator Dunn speaking, I do not think that he should have said what he did before a member of the British Parliament.
– Mr. Malcolm MacDonald may be one of those who will consider the petition of the Western Australian people with respect to secession.
– The remarks of the honorable senator might leave a totally wrong impression, as he was the only speaker whilst our distinguished visitors were present. Three or four months ago, I despatched a letter to a somewhat distinguished gentleman in England, a distant relative of mine, who, when replying, asked me the meaning of the agitation for secession in Western Australia. I propose to send him a copy of the Co.se for Union, which- will give him the facts. As he holds Western Aus- - tralian stock and the other members of his family hold Victorian stock, he is interested in Australian affairs. If Mr. MacDonald should convey to that gentleman the views he heard expressed in this chamber, it might not be of advantage to Western Australia.
– He could tell him that his stock would be safer if Western Australia seceded.
– The Commonwealth is more stable than any State.
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– Nothing should be done to depreciate the value of Commonwealth or State stocks, because in the past the money borrowed in Great Britain has been the means of providing many good Australians with employment on reproductive works. Senator Johnston, who objected to- the proposed allocation, said that while £12,000 is to be provided for the Federal Capital Territory, only £10,000 is to be expended in Western Australia. I understand that only about £22,000 is to be expended in Queensland, which, compared with the expenditure by the Queensland Government of over £5,000,000 last year, and the proposed expenditure this financial year of over £6,000,000 is a mere drop in the bucket. The population, of Queensland is about one-seventh of that of the whole Commonwealth, and therefore, on a per capita basis, the allocation, for Queensland should be £25,142.28, which, in- view of the substantial measure of relief necessary, is entirely inadequate. Senator
Payne appears to have reached that period in his life when he should ask an economist to sub-edit the remarks he proposes to make. In advocating the employment of boy labour, he is suggesting something repugnant to the average Australian. The wholesale employment of boys, when unemployment is so general among their fathers, would result only in throwing their fathers out of work. I have known men. in government departments in Queensland who are stronger and even healthier than I am, but who have been compelled to retire at 65 years of age. I know of a youth, seventeen years of age, who, after passing the Commonwealth Public Service examination, had to make the momentous decision of whether he would enter the Service or accept employ ment in private enterprise. He accepted the latter, but when he reached 21, he was sacked.
– That is happening every day.
– Unfortunately it is. I know the difficulties confronting boys, because during the last two years two of my own boys, whose ages are seventeen and twenty, were seeking work; but now, as the result of their own efforts, and the results achieved in competitive examinations, are in employment. I would be sorry if, in accepting positions, they displaced men who have families to support.
– Who suggests that?
– That would be the logical outcome of the honorable senator’s suggestion. The absence of remunerative employment is ruining many youths, not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain. According to a cablegram received by a Melbourne newspaper, 75 per cent. of 100,000 men who offered themselves as recruits in the British army were rejected. That was due almost entirely to the conditions under which the people in Great Britain are compelled to live. Many men in Great Britain are short in stature and poorly nourished, in consequence of the economic conditions which prevail. These conditions may eventually be responsible for the downfall of the British Empire.
– I again ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– I am pointing out that, if the conditions of the working people in Australia are not improved, we cannot expect to maintain our position as a nation. The cablegram to which I referred also stated that in Great Britain the authorities are now faced with the problem of dealing with those who were born during the war, and who, in the absence of proper food, were not properly nourished.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The decay and waste, besides deficiencies caused by lack of nutriment, following unemployment, are serious matters from a defence point of view. Should there be need to defend Australia during the next generation we shall find the position here much the same as it is in Great Britain.
On another occasion I may deal further with this subject, but I pass on now to the report of the committee appointed to inquire into the proposal to establish in Australiaa plantfor the production of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process. I mention this subject because the successful extraction of oil from coal would open up an avenue of employment for large numbers of our people. Each year Australia pays to other countries about £10,000,000 for motive spirit. The people of Australia generally desire that experiments shall be conducted with a view to finding means of extracting oil from coal in the event of flow oil not being found in this country. The Governor-General’s Speech mentioned the unification of railway gauges, reafforestation, and water storage as proposals which the Government had under consideration with the object of providing work; I mention the extraction of oil from coal as another means of stimulating employment. The report of the committee to which I have referred states under the heading “Availability of suitable Coal Supplies “ -
It may be taken as definitely proved that there are in Australia ample supplies of bituminous coal thoroughly well suited for the production of liquid fuels by treatment with hydrogen gas under appropriate conditions of temperature and pressure and in the presence of catalysts capable of bringing about the desired chemical changes at a satisfactory rate. The proof of this is available in numerous tests carried out in the laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and at the Fuel Research Station of the British Department of Scientific and Industrial Research at East Greenwich. Parts of Australia are, as a matter of fact, particularly well provided with black coals quite as well adapted for treatment as are those which are being used at the present time in Great Britain in the large scale work just mentioned, at Billingham
I was glad to notice in the report that the Blair Athol field of Central Queensland is mentioned as a suitable place for the establishment of a plant to obtain oil from coal. The report then mentions certain experiments being carried out at Billingham, England, and goes on to say -
It seems to us, in the light of this position, that it would be folly to initiate any establishment of plant in Australia until this invaluable Dillingham experiment is completed. Certainly Imperial Chemical Industries could not be expected to expend money on what would be no more than a wholly unnecessary repetition of an experiment already in progress in Great Britain. . . Improved technique is steadily making possible an increased yield of petrol with corresponding reduction in the output of hydrocarbon gases, representing a decided improvement in the economics of hydrogenation.
Generally, the committee does not favour the establishment of such plant in Australia., for another paragraph of the report reads -
We realize that disappointment will follow an announcement of a conclusion that it would be folly to attempt the erection of a hydrogenation plant until the results of the rapidly progressing large scale experiment at Billingham are available. No other course, however, is open to us.
Those of us who visualized our coal deposits .providing employment for our people are disappointed that the committee does not recommend the erection of a hydrogenation plant. The people of Australia are inquiring whether outside interests are delaying the search for oil in Australia. I have received a letter from the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce suggesting that investigations be carried out on the Blair Athol field, where the deposits of coal are known to be at least 443,000,000 tons. I should like the Minister to give the Senate an assurance that this matter will be kept before the Government. If the Billing- ham experiments prove successful, no time should be lost in erecting plants to extract oil from coal in Australia, because in that way not only would practically one-third of the interest on the national debt be saved, but work would also be found for thousands of Australians. The proposals covered by this bill, although welcome, will not provide more than a small Christmas box to the unemployed of this country. What is wanted is that the Government shall direct its attention to big proposals such as I have mentioned, for, if successful, they would assist materially in reducing unemployment.
– In discussing a bill of this nature honorable senators should not adopt a parochial view. Senator Johnston asked whether the allocation to the States had been made on a per capita basis or according to population or area. If it were on an area basis the honorable senator would no doubt be pleased, for in that case Western Australia would receive about one-third of the amount to be appropriated. During the honorable senator’s speech I interjected that although Western Australia is a large State, much of it has a low rainfall, and can be classed only as poor country, some of it almost desert, incapable of carrying more than one .head of cattle to 200 or 300 square miles. Information supplied in the House of Representatives indicates that most of the works to be undertaken with the money to be appropriated under this bill are already long overdue. For a number of years, particularly since the Scullin Government came into office in 1929, the defences of this country have been sadly neglected. Rifle ranges, parade grounds, drill halls, and other necessary units of a defence system have been allowed to get into shocking disrepair, and I am, therefore, glad that attention is to be given to them. The Tasmanian allocation will be expended on repairs to various post offices and rifle ranges, road construction in the vicinity of the aerodrome on King Island, and renovations to war service homes. Indeed, an examination of the works proposed to be undertaken in the several States reveals that most of them are long overdue.
I join issue with Senator Johnston from Western Australia - whom I am glad to see fully restored to health and able to take his seat in this chamber again - in his references to the Commonwealth. I am a native-born son of Tasmania, and am proud to represent it in the Senate, but I am first of all an Australian. I cannot forget that some twenty years ago, as a member of the 15th Battalion of the A.I.F., which consisted of Queenslanders and Tasmanians, I was associated with the chummy 16th Battalion, which came from the State of Western Australia. No finer battalion ever trod this earth. Physically, mentally, and in every other respect they were a magnificent body of men. The great bulk of them came from the goldfields, and all were good Australians. I cannot believe that Senator Johnston was expressing the views of the people of Western Australia when, he spoke as he did this afternoon with regard to secession. Secession is unthinkable. We in this island continent are Australians first of all. There is a legislative remedy for all our ills, and the good sense of the majority of the people of this great country will see that every portion of it gets a fair and just deal. Senator Johnston was rather unfortunate in his reference to the disabilities and wrongs of his State. One might retort in a way that would be effective, but rather unpleasant, by reminding him that the Commonwealth carried out its part of the bargain with regard to the construction of the EastWest railway, but that Western Australia has not yet carried out its portion of the bargain by laying down a uniform gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Perth. That, however, is a subject that has nothing to do with this bill, and I shall not pursue it. I would ask the honorable senator, however, to keep all these things in mind and to take a big broad Australian view rather than the small parochial view of this great question. Surely we should not be parochial in dealing with this bill, debating it merely from the point of view of the expenditure to be made in the several States, and entering into a somewhat acrimonious discussion as to whether the expenditure should be distributed on a population or an area basis. I am afraid that my own little State would suffer if either of those principles were adopted, and I therefore shall not advocate either of them. The schedule to the bill itself shows how the money is to be expended. It is to be regretted that interstate feeling on the question of secession should have been imported into this debate. The bill contains no reference to secession, and secession, I repeat, is absolutely unthinkable. In 1914 I was a Tasmanian, but after the 25th April, 1915, thank God, I, in common with hundreds and thousands of others, became an Australian, and I hold that in the consideration of all these matters we should adopt a truly Australian attitude. We come from different States, it is true, but we are the same in speech, in blood, in race and tradition, and to talk of secession is not only utterly futile, but also absolutely unAustralian. Such talk will not get us anywhere.
This bill marks the first step in the plans of the Government to relieve unemployment
– A very small step.
– I grant that it is. The greatest problem confronting us at the present time concerns the means to be taken to secure the employment of our youth. It is pitiful and pathetic that hundreds and thousands of the rising generation should be out of work. I receive every week letters from all sorts and conditions of people residing in my State asking for my assistance in obtaining employment for their boys. These boys have done everything their parents have asked of them. They have passed from’ the State schools to the secondary schools, and some have even graduated from our universities, yet we have nothing to offer them. The problem is one that we should deal with irrespective of considerations of party, creed or sex. It will have to be solved, but it certainly will not be solved if we approach it from a party point of view.
This bill is merely incidental to the Government’s unemployment scheme. As the Minister has said, it is a purely machinery measure, but unfortunately the machinery by which we hope to absorb our unemployed seems to be rather sticky and is much in need of lubrication in order that it may work better. I commend the bill to the Senate, and will support it, but I repeat that the problem of finding employment for our youth has to be solved, and I tremble to think what may happen to this fair land of Australia, unless it is solved within the next two or three years.
– I do not propose to go down to the lower levels that have been sounded by some honorable senators during this debate, nor to try to reach the higher ranges which have also marked this discussion, but I intend to offer a few observations on the apparent misconception in the minds of some honorable senators regarding the scope and intention of this measure. The bill, as I indicated when moving the second reading, is a mere palliative. It will give a certain measure of relief between now and the end of the year, but is not intended to represent the policy of the Government in regard to unemployment. That policy must have much greater consideration and will be brought down to this chamber after mature deliberation. I do not propose to discuss the root causes of unemployment which our honorable friends opposite are prepared so quickly and readily to determine. I would point out to them, however, that their brothers in the various State parliaments have failed to do anything; though theirs is the duty in the first place to deal with unemployment within their own borders, they have failed to provide any solution for this most distressing problem. Even those who claim to be greater than Lenin will find, if they look at the condition of affairs in the country where his principles apply to-day, that the situation is there more distressful than that which applies in Australia. In Russia conditions of hunger and suffering unparalleled in the rest of the world prevail. With such an example before us it would ill become us to consider those measures which have been indicated by certain honorable senators opposite, and which, if applied to Australia, would result in a still greater degree of suffering on the part of those whom my honorable friends desire to serve. It is the deep concern of this Go vernment, as it must be the deep concern of every government, that the unemployed position shall be remedied as speedily as possible, but to apply a remedy that would make the last condition of these people worse than the present would be utter folly.
– Your Government has done nothing.
– What my honorable friends opposite would do would be worse than nothing. The Labour party would rend this country by applying to it principles that have proved elsewhere to be unsound.
– What are they?
– My honorable friends opposite have held up Russia as a shining example. What are the conditions there to-day?
– We have not mentioned it to-day.
– No; but the honorable member and his party would bring into operation here the principles that apply in that country. They are afraid, however, to tell the people that that is exactly what they do propose, because the knowledge is spreading that Russia is in a state of the most pitiable distress.
– The honorable senator reminds me of poor old Rasputin.
– The honorable senator probably moves in a circle that knows more of Rasputin than I do. I am dealing not with Rasputin, but with a question of principle. It has been suggested that this is only a temporary measure. I admit that it is. I do not put it forward as representing even the works policy of the Government to assist the unemployed. I have already explained the reason for its introduction at this juncture. It has been said that it is an exceedingly modest effort compared with what has been done by the States. I point out in the first place that it is a mere palliative, and in the second place that we have not the facilities for spending money that are available to the States. The States control water supply, railways and other large enterprises with which the Commonwealth does not deal, and in respect of these they can engage in a good deal of expenditure. May I say to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), that this is merely an appropriation bill to enable £176,000 to be expended in the relief of unemployment by the end of the year, and that the usual conditions will prevail. The expenditure will be entirely under the control of the Commonwealth Works Department, and none of those pranks which some one suggested was played by another distinguished government, whose name I have forgotten, will be indulged in.
– The Scullin Government did not indulge in any pranks.
– Then, shall I say that none of the pranks which it intended to play will be resorted to by this Government in the expenditure of this money. Before the Christmas recess, 1 shall place before honorable senators the major proposals of the Government to deal with this problem in its wider sphere. Much has been said in this debate concerning the basis upon which the various grants have been allocated. In dealing with a hurried measure of this kind, it was almost impossible to consider the merits of any scientific system such as one honorable gentleman suggested for allocation of the money between the States.
In arranging the distribution among the States, the claims of the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory were not taken into consideration, and in respect of them no estimate was made on a basis of either population or area. If an area basis had been adopted in respect of the Northern Territory, which is the concern of the Commonwealth alone, the Commonwealth might have retained a larger share for expenditure in that area. So far as the Federal Capital Territory is concerned, the ordinary annual Estimates were pruned and repruned with the result that an amount of approximately £12,000 was refused for works within the Territory which the Department of the Interior considered essential. In allocating these grants, the Government endeavoured to rectify that decrease in the Estimates for the Federal Capital Territory. The grant of £4,000 for expenditure in the Northern Territory will be devoted to the construction and repair of roads and approaches to various centres. Had we distributed this money on a population basis, Western Australia, which is now to receive £10,702, would have got only £9,940. Had we adopted as a basis the numbers of unemployed in the respective areas, Western Australia, because of its favorable position in this respect, would have received only between £8,000 and £9,000.
– But that would be the fairest way to distribute the money.
– Had we adopted it, Senator Johnston would have had greater cause for complaint.
– It is an unemployment grant, so it should be distributed on an unemployment basis.
– But the expenditure is limited to Commonwealth works required to be done in the various States. When honorable senators examine the schedule, they will find that we have had to look around in order to find Commonwealth works that could be put in hand expeditiously. Contrary to the views apparently held by some honorable senators, the Government is not ladling out this money to the States; the grant is to be expended on Commonwealth works under Commonwealth supervision.
In regard to the unemployed in Canberra, about 800 of these unfortunate men are on our hands; they are the responsibility of the Commonwealth alone; no State will have them, and they cannot get employment in New South Wales, Victoria, or any other State. Thus we have to make some provision for their employment as best we can under this temporary scheme.
– That is a poor reply. There is sufficient work waiting to be done in Canberra on which we could employ all those who are now unemployed and reside here, and many others.
– The class of labour available here could not be utilized on the type of work required to be done.
– They could do all the preparatory work.
– A lot of them will get such work; but we have to remember that our immediate duty is to provide for all of the 800 unemployed men in this Territory.
The Government has not lost sight of the need for encouraging gold production, to which Senator Brown referred, or the possibility of obtaining oil from coal by the hydrogenation process referred to by Senator MacDonald. However, should Senator Brown need enlightenment on the views I hold on the matter of gold production, I invite him to refer to Hansard for 1929 or 1930; he will see from speeches which I madeon this subject that I hold very clear views on the need for gold production being placed on an efficient basis, because of the effect which mining development would have on unemployment andour economic position generally.
Senator Sampson and Senator Payne emphasized the unfortunate conditions of our unemployed youth. This matter will no doubt be debated when, at a later date, we consider the problem of unemployment in its major aspects. At this stage, however, I want honorable senators to understand that the Government is in deadly earnest over this problem. In this regard there is no more sympathetic soul than the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), to reveal whose feelings in the matter I am tempted to quote Goldsmith’s line, “ And e’en his failings lean’d to Virtue’s side.” The Prime Minister in dealing with this problem, is tempted out of the goodness of his heart to do things which, in the long run,would not prove of real benefit to the unemployed themselves.
-Then, why does he not do something?
– The Government has reduced unemployment in this country, and it is an achievement whichour predecessors, with all their fantastic ideas, were unable to accomplish.
Senator Duncan-Hughes referred to the need for improving the drain at the Keswick defence reserve. A start, though a belated one. is being made with that work. Criticism was also voiced concerning Canberra as the seat of administration, and also on the changes made in the
Ministry. Examining the photographs of my predecessors which hang in the Post Office in Melbourne, I found that I am the twenty-first Postmaster-General to hold office during the 33 years of federation, and I wondered what understanding of the activities of the post office some of my predecessors had been able to acquire. But frequent change is a common feature of political life in this country, and the disadvantage of it is particularly evident in connexion with the administration of the territories. That, however, is a matter that does not arise under this bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [8.42]. - Can the Minister inform honorable senators as tothe details of the works proposed to be undertaken under section 3 of the schedule, which deals with the construction and repair of roads on and approaching Commonwealth property? Until this measure was brought down the Commonwealth entirely evaded its responsibilities with respect to the repair of roads which lead to its properties in the various States. I feel very gratified that the Government at last proposes to undertake work in this direction. Several of these roads requiring attention have been brought under the notice of myself and others.
– For works of the nature which the honorable senator mentioned the following allocations will be made from this grant : -New South Wales, £15,668; Victoria, £3,832 ; Western Australia, £1,200 ; Tasmania, £600. I am not in a position at the moment toname the particular roads which have been selected in Western Australia to be attended to under this grant, but I understand that in that State and in Victoria they are roads which have been the subject of complaint by honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives from time to time.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Billread a third time.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I desire to inform the Senate, that, accompanied by honorable senators, I this day waited on the GovernorGeneral and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, agreed to on the 15th November. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
I receive with much pleasure the Address which has been adopted by the Senate in reply to the Speech which I delivered on the occasion of the opening of the First Session of the Fourteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth, and I thank you for your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
Senator McLachlan laid on the table a copy of the supplement to the First Report of the royal commission on the Wheat, Flour and Bread Industries.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 11th December next, at 3 p.m.
I find that the Appropriation Bill, which I had hoped would be sent up to this chamber before the week-end, has not yet been passed by the House of Representatives. I regret that it was necessary to call honorable senators together this week because of the urgency of the Appropriation (Work and Services) Bill, which they have been good enough to pass.
– I feel constrained to say a few words of comment on the motion that the Senate shall adjourn until Tuesday week. When I reached Canberra to-day and examined the notice-paper for the Senate, Ifound that it was completely bare of Government business. The only business listed was in the form of five questions by private members and the usual three contingent notices of motion. I anticipated when this chamber adjourned the week before last that there would not be much legislation to consider when it resumed this week, and I ventured to suggest privately that rather than summon members from all parts of Australia when there was no work to do, the preferable course would be to carry a motion authorizing the President to summon members when there was business for this chamber to transact. This is the fifth sitting day of the Senate since the opening of the new Parliament, and on three occasions this chamber rose before 6 o’clock. I do not wish to stress this aspect of the matter too much, but I remind Ministers that it is no light thing for members from the more distant States to attend in Canberra unless there is business to be done. It is comparatively easy for Ministers, who, perhaps are required to remain in Canberra to administer their departments, and it is relatively easy for those senators from New South Wales and Victoria who can reach this city by train in a few hours; but the position is quite different with senators representing Queensland, Tasmania or my own State. Senators from Western Australia seem to have no chance of returning to their State at all during a session. They have to come here at the opening of Parliament and stay here or in one of the nearer capital cities until the legislature adjourns. Therefore, in this matter, I am speaking more directly for the representatives from Tasmania, Queensland, and South Australia. I must confess that I find it fatiguing to be obliged to spend as I did the week before last, and as I shall probably have to do this week, four nights out of five travelling in a train, unless such a course is necessary for the transaction of public business. Furthermore, it is not reasonable to State governments which allow us free passages over their railway lines unless there is good cause for it. Of course, I do not for a moment begrudge attendance in Parliament when my duties require it. On this point I am sure that I can speak on behalf of other senators also. I have always held that it is the duty of a member of Parliament to attend when Parliament is sitting, and ever since
I have been a member of this legislature, I have kept my absences down to a minimum. We are paid to be here and should attend when Parliament is sitting. But members may fairly expect that the difficulties of attendance will receive some consideration, and that they will not be brought here, as they were a fortnight ago and again this week, for the purpose of sitting merely for a few hours and then being told that they are at liberty to return to their homes a thousand miles or more away and remain there for a fortnight. As most of us have other work to do, I do not think we should be justified in remaining here for perhaps ten or fourteen days doing nothing. The inevitable result of these frequent adjournments of the Senate is that at the end of a session we are involved in a hopeless rush when legislation is being fairly shovelled before us in a way that makes it impossible for us to thoroughly master the details. I do not suggest that this is the fault of any party in this Parliament. The fault is probably common to all governments and parties. No doubt, it is desirable, from the point of view of a ministry, that members who are in the habit of offering embarrassing criticism should not’ have too many opportunities to do so. I am, however, afraid that this way of conducting the business of the Senate is liable to bring this chamber into a certain amount of disrepute. I do not say that this is the fault of Senate Ministers, although I think the Government could, if it wished, initiate more legislation in this chamber. In the sheep industry, as some honorable senators are no doubt aware, it is regarded as one of the first essentials if the work is to be conducted smoothly, that the station-owner or manager should, during shearing, keep the sheep up to the shearer. That principle, I suggest, might, with advantage, be applied by Ministers in this chamber. Speaking figuratively, we are called together to shear something - to consider and criticize legislation designed for the public good - and it is to be deplored that, as in the case of the indifferent station-manager, there is now no work for us to do. I presume that, as it is stated that Parliament will soon be adjourning until early in
February, there is no likelihood of there being a great rush of legislation before .we adjourn, as has happened in the past, but that many of the measures contemplated may be postponed over the Christmas vacation. It is, however, inevitable that certain bills will require consideration before we adjourn. To obviate future difficulties due to the rush of legislation at the end of a session, I suggest that, as we are dependent upon the House of Representatives for the supply of the necessary “ sheep “ to be shorn, the Government should adopt the practice of the House of Commons, which, in order to ensure the passage of bills within a reasonable time, works to a schedule; that is to say it fixes the time by which the various stages of particular bills must be completed. At the appointed time the guillotine is applied, a vote is taken, and the measure is completed. As the number of members in the Senate is not large, and some honorable gentlemen do not speak very often, I would prefer the guillotine to be applied after reasonable discussion of a bill, instead of having an interminable discussion on subjects in general and then a tremendous rush of work at the end of every session. The adoption of the House of Commons practice would, I believe, be a good way out of our difficulties. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will consider the suggestion which has been made to it several times privately, and which I now make publicly because nothing appears to have been done. As, under existing arrangements, Senate Ministers cannot say definitely when there will be work for us to do, I think it would be better, on occasions like this, if the President were authorized to send telegrams to honorable senators advising them when their presence was required for the transaction of public business. This would be preferable to requiring them to spend so much time travelling about Australia to no purpose.
.- It is regrettable that, because of the state of public business in the House of Representatives, the Senate again finds itself with no work to do. I do not charge the representatives of the Ministry in this chamber with neglect, or with a desire to embarrass or inconvenience honorable senators. Apparently, it is not their fault ; but . the responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of some one. Parliament has now been sitting for some weeks, but effect has not been given to the promises made prior to the general elections, and prominent amongst which was the immediate relief of unemployment. Honorable senators are compelled to travel long distances to attend the Senate only to find that the work which they are required to do occupies only a few hours. Thousands of people throughout Australia are awaiting almost with palpitating hearts for the Government to honour its promises, particularly with respect to unemployment. The Opposition in this chamber is not sufficiently strong to embarrass the Government. The Ministry is embarrassed by its own-
– Incapacity ?
– Exactly. Parliament has been sitting for only a few weeks, but the Prime Minister now finds that he cannot give effect to the policy which he enunciated prior to the last general election, and that criticisms are being indulged in not only by the members of the Opposition, but also by hia own supporters. I believe that the Prime Minister, who would die rather than break a promise to a pal, now has to admit that he cannot do what he undertook to do. The right honorable gentleman, who said that the tariff would not be tampered with by his Government, finds that owing to the exigencies of the political situation the protection policy may possibly be destroyed. It has been stated in the press that certain tariff board reports, which were deliberately suppressed prior to the elections, will shortly be made public. How can a government, which includes the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and other members of tho Country party, submit a definite policy to Parliament? The Prime Minister retires at night, and returns to duty next morning to find that Dr. Page has spent the night in compiling further tariff amendments. I know that the Post.masterGeneral (Senator McLachlan) is doing his best in very difficult circumstances; but on a previous occasion
I suggested to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that this chamber should adjourn for three weeks in order that we might have something to do on our return. It is now proposed that the Senate shall re-assemble on the 11th December and, according to the press which controls this Government, Parliament will go into recess on the 14th of that month. Apparently, the Government intend to ask the Senate to dispose of, within three days, whatever legislation is dealt with by the House of Representatives between now and the 11th December. Such legislation will be chewed over by the House of Representatives and then spat at this chamber !
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them. Honorable senators are willing and anxious to assist in the passage of legislation framed with the object of improving the conditions of the Australian people. The time has arrived for the introduction of a better system than that which now prevails, and which causes such a good deal of inconvenience to honorable senators generally.
.- I support the views expressed by Senator Duncan-Hughes with respect to honorable senators being brought to Canberra from time to time to find that there is very little business for the Senate to transact. As was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes), honorable senators will be expected within three days to dispose of business which had occupied the House of Representatives for several weeks. There are several contributing factors, one of which the Leader of the Opposition conveniently ignored. He blamed certain individuals in another branch of the legislature, but he refrained from mentioning others who are really responsible. I read the proceedings of this Parliament carefully, and I know that much time is wasted by the Opposition merely with the object of preventing legislation from being brought forward.
– The honorable senator did not speak in that strain when he was in Opposition.
– Because of the continued obstruction which has taken place in the House of Representatives, practically nothing of value has been accomplished by Parliament this session. For that state of affairs, the party to which Senator Barnes belongs is in a large measure responsible.
– The Government has been so busy making changes in the Cabinet that it has not had time for anything else.
– At a. time like this, when great difficulties confront the nation, the Government should be able to rely on the co-operation of the Opposition in dealing with essential legislation.
– We are anxious to help the Government, but very little legislation has been brought before us.
– Because of obstructive tactics in the other branch of the legislature the Senate is frequently called upon to deal hurriedly with legislation at the end of a session. Many senators travel long distances - from Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland and other States - to attend to their duties, only to find, far too frequently, that there is no business for them to attend to. It is time that these petty tactics ceased, and all joined to place on the statute-book legislation of value to Australia.
– What important measures have been obstructed by the Labour party?
– The amendment moved to the Address-in-Reply was merely party political propaganda. I have no objection to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech being discussed on ite merits, but it is wrong to waste time with unnecessary amendments. I hope that in future members of the Opposition in this chamber will confer with their fellow members in the other branch of the legislature with a view to avoiding unnecessary delays in dealing with legislation.
– Honorable senators should not be called together unless there is work for them to do. I desire to attend every sitting of the Senate, but I object to being brought here for one day’s work after an adjournment for thirteen days, and then, because there is no business before the Senate, having to spend another thirteen days awaiting a further call to Canberra. I left Fremantle on the 8 th November, although, had I travelled overland, instead of by steamer, I could have left a day or two later, and reached here as soon. On the day on which I arrived in Sydney, intending to proceed at once to Canberra, the Senate adjourned for thirteen days. Now, after one day’s sitting, it is proposed to adjourn for another thirteen days. The main business of the Senate will not begin until the 11th December, so that I could have remained in Western Australia another four weeks and still have reached here in time to participate in the business of the Senate. I realize that, because of constitutional difficulties, and the provisions of the Standing Orders, certain classes of legislation must be initiated in the House of Representatives.
– That is the whole difficulty.
-Surely it is possible to initiate more legislation in this chamber than is done now! I am concerned about what is likely to happen when we meet on the 11th December, because it is reported in the press that Parliament is to adjourn a few days later. Although I desire to be home for Christmas, I would prefer to stay here aird attend in a proper manner to the work that comes before us rather than that the business of the Senate should be rushed through without proper consideration being given to it. The Government has promised to introduce measures providing for rural rehabilitation, the relief of farmers, the appointment of an interstate commission, and other important matters. I hope that, when they come before us, honorable senators will have an opportunity to read and consider them, before being asked to record their votes. On. several occasions legislation for the relief of wheat-growers has been brought before us in the closing hours of a session, and we have been forced to sit all night to deal with it, without having had a proper chance to understand its provisions. After a long sitting, honorable senators are unable to grasp the finer points of the legislation placed before them, and they are unable ro consult those whom it vitally concerns.
If, when we again meet, there is any attempt to show undue haste in dealing with the matters that come before us, I shall support any attempt to secure the adjournment of the debate in order to allow sufficient time for adequate consideration. I favour the abolition of the Federal Parliament altogether, but so long as it continues I shall oppose the abolition of the Senate. The worst enemies of the Senate are not those persons who advocate from the soap box the abolition of this august chamber, but those who, in the Senate, are prepared to allow legislation to pass without proper consideration being given to it. Members of the Senate have a duty to perform in tho review of legislation passed by the House of Representatives, and the protection, of the rights of the weaker State.?. “What chance is there of dealing with legislation when the Standing Orders are suspended to enable bills to be passed through all their stages with, but honorable senators having a full knowledge of their contents, and an opportunity to consult those most concerned ? I hope that the Government will heed the protests of Senator DuncanHughes and others, and not call the Senate together unless there is work for it to do. Senators from Western Australia have to spend five days in trains to reach Canberra, and it is irritating to find no work to do when we get here. The convenience of honorable senators should be considered more than it is.
– When the Senate meets again on the 11th December, very little time will remain before Christmas to deal with the legislation which will come before it. We have not been told what business will be submitted to us when we re-assemble, although I assume that we shall be asked to deal with the budget and the Appropriation Bill. There is no mention of any tariff proposal being brought before us. As a matter of fact, the Government does not know where it is. For the last two months it has been engaged in making cabinets rather than in preparing legislation. Three different cabinets have been formed within the last eight -weeks. On the 16th September - the day after the general election - the Government knew what the result would be, and, i” view of its promises during the campaign, it should have got to work straight away. Instead of that, it has been forming cabinets - a pleasing job to those who remain in, but very unpleasant for those who fall out. In Victoria, 25 years ago, a non-Labour party with a substantial majority in both Houses formed so many cabinets that there was scarcely a member of either House who did not at one time or another hold office. It is rumour*“4 that the present Government, as cotstructed by the cabinet makers, is not satisfactory to the two parties involved, so that when we meet next February the process of cabinet making will probably continue, and the business of the country will again be held up. Like Senator Duncan-Hughes, who rarely addresses the Senate without making a suggestion, I propose to put forward something in the way of an innovation, although I fear it will not meet with the approval of the majority. Following Aristotle’s idea of how a country should be ruled - that there should be rotation of office - I say that there should be a rotation of members on the ministerial bench, and particularly in this chamber. Such a change would have a very healthy effect upon the conduct of Ministers in the Senate. If, for instance, Senator McLachlan knew that in any event he would have to go out of office within a year of his having joined the Ministry, he would be more ready to fight for the rights of the Senate. I am an abolitionist, but while the Senate exists its rights ae a States’ House and chamber of review should be preserved.
– Why would the honorable senator abolish the Senate!
– For a number of reasons, which time will not permit me to state to-night. But given a House of Representatives plus a liberal use of the popular referendum, I think the democratic needs of this country would be met. That is what Labour intends. It would abolish this chamber, but would bring in an, instrument of redress that would meet all the requirements of a progressive democratic community like Australia. If members of the Government in this chamber knew that they could not retain office for more than twelve months or two years, they would be more independent of their colleagues in another place and less inclined to kow-tow to the majority of the members of the Cabinet who sit in that other place. As a matter of fact, little respect is shown to this chamber; even when an honorable senator asks a question, difficulties are put in the way of an answer to it. “We do not receive the respect that is our due. If I were to submit twenty questions a day, as I might easily do if I so desired, I should perhaps expect to receive something of the treatment now meted out to us, but, as it is, there is no excuse for it. Ministers in this chamber appear to feel that their first duty is to the majority of the Cabinet sitting in another place, and they are prepared to allow the Senate to be treated just as Ministers in another place think fit. We are called here again and again only to find that there is no business ready for submission to us. It is ridiculous to suggest that there has been any obstruction on the part of the Labour party in either House. Reference has been made to the amendment to the AddressinReply ; but all who have spent any time in Parliament know that a debate on the Address-in-Reply gives a newly-elected government time to prepare its legislalation. In the case of a homogeneous Government, which is not quarrelling about the spoils of office, a fortnight’s debate on the Address-in-Reply gives it an opportunity to prepare legislation based on the programme which it has submitted to the people. That opportunity, however, has not been availed of by the present Government, and consequently we have these frequent adjournments of the Senate. I suggest that the Government should give stronger representation to Queensland. We have over one-seventh of the population of Australia - a population verging on 1,000,000-
– The honorable senator is getting very wide of the subjectmatter of the motion.
– If Queensland had proper representation, the position would be improved. As it is, my State is represented in the Cabinet by only an Assistant Minister.
I ask that the Minister when replying will give us an idea of the business that we shall be called upon to deal with when we resume on the 11th December, and state what time we shall have to discuss it. Those are two reasonable requests. A good Opposition is essential to every Parliament. It is the duty of an Opposition to discuss the business brought before the Parliament, and we certainly should not be expected, when we resume after a fortnight’s adjournment, to deal with the Estimates and other important matters in three or four days.
– I think that Senator Duncan-Hughes and Senator “ Secessionist “ Johnston are to be highly complimented on the way they have dealt with this matter.
– Senator Johnston is not a secessionist.
– While representatives of New Zealand were present this afternoon, he did some splendid propaganda work for Western Australia and the secession movement there. The frequency with which the Senate is adjourned serves to demonstrate to the people that it is of no great service to Australia.
– Why not resign ?
– As a member of the Labour party, I believe in the abolition of the Senate, but just as Mr. Malcolm MacDonald said to-day, when dealing with the delicate matter of the restriction of trade between Australia and the Old Country, that he agreed with the principle of restriction, but recognized the difficulty of carrying it out, so, while agreeing that the Senate should be abolished as proposed by the Australian Labour party, I hope it will not be abolished until I have spent a few years as a member of it. Personally, it suits me very well to be a senator, but having regard to the way in which the Senate is treated by the Government it must be admitted that the game is not being played with the people of Australia. I am not going to say where the ‘blame rests, but I am satisfied that if the present Government really had, as it claimed during the elections, a solution of our economic problems, it would before now have introduced the necessary legislation. It is unfair for Senator Payne to sal that members of the Labour party in another place deliberately obstructed the passing of certain legislation. His statement is grossly inaccurate. Mr. Scullin has said, on several occasions, that if the Government brought down proposals that would tend to solve the unemployed problem, our party would do all in its power to give legislative effect to them. Having regard to the casual sittings of the Senate, it seems to me that its business might very well be done by correspondence. There would be no occasion then for Senator Johnston to leave Western Australia. We could be informed by post of the business proposed by the Government, and could notify the Government of how we proposed to cast our votes.
It would appear that after next June, with only three of us on this side of the chamber, if God spares us-
– Who is to be your leader ?
– I may give the leadership to Senator Collings or to Senator MacDonald; or perhaps I may take it myself. Let me assure Senator Sampson, however, that whoever is our leader, we shall continue to carry out our work with zest, and, I hope with a measure of ability. I repeat that the conduct of business in this chamber has become a burlesque, and the responsibility devolves upon the Government which believes in the bi-cameral system, so to organize its legislative programme as to ensure that full opportunity will be given bo honorable senators on both sides of the chamber to analyse and discuss adequately all proposed legislation.
– Perhaps I am responsible, in a measure, for bringing this censure on my head. The only reason, however, for my decision a fortnight ago to re-assemble honorable senators to-day was that the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill could be no longer delayed. Its passage through the House of Representatives had been expedited, and if honorable senators had not re-assembled to-day, it is possible that this legislation would not have become operative in time to afford the relief which the Government considers is urgently needed by the class of people whom it has been devised to assist. I realize that it is very inconvenient for honorable senators to be brought from their homes to Canberra to sit for a single day, but I had to take that risk in the absence of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). I knew that the legislation we have ready could not be introduced in this chamber, and, at the same time, I was doubtful as to whether the House of Representatives would have passed the Appropriation Bill in time to make it available for consideration by honorable senators to-day.
– Could not the President have telegraphed to honorable senators as has been done before?
– I shall deal with that point later. Something has been said to the effect that we are not playing the game with the public. From what I have seen in the House of Representatives the “game” is being played - the political cards are being played, and nothing is being done to enable the Government to function as it should. Legislative measures are exercising the minds of Ministers night and day, but the Government is being harassed by a hydraheaded Opposition which mouths and proclaims its pity for the unemployed, and its desire to serve the people, but, at the same time, is holding up essential legislation. Thus the responsibility for this delay cannot rest on the shoulders of the Government.
– What measures have been held up ?
– The Estimates, for instance. I understand that these have been discussed in three different ways* What sort of a “ game “ are those responsible for these tactics playing? An amendment was moved to reduce the first item on the Estimates by fi, and debate ensued ad nauseam. When that amendment was disposed of another Opposition member took advantage of the Standing Orders to move that the amount be reduced by 10s., with the result that the whole of the debate was repeated. These tactics have been continued week after week. My friends opposite smile when I point out these things; but such methods are not politically honest, and do not reflect credit on any party, or parties, responsible for them. These tactics are employed to the detriment of the people, and thereby legislation which could have been submitted to the Senate has been delayed. I cannot accept, on behalf of the Government, any responsibility for what has happened in this respect. In bringing honorable senators here to-day, I was actuated by the knowledge that the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill had to be passed immediately in the interests of those people whom it is intended to benefit. It is provided under the Constitution that Parliament must meet within 30 days of an election. Some considerable time elapsed before the results of the election were known definitely; we met within the statutory period; the Government was re-formed, and the House of Representatives has been in session every week since.
Perhaps the best course to adopt in future to avoid the inconvenience of which honorable senators have complained is that suggested by Senator DuncanHughes, viz., that if business is not ready for the consideration of the Senate, its reassembly should be delayed, and members summoned later by telegram. That is the procedure adopted when the Senate is adjourning for a lengthy and indefinite period. However, in the absence of the Leader of the Senate, 1 did not care to take the responsibility of altering the practice that has been followed in the past. In fixing the 11th December as the date of resumption for the Senate, I have a fairly reliable idea of what business we shall then be asked to deal with. The measures include one or two which cannot be initiated in this Senate, because they must be preceded by a message from the Governor-General. These, however, are not of urgent importance, and could very well wait until January or February. But there are three major matters to which this chamber will be asked to direct its attention. First, there is the larger measure of unemployment relief, which is being prepared and will have to be first considered in the House of Representatives. The second measure will deal with the wheat industry, the report on which I tabled this evening. Thirdly, there will be the Appropriation Bill, which should, be passed before the 51st December, as we have supply only to that date.
– And we are to get through those measures in three days?
– I see unreason why the Appropriation Bill could not be passed in one day if honorablesenators dealt with it expeditiously.. Information is always available on every detail of the Estimates. Usually the delay occurs, not in considering the items, but through the dissemination of political propaganda before the chambercommences to discuss the details of expenditure. It may be that honorablesenators will find it impossible to get through the work allotted, but in the interests of honorable senators who haveto journey to distant States, the Government is hopeful that Parliament will be able to deal with these matters so that it may rise at the ensuing week-end. Honorable senators are already familiarwith the class of legislation relating to» the wheat industry, and with the general proposals for the relief of unemployment,, whilst the Appropriation Bill will be a matter for consideration in commitee.
I do not propose to follow the ramifications of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes^, who* made various suggestions inferring, iaone instance, that members in another place have sacrificed principle. So far- a3 the formation of the composite government is concerned, there has been. n®< sacrifice of principle by any honorablemember. It is suggested that we should” initiate more work in this chamber. That could be done, except for the reason that the legislation we desire to consider has: to be initiated in the House of Representatives by message from the GovernorGeneral. The illustration employed by Senator Duncan-Hughes that the Government, in presenting business to theSenate is failing to keep the sheep up tothe shearers, is not quite to the point. In-, my day, a shearer was paid at a piecework rate. The shearers in this chamber, if honorable senators may be so described,, are not employed on a piece-work rate,, but at an annual salary.
I realize the responsibility resting, onthe Government in this matter, but Ministers cannot help themselves. Thebill dealt with to-day was pressing, aRc the legislation to be presented to this chamber on the 11th December will also be of an urgent nature. But we cannot deal with it until it is passed by the other- chamber. If honorable senators opposite have any influence -with those responsible for the delay in the House of Repre- sentatives, I suggest they might exert it for the convenience of honorable senators. -Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Report and Balance-sheet of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited - Foreigners in Northern Waters - Alleged .Armed Organizations in Australia - Rat Poison: Sales Tax - Claim of Captain Conway.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Copies of the report of the directors and the balance-sheet of Commonwealth Oil Henneries Limited, as at the 30th June, 1934, have been placed on the table of the Library.
On the 14th November, when replying to certain observations by Senator Foll, I indicated that I would have further inquiries made from the External Affairs Department with a view to a more definite statement being .made in regard to the operations of Japanese vessels in North Queensland waters. Several reports have been received recently to the effect that foreign shell-fishing vessels are operating actively, and apparently Tin increasing numbers, in waters off the Australian coast. Allegations have ako been made from time to time that -Japanese crews have been responsible for damage to planters’ holdings, but no specific report has been received by the -Commonwealth Government of the depreciations in regard to the destruction of coco-nut trees, to which the honorable senator referred. The Commonwealth “have been fully seized for some time of the necessity for being able to legislate for fisheries in territorial waters, and raised the matter at the constitutional conference in February last. No conclusion was arrived at, and subsequently the Commonwealth Government communicated with the State governments to ascertain if they were prepared, either by way of amendment of the Constitution Or by a possible reference of power, to facilitate the Commonwealth exercising legislative powers in regard to whale fisheries, pearl, beche-de-mer, and trochus fisheries within territorial limits. Up to the present only four States have replied to this communication, and the nature of these replies indicates that there is no measure of agreement on the subject. Therefore, the Commonwealth and States in the meantime, must take such measures ,as will enable their own laws to be enforced, and steps with a view to more adequate policing are now being taken by the Commonwealth departments concerned.
On the 13 th November, a copy of a report, to which reference had been made by Senator Collings, was ordered to be laid upon the table of the Senate. This report dealt with an alleged armed organization in Queensland, and, more particularly, the statement was made therein that during the last six months rifles had been sold to the public from the Brisbane military ordnance stores in large numbers, and that only six transactions had been recorded. The Government has had this statement investigated, and it appears that, since the prohibition of the importation of arms and ammunition into Australia, the Defence Department has been selling arms and ammunition to the public under certain conditions approved by the Minister. These conditions are designed to ensure that the purchasers are reputable persons. Firms who purchase for re-sale are required to keep a record of every sale for inspection by the department whenever desired. Service rifles and ammunition are extensively used in kangaroo and buffalo hunting, and in killing crocodiles. For the year ended the 30th June, 1934, the department sold throughout Australia 637 rifles and 1,040,758 rounds of small arms ammunition, exclusive of sales to rifle clubs. These quantities incidentally are much below those imported into Australia before importation was stopped. The 310-inch rifles referred to are old stock, for which there is no ammunition, a fact that makes their disposal very difficult. Reference was also made in the report to a machine gun in a building in Sydney. The story relating to this gun has been told frequently in the last three years. It has always been found to be completely without foundation. Owing to the precautions which have been taken for the safe custody of Vickers machine guns and other weapons, none has been lost by the Defence Department. There has never been any indication of possession by any organization of any automatic weapon. No information is available concerning parts for assembling armoured , cars by any Queensland organization. One Sydney organization was found to have the necessary mild steel plates to fit on twelve chassis. These passed into the possession of the Defence Department some twelve months ago.
.- Without knowing that the Minister (Senator McLachlan) had intended to make a statement of the subject of armed organizations in Australia, I had determined to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by this motion to say something, because of the statement made in the House of Representatives, and because also of the garbled reports which have appeared in the newspapers as to what I have said about the subversive organizations, as well as the contents of the document which I have laid on the table of the Senate.
The press has erroneously stated that I quoted from that document. I did nothing of the kind. My statement about the organizations in question was brief and contained no reference whatever to the document until I was challenged by one honorable senator, who asked me for the source of my information. I replied that I held in my hand a report which contained the facts alluded to and many others. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) said in the House of Representatives - I am glad that the PostmasterGeneral did not repeat the statement in the Senate to-night, for it would appear that he at least has some conscience - that I had admitted that the statement was unsigned, undated, and unofficial. I definitely told the Senate that the statement was official; that it was prepared by the Defence Department, and was presented to a department of the Queensland Government. Of course it was unsigned. ‘ My document was merely a typewritten copy of the original. I said definitely that I would not disclose the means by which I had obtained the information. The reason is, I think, obvious to most honorable senators.
– What has the Defence Department to do with the Queensland Government?
– If Senator Sampson is seeking information, he must adopt means other than that of interrogating me while I am addressing the Senate. Every one knows that the present Minister for Defence has a most unfortunate manner. He gives one the impression that he believes he can get over any difficulty by sneering at his opponent, waving his hand and declaring that “ there is nothing in it “. My statement in the Senate was true, but I quite expected that every attempt would be made to misrepresent what I said. I know enough of the operations of Government departments and of Ministers to realize that no effort would be made to verify the truth of my statements, but that, on the contrary, every attempt would be made to cast ridicule upon them. What were those statements? I asserted that the Government was taking extreme action to prevent a certain .person from landing in Australia and addressing meetings, and I went on to say that I did not know the individual concerned and had no sympathy with him. Then I put to the Government a very pertinent question, and one which I shall repeat whenever the occasion warrants it. I asked why its powers were always exercised when it appeared that the individual or the organization concerned was likely to operate on behalf of the working classes and against the policy of the present Ministry. I went on to say that the former Minister for Defence and the Government knew of the existence of subversive organizations, but had not taken any steps to suppress them. To show that I was not biased in this matter, I mentioned the New Guard, which had been and still is operating in New South Wales ; the Australian Legion which was, until a few months ago, in active operation in Northern Queensland, and the so-called Labour Red Army, which of my own personal knowledge was in existence in New South Wales in 1931 and subsequently. The last-named is a workingclass organization. I said further that I did not believe in force, and that if the Government was determined to prevent a certain man from landing in Australia to deliver lectures - I might have added that it was also censoring books which advocated a policy in opposition to that for which it stands - I would like to see it suppress these illegal organizations, which were armed. An attempt has been made to laugh that statement out of court. It has been said that the organizations concerned could not get the arms.
– Armed with what? Obsolete rifles?
– Again Senator Sampson is seeking information by way of interrogation. We now have the admission that there is a possibility of these organizations being armed. The Minister for Defence said that this statement was not true, and added that no “ concealable “ weapons had been sold by the Ordnance Department. I have not a copy of the document which I laid on the table of the Senate, but I know it contained no reference to “ concealable “ weapons. Nor did I say that any person or organization had come into the possession of “ automatic “ weapons. What I said was that arms had been sold and were in the possession of at least one of these organizations. That statement I repeat. It has been said that the swastika emblems to which reference was made in the document, were in no way symbolic of subversive organizations, but were being sold as good luck charms by some individual in Northern Queensland. That was the Minister’s reply to my statement. I now tell him and the Department of Defence that they cannot put anything over me in this matter without my protest. I am not likely to be a victim of any of these organizations. Only a few weeks ago, because tramway employees in Melbourne were on strike, another organized fascist body undertook to provide 500 free labourers to take their place. That is another of the subversive organizations which I might include in my list. I say definitely that these bodies are constituted to frustrate any effort made on behalf of the working classes to improve their conditions whenever it appears that they have become tired of the political system under which so much is denied to them.
– Have not the public some rights?
– Of course they have, but their rights will be filched from them by this Government if by the term “ public “ is meant the working classes.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that the statement which he laid on the table of the Senate was prepared by officers of the Defence Department?
– I said that the report was prepared by the Defence Department and presented to a department of the Queensland Government. That fact has already been made public in another place, and I understand that inquiries are being made by the Queensland Government with regard to the matter. I have no desire to escape my personal responsibility, but I shall want to know how the inquiry is to be conducted, because I know how easy it is for investigations to be carried out in the interests of those concerned so that the investigator shall not discover anything. Make no mistake about that. I am not innocent of the methods of governments. My parliamentary experience is not limited to my membership of this Senate. Here is another statement, published by a newspaper circulating in Queensland and, I understand, in every capital city of Australia, in its issue of the 12th August, 1934-
Sensational moves are being made in Queens land to set up FASCISM. Startling steps taken recently aim at the complete organization of a “ Commonwealth Legion “, secretly recruited, covertly organized, stealthily armed clandestinely drilled, preparing for the day when the master stroke, the coup d’etat, will be taken to achieve supreme power. Whisperers are at work sounding out likely recruits. Organizers, snooping round the State, have already enrolled some hundreds in the rank and file of a civilian army on the lines of the infamous New South Wales “ New Guard “, and recently 1000 badges in the shape of the sinister Hitler swastika embossed, on a five-pointed star, suggestive of the Southern Cross, were sent to North Queensland.
The authorities, both civil and military, are watching every move with the utmost suspicion, for it is realized that such an organization! may be the precursor of grim strife and the stepping stone to the setting-up of a dictatorship of the Mussolini or Hitler pattern, despite the intensely democratic principles of moat Australians.
Another paragraph states -
A military authority said during the week that the legion would have no ammunition problem, as there were ample, munitions available through trade sources, and even military sources would be tapped subterraneously.
The Minister for Defence practically admitted in the House of Representatives the charges I made, although I do not suggest that he admitted all of those contained in the document which I quoted. My charge that, these organizations existed was admitted by him. He cannot deny the existence of the New Guard or the. statement I made in this chamber months ago that Campbell, who was then, and may still be, the leader of the New Guard, had declared that that organization, was prepared to take action in certain circumstances. That statement has appeared in Australian newspapers. The document, from which I quoted, stated that the members of these organizations were armed and that retired military officers were in control. The names of these officers are known to the Defence Department, and, I presume, to the Minister. If they are not they ought to be. What were the other charges I made? I said that swastika badges were made by a Queensland firm. That statement has been confirmed. The Minister for Defence thinks that he can get over this sinister development by saying that the badges wore manufactured as a sort of good luck charm, sold in North Queensland for charitable purposes, and that the person to whom they were supplied has still about 85© left on his hands. I leave it to any intelligent person to determine whether that is a likely explanation of the position. It is not only in this country that those of us interested in working class movements and working class organizations are taking exception to fascism. I have before me an article which appeared, I think, in-, the Wellington Evening Post, in October,. 1934, which reads -
The General Council of the Trades Union. Congress, at. a meeting at Weymouth, approved: a report on the subject of fascism, which is to be submitted to the annual Trades Union Congress (says the Daily Telegraph).
Tha. report is a joint one from the National! Council of the Trades Union Congress,, theLabour party, and the Co-operative Union.
I should like the Senate to understands as keenly as, 1 do. that this talk of fascism, is no idle rumour. Fascist organizationsare already in active operation in Germany, Italy, Austria, and other European countries, but particularly in the three? which I have mentioned. La these countries every working, class organization hasbeen suppressed, tens of thousands ofT trade unionists have been gaoled, shot oi hanged, every penny of trade unionist: funds has been confiscated, and every working class newspaper has been suppressed. My attitude in connexion withthis, matter has been freely mentioned in» sneering press reports, and the Ministerfor Defence suggests that in drawingattention to the matter I am doing someevil thing- I have taken action because I am not prepared to wait until this ugly monster actually raises its head. Theextract from the London Daily Telegraphcontinues^ -
The evils of this political system cannot besufficiently emphasized. In Italy it is called’ Fascism and in Germany Nazism, but. it is onearid the same thing, and is. in essence a monstrous and savage dictatorship..
They have filled the world with horror at their deeds1. Concentrating the power of theState in the leader of. the party, a. servileobedience has now been exacted from every citizen. Freedom of thought,, of action, of the press, of association, have all been swept away. The spirit of war and a. creed of blood hasbeen glorified. ‘ Peace and. all its agencies, aretreated with contempt
The middle classes iu Germany - tha professional men, and the clerical workers - all find their salaries reduced to starvation limits where, they ave fortunate enough to find work. Their” standing of life is continually sinking. Starvation stares them in the face. Fascism brings in its train nothing but’ oppression and suffering. ATI members of the trade union, labourand co-operative movements must resist to theutmost any attempt to plant fascism in. this: country.
Not very long after that report was issued: the Mosley Fascists^ in the Old Countryperpetrated atrocious deeds such as have- happened in other countries. I need not quote what actually happened, because honorable senators are aware that the ut most brutality was displayed. Whatever is regarded as un-English or un-British should certainly be unacceptable in this country. In a cablegram from New York, dated the 28th October, it is stated that Mr. Walter M. Citrine, general secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, speaking to the annual convention of the American Federation of Labour during the second and final week of the convention in San Francisco, said that “ because of the financial resources fascism is a real danger to democracy and trades unions. “ The paragraph continues -
Mr. Citrine appealed to the federation to assist the International Federation of Trade Unions in its fight against fascism. He traced the rise of dictatorship in Italy, Germany and Austria and the downfall of independent trades unions in those nations. The independent trades unions, he said, could live only in an atmosphere of freedom, not dictatorship,whether it be brown, black or red.
I am not prepared to support a dictatorship even if it bears the brand of Labour, which is not likely, whether it be red or any other colour. The Minister for Defence(Mr. Parkhill), according to the Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd of this month, said -
There is no doubt that individual members of organizations such as the New Guard and Communist bodies such as the Workers Defence Corps, have weapons of variouskinds.
That is what I said, but I added that retired military men were incontrol of some organizations. The Minister continued -
So long as these weapons are not concealable - that is to say so long as they are not revolvers and pistols-there is no law to prevent it.
Yet Senator Sampson tries to make us believe that there is no chance of these bodies becoming armed.
– The Minister for Defence says that there is no law to prevent it. I wouldrather accept the opinion of the Minister for Defence, such as it is, than that of Senator Sampson. The report continues -
Frequent investigations have shown that the proportion of personnel with weapons is comparatively small.
I did not say that it was great. I said that they possessed arms and I knew the statement to be true. I also said that the members of these organizations were skilled in the use of firearms. I do not care whether the Minister for Defence or Senator Sampson is concerned, but I believe Senator Pearce knows, that because of the Government’s fear of an armed rising in New South Wales the defence authorities took the precaution approximately a couple of years ago to withdraw the bolts from rifles and the locks from machine guns and to make sure that no one would know where they were - without them the guns would be useless - the ordinary place of concealment was changed.
– Was not that a wise precaution?
– Of course it was. It was done because the people were tired of the inactivity of the Government and had read the published declaration of the New Guard in New South Wales-
– Is not the honorable senator giving the Government a pat on. the back?
– I am not belittling the honest efforts to prevent the activities of organizations which should be scotched. I do not expect to please Senator Sampson. I am not a fighting man but the honorable senator is.
– I am not a fighting man, but I know that to remove the bolts and locks mentioned by the honorable senator was a common sense precaution.
– It would be greater evidence of common sense to tell those in control of these organizations which, under the Constitution, are illegal, that they must disperse, or go to gaol. They should not be permitted to injure Australian democracy. The statement of the Minister for Defence continues -
Owing to the precautions which have been taken, for the safe custody of Vickers machine guns and other weapons, none have been lost by the Defence Department.
There has never been any indication of the possession by any organization of any automatic weapon. The Director of Investigation submits that persons alleging the existence of an ti -constitutional bodies in the
Commonwealth should give every possible assistance to responsible Government officers. Informants can be sure that they will not be compromised in any way.
Before I tabled the document in the Senate I said that I was willing to assist the Government and the Defence Department to trace these organizations to their source, and if necessary to assist to destroy them. A fortnight has passed and I have not been asked to assist. The press of this country has been full of sensational statements concerning the ridiculous position into which I am alleged to have got myself, but I am not complaining of what is said in the press. There is only one thing that I am afraid of, so far as the press is concerned, and that is its praise. I welcome its condemnation but I suggest that its representatives should be truthful and not put into my mouth words which I did not use. The Minister continued -
His department was still inquiring into Senator Collings’ statements. The Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs, to which Senator Collings has referred, was non-political and non-sectarian.
I did not refer to any such thing. I notice that Smith’s Weekly said that I should apologize to the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs. Speaking from memory I think that that newspaper stated that the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs consists of 32 or 52 returned soldiers’ organizations banded together for charitable purposes and has rendered wonderful service to the dependants of returned soldiers. Any one who knows me wall realize that I applaud such kindly acts and those who have heard my statements know that I did not say anything about the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs. I did refer to the fact that an organization known as the Australian Legion was active in North Queensland and that certain badges were manufactured in Queensland for it, which the Minister now says were good luck badges. I have here an extract from a Queensland newspaper - The Worker- of the 13th June, 1934, in which the people of Australia are warned against allowing the movement towards Fascism to develop -
The movement for the establishment of a Fascist dictatorship has even extended to Great Britain, and in the cables this week we were (given accounts of a number of demonstrations which were organized by the followers of Sir Oswald Mosley, and which were accompanied by brutalities and displays of savagery similar to those which saw the initiation and the establishment of Fascism in Germany, Italy, and Austria.
At a demonstration of Sir Oswald Mosley’s followers in London on Saturday, the brutalities of the “ black shirted storm troopers “ were such that .the London Daily Telegraph expressed amazement that many of the ejected persons were not killed by the ruthless kick.ings and beatings.
One of the statements I made was that a Queensland factory had manufactured a number of brown shirts as uniform for these people. That is not the Australian Legion of ex-service clubs banded together for the disbursement of charity. The shirts were made for a different purpose. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) is reported to have said -
The manufacture of small quantities of shirts of various hues had been brought to notice from time to time, Mr. Parkhill proceeded. The smallness of the quantities had not indicated anything of account.
The newspaper article, to which I have referred proceeds -
Suffice it to say that the Minister for Agriculture, Walter Elliott, during the course of an address declared, “We do not want dictatorships. We won our liberties through centuries of hard work and fighting, and do not intend to surrender them to any one, whatever the color of his shirt.”
That is all that I said. Knowing that these organizations exist, the Government does not need to wait for the confirmation of my remarks, because the organizations are illegal. Were the Government to suppress them, it would declare to the world that it stands for the British ideals which we, in Australia, have inherited, and for the constitutional parliamentary system of government which we enjoy, and will not allow subversive organizations to exist, even on a small scale. I should not have referred to this matter to-night, had I not been afraid that I would not have an opportunity to do so when we meet on the 11th December. We shall then probably have a number of all-night sittings in order to get through our work. I am in entire agreement with those who have objected ito the adjournment of the Senate for nearly a fortnight, and rejoice that I have gathered a number of recruits to the ranks of those who object to the way the business of the Senate is conducted. I do not object to being brought here if there is work to do, but I do object to being forced to waste time when I get here.
– Does the honorable senator still believe in the policy of his party that trainees should retain their arms?
– I have never advocated that that should be done; that is a communistic doctrine to which I am opposed. The object of those who advocate that trainees should retain their arms is that they should have them in the event of other people getting the upper hand. The party to which I belong is opposed to that policy, as it is to all forms of aggression, whether internal or external.
– A few days ago, I asked whether the Government would consider the exemption of rat poison from Bales tax, pointing out that, owing to the exceptionally wet season in Queensland, rata had caused considerable damage in the sugar fields and that Weils disease had caused sickness among the cane-workers and led to industrial trouble as well. The Minister promised that the matter would be brought under the notice of the Government. I pointed out then that similar poison used for the destruction of rabbits was exempt from Bales tax. I wrote to the Prime Minister’s Department on the subject, and received a reply from the Assistant Minister (Mr. Thorby), on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in which ho stated that he regretted that no means existed whereby rat poison could be exempt from sales tax. I do not blame Mr. Thorby for that stupid letter; he probably signed it after having been told by soma official that it was all right. I know that there are ways of exempting items from sales tax, and cannot understand that any one should be so foolish as to send such a letter to me. When I received that reply, I communicated with the organizations which had brought the matter to my notice. Imagine my surprise when I read in the press a day or two later that Cabinet had decided to exempt Tat poison from sales tax, although so far I have received no notification from the Department to that effect. Such occurrences place honorable senators in an unfair position. I hope that the Minister will institute inquiries in order to ascertain who was responsible for such an absurd letter being sent to me.
– Some time ago I brought before the then Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) the claim of Captain Conway for compensation for injuries received. It is my intention, at the first opportunity, to move for the appointment of a committee to investigate the claim of Captain Conway, because, having gone into the matter thoroughly, I am convinced that he has a genuine grievance. Had he been employed by a private concern, he would have been able to obtain redress; but as his claim is against the Government, he will not get compensation unless on the recommendation of such a committee as I have mentioned. I ask the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator McLachlan) to bring this matter before the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill), so that he may become conversant with the details. Senator Pearce, when Minister for Defence, promised to lay on the table of the Library the papers in connexion with this case.
.- As requested by Senator Dooley, I shall bring before the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) the claim of Captain Conway for compensation; but, from what I know of the case, I cannot hold out to the honorable senator any great hope of success.
If Senator Foll has presented the facts correctly in regard to his request for the exemption of rat poison from sales tax, it would appear that an error has been made by some officer; but, from my experience of the Prime Minister’s Department, I cannot believe that any responsible officer would be so grossly ignorant of the position as to set it out in the bald way in which the honorable senator has presented his case to us. I remind the honorable senator that the executive
Government cannot override the law, Probably the position could be met by the department not collecting the tax and the Government reimbursing it out of the Treasurer’s Advance. 1 cannot say more at the present stage than that I shall have the matter inquired into. In fact, from something that has been dropped by the honorable senator I think that inquiries are already being made. I shall endeavour to have the question considered and will see that proper representations are made in regard to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 November 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19341128_senate_14_145/>.